Finally, an outstanding budget airline! Pity it's in New Zealand.
For all the bitching and moaning that's done about budget airlines (and we've pitched in with more than our fair share), occasionally you discover one that gets it dead right. Frustratingly, Air New Zealand are on the wrong side of the planet so you'll have to take my word for it. But you do believe me, right? It's like when I said you can cut a pane of glass underwater with a pair of scissors. Just trust me on this.
Travelling across New Zealand by air is comparable to flights between the UK and mainland Europe; from Queenstown on the South Island to Auckland on the North Island takes the best part of two hours. There are several budget airlines criss-crossing the country, including Jetstar and Pacific Blue, but Air New Zealand stands out because it doesn't feel like a budget airline.
You can expect to pay less than $200 NZ (about £78) to fly between the major cities by booking a fortnight or so in advance, so pricing feels more in line with the likes of Easyjet than Ryanair, but the difference is clear. For starters, there are many brand new and recently refurbished aircraft in the fleet; the seats are fully upholstered with adjustable headrests and plenty of additional legroom for grumbling lanky twats, like me. Secondly, there's a trolley service. And it's free. Snacks and drinks throughout the flight, without patting your pockets down for change. Third, there's not a scratchcard in sight.
So you've got budget prices and an on-board service that still provides one. Anything else? Actually, yes. No credit card fees, one piece of checked luggage for free, self-service check-in (if Ryanair get this right, it'll be a real advance for UK budget travel) and electronic boarding passes for customers with smartphones.
Maybe it's because this is a domestic airline with a big brother to aspire to - here's one traveller's account of Air New Zealand's international service. Obviously you're not going to travel halfway around the world to test their flights out, but it's good to know that it can be done properly, and there's an affordable airline out there that doesn't make you feel like a needle-marked, smack-craving whore.