The Koru Lounge in Wellington affords stunning views of the tarmac and runway. As it was my first time using the lounge (thanks to my Gold status with Virgin Australia Velocity) I was keen to see the facilities and check out the food and beverage offerings. I was not disappointed. The lounge was well designed with unique seating options and the food choices were abundant. The wide selection of alcoholic beverages would normally tempt me but on this occasion I gave these a wide berth, settling for tea instead.
As departure time drew closer I decided to get a head start and make my way to the gate early – upon arriving at the date the flight was boarding so I didn’t have to linger. Due to an earlier cancelled flight this segment would be filled to the brim.
As I approached the aircraft at the rear (note that the ATR aircraft board via the back, so the last rows are preferable for seating) I noted the frumpy appearance of the ATR. Looking pregnant and sitting close to the ground, it looks like a beached whale. The flight attendants barely registered my presence as I entered the aircraft and it was at that instant that I realised that my luck with awesome flight crew had come to an end. They were young, snarly and gave the impression that they had an axe to grind.
I made the marathon journey to row 3 where I would be seated for this flight. I had a seatmate who enthusiastically started to converse with me but I quickly made it known that I wasn’t in the chatty mood – perhaps it was the sneers from the FA’s that had put me in a foul mood? Conversation ended shortly thereafter. The doors closed and the snappy hostesses robotically quoted the well-versed safety briefing.
After a short takeoff roll we were headed in a southerly direction towards the northern tip of the South Island. My grumpy mood quickly abated as I marveled in the beauty of the sights that lay bare before me – the views of Marlborough and the Marlborough Sounds were stunning on this beautiful crisp clear day. After 15 or so minutes one could see the entire top of the south island. The flight continued south along the Kaikoura coast with the golden hues of the mountain ranges making for some breathtaking views.
Shortly thereafter the surly flight attendants strolled through the cabin and systemically snapped “Coffee…? Coffee…?” at each passenger. I wasn’t interested in these basic catering offerings by this point so the views kept me entertained. Before long a young girl passed through the cabin and offered passengers the iconic boiled lollies – I remembered doing the same thing when I was young boy and it was good to see that Air New Zealand still allows young kids the same opportunity to do this after all these years.
Christchurch appeared in the distance and I thought of the earthquake plagued city and the trauma it had been through over the past year. The descent was quick and we were before long on the ground pulling up to our gate.
NZ5377 Christchurch – Queenstown (ATR72-500)
“The most spectacular scenery in the world…”
As I had roughly two hours in transit at Christchurch I decided to clear security and make my way to the Koru Lounge for something to consume other than water, coffee or boiled Air NZ confectionary. The lounge was getting busy as it was past lunchtime but I found a seat by the rear windows where I could tap away on Facebook and other time wasting social media sites (Twitter anyone?). I tried some delicious but oh-so-fattening macaroni cheese along with a cider to try cure the never-ending hangover. I was wrong – the cider made me feel terrible.
I then made the journey to the gate for my final flight for the day and again it would be another ATR that would take me to Queenstown. I was hoping that the crew would have rotated and yes, I was right – thank god. The flight attendants were more welcoming than the last and I felt at ease as I entered the aircraft.
The flight wasn’t as busy as my previous segment but I still had a seatmate, though she immediately started to read a magazine and her gaze did not lift once from the pages of Vogue for the entire flight. I had the best scenery to keep me entertained for the one hour flight time so seat mate banter was not required. As we left Christchurch airspace we crept south over the Canterbury plains and headed into the Southern Alps.
“Coffee? Coffee? Coffee? Coffee?” – the thought of more coffee, tea or water made me want to gag. No thank you was my reply. I listened to my iPod and watched the Southern Alps pass beneath me. As it was April there were few snow capped peaks but the remaining golden brown hues were spectacular regardless. As we drew closer to Queenstown the hostesses embarked on another lollie run but by this stage my bag was getting full from the handfuls I had collected during the day.
We descended into Queenstown – the route taken treats passengers to the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen. I like to compare the Southern Alps to that of the Swiss Alps – majestic in all its glory. The aircraft descended towards our destination and after a few steep turns were landing on Queenstown’s short runway.
Walking down the steps of an aircraft at Queenstown is truly a sight to behold – you have the Remarkables mountain range standing over you and you feel, for an instant, truly insignificant. I must encourage all readers who are still paying attention at this point to visit this magnificent destination and see for yourself how truly stunning the scenery in Queenstown really is.
I made my way into the terminal, collected my bags and made my way to spend time with loved ones. Who could ask for anything more?
Air New Zealand remains my favorite regional carrier as they maintain that ‘old school’ feel with their service – it’s basic but honest. Despite a rogue crew who were at best disinterested, I felt like an valued passenger on Air New Zealand – top marks!