Has been a long time between drinks for me, flight wise....
A mate decided to get himself hitched & the wedding was planned for Mexico (Playa Del Carmen) - Said mate is German, wife-to-be is American & both live in Melbourne! A good excuse for a trip, so it was down to the local branch of STA Travel to organise some flights.
I 'originally' booked an around the world ticket, MEL-LAX on QF, make my own way to CUN (I booked LAX-LAS on WN for a boys weekend in Vegas, then LAS-CUN on AA, meeting up with the others at DFW on the way down). From Cancun it was off to LHR via ZRH on Swiss, a week in London followed by a few days in Paris before heading to Hong Kong on Swiss for a couple of days, then back home to Melbourne on Cathy. RTW fares were $2500, was just under $3000 all up with the 'internal' flights. However, events meant that things changed from what was originally planned.....
MEL - LAX 26 May 17
Airbus A380-800 'Lawrence Hargrave' VH-OQE.
A 9.15AM flight time meant I had to be at Tullamarine by around 7AM at least, which meant an early start! Got to check in with plenty of time to spare, and was checked in & ready to go airside fairly quickly. There was a bit of a queue for security screening, however the screeners were being fairly thorough. I resisted the duty-free temptations & settled down at the gate with a latte & a paper to wait for boarding. Boarding was reasonably quick, the flight would have been around 90% full. I settled myself down in my window set in row 83, with an empty middle seat, so could strech out a bit!
The flight was good with no issues, except with trying to get some sleep! Service was efficient & friendly, and the economy meals were OK, but nothing special. I ended up getting around 4 hours or so of shut eye all up before we landed in LAX, we had an on time arrival at around 6.30am, it took us around an hour or so to clear immigration, once this was done, it was off to get our bags & continue on, Me & my mate headed off to find the WN terminal for our flight to Vegas, while the bride headed off to STL & her Mum.
LAX - LAS 26 May 17
B737 - 800?
After leaving the TBIT, it was off to find the Southwest terminal. Which ended up taking a while...... Could not find any airport maps, so we decided to find an airport bus. After asking a couple of people, we found the bus stop, which was not clearly marked.... however once on, & we told the driver which terminal we needed, all was good, and it wasn't long til we were at Terminal 2 check in. We had checked in while at the gate in Melbourne, so we were directed to a desk to drop our bags it was straight to TSA screening..... 'Shoes off!', 'Belts off!' Once we'd got undressed, then re-dressed, it was off to the gate. The flight was pretty good for an LCC, being a Vegas flight, there was a party atmosphere on board with passengers & crew, with some memorable banter from the FA's 'What happens in Vegas stays on Facebook', etc. Given the short flight, the FA's did a very quick drink service 'on the house'. I liked the fact that the booze was mid-shelf as opposed to the bottom shelf spirits that would be served by the likes of QF. I decided on a G&T (Tanqueray), and it wasn't long until the descent & the FA's were imploring everyone to 'chug chug chug' their drinks so they could collect the empty cups - try getting away with that on an Australian domestic flight!!
Arrival at McCarran was an interesting experience, poker (slot) machines as soon as you step off the plane, not even sectioned off from the rest of the terminal! It was then off to find a cab to our digs for the next few days, Cesar's Palace...
LAS-DFW 30 May17
DFW-CUN 30 May 17
A few more of the guys met up with us in Vegas, and it was a few days of partying, which doesn't really agree with jetlag! We spent a fair bit of time over the road from Cesar's at Margaritaville, the streetfront bar was great for people watching, and there was some beer pong mixed in (Something that would not be allowed here in Melbourne with our RSA laws). Casino security seemed to be more concerned with making sure everyone was over 21! We also spent a night at XS at Wynn, we did table service, so it was hellishly expensive - around $7000 with 9 of us! Was a great night though, with David Guetta at the DJ booth as well. So it was a bunch of us fighting hangovers who were at the checkin desk at McCarran on a Tuesday morning. The LAS TSA experience was much quicker & easier than than at LAX, and it wasn't long til we were munching on some Burger King at the gate. The interior of the A321 that took us to Dallas seemed fairly tired & the FA's looked equally as worn & tired....
We had a few hours at DFW, the transfer experience was very easy with the trains between the terminals, and we met up with more folks before the final leg to Mexico. The A321 that took us to Cancun was in much better shape than the one we in from Vegas on, and the flight crew were a lot more friendlier. It was a snack service for both flights, which was OK being for both being shortish flights. Immigration & Customs at Cancun was painless, and it wasn't long til we were in our apartment in Playa.
CUN-IAH 8 June 17
We had a great week or so In Playa Del Carmen, seeing some ruins, swimming in caves, and going to our Friend's wedding! With one exception though..... The night before the wedding, I slipped over in a bathroom at the resort where most of our crew were staying - polished marble in a poolside toilet block is not a good idea. I thought I sprained my wrist at first, but ended up having to get the resort Dr to have a look at it - off to the hospital for you!! First Doc thought I had sprained it, but after an xray, they found I'd actually fractured it, so was put in plaster, and was told they wanted to operate on it - umm, I have a wedding to go to tomorrow... After they couldn't get insurance from my travel insurer, I was packed off back to my apartment with a medical report in Spanish & Xrays to email back to my insurers back in Australia, and a prescription for some meds...
My travel insurer decided to cut my trip short & send me back home to Melbourne to get the wrist looked at instead of going on to London, I was not happy at all, but was told it would be 'at my own risk' if I continued on as planned. So I flew out a couple of hours before the flight I was meant to go to London on, was given the choice of flying home via LAX on QF, or via IAH on NZ - I chose the NZ option to avoid having to transit LAX.....
Given I had one arm in a sling, I decided to lighten my carry-on, but didn't count on my suitcase being overweight - It would have cost $160 just for the excess baggage, but the checkin agent suggested I pay an extra $40 to get myself upgraded to business class, so why not! It meant getting a decent meal, sitting up the front & a bigger seat. The flight was quite good, the bigger seat made the difference, and it was a good start to a long trip home. The meal (salmon from memory) was quite good, and the FA's were attentive as well
On arrival at IAH, a Turkish airlines flight had arrived before us, so there was a decent queue at immigration, with the passengers on that flight seeming to be more 'scrutinised'. There were also Amercians in the line behind me who were complaining that they had to go through the primary line instead of being sent straight through..... After an hour or so , the CPB agent wished me luck with my wrist & was on my way. Transiting though IAH was a painless experience compared to LAX, I collected my bag & left it at the internal transfer station, and headed to the adjacent terminal for the NZ flight to Auckland. There was a decent line at the TSA screening for the Intercontinental terminal, with no Global Entry lines operating - there were a couple of folks complaining loudly as to why they were paying the extra money when they had to go through the full screening with everyone else.....
IAH-AKL 8 June 17
AKL-MEL 10 June 17
I got to the gate with 30 minutes or so to spare before boarding - a friend who was a Houston native suggested I give the Pappadeaux a try, but there was no time for that after waiting in CPB & TSA lines.... I got myself a Coke & had just settled myself at the gate, when I was called over the PA to see the gate agents. 'Do you need a wheelchair to board sir?' 'No, I don't think so, I'll be OK'. 'OK, but can you board in the first call with the others needing assitance'.....
My first time on a Triple 7, and my first NZ flight for 11 years. I'd forgotten how good NZ are, it was a great flight, FA's were fantastic, nothing was too much trouble. And they serve South Island wines...... Being a night flight, I managed to get a few hours sleep, and had the middle seat vacant as well. The IFE selection was better than QF as well. Had the CSM come up to me during the flight to ask if I needed a wheelchair when I got to Auckland - no, but thanks for asking!! Arrived at Auckland feeling pretty damn good, considering I'd spent nearly a day in transit. Headed to the international transit screening area for the next flight back home to MEL, and emptied out my pockets, including hanky as was used to the TSA by now. 'Sir, you can put that back in your pocket. Sorry, spent the last 2 weeks having to get used to getting everything screened'.
So it was a couple of hours spent in the terminal at Auckland, having my first decent coffee in a couple of weeks (sorry Starbucks), and trying to avoid buying some Duty Free.
It was another 777 flight, this time on a 300ER, with a good load of folks heading to Melbourne for the weekend. Another in-flight breakfast, and then watching the descent into MEL start over Lakes Entrance & Gippsland.
Clearing Immigration into MEL was painless with the Smart Gate, however it seemed my suitcase did not travel with me..... after some form filling & an assurance that I'd get my bag back I was out in the arrivals hall & on my way home. My bag made it home the next day, complete with a TSA inspection slip inside....
Essendon - Whatever it takes......