Like every traveler, I have a mental list of dream destinations, dream vacations, and dream accommodations. But I’d trade them all in for my airline dream to come true: that Air New Zealand would start flying from New York to, say, Boston, or between any other US cities that I frequent.
Alas, I’m limited to flying Air New Zealand less frequently than I would like—but when I do, it’s consistently one of the best travel experiences around. Others agree: in its 2010 World Airline Awards, SKYTRAX just named the airline the best in the Australia/Pacific region and fifth-best in the world. This fresh off an Airline of the Year award from Air Transport World and, out of the UK, a Which? Award for Best Airline. I think they’re all well-deserved honors, for Air New Zealand makes flying fun again—and on time again.
I’ll admit to being easily charmed by irreverent marketing campaigns, so it’s no surprise that I smile every time I see a creative Air New Zealand offering like a matchmaking flight or a flight-safety video in which employees wear only body paint. But my affinity for the airline is much more practical than that; Air New Zealand translates its cheeky ad campaigns into smooth operations and caring customer service. With unique services like in-flight concierges and innovations like skycouches, the airline knows how to keep customers happy.
Happy I was on my latest Air New Zealand transpacific flights, and as I jetted around New Zealand on domestic flights. Every single flight was on time, every single attendant was friendly and full of personality, and every single seat and meal were superior to those on most airlines (and for sure on US airlines, I would say).
One of the highlights is the food. Flying from LA to Auckland and back, the meals were fantastic: Air New Zealand takes great pride in featuring Kiwi ingredients and chefs on their menus, and they execute well. One dinner included a bean salad, pan-roasted snapper with linguine and olives, and fantastic coconut and strawberry ice creams. Breakfast was even better, with the centerpiece being cinnamon-spiced brioche French toast with wild-berry compote and pohutakawa-honey cream. Even on short-haul domestic flights, excellent coffee and tasty cookies were a given.
The attention to detail continues with individual entertainment systems and chic overnight toiletries for all. And, of course, with that in-flight concierge, who makes sure he or she has been introduced to each passenger before boarding in case anyone has any questions or needs during the flight.
In an industry full of major delays, luggage ordeals, and other headaches, Air New Zealand stands out. Airline of the year, indeed.