Air New Zealand’s Business Class, dubbed ‘Business Premier’, on their fleet of Boeing 787s, makes frequent appearances on routes from Australia to New Zealand, and beyond to the US, South America and Asia.
As such, it is worth knowing what you’re in for if you’re booked to travel with Air NZ for long-haul travel in future. This trip was from Sydney to Auckland in early 2017.
In my case, I managed to find award availability and used 17,500 KrisFlyer miles plus a few dollars in taxes to book this one-way flight.
Air New Zealand are renowned for releasing very little partner award space in Business Class to book using partner frequent flyer program points, which makes it very difficult to find a points redemption opportunity.
As such, Air New Zealand Airpoints are probably the most reliable way the points-traveller will get to enjoy Business Class without paying full-fare – but award availability does pop up now and again, so it’s worth looking to use your Velocity points or KrisFlyer miles on a redemption.
Fleet & Routes
Air NZ started operating its first 787-9 between Auckland and Sydney in August 2014, now counting eight in its fleet (with four more on order) serving flights between its Auckland hub and:
- Adelaide (upgrades from A320 from 29 October 2017)
- Cairns (seasonal)
Air NZ uses the 787 on at least some flights between its seven Australian destinations (except Gold Coast)
Asia and the Pacific Islands
- Ho Chi Minh City (seasonal)
- Buenos Aires
- Houston (changes from 777 from 8 December 2017)
as well as a seasonal summer service between Christchurch and Perth.
Targeting the Air New Zealand flights with flight numbers beginning NZ1XX is the key to getting a 787 or 777 aircraft on a short hop like Auckland to Sydney, which makes the experience much more comfortable than on a narrow-body which usually ply such short routes.
Cabin: Seats & Seatmap
The 787 Business Premier cabin differs from that which you’ll find on the 777-200ER and -300ER’s setup, both of which squeeze an extra seat into the centre in a 1-2-1 configuration.
On the narrower 787, you’ll be in a 1-1-1 configuration (like on Virgin Atlantic’s 787 planes), with 18 or 27 Business seats, depending on the version.
The window seats on both sides are angled toward the centre of the cabin instead of the windows (a not-so-ideal design), reducing privacy.
If you are a solo traveller, you may prefer A seats as you will still be facing inward but staring at the back of someone’s head in the centre J seats (instead of their face).
Couples may prefer grabbing a centre seat and the corresponding one in K on the other side, which allows them to face each other (well, diagonally).
Bassinets for the Business section are located in Row 1 and immediately after the last Business row in Premium Economy, so positioning yourself in between those may give you the least noise trouble.
Legroom is adequate, but for a 185 cm tall guy like me, the constrained width of the foot-rest area did not leave as much space as I would have liked.
The bed is made by folding down the backrest, which you can ask the crew for help with doing. On this Trans-Tasman flight, I do not recall blankets being proactively offered but are available on request. Nonetheless, I snagged a couple of hours’ nap to help catch up on sleep.
Given the manual nature of the bed, the recline of the seat when upright is limited.
An 11-inch screen folds out from the back of the seat ahead of you. This makes it hard to watch movies or TV when the screen has to be stowed during take-off and landing, but otherwise is a fairly flexible arrangement for bringing it as close to you as you need.
Service: Food & Drink
The service was typically friendly, as I’d expect from Air New Zealand given my past experiences with them. The food was decent, but not remarkable, again, as I’d expect for a 3½-hour Trans-Tasman flight.
How to redeem points for this flight
Here are the required points for a one-way flight in Business Class to Auckland:
|Origin||KrisFlyer miles||Velocity points||Velocity points transferred to KrisFlyer|
As you can see, KrisFlyer offers much cheaper redemptions on this route (as usual). If you only have Velocity points, consider transferring them to KrisFlyer.
You can use this guide to find out how many points are required for other destinations.
All airlines are prohibited by the New Zealand Government from imposing fuel surcharges, so your departing flight back across the Tasman will have lower fees than your one heading there from Australia.
You can search and book Air New Zealand flights directly through the Velocity Frequent Flyer website.
However, you’ll need to call KrisFlyer for redemptions through that program.
Note that under partner changes announced by Velocity in July 2017, from 1 November 2017, Velocity members will no longer be able to redeem points for Air NZ flights between New Zealand and The Americas.
Velocity members have not been able to redeem points on Air NZ flights to the Pacific Islands for a while, so that leaves Trans-Tasman, domestic NZ and flights to Asia as the only eligible Velocity redemption options.
Another option is to use Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars (APD) on a Business Class flight, but as it is a revenue-based program and one-way Business Class fares from the East Coast of Australia to Auckland hover around $700-800 AUD, you’ll need that same amount in APD and that generally does not represent good value.
American Express Membership Rewards points (of both the Gateway and Ascent varieties) transfer to Airpoints. However, it makes much more sense to transfer these points to KrisFlyer (or Velocity) rather than Airpoints for this redemption.
If you have an Ascent-earning credit card like the American Express Platinum Card, you would transfer 35,000 Membership Rewards points to 17,500 KrisFlyer miles for this flight (but you do have the added constraint of having to encounter difficult-to-find award availability).
In contrast, you’d need to transfer 140,000 Membership Rewards points to 700 Airpoints for a $700 NZD flight.
If you are paying for a flight with cash, you can get cashback by booking through Expedia and Cashrewards.
Access to Air New Zealand lounges is complimentary for any passenger holding a ticket with a same-day Air New Zealand Business Premier ticket.
Air New Zealand operates:
- eight international lounges, including in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington
- three domestic lounges in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington
- ten regional lounges in smaller NZ airports
You can access a full list of Air New Zealand lounges here.
Our other Air New Zealand reviews
- Air New Zealand Business Premier 777-200 review – NZ103 Auckland to Sydney
- Air New Zealand Premium Economy 777-200 review – NZ104 Sydney to Auckland
- Air New Zealand (disappearing) Premium Economy Spaceseat Trans-Tasman overview
Summing up: why choose this flight?
If I am headed to New Zealand, I love trying to find options to get out of the standard single-aisle options from Virgin Australia, Qantas or Air New Zealand and onto a long-haul aircraft, when redeeming points for Business Class offers more value. Emirates definitely wins for comfort though, if you have access to Qantas Points.
Air New Zealand’s NZ1XX flights are one of the less accessible ways of doing this using points, but if you can find availability, I would not hesitate to use my points for a flight of this length. Air NZ also often have some decent paid fares in Business Class too.
That said, the seat itself is the weak point. It is a little too narrow for my liking – you have to bend yourself like a banana in one direction only if you are a side-sleeper, and there’s not much room for your feet, which can get knocked by people moving down the aisle who aren’t being careful.
For longer-haul travel, if you are using your own money for Air NZ Business Premier, I would look at the alternatives closely. Their Business Class is not inherently bad, but the competition has improved since it was conceived and introduced and there are more spacious options out there.