Trip Report – To the Last Frontier: Conclusion

Introduction
Seattle to Anchorage
Anchorage
Anchorage to Seattle
Conclusion

                                                                                                                                                                      

My trip to Alaska was something I desperately needed on many levels. I had a big yearning to fly as so far this year up until this trip, I had flown 0 miles. For someone who flew over 60,000 miles last year, I was desperate. I just wanted to get up there again. This trip also allowed me to tick Alaska off my state list. Even though it was only a short trip, it allows me to plan on heading back there in the future.

Even though the weather was crap for most of the time, I still enjoyed myself. I stuck it out in the rain for a good portion of the day and just kept taking photos. I would have done the same back here, had I still been in the city (speaking of which I missed a test flight of the Air New Zealand 787-9 because I was playing around in the rain, I just can’t get that thing!).

The flight up was down right horrible (thanks to a crappy crew who didn’t seem to care and also the delay and the WiFi issue (All of which I have made complaints about, but nothing so far). The flight back though was the total opposite, so how United can get away with being Day & Night differences, I don’t know. But it also shows that any airline can be good or bad. United gets a bum wrap at times, and this time I can’t really fault them all that much for the return flight. Having an entire row of 6 to myself, exit row as well! Can’t be all that bad.

The hotel in Anchorage did it’s job. It wasn’t flash or luxurious, but it was close to the airport and exactly what I needed to get me through. I wouldn’t ask for anything more than a clean room, a gym, WiFi & some parking. Anything more than that is just more frosting on the cake.

All told I took over 7588 photos of just planes over the weekend. The processing of these is going to take some time, that is for sure. I don’t quite know how long but I usually budget about 10% of photos taken, make it out of the cull. What does that really mean… I am going to be working on these for quite some time!

Trip Report – To The Last Frontier: Anchorage to Seattle

Introduction
Seattle to Anchorage
Anchorage
Anchorage to Seattle
Conclusion

                                                                                                                                                                      

Sunday 1st June 2014

I returned the truck to the airport, happy in that I was now going to remain dry for the rest of the afternoon and also happy in the knowledge that I had enjoyed myself immensly. After 2 days of spotting, my camera batteries needing charging, my arms needed a rest (that bigma is heavy!) and my body needed refueling…. badly.

From Anchorage

I headed from the Rental Car center over to the main terminal via the underground walkway. The walkway was pretty neat, they had aerial photos of the airport from the day it opened. Staggered every 5 years or so you could see the changes that were made over time. The airport has become so busy now that it definitely does hold the titles of “Crossroads of the North” and deserves it.

From Anchorage

After entering the small terminal, I headed up and to the left to the United check in area and dropped my bag off. Sadly no United Club here in Anchorage so my plans were to get through security and find somewhere to get some lunch. I had found out online that the airport had an “Observation Deck” above the main concourse, which had some Alaskan Native Art in there as well. I was more interested in the view than anything. With my bag dropped off and disposing of the unfinished portion of my water, off through security I went. Premium Security line was empty but as I got there up comes two ladies in Wheelchairs, shutting down my side of the check point. Joy. What it meant was that while they let everyone in the general queue go for boarding pass inspection, I had to wait. Even when they reopened it and called me forward. A lady from the general queue pushed her way in front of me. Whatever

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

I made it through security easily and with my belongings in hand. I found a place that had a half decent sounding salad and headed up to the observation deck to get some last minute enjoyment while I waited for boarding. The time went by quickly and about 4pm I headed down towards the gate and just as I got there, the aircraft arrived. Love timing it like that! I headed up to the desk to try my luck at another Exit Row and with a smile and a nice kind ask, I had an exit row boarding pass.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

I found somewhere to sit in the middle of the concourse, a shot distance from the gate as it seemed that every man and his dog (well no animals, but you know what I mean) were waiting at the gate. It was pretty packed but the seat map looked decidedly empty last time i checked. I rearranged a few things so that I did not have to get up to my camera bag in the middle of the flight (hate doing that, since it is really bulky and heavy). The seats where I was doing that were very unique. They felt more like pieces of art than actual seats, but it was a unique way of looking at something that is required for people to rest and wait.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

As I was waiting for boarding it was time for the freighter change over as the current waive left their gates and were replaced by another set. I had packed my camera away, but had the windows not been covered in rain, I may have contemplated pulling it out again. Why not add a few more images to the count.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

The boarding area filled once they announced that boarding would begin shortly and the new United boarding area (with sign posted gate lines) certainly does make things easier. The gate area looks far less crammed and feels more controlled. The Gate lice still exist, however they are more handled and kept in line. Something for other airlines to consider maybe?

United Airlines – UA1129
Anchorage to Seattle Tacoma
1705-2130
Boeing 737-900ER (N68801)
Economy Plus – Seat 20A (Exit Row)

Boarding: 1640 (Gate B5)
Push Back: 1706
Take off Roll: 1716 (Runway 25R)
Top of Descent: 2049
Touch Down: 2114 (Runway 34L)
Shut Down: 2121 (Gate A10)

When the boarding commenced for Global Services and those who needed help, it was a while before Zone 1 was called and even then, the difference between Zone 1 & Zone 2 boarding was non existent. Everyone in that line just rushed the boarding door. I hung back in the knowledge that being in Zone 2, still gets me to my seat, still gets me overhead space for the camera bag and still gives me plenty of time to relax.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

I took my seat in the first of the Exit Rows (I went up in the 2nd exit row) and tried to settle in as quick as possible. No one was sitting next to me for a while as boarding happened around me, but I wasn’t sure if that was going to remain. I saw that power was working this time, and as everyone boarded around me, I started plugging some stuff in. My camera batteries were running a bit low (for the P&S) and so I decided to give them some power in case I lost the last remaining battery while I was up in the air. Something That just would not do! I kept waiting and soon enough they announced that the doors were about to shut and could everyone take their seat. Not only did I have an empty middle seat, but an empty aisle seat as well. In fact the entire exit row apart from me was empty. SCORE!!!!!!

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

The crew warned everyone jammed down the back that they could not self upgrade to “Economy Plus” once the flight got to cruise altitude, they had to stay in their assigned seat. This got a few people unhappy but I didn’t care. All you have to do is ask and if they are open, generally you receive. The manual safety demo happened around me and all I know is that I was to busy answering a few last tweets before I had to switch off my phone. We pushed back and started taxiing for the runway. Things had changed since that morning and they were now using 15 for arrivals and 25R for some departures.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

As we taxiied down towards the 25R threshold, we passed a lot of the smaller regional planes belonging to Pen Air & Era … I mean Ravn Air. Past all the small turbo props and then it was into the smaller local freight operators. This is where the interesting stuff lives. NAC and their 737-200s & DC-6s. Even a number of DC3s and one lone Convair. Alaska is always fun for this kind of thing. We turned onto the active and held in place for a minute or so. I could hear it in my head. United Eleven Twenty Nine, Runway Two Five Right, Winds 150 at 10 (at least thats what it was the last time I was listening in on the scanner a few hours ago), Cleared for Takeoff. The pilot would respond and then you could hear the engines spool up. Brakes still holding and then let the baby fly!!!

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

Take off roll was spirited and before we had even passed the South Hangars of Lynden Aviation and the Alaska Air National Guard we were airborne and climbing. Wheels up, flaps up, we climbed out and away from the airport and turned towards Seattle. Not much to see out my side of the aircraft, but hey… I couldn’t complain though, I could have just moved to the other window and I would have it all. No one to blame but myself.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

My attention from that point, as we climbed up through the cloud base towards the blue sky, turned to getting my self situated in what was to become my little encampment. Out came my devices and I took over the power ports (both of them) to get my phone back on power to stay juiced and to change over the batteries as one of them had the top off it needed. I distributed all my gear as needed and settled in for a comfortable, spacious flight home.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

By the time we were a decent height, I pulled the laptop out to do some work on the trip reports and just generally sat back and relaxed for the flight. It took quite a while before they switched off the seat belt sign (not that anyone cared or paid any attention to it) and the pilot annouced a flight time of 2 hours 53 minutes home to Seattle.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

Service commenced just after this and the crew were slow but methodical in getting the drinks out. Sadly I did not get more than a cup this time (how I got the whole can before I don’t know) but the smells coming back to us from the front of the plane were just not fair. At one point all I could smell was coffee and made a mental note to have one later to give me a bit of a pick me up before I got in the truck.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

While the flight cruised on, I read my book and decided it was time to finally get that coffee. I headed to the back of the plane to get the coffee & everyone looked so unhappy down there. All jammed in :( But hey, that could have been me, so no complaining, no making fun right? With coffee in hand I headed back to my seat and I had barely settled back in when they did a rubbish run through the plane. Knowing that they would collect all my stuff, I ended up downing the coffee fairly quickly (it wasn’t that hot at all) and figured that it would be good while it lasted. I “enjoyed” my coffee with a Protein bar that Heidi had made me pack (and it came in handy as a dinner replacement), although this one was far from tasty.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

We got a pre descent warning from the pilots somewhere over BC and as we started descent, we had just passed Vancouver off to the left side. I wasn’t sure if it was Vancouver to begin with, but it had to of been it. The city is fairly obvious from above and the man made island for the airport is really distinguishable. I kept an eye out the window on descent as we seemed awfully high passing Everett and that meant we were heading for a southern arrival, heading down towards Tacoma and turning north back towards SeaTac.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

As we passed over downtown the sun was setting with beautiful red & orange tones and I spent a good amount of time trying to get the perfect photo. I think I did, but not quite sure. We turned as expected right over the Port of Tacoma and were vectored in for a 34L arrival. How do I know this? We were hugging the coastline from Tacoma, up over Federal Way & Des Moines. So much that we flew almost over Heidi’s parents place and over Burien where she lives at the moment.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

Touching down about 15 minutes early we had a long taxi from the top of 34L and we held for the 34R runway to clear. What passes me by out the window? An Alaska 737 with Split Scimitar Winglets. Damn! Not fast enough… that and the light was fading. Yep, that’s my excuse, light wasn’t great.

From Anchorage

We pulled into the gate 9 minutes early and since I had no one else next to me (or even at the end of the row) I was quickly up and moving. Though we had to wait to get lot off, I was off the aircraft pretty quickly and by the time I had made the long trek from A10 to the baggage claim, the baggage carousel had just started moving. Thinking that I was going to get a repeat of Friday night, I was shocked to see my bag first on the belt! That has not happened in a long long time. Since my bag was first on the belt and I did not even break stride to grab it and turn around headed for the car park. I was out of the terminal in minutes rather than the usual 20-30 minutes it takes.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

I was waiting for a shuttle longer than I had to wait for my bag, but pretty soon I was at Wallypark, paying off my bill and then jumping in the truck to drive home. I was looking forward to some sleeeeep!

Trip Report – To The Last Frontier: Anchorage

Introduction
Seattle to Anchorage
Anchorage
Anchorage to Seattle
Conclusion

                                                                                                                                                                      

I was met at the terminal by the shuttle from the Holiday Inn Express Anchorage and the person working the desk had asked my name when picking me up. The moment I stepped into the lobby off the shuttle, he greeted me by name and had me checked in already to go. I just had to sign a couple of pieces of paper and he pointed me in the right direction towards my room. Within 10 minutes of stepping in the door, I was asleep.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

Saturday 31st May 2014

I awoke this morning after only 4 hours sleep, not much but it would have to do. I looked out the window and all I saw was rain :( So I gave up on the idea of running to the airport and instead, went to the gym to wake myself up. After a morning workout that was fairly intense compared to my usual one (maybe I was just feeling great, I don’t know why it was so quick to complete today), I got myself ready quickly as they schedule the shuttles in the morning and I was about 15 minutes off a departure. After that it was another hour. So I rushed back to get changed and showered and made it in time, to be the only person on the shuttle.

From Anchorage

I had originally intended on running to the airport, and when my 5k run was over just picking up the rental truck to get back. But since it was raining, I was just shuttling back to the airport to the rental car facility. The rental car facility was fairly deserted but so was the Enterprise counter. I waited a good 5 minutes before someone decided to show up. But once they did, I was off upstairs to the booth to get my truck. When I got up to the booth she gave me a choice of either a Dodge Ram or a Ford F150. Since I drive a Ram at home, I went with the F150. At least then I can see what makes this truck so popular.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

Pretty soon I was headed back to the airport to get myself sorted for the day. Some breakfast, a quick plan of where to stop to get some water and then off to get some spotting done. Free breakfast is never all that great when you don’t eat that much (like I try to) but when it is a Holiday Inn Express, the selection’s are never over the top. Something that I appreciate, makes me feel like I am not wasting it. The main thing it had was coffee, I wanted coffee, I was dreaming of coffee, I would of injected it into my veins if I had the choice. The brew was passable, but it hit the spot and with an extra cup in hand, it was off for a day of spotting.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

Spotting is pretty much what I did all day. It may have been raining (fairly lightly at that point) and the wind blowing a good 15-20 knots, but hey, I am here to get photos and the planes were lining up for me. One after the other, they just kept on coming. As a bank of freighters started to leave, another set would come in. All of them heavies, all of them so so good looking. I won’t got into too much depth about the spotting, but suffice it to say, I had a REALLY good haul over the weekend.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

I took a break in the morning to thaw out at the Alaska Aviation Museum and it was ok. Nothing over the top but worth the $10 donation for a true avgeek cause. I learnt a little about the history of Airlines in Alaska and there was number that I had ever even heard of. Interesting pieces that’s for sure. I also took a break in the afternoon to head downtown for some souvenir hunting. I needed to get a postcard (which I managed to forget to write) and a shot glass for the collection, and see if I could find something special for the lady. I didn’t want to get something over the top (we have rules against that) and I managed to find something that would make her giggle at least.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

The first day ended with dinner at a place that was high on the Urbanspoon and Wikitravel suggestions, and a very tasty burger it was. I never would of thought to combine BBQ sauce, Jalapeno Cheese, Onion Strings and Bacon on a burger. I might in the future though! The coleslaw that it came with was tasty as well. The dried cranberries in it, gave an interesting texture, might have to try that sometime myself.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

I passed out in front of the TV at about 9pm (it was still light outside as though it was noon), watching Batman with a piece of pie and some ice cream. Can’t beat it.

From Anchorage

Sunday 1st June

This time the weather held out and I sure as hell was going to go for my run. Not only would it add to my list but, I was going to enjoy running around an airport (Lake Hood is classed as a separate airport to Anchorage International. What I forgot was that it was 5k run to get me to the airport, I still had to get back. All up…. just under 8kms. Woops!

I grabbed breakfast again and checked out. I was heading back to the airport for another day of spotting, before my flight home. Today’s plan was all weather dependent and there was forecast of rain. At least yesterday the rain abated and left me dry for the afternoon. Today I was racing the rain in the hopes that it would come after I dropped the truck off Speaking of which, I probably didn’t need the truck this weekend. I could have had a normal car thanks to the winds situation that was happening this weekend. But there was no way to tell. The F150 was a good choice. Not because I liked it, but because I now know that I am glad I never bought one. It just never gave me the impression that I was going to enjoy it. The indicators were one of the reasons I didn’t buy it in the first place. That decision was totally reasonable, as they drove me nuts the whole weekend.

From Anchorage

The rain hit about half way through my morning and went from light to moderate but I toughed it out in the name of spotting and got what I needed to get. There was plenty to watch come in and out still, but it was lighter than the day before. Not many in the way of special liveries at all.

From Anchorage

By around 230pm I was starting to get cold and tired of standing in the rain, so headed on over to the airport to drop off the truck and start heading home.

Trip Report – To the Last Frontier: Seattle to Anchorage

Introduction
Seattle to Anchorage
Anchorage
Anchorage to Seattle
Conclusion

                                                                                                                                                                      

Friday 30th May 2014

I left work on time, but thanks to traffic it was slow going on the 405 (nothing new there really) but it wasn’t to bad getting to the airport. I parked the truck at Wallypark, my usual spot, and instead of going straight to the Terminal, I met up with Heidi for dinner. We stuck close by and went to the new L&L Hawaiian BBQ for dinner and although it is not at all that classy, it sure was tasty. Just as Heidi arrived I got the first bit of bad news for the evening.

An email and a Tripit push notification, both saying that unwanted note…… Delayed. That wouldn’t have been too bad had I dropped my bag off first then gone to meet up with Heidi. Sadly it still meant I had to be there before the usual cut off time, just in case. After a quick trip to the local Safeway to pick up some protein bars for the upcoming weekend (I had planned to stash a couple in my camera bag so that I didn’t have to leave the spotting areas when it came time for food), Heidi dropped me off on the Departures deck and after a kiss goodbye (definitely a new thing for me) I was on my way to check in.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

Check in for United was deserted, to be honest the entire South End of the terminal felt like a ghost town. However the few people who were checking in, just had to be in the queue that I was going to be using. So rather than wait in line for the Premier Access counters, I just used a normal counter. I tried to get a free Econ Plus row, but no deal. The boarding pass didn’t even show the delay so that was really disappointing. I got a printed boarding pass purely for the collection and after my bag was sent on its way (I didn’t notice if a priority tag was added to my bag or not) I snapped a few pictures and headed towards the security check point as instructed. Thankfully I had been told that the South Checkpoint was closed and that everyone had to pass through the Central point.

The good news was that the checkpoint was empty and I breezed through the ID check, then I was 2nd in line for the scanner and I was through within minutes. I seem to get pulled up as though there is something on my body (same spot, each and every time, I swear that there is a metal implement or something inside my stomach?) and I got a light pat down in the usual spot. Nothing too huge, and I had contemplated opting out for shits and giggles but decided against it. Once through to the other side I collected my gear and stopped by the Food Court windows for a squiz at the ramp. Nothing but normal out there today so to the United Club we go! A long long walk down to the High A gates (the club is opposite A9) and with my gate at A8 it meant for convenience later on.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

Checking into the club was painless and I even managed to snag that Exit Row, thanks to a smile and asking nicely. Originally the “dragon” (not that she was one, since she was nicer than nice) thought I meant a First Upgrade, but I just wanted a bit of extra space, no First Class seat and meal required. It was sure going to be tough to leave the club without inhaling what goodies were there. But I got handed my Exit Row Window (is there a better seat than that in Economy?) Boarding pass and I did a lap of the lounge to find the best spot to sit. Plonking my butt in an empty area, I grabbed some snacks (hello Yogurt Raisins, I see you have returned to provide me with a challenge of can I stop myself from eating all of you) and by snacks i mean cookies (small ones though) and some coffee and got settled.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

I caught up on my emails, charged my phone a little and generally goofed off for like the next hour and even managed to get myself sorted. The flight was due to touch down around 915pm and we were meant to depart at 10pm. Though I doubted this from the moment I received the first delay notification. Still you expect to do the right thing and headed out of the lounge at my usual early time to find a spot by the windows for when the plane arrives. I wanted that nice empty clean plane shot either just as it pulls up or a few moments after. Makes getting the registration all that easier.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

20 minutes later (by that time 5 minutes after the plane was scheduled to arrive) it still hadn’t shown up but low and behold, people are moving about on the ramp and that meant an incoming aircraft. As the flight rolled into the gate, I got my shots and then checked the registration against the lists and turns out it was a barely year old 737-900ER! So not only was I getting a new BSI fitted aircraft, but being an ER, it meant a first on type! So had this been a new airline I could have snagged a trifecta. Guess the fact I was flying to a new Airport on a new type would have to suffice.

From Anchorage

The plane disgorged all the people and that was a good thing as the sooner they got off, the sooner we could get on. But we were not getting out on time. I got a further delay announcement, just 10 more minutes. I can deal with that, but at this rate we are approaching a 1am touch down and that would mean a painful morning, especially if I want to be up at Sparrows Fart for plane spotting. Since I had the rego and photos, I headed over towards the gate area, where sadly no seats were vacant but I could wait standing up. Wait is something I did, we waited quite some time. About 15 minutes into my wait (about 5 minutes after the crew headed on) I was playing around in the United App when it just stopped working….o dear! United’s computers had crashed and this was confirmed moments later when it was announced we would have to manually board.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

United Airlines – UA1603
Seattle Tacoma to Anchorage
2110-2347
Boeing 737-900ER (N38473)
Economy Plus – Seat 21A (Exit Row)

Boarding: 2155 (Gate A8)
Push Back: 2303
Take off Roll: 2311 (Runway 34R)
Top of Descent: 0052
Touch Down: 0115 (Runway 15)
Shut Down: 0121 (Gate B6)

When boarding was called we were fast approaching an hours delay, just as I was boarding I got another flight delay notice from Tripit and I just knew that was begging for hope that it would be accurate, but it wasn’t to be. I boarded at the appropriate time with the appropriate zone (Zone 2) and I walked onboard, happy to see the “United WiFi” sticker at the door. I was going to give the WiFi a good test and really see how it went. I got my stuff sorted and had a chuckle at the Fact the rows went 13,14,15,20,21. That confused the hell out of me but according to the FA working my area, it has to be that way so that all Exit Rows have a common number. Why I have no idea, it makes NO sense, but hey…. This is America.

From Anchorage
From Anchorage

As everyone boarded, time stretched longer and longer. The boarding process was done and then we were told we were waiting… A LONG time. We had to wait for a Houston flight to land that was late Being that we were already late, hey why not delay us further. The groans onboard were lengthy and loud, it was obvious that people were not happy about the situation. I just sucked it up and sat back, reading my book and waiting. Wait we did!

From Anchorage
From Anchorage
From Anchorage

Almost 2 hours late by this stage we finally had doors shut and a push back (albeit slow) from the terminal. It was a quick taxi from the A gates out to the Runway and we had no one in front of us, so with a short wait (seconds) we were heading into the skies. Climb out was quick and it was surprisingly comfortable even after being stuck in the seat for an hour. I wanted to get up to height as soon as possible so that I could get connected to the WiFi. I had been sent an email the day prior to let me know that I would have WiFi on this flight. Great!! As soon as I heard the dings to signify we had past 10,000ft I pulled the laptop out and got started.

From Anchorage

I started off by connecting to the WiFi with my phone to see how easily it connected and it was a breeze. Then I switched over to the laptop, took out my wallet and paid for it. I was hoping to get some travel booked while on the flight, but first things first, speed test. I ran a few speed tests, did some screen captures for a review I was going to have to write and then once that was done “Out of Coverage” ummmmmm say what Now? I just spent $4 on WiFi ($2 per hour is pretty good compared to GoGo for a short flight) and it said I had “3 hours of United WiFi” when really I had 15 minutes? I also didn’t have a working power plug at the seat so couldn’t charge my phone (and it was fairly low on power).

By this time I had been given my drink (full can!) on the service and so with that done and not possible to do work (I had been looking through the FAQs and stuff while doing my prep for the review to find that you can request a refund and I had screen captured that stuff before I lost coverage), guess it was time to relax. So I read for a while, and when I couldn’t read any longer, I shut my eyes and tried to relax.

Next thing I know we are about an hour away from Anchorage, shut my eyes again and I am looking out the window on the other side of the plane and I can see sunlight. I check my watch and its after 130am Seattle time… WTF! I fixed up my watch and knew that we would be descending fairly soon so Just sat back and enjoyed the ride with my eyes shut as much as possible. I was tired, I wanted a drink, I just wanted sleep. I sucked up the crappiness of it all and just switched my brain off.

We hit descent and I packed up my stuff, I was hoping to escape the plane quickly and get to the bag claim as quickly as possible. We circled over and around Anchorage through some clouds and lots of lumps. To be honest I had no idea where I was but the lights down below were on and I could see stuff so I can’t complain really. As we approached the airport I was trying hard to see what was on the ramp and I was not disappointed as we came into land. It was all freight, everywhere. Fed Ex, UPS, Cathay, Korean, China Airlines. All the stuff I came here to see.

It was a slow roll out to the end of Runway 15 and then we circled around to the pier that was not used by Alaska Airlines. We pulled in next to a US Airways flight and Frontier was in there somewhere as well. I was off the flight fairly quickly and without to much stress either. The walk from the gate to the baggage claim was fairly long but easy and then I had to wait. Wait a lot. That priority tag for my bag that I wasn’t sure if it got on my bag. Well it did, but it didn’t do anything at all. My bag was one of the last ones off the plane and by the time I had my bag I was just cranky. By then it was almost 2am Alaska time and I was just tired.

From Anchorage

Bag in hand I headed out to the shuttle stand to get the already ordered shuttle to my hotel, The Holiday Inn Express Anchorage. Barely a mile and a half away from the hotel. But it was close enough that at 2am.. I was head down on a pillow.

Trip Report – To the Last Frontier: Introduction

It’s currently the end of May. So far this year my mileage balanace for total travelled miles is 0. That’s right, a big giant Donut. I need to fly! I must get up in the air, now, anywhere.. please just let me fly. When I saw a fare sale on a weekend telling me that fares to Alaska were $100 each way… well.. guess where I am going!! Since I had considered going to Alaska at the end of last year during my “$100 Challenge” and instead went to Kansas, might as well tick another state off my list right?

So after finding a decent weekend that would work with the fares (sadly on United so that is going to be interesting, since I have’t flown them intentionally in a while) and work as well, I locked it in. The hotel actually cost more than the flights in this situation. Hotel prices in Anchorage just are not cheap (well it is cruise ship season I guess) but I managed to find a decent rate at the Holiday Inn Express near the airport. Considering I intend on spending most of my time taking photos around the airport I might as well stay close by right? Saves having to go that far after getting off a flight at like 1am in the morning.

The hardest part of the trip planning was arranging a car. Normally I would just book the usual National car rental in a mid size, pick up off the Executive line and all would be good. But a few friends had suggested previously that a Truck is needed for spotting. Since I wouldn’t have access to a step ladder and with fairly large fence lines in some area, I needed to get an MFAP. What’s an MFAP? A Mobile Fence Avoidance Platform… aka a Truck. Normally I would avoid driving a truck when renting. I drive one at home, why do I need another one? Well since I need it, I might as well get it. But for some reason the only company that had availability for one was Enterprise. I even had the National Car Rental Social Media team check for me. Nada. O well :(

So I booked the truck rental, the hotel and the flights and with everything fast approaching (tonight) I can finally get back up in the Air!! A Map right about now would look fairly boring and since it is just up and back on United, that is fairly boring. But the plane spotting will be good (if I am lucky I will get a lot of freighter traffic and HOPEFULLY a Everts Commando), the weather might hold out, but no matter what. I am up for whatever it brings.

Bring on the Travel!!!!!

Trip Report: To Kansas for BBQ – Kansas City to Seattle

After winding my way fairly slowly from the downtown core out into the suburbs north of the city to the airport it was a stark contrast to living back west. The area was just flat, way flat. I would of loved to of gotten a chance to go out running in warmer weather here as I am sure I could get some decent times on the flat ground. I stopped to fill the car and in the process while doing so I tried ever so hard not to fall over and kill myself in the gas station car park as it was covered in ice and snow. Add on some gasoline and you have a lovely slushy mixture of slipperiness. I was going to miss this city, it wasn’t at all as bleak or as desolate as I expected. The people were great and the city itself was a unique twist of old and new. I had to come back.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

I dropped the car off at the rental lot, waving bye bye to another awesome 300C experience. I was going to miss being National Executive, I was considering buying the membership for $50, as it did feel worth it. Right after dropping off the car and making my way back inside into the warmth, the shuttle was boarding full of people so I had barely stopped for a few moments before I was on my way again. Back to the terminal and starting to begin my journey home. Kansas City airport is made up of 3 horseshoe shaped terminals and I was heading to a terminal that was shared with Delta, Alaska & Southwest. Stupidly I got off at the wrong end and had to walk the entire horse shoe, all the way to the other end where Alaska was right next to Delta. I was on the hunt for a good place to leave behind an AirlineReporter sticker so had a few spaces in mind.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

I checked in pretty quickly and was handed a boarding pass and pointed towards security. While the terminals were fairly small it meant that once you clear security there really isn’t that much at all. I had not even thought about the half bottle of water I had in my bag when I got into the security line… rookie mistake! It took a good 10 minutes to get through the security check point. Not that there was many people ahead of me (about 5) but that they just took forever! Why is it when I am in the midwest I get stuck at security. But then I got myself stuck because I forgot to empty my water bottle. Even bigger rookie mistake!

From Kansas City BBQ Run

So I took my walk of shame after the security agent (not the TSA) brought my water bottle back to me empty, although he pointed me towards where I could fill it up (funnily enough right where he just emptied it). I went towards the gate and then a very familiar accent started making annoucements to gate check bags free of charge. Figuring that I could now offload some stuff for free and dodge a bag fee, well… who was I to say no to that! So I gate checked my bag and turns out the Delta agent working the Alaska gate was actually an Aussie from Brisbane (well the Gold Coast really). Totally wierd to run into a fellow Aussie in the middle of no where almost. Both of us a LOOOONG way from home. I settled in with a gate checked bag tag while I moved some stuff around to make sure that I had a light backpack for the flight. I even managed to stash a AR Sticker somewhere in the terminal while I was waiting for my flight.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

Alaska Airlines – AS759
Kansas City International to Seattle Tacoma
1645-1830
Boeing 737-800 (N558AS)
Economy Class – Seat 29F

Boarding: 1605 (Gate 59)
Push Back: 1646
Take off Roll: 1710 (Runway 19L)
Top of Descent: 1813
Touch Down: 1836 (Runway 16L)
Shut Down: 1844 (Gate N3)

Boarding was called and it took a while to get through all the different elites that Alaska allows. It seems that by the time they got to my group it was like the entire plane was trying to get on first before me. Ah well didn’t matter I wasn’t needing overhead bin space, though I wondered as I dropped my bag at the door, with the other gate check bags, if I would ever see it again. As I walked onboard I finally paid attention to the tail and noticed the Flower Lei on the tail which denotes a 737-800 with Etops. Something Alaska did to really promote their hawaii flights. The day before it had been a 900 today an 800. I am totally confused here. As I walked up to my seat, the crew member there looked familiar. It was the same one that worked yesterday, so I said to her “hello again” to which she half recognised me and said “quick trip?”. It certainly was! Had a quick chat about the aircraft and the swap and them doing back to back different aircraft different days.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

I settled into my seat conducting the usual things, not that many photos as it was pretty crappy looking outside. Then it happened. My seat mate showed up… and she was old, and looked not at all there. That was confirmed moments later when she sat down and started rocking back and forth…. continuously… something that would continue for the entire flight. We were warned by the captain about wanting to get out of there quickly as we had to de ice and that would eat up time obviously. So Alaska doesn’t seem to paid their flight schedule they just make everyone board way early.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

We deiced and headed for the runway. Waving bye bye to Kansas City as we climbed out through the clouds and the crap below into the sky. I settled in as best I could next to the crazy lady. Thank god for noise cancelling headphones as not only was there crazy lady next to me, but two screaming babies in the rows behind me. I didn’t hear a thing though. Ahhh bliss. I declined the snacks on offer instead thinking I will just have a few sodas and relax before getting back and scurrying home. Sadly the crew just ignored me for the drink runs and every time I tried to ask they just kept on walking past me. This happened for every single service during the flight. Why I wasn’t offered I have no idea but the crazy lady next to me seemed to be having a hell of a time constantly fidgeting and moving about and several times elbowing me in the ribs.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

The one thing that brought a smile to my face was that while she kept fidgeting, the lady next to me kicked her travelling companions beer all over them. I smiled while she went into an overdrive of craziness. I just sat back watched Top Gear and laughed silently and sneakily. It was probably bad of me to be like that but hey, if your going to be an ass on a flight, it is going to come back to you eventually.

From Kansas City BBQ Run

We started descent somewhere over lights and I had no idea where we were or what was going on because it was just so dark out. Eventually I think we head north over elliot bay and then right turned right over downtown and onto approach to SeaTac. We landed comfortably and easily and started taxiing to the gate, right back to N3 where it all started the day before. While I sat at the back waiting for the plane to empty out, I was catching up on life via the internet and texting away. By the time I made it off the plane it was a solid 12 minutes after we had pulled up. If this time kept eating up and I beat my bag to the baggage area I could pretty much recoup most of the costs of my flights thanks to baggage delay points… come on delays!

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

I made it off the train and rocked up at baggage claim with my bag circling the far side to which I just ran around and grabbed it. Damn it! Pretty soon I was heading over to the shuttles and it was already ahead of me just leaving the 1st pick up point. I sprinted after it running the entire length of the pick up points to finally get onboard… I had made it all the way to the shuttle point without getting to cold and I was soon in the warmth of my truck, driving home!

Trip Report: To Kansas for BBQ – Seattle to Kansas City

Saturday 7th April 2013

A leisurely morning almost compared to my usual trips as I could sleep in till a half normal time, work out, have breakfast and partially clean the house all with a couple of coffees under my belt and making my flight without a hassle. An extra coffee for the truck and I was headed out a little delayed waiting for something to upload to my tablet. I was travelling light this time with just my duffle and a backpack. No SLR, no laptop, just the tablet and my p&s.

From Kansas City BBQ Run

I made it to the parking garage with good timing and by the time I hit the terminal since I already had my boarding pass I was looking good if the lines were not to bad, sadly… they were not good. I tried and old trick since the Alaska mobile boarding passes barely showed any information and used the United/Alaska premium security entry and funnily enough they let me through showing my Gold Card. O silly Seattle TSA, how Gullible you are.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

Through security (eventually), grab a photo of one of the numerous Alaska special liveries at SeaTac that morning and onto the Train to the N Gates, popping out just about 10 minutes before boarding should commence. Being mindful that Alaska board almost an hour before departure for some unknown reason. Ran into someone I knew for a quick hello and chat, grabbing a printed boarding pass and then it was to Starbucks for more coffee and a water bottle fill and I was off to the gate, rocking up just as boarding started for general economy.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

Alaska Airlines – AS762
Seattle Tacoma to Kansas City International (SEA-MCI)
1030-1542
Boeing 737-900 (N315AS)
Economy Class – Seat 24A

Boarding: 0950 (Gate N3)
Push Back: 1029
Take off Roll: 1040 (Runway 34R)
Top of Descent: 1513
Touch Down: 1540 (Runway 1L)
Shut Down: 1458 (Gate 59)

Boarding for my area was called and I was off to the back of the flight, all the way back. Being a 737-900 (my 3rd flight on the type) it is like boarding an A321… lots of way to go to the back (not as much though but you get the idea). The whole point of this trip was doing it on the cheap, I wasn’t checking bags or anything so I just sucked it up and went all the way to back like I was meant to. Luckily I was at the front of the line so I did manage to get some overhead bin space. With a full flight expected I stashed my gear and sat down as quickly as possible.

From Kansas City BBQ Run

All my gear stored appropriately and I was doing the usual pre flight stuff (photos, log book, general tweeting) and next thing I know the doors are shut, theres a middle seat next to me free and we are pushing back. SCORE! What was even better was the sun was out as we pushed back and although it was freakishly cold the light was awesome. So as we taxiied past a few specials and some heavies at the South Terminal, I saw the Spirit of Hawaii (which had been parked at the gate next to ours) sitting in the penalty box… o no! We took off ahead of them and pretty soon we were turning left towards the east and parts unknown.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

It was wierd to be using my phone and tablet all the way over as it was my first flight with the new PED rules and I do like it! Managed to get through a good chunk of my book but sadly, no music for the first part of the flight. I hadn’t checked the batteries on my headphones so as soon as I turned them on, they went dead. Checked for spares…none… DOH! So no music till I could take out my earplugs.. dammit, ah well.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

We cruised east and the crew started a very long service process, selling their entertainment systems, then food, then we can get a drink. But it was ok I had water and thought ahead to bring some lunch with me. Bagel, Turkey and some carrots. Boring, cheap ($3 total) and filling enough for a 3 hour flight. With a diet lemonade I was ok enough. Even managed a few rounds before they closed up service. What did I do on the flight? I read, used some free wifi thanks to Gogo and just bummed about.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

We started descent somewhere outside of the airport, I had no idea where I was or what should or shouldn’t look familiar so just took it all in. As we approached Kansas City (Missouri side) you could see a sprinkling of snow around the airport, which did not bode well at all really. It was going to be cold, I had expected that but I didn’t want it to snow on me. We came back around after going the long way into the airport. As we touched down and cleared the runway it was a plethora of trijets on the freight ramp. A couple of 727s and an MD11F, add on a DC9 as well and it was awesome vintage time. Off in the distance was a couple of ex Qantas 767s awaiting destruction as well. It is always unique being in the midwest. The rest of the airport seemed deserted with just one or two aircraft in existence it seemed.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

We pulled into the gates next to a Delta 757 and just like that my flight to Kansas City is over. By the time I Was able to extricate myself from the back of the plane, I was prepped to grab my jacket from my bag before I froze to death. That didn’t take all that long as once you leave the gates your about 4 steps from the landside of the terminal…Aircraft to Landside in less than 10 metres…. SCORE! Next thing I know its time to get my jacket out and get moving, since I had just officially stepped foot in a new state.

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run

Trip Report: To Kansas for BBQ – Introduction

I had set myself a goal this year to be able to add at least one more state to my list of US States visited and unfortunately I had left it pretty late to get to that point. Without it I would go one short on some of my goals and that could not be so. But I didn’t want to spend all that much money really. It’s the end of the year, travel is expensive in the holiday season so it was time to use up some of those points that are just floating around.

I had enough points in my Alaska account for a round trip economy or enough in my american for a one way in first. So I figured round trip economy would be perfectly fine but if i took some out of each I could get away with a bit more choice. But where to? The two easiest places for me to get to were either Kansas City or Anchorage. Both would add points off my list, both had interests to keep me going for at least 24 hours if required. The issue was picking which one to visit. Yes Alaska at this time of year is freezing cold, but then where isn’t. But the time of year it would not be all that much light during the day, so that would be cool I guess. Getting some plane spotting in for a day and seeing Alaska would be nice. But then there is Kansas City where I can knock two states off for the price of one, as the Airport is technically in Kansas City Missouri a few miles from the Kansas City in Kansas… I like this idea. A friend out there tempted me further by offering to show me around and take me for some good BBQ as well. It wouldn’t be the first time I had flown across the country for BBQ, might as well do it again right?

Flights booked and thanks to using points and times etc it was going to be my most boring trip of the year almost with tickets on the Alaska direct flights in each direction, the price in cash outlay $5 total, points was down a good 25,000 all up with half from each of my Alaska & AA accounts. Not a big deal there. Next came picking a hotel, this was probably going to be the most expensive part of it. But the day after I booked the flights, IHG released their points break list where they offer accommodation for 5000 points, well under what they normally offer. Funnily enough a hotel in Kansas City Kansas was on the list. I snatched it up instantly. Hell I could now justify both states as I was flying into one and staying in the other. It may of been a little bit out of the main downtown core but who cares. Total cost to me $0 cash, 5000 points.

So car hire was booked on the usual last minute specials that National offers and I was looking at a damn cheap trip, what with a cost of less than $45 in cash outlay on the three essentials I was look pretty good, it was just time to wait for the day to arrive.

Trip Report – An Aussie Goes to Kiwiland – San Francisco to Seattle

Introduction
Seattle to Honolulu
Honolulu to Auckland
Auckland to Christchurch
Wellington to Rotorua
Auckland to San Francisco
San Francisco to Seattle

                                                                                                                                                                      

After making my way over to T2 on the AirTrain and walking down through to the Virgin America check in, I was tired and just wanted to get home really. What I wasn’t really in for was the hassle that I was about to get at check in. Since I was on a seperate ticket for the Virgin America flight and needing to check a bag (although the company would be reimbursing me for that anyway), I was going to try for a Main Cabin Select upgrade as I was hoping to use that cost for a bit of a meal onboard. Online it wouldn’t let me do it, and it wouldn’t let me assign seats either so I had to wait till check in.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

I arrived at the premium desk and had to wait… and wait while the staff chatted amongst themselves and when she waved me forward, she continued to chat and pretty much ignored me. The staff member was extremely unhelpful during my check in process and after some back and forth over a bag weight that was 1-2lbs over the standard weight, and telling me that she would not allow my bag to fly at all, even without the cost of paying for overweight baggage, she just refused to let it fly outright. Then once I said I wanted to upgrade to MCS amazingly I was able to take my bag, then when she told me the price which was Double the price it should’ve been, I pushed back and was rudely told “pay it or your bags not going to go for that price and you’re going to have a middle seat” (though not in those exact words of course). I forked over my credit card, thought about how much I could claim back from work for the meal as well the bag and just figured I would make a complaint to Virgin America over it (probably won’t though).

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

I cleared security pretty quickly as the lines were short and once through met up with my co worker who wasn’t to far behind and we kind of found a few places to set up during the couple of hours we had in SFO. I had a few things on my mind, Coffee, Wifi, clearing work emails. So that is pretty much what I did, nothing really that exciting. I settled in for the time by the gate at a power point and it just kind of sped by. I had checked to see if I could score an exit row seat as well instead of the row 3 so that i could get to do some stuff for as long as possible on the flight.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

Time flew by, my coworker joined me by the gate and then as boarding was called, she disappeared to the bathroom, leaving me to mind the stuff till she returned.

Virgin America – VX744
San Francisco to Seattle Tacoma
1430-1635
Airbus A320 (N840VA)
Main Cabin Select – Seat 10A

Boarding: 1350 (Gate 50)
Push Back: 1430
Take Off Roll: 1455 (Runway 01R)
Top of Descent: 1604
Touch Down: 1628 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down:1631 (Gate B11)

Once my co-worker returned they were calling group B by that stage so had well and truly missed my boarding group and I headed over to get onboard and store my stuff since I would not have much chance later on as people would push their way on anyway. I got onboard and settled into my window exit row and boarding slowly happened around me. It was weird to watch them all board and take their seats while I watched tv and just tried to relax. We were ready early but obviously being a slot controlled airport we had to wait for our turn before we could push back.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

We pushed back dead on time and as we were towed away from T2 and towards the power up point, there was a lovely long line forming for the active departure runways, Dual take offs were happening on 1L & 1R with the occasional racing take off, which was pretty cool to watch. By the time we waited for our turn (almost 25 mins since push back) we finally took off on the right side, swung to the right then back to the left to climb out over Oakland, north towards Seattle.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

As we climbed out I hit up the order screen to set up some lunch, I was a little dissapointed to see the fresher items were not on offer but hey, its VX, they don’t make any sense at any time. I ordered some lunch (Protein Meal and some nuts) and figured I would just settle in to watch some tv while we cruised north. Flight time today of 90 minutes and once we were at cruise altitude the WiFi was switched on, the crew set about to work, and I just zoned out. Next thing I know my lunch is being delivered and I am chowing down as we fly North. I didn’t even realize what was going on till we started to get towards the top end of Oregon. I kind of wish the flight had been faster so I could get home sooner. At least with a coworker once I hit the ground I could use the HOV lane ;)

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

Descent was announced and I packed up my stuff, getting myself sorted. It was a pretty non eventful flight and the descent was about the same, easy, quick and without a hassle. We tracked north past the city and then did a nice turn above the clouds over the city (thank you mapping function) and with a final shot of Mt Rainier before we descended below the clouds (now I know I am really home) we ducked under into the grey below. Tracking for a 16R arrival, the airport looked quiet and it was, because minutes after we were on the ground, we pulled up at the gate.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

Disembarkation was relatively quick and once in the terminal, I waited around for my co-worker and then we headed towards baggage claim, the truck and home! 2 hours later I was at home, a world away from where I began the day, but almost 2 weeks after leaving, I was happy to have my own bed!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

Trip Report – An Aussie Goes to Kiwiland – Auckland to San Francisco

Introduction
Seattle to Honolulu
Honolulu to Auckland
Auckland to Christchurch
Wellington to Rotorua
Auckland to San Francisco
San Francisco to Seattle

                                                                                                                                                                      

Monday 21st October 2013

A day full of excitement and exhilaration after jumping off the top of a tower, watching as friends did the same and then catching up with a friend for lunch. Before I knew it, our bus to the airport was ready for us and I was heading towards the airport, to begin a long journey home to the USA.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

I was heading for Auckland International for my first of 2 legs home and I was fairly sad to do so. I was happy to be back up in the air, to be flying one of the two remaining 747s in the Air New Zealand fleet, but the sad part was leaving all my new friends behind, I didn’t want the trip to come to an end, but thats life right? Suck it up princess!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

We got dropped off at the Airport by our driver who had been looking after us for the last several days and after leaving a little present for one of my friends who was getting picked up later (Tessa did always want that drink from me) I headed into the terminal and headed towards the Premium Check In area. As I entered the area (which was surrounded by construction panels) I was suprised to find out that they use kiosks now for all flights, including the USA. I knew there would be a problem, but was assured that there wouldn’t be. As I scanned my passport and started the process of check in, I knew things were not going to work when it asked me to confirm I had tickets onward from the USA. Which I didn’t. The staff took over, as I expected they would, as the kiosk errored and did not allow me to check in.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

So off to the counter I went and I was checked in. My seat was moved to an empty row and I was told the space available upgrade I had been told I should get, was not going to happen at all and had it been on the right ticket, would of worked cause the flight was wiiiiiide open. *sigh* Lied to again *sigh*.

With my bag dropped at the Bag drop (1kg over the 23kg limit for standard econ but thanks to *G I was not worried) and watching as it was safely sent on its way, I filled in my departure card and got a little lost as they had changed the process slightly to get up to customs. You now head up the lift just inside the door where as previously the lift was after the check in desks. Felt like a bit of a dick at that point but hey it happens. Customs was over extremely quickly and then came the hell that was security. It was a MESS. With a few Jetstar flights, heaps of NZ flights, China Airlines and of course 2 of the Emirates A380s departing shortly, of course it was going to be a mess.

Security took about 10-15 minutes to get through the line, but I did get to keep my shoes on which was great. Everything else was pretty standard. Liquids & Laptop out, belt off as well. No big deal, nothing I haven’t already dealt with so many times this year. Once through security I spun the duty free wheel, won nothing all that exciting and headed up to the Koru Club for a bit of a relax before the flight. My main reason for the lounge today was to do a touch of work prior to the flight, back up some of the photos from the day and get myself prepped for the flight. Almost missed the door again to the Koru Club because it was so non descript and felt like a dick again, but meh. I had the usual hassle at the door thanks to the Aegean card (seriously don’t Star Alliance staff know their own partners) and I was finally let in, where I scoped out the power locations and got set up for some work. I checked on seat assignments and was assured that I had the best I could get and to double check before leaving that the seat would be free as if not they would move me to a free row.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

I settled in with a coffee and a snack to get some stuff done and the time seemingly flew by, I barely even noticed the hour or so that went past in the lounge and I had to rush off out of the lounge to make a few stops on the way out to the gate. Being out on the end of the NZ flight pier (gates 6 & 8 are always used for the USA flights so they can do the extra checks they always do for some stupid reason) it isn’t as long of a trek compared to the Emirates gates but it is still a good 5 or so minutes from the lounge, add in a stop to change some cash and at the store (still forgot to buy the magazine I wanted…. doh!) it was cutting it close to the advertised boarding time.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

The line for the gate was huge at the secondary checks and by the time I cleared that I was at the gate to see my beautiful Queen waiting for me. Tonights flight was on 1 of the 2 remaining 747-400s that Air NZ has in their fleet and they they won’t be around that long either, but might as well get one last flight on it before they dissapear. Having now flown almost all of the Air NZ long haul fleet in both Economy & Business (just Econ on the 77W to go) I was excited to get back onboard. Todays aircraft may look old and be old, but I will ALWAYS love the beauty that is a 747. There is a reason they call her the Queen of the Skies, it is because she deserves the respect of everyone who flies her, like any Queen should have.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

The gate area was a mess for such a light load and the time for boarding came and went, this did not look good for an on time departure, but hey, what can you do. In between annoucements that LAN had cancelled their flights (suprise surprise) and the boarding instructions, time seemed to just fly past.

Air New Zealand – NZ8
Auckland to San Francisco
1915-1115
Boeing 747-400 (ZK-SUH)
Economy Class – Seat 55A

Boarding: 1900 (Gate 8)
Push Back: 1915
Take Off Roll: 1929 (Runway 23L)
Top of Descent: 1038
Touch Down: 1105 (Runway 28R)
Shut Down: 1118 (Gate 93)

Boarding was eventually called and like the scrums that NZ rugby fans just adore, the boarding area and process turned into one. Originally supposed to be boarded in stages, all the premium were called and irrespective of eligibility, everyone bolted for the gate and the 3 control points. I got into the scrum and soon I was scanned through, heading onto my first 747 in almost 2 years! Hey, I wasn’t going to complain.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

I settled into my row and spread out a bit with so much of my crap stored under the seats in front instead of the overhead in case they kept the seat belt sign as I wanted as much access as I could get out of it. I was going to enjoy my time on this flight. Leg space was spacious at the seat and with 3 seats to myself and a galley next to it, I was in for a good time. The people infront of me were moaning that they “paid for premium” and were stuck up the back in Economy. Sorry guys what you paid for was not premium but actually “Preffered Seating” allowing them access to the better seats that came with a blocked seat next to them essentially. Damn americans who don’t read.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

We pushed back dead on time which was a shock and I was suprised to see that we had loaded a 747 in that short time frame. As we pushed back I snapped away at all the good traffic around us and was especially happy to see a freight Convair 580 powering up and also the DHL 757F on the ramp as well. As we lined up for a 23L departure the sun was setting and it was giving magnificent views. Take off felt spirited but I am sure this lady was heavy with fuel. I still enjoyed the show as we climbed out into the sky over Auckland, turning right over the city, and heading North East towards San Francisco.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

The most brilliant sunset was happening as we climbed out and I was just glued to the window and did not even care about anything else. A brilliant sunset is always going to keep me on a window without the need of something to read. I could of been watching a movie (and next time I will put on some music as the selection had my favourite DJ on it) but instead I watched the Avgeek dream. A Winglet, a sunset and a colour change as we headed up into the sky.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

Climb out was gradual and the seatbelt sign was off relatively shortly after take off but it didn’t stay off all that long and was soon back on. Documents were handed out shortly after and I set up my “Poor mans business class” (whole economy row) for the flight ahead. No annoucments about service, no menus on Air NZ, it felt so foreign to me after having some amazing flights this year on Long haul economy. O the differences between airlines you see these days. Me I was just happy to be back in the air really. Spending time somehwere I love (the sky) without the threat of being attached to a rope or being thrown off the top of a tower.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

As the crew prepared for the dinner service they announced that tonights choices were a chicken curry (suprise suprise) or Corned Beef. Having not had Corned Beef in forever I was happy to be going for that, and I settled in and waited what felt like forever for my turn. I found a whole heap of movies I wanted to watch and while enjoying Caddyshack my meal was delivered with an apology. “I am sorry but we have run out of Chicken so you have to have the Corned Beef”. O how shall I ever live with that ;) I could of faked the fact that I didn’t get a choice and milked it for extra ice cream to make up for it, but I thanked them, assured them it was no problem and waited for a drink before eating.

The dinner looked ok (not sure what the Salad was) but at least the main looked tasty and fairly good proportions of meet to starch to vegies (something that is not often found in Economy). It was very tasty and with a drink and some Ice Cream, I was quite happy to sit back and enjoy it all. What more can I ask for? A Tasty meal, a beverage and a movie while cruising along watching the sun set out my window.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

After dinner was cleared away and I was not offered coffee (sadly) I ended up doing a bit of work on the trip report and we still had the seat belt on after going through the occaisional bit of turbulence (light really) and watching the crew get stuck into the leftover meals (they better have some extra ice cream in there *wishes*). I settled in trying to get comfortable and after a couple of hours I did get that extra ice cream I was after along with some coffee and even tried to get some sleep. Having 3 seats to myself meant I should of been able to stretch out, but the arm rests on these old queens don’t fully go up, so you kind of have a bit of a point where they stop, which is crap but you deal with that. It means that you can’t really lie down without a hassle but I am to tall and big for that anyway and I know that skycouch on the 77W would just be a waste of money, I would rather go for the J upgrade any day.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

I did manage to get some rest (I wouldn’t call it sleep) and in between bouts of restlessness I think i got maybe an hour or two. Around about 3 hours out from SFO I woke up from a rest to the most beautiful sunrise out the window, and from that moment on, I stayed awake, starting my “day”, time to start shotgunning the coffee right? I must of passed out again because next thing I know it’s just before 2 hours out of SFO so I quickly got myself sorted as I could smell breakfast getting ready in the galley (which was right next to me). From there I managed to continue watching the hobbit which had turned out to take me almost 6 hours to watch a 3 hour movie. HAH! I kept watching and eventually I settled in for my breakfast. Choices this morning were Cereal or Eggs and they advised that since those in the back missed out on their choices earlier they would start in the back (not that i missed out).

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

The cereal was nice and tasty and I enjoyed it, the fruit was fairly bland though which was a disappointment but I had a banana stashed in my bag from the lounge in Auckland. Breakfast was consumed along with a few cups of coffee (I wanted to steal the coffee cup cause it was excellent) and once that was sorted and cleared away, I got myself changed and cleaned up in preparation for descent into SFO. At about the hour from touch down mark I got myself sorted, putting away my gear and getting set (as that is the point I have to put my ear plugs back in) and they announced a bit of a delay to landing due to “congestion” in SFO (which really means fog).

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

We descended into SFO and the fog had burnt out for most of it so there wasn’t to much of a hassle during the descent. I did love the look of the huge 747 flaps and spoilers as we descended over the coast. We made some weird turns over the Bay Area with a right turn south towards San Jose, then a big sweeping right turn back towards SFO. I was wanting to descend into SFO on the fated 28L, but sadly it was 28R (if thats a bad thing).

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

Watching the bay area speed by as we descended into SFO and next thing I know I see the runway, the ill fated location and then hello I am on the ground. Touching down on what will probably be my last time onboard an Air NZ 747 since they will be removed from fleet soon enough.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

Clearing the active at SFO was quick but i was to busy getting back into the real world and having my phone connect back to my Tmobile account. The flood of activity came back as sms and emails and tweets flooded back in after almost 12 hours of being disconnected from the world. It is sad but I am extremely connected to life that way. I got my email from the guys at Cranky telling me all was good and it looked like I would be ok to make the connection which was great and once we pulled up I just had to wait through the disembarking process before scurrying to immigration.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

I finally got out of the aircraft and into the terminal where it was on for young and old to get to immigration. I left my co worker behind as she was on a US passport so would be through quicker than I was, but my line wasn’t to bad as it looked like I beat the rush of kiwis making it to the desks. I wasn’t in line long (maybe 5-10 minutes) and I wasn’t grilled all to badly at immigration (mind you I was half asleep and looked like hell, so I think he went easy on me) and I was through to baggage claim. My bag took forever to come out and then it was out of the secure area, into the terminal, change a few things and onto the Airtrain to Terminal 2 and my Virgin Flight home to SEA.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island