Sadie Beckman flies aboard flight NZ8 from Auckland to San Francisco.
Plane: Air NZ Boeing 777-200.
Class: Premium Economy.
Seat: My first trip out of the Economy section was a treat. The seat was comfy, there was good legroom and an extendable footrest, which, when coupled with the extra recline on offer, made sleeping an actual possibility.
Luggage: 23kg of checked baggage and 7kg of hand luggage.
Check-in: Easy with Air New Zealand's self-service option at the terminal.
Airport experience: Arrival at San Francisco was always going to be bleary after a 12-hour flight, and there were many flights arriving at once so the queues to get through immigration were considerable. The systems seemed to work quite well though and I was picked out for a fast-track as I was travelling alone. Despite the usual grilling from immigration officers that you get on arrival into the States it was pretty painless. Once through, I picked up my bag and was straight out of the exit with no further checks about whether I had anything to declare or not, which seemed oddly lax, but no complaints from me. (And nothing to declare of course!)
Flight time: 12 hours.
On time? We landed on time but had to wait on the tarmac for 35 minutes for a gate to become available, so I missed a shuttle connection. The pilots seemed to be somewhat scathing of air traffic control, announcing over the tannoy "sorry folks, we're in the hands of the gods now".
Entertainment: Air New Zealand's inflight system is comprehensive with more than 1700 hours of options sure to keep all tastes happy.
Food and drink: Premium Economy was a real step up in food service. A menu with some really decent-quality dishes on it made all the difference. I enjoyed a salad with toasted walnuts, fried eggplant, pickled red onions, coriander and mint, followed by Marbella-style roast chicken, creamed corn with polenta and sauteed kale, and for dessert, a chocolate creme with macerated dark cherries. Some excellent New Zealand wines topped off the experience.
Service: Very attentive with lots of extras included, such as a comfort bag with socks, toothbrush set, lip balm, eye mask and earplugs. This was all waiting on my seat when I boarded, like an Air NZ-branded mini-Christmas.
Toilets: Mostly clean (it was a 12-hour flight after all) with no queues!
Would I fly this again? Absolutely. Air New Zealand has hit the nail on the head with Premium Economy. It doesn't demand the exorbitant rates of Business Class, but pitches itself perfectly in that middle ground when you want a bit more comfort, and to treat yourself on a long journey.