Invivo Air: A look into the inaugural 'winery airline' flight from Auckland to Queenstown

Composite: Images of passengers onboard the inaugural Invivo Air flight, a glass of wine and Invivo's co-founders
Vino virtuosos and travel enthusiasts, buckle up - this one's for you. Photo credit: Photo illustration - Newshub; Images - Supplied

We've all had a wine (or two… or three) on an aeroplane to ease the jitters one might get while suspended in the stratosphere, but have you ever heard of a 'winery airline'? Well, it's now a thing, so vino virtuosos and travel enthusiasts, buckle up - this one's for you. 

Aotearoa's first self-proclaimed 'winery airline', Invivo Air, departed from Auckland Airport on Tuesday for its inaugural trip to Queenstown. The brainchild of Kiwi winemakers Invivo, the 24-hour curated trip aims to take wine tasting to new heights, offering its 30 guests the opportunity to sample award-winning wines at 18,000 feet. Here's an insider's look into the first 'winery airline' and its inaugural flight. 

The pioneering 'winery airline' took place aboard the chartered Invivo Air Saab 340 plane, affectionately nicknamed 'Cloud Wine'. Led by Invivo co-founders Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron, guests took to the skies in style for their guided eight-step wine tasting, which included pours from Invivo's namesake offerings and ranges with Irish comedian Graham Norton and Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker. Look, having eight wines on a regular flight is generally frowned upon, but this is no regular flight. 

To replicate the al fresco aesthetic of one of Aotearoa's famed vineyards, the plane's interior was decorated with hanging vines. Promising "business class in every glass", guests also received their own welcome packs upon boarding, featuring Invivo's 'Cloud Wine' in-flight magazine, a sun hat and sunscreen, snacks courtesy of Griffins, and a refreshing Essano face spritz.

Guests onboard cheersing the camera
Thirty guests boarded Invivo Air's inaugural flight from Auckland to Queenstown on Tuesday, January 31. Photo credit: Supplied

After two hours in the air, Cloud Wine made its descent into Queenstown, treating its guests to the jaw-dropping vistas of the alpine ranges and crystal-clear waters of Lake Wakatipu.

Upon arrival, the group were whisked off to visit Legend's Terrace - one of Invivo's oldest vineyards in Central Otago - for a tour and tasting that allowed the guests to drink in the picturesque views of Bannockburn and Felton Rd to the tune of live music. While savouring the lush surroundings, the guests were offered a selection of Invivo's Pinot Noir vintages. All in all, guests of Invivo Air sampled more than 16 wines throughout the 24-hour experience. 

Guests then experienced a delicious dinner at Botswana Butchery in central Queenstown, enjoying a lavish five-course banquet that celebrated local produce including freshly shucked Bluff oysters, slow-roast Lumina lamb, West Coast whitebait and Stewart Island salmon, expertly paired with Invivo's wines and spirits.

Invivo co-founders Rob Cameron and Tim Lightbourne.
Invivo co-founders Rob Cameron and Tim Lightbourne. Photo credit: Supplied

To complete the experience, guests enjoyed an overnight stay in the five-star Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa's lakeside rooms, before heading back to Auckland on the return Invivo Air flight the next morning - complete with mile-high mimosas, of course. 

"We were thrilled to welcome our guests on board Invivo Air. As a Kiwi company, we loved showcasing some of our stunning wine regions, vistas, gastronomy and of course wine to our passengers," co-founder Tim Lightbourne said in a statement. 

"We've had such positive feedback from our guests, we're planning our next experience – we'd love to run an international flight for our next trip!"

Following positive feedback from passengers, registrations and destination requests for future Invivo Air flights – both domestic and international – are now being taken. Invivo plans on releasing the dates for its next all-inclusive viticulture vacation later in 2023. Pricing has yet to be confirmed.