Winston Aldworth flies Air New Zealand's flight NZ102 from Sydney to Auckland.
An A340! My favourite plane — and until recently, a rare sight in the skies above Auckland. Hi Fly, a Portuguese company has been contracted to cover for Air New Zealand while their Dreamliners get "unscheduled maintenance" after problems with the Rolls-Royce engines. Major problems: On a plane with two engines, you're generally better off when both are working.
There are two Hi Fly A340s in operation on the Auckland-Sydney and the Auckland-Perth routes.
The reason I love four-engined planes: they don't make them with five.
Flight time: A sniff under three hours.
My seat: The plane is actually owned by Emirates (it's a cleanskin, with no brand logos on the outside), and they lease it to Hi Fly, who run it on contract out here. So the seats are old Emirates, the interior is fairly worn and the Business Class seats are big, comfortable and clunky.
Fellow passengers: Classic transtasman Saturday morning flight. Bunch of working folk returning home after a few days on the job in Sydney.
How full: Chocka in Economy. A few empties dotted around Business.
Entertainment: Old school. Movies play and you start watching them. You can't pause and you can't switch between movies. For regular Air New Zealand customers, this would be a major turn off. I'm pretty sure this is the main reason they're using these planes on shorthaul routes, rather than longhaul (where a four-engined plane would be more efficient on fuel use).
The service: I enjoyed the novelty of it. There are three smiling Air New Zealand staff, wearing black koru T-shirts, they potter about chatting with passengers, but it's Hi Fly's Portuguese people who are running things.
Hi Fly has 70 staff based in Auckland, all staying at SkyCity, for the duration of the contract with Air New Zealand. An expensive business — presumably the bill for all this is being picked up by Rolls-Royce.
The Portuguese were lovely (and, not to get all 60 Minutes about it, gorgeous). They'll be enjoying their Auckland stay — their next job, I'm told, is in Venezuela, where they'll be confined to their hotel when they're not working.
Toilets: Clean throughout.
Food and drink: It was Air New Zealand fare. My chicken was a little dry, my seat buddy's beef looked better. The cheeky chardonnay was bang on.
The airport experience: The shop-till-you-drop emphasis at Sydney Airport leaves me cold. But the Koru lounge there is a welcome sanctuary.
The final word: Otimo servico ("great service", in Portuguese).