Choices are few and far between these days for travel between the USA and Hobbiton. Kiwi goes most years at least once and usually on Air New Zealand. Now this is for a few reasons, not the least of which is Country Pride. Money of course has a major part to play, then service and convenience. Shopping on line for flights on air www.newzealand.com is very easy, and the site gives a nice grid system view of daily prices over a week period for departing and returning flights.
Air New Zealand is part of the Star Alliance and their planes are the ones used on this segment by the Alliance. Therefore you can count on the flights being full almost any time of year, especially now that Continental has joined the Star Alliance and stopped flying their own planes to NZ. There are fewer seats than ever available, and so it has become to use your frequent flier miles. But that's another story.
Kiwi checked the usual suspects for flights, but even United (UAL) was more than double the price of Air New Zealand, even though they are part of the same Star Alliance!
You can do everything on line that will help you make your flight more comfortable, such as special meal choices, seat assignments and upgrades.
Check in at SFO was quick and easy as is generally the rule, and the 747 plane boarded and departed on time. The economy seats we had were comfortable enough with plenty of leg room for a normal sized adult. Each seat has its own entertainment system including movies, music, and games (four flights with United none had personal entertainment systems). Unfortunately it took about and hour to get the system running, and for many passengers it never worked at all (hope they got something to make up for this fail).
Dinner was pretty ordinary (well, it is airline food), but a couple of glasses of Merlot took the edge off. For now beer and wine is at no charge on Air New Zealand. Coffee was a big disappointment as it tasted like instant. No tea was offered, nor were refills. Based on this Kiwi steered away from the coffee offered at breakfast. Tea was offered but getting refills proved difficult. But not as difficult as getting customs forms. We asked four times including using the attendant call button twice to get someone to bring us spare customs forms.
So to sum up; flight was way less than the competition, but in this dog eat dog world we certainly noticed that were still paying more than ever and getting less. Long gone are the warm towels in the morning, and the good coffee and tea service and being rewarded for being a frequent flyer. But then, they still seem to be one of the best at making a long flight as comfortable as possible for a reasonable price based on the competition. It's just too bad it's not like the old days. You know, four years ago.
We give Air New Zealand a "good, would go back".
Happy Travel Adventures,
Kiwi & Koala