Sydney - Auckland
767 - 300 ZK NCJ
Thursday 3 June 2004
Business Class Seat1K
I was off to NZ again for a week then it was onto Los Angles to visit family. I used my complimentary Business Class upgrade to fly to Auckland. I was actually flying to Wellington and would have preferred flying direct but the ticket would only allow me a stopover in AKL which meant I had to purchase a separate AKL WLG AKL ticket. Naughty 767er bought a smart saver fare which aren’t meant to be used in conjunction with international tickets, but that was a gamble I was prepared to make.
Since I live near a railway station I decided to take the train to Sydney Airport. It was a very quick trip indeed. The train is a great way to go but my one criticism is having to board a packed commuter train with luggage. Though in my case I was travelling so early that crowds weren't an issue. I took the 6.02am train to Central from Stanmore, swapped platforms then got another train to the International Airport. I was there just after 6.30 - a cab is not that much faster and is twice as expensive!
Airpoints had previously informed me that my upgrade would be confirmed 48 hours prior to departure. However, when I rang Airpoints ''Caroline' who I spoke to was hopelessly confused but very nice about it. She couldn't find my comp upgrade on the system then when she did, advised me I would have to obtain the upgrade at check-in. I was confused and had the previous e-mail from Airpoints stating it would be confirmed 48s hours before hand. I wasn't really going to argue the point as she told me there were plenty of seats in Business Class. I later contacted the erstwhile Air_NZ_Boy who enlightened me. For some reason Air New Zealand had closed off 'Ú' availability despite there being plenty of J seats being available. He wasn't sure why but suggested it was just a trans Tasman thing or in case the aircraft had to be switched to a A320 which has only 8 J seats as opposed to the 763 which has 24.
The Check In agent at SYD was extremely friendly and allocated me seat 4K. Once that was out the way, rather than hanging around the terminal, I proceeded thru immigration and security, bought some duty free then headed up the escalator to the Air New Zealand lounge. Warmly greeted by the Lounge Attendant I found a seat by the window, then headed over to the self service food & beverage area and made myself some toast to keep those hunger pangs at bay. I won't bother describing the Lounge as numerous other Trip Reports by a host of authors have detailed the joys of this lounge. Alas, today was particularly wet and overcast so it wasn't a great day for neither spotting nor photography. There was the usual collection of early morning aircraft: Emirates, Thai, Australian Airlines, United, Korean,etc.
While having me second cup of coffee I suddenly remembered I should have asked for the seat next to me to be blocked off. Not that I am anti-social but I really do prefer sitting by myself. I headed to the front desk and the congenial attendant tapped away with no joy and said she would get back to me. An hour later she returned truimphment - she had finally got another agent to block off the seat next to me.
Finally at 9.15 a boarding announcement was made and I my way to Gate 58, which is only a brief 5 min, walk from the lounge. They were boarding the final group of passengers and announcements were constantly being made urging all remaining passengers to go immediately to the gate. The agent slipped my Boarding Pass thru the machine, which it rejected. I had been reassigned seat 1K.
Made my way down the air bridge to the 763 and was greeted by a warmly by an FA. Since l was in Seat 1K it did not involve much of a walk. Another joy of flying Business Class.
Doors were at last closed at 9.45 and we were off. We had a long taxi to the third runway, which seemed to take forever. Finally we took off! Disappointingly, immediately after take off we made a sudden turn to the left and flew over the eastern suburbs and the sublime views of the oil refineries and container terminal of Port Botany. Once the seat bells sign was turned off, the announcements about the service began ie: IFE, food, arrival info, blah,blah which seemed to be interminable.
After 10 mins in the air an FA came through distributing the Business Class Breakfast menus. Good to see these have been retained. Breakfast looked promising even if it was just after 10am.
Start your day with an energising breakfast drink, your choice of juice,
Freshly brewed or decaffeinated coffee, tea, herbal tea or hot chocolate.
Croissants, muffins, white and
Wholemeal toast, with fruit conserve.
with fruit, assorted cereals and yoghurts.
Poached egg florentin
Poached egg on spinnach, topped with
hollandaise sauce, accompanied by mushrooms, bacon and
Cinnamon French Toast
with grilled bacon rashers, fried banana and maple syrup.
The Breakfast service commenced with the FA placing a damask Teal table cloth on my tray followed by a pre-prepared tray complete with red napkin which included forks, yukky plastic knives and spoons. The first course was a fruit platter, which was tasty enough but could have done with a few more pieces of fruit.
That was then followed by a selection from the Bakery. I chose Toast, which I covered in butter and jam and in the process covered my fingers with gooey jam. The toast was not piping hot the way I like it but didn't bother asking the FA to reheat it. I am not sure how they cook toast on board but I'm dam sure they don't have a toaster!
For the main I chose the Poached egg florentine and I certainly made the correct choice. The egg was cooked to perfection with the sausage and potatoes were just as tasty - and the proportions were just right. This had to be one of the nicest airline breakfasts I have ever had - and I have had quite a few in my flying 'career'. I asked the FA to compliment the FA doing the food preparation, which I subsequently overheard him doing.
Mad_Atta would have been proud that I skipped coffee/tea and decided to enjoy a Marlborough Sav Blanc. Thank goodness I was sitting in Row 1 so no one could see me having a wee tipple or two - not that that ever bothered me before.
This service on this flight was of the usual Air New Zealand standard: impeccable. Business Class was crewed by a mature male FA, a young Japanese lass with food preparation done by a mature Maori women named Heather who was just marvellous!
My only criticism of this flight and something Air New Zealand is about to remedy, is the IFE. The PTVs are terrible in that it's difficult getting it into a watch able angle. The movie selection was atrocious which didn't bother me given the flights duration. Remember, I flew SQ in Raffles last year and the selection was equally dismal so there you go!
After the Breakfast service was completed and I abandoned the IFE, I just read. FA Heather was constantly popping her head around the corner to check my drink was fully replenished. When she gave me the second top up I laughed and said It’s a bit embarrassing but I am the only person drinking!' She laughed as well and replied 'Don't worry, that's what it’s there for'
After awhile boredom set in so I decided and chatted to the crew since who, since the flight was only half full ( 113 in Y and 16 in J) weren't particularly busy. Ended up having a nice chat with the FA's. They were saying what wonders the current CEO, Ralph Norris had done for the company. As one of the FA's said 'He has energised the company to such a degree and changed the way NZers travel'. Collectively, they were were quite defamatory towards previous CEOs and mentioned one nameless CEO who literally drank the plane dry every time he flew. Another mentioned that one CEO in particular, Selwyn Cushing, who was a pompous arse who couldn't care less about the staff or customers and who left with a sqillion dollar payout while the airline was bleeding dry. It was unusual for a crew to be so vocal but this was a crew that had been flying for a long time and had 'seen it all'. Some of you might think this unprofessional but as they were criticing previous managements I thought this acceptable. I did laugh when one FA desribed the CEO at the rime of the Erebus Disaster, Morrie Davis, as 'that horrible little toad'. We moved on from that subject and they mentioned how great it will be to fly to SFO as an alternative to LAX and, of course the fleet replacement. Heather told me she had been flying for 24 years and first started on the DC8s and that her favourite aircraft was the much-maligned DC10s
Time was marching on and I decided to return to my seat and let the crew get back to their duties. As we began our descent, the Purser Dave (pommy bloke) came around and asked each passenger if they had enjoyed their flight. When Dave got to my seat I asked him how he felt about the announcement yesterday of the new fleet replacement. Dave replied it was the best news staff had received in some years.' We have come a long way since the dark days of 2001' . He then smiled and said ' The next few years are going to be very exciting times for Air New Zealand'. Good one!!!!!
We made our descent into a cloudy Auckland and arrived at Gate 5, 5 minutes before schedule.
Utilising the Express Immigration lines, I collected my luggage and was outside the main doors 15 mins later. I have read previous trip reports on Flyertalk complaining about arrivals but I have never had a problem. Maybe I have just been lucky!
Auckland - Wellington
737 - 300 ZK NGH
Thursday 3 June 2004
Express Class Seat 1A
Caught the shuttle across to Air New Zealand’s ramshackle domestic terminal - now that Air New Zealand have some brass perhaps a new terminal might be in order. Boarding commenced at 4.10 through Gate 32. The flight was delayed by some confusion with staff travelling non-rev and some last moment paying customers turning up. The flight departed 10 mins late, which was nerve wracking, as I had to catch the 6.18 train to Masterton from Wellington Railway Station. If I missed it I was stuffed cos it was the last train of the day. Typical New Zealand rail service. Still the AKL WLG sector usually takes about 45 mins so I was praying.... well, maybe not praying but...
Seated myself in 1A and a very chatty fellow sits next to me in 1B. He was witty, affable entertaining and certainly outspoken. In the space of less than 50 mins he outlined, amongst other things, his views on: Solo Mothers on benefits ('a wasted space - and the scourge of the nation’; public housing (' demolish the lot and sell the land privately'); the welfare state (make them all get a job'), food in economy class in Air New Zealand ('great airline but the food is uneatable'). Apparently this fellow was off to Wellington to attend some meeting for two hours then it was back to Auckland that evening. I then proceeded to extol the virtues of Wellington - though I must admit I would never live there again - and that it was certainly the better of the two cities. I told him I was no great fan of Auckland and he responded by saying that Auckland was the second biggest city in the world to LA in terms of land area. Quite frankly, comparing anything to LA is not necessarily a compliment
As the plane was descending into Wellington around the southern bays I asked him what he did for a job. He replied Mayor of Auckland, John Banks'. I replied 'Oooooh really'. Still he was pleasant enough and I figured that people have said worse to him in the past...much worse!
When we arrived at the gate, he wished me a good holiday and scrammed off with two officials who met him at the gate. I subsequently found out he was attending a political dinner where he lambasted Wellington, saying he had 'no interest in little port towns like this one' and that Auckland was the engine room of New Zealand' which is rather like saying that the rest of NZ is of little consequence in the wider scheme of things.
As it was my luggage was pretty much first of the plane, made a mad dash to the taxi rank - $32 to Wellington Railway Station I have you please. Ended up arriving with about 8 mins to spare and would you know it, the train was running 10 mins late anyway.