1996 WLG-CHC-SIN-ZRH-GVA on Air NZ and Swissair. First business class flight was the short 45 minute hop WLG-CHC (no longer any domestic business class in NZ) on Air NZ in a 737 where I got served lunch: salad, bread roll, coffee and juice, THEN a choice of two hot options, presented on a tray one being grilled salmon fillet with potatoes. We had started the descent by then (3 rows in business in a 2-2 configuration with recliners). I had it, and my tray was being cleared away with the seatbelt sign on. It seemed such an extravagance on such a short flight, but it was part of the long haul ticket.
However, it was the tranquility of the NZ lounge at CHC, with free hot food and wine, then the comparative luxury of a wide recliner in the front of a 767 (similar to what NZ still has now on such aircraft though they are being phased out), IFE screens (10 channel two cycle loop) when there is nothing in economy, that sold me. That plus the free flowing wine, the dessert trolley, cheese and fruit trolley (both phased out by Air NZ in the 2000s), made for a very pleasant 11 hours to SIN. The food range was more generous, and the wine I knew relatively little about at the time, but enjoyed it.
Then a shower and refresh at the Silver Kris lounge before the long overnight on a Swissair MD-11! I got fed again, used what was one of the first interactive IFE systems, and remember the smell of the smoking section – as the back corner of 4 seats in the cabin were for smokers. The contrast for my previous long haul trip in economy on a similar route, with no lounge access, no IFE, didn’t bring earplugs or eye masks (I was a young naive traveller) was overwhelming. Spoilt me for life. I returned on a similar routing and a couple of weeks later got a “Silver” Air NZ FF card. I knew nothing about such a thing, the travel agent told me she would sign me up for points, so I shrugged and thought why not. The card gave me two lounge passes and an upgrade voucher. After my next trip I had a “Gold” card, had Star Gold status and started paying attention to points/status and well… on it goes.