Relax, I'm not having a go at our cousins across the Tasman, all will be revealed during the trip report. This is my first trip report, so I would appreciate any constructive comments that A.Netters may have.
Airline: Air New Zealand, operated by ZEAL
Date: 19 June 2008
Aircraft: Airbus A320-232
Flight No: NZ 782
Aircraft Reg No: ZK-OJI
I was really looking forward to this trip, what was originally planned as a quick weekend rugby trip with a mate was extended by a couple of days so that I could take in the delights of the Christchurch, the main city on the South Island of New Zealand.
As I was in such a hurry to get going, and I was running a bit late, I forgot to take any photos of the check-in area, but my notes tell me that I was greeted with a big smile and processed very quickly. There was no one in the line in-front of my boarding pass was issued in no time. What's better, I was given seat 1-A.
I then hurried through security and immigration. The lines were mercifully short at immigration and I was through in about 5 minutes. The security line was a bit longer, but moving quickly. My hand luggage was x-rayed and I was scanned in about 15 minutes. As luck would have it, I was chosen for a random explosives residue swab. Man, I really have to shave off my beard, these residue searches might be random, but I seem to be chosen quite often, particularly in Brisbane! Needless to say I score a negative from the bomb squad so I am through after a few more minutes. It really annoys me how Sydney Airport has been turned into one giant shopping centre. Don't get me wrong, duty free shops are fine in their place, but their place should cover ever spare cm of space at an airport. OK, a slight exaggeration but you all know what I mean.
I popped up to the Air New Zealand lounge for a quick look around before my flight. Another very friendly welcome from the gate keeper - does Air New Zealand employ their own ground staff? If so they have picked well. The lounge was not very full at about 9.20am, but those that were there were taking full advantage of the food and liquor. Personally drinking beer at that time of the morning is a bit early, but I suppose it was 11.20am in New Zealand. Any way I didn't have that much time, so I only took three photos.
View of the apron
"My" aircraft be loaded at the gate
The then new-ish SIA Airbus A380 parked on the far side of the apron.
Boarding of my flight was called so off I trotted to the gate. Being a small aircraft, boarding was completed rather quickly. The J-class cabin was only 50 per cent full and each of the 4 passengers had an empty seat next to them. I was surprised to see Sam Neil, the famous actor sitting across the aisle from me. The captain soon announced that the door was closed and we would be soon taking off to the north and cruise across the Tasman Sea at an altitude of 36,000 feet. The cabin crew were introduced. I know a lot of Kiwi A.Netters consider the ZEAL cabin crews as somewhat inferior to those employed by Air New Zealand, but I was impressed. The female flight attendant in J-class was absolutely gorgeous!!!!!
While everyone was settling down, I took a photo of NZ102 as it left for Auckland - I really do like the 767, a great aircraft to fly in.
Just as the cabin crew was getting ready for the safety demonstration, the captain made the announcement that no passenger wants to hear, we were going to be delayed. The purser then explained in some detail the problem to each of the J-class passengers and offered to make the changes necessary for anyone with connecting flights. The problem was that a solenoid valve in the APU was malfunctioning. The IFE was then switched on and drinks were served.
After about 10 minutes, the Captain emerged from the flight deck and explained the problem in detail and the effects it was having on the aircraft. The effect of a malfunctioning APU was that the aircraft would not have an emergency power back-up in the event of a power failure. Both the automatic and manual methods of starting the APU had failed. As it was a safety issue, he would not fly the aircraft to Christchurch. We were told to disembark at 10:25am. Business class passengers were escorted to the Air New Zealand lounge.
As I was there, I decided to have a low-fat yoghurt and some coffee for morning tea while I took a few photos of the morning traffic at Australia's biggest airport.
The Air New Zealand Lounge
NZ 742 leaving for Wellington
A couple of Virgins
My Plane being shifted to make way for a United 744
A gaggle of Airbuses
At about 11.00am the Captain came into the lounge and made an announcement, not great news. He expected there would be a 2-hour delay before the faulty valve could be replaced. In a worse-case scenario, and the plane couldn't be repaired he assured us that there were seats available on the flight later that day. I was not happy, the later flight didn't leave until 5.20pm! So I sat back and took some more photos.
Our new gate neighbour
At 12.25pm we were recalled to board and thankfully this time we took off. We pushed back from Gate 55 at 12.50pm. We taxied down the main taxiway heading easterly, adjacent to runway 07, reached runway 16R, turned right and took off. Luckily being an A320, we didn't need to use all of runway 16R's 3968 metres.
Heading Eastward over the Tasman
My in-flight entertainment
At 1.45pm, Sydney time, lunch was served. I was/am on a diet, so I requested a low-fat meal. This was duly supplied. It didn't look so good, but tasted OK and was low fat. In fact it looked so bad that the flight attendant told me that they had a spare regular meal if I wanted it. The entree was a cold turkey salad and the main course was steamed chicken with rice and vegetables. I did allow myself a glass of excellent William Thomas Sauvignon Blanc.
The pre-landing information film
Crossing the New Zealand coastline
At 5.15pm, New Zealand time, the Flight Officer announced that we had just begun our descent into Christchurch. We would be approaching from the south and landing on the southern runway. We were also given a weather update and informed of the local time. Wheels down occurred at 5.25pm.
We touched down at 5.38 New Zealand time and were at the terminal at 5.41pm, about 3 hours behind schedule. An announcement was made that passengers without connecting flights to make should remain seated until all those with connections to make have disembarked. The In-flight Customer Services Director told J-class passengers that they could leave whenever they liked.
I can't help but say the delay was major and if I was on business or had some similar time-important appointment, I would have been mega-upset. I know at least 1 person in J-class changed flights flying via Wellington, but flight changes weren't offered in the first instance by Air New Zealand. Aside from the delay, the flight was fine, and now that the portable DVDs have been replaced by "proper" IFE, it could only get better.
The reference to a trip back in time relates to one of the things I did while in Christchurch. I visited the Royal New Zealand Air force Museum at the Wigram airfield - a great museum and something most A.Netters would like. While it is a very model of a modern aircraft museum, it is like stepping into the 1940s.
All the volunteers were "mature", dressed in navy-blue blazers and grey slacks/skirts. I think some of the jackets even had RNZAF squadron badges on them. The second I entered the museum I was "pounced" upon by a very "pukka" guide, dressed in the abovementioned uniform and lectured about the NZ Govt's folly in retiring the NZAF's Shyhawk Jet and the evils of socialism!! It wsa quite funny and touching that a volunteer was so passionate about their hobby. The musuem was great and here are some photos:
de Havilland Vampire
de Havilland Tiger Moth
Blériot XI - replica
Lest We Forget
As for the rugby, New Zealand defeated England by 44 to 12. The England team covered themselves in controversy due to some off-field antics.