Air New Zealand’s Economy or Premium Economy, worth it?

Over the last two weeks I’ve had the luxury of flying Air New Zealand’s Economy and Premium Economy service between Auckland and Houston, on their Boeing 787 Dreamliner. So let’s review the service.

Air New Zealand Economy Class

Flying over I was in Economy class. It wasn’t a great start from Auckland Airport, with the vending machines not working at the gate. My favourite bit was when it wouldn’t accept the credit card, but it maybe could online, if you downloaded the app, registered all your information, then it also wouldn’t work. Classic gag, when it’s 30 degrees Celsius and you’re dying for a drink before the plane.

Economy class in the Dreamliner is 9 seats across, in a 3-3-3 configuration. I was down the back of the plane, which is not a bad place to be. I’m not sure if it was that particular flight, or they just don’t have many people down the back end of the plane for long flights, but the seat next to me was free, as well as a whole row at the back of the plane.

Entertainment wise, the screen was about the width of my hand, and was very responsive. I didn’t notice a remote control, though everything was available on the screen. Having a USB port meant charging my iPhone was easy, and fully charged on arrival to Houston.

Food wise, the food was food. There’s not too much choice in Economy, it’s either Chicken or Beef, and it was fine. The whole flight was reasonable, though the only thing I was annoyed by is that the blinds on a Dreamliner are controlled electronically. These controls can be centrally-controlled by the Flight Attendants, which meant I couldn’t see Mexico while we were flying over.

Air New Zealand Premium Economy

So how was Premium Economy on the way back? When I moved to Silver on Airpoints, I was given a Recognition Upgrade, that allows a one flight upgrade to the next service level, so Economy to Premium Economy.

Premium Economy is 2-3-2 across, so if you book the seat by the window, you’ll only have one seat partner. But the benefits start at the gate, where you can board second on the plane, after Business class passengers. This may not seem like a big deal, but it means that you’re inside the nice cold plane quickly, there’s plenty of overhead storage for bags, and it makes for a nice relaxing boarding experience, rather than waiting on the air-bridge.

A hot towel and complementary drink while waiting to take off, and then we were in the air. Sadly the lady next to me had a medical event, that left a particularly nasty smelling, well, smell in the air, that surprised me when I was woken up. Literally, I was breathing through my mouth, which is kinda gross, and not Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy-fault.

To their credit, the Flight Attendents managed the issue pretty quickly, and reassigned me another seat, at the bulkhead section of Premium Economy. This space is massive, and I could extend my legs fully, and recline significantly, without touching the space in front of me. Think of it like being in a lazy boy, and fully reclined.

The seats in Premium Economy are wider, and more comfortable, with a leg rest that can be raised. Sadly, I found that there’s not as much under-seat storage as Economy, which is strange. Another difference is that tray tables in Economy fold down from the seat in front of you, which means if you’re a bigger person, then that’s not a problem. In Premium Economy the tray tables fold out from the arm divider, which means if you have a bit of a belly, then some customers can’t fold their tray table flat, because it won’t extend past them.

Because I had a cold, I didn’t particularly enjoy the food on the way back, though you can’t really blame Air New Zealand for me having a cold. It was nice to have a starter, and the mains with cutlery on plates. And the multiple hot towels were very refreshing.

Is it worth the upgrade?

So overall, is it worth the $400 or so to upgrade to Air New Zealand Premium Economy? Well, I think if Economy is a distressing experience for you, say there’s not enough space, or the food isn’t nice enough, or you hate waiting, then sure, it probably is. But for me, I’d rather just buy a neck pillow, take an anti-histimine, and wake up in Economy, and save my money for something else. But if someone else was paying for it, then I’d upgrade everyday of course!