Peter Wheeler flies from Auckland to Apia on Air New Zealand.

The plane:

One of Air New Zealand's older Boeing 777-200s, ZK-OKD was in its 13th year of service but was still pristine, inside and out.

Class: Business.


Price: This flight was part of a mini Coral Route round trip — on to Fiji and back to Auckland, all up $2796.

Check-in experience: Seamless as usual and the refurbished Koru Lounge is a welcome stop for some breakfast after a 4am start. However the flight had been allocated Auckland's hellgate 18, and its almost a 2km walk from drop-off to the gate. Auckland seems to have copied Australia's passion for strip development of its terminals rather than the more passenger friendly hubs found elsewhere. Perhaps it's the cheaper option.

Seat: 5K, comfortable and roomy, but this 3hr 50m daylight flight wasn't long enough to test the lie-flat bed.

How full? Almost completely, due to the school holidays.

Entertainment: There's plenty to surf and amuse, but I had a pleasant hour reading that morning's New Zealand Herald Travel magazine, somehow it seemed appropriate.

Service: The crew were on an Auckland-Apia-Auckland roster that day and were bright and chatty, matching the mood of the passengers.

Food and drink: Oh dear, I have rarely found airline food inedible (except once on Iraqi Airlines where I am sure that a sheep's eye was part of the salad), but the breakfast served on this flight was inedible. The scrambled eggs seemed to be combined with potato and paper. I queried the cabin attendant — perhaps they had served heated up leftovers? It's not the crew's fault and it's not a major issue, but it's not acceptable for the price. However a second robust Bloody Mary set things to right.

Luggage: More than enough allocated, and with plenty of on-board storage for books, bags and duty-free.


Arrival: A long, slow approach brought us over some stunning coral reefed islands and over the lagoon where, 60 years ago, the great TEAL Solents used to land.

Airport experience: It had been more than 20 years since I had been to Samoa. There's now a new terminal at Faleolo (pictured) but thankfully we still disembarked down air stairs to the tarmac and had that first breath of sweet warm tropical air. It brought back some very pleasant memories. We were through in 15 minutes.