Friday, March 5, 2010

Not the only way to go

Air travel in the news: child flight controllers at JFK, a recidivist drink-driver piloting Air NZ aeroplanes. The staff in New York suspended, the pilot here in Auckland staunchly defended by the airline - "He's a model for the programme!" they say. "He's done so well!" Yeah, right, that really fills me with confidence, a recovering alcoholic with a history of deceit in charge of hundreds of people 30,000 feet in the air. Cabin staff, by the way, are out of a job after one offence. Hmm, I wonder why there's a double standard?

I'm feeling a little jaundiced about Air NZ after my recent flight to the Cooks. I paid for that flight personally (well, with airpoints - but still, it was a working trip) and the cheapskates wouldn't bump me up to business, even though they had spare seats, even though I'm giving them publicity in the story factfile, even though it's only a 4-hour flight, even though they do have competition on that route.

Compare that with Cathay Pacific, who's welcomed me into their sybaritic business class on more than a handful of 12-hour flights, wafting me to my destination in super-comfortable seats, on lie-flat beds, with a big personal TV, excellent meals that just keep coming and attentive but not sycophantic service. Or Air Tahiti Nui's delightful business class - just saying the words, I can smell the tiare flowers now - a wonderful little airline, repeatedly voted the World's Best Small Airline, a fabulous way to fly straight to New York (to ahem, JFK) bypassing that whole prison-camp LAX unpleasantness. Or LAN, roomy and comfortable, gracious and efficient all the way across the Pacific to South America. Or Thai's royal welcome that makes you feel you're there already. All fabulous, all generous with their business class, all fondly remembered.

But Air NZ? Nah, go down the back and eat the nasty brown smear we call shepherd's pie, we can't afford to spring for real food for you, we've got boozy pilots to support.

UPDATED: Ok, feeling a little embarrassed now at having spat the dummy there. On the whole, I'm glad Air NZ is supporting its pilots now - so much healthier a way to run a corporation than falsely blaming dead employees when something goes wrong (cough *Erebus* cough). And when I've been away for a while, it's always like coming home to see the koru on the tail and get on board and be surrounded by that distinctive cheerful, open, practical and unfussy Kiwiness (which appeals to non-Kiwis too, judging by the repeated Best Airline awards). And the entertainment system is The Best: that four-hour flight to the Cooks? Not long enough to watch everything I wanted. And being able to watch from the moment I get on board? Priceless.

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