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Air New Zealand v. Qantas v. Pacific Blue: the first month’s analysis 

In the past month or so I have had the pleasure of flying all the main New Zealand airlines: Air New Zealand, the national carrier; Qantas, the Australian airline that has fairly comprehensive services within this country; and Pacific Blue, the Toll–Virgin venture that launched with cut-price services nationally this month.
   From a branding POV, Qantas is the one that interests me most. The new Qantas identity, created by Hans Hulsbosch (whom I have had many good chats to recently) and his team, is being rolled out over here and began appearing on the boarding passes at Christchurch Airport (Queenstown Airport has not yet caught up). The evolution is very gentle, and I didn’t notice the change on the passes till I got home.
   But taking that aside, how do the airlines fare for the business traveller? All have online booking, so that at least puts them evenly as far as the computer-savvy folks are concerned.

Air New Zealand
It’s fashionable inside New Zealand to diss the national carrier. I’ve even heard from staff who have a patent dislike for their uniforms, crafted by none other than my friend Elisabeth Findlay of Zambesi. One standing joke is that they are reminiscent of the garments of International Rescue and stewardesses may hear passengers asking where Virgil Tracy is. It may be a bit cruel. And not all is down at the embattled airline.
   Pros: service has improved markedly, probably because of increased competition. Air New Zealand will sometimes carry double-booked passengers from other airlines. Internationally, they have been pretty good with excess baggage charges. Also, the electronic check-in gadgets are easy to use.
   Cons: legroom is the worst of the three based on a subjective analysis, and the cramped conditions now extend to the Airbus A320s doing the trans-Tasman crossings.

Qantas seems to do no wrong these days and it does have a famous Sweathog as a goodwill pilot.
   Pros: in-flight magazine is a good read, and the snack (of varying quality) is free. Excellent service. Free newspapers at Christchurch Airport, though it is just The Press.
   Cons: in-flight movies tend to be Australian shows; legroom is better than Air New Zealand but it’s still not the best. I still miss the vegetarian chips from 2002–3. No electronic check-in, though Qantas will roll this and its CityFlyer service out in New Zealand in 2008.

Pacific Blue
The airline has launched into New Zealand with cut-price fares beginning at NZ$39. This isn’t dissimilar to the last price war we had in the early 2000s where I was flying with reasonably good legroom for NZ$79 regularly.
   Pros: humour—Eddie, on the Wellington–Christchurch service, is air travel’s Gopher Smith. The magazine is great. The legroom on the 737-800s is amazingly good and the best in the country—so much for the expectation of “budget”. I remember flying Pacific Blue in Australia and having a good dinner—the menu’s the same on this side of the Tasman and you can get lighter food for these short flights. Internet check-in is a good idea, as well as the ability to change your seats from your desktop.
   Cons: scheduling and queues. The planes are almost always late based on the four flights we sampled as a company. Rumour has it that Air New Zealand and Qantas have priority at airports. The queues, being the cheap airline, were very long, even for those of us who had checked in via the internet the day before. (In Wellington, those needing boarding passes were quicker than those doing a simple bag drop.)

   For now, I’m going to have to advocate saving a few bob and flying Pacific Blue. Sure, I don’t get my miles credited with my other loyalty programmes, but for better legroom and new 737-800s, it seems a better deal. If Qantas and Air New Zealand were to charge even $79–$89 and give me back the legroom I had in 2002, I would be happy to pay the premium over Pacific Blue to get points credited to my Asia Miles or United accounts.
   Conclusion: paying less does give you more and other than the delays, budget does not really have its true meaning in New Zealand skies.
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yea but you have to pay for food on pacific blue that sux... and also you dont get ff points :(

i gave them a go, like you but they were SOOOOO late there is no way i would use them again.

am very happy qantas is really taking it to air nz here finally.  
For a long time I have looked forward to flying with Quantas and Air NewZealand. I have now done numerous flights with both airlines in the past year. My verdict is.
Qantas:excellant 10/10.
Air NewZealand:poor 2/10.  
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.

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