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How to Score an Upgrade on Air New Zealand: A Tale of Woe

January 21, 2010 at 11:30 AM | by | ()

The view from our bed. Score!

Isn’t traveling just great these days? All those wonderful rules to abide by, the generous baggage fees to pay—what’s not to love about flying? But in case you’re the fussy type and want to get upgraded, here’s how it worked for us on our London-LA journey from hell on Air New Zealand.

As we said before, the check-in procedure for our flight was a bugger’s muddle—staff were uninformed, unhelpful and made us swear never to fly ANZ again. Luckily we stood our ground even after losing the battle of the carry-on bag, and demanded to have words with the Operations Managerat the gate. Even luckier, she was very nice, heard us out and apologized for how we’d been treated. So we boarded slightly mollified.

After the jump, how we got into Business Class

We’d booked a Premium Economy seat and had our space reserved on the top deck since October, so it was something of a letdown to sit in it and find it soaking wet. When we told the stewardess, she said “Oh yeah, your neighbor spilled her drink over it earlier.” And no one had thought to mop it down, dry it out or, um, inform the occupant before they got a soggy derriere? No. Er, OK.

After several valiant attempts by the stewardess to mop it up, cover it in a couple of blankets and then wrap the whole seat up and turn it backwards, we were wondering how we were going to spend the next 12 hours balancing on the edge. So we asked if we could move seats. She said she would ask but she thought the plane was full.

Then, it happened. After a short wait the plane manager came up, felt the seat, looked at our tear-stained face and led us downstairs to the last remaining seat in Business. And thus we were even more mollified towards ANZ.

Anyway, we assumed it was the seat issue that had got us bumped up, but apparently that’s not enough —they would normally have stuck us in one of the air stewards’s seats until it dried out, then moved us back after a few hours. Um, right—not that we expect to be upgraded if our seat’s ruined, but we’d have definitely expected another seat in the same class. And if there wasn’t one, surely it’s fairer to be upgraded, not to be shunted off into the staff quarters for half the flight.

So it was the combo of the seat and the shitty deal we got at check-in that swung it up for us—because, turns out the nice Ops Manager had let them know that they had a pissed off passenger coming on board, so when the seat thing happened, the concierge and the flight manager decided to take pity on us.

The moral of the tale? Always complain ! But nicely. Even when you think you’ve lost the battle, as we did at check in, complain at the next stage for what you’ve just gone through. Stay reasonable, don’t make any demands—we doubt they’d have bothered to upgrade us if we’d got pissy instead of just looking quietly wounded. Tears probably helped our case as well.

And as for the Business Class experience...well, we’d go out on a limb and say it easily beats Virgin Atlantic, BA, BMI and United—all of which we’ve flown transatlantic in Biz before. The food is excellent, the booze (including cocktails) even more so, and the service is impeccable.

Even the moving map is miles better than on other airlines. They even have an onboard concierge to help all passengers (not just the business ones) decide what to do once they reach their destination. How good is that? The films on offer weren’t as good as Virgin Atlantic or BA, but that’s our only quibble. If we were flying biz, we’d definitely choose them again.

And actually, the Premium Economy product is probably the cushiest around, too. It’s pretty much Business without the flat beds. You get exactly the same food and drink options as Biz and even the same baggage allowance (insert hollow laugh here), just with a 38-in seat pitch to recline in. Half of Premium Economy is situated on the quiet top deck, too, which is fantastic.

From our experience of the flight itself we would definitely fly ANZ again. But… and it’s a big but… we’re loathe to face their check in process again, and having morons giving out the wrong info on their customer service line is unforgivable. Were we to fly that route again, the service would probably win out. But we’d take plenty of pharmaceuticals to get us onto the plane.

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Archived Comments:

Happy endings

Hi Juliab, it was indeed unfortunate that there had been some miscommunication around your cabin baggage which we have rectified so thanks for bringing it to our attention! It's also good to see that it was a good luck story in the end and that we were full in premium economy and did have that last seat left so that you were able to also enjoy the lovely kiwi style Business Premier service as well. Glad you liked it so much, Air NZ UK