Click here to read my review of the Auckland-LA sector, which left me stranded in Los Angeles for two nights in an airport hotel. At this point I was advised to go to the airport and put myself on standby…
CHECK-IN After I had packed and started queuing for the hotel transfer bus to LAX airport, I realised a lot of other people were doing the same, so I jumped in a taxi and got their before anyone else. I then went to the check-in desk and made sure my name was on the list for a standby seat on Air New Zealand’s only flight of the day to London.
After a 90-minute wait, once everyone else had been checked in, a list of names was read out and, fortunately, I was one of them. Even though I had been downgraded to premium economy I was relieved to be able to board.
My bags were then processed rapidly and I was issued a form to fill in to apply to get some of my money back on the difference between a business and premium economy ticket. I then went straight through security and into airside departures at 1530, where I stopped to buy a sandwich in case there was no vegetarian meal for me on the plane.
BOARDING Boarding had already started when I got airside and I was across the airbridge and in my seat (29C) by 1605. As in business class, there was the choice of sparkling wine or orange juice, and bottles of water, noise-cancelling headphones, menus, and amenity kits were handed out.
THE SEAT Economy class on the B747 is arranged in a 3-4-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F-G, H-J-K rows 35-68) configuration on the lower deck, while premium economy and business are on both decks. The former is arranged 2-2 (A-C, H-K rows 27-30) downstairs and 3-2 (A-B-C, H-K rows 22-26) upstairs, while the latter is in a 1-2-1 (A, E-F, K rows ten to 15) on the lower deck, and 1-1 (A-K) upstairs (rows 16-20) and downstairs (one to seven) at the front. (Click here for a seat plan.)
The premium economy product was pretty comfortable – there plenty of storage space in bins under the windows, and I was in an aisle seat in one of the pairs downstairs, which meant I could easily get out and stretch my legs. The airline also provides duvets and pillows, and the seat has a reasonable recline of 36 degrees (11 degrees more than in economy).
All passengers benefit from individual seatback screens and audio-video on demand. However, I look forward to experiencing ANZ’s new premium economy product, which was launched on the route in April on board a new B777 and looks far superior. Click here for more information.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? If you are sitting upstairs in premium economy, avoid middle seats B, and those in row 26 and H-K in row 25, as they are very close to the washrooms. Downstairs, exit row seats in row 27 have extra legroom, as do those in row 22 on the upper deck. Note that it can get quite cold here though.
THE FLIGHT There was some delay to departure, as the tug that was meant to tow the plane out of the gate had broken down and they were having difficulties detaching it. But after a wait of about 45 minutes, the plane took off at 1715 with an estimated flight time of 11 hours 30 minutes.
At 1800, aperitifs were served with packets of crisps, followed by dinner. To start, there was smoked salmon and a choice of bread (garlic, olive or sesame), with the main served on a tray with china dishes. As I eat fish but no meat, I went for the cod with broccoli and mashed potato, which was far better than the special meal I had endured in business class on my previous flights with ANZ so I didn’t need to eat the sandwiched I had bought.
I had a glass of red wine and watched a couple of films before trying to get some sleep. After a few hours of broken rest, I gave up trying to get comfortable and spent the last three hours of the flight reading. Breakfast was served at 0130 but I wasn’t really hungry so just had some granola, fruit and coffee.
ARRIVAL The decent into a very cold and wintry-looking London Heathrow began at 0245. We were lucky to get a slot as only one runway was open at this time in December last year, which meant only about one third of flights were landing. The aircraft touched down at 1130 local time and I was off the plane by 1145. My baggage was waiting for me in reclaim once I was through immigration.
VERDICT This was a transfer I had been planning to get two days earlier, but because of snow in Europe I was stranded for two nights in LA after coming back from Auckland, which meant it was not the most successful of journeys. However, I was extremely relieved to be on the flight, despite being downgraded, and I thought warm, polite and professional Air New Zealand team did an excellent job of dealing with difficult customers and this unexpected problem.
PRICE Internet rates for a return flight from London to LA in ANZ’s new premium economy class started from £1,272 in July.
PLANE TYPE B747-400
SEAT PITCH 38in-40in/96.5cm-101.5cm
SEAT WIDTH 18.5in/47cm
SEAT RECLINE 36 degrees