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Around the World on a Star - *A J RTW

Around the World on a Star - *A J RTW

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Old Oct 15, 11, 4:29 am
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Around the World on a Star - *A J RTW

Introduction/Planning

The original idea for this trip stemmed from a friend who I met on my last contiki. His suggestion to join him in the Rockies for Calgary Stampede meant doing another contiki tour. This one "Canada and the Rockies with Calgary Stampede"

Well that was settled, but then part of me thought, this trip would be around the same time that my long service comes up. Well hell you could hear the cogs grinding in my head as the thoughts rushed through it. I was going to do something I had never really thought I would actually do (which is actually a bit of a theme with my life around that time). I was going to go around the world. But where to visit was the big question.

Well of course I wanted to hit up Seattle and see the West Coast a bit more, so many places flooded into my head. Of those many many places I managed to narrow it down to a few. London to visit friends and experience the city. I was going to keep Continental Europe to two main destinations, Normandy & Berlin. Both for their War History (of which I am a major fan of course). In Asia it was going to be the big 3, Japan, Hong Kong & Singapore. North America would mean the Time in Canada and a road trip down the west coast and a few days in New York.

Now that this was underway, once the bookings opened up for Contiki we were able to get our seats in straight away, pretty much I knew we had to jump on that early as this tour sells out every year with only 2 departures (turns out it sold out a good 6 months in advance so jumping on early was smart). With that done, now it was just time to wait for the flights to open up fully so I could sit down and work out the final details of the routing. When that did roll around 2 websites helped immensly, Oneworld & Star Alliance.

Both websites have round the world (to be here for reffered to as RTW) planning tools. This process with a rough outline of dates now in mind, I could go into negotiations with work on just how much time i can take off (stupid business needs clause in the agreement... curse you). With my dates set out, it was time to get down to the nitty gritty. The fun part.
All in all the process took 3 weeks setting out the rough outlines for the flights then picking the actual routes, airlines and products.

When I had an option for both One World & Star Alliance the pricing was pretty much the same, so that didn't help. But then looking at the itineraries I had chosen, One World was lacking in the Aviation Geek fun department. It was predominantly Cathay for the first few sectors and the last few, with an A380 segment thrown in. The only highlight I could put against the itinerary was British Airways Club World London City route (JFK to London City on an A318).

Star Alliance on the other hand had Air New Zealand's new 777-300ER, a Backwards facing seat with United, Swiss new business, Singapore's new business cabin on a 777-300ER and ANA's new business. Although this itinerary didn't have many new aircraft it had a lot of new airports, new products and a good variety of airlines. So Star Alliance was the go. In the end after lots of to and fro with the system. Managed to get it all chosen. The final itinerary looks like this:

07Jul - Brisbane to Auckland - Air New Zealand - NZ136 - Boeing 777-200ER
07Jul - Auckland to Los Angeles - Air New Zealand - NZ2 - Beoing 777-300ER
07Jul - Los Angeles to Vancouver - Air Canada - AC557 - Embraer E190
03Aug - San Francisco to Chicago O'Hare - United - UA972 - Boeing 767-300 (International Configuration)
03Aug - Chicago O'Hare to New York City La Guardia - United - UA692 - Airbus A319
05Aug - New York City JFK to Zurich - Swiss - LX17 - Airbus A330-300
06Aug - Zurich to Paris Charles De Gualle - Swiss - LX634 - Airbus A320
13Aug - Paris Charles De Gualle to Berlin Tegel - Lufthansa - LH3241 - Boeing 737-500
16Aug - Berlin Tegel to London Heathrow - BMI - BD842 - Airbus A319
20Aug - London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita - All Nippon Airways (ANA) - NH202 - Boeing 777-300ER
01Sep - Tokyo Narita to Seoul Incheon - Asiana - OZ103 - Boeing 767-300
01Sep - Seoul Incheon to Hong Kong - Asiana - OZ723 - Boeing 747-400
06Sep - Hong Kong to Sinapore - Singapore Airlines - SQ861 - Airbus A380
10Sep - Singapore to Brisbane - Singapore Airlines - SQ245 - Airbus A330-300

It looks something like this in map form:


map.gif by Kaell116, on Flickr

Now be mindful these are not the exact flights I started off with, there was some schedule changes in the 8 months since I originally booked them in (as you would expect, but that was mainly a few minutes here or there, or in the case of the Asiana flights, losing their new business in favour of a 3 class 747-400 on a 2 class route). This was to be the final itinerary. The bits in between have pretty much chopped changed and gone to and fro for months at a time.

In the end the final itineray has become this. I wont go through all of the decisions on this but in the end there will be Trains, Planes, Automobiles a number of Buses (no boats though thankfully). This will be one of the most memorable trips of my life, but there was still one more decision to make.

Since Australia is the land of the One World monopoly, what was I going to do with all the points earned on this trip. Well I was going to just credit it to Air New Zealand, I would just barely qualify for Star Gold status and that would be the end of the story.

Then, after getting more and more involved in Flyertalk and Milepoint, I just had to find the best place to put those points, that would give me the most amount of benefits quickly and guarantee me a good use of points. Well in the end an amazing deal would just drop in my lap. Aegean Airlines. I mean how could I not turn down an offer from an airline new to Star Alliance that will give Star Gold status at 20000 miles. With the Class of Cabin bonuses on this trip, I should qualify for Star Gold somewhere between New York and Paris. AWESOME! So with that done it was now time to just wait.. and wait... and wait...

And this leads us to the beginning. Bags are packed, camera's charged, ipod synced, phone ready to go, laptop set up, tablet pre loaded with ebooks. I will set off on an adventure to reward myself for the achievements over the last 2 years. I dropped a lot of weight, managed to trek in some harsh climates and do something I had always wanted to achieve, made #1 sales consultant at work. It was time for 2 months off work, fun, frivolity and LOTS of aviation geekage.
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Old Oct 15, 11, 5:24 am
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Part 1 - 7th July 2011 – Brisbane to Auckland to Los Angeles to Vancouver

Part 1 - 7th July 2011 – Brisbane to Auckland to Los Angeles to Vancouver

Brisbane to Auckland

Woke up nice and early this morning to hit the gym before the flight so that I could get a good work out in and feel better about what would be 24 hours (or more) of indulgence.

The Trip Begins... my Bags at Home by Kaell116, on Flickr
After a nice healthy breakfast and some last minute packing of tech gear, it was off to the airport. Thanks to the parents I was conveyed promptly and dropped off at the International Terminal. I bid farewell to the parents, pulled my heavy suitcase out of the car and into the terminal I went. About to begin this epic adventure for real.


Brisbane Airport - International Terminal by Kaell116, on Flickr

I knew exactly where to go after flying this exact same flight back in April (all be it in the back not up the pointy end like today). I made my way to the Priority check in queue and was soon enough greated by a contract Qantas agent. It does seem silly that Air NZ contract out their on ground staff to Qantas considering the amount of flights they have in Brisbane.


Air New Zealand - Business Check In by Kaell116, on Flickr

After making sure that my bag was tagged all the way to Vancouver I noticed what would be the first hiccup of the trip. For some reason my Air NZ points reference was on my boarding pass. I queried this with the check in agent and she told me she didn’t have access to fix this (........) and that I need to get my travel agent to fix it. I told her I will get it fixed in the lounge and once checked in off I went. Down through security and while I was putting my stuff back together after the dignity strip, I could see out of the corner of my eye the security staff waiting to do an explosives test. Well the thing is, this did not look good for me, there was no one else around for her to pounce on. Wouldn’t you know it as soon as I turn she looks at me and says “sir would u follow me please.” Ahhhh crap!


Looking out over the Departure Gates by Kaell116, on Flickr


Looking out over the Departure Gates by Kaell116, on Flickr

She took me off behind a little wall for what I figured was just a quick wipe of my stuff and off I would go. But no, apparently when u get swabbed for explosives at the international, you also get a lovely pat down. So I got my first security grope of the trip, and unlike the TSA style in the USA, I didn’t get a choice about it.. yay. After the guy patted me down without even a cuddle at the end, off into Duty Free I went. Tried to find some stuff for my mum for her birthday to pick up on return, no deal, got a few things and then ran some errands in the terminal (TRS, pick up cash etc).


Airside - Shopping area by Kaell116, on Flickr

After running the errands decided to head to the lounge. By this time it had been a good 30 mins or so since I checked in so that is not a bad effort considering. I was pleasantly pleased. Once I was buzzed into the lounge (feels very private I guess) I scanned my way in and explained my predicament to the gentleman manning the lounge desk. He then told me what would be my 2nd hiccup of the trip. He can’t fix it but he will try. Because I was already checked in they could possibly have to offload me and then hopefully they could get it fixed, but he would see what he could do and get back to me. Fingers crossed! In the mean time he suggested I speak with my travel agent and get it fixed up.


Air NZ Koru Club by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air NZ Koru Club by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air NZ Koru Club by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air NZ Koru Club by Kaell116, on Flickr

So first things first, log into the wireless, get the net up and running and get through to my agent. With that done, a quick blog post to start the trip and a few tweets and then it was time to relax a little. Grabbed a scone, a drink and started reading my book. After a few pages I decided to grab a coffee. As I was walking back though after a few sips I noticed something through the window. Though the lounge doesn’t have apron views (just of the car park) it does overlook a window that looks through the terminal to the other side. Through it I could see a very large Singapore Airlines aircraft.


My Air NZ Boarding Pass with the Book Air NZ gave me by Kaell116, on Flickr

It looked like an A380. No… it couldn’t be. Could it? I dropped my coffee, left my bag in the storage at the lounge and headed out to the terminal just to see the SQ A380 turning onto the taxiway headed for the runway. Snapped a few photos and headed back to the lounge for a few more pages of the book. It was then that we were told the flight would be delayed due to the late arrival of our aircraft. I was getting a little bit antsy after a little bit so decided to go out into the terminal for a bit of exploration as we were still delayed.


My First A380 of the Trip - SQ in Brisbane, Rare Sight by Kaell116, on Flickr

Took a few photos of the aircraft and then noticed that the time was just about to tick past 12. There was an announcement saying we wouldn’t board for at least another 15-20 mins. Well the Singapore Airlines lounge should be open by now, so off I went to try and talk my way in. I managed to talk my way in (was only really just going to check it out and then head back out again after a few photos). The lounge was much much nicer than the NZ lounge in my opinion and the food miles ahead. I did grab a bottle of water though something the NZ lounge didn’t have as I knew this would come in handy at some stage.


My First Ride of Many on Star Alliance Aircraft on this Trip by Kaell116, on Flickr

By the time I got back to the gate they gave a preboarding announcement to advise boarding in 5 minutes. So I grabbed a seat with the plebs, remembered to turn my tablet onto flight mode and by the time I had finished doing that, they announced boarding.

Air New Zealand
NZ136
Brisbane to Auckland
1225-1725
Boeing 777-200ER (ZK-OKG)
Business Premier – Seat 4A

Boarding: 1225 (Gate 80)
Push Back 1245
Take Off Roll: 1301 (Runway 19)
Top of Descent: 1651
Touch Down: 1725 (Runway 23L)
Shut Down: 1730 (Gate 7)



Away we go! by Kaell116, on Flickr

Boarding was called and off I leapt, I was not going to be the first onboard but I was going to get into the cabin early to try and get a few pictures. Get down to Door 2L and was greeted with a Welcome Aboard and then, Mr Muir to your left into our Business cabin today. Gotta love those words. I was first in the cabin, dumped my stuff into the overhead and was able to then take a number of photos. Peter the FA came by and even offered to take a photo of me, which I declined, will keep that photo for the newer cabin later (champagne in hand of course).


Air New Zealand Business Premier Seat (old) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Cabin (old) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Seat Legroom (old) by Kaell116, on Flickr

The cabin looked good, even though they are a number of years old now, definitely reminded me of the last time I flew Air NZ back in 2007. Felt good! I settled into my seat and got myself sorted playing and stowing stuff. I got the AVOD started early (NZ is gate to gate IFE) and picked the movie I had worked out I was going to watch a few days earlier. Casablanca. I had never seen this film in all my life and figured why not get it done and dusted (the other choices did not look all that fantastic).

Last edited by `X'; Oct 15, 11 at 5:44 am
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Old Oct 15, 11, 6:19 am
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Peter offered me a pre flight beverage of choice however I just decided on water for this flight (was going to leave the alcohol till later and even then only one glass). It was delivered with a smile and I settled in to take lots of photos. We soon pushed back and I snapped away out the window and watched the Safety Video. I was able to enjoy myself as we taxied to Runway 19 for departure. The Business Cabin was about 40% full today and it seems so small on the 777-200s compared to the Giant 747s where there is 3 business cabins.


Pre Departure Beverage - Water... boring i know by Kaell116, on Flickr


IMG_0054 by Kaell116, on Flickr

As the Captain gave his pre departure hello, he told us our flight time today would be 2 hours 25 mins. SAY WHAT! Apparently massive tail winds were going to help us over the pacific today, which is also why our flight was late we were later informed, but still knocking a solid 30 mins off this flight would be fantastic to get us in on time.


IMG_0060 by Kaell116, on Flickr


IMG_0063 by Kaell116, on Flickr

We held at the runway while a Qantas Dash 8 landed ahead of us and soon we were turning onto the Active, the two big giant Engines spooled up and we were soon hurtling down the runway. Once in the air, I reclined a bit further (NZ allows you to pick whatever position you wish with their business seats but I kept it fairly upright for take off) and soon enough Peter was around to start drink orders. I was going to be good and stick with Sparkling Water for the first part of the flight and this was shown with a bag of Cassava Chips).


Bye bye Brisbane... taking off over the Port of Brisbane by Kaell116, on Flickr


Onboard amenities... pacfica by Kaell116, on Flickr


Pre Lunch Snack, Cassava Crisps and Sparkling Water by Kaell116, on Flickr


Nice View out the window by Kaell116, on Flickr


Pacific Ocean Island somewhere by Kaell116, on Flickr

Menus were then passed out and I made a quick pit stop to check out the facilities. The same products that were in use back in 2007 are still used onboard so nothing new to report their but when I returned to my seat, The service was about to begin. Tables were laid out and then the appetizer arrived. First course was some lovely fresh seafood with a weird tasting potato salad but it was good. They had an amazingly good brown bread and I was going to look forward to it.


Air New Zealand Business Premier Menu by Kaell116, on Flickr


On the Menu today we have.... (BNE-AKL) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Ahhh this is the life! - Watching Casablanca by Kaell116, on Flickr


First Course - Lunch Starter (BNE-AKL) by Kaell116, on Flickr

With this finished, it was promptly cleared and then the main courses were offered. No cart used for service, as Peter came around with the options on a tray. Of todays choices I availed myself of a lovely Hot Smoked Salmon Salad. I figured if I stayed light now, I could indulge more at dinner. Sounds good to me! The salad was beautiful and the mango dressing was just amazing! I could of drank it! More of the brown bread and I was pleasantly satisified. Dessert was soon offered. Plum & Crčme Fraiche along with Cookies & Cream ice creams. O yes!


My Salmon Salad as Main - Lunch (BNE-AKL) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Ice Cream Dessert - Lunch (BNE-AKL) by Kaell116, on Flickr

As coffee service began I was going to look forward to a few cups of the Air NZ coffee I enjoyed back in April but was told that we would soon be on descent in 8 mins. Time had flown by! With coffee finished, things cleared away, we were soon on descent into Auckland. Not many bumps during the flight just a few light ones here and there but it was such a pleasant quick flight.


mmm First of MANY coffees by Kaell116, on Flickr


The Seat at a different angle by Kaell116, on Flickr


Cabin Shot with Mood Lighting by Kaell116, on Flickr

A long circuit around Auckland and landing on 23L. Unfortunately not a quick one into Auckland like my last flights in April but it would mean a shorter taxi, always a good thing when it means more time in the lounge. But things were not to be. Once we pulled into the gate, seat belt sign went off and Hiccup #3 began. The Air bridge could not connect. Not a good thing! We were stuck onboard for a good 25 mins before they could get it connected and we were seat free into the terminal. I made a bee line for International Transfers and got into Security about 10 people down.


Hello New Zealand by Kaell116, on Flickr


Touch Down in Auckland - Air NZ - 747-400 by Kaell116, on Flickr
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Old Oct 15, 11, 6:24 am
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Transit in Auckland

So I left you while pretty much trapped onboard our aircraft after landing in Auckland. We all waited and waited and for a good 25 mins we were trapped onboard. It was good to chat to some fellow travellers. We all had a good chat and everyone mentioned just how quick the flight went. Eventually we were released with the Air Bridge finally attached, it was like releasing a flock of birds into the wild. People just fled out of the aircraft either towards either the Transfer area or towards duty free and immigration.

The first thing that puzzled me was that the International Transfer section was downstairs. Part of me had to take a double take. Wasn’t sure exactly what to do as I could swear last time I went through that transfer section it was towards immigration more and it was on the same floor. But you do what you gotta do, so I followed the signs down to International Transfers. I was able to get through to security pretty quickly but unfortunately there was only one scanning machine (not just open, one only!) and I was unfortunately behind a queue of at least 7 or 8 people.

It was here that I had a brain fart. I pulled my laptop, tablet and liquids out, but never took anything out of my pockets. Rookie move Mal, Rookie Move. I had remembered that you didn’t have to remove your belt, they just did a secondary wand over you so with belt still on, I went through the WTMD (Walk Through Metal Detector) got the beep I was expecting, and out came the body wand. Except this is where I got told off, because I had forgotten everything in my pockets. So it was back through, drop everything out and to the back of the line. Dammit!

Through the metal detector for the second time, another body wand and this time, the all clear. I quickly grab my stuff and flee so as not to get explosive tested as well, just to make me feel like I have totally bad luck. I went through the doors to an empty room. What the hell. I just kept on walking, till I found some steps and headed up figuring that was the best way to go, then finally a sign. Now things are looking good. Up I went, up into the Terminal. YAY!

Now that I was in familiar surroundings I hightailed it for the lounge quick smart. I had read online on Jaunted that the Koru Club in Auckland offers a free 15 min massage to all Business passengers on the long haul flights. But as the spaces are on first come first served and with 2 LAX flights and a Hong Kong/London Flight all in the lounge around the time I was there, I figured I needed to get their quickly. Turns out I got their first. There was not a single person at the “Bliss” treatment area. So rather than have to book in and come back, I was given my 15 min massage straight away.


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr

I chose the “Shoulder” massage over feet figuring it would get rid of the slight pain in my back from the flight over (probably from lugging around a 10kg camera bag on one shoulder). Into the small treatment room and it was a good massage. Although more body than shoulders, even though I was in quite a bit of pain during the massage (haven’t actually had a proper massage in about 14 months and back then I had lots more body fat) it felt good at the end of it. I was totally relaxed.
With massage over, I found a power port, plugged in, grabbed a drink and settled in.


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr

I was able to log on to the wireless quickly and download my emails and get some updates on the world (while also writing the first stage of the trip report). It was here that I started getting messages from my friend Brad who was flying from Melbourne to LA with V Australia. It seemed his flight was delayed. When I got his first message I was just leaving Brisbane and he was delayed about 4 hours. Next message comes through, delayed till 8pm. That’s ok I guess, we will race to LA to see who gets their first.


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr

Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr


Some Flyertalk while i wait by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Koru Club Auckland by Kaell116, on Flickr

Eventually some bad news. Brad is not going to be leaving Melbourne tonight as his flight is cancelled. This news came in just before I switched off my laptop and was headed towards the gate as the screen was showing “Go to Gate” but yet nothing had been said in the lounge, figuring I missed it I packed up and moved on out.

Now lets discuss the lounge at this point. Just WOW. The Koru Club at Auckland Airport was phenomenal. This lounge had lots of different areas, plenty of comfy looking seats, great work areas. Lots of hot food (especially considering the long haul flights head out fairly late from Auckland so they obviously encourage people to eat before hand) and the kicker for me. Fresh Barista Coffee. Hello Coffee heaven!

The only disappointing thing I found was that other than water and diet coke, there was no mineral water or bottled water at all. Just something I would of preffered, but I guess its not across the NZ lounge network at all. Definitely could get used to this and at least I now have a good ball park figure for what a Good lounge and an Average lounge are like. Something to compare for the rest of the trip.

Back to reality. I made my way through all the shops and restaurants (check out my april trip for more pics on Auckland Airport) and headed towards the pier that NZ use for their long hauls. I had forgotten they do a passport check before the gates, so quickly stopped and pulled out my passport and boarding pass before being cleared through the gate.


Auckland Airport by Kaell116, on Flickr

Son of a ...... Lying monitors! The gate area was PACKED! But then all of a sudden as I got there, my name was paged. O god what now! Already at Hiccup #4 please don’t make it 5. I approached the counter and gave my name, and a plead of “Please don’t take my lovely seat from me”, to which I got the response “O I wouldn’t do that to you, however here is your boarding pass from LA to Vancouver”. PHEW!


The Boarding Gate for my LA Flight by Kaell116, on Flickr

I found a seat and settled in for a bit of a wait, it wasn’t that long, maybe 10 minutes. More of my book read and soon they started to board Children with families, but no elite boarding yet. What! I mean seriously DYKWIA! The boarding area turned into a scrum, seriously it was like a rugby game. I know the kiwis like their rugby and all but this was a joke. Managed to get my way towards the front of the line and soon they called the words I wanted to hear. “We invite all our Business Premier Guests to board”
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Old Oct 15, 11, 6:39 am
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Auckland to Los Angeles
Air New Zealand
NZ2
Auckland to Los Angeles
2130-1445
Boeing 777-300ER (ZK-OKO)
Business Premier – Seat 1K

Boarding: 2100 (Gate 6)
Push Back 2145
Take Off Roll: 2200 (Runway 23L)
Top of Descent: 1353
Touch Down: 1425 (24R)
Shut Down: 1434/1439 (Gate 21)



Flight 2 of 3 is a go by Kaell116, on Flickr

With the scrum fully underway it was a mad house to make it onboard. Again boarding was one bridge to Door 2L however this made for again those words you just love to hear. “To your left Mr Muir”. But what blew me away first off was just how great this new 77W looked. She was bright, she was shiny and she looked sexy!


Air New Zealand Business Premier Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr

I quickly moved forward to my seat, dropped my stuff then figured it was time to explore while the lights were on. I got plenty of photos of the different cabins, all the mood lights, even the lovely new seats. When I returned to my seat I was offered a beverage and again I decided to just stick with water (for the moment). Nicely laid out on the ottoman was the menu, wine guide and amenity kit. Menu and Wine guide into the seat pocket, amenity kit straight into bag you go. The pilfering begins! I quickly perused the menu and it looked good, I then found out that the same menu is actually stored in the IFE system. Sweet.


Air New Zealand Business Premier Seat (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Seat (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Menu & Amenity Kit (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Seat (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr

While I was playing with the IFE some more and setting up a bit of a playlist of some movies (chose Minority Report, Lost in Translation, Wall E and Social Network) the crew came around the cabin to take “supper” orders while still on the ground. Again this would probably be to allow things to progress quicker due to most people wanting to get some shut eye (or so I thought). Captain came on and gave his quick brief letting us know we would be a bit delayed while we waited on a late arriving Sydney flight to send us some passengers.



Air New Zealand Business Premier IFE (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Pre Departure Beverage - Water Again by Kaell116, on Flickr


My View out the Window by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Amenity Kit (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Menus (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Leg Room Shot by Kaell116, on Flickr

Pretty soon we were buttoned up, pushing back from the gate and the IFE was playing more Richard Simmons again (thankfully only have to see that safety video twice on this trip). We headed back to the active runway and soon I was looking forward to what I considered the real start of this journey. My first long haul in quite some time! As we turned onto the active, the Captain put some power in those nice hefty GE90s, we were off into the Air. A few little lumpy bits as we climbed out. The seat belt sign came off quickly and I was up and about again to take a few more pictures.


Air New Zealand Business Premier Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr

So lets take this opportunity to talk about the new Air New Zealand offering. It has been much talked about in the Travel Press. But the thing I looked forward to on this trip was being able to compare the old Long Haul vs the New Long Haul. Now the seats themselves are mighty similar. Pretty much the same design but subtle differences. For one the colour. Old is brown, new is white.

Good start here. The IFE was touch screen on the new with a better screen and a little bigger it seems to. Life vest has been moved out of the ottoman and a few extra ports/plugs added. Other than that, she looks pretty much the same. It’s the cabins up the back that look different.
I had read some reviews that a lot of people just don’t like the new premium economy because it was pretty damn tight, but one thing you notice on this aircraft, no matter what cabin your in, the aisles feel smaller. They were right about the premium economy, the spacing just does not look right (and apparently as of September they are going to remove a few seats to add a bit more space).



Air New Zealand Business Premier Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Galley (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Business Premier Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Premium Economy Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Economy Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr
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Old Oct 15, 11, 6:40 am
  #6  
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Air New Zealand Premium Economy Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air New Zealand Economy Cabin (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr

The other thing you notice is that everything is shiny and new (but you expect that from a new aircraft) but the colour scheme just stands out more in my opinion compared to the old. One thing that I did remember from what I had seen online was that the Toilets all had some sort of pictures in them of some sort, the two in the business cabin both had pictures like someone was looking in a window (along with a real window) but the ones at the back of the PE cabin had the great designs. I did something I swore I would never, ever do in my life as an Avgeek. I became a Laviator. I took photos of the toilets (I swear it was for the photos).


A Chandalier in the Toilet! (Painted on the Wall) by Kaell116, on Flickr


Bookcase in the Toilet by Kaell116, on Flickr

Back to the flight. As we climbed to our cruise altitude of 31000 ft (thank you Captain for that bit of information) the crew just seemed to be running back and forth constantly but not really doing much. There was no pre dinner beverage service at all, and for the first 30 minutes of the flight, all we got was a hot towel. It was then a good hour into the flight that the service even looked like it was going to start. Eventually I got my starter before everyone else and that was a almost 1h 15 mins into the flight and before I was even offered a drink!


My Starter - Vege Soup with Sour Dough Bread by Kaell116, on Flickr

I had decided to be a bit complicated and try and have the soup they offered as the Express Dine option as a Starter (or at least a small bowl of it). This was brought out to me on a tray well before everyone else. I felt a little bad. But it seemed that’s how this service was going to progress. Eventually everyone else got their starters and a drink but I was skipped on the drink service for some reason. This was going to be the story of my dinner service pretty much. I felt like I had to ask for things several times over. I did however finally get my drink and it was time to tick off the first thing on my list.

Trip List Item #2 – Drink a glass of Champagne on a Long Haul Flight.


My First Glass of Champagne on a Long Haul Flight! by Kaell116, on Flickr

The champagne was Piper Heidsick and the small weird looking flute glass they used was perfect for what I wanted. A small glass to really start this trip off (all the rest of the food was going to be enough of an indulgence). Just as my mains was being served I was offered a refill and went back to a trusty companion, sparkling water. But unfortunately as usual, it was forgotten. I finished my main and was offered dessert before I asked for the water again. The self service on the IFE was not even working either so that was not a good sign.


My Main - Steak, cooked perfectly! by Kaell116, on Flickr


The Signature Ice Cream Sundae with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Pear Sauce & Caramel Popcorn by Kaell116, on Flickr

The food was great, the soup was to die for, the Steak main was great. The ice cream sundae dessert. O god yes! Mal is going to have to work off this flight when he gets to Vancouver. But to be honest, who cares, Ive earned it all right. With dinner in my belly, It was time to get comfy and good time to as minority report was winding up.

I put the seat into bed mode and got comfy. The full flat seat was great and the double thick mattress pad that was so raved about in reviews certainly does help, but the blanket is thin and the cabin felt super cold so that didn’t help. Unfortunately I was just to amped to even get any sleep, so figured I may as well just watch some tv. I decided to try out one of new features of the IFE and that is the ipod connectivity. Thankfully the cables are free to all premium class guests. The in seat ordering worked for this, well, it allowed me to order. The cable however, failed to arrive. So I got off my butt and got it myself the old fashioned way.


Air New Zealand Business Premier Seat in Bed Mode (New) by Kaell116, on Flickr


View from Bed Mode by Kaell116, on Flickr


Watching Videos from my Ipod by Kaell116, on Flickr

This seemed to be the story of the service. Really haphazard. Some crew just could not do enough to please you, yet others seemed like it was to much trouble and really hard to get started on a conversation. But at this point it was to early to make a judgement as it was only 3 hours into a 12 hour flight. I settled in and watched some tv and then with an episode of tv that I had brought with me done, I moved onto writing up this trip report with a fresh cup of hot coffee in hand. The seat belt sign came on around this time due to some lumpy action and outside the window a lovely sunrise was beginning as we progressed further north. The seatbelt sign stayed on about an hour or so. I tossed and turned on the seat/bed for several hours watching movies and trying to make myself comfortable and or sleepy.


Mid Night snack, Shortbread & Coffee by Kaell116, on Flickr


Writing my Trip Report at 38000ft by Kaell116, on Flickr


Sunrise somewhere over the Pacific by Kaell116, on Flickr

About the 5 hour mark I think I shut my eyes for a little bit and may have gotten a light sleep for about an hour… maybe. I am not quite sure. Eventually I just started to come alive around about the 3 hours to go mark, I was planning on getting some breakfast about this point to try and resync my body clock but it seemed that the crew decided it was time for everyone to start stirring. The mood lighting came on and started to go through its morning wake up routine. This meant people were getting up and it meant for me, time to make myself feel a touch human (one of those things you need to do on a flight), so I waited in line for a bathroom so I could clean my teeth.


oops someones looking in the toilet window by Kaell116, on Flickr


The Real Window in the Toilet by Kaell116, on Flickr


View out the Toilet Window by Kaell116, on Flickr


Wake up Mood Lighting by Kaell116, on Flickr


Wake Up Mood Lighting by Kaell116, on Flickr
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Old Oct 15, 11, 6:42 am
  #7  
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Eventually I started to watch some more TV episodes as breakfast started. By now I was a good 10 or 12 cups of coffee down, time for some food. I figured if I resynced my body to local time I could fool it into avoiding jetlag. Hopefully. So I kept it pretty light for breakfast with just fruit and toast, o and more coffee of course, so unfortunately unable to comment on the hot breakfast. The toast was ok though. Again service was a bit haphazard. I was really starting to begin to think that it was just the crew member working my section.


My Breakfast, Coffee & Fruit... boring I know by Kaell116, on Flickr


Almost to LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr

Eventually we were about 40 minutes out and the captain came on with his pre top of descent talk. It was good to know that we would shortly be on the ground. If things were going to go well, it meant that we would be coming in from the west, and the captain confirmed this. He also advised of sunny conditions. This meant an In n Out run for some spotting and that meant an afternoon of fun & frivolity!


Starting our Descent towards LA by Kaell116, on Flickr


Almost to LA by Kaell116, on Flickr


Seeing the Clouds Dissapear... good sign by Kaell116, on Flickr


Coming in over Islands by Kaell116, on Flickr

As we descended we came in over orange county and Disneyland/Knotts Berry Farm before turning onto the approach from the west. We flew right infront of the In n Out and I was snapping madly out the window as soon as we hit the taxi ways with heaps of good spotting going on out the window. We pulled alongside our gate at Terminal 2 and then we shut down… in the middle of the taxi way. Ah crap… a Tow IN gate. Even though we were early, this obviously just ended that little bit of an early arrival as we had to wait for the tractor to tow us in. O well.


Pretty Sure thats Orange County Airport by Kaell116, on Flickr


More LA Sprawl by Kaell116, on Flickr


Distance to LA - 25 Miles... o yeah! by Kaell116, on Flickr


Lots of Houses by Kaell116, on Flickr


Over the LA Canals by Kaell116, on Flickr


Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum by Kaell116, on Flickr


More Qantas A380s than ive ever seen at home by Kaell116, on Flickr

Pretty soon we were attached to the gate, and then soon enough we were deplaning and heading to LAX immigration, right behind a plane load of british tourists. God damn, this did not look good.


Skyteam Liveried Air France by Kaell116, on Flickr


Virgin Atlantic by Kaell116, on Flickr


My Ride from Auckland - Air New Zealand - 777-300ER by Kaell116, on Flickr

Last edited by `X'; Oct 17, 11 at 11:32 pm
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Old Oct 15, 11, 6:52 am
  #8  
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Transit in LAX

Once we were released from our aircraft into the Terminal, it was a mad dash towards immigration. Anyone who has ever been to LAX before will know what I am talking about. LAX is a NIGHTMARE for transit. The facilities are crap, the staff are as slow as hell. But so many people do it, and I was doing it for some crazy ... reason. I was going to chatise myself at least a dozen times during this stopover for transiting at LAX.

As we got to the escalators down into immigration, we were spread out amongst people coming in off Virgin Atlantic from London. A full 747 load of passengers. Now unfortunately (and I don’t know why) but they don’t offer any sort of express service for priority passengers. This is ludicrous because the scene that was in front of me was like pure and utter bedlam. Crazy++ There was just hundreds of people in line ahead of me. The line was barely moving. I knew this was not going to be pretty.


Down into the Hell that is Terminal 2 Immigration by Kaell116, on Flickr


Terminal 2 Immigration... your time in waiting begins... NOW by Kaell116, on Flickr

I was meant to meet some people here in LAX for a bit of Aviation Geekage but I laughed when they said I would be out around 4pm (since I was due to land at 1445. They were not wrong. I was in line for a good hour and then once I got my bag, I still had another 15 minutes to get through customs. Yeah worst hour and 15 of the trip so far. But it was done, and I was clear.


Finally through an Hour later only to wait again with my bags by Kaell116, on Flickr

As I dropped off my bag at International connections, and off into the main area I went. Met up with Derek from Cranky Concierge who was picking me up and we were quickly into his car, and off to In n Out. O yes, that’s right, I am already 2 down on the list and its barely even 24 hours into the journey. Now the In n Out near LAX is pretty famous amongst Aviation Geeks as it is directly under the flight path for Arrivals into Runway 24R. This is often the heavy aircraft runway. And I was not going to be disappointed this time.


and out into the Real world to In N Out! by Kaell116, on Flickr


In n Out... o yeah by Kaell116, on Flickr


My Lunch, by Kaell116, on Flickr

I had been looking forward to these burgers for months now. I already had my order ready in my head (though I ended up getting fries as well when I got there). Both Derek and I met up with Brett from Cranky Concierge and also www.crankyflyer.com and we all had a great time, chatting about planes, travel and me with Camera in hand taking in heaps of photos. Awesome afternoon. Got some fantastic spotting photos. Some highlights include:

* Hawaiian A330
* Lufthansa 747
* Air China 747
* Singapore Airlines A340-500
* A rare Southwest Aircraft (737-300 with Winglets)
* Horizon Dash 8 – 25th Anniversary

Derek got me back to Terminal 2 and ended up dropping me right infront of Premium Security (o yeah) and I was through into the terminal within 10 mins. Now we had timed this so that I should have just enough time for a shower, quick drink and to the gate. Good timing to. I high tailed it from Security to the NZ Koru Club for a shower, no problems getting in at all. I had what was probably the quickest shower in their lounge history and felt relatively human again.

Air New Zealand Koru Club LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr

From the NZ lounge (no photos was to focused on going to the Maple Leaf Lounge) I ran next door to the Maple Leaf Lounge operated by Air Canada to try and keep up my Goal of going Lounge Hopping but mainly to see if they will reissue my boarding pass onto Air Canada stock. Nope, do it at the gate the Lounge Dragon told me. Fine. Walked in, dropped my bag, took a heap of photos, grabbed a can of club soda and then out to the gate I went. Once I got to the gate the flight had just arrived and people were spilling out everywhere. The gate agent wasn’t originally going to reprint my pass, then I asked if there were any other seats available. She said 1D. Aisle Seat, first row. Think Mal, Think. Yep take it.


Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr


Terminal 2 - LAX by Kaell116, on Flickr

Gave me a few minutes to sit down, fix some stuff up in my bag, take a photo of the Best Buy vending machine that dispenses gadgets and every other tech nerds dreams and then the flight was called.
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Old Oct 15, 11, 6:56 am
  #9  
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Los Angeles to Vancouver


My Ride to Vancouver - Air Canada Embraer E190 by Kaell116, on Flickr

Air Canada
AC557
Los Angeles to Vancouver
1915-2257
Embraer – E190 (C-FMZU)
Executive First – Seat 1D

Boarding: 1855 (Gate 24)
Push Back 1915
Take Off Roll: 1922 (Runway 24R)
Top of Descent: 2120
Touch Down: 2143 (Runway 26R)
Shut Down: 2150 (Gate 53)


With Priority Boarding called I was in the first wave onboard behind the families unfortunately. I was greeted onboard with a slight French Canadian Accent and then remembered something I had forgotten about the Embraer. Small overhead lockers… ahhhh crap. Thankfully my bag did fit. So that is always a good feeling. No sign of any headphones anywhere, figured they would hand them out later so grabbed my book and settled in.


Hopping Aboard my first Air Canada Flight by Kaell116, on Flickr

Leg Room Shot by Kaell116, on Flickr


Air Canada Executive Class Seat by Kaell116, on Flickr

Pre departure beverages were offered and I took a water. Back to being good after my indulgent lunch that’s for sure! We were soon all boarded pretty quickly (small aircraft means quicker turn arounds) and we pushed back dead on time. Nice work Air Canada can’t complain there. Now one thing I will mention about Air Canada is that their Transborder (US/Canada flights) out of LAX are all on E190s. This means that the seats are just plain old Cradle Seats, which for a 2 and a bit hour flight is perfectly fine. Anything longer and it would be a bit meh.


My Book & Pre Departure Beverage by Kaell116, on Flickr


Looking into the cockpit by Kaell116, on Flickr

The seat was comfortable, adequate space and because I was in Row 1, the Monitor was fitted to the bulkhead so I could use it straight away (had they given out headsets). We were pushed back from the gate and then had a quick 7 minute taxi direct out to the runway to take off from where I had been sitting about an hour before.


My Log Book with its new Sticker by Kaell116, on Flickr


Legroom Shot by Kaell116, on Flickr

The takeoff was quick, and we powered out over the water and turned north, and north we went. Apparently we flew up along the coast line and for some reason the Seat Belt sign stayed on for quite some time. A good 10-15 mins before the chimes sounded to release people from their seats. With that the flight attendants started handing out plain old earbuds. PASS! If I had of known this was going to be the fact to start with, I would of grabbed mine from the start of the flight.

Once that was done, arrival documentation handed out and then drink orders taken. Again I went with a club soda for reasons I am not quite sure in my head and this was served with nuts on the side. It’s a North American thing but all the airlines serve nuts of some sort. These were skin on roasted peanuts and cashews, not warm though but they were good, tasty and a touch salty.


mmm nuts & Club Soda with Lemon by Kaell116, on Flickr

Menus were handed out shortly there after while I started watching about the only movie that looked half decent (Unknown). Dinner choices didn’t look to bad and after having Beef for dinner last night, went for Salmon this time around. It was served with a side salad, Vegies and some sort of Rice thingy. It was good, a touch overcooked but meh can’t complain. The whole dinner was served with a small slice of Strawberry Cheesecake which was the best cheesecake I have eaten in a long long time (even beats the cheesecake shop).


My Dinner, Salmon, Vegies, Rice & Berry Cheesecake by Kaell116, on Flickr


Cheesecake & Coffee o yeah by Kaell116, on Flickr

Served with another few cups of coffee and I was a happy content avgeek. I settled in to keep watching Unknown and soon enough we were given a top of descent warning by our Female Co Pilot. We ended up coming into land with still light outside which was kinda trippy for almost 10pm at night. Guess things are not going to be getting dark until late around here. But that is just something I will need to get used to.


more coffee by Kaell116, on Flickr


Mt Rainer I believe by Kaell116, on Flickr

We landed with a very nose high attitude on the aircraft and it felt very wierd. But we cleared the runway and then we were off onto a taxiway and there we sat. At this point I had thought we were pulling up to a bus gate. But I was wrong. It was just a hold point on the taxi way. Thank god for that. We pulled into our gate right next to a new colours Continental 737 (sporting united badging). Into the terminal we were released and there is where the endless walk from one of the far international gates to immigration.
Now I got to immigration quickly and there was no one in front of me at this point so I was looking good. However the Staff member just decided to grill the crap out of me.

Question after Question after Question. Hell the guys at the US didn’t even ask me much more than “how long are you here for”. It seems he wanted to know every minute detail of my trip, not sure why though. Once through that it was over to get bags then out through customs (not even a stop, he just took the form and said “off you go” before I had even stopped walking) and out into the Terminal. I met up with one of my twitter friends for my evenings entertainment!
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Old Oct 15, 11, 1:07 pm
  #10  
 
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Very nice report Mal. I look forward to riding along with you for the rest of your trip.
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Old Oct 15, 11, 3:14 pm
  #11  
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Originally Posted by Moomba View Post
Very nice report Mal. I look forward to riding along with you for the rest of your trip.
Thanks!

Unfortunately there was no tributes to you Moomba with the lovely shot of the Champagne out the window (since it was a night flight and i dont drink that much).

Will be a week or so to the next installment unfortunately, i am off to the States this morning again but this time up the back
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Old Oct 15, 11, 6:58 pm
  #12  
 
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Great start! Looking forward to reading the rest, the planning for this must've taken forever, but that's half the fun right?
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Old Oct 15, 11, 7:09 pm
  #13  
 
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I am really enjoying your tr. Usually I hate having to click through to see larger photos, but with your report, I am willing to do so. Looking forward to more!
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Old Oct 15, 11, 7:36 pm
  #14  
 
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Awesome trip report, very detailed! Can't wait for the rest. If you don't mind me asking, what camera are you using?
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Old Oct 16, 11, 12:29 pm
  #15  
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Originally Posted by AirForceFlyer View Post
Awesome trip report, very detailed! Can't wait for the rest. If you don't mind me asking, what camera are you using?
The camera used is a canon ixus 220HS which is the aussie model (not sure of the OS model name).

But it was one of three cameras I used during the trip along with my phone. Twas hefty carrying it all around but I coped.

The planning all up started back in september 2010 so took quite some time. I was chopping and changing hotels etc pretty much till 2 weeks prior! Thanks for all the awesome comments!!!
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