In order to fly in the U.S., I have to be mentally and physically prepared for a long and grueling day. I have to remember to put all my liquids in 3 oz. containers and then into 1 liter bags; I have to think about what I’m going to wear because I’ll inevitably have to take it all off to go through TSA; I have to pack two week’s worth of clothing into a tiny suitcase in order to avoid paying $25; I have to remember to stretch so that I can stand up and walk off the plane after being crammed into a tiny seat for 5 hours.
It’s exhausting to say the least.
I had hoped that once I got to New Zealand I wouldn’t have to fly again until I was ready to leave. However, last week I had to get from Whangarei to Wellington, and flying was significantly cheaper and shorter than taking a train or bus.
The trip from Whangarei to Wellington consisted of two plane flights. The first from Whangarei to Auckland was all of 25 minutes in the air. The second was 45 minutes. It really wasn’t that much flying, but I dreaded it.
I was flying Air New Zealand for the first time. I had heard good things about the airline but, being suspicious of all things airline related, I didn’t have high hopes.
Boy was I wrong.
Flying between Auckland and Wellington is the same distance as flying between Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, there’s a significant difference in price between the two. To fly roundtrip from Wellington to Auckland costs NZ$70, which translates to US$50. To fly roundtrip from LA to San Francisco is US$120. That’s a US$70 difference between the two, where in New Zealand fuel is significantly more expensive and there’s less airline competition.
What baggage fees? When purchasing a ticket through Air New Zealand there are different tiers of tickets. The standard fare doesn’t include a checked bag, but for NZ$10 more you can check a bag. Totally worth it.
I didn’t have to go through security in the Whangarei airport. That’s right. Nothing. I dropped off my bag and then sat down to wait for the plane. It was surreal, and so relaxing. According to this Dominion Post article, “Security screening in New Zealand is currently restricted to planes with 90 seats or more.” Since I was flying in a plane that sat only 30, all I had to do was show up.
I did have to go through security in Auckland, but it was a breeze. I didn’t have to take off any clothing, nor did I have to have my liquids in a bag. I only had to remove my computer and anything from my pockets. They didn’t even check my ticket or ID to make sure I was actually on a flight. It took all of two minutes. Amazing.
Missing My Flight
My first flight was late so we landed in Auckland ten minutes before my next flight. There was no way I was going to make it. Resigned to spending the next hour arguing with an airline representative in an attempt to leave Auckland in the next 24 hours, I turned off airplane mode on my phone to find a text from Air New Zealand. The message told me they’d already moved me to a later flight for no extra cost, so now I could sit back and relax.
I almost hugged the person sitting next to me I was so excited.
The only downside to this, that I learned after I got to my gate, was that I had to go to baggage claim, pick up my bag, and check in again. However, this took all of 15 minutes, including going through security a second time. Plus, it guaranteed that my bag wasn’t lost in the kerfuffle of flight changes.
In Flight Service
The longest flight I took was 45 minutes. In the U.S. on these flights you might get water if it’s not too choppy. However, you don’t usually get fed. On my 25 minute flight we got water, despite the careening of turbulence. On the 45 minute flight we got water, tea, or coffee and a choice of chips or cookies.
Air New Zealand concludes its drinks service by giving everyone a lolly (a sucking candy in orange, apple, or lemon flavors). Apparently if there are little kids on the plane the crew asks them to help hand out the candies, although I did not experience this. Adorable and, if you’re feeling airsick like I was on the first flight, a saving grace.
Overall my domestic flight experience went above and beyond my expectations. It doesn’t surprise me that Air New Zealand is ranked 17 out of all airlines in the world, according to this Skytrax ranking.
The only downside of my trip was that my disdain for U.S. airlines has now greatly increased.