Joyrides Down Under Part 7: The DUD Diversion
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
This TR covers my journey to the adventure capital of New Zealand – Queenstown. All with a catch.. As you will soon find out!
Jetstar had a bunch of $10 one way fares around New Zealand. I decided to take them up on the offer even though they only have one flight a day doing ZQN-AKL-ZQN meaning that I’d have to stay a night in Queenstown. The flight was booked in February and I hoped for nice weather in December.
I got back from my Australian trip and 2 days later, I was off on this adventure. The forecast from the night before wasn’t looking great for down south but not too bad either. The next morning I was off to the airport on a very average Auckland early summer’s day. I had already checked in online – saves the hassle of waiting in line especially if you have no bags and also saves you from the 30 minute deadline they impose and you can theoretically rock up to the gate while boarding is in progress.
Check In Area
The size of the departure lounge at AKL for DJ and JQ has remained the same. It is tiny! There weren’t any seats for me so I just stood around, probably thinking why on earth I cleared security so early.
Our plane finally rocked up to the gate and the Melbourne Victory football team were the first lot of people to disembark. Boarding was announced not long after in a rather orderly fashion. A strange boarding announcement called over the area – all electronic devices off before boarding and only one bag allowed in the overhead bins. I found these announcements quite strange, especially because there are certain devices that JQ say are unrestricted throughout the flight, including cameras. The flight wasn’t near full, yet the departure lounge still looked pretty full for this one flight departing.
2 Dec 2009
Routing: Auckland - Queenstown (AKL-ZQN), Diverted to Dunedin (DUD)
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1110hrs
Actual Departure: 1107hrs (pushback), 1117hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1300hrs
Touchdown (DUD): 1352hrs
Flight time: 2hr 42 min
Aircraft: Airbus A320-232
Seat: 16A (moved to 15A)
Jetstar currently have 4 A320s operating around New Zealand on domestic services, soon to be expanded as they look to increase frequency and possibly introduce new routes. I found the seats not bad for the length of time but I’d probably prefer the seats onboard the A321 I flew between Gold Coast and Melbourne in Part 3 of this series as they were a bit more comfortable. The tray tables were very stiff though. I had chosen seat 16A but when I got onboard, I noticed that the window was very badly misaligned with the seat so I moved up a row (from an empty row to another empty row) after takeoff. Pen marks weren’t as bad on this plane as on others, interestingly enough, and it is an older aircraft than the other JQ ones I’ve flown on.
View From 16A
A Little Of The Trademark JQ Graffiti
Pushback occurred surprisingly in front of schedule, unlike my other JQ domestic experience in New Zealand. Ten minutes later after taxiing to the active Runway 23L, we were off. It was a rather weak takeoff, probably due to the load and we were finally off, departing the dreary Auckland weather, not knowing what we were in for further south.
NZ Maintenance Hangars
On Our Way!
Off Into The Grey Rainclouds
Banking Port, Southbound Through Cloud
It was a very cloudy flight. Nothing else to see but cloud so there were no reference points to spot. I wish I had a GPS by then to track the entire flight. No food or drink was offered to those resting or appearing disinterested. Still a point where JQ differ to DJ as DJ actively seeks onboard sales.
I got up to take the usual cabin picture/lavatory picture and while doing so, the purser noticed it. I had a really nice chat with him about cameras – he told me he had a 50D and he also invited me to visit the cockpit upon arrival.
Simple And Clean Lavatory
JQ A320 Cabin
I remember looking at my watch and thinking why we weren’t starting to descend into Queenstown. Not long after, an announcement came across from the flight deck saying that the visibility in Queenstown wasn’t good enough for us to make an attempt at landing. They said we had enough fuel for another 1.5 hours of circling just in case there was an opportunity to land in Queenstown otherwise we’d be diverting to Dunedin. The crew were very calm about this situation and passengers were asked by the flight crew to query the flight attendants if they had any questions. Of course it did disrupt a lot of peoples’ plans for that afternoon if we were forced to divert. It was a very enjoyable holding pattern for me, just sitting back, listening to my iPod and looking out the window as we gently rolled for a bank every few minutes. Quite a few more items were purchased in this extra time in the air.
Banking Starboard Again
After 2 hours of being in the air (ETA passed already), we were told we had another 1 hr 15 min of fuel onboard but it soon became quite obvious that there was going to be no break in the clouds. Another 15 minutes later, the pilots confirmed that and said we were off to Dunedin. Joy for me! My first diversion at a time that wasn’t exactly crucial for me. They had notified us that there’d be buses waiting at Dunedin Airport to take us into Queenstown – a 4 hour bus ride. They were profusely sorry for the inconvenience caused to most people but it did happen to fill my afternoon up quite nicely.
Diverting To Dunedin
It was a very nice 20 minutes from circling Queenstown to arriving in Dunedin. A few would probably be most relieved to get back to terra firma. So at last, we had landed. A good 2 hours and 42 minutes after leaving Auckland, I’d say it’ll remain as my longest domestic flight for a while! My flight from SYD-AKL was nearly as long as this flight so we could have just as well flown across the Tasman.
Descent Through The Top Layer Of Cloud
The East Coast, Slightly Southwest Of Dunedin City
Mosgiel On Approach To DUD, Dunedin City Behind The Wing
Lush Green Taieri Plains
Touchdown In Dunedin
Performing a 180 at the End of the Runway
I followed up on the invite to the cockpit and was met by the pilots who seemed in good spirits. They said they were shortly off to Christchurch after taking on a little bit of fuel. I joked to them about the Jetstar fleet not having RNP and they both shook their heads and told me that was still a few months off. It must have been annoying for some of the passengers if they had realised that NZ 733s were able to make it through the seemingly low cloud. Too bad they booked Jetstar.
Some background information about Dunedin: Dunedin Airport is the 5th largest airport in New Zealand behind AKL, CHC, WLG and ZQN. Its runway is 1900m long and is serviced by jet flights from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Brisbane, Melbourne* and Sydney* (* denotes seasonal) using 737 and A320 aircraft. Other relatively big planes that often visit are ATR72s and Dash 8-Q300s of Air NZ Link. Jetstar don’t currently operate into Dunedin [they have started since this report]. It was an airport monopolised by NZ for a while and still basically have the entire domestic market out of DUD sewn up due to sheer frequency. The terminal, renovated in about 2005, is very nice for a small international airport. It has 2 airbridges. Gate 3 can be used by either domestic or international services.
Jetstar In Dunedin!?
No Jetstar Counters To Be Seen!
After the nice chat, I was on my way to catch the bus.
3 Dec 2009
Routing: DUD-ZQN via Alexandra, State Highways 1, 8, 6.
Departure Time: 1440
Technical Stop Alexandra: 1655
Arrival Time: 1821
Journey Time: 3 hrs 39 min
The bus wasn’t too bad, the seats were quite comfortable. Each seat had an airvent and a footrest. The window was mine to bring you some pictures of the trip inland to Queenstown.
JQ Returning To CHC To Resume Schedules
And so the long bus journey began! I think photos will suffice here, not much of an explanation is really needed although my iPod was a great friend for passing time by. Some had movies on their laptops. Sit back, relax and enjoy the photo journal!
A Long Way To Go
A Good Yield Here!
The Mighty Clutha River, 2nd Largest In New Zealand
One Lane Bridges – Where Else In The World?
The Yellow Of The Gorse Flower
Stone Fruit (Most Likely Apricot) Orchard
Jimmy’s Pies, Roxburgh
Venturing Into The High Country
Some Watermill Used In The Gold Mining Days Of Central Otago
Clyde Dam, 3rd Largest In NZ
People Wanting To Sell Here, No Buyers
Being in a bus is great as you get an elevated view. While driving alongside the raging torrents of the Shotover River, I noticed these shacks appearing from nowhere on the other side of the bank. It immediately came across me that they must have been used by Chinese gold diggers who migrated to New Zealand from around 1848. My great great great grandfather was among one of those who ventured to this little land New Zealand to proper for gold. To think that the miners had such harsh living conditions and some of their residencies were teetering on the edge of a cliff with a 10m drop into the rapids below had a rather surreal effect on me. They risked their lives in an attempt to support their families back in China, were given land to prosper in which had already been quite exhausted by the Europeans and a lot never made it home. It’s amazing how some of them did survive and amazing also the fact that they were able to build these tiny huts so close to the river.
Vineyards Of Central Otago – Famous For Its Pinot Noir
Shotover Bungy Bridge Where Those People Are Looking
Planes Fly Down This Valley Into The Airport At The Water’s Edge
Queenstown Events Centre, Adjacent To The Airport
A Familiar Sight!
And after all of that, we were finally at Queenstown Airport; just 7 hours and 11 minutes after departing Auckland. It was freezing! Soon it was time to take the bus into town. It is $6 one way to get from the airport to town which isn’t too bad.
I later checked into my hotel, the Novotel.
It was quite basic but definitely did the job. The bed was a bit hard for what I’m used to.
Then it was time to explore a little more. Being a long way south, the sun sets quite late.
Louis Vuitton Here!
The Pig And Whistle Pub – Very Nice
3 December 2009
I woke up the next morning and it was pretty cold.. I then opened the curtains to this:
Blue skies! Not only would I be able to get out on time, but blue skies bring out the best of Queenstown! I checked out and made my way to the waterfront, I didn’t have too long before I needed to be at the airport for my flight home.
Queenstown Is Stunning
Nice Day For A Cruise Too!
Gondola Up The Top, Bus Stop For The Airport Where The White Van Is
A short wait for the bus and a quick trip got me to the airport.
Nestled Nicely Amongst The Mountains
I had checked in online the following morning as there was less than 24 hours to go before this flight. There wasn’t much to do at the airport so I headed straight through security.
Everyone waited for a disabled person to be boarded by fork hoist before proper boarding commenced. It was a quick process and soon we were on our way up the stairs to the silver coloured plane, gleaming in the harsh early summer sun.
3 Dec 2009
Routing: Queenstown – Auckland (ZQN-AKL)
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1000hrs
Actual Departure: 1000hrs (pushback), 1008hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1150hrs
Flight time: 1hr 39 min
Aircraft: Airbus A320-232
Well, it’s the same plane which took me to Dunedin. Enough said. This time I was flying on the other side of the aircraft though, if that’s any consolation (ie not the same seat).
Boarding didn’t take too long but it did seem like there were more people on this flight than the outbound one. I was correct when the door was closed.
Looks Pretty Long!
My seat neighbours had this big hamper thing with them and kindly enough the FA asked if they wanted it stored in the cockpit for the flight for free. We pushed back 10 minutes after boarding and we were on our way, this time we could actually use Queenstown Airport!
The Red Checkers
Queenstown Airport has no other taxiway (like Dunedin) so the one must head to the end of the runway before taking off. Today we were to depart to the east which required a short turn around at the near end. It wasn’t long before we were off and out of Queenstown. It was a more powerful takeoff but seemingly less powerful than what I’ve experienced in a 737 departing towards the west. I don’t normally post many pictures on departure but Queenstown is one of those special places where the scenery is just so spectacular I just cannot resist. Even a video doesn’t suffice – it’s something that is just an imperative for someone who goes to Queenstown!
Road To The Remarkables Ski Area
Barren Hills Of Central Otago
And Cloud! Who Would Have Guessed From Such A Nice Day In Queenstown?
More Of The Southern Alps
Mt Cook, The Highest Mountain In New Zealand, Centre Screen
Franz Josef Glacier Leading Up To Mt Tasman And Mt Cook
Just to put it into perspective – Franz Josef Glacier is less than 20km from the seashore on New Zealand’s West Coast. Usually glaciers like these are high up in the mountains but not in New Zealand!
No service for me again onboard this flight. There’s just no point in paying more for things which are identical to what you get on the ground when you don’t actually need to.
The flight was very enjoyable just gazing out over these mountains and some cloud. The cloud started to build up around Taranaki and cumulonimbus clouds were starting to grow in size. We were just about at the point of descent and I was clicking away in awe at the massive clouds which were at the time basically engulfing us.
The descent message was played over the PA – seats back upright, tables folded away etc. This American guy in the window seat in front of me refused to do what the flight attendants told him to do – kept his seat reclined, tray table down and armrest up. Then he started getting angry. I was still taking photos of the great clouds towering above us and then he turned around and told me to stop taking photos as he said it was annoying him (I’m sure nobody else would really care if I was taking photos or not) although I had been taking them all flight and he seemed to have no problems with it whatsoever. He tried backing up his case saying that it was ‘illegal’ for me to take photos as apparently ‘all’ electronic devices were to be switched off. My seat neighbour was getting frustrated with him too so he helped me out. If he had read the safety card properly, he would have seen that cameras were unrestricted at any time onboard Jetstar. I told him to read the safety card. Knowing the airport so well, I knew we were only 2 minutes out from landing and said to him that he only had to put up with it for another 2 minutes. We turned onto final approach and he did the most outrageous thing – unbuckled himself from the seat, turned around on his seat and shoved the safety card in my face. I have no idea what got into his mind and the flight attendants couldn’t do much either as they were strapped in. Thankfully he eventually sat down again after a bit of shouting from other people just in time for landing. That put a quite a dampener on my trip to Queenstown. Some people, huh.. Nonetheless, the rest of the landing and taxiing into the gate was just the same and that ended my fun 26 hour adventure away to the South Island.
If you haven’t been awed by the picturesque scenes around the south of the South Island, then I don’t know what will entice you to come to this beautiful country! It’s such a wonderful place to visit!
I hope you enjoyed my report to Queenstown. One quick leg to go before I can wrap up the series with a conclusion of my thoughts about the domestic airlines in Australia and New Zealand.
I’ll do a quick run through of my last segment of the series below but the Queenstown trip was certainly the main part – photo quality was what was focused on above but another domestic flight in New Zealand is basically the same as what I’ve already covered and there’s nothing else to add.
7 December 2009
What I Just Flew On Twice The Week Before
See You Soon!
What’s Left Of The Qantas Club Lounge, Converting Into A Pay Per Use Lounge
More Like We Don’t Operate Domestic Anymore, You Don’t Need More Perks!
7 Dec 2009
Routing: Auckland – Christchurch (AKL-CHC)
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1140hrs
Actual Departure: 1246hrs (pushback), 1255hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1300hrs
Flight time: 1hr 18 min
Aircraft: Airbus A320-232
Line Up 23L
Farewell Spit And Golden Bay
Full JQ Departure Lounge
DJ Departure Lounge
Boarding Similar To How It’s Done In Australia
7 Dec 2009
Routing: Christchurch – Auckland (CHC-AKL)
Airline: Pacific Blue
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1450hrs
Actual Departure: 1447hrs (pushback), 1455hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1610hrs
Flight time: 1hr 7 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-8FE
USAF C-17 For Antarctic Missions
The domestic markets of both New Zealand and Australia are quite alive. The LCCs bring the prices down. At least the 2 legacy carriers of NZ and QF maintain some pride in this price war.
Qantas remains very professional from my experience with them and it’s something I’d be willing to pay for any day (unless, of course, it’s unfeasible to choose that option) over getting rounded up and packed onto a plane. Jetstar International was a great experience – the Thai based crew were seemingly livelier than their Aussie counterparts and friendlier too. With this, I do see them going further and even though it’s a long haul LCC, I wouldn’t mind flying on a comfortable A330 with ample legroom, given there’s a window for me to daydream and pass the day by. Gone are the days where Qantas used to operate 747s between SYD and MEL.. These days it’s all about frequency from 737s, 763s and A330s. The introduction of Jetstar by Qantas has added a new dimension to things but it by no means does it feel as good flying JQ compared with QF. For what it’s worth, Qantas do well by still offering free food, drinks and baggage with all their tickets. Sometimes their prices are cheaper than DJ’s on routes like SYD-MEL. The not as strict 30 min check in rule is very handy and you’ll know you’ll get looked after. Tiger Airlines.. Well, I don’t think I have to say much more from my experience. I was kind of looking forward to this bus style but at the same time worried about it being cancelled and being trapped in MEL. Turns out I would have been trapped in MEL regardless but thankfully I got a full refund after a lengthy phone conversation.
I thoroughly enjoyed every moment trying out different aircraft that I don’t have similar opportunities to do in New Zealand – A321, 737-700, E170, A330-200. Each came with their own unique experience. Too bad the E70 flight was so short but I’ll definitely be getting on another ERJ sometime in the future for what will most likely be a longer flight.
New Zealand’s market is still extremely dominated by Air New Zealand. No doubt about that but DJ and JQ lack a smaller plane in their fleets to be able to operate into the regional centres around New Zealand. This has meant that prices on the main trunk have fallen but those to other centres such as Napier, New Plymouth, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Dunedin (to lesser extent) and Invercargill haven’t changed too much. It remains a monopoly. It’ll be interesting to see how long (if at all) it takes for another airline to come and be competitive at the regional level. JQ have nearly attained RNP status so you should be safe getting into Queenstown if you so choose the LCC option. Air New Zealand remains top choice for domestic flights. Frequency is a big issue for the 2 smaller carriers. They struggle because they don’t have many services; nor are they given the room to do so. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have small departure lounges and few gates while NZ enjoys full use of basically a whole terminal to themselves in each of the centres. It shows how important Air NZ is to transport around this country. Jetstar’s measly 1 service AKL-ZQN a day cannot be matched by the 3 or so nonstop flights from NZ and the many numerous transfer options via WLG and CHC.
So interesting times lie ahead over the mid-term down under. How much will TT be able to expand in Australia and will they make it over the Tasman, also to operate domestic in NZ? Can they improve their image in Australia to remain truly competitive? How will QF and NZ be able to cope? What plans do the airports themselves have to accommodate these larger jets to try and reap in the benefits to tourism etc of cheaper flights into their region? Or will the LCCs be forced to acquire smaller planes in an effort to challenge NZ on the regional routes? All questions are likely to be answered over the coming years and it’ll be very fascinating to see where things go from here.
Well I do hope you enjoyed this long series as much as I have had bringing it to you!