Air New Zealand NZ176
Wednesday October 24, 2007
Perth (PER/YPPH) - Auckland (AKL/NZAA)
Duration: 6h20, 3323 mi
Departure: 18:25 (scheduled) 18:15 (actual)
Arrival: 05:45+1 (schedule) 05:52+1 (actual)
Seats: 3E/F (business class)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-319/ER ZK-NCL
We arrived at Perth International at around 4pm to find a pleasantly short queue at business class check-in for NZ176 to Auckland and the start of our holiday. We were issued boarding passes for seats 3E and 3F, the middle seats in the 2-2-2 configuration of Air New Zealand's 767s. I had reserved these seats only a few weeks before, and there weren't any window seats available. It didn't really matter since the entire flight would be in darkness.
We went through immigration and security (again with short queues) and had our first experience of the ridiculous liquids rule that plagues international air travel today. But one must try not to be annoyed by these things. My wife decided we should browse through the overpriced duty free shops for a while, and then it was into the Qantas Club to wait for our flight. I found it unusual that there was no signage indicating the Qantas Club was available for Air New Zealand passengers. The lounge is fairly small but it was quiet, and there was a good variety of drinks and snacks available. The main thing I don't like about the Qantas Club at Perth International is that it's fully enclosed, so you don't get to watch the activity on the tarmac while you wait.
We boarded on time and found our seats - business class was fully loaded with 24 passengers. We were offered pre-departure drinks so I had an orange juice while my wife had a champagne. This was a clever decision on my behalf, because five minutes later they were collecting the glasses and my wife had to finish her drink in a hurry. Air New Zealand's safety demo wasn't memorable, which is a good thing in my opinion. I'm flying Qantas a lot less than I used to but I can still remember most of their safety video word for word (subtly every aeroplane is different - that's why you need to watch this demonstration). And I was really over the LAN video after seeing it for the 14th time. So Air New Zealand is good.
Photo © Neville Murphy-Aviation Images Australia
Our departure was on runway 03 like most afternoon departures out of Perth, just as it was starting to get dark. Not long after take-off we were starting to smell things being prepared in the galley, so it was almost time for my favourite part of any business class flight. For dinner I had:
- Tasting plate of assorted seafood with Thai style salad and chilli lime dressing.
- Braised lamb shank with rosemary glaze, kumara mash, courgette batons and capsicum ragout.
- Gourmet icecream dessert of strawberry and chocolate with vanilla and almond wafers.
- A selection of fine cheese.
All of that accompanied by a variety of fresh breads and delicious New Zealand wines. Great food, and excellent service.
The business class seats on Air New Zealand's 767s aren't particularly modern, but they are spacious and comfortable for sitting in. I watched a movie on the in flight entertainment system, which was a small personal screen that comes out of the arm rest. It was difficult to work out which movies were on which channels (there were about 6 being shown) because although they are described in the magazine, you don't know which of the listed movies are being shown and there is no indication of the channel numbers. This is definitely something that Air New Zealand could do better!
The seats are less suited for sleeping than they are for sitting. They recline to 60 degrees (according to the website) but the footrest seems to get in the way no matter whether you have it deployed or not. I didn't really feel like sleeping anyway because it was still early in Perth, but knew I should try because we had a full day ahead in Auckland and had to acclimatise to the time change. So sleep was difficult in business class, but it was definitely better than being down the back!
Air New Zealand amenities kit
After managing to get some sleep for maybe an hour, the lights were turned on again for breakfast, still over an hour from our destination. I think this is really very silly - it's 11:40pm in Perth and 4:40am in Auckland; neither of which are breakfast time. I can't remember what I had for breakfast, but I don't think it was anything remarkable. It was, however, accompanied by a very nice juice which is always a good start to a day.
Really the main problem with this flight is the timing. Obviously a daytime flight would be preferable, but even leaving a couple of hours later in the evening would make a huge difference. It's probably a difficult flight to schedule commercially.
There was the hint of an impending sunrise as we flew over Auckland, and then turned around to land on runway 05. We got through immigration nice and fast (being at the front of the queue helps) with some brief questioning about why we were spending so little time in New Zealand (but no passport stamp this time). I guess there aren't too many people who go there for a stopover. Then we used the "Airbus" to get into the city (NZ$15 each - much cheaper than a taxi) and checked into the Stamford Plaza at 7:30am for a well-earned sleep.
Air New Zealand NZ40
Saturday October 27, 2007
Auckland (AKL/NZAA) - Papeete (Faa'a) (PPT/NTAA)
Duration: 5h00, 2544 mi
Departure: 01:45 (scheduled) 01:48 (actual)
Arrival: 07:45-1 (scheduled) 07:50-1 (actual)
Seats: 2J/K (business class)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-319/ER ZK-NCI
Unfortunately the Airbus doesn't run late at night, so we had to take a taxi from the city centre at the cost of NZ$53.03. Ouch! Air New Zealand has a separate premium check-in area at Auckland, which is great. There was no queue at all and we were able to sit down while completing the check-in formalities. They took our money for the departure tax (still not included in the ticket price - to be fixed later this year) and gave us the paperwork for getting through immigration. There is a dedicated immigration officer for passengers, but then it's straight into the common security line which was slow.
The lounge was quite pleasant but only had a view of the inside of the terminal building. It was also fairly busy despite being late due to a delayed 747 that should have left well before we did. We made use of the showers and the PCs (after a lengthy wait) but really we just wanted to get on board and get some sleep. Eventually boarding was called (just after the delayed 747) and we made ourselves comfortable in 2J/K, next to a window this time. Just after boarding we saw the 747 push back from the gate next to us... about five minutes later we saw it return to the gate. I wouldn't like to have been on that flight.
Photo © Warren Williams
Our own push back was pretty much on time. Shortly after take-off a three course supper was on offer - my wife had a little, I chose to sleep. Somehow the seats we found uncomfortable for sleeping on our previous flight became significantly better when we were actually tired - funny that! But this also means I remember very little of the flight itself. We were woken shortly before arriving in Tahiti after a good sleep. There was a quick breakfast service, and soon we were coming in over the reef to land at Tahiti Faa'a International Airport.
Photo © Stéphan TESSEDE
There are no aerobridges in Tahiti. I found it quite novel disembarking from an aircraft as large as a 767 via the stairs. The only other international aircraft on the tarmac when we arrived was an Air Tahiti Nui A340... I would have preferred to fly with them over Air New Zealand but they never had any award flight availability. Entering the terminal there was a band playing Polynesian music and we were each given a frangipani flower. Getting through immigration was pretty quick (we just had to show our return ticket) but that was mainly because we were at the front of the queue. It seemed to slow down dramatically after we went through!
Once we collected our bags we went through to the main area of the terminal. It was very open (no air conditioning) and seemed somewhat basic. I got some money out of a machine and we both had a drink of juice at the cafe while we waited for check-in to open for our next flight. I remember the woman working at the cafe being angry that I made her break a 100,000F note! But surely that happens all the time if that's all the machine gives you.
Air Tahiti VT463
Friday October 26, 2007
Papeete (Faa'a) (PPT/NTAA) - Bora Bora (Motu Mute) (BOB/NTTB)
Duration: 0h50, 161 mi
Departure: 10:10 (scheduled) 10:32 (actual)
Arrival: 11:00 (scheduled) 11:17 (actual)
Seats: 7A/B (economy class)
Aircraft: Aerospatiale ATR-72-500 F-OHJS Maheata
Once we finished our drink we wandered over to the Air Tahiti check-in area to find that our flight had opened. We showed our dodgy looking print-out that was emailed to us as an e-ticket (it had ticket numbers and everything on it so it wasn't too dodgy) and our bags were weighed and tagged. Then we had to pick up the bags again and take them over to the xray... clearly this had been added to the process at some point as security concerns increased.
We went through security and sat in the very basic waiting area... rows of plastic chairs with a row of priority seats at the front for groups. But it was still great to be in a place where every flight was to an exotic destination - Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora, etc.
Boarding started a bit late, but we were fairly close to the front of the queue and therefore able to get two seats on the left of the aircraft for the best views during our short 50 minute flight. There was a quick safety demo which I seem to remember was only in French, and then we were off. The flight was not at all interesting in terms of service (we were each given fruit juice in a plastic cup) but the view from the window was fantastic. The pictures speak for themselves I think...
Moorea - click for a bigger version
Moorea - click for a bigger version
Raiatea - click for a bigger version
Raiatea - click for a bigger version
Bora Bora - click for a bigger version
Bora Bora - click for a bigger version
Arriving in Bora Bora - click for a bigger version
Our aircraft (F-OHJS) - click for a bigger version
In the small terminal building there were desks for each of the hotels that offered their own transfer service, including the Intercontinental for us. The bags were brought out and manually placed on a rack, and then once we picked them up the hotel staff took them and tagged them to our destination (Intercontinental has two properties on Bora Bora). Once all the guests were ready, we boarded the small boat and headed for our hotel. Most of the big hotels operate their own boats; there is also a large boat provided by Air Tahiti (included in the ticket price) to take people to Vaitape, the major town on the island. Arriving at a luxury resort by boat is a very nice experience!
View of Bora Bora from the airport - click for a bigger version
Air Tahiti VT437
Sunday October 28, 2007
Bora Bora (Motu Mute) (BOB/NTTB) - Papeete (Faa'a) (PPT/NTAA)
Duration: 0h50, 161 mi
Departure: 18:15 (scheduled) 18:15 (actual)
Arrival: 19:05 (scheduled) 19:07 (actual)
Seats: 1A/B (economy class)
Aircraft: Aerospatiale ATR-72-500 F-OIQN Tamaterai
After three days in paradise it was time to continue our trip. Thankfully we were given a late checkout and therefore a chance to freshen up in the afternoon. We were the only passengers on the boat transfer and after a few mechanical difficulties we arrived at the airport with plenty of time before our flight. Probably too much time... our boarding passes had sequence numbers 1 and 2 and the terminal was deserted!
Being so small, there was nothing to do in the terminal except read a book and kill mosquitos as they tried to land on me (there was a disturbing pile of dead mosquitos scattered around me after about half an hour of this). There wasn't any security check whatsoever (I guess most people have been lulled into a serene state of mind after spending time in Bora Bora).
Boarding was on time and we secured seats on the right for the best view (even though there were a lot of people on board before us continuing from Raiatea). But then it got dark very quickly so this was pointless. The safety demo was conducted in French and English, and pineapple juice was served on the short flight.
Our aircraft (F-OIQN) - click for a bigger version
Back in Papeete, we collected our bags from an unusual baggage belt that just ran in a straight line and then ended with a pile of uncollected bag and then dropped them off at the left luggage facility, located outside in the middle of the carpark.
Then we crossed the road, stood at a bus stop for five minutes and accepted a lift into town with Philippe from the Marquesas Islands. Philippe was awesome despite not speaking much English. He would like to visit Australia one day. Philippe dropped us off in the centre of Papeete near les Roulettes, where we ate a delicious but inexpensive dinner (I had the special fried rice).
We took a taxi back to the airport with plenty of time before our flight. Having foolishly not set a price in advance, we were ripped off which distracted me and was partly to blame for me leaving my backpack in the back of the taxi, complete with passports, tickets, etc. Miraculously we had it back within ten minutes - we were incredibly relieved! We retrieved the rest of our bags from the left luggage place in the carpark (costing 1650 francs, or about US$20 - it's expensive like everything else in French Polynesia) and headed in to the terminal...
Monday October 29, 2007
Papeete (Faa'a) (PPT/NTAA) - Santiago (Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez) (SCL/SCEL) via Easter Island (Mataveri) (IPC/SCIP)
Duration: 11h20, 4979 mi
Departure: 00:30 (scheduled) 00:10 (actual)
Arrival: 18:50 (scheduled) 18:40 (actual)
Seats: 3J/K (business class)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-316/ER CC-CZW
Check-in for this flight wasn't open when we arrived at the airport, and poor signage led to some confusion about where our queue was (this was later fixed, but only after check-in had opened and a substantial queue was already in place). We soon realised there was a separate (poorly signed) business class queue which allowed us to check-in significantly faster than economy (there were two agents on each queue).
Old-school paper ticket!
Like the domestic flight from Papeete, we had to take our bags over to the xray machine after they were tagged and drop them off there. Then it was through passport control and security, and upstairs to the lounge. The lounge in Papeete is quite basic, but unlike the rest of the terminal it is air conditioned which makes it very pleasant indeed. They had a very small selection of snack foods (olives, fruit and biscuits) and plenty of cold drinks, comfortable chairs, but not a lot else. Also, they have a great view of the tarmac and you can see all the way to the island of Moorea if you're there during the day.
We boarded a bit earlier than I expected (and subsequently departed 20 minutes early, which was nice). Our aircraft was one of LAN's upgraded 767s, fitted with fantastic business class seats that reclined to be fully flat. They were without doubt the best business class seats I've had the pleasure to sit in. The whole interior of the aircraft was very modern and was a huge contrast to the somewhat shabby Qantas 767s and well maintained but aging Air New Zealand 767s that I've flown in recently. Definitely an excellent first impression for our fourteen flights on LAN during our trip.
The in flight entertainment system was also very impressive. It featured the biggest screens I've seen (17 inch I think) and a good selection of movies and other programs that they claimed were "specially selected for this flight" (dubious). The amenities kit was provided in a handy linen bag, which we used throughout our trip to hold our laundry. Finally the service was great on this flight, starting with the pre-departure drinks (we both had a pisco sour).
After my big meal earlier in the evening, I didn't feel like having anything to eat. So after takeoff, I reclined all the way to 180 degrees and had a really good sleep. So good that I declined breakfast in favour of more sleep!
We arrived into Easter Island slightly ahead of schedule (to be expected given our early departure). As we disembarked the atmosphere was very relaxed, with plenty of people taking photos of the aircraft as we walked across the tarmac. Transit passengers were issued with a big green "transit" tag in lieu of a boarding pass and we waited in the airside lounge. Inside there were some uncomfortable plastic seats and about four shops selling overpriced Easter Island souvenirs. I didn't bother looking, knowing we would have plenty of time on our return journey. There was also a cafe in the terminal, and a garden area with a big stone head.
Mataveri Airport, Easter Island - click for bigger versions
An hour later we were back on board, where we discovered our amenities kit had been removed and replaced with a new one. Curses! We could have had two. After leaving Easter Island we had another five and a half hours to Santiago - I read a book and watched a couple of movies. Lunch was served on this sector but I didn't feel like eating much - apparently the prawns from the previous night's fried rice didn't agree with me.
We arrived into Santiago in the evening. On the ground we each had to pay a US$56 reciprocity fee in retaliation at a similar fee charged for Chilean citizens to get a visa for Australia. I really don't blame them for doing this, and at least they make it reasonably simple and don't require the hassle of getting a visa (unlike Brazil).
We picked up our bags, got some cash out of an ATM, and walked through a throng of taxi drivers over the road to the new Holiday Inn Santiago Airport. Our room had a great view of the carpark! We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and didn't do much at all that evening.
Tuesday October 30, 2007
Santiago (Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez) (SCL/SCEL) - Buenos Aires (Ministro Pistarini) (EZE/SAEZ)
Duration: 1h55, 709 mi
Departure: 07:30 (scheduled) 07:27 (actual)
Arrival: 09:25 (scheduled) 09:17 (actual)
Seats: 3A/C (business class)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-316/ER CC-CEK
Since we used Qantas Frequent Flyer points for the LAN flights on this part of the journey, we had the option to fly a little further than Santiago at no extra cost. Buenos Aires was one of very few destinations that were served with business class flights, so it was an obvious choice.
It was an early start (a little too early in hindsight, but we didn't know what to expect in the way of queues). We checked out of our hotel to head over to the airport at about 05:45. Outside there was an unpleasant smell - it's a strange thing to remember about an airport but it was really bad outside and we got occasional sniffs of it inside the terminal as well.
LAN's premium check-in area is very nice, and not at all smelly. It's completely separate from the main check-in area, which I really like every time I get to check in this way. Unfortunately the separate premium immigration queue was closed at this time so we had to go through the main area with everyone else - no great loss, it was nice and quick.
Once we were airside we located the LAN lounge, but had to wait about 5 minutes before it opened (it was meant to be open at 06:00, it was actually slightly later). The lounge was average - it had showers but no PCs, no view of the airport, and little in the way of food and drink. Plenty of comfy chairs though and it was very quiet.
We boarded on time and saw that it was another aircraft with upgraded business class - excellent! We made ourselves comfortable in 3A and 3C and had a pre-departure orange juice. After takeoff we were served a cold breakfast, with apple, orange, ham, tomato, cheese, that horrible bitter lettuce that everyone else seems to like, a croissant, and a chocolate danish. Overall it was very good!
Photo © Andres Contador
The flight to Buenos Aires is only a couple of hours, and by strange coincidence the entertainment system featured the same programs "specially selected for this flight" as we had on our flight from Tahiti. But between breakfast, my book, and the IFE I was pretty happy.
Upon arrival at Buenos Aires we got through customs and immigration efficiently, collected our bags, and then tried to get cash. The HSBC ATM was being uncooperative, and refused both my Visa and EFTPOS (Maestro) cards. It seemed willing to accept American Express but I wasn't willing to pay the fee. Luckily there is a Banco De La Nación ATM down near the check-in counters, which happily accepted my Visa but imposed a 320 peso withdrawal limit (which is actually more generous than every other ATM we used in Argentina).
We went to the taxi desk and paid for a taxi into the city (they only accept cash, otherwise I wouldn't have spent so long battling with the ATMs) and after a ten minute wait we had a driver and a taxi and we were off to the Intercontinental Buenos Aires and the real beginning of our South American adventure.
I hope you enjoyed this report - it ended up being longer than I expected. I'm currently in the process of writing up the rest of my trip. Coming up next... domestic flights in Argentina. AEP-IGR-AEP-FTE with LAN and Aerolineas Argentinas.