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Stunning…

Making my way back to the US this evening I was lucky enough to fly on Air New Zealand’s revamped 747s. It is simply stunning what they have achieved in business class. British Airways similar product upgrade pales in the face of this brilliant combination of design and branding.

The upper deck – once reserved for business class only is now a combo of business class and premium economy – with more business class downstairs. Premium economy looks great – lots of leg room with three-up on one side and two on the other. Business class seats face into the plane on an angle. They are so stunning I’m stumped as to why they even call it business class. It warrants another label. Superb Class maybe. They should have taken a feather out of Virgin’s cap – when redefining air travel, change what you call it.

Many things distinguish this from traditional business class, one of which is a second small seat in front of the main which doubles as a foot rest and guest seat should they want to join you for dinner. Word is that they had Recaro – the makers of premium auto seats – make the brown leather seats. They are amazingly comfortable. Each seat is cocooned with a polished white laminate wall which gives off a brilliant glow when the overhead light is on. This not only provides real privacy but really cuts down the noise. And when its time for bed, they lay flat, really flat. Better still, the flight attendants make your bed, laying a mattress cover over the seat along with duvet.

A generous flat panel entertainment system sits snugly into the wall. Wasn’t thrilled to see a Windows CE boot screen for ten minutes or so – or with the warning from the pilot that we shouldn’t push the buttons too much or else a crash might result warranting another ten minute reboot. But hey, no worries, they had people on board to help. Can’t imagine that will last too long and thankfully this is all Windows CE runs on the plane. Hopefully they’ll get the bugs worked out over time. Saying that, the system worked fine for me and provided a modest selection of movies.

About all the plane was missing on the technology front was WiFi – reading Ross’ recent entry that would have been incredible – but hey, there is only so much you can do mid Pacific anyway.

Air New Zealand has always provided superb food and wine. Arguably the best in the air. Now it’s even better. They continue to deliver uniquely New Zealand flavors that marks them as one of the few airlines that it’s worth waiting for the meal.

It’s rare for me to rave about any travel experience but this is just superb. Every hotel proprietor in NZ should take flight with Air New Zealand and then head home with ideas on how to implement what they have done in the air. I just spent a few days at the Stamford Plaza, Auckland and once inside the hotel could have been in any US chain. Once on Air New Zealand there is no question where you are – in the best business class in the air.

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