This is my trip report for my return home after spending the past 4 ½ months in New Zealand studying abroad in Wellington. My trip reports are long and detailed so keep that in mind and also while parts may be sappy I encourage you to read on. All times listed are local to the point of interest to avoid confusion.
November 5th, 2005
Qantas Airways flight 25
Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) to Los Angeles, CA USA (LAX)
Scheduled Departure time: 7:40 PM
Scheduled Arrival time: 10:40 AM
Actual Departure time: 7:40 PM
Actual Arrival time: 10:40 AM
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Photo © Simon F Gregory
Photo © Jason Whitebird
After making the 4 hour drive from Paihia in the Bay of Islands and chillin in Auckland for a couple of hours it was time to make the journey over to AKL for the long trip to North Carolina. The weather had been great for most of the day but all of the sudden had turned grey and gloomy. My friends parked our rental car and helped me with my bags into the terminal. We chatted for a minute and then said our goodbyes. The friends that I had traveled with weren’t going back home until the 7th, all of them on QF 25. I get in the descent long line to check in for the flight. Our Qantas flight and QF 144 to Sydney were being checked in. To speed things up they dedicated a few agents to just QF 144 as it was to depart soon. As I was standing line I took notice of different things and found these kids just running wild through the lines in the Qantas ticket area. There parents did absolutely nothing to calm down and the kids acted like the airport was their playground. Why can’t parents control their kids in public settings?
After waiting in line for probably 30 minutes I am greeted by a friendly lady who asked me where I was heading, I handed her my paper ticket and passport and replied “Los Angeles”. I told her I wanted an aisle seat and she looked and said I indeed had one. After doing her things, and checking my two bags I received my boarding pass and discovered I was in 70G, the back of the plane. I had some glasses and some glass coasters in my large green bag and asked the woman if I could get a fragile sticker for them. She told me I needed to go down past the Air New Zealand counter and tell the guy I wanted to check the bag as a fragile item. I thanked her and headed over to where she instructed me and I went up to the guy and asked him for a fragile sticker, he smiled and said “Sure thing mate, just need to see your boarding pass”. I showed it to him, he put the Qantas fragile sticker on my bag and instructed me to place it on the conveyer belt.
I browsed different shops at AKL seeing if anything caught my eye or if perhaps I forgot anything. I then remembered I forgot to get a NZ shot glass for myself. So I found one and got one more postcard. I looked through some magazines at Whitcoull’s but none caught my eye. I looked through the duty free places and contemplated buying some Captain Morgan Rum but decided not to. I headed over to the bar and had my last beer in New Zealand, a nice cold Steinlager. After that I paid my airport service fee, got the sticker and went through security. Now when I went through security I saw that a lot of the same shops on the other side of security were on this side as well. So the process began again, and like before I contemplated the Rum but declined.
I looked around the terminal and didn’t see too much but as I continued my walk to the end of the terminal I saw an Air New Zealand 747-400 arrive next to another Air NZ 747-400. There’s some construction going on at AKL and when I got closer to the gate I realized that it split into two areas…..one for NZ 4 to LAX and the other for QF 25 to LAX. When I got to the waiting area it was jam packed. I held back a little bit…….mind you I don’t consider myself to be claustrophobic but I also like my space and don’t like being all scrunched up when I can avoid it. Not too long after the agents came on to announce boarding for First, Business, and Oneworld Saphire members to board. They went onto the plane. The next group were rows 65-75, which included me. So I race to gate, hand the agent my ticket to go into the machine and I’m off into the jetway and onto the plane. I boarded the 747-400 and was greeted by the crew. I immediately noticed the new skybed Business seats which are really nice……sigh, too bad I wasn’t sitting in one of them. I made the long walk down the 747-400 to my seat, 70G. I put my bookbag and wine into the overhead compartment and settled in. I find that if you put everything in the overhead it gives you more space to spread your legs under the seat. Soon after everyone on my row was in we introduced ourselves to each other. Next to me in 70F was a girl from Monterrey, CA, in70E was a guy from Vancouver BC, and in 70D was a guy from Auckland heading to Newark. We all sort of talked and before we knew it the plane was pushing back and were greeted by our flight crew on this Qantas Airways flight to Los Angeleez….I love the way Kiwis and Aussies pronounce Los Angeles!
The Customer Service Rep told us they were pleased to announce that our aircraft had just been installed with new Q on Demand entertainment system. Sweet as!!!! I looked through the inflight entertainment guide and saw that two of my favorite movies, Batman Begins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, were playing!!! I noticed my two neighbors in 70E and 70D were chatting away and so I asked them if they knew each other. They said nope, they had never met. Remember this for later on in the report. I took notice that the plane was about 80-85% full. I also noticed that seats 69 HJK were empty. I figured once the doors closed I’d ask the FA if I could move over there! The thought of having a row to myself on a trans pacific flight sounded really good. Well, this guy on another row must have been thinking the same thing, and when the doors closed he asked the F.A. and she said that wouldn’t be a problem, so he moved in and got the row to himself. Next time I’ll remember to be faster.
We began taxiing and I stared at the window and saw that the weather had gotten worse and it was drizzling and foggy. I began realizing that this was it and thought of all my memories of New Zealand and my new friends from the past 4 ½ months. I guess I was kind of in a daze as the aircraft turned into position and the engines powered up and the takeoff roll began. I never took my eyes off the window and saw the NZ 777 parked in the hangar, though I could only see the tail but knew it was definitely her. We rushed past the terminal and the nose titled up and then we were airborn and the tears came down as I saw the green New Zealand landscape disappear as our 747 lifted in the cloudy skies of Auckland. It took me a good 15 minutes to get myself together and I felt really dumb as the couple in 70 J and K were looking at me like I was crazy. Once I got myself together I turned on the flight tracker and saw were flying over the Pacific and if you drew a diagonal line about 100 or so miles north of Tauranga that’s where we were. Once the seatbelt sign went off I got my camera out, headed to the toilet to clean myself up, and then I took some pictures of the sunset over the Pacific before returning to my seat for the 1st beverage service. I got a red wine which was very good and a snack pack with pretzels and some sort of dried green pepper which was actually pretty spicy. The FA saw my All Blacks jersey and said “Too bad mate you won’t be able to watch the game tonight”. I said “What? No live All Blacks games on this flight?”, he just laughed and said “On an Australian jet?”
It got dark pretty quick out the window and in order to take my mind off of leaving New Zealand I decided I’d watch a movie. So I listened to the Fugees while browsing around and then deciding on Red Eye. Well, the Entertainment system had been having some issues so it took forever for it to start but soon I saw some sort of Qantas preview or something that showed a Qantas 744 in what is obviously SYD and some big music and a huge red Q comes across the screen saying “Q on Demand”. Kind of interesting, but hey I’m ready to watch the movie! The dinner service came while I was watching Red Eye and I’m not 100% sure on the other option though I think it was lamb. Anyway, I had herb crusted fish with potatoes and carrots with a side salad, a piece of bread and butter and for a drink I had Diet Coke. How was it? Really good actually! The fish was surprisingly pretty fresh though the bread was a bit cold. I continued to watch Red Eye while eating my meal. They collected the rubbish and soon after came through with desert , Magnum Ice Cream bars! Nice touch Qantas.
I was browsing the Duty Free catalog when an F.A. who was handling the duty free shopping asked if I’d like to buy anything. I told her I had not yet decided and if I could find her later. She said that would be fine but not to be too long as she would close duty free shopping in a couple of hours. The crew came through with the Q Snack Pack. This one was really not that good….you had a pump water bottle, some life saver mints, and then some other stuff that didn’t look appetizing. I knew the lights would be going out shortly and Red Eye had just ended so I got a pair of Rugby shorts I had in my bag and headed to the toilet to change. Hey, if I’m going to be on a plane for the next 10 hours I at least want to be comfortable! So I came back and since I had the overhead to myself I just chucked my shoes and pants into the overhead. The lights went out and I had made my selection from the duty free catalog so I found the F.A. and gave her my little ticket. I returned to my seat and figured I’d watch another movie but not before seeing where we were on the flight tracker……I looked and saw we were flying near Fiji and Tahiti. I decided to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I watched that and noticed the two sitting next to me were getting a little close. Mind you, nothing big but for two people who had just met they were definitely doing some cuddling and holding on to each other.
Well, as I’m watching Charlie and the scene when Mike TV is being the bloody little brat he is being transformed into the TV the F.A. comes to my seat with my Bailey’s Irish Cream that I selected from the Duty Free Catalog. I give her my card and she runs it through her hand held machine and I sign for it. I put the Bailey’s in my overhead compartment . I finished Charlie and decided to try and get some sleep. After not being able to for a little bit I took half a sleeping pill and was out. I was awoken by the lights coming on in the cabin for breakfast. As I waited for the meal to come I started flipping through channels and came across Batman Begins and it was near the end so I thought I’d watch the rest of it. I took the hot breakfast which was some sort of eggs, spinach and mushroom thing mixed together that was very tasty. We also had a bowel of fruit, a muffin, some juice, and of course later on I had some coffee. After the F.A.’s collected the rubbish I went back to the toilet and changed back into my jeans and brushed my teeth and I took a few pictures out the window again as it was a gorgeous day. I returned to my seat and took a couple of pictures of our position on the flight tracker and the F.A.’s started coming through with customs stuff. When the F.A. came up to us he asked us if we were American or not. I replied yes, the girl replied yes, the guy from Vancouver replied Canadian, and the guy Auckland said he was from NZ. The guy handed us different things and he got the green form for the guy from Auckland and said “You need this one to because you’re like the Australians”. The guy from Vancouver and I both went “uh oh”. The guy from Auckland got serious and told the F.A. “I’m not an Aussie”. The F.A. just laughed and rephrased what he meant say.
The First Officer came on to announce that we had began our descent into Los Angeleez and said we would be coming into the area flying over Catalina Island passing just south of Long Beach and then making a turn towards the north and then to the west for landing at LAX. The Q on demand went out and pretty soon I could see the coast of California out the window and soon we passed over Catalina Island and on the left side soon I saw Long Beach and the Queen Mary. The pilot made the left turn as we made our final descent into a smoggy Los Angeles. Pretty soon we were lined up for approach and landed on the south side of the airport and pretty much exited the runway and went over to TBIT. The engines cut off and the First Officer came on to inform us that we were not at the gate and asked us to remain seated as we waited to be towed in. We were towed in and the seatbelt sign turned off. I looked over at the guy from Auckland and said “Welcome to the USA”. The girl then said “Yeah, please don’t let L.A. be your impression of what the USA is like”. He didn’t say much but I could tell he was a little nervous about being away from home and going to live in New Jersey for a year. I got all of my stuff and walked down to the front of the plane. I asked the F.A. if there was anyway I could make a visit to the cockpit and she replied rudely “Absolutely not”……sigh, no chance to see the cockpit of a 747-400 this time around, maybe next time.
I got a snapshot of a our 744 and then headed to customs which was a long walk through TBIT and then through a hallway to Terminal 4 where we went through customs and I saw the LONG line. I stood there for awhile before going up and doing the whole customs thing. I forget who it was on here that said something about the customs guys here, but some of them are indeed really attractive….LOL. I was helped my a nice Asian woman who said “The All Blacks, you must be getting in from New Zealand”. I said “Yes, wow, someone in the USA knows who they are!”. She welcomed me home and off I went to get my bags. This wasn’t fun…….don’t get me wrong, the customs facility at T4 is very nice, modern, new, clean but it’s cramped as hell. I mean, if this was a 767 you were deboarding it might not be too bad but the space is pretty small for a 747-400. Luckily we were the only plane arriving at that time there. I can’t imagine what it looks like when the flights from Australia arrive at the same time. As someone who doesn’t like big crowds I stayed back and let people get their stuff as I had plenty of time before needing to catch my United flight. I asked where I should go get fragile luggage from and they told me where to go. I didn’t find it there so I looked on the conveyeor belt. I saw it come out and discovered that the fragile sticker had come off. Oh well, would find out later nothing was broken so no worries. I finally collected my bags and went to another customs officer. I figured I’d have to pay some fees as I was over the alcohol limit with 3 bottles of wine plus the Bailey’s I had bought on the flight. Well, they skimmed my card and I went through without paying any fees!
I exited the area and I waited for the people I had sat next to on the plane to say Bye to them. Well, while I was waiting I saw Jason Patric and a lady walk out from the AA baggage claim area to go out to the parking deck. For those that don’t know, Jason Patric starred opposite Sandra Bullock in Speed 2. Yes, he is even more gorgeous in real life. Then a guy came up to me and asked if I was on the flight from Auckland. I could hear his Kiwi accent and could tell he was Maori. I said “Was it the All Blacks jersey that gave it away?” He laughed and said yes. I told him yeah I had just gotten off the flight. He thanked me and waited for his wife. I found the guy from Vancouver and the girl from Monterrey and told them it was nice meeting them. The guy said they were going to get a beer in Terminal 3 and invited me to come. I told him thanks but that I was going to Terminal 7 to check in for my United flight. So we shook hands and off we went.
Good flight on Qantas. I liked sitting at the back, the food was pretty good, flight crew was good. All in all a pretty uneventful flight, except for seeing Jason Patric at LAX!
Air New Zealand 747-400….city of Queenstown….arriving at AKL
Sunset over the Pacific….about 30 minutes after takeoff from Auckland
About an hour from landing at LAX
Look how far we have gone
Big nose of a beast of an aircraft.
November 5th, 2005
United Airlines flight 130
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) to Chicago O’Hare, IL (ORD)
Scheduled Departure time: 2:00 PM
Scheduled Arrival time: 7:53PM
Actual Departure time: 2:15 PM
Actual Arrival time: 8:00 PM
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Photo © Jay Piboontum
Photo © Hisham Atallah
I walked over to Terminal 7 to check in for the continuation of my journey to CLT via ORD. The journey was a nice time to reflect and I was pleasantly surprised that LAX wasn’t overly busy like it had been back in June. Actually, it was quite calm for an airport its size. I looked out for the LAPD Officers on their motorcycles that I had seen back in June but didn’t see any….too bad. Anyway, before I knew it I was at Terminal 7. Since I still had the luggage stroller I took the elevator to the ticketing area. I decided to take some things from my large green bag and put them in my smaller bag to take some weight off the green bag as I was sure it was over United’s 50 lb. limit. Finished that up and then proceeded to the check out line.
I went up to the counter and put my US Airways Dividened Miles card. It found my reservation and I proceeded through, when it gave me the option to change my seats I tried to switch them around a little bit but it wouldn’t let me. I tried several times and even asked for help. The lady who helped me rudely told me in her broken English Chinese accent “You already have seat, print boarding pass!”. I was sweaty and dehydrated so I printed the boarding passes and then she checked my bags. Now this next part I swear she said this…….”What time are you arriving?” I told her “7:53 PM in Chicago”, she then said “I didn’t ask you that! I ask you what time you leave. I never ask you what time you arrive!” I was like whoa, and then said “Oh, I’m on the 2:00 flight”. The luggage tags printed and she said “You going to Charlotte via Chicago?” I replied “Yes” and then asked her if I could get a fragile sticker for my green bag. She then told some guy to get the fragile stickers and he got them and placed them on my bag. When she weighed my bag I saw that it weighed 56 lb. I thought for sure she would overcharge me but she took it off and placed it on the conveyor belt along with my other bag which was 36 lb. I thanked her and she actually smiled and said “Enjoy your flight”.
After going to the restroom to freshen up I went through security and explored Terminal 7 and in the Giftshops I think is when I realized that I wasn’t in New Zealand anymore. None of the magazines I got used to looking for were not there. I passed by a sports bar and instead of Rugby and Cricket being on the T.V. it was American Football games. I called my Dad to let him know that I had gotten to L.A. He asked me again what time I was arriving in Charlotte and what flight. I told him United flight 7248 arrived at 11:48 PM. I then got off the phone and decided to get some lunch. After looking around I decided on McDonald’s. I took my food and went over to an empty gate area looking over across at Terminal 8. I noticed a bunch of CRJ’s, a few EMB’s, a couple of A320s. Across the hall there was a flight leaving for SFO. I ate my lunch and reflected some more on the past 5 months.
After awhile I headed down to gate 76 to board my flight to Chicago. Again, the way the aircraft was positioned I couldn’t get a good look at the Registration or the plane in general but was able to tell that our 777 was in the old colors. I waited around the gate area and then boarding began starting with First Class, then the first part of Coach. I walked passed this guy and noticed he had an Air New Zealand boarding pass. I asked him if he had just flown in from Auckland. He looked up and he must have seen the All Blacks jersey and replied yes and asked if I was on the same flight. I told him I was on the Qantas flight. I saw on his boarding pass that he was in 4A, so obviously he would be in First Class. We talked about New Zealand on our way down the jetway. When we got on the aircraft we parted our ways. I secretly hoped he would have said to the Flight Attendant “Hey, would you let this guy sit up here with me”. Then again, I also secretly wish a lot of things that don’t come true and this one wasn’t any exception....LOL.
I took my seat in 27A next to a lady. I put my things in the overhead compartment and took out my headphones and my book. We were welcomed aboard and then a gate agent got on, talked with a FA then got on the PA system and said “From those of at United here in Los Angeles we hope you enjoy your flight to Chicago, farewell”. The doors were closed and then the purser came on and welcomed us aboard United flight 130 to Chicago and then said “In just a few minutes I will be showing the safety video for this Air……” he paused for what must have been 15 seconds. I was going to give him 10 more seconds before shouting out “IT’S A BOEING 777”. Finally, he said “Triple 7”. I watched the outdated safety video. Seriously United, 1995 has come and gone. The Captain came on to say that we would be underway in about 15 minutes as there was some traffic on the taxiway. So sure enough 15 minutes later we were underway and taxied out to the runway. We passed the United hangar and I saw a United 747-400 and a United 757. I was tuned into Channel 9 and heard we were 3rd in line for takeoff. I did see a Qantas 747-400 takeoff for what I assume was the flight to JFK. I heard on channel 9 the tower say “United 130 heavy, cleared for takeoff”. We moved into position and began our takeoff roll, rushing past the LAX terminal and lifting into the California sky flying over the coastline and over the Pacific. In my mind I once again secretly hoped that would make that slight turn towards the southwest and on into New Zealand…..hey, I can dream can’t I? LOL.
We continued our turn towards the east and pointed our nose towards Illinois flying over Los Angeles. The Captain came on to announce our flight path. I don’t remember all of it but did remember hear him saying we would be flying over Las Vegas and Denver. The Flight Attendants came on to say that they would be serving the beverage service and snacks for hire. They announced the movie this evening would be Must like Dogs. I decided not to watch it, Channel 9, looking out the window, and my book would keep me occupied. I looked out the window and noticed the sun setting so I got a few snapshots, though only a few are worthwhile as the window was already frosting up from the cold outside. I have to comment that the wings on these 777s are something else. While commenting on the wing I’ll talk about the aircraft. It’s funny actually……after being in a 747-400 for 11 hours the 777-200 doesn’t seem so big. I’m sure if I had been on an ERJ or something and then a 777-200 it would be a monster. Some things I noticed…..for some reason it seemed the whole flight that the cabin was tilting at an angle to the right, don’t ask me how or why it’s just something I noticed the whole flight. The aircraft seemed a tad bit dated, but that’s just my opinion.
The F.A. had come through and I got a ginger ale, then got some coffee. All of the sudden the Captain came on and told everyone to take their seats. We hit some turbulence but nothing bad. So as we flew into some clouds I couldn’t see anything much outside so I dug into my book, which I have been reading on and off again for the past 5 months. The book is Sailors and Sexual Identity by Steven Zeeland, it’s basically about gays in the US Navy. Quite interesting actually, I got it because it interest me and as a gay man who is considering joining the Navy as an Officer I thought it would be helpful. So I listened to Channel 9 and read the book for the remainder of the flight. About an hour out of Chicago the F.A.’s came through again with Coffee or Tea. I again got some coffee…..I do love my airplane made coffee ….LOL. The Captain asked the F.A.’s to prepare the cabin for arrival a little early as we were expected to hit some bumpy weather on our descent into Chicago. The F.A.’s came through and I felt the plane slowing down and heard the tower instructing United 130 heavy to descend to a certain altitude.
The Captain came on and informed us we had indeed began our descent into Chicago and would be landing in about 15 minutes. I could see that it was cloudy and the Captain had told us earlier that the weather in Chicago was rainy and cloudy. From here on out I had no idea where we were, we made a few turns here and there before we lined up and I saw the landing lights go on and could hear the flaps being lowered and the landing gear come down, I then heard the tower say “United 130 heavy you are cleared for landing on Runway 9 Right”. A few minutes later we landed at the wet O’Hare International Airport. We taxied over to Concourse C and parked at our gate, C18. The purser came on and said “Flight Attendants, arm your doors and prepare for departure”. The whole cabin went “what?”, then the purser came on and said “I’m sorry, I meant Arrival”. Everyone laughed. I got my stuff out of the overhead as the plane deboarded out door 1L. I asked the F.A. if I could visit the cockpit, and unlike the Qantas flight attendant, she smiled and said “You’ll have to ask the Captain”, so I walked over to the cockpit and ran into the Captain to ask him if I could pay a visit to the flight deck. He was very nice and friendly and said “Sure!”. We went in and I saw the First Officer talking on her cell phone. The Flight Deck was big and the Captain was like a kid wanting to show off his new toy. I think he had just about as much fun showing me the flight deck as I had visiting it. He turned on the lights and explained the main instruments and I asked him if he liked the 777 and he said he loved flying it and that it was a fantastic jet. We chatted a bit about planes and I told him I had flown in from Auckland on a 747-400. I then thanked him for his tour and told him it was nice to see the real thing after messing around with it on Flight Simulator.
I then proceeded into the busy Concourse C where I saw a long line at the United Customer Service desk. This is where I found that there had been delays that evening at ORD and people were being re-booked or put up for the night in hotels. I used the restroom. Now, for a nice concourse like Concourse C the bathrooms sure are crap if you ask me. I then found the monitor and saw that my flight to CLT was leaving out of gate F2. I had totally forgotten about the shuttle bus from Concourse C to Concourse F and ended up taking the moving sidewalk between B and C and then walking through Concourse B into Concourse F. I cringed at all the White Sox merchandise in the souvenir shops as I’m a big Astros fan.
Good flight on United 130, crew was fine, did their job. Flight arrived a few minutes late but nothing to complain about. The visit to the flight deck was definitely the highlight and that was the first time I had flown a widebody on a domestic flight in about 16 or 17 years. From an enthusiast standpoint it was fun with the visit to the cockpit and channel 9.
Sunset over the Colorado with the back of the 777 wing
Concourse B at O’Hare
November 5th, 2005
United Express flight 7248 (operated by Mesa)
Chicago O’Hare, IL (ORD) to Charlotte, NC (CLT)
Scheduled Departure time: 8:55 PM
Scheduled Arrival time: 11:48PM
Actual Departure time: left the gate at 9:35 PM but didn’t takeoff until 10:30 PM
Actual Arrival time: 1:00 AM on November 6th
Aircraft: Canadair CRJ-200
I arrived at my gate F2 into what was even more of a mad house Concourse than Concourses B and C. In fact, Concourses B and C were so much more relaxed than F. At our gate we had flights going to Charlotte, Kalamazoo, Green Bay, and Grand Rapids. All of them were delayed. My flight to Charlotte was scheduled to leave at 9:05 PM. I had some time to spare so I headed to the bathroom to freshen up and tuck my shirt in. It’s a nice feeling knowing you’ve lost weight but a pain in the ass when your pants are too loose and falling down as you walk through an airport. I got back to the boarding area and saw a CRJ-200 in the new colors pull up just as the gate agent come on to say that the plane going to Charlotte had just arrived and they needed to clean it, load it, refuel it, and then we would begin boarding. I looked around the terminal and noticed a few Army guys who were in line boarding for the flight to Kalamazoo.
I sat there reading my book before hearing the gate agent tell someone else that the he was getting ready to board the flight to Charlotte. I got my things together and headed for the gate and was like the second person in line. I have to hand it to this gate agent. He was boarding all of these flights by himself while scrambling around trying to re-route people who had missed flights earlier. I went out onto the tarmac and boarded the aircraft and found my seat, 4A. The CRJ-200 looked old and outdated inside. We waited for our pretty full flight to board and then the doors were shut in preparation for depature. We were welcomed aboard by our flight attendant who was quite entertaining at first but it seemed like she was pretty new as she was constantly looking at a piece of paper and reading from the script. We all buckled in and she went through the cabin to make sure everything was in order before taking her seat. By this time we had pushed back but were waiting for an American Eagle aircraft to go. Then we just sat, sat, and sat. The aircraft was getting hot and the F.A. called up to the flight deck to ask what the hold up was. The Captain then came on to announce that there was a lot of traffic on the taxiway and we were being instructed to hold but would be underway shortly.
About 5 minutes later we began moving and taxied out to a runway I don’t even know. All that I know is that we came next to the International Terminal where I saw an Asiana 747-400, an Air Jamaica A320, and a British Airways 777 coming towards the taxiway. Our aircraft got in a long ass line of probably 8-10 aircraft. We spent the next half hour waiting to takeoff. Finally we moved into position and saw even more aircraft behind us, with the British Airways 777 behind us. We tookoff to the east and passed just to the north of downtown Chicago and over the dark Lake Michigan. Pretty soon it got cloudy and turbulent. I saw that we were going into a storm and then lightning began flashing around the aircraft. I could hear the engines being powered up. Now, I rarely get scared when I fly but this time I was holding on to the seat and began wondering if this was it. For 15 minutes this went on before we broke through the clouds and the Captain came on to say we were fine now and said it was safe to move about the cabin. I let out a sigh of relief and sat back and began reading my book.
The guy next to me had been asleep but woke up when the beverage service came around. I got a cran apple juice and some Fiesta Snack mix that was quite tasty! The guy next to me didn’t want his so he gave his to me. We chatted and he was a Dentist from just outside Columbia, SC. I told him I lived near Charlotte and that it had been a long day since starting in New Zealand. He then got some more shut eye as he had about an hour and a half drive home once he arrived in Charlotte. I finished a chapter in my book and decided to just look out the window. The F.A. came through with more snack mix and I nodded my head. She said “You must be hungry”, I told her I was on New Zealand time. She laughed and gave me two snack mixes. I honestly couldn’t tell where we were but after awhile I could make out from the reflection of lights that we were flying over the Appalachian mountains and pretty soon we began slowing down and the Captain announced we had began our descent into the Charlotte area.
The F.A. came on after to say that she was coming through to collect remaining trash and to prepare the cabin for landing. I tried to figure out where we were but had no such luck. We made a few turns here and there before making a hard right turn and then passed the Charlotte skyline and I figured out we were on approach to Runway 23. The landing gear and flaps were lowered and we flew over the runway and I was thinking “He needs to put us down or we are going to have to make another go”, he put us down and we used full flaps and brakes to stop at the very end of the runway next to the hangar. I noticed another hangar next to the big one that seemed newer. Was this built recently? We were welcomed to Charlotte and made a quick taxi to Concourse A and parked next to a United Express CRJ-700 in the old colors. The guy next to me asked how it was to be home. I told him it was good but that at the same time it meant that the journey was over. We exited the aircraft and walked into the terminal where he told me to enjoy my homecoming. I thanked him and told him to have a safe drive back to Columbia.
I went into the bathroom again to freshen up and tuck my shirt in. I followed the crowd not even thinking that we were walking into the food court area. That’s when we all realized that the entrance way between the gate area and the baggage claim was blocked off and closed up. Family members were on the other side and we were like “What’s going on?” One guy ran to see if it was open up near the entrance to Concourse C and then even ran all the way down to the entrance near Concourse D and E. How ridiculous was that? They closed it up even though they had another flight coming in. Well, I took this opportunity to just walk around the food court area and I thought……what an awesome place for an aviation enthusiast to have a sleepover. Though getting up before the red eyes from the west coast arrived wouldn’t be too much fun. Pretty soon, a security officer came up and she looked annoyed and said “They didn’t tell yall were coming in”. I went down to baggage claim and saw my Dad getting my bags off the conveyor belt. I greeted him and we were off to the parking deck………..the most amazing experience of my life was officially over.
The delay sucked as I was just ready to take a shower and go to bed, the CRJ-200 is without a doubt one the most uncomfortable aircraft I’ve been on and I tip my hats to anyone who can spend more than two hours on that jet. Flying through the storm was scary. All in all, besides that, the flight wasn’t too bad.
How do I rank all three flights?
1-Qantas 25 heavy
2-United 130 heavy
3-United Express 7248
I just wanted to say to the Kiwis on here that I had the most amazing time living in New Zealand for the past 4 ½ months. I hope that you all will keep me updated on the happenings in New Zealand aviation. I already miss New Zealand and can’t wait to go back.
For everyone else out there……..if you can study or live abroad I encourage you to do it. I can say that it changed my life and that I am a better person because of it.
Feel free to comment or ask questions