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What does the top-rated airline in the world serve for breakfast?

Molly McArdle
July 10, 2018

It’s hard to find a more satisfying—or more inherently Kiwi—breakfast than streaky bacon on a warm roll. Air New Zealand consultant chefs, Peter Gordon (the Maori chef often credited as the godfather of fusion cuisine) and Michael Meredith (the Samoan-born chef whose emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients made his Auckland restaurant one of the most acclaimed in the country), design the menu concepts and dishes, like streaky bacon, for the acclaimed national airline’s Business Premier food service. Their guiding ethos? “Simple but elegant,” Meredith told APEX Media last year, “that’s the Kiwi way.”

Air New Zealand is widely recognized as the best airline in the world. AirlineRatings.com, which has named Air New Zealand its “Airline of the Year” for the past five years, judges according to criteria such as performance, in-flight innovation, operational safety, environmental leadership, and staff motivation. Condé Nast Traveler, which named Air New Zealand the “Best Airline in the World” in its annual Readers’ Choice Awards, pointed to the airline’s consistent spaciousness and comfort. With some of the longest flights in the world—its new Chicago-Auckland route, which begins this November, will top off at 16 hours—the in-air experience is that much more important. (Can you imagine being trapped in a metal tube hurtling thousands of miles above the surface of the planet for that long with no streaky bacon?) But none of these accolades capture Air Zealand’s most essential quality: It is adorable.

From the company’s standard greeting “Kia ora” (a Maori-language “hello”) to their thoroughly Kiwi in-flight entertainment selection (which seems to feature every movie filmed in New Zealand…ever?), their logo (a koru, a Maori symbol representing an unfolding fern leaf) to the bold koru-inspired prints featured in their staff uniforms, their discerning selection of New Zealand wines to their in-flight Kiwi cuisine, Air New Zealand is a passionate ambassador of…New Zealand. Please watch this video of Air New Zealand staff welcoming the country’s beloved national rugby team, the All Blacks, home with a haka, the Maori war dance that the team has made famous on rugby pitches around the world. On an Air New Zealand flight, you can order both Vegemite and Marmite with your freshly baked breakfast croissant while watching Taika Waititi’s entire filmography.

Operating about 80 percent of all domestic flights and 40 percent of inbound international traffic (not to mention the 53 percent of the company that’s owned by the New Zealand government), it’s no wonder that Air New Zealand is such a passionate, patriotic booster. Though they wear this devotion on their sleeves (literally), it’s most vivid presence is on the plate. “The biggest thing for us,” chef Michael Meredith said of his and Peter Gordon’s work designing the airline’s food service, “is that we want to highlight New Zealand ingredients as much as possible.”

Anita Hawthorne, Air New Zealand’s general manager of customer experience, emphasizes the same principles. “We serve the best local seasonal produce alongside specialty New Zealand products such as wine, cheese and olive oil,” she explains. “In fact, Air New Zealand is the largest single server of wine in New Zealand, with our customers enjoying around eight million glasses of New Zealand wine inflight each year.”

Over the past twelve months, Air New Zealand served more than 6.4 million meals, each one prepared fresh daily in one of over 20 kitchens located across the globe. With menus that rotate monthly on regional flights (to Australia and other Pacific Islands) and every three-to-four months on long haul routes, Air New Zealand menus source fresh Hāpuku, kumara, artisanal cheeses, and even kelp from New Zealand as well as cutting-edge ingredients from around the world, such as the Silicon Valley-sourced Impossible Burger, a plant-based patty that “bleeds.”

“Where New Zealand produce is available, we tap into that,” Peter Gordon said in a behind-the-scenes video. One of the country’s most prominent celebrity chefs, Gordon has worked with the airline for more than 20 years. Meredith joined him in 2016. “For me, it’s a real privilege to be working with Air New Zealand because it’s the flagship,” Gordon says.

“We hit the balance, like New Zealanders in a funny way, of being really smart and really casual, being able to cover all the bases."

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