Air New Zealand has just launched a non-stop flight between New York and Auckland, New Zealand. I was invited to fly on the inaugural flight which is currently the fourth longest flight in the world.
Covering almost 15,000 km with a scheduled flight time of 17-and-a-half hours, it is the longest ever flown by Air New Zealand.
The video below documents the whole Air New Zealand flight experience from takeoff to landing:
NZ1 New York to Auckland
Check-in was at Row A at Terminal 1 at JFK. It was slower than usual as local ground staff are getting trained by flown-in Air NZ team.
Air New Zealand premium passengers are invited to use the Lufthansa Lounge.
I was able to board early for a few quick fresh cabin pictures.
Air New Zealand Business Class
There are 27 Business Premier seats in the front cabin. The left side seat faces a wall divider where the middle and right side seat faces each other. The seats are the same as those on Virgin Atlantic B787. These dated inward-facing seats will be replaced by new Business class seating from 2024.
The B787 Business class seat is also reportedly 2 inches narrower than the same seat on B777.
Air New Zealand Premium Economy
33 recliner seats with 41-42" pitch which has better leg room than most other Premium Economy seats.
Air New Zealand Economy
215 seats across 2 cabins. About 70 seats were blocked on the inaugural flight as it is weight restricted.
Economy Couch product is also available (to purchase) onboard. The seats are the same as Economy, except you can lift a footrest halfway up to create a large couch space.
The Non-Stop Flight
There are 4 pilots operating this ultra-long-haul flight. Flight time was 16 hrs 36 mins in total.
The flight was delayed due to a change of flight plan because of a storm near the Gulf of Mexico en route. The additional uptake of fuel saw about 65 passengers’ bags left behind in New York which isn't ideal for the inaugural flight.
The southbound NZ1 service was flown with reduced seats and without cargo to manage weight.
The airline says conditions for the launch week have been worse than flight planners anticipated, with stronger headwinds than the 12 months of modelling had forecast.
Chief operating officer for Air New Zealand Alex Marren said the decision to offload 65 was "incredibly disappointing" when the flight plan was altered to go around a forecast cyclone.
After takeoff, dinner was served.
After dinner, the bed is set with a thick mattress. Cabin light is dimmed for a good night of rest.
I was able to sleep about 8-9 hours on this flight. Despite the inward facing and the narrowness of the seat, my leg was able to stretch out freely with no obstacles hitting my leg when turning.
One great thing about Air New Zealand is free Wi-Fi across the entire airplane regardless of the cabin. Here is the speed test result.
We landed 1 hour behind the schedule due to the delay from JFK. The weather in Auckland was rainy, 12 degrees Celsius.
NZ1 passengers received a nice traditional welcome in Auckland, New Zealand. My video covered more on the dance.
Air New Zealand was supposed to launch non-stop to New York 2 years ago but was finally able to launch it this month. It provided a fast non-stop link between the East Coast of the US and the South Pacific without transiting in west coast of U.S. such as LAX.
I enjoyed the flight with a solid night of sleep. Here are some observed pros and cons of Air New Zealand product on the JFK-AKL route:
- The flight took place in the evening which helps to rest and sleep.
- Free Wi-Fi across all classes. Speed was decent during most of the flight.
- Economy Skycouch may help those in Economy to lie flat.
- Dates Business Class product with inward facing seat away from the window.
- Limited snack selections beside dinner and breakfast.
- Lack of space to stretch as the 787 is a mid-size airplane for such long flying.
Air New Zealand Product from 2024
Here's the next-gen Business Premier seat that'll fly between Auckland and New York from late 2024. I visited the seat mock up in Auckland.
For the first time ever, economy class passengers are going to have the option of stretching out for some sleep on actual beds during their flights.
Air New Zealand has showcased its "Skynest" mock-up, which features six full-length sleeping pods, will be among the offerings included on its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2024.
Each pod in the sleep zone will be located between the Premium Economy and Economy cabins and include a full-size pillow, bedding, ear plugs, a reading light, USB port and a ventilation outlet. The pods are stacked like bunk beds, with two rows each containing three beds.
I tried out the Air New Zealand Skynest mock-up and was able to fully stretch out my leg inside the bunk bed. When asked how to score one of these bunks, the airline rep said "At this stage, each passenger will be limited to a four-hour session in one pod, at an additional cost to their Economy or Premium Economy class seats."