New Zealand’s flag carrier began life in 1940 as TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited) and changed its name to Air New Zealand in 1965 when it joined the jet age with its first DC8. In 1978 Air New Zealand absorbed the country’s largest domestic airline NAC (National Airways Corporation). In 1982 the airline began services to London via Los Angeles and in 1989 the carrier was privatised. Corporate asset striper Sir Ron Brierley dominated the company and left it in a weakened shape and it collapsed in 2001 following the airlines disastrous takeover of Australia’s Ansett Airlines. The New Zealand taxpayer bailed out the nation’s flag carrier, slashing routes and services. The airline suffered its worst accident when a DC10 Antarctic sightseeing flight flew straight into Mt Erebus in 1979. Air New Zealand belongs to Star Alliance and is one of only two airlines to circumnavigate the globe.
Air New Zealand provides a very high level of on-board service. Their crews are highly attentive, efficient, attractively attired and can be very friendly. The airline has perhaps the best on-board safety announcements in the sky which shows they have a real personality. The airline also is unmistakably New Zealandish in character with many charming local characteristics evident on board. The carriers long distance flights are particularly good with crews attentive and enthusiastic.
Air New Zealand has an extensive domestic network and serves Australia and the South Pacific rather well, but its global network is very limited. The airline essentially serves a few North American destinations, London and some important Asian cities. Given New Zealand’s geographic remoteness it is hardly surprising the airline flies to so few locations. The carrier has rights to fly between Australia and the US directly but made a strategic error by abandoning the route just as traffic numbers recovered following 9/11.
Air New Zealand is a full service airline on some routes and provides mixed services on other, usually shorter legs. The airline is seldom the cheapest on any leg, however is better than no-frill rivals. When evaluating the price it needs to be borne in mind, an Air New Zealand experience will be better than a discounted alternative. Air New Zealand has a reputation for extreme vigilance over excess baggage which can make a flight expensive if you intend carrying the kitchen sink.
On long distance flights Air New Zealand catering is excellent, while on shorter flights or domestically it is practically nonexistent. However, when your flight includes catering it is serviced pleasantly and is adequate. Occasionally the airline can even surprise passengers by delivering some truly tasty morsels. On shorter flights the service is likely to be on plastic with paper cups in Economy while Premium classes will dine on china with linen napkins.
Air New Zealand’s entertainment offering is geared towards English speakers. Their inflight magazine is a relatively uninspiring collection of articles about advertisers or interesting locations with a route map displaying a misleading network mostly of their codeshare partner flights. Movies are current and the audio selection is adequate. Smaller aircraft on domestic legs have no electronic entertainment on offer, hardly surprising given the brevity of flights.
Ground services are efficient, however peak flights can experience long check in times. The airline relies on collecting excess baggage money to boost their bottom line so staff are unlikely to turn to the blind eye over extra bags. A real negative is the airlines obsession over charging for any ticket changes such as date or flights. New Zealand’s baggage handlers treat luggage with genuine care and service is extremely efficient.
Air New Zealand’s Koru Lounges, no matter where they are in the world, unashamedly accentuate the charm of their country. Air New Zealand’s Lounges are thoughtfully and attractively appointed with a distinctive Kiwi flavour as are their Premium Classes which are imaginatively and uniquely designed. The airline ditched First Class while focusing on Premium Economy which make longer journeys endurable. The praise lavished on the airline’s Business Class is not exaggerated.
Air New Zealand’s main market is price conscious budget travellers and the airline offers them a good product. Seats are comfortable and reasonably spacious, staff are attentive and the overall experience of an Air New Zealand flight in Economy is a pleasant one. Air New Zealand introduced a new Economy ‘Skycouch’ which allows a set of three seats to be transformed into a type of bed. While this is innovative, the jury is out as to whether it ‘works’. Whether is proves profitable is another thing all together, but is evidence of imaginative thinking.
Air New Zealand’s Airpoints programme is immensely popular with locals however the reality remains that their Airpoints miles are relatively worthless. The scheme is linked to an ever increasing range of products and flights and the airline has made it easy to redeem points. Being part of the Star Alliance means an Air New Zealand frequent flyer card can be useful all around the world.
Air New Zealand has a number of great strengths balanced against some major weaknesses. The airline’s management is very daring and prepared to take risks and experiment with innovative marketing iniatives. However some of their boldness does not pay off. Tightening their baggage policy in 2005 resulted in customers flocking to competitors for example. The airline is too hierarchical with unnecessary management layers in the middle. While the airline has great talent, many senior staff members got their jobs by having fancy resumes and playing corporate politics rather than having any valuable skills. Only a daring airline would try this... A Singles Flight! www.dailymotion.com
Air New Zealand has had more than its fair share of bad luck over the years, however it maintains its aircraft to the highest of standards and operates world class engineering facilities in Auckland and Christchurch. Few international airports are as challenging as Wellington’s which has water at both ends, has a single runway, is surrounded by mountains and suffers howling winds frequently. Despite this the airline has a perfect record operating from this tricky spot which perhaps has ‘hardened up’ their pilots.
A better than average airline that tries very hard and offers a very ‘Kiwi’ experience
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