One week before I was scheduled to leave for the USA I went on three months leave from work. I spent my final week at home saying goodbye to friends and family and getting the final packing done. Thursday 1st June finally arrived and I woke up at around 10am (its nice being able to sleep in on a work day, when your co-workers are busy at work!) I woke up feeling really excited but a bit nervous and sad at the same time. Not only did I know that I would be half way around the world (Michigan is basically on the other side of the world from New Zealand), but I wouldn't be able to see my friends and family for nearly three months. 1pm finally arrived and it was time to head to WLG for my 3.30pm flight to AKL. The drive to WLG with my grandad was a very quiet drive. I arrived at WLG and procedded to check-in. 10 minutes later after having all my visa forms and documents checked, I was checked-in, I was handed my four different boarding passes and my luggage was ticketed to DTW. 10 minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin I procedded down to gate 17 and waited outside of the gate. More Family members arrived to farewell me, and we all shared a few hugs, cried a bit......even my little brothers and sisters admitted that they were sad to see me go! They got a few pictures of me waiting inline to go throu the x-ray security machine and then it was time to board the flight. I boarded the flight with sadness as I knew it was time to depart. As I boarded the plane a song that was very right for the moment entered my head, the songs called "Leaving on a Jet Plane", I forgot who the song is by. I quickly found my seat and sat down.
Airline: Air New Zealand
Photo © Bob Leask
Before I knew it, the doors were being closed and I knew it was now too late to change my mind. The FAs were getting ready for pushback and their saftey briefing. The aircraft departed a few minutes late at 3.34pm and we were taxing towards Evans Bay for a take off over Cook Strait. The B733 lined up on the runway and with a surge of power the B733 blasted off with full power and we thundered down the runway and launched into the nice clear blue winters sky. As we turned over Cook Strait I took one last look at WLG and Wellington City. I spotted my mums car and my grandads car parked in the car park at WLG. As we jetted north I was able to have one last look at my home suburb and I found my home before flying out to sea. The FAs quickly started the in-flight service. While I was starring out the window I took the chance to think about if I've made the right choice to go and spend an American summer working at a Childrens summer camp. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Little did I know that the choice I had made in December last year would be one of the best choices I've ever made and it would change my life way more then I ever thought it could. I also took the chance to think about home. Within no time we were on approach to AKL and the nice NZ sweets were being handed out. We touched down shortly afterwards. After taxing to the gate, I was off in no time. Before I left WLG some friends wrote me letters and handed them to my grandad so he could hand them to me at WLG. My mum and grandad also handed me some letters from them. I found a nice quiet spot away from the terminal and decided to read the letters. I couldn't help but have a little cry while reading them. I headed off to the NZ MX building carpark to do some spotting. Just before 6pm when it started to get dark I decided to procedd to the Internatioanl Terminal. While walking there my cellphone went off and I had a 20 minute plus talk to home. After arriving at the International terminal I looked on the Departure board for my next flight. NZ2 to LAX. Noticed it was still on time etc, so I procedded up stairs to have a look throu the shops and see if I could find any New Zealand things, like clothing that I could take to camp with me. After walking throu the shops and not finding anything cheap enough I found a free internet station, so I logged in and signed into MSN and stayed there for about 1 hour. At about 8pm I decided to head throu passport control, security etc and head to gate 10 and try and find Deb from Tauranga who was heading to the same camp as me in Michigan. Another New Zealander from Auckland called Ben who was also heading to the same Camp as Deb and me departed on an early QF flight. I past a coffee shop and decided to grab a large hot chocolate before heading to the gate. After arriving at the gate I found Deb and introduced myself to her. I talked to her for about 30 minutes before I decided to head off and get some excercise and explore the newly re-built International gates. I decided to stop at a book shop and brouse throu the aviation mags. A short time later I headed back to the gate and while heading back to gate 10, some NZ staff stopped me at the escalators that lead down to gate 10 and asked for my name so they could confirm my name on their passenger list and on my boarding pass and passport. While I was talking to Deb again some more NZ staff were walking around the gate area confirming all the other passengers names who were already waiting at the gate. Before 9pm the Gate area started to get full. About 9pm when the NZ flight crew arrived, I quickly noticed Robert who was crew on my flight. 9.15 finally arrived with the start of the delayed boarding. The usual Star Alliance Gold, Parents with young children, passengers who need help to board and Business Class boarded first, then economy starting from the rear started to board. My seating zone was finally called and I finally boarded and procedded to my seat where I past Robert who was standing beside door 3L
Airline: Air New Zealand
Rego: ZK-NBT (Kaikoura)
Photo © Adam Wright
After sitting down and getting settled in Robert walked past and stopped at my seat and told me some info about our flight and continued to walk towards the rear of the aircraft. A few minutes later Robert handed me a big bottle of water and some eye shades. I was wanting to get some sleep later on, so I thought the eye shades would come in excellent use. The doors were closed and the seat beside my was empty but the aisle seat wasn't free, so there went my master plan on stretching out and trying to get some sleep. After the usual pre-departure safety video, we were on our way to the runway and ready to set off on the 12 hour flight to LAX. We finally departed AKL before 10pm and was cruising into the clear nights sky with stars guiding us into the sky. A while later the USA arrival cards were handed out, so I filled my one out. I'm not surprised extra copys are carried on board because I stuffed up on the arrival forms due to the confussing nature of the questions. The IFE was turned on, so I tuned into a comedy movie and relaxed while watching it intill an annoucement that the dinner service will shortly be starting. Tonights meal sounded very interesting and when I heard Kapiti Ice-Cream would also be served......I couldn't have been more happy. Kapiti Ice-Cream is made on the Kapiti Coast which is 30 minutes drive north of where I live on State Highway 1. One small tub of Kapiti Ice-Cream (20mls, 8oz) would cost you about $8 in the supermarkets here. My turn for my dinner arrived and I choose the Chicken option with bread and a few more other things as well as the Kapiti Ice Cream. Eating a meal and watching a Comedy movie isnt a good idea. About 30 minutes later the FAs came around taking away the empty meal plates. More FAs came around shortly with the drinks carts. By this time it was around 11pm and the cabin lights were soon turned down. When the comedy movie was over I quickly found two more movies and watched those. Towards the end of the third movie I got up and got some excercise and went to talk with Robert who was in the galley. Robert took me on a tour around the Economy cabin and showed me the crew rest area.
About 30 minutes later I went back to my seat with some extra nice treats.......5 Kapiti Ice-Cream tubs all for myself to enjoy. I unpaused the movie that I was still watching and happily watched the rest of it while enjoying the Ice Cream. After eating the Ice Creams and the movie was over and with a full stomach I selected the music channels and choose some music and put on the eye shades and tried to get some sleep, about 1 hour later when I music finished I gave up trying to sleep and listened to some more music, watched some more movies and walked around the cabin a few more times trying to work off all the Ice Cream. Each time I walked past Deb I noticed she was fast sleep so there went my plan each time to stop and have a chat. Around 3am I pulled up the window shades a bit and was blinded by the sun over the Pacific Islands. Its weird for the sun to be shinning outside at 3am. A few more hours went by and the breakfast run had started. (by the time I had written down what some of the meals was, it was about 8pm LAX time, by that time I was 6 hours into my 9 hours of waiting at LAX for my next flight) For breakfast we had Orange Juice, French toast, and some other things. After eating breakfast I got up for more excercise and went and talked with Robert again. I got a few pics with Robert and his mate in the galley and a while later I went back to my seat to look at the first views of the USA. The annoucement for the FAs to prepare for landing finally came and with a thud the leanding gear came down and the flaps started doing their job. As we glided down towards LAX I was amazed at some of the things I saw, like heaps of cargo and tanker ships parked off shore. We finally landed and began the taxi towards Terminal 2. After arriving at the gate I grabbed my bag which was on the floor beside my feet and procedded to depart ZK-NBT which had been my home for 12 hours. I said my goodbyes to Robert and his mate and Robert wished me a good time at camp. I joined the waiting line at Customs which wasn't a long wait because we arrived before VS and KLM. I knew when one of the airlines had arrived because the customs area got busy just before I got called to a Customs booth to have my visa and travel info checked. Because of the things that had to be done due to my visa I finally headed to the baggage collection 10 minutes later. After finally clearing the baggage screening areas, I procedded over to the baggage transfer point and handed my bags to a TSA agent who threw my bags onto the baggage x-ray machine and off I went to explore LAX and the surrounding areas. After walking around basically every public road that connects the terminals and surrounding areas I procedded back to the biggest parking building to take some photos. A few hours later and after being questioned by a police officer, fog was starting to roll in, which made walking out of the parking building from the top level interesting.
After walking to the United Airlines Terminal 7 and procedding throu security and after taking off my shoes to procedd throu which was a real surprise I decided to find the gate that my red-eye flight was departing from. After a nice 15 odd minute walk to the gate I found the gate which was at one of the A/B gates, I decided to explore the terminal. After a good 1 hour of walking around and looking at basically every aircraft parked at the gates I procedded back towards where my gate was. As I was walking along the long walkway that is beside the roadway I heard a thunder of footsteps behind me and turned around to see plenty of LAPD cops running past me. Just seeing all the guns that they had on them was a real cultural shock because the New Zealand Police don't carry guns on them, only the AOS (Armed Offenders Squard) carry them and they are really ever called out. The New Zealand Police are the only police force in the world that don't carry loaded guns on them. I looked outside to see more LAPD cars arriving with their lights flashing. After I walked a little bit further down the walkway I found all the cops, with some of them holding down a suspect on the floor. I asked a UA FA what had happened and she informed me that it was a false alarm. After the area was opened up again I walked down to the gate while taking a few detours at some food places to find the cheapest drink and something to eat. I found an Internet station right beside the gate that my flight was departing from. I surfed the internet for about 30 minutes before sitting down at the gate and watched the aircraft arrive.
Airline: United Airlines
Photo © Jay Selman
The boarding annoucement for UA126 was announced, so off I went to the gate and handed over my boarding pass for it to go throu the little machine at the gate. As I boarded the aircraft the Pilot was also standing at the door with the FA welcoming the passengers on board, which was real nice. This flight was roughly half full. The Pilot shortly announced that Channel 9 will be operating for this flight and it will be switched on shortly after pushback. Pushback finally came and Channel 9 was switched on. We were 5th inline for take off and we needed to wait for about 3 other flights to land before we could depart. About 10 minutes later we were on the runway waiting for ATC clearence. After thundering down the runway and launching into the clear nights sky the FAs started coming around with drinks and light snacks which I happily accepted. Drinking Pepsi for the first time in about 10 years was weird as I'm way use to Coke. I decided to read the United mag while I looked out the window at times to see the random scatter of lights on the ground. After about 1 hour into the 4 hour flight, another FA made another round throu the cabin offering drinks and light snacks, as well as checking on the passengers who werent alseep. I decided to try and get some sleep so I pulled out my Discman, reclined the seat and put over me a nicly wrapped blanket. I managed to get just under 1 hour and 30 minutes sleep before I woke up in a very uncomfy way, squeezed up in a ball on my seat and the next seat beside me. I finally had a sleep after being awake for nearly 30 hours. I changed the CD which had been playing on repeat for the whole time and remained lying down on the seat while having the odd look out the window. The sun finally started to rise, which means we were nearly at ORD. Another FA walked throu the cabin offering drinks and light snacks, so I had another pepsi and nuts. I decided to get some excercise. When I got back to my seat the seat belt sign came on, so perfect timing that was. After all the FAs had taken their seats I could hear some FAs having a good laugh with a few off the passengers. After landing at ORD we began the taxi towards the terminal. We obviously landed on the other side of ORD due to length off the taxi. and not seeing any action for a while intill after we crossed a bridge. We pulled up to the gate and a passenger in 13A and me started having a conversation, which killed the waiting time to disembark the aircraft. During de-planing the pilot was once again at the door also thanking the passengers. After dismebarking I began the search for concourse C for my next flight to DTW. After giving up searching for it myself I asked a UA emplyee and she kindly directed me to the underground walk way. While walking into the walkway I was amazed at all the lights and colour there was. Found McDonalds and grabbed breakfast on the run and procedded down to the gate to wait for the my flight. I noticed on the display boards at each gate that it displays info about the aircraft the flight is being operated by and the time and weather in the arrival city. I was sad to see that my aircraft had been changed from a B735 to a B733. The aircraft finally arrived at the gate.
Airline: United Airlines
Photo © Chrisjake - OPShots photo team
Once boarding started I could tell that this B733 was one very old bird. The seats were torn and the walls looked a mess. I found my seat and got settled in. This was a full flight with only one free seat. The doors were closed and departure time came and went and still no sign on leaving. About 1 minute after departure time was scheduled the pilot came on over the PA and announced their will be a delay, and they don't know how long the delay will be for. The reason was because the Ramp Rats couldn't find the cargo net to secure the luggage so the cargo door couldn't be closed. The pilot came on over the PA every 5 minutes to update us. The FAs walked around the cabin handing out drinks to the passengers while we all waited. The catering truck parked again beside the aircraft and remained there intill just before we departed. After 35 minutes the Ramp Rats borrowed a cargo net from an aircraft that was being towed over to the MX hangers and eight minutes later the net arrived at our aircraft and we were finally on our way nearly 50 minutes late. The pilot announced the aircraft will be burning some gas to make up for the delay so a shorter then normal flight time. After the Seat belt signs was off the FAs quickly jumped into action and roared into gear with the drinks carts. Because of the shortened flight time I decided not to try and get some more sleep. After we flew over Lake Michigan I started to count all the lakes that I could see and after about 15 minutes I gave up counting. The FA finally arrived at my seat and I asked for an Orange Juice and was handed some more light snacks. When I took the first mouthfull of Orange Juice I nearly spat it back out back into the cup due to its taste. American Orange Juice is so different to New Zealands orange juice. I knew it would take me a while to get used to the taste, but after a while I managed to drink it all. I quickly got back to looking out the window. After a while I started to get cold even with a long sleeveless t-shirt on, a sleeve less vest and jeans on. During the whole flight the windows and walls were shuddering and cold air was coming throu. It would have been real nice on a real hot day but I didn't like it then. About 15 minutes before landing at DTW I noticed a few other planes landing or taking off from DTW. After touch down at DTW began the very bumpy ride to the terminal due to the shocking state of the runway and taxiways with all the holes in them. After arriving at the gate I was glad to know that my 36 hour journey with only 1 hour and 30 minutes sleep was nearly over and I now had the long car ride to the Camp where I would call home for the next nine weeks.
Over all I really enjoyed the flights. NZ now has an excellent IFE system on its B772s and B744s with about 750 hours of movies, music, games etc, which really helps to kill the journey time. Robert on NZ2 really spoiled me with the Ice Cream, thanks heaps mate. Its amazing how happy I can be when I get Ice Cream. The NZ crew provided a very professional laid back New Zealand style service which is always received well from International flyers. An FA was always walking around the cabin at least every 15 minutes. United Airlines was an awesome experience. They made an excellent impression for my first experience on United. While I wasn't sleeping I noticed an FA was always walking around the cabins every 15-20 minutes, both on the red-eye and the short flight to DTW. Having the pilot standing at the door either during boarding or disembarking was very nice and added the finishing touches to a very professional service by the UA crews. During the 50 minute delay at ORD the FAs handled it very well and keeped the passengers happy, even the little kids and babys. I will happily recommend NZ for long haul and UA for USA domestic. I will happily choose UA when ever I can.
Part two from DTW-ORD-LAX-HNL-AKL-WLG will come shortly.