Sunday, March 4, 2012

New Zealand December 2011 - Air New Zealand AKL Koru Club Lounge

***This post is part 15 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***   

My three other travel buddies were all booked on Air Pacific back to LAX via NAN. Since their flight was scheduled to depart a couple of hours prior to mine, we headed over to the Air Pacific counters to get them checked-in first. Holy cow, we were met with a line that looked more appropriate for Disneyland than an airport! I reminded myself to avoid Air Pacific at all costs in the future. Obviously, this was going to take a while for them, so I decided to go get checked-in for my Air New Zealand flight in the meantime.

AKL International Terminal

Air Pacific economy class check-in cluster#@*!

Talk about night and day! Air New Zealand's premium check-in counter was in a completely separate area. There was not a single person waiting in line, which meant I was able to get my bags checked-in and my boarding pass printed out in less than five minutes. Afterwards, I walked back to the Air Pacific counters and saw my friends not even half-way through the line yet.

Air New Zealand premium check-in counters

When they finally finished checking-in for their flight, we headed over to security and passport checks, which were quick and easy, as expected. The airside facilities at the international terminal are quite fantastic, with tons of restaurant and fast-food options, duty free shops, and souvenir stores. I still had a lot of gifts to buy for family and friends, so I ended up perusing several stores to get all my last-minute purchases in.

Cool ceiling display airside

After I bid farewell to my friends as their flight started boarding, I followed the signs and headed upstairs to the Air New Zealand Koru Club Lounge. My first impression was amazement at how huge the place was. There were several different wings to the lounge, each catering to a different style of relaxation. There was the usual common area with comfortable couches, a TV room with a large screen and rows of chairs, a large communal work area with plenty of power ports for laptops and wireless devices, a dining area with lots of tables, a cell phone-free area for napping and reading, and plenty of seating scattered in between for good measure. There were also a couple of computer terminals for guest use in one corner of the common area.

Since most of the Air New Zealand long-haul international flights depart in the evening, the place was quite empty when I first arrived. Having about six hours to kill afforded me with plenty of time to explore just about every corner of the lounge. I also had a taste of all the dishes that were on display in the dining area. Since I hadn't eaten lunch yet, I tried their hot entrees first, including a delicious lamb moussaka with baked tumeric rice. The pumpkin soup was very good as well. They also had a wide selection of salads, fruits, cheeses, and desserts. I probably had at least seven or eight kiwis since they were so incredibly sweet.

Unfortunately, the lounge didn't have a good selection of liquor or spirits. The few that they had seemed to be bottom to mid-shelf varieties. However, they did have a wide range of beers and wines to choose from. Luckily I'm not a big drinker, so I stuck with ginger ale and water.

I was feeling a little tired from day's travels, so I parked myself on a long couch inside the cell phone-free area and proceeded to doze off for the next two hours. I was amazed that I slept for so long on a couch in a lounge, but the body does what it wants to do when it's tired! By the time I woke up, I still had a good hour to kill before boarding began, so I decided to grab a quick shower. The facilities were unattended, but it was easy to find an open room and everything you need inside. The layout of the shower room was completely identical to the LAX Koru Club Lounge, except a bit larger in footprint. Plenty of pre-wrapped clean towels were provided, while soap and shampoo were in dispensers.

Feeling completely refreshed, I picked up a few more snacks, then headed down to the gate a little early for departure. Good thing I did since the lines for the US-mandated secondary security screening were ridiculously long. The search ended up being fairly lax though, and I was soon waiting at Gate 8 for my direct flight to SFO.

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