There and Back – tales of flying, and woe

I’ve just got home from a week long trip to Norway for a conference, yes really :-) and thought I’d share some tales of aircraft fun.. and terror.. along the way.

First up was a Singapore Airlines 777-300er flight SQ286 from Auckland to Singapore, Changi. This was a lovely machine to fly in and the first time I’d been in a 777 of any sort. SIA have these kitted out with plenty of leg room, the full gammut of in-flight entertainment, and a nice meal on the way out of NZ. Flight time was 10:12hrs with a 5-hr stopover which we filled in with a trip into town and a meal and look about. So far so good…

Next up was a Lufthansa 747-400 flight LH779 from Changi to Frankfurt. The machine was a dusty old crate with no leg room, was totally full (ok, there may have been one seat free near the back) the meal was average, the staff were a bit cranky, and the inflight entertainment was a single CRT monitor playing tragic Euro-vision style music from German artists we had never heard of. This leg was largely unforgettable, so unforgettable I didnt even take any snaps of it.

Our next leg was from Frankfurt to Oslo in Norway on Lufthansa 737-500 flight LH3130. This was a refreshingly pleasant contrast to the previous Lufthansa experience. The 735 was roomier, the staff were friendly, the timing was great and in no time we were descending into a snow-covered Oslo airport our final outbound destination.

We had a week in Norway, a few days work in our local office, and a couple of days of conference, then it was time to brave up to the return trip. First sign of impending doom was the fact that our departure from Oslo was delayed, and ultimately cancelled which meant we had to squeeze onto a SAS 737-600 flight back to Frankfurt. This was actually a nice flight, the crew were great, altho you did have to pay for your booze, but we were starting to worry if there would be any more delays arriving in Frankfurt as it was teeming with snow there and our connection back to Shanghai was gonna be tight.

After arriving in Frankfurt and urgently trying to catch our outbound leg to China we came across the following horrifying sight of hundreds of MASH style stretcher beds layed out for stranded passengers…

Fortunately the beds weren’t for us as we got to the gate and realised crew were on the desk, most of the punters were waiting in the departute lounge and everyone seemed remarkably calm. Looks can be deceiving though, it was still bucketing down with snow outside and the 747-400 we were going to take to China ended up being taken out of service (for technical reaons). Eventually Lufthansa sourced a replacement 744 and we were unceremoniously bussed out to the tarmac to climb stairs into the beast and wait for it to be de-iced (another first for me). We made it off the tarmac without incident and spent another ditto-flight in the cramped and minimalist environment of the Lufthansa 744 experience.

By now we were over 3-hours late so knew we had no show of catching our flight from Shanghai home to Auckland. When we finally did make it to Shanghai we were lead by a wee chinese man holding an AirNZ banner to the Lufthansa counter where they (very helpfully and patiently I must say) spent about an hour sorting out a route for us to get home. Turns out the only feasible option without spending the night in China was a China Eastern A330 flight to Sydney followed up with a AirNZ A320 to Auckland.

The China Eastern prospect was alarming at first, and the old crate we were on looked very crusty on the outside, but it turned out it was clean, tidy, surprisingly roomy and staffed with nice crew who plied us with drinks and food we couldnt recognise all the way to Sydney. And of course the A320 flight was relatively excellent, heaps of room, awesome seats and entertainment, and they are just such a great machine for legs of that length to be a PAX in.

So after 48-hours of stressy travel, waiting for connections, on 5 different carriers and 6 different aircraft, we finally made it home to NZ. Phew… hope I dont have to repeat that in a hurry.