Australia and New Zealand allow third country airlines to fly between the two countries; these are known as fifth freedom routes (based on the nine freedoms of the air).
Given the competition between the carriers and the current cheap prices, fewer and fewer airlines are taking advantage of this. Emirates has a single Sydney to Christchurch flight now, China Airlines flies from Brisbane to Auckland, and finally Singapore Airlines flies from Wellington to Melbourne, continuing on to Singapore.
I was just going to be flying the Wellington to Melbourne sector, which I booked with 31,000 Kris flyer miles, transferred 1:1 from my American Express Membership Reward points.
Unlike the short-haul A321neo that Air New Zealand operated on my outward leg, as the aircraft travels on to Singapore, it’s operated with a longhaul A350-900, although not their ULR version.
That means that in business class they have fully flat suite beds for the three hour hop across the Tasman Sea. They also operate a Premium Economy cabin, as well as regular economy.
I followed the signs to International Departures proceeding through both security and outbound immigration checks. It was only people for this flight, so both only took a matter of minutes.
Singapore Airlines uses the Air New Zealand Koru Club in Wellington Airport as their lounge which was right past security and over the hall. I have to say for what is meant to be an international business class lounge, I was very disappointed. It was a large windowless room with a bunch of arm chairs. There were a few high tops as well for people who wanted to eat quickly and that was about it.
The food on offer wasn’t bad with a variety of sandwiches, cheese, salad and fruit. There were two hot options as well, one veggie and one chicken. The spirits selection was poor, but what I’d expected, but the wine and beer seemed better including some local sparkling wine, which wasn’t bad.
Boarding was called roughly 35 minutes before departure and the gate was a short five minute stroll away.
I won’t review the seat as it’s exactly the same as they have fitted on their 777-300ER which I reviewed here. People seem to either love or hate the Singapore Airlines seat – I’m definitely in the love it camp. It had the excellent in-flight entertainment system and also free Wi-Fi as well.
The aircraft seemed almost totally full which I was quite surprised about – I would have thought it would have been more of a niche route and thus less busy. The taxi out from our stand seemed unusual both in terms of how close a number of houses were to the airfield, and also how beautiful the surrounding area was. Unfortunately I only had 24 hours in Wellington visiting a friend and his partner, so didn’t have time to explore properly.
The take-off roll took all of fifteen seconds before we were up in the air; I’m not sure I’ve been on a shorter one ever!
It wasn’t long before the Singapore Airlines service started in their ever-efficient way. A gin and tonic arrived.
The table was laid and not long after the prawn starter arrived. For my main course, I’d gone with the braised lamb. Ice cream came for dessert. Illy espresso was available.
The champagne was Laurent Perrier and there was Courvoisier XO Cognac.
I just about had time to watch a movie, have lunch and we were on the final approach into Melbourne.
Singapore Airlines really are very, very good. They’re always on point and a three hour flight on an A350 was a real treat. The only surprise was the poor lounge in Wellington, my experiences in Melbourne and Christchurch were both really good. I suspect there are simply too few flights for them to make any further investments to justify it.