Direct flights from New Zealand to Bali are back with Air New Zealand. Sarah Pollok shares what it’s like on board the first flight.
Airline: Air New Zealand
Route: Auckland International Airport to Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar), Bali
Visas and Requirements:
If you travel on a New Zealand passport and will stay no longer than 30 days, you need the following:
- A valid passport with at least six months before expiry from the date you arrive in Indonesia.
- An outbound flight from Indonesia.
- A Covid-19 vaccination certificate proving at least two doses (the second of which has been received at least 14 days before arrival) or an exemption certificate.
- A customs declaration form (this can be completed online here).
- An e-VOA visa (this is valid for 30 days, costs $53 and can be done on arrival or before departure online).
Departure airport experience: In one word; seamless. Possibly the most seamless airport experience I’ve ever had. Sure, it’s a big call, but after arriving at the airport at 9.02am on Wednesday, I had checked in, dropped my bag and passed through Customs in 15 minutes (partly thanks to Air New Zealand’s self-service bag drop system). By 9.30am I was parked up in the Air New Zealand lounge with a view across the tarmac and a coffee on the way. By 10am, the cafes and shops around the terminals were pleasantly busy with people.
Seat: Of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner’s 302 seats, 263 are economy, 21 are premium economy, 18 are business and one of the latter was mine. Seat 5J, in the centre row, to be exact.
So, while our 12pm flight was just 9 hours and 20 minutes, I was morally obligated to take an afternoon nap to make use of the fully lie-flat bed.
Crew: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Air New Zealand’s in-flight staff truly are a delight. The business class team were friendly, accommodating and knew how to walk the line between attentive and stifling.
Passengers: The flight was 80 per cent full, which isn’t bad for an ordinary Wednesday in March. Judging from the surfboard bags, Hawaiian shirts and yoga pants, most seemed on their way to a holiday. While a few masks were worn at the airport, no passengers were masked. As for the business class, it was the expected collection of Kiwi couples in their 50s and 60s.
Food and drink: After a take-off glass of bubbles, business class guests enjoyed a smoked salmon or pea soup appetiser followed by a choice of Taupō prime beef eye fillet, Balinese chicken curry or superfood salad. As a vegan, the fare was more of a subtraction situation (the chicken curry without chicken) which was a little sad compared to the other fancy options, but as vegan plane food goes, it was far better than usual. A few hours later, a light dinner was served, consisting of slow-cooked beef brisket, smoked chicken or Malaysian fish curry.
Entertainment: The eight-ish hours will fly for those who love a good film, with dozens of movies and television shows available on the touch screens. There are newly released films such as Elvis, Don’t Worry Darling and She Said beside older but quality flicks including Crazy Rich Asians, Love Actually and Baby Driver, which can all be watched using the big, cushy headphones provided. Unfortunately, there was no free Wi-Fi but seats come with USB ports and plugs to charge your tech gadgets.
Arrival airport experience: As the main airport in Bali, Ngurah Rai International Airport is large, clean, efficient and styled in a way that mixes modernity with traditional Indonesian decor. Queues for immigration went quickly, especially as we had purchased our visas and completed the declaration documents ahead of time.
The best bit: Whether it’s eight hours or 80 minutes, the luxury of being able to lie flat during a flight will always be a highlight for me. Although, this was closely followed by the easy departure experience.
The worst bit: It was pretty hard to fault the journey but if I had to give a criticism, it would be nice to see something a little more creative dished up for vegans and vegetarians.
Final verdict: As someone who flew the two-leg route from Auckland to Bali in 2022 via Melbourne, I can confirm the direct option is a game-changer (even more so for families with small children) and turns a long day of travel into a simple half-day hop.