As I had a bucket load of Skywards Miles about to expire, it was my birthday, I decided to head across to Auckland for a weekend of spotting, with a target in mind, ZK-OAB, The All Blacks A320.
In my planning of this short trip, I asked a mate if he would like to come with me for the weekend, to experience EK and to also experience the mammoth, A380; both were firsts for him!
Also departing on the same day was another mate, although he was travelling on SQ to SIN and onto SGN. Originally, we were to depart first, closely followed by NW, but alas, in typical A3latey style, our inbound flight was delayed so we got to see NW off first!
Check-in and the Emirates Lounge
Arrival at the airport saw us go direct to the First Class Check-in counter, a benefit of Gold Status. Check-in was painless here this morning, and on the bottom of the boarding card was our entrance to The Emirates Lounge located on the arrivals level just near gates 57-59. Clearing immigration was also somewhat painless, thanks to an Express Card, and we headed straight for the lounge! Entering into the lounge we were officially welcomed by the staff on the front counter and we got some seats close to the window to see the passing traffic. There wasn't that many people in this morning, so it was somewhat all to ourselves, and there was a vast array of food items and drinks available. A pre-departure breakfast was pleasant indeed!
18 March 2011 EK412 (A6-EDC) SYD-AKL A388 'Y Class'
Arrival at Gate 57, we saw a lot of people, including the Flight Crew. I went up and asked if it would be at all possible to visit the Flight Deck upon arrival into AKL, to which they said for sure!
Boarding was easy, Gold Status thank you, and we got to our seat, I was in 50K, whilst JL was in-front in 49K (a window each). We taxied out to runway 16R and in no time at all, we were rolling. Due to cloud, there was a little bump here and there, but nothing to bad and we were soon above the clouds. At this point, the cabin supervisor came over an introduced himself to me and welcomed me back... I was asked IF I needed anything to let him know and at the same time he handed me an express card to clear immigration upon arrival into AKL. Nice! Flight time today we were told would be just over 2.5 hours, so we settled back and enjoyed the flight. Breakfast wasn't to far away, and I had the Cheese Omelette, Mushrooms and a Pepper (Capsicum) Sauce. Also on the tray was a Croissant, Juice and a Fruit Salad.
After breakfast, we went for a walk, and we stood at the very rear of the cabin for a little bit. There was a lovely Scottish lass as a cabin crew we got chatting to, and when asked if it would be possible to have a look in the crew rest area, she happily obliged (but no photos)! It was a cramped little area, I think there was about 9 bunk beds in there, but who cares as long as you're there to sleep, right? It is also only used on the longer DXB/SYD/DXB leg! EK have now also changed the way crew are managed on these flights. When I first flew with them a couple of years ago, crew would fly into SYD and a 24 hour rest, then do the AKL return Shuttle and a 24 hour rest then return to DXB. However, now they have an additional 24 hour rest in AKL!
Our arrival into AKL was through a fair bit of cloud, and was a little rock 'n' roll along the way, and we arrived on 23L with only a small 'thud', however, we also bought the rain with us, and as soon as we arrived at the gate, it POURED down!!! We waited for almost all passengers to leave, and we got a quick trip upstairs to the First Class area, including the suites, and then it was onto the flight deck. Deplaning and clearing immigration was also painless, and before long we were in the arrivals hall looking for Europcar to collect our ride.
After earlier email discussions with local spotter, I had booked the nearby Bella Vista Express hotel. We dumped bags and then headed straight back to the airport to get acquainted with the spotting area (Puhinui Rd) we saw whilst on short finals. It was an easy location to get to, and offered some great potential which was later proven! BUT, as the rain was still falling, and we had to meet DR for drinks/dinner, we headed back to the hotel.
Shortly, our ride (DR in the ghastly yellow Ford Falcon NOT to be missed) arrived and we were taken into Auckland City for some drinks at the Princess Wharf, before heading to the Angus Steakhouse for some dinner. Now, whilst IN New Zealand, I went for the Rack of Lamb, whilst JL had a 1.3kg steak and DR had an Eye Fillet, but the meals were fantastic! A great night of chatting, food and drinks, thanks DR for your hospitality and for the lift!
Saturday 19 March 2011 Spotting Day
Saturday morning was an early wake-up and we hit the restaurant for breakfast, or so we thought... It was a breakfast, of sorts - cereals, coffee/tea and pastries, where's the eggs, bacon etc? So we had a quick bite to eat and then headed for the airport as ZK-OAB was to have a 7am departure! We got to the carpark, and then headed over to the multi-story carpark and set up just in time to see it depart. It was dark still, light was difficult but, I got it all the same... Oh well, I will see what happens I thought!
We then headed across to the Golden Arch's for something a little more substantial (if it ever can be) and then across to Puhinui Rd spotting park. It is a great location with a tiered carpark arrangement and bins for rubbish. About the only thing it is missing is a toilet, but with some bushes just to the rear, that makes up for it! We spotted here almost all day, and there was some great things to get, but by the end of the day, I was SO over anything ANZ!
We headed back into Auckland City via Parnell (where I've stayed before) in order to get a silhouetted photo of the city skyline with the setting sun. As the large full moon was rising, we headed over the Harbour Bridge so as we could try and get a shot of it over the city, that failed, so we then headed a little north to get a night shot of the city of Auckland.
Sunday 20 March 2011 - Rotorua
Sunday was a fantastic morning, and we hit the road early after checking out. It was to be about a 3 hour drive down, and a coffee stop along the way helped. Arrival into Rotorua was a cool morning, and I got to the visitor center to collect tickets easily enough. The day was to be an adventure day, with the Skyswing and luge rides to be had! Both of which were fantastic!
Another three hour drive back and we were back into Auckland airport filling up the Hilux with diesel and returning back to Europcar. Checking in was again, quick and easy and with the express immigration counter at the EK check-in desk for First, Business and Skywards GOLD, that was also an easy process! A visit to the Emirates Lounge in Auckland was also a very pleasant experience, but with no windows to look through, a VERY full lounge as well, I found it a little disappointing. Great selections of food/drinks were on hand (of course) but I just found the ambiance a little off-putting!
20 March 2011 EK413 (A6-EDM) AKL-SYD A388 'J Class'
Our flight was called and we headed over to the gate. One of EK's newest A380's was sitting at the gate. This time though, we were to head upstairs for the Business experience, seats 18A for JL and 20A for me! Again, I was welcomed back by the CSM, and we were served pre flight drinks and nuts. Business Class seats were very comfy!
Menu's were handed out prior to departure and soon we would taxi out to runway 05R for departure. Takeoff roll seemed long, and once airborn, was bumpy until through clouds in the area. I was able to get a shot of the spotting area we used the day before as well!
Seatbelt signs were soon off and the cabin crew were taking orders for the dinner service. I had the Smoked Salmon Entree, Prawns and Lemongrass Cyrry with Rice and Veges and the White Chocolate Mousse for dessert.
I went back to my seat, another drink, and then I actually got some sleep... Soon though, it was time to start descending into Sydney, and we actually tracked out over the Western Suburbs (over my house) before lining up for a 16R arrival. It was wet, we could see that on the monitors (Tail Cam) and through the window, and it seemed as though we were approaching at a bit of a funny angle... We hit the runway with an almighty THUD, one of, if not the HARDEST landings I have ever experienced...
Deplaning and clearing Immigration, was again relatively painless with an Express Card, and before too long, our ride was waiting to drive us home... All up, a great weekend away, great flights and spotting and great company!
Hope you enjoy the read, the pics/vid, and I hope it wasn't TOO long, sorry if it was!
palmjet From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1116 posts, RR: 17 Reply 3, posted (1 year 10 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 5887 times:
Hi there - very nice report of what sounded like a great weekend.
Great snaps as well - including those low light shots of Auckland City. I guess with the new 773 of NZ in the All Blacks colours (recently delivered), you will need to make another trip back to AKL again this year?? Look forward to more reports from you.
That short hop across the Tasman has special meaning for me. SYD-AKL was my first "international" flight back in September 1987. Back then, it was a NZ 742 which flew us across the Tasman. I remember it like it was yesterday!
plateman From United States of America, joined May 2007, 914 posts, RR: 0 Reply 4, posted (1 year 10 months 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 5429 times:
Flew this same routing a while back .... flight was empty due to the London ash cloud, as most people missed their connection in Dubai. Asked a random FA some plane questions, she asked me why, and I explained why I was on this EK A380. She then goes, stay in your seat when we land.
I asked another FA what was going on, and she just said 'you will see.' We land, Y exits and as promised my new friend reappears. She hands me a gift bag full of EK goodies (which I still cherish) then brings me on a personal tour of the jumbo. I mean everywhere, and told me sit in every seat, explore, have fun. It was just her, me and the customs folks. Was so freaking awesome. Lady found out she was the lead first class FA just visiting economy for something. Anyways, an awesome English lady.
gabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 2800 posts, RR: 15 Reply 5, posted (1 year 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 4942 times:
Nice report, thanks for posting!
Quoting aussiepomm (Thread starter): When I first flew with them a couple of years ago, crew would fly into SYD and a 24 hour rest, then do the AKL return Shuttle and a 24 hour rest then return to DXB. However, now they have an additional 24 hour rest in AKL!
THats nice of EK...I wonder what prompted them to be so generous?