Air New Zealand A320 at Auckland Airport
An Air New Zealand A320 at Auckland Airport. Photo: Will Waters on Unsplash.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Jetstar’s domestic service within New Zealand. The other main option for domestic travel in New Zealand is the national carrier and Star Alliance member Air New Zealand, which operates an extensive domestic network using Airbus A320 jets, as well as ATR72s and Dash 8 Q300s on regional routes.

I recently tried out Air New Zealand’s domestic A320 Economy class from Auckland to Invercargill. By NZ domestic standards, this is a long flight! In fact, at just over two hours, it’s currently Air New Zealand’s longest domestic flight.

Admittedly, it’s not quite the longest flight within New Zealand – that would be Chatham Island-Auckland with Air Chathams. And once Air New Zealand resumes flying from Norfolk Island to Sydney in late August, that would technically become Air New Zealand’s longest domestic flight… although that is treated like an international service.

In any case, how does the Air New Zealand domestic A320 experience stack up? Find out in this Air New Zealand domestic A320 Economy Class review…

Flight Details

Flight number NZ697
Route Auckland (AKL) to Invercargill (IVC)
Aircraft type Airbus A320
Class of travel Economy
Seat number 5B
On-time performance We arrived on time
Star rating 4 stars out of 5

The route

NZ697 route map

Flight Cost

Air New Zealand offers four categories of domestic fares with different inclusions: Seat, Seat+Bag, Flexitime & Flexidate. Each fare category is $20 more expensive than the previous one.

Air NZ domestic fare categories
Air New Zealand fares offered for an AKL-IVC flight.

I paid NZD142 (~$132) for a Seat+Bag ticket, plus a NZD2.80 (~$2.60) card payment fee.

Theoretically, you could also redeem 14,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points for a seat on this Air NZ domestic route. However, Air New Zealand doesn’t seem to release much partner airline award availability and I got an error message every time I tried searching for award seats to Invercargill on the Qantas website.

Airport Experience

Air New Zealand offers self-service check-in kiosks and bag drop at Auckland Airport. However, as a Star Alliance Gold member, I was able to use the staffed priority check-in counter which was also fast and efficient.

Air New Zealand operates airport lounges at many airports across New Zealand, including both regional (before security) and domestic (after security) lounges in Auckland. As I was travelling on a jet service, I headed through security and upstairs to the domestic Koru Lounge near gate 33.

Air New Zealand domestic lounge Auckland entrance
Air New Zealand’s domestic lounge is located near gate 33 at Auckland Airport. Photo: Matt Graham.

This is a reasonably large lounge with a substantial selection of buffet food available. During this visit, self-service breakfast options included scrambled eggs, baked beans, sausages, roasted potatoes, toast, muffins, croissants, Danish pastries, porridge, fruit and yoghurt.

During another visit in the evening, buffet dinner options included chicken korma with rice, soup, sandwiches, salads and cheese & crackers.

There’s a barista coffee station with orders placed on an iPad and called out when ready, so that you don’t have to queue like in the Qantas & Virgin lounges. Self-service beer and wine is also available after 8am (yes, 8 o’clock in the morning).

Other than hand sanitiser bottles on some of the tables, you wouldn’t have really noticed you were in a pandemic in this lounge. Even the magazine racks and showers are back in use, and most people in the lounge were not wearing masks because in New Zealand this is only required once you board the plane (and not in airports).

Air New Zealand domestic lounge AKL
Air New Zealand domestic lounge, Auckland. Photo: Matt Graham.

Once it was time to board, priority boarding for Koru Club, Airpoints Gold & Elite and Star Alliance Gold customers worked well. Both the front and rear doors were used for boarding.

The Hard Product

Like Jetstar, Air New Zealand does not offer Business Class on its Airbus A320. There’s only Economy class, and like every other Airbus A320, it’s in a 3-3 configuration.

Air New Zealand A320 Economy cabin
Air New Zealand’s domestic A320 cabin. Photo: Matt Graham.

One thing that differentiates Air New Zealand from Jetstar is that the front half of the plane has extra-legroom seating. I was seated in row 5, which had around 10cm more legroom than the seats in the back half of the plane.

Air New Zealand A320 seat legroom
Air New Zealand’s domestic A320 Economy Class legroom in the “frequent flyer” seats. Photo: Matt Graham.

These extra legroom seats are designated as “frequent flyer” premium seats and are available to select for free from the time of booking if you have Airpoints Gold, Elite or Star Alliance Gold status, or are a Koru Club member. The seats are comfortable with a very good amount of legroom. However, customers without any status are unable to select one of these seats on domestic flights (even for a fee).

Air New Zealand is still printing its in-flight magazine, and a copy was available in every seat pocket on this flight. However, I would note that the magazines are removed (and in-flight service suspended) if any part of New Zealand is on a COVID-19 alert level of 2 or higher.

Kia Ora magazine
Air New Zealand in-flight magazine. Photo: Matt Graham.

The only other in-flight entertainment was the “Great Air New Zealand Trivia Quiz”, which played throughout the flight on drop-down TV screens. Wifi is not available on Air New Zealand’s domestic fleet. (On Air New Zealand’s international A320 flights, there are personal TV screens at every seat and free wifi is available on the A320neo & A321neo aircraft.)

With great views of Aotearoa out the window, though, in-flight entertainment wasn’t really needed!

Mt Cook seen from Air New Zealand plane
View of Mt Cook from NZ697. Photo: Matt Graham.

The views continued right until we landed on time in Invercargill.

NZ697 view approaching Invercargill
Approaching Invercargill on NZ697. Photo: Matt Graham.

Air New Zealand is known for its quirky safety videos. This one was shown at the start of this flight:

I enjoyed the video and even laughed a few times, but I can’t honestly say I remember any of the safety information given in it!

The Soft Product

After take-off, the cabin crew served a complimentary snack with tea, coffee and water. The snack was a choice of a “fun-size” oat biscuit or corn chips. I chose the corn chips, and there were literally six chips in the packet. (Yes, I counted them.)

Air New Zealand snack
Air New Zealand domestic in-flight snack. Photo: Matt Graham.

There is no other food available for sale, but the cabin crew did also hand out boiled lollies at the top of descent. The crew also offered water refills later in the flight.

While the cookie & corn chip option has been around for years, Air New Zealand caused quite a stir earlier this month by trialling new snack options. New Zealanders are so passionate about the in-flight snacks on their national airline that this controversial announcement even made the news!

On designated “Koru Hour” flights, which are A320 flights of more than 50 minutes departing between 4.35pm and 7.05pm Monday-Friday, complimentary beer, wine, cider and soft drinks are also offered.

As I’ve consistently found with Air New Zealand, the cabin crew (as with all of the other airline staff) provided excellent customer service. They were enthusiastic, professional and so friendly!

A final note

Although I didn’t encounter any problems on the flight to Invercargill, my return flight was cancelled due to fog in Invercargill. I was promptly rebooked onto another flight via Christchurch, but this too was later cancelled. So I ended up spending an extra night in Invercargill and returned to Auckland the following day on a “rescue” flight Air New Zealand put on to pick up all the stranded passengers.

Although Air New Zealand did not pay for the overnight accommodation (as this was a weather-related delay), I felt they otherwise handled the situation as well as they possibly could under the circumstances. It would be interesting to see how Jetstar would handle a similar disruption…

Air New Zealand domestic A320 Economy Class
  • Airport Experience
  • Hard Product
  • Soft Product
4

Final thoughts

Air New Zealand offers a solid service on its domestic network, with consistently excellent service provided by the airline’s passionate staff at all stages of the journey. While the snacks are on the lighter side and the in-flight entertainment is a bit limited, the service is fit-for-purpose on the short domestic flights Air New Zealand operates.

Overall, Air New Zealand’s domestic service is a substantial improvement over Jetstar – especially if you can enjoy the perks of Star Alliance Gold status or a Koru membership.

________________________

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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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Ed Soja

Is Air NZ the last airline to offer boiled lollies for the decent. In the old days more airlines did this to help balance pressure in the ears on decent. The Lindor Qantas offer on Trans Tasman flights doesn’t have the same effect but much nicer

qfflyer

Good point! I remember them from flying as a child, not sure when it stopped being a thing, I don’t recall it from any flight I’ve taken post 2000.

Howard Bamsey

Umm…Norfolk Island is not yet part of NZ