Four Continents and 37,000 Miles in Two Weeks: Star Alliance Lounge London, Air New Zealand Business Premier London to Los Angeles

Trip Report Index


About 90 minutes before my Air New Zealand departure to Los Angeles I made it to the Star Alliance lounge, where I was directed to the Air New Zealand representative. She took my passport and boarding pass and said she’d bring it to me in the lounge later, as she needed to reprint it on Air New Zealand cardstock.


Star Alliance lounge Heathrow

While the lounge was crowded the wifi was fast, which makes it more useful to me than British Midland’s otherwise nicer lounge.

The lounge itself is fairly bland with seating designed to maximize capacity as opposed to comfort.


Star Alliance lounge Heathrow seating


Star Alliance lounge Heathrow seating


Star Alliance lounge Heathrow seating


Star Alliance lounge Heathrow seating

The snack selection was pretty good with several hot options.


Snack selection


Snack selection


Pre-flight snack

Within about 10 minutes of being in the lounge the Air New Zealand representative presented me with my boarding pass and advised me to be at the gate 30 minutes before departure.

About 45 minutes before departure I headed to my gate, which was about a 15 minute walk away.


Corridor to departure gate


Departure gate

Air New Zealand’s 777-300ER looked brand spanking new, probably because it is. At the gate next to us was a TAM 777-300ER, looking equally sexy.


TAM 777


Air New Zealand 777

About 30 minutes before departure boarding started with families and BusinessPremier.

Before getting too much into the actual flight report, I should mention that there’s something special about Air New Zealand. On the surface most would assume they’ll be your typical “conservative” international airline, but they’re really not. They’re actually incredibly quirky, from their outrageous safety video to their edgy 777-300ER commercials. That’s part of the reason I love flying Air New Zealand, even if it means business class on them vs. first class on another airline.

Air New Zealand 1
London (LHR) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Thursday, May 26
Depart: 4:15PM
Arrive: 7:45PM
Duration: 11hr30min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2K (BusinessPremier)

Anyway, once onboard I was directed to my seat by one of the flight attendants at the door. Air New Zealand’s new 777s feature a slightly modified BusinessPremier product. Most notably the color of the seats changed to a cream white color. Interesting choice, but I think it worked (for now).

I was booked in seat 2K, where a bottle of water, amenity kit, headphones, menu, and wine list were already waiting for me.


BusinessPremier cabin


BusinessPremier cabin


My seat, 2K


My seat, 2K


View from my seat


Fold out tray


Headphones and wine list


Amenity kit (or box?)


Amenity kit contents


Seat controls

While herringbone style seats are no longer cutting edge, they still get the job done, especially as a solo traveler.

The BusinessPremier cabin quickly began to fill up, at which points the flight attendants started their service.

Air New Zealand has London based crews which exclusively operate their sectors between London and Los Angeles and London and Hong Kong. In the case of this flight the crew working BusinessPremier was exclusively male, all under 35 (which is a rarity on both counts among most airlines).

They were very professional and gave each passenger a personalized welcome aboard, asking whether passengers wanted a rundown of the seat’s features and also offering pre-departure beverages.

I went with some champagne which was served in interesting glassware along with mixed nuts.


Pre-departure beverage

Departure time came and went though due to the weather we were about 30 minutes late departing. There was lightning in the area so the ground crew was a bit delayed in loading bags, though eventually we got clearance to push back. The captain announced our flight time of 11 hours.


Bad weather

As soon as pushback started the safety video began playing, which features Richard Simmons. Air New Zealand has long had quirky safety videos which I usually love, though this one is so beyond obnoxious that it makes me cringe. Take a look for yourself:

There was a young boy (maybe eight or nine years old) seated across from me, and as the safety video finished up he yelled “mommy, what was THAT?” I kind of had the same question.

Once underway our taxi to runway 27R was quick and after a long takeoff roll we were airborne into a rather nasty storm.


Taxiing to runway


View after takeoff

About five minutes after takeoff a bright light filled the cabin along with a loud thud, though oddly looking around I seemed to be the only one phased by it. Everyone else acted as if nothing happened.

About 10 minutes later as the captain turned off the seatbelt sign and made an announcement he informed us that we had been struck by lightning though suspected there was no damage and was working to resolve the situation in hopes of not having to divert.

At that point service began and I started browsing Air New Zealand’s extensive entertainment system. They had something like 20 episodes of “Two and a Half Men,” most of which I hadn’t seen before, so I started off by watching that.


Two and a Half Men


Cabin shortly after takeoff

The dinner service began with hot towels followed quickly by a beverage service.


Hot towel


Menus

I ordered a Diet Coke, which was served with a small plate containing an olive, slice of cheese, pickle, and tomato.


Diet Coke

After that the meal service began. The dinner menu read as follows:

Dinner

To begin
Smoked chicken salad with mango, papaya, cucumber, almonds and old fashioned mayonnaise Geoff Scott

From the bakery
Potato rosemary bread, garlic bread, black olive sourdough bread

Mains
Seared eye fillet of beef with peal barley, bacon and cream, caramelized onion jus and green beans Geoff Scott

Pan seared halibut with nam phrik num dressing, herb potato mash and asparagus Peter Gordon

Truffled potato tortellini with wild mushroom stew, cherry tomatoes and basil Rex Morgan

Angus Pure beef burger with salad greens, red onions, cheese and bacon offered with beetroot and horseradish chutney

Vegetarian soup of peak and sweet potato with crème fraiche and croutons Peter Gordon

Prawn and asparagus salad with baby potatoes, pea shoots and tomato mayonnaise Peter Gordon

To finish
Ice cream sundae of vanilla bean ice cream, red wine and cinnamon stewed plum compote, orange and pistachio biscotti Geoff Scott

Dessert trio of lemon crème and gingernut mouse, Opera cake and peach melba

Cheese selection of Cornish English brie, Cropwell Bishop Stilton blue and Butlers Secret cheddar with quince pasta, fig relish and cracker selection

Hot drinks
Freshly brewed or decaffeinated coffee, tea, herbal tea or hot chocolate

The service was done by cart, starting with the salad course, which was accompanied by the bread basket (I went with garlic bread).


Smoked chicken salad with mango, papaya, cucumber, almonds and old fashioned mayonnaise

I love the variety of main courses Air New Zealand offers in business class, which is more than the selection of any other airline I know of. I went with the fillet of beef, which was beautifully presented, both in terms of the plating and the actual presentation.


Seared eye fillet of beef with peal barley, bacon and cream, caramelized onion jus and green beans Geoff Scott

Dessert was offered after the main course, and I went with the ice cream sundae, which was tasty.


Ice cream sundae of vanilla bean ice cream, red wine and cinnamon stewed plum compote, orange and pistachio biscotti

I finished off the meal with coffee, which was served with wrapped chocolate.


Coffee

Overall the meal was great. No, it wasn’t a nine course gastronomic experience, but the food was tasty, well presented, and well executed.


Airshow during dinner

One of the cool things about Air New Zealand’s new entertainment system is that it has a timeline which displays the progress of the flight in terms of in-flight service, which is pretty cool.


Timeline

After the meal service I headed to the lavatory to change into basketball shorts as I wanted to sleep, and was surprised to see that they had music in the lav. That’s pretty interesting.

I made my bed using the duvet located behind my seat, and then covered myself with the blanket. Herringbone seats do feel slightly claustrophobic in the sleeping position, though I still managed to get a solid six hours of sleep.


Mood lighting


Flat bed

When I woke up we were about three hours of out of Los Angeles, and I decided to watch a few more sitcoms.


Location upon waking up


Entertainment selection

About two hours out afternoon tea was served. The menu for that read as follows:

Light Refreshment

Smoothie
Peach, apricot and banana fruit smoothie

Fruit
Fresh fruit salad with passionfruit syrup

Sandwiches
Ham, cheddar and tomato sandwich
Ceasar chicken, rocket and sun kissed tomato sandwich
Roast beef with horseradish and beetroot relish sandwich
Smoked salmon with egg mayonnaise sandwich

Scones
Freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream

Hot Drinks
Freshly brewed or decaffeinated coffee, tea, herbal tea or hot chocolate

Service started with hot towels, followed quickly by a smoothie, which was refreshing.


Smoothie

That was followed by a fruit plate and a variety of sandwiches.


Fruit and sandwiches

Once that was cleared scones were served, accompanied by jam and clotted cream, which were already on the tray. I had a cup of tea with the scone.


Scone

There was also a box of pralines on the tray for dessert.

About 30 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to advise us of our position. Shortly after that we began our descent into Los Angeles just as the sun was setting.

While Los Angeles doesn’t have as exciting of a skyline as New York or Hong Kong, there’s something I love about the approach into LAX when landing into the west.


Approach into Los Angeles

We touched down on runway 25R and began our taxi to the North end of the airport. That took forever, and to top it all off we were parking at a gate which required us to be towed in given how tight the space was.


Two Qantas A380s


Beat us by a few minutes…

That’s usually not a big deal, though in this case there was an Air France and Virgin Atlantic flight that arrived at virtually the same time, meaning every extra minute would translate to about ten times as long in the immigration line.

And surely enough immigration was a mess. As a matter of fact the line was so long that the queue started outside of the immigration hall.

I had to wait in line for nearly an hour. The only good news is that the frustrating experience prompted me to finally join Global Entry, after seeing those empty kiosks as I stood impatiently waiting.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Coins, Since the window seat faces ‘in’, and since the middle seats faces ‘out’, which would you recommend booking? I like to look out the window?

  2. I thought the safety video was great – far more fun than the boring and sanctimonious videos on most airlines

  3. Hey Ben,

    It’s Richard Simmons, Gene Simmons was a member of the rock band KISS. I had the best laugh with the mix up.

  4. Kia Ora! Great TR. Did you get a sense of how many passengers were continuing on to AKL or was most of the flight LAX O&D traffic. What a better option compared to UA or AA …

    Also, I’ve been to the LHR T1 *A lounge a ton of times, but never the BD lounge. I’m flying MAN-LHR-ORD next month and was wondering if the BD lounge is worth the visit or should I stick with the tried and true *A lounge?

  5. @ Dan — The biggest downside of the herringbone seats is the fact that it’s near impossible to look out of the window no matter where you sit. If you sit in the center section you’re facing towards the windows, though they’re entirely blocked by the window seats. If you’re seated in the window seat you have to turn your head a LOT in order to be able to look outside, to the point that your neck will hurt. If you want a seat with a good window view, I guess my best advice would be to fly coach. Shudder.

  6. @ ordogg — I was actually surprised by how many passengers were continuing onwards. I got the sense that maybe 25%-40% of the BusinessPremier passengers were connecting to Auckland. Long journey!

    Unless you have an incredibly long layover at Heathrow, I would just stick to the sure thing (the Star Alliance lounge) given the location.

  7. They should consider serving some mayonnaise.. didn’t see any of it on the menu! You’re a lucky guy to be complaining about the lounges the way you do… check out the US Airways Club near B5 at PHX… PATHETIC.

  8. Thanks Ben
    Another great report and pictures. And yet another airline offering better more luxurious product seats and food than our US airlines!

    Air NZ mileage programme is terrible though. My folks live in Australia and asked me to look into booking Air NZ business class London-LA-London for them with air NZ miles (Air NZ calls them Airpoints dollars)

    Basically they don’t have a fixed mileage chart but flights are basically 100 Airpoints for every at the fare is.

    Fare was about $4k so Air NZ wanted 400,000 airpoints per person!

    Insane! Considering 100,000 united miles can book the same flight

  9. Is the “Angus Pure beef burger” what many of us would call a hamburger? Compared to the other options it doesn’t seem to fit in.

  10. Great report! I’ve been very curious about the business class cabin that you flew. I’m equally curious about their premium economy! Did you get a chance to see those?

    Also, was this an award ticket? I rarely ever see Air NZ LHR-LAX availability.

  11. “While herringbone style seats are no longer cutting edge” – if you don’t mind me asking then what is? I would guess suites in first, but what is cutting edge now in business?
    Thank you.

  12. @Lantean – See new US Airways Envoy, see new Cathay Business, see new Swiss Business, see new Asiana Business.

  13. @ rich (arizona) — It is indeed, and looked quite good. Like I said, Air New Zealand is unconventional at times!

    @ Kevin — I did see the Premium Economy seats, and they looked… strange. “Cool,” but not especially comfortable. This was an award ticket. Air New Zealand seems to be great about releasing award seats on the route for some periods of time, and then there’s nothing. Usually they open up space 60 days before departure, though.

    @ Lantean — Agree with @ sjs

    @ Glenn — Jokes aside, I think it’s actually interesting to note the difference in towels between airlines. Might sound minor, but it’s no different than the type of glassware they use, to me. Lufthansa, for example, has my favorite towels, with a truly amazing scent.

  14. @ chitownflyer — The new business class can be found on their 777-300ER routes, which are most common between London and Los Angeles and Los Angeles and Auckland. That being said, their “old” business class is basically the same product, and I’d fly it too in a heartbeat.

  15. Awesome timing – in Auckland right now 4 hrs from taking the same plane to LAX. A month ago had it from MEL-AKL on the way to SFO and it was nice, but it wasn’t the full international service so didn’t notice a huge difference. Looking forward to seeing how the new ovens are with full-on food selection.

    Btw – did you see how the burger looked? Something about having a burger at 35,000 feet just seems entertaining!

  16. @ Col — The burger actually looked really, really good. I agree, something fun about eating a burger on an airplane.

  17. Good to know – will try it if it’s on the menu tonight. Now have to try and restrain myself here in the lounge!

  18. It would be nice if you compared the new product to the old product, particularily the bed and amenities.

  19. Just got off the flight to the mess of LAX – what a contrast.

    Anyways, back to my new joy: the Air NZ burger. After an odd 35 min delay after the appetizer (when the cabin was literally void of service), out came the mains. Holy crap the burger was amazing! It wasn’t a traditional American burger in the sense that it was a garden (Aussies love adding veggies to burgers for some reason) and lacked ketchup, mustard (or a pickle), but you could tell they were trying (it had bacon and cheese on it – though the bacon wasn’t crispy at all). The caramelised onions were great and so was the beet root chutney on the side. Bun was toasted and fresh, burger was moist and cooked well, and the taste was awesome. Would definitely order again! Especially funny were the looks I got for having champagne with it.

    @Jack – not huge differences, but nice little ones. Seat is a bit nicer, bed is softer, AVOD is now touch (huge improvement) and features on-demand snack and drink orders. Bathrooms a bit brighter and there’s now a snack bar area like all 77Ws (beats the carts they lay out on other ones). Overall I’d say the burger is the best addition!

  20. You are just now getting global entry? 🙂

    Last time I landed at HNL coming back from Asia, there was a huge line in a

  21. oops ..

    there was a huge line and I pretty much had to part the waters to get through to the kiosk. It was great.

    -David

  22. All male crew and under 35 in businesspremier ? I had that happened once on UA long time ago before the bankruptcy. Back then there was a redeye on LAX-ORD which was a 744, if I remember correct it was UA 120. I was seated in C, and both F and C were served by male crew including the purser, and all of them are really gay as well ! It is like they all know each other, and probably all switch with other FA in order to work for that flight. Not sure about yours though.

  23. haha..this safety video reminds me Cebu pacific air stewardess giving safety guidance while dancing..Its always good to try our something new 🙂

  24. Were you able to peek at the “Sky Couches” in Y? Has anyone out there flown on the Sky Couch to report? Fantastic idea, but is it really worth paying for the whole row? I’d love to hear from someone who’s tried to sleep on the Sky Couch who is also an expert at blocking out an entire AA middle row (2+5+2 777) with one coach fare and sweet-talking the Admiral’s Club clerk on an empty flight.

  25. @ Rob — Didn’t really get to see them, unfortunately. My main issue is that it’s 10 across so I really can’t imagine the set of three seats are long enough to lay down comfortably.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *