The building on the left of this photo is St Dunstan-in-the-West, where my old choir, Chantage, rehearses. On the right, though, is the fabled location of Sweeney Todd's barber shop. (It's now a Copy Kwik, but there is a pasty shop down the street...)
Whenever I walk past, I always end up humming the Ballad of Sweeney Todd, from the eponymous Sondheim musical. (The demon barber of Fleet. Street.)
One of the things (as opposed to people) I miss most from the UK is my tiny smart car, Heiligen Elisabeth von Thüringen und Nähmaschinen. Living where I do in central Wellington, a ten minute walk into the centre of town and a ten dollar taxi ride home from the supermarket, I really don't need a car, but when I lived at Land's End (where this picture was taken) and in the countryside outside Bristol, it was pretty much a necessity.
I adored that car. She was the perfect size -- comfortable, agile, with a good little 999cc engine that was fabulous for everything apart from going 70mph up steep hills on the A30, with a good speaker system and, obviously, fantastic parkability. (That's a word.)
She's now with my dear friends Jag and Alex for the time until she goes back to smart at the end of February, once the lease is up. Oh, tiny car.
So, you want to come to New Zealand. Congratulations and hurrah! I'm sure you're going to love it here. But first, you have to get here, right? And you want to spend your money on experiences here rather than in the air. And that Hobbit plane isn't flying any more...
So, that means economy class! I've put together what is a current list of options for flying from the UK to NZ as cheaply as possible. Your mileage may vary if you're trying to get here from somewhere else. This list is current as of December 2010, and I will update it as I learn more, but I'd be grateful for any comments or feedback that you have. I'm sure I've managed to miss something.
I've tried to note down useful things like aircraft, seat layout (2-4-2, 2-5-2, 3-3-3, 3-4-3 and so on), mileage earning opportunities on UK-based airlines, and so on. I've generally avoided mentioning in-flight entertainment, partly because I rarely use it and partly because it varies significantly by aircraft and route. I'd be happy to make updates with edits if you have definitive information.
One of your best bets for checking low prices is Kayak, as is Expedia. Both are booking aggregators, but Expedia can also negotiate its own speical fares. Bear in mind that many airlines and combinations may not show up on the aggregators. Checking with your local Chinese-market travel agent for flights via Hong Kong, Beijing or Shanghai may also be fruitful.
New! Air Asia X has just started flying from Kuala Lumpur's Low Cost Carrier Terminal to Christchurch. If you are looking for something particularly cheap and/or are very short, you could well consider this option. Bear in mind that they squeeze an extra economy class seat into every 3-3-3 row on their Airbuses:So how do I get there?
I have seen one-way fares around the NZD 300-600 mark (GBP 150-300). Bear in mind that, from London, you are going from Stansted (or Paris-Orly, which may be cheaper with UK Air Passenger Duty). So there's always the option of buying an extra seat, which would be especially good value if you're travelling in a pair. I recommend reading through some AirAsia X trip reports to see whether this is an experience you fancy. Also, consider their lie-flat Premium seats, which don't seem to be much more expensive than other airlines' economy.
There are dozens of flight and stopover options from London to NZ. I've split them into two sets of stopover options for easier reference, one eastbound via Asia and one westbound via the Americas.
This eastbound map is split up into South East Asia, North East Asia and Dubai plus Brunei or Australia.
South East Asia
Your best options here revolve around a single connection through a South East Asian hub -- Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore.
Bangkok is the hub for Thai Airlines. Pluses include a single stop, reasonably priced airfares and better than average economy legroom (34"-36"). Minuses include Suvarnabhumi Airport (far from town, few stopover hotel options) and the potential for political strife in Thailand, and below-average in-flight entertainment. Mileage earning on Star Alliance. Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 LHR-BKK in 3-4-3 layout, Boeing 777 BKK-AKL in 3-3-3 layout. Here's the 777:
Bangkok is also one of the potential stopover points for British Airways/Qantas flights via Australia, but this adds an extra stop and is covered under the Dubai plus Australia section below.
Kuala Lumpur is the hub for Malaysia Airlines and, at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal, AirAsia X.
Malaysia Airlines pluses include a single stop, reasonably priced airfares, better than average legroom (34"), and, in the main (not-LCC) terminal, a lounge where economy passengers can buy their way in (Plaza Premium Lounge, approx USD20/GBP15, cards accepted) for a shower, a change of clothes, and a bite to eat. Minuses include the fact that KUL airport is a long way from the centre of KL, below-average in-flight entertainment and a 2-5-2 layout on the 777 -- getting stuck in the middle seat of five is horrible. Malaysia Airlines allows mileage earning on Virgin. Aircaft: 747-400 LHR-KUL in 3-4-3 layout, Boeing 777-200 KUL-AKL in 2-5-2 layout. Here's their 777:
AirAsia X is the new low-cost entrant to this route, flying from Stansted or Paris-Orly to Christchurch via the Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal. Fares can be shockingly low -- enough to buy two seats on another airline. For that price? I'd take two seats and spread out. Pluses include single stop and price. Minuses include legroom, service, airports/terminals at STN and KUL, and anything inflight whatsoever. Consider their Premium product as well, which is a lie-flat bed for not much more than economy on other airlines. Aircraft: unconfirmed, but likely A340 from STN or ORY to KUL and A330 from KUL to CHC. Layout is a squeezed 3-3-3 -- see the section on AirAsia X at the top of this post.
Singapore is the hub for, surprisingly enough, Singapore Airlines. Pluses include a single stop, the world-leading Changi Airport and its transfer hotel, tours of Singapore if you have enough layover time, and above-average in-flight entertainment. Minuses include more expensive airfares and slightly less legroom (32"). Mileage earning on Star Alliance and Virgin. Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 (3-4-3) or A380 (3-4-3 downstairs, 2-4-2 upstairs) LHR-SIN and Boeing 777 SIN-AKL in a 3-3-3 layout. Here's the 777:
North East Asia
There are many options through North East Asia, with the most numerous (and cheap) being through Hong Kong. I also think that some of the more interesting stopover options are in this area. From roughly south to north, they are:
Hong Kong is the stopover point for Air New Zealand and Cathay Pacific.Dubai and Brunei or Australia
Air New Zealand has some of the best service in the industry and is uniquely Kiwi. Pluses include single stop, extra Kiwi points and good wine. Minuses include only average legroom. Mileage can be earned on Star Alliance and Virgin. Aircraft are Boeing 777-200ER with a 3-3-3 layout:
Cathay Pacific is average. Pluses include single stop and buy-to-enter lounges in Hong Kong. The minus is average legroom (32"). Mileage earning on Oneworld. Aircraft: 747-400 LHR-HKG (three or more flights a day) in 3-4-3 layout, A340-300 HKG-AKL in 2-4-2 layout. Here's the 747:
Taipei is the stopover point for China Airlines -- not to be confused with Air China, the national airline of the PRC. Note that China Airlines often does not come up in aggregator searches. I know very little about the experience, but seat pitch looks to be average (32"). No UK-based mileage partners. I have no specific information on aircraft for the routes, but imagine 747-400 from LHR-TPE in 3-4-3 layout and A330 from TPE-AKL in 2-4-2 layout. Here's the 747:
Shanghai Pudong (PVG), not Hongqiao (SHA) is a stopover point for the Virgin Atlantic-Air New Zealand codeshare agreement. Pluses include a change of pace and scenery between the two carriers and the opportunity to spend some time in Shanghai, which has a maglev. Minuses include only average seat pitch on both airlines and the need to faff around getting Chinese visas. Mileage on Virgin Atlantic. Aircraft variable, but likely to be A340 or 747-400 on Virgin and 777 on Air New Zealand. Book through Air New Zealand -- these flights do not show up on aggregators. In terms of layout, A340s are in 2-4-2, 747s in 3-4-3 and 777s in 3-3-3. Here's Virgin's A340, and the Air New Zealand cabins can be found elsewhere on this page:
Tokyo Narita (NRT), not Haneda (HND) is another stopover point for the Virgin Atlantic-Air New Zealand codeshare agreement. Pluses include a change of pace and scenery between the two carriers and the opportunity to spend some time in Tokyo. Minuses include only average seat pitch on both airlines. Mileage on Virgin Atlantic. Aircraft variable, but likely to be A340 or 747-400 on Virgin and 777 on Air New Zealand. Book through Air New Zealand -- these flights do not show up on aggregators. In terms of layout, A340s are in 2-4-2, 747s in 3-4-3 and 777s in 3-3-3.
Seoul is the hub for Korean Air. Pluses include above average seat pitch (33"-35") and the opportunity to spend some time in Seoul. Minuses include a mandatory overnight in Seoul from AKL-LHR, potential Korean peninsula geopolitical instability, and some 777s in a 2-5-2 seating configuration. Mileage on no UK based airline. Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 LHR-ICN in 4-3-4 layout, Boeing 777-200/200ER ICN-AKL in either 2-5-2 or 3-3-3 layout. These flights often do not show up on aggregators, so check direct with Korean Air. Here's Korean's 777:
Beijing is another stopover point for the Virgin Atlantic-Air New Zealand codeshare agreement. Pluses include a change of pace and scenery between the two carriers and the opportunity to spend some time in Beijing, which is one of my favourite cities ever. Minuses include only average seat pitch on both airlines and the need to faff around getting Chinese visas. Mileage on Virgin Atlantic. Aircraft variable, but likely to be A340 or 747-400 on Virgin and 777 on Air New Zealand. Book through Air New Zealand -- these flights do not show up on aggregators. In terms of layout, A340s are in 2-4-2, 747s in 3-4-3 and 777s in 3-3-3.
Dubai plus Brunei is the easiest to explain: this is with Royal Brunei -- shockingly enough, the national airline of Brunei Darussalam. Pluses include often cheap airfares and above-average entertainment options, plus slightly above average seat pitch (33"). Minuses include, two stops (including an oddly timed one) and the fact that Royal Brunei is a dry airline, so doesn't serve booze...although you can take your own. No mileage earning on any UK airline (Royal Brunei's own only). Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER in 3-3-3 layout, leased from Singapore Airlines. See the Singapore section for a cabin view.So, that's the Eastbound set of options.
Dubai plus Australia involves Emirates and connections in Australia. You have choices of plane and connection in Oz:EK406 dep Dubai 1010 arr AKL 1345+1 on 777-300ER via MelbourneHere's the 777:
EK412 dep Dubai 1015 arr AKL 1400+1 on A380 via Sydney
EK434 dep Dubai 1035 arr AKL 1435+1 on 777-300ER via Brisbane
And the A380:
The 777-300ER has more pitch (34") but narrower seats (17") in 3-4-3 layout, while the A380 has less pitch (32") but wider seats (18") in 3-4-3. Up to you which you prefer -- but note that the 777 aisles are also noticeably narrower, meaning bumping into aisle seat passengers is frequently reported. Pluses: often cheap, and flies to several UK airports, plus two in NZ. Minuses: two stops so longer overall flight time, Dubai is overcrowded, in-flight service has been declining recently according to online forums. Mileage: on Emirates' own Skywards only. Flies to Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), Birmingham (BHX), Glasgow (GLA), Manchester (MAN), Newcastle (NCL), although connection flight numbers may differ. Emirates also flies EK418 to Christchurch (CHC) via Dubai (DXB), Bangkok (BKK) and Sydney (SYD), but that's an extra stop again.
Singapore plus Australia means Qantas, which is one of the least appetising options out there unless you're an avowed fan of things Australian. Qantas in theory flies the A380 (but until they're all fixed it'll be 747-400s) from London to Sydney via Singapore, with connecting 737-800 flights to Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Dunedin. So, it's perhaps a good option if you'd rather fly direct to one of those cities, but Qantas has a reputation for tight seating (31") on long-haul. And then you have to do four hours of short-haul on a 737 in 3-3 layout. Pluses: connecting flights to several NZ cities. Minuses: seat pitch (31"), two stops. Mileage on BA. Aircraft as discussed. Seat layout is 3-4-3 on both the A380 and 747.
Now, for westbound via the Americas. The most common way to do this is via LA, but there are lots of other interesting options, although they will likely require a bit of effort in terms of ticketing, booking and finding cheap fares.
This westbound map is split up into one stop via North America, two stops via North America and the Pacific and one stop via South America.
one stop via North America has the singular disadvantage of having to go through the US TSA security process, which is deeply unpleasant for everyone, but particularly anybody who isn't a US citizen. However, there are four main options for one-stop flights here:
Los Angeles is the most trafficked route in the Americas to NZ, and has two options: Air New Zealand and Qantas (direct to Auckland from LAX, not via Sydney). Connections to London on Air New Zealand tickets can be all the way on Air New Zealand, or on United or Virgin Atlantic, so pick carefully. Connections on Qantas could be on British Airways.
Of these, I will happily go for Air New Zealand's comfortable old 747-400s, in 3-4-3 with 34" seat pitch and Kiwi service, compared to Qantas/BA's 31" and 32" pitch. Here's what it looks like:
I avoid United and other airlines from the USA wherever possible: I think the service isn't up to international standards. LAX is, however, a horrible airport to transit, even more so than many other airports -- you are stuck in a single transit holding pen with chairs for two hours if flying straight through on NZ1 or NZ2. You'll probably need to visit Air New Zealand's site to book the Virgin connection. Beware the start of the new Air New Zealand 777-300ER service via LAX, though -- they pack an Emirates-style 3-4-3 narrow seat into those planes, which is deeply uncool...although the seats themselves look good.
San Francisco involves a 747 (3-4-3 layout) or 777 (in 3-3-3) flight on Air New Zealand to SFO, and then a connection on either United or Virgin Atlantic onwards to Heathrow. (Obviously, I'd pick Virgin.) You'll probably need to visit Air New Zealand's site to book these options.
Vancouver is a 777 (3-3-3 layout) or 747 (3-4-3) to YVR, and then Air Canada onwards. I greatly dislike Air Canada, ever since they got me stuck in Toronto for two days with a mechanical problem and were deeply unhelpful. I also find their economy class well below the standard of other airlines. But you may want to break your journey in Vancouver, in which case, you're welcome to Air Canada!
Continental United get their new 787 aircraft from Boeing, will have a connection in IAH. Of all the US airlines, I dislike Continental the least (but who knows what new United may be after the merger...I'm hoping not to have to find out personally). Of course, the 787 is three years late already, so who knows when this route will start.
Two stops via North America and the Pacific
There are two main options here:
North America-Hawaii-Auckland: one stop somewhere in North America, another in Hawaii, and then on to New Zealand with Air New Zealand. Flights to Honolulu go from Newark, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, San Franciso, Seattle, and Vancouver. There are lots of options here, so I won't name them, but all involve Air New Zealand from Honolulu to Auckland. This would be a great option if you wanted to do a fly-drive to break your journey in the USA.one stop via South America
LA-Fiji-Auckland: I actually did this in November 2010, and I found it reasonable. I burnt BA miles (and flew via San Francisco, then drove to LA) and flew economy on Air Pacific via Nadi. The aircraft (747-400 and 737-800) were tired, but the 747 had economy class upstairs, which is a bonus. If you call up the Fiji booking hotline (on Skype, say...) they will give you a free break-of-journey in Fiji. The plane was packed, and the arrivals process in Fiji was convoluted and long, but the price was absolutely excellent.
Bear in mind that Air Pacific could also be a cheap business class option, with reclining chairs at a significantly lower fare than other airlines' business class offerings. Of course, there are ethical and practical dilemmas about travelling to Fiji under the current regime, so do your homework and have good travel insurance. You cold also fly LA-Honolulu-Fiji-Auckland if you wanted, or to any of the other Pacific island destinations served from both Honolulu and Auckland.
The last options on the list are flying over the Atlantic via Buenos Aires or via Santiago and then a shorter hop across the Pacific.
Buenos Aires has direct flights to London on British Airways, or to Madrid, Rome, Frankfurt and Barcelona on a variety of airlines, and then direct flights to Auckland on Aerolineas Argentinas' A340:So what do I recommend?
You'll have to do some fare sleuthing, but this is potentially an attractive option -- especially for those connecting from a non-London airport, it's often just as easy to go via Madrid's gorgeous new terminal.
Santiago involves a second connection in Madrid, Paris or Frankfurt, at least until the 787 arrives, and then a direct flight to Auckland on LAN's A340:
It's another pretty attractive option that requires some research.
This is the more subjective part of the exercise, and will vary depending on who you are, whether you're American, how many of you are travelling, how tall or wide you are (and various other things, of course!)
For twos: there's a real advantage to a 2-4-2 or 2-5-2 cabin layout if you're travelling in a pair and can get the window and aisle pair. So, any of the airlines with those layouts are a real plus. Keep an eye out for Air New Zealand's new Skycouch, where three economy seats can be turned into one big sofa, which arrives in 2011.
For more-than-twos: if you're three people travelling together, then obviously aim for a 3-4-3 seating plan, and also consider the Skycouch. If you're four, then aim for a 2-4-2 or 3-4-3.
For tall people: definitely aim for a 34" pitch, or gamble on managing to snag an exit row seat.
For wide people: avoid Emirates' 777s and the new Air New Zealand 777-300ERs like the plague. Consider booking two seats, or flying an airline with premium economy and upgrading.
Or...just go back to the 1960s, when everything was roomier.
At the end of the day?
Economy is, by and large, economy: for me, something to be uncomfortably endured as unconsciously as possible for the reward of cheap tickets to a destination I want to visit. I don't tend to get into in-flight entertainment (I snooze or read or watch something on my iPad), so that's not really a determining factor for me. If price were no obstacle, I'd likely fly Air New Zealand, because I like their service, aircraft layout, and stopover choice. But it's economy, so price is absolutely the deciding factor.
Here are some suggestions for keeping sane:
Hints and tips
I hope you've found this page useful, interesting, or at least not horribly tedious. I am, however, absolutely certain that there are errors and omissions here. If you have suggestions for improving it, corrections or additions, please do feel free to drop me a comment at the bottom of the blog post. I'd appreciate it. Do consider subscribing to the blog in your RSS reader or via email -- the usual links are on the main page at 44john.com.
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Latest update: 7 December 2010 -- thanks to the good people of Flyertalk for additions!
So, my folks have in fact booked to come see me in NZ in January-February -- hurrah! This post is a bit of advice on how to maximise their flight in Air New Zealand's Business Premier from London to LAX (where they're then staying overnight) and then from LAX to Auckland. I owe much of this knowledge to the excellent people on the FlyerTalk message boards. All pictures are my own, though some of them are from the Hong Kong legs.
I hope it's also useful to anybody else considering a business class trip to NZ, flying in Business Premier, or just interested in the experience. if you find it useful or even just enjoy reading, please do leave feedback in the comments section at the bottom of the post.
Choose your route
Now, you've already done this, but for others considering it, you have two options: eastbound via Hong Kong, or westbound via LA. (You can also connect with Virgin Atlantic in Shanghai, Tokyo or San Francisco, but this tends to be slightly more expensive.) For people with brown skin, or those who think the US security theatre rigmarole is de trop, I'd choose Hong Kong. The lounge in LA is significantly better, and the planes flying via LAX are much better, but the horrible experience for anyone of flying into or out of a US airport is a big drawback.
If you are transiting LAX on NZ001 or NZ002, you have two options for the couple of hours of layover: (a) sit airside in a special "Sterile Environment" transit area, which has some chairs (that's it), or (b) clear US immigration (you may need a pre-cleared ESTA, so check with Air New Zealand for current regulations before you book, and re-check a week before you fly in case things have changed), come back through security, and go into the NZ Koru Lounge in LAX. (This is also the lounge that Virgin Atlantic uses in LAX, and it's very nice, with lots of NZ wine and decent food choices, plus showers and free wifi.) NZ explains it briefly on their website.
Update, 7 Dec 10: I'm told by the good people on Flyertalk that the sterile space is divided into two, with tea, coffee, snacks and Internet -- and wine in the Business Premier area. This blog post may give you an idea of what it looks like.
Since you guys will be spending 26 hours in LA, you'll need the usual ESTA nonsense. Joy. On the plus side, you'll enjoy the second flight more.
(For reference, in Hong Kong you have the choice of the Thai or United lounges. NZ sends you to the United one, but the balance of opinion (including my own!) is that the Thai one is much nicer, and also has dim sum. No security nonsense required.)
There's not a huge amount of point (as it were) in joining NZ's Airpoints programme from the UK. Rather, I'd funnel the miles to Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club. (You can earn on any of the Star Alliance or NZ's Cooperation Partners.)
Choose your seats
Now, you're flying on Air New Zealand's 747-400s from London to Auckland via LA. (This seat choice advice is therefore pretty useless for anyone travelling on the 777s, both the old and new variants. On those? Get a window seat in the middle of the front cabin and smile.)
As ever, take a look at the ever-popular SeatGuru for the layout of the cabin. (I don't necessarily agree with their comments about various seats, by the way.) A more accurate version is the Air New Zealand seat map.
My recommendation on the 747 is, without a shadow of a doubt, 1A or 1K. That's the very front of the plane, in the curved nose section, which is first class on those airlines that still have first class. It's quiet, it's small (14 seats) and it's lovely. I even recommend it for single travellers, because I didn't feel like the person sitting opposite was intruding in my space in any way. My seating preferences then go from there to the back of that front cabin.
Business Premier seats are also in:
Pack three hold bags
You have a three-bag limit, max 23kg each bag. So use it! I really do recommend multiple smaller bags rather than one big one in general, but specifically because you are transiting LA and collecting baggage, and because you have to load your bags onto the Biosecurity X-ray scanner on arrival, then around NZ. NZ reserve the right to charge overweight allowances for bags between 23kg and 32kg (the latter is the maximum baggage handler weight).
I would also recommend a cabin baggage wheelie for getting your stuff through the airport, in which you put your actual hand luggage. There's no problem taking it onboard in Business Premier, and I found it useful to be able to keep it in the overhead with a change of clothes and PJs for the flight in, and just have my laptop bag down at the seat.
NZ uses Terminal 1, which is the old BA Europe terminal...but it doesn't suck too badly any more! I was pleasantly surprised. NZ's checkin is in Zones D and E, about halfway down the terminal for when the taxi drops you off.
Make sure you use the priority checkin -- and the Fast Track security queue, which the checkin person may or may not tell you about. Don't be surprised if Fast Track is slower than the normal queue.
Do avoid the Star Alliance branded lounge and go straight for the BMI Great British Lounge -- it is far, far nicer and as a business class passenger you are entitled to use it. It's all the way to the left of the terminal as you walk thorugh security, through a rather industrial set of escalators and corridors. It's often marked BMI International Lounge. Wifi access is available via the lounge dragons at the door. Be aware that there are no boarding announcements in the lounge, so check the screens and keep an eye on the time.
There's even an Aga in the lounge...and no, I have no idea why! I suggest claiming a lounger and ottoman pair by the windows all the way at the end of the lounge. There are also showers if you're feeling particularly smelly.
Keep an eye on the time, and bear in mind that the BMI lounge is a nice five to ten minute walk from the gate. You can board at any time in the boarding process through the priority queue.
If you want a glass (or two) of champers before takeoff, board in good time!
You'll receive a NZ washbag on each leg. I find them very useful bags! They contain the usual sort of things in a washbag, including some very good lip balm. Things like razors are available on request, and there are decent toiletries, including cleanser, lotion and gender-specific moisturiser in the washrooms.
(Note the rapidly decreasing volume of champers...)
I think the seat is excellent -- the comfiest business class seat I've ever flown in, particularly in bed mode. It's pretty much an exact copy of the Virgin seat, except less red. People complain about the width (which I had no problem with -- wider than BA's) and the angle away from the windows (which I didn't find a problem at all).
Bear in mind that if you're in rows 1 and 2 you don't have overhead bins directly above your seat. You can either board early and stake out some space in or around row 3, or board late and ask the crew to help out if there's no space left.
The crew will offer to explain how the seat works for you. Adjust your seat to whatever position you like for takeoff -- no need to put it upright! I found that I had absolutely no problem seeing out the windows, even angled away.
The reading light turns off by pushing it flat against the wall and waiting a few seconds. (It took me a while to figure out.)
The armrest will retract down into the seat if you press the silver button (on the left in the picture below). It has a little cubbyhole inside, which is a good place for wallets, passports and other things that you'd rather were underneath you while you slept.
I found it most comfortable to wear loose-fitting clothing and sleep on top of the duvet rather than underneath it. The cabin's pretty warm anyway. Mum, you might want to bring a light wrap or your slanket thing in case you get cold though. Don't worry, you'll have enough luggage space!
Top tip -- bring loose pyjamas and/or sweatshirts/sweatpants and flipflops for the plane and change out of your travelling clothes just after takeoff. That way you're comfy, you don't have buttons pressing into you when you're trying to sleep, and your clothes don't feel absolutely disgusting when you get to your destination.
NZ crews the flights to and from London with British-based crew, and the flights to and from Auckland with NZ based crew. I found that I really liked the fact that the London crews were a bit more elegant, whereas the NZ crews were a bit more jovial and chummy. I actually think that's awesome -- it's a nice way to decelerate to Kiwi pace and then to accelerate back to London pace on the return.
You'll be presented with a menu and wine list. The wine list is absolutely fabulous Usually only four or six so of the wines will be loaded, but whatever's loaded is good. Don't forget to bring me a copy, and scribble on it what you thought of the wine!
There's also an example menu on the Air New Zealand website. Whatever's on your flight, it's bound to be good. Consider the fast dining option of soup, bread and a pud if you're not too hungry or have eaten in the lounge. NZ do a range of special meals, but I'd advise going for the regular menu for you guys.
Each of the almost 12 hour flights have a preflight glass of champers, a drinks service or two, dinner, a port or digestif round, then a good eight hour sleep, then a full breakfast with more bubbles or wine if you want it.
I didn't think much of the inflight entertainment -- I found the interface slow and the screen not bright enough or a high enough resolution. Compared, of course, with my iPad or 17" MacBook Pro. The crew are happy (and the trays are big enough!) to serve dinner with a laptop or iPad in the background if you want to watch a movie and eat. That said, there are usually a few half-hour programmes on NZ wine and travel that are pretty interesting.
There is a 120v (US mode) power socket in the pocket underneath the TV remote. The crew has adaptors for UK plugs, but if you're bringing an Apple charger make sure that it has a cord going into the power brick rather than the tiny plug that fits onto the brick -- the dimensions of the pocket and socket may mean those chargers don't fit.
This will be the usual joy that is flying into a US airport. NZ uses Terminal 2 at LAX, not the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
When leaving LA, note that you have the right to opt out of the backscatter x-ray machine and be patted down instead. The patdown is intrusive, but the backscatter machines are untested and cancer specialists specifically recommend against them. Better groped than irradiated, I reckon. The NZ Koru lounge in LA is brilliant -- do plan to spend a bit of time there, so that you keep lots of time for security and then aren't disappointed by being at the airport early. Loads of smashing NZ wines and decent wifi.
Arriving into Auckland
Don't forget to have the address of the place you're going in Auckland with you to write on the customs form!
Auckland Airport has two duty free shops on arrival, so no need to purchase en route (unless you want duty-free wine in your LA hotel). NZ wine is about 5-6 NZD less in the duty free shop than it is in the stores. NZ duty free allowances are, in brief: 4.5 litres (which is six bottles) of wine, three bottles (each under 1.125 litres) of spirits, and 200 cigarettes.
The general process is:
On Biosecurity, better to over-declare on your form (i.e., say if you have some chocolate) rather than under-declare and get into trouble. Note that any outdoor gear is scrutinised, including hiking boots. Clean your hiking boots or dirty trainers thoroughly before packing them, removing all visible dirt, or they will be taken away, sprayed with a nasty virucide and put in a plastic bag for you to take care of when you arrive at your first night's stay. Avoid bringing any honey products into NZ.
Once in the Arrivals Hall, Vodafone has a shop immediately to your right, where you can pick up a SIM card for your mobile phone, iPhone, and iPad. NZ Telecom's XT network is better but requires some additional faffing with settings. Don't worry, I will take care of this for you before you arrive! Kiwis tend to text rather than calling, because call rates are ridiculously expensive here.
Ta-da! You have arrived in New Zealand. Note that the motorways around the airport are in a perennial state of construction. Follow the recommendations of your car rental place.
On your way back...
Much the same process, but in reverse. Auckland Airport has a separate Business Premier checkin area and an excellent Koru Lounge with back and foot massages (Update, 7 Dec 10: free for Business Premier and Air New Zealand Airpoints Gold Elite members, but others can pay). If it's free for you, get rid of your last few NZ dollars for a longer massage in the lounge.
That's it! I hope this was useful. Do let me know what you thought via the comments section at the bottom of the post.
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That's Land's End, there, with the Longships Lighthouse in the distance. If you were to swing round to the right you'd probably be able to see the outlines of the Isles of Scilly against the horizon.
The sound of the waves, and the scent of the bracken, wet in the evening air, make Land's End a glorious place to live.
Machynlleth is in the middle of nowhere, to the south of Snowdonia National Park, amid mountains and mist and sheep in north Wales. It's an incredibly beautiful area, and Machynlleth -- pronounced not machine-leth but mukh-un-tleth -- is pretty too. There's a fab deli, too for the makings of a picnic, perfect for mid-May.