Emirates by AussiePomm, on Flickr
As I had a bucket load of Skywards Miles about to expire, it was my birthday, I decided to head across to Auckland for a weekend of spotting, with a target in mind, ZK-OAB, The All Blacks A320.
In my planning of this short trip, I asked a mate if he would like to come with me for the weekend, to experience EK and to also experience the mammoth, A380; both were firsts for him!
Also departing on the same day was another mate, although he was travelling on SQ to SIN and onto SGN. Originally, we were to depart first, closely followed by NW, but alas, in typical A3latey style, our inbound flight was delayed so we got to see NW off first!
Check-in and the Emirates Lounge
Arrival at the airport saw us go direct to the First Class Check-in counter, a benefit of Gold Status. Check-in was painless here this morning, and on the bottom of the boarding card was our entrance to The Emirates Lounge located on the arrivals level just near gates 57-59. Clearing immigration was also somewhat painless, thanks to an Express Card, and we headed straight for the lounge! Entering into the lounge we were officially welcomed by the staff on the front counter and we got some seats close to the window to see the passing traffic. There wasn't that many people in this morning, so it was somewhat all to ourselves, and there was a vast array of food items and drinks available. A pre-departure breakfast was pleasant indeed!
Emirates Lounge - Sydney
Emirates Lounge Sydney Entrance by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Inside Emirates Lounge
Emirates Lounge Sydney by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Breakfast Emirates Lounge by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Emirates Lounge SYDNEY by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Emirates Lounge SYDNEY by AussiePomm, on Flickr
18 March 2011 EK412 (A6-EDC) SYD-AKL A388 'Y Class'
Arrival at Gate 57, we saw a lot of people, including the Flight Crew. I went up and asked if it would be at all possible to visit the Flight Deck upon arrival into AKL, to which they said for sure!
Boarding was easy, Gold Status thank you, and we got to our seat, I was in 50K, whilst JL was in-front in 49K (a window each). We taxied out to runway 16R and in no time at all, we were rolling. Due to cloud, there was a little bump here and there, but nothing to bad and we were soon above the clouds. At this point, the cabin supervisor came over an introduced himself to me and welcomed me back... I was asked IF I needed anything to let him know and at the same time he handed me an express card to clear immigration upon arrival into AKL. Nice! Flight time today we were told would be just over 2.5 hours, so we settled back and enjoyed the flight. Breakfast wasn't to far away, and I had the Cheese Omelette, Mushrooms and a Pepper (Capsicum) Sauce. Also on the tray was a Croissant, Juice and a Fruit Salad.
Onboard experience - EK A380
Cheese Omelette Mushrooms by AussiePomm, on Flickr
After breakfast, we went for a walk, and we stood at the very rear of the cabin for a little bit. There was a lovely Scottish lass as a cabin crew we got chatting to, and when asked if it would be possible to have a look in the crew rest area, she happily obliged (but no photos)! It was a cramped little area, I think there was about 9 bunk beds in there, but who cares as long as you're there to sleep, right? It is also only used on the longer DXB/SYD/DXB leg! EK have now also changed the way crew are managed on these flights. When I first flew with them a couple of years ago, crew would fly into SYD and a 24 hour rest, then do the AKL return Shuttle and a 24 hour rest then return to DXB. However, now they have an additional 24 hour rest in AKL!
Crew Seat by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Arriving into AKL
AKL Arrival Cloud by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Our arrival into AKL was through a fair bit of cloud, and was a little rock 'n' roll along the way, and we arrived on 23L with only a small 'thud', however, we also bought the rain with us, and as soon as we arrived at the gate, it POURED down!!! We waited for almost all passengers to leave, and we got a quick trip upstairs to the First Class area, including the suites, and then it was onto the flight deck. Deplaning and clearing immigration was also painless, and before long we were in the arrivals hall looking for Europcar to collect our ride.
A6-EDC Economy Interior by AussiePomm, on Flickr
A6-EDC Mid Galley by AussiePomm, on Flickr
A6-EDC First Shower by AussiePomm, on Flickr
A380 Left Seat by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Auckland City & Rotorua
After earlier email discussions with local spotter, I had booked the nearby Bella Vista Express hotel. We dumped bags and then headed straight back to the airport to get acquainted with the spotting area (Puhinui Rd) we saw whilst on short finals. It was an easy location to get to, and offered some great potential which was later proven! BUT, as the rain was still falling, and we had to meet DR for drinks/dinner, we headed back to the hotel.
Shortly, our ride (DR in the ghastly yellow Ford Falcon NOT to be missed) arrived and we were taken into Auckland City for some drinks at the Princess Wharf, before heading to the Angus Steakhouse for some dinner. Now, whilst IN New Zealand, I went for the Rack of Lamb, whilst JL had a 1.3kg steak and DR had an Eye Fillet, but the meals were fantastic! A great night of chatting, food and drinks, thanks DR for your hospitality and for the lift!
Dinner & Auckland
Lamb Rack - YUMM
Lamb Rack by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Angus Steak House Auckland by AussiePomm, on Flickr
V8 Super Car
V8 Supercar by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Saturday 19 March 2011 Spotting Day
Saturday morning was an early wake-up and we hit the restaurant for breakfast, or so we thought... It was a breakfast, of sorts - cereals, coffee/tea and pastries, where's the eggs, bacon etc? So we had a quick bite to eat and then headed for the airport as ZK-OAB was to have a 7am departure! We got to the carpark, and then headed over to the multi-story carpark and set up just in time to see it depart. It was dark still, light was difficult but, I got it all the same... Oh well, I will see what happens I thought!
First Sighting ZK-OAB
ZK-OAB by AussiePomm, on Flickr
We then headed across to the Golden Arch's for something a little more substantial (if it ever can be) and then across to Puhinui Rd spotting park. It is a great location with a tiered carpark arrangement and bins for rubbish. About the only thing it is missing is a toilet, but with some bushes just to the rear, that makes up for it! We spotted here almost all day, and there was some great things to get, but by the end of the day, I was SO over anything ANZ!
Spotting NZ744 by AussiePomm, on Flickr
ZK-LGF of 'Great Barrier'
ZK-LGF by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Better shot of ZK-OAB
ZK-OAB (2) by AussiePomm, on Flickr
ZK-OAB by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Korean HL7488 B744
HL7488 by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Cathay B-HXJ A343 we don't get this type from CX in SYD
B-HXJ by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Air Vanuatu YJ-AV1 B738
YJ-AV1 by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Jetstar VH-EBE A332 love the width of the wings in this shot...
VH-EBE by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Emirates A6-EDD A388
A6-EDD by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Ford Falcon GT
Ford GT by AussiePomm, on Flickr
We headed back into Auckland City via Parnell (where I've stayed before) in order to get a silhouetted photo of the city skyline with the setting sun. As the large full moon was rising, we headed over the Harbour Bridge so as we could try and get a shot of it over the city, that failed, so we then headed a little north to get a night shot of the city of Auckland.
Sunset behind Auckland City
AKL Sunset by AussiePomm, on Flickr
19032011 Moon AKL by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Auckland from the North Shore
AKL Night by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Sunday 20 March 2011 - Rotorua
Sunday was a fantastic morning, and we hit the road early after checking out. It was to be about a 3 hour drive down, and a coffee stop along the way helped. Arrival into Rotorua was a cool morning, and I got to the visitor center to collect tickets easily enough. The day was to be an adventure day, with the Skyswing and luge rides to be had! Both of which were fantastic!
Arrival and Check-in - Emirates Lounge
Another three hour drive back and we were back into Auckland airport filling up the Hilux with diesel and returning back to Europcar. Checking in was again, quick and easy and with the express immigration counter at the EK check-in desk for First, Business and Skywards GOLD, that was also an easy process! A visit to the Emirates Lounge in Auckland was also a very pleasant experience, but with no windows to look through, a VERY full lounge as well, I found it a little disappointing. Great selections of food/drinks were on hand (of course) but I just found the ambiance a little off-putting!
Dinner Emirates Lounge
EK lounge AKL by AussiePomm, on Flickr
20 March 2011 EK413 (A6-EDM) AKL-SYD A388 'J Class'
Our flight was called and we headed over to the gate. One of EK's newest A380's was sitting at the gate. This time though, we were to head upstairs for the Business experience, seats 18A for JL and 20A for me! Again, I was welcomed back by the CSM, and we were served pre flight drinks and nuts. Business Class seats were very comfy!
EK A380 20A by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Pre Flight Nuts and Drink
B&C with Nuts by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Menu's were handed out prior to departure and soon we would taxi out to runway 05R for departure. Takeoff roll seemed long, and once airborn, was bumpy until through clouds in the area. I was able to get a shot of the spotting area we used the day before as well!
AKL Spooters Park by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Looking back at AKL
AKL Overview by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Seatbelt signs were soon off and the cabin crew were taking orders for the dinner service. I had the Smoked Salmon Entree, Prawns and Lemongrass Cyrry with Rice and Veges and the White Chocolate Mousse for dessert.
Smoked Salmon Entree by AussiePomm, on Flickr
Prawns Lemongrass Sauce with Rice Veges by AussiePomm, on Flickr
White Chocolate Mousse by AussiePomm, on Flickr
As the sun was now setting, it was time to go to the Bar (as you do on an EK A380 Business Class) for a drink and a chat...
Sunset over the Tasman Sea by AussiePomm, on Flickr
EK Sky Bar
EK A380 Business Bar by AussiePomm, on Flickr
I went back to my seat, another drink, and then I actually got some sleep... Soon though, it was time to start descending into Sydney, and we actually tracked out over the Western Suburbs (over my house) before lining up for a 16R arrival. It was wet, we could see that on the monitors (Tail Cam) and through the window, and it seemed as though we were approaching at a bit of a funny angle... We hit the runway with an almighty THUD, one of, if not the HARDEST landings I have ever experienced...
Deplaning and clearing Immigration, was again relatively painless with an Express Card, and before too long, our ride was waiting to drive us home... All up, a great weekend away, great flights and spotting and great company!
Hope you enjoy the read, the pics/vid, and I hope it wasn't TOO long, sorry if it was!
Previous Trip Reports
SYD To LHR (via NRT & SVO & HKG) Pics 20/01/2012