Martin Bridges checks into the Air New Zealand lounge in Wellington airport's domestic terminal.
Through security, you need to double back on yourself and head up the escalator into the oasis of calm. If you're flying to one of the smaller destinations (Nelson, Timaru etc.) it's a reasonable way from your gate and you'll need to go through security to get to it.
The greeting: Always the right blend of professionalism and friendliness. Usually an interesting group of waitstaff on hand too.
What's there: A good range of seating options — work tables, lounging seats, the occasional dining-table setting. There are two island-style food stations and plenty of fridges.
Who's there: Politicians, public servants and business people, mixed with the occasional holidaying family. Generally quiet and businesslike. I love that our politicians feel comfortable mingling with everyone else. The only time I've seen a heavy security presence is when one of our Australian cousins is in town.
Tech stuff: No longer do you need to go scurrying round the lounge looking for the Wi-Fi password, it's an easy login process now. Plenty of charging points for your devices, too.
The view: One side has a view over the runway to the surfers at Lyall Bay, the other a view up to the green wooded hills and the golf course. On a glorious day it can get a little warm in some areas when the evening sun is full on the windows but, let's face it, this is Wellington, so that's not often a problem!
Eating and drinking: Always a good selection of sandwiches and salads. The hot selection, however, is a bit hit and miss. The main dish on this visit was fairly unidentifiable (the sign said chicken tagine, but I wasn't convinced). Generally lots of carbs — the other week I dined on macaroni cheese and fried polenta. The salads are a good healthy option, but it would be nice to have better hot food. Loads of cheese, delicious puddings and muffins. The beer fridge is well stocked (usually including either a Panhead or Emersons for the craft-beer fans) and a good selection of local wines. The usual awesome barista coffee is also available.
The bathrooms: Not huge but always clean.
The lounge atmosphere: Businesslike but relaxed. Can get quite hectic on a weekday evening, particularly if there are any flight delays.
The bottom line: A lifesaver for people like me, who fly weekly in and out of the capital. It's my dinner stop on the way home where I can transition from work mode to home mode. I always feel welcome and never hurried.