Now that I have moved to Sydney, I took the chance to visit New Zealand for the first time. The Mrs travels quite a bit with work, so with a paid for hotel for a weekend, I looked at flights. Qantas (with LAN A340 and EK A380 codeshares) were slightly more expensive than Virgin Australia (with Air NZ codeshares), but what swung it in the end was the timings and widebody 772(ER) services operated by NZ.
Finishing work at 2-30 on the Friday for a 6-30 flight, I took the train from Sydney to the Airport International Terminal. Sydney has a great public transport system, so this took no time at all. Up in departures, I used the self service check in, although I actually got the assistant to do it all for me. I was given seat 64F, so asked to me moved to a window. The woman told me 64F was a window seat, but I knew better than her and asked her to double check, upon which I was moved to 60A. Once checked in, I remained landside and went up to the Observation Deck.
Took photos up on the Observation Deck for just over an hour:
Back down to security at 4-15, and breezed through no problems. Through to the shopping alley, which like most airports these days forces to walk down past a load of Toblerone and M&Ms. Stopped at the Chinese restaurant as it had a fantastic view of the apron, although the food was distinctly average:
I watched ZK-OKH fly in from Auckland from about 38,000ft over a beer, whilst using the free internet and pondering why do you not get free wifi in UK airports. Another beer, then off to gate 61, which was a long walk from my seat in the restaurant towards the southern end of the terminal. Yet again I was forced through a alley way of items I did not want to buy. Upon arrival, the gate was very busy, but this was due to the SQ242 boarding. Got a seat by the window, took a pic of 9V-SVC:
About 6-20, our flight began to board. Business, Premium Economy and Economy rows 50-60 were asked to board first and I was near enough the first passenger on the plane. The flight quickly filled up, with not a spare seat visible (maybe something to do with the Rugby Union match that weekend). 60A seemed a good seat as it has a double window space, but the leg room could have been a little bigger for my liking. The cabin interior looked old and tired. After pushback, we took a long taxi to 34L. Got to see an EY 77W, SQ 77W and MH A330 around and about the airport, whilst an EK 77W got the WOW factor going by rotating right by my window.
We got the Air New Zealand Bear Grylls safety video, which I thought was great. Just different:
After a Virgin Australia arrival had cleared the runway we took off, making a huge left turn away from New Zealand. Then a huge right turn over Greater Western Sydney. I presume this was noise avoidance for the wealthier suburbs of North Sydney. Used the Moving Maps feature for the first bit of the flight over land, but was disappointed by the lack of interactivity. Upon reaching the sea, we immediately hit turbulence.
The IFE on the plane was very clumsy. No touch screen, and I had to press some of the buttons extremely firmly just to get them to register, and they were slow to react. I watched the Internship, which if you only learn one thing from this report, is utter crap. Descent into Auckland started about 220km from destination. I viewed this through the "Captains View" on the screen as there was just cloud outside the dark window. We came in from the east on runway 5, but with a relatively smooth landing considering the rainy conditions. Dotted around were a LAN A340, SQ772 9V-SVM plus Air NZ and Jetstar planes.
At 11-45 we arrived on stand 6. Whilst getting off, I decided that Air NZ Premium Economy just didn't look worth the money. The seat was exactly the same, so all you got extra was more leg room and a better set of headphones. Another walk through alcohol and toblerone i.e. Duty Free, before reaching passport control. This was fairly empty so a simple process, although they do question you. Once though passport, it was the turn of the prohibited items checkpoint. Being hand baggage only, all they did was X-ray my bag again and off I popped to the arrivals. From there it was well signposted to the bus stop, where I got a return ticket to Auckland.
Coming back, I had to get up at 2-30am for the 3am bus from town to the airport. This was on time, so arrived before check in opened which opened 10 mins late. At the self check in, the flight said unavailable for check in, so with a bit of assistance from the staff I got myself in seat 61A and check in. Upstairs from check in to departures but security was not open, so I filled in my departure card and looked at the plethora of useless items to buy and what was on display at the airport.
I decided to wander down to the viewing terrace to kill more time. Up some escalators, and along and winding corridor and eventually you come to room full of people sleeping. But it does have views of the apron through glass:
Back in departures, the security gate had opened and a mass of people headed for the e-passports gates. I decided that despite having an e-passport, the normal queue would be quicker and I think I was right. In through the Toblerone Tunnel, but this time I did a bit of shopping for a camera battery, before having breakfast, interrupted by a tiny bird collecting food. I think it lived IN the terminal. It certainly was not shy.
ZK-OKF was on our gate, whilst ZK-OKE was at gate 5. Unlike most airports, the windows were at an awkward level which meant it was not conducive to using a DSLR to photograph the aircraft on stand, so I continued with the iPad:
I people watched for a while, noting that a number of people had cabin hand luggage bags the size of suitcases. Even the children. Just takes the proverbial biscuit. At dawn, a LAN A340 was towed to remote. Then a small child sat next to me with his father and proceeded to play the LOUDEST computer game. Ever. One of those with annoying jingly music and action noises. With a bit more light, I could now see the All Black 77W and an Air NZ B747, which there days are quite rare.
Boarding was again an easy procedure, Air NZ's system works well I think. 61A was a good seat too, as the window divide was perfectly placed for support for a sleep. 61B was empty, as were about 20% of the seats I could see. The Bear Grylls video started at pushback, and we moved off under our own power to the runway. The All Black A320 was also in, as was the 2nd Air NZ B747.
Take-off was good, followed by a left turn which gave views of Auckland in the distance before revealing the airport again:
Up into the cloud and no more photos. Then Ralph Wood came on with the most tedious and long winded cabin announcement I have ever had in my life. Ever. The guy just would not shut up. And just when you thought it was done, he'd be straight back on to add another sentence.
Sleep was now unlikely so I decided to watch Star Trek 2, which is a decent film. However, the pilot or some other member for the crew, seemed to think that I cared about the boat racing (Americas Cup?). So I kept getting pointless text messages filling up my screen and spoiling the film. (The NZ team lost the Cup thanks to Ben Ainslie and a remarkable turnaround a few weeks later. GOOD!)
This time my IFE remote worked slightly better, but the lack of a Home button to return to the start screen was rather frustrating. A smooth, uneventful Trans-Tasman flight followed. As we approached Sydney, a QF767 passed underneath us and hoping to catch the views of the city on the way in, I was disappointed to get yet another view of Croulla and Botany Bay as we landed on 34L. A good landing, and all the usual suspects were dotted around, whilst AC C-FIVK followed us in.
There was a slight delay in getting off the plane but I made it down to passport control where the queue was massive, but recently the UK passports have been added to Sydney's self-service e-passport gate so I passed in 2 mins. I suspect it could have been an hour in the other queue. Down in customs, Border Security were filming. For those not in the know, this is a reality TV show in Australia based on the Customs & Immigration at Australia's airports. My declared Perky-Na-Nas were not deemed television worthy, so I tootled off to the train station and straight to the office for work, only 9 hours after I had woken up.
Air NZ were OK, nothing special. The use of the B772(ER) seems to be reserved for the busier days of the week on this route, the rest using B763 or A320's. Qantas only offers the B738, although the codeshare with LAN and EK could tempt me, should I do the route again. My lack of Star Alliance FF is also another factor I would consider, although I was able to enter my Etihad Guest FF number.
#2 - by Sam-at-MAN on Thu December 12, 2013 at 18:38 GMT
Great report, very jealous
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