“I love the look of the Q300 – the signature ‘snout’ of the aircraft is oddly amusing but cute at the same time…”
I awoke from my slumber at the Auckland Airport Novotel and made my way to the Domestic terminal which was a comfortable 10-minute stroll. It was a beautiful day and the walk was a great way to wake up. On arrival at the domestic terminal I was able to check myself in using the self service kiosks – the carrier has had these for a while now and they seem to be popular.
Air NZ has a strict 23Kg baggage policy and waiting in the shadows at the bag drop was an eagle eyed Air NZ employee who promptly asked to weigh my bag – unfortunately I was 1Kg over the limit so needed to repack… slightly embarrassing but I sucked it up and launched into a mad luggage shuffle. I was ready to roll.
I chose not to visit the Koru Lounge as it is airside and it required clearing security – the Regional flights are not subject to security and depart from the other end of the terminal. It was close to boarding time anyway so I didn’t bother. I loitered around the terminal and checked out the bookshop – but this isn’t the worlds most exciting airport for shopping.
After some time the flight was called and I was soon on my way to the gate in the basic (but functional) tin-shed walkway. I made my way out onto the apron which I secretly enjoy – you get up and close with the aircraft that will carry you to your destination. I love the sleek look of the Q300 – the signature ‘snout’ of the aircraft is oddly amusing but cute at the same time.
NZ8429 Auckland – Napier (Dash 8 – Q300)
Our flight attendant was a chirpy beautiful twenty-something who made me feel welcome as I entered the aircraft. The Q300 has overhead bins for hand luggage which was welcome as I was carrying my duty free and a small carry-on. As the remaining passengers filled the aircraft it became apparent that I would have a spare seat next to me – always a bonus but more-so on a small prop like this one. Score.
NZ8429 Auckland – Napier (Dash 8 – Q300) Interior
Shortly after the door was closed, the props spooled up and we were taxing to the runway. The flight attendant prepared the cabin for takeoff and diligently went through the short safety briefing: I found out at this point that if we were to ditch in water our seat cushions were to be our floatation devices. Cute.
We approached the runway and we were soon up and away into the sunny Auckland skies. I’m always impressed by the scenery that New Zealand has to offer – stunning greens and contrasting blues remind me how lucky I am to call this my homeland. We flew down the southern coast of Auckland and made a turn inland where we crossed many of New Zealand’s smaller regional towns.
At this point the flight attendant handed out water and offered coffee and tea to those passengers who wanted a refreshment. As the flight itself was a little under an hour we were soon on our descent into the clouds that were covering the Hawkes Bay region that day. Our kind host collected the rubbish and handed out the iconic Air New Zealand sweets that remind me of my childhood.
A few bumps and lumps later we were making our way into drizzly Napier. Hawkes Bay Airport is small in size but the runway can accommodate larger 737 aircraft which used to make an appearance (though these days the airport generally only handles the Q300 types). Landing was as typical as they come and we taxied our way to the small terminal.
After thanking the hostess for her hospitality I walked across the tarmac and entered the terminal to collect my baggage which came in no time at all. At this airport the baggage carts drive into the terminal and passengers collect their own luggage which adds to the small town feel.
Due to the prior nights festivities I was feeling less than stellar. Whose idea was it to book a morning flight after a boozy wedding / reception combo? I checked out of my hotel and was at the airport after a short drive of roughly 15mins. The terminal was deserted so I was quickly seen by the check-in staff. I staggered towards the coffee shop that straddles the mid section of the airport and ordered the only thing that made sense: bacon and egg sandwiches and ginger beer.
NZ8453 Napier - Wellington (Dash 8 – Q300)
After consuming said refreshments I bumped into some other guests from the wedding who were to travel on the same flight: we swapped stories of the night that was which helped the time pass before boarding. It was at this point that we noticed that we would also be traveling with a basketball team that had played a game in Napier that same weekend – I was amused at the thought of these 7 foot giants flying on such a small aircraft. Before long it was time to board.
NZ8453 Napier - Wellington (Dash 8 – Q300)
We were greeted by a stunning flight attendant who I might add would become the most professional and well mannered hostess that I have ever chanced upon in my travels. Again in her mid twenties, she carried an air of elegance and poise that one struggles to find on other carriers. There must be a prerequisite in the hiring policy at Air New Zealand I pondered.
After the door closed she went through the motions with utmost ease and efficiency – she’s done this before. She kept keen watch over an unaccompanied minor in the row behind mine with the care that one would expect. With a voice destined for radio, our host introduced the flight crew followed by the typical safety briefing. Once this was complete she came past the young girl seated behind me and repeated the safety briefing in a way that a 5 year old would understand. Throughout the flight she would come back every now and again and chat with the youngster… it was great to observe that personal touch.
After a short taxi we were in blue skies headed towards Wellington. After ascent we were again treated to the water / tea / coffee combo that was to become a typical theme on these regional Air New Zealand Link services. Passing over the wilderness of the central North Island we passed Palmerston North and joined the coastline where we hugged the Kapiti Coast until making our descent into Wellington.
Wellington airport is notorious for it’s windy approaches but on this morning the sun was out and the wind was calm. As a born Wellingtonian I always get slightly disappointed when I’m not treated to the pitch and yaw roller coaster ride – alas, I was just happy that I was back in my hometown if only for a short hour or so.
I picked up my belongings and left the aircraft through the narrow opening that is the front and only doorway. I regret not mentioning to the flight attendant the impression that she had left on me, but I was eager to head to the Koru Lounge and get something to eat. The hangover was biting and I was keen to use the Wifi in the lounge to tell the world of my struggle with said hangover.