My alarm went off at 4:30am: Funnily enough, at the exact same time as Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter‘s – and we hadn’t even coordinated alarms the night before! I guess that’s pretty good proof that great minds think alike 🙂
We’d both woken up early so there was time to pack the last lot of things we wanted to bring, before driving out to the airport – I was aiming to leave by about 5:30am to have a bit of early-morning breakfast in the Koru Lounge. Even though we each had a baggage allowance, we decided to take and share just one bag, to save carting bags around – we had decided that we didn’t need that much luggage anyway for an extended weekend, seeing as we both also had our cabin bags as well.
Packing always seems to take a little bit longer than usual and I always have a bit of a worry that I’ve forgotten to bring something, so I’ll check a few times before we leave home to ensure we’ve brought everything. Regardless, as I found out, I still managed to forget my mini day bag as I discovered later on that day, but that didn’t end up being too much of a problem in the end.
We ended up leaving quite a bit later than I hoped – Closer to about 5:45am, but check in didn’t close until 6:15am and traffic was good (no surprise at that time in the morning on a public holiday). There were a few cars about, possibly some of the earlybirds looking to get to the ANZAC Day Dawn Parade, but we got to Wellington Airport just after 6am.
I’d already pre-booked parking a couple of days before, and managed to get a pretty good deal on uncovered parking for 4 days for $50 (still valid for the rest of May, for parking beginning on either Friday or Saturday only). Wellington Airport run good deals every now and again and it pays to sign up to their VIP program online and you’ll get E-Mails on various deals on both parking and shopping at airport stores throughout the year.
Once you’ve pre-paid your parking, your credit card is linked as your ‘ticket’, so when you arrive at the airport you just put your credit card into the machine and entry will be granted. I thought this is a brilliant idea – Saves having to store a paper ticket somewhere in a safe place then have to try and remember where you put it after your time away days later!
The uncovered park is about a 1-2 min walk to the terminal, but I managed to get a park right next to the drop off area, so we were at the Air New Zealand check in area in no time. A quick presentation of my E-Pass on top of the kiosk and soon we had our boarding passes, and bag tag. After attaching the tag to our bag, we presented it at the bag drop for check in.
We headed to the Air NZ Domestic Koru Lounge for a quick bite to eat, as we were boarding soon there wasn’t too much time for a full breakfast.
Not surprisingly, the lounge wasn’t all that full, but the biggest disappointment was getting to the food warmers to find this sight:
I guess it’s saying something when you see a tray of cooked tomatoes and know that what’s missing is a tray of scrambled eggs, and that probably is, I’ve spent far too much time in the Koru lounge 😉 ..but those that know me well know that there is something about the scrambled eggs in Koru that I absolutely love, and whatever it is, it probably can’t be good for you. Thankfully, a few minutes before the first call was made for boarding, a fresh tray came out onto the warmer, and I was able to grab to grab a quick bite before heading to the gate – A good start to the trip!
Security check and boarding was quick and easy as usual (being a domestic flight), and before long we were onboard the Boeing 737 heading to Christchurch: Our first stop on the two-flight journey to Queenstown. We had some seats at the front of the plane (Row 2E & F) and were able to catch some views out the window of the South Island during the sunrise.
As well as the usual monthly issue of Air New Zealand inflight magazine “Kia Ora” and the flight safety/information card, I noticed some paper vomit bags in the seat pocket written in a bunch of different languages – Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter had a bit of a chuckle over the fact that Swedish even featured on there, “kräkas”. For something so standard, AirNZ had applied a bit of their witty magic to it: “How ever you say it, it all comes out the same” – It’s great to see little things like this, if not just for the purpose to make people laugh.
After a smooth landing in Christchurch, we headed through security and up to the Koru lounge before our second half trip – I haven’t been to Christchurch’s new Koru Lounge since it was refurbished midway through last year (last time I was in Christchurch they had a temporary lounge set up due to renovations), so I was looking forward to checking out the new lounge and seeing how it compared to the other lounge in the main domestic centres (Wellington and Auckland).
The Air NZ Domestic Koru lounge is located near gates 15/16, up an escalator from the first floor (turn left after the security screening) [map].
As usual, there are two self-scan machines at the entrance, next to the concierge desk. After scanning our boarding passes, we were welcomed into the lounge. The first thing that I noticed about the lounge was the sheer amount of space in the lounge – I have been to plenty of lounges where there is barely enough room to sit, let alone move around, so it is great to see that for Air NZ’s main flagship ‘gateway’ into the South Island that they have managed to secure and utilise such a large area at Christchurch Airport.
The lounge has plenty of seating throughout, with various ‘areas’ set up to relax, eat, work or even watch TV.
Near the bathroom/shower area is a new-style business area with 6 ‘pods’, each featuring their own laptop on top of a small mounted desk. Nearby is a printer/copier/scanner machine and the quick charging station which has a variety of connectivity plugs for all kinds of mobile phones and devices in case you need a quick charge before the flight.
The large windows that almost extend floor to the oddly shaped ‘jagged’ ceiling (which I assume is to limit sound and acoustics, which would be important in such a wide open space) provide a wide view of the tarmac, perfect for plane-watching enthusiasts and well as allowing for a significant amount of natural light to enter into the lounge.
As it was only about 8 o’clock in the morning, breakfast was still being served. A selection of continental cereals (including bircher muesli), yoghurt and fruits were available, and today there was a sausage and bean cassuolet and baked tomatoes available as cooked options in the warmer.
Close to the cooked food warmers was the hot drinks area, soft drink dispenser and wine/beer fridge. Something I found interesting was the wine and beer fridge was locked, with a sign advising that no alcohol would be available before 1pm – which must have been due to ANZAC day liquor laws prohibiting alcohol to be served or sold until the afternoon. The fruit juices have their own dispensers located in the barista area.
After my hasty breakfast in the Wellington Koru lounge, I was a little bit peckish, so decided to try a little bit of the cassuolet, which I was a bit skeptical about, as I’m not the biggest fan of beans (and not due to their ‘special’ properties). Surprisingly though, it was actually quite tasty, and I even went back for seconds.
I washed this down with a mocha prepared by the wonderful barista in the lounge, which was well presented and absolutely delicious (and probably one of the best mochas I’ve had while travelling) – Even Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter remarked that her hot chocolate, was full of flavour and very chocolately. It was certainly a good ‘pick me up’ after the early wake up this morning!
We had a bit of time to check a few E-Mails and relax before the first boarding call went out for our flight, so made a quick visit to the bathroom before heading to the gate.
We made our way to the gate and boarded the plane, one of the new model Airbus A320’s with winglets; taking our seats in 2E and F.
I had specifically chosen seats on the right side of the plane, on the hope that there might be some nice views of the Alps and the Queenstown area on our decent into the area, and have heard that on a good day, the views can be quite spectacular from the air.
Passengers can select their seat at the time of booking, but if you know your PNR or flight details, you can also access and manage your seat selection here online.
After takeoff, we sat back and enjoyed the short flight into Queenstown with the Great Air New Zealand Trivia Quiz (which coincidentally, was also sponsored by Accor Hotels – the company that ran the competition for our trip!), and enjoyed the standard inflight refreshments of a mini-Cookie Time cookie or vege crisps, and tea/coffee and mineral water.
In the descent stage of our flight, we were able to see some of the small mountains and scenery out of the window – Unfortunately the weather forecast was not too great for Queenstown that day, so there was a fair bit of cloud cover as we approached Queenstown – and unfortunately, also barely any snow. Despite this, the views were still amazing – and Miss. Kiwi Globetrotter even started to jokingly sing a bit of Enya’s ‘May it Be‘.. entirely appropriate considering the area we were in 🙂
The descent and landing into Queenstown International Airport (ZQN) was smooth, and after a short taxi, we arrived at our gate. Despite being an international airport, the airport is still quite small, demonstrated by the use of stairs to get onto the tarmac from the plane.
We had finally arrived – and so began the start of our journey and adventure in probably one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand – Even from just from the airport, it was quite surreal seeing the mountains hugging the surrounding area (I forgot to get a nice photo when we arrived as we were keen to get the car and get on the road, but here’s one from the airport on the day we left – On the day it snowed!)