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After a fun few days exploring Auckland and the surrounding area, we were getting ready for the next major segment of our round the world trip back to the US from Sydney. But before making our way from Auckland to Sydney, we checked out the Air New Zealand International Lounge at Auckland Airport (AKL). Here’s a review of our early morning visit to the lounge, which was refurbished in 2015.
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Access to the Air New Zealand International Lounge
You can get access to the Air New Zealand International Lounge if you are: Airpoints Elite, Gold, Elite Partner and Koru members or if you are a business class passengers departing on Air New Zealand flights. Since we had booked Air New Zealand tickets with Aeroplan miles, we had access to the lounge.
Getting to the lounge
After finishing up a five day stay at the Hilton Auckland, we made our way back to the Auckland Airport very early in the morning to return our rental vehicle to Avis before our flight over to Sydney. The lounge opens up at 4:30am and we were arriving just after opening.
We were supposed to fly the Air New Zealand Dreamliner over to Sydney but due to 787 engine issues our aircraft was swapped for a leased Hi Fly A340, which had an old Emirates cabin on the inside.
We still went through the check-in procedure for Air New Zealand though, which meant we were able to utilize the special check-in areas for premium passengers.
We were the only ones in the check-in area when we arrived (around 4:45am) and it was one of the sleekest and nicest check-in areas I’ve seen for business class check-in.
The Air New Zealand agent had us sit down in a little private section while he arranged for our bags to be checked and printed out our boarding pass. The seats were comfortable and even had wireless charging for our phones built into the side table.
After our luggage was taken care of, we were escorted to the fast track security line which we got through very quickly since there were hardly any other passengers in line. And then we navigated our way to the Air New Zealand International lounge.
After you get through security and customs, It’s pretty easy to find the lounge as you wind your way around the duty free shops and up the escalator to the lounge. There should be a couple of signs to guide you along the way.
We were among the first passengers to show up at the lounge and it was pretty empty for the first 20 to 30 minutes that we visited, although it did start to fill up pretty quickly after that.
As we first strolled through the lounge, I thought the aesthetics were very impressive. I could tell that there was a lot of seating and lots of different types of seats as the lounge has a capacity at 375 guests.
Some of the seats do have New Zealand outlets, you just have to be on the lookout for them.
It’s a very modern vibe throughout the lounge and really just well-done.
I really liked these benches built into the wall with some artwork and mood lighting.
I also really liked these chaise lounge seats that came with a decent amount of privacy and small tables.
The chaise lounge at the very end of the row would have been perfect for a nap/re-charging.
They have some areas that can function more like work stations, too.
We then made our way toward the very back of the lounge to check out an area that had some tarmac views and a lot of comfy seating. This area opens up as a covered outdoor terrace (with a retractable roof) which is an impressive feature though it remained closed during our visit. There’s also a fireplace so that the room can be opened up during the colder months.
Some of the seating was pretty interesting like these suspended chairs
This area definitely had an Amex Centurion vibe going on with all of the greenery hanging on the wall.
There wasn’t much going on outside given how early we were but the lounge really does has some great views for plane spotting.
The lounge had a pretty decent breakfast selection to choose from, which was set up in front of an impressive assembly of monitors. There’s also a theater area which I didn’t get a photograph of.
They had a self-serve pancake machine along with all of the fixings for your pancakes. I believe that during busier times they have a chef who can prepare cooked to order meals but there was not a chef during our visit.
There was a variety of bread and a toaster available.
They had a variety of yogurts and fruit salads set up, as well.
They also had some whole fruits.
They also had a decent selection of pastries.
As for the hot items, they had scrambled eggs with chives, roast potatoes, and Italian breakfast sausages, all of which were pretty satisfying though the potatoes were by far the best item to me.
The also had some other dish with mushrooms and chickpeas but I didn’t try it out.
Overall, the food selections were pretty decent as was the quality of the food. I wouldn’t say it was the best I’ve had at a business class lounge but still quality enough to do the trick.
There’s a sleek cocktail/espresso bar area and in the morning it was mostly set up for water glasses and the ordering station for coffees.
One of my favorite parts to the lounge was the self-order tablet where you can customize your coffee order exactly as you’d like — you can even choose to have it in the lounge or take-a-way.
Simply select your style of drink and then input your name and then the tablet will tell you when to expect your order.
The line to the tablet was short when I ordered but when we got ready to leave, the line started to get pretty long.
I went with a decaf cappuccino, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
They had a few juices to choose from like apple juice, orange juice, and tomato juice.
There was also a coffee maker.
And a decent selection of beers and sparkling wine to choose from.
The bathrooms were nice and clean.
There are showers at the lounge, but I didn’t get a photo of them.
Where the **** is my wallet?
After getting all of my photos for the lounge and then enjoying the decaf cappuccino, we were getting ready to head to the gate… until I realized that I didn’t have my wallet in my pocket. I searched all through my bags and still couldn’t find it and that’s when it clicked that I’d left it in the Avis rental car.
At that point, I didn’t feel like I’d have enough time to run back to the rental car desks and make it back to the gate for departure. Since we had a somewhat tight connection in Sydney for our award flight on Virgin Atlantic to LAX, I didn’t want to risk missing that flight at all.
So we made our way to the gate and then had agents call the Avis desk to see if they could get it. But nobody would pick up the phone. We even called some of the nearby stores and they said nobody was attending the Avis desk.
This was the beginning of one of the most frustrating experiences I’d ever had with a rental car company, as it would take about six weeks to get my wallet back. I literally contacted every department within Avis over that time multiple times but Avis kept dropping the ball over and over again by doing things like cancelling my case file or assigning people to my case who were on sabbatical. It was downright infuriating at times.
Luckily, one worker in New Zealand finally took the initiative and sent it over on her own accord which I was extremely thankful for. When I received my wallet, all cards and cash were still intact, so I’ll give them props for that.
I definitely learned my lesson to make a complete sweep of every rental car before I turn it in. I think I’ll also be avoiding Avis in the future whenever I can.
Emirates first class?
Although it didn’t feel too great to be boarding a plane with a missing wallet, we were able to experience what I’m pretty sure is the old Emirates first class on an A340. The crew was ran by all Hi Fly crew members except for one Air New Zealand flight attendant.
My string of great luck was still going strong and it turns out that my seat didn’t work so I had to get bumped to business class. I got some vouchers out of it so I didn’t mind — I was just happy that our flight was going to be on time and that we’d be able to experience Virgin Australia for the first time.
The Air New Zealand International Lounge is a solid lounge. Aesthetically speaking, it’s beautiful and modern with plenty of different types of ways to relax depending on what you need to get done. the breakfast line-up was solid though not extraordinary in any way but I really loved the self-order coffee bar. My ultimate test for a good lounge is if it’s worth arriving early for and I would say that this is a lounge arriving a little early for.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.