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A Kiwi Flyer's Month of Madness

Discussion in 'Trip Reports and Trip Photos' started by Kiwi Flyer, Nov 16, 2005.

  1. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    Big DO DOs – or A Kiwi Flyer's Month of Madness

    I’m always on the lookout for new places to go, or new people to meet. The big DO DOs of the title refers to some FT DOs I will be attending, or perhaps it will be my state of mind and body by the time I finish my crazy trip?

    As I write this I have planned an itinerary that includes the DOs and meeting other FTers along the way, and visits to other places I haven’t been to yet as well as return trips to places I have visited many times before.

    I will have a lot of travel over the month, and hopefully a lot of fun (its been fun planning). I’ll pass through many countries, flying several airlines, earning and burning points and miles left and right – including a few promos. In short a real mish-mash of travel. I wont reveal my full itinerary just yet, partly to keep the suspense (ha!) and partly with such a complex trip there’s every chance of changes along the way.


    IN THE BEGINNING

    Last December, Dovster posted suggesting a DO in Tel Aviv (TLV) November 2005. Since Israel is a place I’ve always wanted to visit but have not yet made it to, I was immediately interested.

    Fast forward a couple of months to February when alanw confirmed the dates for Barcelona (BCN) October 2005 – the weekend before TLV!

    Great! For one long trip to Europe I can fit in 2 DOs!

    The best option for me looked to be an award, and decided to splash out for first class (any excuse for Singapore Airlines F :D ) and the chance to finally try out the fabled Frankfurt F terminal.

    I've also lumped into this report some other travels around the same timeframe. This is one wacky month - apologies in advance if I get things muddled up.


    INDEX

    I can see this report is going to get very long. So to aid readers I'll try to maintain an index in this first post.

    Cheers
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    This post!
    To Australia by Emirates (first of 3 posts)
    Comparison of first class Emirates with Singapore
    Rock hopping with Qantas (first of 2 posts)
    Six hours to New Zealand with Emirates (first of 2 posts)
    A nouvelle experience with Air New Zealand (first of 2 posts)
    Nouvelle Caledonie
    A new airline to New Zealand by Air Calin
    To Australia by Qantas
    A mad-cap day of flying (first of 2 posts)
    To New Zealand on Qantas
    Comparison of trans-Tasman business class Oct 2005
    Another day another flight, but what a flight! (first of 2 posts)
    Lufthansa first class (first of 2 posts)
    Boo Doo Two
    A town and/or a country
    To Italy by Iberia
    A nice alpine run (first of 2 posts)
    See His Holiness and the eternal city
    I to I - Italy to Israel (first of 2 posts)
    Israel
    A marathon flight sequence (first of many posts)
    DO DO DO
    Back to New Zealand
    Day 32 update
     
  2. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    TO AUSTRALIA BY EMIRATES

    For some time I've seen the ads for some amazing deals offered by Emirates for trans-tasman travel, and the odd trip report here on FT. However, having both One World and Star Alliance status to maintain I have tended to fly Air New Zealand and Qantas across the ditch.

    Earlier this year, however, curiosity got the better of me at just the right time. Great fare - first one way and business return for the price of non-sale economy, combined with great mileage bonuses (enough for economy round trip) and throw in free limo transfers (saving for taxi/bus alone worth 1/3rd of the fare) and I was easily convinced to try Emirates for the first time, and in first too boot.

    I chose to fly to Melbourne from Auckland (my base) - partly because I like Melbourne and partly because this route offered the A345, which I knew from reading FT was the aircraft of choice in first at least. Unfortunately Emirates has a habit of changing routes and aircraft types on the trans-tasman flights, so I crossed my fingers and hoped.

    The transfer to Auckland international terminal was okay – basically a more comfortable taxi ride. Scored well in my books by being ready for me (something the taxi company I use is not always able to manage and certainly not the case for the airport bus). Check-in as at the far left hand end, in the newly expanded check-in area. It doesn’t take long, no bags to check, and they’re happy for me to pay the $25 departure tax at the counter in cash. They provide a card for lounge access. There’s a special immigration agent near the premium check-in desks, which enables to bypass the queues at the main immigration area upstairs (go through pre-cleared line). Security is upstairs though. This is the same set-up as in the Qantas/One World premium check in area (Air New Zealand premium check-in is along similar lines but slightly different).

    So not long before I’m in the Emirates lounge which is shared by elite status pax, business and first class. I have walked past this lounge so many times on the way to Air New Zealand or Qantas lounges upstairs, but this is my first time inside Emirates lounge. The lounge is nicely laid out, with separate dining area. Didn’t try out the showers but bathrooms are nice. A few computers, a couple of tvs and usual selection of newspapers and magazines. Quite a lot smaller than the other Auckland international lounges, but then it is only used for 3 flights a day. There are unfortunately no windows so I wouldn’t like to spend too much time there.
     


  3. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    TO AUSTRALIA BY EMIRATES continued

    Soon enough it is time to board. Auckland airport has been in the process of segregating arrivals and departures and has only just opened the top level of the pier. There’s a thread in the Air New Zealand forum if you’re interested, but in short it’s a mess with poor passenger flow.

    At the gate and it’s a big queue. It seems Emirates does not follow the practice of Air New Zealand, Qantas and some other airlines of calling the flight in the lounge when boarding is nearly complete – or perhaps they were being cautious given the recent changes in layout add several minutes to the lounge to gate time? At the gate, elite status pax and first/business class can use the left hand boarding pass reader, with general pax using the right hand one. It doesn’t take long for me to arrive at the suite.

    My first impression is the general layout is similar to Singapore Airlines’ first suite, but yet different. Hmm that doesn’t help much. There’s no overhead bins, instead a couple of cubby holes that would comfortably fit a sports bag or small backpack but struggle to fit a small rollaboard. The suite is much more enclosed – complete with door (must be open for takeoff and landing), but the lack of overhead bins helps create a sense of space. Being an evening flight the mood-lighting is a star pattern, and calming background music is softly playing.

    Before I even have a chance to settle in, an FA approaches and asks me if its my first time! She then spends the next 10 minutes explaining all the features and showing how everything works (it probably helped that the load was light with just 2 pax in first). Boarding takes a while so there’s enough time for a couple of glasses of bubbly.

    Eventually we take off and soon dinner is served. I’ll add the menu shortly. I wasn’t hungry so skipped quite a lot but enjoyed the tomato soup. Due to strong head-winds the flight took around half an hour longer than usual. So I managed to squeeze in 2 movies (like Singapore Airlines’ AVOD system you can start watching immediately – no need to wait 30 or more minutes into the flight for it to start, and it doesn’t get switched off until right on landing). On this route flying Qantas I’d be lucky to see one movie in entirety.

    We arrive at a fairly quiet time for Melbourne and so immigration formalities are very quick.
     
  4. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    TO AUSTRALIA BY EMIRATES menu

    COCKTAILS WITH CANAPES
    A combination of hot and cold canapes, which includes prawn skewer, mushroom quiche, quail breast and parmesan cheese with pesto, stuffed red bell pepper with anchovie and olives

    HORS D’OEUVRES
    New Zealand Lobster Medallion placed on creamy celeraic salad and served with marie rose dressing

    Cajun Spiced Lamb Loin accompanied with char grilled vegetables, dried tomatoes and served with a beetroot relish

    SOUP and SALAD
    Moroccan Tomato Soup served with fresh cream and fried basil sprigs

    Freshly Prepared Salad offered with olive oil and tomato tarragon dressing

    ENTREES
    Pan-Fried Orange Roughy fillets of orange roughy with garlic and parsley sauce, accompanied with grilled red capsicum, sugar snap peas and gratinated semolina cresents

    Grilled Beef Tenderloin prime New Zealand beef tenderloin, topped with gratinated Kikorangi blue cheese, served with roasted shallots, summer vegetables and Chateau potatoes

    Thai Style Chicken Curry with a hint of coconut and lemon grass flavour, accompanied with baby pak choy, carrot flowers and steamed rice

    VEGETARIAN ENTREES
    Pumpkin Ravioli served with mornay sauce, topped with tomato capsicum coulis, shaved parmesan cheese and basil julienne

    A la carte Vegetables a selection of alternative vegetables, which includes green beans, roasted pumpkin, baked gratin potatoes, and linguini noodles

    DESSERTS
    Mini Desserts featuring chocolate mousse, fig and vanilla mascarpone and pont royale cake

    Bread and Butter Pudding served with vanilla sauce and fresh berry compote

    FRUITS
    seasonal cut fresh fruits

    CHEESE
    International Cheeseboard selection, served with crackers, grapes and crudites

    BEVERAGES and CHOCOLATES
    Tea Ceylon, China, Earl Grey, Camomile

    Coffee freshly brewed or decaffeinated

    Chocolates

    BAR SERVICE
    Aperitifs and Cocktails Sweet or Dry Sherry, Campari, Dry Martini, Sweet or Dry Vermouth, Gin or Vodka Martini Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Negroni, Whisky, Gin, Brandy, Gin Fizz, Tom Collins, Rum.

    Special Cocktails Bloody Mary, Martini Cocktail, Jumeirah Delight, Island Fantasy, Champagne Cocktail, Brandy Alexander

    Wines Cuvee Dom Perignon vintage 1996, Meursault Premier Cru Genevrieres Vaucher Pere 2001, Wente Vineyards Chardonnay Riva Ranch Reserve Arroyo Seco 2002, Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste Grand Cru Classe Pauillac 1997, Murrieta’s Well Vendimia Red Livermore Valley 1999, Croft Port Late Bottled Vintage 1998

    Spirits Whisky, Scotch, Malt, Jack Daniels, Rye, Gin, Vodka, Bacardi Rum.

    Liqueurs Drambuie, Cointreau, Tia Maria, Cognac VSOP, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Late Bottled Vintage Port

    Beers assortment of beers
     
  5. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    COMPARISON OF FIRST CLASS EMIRATES WITH SINGAPORE

    I know its unfair to compare just one flight in Emirates first class and not too many more in Singapore first class, but I will anyway. I couldn’t help compare them during the flight and so will share my views with you, dear reader. Of course this is highly subjective and others will disagree.

    Here I am comparing Emirates A345 with Singapore’s 747 – both suites. Other aircraft have lesser first product (I believe). I’ll compare Singapore between Bangkok and Singapore as this should be comparable to Auckland to Melbourne on Emirates (neither long-haul so no pajamas for example).

    Pre-flight
    Limo transfer with Emirates is a big plus for me - saves both cost and hassle. I like Singapore’s pre-departure text alert. Gate experience good with both. Both offer champagne, water or orange juice pre-departure. I liked the FA showing me how everything works.

    Both very good but Emirates better.

    Seat
    Both very comfortable. Emirates has the edge if you want privacy.

    IFE
    Both exceptional and put other airlines’ IFE to shame. Emirates was easier to use (navigation intuitive and touch screens worked well) but felt like smaller range of offerings (I know this isnt the case but maybe its my bias in what I am used to on Singapore). Draw.

    Food and drink
    Given how little I ate and drank I don’t think I can do justice to any comparison here. (Some readers are probably rolling their eyes at that :D )

    Service
    Apart from the initial welcome and show how everything works, the Emirates service was more reactive than proactive. On Singapore I’ve found they often ask if you want a top up before you even finish a drink, or offer a bottle of water if you ask for a second water. On Emirates, drink top ups were only when I requested on using call button.

    Singapore is definitely better service this time.

    Amenity kit
    Emirates offers a small plastic wrapped box with a few different goops but not much else. I imagine for the longhaul sectors eye shade, slippers, etc are handed out separately. Singapore has a kit complete with eye shade, lip gloss, bulgari perfume, etc. Singapore better here.

    Post flight
    Emirates offers transfer at destination (as well as origin). Singapore has – nothing. Neither have arrival lounges, and as I didn’t have checked bags I can’t compare that aspect.

    Overall
    On balance I think first class on either airline is great (in slightly different ways). As to which is best? Sorry but I’m going to sit on the fence, at least until I’ve had a few more flights in first (something to work on :D ).
     


  6. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    ROCK HOPPING ON QANTAS

    Having been in Melbourne quite a bit lately, and after thoroughly catching up with some friends, I decided to do a run on Qantas to go towards requalifying.

    The usual cheap places came up but none interested me, until I came across one destination that I’d visited by land but never flown to before – Yulara (the township by Ayers Rock or Uluru as it is now called). If searching for this destination on Qantas website (and I presume others) – need to look for Ayers Rock. Even better, I could route through Sydney both ways for almost the same price as the direct option.

    I turned up at the airport a little early and went to the quick check-in machine (having no bags this bypasses all the queues). If I wanted I could do this in the Qantas Club lounge, but I use the ones landside. I was offered the option of taking an earlier flight which was about to board and so I took it. As usual in this situation, the boarding pass printed out something along lines of meal not guaranteed, but, as usual in my experience, there are enough meals so I can have one if wish. No visit to the Qantas Club this time – straight through screening and out to the gate and onboard. Flight is not very full at this hour of the day.

    The flight to Sydney is fairly short. Offered brekkie, which I nibble at bits of and leave most. Don’t watch the IFE – there’s only so many times can watch the same episode of Kath & Kim or whatshisface chat guy (edited to add someone has reminded me its Enough Rope). Instead read the complimentary newspaper. Since arrive at Sydney earlier than planned I have enough time to visit the Qantas Club and grab a coffee or two before the next, longer, flight to Yulara.

    This flight appears to be completely full. The first part of the flight is rather bumpy and so the meal isn’t served until half way through. The meal choice was rather odd though (perhaps the catering was misloaded?) – you can have the fish or another type of fish. Good thing I like fish then!

    Once we clear the cloud cover I spend a lot of time staring out the window, just watching the desolate scenery and mulling things over. Despite flying over the Australian outback/desert many times (to/from Asia or Perth), I never tire of the view. While there are not many signs of human habitation there is plenty of variation of colours and textures – rocky areas, sandy areas, salt pans, an incredible number of dry river beds, the odd track, scrubby areas, plains and rolling hills, etc.
     
  7. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    ROCK HOPPING ON QANTAS continued

    As we approach Yulara I notice the area is looking much greener than when I’d previously visited. Of course this is relative – being in the middle of a (sandy) desert means red-brown is still the predominant colour. On approach to the airport we fly a big loop so there are good views of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta (previously called the Olgas). For a straight in approach you want to be on the left of the aircraft, whereas for a loop approach the right gives best views but the left is okay too. Deplane by stairs and get the early summer warmth while walking across the apron to arrivals area.

    I have enough time before the return flight for a quick trip to Yulara township, or perhaps an extremely rushed visit to the big rock itself. Not wanting to miss the return flight I decide to stick with the township/resort for a quick look around and then back to the airport. I already had my return boarding passes issued so all I needed to do was go through security. That was a mistake. Once airside there are a number of seats (too few for the pax waiting), a café and a small souvenir shop. That is all. Oh well at least its only a quarter hour or so of standing around.

    The flight back to Sydney is fairly uneventful. Offered another meal (no fish!) but decline. Again bumpy the last hour and a half into Sydney. The strong tail winds means we arrive too early and so fly a big loop almost over Canberra and Wollongong before landing from the sea. This would be one of the roughest landings I have had in Australia, but still doesn’t compare with a good Wellington cross-wind.

    Again I have enough time for a visit to the Qantas Club. Being evening there are drinks on offer which I partake of a couple. Then its onto another full flight down to Melbourne. Offered yet another meal and nibble but don’t feel like eating much. Arrive in Melbourne as the domestic terminal is shutting up for the night. Step outside and am reminded that summer isnt here yet – must be 25C colder than Yulara was, so I rush off somewhere warm.

    All in a fairly typical Qantas run experience. Some very good service mixed with indifference. Plenty of food, some of it quite tasty. Nice Qantas Clubs to relax in (except Yulara). A relaxing and fun day out.
     
  8. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    SIX HOURS TO NEW ZEALAND BY EMIRATES

    An early start to the day with the airport transfer. Check-in is fairly quick, as is immigration and through to the lounge after a short stop at duty free. At Melbourne, Emirates uses the Cathay Pacific lounge. Here I also had the choice of Singapore Raffles lounge or Qantas First lounge. But in the spirit of trying new things, decided to try out the Cathay Pacific lounge – the last of the Melbourne international lounges I had yet to visit.

    This lounge has a separate section for first class, but the separate section is essentially a sign indicating certain seats are for first class only! The usual coffee (ahh needed that) and drinks, as well as breakfast foods. The lounge is fairly small and quickly fills up. I imagine if a Cathay Pacific flight coincided with an Emirates flight it would be overcrowded. Other than having a computer terminal it is comparable with the United lounge which Air New Zealand has been using since its own lounge was demolished last year.

    Despite having no status I managed to get a bulkhead row seat in business class, which is totally full. The overhead bins are jammed full and I notice most pax have a couple of carry-ons. Apparently carry-on limits are not policed as much in Dubai (where the flight originates) than it would be in New Zealand and Australian airports. A number of pax needed to have their bags stored in closet.

    Settle into seat, have 1 pre-departure drink before the glass is snatched away and get into a book I’d brought with me but yet to open. After a while I realise we’d been sitting for longer than normal and no sign of departure. Various groundstaff wander in and out talking on their radios. Eventually the captain comes on the PA to apologise for the delay but apparently we have ice on the wings and we’ll give it 30 minutes to melt properly. 30 minutes comes and goes with another update from the captain that it still hasn’t melted. At some point, I forget exactly when, the ground staff leave the aircraft and we push back out of the gate to a remote stand, so an arriving aircraft can use the gate. You know its going to be a long wait when a ladder is pulled up alongside so the ground staff can get back on the aircraft. After an hour and a half on the ground, the FAs finally break open some more drinks – gratefully received. Finally, some 2 hours after boarding, the captain announces the ice has melted and so we can depart. Yaah – but what a joke. Its not even winter, not that cold, and it takes about 3 ½ hours on the ground for the ice to be cleared from the wings.

    The flight itself was fairly quick and uneventful, if rather bumpy for the last 30 minutes (100+ kilometer per hour wind gusts). I’ll post the menu shortly. Needless to say the late arrival ruins the plans for the afternoon, but at least we arrived at the destination safely. Immigration is surprisingly quick given the time of day, and the poor limo drivers are grateful we have finally arrived.

    Service on this flight was very poor. Not only pre-departure (I thought they could have offered a second drink much sooner) but also during the meal and afterwards. Not offered all the courses of the meal :eek: Not offered drinks – had to ask. No top ups whatsoever. Forgot to offer coffee after the meal. I arrived feeling hungry (very rare for me) and quite dehydrated despite the short flight.
     
  9. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    SIX HOURS TO NEW ZEALAND BY EMIRATES menu

    FRUIT JUICES

    APPETIZERS
    Assorted Fruit of seasonal fruits

    SALAD
    Seasonal Salad served with a choice of dressing

    MAIN COURSES
    Australian Mixed Grill consisting of grilled beef tenderloin, lamb cutlet, veal sausage, sauteed field mushrooms, slow roasted tomato, baby spinach and roesti potatoes

    Creamy Herb Omelette served with grilled chicken medallion, green asparagus tips, Roma tomato and roasted new potatoes

    Stir-Fried Bay Scallops on ginger soya sauce with snow peas, served with steamed rice and mixed capsicum

    DESSERTS
    Chocolate Raspberry Gateau light chocolate sponge topped with glazed raspberries

    BREAD
    Bread Basket selection of bread and breakfast pastries served with butter and preserves

    BEVERAGES and CHOCOLATES
    Tea Ceylon, China, Earl Grey, Camomile

    Coffee freshly brewed or decaffeinated

    Chocolates

    BAR SERVICE
    Aperitifs and Cocktails Sweet or Dry Sherry, Campari, Dry Martini, Sweet or Dry Vermouth, Gin or Vodka Martini Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Negroni, Whisky, Gin, Brandy, Gin Fizz, Tom Collins, Rum.

    Special Cocktails Bloody Mary, Martini Cocktail, Jumeirah Delight, Island Fantasy, Champagne Cocktail, Brandy Alexander

    Wines Charles Ellner Cuvee de Reserve Brut NV, Tokay Pinto Gris 2002, Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Monthelie 2002, Torbreck Estate Barossa Valley Old Vine 2004, Barros Porto Colheita 1996

    Spirits Whisky, Scotch, Malt, Jack Daniels, Rye, Gin, Vodka, Bacardi Rum.

    Liqueurs Drambuie, Cointreau, Tia Maria, Cognac VSOP, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Late Bottled Vintage Port

    Beers assortment of beers
     
  10. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    A NOUVELLE EXPERIENCE WITH AIR NEW ZEALAND

    A few days later and it’s back out to the airport on another trip. This time it’s off to the warmer clime of New Caledonia.

    For a change I wasn’t on an early bird flight (lost count of the number of times leaving home at 4am for the early flights), or going straight from work. This meant I could take it easy and take the bus. Since we arrive a little early and it’s a nice day I get off at domestic terminal and do the 10 minute walk to international terminal. The walk passes close to the edge of the tarmac so it’s always good to see the hustle and bustle of daily airport activity on the apron. Okay, also smell the A-1 :eek:

    Use the premium Air New Zealand check-in facility (available to Star Alliance Gold, business class and Koru Club pax when flying Air New Zealand) to bypass the large queues both at check in and at immigration. It’s a busy time of day and so plenty of people everywhere. Everywhere except, it seems, the premium check-in where one agent is very slowly serving an ever increasing line. This is my longest wait ever in the premium check-in, and after about 15 minutes a couple more agents arrive before we’re then quickly processed. Get a bulkhead seat, which is good, but doesn’t really matter for such a short flight (approx 2 hours 30 minutes). Through the immigration formalities and security and another visit to the lounge.

    I had noticed earlier that a lot of arriving flights were running late so wondered if we’d depart on time (more likely due to connecting pax than aircraft arriving late in this case). So checked it out on the computer terminals – showing as one time. One of my minor pet annoyances is the departure screen in the lounge doesn’t show boarding time/expected departure time, only the scheduled departure time – which makes it impossible to tell if there’s delays without asking or looking it up on the website.

    I grab a coffee or two to waken up properly and then it’s off to the gate. A first for me – first time I have used a bus gate at Auckland (had them plenty of times elsewhere eg Europe). The bus gates are downstairs and there’s a small delay while they wait for everyone to arrive including the last connecting passengers (apparently some came straight through from London and Paris). It always amazes me how everyone rushes to get on the bus first. It’s not as if the plane will leave without you, and in any case, those who board the bus last can get first off. As we are driven out to the A320 I realise the reason for getting a bus gate – the pier is full with a mixture of 747s and 767s of various airlines. No room for the assorted 737s and A320s, other than scattered remote stands.

    I forgot to mention while boarding the bus we get a great nose-on view of an Air New Zealand 767 pulling up at the gate immediately above us.
     
  11. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    A NOUVELLE EXPERIENCE WITH AIR NEW ZEALAND continued

    Boarding the aircraft is very quick – load looks to be about two thirds today, and we depart on time. Having seen the movies on offer I read the newspaper and settle in for the quick flight. The FA was very good – realising the flight time is short and not long enough to watch some of the movies she took the DVD orders before take-off to make them ready and also warned against seeing the longer playing movies.

    Breakfast was nice (love the Air New Zealand fruit smoothies) – menu below.

    BREAKFAST Auckland to Noumea

    Beverages
    Start your day with a fruit smoothie, your choice of juice, freshly brewed or decaffeinated coffee, tea, herbal tea or hot chocolate

    Continental Selection
    Fruit selection with assorted cereals and yoghurts

    Croissants, muffins, white and wholemeal toast with fruit conserve

    Hot Options
    Mushroom, parsley and oregano omelette with chicken sausage and tomato

    Smoked fish rosti with poached eggs and creamed dijon mustard sauce

    Blueberry ricotta pancakes with streaky bacon and manuka honey and apple syrup


    On the same menu there’s 2 lunch menus. These weren’t served on my flight, but for those interested in these things I’ll include for completeness.

    LUNCH Auckland to Noumea

    Starter
    Manuka coached king prawns with fennel, baby curly endive, mango and dill dressing

    Main Course
    Spicy lamb wrap with capsicum, rocket, hummus and caponata in a soft flour tortilla

    Confit of chicken thigh, pureed kumara, warm leek and watercress salad with chicken consomme

    Hotpot of New Zealand seafood, broccolini, piko piko, baby onions and walnut sauce

    Dessert
    Ice cream dessert of Kapiti blackcurrant and blackberry and Kapiti gingernut ice cream

    Cheese
    A selection of fine New Zealand cheese and preserved fruit

    Beverages
    Freshly brewed or decaffeinated coffee, tea, herbal tea or hot chocolate

    LUNCH Noumea to Auckland

    Starter
    Herb roasted chicken salad with fig, olives and mustard vinaigrette dressing

    Main Course
    Prime beef tournedos with creamed vegetable pot au feu sauce, potatoes, green bean and bacon brochette and red onion compote

    Salmon fillet and mushroom duxelle wrapped in puff pastry with sweet potato and snow peas

    Pan seared New Zealand lamb with mint, potato cakes, slow roasted tomato and broccolini

    Dessert
    Mont Blanc pastry filled with chestnut crème

    Cheese
    A selection of fine New Zealand cheese and preserved fruit

    Beverages
    Freshly brewed or decaffeinated coffee, tea, herbal tea or hot chocolate
     
  12. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    NOUVELLE CALEDONIE

    We had a couple of turns over the coastal hills coming into land on a very uneven runway (big dip) at Tontouta airport. Short walk in the morning warmth across the tarmac to the terminal. Immigration is quick and then its off to change some money. New Caledonia is as expensive as Tahiti and I’d heard horror stories of the taxi fares on the long drive into Noumea – so bus for us.

    The drive is pleasant (bus is airconditioned) with nice scenery. Not as lush as I’d expected – more scrubby areas mixed with cultivated parts. Surprisingly the road climbs a small hill on the way in. I’m not sure why (perhaps due to other south pacific islands I’ve been to?) but I’d expected a trip along the coast. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the town, which is built on a peninsula with many picturesque bays and rolling hills.

    Dropped off at hotel and check in. Then a quick stop at supermarket before a stroll over some hills and around the bays to find somewhere nice for a picnic. Along the way stop into the city market – lots of fresh fruit and veges but not much else. It got hot in the middle of the day, but a fresh breeze stopped it being excessive and helped to keep the humidity at bay. Much later, as the heat starts to subside and dusk rolls in, walk back into town. The main square, Place de Cocotiers, is humming. There’s a festival on at the moment and so live performers are keeping the small crowd well entertained with a mixture of traditional and pop, dance, song and of course Polynesian drums. Very nice way to spend the evening and it’s plenty warm enough even at night.

    Didn’t get out of the town during the short stay, but plenty of walks in the sun, etc. Also visited the museum of New Caledonia. Transfer bus back to the airport – collected from hotel so no need to lug bags around.
     
  13. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    A NEW AIRLINE TO NEW ZEALAND BY AIR CALIN

    Check-in is quick and it’s off to immigration where they have trouble finding my entry stamp to put the exit stamp next to. That completed, I have a quick look around the small terminal – duty free is open but not good value, exchange bureau is closed. Upstairs to the Air France lounge. It’s fairly small but perfectly adequate for small aircraft elite & business pax. May be crowded when the larger aircraft are used. Has the standard amenities – coffee, drinks, nibbles, one computer terminal, a couple of newspapers and magazines (mostly in French of course). Soon enough it’s time to board, and I notice the exchange bureau is now open so get rid of the remaining French Polynesian Francs.

    The set-up of Air Calin’s A320 is almost identical to Air NZ. The most obvious difference being the seat covers. Even the business class IFE set-up is the same – a choice of watching the screen or personal DVD. There’s only 6 DVDs to choose from and IMO not a particularly inspired selection.

    However, there the similarities end. Perhaps I was just unlucky but the FA was obviously bored with his job. I should have seen the warning signs – pre-departure drink is orange juice or nothing, during the safety video he just stood around and didn’t even bother to indicate the exits. Service didn’t get any better during the meals. Only coffee offered, no tea, water or juice. Slop the bread roll onto the tray so it nearly falls onto the floor. Never proactive – asking if need anything, instead just hangs around the galley unless someone has called him.

    The breakfast was fairly bland. Some fruit, yoghurt, bread roll and croissant, corn flakes. The bi-monthly magazine has every article duplicated - once in French and once in English.

    So it was interesting flying an airline I’d never flown with before, but rather disappointing standards. Although I couldn’t see anything printed that said so I had the distinct impression Air Calin is owned by Air France.

    On arrival back at Auckland we again have a bus gate. Then a stampede to get to immigration. Most pax were either not Australian/New Zealand passport holders, or infrequent travellers oblivious to the fast-track immigration line and walked straight by to the main queues. So had no wait despite my fears with several wide-bodies having recently landed before us. My arrival form causes a moment of confusion as I had entered the Air New Zealand codeshare flight number (booked under this to get a reasonable fare and also for the miles of course). Soon cleared up and on my way with just a short delay at the agriculture x-ray screening.
     
  14. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    TO AUSTRALIA BY QANTAS

    Another day dawns, another trip to the airport. Wait a moment and scrub that. For this is yet another early flight which means getting up at OMG o'clock - just a couple of hours or so after staggering into bed - and stumbling out the door in a zombie state.

    In one of my other trip reports I mentioned how surprisingly often I get crazy taxi drivers. I'm still debating whether the driver on the way out to the airport is crazy or merely sleepy/drunk/all of the above. I found myself shocked awake from my initial dozing when the cab swerved towards the median barrier and somehow just manage to miss it. After that I paid close attention to the erratic driving. He struggled to stay in the lane, didnt seem to believe in indicators and at one point stopped at a green traffic light despite absolute no vehicles around at that early hour. I was sorely tempted to ask the driver to stop and call another, but was put off by the likelihood of missing my flight and also by the storm raging outside. I also remembered I had suffered through worse driving elsewhere and survived without incident. Was I right in just gritting my teeth or was I not thinking clearly in a sleep deprived state?

    We make it to the airport, where I find an unexpected sight. The Qantas premium check-in area is closed :confused: I guess someone(s) was sick or slept in. Fortunately the queues in regular check in arent long, but it does mean I need to visit the bank to pay departure tax (can pay for this at premium check-in area but not the regular counters), and also no immigration pre-clearance. The agent struggles with her computer to print out my boarding passes. The first one is eventually done but keeps printing someone elses for the second. Another agent manages to get it printed and so off to the bank, where there's a long queue. A short queue at immigration and then off to the lounge for a glass of water and a read of the paper.

    Boarding is quick and efficient, even with the extra carry-on screening that Qantas seems to require "because of Australian government regulations" that Air NZ (and I now know Emirates also) doesnt need for trans-tasman flights. I like the international config 767 as it seems to have lots of space compared to some of the other aircraft Qantas uses.

    The flight passes fairly quickly. Breakfast is okay. Debate whether to have coffee or try to sleep - end up going for the caffeine boost. It seems I won the lottery that is QF service level - the crew today are absolutely fantastic every one of them. Its just a shame they arent all as good. We land at Sydney early but then I experience the other side of the coin of late departures. Not long ago in Melbourne we had to push back and park to free up a gate. Today we waited 15 minutes for departing aircraft to clear the gate.

    Out the airbridge and holy cow - the immigration queue is backed up way past the arrivals duty free shop. I know from previous experience arriving this time of day that a queue this long cant be good. Sure enough it takes over an hour to reach the immigration desks. :( I'm quickly processed and then its join another queue for the agriculture xrays. By now I'm wondering if will make the comfortable connection of over 2 hours. Takes another 20 minutes to reach the checker of the arrival cards, and then get a lucky break. Given how backed up the arrivals are they let the low risk pax through without x-ray. Coming from New Zealand with only carry-on it seems today I'm low risk enough. Woohoo - saved a good 15 minutes further waiting I reckon.

    Off to the domestic transfer bus departure point where I see bus leave just as I arrive at the door. Fortunately its only 20 minute wait until the next one.
     
  15. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    A MAD-CAP "DAY" OF FLYING

    I manage to get a possie near the bus doors and bolt as soon as the bus arrives at domestic terminal after the short drive. Up the escalators and race to the nearest bank of monitors. Hmmm boarding has started. All up its taken over 2 hours since we landed. For those planning tight connections international->domestic at Sydney around this time of day, be aware I have had even longer transfers on ocassion. On good days an hour should suffice all up.

    SYD-CNS on QANTAS A332

    I'm glad that most connections aren't as rushed as this and settle in. When the IFE starts there's the usual 5 minute Qantas promo, followed by an ad trumpeting Qantas' IFE as the Best in the World. I'm not sure what criteria where used by on my own experiences it would definitely not be best in the world. Anyway, what grabs my attention is the line "You have been watching the World's Best IFE". Excuse me? At this point all we've seen are the safety video and an ad for Qantas.

    The flight passes quickly. Food is good and decent quantities (please take note Air NZ!). FA service is again great, and I dont just mean for me. Somehow we arrive quite late into Cairns. This has me a little worried as check-in for the next flight will be closing shortly. The arrival gate is at the left hand end of the domestic terminal and so this means a long walk through the outside corridors to the right hand end and passed the baggage claim with doubling back to the check in. I walk fast.

    CNS-SYD on A332

    As I rock up to the check-in counter, card in hand, the agent holds a printed BP and says "Kiwi Flyer I presume". Ha - must be the last passenger to check in. Even better she has printed the boarding pass for the following leg as well ^

    There's a big queue at security screening but make it airside just as boarding starts. Make a quick stop in the Qantas Club to freshen up and then back on board.

    We have the same crew and the return flight isnt quite as full so enough time for a bit of a chat. The same meal is offered despite being called "lunch" on the way up and "dinner" on the way down.

    Other than being late (due to the late arrival at Cairns), the flight is uneventful. At least on arriving back at Sydney I have a more relaxed connection and enough time for 1 drink in the Qantas Club before back out to the gate for the next flight.
     
  16. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    A MAD-CAP "DAY" OF FLYING CONTINUED

    SYD-PER on QANTAS 738

    Having flown both north and south I've now seen all the movie shows currently screening for Qantas domestic flights. The longer flight to Perth also has several tv shows (eg Everybody Loves Raymond) - but I'd seen these coming across from New Zealand. So for this flight I tune out of the IFE on offer and instead plough through some work-related papers. I also take the opportunity for a couple of mini-naps, having been up for so many hours already today is starting to take a toll.

    The flight goes quickly (maybe I am getting too used to longhauls?). For the fourth flight in a row the service is good (perhaps not quite as excellent as the earlier flights). I cant remember having this long a run of good service on Qantas flights. Perhaps whatever problems they have had are being resolved? Another dinner meal - this time with different offerings to the earlier domestic flights.

    On arrival at Perth head to the Qantas Club to check in for my next flights, only to see a sign "No check in at Qantas Club tonight". Head landside where I find out that apparently Qantas computers are down and so check in will be done manually.

    PER-SYD on QANTAS 767 (international config)

    Check-in takes a while as seem not to be used to doing things manually. I guess it doesnt happen very often. Through security where I get "randomly selected" for the explosives check (swipe parts of clothing and carry-on surfaces). I'm not sure if its they way I dress or the things I carry or the way I rush through the screening (all organised - know what I'm doing - efficient), but I seem to be picked for this check in Australia far more than the odds. It looks to me that perhaps one in ten passengers is checked this way (and never airport or airline staff), but yet I get it well over 50% of the time. At least it is only a small delay (30 seconds), unlike in say the US if you get specially selected at screening.

    Spend a little bit of time in the Qantas Club and then its time to board. Remarkably boarding is pretty much on time, so it seems the manual check-in has worked smoothly. However, once on board the illusion is shattered. For the second time in a couple of weeks I spend an hour sitting on the aircraft at the gate, this time while they try to reconcile the head count and complete the paperwork. As it is now after 1am local time, and 6am by my body clock, I'm not appreciating the delay one bit. I complained earlier in this trip report about Emirates not helping their passengers during the lengthy delay. Sadly, the Qantas crew also do nothing often than a periodic announcement from the captain "thanks for your patience - will just be 10 more minutes". With the cabin lights all on, we all struggle to sleep.

    Finally we are cleared to push back. A while after take off the FAs roll through with the supper service. I doubt there'd be many (if any) takes given its about 2am Perth time and 4am Sydney time. I doze fitfully through the flight. The gremlins are at it again and my overhead light refuses to switch off :( Ironically less than a month ago I had another Qantas flight in the evening where it refused to swtich on. On this flight there's no breakfast service - trying to let everyone sleep as long as possible.

    With such a late departure we arrive very late into Sydney, not helped by air traffic putting us into holding pattern over Royal National Park. There's a couple of other flights waiting for connecting passengers, but fortunately my connection was longer - especially since the computer being down meant I couldnt get the onward boarding pass in Perth.

    SYD-CNS on QANTAS 734

    I head up to the Qantas Club and get the next boarding pass issued. The computers are still down but check in is very quick as they seem to be prepared for all connecting passengers. Have just enough time to check some messages and its back downstairs to board the next flight.

    Meal is breakfast this time. Flight goes quickly as I try to sleep. Again pull into the left hand gate - same one as almost 24 hours earlier. No checked bags so straight out of the terminal and into a cab for the short ride into town.
     
  17. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    TO NEW ZEALAND ON QANTAS

    CNS-SYD ON QANTAS 767 (international config)

    After my short stay in Cairns it was another early start back to the airport. Shared a ride with a nervous Brit who was panicking about missing his flight - he had an hour to spare before check-in cut off and being a very frequent flyer I was surprised by his nerves.

    Check in was speedy. Again a long queue at security. Not sure why Cairns seems to have the biggest screening queues - at both domestic and international. Maybe it was just a coincidence, or maybe there's a lot more infrequent travellers?

    Grab a coffee in the Qantas Club which quickly fills up (its quite small). The flight is uneventful. Being an international flight (albeit domestic leg), the breakfast is slightly nicer than usual. Nothing else noteworthy. We have an unusual approach flying almost over the top of SYD airport, then out to sea and back in to land. Arrive on time. I notice the immigration queues arent as large as the other day but still sizeable. I had, however, deliberately taken this flight so I could transfer through security and upstairs to departure level - bypassing immigration at SYD. The alternative domestic flight would have involved change of terminals at SYD and almost certainly much bigger immigration queues.

    SYD-AKL ON QANTAS 743

    Freshen up in the Qantas Club F lounge (not that I'm travelling F there is none on Qantas to New Zealand, but have access through my status) - which is the crowdest and noisiest I have ever seen it. However I'm not there long and off to board the onward flight from the gate at the end of the pier, right next to the one I'd arrived at not long before.

    There's a small delay at the gate while we wait for some late connecting passengers. Cabin temperature is extremely high initially but by the end of the flight I am shivering as its been turned down so low.

    There were problems with the IFE system with the kids movie option only running in Japanese! They ran out of arrival cards for New Zealand, so the back half of the aircraft missed out.

    My luck with great service by the FAs ran out. Meal was served about 80 minutes into the relatively short flight (not long enough to see a complete movie) - meaning very rushed and they took the tray away before I was finished :( Also no top ups of drink at all during the flight - so get slightly dehydrated.

    Arrival is late due to the late departure, but not by too much. Notice they have moved the agriculture check of arrival forms from immediately in front of the xrays to around the corner opposite the luggage belts. The corridor is cordoned off for longer than normal, meaning a few extra metres walk (from some of the luggage belts). Presumably this is to fit more people queuing for xray machines and hand searches. Sure enough it takes longer to go through the agriculture xray queue than it did to get through immigration.
     
  18. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    When I get a chance I'll try to do a comparison of the business class trans-tasman offering of the 3 main airlines - Air New Zealand, Emirates and Qantas; all of which I've flown in the past few weeks.

    I am now busy with last minute work, also researching some trip stuff and have yet to pack for the next longer phase. Please be patient if it takes me a while to get the next part posted. Thanks.
     
  19. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    COMPARISON OF TRANS-TASMAN BUSINESS CLASS OCT 2005

    In the past few weeks I have flown business class across the Tasman on the 3 biggest carriers on this route - Air New Zealand on A320 and 747 (non-refurbished), Qantas on 767 and 743, and Emirates on A345.

    Of course this is highly subjective and others will disagree.

    Pre-flight
    Limo transfer with Emirates is a big plus for me - saves both cost and hassle. Gate experience good with Air New Zealand and Emirates. Poor with Qantas (called too early and no separate line). All offer champagne, water or orange juice pre-departure.

    Emirates best here, then Air New Zealand then Qantas.

    Seat
    No real stand out in the seat other than Air New Zealand's non-refurbished 747 where I got an F seat on account of my status (F no longer being offered). Hopefully I will get to sample the new business class suite on Air New Zealand 777 or refurbished 747. Managed to get bulkhead on A320, 767 and A345. The 767 "A" seats are both window and aisle and have a handy ledge between seat and window for putting stuff. On the Qantas 743 was in forward cabin which completely ran out of overhead space (pretty much all platinums as best I could tell who were travelling without checked luggage).

    Air New Zealand 747 best, then Qantas, then Air New Zealand A320 & Emirates.

    IFE
    Emirates IFE is exceptional. (See my earlier post.) Qantas has about 10 channels of tvs/movies. The Qantas 743 also had extra games. On the eastbound flight some technical problems and not enough time to see fully even the shorter movies. Air New Zealand also has 10 channels of tvs/movies, plus additionally the A320 has personal DVDs selected from a library of about 20 titles. If I'd been on refurbished 747 would have gotten the new IFE with lots more channels and avod.

    Emirates clearly the best. Air New Zealand had a slight edge over Qantas (would be bigger gap with the refurbished 747).

    Food and drink
    Emirates prints wine and food menu. Air New Zealand prints food menu (includes drinks), but no longer has a wine menu. Qantas had no menus (which is odd because I know they do have printed menus) - maybe they just hadnt been loaded both flights?

    Emirates and Air New Zealand have a wider range of choices than Qantas (ie 3 mains instead of 2). Qantas had the biggest sized servings, followed by Emirates then Air New Zealand. I liked the food on Air New Zealand best - not as bland and not always typical airline food (eg touches of native New Zealand herbs) as opposed to Qantas' food which was very unimiginative.

    Overall for food and drinks, hard to gauge as each good in different ways. On balance I think Air New Zealand is best.

    Service
    Unlike in first, Emirates service was poor. Qantas was poor one flight and good the other. Air New Zealand on board service was very good.

    Amenity kit
    No amenity kit for any of these airlines in business class trans-tasman.

    Post flight
    Emirates offers transfer at destination (as well as origin). Air New Zealand and Qantas have nothing. Neither have arrival lounges, and as I didn’t have checked bags I can’t compare that aspect.

    Overall
    All three airlines are generally good, and the product is better in my experience than eg intra-europe business class or north american business class. I know Qantas can do better but for me on these flights they were not up to scratch.

    If any airline can offer the best of all these features, for a reasonable price, then they can have my trans-tasman business.
     
  20. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER FLIGHT, BUT WHAT A FLIGHT!

    When I left you a couple of posts above I had just returned from Australia. Then I had a couple of very hectic days with all the usual last minute stuff that needed to be dealt with - I swear sometimes seem to spend more time before and after a holiday getting things out of the way and then catching up, than do spend actually away.

    But I digress. Didnt sleep much in this short spell at home. No, get your minds out of the gutter. First night did a lot of research for the next part of my month of madness. By the end I was seriously wondering if I have bitten off more than I can take. Oh well, plough on regardless I say. Second night was packing, washing etc getting ready followed by my usual trick before a big trip of not sleeping much at all.

    Finally departure day dawns sunny and warm. Have I done everything I needed to? Probably not but it will have to do. Since the flight isnt early I again have the luxury of time and take the bus out to the airport. In fact have enough time that I get off at domestic terminal and take a leisurely walk across to international terminal. Its a busy time of day at AKL and so en route I see several take-offs and landings and a veritible hum of activity. The walkway is pleasant (unless you dont like the smell of avgas I guess), although not fully sheltered if the weather is foul.

    Pull up to the check-in after the usual pre-screening of bags (as is always the case for SQ's flights to SIN). Ahh SQ F to look forward to and already I'm getting relaxed and in the mood. I am just so lucky to have the opportunity when I think of the countless others less fortunate. Funny how any (rare) F flight never fails to put me in a good mood.

    So the (unfortunately all to usual) problems printing out my multiple boarding passes dont phase me and just chat away while they try to sort it out. Eventually they press the right buttons and out it spits. Pay the departure tax at the counter.

    Pre-clear immigration at the special counter at the far left of the check-in area (next to Emirates check-in) and swiftly through security screening to the F lounge.
     
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