Air New Zealand is the best – here are some reasons

A selection of reasons why Air New Zealand won the Airline of the Year in the Air Transport World magazine awards. Most of these refer to posts made here over the past three years, and the overarching reason is simply that Air New Zealand is a very well run business.

They have kept their fares low, and use a very simple fare structure. That means reducing some food services, but the lollies remain and, it seems, always will.

They have steadily got the details right – from the economy seats, to the check-in and seat back entertainment. The business class seats still rate, for me, as the best around, offering so much more than the competition.

They grasped the power of Twitter early – taking off with the Airpoints Fairy and several other Twitter identities. The Airpoints Fairy really is an exceptionally good move. You’ll find out a lot more, and a lot faster, by following the twitter accounts than by reading the media section of the Air New Zealand website, which, as of writing, still had no announcement.

While they use Zillion, SellmeFree and Sella instead of Trade Me for their annual charity auction – the point is that they have one, and it is not only a good thing to do but a fun and entertaining promotion of AirNZ services. By the way – Trade Me you really need to suck up to Air New Zealand, starting now, and make sure you land this for 2010.

They have, in post Ansett merger and Qantas code share proposal years, consistently understood that they are there for the greater good, not just corporate profits. This means lower airfares and more travellers. They also focused on improving the business across the board, rather than on government lobbying to maintain a quasi monopoly. They have stopped looking (it seems) for stupid tie-ins with Qantas and purchases of other, poorly run, airlines.

They are blessed with incompetent competition – with Qantas exiting and replacing themselves with the hapless Jetstar. Qantas are a good airline, especially when compared with ones from the USA, but Australian experience shows how much they still have to learn.

They reward their best customers by providing extra legroom at the front of the plane. They did this by adding another row, but taking the inches from the seats at the rear only. While this is not as egalitarian as the Jet Blue practice of rewarding people in the back with more room, it means that as a Gold (or Gold Elite now) status holder I can always get a seat near the front with plenty of legroom. Given that most of the profits would tend to come for the top few customers, this is placing the better service where the profits are.

They continue to innovate, and may even transform international travel (Jan07) with economy class sleeping seats. It will be a little while yet before the new planes arrive, but this has big implications for long haul tourism.

The innovation also applies to operations – not only testing biofuels recently, but also having some planes glide into Auckland airport to save on fuel – back in 2007.

They have delivered a series of great promotions – from the Pink plane to the Sydney Mardi Gras to the Pimp my Plane MTV promotion back in 2007.

Grabaseat – it’s a great idea, quickly executed and continuously improved. It’s a tool to sort of those that care about price from the others, and also to sell excess capacity. Well done.

The naked campaign is stunning, making the foreign press and providing for an entertaining safety briefing. It’s really great when one of the stars is serving on the flight – I’m sure they get a much easier time from passengers.

Their website is very good (not perfect though) and it is New Zealand’s biggest eCommerce website, delivering over $1 billion in sales back in 2007/7.

They launched the brilliant mPass application for the iPhone, and supply premium customers with an RFID tag. Each of these means customers can go directly to the gate, bypassing check-in. The implications for me is zero waiting time for most flights out of Wellington, and much tighter margins on my travel from other airports. Just one of several ways that they have reduced the pain of flying.

And lastly – the staff. The quality of a business shows up in the quality of the front line staff, and without exception Air New Zealand staff have been simply outstanding for me.

Whether it’s the gentle chiding I received recently as I arrived at the gate moments after they had closed the flight, while they quietly did the work required to let me on, or the folks who dealt (not perfectly, but well enough) with my booking a return flight for a year minus a day later than I had wished. It could be the phone number I received from the Perth Koru lounge to let them know next time I was late (it was next time), or the unflappable and always friendly staff on board.

Front line staff this good mean that the environment they work in is good, that their bosses also get it, and that ultimately the leadership team, CEO and board are all get it as well. Everyone I have met that works inside Air New Zealand corporate seems to get it, and seem to really enjoy what they do and who they work for. It’s been a while, it seems, since one of AirNZ’s panicky restructures, and while the current regime cannot last forever, I hope that they have good succession plans for all of the critical roles.

To top it all of, Air New Zealand awarded all staff an extra day’s leave as a reward for winning. There’s a lot in that announcement – not only the fact that the reward exists, but that it happened (embargo notwithstanding) so quickly, and that the large cost of doing so was absorbed, but also that it was aimed at the right recipients – the staff.

Well done Air New Zealand – you have made us proud.

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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13 Responses to Air New Zealand is the best – here are some reasons

  1. Rod Drury says:

    Lance I agree. Great to be proud of our national carrier. A fine accolade.

    Rod

  2. Steve says:

    One way to cut costs would be to not accept passengers that routinely arrive late, such as yourself. I’m told it can cost $2,000 a minute for a plane to depart late.

    • Lance Wiggs says:

      why would that be $200 an hour? They are not burning fuel at that rate – the engines are not even started – and the queuing systems will cope with the occasional late passenger.

      The real costs of lateness are where planes are substantially late – over 20 or 30 minutes say, to an extent where it start affecting other schedules. Sadly I don’t have the ability to hold a plane for that long.

      I get to the gate last primarily as I really don’t like standing in crowds. In almost every instance of me being the last to go through the gate, and that’s about 30% of the time, whether I am late to the airport or not, there is still a line formed inside the tunnel, and certainly the plane is still boarding, with some passengers yet to sit down. This was the case in the example mentioned above.

      I’ve missed flights before, and take that on the chin. With Air NZ’s new tickets it is now possible to simply move to the following flight – for free.

  3. Simon says:

    I’m flying ANZ for the first time in 7 years, this next week, from HK to NZ and I’m rather keen to see how they match up. To be honest the last time I flew them (from NZ to Melbourne), I swore I’d not ever fly them again. The plane was over-crowded, dirty, the inflight entertainment system was almost non-existent and the service utterly shocking.

    In the interim I’ve racked up hundreds of thousands of kms with all sorts of airlines..some great (Sing Air with their usb ports and laptop power on all seats, Qatar, Air France), many average, and some awful (Malaysian comes to mind straight off, but nothing matches Viva Macau).

    I’m looking forward to being very pleasantly surprised.

  4. Alastair Jamieson says:

    I’d add to your list that Air New Zealand’s CEO Rob Fyfe is the only major business leader who is prominently and consistently seeking action on the major environmental issues facing business in NZ.

    He puts other major industries (e.g Fonterra/ dairying) and the government to shame with his realistic no-nonsense approach to sorting out NZ’s ETS (carbon reduction) scheme and on the importance of actually taking convincing and meaningful action to maintain and enhance NZ’s ‘green’ reputation.

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  6. Simon says:

    I eat my words on Air New Zealand http://bit.ly/6e4mCt

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  9. Nick says:

    Couldn’t agree more with you, Air New Zealand are a company I’m just as excited to read about nowadays as what’s coming out of Google! Truly innovative and game changing.

    Intriguing to read Simon’s blog response as well (although I wasn’t about to retype my entire comment on blogger given the lack of WordPress friendly login as you referred to Lance!) That only reinforces what you’ve said above, the lengths people in the company are going to to keep ahead in what is a very very tough industry.

  10. Derek says:

    I agree the Air New Zealand turn around is very remarkable. I live in Australia and comparing Qf to NZ is a complete joke. Maybe Qf could take a leaf out of Air nz and what it is to really enjoy your job.

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