The check-in counters for Air New Zealand are in section G of Hong Kong International Airport – premium economy ticket holders can check in at the two Premium counters, which were empty when I arrived at 1630 for my 1755 scheduled flight.
Premium economy passengers do not have lounge access, but those with Star Alliance Gold tier status can use the Thai Airways lounge near gate 40.
The flight was called on schedule, but I sat back and waited until 1740 before approaching the gate, thus missing the queues. I was allocated seat 24D in the middle row (2-4-2 configuration), but as there was no one else in that row I moved to 24E. I was greeted and given a hot towel; the plane left the gate at 1758, and took off at 1816.
Air New Zealand finished upgrading their premium economy offering on these aircraft in 2015 – the B777-200 now sports the same seats as those on the Dreamliner. Upholstered in black leather, they are well padded and comfortable, with headrest wings, a leg rest and foot bar, good recline and plenty of space for your legs (reputedly the largest seat pitch in class) – access to the aisle from the central seats in the middle row does not require your next-door passenger to stand up.
The 11-inch touchscreen monitor is excellent, and USB and circular ports underneath it light up for easy use. An in-seat power outlet is down at shin level under the armrest. A sealed amenity kit contains toothbrush, eye mask, socks and ear plugs, as well as Antipodes-branded paw-paw lip balm.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE
There are 40 premium economy seats across five rows (23-27) in a separated section of the aircraft. The galley and toilets are in front, while at the rear the economy seats begin straight behind a dividing wall – my preference would be one of the window seats on either side towards the back, as far from the galley and toilets as possible.
Soon after take-off we were offered orange juice, water or champagne, and dinner was served within half an hour. Premium economy passengers share the same menu as in Business Premier class, though with less choice, and a different selection of New Zealand wines (all cooking uses fresh, natural New Zealand produce). My smoked salmon with beetroot salad and dill mustard starter was tasty, and the selection of breads was broad. There was a choice of three mains – red wine beef tenderloin, pan-seared sole or Hainan chicken – I chose the latter, which came with choi sum, chicken rice and tofu, with a ginger spring onion sauce. The meat was tender and had an authentic taste, and the sauce was piquant enough to enhance the dish. A dark chocolate mousse cake with vanilla cream finished off an excellent meal nicely.
After dinner I worked for a while – however the table, which comes up and out of the armrest, was quite bouncy and made using a laptop tricky. Later, I put the seat into relaxation mode, fully reclined with leg rest up, and watched a movie. The IFE boasts 580 hours of content, as well as neat “in-house” programs such as Seat Chat and Screen Share.
The foot rest fully extended did not support me comfortably – I have long legs – so I lowered it slightly until my feet rested lightly on the floor; I found a good position easily enough and, with the help of a thick, supportive pillow, managed to get five hours’ good sleep.
We were woken about two hours before landing, and were served a two-course breakfast of cereal/fruit/yoghurt followed by three choices of hot breakfast – my scrambled eggs were fine, if unexceptional.
We landed at 0920 and were at the gate five minutes later, 25 minutes ahead of schedule despite leaving just over 20 minutes late from Hong Kong. Auckland Airport is compact and efficient – it was not far to immigration, which was empty, and my bags came quickly.
Air New Zealand consistently wins global awards for best premium economy seat and service, and my experience bears that out. The seat is quite new, is well designed and has a quality feel. However, the extra friendly – though still efficient – service is what makes this airline stand out from the crowd.
- DEPARTURE TIME 1755
- JOURNEY TIME 10 hours 55 minutes
- CONFIGURATION 2-4-2
- SEAT PITCH 106cm/42in
- SEAT WIDTH 49cm/19in
- SEAT RECLINE 22cm/9in
- PRICE Internet rates for a midweek return premium economy class flight from Hong Kong to Auckland in June start from HK$17,966 (US$2,317) including taxes and surcharges.
- CONTACT airnewzealand.com