After much deliberation of countries, cities, towns and attractions to visit, see and experience, in April 2010 I finally settled on my fourth overseas trip – my second trip to New Zealand. Prior to booking, this had been close to a year in the pipelines, but when it came to booking and spending my travel savings, it was another issue. It had initially been decided on a trip to the USA in September last year but that didn’t happen as I wasn’t saving fast enough, so I used the money I had saved on my first trip to New Zealand in February 2010. I got hooked on New Zealand after this trip, and I subsequently decided to book another trip there to see the New Year in.
Being able to take this trip during Christmas-New Year period was going to be great – it was going to be a great atmosphere in Auckland on New Years, and I was looking forward to seeing a town I hadn’t been to visit on my last trip there – Palmerston North. And one of the highlights was I was going to be on 3 aircraft models and 1 sub-model I hadn’t flown on before – the 767 (-300ER), ATR (-72), A340 (-500) and 737-300. I was looking forward to the trip, and instinctively knew it was going to be a good trip. The flights for this trip involved the following:
December 28 – BNE-AKL, NZ136, utilizing a 767-300ER (first time on a 767)
December 28 – AKL-WLG, NZ367, utilizing a 737-300 (first time on the -300)
December 31 – PMR-AKL, NZ5072, utilizing an ATR-72 (first time on an ATR)
January 1 – AKL-BNE, EK435, utilizing an A340-500 (first time on an A340, and first time on an Airbus)
These flights were chosen on these dates specifically for the aircraft. Not having flown on a 767 before, this gave me a better than 99% chance of getting one. This sounded good to me as my previous 2 attempts to fly on a 767 ended in utter failure, all thanks to Qantas – twice I booked with them for day trips to Sydney, both times when I booked the schedules were showing as a 767, and both times they downgauged me to a 737 (first time was an -800, second time was a -400).
The second flight of this trip involved a short 1 hour domestic hop from Auckland to Wellington. The purpose of heading off to Wellington for 2 nights meant that I had the chance to see a few extra sights that I didn’t get the chance to see when I was on tour in February 2010.
The third flight, from Palmerston North to Auckland gave me the ideal opportunity to try the ATR-72. There had previously been an ATR-72 flying in my home state of Queensland with Macair before they went bankrupt, and unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to fly on it on the Townsville-Mount Isa route it was operating. This flight would give me a good opportunity to compare the ATR-72 to the Q400 which I had previously flown on the BNE-ROK route in December 2008.
The Emirates flight on January 1 was a special flight – it was the last day that Emirates were operating the A340-500 on the AKL-BNE-DXB route, and wanting to fly on this type before it was withdrawn from the route, this trip gave me the ideal opportunity to fly on this magnificent aircraft. Even though this flight was only 3hours 30 minutes, it was plenty long enough to get a taste of this aircraft, its silence, it grace, and the renown Emirates service
Route: Brisbane to Auckland
Carrier: Air New Zealand
Departure Time: 11.15
Departure Gate: 82
Arrival Time: 17.25
Economy Load Factor: 196/206 (95%). Business LF: unsure.
Those winglets are huge!!! 3.4 metres tall, which makes them appear huge from the window seat I had pre-selected. Having flown into Auckland previously sitting in seat 60A of a 747-400, I decided that his time I would select a window seat on the right, with the aim of getting a different view of New Zealand and Auckland on descent and approach.
Having had a gate change roughly 2 hours before departure, it was much of an issue as we were changed from gate 81 to 82. This was due to CZ’s flight to CAN having a late departure as it was still there when my flight arrived from AKL.
CZ A330-200 at Gate 81.
We pushed back at 11.17 on a wet, rainy and humid Brisbane morning, had our long taxi past the domestic terminal to the end of runway 19 for our departure over the Brisbane River for our left turn out over Moreton Bay and towards Auckland.
Goodbye to a wet and rainy Brisbane.
We didn’t get much of a view as cloud cover was blocking the view for fairly much the entire flight. We climbed initially to 37,000 feet and leveled out, then the food service started. We had a choice of meals for lunch on the flight – the hot option being a Ham and Cheese wrap, the cold option being a Thai Beef Salad. Both were served with a bread roll with butter, and white chocolate and raspberry ice-cream. I chose the Thai Beef Salad, and I was surprised by its very distinct lack of spiciness. The ice-cream was full of white chocolate pieces, and was a nice addition to the meal.
After our meal service, we climbed yet again to 39,000 feet, which was roughly mid-way over the Tasman. By this time, all the passengers had eaten, the cabin crew were coming around to collect the rubbish, and we were all content and relaxing for the rest of the flight.
We had strong tail winds during the flight, which afforded us an early arrival – we arrived into Auckland International at 17.15. The weather wasn’t much better than what I had left in Brisbane – wetness and humidity.
We pulled into the gate next to a NZ 747-400, the very same aircraft which flew me on my first flight to New Zealand – ZK-SUJ.
Route: Auckland to Wellington
Carrier: Air New Zealand
Departure Time: 19.00
Departure Gate: 32
Arrival Time: 20.00
Load Factor: 127/133 (95.5%)
This flight marks 2 firsts for me – my first time on a 737-300, and the first time on a domestic flight outside Australia. Having flown roughly 18 return trips domestically within Australia to various places such as SYD, MEL, ADL, HTI, CNS, ROK and CBR, this particular flight was going to be like any other I had flown, just not in my home country.
Being such a short flight of just 1 hour, there wasn’t as much time for proper service by the cabin crew, so only a snack and drinks were served. NZ domestic flights now consist of only this service – a drink (water, with the choice of tea or coffee later in the flight), and a snack. This particular service of NZ467 didn’t have the tea and coffee service because of the turbulence encountered on the route earlier in the day as the weather in Wellington had been bad during the day (winds up to 150kmh, many flights in and out of WLG were cancelled and delayed).
Due to the late arrival of our aircraft into AKL, we pushed back at 19.15 and were underway soon after. We were able to make up 5 minutes during the flight and arrived into WLG at 20.10, where it was lightly raining and cold. The very capable pilots on our flight did a good job bringing the aircraft down with the amount of wind and turbulence that we encountered on approach, and used well less than the 2,000 metres of runway available to us. We departed AKL on runway 23L, and arrived into WLG on runway 16.
I booked this flight in conjunction with flight NZ136 as I wasn’t keen on arriving at midnight as the only direct flights on the day from BNE would arrive after midnight.
Having the connection time of roughly 90 minutes in AKL allowed me plenty of time to connect onto this flight – this involved clearing immigration, collecting my bag, clearing customs, and connecting onto the domestic terminal. Once I stepped off the aircraft, I had clear airport formalities within 10 minutes – I had nothing to declare on inbound passenger card, so I was waved past the x-ray machines and into the arrivals hall to make my way to the domestic transfer desk. My bag was tagged and send through to the domestic terminal while I made my way on foot to the terminal. No sweat.
ZK-NGF as seen on December 31 at Auckland Airport.
Wellington Airport as seen on a fine Wednesday morning from the top of Mount Victoria.
Route: Palmerston North to Auckland
Carrier: Mount Cook Airline, operating for Air New Zealand
Departure Time: 9.40
Departure Gate: 3
Arrival Time: 10.45
Load Factor: 61/68 (89.7%
After having 2 nights in Wellington, I made my way to Palmerston North by bus. The cost difference made the bus an easy choice to travel to this quiet and lovely city.
After having a look at the list of available flights on Air New Zealand on the PMR-AKL flights for December 31, it was decided on flight NZ5072 as this would provide the best departure and arrival times, and for my first flight on an ATR-72.
After having breakfast and making sure my bags were packed, I was off in the taxi on my way to Palmerston North Airport to check in, have breakfast, and make my way to the gate to await my flight to Auckland.
For flights of under 90 seats in New Zealand, no security screening is needed, so after dropping my bag off and eating breakfast, I was straight to the gate. Our aircraft arrived on time from AKL, and another ATR-72 arrived from CHC for its return flight which was due to leave 10 minutes after mine.
Boarding was done via the rear stairs as the baggage was loaded at the front of the aircraft between the passenger cabin and the cockpit. It didn’t take us long to be boarded, and we were under way for our northerly flight to Auckland. The weather was perfect in Palmerston North, and we used runway 25R. After a right turn on climb, we were underway for our northern run past Mt Ruhapehu, Lake Taupo and Hamilton.
Mount Ruapeha, and it’s an active volcano.
We landed into Auckland on time on Runway 23L, and after a short taxi, we were at our stand, disembarking and making our way to the baggage carousel to collect our bags.
The flight was uneventful, and the ATR seemed a tad noisy but still felt very solidly built. The seats were not as comfortable as I was hoping, and the seating arrangement was rather cramped.
Route: Auckland to Brisbane
Departure Time: 18.15
Departure Gate: 3
Arrival Time: 18.45
Economy Load Factor: 190/204 (93.1%). Business and First LF: unsure.
New Years in Auckland was awesome. I decided to head up the Sky Tower to see the fireworks as the hotel I had booked was 3 minutes by foot from there. Having 6.5 hours sleep after getting to bed that night, I checked out of the hotel early, had breakfast, got on the bus to the airport and did some plane spotting while I waited for check-in to open.
Having seen EK flying their A340-500’s over home on descent in BNE, I had come to want to fly on these magnificent planes. It is a shame that EK have now changed their DXB-BNE-AKL-BNE-DXB service to a 777-300ER, but since an opportunity like this comes around once in a lifetime, I decided it would be worthwhile experience the aircraft type before it becomes too expensive.
Although standard fare for A330’s and A340’s, the seating arrangement being 2-4-2, this arrangement felt very comfortable for the long-haul aircraft that the A340-500 is. Having only 14 or 15 spare seats in economy for this leg of the flight, I was one of the lucky passengers to have a spare seat next to me, so I utilized the in-flight entertainment of the neighbouring seat for the forward facing camera while I ate and played a few games on the system. I had plenty of leg room on the flight, and I was able to stretch out to some extent in front of me. It was a very noticeable difference compared to the 737-300, and even more noticeable compared to the ATR-72.
The A340-500 waiting at Gate 3 while being prepped for its flight.
5 Airbus aircraft in this photo – 2x A320 from NZ, 1x A320 from JQ, 1x A340-500 from EK, and 1x A340-300 from LA.
Our flight left Auckland in perfect weather – just a light breeze, very sunny, warm and a smattering of cloud cover. We climbed to 40,000 feet, settled in, and the food service was brought around. We had a choice of Braised Lamb or Roast Cajun Chicken. I chose the Roast Cajun Chicken, and rather enjoyed the meal.
The Tasman as seen from 40,000 feet.
That would have to be the smallest can of Coke I’ve ever had – 150m
We landed into Brisbane 15 minutes early, due to the head winds not being as strong as usual. All the passengers who were continuing on to Dubai were required to disembark as well and take their hand luggage, so all the passengers filed out of the plane, those transiting went through BNE transit, while passengers like myself made their way through to inbound immigration, baggage collection and customs. Within 15 or 20 minutes of walking off the aircraft and with nothing to declare on my inbound passenger card, I was out in the arrivals hall, being welcomed by rain clouds and high humidity.
All in all, I had a great trip to New Zealand, and the flights were well worth it. I will definitely be flying NZ and EK again when travelling between Australia and New Zealand.