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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.