Welcome to my latest in series of flights I took to New Zealand and Australia via Singapore in conjunction with SQ and NZ. If you’re joining us on this flight, please feel free to read the other reports of this journey at the links below:
We truly enjoyed our stay in Auckland, and the weather was perfect, almost Seattle-like with the cold and off/on rainy conditions. As mentioned, we purposely visited to get away from the Houston heat and humidity. This definitely fit the bill and we did not want to go back.
After a couple of days in Auckland, it was time for our next stop on this trip Down Under. Since we had already visited Sydney, we decided to finally visit Melbourne! When planning for this trip, it priced out much cheaper to fly a one-way between AKL and MEL and starting with AKL first and returning via MEL. I looked at various flights, including taking EK in J on the A380. Yet, I really wanted to keep with Star Alliance (*A) airlines, especially NZed. I chose the flight as it was the only widebody flight between the two cities. I had been hoping for the 789, but that plane goes to PER. We also chose PE as the upcharge seemed decent.
The day before the flight, I had checked us in just less than 24hr before the flight. And the flight still showed the standard 772. We had the first row 23ABC in PE and we were all set. I was bummed to be leaving, but knew I would be back soon. We enjoyed the rest of our day despite the arrival of some rain, the only day it rained during our entire trip.
I did not really sleep. Around 04:30 got ready and by 05:00 we checked out from our apartment and took the airport delivery service from the hotel prearranged the day before. We drove around quiet Auckland and made our way to the airport. We got to the airport around 05:20. I was surprised by the number of people checking in for flights this morning.
FIDS directing us to head to Check-in A to check in for our flight.
Among the chaos, passengers are invited to use the self-service kiosks to first check-in as well as print out baggage tags. Each group of kiosks has a lead kiosk managed by an NZ ticketing staff.
My kiosk-generated boarding pass
While I had no problems during check-in, my mother encountered some problems regarding not being able to read her passport. A female agent could hear my mom worry why it would not let her check in, while my father had no problems. She came over and told her not to worry that sometimes the machine readers tend to be finicky. She typed a few things and confirmed my mother. While watching the agent’s monitor, I noticed they had seated my father at 23D rather than 23C in the the PE cabin. I asked if someone had already taken 23C because we had reserved 23C during the booking process. She typed a few things and pulled up the seating chart. She showed us that today’s seating chart showed 2-4-2, and I looked at her and asked if that was possible on the 772. Come to find out, she told us that we would be flying the newly configured 772 on today’s flight. My sadness about leaving Auckland turned to a bit of excitement flying on the updated cabin with a bunch of new features. While I let that sink in, she helped affix the baggage tags to my parents check-in bags and then directed us to the drop off desks. She wished us a pleasant flight to MEL and we thanked her for her help.
Once we dropped off our bags, I walked around a bit to the smallish check-in hall before we ventured upstairs towards the International Departure area.
A future All Black?
A Middle Earth warrior?
The small landside area before Passport control
Heading towards passport control. US Passport holders can turn right along with Aussies, Kiwis, and British passport holders.
When we arrived at AKL on the SQ flight, they offered SmartGate only for Aussie and Kiwi passport holders. When departing from AKL, US and British passport holders also get to use SmartGate to speed through passport control. It is a two-step process. First, you insert your passport and confirm the information and departure from New Zealand. It prints out a special card that you need to take and then head to a barrier that first requires you to insert that card and then takes your picture. Once confirmed, it lets you go through the barrier to security. For computer and technology savvy individuals, the process is easy and painless. My father is not technologically-inclined, so he had a problem getting through when it came time for the system to take his picture. He had to queue up at another lane handling those who had problems using SmartGate, predominantly older individuals. Once he got the OK, he joined us and we headed through a speedy security area and were now airside.
The Iconic Poa Manawa in its colorful display as well as images of iconic images to the Maori culture.
We had plenty of time to enjoy airside. Too bad at this time we only had *S status and would not be able to access the NZ lounge. I did not mind because I was enjoying the airport watching the people as well as the interesting design. But first up, a bit of a brekkie from Shaky Isles. Love their interesting artwork/advert.
I think the artwork drew us along with the crowd from check-in. We were able to find a table next to the window where I could watch the sunrise as well as do a bit of spotting. I got to enjoy a steak and potato pie and enjoy one last L&P soda.
At 07:30, I noticed they would be publishing our gate soon. Still had plenty of time to walk around the terminal.
An interesting advert for a drink that supposedly fights jetlag. The salesperson was nice and told her that I would need a drink in a couple of days on my way back home.
What is that livery o’er yonder?
I like this special Hobbit livery despite never having seen any Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies, except the really old Hobbit movies. Also KE and LA in the distance.
Guess it is time to head to Gate 09.
A Classic and an Update
I do make a stop for a photo op of the special Hobbit plane that I believe arrived from LAX and would be making a return to LAX or head to NRT.
“The Hobbit” livery closer up
This was the first time I actually got to see the uniforms for the NZ FA’s up close and it is rather unique. Overall I like it. Now the NZ groundstaff wear similar uniforms, but I had not seen a female wear the dress, especially the bring pink dress.
NZ FAs I believe heading to NRT.
We continue our walk towards the end of the International Terminal where they funnel us into this interesting maze to the gate.
Heading towards the gate through a series of special channels.
Our flight, NZ 123.
Yup, we’re headed to MEL.
NZ 123 AKL - MEL 01 September 2014 ETD: 08:30 ATD: 08:38 ETA: 10:30 ATA: 10:12 Boeing 777-200 ER (772) ZK-OKA Seat: 23A
Looks like a packed flight on our way to the gate.
Upon arriving at the gate, it would appear it would be a full flight to MEL this morning. Many seem to have come from the LAX flight and finally heading home. Our flight would have many families and the agents had called for those needing to check-in prams to go ahead and get tagged before depositing at the end of the jetway. I will mention that the gate area sorta reminded me of the gates at HNL with the wood trim and enhanced by the smiles of the gate agents and how they handled each patient.
About 10minutes after we had arrived at the gate, they had called for pre-boarding of J passengers and those elderly folks needing assistance down the jetway. They did announce that they will call for boarding with small children shortly, which occurred about 5minutes later. Finally they had started general boarding, starting from the rear of the aircraft. They did announce that those sitting in the PE cabin are requested to relax a bit and would be among the last to board. I found that a bit annoying. They did enforce boarding by rows as they would turn people back who tried to board early. Another slightly annoying bit of the boarding process was they had 3 boarding pass scanners set up that would then funnel into a tiny jetway. Just like any funneling, there would be a backup that would make the boarding process longer. Eventually, the friendly Kiwi-Japanese agent called us over and allowed me to scan my boarding pass. With the green beep, she wished me a pleasant flight.
Heading down the jetway
Upon entering the plane, Marco greeted us and could tell a bit from my excitement boarding this flight. He asked if this would be my first flight on NZ. I told him it was and definitely looking forward to it. He took a peek at my boarding pass and suggested I would have a nice flight in PE on our way over to MEL. I thanked him and made my way to my seat.
Walking through the J cabin that was 100% full.
I can see our seats up ahead!
As we headed towards our seat, J definitely looked 100% full. A galley separates J from PE. I could see lots of people stuffing their belongings in the Y cabin while I made a stop right in front of my seat and try to scope out some luggage space as PE would also be 100% full and we would be among the last PE to have boarded. I know many have status, but just surprised we would be the last 3 to get seated following the boarding queues. Fortunately, we found two bins that we could use to put our stuff in and would be directly above us. I was excited flying my very first flight with NZ and to do it on the latest refurbished product!
Sister plane ZK-OKB waiting at the gate.
Bulkhead with nothing in the pockets other than the flight safety card. I figured no new Kia Ora magazine because of a new month and had not had time to put in new magazines. I was able to find the latest issue in the magazine locker.
My seat, 23A, with the plug near my (L) knee. Except for my iPad, the only thing on our seats were the standard piss-poor headphones.
Mid-galley mainly for drinks and used meal trays. Also our ISM Kara preparing for the flight.
PTV welcome screen
As the boarding process continued, I did notice Kara and some of the ground staff approach an Aussie couple sitting in 23FG. I could only guess they got bumped from their J seats or their upgrade denied and got relegated to PE. I did also watch FAs go to various passengers and hand out free bottles of water as well as nicer headphones to whom I assume were Airports Gold/Elite members. Afterwards, FAs went to each passenger in PE, welcome themselves, and then showed us how to take out our TV monitors to view the flight safety video.
At 08:20 local time, Kara welcomed everyone on board and informed us we would be on our way shortly. She did mention that we were flying the newest 772 to have been refurbished with new features such as the SkyCouch. Ten minutes later, Captain Neil Jones welcomed us on board this refurbished Air New Zealand 777-200ER. He announced that they had just closed the doors to the aircraft and that we would soon be on our way to sunny Melbourne. Today’s flight would be a quick 4hrs and would make some considerable time from the slight delay going across the Tasman Sea as we would pick up favorable winds. With the welcome greetings from the Captain Jones and ISM Kara, she fired up today’s flight safety video. I wonder which one they will show for this flight?
I always like to mention what the FAs do during the safety video. On an old EK flight, I saw the FAs run around the cabin frantically like headless chickens. On SQ, the FAs take their seat and look glamorous. On this flight, the FAs position themselves at the front of each cabin and by the exits, similar to CO and now UA.
Once Bear had finished with the flight safety video, we started our pushback and made our way towards Runway 05R. All the FAs helped all J and PE passengers store their monitors for takeoff. Y passengers had the luxury to watch or listen to any programs from gate-to-gate.
We bid adieu to New Zealand at 08:48 as I watched the New Zealand landscape get smaller and smaller. At around 09:00 Kara she gave us another welcome. She mentioned we would be served breakfast on this flight. She did mention again that we are flying on a newly refurbished 772ER fitted out with new PE seats and their award-winning SkyCouch.
Some of the FAs working with Kara were Terri, Ray, Marco, Mark Jennifer. Terri, Mark, and Jennifer would mainly serve the PE cabin while Ray and Mark worked the J cabin. Once the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign, I watched the FAs do their thing and admire their uniforms. The female uniforms work nicely for them. For the men, I did not like their vest, mainly the pictorial display on the back. If they had embellished the pockets and kept the vest inline with the overall uniform, it would look a whole lot better, especially on the beefier guys. I did notice we had a Chinese speaker on board this flight, I guess to cater Chinese passengers connecting from PEK or PVG on their way to MEL. Upon surveying my fellow passengers, my parents and I would be the only Asian passengers on board.
I decide to take out my monitor and peruse their IFE options.
You could watch all recent NZ flight safety videos up to the Betty White one at a retirement community. I believe this one called “Bare Essentials” started their campaign for interesting flight safety videos such as the All Blacks, Betty White, Richard Simmons, The Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models, and most recently, their surfing one. Of course I watched them all!
As I enjoyed watching the different safety videos, Jennifer started the breakfast service working from the rear forward. Rather than start with a first round of drinks before breakfast, they did it all on the first go. For the flight, they offered either a hot English brekkie or a cold cereal. Never really having had a proper English brekkie in a long time, my parents and I decided to go for that. I enjoyed some hot tea plain with my brekkie. All the hot cups featured various wildlife indigenous to New Zealand.
Overall the brekkie was decent. I did not like the beans because it lacked any seasoning. The sausage and potatoes did taste better and the fruit was super sweet. When Jennifer first started doing the meal service, she started from rear forward and then parked the food cart in the mid-galley where they had empty bins. When it was time to pick up trays, rather than wheeling the carts back down the aisle, they picked them up by hand and started to stack them in the galley where one of attendants filled in the empty carts. That was an approach I had not seen before.
With the meal over and trays picked up, I tried to walk around the cabin, especially down into Y. This would be my first time checking out a Y cabin with 3-4-3 on any 777 variant. I would definitely not enjoy it down there, and a couple of months later I definitely did not enjoy flying in such a layout. Sorry I didn’t get any pictures from the Y cabin as the aisles remained clogged throughout the flight. However I did get to visit the lav reserved for the PE cabin.
What’s this man doing, hanging on to the side of the plane?
I returned to my seat and continued to play around with the monitor. I had read that during flight, you can request and even purchase additional drinks and snacks right from the comforts of your seat without having to get up and walk or even use the FA call button. I checked out to see what was on offer and test out the system.
Hmmm … I can order a water with lemon AND ice?
Confirmation of my order … water with lemon
On hindsight, I should have ordered an additional snack such as the meat pie with a coke, but instead I needed some water. After about 3min, one of the FAs serving the Y cabin brought my glass of water to me and thanked her for it.
After receiving my water, I decided to rest up anticipating a long day enjoying Melbourne, especially catching up with a cousin I had not seen in years.We would not be staying with her, but rather live it up in the CBD just off Burke Street. They did do a water service just after I had ordered my water, but they did not serve it with ice nor lemon.
The inner storage of the monitors
A clear day near MEL
A safety message regarding storage of the monitors and tray tables.
Soon, we would be landing at MEL. FAs started their preparation for arrival. Kara and Rob tidied up the mid-cabin galley while Jennifer and Marco were collecting rubbish in the cabin. I just sat back and admired the scenery below.
Terri and another FA walked to the front of the PE cabin and started to hand out a type of boiled sweet. I accidentally got two of them because they stuck together.
The organized galley ready for arrival.
Marco did one final message and asked for passengers to return to their originally assigned seats. Also, he asked if anyone noticed a bag containing kids gifts in the gate area as a passenger seems to have misplaced it. I hope the passenger got them!
Now over Victorian land.
We landed on Runway 34 at MEL ahead of schedule to a beautiful winter day. OK, it was a bit warm for my taste, but still a beautiful, sunny day! We had a short taxi to Gate 20, part of a new extension of gates that can handle the A380. It was the farthest gate at the terminal. Kara welcomed us to Melbourne and thanked us for joining them and hoped we enjoy our stay in Melbourne or wherever else. Now, it was time to get a good walk down to Immigration, Baggage Claim, and Customs.
First time seeing 3U
EK A380 getting ready to board back to DXB
Once we headed downstairs towards Australian Immigration, there were signs stating passengers with passports from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA, and maybe Canada, had the chance to use SmartGate to enter Australia. I did not remember this at SYD last year, but then I had Fast Track to easily bypass the need for SmartGate. This would now be the second time to use this after using it to exit New Zealand. The process was simple and even my dad knew what to do. They had plenty of kiosks early on in the prior to the main area. It seemed advisable to use these rather than to get stuck behind the queue. Also I noticed many fellow Americans not paying attention and queueing up at the regular channels rather than utilize SmartGate. As much as I love to get a stamp in my passport to welcome me to a foreign country, I remember the agent last year in SYD say they no longer stamp passports.
Once through, it was a quick venture to retrieve our bags. Apparently they seemed to have one belt operational for two flights while they had other luggage belts available. Our bag appeared towards the end since many bags seemed to have priority tags interdispersed with bags coming from KUL on MH. Once through, it was time to deal with Australian customs. If you read my SYD report, you remember I had an unfortunate experience the very first time I visited the country just after they hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics. One of the things they questioned me on was why was I did not declare the acetaminophen and that I had to declare all medications. They had a lane for those declaring drugs and I told my parents we should join that queue because it was for their medication. It took about 4min to wait in that queue with only us waiting. An agent came by and questioned whether we were in the wrong line. I asked her if we had to declare any personal medications for prevention we were bringing and she reassured us that we would be ok. Also we would be bringing in cookies and chocolates from New Zealand and she said who doesn’t love cookies and chocolates. Overall, this experience was a whole lot better than my very first experience.
Air New Zealand
Auckland - AKL
Melbourne - MEL
I truly enjoyed my very first flight with NZ. The crew were much cheerier than any recent UA flight that the short flight seemed like a waste. But then again, the Kiwis are such friendly folks. Now I hope to one day enjoy them on a much longer flight once they start IAH-AKL!
2 LIKESLIKE TO THANK THE AUTHORTHANKS ! FLIGHT-REPORT LIKED
Flight-Report is a free website hosting more than 500 000 pictures and 17 000 reviews, without ads, this website can't exist. We understand that ads can be annoying, this is why we only display a maximum of 2 non-invasive ads per page.
To continue using Flight-Report, we invite you to add Flight-Report to your blocker's "white list".