Review

Flying Air New Zealand’s soon-to-disappear Premium Economy Spaceseat across the Tasman

An innovative Premium Economy seat that divides opinions

As part of a recent Air New Zealand flight with my family to Sydney, we enjoyed the comfort of Air NZ’s innovative Premium Economy Spaceseat thanks to an Airpoints OneUp upgrade.

This was one of the best value uses for my hard-earned Airpoints Dollars, and I was keen to enjoy the Spaceseat given that Air NZ are set to dump it for business reasons, despite its award-winning nature and being a part of the fleet since 2011.

Given the excellent experience and despite the seat’s potential demise, this is a brief overview of what to expect. We’d encourage you to grab the chance if you get one to try it out for yourself or farewell it one last time before it is gone for good.

Aircraft and schedule

Between New Zealand and Australia

Flights across the Tasman are generally the cheapest and easiest way to access the Spaceseat, however Air NZ operates a large confusing mix of aircraft across the Tasman, mostly utilising single-aisle Economy-only Airbus A320s or their ageing two-class Boeing 767-300s.

Luckily, Air NZ does maximise the use of their larger long-distance fleet, so some flights from its Auckland hub offer wide-body aircraft fitted with Premium Economy each day to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The trick to getting the Spaceseat is to keep an eye out for the Spaceseat label in the online booking process, and hope they don’t have a last-minute aircraft swap.

Air NZ’s alternative Premium Economy is a commonly-used Zodiac model which is still nice, but much more common, while the Spaceseat is only fitted to their Boeing 777-300ERs.

This all means there is usually one morning Air NZ 777-300ER flight fitted with the Spaceseat each day to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Air NZ 777-200 & 787-9 Dreamliner Premium Economy Seat

Between New Zealand and the US

The Boeing 777-300ER is primarily utilised by Air NZ for their twice-daily Auckland to Los Angeles and once-daily San Francisco services, which are overnight flights in both directions.

Redemption options

Velocity Frequent Flyer

A one-way Premium Economy ticket from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Auckland costs 26,700 Velocity points, whilst it seems that Premium Economy redemptions on Air NZ long-haul flights, such as Auckland to the US, are not available according to its award chart.

Having said that, this situation is a bit theoretical as it can be hard to redeem a Premium Economy award seat with Air NZ through Velocity. Please comment below if you have.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

KrisFlyer does not offer Premium Economy redemptions on its Star Alliance partners.

Air NZ Airpoints upgrade: my experience

While our original booking was ‘Seat Only’ (i.e. Economy), we knew that the flight was scheduled to be serviced by a 777-300ER, so we decided to make an Airpoints OneUp upgrade bid offer to enjoy the Spaceseat during the flight over.

This was accepted about a week out from the flight’s departure. I consider an upgrade bid to be one of the best methods for maximising value from Airpoints Dollars redemptions.

Premium check-in was fast and easy, providing us all with plenty of time to relax pre-flight in the Auckland Air New Zealand lounge, sadly not an inclusion with the Spaceseat ticket, but I could enter thanks to my Virgin Australia Platinum status.

The Spaceseat

The Air New Zealand 777-300ER currently has 44 Spaceseats in a 2-2-2 layout. Both pairs on either side of the plane are angled toward the windows, while the centre pairing’s seats are angled away from each other with a centre table enabling both passengers to dine together:

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Noise-cancelling headphones and a bottle of Waiwera mineral water are waiting at each seat when you board:

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Having the earphone jack and remote for the entertainment system built into the side of the seat makes it much more convenient than having cables dangling in front of you, particularly while eating:

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The Spaceseat design is the same beige white leather found throughout the Business cabin and incorporates a hard shell back, similar to that often found in most airlines’ Business Class. This allows the seat to slide forward in recline (although only to angle-flat) without intruding on the space of the person sitting behind:

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The sliding mechanism is manually operated rather than powered like most Business seating arrangements, which does make it a little difficult to operate, something that was addressed as the cabin crew made their way around everyone to check if they need any assistance.

Being seated by the window allowed me to enjoy the beautiful sunny day that was on display during our flight:

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Given such a stunning day, I did appreciate how the entertainment screen was designed to swivel out from the back of the seat in front and angle to where it suits you best, great for deflecting the sun’s glare on a morning flight:

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Food and beverage

Being a morning flight, there was a light continental cereal and fruit breakfast option available for those that prefer or don’t do a heavy breakfast:

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The two hot breakfast options – cheese omelette or tuna fishcakes – were a reduced selection of what is offered in Business Class, so while the options are limited, the quality is just as good.

While I had already chosen to eat in the Air NZ lounge, I decided to try out the tuna fishcakes, which sounded superb and didn’t disappoint. The meal was accompanied by a fresh croissant and a proper Kiwi mug of coffee (no teacups here):

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The service from the crew was excellent (as always with Air NZ), with the added attention in the Premium Economy section allowing me to enjoy a couple of glasses of sparkling wine during the flight.

Our other Air New Zealand reviews

Summing up

The Premium Economy Spaceseat is another great innovative development from Air NZ, but it’s a shame that it appears that the economics of the seat just don’t stack up for the airline.

If it makes sense for your travel plans, you should grab the chance to try it out before it goes. There’s no confirmed date yet so, for now, there is normally one option each day to the three main East Coast Australian cities when departing Auckland.

When the Spaceseat is combined with the premium check-in, extra luggage allowance and Air New Zealand’s excellent cabin service, the low-$400s starting cost for a ticket can be good value in its own right.

The best option for those looking to leverage the best value from both the experience and their Airpoints Dollars is to try for a OneUp upgrade, whilst if you have Velocity points, this represents a good-value outright redemption.

All in all, I believe it will be a sad day when Air NZ does away with the innovative seat that they have received so many accolades for.

How about you? Have you flown Air NZ’s Premium Economy Spaceseat, and what did you think?

Supplementary images courtesy of Air New Zealand

Flying Air New Zealand’s soon-to-disappear Premium Economy Spaceseat across the Tasman was last modified: July 28th, 2017 by Clayton Tremain

Comments Expand Comments

  1. mark

    Booked a bottom of the barrel econ return trip from MEL to LAX with Air NZ last year and for some reason both trans-Tasman legs I was in these seats. It put me in there from seat selection. Not sure why, but they were the best premium econ seats I’ve been in.

  2. Paul

    Sad to see it go. Though I have never found it a good sleeping seat in all other regards it is very much business lite. Certainly across the Tasman its easily as good as business, and if travelling as a couple better. In saying that, the new seats are probably a better overall compromise for sleeping and general use on long haul. It was also obvious that the space seat creates revenue issues for Air NZ. Just a shame to see innovation not be rewarded. I await the Qantas “revolutionary” dreamliner PE with interest.

  3. Tom

    I’m just back from a SYD/AKL/SFO return trip and had the spaceseat on 2 of the 4 sectors. I definitely prefer it. The 777-200 PE seats are OK, but they’re not special and don’t seem to recline as much as some airlines. I do this trip about twice a year and chose AirNZ in the days when the only direct SYD/SFO flight was with United, and have stuck with them since. Now that the TBIT terminal at LAX has a better experience and Qantas goes direct to SFO I might revisit my options when the Spaceseat goes. I have a trip to SFO booked for April on the AirNZ 777-300 in both directions so hopefully still be in operation then for a final trip!

  4. Mike lewis

    Absolutely fantastic. Have travelled many miles on other airlines and never slept, Premium economy seats were great on the LA to Auckland couldnt believe i had slept for nearly
    8 hrs. Why change something that works. Very disappointed.

  5. AG

    Easily the best PE seat in the sky. Most PE seats are hardly better than exit row Econ Class, but these are more conducive to transpacific sleep. I wonder if they overshot and started to cannibalise some Business Class revenue.

  6. Carey

    Hadn’t heard the SpaceSeats were going and that’s sad news. Haven’t tried the new 787 premium product yet but it doesn’t look quite as impressive.

  7. Kathy

    This seat is the whole reason I fly Air New Zealand! I travel Adelaide to Auckland to LA and return twice yearly. I don’t mind not having it from Adelaide, but it is the best value option for the long haul trans-Pacific flights! They even give you a little bean bag cushion for your feet!

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