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Introduction
The journey begins/Visit to the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Christchurch (Domestic)
Day One
Day Two – Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand


Good Morning! We woke early: At the crack of dawn, and got ready for the big trip ahead. Today was probably the single day we were both most looking forward to while visiting Queenstown – as with any big trip, it’s important to start with a good breakfast. Our stay had complimentary breakfasts included with the room, so we headed down to the hotels’ restaurant ‘Lombardi‘ for a buffet breakfast.

We were greeted at the restaurant front desk and gave the staff our room number; and were invited to take a seat and help ourselves to the freshly cooked and wide breakfast selection available.
Being so early in the morning, there was no shortage of seats – in fact, at that time there was no-one else in the restaurant!

The Google Maps team first revolutionised the way we see things from the comfort of our own home with the introduction of Street View, allowing us to virtually explore streets all around the World.

Earlier last year, they brought us the first underwater panorama photos of Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, as part of the World Wonders Project.
You can also explore the Grand Canyon (USA), Stonehenge (UK) and even Scott’s Hut in Antarctica, amongst other places.

Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef on Google Maps Street View!
Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef on Google Maps Street View!

Today, Google Maps offers a new first – By offering a view inside one of Emirates A380 Super jumbos parked on the dedicated A380 concourse at Dubai International Airport (DXB).

Emirates A380 and Concourse at DXB - Google Maps
Emirates A380 and Concourse at DXB – Google Maps

Introduction
Air New Zealand Economy Class, Wellington to Auckland
Air New Zealand International Koru Club Lounge, Auckland
Thai Airways Business Class, Auckland to Bangkok
Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge (Domestic), Bangkok
Thai Airways Business Class, Bangkok to Phuket
Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach, Phuket


After arriving into the Domestic Terminal of Auckland International Airport (AKL) at about 9:30am, we had a good couple of hours before our flight to Bangkok at 12:40pm.

For those unfamiliar with AKL airport, the Domestic and International terminals are separate from each other, however it is easy to get between the terminals: A transfer bus operates between each of the terminals and runs every 15 minutes; the bus operates between 5am – 10:30pm daily.
Alternatively, for those that prefer the exercise, there is a clear sign posted walking path between the terminals which will take you approx. 10min.

Map of Auckland International Airport, showing the two terminals and walkway between them
Map of Auckland International Airport, showing the two terminals and walkway between them

Being a beautiful sunny day in Auckland, and as we were only carrying our cabin luggage (as all our other bags were checked through to Phuket) we thought that we would walk to the other terminal and get some fresh air (there won’t be any shortage of recycled cabin air on this trip! ;)).

Just outside the Domestic Terminal at Auckland International Airport (close to where the transfer bus pickup area is)
Just outside the Domestic Terminal at Auckland International Airport (close to where the transfer bus pickup area is)

Green painted lines and plenty of signage mark the walkway path between the International and Domestic Terminal. Baggage carts are also able to be used for those carrying lots of baggage.

AKLint_Walkway1

AKLint_Walkway2

Shortly after arriving at the International Terminal, we decided to stop and fill in our departure cards, to be handed in at customs before security check and entering airside.

Inside the International Terminal at Auckland International Airport (Ground Floor Departures and Check-in counters)
Inside the International Terminal at Auckland International Airport (Ground Floor Departures and Check-in counters)

I always enjoy flying through Auckland International Airport as it is very efficient, easy to get where you need to go and find things.
As the main hub for travellers in and out of New Zealand, it isn’t too big either, and you don’t spend a small age walking to your gate.. which is always good especially if you’re running late!

It doesn’t surprise me that it has been rated best Airport in Australia-Pacific almost half a dozen times by Skytrax.

Upstairs in the International Terminal - Duty Free shopping throughout, departure boards and airport-provided help desks on hand for traveller assistance
Upstairs in the International Terminal – Duty Free shopping throughout, departure boards and airport-provided help desks on hand for traveller assistance
Sentinel dwarf statue designed and created by Weta Workshop promoting the Hobbit in the shopping and dining area
Sentinel dwarf statue designed and created by Weta Workshop promoting the Hobbit in the shopping and dining area
Entrance to customs, security check and departure gates
Entrance to customs, security check and departure gates

Customs was relatively quick, possibly due to our flight being after the early morning rush, as well as customs officers encouraging NZ and Australian passport holders to use the automated Smartgate system. It wasn’t long until we were through security and airside.

Airside at Auckland International Airport
Airside at Auckland International Airport

The lighted column behind the seating in the above photo had various ‘sea creatures’ projected through the turquoise coloured lighting simulating water, which I thought was interesting and gave a bit of ‘life’ to something usually quite ordinary – Also a hit with the kids!

It was only a short walk to the Air New Zealand International Koru Club Lounge (located on level 2) [Map], which is just past the major duty free shops (JR Duty Free / DFS Galleria).

Sign detailing the various lounges and  airlines using them
Sign detailing the various lounges and airlines using them
Entrance to the Air New Zealand International Koru Club Lounge
Entrance to the Air New Zealand International Koru Club Lounge

After our boarding passes had been scanned and checked over by the lounge staff, we were welcomed into the lounge.

A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Gisborne, on the East Coast of the North Island in New Zealand for a work trip.

I have never actually been to this area of the country before, so was actually a little excited – Gisborne is one of the cities that sees the light of the new day in the World (it used to be the first city but Samoa moved across the International Dateline in 2011).

To get to Gisborne, I had a direct flight at 8:25am in the morning on NZ 2232. I figured leaving home at about 7am would give me a good hour or so in the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge for breakfast – After all, best to start the day off well 🙂

Wellington probably is my favourite Koru lounge on the Air NZ domestic network – It is reasonably sized, has plenty of seating, tables and areas for travellers to relax and work, an ample food selection, including hot/cold foods and fresh fruit, plenty of New Zealand wine and beer to drink, along with various spirits and mixers.

There is also a business centre, with desktops and printers available for use, a mobile phone charging station, bookable meeting room/quiet rooms, newspapers and magazines, and showers for you to freshen up before your flight.

I had some difficulty checking in at the ‘self check-in’ kiosks in the departure terminal, so proceeded to the Koru Lounge to check in there with my E-Pass. Upon entering the lounge, I scanned my ePass on the entry kiosks and was welcomed in my the concierge.

As I was travelling on a turboprop (propeller) aircraft to Gisborne, I was entitled to use the ‘Fast Bag‘ service, which allows frequent travellers (Gold Elite, Gold and Koru members) to drop off their bags at the aircraft just before boarding and pick them up right after landing, rather than having to wait for the bags to be unloaded and carted to the ‘baggage pickup area’ at the destination airport. In order to use the service each bag must weigh less than 15kg, and there is a maximum of 2 bags per passenger. As AirNZ has been quite strict with baggage limits (7kg) lately, particularly on their jet aircraft, I do find the fast bag service quite useful when available.
Air New Zealand has just changed the identification tags for fast bag, as previously there used to be a special blue tag obtainable from the lounge. However they have now recently changed this for a blue luggage ‘loop’ used with the provided luggage tags. I am not quite sure what inspired this change, but when I entered the lounge the concierge removed my old style tag and replaced it with the new one, which was nice.

Entrance to the Wellington AirNZ Koru Lounge
Entrance to the Wellington AirNZ Koru Lounge

Escalator leading up to the Wellington Koru Lounge
Escalator leading up to the Wellington Koru Lounge

At the entrance to the lounge
Entrance to the Lounge

First up, I’d link to start off with an apology. I launched this blog on Monday and was hoping to have my new post up by now – Unfortunately I have been bogged down all week with various projects in my day-to-day job, which hasn’t left me with much spare time outside of work.

However, there are plenty of things that I’m very excited to be posting about over the next couple of weeks, the biggest one being news I only received this morning for a way to book an incredibly cheap business class fare to *nearly* anywhere in the World. I used this method myself last year to book our last trip to Europe, and have used this method again for this years trip, as well as to book a trip for my parents to Asia.

Also, BNZ GlobalPlus have recently changed a major benefit of their Gold card (which takes effect this week) – a card I have recommended to friends and family previously as probably one the best Airpoints card in New Zealand. I am currently working on breaking down each of the Airpoints cards available in NZ and posting my recommendation for the best value card so that you can start racking up Airpoints (and status points for you FT’ers out there) for perhaps that next holiday.

Finally, I just got back from a work trip last week to Gisborne and Whakatane, which also took me to the lovely little town of Ruatoria. I’ll review one of the restaurants and a very nice new motel in Whakatane, as well as my run=in with an unexpected VIP on the way home…

Here’s a lovely little beach I came across just outside of Gisborne on that trip, so I thought that I would share it with you guys..

Makorori Beach, just outside Gisborne

A side note for those of you that haven’t been watching the news over the last day, there is a clip of a National Airlines 747-400 freighter that crashed shortly after takeoff in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan that is probably one of the more unnerving videos I’ve seen – You might want to skip it if such things make you a little uneasy.
Apparently the initial report is that the cargo was not properly secured at the time of takeoff, causing a weight shift to the rear of the plane and it stalling.

I will have some spare time over the weekend, so am looking to get my next post up soon.

Until then,

Jeremy