Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Zealand 2012 - Part 10: Overnight in Sydney

Part 1:  Asiana Airlines First Class – Los Angeles to Seoul
Part 2:  Asiana Airlines Business Class – Seoul to Sydney
Part 3:  Air New Zealand Economy Class – Sydney to Auckland to Christchurch
Part 4:  Winetasting in Waipara
Part 5:  Exploring Christchurch
Part 6:  Air New Zealand Economy Class – Christchurch to Queenstown
Part 7:  Winetasting in Otago
Part 8:  Exploring Queenstown
Part 9:  Hilton Queenstown
Part 10:  Overnight in Sydney
Part 11:  Singapore AirlinesFirst Class – Sydney to Singapore
Part 12:  Singapore Airlines First Class – Singapore to San Francisco


I was able to take the bus from the Hilton to the airport with a quick connection.  The Queenstown doesn’t have much space beyond security so I waited in the pre-security Koru Lounge which was on an upper level.  The lounge provided great views of the tarmac and runway for plane spotting.  There was also a small spread of drinks, soup, and cheeses available to munch on. 


Eventually the A320 which would take me to Sydney arrived and I headed down to the security checkpoint.  The same liquid restrictions we have in the US as the same for flights into Australia so I had to check my bag and will again for the remainder of my journey.


After security I went through the immigration checkpoint and then to the waiting area to board.  I really did enjoy walking out to the plane and boarding up the stairs as I could check out the other aircraft including a Jet Star A320 and Qantas 737. 


Boarding was quick and I was luck in that the two seats next to me were empty.  I liked the black seats on the plane which I believe match the new interiors on Air New Zealand’s 777-300ER.  Each seat had their own on-demand touchscreen.  The tray tables are up higher than on most seats and actually fold out in half to save space and knee room. 


I actually had to purchase this flight as no award space was available.  I used Expedia to book the flight rather than Air New Zealand’s website as it wouldn’t let me book the ticket.  Somehow through the fare class I purchased or because of my Star Gold status my ticket was classified as “the works” meaning I was able to watch any movies I wanted, get a meal, and drink for free.  The options included a baked chicken dish or a beef curry.  I opted for the chicken and it was very good.  The meat wasn’t try, veggies were decent, and the potatoes creamy.  I had a glass, or two, or pinot noir with lunch.  The roll was warm and soft and the triple chocolate ice cream was very good.  


Unfortunately the IFE went out in my section of the plane and I couldn’t watch anything, not even the airshow to track how far we’ve traveled.  While the IFE was working I was able to poke around and really liked the interface.  One of the best features is the ability to order food or drink right from your seat.  This IFE system is the same on their long haul product and I can imagine it being very useful 6 hours into a 13 hour flight across the Pacific.  The one downside with these touchscreens is that people tend to believe they are pressure sensitive when they are not.  I had to suffer with a guy behind me frustratingly poking at the screen for minutes while it wasn’t working.  All it requires is a slight touch from your finger to sense which button is to be pressed. 

Our approach into Sydney was over Botany Bay (always reminds me of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).  We had to wait for a few planes to take off before pulling to our gate, but I did get a great shot of a Virgin Australia ATR-72 taking off with a Thai Airways 747-400 in the background. 


Immigration and customs was the quietest I had ever seen and I was able to walk directly to an agent and pass through to wait for my suitcase.  My bag was one of the first to arrive and I was shortly out the door heading to the hotel bus shuttle stop.  There was a huge crowd there waiting already and I soon learned that an Air Pacific flight to Tahiti and Los Angeles was cancelled and they were bussing everyone to hotels for their overnight stay.  I headed out to the taxi stand instead so I could get to my hotel. 

A short taxi ride later and I arrived at the Ibis Sydney Airport hotel.  The lobby was crowded with people from the cancelled flight but I was able to check in quickly and head up to me room.  Let’s just say that the hotel easily fits the stereotype of an airport hotel.  The hallways are dingy and old, the rooms are small with odd furniture, and everything just feels sticky.  The bathroom almost felt like it belonged on a cruise ship rather than a hotel room. 


The one upside to the location is plane spotting.  The takeoff path for one of the cross runways goes right over the hotel and I was able to watch Jet Star, Qantas, and Virgin Australia planes take off from my window.  The larger heavies (747s and A380s) used a different runway which I could also see, just not up close. 

I ate dinner at the hotel, spinach ravioli in a creamy tomato sauce along with a glass of sauvignon blanc and Semillon blend. 


I relaxed in the hotel room watching Goldeneye and the Bourne Identity before hitting the sack to get some sleep prior to the 6:35am airport shuttle. 

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