The Airbus A321neo is the latest addition to Air New Zealand’s short-haul fleet. Featuring 214 Economy class seats, these aircraft are used on trans-Tasman and Pacific Island flights. In this review, we test Air New Zealand’s trans-Tasman Economy product from Melbourne to Auckland.
|Route||Melbourne (MEL) to Auckland (AKL)|
|Aircraft type||Airbus A321neo|
|Class of travel||Economy|
|Route on-time performance||29% (my flight was 25 minutes late)|
I paid $380 round-trip from Melbourne to Auckland and back.
Check-in at Melbourne Airport was a breeze. Thanks to Star Alliance Gold status I was able to check in at the premium counter, but there was barely any queue to use the kiosks anyway.
I then cleared passport control and security, and navigated Melbourne Airport’s ridiculous duty-free maze to arrive at the lounge. The impressive Air New Zealand Lounge at Melbourne Airport is large, with plenty of showers and a good selection of buffet food. There is a bar and a barista making coffee. Unlike many of the lounges on the lower levels of Melbourne’s international terminal, there is also some natural light and a view of the apron.
As nice as the Air New Zealand Lounge is, I personally prefer the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge in Melbourne – which I was also able to access with Star Alliance status. It’s smaller and doesn’t have any runway views, but I love the Asian food choices and the staff are extremely attentive.
The Hard Product
My flight to Auckland was on a shiny, new Airbus A321neo. It was clean, modern and rather comfortable. The overhead lockers seemed particularly large, which is great.
On this aircraft there is only Economy class, so every row is laid out in a standard 3-3 configuration. The leather seats are cleverly designed to maximise usable legroom. They are slim in design, but seem to be slightly pre-reclined and have more space for your knees, and there is an adjustable headrest. I found the seat comfortable for around 4 hours, however I personally prefer Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777 Economy seats.
I was seated in row 4, which is a designated “Space+” row with a generous 33 inches of seat pitch. Further down the plane, the seat pitch reduces to as little as 29 inches – which is rather tight. If you’re flying on an Air New Zealand A321neo, try to pick a seat forward of the exit rows to maximise your legroom. (You can see the characteristics of each seat on the Air New Zealand seat map.)
If you don’t mind paying a little extra for a really good seat, 28F has practically unlimited legroom as there is no seat in front.
There is a responsive in-flight entertainment screen at every seat with plenty of interesting content and dozens of music playlists. You can also order snacks and drinks using the in-flight entertainment, instead of having to call a crew member or walk to the galley. Beware that you have to pay to watch movies if you’re on a cheaper ticket (more on this in a moment). I noticed that Air New Zealand welcomes its own Airpoints Elite members with a personal message on their in-flight entertainment screen, which is a nice touch.
With 214 seats on this single-aisle aircraft (and only 3 toilets), boarding took quite a long time – as did the meal service. At least the toilets are spread out across the cabin with one in the front, one at the back and one in the middle.
The Soft Product
Although Air New Zealand has many of the features of a full-service carrier, it uses a low-cost carrier business model on flights between Australia and New Zealand. Air New Zealand calls it “Seats to Suit”. Basically, it means that you have to pay extra for everything except a 7kg carry-on bag. By comparison, both Qantas and Virgin Australia include bags and meals with every ticket.
On Airbus A320 and A321neo flights across the Tasman, Air New Zealand has 4 fare options:
- Seat – one carry-on bag included only
- Seat+Bag – 23kg checked baggage included for an extra $20
- The Works – also receive a meal, drinks and access to movies on the in-flight entertainment for an extra $40
- Works Deluxe – get an extra checked bag and an empty neighbouring seat (this is similar to intra-Europe business class) for an extra $140
On Boeing 787 and 777 flights, Works Deluxe is not offered but Premium Economy and Business class is available.
I opted for a “The Works” ticket on my flight to Auckland. On this evening flight, there were three dinner choices:
- Osso bucco with polenta and beans
- Lemon chicken with fried rice and vegetables
- Macaroni cheese
I chose the lemon chicken, which was OK although the vegetables were soggy and the portion size was a little small. This came with a bread roll and a slice of chocolate & raspberry cake. It was served with a choice of drinks, including New Zealand sparkling wine.
All passengers can request tea, coffee or water with the meal service, or water at any time via the in-flight entertainment system. The Works and Works Deluxe passengers can also order additional drinks through the in-flight entertainment at any time during the flight; most are free of charge (including alcoholic drinks), however you’ll need a credit card to purchase snacks and some drinks (including ginger beer, for some reason).
Is it worth paying an extra $40 for a “The Works” ticket? To be honest, I didn’t feel like the meal and access to movies was worth $40. That said, I purchased a Seat+Bag ticket for the return flight back to Australia and had to sit through the entire row around me being served beef rendang – one of my favourites!
The cabin crew on this flight was friendly and professional – as I’ve come to expect from Air New Zealand.
Air New Zealand A321neo Economy Class
Although I dislike Air New Zealand’s “Seats to Suit” model across the Tasman, this was an enjoyable flight on a comfortable new aircraft. It’s not hard to see why the Kiwi carrier is doing so well in the battle for the Tasman!