Champagnes (not including sparkling wines)
- Lanson (white and pink)
- Charles Heidsieck
- Veuve (2 different types)
- Taittinger (3 different vintages)
- Joseph Perrier
- Cattier Clos du Moulin
- Bruno Palliard pink
- Laurent Perrier
- Dom Perignon
- Raoul Collet
I haven't written up my recent travels due to lack of time to do a trip report justice. At this time of year I have a bit more time and, will hopefully also have some interesting flights to write up (at least these trips have started that way).
In the next couple of weeks I cross several continents and oceans flying mostly in style, first class on 3 airlines involving lots of longhaul flights, and some shorter ones.
It's time for a pre-departure drink as I prepare for boarding.
The first of the sub-trips of this report was booked some time ago to snaffle F awards at peak season. A change of plans meant I needed to start elsewhere, but given the difficulty in volunatrily rerouting award at peak travel time I opted instead to get a separate ticket to connect up with the award ticket.
I didn't have a lot of options in the routing but have managed to get a couple of airlines, and a chance at British Airway's new first class, plus some nice transits in SYD F lounge and my first ever visit of the Concorde Room (every other time I've flown BA F from LHR it has been departing from the wrong terminal to access CCR).
The other subtrips are on Emirates to new destinations and enable me to requalify EK Gold status in one go.
Also on this trip I should have my last Priority Club Crack the Case stay early in 2011 to requalify in one night.
I'm looking forward to the next 2.5 weeks. The equivalent of 3.5 times around the world, mostly in first class. I can't wait.
WELLINGTON to AUCKLAND (WLG-AKL) on Air New Zealand 737-300 in economy space+
After a morning of Christmas Day duties I grabbed my carry on and walked to the bus to the airport. Although it was a nice day (if not a bit on the warm side) I decided to bus instead of walking to the airport because my bag was a bit heavier than normal. With the cold snowy weather in Europe I decided to bring some cold weather gear just in case I had to spend a day or two of disruptions. Normally I wouldn't bother just for a transfer en route to somewhere warm.
I got lucky and the bus came just a minute after I reached the stop. As a public holiday, buses were only every 30 minutes instead of the usual 15 minute frequency. I had enough time to top up my snapper card before ThatJohn arrived and we went into the koru lounge. I was surprised to see most of the airport shops were open - very little opens on Christmas Day in New Zealand.
I was welcomed back and we made our way to a quiet corner. Actually the whole lounge was quiet and so we picked a spot with great views of the tarmac and runway.
The usual food selection was bolstered with ham and trimmings, and christmas mince slice (rather than christmas mince pies). We had some bubbles - Lindaeur Brut and Lindaeur Sauvignon Blanc were on offer, before switching to a nice pinot noir.
Just as ThatJohn's flight was called there was an announcement of delays due to Air NZ computer system going down. Oh dear, I've been here before (in October 2009 Air NZ's computers went down for several hours and yes I was flying that day too) and like that time I'm again flying sans boarding pass relying on the RFID chip.
Fortunately I have an overnight transit so I have plenty of time in case I get bumped from my flight due to missing a boarding pass. Still, I have another drink while I mull over ways to deal with any issues that may arise. Unlike the previous time, the computers came back up relatively quickly and we have just a 20 minute delay.
The flight was full - lots of kids and single parents with kids flying to their other family. The person beside me was sneezing away, which at the time I noted and didn't think much more of.
There was no special treatment for being Christmas Day - the usual choice of kasava crisps, fruit jelly pieces and a biscount; plus tea, coffee or water for drink. I was tired after a very hectic week and snoozed. When I awoke as we were descending I saw it was a bit gloomy in Auckland but dry and warm.
As we landed and taxiied to our gate I looked around for ZK-OKM, Air NZ's brand new 77W which had just been delivered the day before. It might have been sitting by one of the hangars (looked like a 777), but I was too far away to confirm it.
While preparing to disembark a passenger seated a couple of rows from me very nearly caused serious injury to a little kid when her small carry on smashed into the kids head when the overhead bin was opened. Ouch.
I quickly raced to the bus stop and just managed to catch a bus headed for town.
With little traffic the ride in was the fastest I can remember (on a bus) - about 25 minutes.
I checked into the Crowne Plaza where I was staying on a Points Break award. The check in agent made a comment about the cheap rate I was getting and handed me the usual letter from GM to elites, plus my keycards. No surprise, I got my usual room on the floor below club floor, with a nice view. A gingerbread man, some chocolates and a welcome card were on the bed, but not the usual complimentary water bottle.
Next morning after an early wake up (but not so early as for my usual flight) and oh too little sleep I grabbed the newspaper (delivered nice and early to cater for guests checking out for the early morning departures), checked out and made my way to the airport on ths bus.
AUCKLAND to SYDNEY (AKL-SYD) on Qantas 737-800 in business class
A fast run in by the bus was undone at the stop at domestic as several passengers debated with the driver as to whether they were at the right place. We weren't - they were all flying internationally, but it took some convincing. Over at international a short walk to the Qantas/Cathay Pacific premium check in lobby.
A quick swipe of my FF card and passport, a pause for 3 boarding passes to be printed, and I was checked in in under 30 seconds. There was no queue at the immigration desk inside the premium lobby, and so I quickly got the pre-clearance sticker and was on my way upstairs to departures. Normal immigration was fairly busy, and I noticed the new smartgate self-immigration kiosks for Australian & NZers over 18 with e-chip passports. Previously smartgate had only been available for arrival processing (and Australia arrival pre-processing), not departure.
The line for pre-cleared was short but not moving. A family of invalids (incredibly the group of half a dozen all were in wheelchairs or carrying crutches) were being processed with painful speed - no documentation filled in apparently. A queue built up behind me and eventually a roving officer suggests we skip ahead. The officer at the desk however was having none of this - please wait until I'm finished with this family. Despite the long queues in regular lines I would have been quicker going there than the "fast" pre-cleared line.
Eventually I was allowed to the desk where he gave a cursory check of my BP and passport and I was waved through. No sooner had I passed the desk, and joined a long line for security, than alarms sounded. "Please evacuate the building. Follow staff to a safe location. Please evacuate." Ah crud.
There were over 100 of us in no mans land between immigration and security. We looked at each other, at the immigration officers and the security officers. No one of us wanted to go back out landside, but security checkpoints were closed.
The alarm to evacuate continued to sound.
There were no obvious signs of being in danger. None of the officers were in any hurry to escort us off.
We waited. Time slowed.
The alarm to evacuate continued to sound.
Eventually a supervisor for security came out and decided to screen the 100+ pax waiting. He urged the officers to clear everyone quickly.
Until I'd walked through I still was tensed, waiting to be told we had to go back landside (with the consequent hassle of reclearing immigration & a potential delay in our flights). I cleared the WTMD and unbelievable got pulled aside for a pat-down and explosives test. The alarms to evacuate continued to sound.
Once through security there is nowhere to go except past the shops and up to either the lounge or to the upper level shops and entrances to the gates. There was a steady stream headed for the upper level, but before I reached it the alarm stopped, and I backtracked to the lounge.
I have a few hours before my next flight, and a good stock of liquid refreshments to keep my thoughts flowing nicely and to combat the heat. This lounge is very hot. If it is intended to encourage people to drink more then I think they are mistaken - in a couple of hours the lounge will be heaving with thirsty Aussies who need no encouragement to drink at the best of times. This is not the best of times, with just this morning England completing a thrashing in the Ashes cricket series.
At the moment, however, the lounge is quiet. One loud plonker sharing his phone call with the half dozen other passengers in the lounge has been told off (bravo to the lounge agent) and has complied by terminating his call.