The Perils of Air Travel

Expect the unexpected

Many readers will be familiar with the downside of travelling on the big birds in the sky: delayed or cancelled flights, airport closures, missing luggage, long queues and poor service.

We returned from San Francisco yesterday and expected to have 20 hours in transit, but it turned out to be nearer 25. We were booked on three flights, but in the end had five journeys! Using up Frequent Flyer points we had to fly Qantas, and that required going via Los Angeles, one of the most uninviting airports on the face of the Earth.

We won’t do that again.

A promising start to the journey

The view from the Rockridge BART station

Setting out from our excellent air b&b in Berkeley, we had a gentle 2km walk down to the Rockridge Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station. Then it was a 45-minute ride to San Francisco airport.

The AirTrain at San Francisco airport

This is a wonderfully efficient service as you move from BART straight on to the AirTrain which circulates high above the airport and drops you off at your terminal.

All good so far, but then things started to move away from the script. Our booking wasn’t featuring on the computer, however friendly Sue from Massachusetts sorted things out, and we headed off for Gate 50B to take our flight to Los Angeles.

Why won’t they tell you what’s gone wrong?

Our plane was due to take off at 7.00pm on a one hour, 30 minutes flight, which would get us to LA with about two and a half hours to spare. However, the departure time came and went, and about 7.30 they did tell us that the plane was delayed and we would get to our destination by about 9.30. As well as ourselves, wanting to make a connection to the southern hemisphere, there were 32 Australians keen to get back to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Time passed with little information being given and the screen listing the departure time kept changing. Eventually the plane turned up and we took off at 9.35pm!: two and a half hours late. No reason was given for the delay.

However the pilot was great. He knew that the Australians had planes to catch in LA and he shaved over 35 minutes off the scheduled journey south. At the Domestic Terminal there were shuttles waiting, and on arriving at the International Terminal we raced up the stairs and on into the boarding area. The formalities of departure cards and security checks were conveniently forgotten, and the Aussies and ourselves made our planes. We even had time to use the restrooms!

Back on schedule …

The flight to Auckland was very smooth, and because the plane was only 80% full there was plenty of space. The American Airlines crew were friendly and efficient, and the food was good. An interesting feature of the service was the provision for passengers, at any time, to go to the galley for extra snacks and drinks.

Arriving in New Zealand we were greeted with the news that Cyclone Cook was bearing down on the country and comparisons with the 1968 Wahine Storm were being made. However our flight for Wellington was only slightly delayed, even thought services to Blenheim, Palmerston North and Napier were cancelled.

As we approached the capital we got some great views of Kapiti Island and the Paremata Inlet …

The unexpected …

This area was packed with anxious travellers

But then the cloud came down over Wellington, and after the pilot twice tried to land, it was back to the city of sails. As you can imagine, it was chaos in the airport as there were more flights cancelled and long queues of people trying to re-book. Obviously the start of Easter weekend and the school holidays meant there were more would-be travellers than usual.

We were contemplating a night or two in Auckland, as the chances of getting a flight south were slim and the weather was deteriorating.

But then our luck changed. After 30 minutes in the re-booking queue, we reached the desk and asked if there were any seats left on the 2.45 flight to Paraparaumu.

An unexpected but welcome destination

There were! However, would the plane take off? We waited in the regional airline area and were dismayed as flights to Palmerston North, Nelson and New Plymouth were cancelled. Finally Kapiti Coast featured on the display board, and we boarded our full plane.

It was now raining steadily, but we took off without any problems and the flight south was very smooth.

Our friend Jack kindly picked us up, and we were home at last just five hours late.

The house was a very welcome sight!










Glad to hear that the editor made it home.

So very pleased to hear that his return flights were fairly normal without other than the usual delays. What is a few hours here and there in these wonderful airports. Great chance to meet other travelers and spend the last of your local currency. Sounds like another great trip and I bet he is looking forward to his next visit to the West Coast.

Nice picture of Donald by the way.