Api Talemaitoga flies from Auckland to Christchurch on Air New Zealand flight 1293.
The plane: Boeing 787 900 — one of the new 11 (soon to be 13) Air New Zealand Dreamliners. This is my usual weekly commute for my Monday to Wednesday job in the Garden City and it is nice to be on a large jet sitting in one of the Premium seats. Nothing against the A320 domestic workhorses — but this is great for a change!
Class: Premium Economy
My seat: 27K
Price: $79 — seat-only fare which I purchased ages ago during an Air NZ 24-hour domestic fares sale. I was surprised the flight number had 4 numbers and not the usual 3. But Air NZ quickly notified you during booking that you would be flying on a Dreamliner!
On time: Boarding started 9.35am — a bit earlier than usual for a 10.30am departure. This is because we had to all traipse down to Door 24 and get bused out to the aircraft parked at Gate 4 (an area between the domestic and international terminals). Doors closed 10.27am. Taxi started 10.33am. Although the boarding process is a bit more then what you normally do when travelling on the usual A320, it seemed very well organised.
Due to head winds in the last 30 minutes of the flight, we had a few bumps on descent and landed five minutes late at 11.55am
How full: Full as. There must be lots of people travelling to Christchurch (and beyond) these days as on the way to boarding this flight, we walked past a large queue of passengers boarding NZ531 at Gate 31 — my usual Monday flight to Christchurch.
Fellow passengers: Usual mix of people travelling for work and returning residents and tourists. This was the day following the weekend where Ed Sheeran had his Auckland concerts so there were a few concert-goers returning to Christchurch.
Entertainment: Pre-flight, just the latest Air New Zealand safety video featuring Antarctica with the rather appropriately named Hollywood actor/producer/director and environmentalist Adrian Grenier (pictured) and the Hornby Primary School children at the Christchurch Museum.
In-flight: The usual Air New Zealand entertainment system with its full selection of movies, music and TV shows. I was too pre-occupied writing this to watch anything though I did not miss the amazing views outside the window on this fine day to fly. No noise-cancelling headphones provided, but what a first world problem!
Service: The usually relaxed and chatty crew that you expect from the national airline. The crew were from the "International" cohort who fly this aircraft for much longer distances than the 1hr 25m we were doing to Christchurch today — however the easy banter with passengers included things like asking about the concert (at least two had also attended) and how long a tourist from India was spending in the country.
Food and drink: Coffee, tea or water with biscuits or corn chips. Sweets were offered on descent.
Toilets: Clean as ... and roomy.
Airport Experience: The Koru Lounge at the Auckland domestic terminal was tidy, packed, had the usual friendly staff, packed, had the breakfast offerings of scrambled eggs, hash browns and sausages and did I say, packed? You could also have toast (brown, white or fruit bread), pastry (several varieties) and fresh fruit. I had a very helpful lounge staff fast-track me my takeaway cup of flat white so I could board the "already boarding" flight pronto.
Would I fly it again? Love to — every Monday morning as a commute to my Christchurch job! Not sure how often Air NZ plans to be putting on these large jets on this domestic route. The pilot said during his welcome that this was put on because of the Ed Sheeran concert.
But I know with my future bookings that I have at least another three flights on these "special flights" over the next four weeks. The only issue for me is the travelling to arrive at the airport at least an hour before departure.
As a commuter, you learn to minimise travel time where possible — but I am sure I can get over myself if I can have a Premium Economy seat down to Christchurch for the start of the week.