Of three new routes (techncially two resumptions of service, only one truly new route) this weekend, Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand was probably the smallest and least-busy route of them all. Business class (Polaris) cabin was full but premium economy was laughably empty (2 of 21 seats) and economy was way less than half full. Ducked in to the Polaris Lounge before the pre-flight party for a quick snack, too.
The party at the gate was tiny, with one traditional New Zealand dancer, a backdrop, some New Zealand flags, and some super sad balloons. Sarah Handley, General Manager, Americas and Europe at Tourism New Zealand gave a brief speech, they roped Captain JJ Till into speaking... aside from that and some LAX ground staff, no VIP's present. The crew onboard was great, with Scott (purser) and John working the front along with two of United's most senior flight attendants. Not sure how long Linda has been with UA, but she and Sharon (50+ years, she's #38 system-wide so a country code (!)) were also onboard, making this a very experienced crew.
Captain TIll and his crew of three first officers (Paul, David, Chad) were all ex-US Navy pilots, so a little weather forecasted later in the flight didn't remotely faze them, and the seared cod for dinner was actually good. Chilled ginger beef is a bit odd but was not bad, and always nice to see a proper green salad.