Airline: United Airlines
STD/ATD and STA/ATA: 8.27am/8.27am and STA 9.24am/9.04am
Route: DTW – DEN
Photo © Manas Barooah
After arriving at the airport and saying farewell to the people I was staying with it was time to check-in for the return trip home. After waiting inline for less then 2mins, my turn came for checking in using the self check-in machines, a message requiring further assistance popped up and one of the check-in agents quickly came and helped. After checking my passport with my travel details, I was told that she was waiting for me to check-in as I’ve been given an upgrade to First Class. Once getting my bags tagged to WLG it was time to clear security. After a short wait I passed security and was on my gate to gate D4. While passing gate D5 I spotted a UA B752 boarding for Orange County. Boarding was just starting when I arrived at the gate, so it was a direct line to the red carpet line to board. After a cheerful smile from the gate agent and after the gate agent attached a green coloured security checked carry on luggage tag to my carry on bag I was down the ramp and onto the aircraft. Once on-board I was asked if I wanted an orange juice or water, which I decided to have the orange juice which was quickly given to me. Once boarding had finished the door remained open for around 10mins while the final paper work was completed then the announcement was made that all mobile phones and electronic equipment must now be switched off as the door is closed. With the click of the door locking into place and the bells from the gate being moved back, the CRJ was pushed back and we made the quick trip to the runway for a 2nd in departure for take off. The Orange County B752 was first in-line but we took off before it did. Once airborne and the seat belt sign was switched off, the FA came around and took our orders. Todays options were beverages and a snack box. I decided to take the snack box which contained a medium sized packet of chips, dipping cheese, bowl of fruit and a chocolate bar. The snack box came in a prepared carton with the snacks neatly placed beside each other. After finishing the snacks and having the empty box quickly removed I nodded off till just before the descent into Denver started.
After landing we quickly taxied over to a hard stand and the pilot came on over the PA and announced a 20min wait for our gate to become available. After 15mins we were able to taxi to our waiting gate to disembark.
Airline: United Airlines
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Class: Economy Plus
STD/ATD and STA/ATA: 5.34pm/6.32pm (finally entered runway at 7.12pm) and 7pm/8.45pm
Route: DEN – SFO
After spending a long day at DEN all I wanted to do was get on the aircraft and get to SFO, but that plan nearly didn’t work. Problems started to begin at 5pm when our departure gate was changed from B29 to B21. At 5.10pm our departure time was pushed back to 6pm and then at 5.30pm the time was pushed back to 6.32pm. Fianlly at 5.50pm our aircraft arrived, and some passengers breathed a sigh of relief. Gate 21s departure board informed us that the delay was due to a MX issue on the original A319! When it became obvious to me that my connecting flight was going to become either a missed flight or a VERY tight connection I decided to ask the gate agents at the podium what was our new ETA in SFO. I was informed of a possible time if everything went to plan (which it later didn’t) and to make my connection easier, the gate agent upgraded me to Economy Plus from my orginial seat at 13F. Finally at 5.15pm boarding started and it soon became obvious that this was going to be a full flight. Much to the FA’s surprise everyone boarded quickly and less then five carry- on bags had to be stored in the cargo hold which certainly enabled a quicker departure. After push back my two neighbours and I started talking and even thou we were all obviously going to be affected by a further up-coming delay we all managed to joke about the delays and even clapped when we finally managed to take off. Once we left the gate the pilot came over the PA and announced a further delay. ATC had just changed the runway arrival/departures which was going to result in delays of up to 20-30mins as all the flights that had left the gate before us were required to back track to the new runways. As a result the aircraft started to back up behind each other. Once we started to taxi to the runway, passengers started cheering and when we started the take off roll some even started clapping. Once the seatbelt sign was taken off an announcement came shortly afterwards about todays snack/drink options. Once the snack service started, nearly everyone seemed to be hungry judging by the amount of passengers purchasing snack boxes. IMHO the ‘classic’ snack box for $6 is really good value. My seat neighbour purchased the healthy option for $7 which included a $1 donation from each box sold to the Feeding America programme. The healthy option certainly looked like a waste of money judging by the contents of the box, or should I say the lack of contents. The FA’s managed to get throu the cabin in good time considering how many passengers were purchasing snack boxes. During the flight the FA’s completed 3 more times beverage services. Before descending into SFO, an announcement was made for connecting passengers gates and an announcement was also made for all passengers connecting to NZs AKL and UA’s Portland service to ring the call button. Once all the echos of the bell ringing had finished, a request was made to the other passengers to let the NZ and Portland passengers disembark first. Once at the gate the worst affected passengers all lined up and as soon as the door was opened we all started the mad dash to our next flights.
What felt like a long run took less then 5mins to reach NZs departure gate (gate 93) from the arriving UA flight gate. Once the gate agent was checking me in, he quickly radioed the ground handlers to cancel the removal of my bags which arrived on an earlier flight from DEN.
Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
STD/ATD and STA/ATA: 9pm/9.30pm and 5.15am/5.15am
After trying to catch my breath at the gate after running up and down stairs getting to the gate, I was allowed to board and quickly settled into my seat. Shortly afterwards, one of Business FA’s offered me the pre-departure drinks which I happily accepted an Orange Juice. With so many passengers connecting to NZs flight from the delayed DEN service, the flight was naturally delayed till all the passengers and luggage were loaded. Just before 9.30pm the doors were closed and push back started at 9.30pm. The taxi lasted for around 10mins and then just before we entered the runway, the aircraft stopped for a few minutes before taking off. Once the seatbelt sign had been removed, the FAs came around shorlty afterwards to take our dinner orders. Tonights dinner options was roughly the same as the AKL-LAX sector, but here is what I had for tonights flight. For pictures of the dinner, please read part 1 of the trip report in the link at the start.
Starter: Cured and seared tuna with salad rataouille and lobster dressing
Bakery: Garlic bread, black olive bread and wholegrain sourdough bread
Main course: Pan seared Pacific Snapper with olive, tomato, fennel and capsicum compote, with spinach and linguine pasta, with Reisling wine
Dessert: gourmet ice cream dessert of strawberry and pineapple coconut ice cream with chocolate almond wafer with dessert wine
Cheese and fruit
Coffee, tea, hot chocolate
After finishing a very nice and filling dinner, it was time to convert my seat into a bed and continue watching movies till I fell asleep.
After getting several hours sleep it was nearly time for breakfast, so I decided to continue watching movies in bed. The pre-breakfast drinks came around afterwards and I elected to have a berry smoothie. Shortly afterwards the FAs came around and made the table so it was time to convert my bed back into a seat. Today for breakfast I had:
Muesli with fruit and youghurt and a hot croissant.
After breakfast it was back to the movies with crew constantly coming around helping passengers and the Air New Zealand’s in-flight Concierge was also frequently walking throu the cabin helping passengers with information on destinations in New Zealand and Australia. The concierge is also available for help with bookings. Around 30mins before landing the pilot came on over the PA and announced our descending to land was starting in 10mins. As usual the mass movement to the toilets started and packing up our things before the seatbelt sign came back on and the FAs started handing out Air New Zealand’s lollies. Around 20mins later while looking towards the window, all I could see was fog and cloud, but then there was a thud and the brakes came on and we slowly rolled onto the taxiway and taxied towards the terminal. During the taxi an announcement came for passengers connecting to Air NZs connecting Christchurch flight which also departs from the International terminal. Once we arrived at the gate it was a short wait to start disembarking and once inside the terminal the only view we had outside was of heavy fog. After quickly clearing customs it was a short walk to baggage claim. While waiting for the bags to arrive, passengers from Air NZs YVR and Beijing flights started to arrive at baggage claim and shortly the lines at MAF Quarantine screening started the build up.
Once outside in the arrivals hall it was time to head to the domestic transfers desk. After a long wait I noticed the Premium/Koru/Star gold customers line was empty so I quickly changed lines. After showing my Koru Club card I was given my new domestic flight boarding pass and it was time to walk over to the domestic terminal.
After a short walk to the NZ domestic terminal it was a direct line to security screening and off to the Domestic Koru Club lounge. After a refreshing shower I quickly grabbed a drink and found a nice quiet spot beside a window and pulled out my laptop and logged onto the internet. Soon afterwards announcements started to come over the PA system announcing delays and cancelled regional flights due to the fog at AKL. My next flight was announced for boarding soon afterwards so it was time to say goodbye to Auckland and head to the gate for boarding.
Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: Boeing 737-300
Class: Economy Space +
STD/ATD and STA/ATA: 7.30am/8am and 8.30am/8.45am
Due to the fog and low visibility operations, domestic services were being delayed to allow International services arrivals/departures first priority. Once all passengers were on board the doors were closed at the gate was removed from the aircraft. The pilot came on over the announcement system and announced a delay due to the low visibility operations. 30mins late the flight was pushed back and NZs very own safety video started playing. Once at the runway, take off was quick with a turn heading south. Once at cruising altitude the seatbelt sign was removed and the FAs quickly got the breakfast service started. Since this flight was a weekday service with a peak hour departure the airline offers a breakfast service with options of muesli and yoghurt or a muffin. After choosing the muffin, a beverage service was followed shortly afterwards by water, tea or coffee. Nothing really happened on this flight and around 20mins before landing our descent started and the seatbelt sign came on. Once landed it was a short taxi to the gate and disembarking started.
United Airlines: Compared to the experience with UA in the other trip report, this return flight was a lot better. The two free upgrades at DTW and DEN and the very helpful crew on the DEN-SFO really helped. Check-in was quick and easy. The snack boxes were value for money. Total score 10/10
Air New Zealand: The really helpful gate agents at SFO and amazing crew on NZ7 who certainly went above and beyond the call of duty was awesome with the delayed DEN flight. Total score 10/10