click image to zoom Long lines, uncomfortable security procedures, cramped quarters and a fee for every extra service have made flying on U.S. commercial airlines less than luxurious. While I might complain about a delay from time to time, it’s been such a gradual chipping away of overall customer service, I had really forgotten how nice domestic travel used to be until my eyes were recently opened.
For our 20th wedding anniversary, my husband planned a surprise, kids-free trip to Italy last year. A cancelled flight on the way over stole our first planned day in Venice from us, but we were determined to put the rough start behind us and had an amazing tour. It wasn’t until we arrived at the airport in Nice, France, for the return flight home, did we learn that the Luftansa flight attendants were on strike, all their flights (including ours) were cancelled, and the Frankfurt airport was closed.
After four hours, six lines and some very creative juggling, we scored the last two seats on a British Airways flight to London and a connecting flight on Air New Zealand to Los Angeles. Despite the fact that LAX wasn’t our original destination, we grabbed them, knowing at least we could rent a car and drive home from there.
I had never heard of Air New Zealand, and even though our seats were in the back row next to the bathroom, I didn’t care—I was grateful. Tired and weary, we boarded the plane and prepared ourselves for almost anything—anything but an incredible experience. First, the plane was spotless in way that makes you breathe deeply, and each row—even the back one—was roomy. As we settled our luggage in the overhead bins, we noted the mirrored panels on the bins’ ceilings to aide passengers in seeing and collecting all their belongings.
The flight attendants were in smart, crisp, colorful uniforms, which I later learned were designed by New Zealand fashion designer Trelise Cooper—and their fun and friendly personalities were the best accessory. The clever, animated safety video narrated by Ed O’Neill of <I>Modern Family<I> and Melanie Lynsky of <I>Two and a Half Men<I>, imparted the necessary information in a humorous way that insinuated they knew normal videos insulted your intelligence. (I later learned Air New Zealand has a host of award-winning, creatively themed safety videos, including one featuring <I>Lord of the Ring<I. characters and another with <I>Sports Illustrated<I> swimsuit models.)