Well it’s time for another trip report from yours truly. This consist of going from Charlotte, NC USA all the way to Wellington, New Zealand. I traveled to New Zealand to study abroad in Wellington for 4 ½ months. I’ll be returning to the USA in November.
I will go ahead and say that my trip reports are long and detailed. You have been warned.
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005
US Airways Flight 519
Charlotte, NC USA(CLT) to Los Angeles, CA USA (LAX)
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Registration number: See note below
Scheduled time of departure: 7:35 P.M.
Actual time of departure: 8:00 P.M.
Scheduled time of arrival: 9:34 P.M.
Actual time of arrival: 9:40 P.M.
Photo © Danny Fritsche - Airplanespotters
*note on registration*- Sorry everyone but I was unable to get the registration number for this flight. The way the aircraft was positioned at the gate in Charlotte prevented me from getting a look at it. When I got to L.A. I completely forgot about it when I stepped off the plane.
My family and I went and got some food to eat and then headed to CLT for my 7:35 departure to Los Angeles. We arrived about 6:30 P.M. and I said my goodbyes to my family which was kind of hard as I will not see them until November. I went into the terminal and into the e-ticket check in for economy. I put my Dividend Miles card into the slot and nothing happened. I did this several times before finally giving up and inserting my credit card. It asked me how many bags I was checking, which was 2. I printed my boarding pass and waited for an agent to come and put the tag on my bag to be checked to LAX. Well, I kept looking around and there were even a few agents who walked by me a few times but didn’t help me. I have to say that I was disappointed. I understand they were busy but a nice “We’ll be with you in one minute sir” would have been good. Finally, a nice Asian woman came up to the counter and said “Are you going to Los Angeles?”. I replied yes and she tagged my bags. I proceeded through security and headed to Starbucks to get a White Mocha Latte on Ice. I was still pretty full from dinner so I only got half of it down. I walked down to Concourse D and saw one of the A330’s parked at the gate. I believe it was the flight to London and was delayed until 8:00 P.M. I turned back and headed to Concourse B. I went up to the gate area and saw a pretty big crowd. Great I thought, a full flight. I then noticed that a flight to Chicago was parked to the left our plane and was also leaving around the same time as our flight so I assumed that there were people waiting to go to Chicago in the waiting area as well. The Star Alliance 757 was parked at the gate to the right of our plane and was heading to Boston. Boarding finally started and I walked on to a hot A321. I took my seat in 26F. 26E was empty and there was a lady in sitting in 26D. I chatted with her a little bit and she told me she had flown in from Fayetteville and was going to Los Angeles for her niece’s graduation that weekend. Throwing my Ice coffee away in the terminal was a mistake as this plane was burning up inside. The cabin crew came on and said they were still waiting for the paperwork so we could be on our way. I guess the crew got a little curious about what the hold up was and they finally got their answer. There were 10 people connecting to our flight from Tampa so we were waiting for them. They finally came up about 10 minutes later and we closed the doors and began push back. The LCD screens popped down and the US Airways safety video came on. Once that was done I expected the screen to go back up, however it started again, except this time it was in Spanish. I thought this was nice of U.S Airways. Do they do this on all their domestic flights now or just flight to cities with large Spanish speaking populations? We taxied over to 18R and we were 3rd in line for takeoff. Well, the first two aircraft in front of us went out, however we had to wait for like 5 planes to land before we could begin our journey. Finally, after a US Airways Express ERJ landed I heard the engines start rolling and soon we turned onto the runway and began our takeoff roll. Pretty soon we lifted off the ground into the hazy North Carolina sky. Shortly after takeoff we made a right turn towards the west. They showed that the movie tonight would be hitched but I had read on the Qantas website that it would be shown on the flight to Auckland tomorrow so I passed on watching it. The crew came through with the beverage service and offered the in-flight café meals. I’d say only about 10 people in all bought one. I asked for a Diet Coke and got the whole can! I was surprised by that. The flight from here on out was pretty uneventful. We got a second beverage service about an hour and a half out of LAX but didn’t get a full can this time. I did see some of the wildfires burning that have been on the news. Just to the east of San Bernadino we began our descent into LAX. The Captain came on to inform us that we were indeed beginning out descent and we would be landing in about 20 minutes. The lights of the Los Angeles area were amazing and I have to say L.A. is really pretty at night. We flew past the familiar downtown L.A. skyline before touching down. During Taxi to Terminal 1 I saw several Qantas 747s, an Air Tahiti Nui A340, some NWA planes, an Air New Zealand 747-400, some Air Canada A320s, and Southwest 737s. I went down to baggage claim and got my bags fairly quickly, took the shuttle to my hotel and was out for the night.
A pretty good flight on 519, Crew was pretty good. Not a bad flight but nothing too exciting.
Thursday, June 23rd, 2005
Qantas Airways Flight 26
Los Angeles, CA USA(LAX) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Registration number: VH-OJJ
Scheduled time of departure: 9:40 P.M.
Actual time of departure: I think 10:00 P.M. – you’ll read why..LOL
Scheduled time of arrival: 5:10 A.M. on Saturday, June 25th, 2005
Actual time of arrival: 5:15 A.M. on Saturday, June 25th, 2005
Photo © Richard Allen
After touring L.A. and enjoying my last day in the USA for awhile I headed back to my hotel, picked up my bags and then headed to Tom Bradley to check in for my flight on the flying Kangaroo to Auckland. Tom Bradley was fairly busy, I think I got there around 5:30 P.M. I found the Qantas ticket counter and had a fairly short wait. I went up to the counter and was greeted by a very friendly girl. She asked where I was going and I told her Auckland. She asked for my ticket and passport, did her thing on the computer and put the tags on my luggage. I had to go get them screened and then I was on my way. I decided to go to encounter and get a drink as I’ve read that it’s not very fun to wait in Tom Bradley for your flight. Well, it seems like walking around Hollywood and other parts of L.A. dehydrated me and so having a martini at Encounter definitely gave me one of the worst of headaches I’ve ever had, add to that the nervousness of going to live in a new country. Lots of water and some Extra Strength Tylenol helped me to calm down. I headed back to Tom Bradley around 7 or so. I saw our Qantas 747-400 pull up to the gate and got some pics and a video of it. About 8:30 I went through security and headed to gate 121. I met some people that were also going to Wellington to study abroad. I have to say that all the things said about Tom Bradley are true, the waiting areas are really small to hold people that will fill a 747-400. I have to say that I was nervous, not about flying but about going to a new country by myself and the whole study abroad experience in general. Anyway, boarding started and they boarded first and business class first then started boarding from the back of the plane forward. I was in 37H, an aisle. Back at the counter I asked the girl if I could have a whole row to myself and she said “I’m sorry but the flight is completely full”. She wasn’t joking either, a packed 747-400 is something else I tell you. After flying to Paris a few years ago with the window seat I was actually pretty happy to have an aisle seat for my journey across the Pacific. Next to me were two ladies whom I found out later were continuing on to Brisbane. I didn’t get much sleep the night before so I was trying hard to stay awake. I really liked this area of the aircraft as it was sort of a small area of Coach Class. It felt very cozy and private. Oh, I forgot to mention what was on the seats…..we had a blanket, a pillow, the Qantas travel pack with those things you put over your eyes to help you sleep, some socks, and a toothbrush. From here on I am a little shaky to what happened. I sat there, buckled in and ready to go. Well, I started dozing off and I do remember the flight attendants and flight crew welcoming us aboard, then I remember us taxiing, and all of the sudden I felt the engines start to roll up and I woke up realizing that we were taking off. One of the most mixed feelings I have ever had in my life. I knew that I was on my way to a country that I would call home for the next 4 months and that I was leaving my home country that I would not see for 4 months. The power of the 747 is awesome and since we were very heavy it took us awhile to get up. We lifted up off the ground and I looked out across the window and recorded in my mind the lights of Southern California and my beloved USA. Pretty soon they were gone and the long journey over the Pacific was underway. Soon after takeoff the Flight Attendants came through with a menu for tonight’s dinner. The two choices were buttered Chicken with Rice and Vegetables or Penne Bolognese. I decided I would get the Penne when it came time. About 30 minutes later the F.A.’s came through and sure enough I got the Penne. It came with a piece of cold bread with butter, some sort of bean salad, and some sort of cake with a fruit flavor. I got a Diet Coke to go with it. The Penne was really good, the bread was good but cold, didn’t try the Bean salad, and the desert was okay. After dinner I tried to sleep but it wasn’t working out. Pretty soon the F.A.’s came through with the Q snack pack which had Oreos, Cheese Nips, Lifesavers, and bottled water. I think this is a great idea in case you get hungry during the flight. I ended up eating the Oreos and having the bottled water. After distributing the Q Snack Pack the lights went out. Again, tried to sleep but it wasn’t happening. I watched the flight tracker and then would play some games. I told myself I would watch Hitched but every time I went back to the channel it had already started and I’m not one to watch a movie if I haven’t seen it from the beginning. So for the rest of the flight it was – try to sleep, watch the flight tracker, and play chess or solitaire. Oh, this process happened about 5 times. I think out of the whole 12 hours of flying I got 2 hours of sleep in all. I don’t know what it is but I just can’t sleep on planes. I’m thinking I need to get some sleeping pills or something when I fly back to Los Angeles in November. I also got up a few times during the flight to walk around the aircraft. I was at the back of the plane and looked at the door and saw the awesome winglets out the window. There was a moon out and so I saw some clouds and could see the Pacific.
On the flight tracker I noticed that we flew south of Hawaii between Tahiti and Fiji and then onto into Auckland. About an hour away the lights came on and the Flight Attendants popped out. Oh, how could I forget to talk about the lovely Qantas crew? We had three flight attendants who looked after out little section for the flight. Two men and a woman. At first one of the F.A.’s I thought was not very friendly but there was a People to People group on our flight and he really took care of the kids in the cabin. I think one of them may have been diabetic and was getting dizzy or something and the F.A. was continuously checking up on him and getting him extra sweets. The other two F.A.’s were cool and professional. Great crew! Anyway, they popped out with breakfast which you could get either a cold or hot one. I got the hot breakfast which was a vegetable and sausage tart with mushrooms and a tomato. Not bad if you ask me! I think there was a side of fruit on the side and you could get either Coffee or Tea. I got some coffee. Shortly after breakfast we began our descent into Auckland. The crew passed around customs stuff for the people getting off in Auckland. I filled it out and could feel the plane really slowing down. The pilots then said “Flight Attendants, prepare for landing”. I kept looking out the window but couldn’t see any lights or anything. The plane just felt like it was floating and I looked around the cabin and everyone had the same expression on their face, the one thinking “where’s the ground?”. All of the sudden out of nowhere the wheels hit the runway and the lights of Auckland International Airport appear. We slowed down and the purser came on saying “Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to New Zealand”. Wow, I’m actually here. At the same time I’m thinking “Oh shit, here I go”.
We pulled up to the gate, exited the aircraft and then I went through customs which was not bad. Since I was toward the front of the aircraft I was toward the front of the customs line. I also believe we got in before the Air New Zealand flight from LAX so that made it easier and faster. I collected my bags and then met a representative from my study abroad agency. My flight was over.
Great experience on Qantas! It has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to fly on a 747-400. Awesome aircraft!
Tuesday, June 28th, 2005
Air New Zealand flight 8589
Rotorua, New Zealand (ROT) to Wellington, New Zealand (WLG)
Aircraft: Saab 340
Registration number: ZK-NLN
Scheduled time of departure: 1:15 P.M.
Actual time of departure: 1:20 P.M.
Scheduled time of arrival: 2:15 P.M.
Actual time of arrival: 2:20 P.M.
Photo © Colin Hunter
Okay, well the study abroad agency I went through had an orientation for us in Rotorua so that’s how I ended up there. We arrived in Auckland then drove down to Rotorua. We were on a group flight, I think about 25 of us. We left our hostel and went to the airport. Our study abroad agent checked us in and we each got up, showed the Air NZ agents our passport and were issued our ticket. I went up and pulled out my US Airways Dividend Miles card. They were both surprised and I said “You get a lot of United, don’t you?” They laughed and said yes and both made the comment that I was probably their first customer who had brought out the U.S Airways card. I asked for a window but they said I had an aisle. Oh well. Well, as anyone who has been to ROT will know that there is not much to do in the airport. We as a group just sort of sat around, talked to each other about things such as “Have you called home?”, “Where on the South Island are you planning on going to?”, “Where are you living in Wellington?”, “ How about them All Blacks!”. I talked with the girl who I would sit next to on the flight and we became pretty good friends. I talked to her about some things that had happened with me recently. Pretty soon our Saab 340 arrived and I got a few snapshots of it. Some people in our group said “no way”. Apparently they had a fear of flying and the Qantas flight was bad enough for them. Oh please is what I thought, just think of it as a roller coaster ride and you’ll be fine. It didn’t take long to unload the passengers and baggage and then we began boarding. I was seated in 4D. We boarded and our lovely flight attendant welcomed us aboard our Air New Zealand flight to Wellington. Our flying time would be approximately one hour. The engines started up and we began taxiing to the end of the runway. The Saab was pretty noisy but I had flown an American Eagle one years back so I wasn’t shocked by it. We got to the end of the runway, turned around and began our takeoff roll. Soon we lifted off the ground, making a right turn over Rotorua and heading south toward Wellington. Soon after our lovely F.A. who was all smiles came through and offered us some water. I took some. After that she came back through with a choice of Coffee or tea and a cookie. I decided to have some coffee. The coffee came in a cup decorated with the All Blacks logo reading “Go All Blacks!”. For those of you outside New Zealand the All Blacks are the national Rugby team of New Zealand. During this time was the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand so the country was pumped up about it. The All Blacks are wicked awesome by the way!!! Okay, back to the flight. We passed by Mount Ruaepehu After that, a guy from our group asked the Flight Attendant something. She nodded yes, and they both went up to the cockpit. I about shitted my pants when I saw her open the door and then he walked in. Could it be? Well, yes indeed……today was the day that I would see the cockpit of a commercial airliner IN FLIGHT!!!!! People from our group were also dumbfounded. We both each went up and asked the F.A. if we could go up and she said “Sure”. Pretty soon it was my turn and I went up and entered. Both of the pilots were very friendly and I looked out the window and he pointed out that if I look far enough straight I could see the Southern Alps on the South Island. It was amazing just being up there and seeing this flight from the pilot’s point of view. I took some photos and a video and then headed back to let my friend Shelley go up. Well, Shelley stayed up there for awhile and then the F.A. got her a headset and we were all like “No way”. Sure enough, she got to jump seat for the landing! Damn it, if I had been last that could have been me…LOL. Oh well, I was happy for her. Pretty soon we saw Wellington and then began our very steep descent! It was awesome.
We landed and it was very nice. I’ve been told that Wellington is not the easiest airport to fly into so kudos to the pilots for our awesome landing. We taxied to our gate and I got a few more snapshots. Wellington airport is very nice and I walked down to baggage claim to get my bags. Our group was met in the baggage claim area by a rep. from Victoria University. They had taxies to take us to our dorms. So that was that.
Awesome flight!!!! One of the most memorable without a doubt! Very friendly crew.
Upcoming trip reports-
Wellington to Christchurch and back on Air New Zealand
Wellington to Sydney and back on Air New Zealand
My return to the USA on Qantas and United
Hope you all enjoy it, please feel free to ask questions or give comments