Air New Zealand, Airbus A321neo economy class, Sydney to Christchurch

THE ROAD

Sydney (SYD) to Christchurch (CHC), flight NZ226.

THE PLANE

Airbus A321neo, operated on international routes

LOYALTY PROGRAM

Air points. Eligible passengers can earn “Airpoints Dollars” on Air New Zealand flights, as well as partner airlines and Star Alliance flights. Airpoints Dollars can be spent on flights, upgrades, rental cars, hotels and other benefits.

TO CLASSIFY

Economy, seat 29A. The aircraft is configured exclusively in economy class with rows 2 to 9 (ABC seats) and rows 2 to 7 (DEF seats), offering more space, at an additional cost. My “theworks” category fare, charged at a higher cost than a standard economy seat, allows pre-flight seat selection and other benefits for a price.

DURATION

Three hours and five minutes.

CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSION

Rated at 0.386 tonnes per economy class passenger. Air New Zealand’s “FlyNeutral” program allows passengers to offset their share of a flight’s carbon emissions with carbon credits from international projects while “accelerating biodiversity and climate outcomes in New Zealand”. Passengers can contribute to FlyNeutral when booking their flight or at any time after it.

FREQUENCY

Air New Zealand operates two daily direct return flights between Sydney-Christchurch-Sydney with further longer routes daily via Auckland, Queenstown or Wellington. Christchurch International Airport is a particularly popular winter destination, serving, as it traditionally does, as a gateway to New Zealand’s ski areas.

CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSION

Rated at 0.386 tonnes per economy class passenger. Air New Zealand’s “FlyNeutral” program allows passengers to offset their share of a flight’s carbon emissions with carbon credits from international projects while “accelerating biodiversity and climate outcomes in New Zealand”. Passengers can contribute to FlyNeutral when booking their flight or at any time after it.

HEALTH

Masks must be worn on board Air New Zealand services, however, passengers no longer need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to fly. Before arriving in New Zealand, Australians must complete the “New Zealand Travel Declaration” (travellerdeclaration.govt.nz) with details of the vaccinations to be included. There is more information on entry requirements to New Zealand at covid19.govt.nz

REGISTRATION

Air New Zealand officially recommends checking in 1.5 hours before your international flight but, given the current state of global travel, it’s worth arriving even earlier, especially if you have luggage to carry. save, in order to reduce unavoidable stress loads. The self-service baggage drop-off process at the Air New Zealand counter at Sydney Airport is queue-free and hassle-free. However, further afield, the queues at passport control and security are long but orderly, and are accompanied by strategically placed electronic signage announcements that attract desperately-needed airport workers.

HEADQUARTERS

There are 214 economy seats, each with a pitch of 74 to 83 centimeters in a single-aisle 3-3 configuration in 37 rows. All seats are upholstered in surprisingly comfortable black leather, but don’t get too used to it as Air New Zealand plans to phase out these coverings in favor of lighter, more durable fabrics. It’s all part of an ambitious overhaul plan that includes a campaign to reduce gas-guzzling weight wherever possible.

LUGGAGE

For Economy Class passengers, there is a limit of 23 kilograms for checked baggage and seven kilograms for hand baggage.

ENTERTAINMENT

My “theworks” rate includes food and beverages (see below) as well as “full door-to-door access” to the airline’s in-flight entertainment system which includes movies, TV shows, music and games.

FOOD

A hot meal, with a choice of Italian chicken or beef rendang, is offered, along with drinks. The old dish, with the inevitable red sauce, is surprisingly appetizing for an economy class flight.

ONE MORE THING…

Consider stopping in Christchurch for a while rather than heading straight to another part of New Zealand. The country’s second-largest city has been largely, and rather surprisingly, rebuilt since the devastating 2011 earthquake and has a lot to offer, including its hinterland of the Canterbury region in the island’s food bowl from South. See christchurchnz.com

THE VERDICT

Air New Zealand regularly scores much higher than its larger Australian counterparts on global airline rating lists. You can tell why, even on an all-budget service like this that might frame our supposed low-cost carriers. Long queues before and after boarding at airports on either side of the Tasman aside, this is a smooth, efficient and thoroughly enjoyable flight (which is no small feat these days) supervised by a particularly competent and friendly cabin crew.

OUR SCORE OUT OF FIVE

★★★★

Anthony Dennis traveled as a guest of Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand. See airnewzealand.com.au; newzealand.com

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