Plane: Air New Zealand Airbus A320. Bigger is not always better. I actually prefer the smaller A320 to the Boeing 777-300 I flew in on the return journey home. With fewer occupants it's easier to embark and depart the plane. Which means when you have carry-on luggage and the quick and easy Melbourne Customs officers awaiting you, it can be less than 20 minutes from when you unclick your seatbelt on the plane to clicking your seatbelt in the taxi.
Class: Economy. No segregation on the A320. Everyone is in the same class.
Price: $1300 return for the Works Tasman Flexi Fare.
On Time? Pilot said we were running late but we officially landed three minutes early, with a total flight time of 4 hr, 2 min.
My Seat: 15F. Window seat. Great views of Auckland's west coast on the way out and Melbourne suburbs on way in.
How Full: At capacity. The Thursday 6.40pm flight is a popular one for people leaving for a three-day weekend away in Melbourne.
Fellow Passengers: A good mix of business folk, who have to sit with the common folk in the smaller aircraft, families and weekend holiday-goers. A good mood throughout the plane - maybe because were getting away for a few days off and not just business travellers who go straight into their laptops.
Entertainment: Fine. Audio is a constant issue for all airlines and same goes for Air NZ. Headphones just don't cut it. But a nice selection of latest movies and music. I went with Chasing Great, the Richie McCaw documentary and the small screen still managed to do the great man justice.
Food and drink: Lamb curry and basmati rice was nice but I definitely got envy over the chicken roast which the person next to me chose. The apple crumble Kapiti ice cream made up for it. Plenty of drink options, which was great.
Service: Exceptional. Usual high Air New Zealand standard. The staff were helpful and jovial.
Toilets: Didn't need them. Assume they had some.
Luggage: Carry on. Despite full flight it was easy to get a spot above my seat.
Airport experience: Used the Auckland Koru Lounge which was fantastic. Plenty of room, fresh food readily available and a great range of drinks. I found such a cosy spot in the TV room with a beer and a magazine that I was kind of hoping my flight would be delayed. Was disappointing to find stark comparison on the return leg, that due to works going on at Melbourne Airport, the Koru Lounge was in a temporary space consisting of a coffee machine and a snack bar in a former terminal lounge.
Would I fly again: Air New Zealand is still the best option to cross the Tasman for me. The time of the flight was ideal as well and probably one I'd aim for again when heading to Melbourne. Landing in Melbourne at 8.45pm means not having to deal with heavy traffic into the city.