While Air New Zealand offers business class and also premium economy on a range of trans-Tasman flights, some AirNZ aircraft come with only with economy seats from tip to tail – and if you find yourself aboard one of these jets, booking the 'Works Deluxe' experience is the closest thing to business class.
You'll still fly in an economy seat, but with a guaranteed empty seat next to you, along with additional legroom, complimentary meals, drinks and movies, priority check-in and boarding, two checked bags and other inclusions: a very different experience to booking the lowest-cost "Seat" fare, and somewhat similar to the Euro Business concept seen overseas.
Although the price difference will vary from flight to flight, expect to pay around 40-70% more for a Works Deluxe ticket versus the basic Seat fare on the same flight, compared to what's often a flat $40-50 extra for The Works, which includes meals and drinks but not some of the other extras like a vacant seat beside.
Australian Business Traveller stepped aboard the newest plane in the Air New Zealand fleet, the Airbus A321neo, to put the airline's Works Deluxe experience to the test on a flight from Auckland to Brisbane.
- Frequent flyer program: Air New Zealand Airpoints. As a Star Alliance airline, miles can also be earned and burned through a range of partner programs, including Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, United MileagePlus and others. However, Virgin Australia Velocity points can no longer be earned on AirNZ flights.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: For most passengers, 1x118cm bag weighing up to 7kg, plus one small item. AirNZ boosts that to 2 bags at up to 14kg total weight (max. 10kg in a single item) for Airpoints Gold, Elite and other Star Alliance Gold cardholders, and those connecting to or from a flight in Business Premier.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x23kg bags, increased to 3x23kg bags for Airpoints Gold and Elite cardholders and other Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers.
- Priority services: Works Deluxe provides access to priority check-in and priority boarding at the airport. In Auckland, that includes the use of Air New Zealand's premium check-in suite, which offers a time-saving shortcut to the express lane at passport control by taking the lift upstairs from inside the suite. Any checked bags also receive priority tags.
While Works Deluxe offers many of the regular business class perks, one thing not included in the bundle is airport lounge access – this is where your frequent flyer card, airport lounge membership or credit card may prove handy.
On flights departing Auckland, Airpoints Gold and Elite cardholders, Star Alliance Gold members, Air NZ Koru lounge members, Air Canada Maple Leaf Club (Worldwide) cardholders and United Club members can access AirNZ's international business class lounge, featuring a cocktail bar, barista-made coffee, tarmac views and more.
Alternatively, travellers with a Priority Pass, LoungeKey or DragonPass membership, or a Diners Club-issued Diners Club card, could visit Auckland Airport's Strata Lounge in the same terminal.
Air New Zealand doesn't sell single-entry passes to its own lounges, but if the list of cards above still doesn't have you covered, access to Auckland's Strata Lounge can be purchased at the door for NZD$55, or NZD$49 if you book online.
Air New Zealand offers up to three flights per day between Brisbane and Auckland: one, a Boeing 777 flight with international-grade business class and premium economy (no Works Deluxe), and the other two as all-economy flights, on which you can purchase the Works Deluxe package.
While fare prices naturally vary from day to day, flight to flight and from one route to the next, here's a quick idea of how the Works Deluxe pricing can compare to the lower Seat, Seat+Bag and The Works fares, and the higher-level Premium Economy experience, on a sample Brisbane-Auckland journey:
From Auckland, Air New Zealand also flies to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and the Gold Coast in Australia, along with seasonal flights to Cairns and the Sunshine Coast, plus routes from other New Zealand cities and Norfolk Island.
As there's no business class cabin on these flights, Works Deluxe passengers sit in economy class seats...
... generally those with a little more legroom than others – such as at the bulkhead or towards the front of the aircraft – and have a guaranteed spare seat beside them, which Air NZ describes as a "neighbour-free guarantee":
With three seats on each side of the aisle, lettered as ABC-DEF, that means the middle seat will remain vacant next to Works Deluxe flyers, so there'll be nobody sitting in the 'B' or 'E' seat, which is instead shared between the passengers sitting by the window and aisle for a little extra space.
Practically speaking, the seat becomes a handy storage place (except during take-off and landing), and for a greater sense of space, travellers could also open up the middle seat's tray table, using it to hold any drinks and snacks, while keeping the tray in front of them closed, or to house used containers and cups after the meal service, to get back to work on their laptop before the crew come through for collection.
Just note that the tray tables in the very first row fold up from within the armrest, rather than down from in front, which means these armrests can't be folded up for extra room width-ways, but this is possible in the other rows.
While we're talking tray tables, those aboard AirNZ's Airbus A321neo are on the smaller side, and while I had no problems balancing my Microsoft Surface and lightly using the trackpad, passengers with larger laptops or devices that require hard presses on their trackpad may topple their laptop forward, so use with caution:
The seatback pocket provides ample space for tablets and other similar devices when not in use – although being a new aircraft, you may have to yank the pocket forward quite strongly to open it up and make the space usable – and in a separate pouch in front, the water bottle provided to Works Deluxe passengers on boarding can be kept at easy reach:
Normally, passengers on Works Deluxe fares are seated towards the front of the aircraft in the rows with a little more legroom – mostly with 83cms (32.7") of pitch, although some rows provide a reduced 81cm/31.9" pitch, as indicated by the purple dots inside the red squares on this diagram:
Knowing that the pitch varied between rows, I selected seat 2D – an aisle seat in the second row, with an 83cm/32.7" pitch – and found the knee room more than ample, despite being six feet tall:
While a small space is taken over by the stowed inflight entertainment screen from the row in front, I still found plenty of room to stretch forward, and combined with the seat's comfortable padding and the ability to recline (the lever is next to your seat cushion, not in the armrest), the space was more than ample to work and relax on this 3.5-hour flight.
Just a hint: if you're travelling on a different fare type or otherwise find yourself seated further back, the seat pitch will generally be a squishier 29-30 inches (73.6-76cm), so carefully choosing your seat could provide just that little bit more legroom.
Passengers travelling on The Works and Works Deluxe fares have food and drinks included, and on this Auckland-Brisbane flight departing at 4:05pm Auckland time (1:05pm local Brisbane time) and arriving into Brisbane at 4:40pm, the meal is lunch, to best-align with the destination time zone.
While the seating arrangement for Works Deluxe flyers reminds of 'Euro business', the meal in this instance is very much still 'economy':
With a choice between beef osso bucco and chicken adobo, I went for the chicken – tasty when mixed with the rice, but the greens were bland, as seems to be common on aircraft – which came served with a warmed bread roll and butter, and an ice cream tub.
Drinks are all complimentary on these fares, including wine and beer. I went for white wine to pair with the chicken – a Chardonnay, the other choice being Sauvignon Blanc – and being the aircraft's inaugural passenger flight, all travellers (regardless of fare type) were offered a complimentary glass of sparkling wine, although that wouldn't normally be the case:
Top-ups and further drinks remain complimentary, and the cabin crew would regularly come through and offer these.
If you're still hungry, snacks can be purchased via the inflight entertainment system – in the same way that passengers on Seat and Seat+Bag fares can purchase meals – and while I normally avoid snacking on flights, having spotted a New Zealand specialty, a Cookie Time chocolate chunk cookie, I decided to make an exception.
Rather than swiping your credit card through the inflight entertainment remote control as on older AirNZ planes, these modern jets feature a credit card chip reader at the bottom right of the inflight entertainment screen, so just insert your card and you're good to go:
The screen lets you key in your email address if you'd like a receipt, and before long, the product you've ordered is delivered by the crew:
Back to the main meal itself, while the presentation could certainly be improved – nobody likes plastic cups, plastic cutlery or foil trays – given Air New Zealand also sells business class and premium economy on some trans-Tasman flights, it's a fair compromise, given that Works Deluxe is positioned as more 'economy plus' than 'premium economy'.
Entertainment & Service
No matter where you sit on board, you'll have access to a 10-inch inflight entertainment screen – generally fixed in front of you, except in the first row where the screen folds up from within the armrest...
... and unlike some older systems which require you to either press down really hard (bothering the passenger seated in front) or strategically tap the screen with the edge of your nail, these displays respond to gentle taps and swipes, much like a modern tablet:
Air New Zealand Airpoints members can sign in to their Airpoints account for a more personalised experience, but that's not necessary to use and browse the system, or to view movies, which are complimentary for The Works and Works Deluxe passengers:
Passengers on the lower-tier Seat and Seat+Bag tickets can instead purchase movies using their credit card – via the same chip card reader as to order food – while all guests enjoy access to TV shows, music and games, and of course, the inflight map:
While not so much relevant to Works Deluxe and The Works guests who can easily watch their own movie on their own screen, the system has a handy feature for those who do pay for a Hollywood flick: there are not one, but two headphone outlets tucked below, each offering stereo sound, so if you're travelling with a companion, one passenger can purchase a movie, which both of you can watch via the one screen:
Otherwise, the dual-pin outlet also accepts aircraft-style two-pinned plugs, such as the "premium" over-ear (but not noise-cancelling) headphones provided in Works Deluxe, or plane-type adaptors for your own kit, although you could simply plug in a typical pair of headphones with a single cable into either outlet.
Next to that, a regular USB power source to recharge small devices like smartphones, and a separate USB-C power outlet, useful for juicing up modern laptops that support this connection type, although as we've previously covered, the output is limited to 27 watts.
That's generally fine for tablets and other smaller devices like the MacBook Air, but larger laptops which rely on more power may either charge more slowly than usual, or when using the device, may simply discharge at a lower rate than relying on battery power alone.
As such, you should be fine to work throughout the flight, but depending on your device's power needs, you may not arrive 100% charged-up.
Inflight WiFi is also available on the A321neo, priced at a flat NZD$30 (A$28) on trans-Tasman flights for unlimited data. It's on the expensive side, but worked well on my Auckland-Brisbane journey, pulling down 1.4-4.7Mbps and uploading 3.2-5Mbps.
AusBT review: Air New Zealand's Airbus A321neo inflight Internet
While cabin crew on this flight were clearly excited to be flying on a new aircraft, they were friendly and approachable throughout the journey, and regularly came by to offer drinks, which meant the call bell never needed to be pressed.
All things considered, there's no mistaking the Works Deluxe experience for premium economy or business class: after all, you're still flying in economy with everyone else, but with some extra room on board, access to priority lanes at the airport, complimentary meals and movies, and the fare's other inclusions, you certainly don't feel as though you're 'stuck down the back', either.
Given that Works Deluxe is only sold on flights that don't have business class or premium economy, if your schedule finds you aboard one of these all-economy jets, Works Deluxe is your best bet for a comfortable and productive journey.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Auckland as a guest of Air New Zealand.