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Feeling like you need a holiday lately (especially after feeling some of these recent cold snaps) but not too sure where to go? …Perhaps some bargain motivation might help? 😉

Tomorrow, as part of Air New Zealand’s new ‘where to next‘ advertising campaigns, ‘Dawn Deals’ will start – It will run each Friday for the next four Fridays (14/08, 21/08, 28/08 and 04/09).

dawndeals_wheretonext

Air New Zealand are no strangers to launching new, quirky and interesting updates to the otherwise typically drab inflight safety videos that are shown at the beginning of every flight, and their latest update released a few days ago is no exception.

Air New Zealand's new epic Hobbit safety video. Photo credit: Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand’s new epic Hobbit safety video. Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Titled, The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made, the new video was shot over 6 days over many of the Middle-Earth’s ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ film locations in New Zealand.

It is likely that this will probably be the last of a number of Hobbit themed safety videos, launched 1.5 months before the premiere of the final more in ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy in Wellington. The new video replaces the current ‘Bear Grylls’ video which in turn replaced the short-lived “Safety in Paradise” Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (50th Anniversary) video which some travellers complained of being ‘highly sexualised’.

The new video is currently the most popular and viewed to date, with over 16 million views since its release in the past week.

A number of cameos feature in the video, including: Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Dean O’Gorman (Fili the Dwarf) and Sylvester McCoy (Radagast). It also features cameos from The Hobbit Trilogy director Sir Peter Jackson, Weta Workshop Co-Founder Sir Richard Taylor and the director of the video, Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi.

Watch some of the other Air New Zealand in-flight safety videos here:

What do you think of Air New Zealand’s ‘The Hobbit’ safety video? Feel free to post your comments below.

westjet-logoWestJet is a Canadian airline that recently published a heartwarming video this Christmas season titled a “Christmas Miracle: Real-time giving” which has gone viral with just over 20 million views.

If you haven’t seen it yet, then this is quite likely to get you into the Christmas spirit – don’t blame me if you get a little teary eyed!

If they did actually manage to pull this off, I’d have to say it is definitely an impressive effort and good on them for such a nice gesture.

Earlier this morning, I received an E-Mail in my inbox from Air New Zealand entitled “A video message from Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon”.

There wasn’t much to the message, apart from a link to a YouTube video “Shaping the Future of Loyalty” featuring Christopher Luxton (now CEO of Air New Zealand following Rob Fyfe’s departure) talking about upcoming changes to the Airpoints system later today.

You can view the video here:

AirNZ have been doing some work over the past couple of months under the “Shaping the Future of Loyalty” tagline, and I have participated in a couple of surveys to voice my opinion on things that I value and changes I think the company should make. It seems that AirNZ have finally collated these changes, and made a wide sweep of changes particularly to Airpoints and Status Point earn rates.

apd_logoThe changes are yet to be “officially” announced, but I have managed to find a link to the list of changes on their website which summarises them as follows:

Earning of Airpoints Dollars and Status Points

  • Earn Airpoints Dollars on every regularly available fare.
  • Airpoints Dollar earning now applied consistently across the network with rates better aligned with the fare value in each individual booking class.
  • Status Point earning rates will also be linked the same way to the airfare, more consistently recognising what customers spend.
  • Simpler Airpoints Dollar and Status Point earning rates on partner airlines.

Online improvements

  • A significantly improved frequent flyer website available from today.
  • Display of expected Airpoints Dollar and Status Point earning at time of flight selection, when booking via the Air New Zealand website.

Changes to Frequent Flyer benefits

  • A new short haul Recognition Upgrade exclusively for Gold Elites on Tasman and Pacific Island routes.
  • An increase in the number of Status Points required to achieve a Banked Year.
  • Elite Priority One – a new membership programme by invitation from CEO Christopher Luxon.
  • Less time to wait for a new tier to become effective when moving up a tier.
  • An expanded Lounge redevelopment programme.
  • Tier naming and associated branding changes.

Just a few days ago, Virgin America launched their new inflight safety video, “Virgin America (VX) Safety Dance“.
virgin-america-logo-1
It’s good to see another airline ‘bucking the trend’ against the boring, run-of-the-mill inflight safety videos, and although I thought it was a little “high school musical” (or glee-ish), and potentially could eventually get a little annoying for those that fly with Virgin America often (think Richard Simmons), it is certainly quite interesting and think it does as intended: to get people to pay attention and take on board the underlying safety messages when flying.

Interestingly the music and lyrics for the video were created by former American Idol contestant Todrick Hall. The new video is going to be rolled out across Virgin America’s fleet in mid-November.

What do you think of the video? Is it catchy enough to sing and dance along?
Feel free to post your comments below.

There’s been a few new things in the news this week, with Air New Zealand releasing a new in-flight safety video starring Betty White, and Jetstar receiving their first brand-new 787-8 aircraft, which was delivered to Melbourne on Wednesday.

Air New Zealand are always very innovative and creative with their in-flight safety videos, which all started off with their ‘Nothing to Hide‘ campaign, to ‘Crazy about Rugby” during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, to the rather loud one (Fit to Fly) featuring Richard Simmons, then more recently the Hobbit themed “An unexpected briefing” and the “Bear Essentials of Safety” featuring Bear Grylls.

I always do look forward to seeing the new AirNZ safety videos when they come out – It makes something that is typically quite boring interesting, and ultimately does what it needs to do – Make people pay attention to the safety instructions when flying.
After seeing a wide variety of safety videos from different airlines on our long Summer holiday trip to Europe and back earlier this year, it is surprising how many bland safety videos are out there (Lufthansa spring to mind as an example) and it’s refreshing to see a new take on things.

Air New Zealand’s new video, released on Thursday, features Betty White and a cast of other ‘golden oldies’ to present safety “old school style”.

To celebrate the launch of “Safety Old School Style“, Air New Zealand are running a competition for viewers to win a trip of a lifetime to either Palm Springs, California or Queenstown in New Zealand, including activities.

To enter, viewers need to share their story of how they are living life to the full – Enter here.
safety_oldschool_competition

For the Palm Springs prize, Air New Zealand will provide the winner and guest:

  • One x Roundtrip flights for two (2) (the winner and one (1) “Guest”) travelling on Air New Zealand from the airport from which Air New Zealand operates nearest the winner’s home town, to Los Angeles. All travel to Palm Springs, USA will be in our Premium Economy.
  • A shuttle service from LAX Airport to Palm Springs
  • The 1 winner and 1 guest will have 4 activities to under-take during their 7day prize in Palm Springs. All 4 activities are to be completed within the (1) one 7 day period. Some of the activities will be seasonal and availability will depend on the timing of the 1 Winner and 1 Guest arrival in Palm Springs.
  • All accommodation (4-5 star accommodation) will be provided during the 7 day prize in Palm Springs
  • 1 x Rental Car for 7 days

For the Queenstown prize, Air New Zealand will provide the winner and guest:

  • One x Roundtrip flights for two (2) (the winner and one (1) “Guest”) travelling on Air New Zealand from the airport from which Air New Zealand operates nearest the winner’s home town, to Auckland, New Zealand. All travel to New Zealand will be in our Premium Economy Spaceseat.
  • Domestic flights for the winner and Guest to Queenstown (within New Zealand).
  • The 1 winner and 1 guest will have 4 activities to under-take during their 7day prize in Queenstown. All 4 activities are to be completed within the (1) one 7 day period. Some of the activities will be seasonal and availability will depend on the timing of the 1 Winner and 1 Guest arrival in Palm Springs.
  • All accommodation (4-5 star accommodation) will be provided during the 7 day prize in Queenstown
  • 1 x Rental Car for 7 days

Full terms and conditions are detailed here.

Check out the video below:



On other news, Jetstar received the first of their new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners on Wednesday, which touched down in Melbourne. This is a different variant to the Boeing 787-9 model, to which Air New Zealand is the launch partner and which will be delivered mid-2014.

Jetstar's first new 787-8 Aircraft on its arrival in Melbourne on Wednesday
Jetstar’s first new 787-8 Aircraft on its arrival in Melbourne on Wednesday


The first international route for its new 787 aircraft has been selected to be Melbourne to Bali, and will start on December 18, after the aircraft has served on selected domestic routes within Australia.

Jetstar have announced that they will be using the 787 on some international routes from New Zealand, which will allow the airline to carry 335 passengers with a minimum seat pitch of 76cm, which may be quite a squeeze – Particularly for those taller passengers.
For a comparison, budget airline Norwegian Air Shuttle has a total of 291 seats in its 787 aircraft (32 in Premium Economy and 259 in Economy), and Air India’s 787’s (full service airline) have 256 seats (18 in Business Class and 238 in Economy).

The aircrafts configuration will include a 21-seat business class cabin in 2-3-2 configuration with a 38 inch seat pitch, and the new economy class seating in a 3-3-3 configuration with 30-31 inch seat pitch – This will be a slimmer design but will include seatback entertainment.

Seating on Jetstar's new 787-8 (Economy)
Seating on Jetstar’s new 787-8 (Economy)

Other features of the new Jetstar 787 aircraft:

  • Larger windows, which tint at the touch of a button – Eliminating the need for window shades
  • Larger overhead baggage storage compartments
  • Seat back entertainment with new release movies, tv shows, movies and games (likely requiring payment for access)
  • New, ‘more natural’ lighting
  • Leather seatings
  • Less cabin noise while in-flight (similar to the Airbus A380 Superjumbo – Which I can confirm to be a lot quieter)

For more information about Jetstar’s new 787 Dreamliner ‘experience’, check out their dedicated website here.

Jetstar have also released a fly through video of their Jetstar 787 aircraft and cabin, which I have added below, giving you an idea of what the new aircraft will look like:

Although the 787’s have been experiencing numerous issues over the past year, with electrical faults and battery issues; including one of the more recent incidents being a faulty hydraulic pump on one of Norwegian Air Shuttle’s aircraft, Boeing is taking safety seriously and is working to fix the issues and improve reliability on the new state of the art aircraft.

Qantas have ordered a total of fourteen 787’s for its Jetstar subsidiary, which will be delivered up until late 2015. The new lighter and more fuel efficient aircraft are anticipated to help save fuel costs in the Qantas group and help it to stay more competitive.

For those interested, there is also a video of the Jetstar’s new 787 Dreamliner being put together (quickly) below.

What do you think of the new AirNZ Safety video and Jetstar’s new aircraft that will shortly be gracing our shores? Feel free to add your comments below.

Introduction
Air New Zealand Economy Class, Wellington to Auckland
Air New Zealand International Koru Club Lounge, Auckland
Thai Airways Business Class, Auckland to Bangkok
Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge (Domestic), Bangkok
Thai Airways Business Class, Bangkok to Phuket
Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach, Phuket


Mid-last year, Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter and I started planning for our trip to Europe so that she could visit her friends and family in Sweden. We typically time these trips when it’s Winter here in New Zealand, allowing us to escape the typically cold wind and rain in Wellington (though it hasn’t been that bad this year, apart from the storm) and trade it in for the warmer climate and barbecues on the other side of the World.

Windy Wellington - There's a reason why it's earned this reputation (especially in Winter): Photo by Marin Holl
Windy Wellington – There’s a reason why it’s earned this reputation (especially in Winter): Photo by Marin Holl

When it came down to planning for this trip, initially we were going to fully purchase the flights outright the traditional way, for two reasons:

  1. I had achieved Air New Zealand Gold status only a few months ago earlier that year, and was looking to use the 2 free ‘recognition upgrades’ (RU’s) available, plus the two new RU’s if I re-achieved it again.
  2. I knew that the early bird specials for Europe are typically released around October/November, so we were looking to take advantage of this.

As it so happened, my brother contacted me right when we were in the middle of planning as he was planning a family trip to Phuket (HKT) in July during the school holidays, and asked if we wanted to come, along with Mum and Dad. He was also offering to pay for our accommodation as a Birthday and Christmas present, which was an offer we couldn’t resist – how could we say no?
Thailand and Phuket has been a place that we have been looking to go to at some point, but the nature of it as a hub means it is difficult to get there unless you are flying with Thai Airways. As I was trying to use these upgrades from AirNZ (which require an NZ ticket & NZ operated flight), it was difficult to find a suitable routing to Phuket with connections on to Europe even though Thai Airways are part of the Star Alliance.

Whenever I see photos of Phuket, this is the image I think of - How inviting does that water look?
Whenever I see photos of Phuket, this is the image I think of – How inviting does that water look?

One of my ex-workmates was working for Flight Centre and was trying to help me find a suitable itinerary, even with just flying WLG-AKL-HKG (Hong Kong) / our own way to Phuket / before continuing on with our journey. Although this could have been possible, it is not ideal as:

  1. It would cost a few extra hundreds of dollars for both of us to get from HKG to HKT, in addition to the main flights.
  2. Working two separate itineraries/tickets can be problematic, particularly if there are delays or other unforeseen issues, and you miss the connection to the other flight on a different ticket – this voids the rest of that journey. Depending on the circumstances, travel insurance will cover this, but it is still good to leave some buffer time, eg. +1 day, so we would have likely stayed and had to book an extra night in a hotel in HKG, adding to the cost.

Flight costings were looking to be about $3,100 – $3,300 each, which is extremely high for an early bird fare. After getting frustrated with availability, routings and the cost, I decided to see if there was another way.

Earlier that year, we had flown on an award ticket via. a US Airways Star Alliance Partners award redemption, albeit in economy class, as we were looking to get to Europe cheaply. I had decided that the savings (we saved a couple of hundred dollars each) did not correspond to the benefits, due to the lack of earning for miles/airpoints and lack of status earn. However, with the dilemma of trying to find a suitable route via. Phuket and get to Sweden (reasonably) efficiently, I thought I would reconsider US Airways again.

By this time, we were in November, with no flights booked and the early bird fares starting to dry up. Something must have rolled in our favour, because in November US Airways decided to run a mile purchase promotion for 100% bonus on shared miles up to 50,000 miles. In other words, if I shared 50,000 miles with my partner, she would receive 50,000 miles (paid) + 50,000 miles (bonus), giving her a total of 100,000 miles. This is pretty similar to the standard 100% bonus promotion like the targeted one they are running this month, except there was also no restrictions on sharing miles that had already been shared.
In other words, I (person A) buy 50,000 miles. I share these miles with person B, and they get 100,000 miles. They could share 50,000 miles with person C, and they get 100,000 miles and so on and so forth, like a daisy chain. Although the initial purchase is 3.76 US cents per mile, subsequent purchases are less and less, like watering down the cost. As Mum and Dad also required flights to get to Phuket, this offer was definitely the way to go, and collectively, the cost was cheaper.

As flights though an agent were going to cost over $3,000 anyways, I asked Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter if she wanted to spend a little more and fly in Business Class – to which she answered with a resounding Yes (though, I don’t really see why she wouldn’t) 😉
~I can’t remember the exact amounts purchased through each account, but we ended up with 100,000 in each of our respective accounts and purchased an additional 20,000 miles on top to achieve the 120,000 mile quota required for a Business Class award redemption to Europe.

It took about 2 months in my spare time to find the best combination flight for our trip, mainly because at first the way I was searching was quite inefficient, but I picked up a few tips along the way which made things easier as time went on.
The other reason was trying to find different routings across Star Alliance airlines for the itinerary we needed. As we were searching for a flight from South Pacific to Europe, there were no restrictions on how we got there, provided there was availability – We were stopping over in HKT, but needed to also stop in Munich (MUC) for some friends of our’s wedding on the return trip to NZ. Two stopovers are not permitted on a US award ticket, and neither is a stopover or an open jaw (eg. we couldn’t stopover in Phuket and then have our final destination in Stockholm (ARN), departing from Munich on the way back – which would have required us to buy a separate ticket from ARN-MUC).
I decided the best way to go was a stopover in HKT, with our final destination MUC, and separate tickets between MUC – ARN (we would be in MUC for a few days on the way back anyway so there would be no problems with missing our connection). Finally after researching into all the different routes and ways of getting to Europe I started finding our more information into the different products offered by each airline, so specially routed our trip in particular to take advantage of these.

So in the end, our miles were bought at the end of November and our flights were booked and confirmed in mid-December. The itinerary (once I was done with it) looked like this:

WLG_ARN_itinerary_map

Our total journey is with 5 different (Star Alliance) airlines covering a total distance of over 42,000km, which is about 55 hours in the air – That’s a lot of flying! In addition, we will be visiting various lounges and airports along the way while in transit, so it is *quite* the journey.

I am particularly excited about flying Austrian Airlines new Business Class, as it is a brand new product (they started refitting their planes at the end of last year) and features a ‘throne’ type seat. DO & CO also provides the catering, thought to be some of the best in the skies.

Austrian's New Business Class Product
Austrian’s New Business Class Product

Likewise, Turkish Airlines Business Class offering is meant to be right up there, and they have also been awarded Best Airline in Europe. Something I am also quite looking forward to is hearing their lovely jingle, which was particularly great to listen to as on-hold music when calling them to make our seat reservations.. and yes, it looped just like in the video when on hold too, and gets quite stuck in your head.
I’m not sure if it’s one of the most annoying tunes I’ve heard, but The National Bank’s old tune was also quite horrible as well. They seem to use it all throughout their marketing & activities, so no doubt I’ll be sick to death of it after our long-haul flight:

Turkish Airlines does however, have a very nice business lounge in Istanbul, complete with pool table, a library, and a wide selection of food options. We won’t be spending a huge amount of time in this lounge, but it is something I am also quite looking forward to seeing.

We will also be flying long-haul business class on Thai Airways and Air New Zealand, and there are various short-haul flights throughout – We finally get back to New Zealand at the end of August (ready to start my leave count afresh!).

Final Destination: Stockholm, Sweden
Final Destination: Stockholm, Sweden

The trip begins this Tuesday, so I’ll be blogging throughout the journey and providing trip reports of our experiences along with reviews of our flights and the various soft/hard products and our general time along the way.

As always, any questions and comments are welcome!

On Tuesday (I’ve been meaning to post this all week but have been caught up with work and other commitments until now), Air New Zealand announced on their Facebook page and made a press release on their Flying Social Network website about their new aircraft livery, which features the iconic official New Zealand fern mark.

The new look comes in two different colour styles and is going to be rolled out progressively across the aircraft from later this year.

Air New Zealand's new livery (2013) - Black Version
Air New Zealand’s new livery (2013) – Black Version
Air New Zealand's new livery (2013) - White Version
Air New Zealand’s new livery (2013) – White Version

The promotional pictures shown of the new livery are modelled on the Boeing 787-9, which Air New Zealand is the official launch customer for. The first delivery is expected in early 2014, and they will be starting on starting commercial flights in mid-2014. It does look quite good on this model, but I am curious to see what it will look like on the turboprop (propeller) aircraft..

The new look is part of a $20 Million partnership between Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand to undertake joint marketing activity promoting travel to New Zealand in selected international markets.

First up, I’d link to start off with an apology. I launched this blog on Monday and was hoping to have my new post up by now – Unfortunately I have been bogged down all week with various projects in my day-to-day job, which hasn’t left me with much spare time outside of work.

However, there are plenty of things that I’m very excited to be posting about over the next couple of weeks, the biggest one being news I only received this morning for a way to book an incredibly cheap business class fare to *nearly* anywhere in the World. I used this method myself last year to book our last trip to Europe, and have used this method again for this years trip, as well as to book a trip for my parents to Asia.

Also, BNZ GlobalPlus have recently changed a major benefit of their Gold card (which takes effect this week) – a card I have recommended to friends and family previously as probably one the best Airpoints card in New Zealand. I am currently working on breaking down each of the Airpoints cards available in NZ and posting my recommendation for the best value card so that you can start racking up Airpoints (and status points for you FT’ers out there) for perhaps that next holiday.

Finally, I just got back from a work trip last week to Gisborne and Whakatane, which also took me to the lovely little town of Ruatoria. I’ll review one of the restaurants and a very nice new motel in Whakatane, as well as my run=in with an unexpected VIP on the way home…

Here’s a lovely little beach I came across just outside of Gisborne on that trip, so I thought that I would share it with you guys..

Makorori Beach, just outside Gisborne

A side note for those of you that haven’t been watching the news over the last day, there is a clip of a National Airlines 747-400 freighter that crashed shortly after takeoff in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan that is probably one of the more unnerving videos I’ve seen – You might want to skip it if such things make you a little uneasy.
Apparently the initial report is that the cargo was not properly secured at the time of takeoff, causing a weight shift to the rear of the plane and it stalling.

I will have some spare time over the weekend, so am looking to get my next post up soon.

Until then,

Jeremy