If you're a regular traveller across the Tasman with Air New Zealand or Virgin Australia's Pacific Blue subsidiary, you'll know about the extra-legroom seats available for frequent flyers.
But there are a few gotchas which can prevent you from snaring one of those seats. Today's trans-Tasman traveller feature is about maximising your chances to get that legroom.
Where you'll find the extra-legroom seats
Both Trans-Tasman Alliance airlines have special extra-legroom seats towards the front of the cabin -- which are perfect for frequent flyers and handed out free on a first-come, first served basis.
On Virgin Australia's Pacific Blue flights this is informally known as the Suit Zone, while Air New Zealand calls it Space+.
With up to 35 inches of seat pitch -- compared with regular economy seats at 30 inches on Air New Zealand and 31 inches on Pacific Blue -- you'll want to aim for these seats if you can. Those extra inches make a good difference to your comfort levels across the Tasman.
If you're not familiar with the airline concept of seat pitch, and how it differs from your actual legroom, you might find our illustrated guide to pitch and space helpful.
Bear in mind that this article only contains details for the Airbus A320 planes Air New Zealand uses on most of its trans-Tasman flights.
Some high-demand Auckland flights to Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney also have larger Boeing 767, 777 or 747 planes dotted around on the timetable, where the legroom is different (and, of course, we've got advice on how to snag the extra-legroom seats on those flights too).
How you get to choose extra-legroom seats
Virgin Australia Velocity Gold or Platinum frequent flyers and their Air New Zealand Airpoints equivalents are entitled to the extra-legroom seats, free of charge. (Virgin Australia's "Extra Legroom" exit row seats are sold separately, and aren't included in this arrangement.)
So make sure your frequent flyer number is included when you book, or call up to add it after booking.
Note that Air New Zealand must add the Virgin Australia/Pacific Blue "DJ" prefix when they enter your Velocity number into the system, so quote it with that in front of your number. We know cases where Air NZ staffers have entered the number with a Virgin Atlantic VS prefix, which meant that seat selection wasn't possible.
You'll only be able to choose seats yourself if you've booked your ticket through the airline that's doing the flying. If you book your Air New Zealand ticket through Virgin Australia, you should be slotted into a Space+ seat automatically, but you won't be able to pick which one.
Seat selection for economy fares on Pacific Blue is only allowed 14 days before travel, but you will be able to pick up the good seats.
Where the extra legroom seats are
Air New Zealand's 168-seat Airbus A320s have three seating zones:
- Works Deluxe is found in the front two rows on each side of the plane (rows 1-2 on the left hand side, and 2-3 on the right hand side, since there's no row 1 on the right) with 34+ inches of seat pitch.
- Space+ ranges from rows 3-11 on the left hand side, and is in row 4 on the right hand side. You get at least 33 inches of pitch in Space+.
- Everywhere else on the plane is listed with 30 inches of seat pitch.
Virgin Australia's 180-seat Pacific Blue Boeing 737-800s have four seating zones:
- Premium Economy seats are found in the front three rows on each side of the plane, though usually only the first two rows are reserved for the premium service -- that means row 3 is a great catch if you've bought a cheaper fare.
- Extra Legroom seats are the emergency exit row seats halfway down the plane, available for purchase and not included in the "free extra legroom for frequent flyers" arrangements.
- Suit Zone (which is actually a leftover from an old Virgin Blue initiative) appears behind Premium Economy for a few rows on the left hand side, and a row on the right. It's also immediately in front of the Extra Legroom seats.
- Everywhere else on the plane is listed with 31 inches of seat pitch.
"Airport Use Only" means seats that are held back for check-in staff to allocate: for disabled passengers or people unsuitable for exit rows who have been reseated, if a family is split up and so on. That's why you'll see a block of seats already selected when picking your seat:
If you're a frequent flyer who's ended up at the back of the bus (due to a late booking or some other reason), you can ask at check-in for one of these seats, which often include extra legroom.
Having trouble getting those extra-legroom seats?
We know that there are still Virgin Australia/Pacific Blue and Air New Zealand agents on both sides of the Tasman who haven't got the system figured out yet, and our readers confirm the occasional problem.
The solution: have this handy official Virgin/Air NZ alliance reference guide to hand, either printed out or tucked away on your laptop, phone or tablet. It's a hefty 1.1MB PDF aimed at travel agents, and somewhat jargon-filled, but it's definitely authoritative.
We're bringing you more in-depth information on your options across the Tasman all week. Stay tuned and check out previous articles you might have missed:
- the DJ/NZ trans-Tasman alliance: how it works, routes and flights
- what you need to get into Air NZ's regional lounges as a Velocity member
- how to get ultra-comfortable long haul seats and service on trans-Tasman flights
- which Air NZ flights from Australia give free premium economy seat upgrades to frequent flyers