Originally published in the New Zealand Herald Travel

Tim McCready flies Air NZ’s flight NZ5118 from Palmerston North to Auckland

The plane: One of Air New Zealand’s 21 ATR 72-600s. This one was three years old.

Class: This is New Zealand. Just the one.

Boarding: Quick and painless. Skipping security on these regional flights is a real treat. I was travelling with a colleague from Singapore who was thoroughly enamoured that we can arrive at the airport minutes before boarding and walk straight on to the plane.

My seat: 1D — a terrible choice. These planes board and disembark from the back, so I was last off. The one advantage that came with being up front was the unlimited leg room.

The price: $523 (return, travelling with a flexidate fare).

How full: The plane was reasonably full, but I was the only one who made the front-row seating error. I had both sides of the emergency exit row to myself, and was well prepared with the responsibility that entailed — but thankfully I wasn’t called on.

Food and drink: It’s kept pretty simple on these flights. I was given the choice of tea, coffee or water, and of course, a Cookie Time Cookie — a choice of chocolate chip or gingernut. Those iconic boiled lollies made an appearance just before descent.

Service: The service was great. There are no screens on these planes, so safety instructions were given manually — a bit of a treat these days. Sitting right up the front by myself meant I had some great banter with the flight attendant during take-off and landing (and while patiently waiting for every other person to leave the plane).

The flight: It was a perfect day for flying. The skies were calm, and with only scattered cloud across the North Island I spent a lot of time gazing out of the window.

Flight time: We took off 12 minutes late. As we were nearing Auckland the pilot cautioned us that we had been given a convoluted descent by air traffic control and could be heavily delayed … but thankfully this was resolved. We made up time during the flight and touched down right on schedule — a relatively short flight of 54 minutes.

The bottom line: A very comfortable journey up the North Island.