Sunday, August 15, 2010

End of a long day...

I will post my travels of today (ahead of a couple of airports that I have ticked off previously) as it is fresh in my head.
It was an early start as i had been booked for a very full day today by those great people at Eagle Air.  The aim was to clear the last three airports I have on my list, W(h)anganui, Gisborne and Kaitaia.
The itinery I had was pretty full on, WLG-AKL-WAG-AKL-GIS-AKL-KAT-AKL-WLG, a total of 8 sectors in 11hours!
The most challenging thing was the connection onto WAG.  Only 5minutes according to my e-ticket!
I waited outside for my taxi at 6am and got a phone call which promptly made my phone go dead with no battery power left -damn.  I think it was the taxi company phoning.....
Well 10minutes later still no taxi.  So i had to go back to the house and phone to chase them up.  turns out the guy left without me, despite me being on time?!  A new taxi arrived just as I was about to give up and take the car or get another taxi...
The guy floored it and we made it to the airport as boarding had commenced - no time for the lounge and breakfast then!  Also no time to talk with the ground staff to discuss my tight connection time.
We departed on time thankfully, and were off to the south with a turn over the cook strait and AKL bound.
We arrived on the stand just before 8am and I had mentioned to the aircrew on our decent about my tight connection.  They couldn't get through to the ground crew as descent had commenced and didn't want to disturb the pilots.  They radioed through on landing and I heard the radio when I reached the regional gates that are a fair run away from the jet gates....
I had missed it.  Not sure by how many minutes, but i couldn't have been more than a couple or five....

I guess it was a long shot and a big ask to make a 5minute connection at AKL dom!  so it was off to the Koru club for a breakfast and coffee.  I still had the GIS flight at 10.45am so it gave me a couple of hours to write up a blog or two (see previous) and check emails etc.
Half an hour before the departure time, I was paged to the desk and asked if I wanted to voluntarily be bumped and take the next GIS flight....I explained my flight schedule and that as the KAT flight was the only one of the day, it was difficult to re-route around that and get home to WLG today.  She told me that as I was on a staff travel booking, if they couldn't find anyone else, I would be moved.
Luckily no more pages and I left for the regional gates again and my boarding pass went through ok.  Off to GIsborne ontime too.
Flight was under an hour and we had a 25min turnaround in GIS before heading back.

The terminal is pretty small, although has by the looks of it a pretty good cafe.  More info here
and here.
GIS's claim to fame is that it is the only runway in the world that has a railway line running through it!  I didn't actually notice during my visit, although I do remember hearing that there is an airport with a railway line running across the air strip...

Back to AKL and another visit to the Koru lounge for some lunch.  Not much in the way of hot food, a curried soup I think.  I ended up running for the Kaitaia flight due to a lack of lounge announcements until the final one calling me by name.  I legged it to the other end of the terminal and got there just in time....(lucky this time!).  I had mistakenly been looking at the boarding time of my return portion instead of the outbound and got it into my head that it was boarding at 10 past the hour and not the correct 5 to the hour...

Kaitaia was a very small airport as you would expect for the far north.  It is the northern most airport on the AirNZ network, so today I have completed the furthest north and the furthest east...
25minutes and we were off again back to the city of sails.
Another stop at the Koru club and this time a beer and snack.  The jet back to Welly was at 5pm so I had about 30mins to relax and reflect on if I could have feasibly caught that first flight.  the only way would have been if they had held it for me.  Oh well, I guess I will add WAG to MRO to complete another day....

Westport and Gisborne (or not) next

The next installment was a double visit again.  WLG-WSZ was first up and with a return back to Welly to catch the Gissy flight.  All on a Sunday 20/6/10.
A leisurely departure of 12.05pm was called and after a light lunch in the lounge it was off to the gate to rejoin the B1900 planes i have become so familiar with.
We had a little bit of a delay due to weather and were off to the west coast of the south island.  The terminal is a single room as are so many of the little regional airports.  I was on a staff travel ticket and they were able to book the turn arounds, so it was to be a 25minute visit.  However, there was a delay in Westport as the wind was getting up and was a cross wind on the very exposed air strip (right next to the coastline!).
So the departure time came and went and I started to get concerned about the connecting flight to Gisborne.  And sure enough the wind and visibility was still poor when the point where a theoretical connection to the GIS flight came and went.  There was not much i could do, so I guess this one will have to be ticked off another time.
We left Westport after a break in the weather with the cross wind dying down and managed to get away around 2hours after scheduled departure.  Oh well, at least I ticked off one airport and the whole day was not lost....

Another big trip 11/6/10

Next trip was also arranged by the good people of Eagle Air.
I had also been looking at getting to MRO (Masterton).  The itinery that was sent to me covered Whangerei and KeriKeri on a saturday in June.  The flight up from WLG was the redeye and so I had an idea that I could fly up the night before from MRO and tick that one off and jump onto the WRE and KKE flights starting in AKL.
I figured that the easiest way to MRO was by train and caught the 5.35pm on the friday upto Masterton.  The train journey was quite pleasant, spent the time watching a movie on my netbook and we got to Masterton in around 2hours.  I had an hour to get myself to the airport and tried walking it, but didn't get too far so caught a taxi to make sure i didn't miss the flight.
The plane arrived on time, but the fog was coming in and we were delayed for it to lift.  Only problem was it didn't...In the end the flight was cancelled and I ended up having to stay at the copthorn in town.  It meant i lost my money for the Auckland hotel i had booked and had to shell out for the masterton hotel.  There was no way round it as the trains had stopped running if i were to go back to WLG.  I then had to phone AirNZ and warn them that i will not make the early departure upto WRE as I was stuck in MRO!
I got up at 6 and headed to the airport where they had put on a bus over to Palmy to get us up to AKL.  This meant for all intents and purposes i had visited MRO but had physically flown from there!
We had a 30min wait in palmy and i had managed to contact Eagle so they could push my flights for the day forwards (thankfully there was a number of flights to choose from and they could be moved forward during the day).
Whangerei was the first stop and very nice too.  Reasonable sized airport (by regional standards and a really good approach on a fine day...
Turn around was swift 25mins and we were back to AKL.  A short stop over in the lounge for refuelling and a bite and it was back upto to KeriKeri, a smaller airport.  The temperatrure difference when landing in KKE was noticeable and the sun was shining (compared to WLG!).
KKE is also known as Bay of Islands airport as it is nestled in this wonderful part of NZ.  I took some air outside the little terminal and gave an update to my wife on my travels so far.  It was again the quick turnaround and we were heading back to AKL.
The pilots were a little curious, so an explanation of my escapades was required and met with shrugs...
As I had managed to move my flights forwards I ended up getting home quite late, but it was a great day all the same and to cap it all, I was given a boarding pass with seat assignment 24A....which as the seats don't go that far, meant another jumpseat flight!
I took my seat (right behind the cockpit door) and strapped myself after a safety briefing by the two pilots.  We had a good chat about what i was doing and discussed a recent accident involving the 733 aircraft and the fact that it can be flown by almost anyone with some control tower assistance for landing it.  Landing was good with only light winds (light for welly anyway).  We arrived on time and it was a privilege to fly in the jumpseat of a jet.  The electronics in the cockpit are another league compared to the little B1900's, but very similar in what does what etc...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Video of Welly Landing


This was the first of my trips that Air NZ helped me with.  The flight to Blenheim rather than straight to CHC was to pick up the B1900 flight that will be continuing to HKK.  Less chance of a misconnect if you are on the same plane for most of the sectors!
I arrived in Blenheim to a lovely day and the B1900 to take me to HKK (Hokitika) arrived.

When boarding commenced I was handed a pair of headphones and assigned seat 1F.  Upon boarding the pilots said hi and showed me how to plug in the headphones and I could listen to them and the air traffic control - very cool.  we took off on time and I listened to the pilots going through the checklists and conversations with air traffic control.
We cruised at around 9000feet and had fantastic views of the southern alps.
Southern Alps
The views on the way over were great and I had a good chat with the pilots on AirNZ flying and their enthuasiasm for the B1900D which had no autopilot and gives them a chance to "fly properly!"

We arrived in Hokitika and had a few minutes turnaround before heading back to CHC.
The airport is pretty tiny with a little cafe and waiting area.  The Aero club is next door to the airport terminal and had a few little cessna's parked up.

Again we had great views on the way back to CHC and pilots were saying that the B1900 was totally overpowered for its use and one of the best planes to fly, especially within the amazing scenery of NZ and the south island in general.  Most pilots start out on these and progress to the jets, but they say that most enjoy their time on the B1900's the most as you are actually flying the plane rather than flicking it onto autopilot for 95% of the time.

I thanked the pilots and made my way to the Koru club at CHC for a quick drink before my next flight.  My M-pass worked on entry, and the guy at the desk printed out my boarding pass...with a seat number of 18A which for an ATR was a little curious as I thought that row 17 was the last?!
It became clear that I had been allocated the jumpseat!  Very cool.
I boarded and was shown to the cockpit past a bunch of pilots and flight crew repositioning seat in the cabin.

I was given the safety briefing by the pilots and had a chat to them about my quest and how to strap myself in.  I had a great view sitting behind them in the middle, basically attached to the back of the cockpit door!

I took plenty of the pictures of our landing into welly, and a short video that I shall post in a seperate blog post up next..

All in all a fantastic day of flying and I ticked off Hokitika in style!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A great turn of events

A turn of events and chance meeting changed my target of getting to all 26 airports a little more of a reality.  I had heard through Flyertalk that there was a meeting planned with the top brass at AirNZ in Wellington in a sort of roadshow to come and talk with their customers (primarily it appeared as the travel budget holders for large companies) and some regular fliers mixed in.  I managed to get myself on the guestlist after asking someone at AirNZ.  I will to save embarassment, not mention any names....

Most of the top people were there to talk to about the upcoming changes for the Tasman route including new A320's to operate those routes and the new 773 planes for some longhaul routes due in November.  I believe that the older A320's will be put on the domestic network, presumably with a refreshed cabin?  The Tasman route and restructuring has caused much dischord amongst the frequent flier community, with the abolition of Business class from the 763 and A320 planes flying to Oz and the Pacific Islands.  Most of the angst was also concerning the removal of Space+ and no tangible benefits for holding NG *G or *GE.  Anyway there is plenty of discussion of this on Flyertalk so will leave that there.

After a good evening chatting to a variety of AirNZ people, I received a phone call at work the next day from Eagle Airways, part of the NZ group.  They had heard about my quest and wanted to find out which airports i had left.  I explained my remaining list and that I wasn't bothered about staying for any length of time.

A few days later I got another call from Eagle Airways and that they were arranging an itinery for me to get a couple of airports off the list.....

So the next few flights are courtesy of AirNZ and Eagle Airways as it happened that the routes I was after were all on the Eagle Airways network....and of course this means plenty of B1900D flights!

I cannot say enough to thank the people at AirNZ and Eagle for arranging many of the following flights.  especially as some of the itineries are rather hectic and fun!

Invercargill - 26/27 May 2010

I had managed to book two $1 tickets to Invercargill, the only issue was it involved an overnight stay in IVC.  I had a search for cheap accomodation and plumped for the victorian railway hotel.  I decided to walk from the airport and the stroll took about 30minutes with some brisk cold winds behind me!

The hotel was very comfortable and good value.  The flight times i had meant that it was an early morning start for a 6.25am flight back to Welly intime for a day in the office.  The airport itself is ok, and it has a Koru Lounge!  so managed to grab a cuppa and some toast before our flight departing in the day and watching the sun rise on our way....The flight itself is on a Q300 and is one of the longest domestic flights (certainly the longest i have done so far) at 2hours.

Missed out Taupo!

I seem to have missed out my trip to Taupo.....I took a trip to TUO for a quick turnaround on a Saturday in May.  We went up and back in the B1900 and the pilot navigated around Mt Ruapehu and we could see the ski resorts and the lake on top, amazing views!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two Destinations in one day - ZQN and WKA - 23/5/10

Several months ago I had snagged a CHC-ZQN flight for $1 over a weekend.  In the coming months I was trying to work out how to use it, since I needed to start in Welly, WLG-CHC was required.
I then considered the straight return back to Welly, but this was getting costly and when looking at the cost of departures from Wanaka (WKA), there wasn't much in it.
I concluded that it would be more expensive to travel to WKA on a differnt day and since i was nearly there in ZQN I could just get myself over to WKA and tick off another one.  After much debate and checking AirNZ daily, the cost of the flights ended up quite steep (albeit i got a few Airpoints, but still expensive).  In hindsight I think I had made the right decision, especially in the timing as winter was setting in and this meant possible weather delays and cancellations (more on them in forthcoming posts!).
So it was all booked and I set off to the airport using a bus shuttle.  A nice breakfast in the Lounge and the ATR72 flight to CHC (not ideal, as I prefer the jets, but timings meant it was the only choice for me).  I had a layover of around 1hour in CHC, so "lounged" around in the Koru Club. The CHC lounge is in the bach theme, although some say it is looking a little tired with some of the wicker chair having seen better days...

Our flight was ontime with an 11.25am departure.  I was looking forward to this flight as we were going over the southern alps and the views are always spectacular...
 We landed in ZQN, which in itself is pretty impressive to land within this amazing scenery.  ZQN I really like!  The airport feels modern and clean with quite a range of facilities and plenty of space.  The setting is pretty special also.  Outside there was a noticeable difference in temperature from WLG.  I had managed to find a way across the crown range to WKA by using a bus service.  Luckily my flight was on time and I had a 20minute wait for the bus.  I used Connexions to sort out my passage and we were on our way ontime over the hills and far away.  The trip was about 1hour and again i was blown away with the scenery - plus the fact hardly any other cars were seen on our drive over!  I had forgotten how quiet the south island can be and how beautiful.  The crown range route is the highest in New Zealand and during our passage, it had not yet gotten a covering of snow.
Arriving in Wanaka gave me an hour to stroll around the town and relax on the lake shore with a pie.  I booked a taxi in the information centre after learning that it would be a long walk to the airport.
Wanaka airport is not big.  It is very very small.  The check in area is essentially a room the size of your average home lounge.  Again, there are those great Air NZ people in these tiny airports doing a grand job (and multi-tasking job!).  the flight back to CHC was in a B1900, that I am growing very fond off.  Take off on time from the tiny airfield and again great scenery had by all.  The flight was quite full and must be a good earner for AirNZ considering the costs of a ticket!  55minutes later we landed at CHC and deplaned back to the Koru Lounge.
The sun was over the yard arm and thus a drink or two in the two hour layover was consumed prior to the flight back (ATR again) to Wellington.
As most of these flights were booked on seperate tickets, i was a little anxious on making each of the connections, but in the end had nothing to worry about as they were all on time and the weather was good.
This double airport trip was worthwhile and made me consider looking at slightly crazier itineries to meet my goal.  it is also more fun zipping around the country.
As I have been to virtually all the places that I am flying to previously, I don't feel bad about only spending a few minutes or hours at each destination and not venturing from the airport.

A break, MEL and then NPL 5/5/10

So I didn't have much planned for April except a surprise trip to Melbourne for my wife's 40th and our 5th Wedding Anniversary.  I had managed to keep the long weekend break to MEL a secret and what was more amazing is that our 4 year old daughter kept it a secret since the beginning of the year when i booked it!
We managed to get all the way through to the international lounge at WLG before I finally told her where we were going.  So sorted out the checking in (at the Koru Valet parking - very handy, through the departure tax and through security without an idea....She thought we were going to the Chathams after seeing the plane as we drove into the airport!).
After a great break (and of course flights, Space+ on the A320 and then 763 via AKL on the way back (had hoped for the 777 but this had been shifted for extra flights from Europe due to this).  The following day I had a $1 grab-a-seat fare return to New Plymouth.  I had booked the out and back seperately to get around the MCT and had expected that it would be the same plane anyway to avoid fear of missing my return.
The flight left just before 5pm so it was a sharp exit from work on the Airport Flyer with about 5minutes to grab a quick drink and bite in the lounge before heading to the gate during final call.
The plane was a Q300 and the flight was smooth and event free.  Upon landing at New Plymouth, I found my way to the Koru Lounge.  It sooned filled up with people catching the flight back to Welly and also a flight to AKL.  I managed to get a seat in the compact, but very pleasant lounge and had a catch up on the news in the DomPost.
There is a cafe downstairs called airspresso, owned by none other than weather presenter on TVONE, Jim Hickey.  I had a quick look and must say was quite impressed with the standard and overall appearance - especially for an airport cafe.  This also probably contributed to the airport being named best New Zealand airport in October 2009!
I can't quite remember if you need to pay a departure tax here or not....
Flight back was ontime and swift, the flight time being 50mins.

Monday, August 9, 2010

20 March 2010 - Timaru

The mighty Timaru airport was next on the list thanks to a cheap $39 each way.  This quick turnaround was slightly different as I took my son (20 months old) along with me.
Air NZ allowed me to add him after a phone and no cost as he will be sitting on my lap for the flights.  As my wife was tied up with a prior engagment, my son and I set off for the airport using the shuttle bus service ($25) for a 8.55am departure.
We saw a celebrity in the Koru Lounge that morning, namely Kevin Milne, presenter of Fair Go.  He seemed pretty relaxed chatting with a few "fans".
Our flight was called and we made our way to the B1900 gates (4-9).  I had 3A as my pre-selected seat, my favourite.  My son enjoys flying, although it is a long flight for a small plane (over 1hour) and he got a little wriggly...
Timaru airport, also known as Richard Pearse Airport, is quite small, with quite low traffic passing through it daily.  The airport lounge (no Koru!) is essentially one large room with the normal check in desk for Air NZ.  I even found a FREE coffee machine dispensing what could only vaguely be called coffee (becoming a coffee snob living in Welly!).
This airport is typical of some of the small provincial ones that Air NZ operate from - one man does most of the duties.  Check-in, baggage retrieval and loading, checking tickets and refuelling etc etc...

With an M-Pass stuck to the back of my Frequent Flyer card, I am able to turn up at the gate and flash it past the machine, that duly spits out my boarding pass.  Most people in regional / provincial airports do not or don't have this service and thus most check in as you would "normally".  My son and I sat in the lounge whilst it filled up with people catching the plane back to Welly.  I could overhear the one man chap talking to a trainee that the flight had a no show....It dawned on me that he was probably refering to me as I had booked the tickets seperately (due to minimum connection time not allowing ticketing on one PNR).  I saw him do a scan of the lounge and then come over to us.
Conversation went a little like this:
  • man: are you flying on the wellington flight sir?
  • me: yes.
  • man: didn't you just arrive from Wellington?
  • me: yes.
  • Man: and now you are going back to Wellington now?
  • me: yes
  • Man: So you are staying in Timaru for less than an hour?
  • me: yes.  Its a long story, but yes I am flying back to Wellington
  • Man: Oh, I see...ok (puzzled look)

He went back to his station and loaded me onto the system.  He was really quite dumb founded on why on earth someone would fly to Timaru only to fly back on the same plane in less than hour later...All in the name of ticking off the list.....

The flight back was uneventful, except wrestling a small child!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Need to catch up - watch the space

I need to catch up with this blog and get back to present day.  Reason being that I have a rather mad weekend coming up that will theoretically finish the mission.
I therefore hope to add a blog a day for the forthcoming week...

Friday, August 6, 2010

27 Feb 2010 - Hamilton

Hamilton airport is reasonably large, and an international one at that...
Another cheap grab a seat saw me on a little trip for the day to the central north island and hang around in Hamilton Airport for just over an hour on a weekend.  The fight up is on a Q300 (50 seats two abreast each side of the aisle).  The leg room on these planes is not massive, but ok for short flights.  Refreshments is a cup of tea or coffee and a biccy.
The Koru lounge at Hamilton (HLZ) is nice, bach style refurbished in 2008 and with views of the runway.  Drinks selection was good and there were some sandwiches hanging around in the fridge.  It was pretty empty and a couple of people came in closer to the return time back to welly.
Weather was good and a nice view was had out of the window.
All ran on time and another leisurely trip to tick another airport off.

We are getting close to some of the highlights of my mission, so stay tuned (I hope to upload some pictures and a video...)

Monday, August 2, 2010

17 Feb 2010 - Blenheim

Next trip was a grabaseat special again, $39 each way WLG to BHE and back.  I chose an afternoon flight across the cook strait to Blenheim.  Once again this was in the mighty B1900D plane!  This is the shortest flight that Air NZ operates at only 50miles and one of the shortest scheduled flights around.
The flight left Welly on time and the weather was pretty horrible, with a strong wind and rain.  This made for a little bumpy exit but not too bad.
The flight into Blenheim makes you think that the plane is going to land in amongst the vines, with the vines clearing at the last minute to reveal a runway and tiny little airport.
The return flight coincided with a crew change and the flight back wasn't for about 90minutes.  I grabbed a coffee from the little shop and sat watching a movie on my netbook.  The weather in blenheim was quite amazing, clear skies no wind and lots of sun.  Still amazes me how different the weather is despite only 50 miles away!
The flight back was on time and took about 3minutes longer due to some turbulence and a slightly longer flight path.  So, the flight out was timed at 17mins from take off to landing and the return about 20minutes.

This flight got me thinking about adding the longest NZ flight to my list, AKL-YVR i believe... And after completing that one, I would be very tempted to do the EWR-SIN flight.  SQ21, is also all business class seating so wouldn't be too awful at a shade under 19hours flight time!
For the moment, i should concentrate on the goal of NZ airports....Blenheim now ticked off the list.

A couple of AKL trips

The next two trips were a couple of grabaseat specials.  WLG-AKL-WLG.  I managed to get a couple in mid Jan and early Feb with an evening return.
The flight up to Auckland each time was the 6pm flight, leaving just enough enough time to escape work and catch the Airport Flyer to the airport, grab a very quick beer in the lounge onto the flight.
The flight up is during the Koru hour, so it is usually a nice red wine with cheese platter for me, whilst reading the magazine of staring out the window.
The flight back leaves me an hour in the Koru lounge for a bite to eat (chicken curry is a particularly nice offering), with a couple of drinks and a surf on the net.

 The flight back to welly is not for some reason covered by the Koru hour, so just a tea or coffee.  Then its jump off and onto the Airport flyer and home.
 I enjoy these trips although not many people understand quite why i would fly to Auckland and back within an hour...One of the reasons is Airpoints...but that's another long story of ever searching to maintain status....
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