FIRST IMPRESSIONS: At 1215, the ground crew at Shanghai Pudong International Airport was certainly still warming up to the check-in process for this new 1415 flight, with a senior staff member constantly looking over their shoulders to make sure everything ran smoothly. Another senior staff was also present to attend to visa enquiries.
Unfortunately, there were no clear signs displayed to direct passengers for queues to their respective classes, and this caused some confusion. However, there was one employee walking around distributing departure forms and ushering passengers to their right lines from time to time.
A couple who joined the Business Class line tried to chat with me in the hope that I would offer some of my baggage allowance for their daughter, who was moving to study in Auckland. They were swiftly herded to join the Economy Class line when the watchful Air New Zealand staff came by.
The lounge, located near Gates 17 and 18 and reached by the escalator leading down to level 2, was spacious and offered a good spread of beverages and snacks, including Asian cuisine like curry beef fried rice. There were also plenty of well-spaced couches available for travellers to take a quiet moment before setting off on the 12-hour journey.
BOARDING: Boarding the Boeing B777-200ER was smooth and it was a breeze settling down as there was no hassle in jostling for luggage space in the spacious overhead compartments. We took off at 1415, right on schedule.
THE SEAT: The armchair was comfortable and came with a little compartment at the left side of the armrest, which is convenient for storing small items like spectacles, the ubiquitous iPod, the essential toiletry pack and even customs forms if you are not in the mood to fill them up just yet.
I only wished the compartment underneath the leather ottoman, located from across the armchair, was roomier for putting my shoes, instead of having them tumble around on the floorboard during turbulence.
The ottoman, equipped with a safety belt, actually serves as a seat for a dinner companion as the adjustable table is designed for two. But I used the seat as my leg rest for the most part. The back of the armchair bends forward to join the ottoman and transforms into a flat bed with the press of a button.
It is clever to use the firm back of the seat, as flattening out the armchair backward might create an uneven surface, resulting in sore backs. Set it up with a fluffy pillow, bed sheet and blanket, and it’s time for bed.
THE FLIGHT: The noise-reduction headphones provided great audio for inflight entertainment programmes. They were so effective that I had to take them off every so often to respond to the highly attentive cabin crew, especially during mealtimes, when they kept coming by asking for my meal preferences. The headphones also worked better than earplugs in shielding atmospheric noise.
The menu featured both Western food and Chinese cuisine. The Shanghainese fried noodles with dumplings, complete with dark vinegar sauce, was delightfully authentic.
ARRIVAL: The plane landed at Auckland International Airport pretty much on schedule at about 0700. Customs clearance was quite smooth as there seemed to be fewer passengers in the morning.
I was out of the airport by 0800 and hopped onto the airport shuttle to the city.
VERDICT: It was an excellent flight with a poised and professional cabin crew. What was missing, however, was the inflight shopping service, which would certainly go well with the shopaholic Shanghainese.
ANZ should really consider introducing this enjoyable perk.
PRICE: Return Business Class base fare starts from US$3,486.
Wong Yee Fong