Will Air New Zealand’s premium economy service from Heathrow get star billing for its flights to the City of Angels?
Silicon Valley may grab all the headlines but it’s actually Los Angeles which props up California’s sun-kissed economy. The state’s $1,900bn GDP would make California the tenth largest economy in the world – about the same size as India’s. The Los Angeles region generated $867bn (£571bn) of that wealth in 2014, the third largest economic metropolitan area in the world, after Tokyo and New York. Although Los Angeles’ economy is most readily associated with Hollywood (Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Universal studios are all HQ-ed there), the city also has the world’s fifth-largest port in Long Beach, with other significant sectors including aerospace, petroleum and telecommunications.
Air New Zealand has been flying to the City of Angels since 1982, with the transpacific flight jetting to Auckland directly afterwards. Since then, the national carrier has never been afraid to innovate cabin design, such as the ‘Cuddle Class’ service it launched in 2010, which enables economy passengers to lay down by folding three seats out to create a lie-flat space. Director boarded a premium economy flight to sample its latest innovation: the Spaceseat.
Air New Zealand Check-in
Terminal 2 at Heathrow had three Air New Zealand premium economy check-in desks, all bathed in an amethyst hue. Director saddled up to security at 13.12, and cleared in just four minutes, despite the best efforts of a noisy Dutch exchange group to thwart that. 10/10
An Air NZ premium economy ticket doesn’t allow lounge access and it’s a good 10-minute walk from the main terminal to gate B33. A big ‘Kia Ora’ (not a 1980s soft drink but Maori for ‘Be well/healthy’) sign greeted us on arrival.
Boarding was smooth and efficient – instead of staggering passengers by hollering out row numbers, there were four desks, including one premium economy counter. That didn’t stop people craning their necks and whispering, “Did you see her? She’s a famous actress, you know, wosshername?” when a glamorous (possible) starlet sashayed to the Business Premier desk.
Once ensconced in our seat, Director was treated to Air New Zealand’s memeable in-flight safety video, a Men in Black pastiche featuring members of the All Blacks rugby team rapping reminders to buckle up. 8/10
It’s strangely apt there’s a genre on Air New Zealand’s entertainment system called ‘Man Cave’. The airline’s much-ballyhooed new premium economy Spaceseats really are cavern-like, offering the perfect habitat to hunker away for 11 hours.
Designed so you can recline back without attracting the ire of the person sitting behind, the Spaceseats are arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. The pairs of outboard seats are angled to boost privacy (providing all the solitude you need to pore over those Excel spreadsheets) while the centre seats are perfect for couples (the two arm-rests form a table so they can sit facing each other). Which is nice.
Meanwhile, the Spaceseat comes with more bed linen than the average teen sleepover – cushions aplenty, a blanket and a comfy purple beanbag for your feet. Three plug points, a voluminous movie library (apt for this LA-bound-flight) and an amenity kit (contents: eyemask, socks, toothbrush, Colgate toothpaste, earplugs and Paw Paw lip balm) ensures Director is more than happy to luxuriate in our ‘cave’ for the flight. 10/10
Food and drink
From the moment flight attendant Chris comes round and introduces himself, with a chummy, antipodean-style shake of your hand, you know you’re in for a friendly flight.
“Chicken or beef isn’t going to cut it,” claims Air NZ’s website. Although both of those meats feature in its stellar menu, they come served with china and cutlery frippery and served either braised with chillied roast pumpkin and sautéed savoy cabbage (beef) or stuffed with tarragon ricotta stuffing (chicken). A fish option (cod in tamarind-scented coconut curry with aubergine, tofu, green beans and steamed jasmine rice) completes the triumvirate of choices, with the meal kicking off with a choice of breads from a basket (which includes San Francisco sourdough or potato and rosemary bread) and a starter.
Before landing, while flying over Las Vegas’ neon Strip, passengers are given the option of a Devon pie (beef and ale or Gruyère cheese tart), with the belt-loosening options extended further by gourmet Crosstown doughnuts [London brand] and dessert. 10/10
After our flawless flight, Director landed at LAX to find that its notoriously long immigration queues had been replaced by automated passport control kiosks. The joy! Just press a few buttons, swipe the passport and we’ll be at our Airbnb Malibu pad within the hour. Or so we thought. For some reason, the machines didn’t correspond with our passport, so an official barked at Director to join the usual immigration line. However, in the 10 minutes we’d been jabbing at the kiosk buttons, at least three other flights had arrived, with the passengers from all three flights forming a bleary-eyed, never-ending snaking mass before us. By the time we reached our (somewhat restless) Uber driver, an entire hour had passed. 4/10
Air New Zealand’s premium economy offering offers a infinitely superior service to many first class services we’ve flown in… 42/50
Return flights from London to Los Angeles start from £404 per person in Economy and £1,275 in Premium Economy.