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Rocking out: The NZ way

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  • Rocking out: The NZ way

    Part one: If I wasn't a Star Alliance FF slave, I'd have flown Northwest to MSP then back to YVR.
    Well, time to go on vacation once more. YEG has simply overtaken me with its abundant lame.
    AC 239
    Aircraft: Embraer EMB-190IGW
    Registration: C-FFYJ
    Seat: 26A

    Checking in the night before and printing of my boarding card, I found myself up early to stand for a short time in the “web baggage drop-off” queue. Unlike many experiences I have had with AC and lines, this one was over in a grand total of five minutes. Very impressive given that I was a Y passenger who hadn't bothered to inform Mapleflot that I'd be sojourning on a more prestigious Star Alliance member in but twelve short hours.
    Clearing security was a nightmare. I was kind enough to inform the CATZIS that I was traveling with a lot of camera gear... I was told “oh, well we'll want to swab you then”. So they did. It's humiliating to have to wait so long for them to inspect every nook and cranny of what is so blatantly a lens when at any other airport they would simply wave you through. After packing everything up, it was time to go to the gate.
    This would be the gate of which I refer
    Boarding was painless, but much to my dismay; the overhead bins on an Embraer were clearly designed for those travelling with no more than a package of mints. The under-seat storage, only good for those who consider a leather cellphone case sufficient. Pretending that I was simply very tall, I used the passenger next to me and my higher-than-normal knees to hide the fact that my not gate-checkable camera bag was safely stowed. The important thing is, I knew my prized gear-sack would easily fit in the spacious overhead bin of something with the Boeing customer code 19. Even worse, AC seems to no longer let anyone sit together so before I could even get to the window seat I had paid extra to select was full. After glaring at me profusely, the woman who professed to be the “sister” of the young woman and her screaming child next to me finally was told by the flight attendants that it was my seat. On short-haul AC the policy is “find someone to trade with you” if you really want to be seated together. Great work as always guys, you really do present a great image of Canada. Fortunately, maybe, for me someone finally agreed to switch. After take off, the passenger went to sleep and it became very difficult for me to take off and get the cabin shot I so desired. Oh well.
    Take off was simple, off to runway 12, cleared direct Rafey up to FL250, centre on 132.85 and up to cruise at FL300. I imagine it was even the same controller on 120.5 as it almost always is. YEG really never changes.
    I'd go into detail about the in-flight service, but there simply wasn't any. AC seems to have switched the kind of cookie they hand out with their sub 100mL cups of beverage to “Styro's foam board cookie facsimiles: cranberry flavour”. I'm rather scared to imagine the cost savings these must bring in as I always thought the classical airline “edible” sugar-cookie had to be very, very, cheap. At this point, I also realized that the cabin air-con was broken as the plane kept getting warmer and warmer, needless to say the overhead gasper vent: also blowing warm air. Oh well, only an hour and ten minutes to go. I decided to pass the time by watching “Curb your Enthusiasm”'s classic episode “Lewis needs a Kidney” (season 5, episode 5). It's a sick joke that AC offers content under the “HBO” banner on their IFE considering that attempting to watch an HBO broadcast on a Canadian television is in fact punishable by jail time. That said, any opportunity to watch Curb is a good opportunity. Finally, somewhere over an endless sea of nimbostratus clouds I heard the engines spool down and we commenced our descent into CYVR. Earlier in the flight we were warned to expect moderate to severe turbulence along the way. I've flown YEG-YVR more times than I can count, I've never had such a smooth flight. I suppose other than getting to ride on my favourite narrow-body, that is really the highlight of this flight segment.
    Upon my arrival at YVR there was only one baggage carousel going, thus there was a fair bit of a wait while flights from both Cranbrook and Victoria were making use of it before AC239. After many annoyed calls from my relatives who were meeting me asking what was taking so long- my bag finally made its way out. Off for some deli and company I was more fixated on the fact that the rain had made the real reason for my long connection moot and that no spotting could be accomplished. I decided that I would make my way back to YVR to check in before 6:00pm. At least I was also safe in knowing I had taken the shot of the cabin I so desired:

    Stand by for the main events of this little TR.

  • #2
    Part 2: Air Canada, for the prices you charge- you should really learn something from these guys.

    After arriving at YVR, I made my way to the J line of the area illuminated Air New Zealand only to find a perturbed looking woman with a red maple leaf on her jacket. To say check in was friendly would be a lie. Did they ask if I had the necessary visas to entire Australia? No. Did they give me a window seat first go? “Mr. Leighton, they're pods you can't see out the window” After explaining that I knew this all too well but simply enjoyed the privacy, I was finally issued a new boarding pass giving me seat 2K. When I was making sure the airframe was a 777 “Oh, how do you know that” I had to think on my feet to make sure this unfriendly wench didn't brand me a security risk. Worst of all, she didn't give me lounge directions. Once again it is very clear that the only Star Alliance partner AC even remotely cares about is their little profit-sharing buddy LH. I loathe Westjet for choosing to befriend Southwest rather than add a J cabin and join an alliance, someone has to stop these monsters before they fire all their ground staff and leave the one agent per check-in area so cranky customers are mysteriously being hacked to bits with luggage-name-tag-things.
    Clearing security was a breeze. “Why do we need to swab your camera gear?” I was out and ready to try and find the lounge, then try again, and finally call someone to help me establish there was indeed a lounge. After about an hour, I found the lounge- it is not AC's new lounge that has yet to open. It is a tired thing that looks like someone cut out parts of FRA and added three “comfortable” chairs with no power outlets for anyone. Resigned to a metal chair, no AC power, and no food to speak of- I stared out the window and sipped a Coke. I know now why AC033 operates out of hideous gate D51: sad as the AC domestic Maple Leaf Club is- it's night and day compared to their current, albeit retiring international number. Thankfully, exactly as printed on my boarding pass- it was time to get onto ZK-OKB. I was overwhelmed with how clean and comfortable this blue VS cabin was. Having flown AC's XM J too many times (aka one), I was amazed by how fantastic a herringbone J set-up can actually be. I set up in my seat, read a copy of the Vancouver Sun, put on my headphones, and rocked out to various Doors and Clash tunes. Better still, the pre-take-off champagne, it was actual champagne instead of motor-oil. I decided to call home and inform them of just how happy I was sitting in the front cabin of a real airline. Soon after we pushed back, the safety demonstration was done via the IFE screens as well as some rather imposing looking flight crew who must have been very senior as I never saw them again. Okay, well yeah- one of them was visible through the curtains to the front galley. Anyway, after take off we started our very smooth climb to 38,000 feet. I decided to sit back and watch some Fawlty Towers. NZ's Kia Ora system is very good, but they only have the first Beverley Hills Cop movie. On flights as long as the ones they operate, I would really like to have had the opportunity to watch the entire trilogy. I do digress though, after watching “the Hotel inspectors”- it was time for dinner.
    The starter was prawns with a tabouli of some sort. I cannot stand shrimp, but having not had any food since lunch, I decided to eat this critter with neither fins nor scales- much to my surprise it was quite good. It can be seen thusly. But first, the amuse bouche:

    Having perused my mains options and noticing that it was not a steak, but a short-rib for the beef selection, I opted for the free-range chicken. The only flaw were the sweet-potatoes. Perhaps I have just never been lucky enough to have good sweet-potatoes on an airliner, but I do not think it is possible.

    Note the curious can of coke, it's still 355mL

    Desert was a tart of NZ fruits with a coconut creme-fresh. It was delivered with the classic airline joke between very jolly flight attendants. “I'm afraid I don't like to be called that, but if you're talking about my friend at the end of the cart”. You know what, it may be old- but the humour is entirely from the timing and the delivery.

    Off to the cheese plate with the absolute most amazing port I have ever had. if anyone can tell me what the cheese with the black wax exterior is, I'd be very happy to know.

    After that I met the most amazing customer service director ever. It turns out that she was an aviation enthusiast who got into the business when she realized that planes were awesome and it's foolish not to hang around them in some capacity. Discussing our common interest I was able to get a lot of very neat swag as well as a visit to the mid-cabin crew-rest bunk. I am not sure if you are reading this my new friend at NZ, but if you are- thank you so much. After informing her that I was unable to sleep on aircraft, I was offered hot chocolate as my seat was switched to bed-mode. For the first time in my history of flying- I slept on a long-haul. Waking up approximately seven hours later, I made my way to the lav for a shave and to brush my teeth. I settled into Beverly Hills Cop, was amazed that it was a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, and waited for breakfast. Breakfast was no disappointment; first yoghurt, then a croissant, then some apple pancakes.

    After that it was just a short time until we started our descent into the complete darkness of NZAA. After experiencing what NZ can do, I certainly have a new favorite airline.


    • #3
      Mr. Richardson- your wonderful airline didn't handle NZ083 out of YVR- it was AC doing everything right until boarding via gate D57 when wonderful, friendly, people appeared. I made a note about the visa thing because I always get rather flustered when traveling across the pacific into countries that are not signed on to the VWP I rely on the re-assuring "Alright Mr. Leighton, I see you have all your visas in order" that I have received every other time. This was not a rhetorical question. The AC agent didn't have the DCS computer handy. In fact this entirely came up as I was so worried about the whole "multiple entries" part of a class 976 visa that I just wanted to make sure everything was in the system and I didn't end up some poor sap appearing on Channel 7's hit television show "Border Security". Since you know so much about entering Australia, you can imagine my confusion as to why she did not check. Furthermore, when I checked in, there was no one in line. I resent being called a rude passenger, while I am not yet part of the major-league I am heavily connected to it. I fly(ASEL, AMEL, IFR), I'm a photographer of an aviation bend, I hold those who work in the field because they eat, sleep, and breathe aircraft to the highest esteem as they are the people I can talk to without getting looks of confusion and boredom we've all grown accustomed to shortly before changing the topic. I'll admit I'm bias against AC for a lot of reasons (a lot of it has to do with their absorption of CP and how it hurt people very close to me), but it seems a little odd to be so non-chalant about handling a Star Alliance partner's flight. QF handles AC out of Sydney- I've never met a friendlier bunch of agents (And that's crossing an alliance). I have no beef with Air New Zealand- it's the best airline I have ever flown on. I just have to make that very clear, my beef rests with AC. I'll admit my word choices are rather odd, but given that I say sooth in every day conversation- I don't mean things with as much venom as you interpret. Hopefully I didn't misinterpret you, or vis versa.


      • #4
        Ah, I understand, and I appologize at misunderstanding. I deleted the above post. I have no idea how Air Canada works for boarding NZ flights, and this now gives me the idea that the Agent could care less about the NZ flight seeing as she was AC employee. Hell, I was just hired as a CS agent for Skywest, and all we do is stuff at the gate, United handles our pax at the counter, and they could give a shit less about Skywest, and treat the pax accordingly. If I recall, QF and NZ were the only 2 airlines which had a system which could instantly detect a visa, not requiring any physical evidence. So it is odd an AC employee wouldn't ask, unless since Feburary when I left NZ others caught on.

        As far as the lounge, seeing as it must be primarily used by AC pax, it is odd she'd forget. We'd often forget because it wasn't our lounge, it was United's, and they gave our pax limited access(gold members couldn't even bring a guest they were flying with!), so its understandible we'd sometimes forget to direct someone with access to the lounge. But every passanger she checks in for buisness class has that access, so she should be telling each and every pax she checks in how to get to the lounge.

        I went on the defensive because it was difficult to belive NZ could possibly have such a rude agent checking in buisness class pax, which only go to the senior agents with the best service! At NZ, every employee attends bi-monthly courses where staff flies in from AKL to observe how friendly we all were, and to encourage us to be ourselves and teach us about New Zealand so we could share it with pax anxious to get there, and have common ground with locals headed home. Air New Zealand is very much a tight-knit family, similar to Southwest. So I found it shocking and hard to belive a "wench" could get away with such behavior in the NZ enviornment.

        That aside, great report, and I am glad you enjoyed the airline I put my time into. They are a great company, with a great on-board product and astoundingly friendly crews. I miss working there, the only reason I ever left was they got a call from AKL saying that it was against policy to hire a 17 year old. At least the flight crew lived up to the Koru Code.


        • #5
          nice report




          • #6
            Fantastic trip report. Your diction was nothing short of humurous. At times, it did shed light on your bias against AC, but I do understand yor furstration. More importantly, I understand that this may come over as a bit elitist - but I have to wonder why AC did not treat you in a more 'courteous' manner considering your higher FF status (when compared to the average traveller). Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed Austalia! Great Trip report. Hopefully your return leg was pleasant.
            Whatever is necessary, is never unwise.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Powercube View Post
              I'll admit I'm bias against AC for a lot of reasons (a lot of it has to do with their absorption of CP and how it hurt people very close to me), but it seems a little odd to be so non-chalant about handling a Star Alliance partner's flight. QF handles AC out of Sydney- I've never met a friendlier bunch of agents.
              It is too bad your displeasure with an amalgamation years ago still keeps your blinders on. A lot of Air Canada employees got "hurt" as well. I'd still like my 31% and a week of holidays back!

              Now to the less than helpful Agent. She was probably from Canadian! (kidding..there are bad ones from both company's). If you are given inferior service anywhere it is your choice as to whether you take the persons name and report them. Plain and simple. You have paid for a service and you did not receive it. I hope you took her name and will drop a note to AC's Customer Service people.