A short report on my fastest trip around the world.
A few weeks ago Air NZ had a one day 2-for-1 "Mothers Day" sale for all international economy travel on Air NZ in May, limit one per person (I guess they had FTers in mind with this clause!)
This is a great deal as it was valid on all economy fares, unlike the usual sales. So naturally, even though I had a full schedule in May I looked for an opportunity to use the sale for an interesting trip and/or mileage run.
So it was that after some hurried phone calls, tht and I booked a quick weekend trip to London and constructed as a RTW in order to maximise time in London. This allows me to take a side trip, and tht to have a suprise visit for mother for her birthday. We made sure to choose mileage earning fare classes and were set.
I put my NZ FFP# in the booking so as to get best access to the good seating with my higher status, and called Air NZ to select from those available.
I know of other FTers who are also doing an under 60 hour RTW on this sale
Just a quick update on the trip, firstly thanks to Kiwi flyer.
Friday the 11th of May 16.45pm, left central Auckland by car, traffic was not to bad, we arrived at the airport by 5.30pm. Proceeded to the premium check in, agent said they would block the middle seat of our row of 3. Drinks and a shower in the lounge. Upon boarding we found the blocked middle had been assigned, we switched to a middle and isle 2 rows forward to allow a couple to sit together.
Arrived in LA and proceeded to clear customs and immigration, cues were not very long, but it still took a while, we did get back in to the NZ lounge, but only had time for a shower and sandwich before we had to board.
Upon arrival in London at about 10.30am, I was off the plane and out of the airport within 25 mins, no cues there! However when I got to the London Underground, it was closed! Proceeded to the Heathrow express and GBP29 later (the Tube home in GBP 2.90) I was underway. I changed to the Tube, and upon arriving at Earls court, I bumped in to 2 of my brothers (we were planning to meet at home). We all proceeded to our parents house, where my Mother was very surprised to see me (because I live in NZ). We had a BBQ and sang happy birthday and it was time to get underway again. Friends droped me at Paddington station (I don't miss London traffic, even worse than the North western at 7.30am). The Heathrow express was there, and within 20 minutes I was back at Heathrow's Terminal 3. Checked in and headed strait to the lounge to meet Kiwi Flyer again (he had a side trip). Another shower and change of cloths and we were underway again at about 9pm. This time loads were light in Y, so we had a row of 3 each to ourselves.
Hong Kong was our next stop, I had issues getting through transit with my boarding pass, so had a long walk back to the NZ desk, but before long I was back in the SQ F Lounge with Kiwi Flyer, another shower, and some drinks later we were back on the plane for our last flight. Again I had a row of 3 to myself, so I made a bed with 3 blankets an 4 pillows, and managed to sleep form right after dinner until the PA announcement for breakfast (which is rare for me).
We arrived early and picked up duty free, I rushed to my car, to drop of my duty free and get some clean cloths, I then proceeded to check in for my flight to WRE. I met Kiwi Flyer gain at the domestic Kuru club for a coffee. He had a shower and left for work, and I am now waiting for my flight, also showered n feeling surprisingly good for having been around the world in less than 60 hours!
All in all a great trip, hope to repeat it soon, next stop JFK (Via a $496 NZ Grab a Seat fare to LAX).
Again a big thanks to Kiwi Flyer's status and knowledge who made the whole trip allot easier for me!
I didn't mention this to tht, but I volunteered to switch seats moving forward two rows (rather than the couple going forward) for 2 reasons
1) slightly closer to the front for faster deplaning at LAX
2) I understand the seat pitch in the row we were allocated is 1" less than in the row we moved to - every little bit helps (and to be honest I found the seat to be fine - may have been different if I'd sat in the middle, thanks tht)
The flight to LAX was chockers - maybe 2 free seats in economy (both way to the back). A couple more empty seats between LAX and LHR, but still pretty full.
My queue curse struck again at LAX - being quick off the a/c we were directed to a certain section of immigration which only had 2 officers. Later pax where directed to a separate section with 3 officers, and later still (after all US pax were processed) the US lines took more people queued behind us. Just as we reached the front of the queue a 3rd officer started doing our section. Customs was quick. No pre-queue at boarding pass check. Upstairs security queues weren't too long but slow processing. We had a choice of two sides - the other side went faster. Just as reached the x-ray machine a third was opened up. Arrived at LAX lounge about 10 minutes or so before boarding. Just time enough for very fast shower (lucky there were 3 free - 1 other economy pax also did the lounge run). I jumped on computer to OLCI for my side trip. No printers so I needed to pick up boarding pass later.
Over much over western/mid-west US the skies were clear. So we had great views of the unfolding many varied landscapes. Routing was more easterly than normal - so even got to see Grand Canyon! We also didn't track as far north as normal, just not quite reaching the southern tip of Greenland. Gaps in the cloud over Scotland to see eg part of Hadrian's Wall, but England blanketed in dense cloud.
We circled over central London with great views below the cloud. I commented on how I'd rarely had this approach flying in to London but tht said it was common.
As I raced along the long walk (yes again NZ got the farthest possible gate in T3) I pondered whether to transfer via immigration or via FCC. Last time I arrived on this flight the FCC queues weren't too bad (an hour from gate to lounge is good for LHR) so I decided to head there. Bad move.
Someone else on our flight was connecting to the same onward flight. She would not have been walking as fast as me, had to clear immigration to pick up her checked luggage (I had none), change terminals, check in (with no status) and clear security. Yet she got through far faster than I did.
I had no wait for the bus transfer from T3 to FCC - it left moments after I hopped aboard - and I was first off. First sign of trouble was the pre-queue downstairs where the bus arrives. Eventually we are let upstairs to another pre-queue (where get yelled out - only 1 bag, liquids rules apply, blah). Finally get in the main queue. Yup only 2 screening stations manned. There are more BAA folk on queue control than there are on screening
It took more than an hour from getting off the transfer bus to the other side of FCC security. I did need to pick up boarding passes at FCC but as already checked in and no queue this was fast. A short wait at immigration. Nice to see the agent on the UK/EU line helping others when no UK/EU people waiting. My itinerary and answers had him baffled but let through. Then a fast walk to T1 domestic. In total it took 100 minutes from arrival to reaching the BD domestic lounge entrance.
Since I had several hours to kill I'd decided on a side trip, preferably somewhere I havent flown to before and with a convenient schedule that wasn't going to be too stressful.
Mindful of the upcoming *A 10th anniversary and the 5th anniversary promo for flying 5 *A airlines get 55555 miles I wanted to fly *A.
So I ended up choosing bmi (BD) to Belfast City (BHD). The fare structure seemed odd to me. The cheapest fare category (tiny fares) were sometimes more than double the cost of the next highest category (on same route and day but different flight number).
We boarded on time and pushed back a metre - no doubt to make on time stats look okay. Then a wait at the gate due to delays on the active departure runway due to nearby light showers (good grief ). Some time later we pushed back the rest of the way and taxiied to a holding pen for further delays for the described heavy showers not at LHR. Hmm as far as I can see the showers would be described as light or even drizzle in most other places. Finally we reach the runway more than an hour after scheduled departure time. Am I glad I had a reasonable connection time for the flight back to NZ - I'd hate to have to pay a walk up fare, especially after getting such a great deal in the first place.
There is no view until close to Belfast. The weather there is much better but still cloudy and surprisingly cool for late spring. By sheer luck during OLCI I managed to grab a "business seat" - ie a seat in a row where the middle seat was collapsed. The load was fairly light. Business class got complimentary food and drink. Everyone else had to pay - even for water (and hardly cheap at one pound fifty pence) - unless had bmi status (even the blue plus at 3000 miles), sorry *G status isnt good enough
On arrival the rear half of a/c deplaned by stairs and the front half used the silly airbridge, which promptly leads to stairs down to ground level. ID check before entering the terminal (landside). The officer started thumbing through my passport but quickly got bored and let me through.
Since I took the turnaround (to minimise my chance of misconnecting) I had a quick look around landside then through security and up to the lounge. There I changed my FFP # for the return flight - thinking if the *A 10th anniversary promo is anything like the 5th anniversary one I may as well credit the short flights to 2 different FFPs
The lounge very similar to the LHR domestic one, except less food and drink options. There is a door directly from the lounge to the airbridge.
The flight in reverse was much the same, and with the usual circling over southern England before being able to land we lost some more time. If I'd taken the next flight back and it had the same delay I'd have misconnected, so lucky I didn't.
The FCC shuffle in reverse was painless. T1 dom bypasses FCC security. There was a minor delay while the BP checker tried to deny me on grounds I don't fly out until tomorrow. He just looked sheepish when I pointed out he was looking at the arrival date of my next (overnight) flight on the itinerary.
Bus to T3 and check in at transfer desk there. This went quickly and easily - got a row by myself and made sure tht also did The pax at the counter next to me wasn't having such a good time - yelling that he was sure he'd booked business, after all he is tall and wide and wouldn't be comfortable in economy I didn't hang around to see the result but I bet he wasn't happy.
I ignored the RCC invite and headed instead to SQ F lounge, and left tht's name at the entrance while I hopped in a shower to freshen up. Since an SQ flight had not long left the lounge was quiet and so I hopped on the computer while waiting for tht, and then had some nice drinks. We dallied 10 minutes or so too long, but fortunately this time NZ had a close gate. We were the last ones on, about 10 minutes before departure. Oops.
Economy class was very lightly loaded. The elites section (at front of economy) had enough room so that everyone had 2-4 seats to themselves. Business and premium economy were full (or nearly full).
Managed to get some sleep before waking north of Tibet. Some great views of the desert and endless mountain ranges, peeked out of the lower portion of the window to try not to disturb others still sleeping. Our flight path tracked around the edge of the plateau. No view of Hong Kong on arrival, not only the flight path taken but dense haze/humidity kept visibility down to a mile or so. Thanks to strong tail winds we arrived quite early.
Through transit and to the SQ F lounge again, which as expected much less crowded than the RCC - although further to walk (which isnt a bad thing after all this flying). Grabbed a shower (there is only one so a bit of a wait). Kept an eye on the flight monitor since no boarding call and we'd need to head back to the other end of the terminal.
Priority boarding for business, premium economy, *G and koru club
For the 4th longhaul leg in a row I got some sleep, but not as much as I'd like. We arrived very early, so much so that the title could have been around the world in 59 hours. We had a wait at the gate which was announced as an APU problem, but I suspect it was that immigration/customs wasn't ready for us (there being no recent earlier flights arriving).
On the way to immigration we picked up our pre-order duty free. Thanks tht for spotting the Havana Club for $12.90, which we further reduced thanks to the nice discounts and optimising our generous NZ allowances between us. The store threw in for free a sampler pack of vodka.
I got secondary, again. This gave tht enough time to drop off and pick up gear for onward trip. I headed over to the domestic terminal (again the walk felt nice) for a quick shower in the lounge - yeah managed to get in even though strictly neither of us had access - before heading into work.
So ends the fastest round the world I've ever done, or ever likely to do I suppose. Thanks NZ for the sale and great service (on the ground and in the air)