A hardworking Boeing 777-200. While you'd always prefer to be in the flashed-up -300s, the interior of this bird looked smart.
Class? Economy both ways - which should bring delight to those readers who email to tell me I write too many Flight Checks from the Business Class seats.
Price? One way Economy starts at $1049 (inclusive of taxes).
On time? With the plane at peak weight, we spent 10 minutes burning off extra fuel on the tarmac before departure for the return flight. Made up the difference on the way. It's a scheduled 13 hours and 15 minutes going Auckland to Vancouver and 14 hours on the way back.
My seat? 37F on the return leg. Aisle seats on both flights.
Fellow passengers? Kiwis and Canucks, obviously, but you'll also meet a lot of Aussies on this flight. The couple next to me on the return leg were going home to Melbourne and with no carrier going direct, Air New Zealand via Auckland makes the most sense for them. Other notables: A Kiwi in a cowboy hat and the bloke opposite me on the way home reading Dirty Politics - half an hour into it, he switched on X-Men: Days of Future Past. The X-Men movie probably seemed more believable - as it happened, both had the same impact on the final election result.
How full? Chocka both ways. Air New Zealand is increasing flights on this route next year, extending the July-August service to run from June to September. That's an additional 6600 seats when compared to the same period last year. Good news for passengers.
Entertainment: I watched Marco Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist, a fine movie about Italy's Tour de France-winning loon who coked himself to death. There was a gem of a quote about the Tour de France from the other SBW, Sir Bradley Wiggins: "It's the only sporting event in the world where it's long enough that you'll probably need a haircut halfway through." Like this flight, mate. The 777-200s have the old inflight entertainment systems and they're due a refurb to match the 777-300's superb gear.
The service? A credit to the carrier.
Food and drink? I had beef madras on the way over and Moroccan chicken with couscous and carrots on the way back. The chicken dish was actually sensational. "It's actually called 'spicy Moroccan chicken' but I don't use the word spicy because it puts the oldies off," a staffer tells me. "And it's delicious." He's right.
The toilets? Clean as a whistle.
Luggage? One big old bag in the hold. Two in the overhead locker.
The airport experience? The Air Canada Lounge in Vancouver has popular local brew Molson lager on tap. Pulling your own draft beer in an airport lounge? Count me in. Unfortunately the keg finished as I arrived so I tucked in to a can of Guinness instead, a red wine with the pasta, a couple of my patented gin-ninjas and two white Russians. Fit to fly? Yep. Fit to drive? You kidding me?
Would I fly this again? This is the only direct connection to Vancouver from Auckland and it's an excellent service. Yes, it's a long haul - Air New Zealand's longest, in fact - but as SBW says: "You want to stop all the time. You're unable to and you have to push on."