Sunday, November 25, 2012

New Zealand 2012 - Part 6: Getting to Queenstown

Part 1:  Asiana Airlines First Class – Los Angeles to Seoul
Part 2:  Asiana Airlines Business Class – Seoul to Sydney
Part 3:  Air New Zealand Economy Class – Sydney to Auckland to Christchurch
Part 4:  Winetasting in Waipara
Part 5:  Exploring Christchurch
Part 6:  Air New Zealand Economy Class – Christchurch to Queenstown
Part 7:  Winetasting in Otago
Part 8:  Exploring Queenstown
Part 9:  Hilton Queenstown
Part 10:  Overnight in Sydney
Part 11:  Singapore AirlinesFirst Class – Sydney to Singapore
Part 12:  Singapore Airlines First Class – Singapore to San Francisco

There are only two real ways to get from Christchurch to Queenstown – by road or by air.  A straight drive through would take 6 hours in a rental car and be pricey.  A couple bus routes exist including a scenic route which goes by Mount Cook and takes around 10 hours and a fair amount of cash.  The cheapest option, and quickest, was to fly on Air New Zealand using my miles.  It only cost me 12,500 for the one way flight. 

The walk from my hotel to the central Christchurch bus station took 20 minutes, then another 15 minutes before my bus arrives, and final 20 minute ride to the airport on the outskirts of town.  I arrived about 4 hours ahead of my flight due the early hotel check out time.  ANZ won’t let you check-in until 3 hours before a flight so I tried to first catch an early plane to ZQN but wasn’t able to.  Thankfully this was not a big issue as you don’t have to have a boarding pass to go through security and spend time waiting in the Koru (Air New Zealand) Lounge. 

Security was a breeze and I was in the lounge in a few minutes.  The lounge was crowded for all of the midday flights but they actually had a great spread of food and specific items for lunch including a hot quiche like dish.  I packed up my plate for lunch with the quiche, some cheeses and chutney, potato salad, cookies, and pasta.  I also had some Coke, a rarity for me. 


A little over an hour before my scheduled flight I headed out of the secure airport area back to the ticketing area and began the check-in process.  ANZ has great self-service stations arranged around columns which do everything from scanning your ID and printing boarding passes to checking bags and printing tags.  I had to check my roll aboard and all I had to do was attach a tag at the terminal and drop it off where a staff member scanned it, quicker and easier than in the states.  It was even quicker than just waiting to check-in at a United terminal at the airport. 

My flight was departing from the regional terminal.  This part of the airport had a very cool design with wood paneling and it also had no security screening.  Once the flight was called to board you just scanned your boarding pass and then walked out to the plane.


The flight would be operated on an ATR-72 propeller commuter plane.  We don’t have many of these in the US and you actually have to board from the rear.  The flight was completely full.  I stowed my backpack under the seat and got ready for takeoff.  This plane is loud.  I was near the engine, but still, it rattled your whole body as it was rolling down the runway.  Our direction was roughly southwest taking us over the plans around Christchurch and then the alpine mountains before heading into Queenstown.  We had some decent views of the snowcapped mountains and Mount Cook.  Free water, coffee, and tea were offered along with a small cookie for a snack. 


About 15 minutes prior to landing the pilots announced our decent.  Looking out the right side of the airplane I could see the Queenstown airport in the distance and the mountains on either side.  The plane turned right and we started descending into the valleys on our approach.  It was one of the most interesting and exhilarating landings I’ve done as we were buffeted by wind coming in.  Just as the mountains fell back we touched down on the runway and taxied to the gate.  The Queenstown airport is very small, even though it handles international flights.  There are no jet bridges so we exited out the back stairs onto the tarmac and into the airport.  Baggage claim was quick and then I was off to the waiting super shuttle to take me over to the Hilton Queenstown.  Even from just walking outside the airport I realized Queenstown is a very special place - and I love it.



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