Tony Potter flies aboard Air New Zealand's flight NZ9 from Honolulu to Auckland.

The plane:

A leased 15-year-old ex-Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200S, minus all markings and with the famous bird logo on the tail painted over.

Class: Economy.


The seat: 54G, about four rows from the galley (about which, more later) and bigger and wider with more leg room than on the way up.

Price: Return tickets cost us $1457.

Airport experience: A lot of people think Honolulu — aka Daniel K. Inouye International — is a dump, but the check-in staff and the US officials were all very chirpy and at 6.20am it was quick.

Flight time: Push back 12 minutes late, touch down five minutes early, making it 8hr 48m in the air.

How full: Almost chocka, but the plane's 3-3-3 configuration made it feel fine and kids ran up and down the aisles having a great time. So much less congested than the Air New Zealand Boeing 777 we flew up on, or, as Peter Ustinov's sergeant-major would have said "More room, too, in't there?" And as several of the cabin crew said, it was a delight to work on, after they'd found out where everything was stowed. One raved "The galley's magnificent. We could throw a party back there and no one would know."

The entertainment: Ah, here's the rub. On the way up my wife watched The Death of Stalin and told me it was a "must-see" for the flight home. But the system didn't have it, and what movies I did flick through looked as if they were shot in a Welsh coal mine at midnight. So, it was music on my iPhone and a re-read of The Importance of Being Earnest, which is just as hilarious at 38,000ft and 123 years after its first curtain-up.

Service: Great, as you would expect from Air Kiwi cabin crew. And maybe because they appreciated the roominess of the old thing, they seemed even more attentive than usual.
The arrival: How is it that the country's carrier has aircraft pull up at its hub in what they call, from memory, a "remote landing area"?

But what do you expect from an outfit that doesn't provide an observation deck (sorry, it still rankles).


The bottom line: Okay, so the lovely old bird was looking a little tired, which may not have pleased those at the sharp end of the plane, but so what. Either because it was an all-daytime flight, or there wasn't a touch of turbulence, it was one of the best flights I've had in years. Even Lady Bracknell would have been impressed.