I would be flying back with both my parents. My sister and her boyfriend who had joined us for the first two legs would be spending three extra days touring the majestic west coast of New Zealand. We would be flying back on New Years Eve. Traveling this time of the year can be busy, especially to New Zealand as it is their peak season, but fewer people travel on the holiday.
Air New Zealand
December 31st, 2005
Departs: 3:15pm (Act: 3:30pm)
Arrives: 5:00pm (Act: 5:00pm)
Flight Time: 1hr 10min
Equipment: Boeing 737-300
Economy Class Seat 6F
Load Factor: 100%
Photo © Gabriel Savit
Photo © Colin Hunter
My father took an earlier trip up to Auckland to visit an old friend from medical school, so he left earlier in the day for a flight via Christchurch. I would be flying back with my mother a little later in the day. We left downtown Queenstown after two very fun days at about 1:00pm for our 3:15pm flight. After returning the rental car I felt good that I wouldn’t have to drive on the wrong side (left side) of the road again. We got up to the Air New Zealand counter and saw three agents just chatting to each other at 1:20pm. The two of us tried to check in, but they said that check in was not open. I was a little confused as I thought check in opened two hours before a flight, but they ladies told us to return in ten minutes. So we asked for the key code to the Koru Club so that we could relax. The Koru Club in Queenstown is very small. It is not an attended facility and has a small self service bar with wine beer and juice. I was a little surprised to see no soft drinks. But I sat down for a bit and watched a little cricket on the television although I do not follow cricket at all.
After a little while there was an announcement throughout the terminal saying that checkin for the 3:15pm departure for Auckland was opened. I went down with my mother to check in. There are only two gates with security in Queenstown. One is for international departures and one is for jet service. However they don’t begin allowing people to proceed through security until 30 minutes prior to departure, so that is why the Koru Club is in a nonsecure area. Anyways, there was no line at the counter, so we went up to a lady and handed over our paper tickets. She did some work and tagged our bags to SFO. We didn’t want them tagged to SEA since we could just carry them on the domestic UA sector between SFO and SEA, which would speed up our arrival in SEA.
After getting our boarding passes to AKL and SFO, we headed back to the Koru Club. We couldn’t check in for our flight to SEA in ZQN for some reason. But that wouldn’t be a problem. We filled out our immigration paperwork for leaving New Zealand and relaxed a little more. More people were slowly coming into the lounge, and almost all of them would be headed to AKL. I ran downstairs to check on the status of our flight a few times. There is no TV monitor with departure information in the club. Also the announcement from the terminal are barely audible. Our flight was showing a little bit of a delay, but nothing too bad. At about 30 minutes prior to departure, the two of us headed downstairs. We saw a 733 just pull in and an announcement was made for all passengers bound for Auckland to proceed to the gate. So we stood in line here for security. It was quite a long line and the airport was extremely crowded. Queenstown desperately needs to finish its renovations since it is a mess with almost no where to sit down.
After waiting a while I felt as if I was being herded in a group of cattle. Finally I made my way up to the security. It did not look very good as it was just a metal detector and xray machine in the corner of the fenced off boarding area. But I guess super strict security isn’t necessary in New Zealand. It was only a few years ago when they started performing security checks on domestic flights.
After passing through security we were hearded into a small room. There were no where near enough seats and there were barely enough places to stand. People kept slowly filing in through security. It was a mob of people and very uncomfortable. I was not happy. Finally they did make a boarding call and the mob of people pushed towards the gate. There were a lot of South Asians in the boarding area and they were being extremely pushy. I am not intending to be offensive, but it was not pleasant.
Finally after pushing my way through to the front (actually pushing and have other people push up against me), I made it to the lady at the front. She was tearing tickets and letting people on. Honestly though it was such a mess that it would have been very easy to just walk past her and onto the ramp. I was not impressed at all. I would have expected more out of an airline and country like New Zealand.
We walked outside towards the beautifully clean 737-300. It looked nice and welcoming. It is always a lot of fun to board planes the old fashioned way from the ground using stairs. I could also see a new NZ A320 bound for Sydney. I got up the stairs and the flight attendant did the mandatory boarding pass check. This is different for people accustomed to flying US airlines where they do not need to check your boarding pass at the door. I saw a number of people put theirs away and need to fish for it again. But it was not a problem and we walked back to row 6. While I was walking to my seat there was a man trying to stuff a bag in the overhead compartment. I heard the FA at the door laughing about how it would not fit. I thought she was being a little rude since she was talking about how it would not fit rather than helping the man.
I was in 6F and my mother was in 6E. I put my small carry on which is a glorified briefcase in the overhead bin and continued to read. An American sat next to her in the aisle seat. After about ten minutes, everyone had boarded the plane. There were a lot of South Asians and I was told that they might be the Sri Lankan Cricket team that had been in Queenstown to play a match. These men had a lot of stuff with them and all had these large awkward bags that did not fit properly into the overhead compartment. There was also another problem that was becoming evident. This team smelled like body odor. They were all well dressed enough, but it smelled like they had just played a match and did not shower. A pungent smell was permeating through the cabin. I knew that this would not be a very pleasant flight.
The cabin door was closed and we were ready for push back. The seat belt sign was on and everyone was on the plane, but some people were still sorting things out and standing in the aisle. But that did not matter. We pushed back anyway. There were probably about five passengers standing during push back. There were a lot of people talking, especially the cricket team. The flight attendant came on the PA and raised the volume, but no one could hear her. She was a little miffed, but just said her things and started the safety demonstration video over the overhead LCD screens on the 733.
After the demonstration the engines started up and the flight attendants performed their safety checks. When one flight attendant got to row five, she saw a man from the cricket team with a bag completely blocking the area at his feet. So she said he had to move it. He handed it to her and she tried moving it back to an empty overhead compartment. She was barely able to lift the bag. Haha, I am sure it was under the 7kg limit. She tried to stuff it into the bin, but it would not go in. She then proceeded back to the row and completely bitched the man out. She went off about how it had to be under 7kgs and how he needed to go back there and repack it immediately. All the while we were taxiing out to the runway. I think there were some safety procedures being violated. It was a good thing that there were three planes on approach that we had to wait for, otherwise these two people in the aisle would have been standing during takeoff. The huffy flight attendant and the man finally got the things sorted out and everyone took there seat.
We taxied on the runway to the end before making a u-turn and lining up for a takeoff. The engines throttled up to obviously full power and we were hurtling down the runway. This was a peppy start and we rotated right near the terminal. We made a fast and steep climb while the views out the window were amazing. There were quite a few bumps. It felt like I was in a Cessna. We climbed and made a gradual turn towards the left and came shockingly close to a mountain. We did not clear it by too terribly much. By this time we were all bouncing around, so what did the flight attendants do? They decided to tell a story. The lead flight attendant came on the PA and told us a story of their work day so far.
It started in Auckland where this plane had its potable water tanks flushed out with chlorine to cleanse them. On the first flight of the day to Dunedin, the flight attendants served tea and coffee. They even made a second pass through. Everything was going fine until one of the flight attendants wanted some tea for herself. She poured herself a cupper and as she sipped it, she spat it back into the cup. The tea tasted like chlorine. It was awful. The tanks had apparently not been properly flushed out. She was amazed that not a single passenger complained about the tea or coffee and more so that some people actually had a second cup.
So they get to Dunedin and as people are leaving the plane, she hears them talking to themselves about how bad the tea and coffee was. So the flight attendants make sure that when the plane is in Auckland next that some crews would come and properly flush the water tanks. So they do not serve any tea or coffee on the flight from Dunedin to Auckland. Well they get to Auckland and the tanks are flushed clean again, and they flight attendants are told not to worry about it. So they serve tea and coffee on the flight to Queenstown. Well the same thing happened as they did their merry little service. And the flight attendant had a sip of tea for herself and realized that it tasted just as bad. So that is the story of why there was to be no tea and coffee on our flight. We would only have bottled water available. I think this is a reason why airlines serve bottled water to begin with. You never know what is going on in those tanks.
By the time the little story was finished, we were well above ten thousand feet and the flight smoothed out a bit. Of course the cricket team smelled even worse than before now that they were in a confined and crowded space. That was the worst smelling plane that I have ever been on in my entire life. My mother got out some orange flavoured body wash and rubbed it on her skin so she would not smell the body odor. We were hoping that the smell would not stick to us. I felt the need for a shower and overall felt disgusting despite the fact that I had showered only a few hours before.
Other than that the flight went by nicely. It was a crystal clear day all the way up the South Island. Marvelous sights passed by underneath us. We passed over Hokitika (I believe) and then over water during out northbound journey. The pilot explained that they outbound delay was caused by strong winds on the southbound journey, but that these same winds would speed up our flight, so we should arrive on time.
It was a short hour and ten minute flight that seemed to drag on forever due to the less than desirable flying conditions. Time on an all economy 737 filled completely with 30 or so unshowered athletes was not enjoyable at all. Finally we passed over the North Island and soon began our descent in some thin cloud layer. The pilots came over the PA and we headed down. The seat belt sign went on and the flight attendants performed their duties. Though they didn’t have that much too clean up after everyone was only given a 50ml little plastic cup of water.
We touched down in Auckland right on time, and we were dying to get off of this confined space. We taxied towards the domestic terminal, and as soon as the seatbelt sign was off, I had my bag in my hand was in the aisle ready to go. After getting off the plane, we headed straight to the domestic terminal Koru club’s washroom. I washed my face and used the facilities. I really needed a shower, but I would wait until we got to the international club since we did not have too terribly long of a connection time.
I hope I did not offend anyone with insensitivity, but please never put a team of athletes on an airplane before letting them shower. It was a horrible experience, and on top of that this group was disruptive as they were pushy at the gate, overpacked carry on bags that would not fit on the plane, spoke loudly so that the safety demonstration could not be heard and most of all smelled bad. They ruined a perfectly good flight over amazing countryside in one of the world’s most beautiful country.
Air New Zealand
December 31st 2005
Departs: 7:00pm (Act: 8:00pm)
Arrives: 10:15am (Act: 11:20am)
Flight time: 11hrs 40min
Equipment: Boeing 747-400 Refitted
Business Premier Seat 12A
Load Factor: Business Premier 100%
Photo © Josh Akbar - NYCAviation
After freshening up, the two of us made the walk along the blue line to the international terminal. I remember taking this walk when I was a kid and there being no fences along the way. There was only a short little fence, which meant that you could see amazing views of the international terminal. I remember seeing a United 747 land and taxi in that I knew would soon be taking me to Los Angeles. But today, you can barely see the gates. Oh well, it is a nice 900m walk when the weather is good. Today it was quite windy, but that was ok because it blew off the stench.
We went into the international terminal and walked by all of the lines for Qantas and Emirates which are the second and third largest airlines at AKL. We then went to the bank to pay the $25 departure fee. I never understood why the fee to leave New Zealand could not be incorporated into the ticket fare as it is everywhere else in the world. After that my mother and I met up with my father and his friend from medical school and her daughter. I got a big hug from a woman I had never met before. After a few minutes, I excused myself to go to the check in desk as I wanted to freshen up and have a shower in the lounge before the flight. (Usually one wants a shower after a long flight, but I could not bare feeling so disgusting for such a long flight.)
I noticed that my frequent flyer number (actually the letters UA*G) did not show up on my boarding pass. So I stopped by the counter. The premium check in area in AKL for Air New Zealand is a separate relaxed room rather than a raucous desk like the ones you find in the United States. I gave the lady my boarding pass and frequent flyer card and asked when boarding would be. She told me 10:15pm which I immediately did a double take and asked why the flight was delayed so much. I then look at the ticket she gave me and it was for some passenger in seat 12A on flight NZ2 to LAX. Well I gave that back to her and she embarrassingly asked for my UA gold card back and gave me my correct boarding pass. She then said that they flight was delayed by one hour due to engineering services. That sounded bad, but she assured me that it would be ok.
I thought about going and telling my father that he had an extra hour to socialize with his friend, but I decided to not risk the chance of getting hugged again, so I went to the little immigration counter within the premium check in area. The gentleman inspected my departure card and waved me through. I proceeded up an escalator and into security. There were no lines for the premium section. I thought that was a nice move. I then walked into the international departures area. It is a beautiful duty free mall. I had some NZ dollars to destroy, but decided to worry about that later. First thing first, I needed a shower. So I proceeded into the Koru club and showed my boarding pass. I was invited in and went to the shower rooms.
Feeling much better, I went back into the lounge and met up with my parents again. I had some snacks and a coke. I debated putting some rum in it, but decided to steer clear of alcohol for this flight. Three glass of wine knocked me completely out for nine hours on the SFO-AKL flight in the new suite, so I am was sure that I could get some sleep without the effects of alcohol this time.
After a little bit, I checked my email and we went to the gate at 7:15pm. We went into the boarding area which was an overcrowded mess. The upper level was so nice with the wide open spaces and shops, yet the actual gate area was crowded with standing room only. I made my way close enough to the door and waited about five minutes for boarding. There was only one jetbridge for this 747. They came on the PA and apologized for the delay due to a late inbound airplane.
Boarding commenced and after showing the boarding pass and passport, I made it onto the plane. I was greeted at the door and the flight attendant pointed to the left, which is always gives me a good feeling. I am fortunate enough to get to turn left quite often when either my parents or business pays for the trip. My parents only fly international first class and were a little upset when Air New Zealand removed the first class cabins, but were comforted when I told them that the new suites are even more comfortable than the old NZ first class seats that didn’t even recline to flat.
Once I made it to my seat, I was welcomed again by Ed who was the gentlemanly flight attendant that served me on the SFO-AKL flight on the 777. He offered me juice or champagne and I took the orange juice. I got all of my things settled and relaxed for a bit while everyone else boarded and the very large Business Premier cabin slowly filled up. Ed came by with the basket of amenities, so I took a blindfold, earplugs, lip balm and socks for the flight. I like how NZ does this. They still give you what you want and do not make you ask for it, but they cut down on waste by having passengers only take what they want. Of course being the Airliners.net member that I am, I would of course take everything offered. Menus were also passed out.
There was an announcement that the main door was shut and that all crew needed to make their ways to their stations. We pushed back nice and slowly next to a QF 744 and another NZ 744. Both would be bound for LAX a little later that evening. It was still light out in the southern summer, so I gazed out the window as the safety demonstration was played on the PTVs.
After the demo, the flight attendants made their way to their seats and we headed down to the end of the runway in AKL. The lumbering giant was slow and clumsy on the ground, but soon would be the master of the skies. There is something special about flying the 744 even though the 772 is newer and has cool things like mood lighting.
We make a turn at the end and line up at the runway. There is no surge forward, but rather a gentle acceleration pushes us down the runway as I could barely hear the engines as they burned massive amounts of kerosene. The ground accelerated by us as we made it down the runway in a lengthy 47 seconds. The nose came up and we lumbered into the sky. The 744 definitely is not a sports car like the 757, but it can make its way up, and in the long run will win the battle with its smaller cousins since it flies faster. We made a wide turn to the left. It is amazing to see the huge cabin angled at such a bank, but it was glorious. It is stunning that a design first conceived of in the 1960s is still impressing people today.
We climbed into the air and the in flight entertainment system was quickly started. This was much better than the 777 SFO-AKL flight where it took them 40 minutes to get the system going. I switched on the 40 Year Old Virgin and was surprised at how dirty of a movie it is. Shortly after the flight attendants passed out the first round of drinks and the dinner service began. We started with a seared tuna salad. Fish is not really my thing, so I passed on eating it although I did load up on bread as I am a huge bread connoisseur.
A flight attendant in a suit came by and asked what I wanted for dinner. I chose Chicken as I didn’t feel like red meat and the vegetarian option was another Quiche, which isn’t a vegetarian option in my mind since it has eggs in it. There were four dinner choices. Ed quickly came by with my rather small portion of Chicken. It had two little colorful blobs of chicken, some potatoes and I believe Bok Choy. The chicken was flavourful, but not really to my liking. I ate what I felt like, and then moved on to dessert. Ed came by with mostly melted ice cream. That was good I guess since I ate less of it than I normally would. We were hitting quite a bit of chop during the meal service and even though the flight attendants were told to sit down, Ed continued with the meal service. Older gentlemen do not like being what to do I guess. After a less than satisfying meal (not because it did not taste good necessarily, but more so because I did not like the way it tasted) I was ready to go to sleep. I personally prefer United’s or Lufthansa’s catering.
I got myself up and went to the lavatory and was ready to turn my seat into a bed. I put everything away so that it would fold over nicely and hit the button. But nothing happened. A lit that said please stow tray table came on. My tray table was already stowed away, but I pulled it out and forced it down again and tried to get the seat to fold over. It did not work. As a mechanical engineer I think I am competent enough to fold a seat over properly, but it was not working. I went to the galley and told Ed about the problem. He came over and saw the same problem that I already knew existed. Ed then flagged an older lady who again felt the need to make sure that her finger was not the magic finger that could push the button and make it go down. So after forcing it around and playing with the tray table, she said it was not working (which I think was apparent to the entire Business Premier cabin by this point in time). She said there was a way to override the system, but that she did not know how to do it. So now comes Bruce into the picture. At this point all three Business Premier flight attendants were fixated about my seat. Bruce tries pushing the button, and without surprise, the seat does nothing. Then he crawls on the floor and reaches back under the seat and slams it down forward with a thud. Well at least I have a bed now and won’t have to sit upright for the entire flight. The lady then folds out the duvet and mattress pad and does everything but leave a mint on the pillow. I then settle down, put the blindfold on and earplugs in and am ready for the long haul. Oh and all the while the seat belt sign was on too. But that did not really matter.
Right then the captain comes on and apologies for the turbulence, and that they are trying to find a suitable altitude. He then gives us the bad news that we will be crossing the international date line about 30 minutes prior to midnight which means that we will not be among the first people on the planet to celebrate the new year of 2006.
I settle down and go to sleep as I am being rocked to sleep by the gentle giant that I am hurtling across the world at near the speed of sound and six miles above the surface. I slept pretty solidly through the night as I did not get up once, however I tossed and turned a lot. It was a full eight hours of sleep, but it was not the most resting. I slept right through the breakfast, which is something that I always do on flights since I do not like to eat right when I wake up in the morning. I was very happy that the flight attendants allowed me to sleep through the meal without doing anything to wake me up. I remember an experience of arguing with a Singapore Airlines flight attendant when she was tapping me on the shoulder and thrusting a hot towel in my face about not wanting to eat. Sometimes the best service is no service at all.
There were about 30 minutes left of scheduled flight time. My mother had filled out the customs declaration for arrival into the United States, so I happily did not have to fill out any paperwork. I like how the United States does not make US citizens fill out an immigration card. I flipped on the PTV to see the airshow for about a minute before the flight attendants turned off the system and showed a destination San Francisco video. It was obviously aimed at first time visitors and did a good job of highlighting the city.
We began our descent and I relaxed and had a glass of water. I was not feeling nearly as dehydrated as when I flew SFO-AKL as I did not use any alcohol to put me to sleep. I stared out the window as we descended. There were some choppy seas below us. The captain then came on and told us that we were being put into a holding pattern. There were very strong winds at the airport. They were 29 know winds gusting to 45. As pilot myself, I knew that was bad as there would likely be a stiff crosswind and we all know that crosswinds can cause problems. The pilot said that the winds were right at the limit of what the plane could land in and that we were hoping for it to improve. He also told us that safety is the number one priority and that if a landing could not be performed within documented safety limits that we would execute a missed approach and divert to an alternate airport. He went over the procedure for a go around where as we would climb to 4,000ft immediately and wait for clearance somewhere else. I have only experienced one go around in a jet (a UA A320 at LAX in perfectly good weather). So he got the nerves of some passengers rattled with that, but at least he was preparing them for what could happen so that people did not get to nervous.
After about 15 minutes, the captain came on the PA again and gave us a touchdown time. He also said that the winds had died down a wee bit and that we would be landing towards the west. Apparently SFO had some bad storms the night before. All the while were encountering some pretty good chop that made the 744 bounce around a fair bit.
We made a few turns and the flight attendants were already seated. They had already prepared the cabin for arrival as we were warned that the approach would be a rough one. As we came straight in for the runway, the pilots were really working the plane on final approach. There was an obvious crosswind and they were playing with the throttles and we were bouncing around. It was a very difficult approach and I was thinking that at any second I would hear the engines surge and we would be going around. We passed over the threshold and the pilots committed to landing the plane. We touched down rather softly on the wet runway and I could feel the plane slowing. There was no loud surge though as no reverse thrust was being used for the landing. It was all brakes. We made it to the end safely and the flight attendants thanked us for flying Air New Zealand.
We taxied to the gate. My parents and I had 70 minutes before the scheduled departure of our flight to SEA on United, so we knew that we would have to rush. As soon as we pulled into the gate, we went to the door and were three of the first people off of the plane. We high tailed it to immigration. We got there are there were no lines, which was good. The friendly immigration officer stamped our passports, and we went over to baggage claim. The bags just started to come out of the carousel and it was interesting to see all of the destinations that they were heading to. SEA, PHX, LAS, TUS, and JFK were all visible. I also saw a few tagged to FRA. I felt sorry for those people that would have to wait around SFO before getting on another long and grueling flight to FRA.
Our bags took a while even though they had priority tags on them. Often priority tags are meaningless, especially when up to half the bags on the flight have them. They really are more so there to make people think that they are special. Kind of like when half the plane is given priority boarding on a domestic flight between ORD and LGA because everyone is elite or somehow special because they flew on a flight between Madrid and Buenos Aires last year or something stupid like that.
After our bags made it through we had 35 minutes before scheduled departure time. We went to the customs official who just waved us through. US customs are so much easier than New Zealand customs.
December 31st 2005
Departs: 12:45pm (act: 2:05pm)
Arrives: 2:47pm (act: 4:30pm)
Flight time: 1hr 40min
Economy Class Seat 8D
Load Factor: First 100% Economy 100%
Photo © Daniel J. Evans
Photo © Gabriel Savit
As soon as we exited the customs hall, we went to the United transfer desk. There were two agents assisting a two groups there. The three of us queue up to get boarding passes, but an agent walks up to us and tells us to go to the United terminal and that they were closed. That seemed awfully rude. It did not look like they were closed. But we went off to the races anyway in hopes of getting boarding passes. When I was in Auckland I made sure that Air New Zealand knew about our connection so that UA could rebook us if necessary.
We made it to the ticketing lobby and found some empty kiosks. I put in my frequent flyer card and up came the itinerary. Along with a notice that our flight was delayed by an hour. This was good as we would not have to worry about missing it now. We all got boarding passes in economy. It was weird because we had all requested upgrades. I am Premier Executive and my parents are 1Ks and the upgrades for them always seem to go through. Oh well, it is just a short flight. We went to security. There was an issue there because my father had a boarding pass that was given to him in Queenstown. Apparently the security person checking IDs did not like the flimsy Air New Zealand boarding pass and wanted to make him go to the counter and get a proper one. But he finally convinced her that it was ok.
We passed through security and headed to the Red Carpet Club. There are no showers in the domestic clubs, so we had to deal with smelling like 747. My father and I ate at a little restaurant and waited out our delay. Eventually we go back to the Red Carpet Club for a bit. We leave the place and accidentally get on the moving sidewalk going in the wrong direction. We were all a little tired at this point.
We get to the gate and there is no plane there. We stand waiting as the delay keeps increasing. I then notice the man that sat next to my mother on the Queenstown-Auckland flight in a bookstore. I guess he had the same travel plans, but he looked more exhausted, which probably meant that he flew economy.
Finally over an hour after scheduled departure time, we start boarding the 733. The flight attendants were late in coming to the flight. That is something that I find annoying about delays. Often they are caused by crews since crews work different planes back to back which can cause delays to cascade into each other.
I was greeted as I got on the plane and found my seat. I stuffed my rollaboard into the overhead bin. I did not recheck it in for the SFO-SEA flight as I knew that I might get separated from it and also that I wanted to get out of the airport as fast as possible in SEA since I am well aware that Seattle’s baggage claim is always a zoo in the late afternoon and evenings. It is one part of the airport that they still need to address as it does a horrible job of welcoming people to the emerald city.
After all of the other passengers boarded, we got to see another safety demo after the door was closed. We pushed back amid some sunny weather. Things were perking up in SFO. I chatted with my seat mates a bit as we taxied. The attractive young woman next to me was talking about how she and her husband along with her parents were coming back from Sydney. They were circling in a UA 747 for over an hour waiting for the weather to clear up in SFO. They were in some bad turbulence and the flight attendants had to remain seated. And then the cascading puking happened. People left and right on their 747 started heaving at the turbulence and as we all know when you see one person, more are likely to follow. It is a shame that the flight attendants had to remain seated and that UA does not do the best job of keeping the seat pockets loaded with air sickness bags. I am glad I was not on that flight.
Ok back to better things. We taxied out to the runway and took off towards the west. It was a nice peppy climb and I split my attention between channel 9 and the people sitting next to me. The young woman had missed her SFO-SEA flight and an older lady from Albuquerque (who was obsessed with how nice New Mexico is) also missed her SFO-SEA flight. I was the only one on my originally scheduled flight.
We climbed up to 33,000 I think and it was smooth. The seat belt sign went off and I did a bit of reading and chatting. The flight attendants came by with drinks and I had a mountain dew so that I would be lively enough to ring in the New Year with friends that night once I got home. I am glad airlines in the United States still have full beverage services on short flights unlike Air New Zealand nowadays. After some pretzel/soybean mixture, and the can we started our descent. It was starting to get dark outside, which was a big change from New Zealand.
It was a pretty normal descent, but we were flying extremely slowly on approach. On the downwind leg we were at 160 knots. It felt like we were barely moving as we turned in over North Seattle and Greenlake. The pilot made a nice landing and again used no reverse thrust. Maybe it was to save fuel as there is plenty of runway in SEA.
We taxied to the gate and I happily got off the plane. I made my way to the car after paying the one hundred and something parking bill. I was ready to go home and relax a bit after a very large trip. And fortunately I did make it to see the New Year come with friends.
Air New Zealand is a good airline. The planes were well kept and clean. All flights were a little late, but it didn't pose too much of a problem. The crew was pretty good on all of the flights however, the cuts in service are evident. The meals use to be far better. Also the flight attendants have to work hard to get a full service done since they cannot use carts in the new Business Premier section. I wish Air New Zealand had more staff and served larger and better meals. I wrote a letter about my problems with the meal service, and Air New Zealand replied. I posted the reply in the SEA-SFO-AKL-CHC trip report.
Overall I loved the new suites. They were very comfortable. They are so much better than the old first class seats and light years better than the old business class seats with 50 inches of pitch. The 747 is a great plane and is the pride of the fleet. I hope to get to fly Air New Zealand again in the future on my next trip down to New Zealand to visit family. Connecting between Air New Zealand and United in SFO is pretty easy. It looks like a lot of people are favouring SFO instead of LAX since it is a nicer airport although you have to be careful about the weather. Overall good service by Air New Zealand and I will be happy to fly them again.
Thanks for reading this 11 page singles spaced novel. Please leave any comments about what you liked or did not like about it. It takes a good five hours to write a report like this, so I want it to be the best possible. Do you think it is good to have a summary at the end of the trip report and what should be in the summary? Also my next report will be about my trip to Eastern Europe in April and will be on Lufthansa and Aeroflot (on a TU154!!!) in first class. Oh and I am sorry about the lack of pictures as I am an idiot that forgot his camera charger. I'll have the camera for the next trip
[Edited 2006-01-07 19:42:47]