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Something a little bit different

So most of you know what i do for work, so do a lot of the people I converse with on twitter. So when a friend on twitter asks me to make a booking for them, I am sure not going to say no to some extra dollars (especially when its travelling in my highest ever month.. close to half a mil in sales). However it’s what happened after the booking that was a bit different.

In the past in Australia, I used to help people fix their bookings all the time, conversing by phone, email etc while someone is on holiday was never an issue. However this time, things were a little different. I spent some time working with this friend to fix some problems on the booking via twitter. This being the first time that has happened meant that everything was just different for me. I had never before fixed a booking just by using twitter. Definitely a unique experience trying to cram a conversation into 140 characters at a time. I could have emailed but things would not have been as fast (especially when someone is on the other side of the world and looking at a substantial time difference).

Seeing a message like “DM me when you get into the office” can be ominous but during the whole time, this friend was nothing but nice and a total pleasure to deal with. Much better than some of the people I have dealt with in the past fixing up issues (I still remember being yelled at by a guy back in Australia because one tiny thing went wrong).

Twitter is just another form of communication these days and I know that a few hotels are starting to use it as a tool to make bookings. I have made appointments via twitter, restaurant reservations as well. Maybe sometime in the future I will do plenty of other business via twitter as well. At the moment it becomes my go to weapon in the fight against Airline Seat assignments when people want things others can’t achieve. Maybe it will lead to more?

Canada here I come!

Ok well a lot of you know that I am here in the USA on a work visa, well that visa is fast approaching it’s end. For the last 6 months I paniced and worried if I was going to be sponsored again and then when I was told it was all good, it was then hoping to get the visa appointment in time before it expired.

Good News! My Visa appointment is on Tuesday!! so the day after Aviation Geek Fest finishes I am driving north to Canada for a few days while I get my Visa renewed!

YAYAYAYA for 2 more years!

Never Ending

I remember an old Tim Tams ad from back in the day that had a never ending pack of Tim Tams. I know it is not real & I don’t really want one, but it is like my work life right now.

I have been working super hard the last few months, even more so the last 6 weeks. There has been maybe 2 days so far this year I have left work on time. Most days I am in the office at least 30 minutes early, and leaving around 615 or later. I am working from home a lot on weekends and I am in my emails at the start of each day, before I leave to go to work.

I probably look like a workaholic right now, I haven’t had a day off in months (even on weekends and time off over Christmas I worked) and my last real vacation was OshKosh in July. Right now I don’t know when or where my next break will be because I just can’t afford to take the break.

Sure someone could come in and handle stuff while I am out, but the problem is that stuff would just not get done. The last few weeks it has been a constant stream and the next two months look to be insanely busy, so much so I have no idea how I will cope (though the money will help) but I have to make it work, keep on track.

Life has to fit in there somewhere right? I have goals to work on & achieve, a life to live, a country to explore, friends to see & planes to photograph. Though all my work seems never ending, I need to somehow make that balance between work and life. Where do I draw that line? I have no clue!

Still Alive

It has been a busy week back at work so not much to say really. Long hours, stress & the usual commute hassles really means life is back to normal.

I have already started working on one of my goals for the year but will keep details under my hat for the moment. I did get a fss comments and emails about one of the goals and all I will say is I don’t want to be a Batchelor forever.

Might have an interesting tale soon about dealing with the US health insurance system, last time was a hassle, could be happening again. Will wait & see.

Pretty much life is back to boring normality. YAY?

Looking Back at 2013 – Fun & Memories – Part 2

I ran through my fun memories of the first half of 2013 in this post and here are the last half:

July

In July I had a chance to go tripping in summer with my friends Shawna & Dan as they showed me a little bit of their home. I had a blast as we went Cherry picking and I got to see parts of Washington I had not seen. I got to use the Truck for its intended purpose of hauling stuff around. I Also had another dream fulfilled when I got to step foot in OshKosh for the EAA Airventure.

From Seattle Life 2013
From Seattle Life 2013
From Seattle Life 2013
From AirVenture 2013

August

In August while I was in OshKosh I got the chance to accompany a group of Vietnam Veterans on an Honor Flight to Washington DC. Words can not express exactly how amazing this day was and how many memories I have from it. Being the month of my Birthday there was lots of celebrations and a few friends came to visit. Another memorable experience was getting to see my parents as they were stopping in Vancouver for a brief visit. It was a great weekend (though only brief) and getting to spend more than 3 hours with my family was a memory I will not forget.

From EAA Honor Flight
From EAA Honor Flight
From Fiona's Visit
From Fiona's Visit
From Family Visit to Vancouver
From Family Visit to Vancouver
From Family Visit to Vancouver
From Family Visit to Vancouver

September

September saw my friend Yena come over to visit, (though she was here for the last couple of days of August as well but he, it counts) and getting to spend Labor Day weekend with a great friend and showing her my new home town and having some old school shenanigans like old times was great (like licking a GE90 to win a $20 bet). A memory I will not soon forget. September was also the month I had trained long and hard for. I competed in my first Triathlon, a Super Sprint distance event in Woodinville for the “Cottage Lake Tri” and I did so much better than I expected.

From Labor Day 2013
From Labor Day 2013
From Labor Day 2013
From Labor Day 2013
From Seattle Life 2013
From Seattle Life 2013

October

Work got really busy towards the end of September but for most of October I actually spent my time in New Zealand, a good portion of the month actually. I was down there for training and the AOT Megafamil. I probably had what I think was my best famil ever and I enjoyed every minute of it. I met some amazing people, had a blast of a time and truly made friends who I hope to keep in touch with for quite some time. I also did some pretty stupid things, like Jump off a building or go on a giant canyon swing (without the canyon though) all to combat a fear. After getting back from New Zealand I jetted back east for a couple of days to Run my 2nd 10K race ever. I ran the Marine Corp Marathon 10K, something I had wanted to do for quite some time. If and when I ever get up to a full marathon, I want that race to be there as it felt like one of most amazing events I have seen.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South 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
From Marine Corp Marathon 10K
From Marine Corp Marathon 10K

November & December

November was a tough month, No real travel, nothing happening really. There was thanksgiving which I spent at home but it was all work. I needed to get back to work after spending so much time off. I did manage to skip out to Kansas City for the start of December for my $100 challenge which I won and then the snowpocalypse happened as well towards the end of month. A pretty cool thing to experience for the second time in a year

From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Kansas City BBQ Run
From Seattle Life 2013
From Seattle Life 2013

It has been a year of ups and downs, both good and bad, but I have had a blast and have some memories that will last a life time. To my friends old & new who I have shared moments with this year, Thank you for making this year truly special.

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 Christchurch

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

                                                                                                                                                                      

Friday 11th October 2013

I hear an alarm going off somewhere in my room, could it really be time to get up again? *sigh* No gym this morning as I was totally out of it and had planned on getting to one when I get to Christchurch, so this morning was an expedited routine of shower, repack, and out the door. All completed in less than 30 minutes (well apart from the out the door part, I sat around watching the news till I was set to go and meet my coworkers).

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

In the lobby while I waited, logged into the free internet provided and cleared out some of my emails and since no benefits like free wifi or even water were offered and the staff were totally indifferent about anything and didn’t seem to care, I just did what I needed to do. When my coworkers joined me, I logged out and we headed towards the domestic terminal. My bag was in walking mode (ie strain my arms not my shoulders) and the 750m walk from the International Terminal to the Domestic began.

I wasn’t going to wait for the shuttle as I always tell my clients it is easy to walk it and I wanted to prove to myself I was giving the right advice. It was definitely correct as the walk was flat, not at all complicated and done with 7 minutes (at Mal pace that is). When we got to the terminal I checked in at the Premium desk, was moved to a lovely window seat up the front and that is that.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Air NZ domestic is a pretty simple affair, especially at check in. For years now they have had the self check in for everything including bag tagging and even premium guests with Star Gold have to do that part yourself (though the staff will hand you your bag tag to put on yourself). No real weighing of my bag or even a second look. hah! My coworkers had not really understood the process and they joined the every increasing line of people who probably also didn’t figure it out. But hey, isn’t that what learning is all about?

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

After everyone had their boarding passes and their bags were dropped off to be checked, plans were put in place. I offered to guest one of them into the Koru Club for breakfast or coffee and explained that once they went through security, that was it, there was nothing on the other side, which is sadly true. But security should take all of 5 seconds so you cross at the very last second right before boarding (or even as they call it). Neither of them chose to join me as I just wanted 2 things, WiFi and coffee. I wanted to get a couple of emails responded to asap and check in with work to let them know we are safe and sound.

Security was effortless and I still had my shoes on, my belt on, my jacket on as well. I felt like a human being rather than someone who was being treated like crap by the TSA. My laptop did have to come out but i mean that was it! Surely that can be done everywhere right? Once through security, flicked up to the gate to take a shot of the aircraft and grab the registration and then to the Koru club. I noticed an Air NZ 320 with sharklets at one the gates, but the gate location blocked any photo opportunity which was crap. To the lounge it is!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

The Domestic Koru Club in Auckland was pretty well stocked and the breakfast offerings were more than ample, but I didn’t partake. I grabbed a banana for later, a WiFi code, and some liquids (coffee & water). I had barely any time in the lounge to get what I needed done but I did it. A couple of things I noticed in the lounge that was excellent was you could board directly to the regional aircraft straight from the lounge and that they had take away coffee available. Something I did not realize till I was literally about to leave the lounge.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Air New Zealand – NZ507
Auckland to Christchurch
0610-0725
Boeing 737-300 (ZK-NGG)
Economy Class – Seat 4A

Boarding: 0545 (Gate 30)
Push Back: 0608
Take Off Roll: 0616 (Runway 23L)
Top Of Descent: 0709
Touch Down: 0730 (Runway 02)
Shut Down: 0733 (Gate 16)

Boarding was called earlier than advised and they had called the Wellington flight about 5 minutes before ours and within 5-10 minutes of that announcement they were threatening boarding closure within 4 minutes. So I knew I wouldn’t have much time, but my priorities were set that morning. COFFEE! Coffee always comes first right? With a double long black in hand I headed to the gate where it looked like boarding was already over as there was no one around and when I stepped onboard my coworkers were already in. Craziness!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

I got all my stuff onboard and stowed and passed on a message to one of my coworkers and settled into my seat for departure. Plenty of legroom up in Row 4 and I wonder if that is just a Space+ seat for preferred pax or if it is normal. My original seat was the exit row so I guess I would not really know. It was raining (slightly) and dark outside so photos were practically useless and it wasn’t all that long before we were closed down and pushing back for an early departure (2 minutes early).

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Push back had to be the world’s longest as we just kept going further and further back, way more than would usually be the case. It was a little bit of a wait to get taxi clearance and then we were headed for the active runway, the same as we arrived on the night before. Passing a Jetconnect 738 being towed to the international, and wishing it was light enough to get a photo, I kind of wished that it was daylight, but can’t have everything right. We were the only one in line as the Wellington flight was already on its way and the Jetstar flight ahead of us, was already powering out before we touched the taxiway. Next thing I know we are turning onto 23L, holding for a brief few seconds while the First Officer (who was handling today’s flight) gave her same gas and down the runway we went, into the morning sky.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Climbing out through clouds and darkness, we cleared above the clouds to sunlight and sunshine and my brain could not understand anything, but then I was barely a functioning human at this point. I was 3 coffees in but after 4 hours sleep in 2 days, who is functioning (I need a gym session to get me back on track). As we climbed out the Seat belt sign stayed on for a bit for “turbulence” but if you want to call those bumps turbulence you can but it was more like hitting a speed bump occasionally over a 10 minute period.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Once electronics were ok’d I pulled out the laptop and finished off some notes and stuff from the last few days and service shortly began in the Cabin. The mornings choice was Tea, Coffee or Water and Cookie or Muffin. Give you one guess what I had. Yep the cookie! Well not really, I took the cookie to save for later as an emergency snack as now it was time to get back on track eating wise. Back to my usual self, no more flight day exceptions. With my 4th coffee of the morning poured infront of me (french press, not instant) I was a happy man.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

We cruised along above the clouds without anything happening and before we knew it, we were starting descent into a cold Christchurch. Mind you it was still early in the morning as we descended and the temperature was a mere 5C. Electronics off, and seats to upright position please. Descent was relatively quick and although most of the cloud was up high, once below the layer the views were pretty outstanding. The area is extremely flat around Christchurch but I guess that is why they call it the “Canterbury Plains”.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

As we followed in the Jetstar flight which had taken off ahead of us from Auckland it was all flooding back into me (this wasn’t my first time to this airport and funnily enough it wasn’t my first flight on that exact aircraft). What I really wanted to see was just how much the airport had changed since I was there back in 2010. Well to be honest what I saw when we finally touched down I did not expect. There wasn’t much on the Deep Freeze ramp just a C17 and a C130 but the new domestic terminal gates looked immaculate.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

The last time I was there the airport was a bit of a construction site, well not any longer! It looked amazingly good and just so well done. The clean lines from the outside must definitely make for an impressive sight on the inside. We pulled up to the gate and before the engines had even shut down the seat belt sign was off and people were up and out of their seats ready to get moving. It didn’t seem like we were going to have to wait long as moments later the airbridge was connected.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

We were let loose into an amazingly modern terminal and it was a thousand fold difference from what I had seen when I was previously there. They had put quite a bit of money into this airport and it has definately been worth every cent. I had not stopped moving since being off the aircraft and it was only a short distance from the gate to the escalators down to baggage claim, as we walked down to it, our bags popped out and within the first 6 bags all 3 of ours were out. Aircraft to bags in hand to shuttle at the door in less than 6 minutes! Holy crap that is fast!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

As we drove away in the shuttle, my brain was firmly on the prize ahead of me. A workout and some time on the ground after a truly epic journey to the other side of the world.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Trip Report – An Aussie Goes to Kiwiland – Honolulu to Auckland

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

                                                                                                                                                                      

I managed to extricate myself from the Aircraft and although we landed early, by the time I had gotten off the aircraft it was around about the time that I normally would have been off, had we been on time and I was sitting up the front still. That is nothing to complain about. I was met at the end of the boarding area by a couple of Hawaiian Airlines staff members who were going to escort me over to the main terminal to where my aircraft to New Zealand was waiting. They had set up for me to access the aircraft to take some empty cabin shots before it was bonded by customs and no one but the crew could come on. Fine with me!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

As we made our way up out of the mess of people ahead towards the shuttle area, I realised that I was heading for the famed “Wiki Wiki Shuttle”. A shuttle bus that ran along the roof top of some of the terminals and is also apparently part of where Wikipedia was named after (though because I read that on Wikipedia, take it with a grain of salt). It was great to chat to the Hawaiian staff ever so briefly but any chatting to a fellow avgeek is always great.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

They took me over to my connecting gate and the Airbus A330 that was to take me to Auckland sat waiting for me. We had to wait a little bit for the catering staff to finish and empty out of the aircraft, then it was all me! I snapped a few photos and within about 5 minutes we were good to go. Into a totally empty aircraft that was eerily quiet but made for some great photo opportunities.

After snapping away to my hearts content and then holding back from playing in the cockpit (I wasn’t there to play, I was there to work) they told the best vantage points for some exterior shots and I went for a nice walk in the open breezeways of Honolulu airport. Got to love the fact that the terminal is practically open air for the entire thing. Seriously that is awesome! Being able to hear the engine noise, smell the burning jet fuel and most importantly enjoy the feeling of real sunshine and warmth is like a dream come true. Avgeek nirvana.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

With all the photos done that I needed to get done, I headed back towards the gate area, to catch up with my coworkers and also to get some power for my laptop as it was not going to make the whole flight and I did want to at least get some work done (though not much was going to happen on what little battery power I had left). Catching up with my coworkers and talking about general stuff was good and soon enough the holding bay for the gate was filling up.

Hawaiian Airlines – HA445
Honolulu to Auckland
1345-2145
Airbus A330-200 (N381HA)
Economy Class – Seat 42J

Boarding: 1302 (Gate 29)
Push Back: 1340
Take Off Roll: 1355 (Runway 8R)
Top of Descent: 2100
Touch Down: 2137 (Runway 23L)
Shut Down: 2141 (Gate 8)

Boarding was announced and that it would be conducted in groups and that passports would be checked prior to boarding the aircraft. As they slowly called through the different groups, with Wheelchair passengers, then first class, then children with infants under 2, then finally priority boarding. With that, since I was down the back of the bus (the things I do for a window seat) I headed down the jetbridge towards my waiting Airbus.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

It was weird to be back onboard again and actually seeing crew moving about. Boarding through Door 2L was expected and I was advised to cross to the far side of the aircraft and to the back of the “Bus” you go! All the way to the back (not as bad as last time though). I was told when I got my seat swapped that there was no guarantee the seat next to me would remain empty, so I didn’t unpack my crap to much to begin with and kind of held back from just exploding all my stuff everywhere. I did the usual pre flight things while I waited. I took photos, filled in the log book, took more photos, tweeted, read about the Delta and Alaska partnership falling apart at the seems (the best part was that my email was full of emails from the other blog staff about how we had managed to break the news to the web first… way to go!) and generally just didn’t realize what was going on. While on the ground they had distributed small amenity kits (essentially headphones, earplugs and an eye mask) along with also a menu! Yes a menu in Economy, but it also doubled as a postcard so you could write a letter to someone and post them the menu.. hrm tempting! I will try not to be a cheap ass and use the postcard to send to someone.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Next thing I know the doors are shut, boarding complete is announced and we are pushing back… errr where did my time go! I hadn’t even done up my seatbelt before we were halfway through the safety video and I had managed to scramble to stow my stuff properly. Next thing I know my camera battery dies and I am stuffed without any photo ability (apart from the occasional photo from my phone which obviously was a very very naughty thing to do, but if it was important I was going to take the shot). We taxiied out to the active departure runway which was the famous (or infamous depends how you look at it) Reef Runway.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

We taxiied out past Hickam and were followed to the active by a Navy P3 off on a flight somewhere. If I had of been on the Port (Left) side and had a working camea, I would of had a perfect series of photos of us holding on the active while a Navy P3 sat directly out my window waiting in line. Dammit! Didn’t matter, for the second time in my life I was departing the reef runway from Honolulu, both times in an A330 (different airlines and destinations though) and going to enjoy the climb out. We powered up as the pilot pushed the controls forward up in the cockpit and there must of been some crosswind on take off as we got nailed around quite a bit on the roll. But we soon were airborne and watching the winglet bounce is always fun.

We climbed up and away from Honolulu and slowly climbed to cruise altitude. We were barely in the air, still with seatbelt signs on and people were already moving about. Is it just me or does no one pay any attention to these signals anymore… seriously! I try not to move about at all, but below 10,000ft is definately a no no. We were far off cruise altitude and I do feel that sometimes american pilots keep the seat belt sign on far to long (through to a 40 minute climb to cruise is a bit much when it is clear as a tack out) but people in general these days seem far to complacent. Enough crapping on about people, back to the flight.

Climb out was long (as expected as I am sure this plane is heavily laden with cargo) and we were informed of a flight time of 8 hours 47 minutes which should have us arriving around 7pm… Say what now. A flight time that is roughly on time but getting us in 2 hours early… me thinks someone didn’t set their watch correctly this morning. I moved my watch to Auckland local (1 hour less but 1 day in the future) and settled in to fill out the immigration forms that were being handed out.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Once we hit cruise at 38,000ft the seat belt sign came off, I hopped up to stretch and get down my electronics so that I could settle in for the flight ahead. Did I mention the seat beside me stayed empty. Though any remaining empty seat out there in the cabin filled up quicker than hell. Avod on the A330s is still a paid affair but the offerings though good (and work was paying so it wasn’t going to cost me anything) apparently had the ability to connect USB devices. I knew it would charge which was great, but I was hoping to be able to stream from my tablet to the screen so that way I could watch it on the slightly larger screen. Not to be, must only be iphone/ipod compatible as neither of my android devices worked. I settled in to do some work while I waited for service to commence.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Beverage service came through with offer of some snack mix and it was tiny cup time. Can’t I get a full can sometime today? Being a daylight flight I was intending on treating the first meal as lunch, working/chilling out for the afternoon and then our last service would be “Dinner” before hitting the sack as soon as we touched down in Auckland. Since I would be up about 4am for a quick shower and change before heading for another flight to Christchurch I had my day planned essentially. I mulled the plans over in my head while I had some snack mix and typed away.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

When that was all cleaned up, shortly afterwards out came the first meal service. Ahhh economy. It’s the same on any airline. Take off, Feed the pax, make them sleepy, shut the blinds, go to bed now people. Pfft!!! That was not going to happen to me today. It may have been an effort to stay awake as long as possible, but that is what I was going to do. I settled back to my lunch which was promptly delivered (no choice) and started to watch the movies that I had brought.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Although I couldn’t stream the movies through the seatback, I could keep the tablet charged fully with the usb plug at the seat, so while my tablet stayed nicely powered, I sat back to enjoy my tv shows and movies in relative comfort (2 seats to myself) and set up a kind of tablet stand out of the stuff I had around me. Unfortunately their would be no “GhettoIFE” on this flight as the sick bags don’t really accomodate a 7” Tablet.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Lunch wasn’t all that bad and once it was cleared away and I managed to get myself some more coffee, I pretty much spent the next several hours just watching TV shows and movies and having a conversation with a co worker in a forward row (went for a walk). The snack bar was set up forward this time (was set up in the rear cabin of the 767 and I checked it out and purchased a little bit of a snackage for my afternoon movie) and continued on doing nothing really.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

The flight cruised by, as we raced the sunset away from the USA we kept battling to see if we could out pace it, but it was not to be. The sun slowly set as we passed around Fiji with about 3 hours or so left in our flight. The sunset wasn’t the best I have seen but it was still pretty damn good. The sun dropping behind the clouds made for a good backdrop against the winglet and I got a few photos. I kept thinking to myself “This is why I love to fly”, getting shots like that, just make it exciting to me.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

As the sun set we slowly started to dwindle down our time to New Zealand. Around 2 hours out I expected the final service to begin, it was advertised as “High Tea, Hawaiian Style” so whatever that was, who knows! But nothing came. I packed up my stuff around the 90 minute mark… still nothing, but at 1h 15 mins from Auckland. The crew started what felt like a rushed service. The high tea was a little snack box with a small sandwhich, 2 small cookies and a chocolate macadamia nut. Not to bad if you ask me. Add in the fact that I just had to have the one thing that every single person who flies Hawaiian should have (POG) and it wasn’t a bad snack service.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

As they rushed around the cabin clearing things away as we began descent into Auckland roughly 30 minutes out. It felt very very rushed for all the crew to be finishing things up as we were literally already into a slow descent. Couldn’t see anything out the window as it was all cloud and darkness, so not much to really worry about and I just finished the flight off reading the inflight magazine as the moving map had been switched off at the 30 minute mark.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Final preparations for landing were made mere moments out as we came onto finals from the opposite side that I have always landed at in Auckland. After a nice hard thump on landing we slowly taxiied to the international terminal. We were briefed to stay in our seats, do not move and do not touch anything while they sprayed the aircraft for quaratine reasons. That process took FOREVER! Almost 15 minutes while we couldnt move or do anything. Eh… kill me now. I was already fading fast and this was not helping.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

When we finally got the ok to move, I tried to get myself out of the aircraft as quickly as possible but I wasn’t holding my breath for a fast exit since I was at the back. By the time I was off, I didn’t expect to see my coworkers anywhere and I didn’t even see them at what felt like the worlds largest duty free store (but it’s not I am sure that’s in Dubai or somewhere) buying wine. From that point onwards my plan of action was to get through immigration, get my bag, get to the Telecom store, buy a sim and get to bed!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Thankfully immigration wasn’t to bad (had to ask for a stamp which I got chastised for.. pfft) and headed out through customs with my bag. Telecom was pretty much right at the exit and within 10 minutes of entering the store I was fully switched on with a new sim, new number and a half gig of data (plus access to a gig a day free wifi at Telecom hot spots). Seemed good enough to me.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Our hotel for the evening was the Novotel Auckland Airport and thankfully there is no messing around with shuttles or anything like that. It is right at the terminal exit, just past the shuttles, on the other side of the pathway. Could not miss it! Got to love that kind of location. Check in was a breeze, waved goodbye to my coworkers who were discussing wake up call times and I headed up to my room for the evening to charge up my stuff and conk out.

Trip Report – An Aussie goes to Kiwiland – Seattle to Honolulu

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

                                                                                                                                                                      

Wednesday 9th October 2013

After leaving the Holiday Inn and heading over to SeaTac to deposit the truck in the Wallypark garage (thank you costco vouchers) I caught the shuttle over to the terminal so that I could check in. I got a text from one of my coworkers to say she was already checked in and through security and that I can meet her on the other side. Only one other coworker to track down and it would all be good.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

The shuttle dropped me off in the total wrong spot but hey, that’s a parking shuttle for you and I walked through the terminal to the Hawaiian check in desks which are located in the far south of the terminal with the International Airlines. Check in was fairly empty and funnily enough I stepped into the International Line right behind my other coworker. Perfect!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

It was then that I found out things were not going to move fast at all. My coworker had been in line for almost 20 minutes and not because it wasn’t staffed. They were churning people through fast as anything, but the problem was that the family infront were delaying things due to some passport issues… who doesn’t realise you need a passport to leave the country.. seriously? But whatever. It took a further 15-20 minutes to even move forward and eventually they checked me in at a non international counter which they could of done in the first place, but I digress. Managed to talk my way into getting Priority Boarding and Security on a ticket that I shouldn’t (thank you Velocity Gold Card and a smile) and with about 45 minutes before boarding it was time to tackle SeaTac security.

Security wasn’t to bad and we were able to get through the priority lines fairly quickly. I had a quick discussion with one of the TSA agents about football teams (Hook Em Horns!) and that meant that my time in the line up wasn’t all that bad. Maybe it is just me but SeaTac TSA are improving somewhat, even If I still get the occasional pat n grab when I have nothing wrong with me (stupid body screening). After pointing my coworker in the direction of some shops I headed to starbucks to grab some caffeine before jumping on the train to the South Satelitte.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

By the time we got through security and I had my coffee with me and off the train, there was a bare 15-20 minutes till boarding and with my priorities already set straight, I sat at the gate chatting with my coworker. I made myself known at the counter to see if I could wingle my way into a window seat (sorry ladies, but this Avgeek wants a window on a daylight flight), I was told I would be paged if they found one for me. 10 minutes later… “Paging Mr Muir to the Podium”… Score! It may be a window in the very rear of the aircraft but hey, it will do.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Hawaiian Airlines – HA21
Seattle Tacoma – Honolulu
0845-1145
Boeing 767-300 (N596HA)
Economy Class – Seat 46A

Boarding: 0800 (Gate S16)
Push Back: 0845
Take off Roll: 0901 (Runway 16L)
Top of Descent: 1107
Touch Down: 1132 (Runway 8L)
Shut Down: 1141 (Gate 59)

Boarding started with a massive line of gate lice and constant offers to get check bags, so although there is meant to be lots of “Hawiian Hospitality” some things just don’t change. First up were familes with children under the age of 2 (which was strictly specified and enforced from what I could see), along with elderly etc. Then first class, then priority, then who knows cause I was already onboard the aircraft.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Todays ride was a non winglet equipped 763 (no Extended range here!) which although not a new type for me, was unique as there isn’t that many airlines not flying Non ER birds these days. The interior looked pretty good for this old bird and although there wasn’t seat back IFE, I didn’t mind. I was happy with my laptop and my ipod for this flight. The next flight is where I would be wanting some seatback goodness.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

All the way to the very back I headed and the aisles are narrow but then any 767 is, though 2-3-2 is a rare site these days. Seats looked ok with a slim line fit and reasonable seat pitch, nothing spacious but nothing overtly disgusting either. My only problem was that I seemed to of gotten the only window that was scratched over to eternity so my dream of photos out the windows were pretty shattered. But meh!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Boarding progressed as I settled in and the flight filled to 100% capacity (as they said it would) with not much effort and although their was lots of talk of specific space for bags in the overhead, the boarding process seemed to go off without a hassle and not that much of the usual “Sit down, shut up” attitude you get from some airlines (*cough* United *cough*). I did like the fact that they announced that we were fully boarded, doors closed and departing on time, prior to the safety demo, and depart on time we did, pushing back right on 0845.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

The taxi out was fine and I missed a shot of Alaska’s new livery which was revealed the day before (but hey I have a new special scheme to hunt). We taxiied north to the 16s and after a few take offs in front of us, we lined up and held. Not sure why we held as we were the only aircraft around, no one was behind us and there hadn’t been an aircraft in front of us to wait for. Meh whatever. The 767 rolled with a little bit less vigour than what I have experienced on ER birds and were soon climbing out to the south and with a gentle right turn, signalling our turn away from the mainland headed towards sunshine and happiness.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Once through 10,000ft I broke out the ipod to get some noise going but the seat belt sign did not come off for quite some time, till when we hit full cruise. I don’t know if this is a Hawaiian thing or not but to be honest it just felt like I was trapped. I have probably flown to much premium travel this year as I am to used to eating or doing whatever when I want but flying down the back of the plane means one thing, you work on their timetable. You eat when your told, drink when your told, even use the bathroom when your told. They did stress the fact that you shouldn’t be moving about before the seatbelt sign gets off, but that didn’t stop anyone (as usual).

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

A couple of little bumpy bits on the climb to cruise and once at cruise the seatbelt sign came off mere moments before they began the morning service. Unlike every other airline in the USA, Hawaiian Airlines provide complimentary meals at meal times on all flights. A very rare thing and obviously I wouldn’t expect a massive meal or anything but free is free. Being that we were taking off before 9am and it still being before 6 in Hawaii, our service that morning was to be a “Continental Breakfast”. I had read online that it was a “Cheese Plate” but what was handed to me was more of a Fruit Plate, but hey, I like fruit and to be honest, prefer it over cheese. There was one solitary piece of local cheese but that was it. Meh the standout was the real metal fork! Something I did not expect to see on the meal, let alone on any US based carrier. Hell even the Aussie carriers don’t give you metal cutlery.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

The breakfast service was accompanied by Tea, Coffee, Water and Juice. Coffee was of course Hawaiian and not that bad, and of course other than the usual juices on offer, there was also POG. Pass-O-Guava juice (POG) seems to be a Hawaiian staple and it is kind of like what Biscoff is to Delta, you know your flying HA when you see a POG cup onboard (though they were pouring from cans). The fruit was fresh, the coffee good and tasty (not overly hot) so breakfast went off without a hitch. I liked the fact that they gave you a little gift to take with you (instant Kona Coffee satchel) but sadly it was marked “Made in China” for something that was advertised as “Hawaiian” (well 10% hawiian at least).

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

After breakfast was cleared away, another round of drinks were offered and they settled in for a long flight across the pacific. Our flight time was blocked as just over 6 hours but in reality 5h 27 minutes today apparently. A little bit of schedule padding never hurt anyone. Although my IFE jack didn’t work all that well, I could barely hear the music that was playing, I was suprised to learn that they did play one movie during the flight (Iron Man 3). Hawaiian offers Tablets for rental but you should pre book them on the ground (and you can at a seperate desk in the terminal, next to the gate) so you don’t miss out as they only load a limited amount. For this 767 flight, I would of been screwed had I not brought my laptop or tablet.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

I settled in for a long overwater flight of working, writing and coffee drinking, what seems to be the norm for me when travelling right? The crew on this flight were good and they constantly came through the cabin offering water or you could head up to the back of the aircraft to the “Snack Bar” where you could purchase a snack or pick up a drink. Really good if you ask me!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

The flight kind of just cruised by and nothing all that uneventful happened. I worked, I read, I listened to some music and just generally chilled. There wasn’t much else to do really. I ended up finishing the work that I wanted to do, along with also the magazine I had brought with me (conserving tablet power for the onward flight so that I could watch some movies).

Before to long the final beverage service began and it was more of a snack service as not only could you get some free rum punch but you could also get a packet of crisps (chips whatever you want to call them) with your drink. Nice! Looking good all around for Hawaiian it seems. After my tiny tiny tiny cup of diet coke (the crew member didnt even give me more than a mouthful, after filling the cup with ice and then a splash of diet coke that was it!) I sat back and enjoyed my banana (thanks Holiday Inn) and we cruised ever closer to Hawaii.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Starting to pack things up about 45 minutes out from Honolulu seems the norm with the airline as they announced an imminent descent (15 mins earlier than most would) and that they would have to start collecting tablets etc. So not the thing you want to hear I guess if you had purchased one, as the movie on the main screen had finished.

As we started turns for descent into Honolulu the islands started to slowly come into view and I would have to say that if you are heading west from the USA out to HNL, the Starboard side of the aircraft would be the smartest bet for the best photos, as all I got was ocean. We turned over what looked like Waikiki maybe before making another right turn towards the active runway. That was a good thing for me as this was the same approach I had flown on the last time I flew to Hawaii and would mean one thing, Joint Base Pearl Hickam. Being able to get some landing shots of HNL is great, getting landing shots of HNL as you flew over what was up until a little time ago called “Hickam Air Force Base” is always great. Last time I had managed to snap an E4 on the deck with a few F-22’s on the line as well. What would be in store for me today!

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

As we glided in over Hickam there was plenty of heavy metal on the ground with lots of C-17s and a spattering of C-5s. A number of Navy 737s and what looked like an Air Force 757 (I forget what the military designators are for those two) and lots and lots of P3s. I thought I spotted a couple of harriers but the F-22s were hiding in their revetments. Damn them jet jockies ;)

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

We landed on to the 26L/08R series and had a breif taxi off the active. As soon as we were down my phone was out and linked in as I was being met on the ground by Hawaiian staff to get some empty cabin shots of one of their 330s before my flight to Auckland. So making sure that I could get that handled before I stepped off the aircraft (though being at the back of the plane meant I would be around for a while).

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

As we taxiied towards our parking spot which was announced to be at the Interisland Terminal, there was plenty of purple & white around with Hawaiian obviously dominating out here (most obvious sentence ever). There was plenty of the Asian carriers in attendance as well, with a whole multitude of JAL 767s on the deck, a China Airlines 747 in a special livery (not sure which one) and a few Korean A330s as well.

From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island
From AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

Pulling up the Interisland terminal finally the chimes went off and everyone was set free. Not that I could go anywhere as it was jam packed the entire plane so I was literally one of the last few off the aircraft. But hey.. the things you do for a window seat right? The flight had gone really well, now it was time to do a little bit of work right?

NZ Famil Photos are up

The majority of my photos are now online ready for your viewing pleasure!

South Island:

AOT NZ Megafamil – South Island

North Island:

AOT NZ Megafamil – North Island

Still some to add like the Panoramas and some of the aircraft shots from Wellington where I was spotting from the Lounge a bit. But otherwise all good :D