Last year, I had an amazing three week vacation along the East Coast of Australia. My vacation ended in beautiful Cairns where after much fun, it was time to head home. I’m only doing the return part of my vacation because I didn’t take many pictures while flying to Australia, so I figured I would just focus on the return trip where I took a few pics.
Air New Zealand Flight 772
A320 Seat: 12F Pacific Class
I arrived at the CNS international terminal about 2 and half hours before my flight. This proved to be way too much time for an airport like CNS, but since it was an international flight I didn’t want to take any chances. The international terminal at CNS was nice, but quite empty. There were about 5 people in line at the NZ check-in desk, so it only took about 5 minutes to check my bag through to LAX. I then meandered my way over to security which again had about two people in line.
NZ Check-In at CNS
I think security at CNS must have been bored because they decided to harass me a little about my deodorant that I had in my carry-on luggage. It was a solid stick deodorant and I had never had a problem in any other airport, but for whatever reason security lectured me that it shouldn’t have been in my carry-on. After the brief lecture, they decided to let me go with my deodorant which was nice since it was going to be quite a while before I could shower again.
CNS has a nice little shopping area with the usual duty free and tourist stuff. I didn’t buy anything as I had plenty of souvenirs. The only thing I did buy was a soda and that was partially just to burn off some of the extra Australian coin I had left over. Unfortunately, CNS is not exactly an exciting place to do any plane spotting. The most interesting thing was the CX flight to BNE and HKG which judging by the number of people boarding seemed pretty full. It was weird to see places like Port Moresby and Tabubil on the departure screens…pretty exotic locales compared to most of the flying I do in the U.S.
Lot's of codeshares:
Just as the CX plane left, my NZ A320 arrived and pulled into the gate. They turned the plane quickly and soon it was time to board. Boarding went by quickly and I took my seat 12F. The plane was almost completely full, but we got out on time and taxied out to runway 15. Takeoff seemed fast and we climbed over Cairns. The first 1+ hours of the flight hugged the Australian coast and I looked down upon the coast I had traveled along during my three week vacation.
Finally, the flight turned more easterly to make the Trans-Tasman crossing and lunch was served. I don’t remember the other choice, but I had the roast beef with humus and cous-cous. For dessert, there was a brownie. For a four hour flight, it was a nice lunch though it was a little small. The roast beef was relatively tender and the cous-cous and hummus were tasty. The beverage service was a little slow in coming, but overall service on NZ was quite good. I had already learned this from my flights (LAX-AKL-SYD) three weeks earlier and NZ remained consistently good throughout.
The path ahead
I spent most of the remaining flight watching NZ’s excellent IFE system. It’s a great system with an amazing selection. I watched an episode of The Office (American version), the Simpson’s and the movie “The Proposal” starring Sandra Bullock. It’s an ok movie, but I mainly just watched it to see Sandra Bullock, though Bette White was pretty funny too.
Beautiful Queensland coastline
Always addictive moving map
Almost to AKL
The New Zealand coast
Our approach into AKL seemed fast as we came in over the bay and landed on 5R. We taxied in to gate 8(?). After disembarking, came a somewhat long walk down the glass corridor where those of us in transit went through another security check. This security check seemed very loose which is somewhat logical as all of us had already been through security leaving our origination airport. I did have to laugh a little as the almost powder blue uniforms of the security folks seemed like something from the 1970’s, but they were friendly and efficient so no complaints.
I had about a 3 and a half hour layover in AKL, so a little time to kill. I was hungry for dinner so I ate at the Burger King which was nothing too exciting. I also took a stroll down to gates 15/16 which are quite a walk for a smaller airport. And to my surprise what did I see but an EK A380.
Busy times at AKL
Air New Zealand Flight 2
B744 Seat 42A Pacific Class
Our flight started boarding from Gate 10 around 8:45pm for our 9:30pm departure. It was a full flight and I had some doubts if we’d get out on time given how full. We were a little late, but the flight attendants did a nice job getting everyone settled.
Our venerable 744 rumbled down the runway for the 11 hour flight to LAX. About an hour after takeoff, dinner was served. Again, I don’t remember the other choices, but I had the roasted chicken with potatoes and green beans, a salad, roll and cheese and crackers. For dessert, there was an ice cream cup with raspberry white chocolate ice cream. The meal was ok, but the chicken was quite rubbery (not uncommon for airline chicken). The ice cream was delicious and certainly the best part of the meal. The FA’s did a full drinks run and then came back through multiple times filling up wine glasses. I don’t even know what wine I had (it was white), but didn’t really care. I just wanted something to relax me.
I will say that the seats on the 744 are both good and bad. On the plus side, legroom is pretty good and they have better than average recline. On the down side, the seats are pretty hard and my butt was hurting after a while....maybe I just need more junk in my trunk for cushioning. Either way, for a while I used my pillow as a butt cushion.
The forward cabin in Pacific class.
Where are we??
Since it was dark and there was not much to see, it was time to once again enjoy the IFE. I watched “The Hangover” which was hilarious and then spent a little time playing the classic videogame Tetris. Like many a.netters, I was also transfixed at time by the moving map display. I must admit that the music that NZ plays during the moving map is quite hypnotizing. Finally, at some point after crossing the equator, I fell asleep for a while.
After a few hours of sleep, I was awoken as they lit the cabin for the breakfast service. I chose the pancakes option which was good. Along with the pancakes came a fruit cup, cup of peach yogurt and orange juice. It was a very nice breakfast served by the always friendly and attentive NZ flight attendants.
Welcome to California
We arrived into LAX on-time at about 2:30pm local time. Of course, for me and everyone else, we had gone back in time a bit, but surprisingly I didn’t feel too jetlagged. We disembarked at LAX with them separating those who were entering the U.S. from those continuing on NZ to LHR. Since I was not going to LHR, I headed towards customs/immigration. The customs/immigration process went quite smoothly as lines were very short. I picked up my luggage and was on the curb picking up my hotel shuttle within barely a half hour of arriving.
I took the shuttle to the nearby Sheraton. It’s an ok hotel (not bad for the $80 I paid using Hotwire), though not a lot of good food choices nearby. I ended up just doing room service and going to bed early as I had a 6am flight the next day.
American Airlines 2410
S80 Seat 17A
Since I had used frequent flyer miles for the domestic portion of my trip, I wasn’t able to find any availability on AA’s nonstop LAX-IAD flight; this meant a connection through DFW instead. I arrived at Terminal 4 at about 4:45am for my 6am flight. The check-in line was short, so I dumped by bag off and headed up to security. Security lines were also surprisingly short…I guess nobody really likes these 6am flights. After security, I headed down to the Burger King (which did have a bit of a line) to get some French Toast sticks. I love French Toast sticks even though I know they are terrible for you.
Boarding started around 5:30am and everyone got on our trusty “Super 80.” It was a Monday morning flight, so I would say half the plane was consultants and other business folks heading east. It wasn’t a particularly remarkable flight and I didn’t take many pictures as I was also a little tired. The FA’s provided their usual cold, but efficient service. After flying NZ, I knew AA just wouldn’t compare well. The flight went by fast, but of course no IFE. I dozed off for a while and also read a book.
My Super 80 awaits in the early morning hours
Everything's big in Texas
Soon, we were approaching the center of the AA universe, DFW. We arrived at C32, though it took a while to taxi there as we landed on the other side of the air field. As before in AKL, I had a long layover in DFW of about 3 hours (the price you sometimes pay for using frequent flyer miles). Unlike in AKL, there’s plenty of room to walk in DFW though I think AKL has more interesting spotting. I took the train around and walked through terminals A, B, and D before returning to C where my flight to IAD would depart from. I also picked up lunch in DFW though it was just a sandwich.
This guy is headed for Hawaii
A little something colorful in DFW
The sad empty satellite terminal in E
My chariot awaits
American Airlines 1720
S80 Seat 16A
We were a little late on this flight as it was quite full and they had to gate check some luggage as the overhead bins were full. After getting everyone on board and pushing back from our gate, it appeared our APU had died. They couldn’t get the engines started so they tugged us back into the gate. The pilot came on and to let us know they were looking for a “charge cart.” This took about a half hour until finally they got the engines started. In total, we were about 45 minutes late, though we made some time up in the air.
As before, this was another unremarkable flight. FA’s made one pass through for beverages and food sale and then disappeared….pretty typical for AA coach service.
Finally, we began our approach into IAD where the sun was starting to set. It felt like the entire day had disappeared and all I had done was fly LAX-DFW-IAD. We landed on runway 19R and taxied to B73. I hopped on the people mover nearby and headed back to the historic main terminal to pick up my luggage.
Look who pulled alongside us as we taxied out...you're a long ways from home
Goodbye Texas...it was a nice 3 hours.
The sleepy Potomac River
Tower at IAD
Overall, it was a good trip though I was sad to leave Australia. Air New Zealand has a great product and really seems to take pride in their service. AA was ok, but nothing special as is usually the case.