Onboard Air New Zealand’s inaugural flight from NYC to Auckland, the world’s 4th-longest

Editor’s notice: TPG bought a round-trip fare in economic system for $2,597 USD and accepted a complimentary improve to enterprise class for entry to the cabin. On the time of reserving, enterprise class on this route was blocked for buy by the airline and was reserved for dignitaries and media. A number of remaining business-class seats had been launched on the market by the airline shortly earlier than the flight.

Seventeen hours is a very long time to spend on an airplane. However is getting a journey over with in a single 17-hour stint higher than taking two shorter, however still-grueling, flights damaged up by a switch on the bottom?

It actually comes down to private desire. For almost all of consumers, Air New Zealand thinks the reply to that’s “sure,” embracing a pattern that the airline business at massive appears to have adopted for lengthy worldwide journey.

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The airline launched its inaugural nonstop service between Auckland Airport (AKL) and New York’s John F. Kennedy Worldwide Airport (JFK) this weekend, providing Kiwis and New Yorkers alike the prospect to skip what some would view as a depressing cease at a hub like Los Angeles or Houston, and as an alternative permitting them to remain asleep — or no less than in that air travel-induced fugue state — with out interruption.

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The idea is nothing new, however market situations and plane know-how had beforehand restricted the financial viability and easy mechanics of those ultra-long flights.

Air New Zealand’s ambitions aren’t new, both; the airline introduced a route from Auckland to Newark in 2019 (scheduled to start in October 2020) earlier than shelving these plans because of the pandemic. Nor are they distinctive: a flagship nonstop service between the East Coast and the Oceania area that features each Australia and New Zealand has been on no less than one different airline’s radar.

It is a race that Air New Zealand has received, with the New York flight coming no less than three years earlier than Qantas says it plans to launch nonstop flights from Sydney to New York and London. These would turn into the 2 longest flights on the planet, respectively (Singapore Airways at the moment holds the highest titles).


In 2019, Qantas operated two proof-of-concept flights to Sydney — one every from New York and London — utilizing newly delivered plane. The flights had been largely empty, apart from a contingent of airline employees and media, and had been criticized by some as being little greater than a stunt, since there was no concrete plan to really launch the flights.

However, the Australian service used the flights to check just a few fascinating ideas and collect information for regulators. Two present TPG staffers had been aboard the New York flight, myself included. It was certainly a protracted flight, however Qantas tried a number of service methods for the all-day flight, which had a nighttime 9 p.m. departure, New York time.

Amongst these, it shifted the flight to Sydney time instantly on departure. That meant that as an alternative of serving a meal shortly after takeoff like regular, passengers had been inspired to eat earlier than the flight and solely mild snacks had been served at first, because it was 11 a.m. in Sydney. Dinner wasn’t served for just a few hours, and passengers had been inspired to remain awake. The concept was that it could assist with jet lag.

Air New Zealand, nonetheless, disbursed with that on its inaugural from New York, providing dinner service shortly after the nighttime departure. Breakfast was served shortly earlier than the early morning arrival in Auckland.

Was one time-zone strategy higher than the opposite? It is arduous to say, however as I write this in my Auckland resort on Monday afternoon after an hour-long nap and a bathe, I can not say that I really feel any higher (or worse) than I did on the Challenge Dawn take a look at flight. I am a bit out of it however awake and centered as standard — presumably, my editor will let me know if this text was affected by jet lag-induced typos once I file it. (Editor’s notice — it was not.) And naturally, we’ll see how I really feel later tonight and over the following few days.

Air New Zealand’s service is open for reserving and is now flying as a part of the service’s common schedule. There was pre-launch advertising hype within the New York market, however, past that, there was not a lot of the pomp, circumstance and shtick that accompanied the Challenge Dawn flights. Nonetheless, the flight has drawn curiosity throughout the business for its standing as yet one more super-long flight — and since it provides flyers the prospect to get the 8,800-mile flight throughout 16 time zones completed in a single shot somewhat than breaking it up with a connection and an extended general journey time.

An enormous deal…although you may not realize it

This can be a main flagship route for Air New Zealand, supporting the tourism business and providing a quicker mode of journey for enterprise vacationers, expats and other people heading on trip.

Though there have been festivities in Auckland as the primary New York-bound flight departed, issues at JFK had been quieter for the primary Auckland-bound section.


Air New Zealand makes use of the Lufthansa lounge at JFK’s Terminal 1 for now. After scanning my boarding move, I used to be directed to the higher flooring with a number of different passengers on the flight. The lounge is busy, serving all Star Alliance companions out of Terminal 1 — the Turkish lounge is at the moment closed, leaving Lufthansa because the remaining possibility for these flights. Nonetheless, there was an honest collection of cold and hot meals, together with comfortable drinks and wine apparently obtainable upon request.

Sometimes, inaugural flights see loud, gaudy festivities on the gate earlier than departing. However that put Air New Zealand in a considerably unusual place.

Whereas the airline’s hub is in Auckland, the return section of the New York flight is arguably the one that attracts the best profile for the airline. In reality, it is the returning flight, from JFK, that bears the flight quantity NZ1 — the flight from Auckland to New York is NZ2.

The brand new flight is predicted to convey $65 million yearly into New Zealand’s economic system, airline CEO Greg Foran instructed the New Zealand Herald.

The U.S. market is vital to New Zealand, and a nonstop from New York is predicted to extend the nation’s enchantment because it reopens to vacationers. Previous to the pandemic, the U.S. was the third-biggest tourism marketplace for New Zealand (behind Australia and China), comprising 10% of all guests and 13% of all customer spending, in keeping with Tourism New Zealand.

However, Auckland is the hub, and the preliminary departing flight certain for New York noticed massive celebrations.


On the New York facet, there was little to recommend that this flight was something particular, apart from an indication within the Lufthansa lounge welcoming Air New Zealand passengers for the primary time.


On the gate itself in Terminal 1, which is notoriously crowded in the course of the evening departure financial institution, issues had been extra routine. A spokesperson for the airline stated that logistics on the airport Saturday evening made a gate occasion unfeasible.

That stood out as a stark distinction to occasions at different inaugural flights, which are likely to bemuse passengers who booked the flight with out realizing there was something particular about it.

On this case, it appeared clear that passengers realized that the route was new, even when a few of them might not have identified they had been aboard the precise first flight.

“I am so glad there’s lastly a direct,” one Kiwi passenger stated within the lounge earlier than boarding.


About an hour earlier than the flight was scheduled to depart, there was already an honest crowd on the gate. I boarded the airplane early to get images, chatted with just a few flight attendants and settled into my seat, 5K.

The airplane boarded, the pilots made the same old pre-flight bulletins, after which we sat. And sat. And sat. The captain got here on to tell us that our flight was having bother getting a tug assigned to push us again from the gate. This was basic JFK in the course of the busy evening banks, as all of the worldwide flights attempt to depart almost directly.

About an hour later, we lastly departed.

A Enterprise Informal Cabin Expertise

Inaugural flights are at all times a bit bizarre as a result of there are, nicely, folks like me on board. It isn’t a typical flight — there’s typically some quantity of festivities on board, whether or not it is airline employees passing out souvenirs, executives greeting passengers or the same old picture ops from these making an attempt to doc the expertise.


Regardless of the shortage of gate celebration, the expertise on board was celebratory, with bulletins from each the captain and cabin supervisor, together with a discover that there can be some images on board that suggested passengers to let a flight attendant know in the event that they needed to make sure they weren’t included in any images.

Within the business-class cabin, as passengers boarded and settled down, there was an unusually pleasant and chatty environment.

A part of that was pushed by the actual fact that there have been a handful of reporters and airline employees — myself included — sitting within the cabin.

But it surely was additionally pushed by the somewhat out of date cabin structure in enterprise class.


The pattern in premium cabins nowadays is in the direction of privateness and private house. Whether or not it is a new home, first-class product or the most recent worldwide enterprise class, airways are working with suppliers to construct cabin merchandise that supply, if not true privateness, then no less than the phantasm of it, the place passengers cannot see one another’s faces.


Air New Zealand has a product within the works that it plans to introduce in 2024 that matches this pattern, however the present on-board product is the precise reverse. Passengers sit in a 1-1-1 configuration dealing with the aisle at what looks like a couple of 70-degree angle. There are partitions between seats, however you may make eye contact and chat with the folks sitting throughout from you and on both facet. Whereas I really just like the set-up when it is time to sleep — extra on that in a bit — it feels solely open whereas seated.


After boarding and even after takeoff, as these of us who knew one another chatted, different passengers joined in with opinions on the flight and ideas about journey. For an inaugural, it was a pleasant and social expertise. However I think about that is not what a typical flight is like, and I hope that passengers did not need to go proper to sleep given the post-departure environment within the cabin.

Settling in for the long-haul

Seventeen hours is a very long time to spend on an airplane. However the excellent news is that it means there’s loads of time to benefit from the full onboard service and nonetheless have time to sleep as a lot as doable, versus these quick in a single day transatlantic flights the place generally you need to select between consuming dinner or sleeping.

The dinner service on this flight was among the many finest I’ve had in enterprise class, with a great and customizable choice, contemporary produce and wonderful flavors. So I am doubly glad I had time to get pleasure from it with out sacrificing sleep.


Additionally, for the reason that Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favourite factor to observe throughout lengthy flights, and we had been headed to New Zealand, the place the flicks had been famously filmed, I made a decision to observe the prolonged editions of the flicks in the course of the flight. See if you happen to can spot which scene corresponds with which dinner course.


A primary inflight drink was served about 40 minutes after take-off — orders had been taken on the bottom — together with a scrumptious gravlax amuse-bouche.


Bread service and the primary course, together with a drink refill, happened half-hour later. I went with the tasting plate.


Whereas every thing on it was tasty, the seared tuna was delectable.


My foremost course got here half-hour later. I went with the superfood salad. The airline affords a collection of sides and proteins with which passengers can customise their entrees — a novel characteristic labored out with caterer LSG, in keeping with Louise Leaupepe, a program supervisor on the airline — so I opted so as to add hen to my salad.


The hen was flavorful and juicy, whereas the salad was contemporary and attractive.


For dessert, one other half-hour later, I went with the chocolate brownie ice cream. Typically, ice cream on planes comes fully frozen and desires a while to thaw, however this sundae was ready-to-eat. I believe the flight attendants took it out to melt earlier within the meal service, which was a very nice contact.


With my dessert completed, my desk setting was cleared at two hours and 20 minutes after take-off. After doing a little work and watching extra of the Fellowship of the Ring, I requested a flight attendant to make up my mattress about 40 minutes later — not like newer enterprise class merchandise, passengers cannot make their very own beds with these seats — and 25 minutes later, after the final scene of Fellowship, I went to sleep.

I awoke just a few occasions throughout turbulence as we navigated round Tropical Storm Madeline off the west coast of Mexico, and some different occasions as a result of I used to be thirsty — I introduced two liters of water on board with me, so I used to be nicely ready. These interruptions apart, I managed to sleep for seven hours. I am not a fantastic airplane sleeper, even in enterprise class, in order that’s fairly exceptional for me.


Nonetheless, at this level, we had been solely 10 1/2 hours into the flight. A flight attendant helped convert my mattress again right into a chair, and I requested for a cup of espresso and the “Heat New York pastrami and Swiss cheese sandwich,” which was one other hit. I additionally began the following film within the trilogy, The Two Towers.

Over the following 4 hours, I did some work, drank extra espresso, and watched extra Lord of the Rings. By the point we would been within the air for 14 hours, I used to be beginning to really feel the pressure of a protracted flight. I used to be drained, regardless of the sleep; I had a headache; I felt sweaty and gross, and was bored with processed air. Even on a 787, which has a decrease cabin elevation than older plane, it could actually begin to really feel draining after some time.

Nonetheless, I used to be completely happy to proceed on for just a few extra hours somewhat than touchdown, disembarking, after which nonetheless having to fly these final thousand or so miles on one other flight.

Fortuitously, simply after the 14-hour mark, the flight attendants started the pre-arrival service. It started with a heat towel, which was positively a pleasant method to really feel no less than a little bit extra refreshed.

A couple of minutes later, they got here by with trays of juice — I selected the berry smoothie — and took breakfast orders.


About half-hour later, the flight attendants supplied a bakery basket as a “breakfast appetizer,” together with espresso or tea. This coincided with me ending The Two Towers and beginning the third film, Return of the King.


My breakfast order — the pancakes — got here one other half-hour later. They had been good, though they might have used a candy contact; they had been lacking the vanilla syrup.

By the point I completed these, we had been within the air for 15 hours and 35 minutes. With nearly an hour till touchdown, it was time to begin packing up and preparing.

After 16 hours and 36 minutes, we touched down in Auckland. I used to be positively able to get off of this airplane.

Facilities — particular and in any other case

Air New Zealand usually affords the usual amenity kits — toothbrush, eye masks, ear plugs, lotion, lip balm — in enterprise class. For this flight, there have been two celebratory upgrades with a neighborhood twist.


First, as an alternative of the same old pouch, the airline teamed up with New Zealand designer Lethal Ponies to supply particular version leather-based baggage, a classy contact.


Second, the airline partnered with American sneaker-maker Allbirds, which is finest identified for making footwear out of wool sourced from New Zealand, to supply passengers a top quality, reusable sleep masks — additionally made from merino wool. These had been at each seat on the airplane, not simply in enterprise.

As well as, the media contingent acquired a sneak peek at a brand new product the airline is working to develop: business-class pajamas. A spokesperson for the airline stated that these are nonetheless within the testing section, however that the airline plans to introduce them in enterprise class on all of its flights sooner or later sooner or later.


Lastly, the airline gave out New York-themed baggage tags to everybody at check-in, together with a small bottle of hand sanitizer.

Ultimate ideas: An extended flight

Even in enterprise class, this flight felt lengthy. And if you’re touring to the opposite facet of the world, that is merely unavoidable. The query is whether or not you’d somewhat break the journey up with just a few hours on the bottom, or whether or not you’d somewhat energy by.

Once I flew again from Sydney after the Challenge Dawn take a look at flight in 2019, I sat in coach and linked in Los Angeles.

After about 10 hours on the primary flight, I felt fairly terrible. I used to be prepared for the journey to be over. However we had a methods to go, I used to be settled in with my chargers plugged in and my motion pictures queued up. Regardless that I can by no means sleep adequately once I’m sitting upright, I used to be dozing off for 2 or three minutes at a time — not sufficient to be restful, however sufficient to move the time a little bit bit extra shortly.

Then we landed in Los Angeles. It took two hours to make it by customs and safety, to search out the brand new gate, and purchase a brand new bottle of water — the one I had left over from my first flight needed to be sacrificed to the TSA.

By the point I acquired on the airplane for my connecting flight, I felt twice as dangerous as I had earlier than. The stretch on the bottom did not do something. As an alternative, it made me really feel sweatier, extra unsettled, much less comfy — and abjectly exhausted. The subsequent 5 – 6 hours from Los Angeles to New York felt a lot worse than I had felt in the direction of the tip of the primary flight, and by the point I landed at JFK and located a taxi house, I felt shattered. On the time, I might wished we may have simply continued straight by.

This flight was shorter and in enterprise class, nevertheless it reaffirmed my view that it is higher to only get it over with, so to talk. I used to be prepared to go away the airplane, I felt form of gross, nevertheless it was additionally the tip of the journey. I did not have to fret about making a connection, repacking my bag, or the rest. As an alternative, I used to be capable of go to my resort, take a bathe and a fast energy nap, and begin my day.

One vital notice, after all, is that transferring round is important, no matter cabin. Ensuring to shift place and stroll round no less than just a few occasions throughout a flight this lengthy goes a protracted method to not simply feeling higher and fewer stiff, but in addition decreasing the danger of blood clots creating.

Even be warned that whereas Air New Zealand is within the means of including Wi-Fi to its total fleet, not all plane have in-flight connectivity but. My flight did, nevertheless it’s doable that you find yourself within the air for 17 hours with out having the ability to join.

Each cabin of this flight was nearly full — apart from 70-80 seats in economic system that had been blocked on the market to scale back weight and improve vary — and passengers aboard who I spoke with all stated that they most well-liked the one ultra-long-haul to the same old stops in Houston, San Francisco or Los Angeles (it was unclear whether or not any of those passengers had been amongst these whose baggage was left in New York, a gaffe from an otherwise-successful inaugural flight).

“Not having to attach is wonderful,” Auckland-based passenger Hilary O’Connor instructed me. “You sleep for possibly 10 hours complete, you get up, and it does not really really feel for much longer than a Los Angles flight would have.”

“Even when I would like to vary my journey by a day or so, I might try this to have the ability to fly on the nonstop,” she added.

All of it comes right down to particular person desire. However, personally, I agree.

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