Greetings all! I just got back from a whirl-wind two week trip to Australia and New Zealand. I figured that y’all would like to hear about my travel (read: in-flight) experiences. So here we go:
Air Canada AC709
New York-LaGuardia (LGA) to Toronto-Pearson (YYZ)
Thursday, March 6, 2003
Seat 13A, Hospitality Service
Scheduled Departure Time: 1110 Actual Departure Time: 1258
Scheduled Arrival Time: 1239 Actual Arrival Time: 1425
I arrived at the airport at 1110, the scheduled departure time for my flight, due to the fact that there were horrific snowstorms all over the tri-state (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) area. The Air Canada check-in counters were deserted, which was a little discomforting. I asked the gate agent when the next Air Canada flight would depart, and she told me 3pm. I was devastated when she told me that, knowing that I wouldn’t make my connecting flights if I left then. However, when I told her that I was ticketed on AC709, she told me that the flight was delayed until 1140, so I could get on that. I was elated.
The Air Canada gate area at LaGuardia is, and always has been, a tad on the depressing side. You can’t see out onto the tarmac (there are no windows). However, I was just glad to be on my way!
If you’ve flown Hospitality Service (aka Economy Class) on Air Canada at any point during the past five to ten years, you know what seats I had. They’re green, with no bells and whistles – just recline. But it was comfortable enough for a 90-minute flight! The pitch was 32”, at best.
I can say honestly that I’ve not once had a bad flight attendant on Air Canada. The ones on my flight (there were three, as I recall) were all very helpful & efficient, and very sorry about the delayed departure (even though they knew that it was in no way their fault!).
Standard Air Canada fare on the NYC-Toronto trip: the CBC News in English, and the SRC News in French. In addition, there were 10 channels of audio entertainment.
Standard Air Canada fare for (what was supposed to be, but wasn’t due to the late departure) a breakfast NYC-Toronto flight: a bar & beverage service, followed by a selection of danishes & muffins.
Arrival formalities at Air Canada’s Toronto hub were quick and efficient, as they always are. Canadian customs processed me quickly, and my bag was one of the first off the belt (probably because it was the last one on the plane!). I had to dash upstairs to Air Canada check-in, and there were a slew of Air Canada personnel after baggage to help me on my way.
-Though the “rescheduled” departure time for my flight was 1140, the delay was caused by the extensive deicing done at LaGuardia (about which I have no complaints! Safety first!). I’m not sure if any of you have ever been on a plane during deicing procedures – but it is so incredibly cool!!
Air Canada AC795
Toronto-Pearson (YYZ) to Los Angeles-International (LAX)
Thursday, March 6, 2003
Seat 2D, Executive Class
Scheduled Departure Time: 1535 Actual Departure Time: 1540
Scheduled Arrival Time: 1800 Actual Arrival Time: 1802
I was traveling with my Grandfather on this trip (he gave me this trip as a graduation present), and we agreed that we would meet at the Executive Class/Star Gold check-in area in Terminal 2 before we went to the gate, so that we could check-in together. However, since my flight from NYC was so late, he had already checked-in (as per the gate agent), so the gate agent checked me in. After a few moments of furious typing she told me that she didn’t have a Business Class seat for me on the flight to Los Angeles, and I should check back with the gate agent at the gate. However, she confirmed a seat for me on the flight to Auckland (though she couldn’t give me a boarding pass), and checked my bags through to my final destination.
It was around 1425 when I left check-in, so I whizzed through U.S. Customs (which was located right next to the premium check-in), and dropped off my check-in baggage after it was searched via x-ray (very reassuring, I thought). After that, I cleared passenger & carry-on security. From then, it was a mad dash to Gate P – all the way at the end of the terminal (typical, right?). As I arrived, I saw my Grandad and heard “Will passenger Whitworth please come to the counter at Gate P immediately?” The lovely gate agent had managed to get me seat 1D...the bulkhead of Executive Class. At this point, I knew I was on my way!
The Air Canada Executive Class seats on the Airbus A319s & A320s are very nice – but nothing to write home about. I was originally seated at 1D, which I loved because the bulkhead seats have legrests (all of the other seats have flimsy footrests on the seats in front of them...), but I agreed to move back to 2D to sit next to my grandfather. Regardless, the seats are very nice – full lumbar support, and 6-way adjustable headrest. No laptop power, for those who are interested, though! The pitch was 40”.
There was only one flight attendant taking care of Executive Class on my flight, which was fine. He was very helpful, always smiling, and provided an excellent service to the full Executive Class cabin.
Though it isn’t always considered a huge part of the in-flight entertainment by some airlines, I must say that this month’s issue of Air Canada’s enRoute was truly intriguing, with a fascinating article on the Editors of USWeekly and Vanity Fair. The overhead video began with, as on the NYC-Toronto flight, the CBC & SRC News. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, enRouteTV, and “Everybody Loves Raymond” followed. In addition, there were 10 channels of audio entertainment.
The meal service was excellent on this flight. Immediately after take-off, all passengers were offered a beverage with a ramekin filled with mixed nuts. After, we were served an appetizer of salad with smoked salmon. The main meal was a selection of either beef fillet, pork, or manicotti stuffed with ricotta. I selected the beef fillet, and was not disappointed: it was served with mashed potatoes, assorted steamed vegetables, and stuffing. Dessert was a nice chocolate mousse cake, served alongside coffee.
After the meal service, the flight attendant passed through the cabin regularly to ask if we would like anything else, be it a beverage or a snack.
Arrival at Los Angeles was simply painless: since we had pre-cleared customs in Toronto, my Grandfather and I were able to meander around Terminal 2 before our Air New Zealand flight left.
-Pre-departure drinks were offered: any beverage on the plane was available.
-Hot towels were offered after take-off and prior to landing.
Air New Zealand NZ001
Los Angeles-International (LAX) to Auckland-International (AKL)
Thursday, March 6, 2003
Seat 13K, Business Class
Scheduled Departure Time: 2000 Actual Departure Time: 2018
Scheduled Arrival Time: 0545 on 03/08/03 Actual Arrival Time: 0535 on 03/08/03
I checked in for this flight in Toronto (see above flight, AC795).
Los Angeles’s Terminal 2 is reasonably well set up, with a bunch of interesting stores on the main level, and airline lounges on the mezzanine. Upon arrival from my Air Canada flight, I immediately went to the Air New Zealand Koru Club Lounge to pick up my boarding pass. However, I was told curtly by the Lounge agent that they couldn’t do that in the Lounge. That was certainly a first. However, I went down to the AirNZ special services counter, where my Grandad and I received boarding passes for 13J & 13K (a snag in the system had noted that we were to be booked in a seat-pair for this flight). I didn’t return to the Lounge because it was filled to the brim with people when I passed through it. It was only about 20 minutes before we were boarded anyhow.
The Air New Zealand Business Class seats are extremely comfortable, and nearly identical to the Air Canada Executive Class seats on the Airbus A319s & A320s. There were controls to raise the legrest, to extend the legrest, to recline, and to adjust the lumbar support. When the seatback is reclined, the legrest raises higher. A nice feature is that when the legrest is extended, it pops out, giving better leg support. Also, there was a 6-way adjustable headrest. In general, the seats were just perfect for a 12+ hour flight. Since I was seated on the upper deck, there were storage boxes at my side (a feature which I really like). Seat pitch was 48”.
Let me just make this clear right now: you will never, and I mean never, be able to find flight attendants as courteous, friendly, and helpful as those on Air New Zealand. And I mean that whole-heartedly. On the upper deck, we were served by Lisa and Riki, who were smiling throughout the 12 and a half hour flight. Brilliant service. Throughout the long night flight, one of them would pass through the cabin regularly with water – they also laid out a nice snack platter at the rear of the cabin.
Air New Zealand is a model of efficiency, and this is evident in the inflight magazines. air new zealand. was filled with fascinating articles, including one about what it’s like to grow up Maori, and anything you’d ever need to know about AirNZ. premiere, the First & Business Class entertainment guide, gave brief yet helpful information regarding the in-flight entertainment and the operation of the IFE equipment. There were 9 channels of entertainment, and two cycles on each, which were repeated throughout the flight. One channel had an alternate German language soundtrack (Lufthansa passengers connect with AirNZ & United’s flights “down under”). One channel showed what was playing on the mainscreen in Pacific Class, while another played Airshow. Except for a channel playing sports (“Sportsline”) and comedies (“Laugh Lounge”), the rest screened movies. Three were “New Cinema” releases, one offered mystery/crime BBC movies (“Armchair Theatre”), another screened “Festival Cinema”, and one played classics (“Encore Cinema”). In addition, there were 10 channels of audio entertainment.
Here was the menu from the flight. Let me just say that the AirNZ menus are stylish and colorful – very pleasing to the eye. There was also a separate wine list:
Menu: Los Angeles to Auckland/Sydney
Air New Zealand is proud to present our award-winning Business Class inflight dining experience. Presented in contemporary brasserie style, our service is designed in consultation with our team of contributing chefs. Today’s menu has been created by Chef Katsuo “Suki” Sugiura of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles. Inspired by the flavours of New Zealand, the emphasis of our service is on freshness and innovative cuisine. We hope you enjoy today’s service.
Marinated seafood salad with three sweet peppers on heart of palm
Sautéed veal ribeye steak with tomato basil garlic olive oil coulis, polenta, fennel and portobello mushroom Marsala sauce.
Seared fillet of blue cod with shimeji mushroom, leek, asparagus and baby squash. Lobster dill saffron sauce (This was the “Light Choice” selection.)
Asian spiced marinated smoked breast of chicken with sesame ginger risotto and sweet and sour chili cilantro sauce
Vanilla passion fruit dome with rhubarb compote
Ice cream dessert selection of chocolate brownie and cherry almond crème
Cheese and Fruit
A selection of fine cheese and seasonal fruit
Freshly brewed or decaffeinated coffee, tea, herbal tea and hot chocolate
A quick meal consisting of a selection of breads, the appetiser of the day, cheese and chocolates
A selection of sandwiches and snacks are available at any time throughout the flight
Start your day with a fruit smoothie, your choice of juice, freshly brewed or decaffeinated coffee, tea, herbal tea or hot chocolate
Fruit selection with assorted cereals and yoghurts
Croissants, white and wholemeal toast with fruit conserve
Creamy herb scrambled eggs with chicken apple sausage, Kassler bacon and Roma tomato
Egg beater omelette with seasonal Californian vegetables, served with Roma tomato and hash brown potato
Banana stuffed French toast with Kassler bacon, chicken apple sausage and dark breakfast sausage
Wine: Worldwide Service
An exquisite Australasian selection
Deutz Marlborough Cuvé Marlborough, New Zealand
Nicholas Feuillatte NV Reserve Particuliere Champagne, France
Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2001 Marlborough, New Zealand
Nautilus Chardonnay 2000 Marlborough, New Zealand
Palliser Estate Riesling 2001 Martinborough, New Zealand
Harrier Rise ‘Bigney Coigne’ Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2000 Kumeu, New Zealand
Gunn Estate Woolshed Cabernet/Merlot 2001 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Rosemount Estate Shiraz 2000 Victoria, Australia
De Bortoli Noble One 1999 Riverina Australia
Beverages: Worldwide Service
A refreshing selection
Glenmorangle Malt Whiskey, Chivas Regal Blended Whisky, Jack Daniel’s Black Label, Gordons Gin, Absolut Vodka, Courvoisier VSOP, Captain Morgan Rum, Ron Bacardi Superior
Port and Liquers
Selected Fine Portuguese Port, Grand Marnier, Baileys Irish Cream
A selection beer featuring Steinlager, Export Dry, Heineken and low alcohol lager.
Mineral water, orange juice, tomato juice, cola, lemonade, tonic water, ginger ale and a choice of diabetic drinks are available.
Meal service began shortly after take-off. The appetiser was tasty: the peppers, which were absolutely delicious, was served along side scallops and tuna sashimi. I had the chicken, which was much too overcooked. However, the risotto was delicious, and the sauce made the chicken manageable. The ice cream for dessert was heavenly, and the fresh fruit selection during the cheese service was excellent (and, unlike some airlines’ offerings, fresh).
Though I was offered wine by the flight attendants (maybe I look 21...or 18, at the least), I passed. I drank ginger ale during dinner, and water throughout the flight.
Breakfast was served about three hours prior to landing (shockingly, Lisa had changed shirts!). The strawberry-banana smoothie was excellent, though it was pre-packaged on the ground. The fruit was decent, however it was mainly just a large piece of mango, which was disappointing; however, a nice bowl of granola more than made up for it. The bread was fresh & warm. And the “banana” french toast was very unusual – a bit of a rollercoaster for the taste buds – but quite good, nonetheless!
It was dark when we landed in Auckland. Upon exiting the aircraft, First Class and Business Class were given priority (especially to ensure that the upper deck disembarked prior to Pacific Class). However, the airport was empty. Upon arrival at customs, a bevy of smiling agents guided us through the line. It was 0545...and they were smiling & gracious. What a shock to the system – U.S. customs personnel don’t smile EVER! And here they were, happy & friendly, when most of their country is still asleep!! Priority tagging definitely worked with AirNZ – my bag was one of the first off. I was shocked to see it, when you consider that my bag had about 30 minutes to make it to the plane in Toronto – but I suppose those bag guys work THAT quickly.
-Pre-departure drinks were offered: water, champagne, or orange juice.
-The garlic bread served during dinner was the best I have ever tasted!
-Hot towels were offered after take-off and prior to the breakfast service.
-A nice feature of the flight was the candy served prior to landing, which I assumed was to help passengers with the effect of the pressure change on the ears.
**See Star Alliance Party: SYD-LGA (Part 1) for more!**