Saturday, 26 April 2008

The Journey Home

This will not be the last posting on this Blog - there are a few more things I want to say before I start on my Eagleton Notes.

This posting is being started in Glasgow Airport where I have a couple of hours to wait for the Stornoway flight and the last flight sector of the journey home. It won't quite be the last leg of the journey because Pat will be there to meet me and drive me home from the Airport. I am so looking forward to that as I write this.

The journey started rather hurriedly. I had all day to finish packing and getting The Cupboard packed. However I was making such good progress cleaning the Cottage that I had managed to get all the bedding washed and dried including the big thick duvet cover - it was the perfect drying weather - 28 deg and breezy. I popped into town and had a coffee with Jayne from Croquet. When I got home I had several hours to finish off and somehow everything got a bit behind. Partly it has to be said because I couldn't access the British Airways website to validate my Stornoway flight.

Martin and the children hadn't arrived back from Gisborne so June took me to the Airport. We arrived and I realised that I'd left my mobile in its place on the window frame which is the only place in the Cottage that I can get a signal. So June set off to get it and was back in good time. The flight was, however, delayed over an hour which meant that Martin and the children did get to see me off and I had only 1 1/2 hours to get from Domestic to International (a decent walk or a possible 20 minute wait for the courtesy bus), pay my departure tax (which usually takes ages), and get though security. As it happens all that took me less than half an hour so I was airside and ready to board well before time for take-off at 2130.

The first International sector to Los Angeles was on a Boeing 747-400 carrying nearly 400 passengers and weighing about 369 tons and flying at a cruising height of 11000 metres at nearly 1000 kph. The 10000 k journey took about 11 hours.

We arrived in LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). Always a joy - not. The occupants of the plane who are transiting through the airport to get back on the plane after it's been refuelled and re-provisioned (why did I not use a hyphen in refuelled?) simply have to wait in the (exceptionally uninviting) cattle - sorry, transit - holding area. BUT first you have to get into that area and you have only two hours before the flight takes off again. This means that the majority of the 400 people on board line up in a corridor whilst ONE Border and Homelands Security Immigration Officer considers your visa waiver application, fingerprints both your index fingers and photographs your iris's. Needless to say this cannot be done in two hours by one person. So after a while they marched the rest of the waiting masses down stairs and along corridors and through the 'proper' immigration control area.

The reason that, until now, I have flown through the USA is to get my 2 x 23k baggage allowance. Other flights only allow 1 x 20k. I have to say that I am glad that I will never have to go through the USA again because I no longer need the larger baggage allowance as I have almost everything that I need duplicated in New Zealand.

I shall probably continue to use Air New Zealand because I can book my luggage from Glasgow to Napier (just taking it through bio-security and customs in Auckland) and vice versa without any need to see it in London. But other opportunities are at least open to the traveller who eschews the US of A. Air New Zealand fly more and more flights through Hong Kong Airport which is a lovely spacious airport with showers and a friendly, fast throughput of transit visitors. That is appealing.

The rest of this is being written on Friday morning (UK time) at home.

The second sector to LHR (London Heathrow) was flown by the same plane and the 8919 ks took about 10 hours.

Heathrow is an Airport which most people seek to avoid if they can but I have to say that I don't really mind it and after 1 June this year Air New Zealand will be using Terminal 1 so there will be no need to transfer terminals between the Glasgow to LHR BMI flight and the Air New Zealand onward flight. The only problem I had in Heathrow (apart from a snag with my BMI electronic ticket which had been 'locked' by Air New Zealand who could not be contacted for nearly 30 minutes) yesterday was Immigration - I didn't go through it! Of course you can't avoid immigration can you? Answer 'Yes, very easily. And you don't even have to try'. I managed to bypass the immigration controls and got as far as the boarding gate for the Glasgow flight. I was asked for my passport. It didn't have a biometric confirmation in it ie a digitised photograph so that they could check I was who I was. So I had to go all the way back to the Immigration Control that I'd bypassed (it's so obvious that I couldn't even find it when I went back!) to be processed. If I'd had a new passport with a digitised image presumably I would have got onto the plane without even passing through Immigration Control. Amazing. As it was I arrived back at the gate just as it was closing. However the plane was over an hour late so it wouldn't have mattered on this occasion.

The Glasgow to Stornoway sector was uneventful and only took 40 minutes with a strong tailwind. The sight of the Shiants and the South Lochs and then Stornoway was remarkably emotional. I felt that I was home. Rather the same as I felt when the plane circled Hawkes Bay on the first day of November last year.

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