So arriving in Sydney International after the transfer from the domestic terminal, the bus drops off at the entry way to the immigration area. My wife and I were able to use the e-gates which made the clearing very swift. Once cleared, the duty free always seems to greet you straight away. We didn’t really need to buy anything so walked through it. I will say to everyone that whatever you want or see in duty free, please check the local shops etc… prior to checking duty free as it isn’t always cheaper.
Having access to the Qantas International Business Lounge, we headed up the escalator to the lounge, passing the Qantas First lounge, which I am determined to visit one day. We arrived at the business lounge which was quite full. I think the Dallas, San Fran, Singapore along with the evening NZ flights were all due to leave so a lot of people in the lounge. QF1 that day was delayed to 7.00pm at least. Nevertheless the selection was decent. There was 2 meat selections and one vegetarian option. The views of the lounge allowed me to see the runway for most of the takeoffs from Sydney. Nothing spectacular happened after settling down for some food and drinks. Pictures of the tarmac are below.
After about 2 hours in the lounge, contacting hotels to inform them that we weren’t able to arrive in time, boarding commenced for our flight to Auckland, onboard the 737-800. The aircraft is VH-VZK, which used to fly as ZK-ZQF in its early days with Jetconnect NZ. The plane was full. I think there was only 2 or 3 seats spare but very random seats were spare. Flight time was about 2 hours and 45 minutes. We would be arriving on time in Auckland. During the flight, we were offered a selection of pork, chicken or a salad. The flight crew you could see had a lot on their plates, getting everyone served, with drinks and a meal. They did it with a smile though. Incoming Passenger cards were also handed out to passengers arriving in New Zealand as well. After the meal, I explored the entertainment options on this trans-Tasman flight. It was limited. For whatever reason, the movie selection was only restricted to the new releases and nothing else. I couldn’t watch classics or any other genre of movies. I watched sitcoms for the whole flight, knowing that I preferred a laugh on planes than to watch a serious film unless there was enough time, which in this case, wasn’t enough time.
Soon enough, the flight crew came on the PA and said that we would be making our descent through to Auckland. At about 10.25pm we touched down at Auckland airport and taxied to I believe gate 16B. We parked next to a fellow 737 that had arrived not so long prior.
Once I stepped into the terminal at Auckland, I realised that I didn’t miss certain elements of the airport. It is still a rather dark airport in colour and I think certain parts should really undergo an upgrade. We arrived at gate 16 and the airport looked welcoming, bright and colourful, but once you got past the duty free shopping, it started to darker and darker until probably after immigration when it got a little brighter again. This had nothing to do with the fact that it was about 11pm at night because these were all lights inside the terminal.
Once we had cleared customs and immigration in New Zealand, we made our way out to the arrivals hall. Tip to Auckland Airport, please make signage clearer for the local airport buses because the signage is quite poor. I was extremely lucky that my wife found the ticket machine for this bus and that’s how we knew we were at the right place. The Yellow Bus is a bus that services the local hotels near Auckland Airport. Auckland Airport is some distance from the city, so a lot of people, like us would choose to stay closer to the airport rather than Auckland City proper.
The hotel for the night was the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport. I didn’t really have much choice in this hotel as it was the only one available for me to use with my IHG points. Lesson learnt from this is to really have some points lying around for that rainy day!
The hotel itself is actually quite nice. It looked like a boat, or was it an aeroplane? Anyway, staff were quite happy given the late time in the evening (it was about 11pm). Once checked in, we headed to our accommodation for the next 8 hours. Like literally it was about that because our flight out of Auckland was 8.35am the next morning. The hotel was missing one thing and that was a lift. I couldn’t find it, but maybe it was hidden. A hotel with no lift and my room being through 2 flights of stairs was not going to be fun. Apart from that, the hotel had decent facilities and amenities, with the bathtub, bed and it seems its just a New Zealand thing, but the air conditioning units are on the floor. Most of the other hotels around the world I’ve stayed in (New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong etc…) seem to always have the units on the roof. Nevertheless, the room was a room. I was very appreciative that hey at least I could get decent sleep for the night.
14 February 2020: Valentine’s Day. I didn’t really have anything ready for my wife, but hey a flight to Rotorua doesn’t sound too bad a Valentine’s day gift right?
We left the hotel quite early, but it was later than what the staff said. Our flight to Rotorua was at 8.35am and having checked in already, we knew that we just had to be there by 8am at the latest. We were there earlier. Catching the Yellow Bus again, we arrived at the domestic terminal. This flight was always going to be interesting as I have yet to experience Air New Zealand domestic. Anyway, check in was fine, kiosks and then approaching baggage drop, it was not crystal clear that my flight being regional, bag drop needed to occur further down. I was informed of this by a staff member. Fine, no issues, I’ll drop it further down. For peak hour though, there seemed to be a very very small amount of actual baggage drop stations for regional flights. Anyway, bags dropped, boarding passes issued I thought to explore the terminal. Now from one end to the other, you have Regional flights to Air New Zealand Domestic flights (Queenstown, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, basically anywhere the A320 flies to) and then you have Jetstar domestic. Amazingly though, all the food was down near the Jetstar end of the terminal! There are no real scenes of the tarmac as our flight was a regional flight and the waiting area was before the boarding gates.
I guess problem 8 (are we up to that?) occurred when we were informed by the ground staff that our Air New Zealand plane would still go ahead, but there would be no toilet on the plane as it was broken. Hmmm… I’m ok with that but come on Air New Zealand, Auckland being your major hub, surely you could have subbed in another plane to do what is in essence a 90 minute round trip? Anyway, I think a lot of the passengers then just headed to the facilities before boarding. We flew on ZK-NEG, a Dash 8-300 in the original blue and green livery.
Getting a seat and bag fare, I did pre-purchase my seats, which was more forward on the Dash 8 but given the last minute change, for some reason Air New Zealand didn’t allow me to even re-select my seat. I wonder if that is fare, given I did pay to select specific seats which I was not given on my actual flight in the end.
Once on board there was only 1 flight attendant. We headed to our seats which was the back of the plane. Interestingly enough, there was at least one clear row between us and the rest of the passengers on this light flight. Wonder what was happening there? Anyway, flight time was given as a very short 27 minutes and we would be climbing to 7000ft, if I am was not mistaken. Once we took off, service commenced. Now, it said on the ticket that I would get a snack and drink. We did get a drink, water. We did get a snack, those Air New Zealand famous lollies. I get it, it was a short flight, but hmm… a muesli bar is better than those lollies… Virgin Australia even offers a muesli bar between Canberra and Sydney!
The snacks aside, the scenery in New Zealand in amazing. To see it from above is even more spectacular! We landed not long after 910am at Rotorua Airport. It was 2 sheds pretty much and I got to admit a cute little airport. It was raining when we landed, well lightly drizzling which didn’t help because there was no covered walkway! We then got our bags and picked up the rental car, which again TIP: You will need a car in Rotorua to get around the place. It’s going to be very hard to do a lot of things without one. Just remember to leave yourself enough time to return the car just prior to any flight because there’s nothing to do at the airport if you return the car early.
All in all, getting to Rotorua, we arrived about 13 hours after we were meant to arrive. We had about 8 problems along the way, saw the staff at Qantas in Canberra work tirelessly to get me to my destination and through this experience will have many dinner stories to tell at the parties we attend.
Would I fly Qantas again? YES. Without a doubt I know Qantas have gone above and beyond to help me out in my time of need. They didn’t leave me high and dry and heck, even a ground staff member was offering to give me a lift home if I didn’t make it out. I would say to Qantas though, for even trans-tasman flights, please unlock the classic movie collection on the 737 that we were able to browse though on the dreamliner back home. The very limited selection of movies was a bit of a bummer for the flight to Auckland.
Would I fly Air New Zealand again? Well, yes (I write it in normal letters). I think I would drive the next time to Rotorua. For the exorbitant price I paid to fly to Rotorua, it really isn’t worth your money. To only be given lollies and water on the flight, what’s worse on a flight without a working toilet… I get it Air New Zealand, you just want our money but come on, at least give us something more substantial than just water and lollies, even for a short flight like ours. Virgin offer something more substantial for an equivalent short flight! I would fly them if I had to. But I wouldn’t mind experiencing their A320 service to compare next time.
I’ll post up in due course our return flights, featuring the Qantas 787 dreamliner.