In a flash of knee-high white boots, Air New Zealand’s 75th anniversary exhibition has landed at Auckland War Memorial Museum. And it’s worthwhile seeing as a time capsule of our lives.

Air New Zealand was the first airline to boil water in flight. Air New Zealand, a small airline from a small country, has long punched above its weight.

In early December 2015 it was pronounced the Airline of the Year for the third year running. This is out of a field of 435 airlines

Air New Zealand have recently introduced an “Airband” for children flying unaccompanied. The wristband is received by the child at check-in and is embedded with a chip that is scanned at key stages of the journey to trigger text notifications to up to five nominated contacts.

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The technology gives parents and guardians the opportunity to follow each step of the child's journey

Retro uniforms to delight

The exhibition reveals that’s a long way from the beginnings of Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) in 1940 and a flying boat journey from Auckland to Sydney for ten passengers. Only in 1965 did it become Air New Zealand.

The display of cabin crew uniforms reveals that the first ones were derived from Air Force uniforms in 1940 and the uniforms around the birth of Air New Zealand owed a lot to the swinging 60s – including high white boots, pillbox caps. The display of uniforms is a fascinating unfolding time capsule.  

A virtual reality inflight display, while seated inside a cabin mock-up wearing bulky goggles, reveals the future. Though it remains to be seen whether a transparent fuselage – through which you can see the clouds and the ground – is ideal for the nervous flyer.

The ability to turn from side to side while encased in the goggles and “seeing” what’s on either side, overhead or even behind you is amazing, rapidly-evolving technology. 

Men in Black: a fun safety video

One Air New Zealand experience that you don’t have to visit Auckland to experience is its famous in-flight safety videos. Normally the most forgettable part of every flight, Air New Zealand’s engaging in-flight safety videos attract millions of viewers on Facebook (up to 15 million views for each) because they are both funny and informative.

The current one is Men in Black where members of the All Blacks do sci-fi (with David Campese in a cameo as a gold-clad alien).

The first of the blockbusters was based on The Lord of the Rings and the most viewed is the Hobbit one that coincided with the release of the final part of that film trilogy. 

At the exhibition, the room full of classic airline posters reveals some wonderful graphic art – and wonderful perspectives from the past. 

There’s a solemn, poignant part of the Auckland exhibition set aside to acknowledge the airline’s disasters, most notably the 1979 Mt Erebus crash in Antarctica.

Also, for a glimpse into the complexity of flying through crowded skies, a looped video takes you inside the cockpit for an exchange between the pilots and the control tower as a flight comes in to land. 

Air New Zealand should be applauded for offering an innovative couch for couples or families in long haul Economy Class – the Skycouch – that’s much cheaper than two Business Class Seats.

Air New Zealand has gone all out to celebrate the third and final film in The Hobbit Trilogy – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

It’s only 1.55m so it’s not lie-flat for most people but it certainly provides the chance to get horizontal on long-haul flights.  

However, that’s still a far cry from a stroll through the exhibition’s reproduction of the spacious First Class cabin of a DC-8 where the wine list included 1985 Veuve Cliquot and 1991 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. 

Fun interactive games

There are several interactive displays to explore. In one you can watch time lapse footage of the closely choreographed activities required for a long haul turnaround or you can sit in as a pilot lands a B787-9. 

The most fun is a boarding simulation game where you have to move passengers from the gate lounge into their assigned seats. The objective is to do it in the shortest time possible while keeping the passengers happy. You’ll be lucky if you do any better than the crew at the airport. 

This Air New Zealand exhibition is an evolution of one that was on in Wellington earlier. The reaction has been so positive that some of it may become part of a permanent display at Air New Zealand headquarters in downtown Auckland. 

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The Air New Zealand 75 Years exhibition is on until 22 May 2016. It’s free with museum entry

Allow more time than you expect – there’s a lot to absorb and do.     

What are your memories of your first flight? Join the conversation!