Grabbing A Seat With Air New Zealand Part 1/2: AKL-ZQN-AKL
Air New Zealand is my hometown airline and a few years ago they started these cheap flights under the name of “grabaseat” – offering a handful of flights daily for a cheaper price than usual. Some of their best deals include NZ$500 for return flights from AKL-LAX and SFO which is such a bargain even if you are restricted to fly at a certain date. On one day in 2008, they sold 13,000 seats each for $13 one way, including all taxes, surcharges and levies, and I was lucky enough to grab a couple of these deals and head to Queenstown (and later to Napier) but just missed out on getting a return ticket to the Gold Coast, Australia, for the same price. This flight had the best domestic value: offering just under 4 hours of flying for a mere NZ$26! Opportunities like these are few and far between but I’d pay that any day for the scenery alone. I’ve flown into Queenstown once before and took this photo en-route from Christchurch but this time was my first direct flight to Queenstown from Auckland.
Air New Zealand is changing the way we fly and along with that comes a new check-in area with self-service booths and a drop-off conveyer belt for checked in luggage instead of the usual check-in counters. This was introduced at the beginning of the month. I’ll give you a tour of what it’s like checking in for an Air New Zealand domestic flight at Auckland Airport. Go to the self-service check-in counter
Get your e-ticket out, scan the barcode/insert credit card/insert NZ or Star Alliance FF card/scan your RFID tag (In the Air NZ Airpoints Card) Confirm your flight details Choose your seat and number of bags you may have to check in
Out comes your baggage tags
There’s your boarding pass (this is however unneeded as the barcode on your printed ticket or RFID tag is sufficient to board) And after that, all you need to do is to put your bag onto the conveyer belt.
All of this was done in a rush and then after I passed through security, I realised that the plane was delayed due to the late arrival of the aircraft so I wandered around the domestic terminal. Here are some pictures of AKL domestic, both land and airside.
The Air NZ Arrivals Board Shops In The Domestic Terminal The Qantas/Pacific Blue Check In Area It took a long time for the plane to come so I took these other photos of planes while waiting and listening on my scanner for any sign of an NZ 733 approaching Auckland.
Aerolineas Argentinas A340-200 Off To Sydney Cathay Pacific A340-300 as CX118 Back To HKG Air New Zealand 777-200ER Taxiing To Depart As NZ135 To BNE Pacific Blue 737-800 Air New Zealand 737-300 Auckland’s Domestic Koru Club Lounge Air NZ’s Domestic Jet Apron Air New Zealand Departure Lounge The new boarding system seems as though you are at an MTR station but without the barriers. All that needs to be done here is scan the barcode on the area which will then light up green when it knows a correct ticket has been placed on. Once it has lit up, you’re free to walk onboard! If it goes red, you're either on the wrong flight or there's a seat change and the agent will hand you a new boarding pass. The Boarding Pass The Boarding Machine
Routing: Auckland - Queenstown
Airline: Air New Zealand
Flight: NZ 639
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1000hrs
Actual Departure: 1032hrs (pushback), 1043hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1150hrs
Flight time: 1hr 25 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-3U3
NZ possesses one of the, if not, youngest 737-300 fleets in the world. ZK-NGD was delivered to NZ on 19-3-1999 after serving for Winair, but went straight to LOT Polish Airlines on lease.
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 few inches of legroom but for me, normal economy at around 30 inches is fine.
We were also delayed as there were some passengers who never boarded the plane but had luggage onboard.
Once the bags of the absentees were removed, we were on our way. Pushback didn’t seem to take too long and before we knew it, we were taxiing onto the runway.
The captain told us we would be flying at 36,000 feet on our flight down south with an expected flight time of 1 hr 25 which turned out to be dead accurate. We didn’t use up too much of runway 23L and were soon winging our way to Queenstown with a load factor of around 85%. The seatbelt sign was shortly switched off as usual after a bank towards the south. On offer on Air New Zealand domestic jet flights between around 10 to 5 is a choice of a few sweets (pineapple lumps and jet planes) or a small packet of cassava vege chips accompanied by tea, coffee or water. I can still remember my last full meal on a domestic flight back in April 2001. Those were the days... The snacks were far from filling but the coffee wasn’t too bad. Air New Zealand has put a nice touch on the tea/coffee cups. They include the available domestic routes from a selected destination in New Zealand with an example below of where you can fly direct from Hamilton.
Cabin Shot, Also Showing In-flight Entertainment On The TVs: Kiwi Quiz
After the snack, I plugged my iPod into my Bose noise cancelling headset and sat back to enjoy the view, albeit quite a cloudy one. There is a reason why the Maori word for this country is Aotearoa – the land of the long white cloud; and this is shown in some of the pictures below.
Mt Taranaki Somewhere Below That Cloud
Blanket Of Cloud
Just before we started our descent, the captain announced that there were some weather problems in Queenstown and telling people to stay calm if they had to perform a go-around. It was quite a turbulent descent after turning onto final and the entire cabin was unaware of the 30 to 40 knot crosswind and windshear the pilots were facing: I only figured out once we landed when I listened to ATIS on the scanner and watched a couple of planes land facing about 15 degrees away from the runway.
The Remarkables Ski Area Where You Can See Snow
Spoilers Deployed Upon Landing
Some shots of the little but warm Queenstown airport below.
Flight Information Display Screens
Having lunch in front of an ATR 72 not too far away from you from a landside cafe is quite nice. On a better day you’d have breathtaking scenery as a backdrop to this plane too! The smoked chicken sandwich was extremely nice. There wasn’t much excitement at the airport as Qantas failed to make an appearance due to the weather but I listened to ATC as the ATR departed. It was quite interesting as they were all wondering whether the conditions were good enough to depart and once they confirmed the visibility was good enough, they were cleared to take off.
Scenery I Was Hoping To Encounter
My 3 hours was soon up in the chilly Queenstown and it was time to head back home. I thought that, due to me only forking out a puny amount of money for the flight, I should really help out the local economy so I bought a bottle of Central Otago Pinot Noir which cost more than the flight to Queenstown and hopefully it’ll be good! Checking in was a breeze. The automated check in (if you have bags) is only currently available in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch; whereas in all the other airports, you have the conventional check in booths. Due to all the Qantas flights being cancelled, passengers were forced to find another method of getting out of Queenstown. The crowd of people in one of the pictures below shows the line of people either getting refunds, rebookings or even a 5 hour bus to Christchurch and then connect to a flight up to Auckland. I do feel sorry for those booking on Qantas but hopefully the introduction of their RNP enabled 737-800s sometime next year will boost their reliability in and out of this amazing airport. Until then, make sure you fly Air NZ (preferably their jets) to be able to get in and out more easily!
After a brief chat to the agent wondering why I was only there for such a short period of time, I had my bag weighing 4.5kg (I only took it to try out the new system) checked in and my normal boarding pass back to Auckland. This boarding pass is quite redundant if you have the barcode on your e-ticket because you can just use that to board the plane.
After waltzing through security, it was about 20 mins before boarding started. Here are some pictures of the departure lounge in Queenstown and some of the plane I’d soon board to return to Auckland.
25 Nov 2008
Routing: Queenstown - Auckland
Airline: Air New Zealand
Flight: NZ 644
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1515hrs
Actual Departure: 1510hrs (pushback), 1522hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1700hrs
Flight time: 1hr 38 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-319
This 737-300 was bought new by Air New Zealand and it is shown by the 2 digits following the series type: 19. It was initiated on 27-10-1999.
Boarding was simple and I once again braved the southern chill to board the plane. Before we knew it, we were taxiing out onto the runway. Queenstown airport doesn’t have a taxiway so the runway is used to get into position. Both of the flights I’ve been on out of Queenstown have required a taxi down to the other end of the runway in order to take off. It’s quite fun getting in and out of Queenstown as you have mountains on each side of you and a lake to one end of the runway. Last time, brakes were applied until we reached about 50-75% thrust in able to take off but this time it was less noticeable, possibly due to the stronger winds on the day. It’s a real thrill having the brakes on and the engines firing away!
I finally got my first glimpse of Queenstown, the township, after a year’s absence but the picture wasn’t very clear. The climb out of Queenstown took us over Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, the only patch of clear sky over nearly the entire South Island. Cruising altitude on this flight was to be 32,000 feet. It was less eventful than the outbound flight but still enjoyable. Following pictures are of the flight back home, including the snack of chips (note the size.. My hand isn’t that big) and another of Air New Zealand’s designs on their tea/coffee cups – this time with a pohutakawa (native New Zealand tree, otherwise known as the New Zealand Christmas tree) flower on it. I was amazed by the wonderful cloud formations visible from the plane and also a halo created around the aircraft, making a rainbow effect on the clouds below.
Queenstown Somewhere Down There
Packet Of Cassava Chips
Abel Tasman National Park Closer Up And Also Nelson And In The Background The Kaikoura Ranges, Possibly Mistaken For Cloud
Descent into Auckland happened somewhere over Waikato but it was too cloudy to name any of the townships below. The weather back in Auckland seemed just as dreary as the weather I had encountered in Queenstown not so long ago. Flaps were extended for the approach and before I knew it, I was back where I started from earlier in the morning. We used up a lot of runway to stop and exited the runway down by the international terminal and it gave me a chance to take a few pictures of the airport from the runway.
Auckland’s Southern Motorway
One Of My Favourite Spotting Points At AKL
Touchdown, With The NZ Maintenance Hangar, 772, 744 And 722
Auckland’s International Terminal
Emirates 77W (EK419) Back To DXB via SYD And BKK
Just Landed: NZ744 From Melbourne As NZ124
NZ Propeller Apron
Once we landed, I picked up my bag and headed home after a very enjoyable daytrip. The service was great, the flights were great and the delay didn’t eventuate in a lot of time cut off my time in Queenstown.