Catherine Smith flies NZ175 from New Zealand to Western Australia.
The Dreamliner. The office aeroplane anoraks (that would be the
's Travel Editor and the Aviation Reporter) have been beyond excited about this baby, showering me with Things I Needed to Know about its technical brilliance. From the moment I spied her on the tarmac, her pretty wing tips all turned up and flirty, I knew this was going to be my dream date. This was the plane's first month in service, with two training managers on staff to work with freshly trained crew.
Class? I am all class, but this trip was at the back of the bus. I work for newspapers. A radio colleague was lucky enough to upgrade to Premium Economy (she reckons it was because she's a nervous flyer, but we all know that that's how Radio Stars expect to rock). But the lovely flight supervisor, Nancy, showed us the shiny new front cabins, and they are as pretty as I'm hoping for when I win Lotto.
Price? One-way Economy 'Seat' fares start from $499 (inclusive of taxes).
On time? Absolutely - pulled out from the apron dead on time. If there's one thing Auckland Airport does well, it's managing the gates efficiently. Flying time was well less than the scheduled seven hours and 30 minutes (we had a tail wind at one point of 95km/h ). All good until we arrived in Perth where we had to wait 15 minutes for a gate. That airport is seriously unprepared for the huge growth in flights it is experiencing.
My seat? 42H. On the aisle, so sadly I didn't get to play with the flash window thingies - the tint lightens and darkens at the push of a button, none of this banging about with sliding blinds. But the 3-3-3 configuration felt more spacious and private as the rows are offset from each other so you don't feel the need to hold hands with the seat across the aisle. Better leg room but no leg rests although it seemed to have more recline. And you do get to watch bits of everyone else's movies from about three rows ahead. You've been warned.
Fellow passengers? Never did find out, as I had the row to myself. A few racing to catch the connecting flight to South Africa. Lucky them.
How full? Only 180 out of 260 economy seats were occupied so the crew encouraged people to change seats. I nabbed three seats to myself and fully spread out.
Entertainment? Oh, the glories of that screen: sharp, the touch screen really does work on touch, everything scrolled swiftly, free Wi-Fi, plugs to charge the electronics, a USB port. Twenty-first century. Switching seats did mean I had to pay to upgrade for a movies package. Best of all was the crew call facility - push button for snacks, forms and water and then a nifty texting service for everything else so the crew don't have to come and ask then go away and then come back. Genius. Reminders popped up on the screen, but simply hit the button "got that thanks" to remove. Wish the husband had one of those for when I'm nagging.
The service? The crew were fair buzzing with delight. Flight training manager Robert showed me the screens they see - texts from passengers, temperature controlled by seat, 10 or so options for altering the cabin light moods (disco anyone)? Less air pressure, better humidity, none of that fuggy head at the end of the trip too, big galleys. They're in love too.
Food and drink? The meals are tasty enough, but way too heavy on beige and carbs (potato salad and pasta? Where's some greenery and more fruit?). Plenty of water doing the rounds and there's a crew call button specifically for water so they are right there with the bottle.
The toilets? Decorated like the coolest hotel - a "wallpaper" of bookshelves in one, butterflies in another. Smelled divinely of Antipodes hand soaps. Worth the trip.
Luggage? The anoraks had pre-raved about the higher overhead lockers (almost too tall for a shortie like me, but that's a Good Thing) - capacious, and no longer claustrophobic.
The airport experience? You know, airports. Never a big fan but Auckland sure beats Perth into a cocked hat.
Would I fly this again? Man, from now on all my destinations will be picked purely on the basis that the Dreamliner flies there.