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A mad couple of days flying, including domestic international flights

A mad couple of days flying, including domestic international flights

Old Jul 22, 08, 6:43 pm
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A mad couple of days flying, including domestic international flights

Index to my trip reports

If you like this report, you may be interested in some of my other trip reports.
  1. AKL-YYZ with NZ/AC in F & C - my first trip report
  2. Europe to Iceland & return on Icelandair (FI) - somewhere different
  3. Some FTers DO the Inaugural Worlds Longest Flight SIN-EWR vv 28 June 2004 - 2 long flights back to back
  4. 7 Crazy Days - includes an almost inaugural flight
  5. Champagne and figure eights on ice - Antarctica flightseeing
  6. a Lit.tle sPRinG.Ly JoUrney (BUDding KiwiS Can zig-ZAG around Europe) - mostly central and eastern Europe
  7. Big DO DOs - or a Kiwi Flyer's Month of Madness - lots of flights
  8. Another Manic Month for Kiwi - again lots of flights
  9. Mini Tour of NZ - over 100 domestic flights in New Zealand covering all domestic routes (ongoing)
  10. Across the Globe in 5 Continents - criss-crossing the globe
  11. Auckland to National Park by Train - train in New Zealand's North Island
  12. Across the Globe in 5 Continents Again - criss-crossing the globe, but this time mainly on One World
  13. A Warm Embrace of the Tropics - short trips to the tropical South Pacific
  14. Singapore (SQ) new first and business class, plus a medley of 12 F & C SQ flights - name says it all really
  15. Across the Globe in 4 Continents - around the world on star alliance, including some unusual flights
  16. Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Sampler - a sampling of Qantas flights, domestic and international, in economy and business (ongoing)
  17. Around the World in Under 60 Hours - around the world in a weekend
  18. The Heat is On - another longhaul economy trip in under 60 hours - what a contrast, Asia and Qantas' new first class lounges
  19. Fast on the ground and in the air - it must be Shanghai – a flying visit to Shanghai + Maglev
  20. It's a Fine Line Between Pleasure & Pain: 4 wacky weeks 2 RTW C, inaugural longhaul Y – mostly One World
  21. Back and forth across the Pacific on a variety of airlines in a selection of classes - 16 crossings of the Pacific plus some other related flights
  22. It isn't every day that you witness a hijacking attempt + NZ's forgotten 4th island - a visit to Chatham Islands coincides with New Zealand's first hijacking attempt
  23. There and back - first day Air NZ flies to Coolangatta (Gold Coast)
  24. A Run Around (part of) The Axis of Evil: A Perfect *A RTW in C? - Axis of Evil 0 US Immigration 1
  25. Wellington to Auckland by train - self-explanatory title
  26. A mad couple of days flying, including domestic international flights - a double longhaul inaugural, domestic international shuttle and domestic leg of an international flight
  27. Regional C *A RTW & (hopefully) finishing flying every route (100+) for an airline - featuring new QF First on A380 special flight, "you have to get off now", and 105th different current route with NZ
  28. One World Revolutions - Around Mostly the Southern Hemisphere - mostly Southern Hemisphere and mostly on One World on a mix of products
  29. Cris-cros the Med & the Globe on Emirates, Qantas & Star Alliance in mix of F/C/Y+/Y – starting with EK First on A380 and ending with Qantas economy, with a lot of travel mostly on *A in between
  30. An FTer flies to a Do (or Why take the nonstop when you can fly 10 flights instead?) - combining an FT Do with an aerial tour of northern Queensland
  31. The Ultimate Qantas Flight - short report on the ultimate flight
  32. Premium Flying Across the Ditch (Between New Zealand and Australia) - experiencing the forward cabins on Trans-Tasman flights (ongoing)
  33. 5 Boeings Straight to the Airbus Do - FTer feasts in first, business & economy - my journey to & from the *A / Airbus Mega Do
  34. NZ route oddities & One World turns by night (redeye special) - an odd collection of flight routes & schedules around the world
  35. From my first low cost redeye to a first class trifecta - an insane fortnight - some firsts of all types
  36. G'day, kia orana - it's another inaugural flight in Air New Zealand business class - a day & night tripping around the South Pacific on Air NZ
  37. A Feast of First Class Flying on British Airways, Qantas and Emirates - long distance in style
  38. A Weekend of Old and New - Lufthansa first & business, Air New Zealand business - a quick longhaul trip featuring some old and new products
  39. Star Alliance tres primo, and tres biz - a trio of first and business on Star Alliance
  40. A few flights to end 2011 - a quick trip around the world + more
  41. Five Continents in 3 Days and Some Other Mad Trips in 2012 - a selection of my 2012 travels
  42. Sky Team madness - 14 weeks, 200k miles, 5 continents, CI brand new business – mostly Sky Team
  43. Off to Star megado on Oneworld - mostly business incl brand new AA 787
  44. A Glutton for Punishment: red eye, new world's longest flight & more, in comfort?

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Apr 1, 16 at 3:52 pm Reason: Updated index of my TRs
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Old Jul 22, 08, 7:31 pm
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When Air NZ announced their latest new route last year I made my booking the same day to fly the inaugural flights (both ways).

Earlier this year the schedule was adjusted by a few hours. Not only would the turnaround be more rushed (no hope of getting out of the airport) but the arrival on the flight back was changed to 0240. This doesn't make much sense to me - the a/c used will be sitting on the tarmac at AKL an extra 3 hours, and anyone connecting will have a horrid wait in the middle of the night (when there are no departures).

When I contacted Air NZ about the schedule change and pointed out the domestic terminal is shut down at night thus rather unsatisfactory to be waiting a few hours for the onward flight, I was given 2 options. (1) a stay in an airport hotel or (2) change to the domestic international shuttle. I decided the only benefit of a 3 hour hotel stay was to the taxi company (for I have shower access within the airport and would not be able to sleep for such a short stop).

In the lead up to the flight I got several phone calls. One thanking me for my business and that I'd be getting something in the mail (nothing arrived?). Another checking my itinerary was correct and not an error. Again to check I had the necessary visas.
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Old Jul 22, 08, 7:50 pm
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I arrived at the airport rather later than I intended and missed a couple of planned catch-ups at the airport. Other than a couple of chinese lanterns and a vertical banner for the inaugural flight there didn't seem to be anything special at check in. I noticed the departure screens listed "PEK" instead of Beijing.

I was soon checked into my seat and confirmed that I could not check in for the return flight. Immigration and security were both quick and I was soon welcomed back to the lounge. I grabbed a shower, and then a couple of drinks while waiting for someone (who ended up not making the lounge due to late arrival of the domestic flight on an already tight connection). I had a quick chat with some agents and then made to wander back into the conservatory where a reception was being held for the flight. Annoyingly this wasn't mentioned at check in, and I noticed some others had goodies like a special baggage tag which I'd also missed out on. By now it was time to head to the gate for boarding.

With the gate lounge crowded for the first flight festivities I found a spot near the back and waited. There was some jasmine tea on offer. I got nabbed by a friendly agent and moved further forward. While waiting for the speeches we had a quick chat. The speeches were brief and really there was little fanfare. No official trade/government delegations. The VIPs on this flight were limited to some Air NZ board members and selected senior staff, Auckland mayor and MP and a couple of other minor dignatories. The only highlight of the festivities was an impromptu speech by an elderly Chinese lady. Mr Fyfe looked bemused and uncertain whether to stop her or let her keep mouthing off.

The flight was full in business class (with just a handful of paying passengers), but a light load down the back.

A special inaugural flight menu was created for the flight, but honestly it seemed no different to what I'd expect as a regular menu. See here. The gift was a specially labelled set of Pacifica goops. Why does NZ keep doing this? Anyone connecting to another flight loses the gift at security.

I managed to get a few hours sleep, after much talking and watching a few movies. The last time I was in Beijing the new terminal was still a big construction site. Also, this time I could see a little bit of blue sky!

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Jul 22, 08 at 7:57 pm
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Old Jul 22, 08, 8:21 pm
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We arrived early despite leaving Auckland late. There was a small delay on disembarking while a Maori welcome was given at the end of the airbridge.

I'd been told I would be meet on arrival and escorted through international transfers, however no one was waiting for me. As I had gotten a visa (my read of the visa rules was that I needed one because not transitting to a 3rd country) and was confident I would quickly find my way around this new terminal I charged on without hanging around. The transfer desk was abandoned thus no chance of using international transfer immigration line (requires a valid boarding pass). Fortunately at this hour of day immigration was fairly quiet and the queues moved quickly. At the immigration desk there is a keyboard where you push a button corresponding to your satisfaction of the service given - what a great idea.

Both the immigration officer and the pre-desk visa & document checker initially thought I had the wrong flight information, but soon accepted my statement that it was a new flight. That done, down to the train to transfer to baggage claim and check in - a 5 minute ride away. Then customs and baggage xray, through the awaiting groups of people, into the escalator and up to departures. The departure monitor listing flights and the set of check in desks that apply for some reason skipped an hour, including my return flight. However I soon spotted the NZ logo and colours and made my way over to check in.

There I was fussed over and given an invitation card for the Air China First Class lounge on account of my status. That was a nice surprise, I'd been expecting the Business Class lounge. By the time I'd cleared immigration and security and trained back out to the E part of the terminal, it had taken about 80 minutes despite minimal queues.

The First Class lounge is off to the left of where you come out, and up a level. The bollards in front of the escalator make it difficult to bring bags up, due to the extra narrow gap. The lounge is nice enough - spacious, uncrowded (at this time anyway), some food and drink on offer plus a proper dining area. Plenty of tvs, a few computers. The main lack is no shower, and the departure monitors work oddly - a full listing is only shown near reception while some other monitors inside the lounge show only 1 or 2 flights on final call.

I left in plenty of time to make the gate in case there were any more festivities planned. The same performers who welcomed us on arrival did a few songs before boarding commenced.

This flight was full in economy thanks to a couple of large groups of Chinese schoolkids. Business class was not full, even with a few NZ management onboard.

The meals schedule was odd. The first meal was a breakfast despite being served a couple of hours into the flight (which makes it lunchtime China time or mid afternoon NZ time). A light refreshment mid flight. Then main meal about 90 minutes before landing (ie after midnight NZ time). The food on offer was very similar to the other direction.

Despite leaving late we arrived in Auckland 30 minutes early.
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Old Jul 22, 08, 9:46 pm
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International shuttle

The international shuttle is a domestic flight that operates from the international terminals (daily, but has been cancelled sometimes). In the morning it is Auckland to Christchurch, and in the evening Christchurch to Auckland. You clear immigration and customs at Christchurch instead of Auckland, allowing tighter connection and less hassle. The downside is making sure not to buy duty free liquids before security.

I made my way down the pier to international transfers, which was shut. There is a phone to call someone to open up. There were maybe 20 of us connecting tonight. We were escorted past the transit security to the main security screening by outward immigration (which of course was closed), screened and then let loose inside the terminal.

I first snagged one of the comfy chairs on the upper level but quickly gave it up when it became apparent some inconsiderate passengers were not going to talk quietly. I found a less comfortable but far quieter possie to while away a couple of hours before making my way back to the lounges. The Air NZ lounge opens at 5am but fortunately for me I had access to the QF lounge which opens at 4am(ish) to cater for the LAN flight SCL-AKL-SYD. I was first to enter and thus headed straight for the shower.

Later in the NZ lounge I checked loads for alternative options for my later flight. The schedule change meant that my next connection was unneccessarily long. Unfortunately due to end of school holidays, all flights except one were zeroed out.

The load was much lighter than I expected. Despite this all the elites had been seated together (no seat blocking - grrr) and the overhead bin space gone in the front 1/3 of the aircraft. I ended up swapping for a seat several rows back so as to avoid fighting against the flow on disembarking. We left late due to a couple of passengers who failed to show, requiring their bags to be offloaded. Service was the usual weekend fare of tea, coffee or water; casava crisps, banana chips or lolly mix. I slept much of the flight. Despite sitting further back than normal I was one of the first off the flight. The immigration officer didn't recognise the flight number for the Beijing flight. Another "it's a new flight" explanation and I was through. I was first to customs, which sometimes leads me to getting secondary but not this time.
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Old Jul 22, 08, 10:15 pm
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Domestic leg of international flight

Air NZ also has a few flights a week from Japan to Auckland that go via Christchurch. It was this flight that I'd spied some availability and was hoping to switch to (I was on a premium ticket that affords the necessary flexibility). At the ticket desk I was rebuffed but a kind angel agreed with me that it was stupid for me to be sitting in the lounge for a few hours until my booked flight when there were seats available on the earlier international flight (boarding in 15 minutes time), and so I was quickly changed across - thanks ^

Back to the international terminal. As I had the required orange domestic sticker I was quickly through immigration with just a quick photo ID check. As I got the same agent who'd processed me arriving less than 30 minutes ago I expected some grief but she made no comment. No international departure fee due either.

I had enough time for a quick drink in the international lounge before boarding. The call in the lounge was made a bit early as they first boarded the through passengers from Japan, and only afterwards the rest of us. The flight was fairly full, but with a reasonable number of empty seats including the middle seat next to me.

As with the Beijing flights I made use of the gate to gate IFE (movies and shows are switched on even before boarding is completed with games switched on only after take-off). Unlike years ago, no meal service on the flight however we did get a cookie instead of casava crisps/banana chips/lolly mix (as well as the tea, coffee or water).

On arrival at Auckland the immigration officer spied one of my other boarding passes in my pocket and wanted to process me as an international arriving passenger I dissuaded him and made my way to customs. The entrance to customs has now been moved to the far end of the baggage claim area - so in the past couple of months not only is there a longer walk to immigration there is now also a longer walk to customs. Grrr. I was waived through on showing the orange sticker and no xray either (which surprised me).
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Old Jul 23, 08, 9:02 am
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Originally Posted by Kiwi Flyer View Post
The bollards in front of the escalator make it difficult to bring bags up, due to the extra narrow gap. The lounge is nice enough - spacious, uncrowded (at this time anyway), some food and drink on offer plus a proper dining area.
Those bollards are quite annoying. They actually were recently repaired (as of last weekend), probably since the original set (also too narrow) got loosened over time -- since the March opening date -- I assume from every visitor's rollaboard being slightly too wide and banging into them all day long.

A tip for both Biz and F lounges in T3 at PEK: try the sandwiches in the small fridge labeled "MUSLIM". Very fresh cheese and beef sandwiches; much nicer than the crackers and other stuff by the snack area!

-C
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