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Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:30 pm

This trip was completed in the summer of 2007 after I finished my A-Levels, I wasn’t going to be having a gap year and so a friend and I decided to go for a six week holiday.

Our route was as follows: LHR-SIN-MEL-SYD-AKL-RAR-AKL-LAX-LGB-BOS-JFK-LHR. The first three sections of the trip report were completed a few months ago; I then had a period of inactivity on this site while I settled into university. However, I’ve now decided to write up the rest of the trip and this time, I’m hoping, to a better standard than the last.

The last section of the trip can be found here:
Around the world in Y, part three: SYD-AKL-RAR

This part of the report covers our journey from Rarotonga in The Cook Islands to Los Angeles via Auckland.

Sector: RAR-AKL Sunday 15 July 2007
Flight number: NZ45
Flight time: 4 hours 20 minutes
STD: 16:30
Pushback: 18:31
Rotate: 18:36
Runway: 26
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
Registration: ZK-OKA

After probably the best beach holiday of my life we had to sadly leave The Cook Islands. As a holiday destination I highly recommend Rarotonga and there are several other islands which are only a short flight away and apparently even more stunning. The islands are still relatively undeveloped compared to others in the South Pacific such as Fiji although I don’t know how long this will last. There is such a contrast of scenery from the coral reef and shallow waters to jungle covered mountains, it can really cater for lots of different activities…it reminded me of Lost! The residents of The Cook Islands have an amazing culture which I was completely unaware of, they are also so friendly and relaxed that they really make you feel welcome. Getting a Cook Island driving licence and hiring a scooter is a really fun way of travelling around the island, just being able to pull up anywhere at the side of the road and have an empty and untouched beach with fantastic snorkeling is incredible.

Our first flight today was taking us to Auckland to catch NZ2 to Los Angeles, there was the option of flying direct to LAX on the 767, however as I’m a 777 fan and not keen on the idea of flying for 9 hours with no PTVs we took the longer alternative. We left our hotel at 11:05 to get the 11:17 bus to take us over to the airport, being a Sunday there were only two bus services and the later one got us theretoo late. We arrived at a completely deserted airport exactly at midday and were told that check-in wouldn’t be open for another two hours. Now facilities at Avarua airport are fairly limited and so much of the time was spent trying to catch some more of the South Pacific sun which wasn’t difficult as the whole airport is open air and instead of the usual concrete there’s plenty of lush green grass.
Check-in area
GZ Saab 340 which used to belong to NZ as ZK-EFS…or so I’m told!

As soon as it passed 14:00 numerous buses and taxis turned up and the area was full of tourists and residents leaving the islands on the same flight, the queues for check-in quickly built up and soon the whole airport was buzzing with 300 people. It was the most number of people we had seen all week and wondered where they had all come from. We checked-in as the first two passengers and were given boarding passes for our flight to LAX and our bags were checked all the way through, it was then time to pay the $30 departure tax before we could head through to security.
To Departures

Our inbound aircraft was due to arrive at RAR around 15:20, as we were queuing to pay our departure tax rumours started going around that the flight wouldn’t arrive until 17:10 with a new departure planned for 18:00, this rumour was soon confirmed by the airport staff and was due to “technical issues” on departure from AKL. Our onward flight to LAX was planned to leave AKL at 21:45 so we expected our connection to be quite tight. After passing through security we had the options of a few duty free shops which were located around the edge of the open air “lounge”, there was also an excellent view of the runway so we were able to see the beautiful 777 land.
RAR Departure Lounge

As the arrival time of our aircraft approached all the passengers started to gather by the hedge to watch it land which it did at 17:05.

777-200ER taxi to stand
As time passed Dan and I were getting more concerned about our connection in AKL, we were called for boarding at 18:10. There was no priority boarding for Business or Premium Economy passengers which I would think was an attempt to speed up the turnaround of the aircraft as it was now over 1 hour and 30 minutes delayed. I love walking out to large aircraft like the 777 as you really get to appreciate how big these things really are, we had a chance to stop on the aircraft steps and admire the very large engines (not quite as big as the 77W  biggrin  ). The sun was starting to set and it looked like it was going to be a very nice departure.
Trent 800 engines of the NZ 777-200ER

NZ 777-200ER

As we boarded the aircraft we were greeted by another very friendly and professional crew who directed us to our seats 59D and 59E. There was the opportunity to pass through the Premium Economy cabin which didn’t look very impressive to me; the layout was 3x3x3 and the seats are the same width as Y class, the seats themselves didn’t look as comfortable as what VS have to offer…then again I wouldn’t be complaining if I had one of the seats, I just question whether or not they’re worth the premium paid. Making our way to the back of the aircraft I was pleased to be back on a 777 and even in Y I feel that these aircraft look and feel good, especially with the newish NZ seats and IFE. The seats were quite comfortable and there were quite a few storage “solutions” for easy access to all of your belongings, the legroom was good too but then again I’m only around 5ft 7”
Economy Class

The aircraft was 100% full tonight and according to the hostess this was often the case with the Sunday evening departure from RAR, especially during the winter months and it’s the one of the best times for tourists to visit the islands. Pushback was at 18:31 with a very short taxi to end of runway 26, the flight time tonight was a little over four hours and the Captain announced he was aware many passengers had onward flights and would try and make up time in the cruise. The engines opened up and were pretty loud compared to my experiences on the ol Airbus, but quieter than the roar of the 777-300ER, at 18:36 we were in the air quickly climbing away from the island and heading out to the west for AKL.

The IFE screens were very impressive when compared to the older screens which we used on the SQ 747 for LHR-SIN-MEL, excellent clarity and a good size. I’ve found with some IFE screens in Y that they are almost too large considering how close they can be to your face when the person in front reclines their chair. The system started up shortly after takeoff but experienced a number of technical difficulties which according to the crew was due to everyone being too impatient! It was reset throughout the plane on several occasions before the glitches settled down.

Dinner service started at 19:15 and the two choices were:

  • Chicken and Beef Pie
  • Fish…all the details I can remember!

Due to the lack of notes I made about the food and considering the trip was some time ago all I can tell you is I went for the Pie and it was another very good meal from NZ, I decided to have a bottle of New Zealand wine and managed to get through a couple of glasses… drunk . Our meals were cleared away quickly, around 10 minutes after finishing, and we were offered more drinks but unfortunately there wasn’t any Kapiti to be seen anywhere.

After dinner I turned my IFE back on and started to explore the menus and films on offer, I decided to have a look at the sky map which I was really impressed with, the first time I’ve seen the Rockwell Collins Airshow 4200. The glitches seemed to continue and my screen had to be reset twice within a period of about 20 minutes, my issues were quickly resolved but Dan wasn’t so lucky. His PTV was reset several times before the crew gave up on it and said they wouldn’t be able to fix the problem, the purser came along and offered him $60 in vouchers which was a nice gesture but didn’t prove to be very useful as there was no duty free! Are these problems still an issue with the NZ system? I would have thought they’d rectified any issues they had with it by now but a number of people continued to have problems through the flight. The purser was a really nice guy and very professional, he kept on making regular trips around the cabin informing people who had connections on the flights progress.

NZ 777-200ER Economy Class Cabin

We started our decent into Auckland and were informed by the Captain that we had made reasonable progress in our flight and we were one hour and twenty minutes late. The landing was relatively smooth and during the taxi to the gate the cabin crew asked if all passengers with onward connections could disembark first, this appeared to be 90% of the flight! There were several passengers who ran down the aircraft as they had to get over to the domestic terminal for a flight which was waiting for them…good luck!

STA: 19:30 Still on Monday 16 July 2007
Touchdown: 20:52
Runway: 05L
At the gate: 21:00 – Gate 10

Our transfer was very easy due to short security queues and quite a small terminal, can’t say it would have been the same at LHR! Arriving at the gate for flight NZ2 we realised that really we hadn’t needed to worry what so ever and we had plenty of time! After this first flight we both continued to be very impressed with NZ, especially their long haul service/product which was comfortable and offered excellent IFE and a good service from all of the crew members.

Sector: AKL-LAX Monday 16 July 2007
Flight number: NZ2
Flight time: 10 hours 23 minutes
STD: 21:45
Pushback: 21:56
Rotate: 22:09
Runway: 05L
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Registration: ???

My notes/photos for this section are very limited, mainly due to being very tired.

When we arrived at the gate it was very busy and looked like it was going to be another full flight. Despite this, boarding was conducted very quickly and efficiently and we were soon at our seats 48 D and 48 E. As I was getting into my seat I managed to tear a blister which I had on my leg after I burnt it on the scooter exhaust earlier in the week…this led to a very uncomfortable flight! Having had a seat in the middle of the three centre seats on the 777, being sat in the middle of the 747 felt so different and quite enclosed. The seats were the same as those on the 777 with the same IFE system but it’s amazing how much of a difference the cabin fittings etc. can make to the feel of the aircraft and ones opinion of it! Sat next to me was a young girl who was probably aged about 10 and she was travelling with her Mum, even before we had taken off she was kicking her legs about and was screaming that she was bored and uncomfortable, her Mum didn’t seem to care…this was going to be interesting.

It would seem that the problems we experienced with the IFE on our last flight were experienced by almost all the passengers on this one and the crew announced after about 30 minutes that they were having trouble accessing the system and it was currently unavailable. The rest of the crew made preparations to start the dinner service, our choices tonight were:

  • Roasted lamb with gravy and potatoes
  • Cajun chicken with a tomato basil sauce

Dinner was served after 40 minutes, I had decided to have the chicken and after our last flights we expected the food to be very good, however the chicken was very bland and quite tough. Kapiti ice cream was served though which made up for the poor main course. This crew seemed to be much less attentive and were easily distracted, having asked what I would like to drink they then proceeded to give me something I didn’t order, the 747 may be a much larger aircraft but you got the impression the crew just wanted to get out of there. During dinner it was announced that they were still having problems with the entertainment system despite reseting it but then after a few more attempts it finally started up...after an hour and a half. Dinner was cleared away after just over an hour and a few rounds of tea, coffee and other refreshments were conducted, again in a very rushed manor.

Shortly after the crew cleared away the remaining dinner trays we hit some heavy turbulence over the pacific which was due to tropical cyclones being present in the area, it was about this point that I realised we were going to be passing back over Rarotonga…the direct flight now seemed like a much nicer idea. Settling down in my seat I tried to watch a few films, the system was pretty good and only slowed down once or twice and it didn’t crash. I started to drift off to sleep and was nearly gone but was suddenly kicked by the girl sat next to me, I opened my eyes to find her kicking the chair in front of her and then stretching her legs out into my legroom. Her Mum was asleep and so I politely asked the girl if she would keep her legs settled to which I got a very stern glare, I thought she had listened to me but after about another 20 minutes her legs were kicking mine again and after about five minutes I called a member of the crew to ask if they’d ask her to settle down, which they did and thankfully she listened…for now.

I managed to sleep for about three hours and woke close to Hawaii with a little over three hours left of the flight, I wasn’t sure whether the crew had been conducting drinks rounds while I was asleep but as I had no response from the call bell I got a drink from the galley. After I had been awake for an hour or so the cabin lights were turned on and the young girl next to me started making a noise again about wanting it to be dark so she could sleep. The whole IFE system was reset again and there was no result which resulted in the crew instructing us not to use it and that a technician would be waiting for the aircraft at LAX to try and fix it before the onward flight to LHR. Breakfast was served with an hour and 30 minutes left and our options were:

  • Chicken frittata
  • Apple and bacon French toast
  • Both served with a fruit roll, orange juice and yoghurt

I opted for the apple and bacon French toast which wasn’t too bad and definitely filled a gap. During breakfast the crew came round with US immigration cards for us to fill out and this is where my gripes about the NZ uniform (if you’ve read my previous posts you’ll understand) reached their peak (I honestly don’t complain that much). I saw a relatively old man walking down the other isle and he had his first few shirt buttons undone with a hell of a lot white chest hair poking out which was nicely complimented by his golden chain…it wasn’t until I saw him holding immigration cards that I realised he was a member of the crew. Breakfast was cleared efficiently and we began to decent into LAX

I managed to get a glimpse out of the window as we approached the airport and was shocked to see a thick blanket of smog covering the city, I had heard things about it before but didn’t realise it would be so obvious. We touched down at 14:37 just a couple of minutes after our scheduled time and had quite a wait on the tarmac of about 20 minutes. Upon leaving the aircraft we made our way to immigration where there was quite a substantial queue due to a VS flight arriving just before ours so we were at the back, it was hard to judge whether the agent at LAX was nicer than the one at MEL I tried to get a smile out of her but failed miserably. By the time we made it to the baggage carousel our flights bags were already there but ours were no where to be seen, after 45 minutes of waiting we finally realised that our bags probably hadn’t made the connection in AKL, the ground staff soon confirmed this and promised we’d have our bags by 12:00 the following day. So we headed out into LAX to continue our journey.

The second leg of the journey from RAR wasn’t as impressive as the first and the difference in quality of service was incredible. My negative image of the flight was probably tarnished by the girl that I had to sit next to and I was also incredibly tired so I expect I was quite grouchy  angel Overall I was impressed with NZ and wouldn’t have any complaints about using them again for a long haul flight again, I would aim to get on the 777 and hope that the IFE problems would have been resolved.

Next: LGB-BOS on B6 and BOS-NYC on the Acela Express
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:33 pm

Excellent TR! ANZ seems to be so great, I wish I could fly once on one of their 777
Flown:717,727,732,733,734,735,738,73H,742/744/748,752,753,762/2ER/763/3ER,772/77E/773/77W, 788, 789, DC8,DC10,E190,E195,MD83,MD88, L1011, A3B2,A319,A320-100/200,A321,A332/A333,A343,A388
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:13 pm

Quoting LY777 (Reply 1):
Excellent TR! ANZ seems to be so great, I wish I could fly once on one of their 777

Thanks very much. The 777 flight really was enjoyable

I've notice a few mistakes in the TR, I did check it all before I posted but missed a few bits out so my apologies.
"My negative image of the flight was probably tarnished by..."
*My impression of the flight was probably tarnished by...*
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Thu Feb 07, 2008 11:15 pm

Nice pics and videos. Plus the scenery at RAR was beatiful
Have you kissed a 777 today?
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Fri Feb 08, 2008 12:07 am

Unbelievable picture of the setting sun and reflection against the 777!

Great report!
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:14 am

What an excellent report. I must say that when I flew ANZ across the pacific I found them to be one of the most professional and friendly staff that I have ever come across.
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:06 am

Great report, pity the crew on the 744 was less attentive than all your other flights. Hope they get this IFE stuff fixed soon
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:18 am

Burning your leg on the scooter exhaust is so common, it's known to us Air NZ crew as the 'Rarotongan Tattoo' - lotsa pasengers have one!  Wink

We always try to complete the service on NZ2 as quickly as possible as most passengers just want to get to sleep to try and get their bodies in sync with the time changes. I suspect on your flight the 'rushing' was increased due to the flight deck warning the crew about upcoming turbulence. . It can get very bad at times approaching or overflying the Islands and, with our particular method of delivering tea and coffee, has the potential to get dangerous. And, the final reason - I checked your flight, and it was in fact operating one crew member short that day (NZ2 on the 16Jul07). We only have 14 crew as standard, which is less than almost every other airline in the world, so losing one makes a big difference.

Glad you enjoyed your flights!
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:18 pm

Quoting ZKSUJ (Reply 6):
Great report, pity the crew on the 744 was less attentive than all your other flights. Hope they get this IFE stuff fixed soon

Very true and I wonder if you would have been happier on the 767 2 3 2 combination. Well at least you got to fly on a 772ER.

Never be afraid to stand up for who you are.
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:19 pm

the picture of the side of the plane in the sunset is AMAZING!
"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." -- Douglas Adams
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Fri Feb 08, 2008 9:12 pm

Thanks for the comments

Quoting JetSetter629 (Reply 4):
Unbelievable picture of the setting sun and reflection against the 777!

Quoting Dimoko (Reply 9):
the picture of the side of the plane in the sunset is AMAZING!

Thank you, I really like that photo and tried to put on the database but it was rejected...  Sad

Quoting TG992 (Reply 7):
We only have 14 crew as standard, which is less than almost every other airline in the world, so losing one makes a big difference.

Wow, only 14 crew? I flew with MH on a 747 early last year and a member of crew told me they usually have 19/20 crew.
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Sat Feb 09, 2008 2:37 am

I was on Rarotonga and Aitutaki in 2006. I also flew Air New Zealand. I took this route:

Stavanger - London - Los Angeles - Auckland - Papeete - Rarotonga - Aitutaki - Papeete - Auckland - Sydney - Aucland - Los Angeles - London - Oslo - Stavanger

Something like that

I had to do a uturn to get to Sydney though... I wanted Syndey insted of days in Auckland.

Air New Zealand used the 767 back then from Aucland to Papeete and Rarotonga and back.

On this trip I flew:

New Zealand 747 400, 767, Airbus 320

Air Rarotonga: Saab 340

SAS: 737

Air New Zealand is great. The only airline where I have actually enjoyed the food....

[Edited 2008-02-08 18:52:56]
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Sat Feb 09, 2008 10:02 am

Nice report man, great pics too! That 777 Raro side shot as you are about to step on the plane is just stunning. Shame about the minor inflight issues.

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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Sun Feb 10, 2008 2:25 pm

Great TR

The pics and videos are really good.

NZ seems to be a good carrier.

Thank you for sharing

Work Hard, Fly Right
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RE: Around The World In Y, Part Four: RAR-AKL-LAX

Sun Feb 10, 2008 7:58 pm

Very nice report, anotehr good read.

The beach picture in RAR is just stunning, I'd love to visit thete one day.

Shame you got stuck next to that nasy child on the NZ2 flight, children can be just horrible at times.

Quoting JetSetter629 (Reply 4):
Unbelievable picture of the setting sun and reflection against the 777!

- Quite agree, a great picture.


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