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A Quick Air New Zealand Spaceseat Review

I flew down to Auckland Monday night on an Air New Zealand 777 in Premium Economy and I realized afterwards that every review of the Air New Zealand Spaceseat that I had read beforehand was wrong…or at least they missed some key information.

Prior Spaceseat reviews suggested 2 things:

1) When the seats were first installed (and when everyone reviewed them), there wasn’t nearly enough legroom. After less than a year ANZ took out some seats and people were then left with ample legroom.

2) The Spaceseat is “business class lite.” Perhaps, but not exactly.

Longtime OTR readers know I basically only care about whether a seat is comfortable (I’ll leave it to the other bloggers to write about food, service, whatever else). But since you’re here: the food served in Premium Economy is the same as that served up in Business Class, and it seems odd to me that they would serve giant, heavy meals at almost midnight. I’m not sure why airlines try so hard to present a full meal at odd hours. A light snack would have more than sufficed. I took the appetizer (some prosciutto and cheese) and, much to the dismay of my flight attendant, skipped the mains (short ribs; cod over couscous; or some sort of chicken. “Don’t you want to eat SOMETHING????”). It was fine. Breakfast was cereal (I ate), croissants (didn’t eat) and choice of hot entrée (eggs or waffles, I had neither).

I never comment on service, but I found this part striking enough to mention: the breakfast service was very strange. It went like this: flight attendant puts down tray with breakfast appetizers (yogurt, bread, banana) on the traytable of the person next to me. She then asks him if he wants cereal. He responds affirmatively, and she leaves, then returns with cereal. She asks if he wants milk. He says yes. She leaves and returns with milk. Same with juice. Then with smoothie. Then if he wants something hot to drink (she brings mug). Then asks what hot thing he would like to drink. All told, she asked 7 separate questions, departing and returning after each one. I was mesmerized. Moving on…

With iPads most people have their favorite movies and TV shows with them all the time. That said, their entertainment system was chock-a-block with TV shows (an entire season of Arrested Development…woo!) and movies.

Let’s jump to the important part: how were other reviewers wrong about the seat?

First, they look great – they look like business class seats. I actually walked through the cabin, got to the end, walked into Economy, and then realized I had walked through the Spaceseat cabin thinking it was Business Class. I was very happy at that point.

(those are the middle seats)

The seat is wide – wide like a real business class seat. There is plenty of legroom – most of the seats have cutouts to put your feet into, and those cutouts are plenty large.

There are 6 seats across. The two on the left side of the cabin angle left; the two on the right side of the cabin angle right; and the two in the middle face away from each other. You absolutely want seat 23B or 23J. Let me repeat that: the best Spaceseat on the plane is 23B or 23J. You have much more legroom than anyone else, and you’ve got plenty of privacy because the seats are staggered. Your seatmate is enclosed in his little shell seat, so you don’t have to look at his ugly mug all night.

The other benefit of the shell seat is that you can recline without bothering the person behind you.

But that’s where the similarity to Business Class ends. The seat really more slides forward than it does recline (though they say it’s a 6” recline vs. 3” coach recline). Sure, it reclines a bit, but it occurred to me after a few hours: although the seat is wider, it’s still a coach seat –it doesn’t recline or offer the leg support you might hope. They provide a little beanbag thingy for your feet, but even after I stole a 2nd one, it wasn’t enough. It felt like sleeping in a coach seat because there was no leg support. It’s basically a business class seat in every way except your feet cannot be elevated (nor is it like an old recliner business class seat). It’s wide; there are little compartments for your stuff; there’s a large tray. But the sleeping situation is rough. Even lounging for a while is rough because I felt like my legs need to be elevated a bit. That said, there’s enough room in the cabin to walk around a bit. I was just a bit taken aback because the seats look like business class seats. They just aren’t – they are dressed up coach seats.

The two seats in the middle in my row were empty, so after trying to sleep for a bit in my seat, I gave up and lay down across D&E to sleep. You can’t do that in the AB or JK seats because they are staggered. D&E are not staggered so you can pretty much lie across both seats. Still, my feet hung off the end, and I got a helluva whack in the middle of the night when a flight attendant went by pushing a cart.

(Sidenote here: this is the same problem with the SpaceBeds you may have seen, where you get 3 coach seats together basically for the price of two, and you those 3 seats turn into a bed of sorts. “Of sorts” because your legs hang off the end, and you have to sleep scrunched up, which is fine for a nap and less fine for an actual night’s sleep.)

A positive note: the person in A and in K can get out pretty easily, as the seats are staggered a bit. And I actually feel I have more privacy than I do in the United business class lie-flat seat, because I’m set back from the person next to me and he is enclosed in a bit of a shell.

In short: I feel like they were very, very close to coming up with an amazing product. It’s not cheap: LA-Auckland is $3000+ roundtrip in Premium Economy (vs. $5k or so in Business Class), and while the seat is in some ways great, in more ways it behaves too much like a regular coach seat. You really do need some leg support, and I was disappointed that there wasn’t anything resembling a leg rest on the seat.

Mind you, I’m complaining a bit about this seat now, but I’m currently scheduled to fly back on an ANZ 747 that has the old(er) Premium Economy seats. That older seat may actually be more comfortable, based on what I’ve read in other reviews. That said, ANZ gives you a chance to bid on an upgrade (when you buy a Premium Economy ticket through them), and I bid the lowest amount ($350), which I just found out did not get me the upgrade. That is causing me a bit of upset, but not so much upset that I’d actually pay more than that.

(I thought this wallpaper they put in the bathroom was kinda cool):

ON A SLIGHTLY SEPARATE NOTE…

Here’s how I tortured my children before this trip (for the sake of simplicity I have combined the 2 girls into 1):

Me: Want to hear something weird?

Daughter: We’re studying earthworms.

Me: Oh (I’ve learned that responses from a 6-year old don’t necessary match the question asked of them). I leave Monday night for my trip, but I land on Wednesday morning.

Daughter: You fly all day on Tuesday?

Me: No, that’s the crazy part (I don’t know if that is really crazy, but as a child I had a fascination with the International Date Line. Apparently by daughters do not share that fascination). I leave on Monday night, but then it’s Wednesday because of time zones and the international date line (diversion to discuss what that is…and we’re back).

Daughter: But what are you doing on Tuesday?

Me: There is no Tuesday.

Daughter: Yes there is! Where will you be Tuesday?

Me: I don’t have Tuesday this week.

Daughter (increasingly agitated): Daddy stop it. Just tell me, what are you doing on Tuesday.

Me: Nothing. There is no Tuesday.

Daughter: DADDY STOP! JUST TELL ME!

Me: I AM telling you (I’m realizing this was funny when Abbott and Costello did it, but this conversation is less amusing in real life).

Daughter (suspiciously close to tears): TELL ME!

Me: (pause) I’ll be on the plane on Tuesday.

Daughter: But you said there was no Tuesday.

(And…scene)

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  1. You should sell that little dueling dialogue to a sitcom. Classic.

  2. I can’t wait to hear how the conversation goes when you tell the girls about the two Mondays or whatever you’ll have on the trip back.

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