9/14 – 9/16: JFK to LAX to SYD to AKL to TBU

A few thoughts from Auckland Airport:

  1. The next time I travel somewhere it takes 3 days to get there, I’ll bring an extra pair of underwear to change into after day #2.
  2. It’s a real shame that priority lounges stock their kitchens full of wine and beer and – after two solid days of travel – I have no interest in anything but water
  3. Never underestimate the power of a shower. Even if you have to dry yourself with paper towels because – while beer and wine is fully stocked – towels are not.
  4. I will never again think the NYC-SFO 6 hour flight is a long trip
  5. I really need to re-assess the weight of crap I bring on these trips. I’m paying overage up the wazoo.
Carry-on limit for Tonga: 5kg. My carry-on: 10kg. Wine should fix that, right?

I have no idea how Air New Zealand got my bags to me, but I’m grateful for the small miracle that made it all happen. To tell this story, I have to map out the series of legs on this trip:

  1. JFK –> LAX (Delta)
  2. LAX–> SYD (Delta)
  3. SYD –> AKL (Delta)
  4. AKL –> NFU (Air New Zealand)
  5. NFU –> VAV (Real Tonga Airlines)

It’s important to note that it took three tickets for these 5 different legs. Legs 1-3 all booked via Delta on a single ticket.  But legs 4 and 5 had to be booked separately.  So when I arrived in Sydney and discovered that leg #3 was delayed for hours and hours and I was at serious risk of missing leg #4, my Amazing Race mode kicked into overdrive. And it was slightly complicated because leg #3 was a Delta flight but was actually operated by Virgin Australia.  So I went to a VA gate to explain the problem (a) my flight is delayed, (b) I’m going to miss a connecting flight on a different ticket, (c) my bags are checked through to AKL.

Sydney Airport wifi ageism.

I’d been traveling for 24 hours by this point, so I wasn’t sure I even made sense.  But somehow they understood my gibberish.  They had a flight to board but they’d get me sorted out.  I went in search of coffee and drowned my sorrows in the largest chocolate croissant I’ve ever seen. After I’d finished licking my lips I heard my name paged and returned to gate 63. They’d booked me onto an Air New Zealand flight that left an hour sooner, but i needed to go downstairs to the Air New Zealand desk to get my luggage transferred.  Karen at the desk sorted out that bit, while also making sure I had a decent seat (I had a whole row to myself). She was the best part of my day.

And the luggage gods were smiling on me, because my bag was there in Auckland just as it should be. I had to pass through Customs, get my luggage, check my bags again, and pass through security to go back to where I came from. I wandered slightly shell-shocked around the AKL airport and decided to treat myself to a shower – though the public showers had no soap and no towels (or paper towels), I had a rinse anyway and dried myself with my trusty scarf. I felt mildly better.  But then I realized that that Auckland had a lounge that accepted Priority Pass.  MOTHER OF GOD! Priority Pass is about as useful as the Diners Club Card – but when it’s useful it’s AWESOME. I took shower #2 – this time with soap and shampoo – and dried myself off with paper towels.  The definition of Heaven is all relative.

I’ve been traveling now for 38 hours and have no idea if the above paragraphs make sense. And I don’t even care.

Kiwi departure board. “Relax”.

In Auckland, I expanded to two bags as I’d have to pay overage charges for the one.  But it turned out that the extra bag cost me $90USD anyway so it would have been smarter to pay overage. Novice traveler move, and not worth the mention in the journal except for a small circumstance when I finally landed in Nuku’alofa at 11PM at night.  I caught a cab – a lovely driver named Mika – who started the 30 minute drive into town.  About 5 minutes down the road I said, “Oh no! Mika!  I left my second bag!!”  Mika probably wondered if I’d lost my mind, but obligingly turned around so I could run back in to the very tiny airport to get it. Mine was the only bag left in the entire pile.