Joyrides Down Under Part 1: Air NZ AKL-CHC-AKL
Noun: A ride in a vehicle taken solely for pleasure
Verb: A ride in a vehicle with no particular goal and just for the pleasure of it
Ok, there seems to have been a small goal to my joyrides: that of trying out new aircraft and (hopefully) new airlines.
This seven part series covers flights over 3 weeks of flying on Air New Zealand, Emirates, Qantas, Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue and Jetstar; and takes me through New South Wales, Victoria, ACT, Queensland and New Zealand. I hope you enjoy my journey around Australasia.
This first report will cover the first leg- a daytrip from Auckland to Christchurch on Air New Zealand. I was fortunate to find another cheap airfare on the New Zealand flag carrier (NZ$10 one way) and snapped it up immediately. Air New Zealand’s website is the easiest to navigate around out of all the carriers I flew with.
The day finally came when my flying journey was to begin. No packing was needed for this daytrip so I picked up my camera and was soon on my way to the airport.
Air New Zealand’s check-in system has been in place for over a year now and for some reason upon arrival at the terminal, it didn’t recognise my Air NZ Airpoints card or credit card so I had to get my itinerary out and type in the booking reference. Not very convenient I must say. Because I had pre-reserved my seats, I was on my way rather quickly with both my outbound and inbound boarding passes. Soon I was off to through security and up towards the gate.
Domestic Check In
Original Boarding Pass
18 Nov 2009
Routing: Auckland – Christchurch (AKL-CHC)
Airline: Air New Zealand
Flight: NZ 515
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1005hrs
Actual Departure: 1003hrs (pushback), 1011hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1125hrs
Flight time: 1hr 14 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-3K2
Seat: 23A, changed at the gate to 6E
Air New Zealand has made their decision on the domestic fleet and the 737s will eventually be replaced by A320s. This 733 was first registered with Air New Zealand on 9 November 2000, previously flying with Transavia in The Netherlands as PH-TSX.
It wasn’t long until the boarding call was made for the back half of the plane. I was near the front of the queue. Just expecting the usual green light and all when scanning my boarding pass, I didn’t bother taking a photo of it. But for some strange reason it turned red! I tried again, the same thing happened. The gate agent hadn’t come across that before either so she directed me to another agent who was free. Even though I had my boarding pass and everything, the system had double booked my seat and reselected me into 6E. It was very strange and unfortunately for me, there were no window seats available. But having been reassigned to 6E at the front of the plane, I was in a way quite happy to see what Space+ at the front of the cabin was like. There’s a first for everything and that includes being in a prisoner seat! With my new boarding pass, I quickly rejoined the queue and was soon on my way down the jet way towards the Baby Boeing bound for Christchurch.
Reissued Boarding Pass
The Air New Zealand 737 seating configuration is split into 2 areas: the Space+ zone covering the first 12 rows, and Economy which are rows 13-23. Space+ gives an extra five inches of legroom but for me, normal economy at around 30 inches is fine. It is all Economy but Space+ is basically reserved for Airpoints Gold and Gold Elite members (and Star Alliance Gold); and also Koru Club members.
The plane seemed at least 95% full. I was sandwiched between 2 people but thankfully they weren’t big but it still felt a bit claustrophobic compared to having a window to one side. Having the extra 5 inches of legroom is very noticeable and there was a lot of room to stretch out in. Not that the extra room made much of a difference to the 1hr flight, I was able to squeeze into the aisle without the person sitting next to me having to move at all! The seat itself seemed quite hard but definitely sufficiently comfortable for the flight.
Pushback from Gate 32 commenced a couple of minutes early. A quick taxi to Runway 23L followed and we were off to CHC. It wasn’t long until we were through the clouds. There was nothing else to see but cloud for most of the flight so in fact having a window seat wouldn’t have been that great anyway.
I finished the brief walk and headed back to my seat as the FAs were to begin service. The snack and tea/coffee run began shortly after, about 20 minutes into the flight. This time there were oat cookies onboard. It was hard and sweet, pretty much what was expected. The coffee I received was a bit watery but acceptable for a domestic flight.
As we flew over Blenheim, the pilots came across on the PA with a bit more information and also our current flight path. From then, it wasn’t long until descent started into Christchurch followed by a nice landing on Runway 20. A left turn off the runway and the roll into Gate 18 five minutes in front of schedule ended my outbound flight. Disembarkation didn’t take very long as I was at the front of the plane for once.
Front Of The Plane
Northern South Island
Christchurch Airport is New Zealand’s second biggest airport behind Auckland (and a big difference in size between AKL and CHC). It boasts an international widebody service; notably SQ’s 772 to Singapore, EK’s 77W to SYD, BKK and DXB; and QF’s 763 to SYD. Air New Zealand has also been operating 772s and 744s from Japan (and also a short period of LAX). The terminal in CHC is combined with the domestic area on one side and the international on the other. The domestic side is looking rather worn down and the construction of the new terminal probably couldn’t come soon enough. With this major project happening in what used to be the forecourt, it means that the airport at the moment is a mess. The best part of Christchurch Airport is the open air viewing deck which houses itself on top of the Air New Zealand pier. It’s a real shame that this too will give way to construction sometime in 2010. It offers a great experience to get up close to A320s, 737s, AT7s, Dash 8s, B1900Ds and also isn’t that far away from the runway. Knowing that it was soon to be closed, I spent most of my time in Christchurch up there and thankfully it wasn’t too cold. While I was sitting around, an announcement came across the PA system as follows: "Attention, we are a safety conscious airport. Please do not let your children unattended or play on the escalators, thank you". I was really expecting a “Please do not leave your baggage unattended”.
CHC Domestic Koru Club Lounge
Jet Departure Lounge
Air NZ Check In Area
Jetstar Check In Area
Pacific Blue Check In Area
Domestic Baggage Carousels
CHC Observation Deck
ATR 72 Galore
SQ 772 Back To SIN As SQ298
Construction In Progress
Brand New Control Tower, Kind Of Looks Like A Carrot
Deserted International Arrivals Hall
International Departures Hall
International Check In Counters
How The Disabled Board Planes On Remote Stands
Landing Light Bulb Change
And finally my plane arrived.
Gate Lounge 5
18 Nov 2009
Routing: Christchurch – Auckland (CHC-AKL)
Airline: Air New Zealand
Flight: NZ 556
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1430hrs
Actual Departure: 1429hrs (pushback), 1437hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1550hrs
Flight time: 1hr 14 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-319
ZK-NGI was registered new to Air New Zealand on 20 November 1999 making it 2 days away from being 10 years old when I flew on it.
There aren’t many 737s which use gates on the ground floor. Gate 5 is one of the only stands capable of taking jets in Christchurch which doesn’t have an airbridge, requiring a walk out onto the apron. No problems this time about getting past the boarding machine.
And so I was back to a normal Economy seat with normal legroom. There is such a big difference in seat pitch and it’s very noticeable. I was happy I got my window seat back!
Space+ Seats vs Normal Seats Below
We waited a little longer for the plane to fill up before pushing back on time and it wasn’t long before we were lined up on Runway 20 on my way back to AKL.
With a load factor around 95%, we rocketed into the skies over Christchurch, making some turns over the western part of the city to eventually head north. The snack (the cassava chips don’t change) came and went but I was much more excited about the flight I was going to take the following day which would be my 2nd A380 flight across the Tasman. The flight was smooth and again the country was covered in cloud apart from one small strip of clearing which happened to be around Cook Strait – the body of water which separates the North Island from the South Island. Cruising altitude for this flight was 37,000ft.
Former Wigram Airbase Towards The Top Of The Picture
Passing Back Over Christchurch Airport, Below The Cloud
Above The Cloud
Not Much Snow Left Heading Into Summer
Nelson And Tasman Bay
It wasn’t long before our descent started. Through the clouds we went and safely onto Runway 23L. This meant that we taxied past the international terminal. Passing by today really showed that Air New Zealand is based in Auckland.
Back Through The Cloud
Start Counting The Heavies And The Super!
I Counted 3x NZ 744s, 3x NZ 772s, 2x EK A345s, 1x EK A380, 1x QF 763, 1x LA A343.. That’s 40% of Air NZ’s large widebody fleet on the ground in AKL and probably more in the maintenance area too!
We rolled into Gate 30 on time. I waited for everyone else to disembark and luckily for me, the people at the front of the plane were kind enough to allow me to take a few pictures of the cockpit!
Snoozing On The Job!
All in all, a satisfying flight with Air New Zealand. They didn’t do much wrong (apart from my seat change), flights were both on time and they were as friendly as always. And with that mini conclusion, I wrap up my first TR of this series.