Shandelle Battersby does it hard and learns to love the seat + bag option

I flew to Australia for a work trip recently and the people who organised it booked me on Air New Zealand with just a seat + bag fare. (I know, right! The cheek of it!)

If the difference in price was massive I could understand this, but it's normally only about $20, so barely makes a difference to an international fare - and it seems a bit mean to scrimp on this part of the journey. I didn't really realise what ticket I had until I was at the airport, so I made sure to eat before I got on the plane (a light meal and coffee costs about $20 anyway) and got onboard for my three-hour flight armed with a book, some magazines and some podcasts for entertainment. If I'd realised earlier, I would have made a sandwich at home or swung by a Subway.

But it turns out the free television and movie offerings on an Air New Zealand flight are actually fine, and the three hours passed pretty quickly following a few episodes of Better Call Saul, a bit of ACC Champagne Rugby and even a bit of Portlandia that I hadn't seen. I had a (free) cup of coffee (no Cookie Time on an international flight unfortunately) and was fairly happy with my lot.

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On the way home, it was a different story. For some reason I had access to all the movies and television shows, and was even offered a meal - I assumed either I'd been upgraded (I have a lot of Airpoints) or maybe the details had just been entered wrong.

Nope. To my horror I'd sat in the wrong seat - I was meant to be on the other side of the aisle. The woman whose place I'd taken didn't say anything until after the meal service was on its clean-up route. She got no meal and no entertainment. "I thought you must have known the people on that side of the aisle," she said in classic unassuming Kiwi form. As I stuttered out my apologies the cabin crew produced a meal and soft drink for her, and she was happy. I was left thinking that extra $20 is a bit of a rip-off really.

I used to get really excited about the meal service on an overseas flight but on this trip the meal wasn't that great - a few bits of dry chicken on a congealed mass of rice with a few beans, an equally dry bread roll and a chocolate brownie - and though the glass of wine was nice, I could have lived without it. I struggled to find anything else to watch and went back to the free television stuff, then dug out my book.

Around me, out of the six to eight seats I could see (it was an A320 plane), only one other person had a meal in front of them. The rest had bags of food from home - one woman was passing fruit, chippies and sandwiches to her children. They were happy, well-fed, and with, I think, five family members, at least $100 better off. Instead of watching the screens, the youngsters were hunched over a tablet.

So is it worth ordering the full service on a transtasman flight? I would say not. Unless, of course, someone else is paying.