Trip Report - QF/AA/AS to USA & AKL 2003/04 (LONG!!)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports and Trip Photos' started by QF WP, Feb 2, 2004.

  1. QF WP

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    Jun 20, 2002
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    Following my QF WP's off to USA: trip planning questions topic on Flyertalk, finally all the planning had finished and it's time to TAKE THE TRIP!!

    (so now you all know who QF WP is on Flyertalk, none other than....me :oops: - of course, some of you already knew this)

    CHAPTER 1

    After a hectic two days for Christmas (visiting Mrs QF WP's parents on Christmas Day, then QF WP's parents on Boxing Day), we are ready for a holiday. Packing in 35 degree C heat isn't easy when you are packing jackets, sweatshirts, wollen socks, thermals, scarves and boots. In fact, it feels downright crazy...but one must remember the Northern Hemisphere is in the middle of winter, not summer as it here in Brisbane.

    Saturday, 27 December - BNE/AKL/LAX

    After packing well into the night, we fell into a fitful sleep due to the oppressive heat. A cold shower refreshed us (showering with your wife saves water :wink: ) and we didn't have to hurry with a midday departure (given we live only 5kms from the airport).

    Regardless of this fact, my parents felt duty-bound to drive 30 mins to pick us up and escort us to the airport. I may be the youngest in my family, but at 36, my mother still revels in "looking after her baby". I think it has more to do with my recent marriage and the possibility that she may be a grandmother again ... :shock:

    Anyway, before I get too far OT, we organise for them to arrive at 10am - sure enough they arrive at 9.45 ("just in case"), so I give them a cuppa. We are both packed but still in undergarments as it's just too hot to sit in your clothes in this heat for too long.

    We arrive at BNE Intl just after 10.15am, unload the car and we go to check-in whilst Dad parks the car. We roll the luggage into the QF First line, where we are the queue. Straight to the CSA waiting for us. Give her our tickets, passports, my QF Platinum card and Vicky's AA "paper-card" (courtesy of our colour printer) (Ed - Vicky is commencing an AA Plat Challenge with this trip).

    She changed the FF details correctly from Mrs QF WP's QF Gold number and prints out both boarding passes (BNE/AKL and AKL/LAX). Note that we are sequence 286 and 287, so it truly will be a fullish flight. [Separate sectors were organised as U seats were immediately available AKL/LAX when we ticketed and BNE/AKL came through 5 days prior].

    Whilst my parents and wife grabbed a table at Aroma's (the Coffee Shop overlooking Departures), I went to Travelex and organised currency exchange (with the FF points going onto Mrs QF WP's FF card). By the time they had organised coffees/hot chocolates, I had returned and we chatted until the flight opened for boarding. Alas, this time I would miss the BNE QF F Lounge (things one does for parents and wife :? ).

    After alighting the escalators, I spy the Premium Line is empty, so convince Mrs QF WP that indeed as a Plat, I can use the line and she can come with me. This puts us ahead of at least 50 to 70 people in the queues and means we are processed in minutes. Through security and hand luggage screening, then out to the Gates area. We turn and wave to my parents and walk through to Gate 77 (the second last Gate in the left hand side concourse). There was no rush, as Catering was holding up the departure, so we had to cool our heels in the departure area (pity, had I known that was going to happen, I'd have gone to the Lounge). Mrs QF WP sighs, walks back up to the seating in Gate 76, pulls out a book and starts reading. I decided to wile away the time by ringing a friend.

    Airline & Flight Number, Destination: QF25 BNE/AKL
    Rego: VH OJB (747-400)
    Seats: 14A/B (J upstairs)
    Scheduled Departure Time: 12.05pm
    Pushback: 12.25pm Actual Departure (Liftoff) Time: 12.35pm


    Didn't catch the name of the Captain or FO, but FSD was Derek Almond, CSD in F was Irene, CSD in J Gerry. FA's in J upstairs were Angelique and Mona. Was pleased to find that this plane had the new IFE's fitted. Mona came through with the J menus and I slid mine into my Trip Report folder. OJ/Water/Champagne offered as pre-flight beverages.

    After take-off (didn't get the runway number, but noted that we taxied to 2250M point), we settled into the comfortable J seats.

    Business Class Menu BNE/AKL + Meal Photo's

    (As this is my first time using SnapFish, scanning Menu and uploading, I hope it works). Below is the email address and password you should use to log in:

    Email address: brigalowwilson@netscape.net
    Password: synergy

    The wines for this sector - Red was Taylor's St Andrews Shiraz '98 (beautiful drop that!!) or Richmond Grove Coonawarra Limited Release Vintage '99 Cabernet Sauvignon. White - I have absolutely no idea, never touch the stuff...

    I always order a Special Meal - LFML (Low Fat), not because I'm overweight (at 6'2" and 88kgs, I don't think I am), but I have always thought it's better for me in the long run and I seem to get a decent meal (particularly in Y).

    Today's Entree for me was Turkey with Rice, green beans, red orange and green capsicum, new potatoes, snow peas, broccoli, zuccini and carrot (see Photo 3). I then had Chicken Breast for Main Course (Photo 4).

    Mrs QF WP had the Menu's Entree - Salmon (see Photo 5) and chose the Beef for Main (Photo 6).

    Service was a little rushed on this sector, due to the time taken before meals were served (just past the 1hr 25 min mark on the 2 hr 50 min sector). Only 1 pass (plus refill) with the wines. This haste climaxed when (unfortunately) Mona, in her haste to serve me my main meal, lost her grip with the serving plate tongs as she skewed the plate at an angle onto my tray. The plate fliped and the contents ended up in Mrs QF WP's lap, thankfully captured by a well positioned large white napkin which was taken away swiftly by an embarrassed Mona.

    We both chose the Lime Ice Cream (Photo 7) (absolutely delicious BTW).

    Meal items were cleared and we settled into viewing the IFE. Touchdown was at 6.15pm AKL time (15 mins late) (runway ??) and we taxied to Gate 10. After de-planing, we had a little over an hour layover before the scheduled departure of the flight again. We wandered past all the duty free, turned left and went up the escalator to the Qantas Club. Anne-Marie, the CSA, saw our J BP's, my Plat card and ushered us through the F door on the LHS of the Reception Desk.

    The AKL F lounge is larger than BNE and we were the only guests at that stage. The layout is well thought out - on the right just through the door is a cabin bag rack, on the left is the Business Centre (4 work desks, 2 desktop computers with Internet access and printers; then the photocopier). Straight ahead and to the right is the bar, like all QPubs was well stocked with selection of import and locals beers, soft drinks and a basic selection of spirits. It was too early to partake for my liking, plus we had another 13.5 hours of flying for me to whet my whistle.

    There was enough time for me to check FlyerTalk and a couple of threads I had open about New York and getting around. Some good information was there so I copied it down. After a brief comfort stop and a nibble of some pastries, the call came through for boarding. Knowing it was the furthest Gate from the lounge, we got up and walked out, thanking Anne-Marie on the way past. No troubles going past the security check outside Gate 10 and re-boarding.

    Airline & Flight Number, Destination: QF25 AKL/LAX
    Rego: VH OJB (747-400)
    Seats: 14A/B (J upstairs)
    SDT: 7.40pm
    Pushback: 7.58pm, ADT: 8.12pm


    The Captain was now Stan Rush, didn't hear the F/O, FSD Peter Smith, CSD John Smout and the FA's upstairs were Carolyn and Darren.

    Captain's announcement was hard to pick up - all I heard was that we would be flying over Cook Islands with arrival into LAX over Long Beach.

    After take-off, we settled into a long sector by taking out the personal IFE's and loading up games and starting on Mrs QF WP's crossword book - it's amazing how many clues two heads can get instead of one.

    Photo's this sector:
    Photo 08 - AKL/LAX Menu
    Photo 09 - QF WP Entree
    Photo 10 - QF WP Main
    Photo 11 - QF WP Breakfast (Fruit/Cereal)
    Photo 12 - QF WP Breakfast (Cooked)

    My entree was Smoked Salmon as well as various tartlets. Dessert (strangely served on the same tray at the same time) was Apple and Rasberry compote together with selection of seasonal cheeses and Dried Fruit. The tartlets were lovely but the Smoked Salmon was devine!

    Main meal was seared Chicken Breast with potatoes, beans and a sauteed mushroom (only one!). Chicken was tender and filled the gap.

    Presentation could have been better as well as taking plates away between courses. I had to move the empty plates onto the side armrest to get decent pictures. Darren was very attentive but not backed up by Carolyn.

    Wines - a Grosset Riesling 2003, Barwang Chardonnay 2002 and Jacob's Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 (which we both enjoyed but decidedly low quality for J).

    Much sleep followed, courtesy of IainF's gift (I think I got 7.5 hours with half a tablet) before I was awoken to the smell of breakfast being served.

    Breakfast was eagerly tucked into along with numerous teas to awaken the spirit. Mine consisted of OJ, fruit (kiwifruit and three melons - water, honeydew and rock) and yogurt as well as Weet Bix.

    My breakfast ended up being a mixture of both - Mrs QF WP doesn't eat Tomatoes, so I scored the Vine Ripened one from her plate. I also had steamed asparagus, sauteed field mushrooms and minature omlets with mixed vegetables.

    However, we both regard the best part of breakfast on QF to be the energiser drink - Peach and Banana this morning :) .

    Before too long (with thanks to Paul Kelly for the words to his song), it was time to descend into LAX and breakfast was cleared. Touchdown was right on time (10.30am) on runway 25R. As we taxied past :? the Terminal, the Captain came on to advise that as our Gate was not curently available due to a late departing flight, ATC instructed us to circle the tarmac. I took this opportunity for some plane spotting - leaving was American N386A, Korean HL7553 was parked on the tarmac and UA's N120UA was behind us. Further on, SQ's 9U SPG was parked alongside JAL's JA8086. We turned at this point into our Gate and on our opposite side was Korean HL 7489.

    After a brisk walk to C&I, I will admit this is the quickest I have ever been through US Customs & Immigration. In fact, the 20 mins for that paled into insignificance against waiting for the Gateway Sheraton's Shuttle that finally decided to turn up 50 mins later (after we'd collected our bags from Belt B, I had called them from the courtesy phone).

    Now it was time to check-in, unwind and see a little of the Californian coastline, along with out first FT meeting of the trip.

    Hotel - Sheraton Gateway Hotel, LAX Airport
    Arrival 27 Dec, Departure 28 Dec


    After being fairly curt with the driver of the Sheraton Shuttle (once he showed up), I calmed down once we were on board. I think this was just my emotions simmering after 18 hours travelling to this point and broken sleep patterns. All I wanted to do was check-in. We tipped him well when we got off (as he did help us with our bags and apologied profusely for "missing" us on his last circle of the Terminals).

    I had booked this hotel through the SPG web site after much internal debate - I had already re-qualified SPG Gold for 2003 but not yet re-qual'ed Hilton Gold. I chose the Sheraton after getting better recommendations from FT'ers. I also secured a $USD89 Best Available Rate (which was also commissionable, so had put my TA's TIDS number in booking).

    Gave Paula (Front Desk) my Amex, SPG Card and copy of Reservation Confirmation. She started to enter the booking and advised me of the Hotel's Service Guarantee. I thought this was the best method in securing some recompence for waiting almost an hour for the Shuttle, so I invoked the SG and was given complimentary breakfast vouchers. Not sure whether it was my wife's good looks or yyzprincess's intervention, but we were upgraded to a Junior Suite (Room 762). Now those two positives made the stresses start to melt away :wink: .

    Security was in full cry, with searches of all cars on W. Century Bvld as well as security near the lifts, requiring guests to show their room key/card holder.

    We made it up to the Room, which was large for Mrs QF WP's standards. It had a Sweet Sleeper Bed and didn't that look inviting at this stage...mmmmm.

    We quickly decided to have an hour sleep and a refreshing quick shower, before the appointed time that we were to meet alect and cruise Santa Monica Beach.

    Making our way down to the lobby, I had made sure that alect wasn't going to miss us - I had on my Flyertalk.com T-Shirt on (with a jacket over, after all, it was chilly). He stepped out of his car, shook hands and we settled into his swish car for the busy freeway drive to Santa Monica.

    Almost surreal to hear an Aussie accent (albeit a Melbourne-ite, but I don't hold that against him ) and we caught up with his news and how he settled in CA.

    We wandered down to Santa Monica Pier, awaiting mikesinla call which we got as we walked down after parking a couple of blocks from the beach. Wandered around the Pier, watching the buskers (some crazy Asian guy smiling all the time, wandering around posing, then balancing things on various parts of his body), stalls and rides.

    Made our way to my hosts choice of meeting place, a bar called Chez Jay (how appropriate, particularly for some of us at the FT Qantas Forum). There we met mikesinla and his girlfriend. We managed to down 3 schooners, crack endless peanuts and talk about our travel experiences, until alect had to leave about 6pm. We then continued to sit there for half an hour, before we agreed that we should depart to have a meal - they kindly took us to their favourite Thai restaurant where we gourged ourselves on some exquisite dishes (as well as that ho..ho..ho..hot :cry: seafood dish, still remember my tongue trying to escape from my mouth and the water I had to appease it with). Mikesinla then kindly drove us back to the LAX Sheraton, as we had more flying in the morning.

    CHAPTER 2

    Sunday, 28 December - LAX/JFK

    After an 6am wake up using my cell phone's alarm function, we struggled out of bed and showered to try and adjust our bodies to daylight. After a late night out with FT'ers and alcohol involved, I wasn't sure where I was until hot water reminded me...in a shower :lol: . We had already laid out our clothes and packed the night before, so we were out of our room by 6.30am. A quick fill of fruit and a cuppa in the Restaurant started to make me feel human again. I checked out while Mrs QF WP went to load our bags on the Shuttle - it was overflowing...both with bags and people.

    We arrived at Terminal 4 and found the AA First/ExPlat/Gold Check-in line. Having again used my FF point to upgrade, thinking of sitting in J upstairs again...well, it's was a good feeling!!

    The CSA was rude about us checking in via the First Class Line, but I couldn't be bothered to correct her lack of knowledge about OW Emerald status (mistake in hindsight, perhaps :( ). Had to ensure that Mrs QF WP's QF membership details in the booking were again changed to her AA details, which seemed to take the CSA some time to arrange, then she printed out the BP's. I was to find out shortly how important it is to read your BP's before you leave the counter...

    Security at the botttom of the escalator briefly looked at our BP's and let us take the escalator up to the security queue, which was already snaking it's way around, so as not to end at the top of the escalator. As we made it to the head of the queue, I pulled out our BP's to have them ready for the security agent to check. It was at that moment I swore and looked again in horror :evil: at the BP's in front of me...I had two with Mrs QF WP's flight details on them. I inched sideways to the edge of the line, under the ropes and walked up to the nearest security official. Explaining what had happened and showing them the BP's, they agreed that Mrs QF WP would have to wait at the side and I had to go back to the check-in to correct the mistake.

    I hot-footed it back down the escalators and into the First line again, thankfully only one person ahead. I didn't feel like barging straight over to the CSA who'd made the mistake, I was kind of hoping I wouldn't get her..but much to my displeasure, she motioned me forward and seems a little surprised to see me again. I politely advised what the problem was (biting back a stronger version that I had begun to formulate and practice in my head :twisted: ). She apologised unreservedly and immediately re-printed my BP (I was even taken aback at the sincerity of the statement after her initial diatribe). I legged it again upstairs, and to the consternation of some pax, made my way to the front of the queue outside the roped-in area.

    Mrs QF WP was glad to see me, as she was getting some really strange looks from other line-dwellers. I re-presented our correct BP's to the agent at the head of the queue and we were let through. At least time wasn't a problem, still an hour before take-off and with only security to get through and a friendly Gate assignment (Gate 41).

    Having schooled Mrs QF WP in the security procedures, we took off anything that could have set off the scanners and got through on our first attempts. Of course, the downside is having to put it all back on again.

    We accessed the AA Lounge (thankfully close by to security and perfect for our departure gate) and were given a swipe card for the Flagship lounge. Having read so much about it in QF threads over the past 6 months, I was eagerly looking forward to sampling it. Mrs QF WP loves anywhere quiet where she can curl up with a magazine/crossword and find a drink.

    Wanda was the AA CSA at the FL Reception Desk who looked at our BP's and took the swipe card from me (pity, that could have been really handy to keep...). One big positive (over even the QF F lounges) is the noise-canceling headphones in one section with 14 music channels. Chatted to Wanda, she said even the CSA's working in the lounges were impressed with the new lounge. Nice restrooms and WiFi enabled (see hotspots or call 800 981 8563 in USA)

    Some negatives or disappointments - well, no computer terminals for one.

    The flight was delayed (due to the late arrival of the plane from Sydney), so that gave me some additional time to sit watching some flight movement through the floor to ceiling windows - N462AA arrived at the Gate in front of me, N379AA was in the next bay and 2 Delta jets pulled in - N842MH (into Gate 51B) and N680DA (51A). As we left the lounge, N662AA glided in.

    Whilst I still had 15 mins to kill in the lounge, I rang Alaskan Airlines to see if I could use some some of tinkybelle's MVP Gold Guest Upgrade vouchers she have so kindly given to us, on our upcoming flights. To my surprise, secured two F seats on our LAS/SEA sector.

    For anybody who is interested in seeing the lounge, I took a .MOV file (thanks to my digital video camera) of the lounge and it's features, email me and I'll email it back to you.

    Airline & Flight Number, Destination: QF107 LAX/JFK
    Rego: ?? ??? (747-400ER)
    Seats: 11A/B (J upstairs, front row)
    SDT: 8.50am
    Pushback: 10.35pm, ADT: 10.50am


    When boarding was finally announced, we left the FL (almost reluctantly) and walked down to Gate 41, where boarding hadn't commenced yet. Mrs QF WP and I boarded when they made the special announcement for Business Class pax - I had quite a number of envious looks from others in the lounge when we moved forward.

    To toast tinkybelle, we had a welcome aboard glass of Piper Heidseick champagne (sorry, no Krug in QF J, as you know...) and stowed our hand luggage in the window-side compartment.
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    Captain today was Robert Deakin, no idea as to F/O, FSD or CSD (too busy skoffing champers to write that down!). FA's upstairs in J were Milton, George and Tricia. Capt Deakin came on apologising that there would be further delays loading additional cargo and with the expiry of the take-off slot, a new one was being requested and we were awaiting ATC approval. On that bit of good news, I montioned for another Champagne, signed and stared at the wall, thinking I could really hit the bottle and if I wasn't careful on this flight, I might turn into Goldflyer....

    Once we were airborne (finally, over 2 hours late), Capt Deakin went into his spiel about the 4 hour 10 min flight we were about to undertake, flying over Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, New Maxico, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and into New York, where it was 8 degrees C and expected arrival time would be 6.30pm. I was disappointed (mainly for my wife), as she was hoping to get into NYC in daylight, but that wasn't going to happen.

    This plane also had the new IFE - 18 channels in J and F; so I alternated between flicking to find anything decent to watch and answering crossword clues.

    Photo's this sector:
    Photo 13 - SYD/LAX Menu Page
    Photo 14 - LAX/JFK Menu Page
    Photo 15 - QF WP Lunch
    Photo 16 - QF WP Dessert

    (for log in and password, see previously advised details)

    The wines for this sector were exactly the same as for QF 25, except no Grosset Riesling.

    The service was great - I got up after lunch and went back to chat to Tricia in the rear Galley. We talked about anything and everything until it was time to descend.

    Comments about 11AB - less space for stowage of luggage in side compartments due to curvature of aircraft. Would have preferred other seats but it as full upstairs.

    Touchdown was at 6.05pm on Runway 22R and we taxied towards the Gates. We had been allocated Gate 6, so we exited the plane just after 6.30pm. Now it was time to gather the luggage, find the AirTrain then the subway and hopefully at the end, see our hotel for the next 4 nights - Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers

    With no Immigration and Customs to have to worry about, we just had to wait until the baggage handlers found the correct belt to offload the bags...twice the belt started but nothing appeared, by the time they did start off-loading the bags, everybody from the plane was waiting around the belt. Mrs QF WP had looked around for a trolley, but with none to be found, we had to wheel our bags instead.

    Given that both of our bags were fairly distinctive (sporting FT luggage tags 8) ), we spotted them as they came onto the belt. I hauled them off, turned around and tried to find a way out. Sometimes nobody gives way and this was one of those nights.

    We cleared the throng then went out the doors into the chilling night air. Not quite frosting the breath, but brisk nonetheless. Now to find the AirTrain which had only opened the week before - thanks to a topic by kawoh. I had followed the links that posters had put there and found AirTrain JFK Facts at a Glance, so the research was done.

    I had read it then passed to Mrs QF WP on the flight, so we knew the station names to look for, or in case we got separated, where to meet.

    We spied the AirTrain sign and walked over the pedestrian crossings to the AirTrain (very similar in set up to the AirTrain set up in my home town, BNE). We found the lift then worked out which direction we wanted to head. We searched for a ticket vending machine but were told by an AirTrain employee that we got our tickets at our terminating station (which was Jamaica, in our case).

    Similarly, we had chosen Jamaica instead of Howards Beach after posting a thread on the Sheraton site asking for FT help on how to get to our hotel via the subway. After some debate, the E line was considered the closest option (which turned out to be the correct advice also!).

    Getting off at Jamaica, we found the vending machines and after a couple of tries, worked out that we needed to get single tickets only. Pretty easy to navigate through the opions, with multiple languages and pretty clear instructions. Whilst USD$5 one way seemed a little rich comparable to our next tickets, they have to pay for it somehow...

    The transfer at Jamaica was a little bit daunting, because after you are through the ticket reading slots, there is a large open area (which has what appears to be airline desks being prepared for eventual use on the LHS) and then either an elevator or escalator to the ground floor. The signs to Jamaica sub-way aren't clearly signposted...but go out the doors and turn left, walk past the Long Island train lines and you'll come out onto the sidewalk. Walk to the street corner and turn left, then walk 50 to 75 metres and the subway entrance is on your left.

    I took both large luggage cases whilst Mrs QF WP took the hand luggage. Down the flight of stairs and you're there...and a ticket vending machine is on your RHS before the ticketmasters office.

    As we were looking for two 5 day $USD21 MetroCards (after reading about them in the Qantas in-flight magazine), we quickly followed the instructions, but the vending machine wouldn't take my $50 note :( . We had to approach the office and he (unhappily) printed them for us. Then we looked at the narrow slots, realising that our luggage was never going to fit through. When we approached the ticket seller again, he simply said "slide your card through the reader" - not very helpful to visitors who didn't understand what he meant :evil: as there was no reader at the doorway. It took somebody coming out to offer assistance and show us what needed to be done (at the reader on the next slot). I thanked the gentleman who had stopped for his kindness, then shot a withering look at the ticketseller (who couldn't have cared less). By this stage it was 8pm, a full 3.5 hours later than expected and we just wanted to get into our hotel room.

    We worked out which platform we needed and then let a couple of trains go by (J and Z lines). From the basic subway map we had (I had printed out at AKL Qantas F lounge), all I knew was we needed to alight the E train at 7th Ave, which hopefully would be in close proximity to the Hotel.

    Probably 50 minutes later, we tentatively got off the train at 7th Ave and I hoisted the bags up the stairs whilst Mrs QF WP took the lead. We encountered the luggage/gate problem again, but after flashing our tickets, this time we were "buzzed" through and up into the cool night air we trudged.

    Most travellers can relate to the next scene - seeing your hotel, always a great sight at the end of a long journey. We were there!! Directly across the road too...

    Striding with a lot more confidence now that the "end was in sight" for us tonight, we entered the 57th Street revolving door, past the welcoming sight of the ground floor Bar and up to the Reception Desk.

    Hotel - Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers
    Arrival - 28 Dec, Departure - 1 Jan)


    I had been fortunate to meet yyzprincess in Sydney during the Rugby World Cup (October 2003) and she had offered her assistance with arranging this booking (it helps that she owns a travel agency!). Given the short time period, I hadn't considered that I would get a points stay (particularly at this time of year), so I was extremely satisfied that she had booked us in for the first 3 nights at the Best Available Rate (USD$279) with New Years Night at $285 (utilizing a gifted 50% voucher from yyzprincess). Not included in the base rate were the taxes - $24.06 Room Sales Tax + $13.95 City/Local Tax + $2.00 Occupany/Tourism Tax (wow and I thought our taxes were bad enough :roll: ).

    We were fortunate enough to be upgraded to the Executive Floors and were given Room 5026 (top floor) for our stay. It had a view uptown across Central Park and whilst small by other Sheraton's room standards, this was home in New York for our stay. We were jut pleased to be able to tip the bell boy, dump our bags in the corner and collapse on the bed with a cuppa (which seems to solve any problem we have).
     
  2. Rick93

    Rick93 Established Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    1,111
    80
    I love flying and travel. I'm green with envy!!! If only I had a job that PAID for world travel..... I flunked the ASIS entry exam!

    regards,
     
  3. QF WP

    Moderator

    Jun 20, 2002
    14,240
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    Brisbane
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    CHAPTER 3

    Monday, 29 December

    After a well earned sleep-in, we decided to do some signtseeing, as I had only visited NYC for 36 hours last year, while Mrs QF WP had never been before.

    First stop was breakfast - Club Floor to meet yyzprincess and her son, Chris. Small world that he is living in Australia at present. Filled up with yogurt, fruit, cereal, toast and a cuppa. Great ambience with a spectacular view of the city skyscrapers from almost any seat, although very busy (even at 9.30am, it took a while to find 4 seats together, but as yyzprincess is well known to the Concierges, it didn't take long).

    Next stop was a local shop on 53rd for a decent subway/street map. Settled on a Geographia QuikFinder 2003 Edition (including the latest subway changes) for $6.95 - excellent in that it's sealed, folds without creasing (thus no eventual breaking) and fits well into the front section of our back-pack for easy access. Now we have it as a useful tool for other friends who may need it.

    We thought the best thing to start with was the ferry ride to Statue of Liberty, but after checking out the lines for the 2pm departure (back into the pier car park) and realising we probably wouldn't get on, we headed instead for World Trade Centre site, Wall Street then Battery Park (to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty). We also saw the remains of the WTC Ball (can't rememeber it's exact name and can't read the plaque shown in our photo). Vicky had never seen a squirrel (so we now have a brace of photos). We didn't want to overdo our first day, so after a late lunch we wandered back to Chambers Street subway and alighted at 34th Street (Penn Station) to check out Madison Square Garden. We also worked out the E and W streets (with 5th Ave as the divider), so now the city didn't seem so daunting.

    We made our way back to our hotel, showered then made our way to the Club Floor for a drink with yyzprincess and Chris again. As previous posters on the Flyertalk Sheraton Forum have noted, drinks aren't cheap as it's NYC; but the free food was sufficient to do us for the nights meal.

    yyzprincess suggested that we head over to the 5th Ave stores and see some of the Xmas displays as well as the Christmas Tree next to the skating rink. That gave me a chance to have a chat with Chris while yyzprincess talked with Vicky.

    Quite a display and the crowds were surprising...we were still getting used to the numbers of people out (nothing like Sydney or Melbourne, whilst Brisbane our home town doesn't even rate a mention).

    We then headed back to our room for the night, pleased with our excursion today but looking forward to more adventure tomorrow.

    Tuesday, 30 December

    With a start much later that yesterday, we had missed the breakfast offering on the Club level, so we headed out along W 53rd to 5th Avenue - this was the day of shopping for Mrs QF WP (I was just along for support :wink: ...with carrying the bags). Having lowered myself to having Maccas for brunch (at least the tea was OK), turned right at the Museum of Modern Art and started the trek down 5th Avenue.

    Well, there weren't many of the larger stores that we didn't wander through - but the highlight of the morning for us both was Tiffany's. No, I didn't weaken and buy her another diamond ring, but we went to each floor looking at the designs. Given the diamond that I had bought her to start the marriage that had crippled me financially for months :shock: , Mrs QF WP was content to browse.

    We headed for GAP as good friends in NZ had announced just prior to our trip that they were preganant and would we buy them some winter baby clothes in the GAP post Xmas sales. Like please, give my wife a challenge... :p.

    We sent a text message telling them we were in GAP commencing our search (the joys of having triband on my cell phone). Searched for some clothes in Baby GAP and also bought Alex, their 3 y.o. son, some matching pullover and pants.

    Armed with shopping bags (powerful statements for women :roll: ), Mrs QF WP and I then continued our walk, ending up in Lord & Taylor. Now this was a great department store - like David Jones or Myers. Mrs QF WP got excited when she saw the post Xmas/end of winter bargains and I sat down, weary by the long walk. 20 mins later, she came back with an armful - actually, she has excellent taste and she was spending her own money. We made our way to the checkout and in the line, started talking to the lady in front of us.

    Good fortune was on our side, as after she had made her purchases, she handed back to us her 20% discount card. Hang on, these items were already on a 40 to 50% discount, surely we wouldn't get both. Nope, the cash register reduced and Mrs QF WP was even more excited...we profusely thanked the lady then made our way outside into the chilling late afternoon air.

    By this stage, I was done...5 hours on 5th Avenue was enough for me, having walked 15 blocks down. I sat down in front of the NY Public Library and we both felt at that stage, we'd done enough. Found the 42nd Street subway and caught the B/D line back to 7th Ave and the Sheraton.

    After all, we needed to freshen up for the big FT meeting tonight...more exciting for me than for Mrs QF WP, but we shared our experiences today...
     
  4. QF WP

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    Tuesday, 30 December - continued...

    Part of our time in NYC was to organise a FT get-together to meet some fellow posters, so courtesy of yyzprincess's topic, it had been organised for tonight.

    First up was drinks at Kennedys (an Irish pub on 57th & 9th). yyzprincess, Chris, Mrs QF WP and I made our way there by foot. In we walked, not really knowing who to look for, but after we had cased the joint, we made our way back to the front bar to find akhullar perched on a stool at the bar.

    We introduced ourselves and sat down for 1 drink. Realising that nobody else was showing up here (I hadn't read the topic since leaving Australia) and as we had been a little late to arrive, we decided to jump two cabs (given there were 5 of us) and get our way to the restaurant, Grand Sichuan on 24th & 9th (which had been suggested by akhullar and yyzprincess and agreed upon by most).

    We turned up to find the restauant full with lots of people waiting - great, they were our party!! Soon we had been introduced to:

    CMK10, prncess674, ljp99, Ocean1971, SeeYa, HobokenFlyer, kawoh, dragonmp11a10. (I don't think I missed anybody, did I??)

    prncess674 had a digital camera which she made great use of until her battery died but all her photo's are here.

    I took some video, but only realised after the event, that I didn't take single photo's (d'oh :oops: ), so unless I can find somewhere to host my MOV or MPEG files, I can't post them.

    We sat down and decided to all order a dish and share. The "lazy susan" in the middle of the table was soon groaning with plate after plate of food. After cracking open some red zinfandel (thanks to the decision by prncess674), we got decidedly full of wine and chinese food, interspersed with lots of travel related discussions.

    All too soon, the end of the night came. This was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a night out in NYC, catching up with FT friends from another country. Even for Mrs QF WP, who wasn't mad keen on my FT activities until now (or even my AFF ones either!), sees the benefits (yeah, upgrades to J on Intl flights).

    As we left the restaurant (I was trying to give away some Vegemite and vouchers from my stays at the Sheraton LAX and NYC), HobokenFlyer, who had parked right outside the restaurant, offered to get 5 of us back to the Sheraton.

    I didn't think he'd had anything to drink, so we all piled in (a little friendly in the back with 4 of us) and the taxi driver in HobokenFlyer was unleashed. True to the NY style of driving, soon he was weaving in and out of lanes, beeping his horn, cursing stupid drivers who were either in his way or cutting into "our" lane; while we were having a ball in the back, laughing and egging him on (well, we were doing some yelling at the other drivers as well ).

    We turned up to the front of the Hotel, piled out and stood in the cold while we said goodbye to HobokenFlyer. Whew, what a night - and with New Years still to go!!

    [For all the attendees, if you are ever coming to Australia, let me know as I'll meet up with you wherever you are!!]

    Wednesday, 31 December

    We had decided to get up in time for the Club breakfast this morning, so we set my cell phone alarm. We met up with yyzprincess and Chris again over breakfast, then headed out.

    We had decided today to go uptown and check out Central Park, as we had missed our chance to see "The Boy from Oz" starring Hugh Jackman at the Imperial Theatre. We should have organised this from home through Visa Preferred :cry:

    Not having been to Central Park before, it is more than 30 blocks long and 3 blocks wide. We wandered through the park, checking out the hot dog and warm pretzels sellers (yes, I had to have one of each to say that I've done them!). We went past the ice skating rink and ended up where the horse-drawn carriages congregate. It was a lovely, relaxing walk.

    We went back to Bloomingdales and had lunch there. On the way back out, Mrs QF WP found their Bear...well, one purchased Bear later :eek: she then went back to the Hotel while I went onto Grand Central Station, Empire State Building and Macy's for a quick look. After that, it was time to get back, freshen up and find somewhere to eat before the NYC Police cordoned off everywhere around Times Square.

    We watched some of the New Year celebrations from around the world, we were most interested in watching Sydney's which we thought was spectacular as usual, with the fireworks off the Harbour Bridge.

    We headed out to Lindy's (across the road from the Hotel), where we had an uninspiring meal washed down by some red wine.

    We had agreed to meet yyzprincess and Chris at 11.15pm in the lobby to try and see the Ball drop in Times Square from outside (we didn't want to have to wait in the cold for hours). We had an interesting moment in the ground floor Bar (an argument with management about sitting at the seated area with only 2 of us drinking and 2 non-drinkers, with the cost of the drinks less than the scheduled minimum cost per table).

    That wasted precious time, so that by the time we got outside to enter the "pens", the crowd had swelled and we were left watching the Ball drop from a less than perfect viewing spot. Getting back inside the Hotel was slow, as the side entrance was being used and we had to show our Room Key to security. We were having a chat with yyzprincess on our floor when kawoh walked past and we all said swapped stories (he had been a lot further down towards Time Square). As we had flights this morning, we decided it was time we grabbed some sleep.
     
  5. QF WP

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    CHAPTER 4

    Thursday, 1 January 2004 JFK/LAX/LAS


    From New York, we were now heading to stay with a family friend and business associate, who had met and married a United Airlines FA, then moved to the USA to start a new life. I hadn't seen them since their wedding in Brisbane a couple of years ago, whilst Mrs QF WP was anxious (due to never having met them before). They had been invited to our wedding 4 months previous, but couldn't attend (both had work commitments).

    With a mid afternoon flight ahead, we didn't have to rush this morning. We had a leisurely breakfast in Club 44, then re-packed given that we had a bit of shopping to fit in our existing bags (as the last thing that I wanted was something extra to carry).

    We went town to the Lobby at about 10.45am to check-out and ensure that the final night had been charged at the 50% discount. Sure enough, the check-out was uneventful as everything on the bill was correct.

    We exited via the revolving front door, turned right and crossed the road to the subway exit, having a final long look up at the hotel that we'd called home for 4 nights. My only regret was that I hadn't seen the United Nations, but I had to leave something to bring me back!

    Now we had to navigate the subway again, hoping that on a public holidays the train services were still frequent enough for us to reach our destination on time. We again chose to use the E line to Jamaica (given that we knew where to go when wegot there, rather than choosing the A line to Howard Beach). The train trip took approximately 60 minutes, where I again lugged the bags up the stairs, turned right and reversed our tracks from 4 days ago. The walk was certainly as not as menacing in the middle of the day and given that we were walking with purpose to a known destination.

    This time, Mrs QF WP wanted to use the lift (as the lift is closer to the entry doorway and the escalator was making a screeching noise, that we both thought would get very annoying by the top).

    I had put $10 aside in preparation for the AirTrain ticket cost, so using the automated ticket machine this time was quicker. Walking through to the platform, the next train was arriving in 2 mins. We both looked at one another and smiled as we dropped our bags - we were almost there, ready to start the next part of our journey - Las Vegas here we come!!

    Given that we were flying AA, we had to patiently wait as the train pulled into all the other Terminals first - Terminal 1 (AF, LH, Korean, JAL); Terminal 2 & 3 (Delta), Terminal 4 (International), Terminals 5&6 (UA and JetBlue), Terminal 7 (BA), then finally it was our turn to exit - Terminal 8.

    We arrived just after 75 minutes from leaving the Sheraton, not bad from everything that I had heard about travel times taken to JFK. We wheeled our bags into the Terminal and headed for the First Class check-in line.

    We struck a lovely female CSA (just unfortunate that although I asked her name, I didn't write it down) who took everything in her stride. Whilst our JFK/LAX sector coupons were in our main ticket, we had separate tickets with the LAX/LAS sector, different FF cards (mine QF on the first sector but AA on the LAX/LAS while Mrs QF WP's had her AA cut-out paper FF card) as well as passports for ID. I had put everything together on the train, so she laid it out and worked methodically through Mrs QF WP's first.

    We then took our bags to the x-ray, unlocked them (given we didn't want to have them spring open on the E line train and air our dirty laundry :oops: ) and said goodbye, hoping they'd turn up at the other end.

    Unfortunately, all of Mrs QF WP's previous sectors hadn't posted to her AA account (as she would have met the Gold challenge by this stage), as I had read on the AA site that B class fares held by Gold members might have automatically got her (or maybe us) upgraded on this sector. I hadn't thought that purchasing $USD200 for on-line upgrades was good value thus we were hoping...alas, J was almost empty according to the CSA and we would have to sit there looking at it all flight.

    As we only had 90 minutes before take-off, we went through security rather than turning right to the AA Flagship Lounge, because we knew that a full search awaited us (with SSSS on our BP's). Sure enough, the security guys had fun going through my FF bag, what with jars of Vegemite still unopened inside. That caused some quizzical looks and the explanation (fermented yeast) caused some mirth from the younger guard. That search took us 25 minutes, so we headed to TGI Friday and grabbed whatever we could find brunch (sandwich, yogurt, fruit and some water). We sat in the lounge opposite our Gate (46), looking out on the tarmac and watching a documentary about President George Bush's WWII experiences. Before too long, the boarding call came and as we were in Group 1, we headed across to board.

    Airline & Flight Number: AA117 JFK/LAX
    Rego: ?? (767)
    Seats: 20H & J (first row, Y cabin)
    SDT: 2.30pm
    Pushback: 2.32pm, ADT: 2.40pm


    Captain Dean Webber and F/O Bill Blackburn both gave details prior to push back, whilst our FA's in Y were Barbara and Donna (minimum crew, so service might be sparing). They announced that the flight time was going to be 5hrs 44mins with top crusing height of 31K feet. Take-off was on 31L with a NW heading, turning left and tracking directly to LAX (with Pittsburgh the only place I heard we would fly over) and the weather was partly cloudly and 53F.

    One male pax (in 24B, I think) came up to Donna in the galley (as we were right beside it), after he had noticed that 19HJ was free (a single set of Y seats ahead of the bulkhead in front of us, before J commenced)and asked whether he could swap so he could have two seats to himself for the trip. Donna told him that as everybody hadn't boarded yet, she wasn't sure they were available. Upon saying that, the pax asked her to advise him if they weren't taken after boarding had finished so he could move there. I could see that she was trying to hold the seats for their crew rest but she hadn't explained it too him with much clarity.

    Later, just after take-off, he subsequently approached Barbara and asked her the same questions, out of ear shot from Donna. Barbara obviously didn't know what Donna was trying to achieve and said "sure, I don't believe anybody there". Before you could blink, he was back to his seat, bringing forward his cabin baggage and setting himself up in the two seats in front of us.

    You know what's about to happen now and can see it in slow motion...Donna returned to the front galley from the rear of the plane to see the pax sitting in the seats, startled she approached Barbara who echoed his question and her answer. Visably, Donna deflated (obviously she'd had a night out and wanted to try and grab some rest on the long flight) and she struggled to hold it together in a mix of frustration, anger and tiredness. She knew she couldn't approach the pax to ask him to leave (as her excuse initially now didn't wash) so she had lost.

    Photo's this sector:
    Photo 17 - QF WP Lunch
    Photo 18 - Mrs QF WP Lunch

    Email address: brigalowwilson@netscape.net
    Password: synergy

    I had a hot chicken dish with diced potatoes, beans and a tomato-based sauce, salad (lettuce) with Naturally Fresh Olive Oil & Vinegar dressing, S Rosen's sesame Kaiser Dinner Roll and a cake slice topped with almond slivers. Mrs QF WP had the Tortellini (which looked much more appetising and after tasting it, was decidedly better than the Chicken).

    After the meal, we settled into watching the movies - todays two movies were "Matchbox Men" starring Nicholas Cage and "Out of Time" featuring Denzil Washington. Both were enjoyable and certainly helped the time pass quickly - the twists in both movies were superb. After each movie, the beverage cart came around, so we settled for Sprites. Mrs QF WP felt really hungry about 90 mins out of LAX and begged me to find something to eat. Knowing the history of AA flights from FT, I didn't think they would have anything available, but Barbara found some Pretzels to keep her happy (whilst I reminded her that we'd be able to find something in the LAX FL).

    Touchdown was at 5.30pm (ontime) on L17 and we pulled up to Gate 42A. As the next flight left at 7pm, we weren't rushed.

    Upon de-planing, I went to turn right to the FL, but the roller shutter was pulled down across the pathway and apparently nobody could get it up (who had locked it and had the key??). We had to wait in the Burger King as the ajoining gates were full, until we heard that it had been raised. That only left us 20 mins for a toilet break and to grab some water before our onward flight would be boarding.

    We made it to the FL, where there was barely any pax. We did the necessities then headed back to Gate 46B.

    Airline & Flight Number: AA1186 LAX/LAS
    Rego: ?? (Boeing Super 80)
    Seats: 8D& F (Y cabin)
    SDT: 7.00pm
    Pushback: 7.08pm, ADT: 7.19pm


    I only realised then that I had been assigned Group 1 boarding (due to my OW Emerald ststus), but Mrs QF WP was Group 5 (as she was still a lowly base AA member). Not being a regular traveller in US (usually only 1 trip/year), even I was unsure what to do. Mrs QF WP thought she had to wait behind but I thought that was crazy, so I lead her (protesting) when Group 1 was called. Finding that no security men pounced, bells clanged or sirens blew when we fed our BP's into the reader, it was almost an anti-climax. Dolores, the ground staff CSA at the boarding gate didn't bat an eyelid.

    We also only realised when we sat down (OK, I can be slow at times :( ) that the CSA in JFK had blocked a middle seat for us (the benefits and privilege of status come through again :lol: ).

    Captain Stanley, CSD Pamela Monahan and FA in Y (Glenna) made this short trip painless and uneventful, apart froma couple of turbulent moments. No pictures of service items/meal as it is only a beverage service + pretzels (and I'm sure you've all seen them :wink: ). Mrs QF WP was amazed at the darkness of the desert approach, then all of a sudden the mass of lights called Las Vegas.

    We touched down at 8.03pm on runway 7L 25R and docked at Gate D9. A marathon walk/train/walk ensued until I spotted my friends near the baggage claim area.

    Needless to say, a tour of The Strip was forthcoming, with the digital camera coming into it's own. We arrived at their home around 9.30pm, dropped our bags and proceeded to give them presents - two bottles of Austalian wine that I had carried from Australia (a 1994 Penfolds St Henri + a Devils Lair) and the "piece de resistance", a bottle of Bundaberg Rum. Well, if you've never seen a grown man, almost weeping in gratitude, fall to his knees in supplication, you should have witnessed this - it was beautiful. Wayne will never be the same again...I'm sure I upset his life balance that night (and for a few nights after :lol: ).

    After that monster effort, it's time for me to catch some sleep and for you to catch your breath. The next instalment follows in a couple of days...
     
  6. QF WP

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    CHAPTER 5

    Sunday, 4th January - LAS/SEA/GEG


    After having a very relaxing couple of days in Las Vegas doing the touristy thing like Red Rock Canyon, gambling on the Strip, clothes shopping at Ralph Lauren Polo (thanks to the manger, Greg!), going to dinner at Rio's Voodoo Lounge (the best view of Las Vegas), shoe shopping (for Mrs QF WP) at Dillards, even trying to together with FT'ers debua1K and d00t - it was time to visit my relatives in Spokane (north-eastern Washingston State).

    We were dropped off at the airport at 9.45am for an 11am departure - I'd been here last year and remembered the security lines. My friend's wife Maria, a United FA, couldn't come to see us off as she had just finished a furlough and was starting back that night on a LAS/Chicago red eye; so it was left up to her Australian husband to get us there.

    I wasn't sure whether I could use the MVP Gold line so lined up in the Y line. It only took 15 minutes to hit the head of the queue, by which time I had everything ready - our tickets, passports for ID and tinkybelle's MVP Guest upgrade vouchers. She had given them to me, hoping that I could make use of them as she couldn't (thanks Tinkybelle, you are truly a darling). I'd booked the upgrades for this sector on 24 Dec, so hoped they would be honoured. Well, the mature aged male AS CSA was very friendly, didn't question the vouchers and checked us into First. Our bags were tagged through to GEG, then handed them onto to be x-rayed.

    We got up to Security and noticed the First line on the LHS, so made a bee-line and got through in seconds, ahead of scores of people in the snaking Y line, to the x-ray machine. Did the obligatory partial undress and walked through. As expected with a SSSS on our tickets, search-time. Was claimed by a security guard who, as soon as he heard our Aussie accents, lightened up and made the searching fun - talking all the time about his recent visit to Perth and Sydney with his wife, so it wasn't long before he waved us through.

    Didn't know where the AS Board Room lounge was and wasn't sure whether we could access it anyway, so we went to the gate instead to sit down as it wasn't long to go before boarding. Contemplated why we were leaving sunny LAS to head into the chill of -19 C. Brrrr...

    Airline & Flight Number: AS641 LAS/SEA
    Rego: N965AS (MD80)
    Seats: 1F&G (F cabin)
    SDT: 11.00am
    Pushback: 11.00am, ADT: 11.15am


    We boarded through Gate A8, with Captain Bill and F/O Bob at the controls, CSD Gayle and FA'a Gina and Carole in First. Captain announced a 2hr 34min sector with 100 knot wings "on the nose", eventually climbing to 31K feet. We were 4th in line for take off on 1R 19L....and as we did, I got constantly dripped on by the in-cabin condensation, so made a mental note not to get this row again.

    Photo's this sector:
    Photo 19 - QF WP Lunch
    Photo 20 - Mrs QF WP Lunch

    Carole announced to the entire FC that an exact number of meals had been loaded and hoped that we all got our choice. She also explained what the choices were. This was a fresh approach for me. With FEBO, it might mean we miss out.

    At 11.25am, she started serving. Mrs QF WP and I had decided that we should order different choices and share, to make the chance better that we'd get something nice to eat.

    I chose the Chicken Salad with Rice, Mrs QF WP the Turkey & Cheese Roll. I felt like a Mr & Mrs T Tomato Juice to wash it down, my wife just had a water. Gave her my Ghirardelli Mint Choc square while I asked for a red wine...it was so nice, I asked for another :).

    I read the Alaskan Airlines magazine and clipped the "Guide to Services" from it for future reference. Just as I was finishing reading the First Class Beverages (Page A9), we started to descend.

    We landed at SEA on 34R 16L and taxied quickly to Gate C20, where we docked at 1.57pm. We passed a TransGlobal vacation jet, SouthWest's N520SW and N701GS both taking off and a private jet N733E.

    With only a 60 min layover before our next flight (on Horizon), it was straight to try and access AA's Admiral Club at Gate D18, but alas was refused politely :( (it was a good try :D).

    Did some plane spotting instead - N785AS and N407QX taxied out, N411QX was at Gate C2K, N619AS at C1, N950AS at C3. N404QX, N379PH and N408QX were sitting on the tarmac. N622AS taxied past and then I watched CO, SW, UA, AS/QX as well as an America West jet, all take off on 34R 16L.

    Went down to see when our flight was boarding, but they had changed Gates due to the preceeding flight from the same Gate (C2G) being delayed - had to find a TV monitor to find where we had been re-allocated. Turned out to be C2B and it was overflowing so we stood by the wall. They anounced that our flight had been oversold by 3 and they were calling for voluntary bumps - offer was free roundtrip, dinner voucher and confimed seats on the 7.30pm flight. Tempting (my first chance at a bump, what with all the talk on FT about them), but my wife looked sharply at me and I realised it would make it logistically harder as friends were expecting to pick us up from this flight (having rung them on the walk down to the Gate confiming we were on the flight).

    They must have got their 3 bumps, because we started boarding through Door 5 in the very brisk but sunny afternoon, strolled along the walkway and I put my larger carry-on onto the waiting Cart and suggested my wife also do the same.

    Airline & Flight Number: AS2346 SEA/GEG
    Rego: N405QX (Dash 8 Q400) (operated by Horizon)
    Seats: 2 A&B (second row)
    SDT: 3.00pm
    Pushback: 3.15pm, ADT: 3.20pm


    Mrs QF WP was not keen about this flight and perused the safety card and watched intently the safety demo. She was also worried that (initially) our carry-on luggage was going to be stolen sitting on the Cart or (secondly) wouldn't be loaded onto the aircraft. She grabbed my arm on take-off and shot me a worried look...

    Didn't catch who were the Capt & F/O, but FA's were Chuck and Keri. It was only a 55 min sector, so beverages were served - soft-drinks, Starbucks Regular Coffee, an Idaho Chardonnay and the Micro Brew was Deep Powder Winter Ale. We chose the Tazo Tea (called Awake) and had some Rold Gold pretzels.

    We got an excellent view of the snow capped mountains and fields out of SEA but the weather wasn't as good going into GEG. We landed at 4.05pm on a snow-covered unknown runway and as we taxied in, N401QX was taking off.

    There was snow everywhere and before de-planing onto the tarmac, we were advised that it was very icy on the ground, so to be careful with our first steps. They weren't wrong - machinery at the Gate was frozen solid. I decided against taking a photo of the plane and surrounding snow and ice, it was too cold for that kind of action.

    Instead, we gingerly collected our carry-on from the Cart and walked inside the Terminal. Soon spotted my cousin, we embraced, pumped a handshake and I introduced him to my wife. While we were waiting for our bags, he told us how it was -19C outside, very unusual for Spokane (also for QF WP!!).

    We took the aerobridge to the car park then started the long slow drive to Nine Mile Falls...thankfully he has a 4WD with excellent heating, so we swapped stories as we drove off to meet the family... 8)
     
  7. QF WP

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    CHAPTER 6

    Wednesday, 7 January - GEG/SEA/LAX/AKL
    (well, that was the plan, but not the outcome)

    After an excellent (albeit brief) visit with my favourite cousins, even my wife didn't want to leave. They have a beautiful 3 storey house on a lake, with games room (pool table, video machine and pinball), entertainment room (huge plasma screen TV, DVD player, 3 computers). Their 18 y.o. son was home from university and they have triplets aged 11; so their days are full and we had plenty to do and see.

    We shopped at Nordstrom for clothes, GAP for more baby clothes for friends in Auckland and generally found out what it as like to live in real winter conditions. Walking half a block and coming inside without feeling on yuor extremities is never pleasant - however throwing snowballs at my wife and cousins made up for it.

    On Monday night, Spokane had it's coldest day in memory: minus 24C. Now that might not sound much to some, but considering that Brisbane rarely falls below 10C in winter, it was cold!! The next day it started to snow lightly and Tuesday night (our last) it was forecast to dump 6 inches of snow in Spokane (not really what you want to hear when you're about to leave!).

    Sure enough, when we woke, there was a deal more snow outside than there had been the previous night. Whilst we showered and packed, my cousins got on the web and looked up the AS website. At 9am, it showed all on time departures. Well, my cousin dropped us off at the airport at 10.30am, ready for the 11.30am AS524 service via SEA to LAX.

    We went to the MVP Gold line, as I had another 2 upgrade vouchers of tinkybelle's ready for use. The lines weren't long and appeared to be moving normally. I had an inkling just to check the flight departure time, so I left Mrs QF WP and walked up to the monitors. Well, this is what I saw :eek: (unfortunately, I took this later in the day, but a similar kind of message was showing on all screens that day)

    Photo's this sector:
    Photo 21 - GEG Departures, AS Terminal 7 Jan 04.

    Sign-in ID: brigalowwilson@netscape.net
    Password: synergy

    All AS flights had been cancelled as the planes were stuck in either snowbound SEA or PDX (which made me think of number_6, wondering whether he was snowed in). When we got to the front of the First queue, it was obvious what was going to happen - all they could do is offer us seats on AS256 tomorrow at 7.15am (a direct service to LAX, arriving 9.48am) and a Distressed Passenger "No fault of the Airlines" special $39 at the nearby Best Western Peppertree Airport Inn Mini Suites. Even the upgrade seats were available, although they warned us to be here 2 hours before as the flight was going to be oversold (obviously!). But what to do in LAX for 14 hours between flights?? Well, we'd just have to amuse ourselves.

    Now we had a dilemma - do we ring my cousin who was at work to come and pick us up (only 10 min away) and ask them to get up at some unholy hour tomorrow morning...no, I couldn't do it (although they were used to early morning, as Cindy had been a United FA).

    We went to the courtesy phone and rang the hotel, who said their shuttle was in the vicinity. We sat down dejected on our bags and waited...and started thinking. If we were only able to get out tomorrow (a day late), then our 48 hours in AKL was going to be 24 hours and it was almost not worth stopping (even though it would have disappointed our friends there).

    Picture this - I had never in 17 years of flying had a flight cancel on me due to weather (same with Mrs QF WP), so I wasn't sure about what to do (what a poor excuse for a seasoned traveller I am :cry: ). With an unhappy wife beside me, I had to try something. I thought briefly about mikesinla (as we had been talking about this in our LAX FT drinks) so I asked my wife whether I could go and check whether any other flights on other airlines were going to LAX (I had to keep the faith at this point). She said “whatever...why don’t you get some of your FT mates to help you...you’re the consummate traveler”. So while she brought our bags in from the cold, I went down to the UA/SW terminal.

    Firstly, I went to Southwest to see what departures they had going. The CSA gave me some hope, they had WN2676 flying GEG/LAX, departing 4pm, arriving 8.05pm with 3 seats available in Y. Although it was already delayed by 10 mins...with a 11.55pm QF departure out of LAX to AKL, that gave us plenty of time up our sleeve. So rather than tempt fate, I got her to hold 2 seats, so she printed out the details on a blank white boarding pass. The downside - USD$446 in total for the two one way tickets (would we be able to claim off my travel insurance?), but at least it was an answer to arriving into LAX.

    I went back to my wife with the (good?) news and then went back to the AS hall to check whether AS would assign the coupon value to SW. Bad news, as the CSA said "the only airline that we don't assign to is SW, all the others we do". Uh oh, as I hadn't checked whether the others had any flights. Back I trudged to the other terminal...now what other flights were going - well, AW and others had a board full of cancellations but SW, UA and Delta had some on time or delayed, going somewhere out of here. Knowing that AS wouldn't validate our coupons, we tried Delta...but as most of theirs were to eastern destinations nowhere near LAX, I wasn't confident. I felt deflated, alone and the weight of the problem was crushing me....we just wanted to get out of here and arrive in LAX anyoldhow.

    Meekly I went to the UA queue (with my wife's protestations ringing my ear - the stress was getting to her too) and I came to Bill, the friendly UA CSA. I told him my story (without adding the SW seats on hold), was there anything that UA could do...after searching what available flights there were with connections to LAX, he came up with this as the only option UA could offer:

    1. Waitlist (yes, oversold Y at present) on a 2.25pm GEG/DEN (UA270) and if this opened up, then
    2. Confirmed seats on UA715 (DEN/LAX) arriving LAX 9.30pm – still 3 hours before our flight departed.

    What other real option did I have?? There was still no certainty of us getting on the waitlisted flight, we had to hope that other paxs didn’t show up. If we didn’t get on, then an overnight in GEG beckoned and the thought of trying to weight up whether we fly straight through to BNE, rather than stopping in AKL (thus necessitating us changing our booking) was too much. Let's go for it!!

    As the dutiful traveller and husband, I took the UA offer back to my wife, while I asked Bill to ask his Supervisor whether they would accept our AS coupon. At least that would speed things up if it was ultimtely accepted by Mrs QF WP.

    I explained to her the downside – no waitlist, don’t pass go, don’t get on any other flights that day, but we thought the risks of that were more than offset by the fact that we wouldn’t have to pay for it if UA were happy to accept the coupon value for the AS flight. Encouraged by our assessment, we went back to Bill who passed onto his Supervisor, Mark. He organised the waitlist for us on the first flight and confirmed us on the second. Needless to say, we didn’t go back to SW as this was a much better option for us (or so we thought).

    We went up through Security with the now to the expected full search. By the time we made it to the Gate, I was famished. Directly opposite Gate 8 was Falls Café, so knowing there wasn’t much on board, I made myself eat some Pizza while Mrs QF WP had a Yogurt and Water.

    I went up to the Gate CSA (Leslie), who without doubt is the most efficient CSA I have ever had to deal with (and at that point in time, a god-sent angel). She had been involved initially through Mark and Bill, so she was expecting the waitlisted Mr & Mrs QF WP. She put our minds more at ease as she thought that our waitlist would make it as it was only 5 oversold and she expected with the weather quite a number of no-shows. When she also realised that we only had GEG/LAX coupon, she did a manual coupon for our GEG/DEN sector and then used our existing coupon for the DEN/LAX sector. All before the flight had even begun to board, so her confidence soon had us feeling better about our predicament.

    We then sat in the lounge and waited, having already mentally prepared ourselves to possibly hanging around the airport and the Best Western (although the 24 hour pool and Jacuzzi sounded inviting to wile away the time). Boarding commenced at 2.10pm in Areas; for 1 the pax numbers were light, heavier in 2 and was heaviest in Area 3. Everybody in the lounge had boarded and then Leslie turned her attention to the 4 stand-by’s and waitlists – 2 were flight crew (FA’s deadheading to DEN to start their run the next day) and us. We chatted at the desk while numbers aboard were checked, then Leslie came back to the Gate Counter to call our names and issue BP’s for both sectors. Although we weren’t sitting together, that was the least of our problems as we were on our way to LAX (albeit on somewhat of a circuitous route though). I was now thankful of having previously decided to delay our LAX departure from the earlier QF26 to the midnight QF156.

    Airline & Flight Number: UA270 GEG/DEN
    Rego: ?? (B767-300)
    Seats: 7D & 13D (Y cabin)
    SDT: 2.25pm
    Pushback: 2.42pm, ADT: 2.48pm


    We boarded the flight and I let Mrs QF WP take the forward seat whilst I trudged down the back (our first Y seat this trip, it seemed surreal but I had to accept it - as on AS we would have been in First). Captain Taylor advised that it was a 1hr 52 min flight with an ETA of 5.44pm (given the 1 hr time one change). As he was addressing us, the plane was being de-iced. After a further break, he advised that as part of normal procedure, the First Officer would be coming back into the cabin to visually check the wings (to ensure the de-icing had worked). This sent a nervous murmur through some of the pax. He actually leaned over Mrs QF WP and after checking out the wings (as well as my wife??), he went back into the cockpit.

    This flight was relatively uneventful. The beverage service came after 25 mins, I had a Pespi and Kings Gourmet Mix and entertained myself by reading the in-flight magazine. Scattered cloud made for some turbulence around 4.30pm CT. Touchdown was at 5.40pm on (I think) 34R 16L and we taxied to B24.

    Upon arriving in DEN, we checked the monitors and our flight was already showing a 30 minute delay (from the scheduled 8.10pm). This initially didn’t concern me, as we sill had 2.5 hours between arrival and our flight departure up our sleeve in LAX. We wandered around the concourse and made our way up to the shops – eventually finding an excellent shop on the upper level that stocked Thomas Mangelsen photographs and calendars. We then decided that something to eat and drink would help the time pass, so off to Colorado Sports near Gate B30 for a couple of relaxing Baileys and a very unappetizing and heavy Cheese Fries. Next time we looked at the monitors in the concourse, our flight was showing 8.55pm (another 15 mins added). With an ETA now of 10.20pm, it was starting to look a rush job in LAX to collect our luggage and change Terminals.

    At 7.50pm, while sitting at our departure Gate B28, John (the UA CSA) advised any pax with connecting flights in LAX, that he would recommend that we all go to the other UA flight leaving for LAX (that was on time at present) and get waitlisted. We went to check whether that included us (as ours was an International connex and with a non *Alliance carrier). He checked with somebody over his 2-way and assured us that our bags were already in the process of being transferred between flights so we raced down to Gate B47 with the stand-by cards that he printed. Thankfully, we were one of the first to arrive of the transferring paxs and the staff there quickly processed us at the counter as the A320 had wide open availability. This flight at least was going to get us into LAX at 10.30pm. We even checked with the CSA at the BP reader about our bags who confirmed again with the UA counter that our bags were being transferred as we spoke.

    Airline & Flight Number: UA583 DEN/LAX
    Rego: ?? (A320)
    Seats: 21B & C (Y cabin)
    SDT: 8.15pm
    Pushback: 8.15pm, ADT: 8.29pm


    I had no idea what any of the FA’s names were, as they didn’t wear visable name-tags or ID in view. Load was only 2/3rds in Y, so we actually pushed back on time and were airborne in 6 minutes. At 8.40pm, the F/O announced that it would be a 2hr 17min sector with expected arrival time of 9.40pm Pacific Time. This relaxed me, as it looked like we’d have enough time to make our connecting flight on QF. The turbulence started again but only lasted until we hit cruising altitude of 35K feet. I checked my arm to see the indentations my wife’s fingers and nails had left.

    The beverage service rolled down and I settled for a Diet Pepsi and Summer Harvest Mini Pretzels. As I’d already read the UA In-flight magazine, there wasn’t much to keep me occupied on this sector – and as Mrs QF WP and I had already been through all the stressful conversations in the past 7 hours, we had nothing much to say now. We both dozed, collecting our strength for the bedlam of LAX and changing Terminals, willing the plane to somehow fly faster.

    At 9.10pm, the F/O announced the Gate number for arrival and adjusted flight time. We touched down at 9.39pm on Runway 25L (to the West) and pulled into Gate 83. We patiently waited for all the slow paxs ahead to pull their oversized carry-ons out of the overhead lockers and de-plane. We applied some speed once we were in the terminal and headed down to the baggage claim area to await our bags. Given that we didn’t have any status, we knew that our bags would be “with the rest”, but we still wanted to get good position to get them quickly and change Terminals.

    So we waited, watching everybody else claim their bags until there were about a dozen of us left (some of whom I noticed from our previous Gate lounge)...and we had waited in vain. No bags. I went to the counter next to the baggage claim and an uninterested gum-crewing girl tapped away and said “they’ll arrive on Belt 7 in Terminal 6 at 10.30pm”.

    “Excuse me, what do you mean”, I asked – so assuming that I hadn’t understood her, she repeat in a bored monotone the same answer. By this stage, the truth had dawned on me – UA hadn’t switched the bags at all between flights, in fact they were still on our original flight, the continuously delayed one. Finding out that it has already left DEN gave me something to cling to, but there was nothing that we could do but in a downcast mood walk to T6, find Belt 7 and camp down.

    Well, that was the easy part – sitting there waiting for bags to turn up whilst the time ticked away for check-in at TBIT for our Qantas flight. We’d already rehearsed what we would do if we missed the flight – rebook onto QF26 (the earlier of the two LAX/AKL flights) the next day and head for the Sheraton Gateway to spend the night (along with calling our friends to give them the bad news).

    10.30pm came and went...so did 10.45pm and then we saw a trickle of paxs walking to our Belt (but the flight showing wasn’t even our airline, let alone our flight number). We stared at the light on the belt as it started to flash and the machinery started up. I positioned myself at the point where the bags came down through the ceiling and down the ramp, willing our bags to appear from the blackness...
     
  8. QF WP

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    Jun 20, 2002
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    CHAPTER 6...continued

    Then they started the slow trek down the ramp towards my eagerly awaiting hands...tossed the first one (Mrs QF WP's) onto our trolley and turned around to await mine...where are you, come on down, bag!?? There it is!! Yes...now reach out and lift..ugh...now, where do we go???? What time is it....s**t, it's 11.05pm, will we make it?? Why does LAX have to be so big??

    We were out to the roadway but with a plan we had hatched whilst we were waiting. I was to hot foot it with the luggage to TBIT while Mrs QF WP followed along with our carry-on...there was no other way - at least if I was in the line, checking in the two bags with my ticket, hopefully my wife would turn up before I finished.

    Torn between caring about the safety of my wife (after all, she was alone, with 2 carry-ony, increasingly further away from me) and trying to get us on board our flight, I ran with the trolley...thankfully, all wheels on this one wanted to head in the same direction!

    "Excuse me please, I'm in a hurry"..."thanks alot"....as I manouevered my way between people and hopefully still in the sight of Mrs QF WP, I encountered the usual airline paxs with no idea - dumped bags in the middle of the walkway, people walking 4-abreast; quickly - look back - is she still there. Yes, now keep going. I almost took out some newly arrived Asians who were confused at my yelling and flapping arms so I just decided to run through them...."sorry!" Whew, lucky I'm fit...this is a decent run......screeech!!!!!

    Here it is - TBIT!! Feelings of relief welled up inside me...perhaps we'd make it after all. I looked behind me in the distance - where was Mrs QF WP?? There she is...Wave!!!! Did she see me..yes !! OK, let's go inside!!!!!

    Thankfully I knew where I was going...but it was right at the end of the Check-in Desks at the far end. Great, there are some QF staffers...what's he doing standing up on the counter?? S***, he's taking down the Flight Card from the Counter.

    "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!"

    Internally, I collapsed :(. All this effort, 12 hours of travelling across the country to get here - don't you tell me we can't get on this flight :eek:

    They can't have closed it?? I looked at my TAG watch - 11.20pm. Was it the right time after all the time zone changes that I had made to it today??? Oh, no....don't tell me it's wrong...

    I was desperate as I thought the reaction that Mrs QF WP would share with me (and the whole Terminal :wink: ). I had to get us on this flight! Who looks like the most senior person here?? There...that guy in the QF suit...I'll approach him.

    So I did. Being hypersensitive at that point, a little more brusquely than usual I rammed my QF Plat card in the CSA's face (one day, I'd love to apologise to him properly for that...), dropped our tickets and passports on top of his counter. "I'd like to check in for this flight, we're both in Business Class" (having used points to upgrade). (God, here I am sounding like one of those self-opinionated FF tossers I strive not to be like)

    He looked around a little bemused "We?", he said, opening and looking at my ticket and probably thinking - "he's in B class, mere Economy!!" At this stage he hadn't even looked at his computer.

    "Ah, yes, my wife is just behind me, we've had to run from T6...it's a long story"...

    "Well, I'm sorry but we've closed..and anyway, I can't check her in if she's not here" he monotoned. "No", I thought, "not an officious boffin, not this time please!!"

    Catching a couple of deep breaths to calm myself and approach this negotiation with a clear head, I said "No, here she is"...as I had spied her making her way over towards the counter (thankfully, she had followed my directions to the letter). She looked concerningly at me, the CSA and the empty board above the counter. I could tell she was biting her lip and would errupt into fireball of emotion if I made the wrong move here :wink: .

    I looked back at the CSA and said quietly "Please check our booking, we need to make this flight". I think he saw my tension-packed wife and innately understood that his ears would be assailed if he too, made the wrong move here :wink: .

    I watched as he quickly and quietly tapped away into his computer...then a fleeting look of consternation crossed his face and be became obsequious. In one of the quickest International Check-ins in my life he did everything at once - called over the bag boy to take our bags to the scanner, printed out the BP's and checked our Passports and handed everything back to me with a flourish and a "Thank you for flying Qantas today, Mrs and Mrs QF WP".

    I quietly thanked him and flashed him a look of gratitude that he didn't miss. I handed Mrs QF WP her travel documents, we picked up ou carry-on and started to speed our way to the security queue.

    It wasn't until handing our BP's to the security gate officer that I looked at them for the first time - we were allocated seats in the First Class Cabin (this flight was 3 class sold as 2). Now I understood...

    With no time to see the TBIT lounge (like we were missing anything!), we hustled through security and began to look for Gate 102. Then I realised it was the second last Gate in the concourse!! Boarding, according to the nearest monitor, was on Final Call, so Mrs QF WP started to get worried that they would close the flight. Less concerned than her, I kept pace by striding out...along the walkways we went to gain distance.

    We made it to the Gate where there was still about 50 pax to board. Making a bee-line for the First & Business queue on the RHS, showed our BP's, walked down the airbridge.

    Airline & Flight Number: QF156 LAX/AKL
    Rego: ?? (B747-400)
    Seats: 3E & F (F cabin, sold as J)
    SDT: 11.55pm
    Pushback: 12.28am, ADT: 12.45am


    Crew on Board: Captain Mike Fitzgerald, F/O Ky Hansen, CSS Susan Love, FSD Trevor McIntyre, FA's in F & J - Yoshiko, Mark, Jacqueline, Esther and Terence.

    FSD Trevor McIntyre met us at the door, wecomed us on board and indicated for us to turn left into nirvana....the First Class cabin.

    FA Mark met us as we walked to our seats and asked whether we'd like a pre-flight beverage - water, OJ or champagne. "Just leave us with the darn bottle after the day we've had" almost escaped my mouth, but I thought better of sharing that with him, smiled and said "Champagne, that would be just lovely".

    Less than 25 mins after we were airborne, the crew started preparations for the supper. First Class levels of service are so hard to take - everything is done for you, table taken out of the slot, pristine white cloth laid out and your meal served. QF's J & F trained crew really perform well in the service standards, IMHO (perhaps not as good as other carriers, but still acceptable to us!).

    Photo's this sector:
    Photo 21A - LAX/AKL J Menu
    Photo 22 - LAX/AKL Mrs QF WP Supper
    Photo 23 - LAX/AKL QF WP Supper
    Photo 24 - LAX/AKL QF WP Dessert

    The meals were excellent. My special meal was seared Chicken with vegetables; while Mrs QF WP chose the Chicken, Leek and Pasta Soup. We both chose the Leuwin Estate 2000 Cabernet Merlot to accompany our meals.

    For those who want to know the difference between the Valrhona chocolates - Caribe is dark chocolate, Jivara is milk.

    We hurried our meals as we were physically drained from the emotional rollercoaster of a day and wanted some serious shuteye on this long overnight sector. I popped another one of my sleeping pills and I reclined the seat into a bed, pulled up the duvet and snuggled into my pillow as the worries of the day slowly melted into the black void that became sleep...

    In what only felt like the next minute, I was rising from a deep level of unconsciousness to the delightful breakfast smells of coffee (although I don't drink it) and cooked meals. I stretched, yawned, took off my eye shades and pulled out my ear plugs. Checking my watch, I groggily tried to remember whether I'd changed to NZ time last night. I must have, because according to my watch it was 6.30am
    and there was light streaming in through 1A & K's open shades. Thinking of what time I'd gone to bed last night, I ended up calculating I'd had 8 hours sleep - at the maximum end of my sleep capabilities on board.

    I tottered off past the Galley and into the toilet. After doing what needed to be done and looking out the extended window, I wandered back to my seat a changed man (pun intended :)). Now my stomach was reminding me it felt neglected, so I put my seat back into the upright position while my personal butler (FA Mark) served us....

    Photo's this sector:
    Photo 25 - LAX/AKL Mrs QF WP Breakfast
    Photo 26 - LAX/AKL QF WP Breakfast (Fruit)
    Photo 27 - LAX/AKL QF WP Breakfast (Hot Dish)

    Mmmmmm, I needed that! After a couple of strong teas, I settled back into playing on the IFE (as it was too short to see a movie through) and waiting for the eventual touchdown, which came at 9.35am on Runway 05L. We taxied to Gate 11, next to an AirNZ QK-NCN and parked. After thanking Mark for his excellent service on this flight, we de-planed and started the long walk through the concourse to Customs, Security and our friends waiting in the seated viewing area - a weekend of R&R, food and fun awaited...
     
  9. QF WP

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    Jun 20, 2002
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    THE FINAL CHAPTER

    Sunday, 11 January - AKL/SYD/BNE


    After a relaxing two days with very close friends and my "nephew" (well, he calls me uncle), we had a early morning flight to catch. Mrs QF WP wanted to get home at a reasonable hour and give us time to unpack and unwind before starting back at work the next day.

    Getting to the airport at approx 8am (a 20 minute drive from Howick), we packed our luggage onto a trolley and wheeled it (protesting loudly) to the dedicated Business/First OW Check In. This separate "room" stands head and shoulders above most Check In areas and I wish they would replicate it at airports around the world. Located on the LHS of the Terminal, you enter via sliding glass doors into a mini-lounge (seating area) + Immigration Express Lane Pre-Clearing Desk. It has 4 Counters, usually 2 for QF (one First, the other Business) and one each for CX and BA (I think depending on departing flight schedule - no doubt I'll be corrected if I am wrong).

    There were 2 groups ahead of us, including one group of 4 who were Brazilian and had turned up a day early for their departing flight (Lily the QF CSA, was trying to tell them that they were booked on the Monday QF164, I think a booking error between them and their travel agent in NZ as they didn't have good English skills).

    I paid the Departure Fee (NZD$25 each) at the desk using CC (or you can use cash if you prefer, however I never seem to have enough left) and Lily put the sticker on the back of our BP. We went to the Immigration Desk, where the Maori clerk checked our Passports, Departure Sticker and our completed Departure Card. That gave us Express Lane Clearance upstairs (the difference between being stuck in a line of 50-70 or the Express Line of about 15, which took us only 5 mins to get to the front of the line).

    We again went to the QC and Anne-Marie was on the Reception Desk again. She waved us through to the First lounge, where we had a quick OJ, toast and yogurt before it was time to commence the walk down to Gate 9 for boarding. Again, it was quiet in the lounge. After walking down and clearing security, we boarded the flight.

    Airline & Flight Number: QF164 AKL/SYD
    Rego: ?? (B767-338)
    Seats: 1E & F (J cabin)
    SDT: 9.00am
    Pushback: 9.17am, ADT: 9.26am


    Crew on Board: Captain Gary ??, F/O David Elwood, CSS Jan Sutherland, FSD Richard Knight, FA's in J - Colin & Katherine.

    FSD Richard Knight met us at the door, wecomed us on board and we moved into our centre aisle seats. Colin offered the usual drink selection, we both chose water. We got comfortable and awaited departure. I got a chance to do some plane spotting - at Gate 8 was AirNZ ZK-NCL, at Gate 10 the AirNZ jet painted with Lord of The Rings mural and at Gate 5 was AirNZ ZK-NCI.

    At 9.06am, the Captain advised that cargo was still being loaded and 6 pax still to board. At the same time he advised the weather conditions - 100 to 120 knot headwinds on this 3 hour flight. At 9.10, with the late paxs found and on board, the doors closed.

    Breakfast was served about 25 mins after take-off and this had a strange twist - it was the case of the missing J pax special meal. Katherine came to serve me, I advised her I had a special meal request and she said she recalled the meal being loaded. Well, she checked the trolley - not there. She checked with Colin - he'd even thought he'd seen it (or perhaps he'd read it on the manifest??). They checked the galley - not there. She came back shaking her head and had to apologise - would the standard J meal suffice? So, it was to be:

    Photo's this sector:
    Photo 28 - AKL/SYD QF WP breakfast
    Photo 29 - AKL/SYD J Menu

    The rest of the trip was uneventful and I concentrated on the IFE. Touchdown was at 10.35am on Runway 34R, then when taxing back, we had to wait to cross 34L-16R. I got to do some more spotting - past SQ 9V-SYD, Australian VH-OGK, AirCanada's C-FTNQ, SQ's 9V-SYB, MAS's 9M-MPO and Air Nauru VH-RON.

    I missed the Gate at which we parked, as we had a tight Domestic connection to get and wanted to be quickly through Immigration. We were first off the flight and it was a close Gate - it brought us out at the Duty Free Shop and only a 50m walk to C&I, where there were no lines. I had a strange encounter with the C&I officer, who wanted to know (as I lived in BNE) whether I had a connecting flight. "yes", I replied. "What's your flight number?". Luckily, I tend to memorise my flight numbers on trips, so I had the answer straight back "QF524". "That's sound OK" he replied and with that, he let me through.

    "That sounds OK" - what kind of a response is that???, I thought bemusedly, as we walked down to wait for our bags, collect then exit via the Green Channel. We were waved straight through and walked out into the Arrivals Area. As we had a domestic connection, we followed the signs around to the right for the transfer check-in/lounge where there was no line-up for Business and we came to CSD Maria. She looked at out baggage tags and BP's but then looked up with a worried look on her face. "Ah, it appears that you've actually been automatically transferred to QF528, departing at 1.05pm, as we were worried that you'd miss this connection with your late departure from AKL".

    She couldn't believe how relieved we were that we'd been automatically moved to the later flight - "usually paxs are really angry that they're going to miss their flights, particularly after an Intl connection" (well, in total honesty, we didn't want to have to race through the transfer procedure, as by that stage there was only 35 mins left before the departure time.)

    We went through the security procedure then boarded the Transfer Bus. On the way over, we saw an Air Polynesian jet (rego ??), Qantas's VH OGC and BA's B-CIVS. Then, as we came around to the Domestic side, spotted VH OEC parked on the tarmac and in the Maintenance Hangars VH OJG, VH OJS and VH EAL. Parked at Gate 3 was VH ZXC, which departed as we were arriving.

    We exited the transfer bus, climbed the escalators and walked out into the Dom Terminal. Up to the SYD QP, where we flashed our BP's and my Plat card, to find a quiet seat. Saw VH VXC at Gate 11 and watched VH TJN pull into Gate 1, VH ZXG pull into Gate 5 and VH VXU taxi past into the vacant Gate 1. Went down to the FT corner but alas it was empty of members. VH OJI taxied past, then finally A UPS Cargo jumbo landed. Walked back to where Mrs QF WP was seated to find VH EAN pulling into Gate 1.

    Airline & Flight Number: QF528 SYD/BNE
    Rego: VH EAN (B737-800)
    Seats: 4D & E (Y cabin, front row)
    SDT: 1.05pm
    Pushback: 1.06pm, ADT: 1.21pm


    Crew on Board: Captain Mike ??, F/O ???, FSD Deborah Norton, FA's in Y - John, Annette and Shawn (female).

    The Captain announced that we would be climbing to 39K feet, it would be bumpy on decent as BNE was cloudy and 29C, disembarkation should be on time at 1.30pm. Helped Annette with the safety demonstration by holding the oxygen mask and lifevest (whilst mouthing the safety demo). We took off on 16L after a long taxi, out over Botany Bay and headed up the Coast towards BNE.

    The lunch service was a beef & coleslaw panini (sorry, no photo's), Summit Water and a mini Twix. Quiet unappetising, so I picked out the Beef and ate only it.

    We touched down on time and made our way to Gate 24, coming in beside VH VXB at Gate 23. We welcomed the arrival home and happily walked hand-in-hand up the airbridge to a loving embrace from my parents who had come to meet us. Our USA adventure was over and it was time to start talking and planning about the next episode in our lives - perhaps London in August.

    (Which reminds me, now it's time to finish my Honeymoon topic - but please, I beg of you, a rest first...)

    I'd like to thank those who ploughed their way through my tome. I trust you enjoyed the hours of reading and more importantly, learnt something you can put to use in your travels.
     
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