This is part 11 in a series about my November 2016 trip to New Zealand, booked off a $215 mistake fare.
Air New Zealand Flt. 644
A320, Single-Cabin Economy
Sch. Dep. 2:30pm Sch. Arr. 4:20pm
Act. Dep. 2:50pm Act. Dep. 4:43pm
The Queenstown airport is pretty small. I really could have taken an extra hour exploring Queenstown, as it took me 20 minutes to fill up the rental car tank, drop the car at Ace, and walk across the street to the terminal (no bus required at Ace’s Queenstown location as opposed to Christchurch). I did obtain my post-election survival kit at the gas station:
Check-in and bag drop was easy, with no waits at the Air New Zealand kiosks. The airport only has nine gates, and no jetways. The only international traffic is to Australia, on Jetstar, Qantas, Air New Zealand, and Virgin Australia. Otherwise, it’s all domestic. It’s a very new terminal, with stunning scenery. There are no services beyond the security for domestic jet flights, including my flight up to Auckland. There were some restaurant-areas before though, one more of a café/bakery, and one a bar with heartier food. I had a pretty pricey fish and chips and a flat white, and called home to commiserate some more about the election. My flight was delayed by 10 minutes, but the board was already showing “Go to Gate”, so at around 1:40, I went through security and found myself a seat and did some photo/video editing. (Note, liquids are allowed in carry-ons for domestic flights.) The delay then got pushed another 10 minutes to 2:50, and it seemed every flight was being delayed by at least 15 minutes due to delayed arrivals of inbound aircraft, including the Wellington flight at the adjoining gate.
The boarding area was a little chaotic since the delayed Wellington and Auckland flights were leaving from the same door five minutes apart. Wellington went first, and then ours boarded in two groups: elites and the rest of the plane. Once outside, we boarded the A320 from both the rear and front steps. For some reason I selected the exit row aisle seat, which is a shame given how beautiful the views are. The seat next to me was supposed to be empty, but a tall guy moved into it to sit next to his girlfriend. There was an entire empty row, though. Once the doors closed, I made the mistake of asking a Flight Attendant if I could switch to the window seat in the exit row ahead of me, which was empty. She said of course, but asked me to wait until after takeoff once the seat belt sign went off. Of course, a Chinese tourist took the seat before we even reached cruising altitude, with the seatbelt sign on. (As blogs like One Mile at a Time make clear, the way to get your way is by doing whatever you want and assuming rules don’t apply to you.) Fortunately, 15 minutes later, he went back to his seat with his family (unfortunately once we had passed most of the pretty stuff).
The plane was otherwise the same as the A320D I had flown from Auckland to Wellington. The flight was a bit longer, but still not bad at under two hours. The service was the same as well – coffee/tea/water and cookie or rice crackers. I fell asleep after service and woke up on the descent.
We only landed about 25 minutes late, and my baggage didn’t take very long. But the Auckland airport was a nightmare traffic-wise. The Skybus to the city runs every 20 minutes (18 NZD), but traffic at the airport was at a standstill apparently due to roadwork, meaning I could see several buses approaching the terminal but it took nearly an hour for one to pull up (which quickly filled up), with another one shortly behind it. The second bus waited a while, and then we sat in a ton of traffic just to get out of the airport. We first started approaching the city another hour later, and I didn’t get to my hotel until well over 2 hours after landing – a trip that should take under 40 minutes. The Skybus stops once it reaches the CBD, and then you can wait for a smaller shuttle bus to actual hotels, but since it was a nice day and a 10 minute walk, I walked to the Crowne Plaza.