Wednesday, January 14, 2009


As we left our home in DeWitt on Monday morning around 10:00 a.m. to fly to New Zealand  I punched the start button on my stopwatch just for giggles - by the end of the trip, I wasn't giggling anymore.  The trip promised to be a long one - about 26 hours, it ended up being much longer.  This is our story (roll "Dragnet" theme music).

Monday, 10:00 a.m.  DeWitt, Michigan.  There had been a bit of snow overnight, but not much and the roads were in good condition which gave us hope.  The trip to Grand Rapids was uneventful, we checked in without waiting in line and only had to remove one item from one suitcase to make weight limits.  All our bags weighed in within 1 1/2 pounds of the 50# limit.  

We drove across town to pick up Jill and Cole.  Kent and Jill are car sitting while we are away.  We had a delightful lunch with them and they dropped us off at the airport in perfect time.  We waited with the only worry being the short (40 minute) lay over in Chicago.  Then the delay notice came up - 15 minutes.    We boarded and found out basically the battery was dead in our plane and we needed a jump.  They finally got the engines started and off we went.

Arriving in Chicago, to the credit of American Airlines, only a few minutes late, we dashed down one concourse, over two and back up.  As we were between concourses, we heard the last call for our flight.  As we arrived at the gate, both breathless, we saw them pulling the jetway away from the plane.  The ticket agent, seeing we were international went to work to get us on the plane - what a thrill to be that guy - the one everyone looks at thinking, "So you are who we've been waiting for!"  And where are our seats?  Last row!  

We backed away from the gate and got de-iced.  Then pulled back up to the gate, because the flaps were no longer working properly.  We waited about an hour and had the pilot tell us several different versions of what was going on and how they were going to get us on another plane if this one couldn't take off - none of which turned out to be right.   We deplaned and headed out to the gate where they told us to wait only to find out that was the wrong gate.  We went to the right gate and found out there wasn't a plane waiting there, just one harried AA ticket agent.  Someone suggested calling AA and so I did.  To my amazement, I got connected right away and before I could get to the front of the line, they had us booked on a United flight to L.A. and then - big change - a Quantas flight to Sydney and then to Auckland that would get us to Auckland around 5:00 p.m. Wednesday instead of our original 6:00 a.m., but it was still better than an overnight in either Chicago or LA and then arriving on Thursday.

To get to the United ticketing agents we had to go from Terminal 3 to 1 - a walk of nearly a mile.  We got in line behind a family from Germany with an adorable little girl who kept us engaged and helped pass time.  We finally got our tickets and headed for our second security check of the day.  We had plenty of time - until....

Because of the number of cancellations and quick bookings, the number of "random" extra security checks went way up.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I asked the right question: "Do I need to do anything more with my carry on than take out my laptop?" and got the wrong answer, "no".  It took 1/2 an hour for the line to move through and when I did get in place, they took my backpack through three times and delayed us even more.  By this time our time cushion had evaporated and I sent Marcia ahead to the gate with the intention of catching up.  I finally made it and the jetway gate closed behind us as we got onboard.  For the second time that day in Chicago I got to be "that guy".  

It was 7 pm and the snow was falling heavily.  The wings were covered in snow (my fault probably) and so we had to de-ice once again.  Half an hour later we pulled away on a snow covered taxiway.  The runway wasn't much better and after we got away I was thankful that we didn't have to land there.  10 hours after leaving home, we had only covered about 200 miles of our 18,000 mile trip.

We arrived in LA @ 9:45 p.m. local time (12:45 on our body-clock) and had to find our way to the Quantas ticket desk.  This involved a shuttle bus ride, getting off at the wrong spot and walking nearly a mile again.  The agents were relatively helpful and did finally manage to get us seats together.  We were, however, chastised for not having arrived sooner if we had wanted se
ats together:  An indication of Aussie hospitality that was going to become far too familiar in the next several hours.  

We actually had time to wait before boarding in LA.  As I was getting on the plane they stopped me and told me I had to check my carry on because it was too large - never mind that it was smaller than Marcia's.  Regardless, I had to check it through.  I assumed it would be placed in the front of the plane and I would reclaim it as I got off in Sydney - they didn't ask me for my final destination.  Arriving in Sydney I was told I had to go to the transfer desk and get it sent to the right plane.  

I stood in line for 45 minutes waiting to talk to the transfer agent.  When I finally got to the desk the agent told me "You will have to put in a lost baggage claim for it when you get to Auckland.  It's too hard for us to try to find it."   There was a woman of Indian descent right behind us and she was told the same thing.  She had had a similar experience to ours with rerouting of her flights and had been trying to get to her destination about the same duration.  

We arrived in Auckland finally and found a very welcoming environment.  The immigration stop was well manned and therefore had short lines.  The agent who took care of us was friendly and efficient.  While waited for our baggage on to come off the belt we had a very nice lady talking to us.  Later when it turned out that NONE of our luggage arrived, she directed us to the next very helpful person who put in the report.  Our large luggage is to arrive today (Thursday) and my carry on....not too sure.

So, I'm setting here finishing this long entry after a good night's rest, but without a change of clothes since Monday morning.  (Be thankful that technology hasn't advanced to the point of sharing odors!)  The total time upon arrival at Brett & Kristen's new home:  38 hours, 29 minutes, 44 seconds.  

But this makes it all worth it!  


BJ said...

Your big mistake with Qantas was a spelling one. You put a "u" in there. But as you found out Qantas doesn't care about u...

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