FIRST IMPRESSIONS Queenstown Airport is a small international facility, so it was easy to check in and get to my gate with just an hour until take-off. I'd collected so many things on this business trip that the attendant had to check my luggage through to JFK for me. She then gave a detailed description of where I could re-check my bag after being cleared by customs, and tickets for the three legs of my trip. After some shopping, I stopped in Koru Lounge on the second floor, for a complimentary glass of Sauvignon Blanc while checking my e-mail.
BOARDING I left the lounge two minutes before boarding time and walked through the most stress-free security checkpoint I've ever seen. Boarding started a little behind schedule, but by asking window seat passengers and families to board first, we were able to depart on time.
SEAT COMFORT This 737-300 had 133 seats in a single class, 3-3 configuration. The seat recline was minimal, but the flight was just over two hours, so it hardly mattered to me.
THE FLIGHT Addictive trivia questions playing on the TVs above kept me entertained, and flight attendants handed out complimentary wine, beverages and snacks.
CONNECTION I took a free shuttle bus to Auckland Airport's international terminal, where I handed immigration my exit forms, and after getting through security with no wait, checked into the lounge on the second floor.
Business Premier passengers are treated to a 15-minute foot or back massage, and I made my booking right away, then poured a glass of Champagne and used free Wi-Fi while I waited. I was pleasantly surprised to run into Natasha, a lounge staff member I had been joking around with during my layover to Queenstown. She helped me pass the time until my massage, and shortly thereafter, an announcement let me know that my flight was boarding.
SEAT COMFORT My seat was on the upper level of the B747-400 in the Business Premier cabin. At 22 inches wide, seats are arranged in a herringbone configuration, with a footrest providing extra storage. During the flight, the attendant helped me to convert the seat into a lie-flat bed with the push of one button, placing a thin mat over the seat, before I tucked in with a thick duvet and fluffy pillow. With this setup, I slept soundly for several hours.
THE FLIGHT While waiting for takeoff, I was served a glass of Champagne and given a light blanket. I noticed that the first two seats in the cabin didn't have overhead compartment space, which is worth keeping in mind if you don't plan on checking your luggage.
After takeoff, I scanned the AVOD options on my 10.4-inch TV and chose a movie to watch during dinner. I had the choice of a "fast dine" option or a larger meal with an additional course. Since I was already feeling tired, I decided to just order lentil, parsnip, cumin and spinach soup, topped with chili crème fraîche. I appreciate a dish with so much flavor on flights, but thought it was a little on the runny side. The spiced prawns with melon, feta and parsley tasted a little bland by comparison, but the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and grassy.
I dozed off before I could indulge in the cheese cart, but awoke in time for the breakfast service, and started with a refreshing fruit smoothie, followed by a bowl of cut fruit, yogurt and cereal. I loved the raisin bread that was served with it—it was thick and doughy, with nuggets of dried fruit throughout. I also ordered a cup of French-press coffee to finish waking me up.
ARRIVAL The flight landed on time, which was a relief, as I had a short window before my connecting flight to JFK. I walked to customs in under five minutes, but had to wait closer to 15 minutes before reaching the front of the line. By the time I was cleared, my luggage had been pulled from the carousel, and I was able to drop it off nearby for my connecting flight.
VERDICT A common reaction I get when people learn about my trip to New Zealand is jealousy, followed quickly by a groan about how long it takes to get there. I can confidently say that my experience proves there's no reason to groan about it. At every point, from check-in to landing, the staff treated me like an old friend, and the Business Premier seat was so comfortable, that I was easily able to doze for the majority of the trip. As comfortable as the whole process was, I can't wait to do it all again in the new 777-300ER that launched last month.