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Review: Air New Zealand Premium Economy from London Heathrow to Los Angeles (Part 2)

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This is part 2 of our review of Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy service from London Heathrow to Los Angeles.

Part 1 of our review, which also includes a quick tour of ANZ Business Class, is here.

As a reminder, I bought my own ticket from London to Los Angeles but was upgraded by Air New Zealand and given special access to the aircraft to take photographs in return for featuring it on Head for Points.

The Air New Zealand Premium Economy meal service

After a quick ascent the crew came around with hot towels, a menu and a first drink of sparkling wine (Dulcet Sparkling Brut NV, which you can buy online for NZ$25, just over £12) or orange juice, served in plastic cups:

Air New Zealand sparkling wine premium economy

Given that the rest of the service was with actual glassware, I was confused why this first service was with plastic – it did not make for a good first impression.

The meal service was structured in a rather unusual way.  The flight attendants would move down the cabin, providing meal trays with the starter, dessert and sides, as well as offering additional drinks. Much later – maybe as long as 30 or 40 minutes – they would return and remove the used tableware from the starter and give you your main course. I was surprised by how long we were made to wait, and saw two passengers in the row across from me getting impatient and eating their dessert before the main course had arrived.

This was the lunch menu.  There was only a choice of main course with the rest being fixed:

Smoked halibut with egg and apple salad, dill miso and mustard dressing

Wholemeal, sunflower and linseed bread, sourdough loaf and garlic bread offered with Hawke’s Bay extra virgin olive oil

Beef cheek with cauliflower puree, roaster Chantenay carrots and turnips, black olive and chilli crumbs

Dijon mustard baked chicken breast with pumpkin, lentils, Swiss chard and lemon and tarragon jus

Roast cod with rose harissa saffron sauce, baby potatoes and seared zucchini with capers, rocket salad

Spiced maple and pear cheesecake

The odd service excepted, I found the food to be very good. I was surprised how flavourful it was. Here is the smoked halibut starter (which I loved) and spiced maple and pear cheesecake. I’m not a huge fan of cheesecakes and would have preferred something chocolate-y but it was tasty:

Air New Zealand premium economy meal review

I went for the beef cheek main with turnips, which I thought belonged more on a post-war ration-card, but turned out to be surprisingly tasty!

Air New Zealand premium econom main meal review

Once the meal service was cleared away we were offered tea or coffee as well as a square of chocolate.

Outside of meal times, there was a small selection of snacks in the galley, including crisps and biscuits. However, what was particularly smart is that Air New Zealand also integrate snacks and drinks-on-demand into their in-flight entertainment system. Once you selected your snacks and drinks, the cabin crew brought it to your seat:

Air New Zealand in flight drink service economy review

You could order from pretty much the entire range of soft and alcoholic drinks available on the flight, as well as a range of snacks that weren’t available in the galley (more chocolate!).

Surprisingly, this service was also available in economy, although the range of snacks was slightly different.  The photo above is taken from an economy seat.  One of the benefits of such a system is that it feels a lot less intrusive to order an item – and you also know what’s available. With a whole menu of options it’s easier to order and it feels a lot less like you’re hassling the cabin crew for a drink.

As is customary, the cabin lights were dimmed after dinner. Just before the second meal service they were slowly brought up in what looked like a recreation of a sunrise. It was much smoother than on some other flights I’ve been on.

The crew returned with another round of hot towels before the second meal, which was pitched as ‘refreshment’.  This is what the menu said:

To begin:
Fresh fruit salad

Hot savoury:
Three cheese, chive, tomato and rocket filled brioche with smoky tomato relish

Crosstown Doughtnuts:
Crosstown Doughnuts are lovingly crafted daily ensuring the flavours and textures are at their best.

Roasted peach with almond milk icing and amaretto crumble

Vegan coconut custard, lime icing with spirulina, vanilla crumble

Here is the fruit salad starter:

Air New Zealand premium economy second meal review

Again, the wonky service meant a longer wait for the main course; in this case, a savoury cheese filled brioche, which was fine but nothing particularly special. It was the sort of second meal you would expect in economy:

Air New Zealand premium economy second meal review

And finally we were offered a selection of doughnuts. Overall, the standard of the second meal was a lot lower than the first, which was disappointing given that this wasn’t just a six hour flight to New York.

Air New Zealand premium economy doughnut

Earning and redeeming frequent flyer miles on Air New Zealand

As a member of Star Alliance, you can earn and redeem miles with Air New Zealand via any of the alliance frequent flyer schemes including ANZ’s Airpoints programme.  This HFP article looks at how to earn Star Alliance miles via UK credit cards.

Another interesting option is ANZ’s partnership with Virgin AtlanticDetails are here.  As well as being able to credit your ANZ flight to Virgin Flying Club, you can also redeem using Flying Club miles.  The Virgin Atlantic website only shows reward prices for Economy and Business Class, not Premium Economy.

Virgin Flying Club Gold members get special benefits when travelling on ANZ flights under the Virgin Atlantic codeshare.  If you are Gold and on a VSXXXX coded ANZ flight you receive:

  • An extra piece of baggage
  • Business Class check in
  • Access to the the Air New Zealand lounges in Sydney, Rarotonga, Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Queenstown (you must show your Virgin Gold card at the door, a boarding pass is not enough)
  • Priority baggage delivery


One of the most outstanding elements of the Air New Zealand experience was the staff. The cabin crew were one of the best I have ever had. They were extremely attentive and friendly – not just with me (they knew I was reviewing the flight) but also the rest of the cabin.

There were definitely a few points with which it could improve – the odd meal service routine and the lack of noise-cancelling headphones being the obvious ones – but the stand-out crew, excellent first meal and innovative snack-ordering service definitely make this a very attractive product to fly on.

On the whole, Air New Zealand offers an excellent alternative to the Premium Economy and Business Class options offered by British Airways and the various other carriers that operate the Heathrow to Los Angeles route.

Thanks to the Air New Zealand team in London for setting this up and in particular for allowing me to see the aircraft before boarding began.

Comments (23)

  • Mike says:

    Rhys – great review. Rob – its good see the odd premium economy review as I do fly premium economy if I am paying for my own holiday flights or can’t get BA First availability for my BA241.

    • Michael C says:

      Same here, Mike, especially with three of us in the family.

      The other two are titchy and can sleep on the overnighters, while I just settle in for a red wine/cinema catch-up!

      The tiny hassle-free cabins are the major plus for me.

  • Matt B says:

    Is the mileage cost to LA the same as on Virgin?

  • Ali says:

    always found Air NZ flight attendants specially helpful and puts them apart from other members.This is after having done over 15 flights with them including in land and international from NZ. For some weird reason – the sweets they bring around makes me happy like a little

  • Frankie says:

    Thanks for your reviews Rhys. I enjoyed reading them. Hope all is going well back at Uni/college and I also hope we hear more from you on HFP at some point in the future.

  • Gill martin says:

    I had also used air new Zealand to L.A in premium last September where the flight had been pleasant and relaxing. The staff were polite and accomodating refilling our wine glasses. However the return flight home had not been so pleasant where staff looked rushed ad not so accommodating coupled with the food being cold and unappetising.

  • Boris says:

    I’ve been lucky to bag the cyber Monday/black Friday flights 3 out of the past 4 years and was lucky enough to experience the sky couch on one of the occasions.

    Whilst I was travelling solo and it felt a bit odd I would recommend for couples or small families.

    Love the self serve element in terms of drinks and snacks on board. Something I’ve not noticed on other carriers

  • Huw says:

    Just done a LHR -Lax return in economy in a mix of standard and preferred seating totally agree about crew friendly and excellent service. Food didn’t seem to be much different perhaps less choice. but excellent quality
    My only quibble was standard seats were a bit tight but overall a good experience. Probably my favourite airline.

  • Colin says:

    Having flown around NZ with Air NZ I agree the staff were awesome. They even had child passenger assistance when handling out ‘lollies’ – it made her day.
    I would be intrigued to hear a report of a LHR LAX AKL flight and return as after our experience flying into the US and spending 90 mins to clear customs I have been keen to avoid that route.