It all started earlier this year with some amazing deals on Emirates Business from Athens to New Zealand return (for as cheap as I could get a return ticket to Europe for in Economy) and a bit of talking about it between myself and my friend Globetraveller while watching planes land at LHR. I suggested to him that we may as well go on some domestic flights around New Zealand for the sake of it seeing that he’d come half the way around the world. There were a few options open to us but in the end, we made a plan to head to Queenstown for a quick visit and included a few types of aircraft into the mix. A tight connection in Wellington didn’t faze me as I knew what flying around New Zealand was like. So we booked our itinerary for AKL-WLG-CHC-ZQN and then the direct ZQN-AKL flight the following day.

This report is a combined effort with Globetraveller. It will cover the entire domestic joyriding over the 2 days. Photos he took are credited to him and all photos are copyright of their respective owners.

A few days out from our travels, Air New Zealand had announced that they were grounding their fleet of 11 ATR 72s as they had found some hairline cracks around the cockpit windows. It was inevitable that we would have a cancellation and a subsequent aircraft change for at least one of our flights seeing we specifically booked WLG-CHC-ZQN on the ATR 72 to enjoy the scenery from a lower altitude. A few of them were cleared to fly again but a handful of them were still grounded. I rang up the Air New Zealand call centre the afternoon before our flights to see if they knew of any changes to our itinerary. I had been monitoring the flight numbers over the week and the flight number from WLG to CHC had been cancelled for all the days in which the planes were grounded so I had an impression that either we’d have to take a direct flight to Queenstown; or something else would happen. That something else did happen and so we were put on a 733 to CHC which gave us a longer layover in WLG. They also pushed back the time of the next flight to ZQN so we were definitely going to make the connection. Seeing that was all sorted out, I could sleep easily knowing that we’d get to Queenstown the next day.

To add to this, the weather over the country had been horrible the day before our departure. I was watching Flightradar24 and saw 2 diversions from AKL which went to WLG due to a 30kt crosswind. I can’t ever recall such weather causing that to happen at AKL apart from times of fog. But the forecast seemed ok for the upcoming days of flying and we were excited to be heading to Queenstown.

Fast forward to the airport on the day of departure. Nothing to report here. If you’ve read my earlier reports, there’s nothing to add for a trip to the airport!

Every Air NZ domestic flight begins here Air New Zealand launched this new concept loyalty card called OneSmart at the end of 2011. Included in it was the Airpoints part of the card, a Mastercard Debit card with a multi currency wallet and a Flybuys (retail loyalty card) card. As part of the Airpoints card, it also contains a RFID chip Air New Zealand likes to call the “M Pass” in which you can tap on the self check in machines as if you were going through the London Underground turnstiles with an Oyster Card. No checks, no nothing and we had our boarding passes to WLG. But the machines couldn’t print out our next itinerary’s tickets from WLG-CHC-ZQN (they were booked on a separate ticket). We headed to a help desk and the man kindly printed out our boarding passes for us but we were told we could only change our seats (to two windows) in Wellington. Anyway through security we went and off to the boarding lounge. The boarding lounge was packed by the time we got there but thankfully it wasn’t long before boarding. Auckland Airport really needs a new domestic terminal! Boarding in Auckland is done by what type of seat you have so all those with window seats and their accomplices (plus Star Gold, Koru etc) are invited to board first. This meant we were first down the air bridge and first onto the plane.

Air NZ’s newest A320, ZK-OJS, pushing back for WLG Flight Information

March 2012 Routing: Auckland - Wellington (AKL-WLG)
Airline: Air New Zealand
Flight: NZ 417
Scheduled Time of Departure: 0930hrs
Actual Departure: 0930hrs (pushback), 0941hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1030hrs
Touchdown: 1027hrs
Flight time: 46min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-300
Registration: ZK-NGI
Seat: 15F

ZK-NGI was registered new to Air New Zealand on 20 November 1999. It’s the second youngest 737-300 in Air NZ’s fleet.

A GPS tracking of AKL-WLG:




First to board the plane

Photo by Globetraveller

My view


Photo by Globetraveller

We pushed back on time and headed out to 05R for takeoff in rather gloomy weather. But the crosswind factor was much less significant as the day before.

A version of the safety video currently in use can be seen here, although this one’s been made for the 77W.

Rainy and gloomy!

Passing the International terminal

Photo by Globetraveller

Lining up 05R

The usual 733 takeoff run had us in the air in no time and we turned south nearly immediately after takeoff.

Looking back at Auckland Airport

Photo by Globetraveller

The weather’s always nice above the clouds!

After encountering some rather rough weather during our climb, we felt the aircraft descend. The pilot came on over the PA and notified us that we’d be flying at a lower altitude of 22,000-23,000ft due to the strong winds higher up and because of this, there would be no service on the flight. Ok, it didn’t matter too much because the snack received is so insubstantial. But I’m sure that there were some people who wouldn’t have minded a tea or coffee. The usual cruising altitude for these domestic flights is between 34,000 and 40,000 ft. Mind you, the flight wasn’t that bumpy and they could have done a service. I suppose they were just not sure if they’d hit any bad patches or not.

If there weren’t any clouds, the low altitude flying would have been spectacular – similar to when the volcanic ash cloud passed over the country last year from the Chilean Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano.

Interesting cloud formations on our way south

The weather wasn’t too bad towards the south of the North Island...

Until we started to descend into Wellington where a white out prevented us from seeing any of the city.

Short final to WLG

And just like that, we were in WLG – the first of our legs completed.

Slowing down

As we were taxiing into the gate, we saw something rather peculiar in the distance – foam on the ground with fire trucks and ambulances around. It turned out to be a training exercise.

Photo by Globetraveller

Not realising I already had a picture of this cockpit in the Airliners.Net database already, I took another opportunity to take a picture of it upon disembarking the plane.


We were only going to be in Wellington for 40 minutes but this was extended to 1.5 hours due to the change in aircraft/flight – still not enough time to do anything outside the airport, especially in the horrible weather we were given. There were a few movements while we were there.

Our first mission, however, was to make sure we both had window seats; especially for the CHC-ZQN leg. We headed to the self check in booths and repeated the process. We were lucky and found some window seats on both planes but not only that, we picked some Space+ seats in the 737 which meant extra legroom.

Wellington check in area

Photo by Globetraveller

1 of 3 All Black Beech 1900Ds

Cessna Grand Caravan operating flights across the Cook Strait

One I’ve been on – Air Chathams Convair 580

And finally our plane to CHC

Taxiing in

The arrival of the aircraft at the gate we were to be departing prompted us to head through security and to the gate.

Flight Information

March 2012
Routing: Wellington - Christchurch (WLG-CHC)
Airline: Air New Zealand
Flight: NZ 343
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1215hrs
Actual Departure: 1222hrs (pushback), 1231hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1300hrs
Touchdown: 1304hrs
Flight time: 33min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-300
Registration: ZK-NGR
Seat: 8F

ZK-NGR is the newest addition to the Air NZ fleet, obtained from Air Malta on 1 May 2008. In saying that, it’s not the newest 733 in Air NZ’s fleet – that goes to ZK-NGJ.

GPS for the second leg:




Space+ is great. The extra 3-5 inches makes a huge difference in comfort. Settled into our seats, we were ready for the short hop to Christchurch.


The completely deserted International terminal

Turning around at the end

Climbing with a nice view of Lyall Bay

We knew there was something to look forward to as we could see clear weather further south as we descended into Wellington.  We weren’t disappointed either- as we made our way towards Christchurch, the cloud started to become broken.

Wouldn’t it be great to have an office permanently above the weather on the ground!

Weather wasn’t bad this far south and they managed to do a service run with the usual small snack (cassava crisps, a biscuit or chocolate accompanied with water and tea/coffee). I think the biscuit is the most substantial but not by much.

Better weather!!

Photo by Globetraveller

And just like that, we began our descent into Christchurch.

Base turn to final, Runway 02

Photo by Globetraveller

Looking back towards Christchurch City where we had just flown over

Photo by Globetraveller


Vacating the active

Photo by Globetraveller

We disembarked and headed to find something to eat.

Final look at the aircraft

Christchurch Airport has changed a lot since I had last been there. Unfortunately, they had to get rid of the viewing terrace situated on top of the domestic terminal to make way for the new terminal’s construction. The interior looks much nicer than it did and it’ll look better once it’s completed.

Construction going on in the area which once had a handful of ATR 72 hard stands

Food court in the domestic terminal

Check in area on the ground floor

CHC Control Tower

After lunch, we didn’t have much longer before boarding started for our final flight of the day to Queenstown. As I had mentioned earlier, the old turboprop gate area had been consumed by construction work. What replaced that small area was an amazingly designed area which even included a “Koru Club Express” lounge.

New regional departures area

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

The Koru Club Express

And then boarding commenced.

Flight Information

March 2012
Routing: Christchurch - Queenstown (CHC-ZQN)
Airline: Air New Zealand Link (Operated by Mount Cook Airline)
Flight: NZ 5373
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1400hrs
Actual Departure: 1401hrs (pushback), 1404hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1505hrs
Touchdown: 1452hrs
Flight time:48min
Aircraft: ATR 72-500
Registration: ZK-MCY
Seat: 15D

ZK-MCY is one of 11 ATR 72-500s in the fleet operated by Mount Cook Airline on behalf of Air New Zealand Link. It is the second newest AT7 in the fleet, delivered new to NZ in February 2003. Air New Zealand have ordered the ATR 72-600 to add to the fleet and these are being delivered from the end of the year.

This flight was pushed back by 45 minutes, presumably to cater for other flights connecting to ZQN and also to fit more flights into its schedule to cater for the loss of capacity.

GPS tracking:




Leaving the nice departure lounge behind, we were off down a corrugated iron walkway to the plane.

Dash 8 turning around

Our AT7

View from 15D

I was worried about one aspect of sitting behind the wing and that was the exhaust haze being created. That was all proven correct once the engines were turned on. It basically nullifies the advantage of having a high wing when there’s a great view out the window. Nevertheless, the front seemed rather packed so we remained at the back of the plane. It only took 3 minutes between engine start up and rotation – the good thing about smaller airports is that you can start up and go!

Lining up Runway 02

Photo by Globetraveller

Up and away with a view of the international terminal

Over the Canterbury Plains

My seatmate moved to a vacant spot on the left hand side of the plane which gave me freedom to move about.

Cabin shot

Heading for the foothills and the Southern Alps

Lakes Pukaki (L) and Tekapo (R)

Lake Tekapo

It was very interesting flying in a turboprop over the highlands. All previous trips were in either 737s or A320s at a much higher altitude.

The wonderful Lake Pukaki and its mineral rich water

Lake Hawea

Photo by Globetraveller

Lake Wanaka and Wanaka Township

Photo by Globetraveller

The landscape is stunning. The flight from Christchurch to Queenstown captures a whole range of different terrains from nearly the coast, over the plains, into the foothills and then the rugged high country, lakes and the odd snow-capped mountains (I suppose more in winter) of Central Otago. A flight I recommend to everyone because pictures don’t give it enough justice!

Flying over Wanaka basically means that you’re pretty close to Queenstown. Descent started not long after and took us on a course over the Crown Range, directly over Cardrona ski field and then somehow around to landing at ZQN. You can see the GPS map above of the route to get into ZQN. I believe jets use a more direct approach.

Heading over the Crown Range

Cardrona Ski Field directly below. No snow at this time of the year as you can see!

It seems as though you can almost touch the faces of the mountains

Dropping into the more fertile basin around Arrowtown

Photo by Globetraveller


Taxiing in with a marvellous view

And that concluded our hopping joyride down to Queenstown!

Disembarking in wonderful sunshine

Inside the terminal

Beautiful day and a picturesque view as you step out of the terminal

Photo by Globetraveller

We decided to do a bit of spotting before heading into town. Queenstown is wonderful for picture taking as the rugged mountainside provides a rather unique backdrop to many pictures. I’d love to go back there in winter when there’s snow on the side of the mountain!

The road out of the airport

Photo by Globetraveller

Helicopters and small planes doing scenic flights to/from Milford Sound

And finally some bigger things

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

And then we headed to our hotel (Copthorne Lakeview) for check in. The bus to this hotel from the airport is $5, $1 less than the fare into Queenstown. We found this really good deal on which provided 2 Queen sized beds for NZ$92. Not bad, especially when the cost is split in half! It was the “4* Wotif Mystery Hotel” and if you check out all the hotels within that star range, you can generally pick out which hotel it is. Off-peak travelling is great!

Hotel room



The beds were really comfortable and it was a great bargain. Obviously it was only going to be used for sleeping in and it wasn’t long before we headed into town.

We decided not to waste the beautiful day and we took a ride up the gondola. At a rather tourist premium figure of $25 per person, it was by no means cheap but we decided we weren’t going to be back there for a while and forked out for it. We were rewarded with stunning views.

TSS Earnslaw has been serving Lake Wakatipu for many decades

Queenstown is so picturesque

Photo by Globetraveller

Even paragliders enjoy themselves

And there are always opportunities to do some off-airport spotting!

Back lakeside

Photo by Globetraveller

We decided to go to Pier 19 for dinner. It sits on the waterfront, right where the Earnslaw docks. I was keen for some Bluff Oysters, a delicacy from the south while Globetraveller was after a nice steak. The restaurant had everything we wanted!

Bluff Oysters

Lovely twilight colours

Main course – I had venison

On our way home, we looked up at the clear sky to admire the many thousands of stars we could see. Next time, we’ll head out into the countryside to repeat that!

Spot the Southern Cross and the Pointers!

The next morning, 0500 hrs

*siren sounds* “There’s a fire in the building. Please make your way to the nearest exit”

Yeah.. We couldn’t believe what was happening. We were still half asleep as we tried to find our way out of the building and onto the street. Of course, things like that at 5am are likely to be something petty such as burnt toast or maybe one of the kitchen staff having a cigarette. When we got outside, there was no smoke to be seen or to be smelt. There were many grumpy guests as you could imagine and some Chinese tourists didn’t even know what to do. They were peering out from their rooms wondering what on earth had gone on. They didn’t realise that they were to evacuate, especially when another man was telling them that they had to get out of the building. What an event! We watched one woman nearly run us and a few others over while exiting the building with haste. We do suspect she had something to do with the fire alarm. The building was eventually cleared for everyone to return to their rooms but for another few minutes, they had problems turning the fire alarm off. Obviously it spoilt the night and probably everyone’s sleeping patterns too.

Fire trucks arrived a couple of minutes after we had vacated the building

Our hotel with the fire truck outside

Our room is in the centre of the frame

Well, we deserved a little longer sleep after that mishap. We had an afternoon flight out so we were in no rush to go anywhere that morning. It did start to shower too but luckily it dried up; although remaining overcast for the rest of the day. We checked out and received no apology or anything about what happened earlier in the morning which was a shame. In hindsight, we should have taken our time to fill in the survey!

Queenstown, being a tourist town, brings in hefty tourist premiums on prices. We saw astronomical breakfast prices such as NZ$10.50 for a bowl of muesli. I mean seriously, you could walk into a supermarket and buy a whole box plus more for that much. So we settled for a bakery where the combined price of our meal was far less than the amount for that one bowl of muesli. Picture taking of the wonderful scenery had already been ticked off the list so we headed back to the airport to check in and then for more spotting before our flight later that afternoon. Of course when you’re at the airport 4 hours before departure, you nearly have free reign on seating so we happily chose our seats in the Space+ section. The boarding passes were spat out and we headed around the perimeter and back to the nice spot on the opposite side of the runway.

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

We stayed right up to the arrival of our aircraft. We were really curious to know which one we’d end up getting. 50% chance of getting one of the All Blacks A320s, 25% chance of getting Air NZ’s newest A320 and 25% of getting one of the other boring white A320. We saw a speck in the hills and as it came closer, its distinct black fuselage confirmed that we’d be taking one of the 2 All Blacks A320s back to Auckland. As it landed, the registration ended up being ZK-OJR – the second A320 to be painted into the All Blacks colour scheme. They look amazing up close!

Touchdown of OJR

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

And just like that, our time in beautiful Queenstown was drawing to a close. We walked back to the airport and through security, ready for this flight north.

From the terminal

Flight Information

March 2012
Routing: Queenstown - Auckland (ZQN-AKL)
Airline: Air New Zealand
Flight: NZ 644
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1430hrs
Actual Departure: 1438hrs (pushback), 1451hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1615hrs
Touchdown: 1627hrs
Flight time: 1hr 36min
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Registration: ZK-OJR
Seat: 3A

As mentioned earlier, ZK-OJR is the second A320 painted in the All Blacks colour scheme. It was delivered new from Airbus on the 10th November 2011. I managed to catch it on its first day of commercial service on 20 Nov; meaning it had been flying for 4 months and 2 days with Air New Zealand.

This flight also marked my 100th flight so it’ll remain a memorable flight for quite some time!

GPS data:




You can clearly see the famous 270 degree turn to depart Queenstown Airport. It’s one fantastic experience. The left hand side is better for the departure itself but you’ll have a view of the ocean for the rest of the flight. They now have a new altered flightpath for departing Queenstown.

We made our way to the front of the queue to be among the first to board the shiny black plane. With our boarding passes scanned, we were on our way onto the apron to take a much closer look at the shiny new A320.

Looking so good!

Photo by Globetraveller

Up the covered stairs to the black door!

Photo by Globetraveller

Seats in Space+

Legroom in forward left Space+

Legroom in forward right Space+

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Interestingly enough, the DEF side in Space+ has more legroom – 35 inches. Not like I need all of that but it’s so good to be able to stretch out!

The engine is still behind Row 5

Photo by Globetraveller

Overhead panel

Photo by Globetraveller

Note the Electronic Devices sign where the no smoking sign used to be

View out the left hand side

Airstairs pulled back, time for pushback

A plane from Christchurch arrives just before we push back

Photo by Globetraveller


Photo by Globetraveller

Jetstar flight arriving

Photo by Globetraveller

Taxiing onto 23/05 for back track

The small cross runway used by things up to the Cessna Grand Caravan/Britten Norman Islander

Photo by Globetraveller

Turning around at the end

Other side view looking down the runway

Photo by Globetraveller

Completing the turn


Photo by Globetraveller

Looking southeast down Lake Wakatipu after taking off

Queenstown on initial climb out prior to the turn. Note the gondola path up the hill

Photo by Globetraveller

About 90 degrees around the 270 degree turn; circling Kelvin Heights

Around the same time looking west down Lake Wakatipu

Photo by Globetraveller

View out the right hand side

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Tracking over the airport with a nice view of Queenstown

Above the clouds

Photo by Globetraveller

I had no view to the left but Globetraveller was lucky to have a few holes in the clouds for one last look at Central Otago.

Passing by Lake Hawea on the way north

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Service was commenced and completed with the same offerings as usual. After that, I was free to do a little roaming.


Cabin shot

Ok so by now, you must be wondering why I added golf to the title but haven’t mentioned anything about it. A couple of days out from the flights, it was announced somewhere that Air New Zealand was going to host an in-flight putting tournament at “30,000ft”. This was to promote their sponsorship of the NZ Pro-Am tournament held the following week and was open to people on the selected Air NZ flights between Auckland and Queenstown. If you wished to enter the draw (to win flights to Queenstown, accommodation at the Hilton and VIP passes to the golf), you had to fill in an entry form and then be one of 3 people selected to putt the ball down the aisle and into the hole. It was run in a fashion like how high jump is run but you only have 2 strokes. It was highly amusing and got quite a lot of passengers’ attention! First of all, they rolled the synthetic grass down the aisle and then got the selected people (Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them) to come up one by one and have a go. Air NZ claim that this is a world first so it was great to be able to witness it!

The view down the synthetic grass

One of the many attempts

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

As you could see, Globetraveller was in a great position to take photos. His kind seat mates moved over so that he could sit on the aisle and watch the golf putting. We were already over New Plymouth by the time the fun had come to an end and we were just about at the top of descent.

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

The funny approach path was made due to the pilots dodging some clouds on the way into the airport.

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

The entrance to Manukau Harbour

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

Photo by Globetraveller

LA A343 holding short, heading back to SCL

Spot the Emirates planes!

Pulling into the gate

One last look at the seats

Photo by Globetraveller


And just like that, the joyrides were over. What a great couple of days we had.


Air New Zealand failed to disappoint once again for domestic flights. They will remain my preferred domestic airline just because they are so reliable and their many frequencies means that you’re unlikely to get stuck somewhere where you don’t necessarily want to be. I reiterate time and time again – if you do come to New Zealand, make sure you book flights into/out of Queenstown! It’s such a great place to fly in and out of.

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