I’ve been on vacation for three weeks, and just got back yesterday. We were on a G Adventures tour – Highlights of New Zealand. Travel there and back was an absolute nightmare. Our trip there involved two flights – Denver to Los Angeles, then Los Angeles to Auckland. Our flight from Denver was delayed for over an hour prior to takeoff because President Obama was making campaign appearances in Los Angeles, so they put a “ground hold” on that airport, meaning that incoming flights (ours among others) were not allowed to take off.
That caused us to miss our connection to Auckland – there are only two flights per day on that route (both overnight), and we’d had seats on the second one. We ran (almost) from Terminal 7 (United) to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (we got there faster than the shuttle bus would have taken us), but the line for security was several hundred feet long (it snaked several times upstairs, then went the entire length of the terminal downstairs), and the Air New Zealand counter was already closed. Fortunately, we managed to find some ANZ people who were still available and who issued us some paperwork and sent us back to United (back to Terminal 7). United took the position that it wasn’t their fault we missed our flight connection, therefore we weren’t entitled to any compensation. At least they arranged for us to get on the next day’s flight. Some of the other people who missed the same connection didn’t get all the paperwork done by United, so when they showed up at the Air New Zealand counter the next day, they had to go all the way back to Terminal 7 again.
The hotel we ended up in overnight wasn’t bad – the rooms were nice enough, but the hallways had a distinct feel of decrepit sanitarium to them. The hotel restaurant was closed, and there were no restaurants in walking distance – well, there was one across the road and about a block down, sort of, but it involved walking more than a mile and a half to get there, and the only restaurant that delivered said they had a 1-hour-plus delivery time. As it was well past midnight by then, we decided to get some snacks from the vending machine and call it good.
For the return trip, there were three flights – Christchurch to Auckland, Auckland to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Denver. Our original flight out of Christchurch was scheduled for 7pm, but we were bumped to an earlier flight, which then was delayed. It eventually took off just before 7pm. The transpacific flight wasn’t really a problem, but we’d been awake about 15 hours by the time it took off, and only managed a couple of hours sleep each on the 12+ hour flight. We had a two-hour layover in Los Angeles before our flight to Denver, and that would have been barely enough if the last flight hadn’t been delayed. It took us over an hour to get through customs and immigration, and then we had to walk from the Tom Bradley International Terminal to Terminal 7 (United) and go through security screening again. There’s a shuttle bus, but walking beat it again. Apparently, they are planning a way to let you stay within the security-cleared area while moving between terminals, but they don’t have anything like that yet. We got to the security screening, and they sent us back to replace our boarding passes, because United can’t read the barcodes generated by Air New Zealand, or something like that. Then, Marion had an extended and frustrating experience finally going through security. If the last flight hadn’t been delayed, I’m not sure we’d have made it back to Denver last night.
In between, though, it was a very nice trip. New Zealand is a beautiful country. There’s always a bit of “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” flavor to a G Adventures tour, and it seemed a little more evident on this tour. Still, we had a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t mind going back at all. I’ll have more to say (and photos) later.