The plane:

An Airbus A330, which has recently been refitted with 18 new lie-flat Business Class seats in the Premium Cabin, and has had its Extra Comfort premium economy class increased to seat 68 passengers.

Class: Extra Comfort, which gives guests more legroom, priority boarding and security line access, and extra amenities for $175. If there is capacity, you can decide to upgrade at check-in for the same price.

Price: From $619 one way Economy class (all inclusive).

Flight time: 8 hours and 45 minutes.

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Fellow passengers: Mostly leisure travellers returning to Auckland at the last possible minute on a Sunday. This flight leaves Honolulu at the agreeable time of 2.20pm on Saturday and gets into Auckland at 10.30pm on Sunday night, which means you've used every second of your final weekend in paradise. It also means there is no pressure to sleep, so I was able to get hours of work done.

On time: We were tracking to land 30 minutes early until an absolutely astounding lightning storm struck to our left and we had to detour around it. This was such a rare event that the captain got on the mic and told us to raise the blinds to try to get a photo (near-impossible).

My seat: 11B, an aisle seat in the 2-3-2 configuration. My seatmate knew the cabin crew and moved down the back of the plane to an empty row, which meant I could spread out my work.

How full: Nearly at capacity.

Entertainment: I played a couple of classic movies but wasn't really watching them. In Extra Comfort you get free unlimited movies and TV shows.

The service: Friendly and familiar.

Food and drink: Just one choice for mains (chicken and rice), and a ham sandwich just before landing.

The toilets: Standard economy.

Luggage: Two bags of a whopping 32kg each. I'd never carted two suitcases before this trip, and I'm personally glad, for my bank balance, that this isn't usually an option. The airport experience: Fairly painless — there is a little more faffing around at US airports but you do learn a few tricks when you travel through them a lot (wear slip-on shoes and pack your belt and hat, for a start). The food options aren't great at Honolulu but they are working to improve the experience, with some areas already sporting new facilities, shops and eateries.

Would I fly this again? Absolutely. Every inch counts on plane rides longer than a couple of hours, so $175 extra is definitely worth it.