Have you noticed a growing number of passengers boarding the plane in front of you and turning left instead of right?
More and more New Zealand travellers are flying premiere class as the number of airlines on the market increase and premiere fares fall. Whether the motivation is to kick off your trip in style, have a decent night’s sleep, or just to enjoy a touch of luxury – travel industry figures show New Zealand premiere traveller numbers were up more than 100 percent in 2016 on the year before. Patronage at Auckland Airport’s premium lounge has grown 10-fold in the past four years.
And while the cabin at the pointy end of the plane is only a few metres from economy, it’s a whole different world. Forget bashing your knee on the tray table, eating re-heated plastic food or nodding off on a stranger’s shoulder. Before you even get your seat belt on, the top-tier experience begins when you are handed a glass of bubbles. From the moment you leave the tarmac, premiere travel offers privacy, space, a more comfortable bed and sumptuous meals matched with award-winning wines.
In Air New Zealand’s business class cabins for instance, internationally acclaimed chef Peter Gordon has put together a dining experience which includes seared hapuku in miso coconut broth with shitake rice, and fresh coriander salsa, or alternatively lamb shank with golden kumara mash, green beans, spinach and pea medley with mint apple jelly. Given the choice, almost everyone would choose the VIP experience and luxury of premiere travel.
But while many travellers fly premiere at the expense of their employer– when is it actually worth it to pay privately? The highly-experienced consultants at Adventure Travel in Wellington share their views.
When it's cost effective
Adventure Travel manager Tim Cox says while the cost is out of reach for many of us, top-tier travel is always worth it if you can afford it. “I have clients who say they shouldn’t splash the cash, but once they do it once they just can’t go back to economy.”
On long-haul flights, Air New Zealand offers business premiere and the more affordable premium economy. Tim says he often recommends a client upgrades – usually when it’s cost effective, such as a special offer on one sector of the trip. Air New Zealand frequent flyers can often upgrade using their status or air points.
Tim says some clients mix it up by flying one way economy and one way premiere. That makes the trip more affordable and means they can enjoy a special experience as they leave on holiday, or some opulence on the way home. “I had one client do this as a nice treat for his wife,” says Tim.
When you're using a laptop
Ever tried using your laptop in economy class? It’s nearly impossible. There’s hardly enough room for you, let alone your laptop, ipad or some notes to read. In premiere you'll find less interruptions, access to power outlets and WIFI – perfect for finishing that last minute work so you can switch off and start to relax, completing your holiday research reading, or to amp up the excitement levels by re-reading your travel itinerary again!
Adventure consultant Kathy Twydle says she often recommends that a client upgrades if they are flying long-haul so they can arrive well-rested to kick-start the rest of their trip.
When it's a long flights and you need the extra comfort
Sitting upright for 15 hours and trying to sleep just doesn’t work. Yes, business and premiere are more expensive but if you can afford it, it’s worth it. Adventure Travel consultant Sydel Berryman says premiere is a nice treat for anyone, especially if you're looking for a little extra space and privacy. But it also means that if you’re heading off on a special getaway, you can get a decent night’s sleep in a lie-down bed and enjoy some pampering along the way. It takes most of us two days to recover from a long-haul flight in economy, and no one wants to get to their destination and miss two days off the start of their special trip!
For something special
Regular economy travellers often splash out to experience premiere or business travel. It gives them access to the lounges and lets them arrive at their destination more rested – but also allows them to experience the ‘X’ factor. “I love getting a glass of bubbles when you sit down on the plane, it makes you feel special,” says Kathy. Adventure Consultant Samantha Eves says if you are travelling for a special occasion such as a wedding or anniversary, flying business or premiere means “the celebrations start the minute you get to the airport”.
While business premiere is often out of many people’s price range, the trappings of Air New Zealand’s more affordable premium economy can take a trip to the next level. Long-haul premium economy offers a spacious luxury seat with 50% more recline and a foot rest, or on some airlines a space seat, which allows couples to dine together.
“I get people to try a premium flight to see what all the fuss is about. Sometimes it’s a treat for the end of their trip to finish in style,” says Kathy. “Once people try business they don’t tend to drop back to economy for their next trip – there’s such a difference in standard and service.”