Air New Zealand 787 Economy Review (Auckland-Sydney)

Air New Zealand 787 Auckland
An Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 at Auckland Airport. Photo: Matt Graham.

After a hiatus of almost three months, Air New Zealand has resumed offering limited passenger services across the Tasman using Boeing 787-9s. I flew with the Kiwi national carrier from Auckland to Sydney last week and am pleased to say the service hasn’t changed much since the pre-COVID days.

Air New Zealand offers different types of Economy fares with various inclusions across the Tasman. While I’m not a fan of this model, Air New Zealand does offer a reasonably pleasant flying experience in Economy Class for passengers who’ve paid extra for “The Works”.

This review looks at Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9 Economy Class service in November 2021.

While it’s not currently possible to fly to New Zealand without an MIQ reservation, Air New Zealand is currently offering flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles via Auckland. These flights are all operated by Boeing 787-9s.

Flight Details

Flight number NZ753
Route Auckland (AKL) to Sydney (SYD)
Aircraft type Boeing 787-9
Class of travel Economy
Seat number 37A
On-time performance We arrived on time
Star rating 3.5 stars out of 5

The route

NZ753 route map

Flight Cost

I paid NZD354 (~AU$338) for an Economy ticket with “The Works”. This was $50 more expensive than a “Seat” ticket, and $25 more than a “Seat+Bag” fare which also includes a 23kg checked bag. In addition to checked luggage, The Works includes an on-board meal, seat selection and access to movies on the in-flight entertainment.

Airport Experience

With Auckland still in lockdown and only a small handful of international flights departing New Zealand each day at the moment, the airport was very quiet. In fact, the only people in the terminal during my visit were passengers on my flight and airport staff.

A very empty Auckland international airport terminal in November 2021
A very empty Auckland international airport terminal in November 2021. Photo: Matt Graham.

Normally, Air New Zealand offers a separate premium check-in area for Business Class, elite Airpoints and Star Alliance Gold passengers. This was closed but there was a dedicated premium check-in counter near the check-in kiosks (which were all switched off).

Air New Zealand premium check-in Auckland Airport
Air New Zealand’s premium check-in area at Auckland Airport was closed. Photo: Matt Graham.

After some very thorough document checks to get into the terminal and check in for my flight, I headed upstairs to find the food court in Auckland’s international terminal totally deserted. There are normally tables and chairs here for people to sit down and enjoy a meal.

This is normally the busy landside food court in Auckland's international airport terminal
This is normally the busy landside food court in Auckland’s international airport terminal. Photo: Matt Graham.

Heading airside, it was a similar story. All the lounges were shut and there were only two shops open – the duty-free store and Vantage Bar, which was selling coffee and overpriced (but otherwise tasty) sandwiches.

The airside food court was deserted in Auckland's international airport
The airside food court was just as deserted in Auckland’s international airport. Photo: Matt Graham.

With New Zealand’s international border still closed to most inbound travel, the apron has sadly become a bit of a parking lot for grounded Air New Zealand aircraft.

Grounded Air New Zealand planes parked at Auckland Airport
Grounded Air New Zealand planes parked at Auckland Airport. Photo: Matt Graham.

Boarding for the full Air New Zealand flight to Sydney commenced on time and priority boarding (for those eligible) worked well.

The Hard Product

The Air New Zealand Boeing 787 Economy cabin was modern and inviting, with the signature large Dreamliner windows. Economy Class is laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration.

Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Economy cabin
Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Economy cabin. Photo: Matt Graham.

The seat seemed to be well-designed at first glance. There was an adjustable headrest and an in-flight entertainment screen on the back of the seat in front.

However, the 3-3-3 seating layout on the Dreamliner is always tight and the seat was just a little too narrow for my liking. Unfortunately, I also found the backrest quite hard and I got a sore back towards the end of the 3-hour flight. This is not something I’ve experienced when flying on Air New Zealand’s Airbus A320s or Boeing 777s.

Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Economy seat
Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Economy seat. Photo: Matt Graham.

I was able to select a “frequent flyer seat” towards the front of the Economy cabin. (These are available free of charge to Airports Elite and Star Alliance Gold customers.) These seats come with an extra two inches of legroom (increasing the seat pitch to 33 inches), so there was a comfortable amount of legroom.

My row of seats also happened to be a designated “SkyCouch” row. There was a “legrest” under the seats which could be folded up to create a couch, although this wasn’t used on my flight.

Some rows of seats have a Skycouch mechanism which can be folded up to create a "bed" in the sky.
Some rows of seats by the windows have a SkyCouch mechanism which can be folded up to create a “bed” in the sky. Photo: Matt Graham.

There was a good selection of in-flight entertainment content and free wifi was available on this flight. I was able to connect and it worked as advertised.

Connecting to Air New Zealand's free in-flight wifi on my smartphone
Connecting to Air New Zealand’s free in-flight wifi on my smartphone.

The Soft Product

After takeoff, the cabin crew handed out cups of water in Economy. This was followed by a hot meal service for customers who had paid for “The Works”. Additional snacks and drinks were available to purchase via the in-flight entertainment system.

The service on this flight was barely different to Air New Zealand’s pre-COVID Economy service, except that the ice cream dessert was served on the same tray as the main meal and everyone was wearing masks.

There were two meal options on this flight – lamb curry, or something that was described by the flight attendant only as “chicken”. I had the lamb curry, which was served with chickpeas and basmati rice and was tasty. This came with a warm breadroll, butter, a choice of drinks and triple chocolate ice cream.

Economy Class lunch on NZ753
Economy Class lunch on NZ753. Photo: Matt Graham.

My seat neighbour chose the mystery chicken dish and to be honest, it looked rather bland. The chicken seemed soggy and it was served with couscous and beans.

Air New Zealand was trialling the use of eco-friendly wooden cutlery on this flight, and passengers were asked to complete a survey about the cutlery.

The friendly flight attendants distributed fresh face masks to everyone after the meal service was completed.

Arrival Experience

After landing, we waited on board while a Border Force official came onto the plane to make an announcement. From that point, the arrival process wasn’t much different to pre-COVID and I was out of the airport within 20 minutes. Sydney Airport was rather quiet (and hot – I think the air conditioning system was turned off!), but it’s slowly returning to life.

Sydney Airport has come back to life, but Terminal 1 was still very quiet in early November 2021
Sydney Airport has come back to life, but Terminal 1 was still very quiet in early November 2021. Photo: Matt Graham.

This article has more information about the requirements for returning to Australia and my experience with the arrival procedures: My Experience Flying to Australia in November 2021

 

Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Economy Class
  • Airport Experience
  • Hard Product
  • Soft Product
3.5

Final thoughts

Air New Zealand offers consistently friendly service and a reasonably solid Economy Class product across the Tasman. Unfortunately, while the legroom and in-flight entertainment were both good, I did find my seat on the Boeing 787 a bit uncomfortable.

The on-board service was not much different to usual. But this was a bit of an unusual flight due to Auckland being in lockdown and it being one of the first available flights from New Zealand to Australia for almost three months. In fairness to Air New Zealand, I won’t mark it down for its lounge being closed at Auckland Airport – although it would have been nice if eligible passengers were compensated with meal vouchers.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]

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