Landing in Auckland was a bit of a Keystone Cops exercise. Keep in mind that United had changed my flight schedule several times since I purchased the tickets (I really don’t get this line about 45 minutes being a legal connection). With the most recent change, I had one hour from landing until my connecting departure to Queenstown.
So here we go - First up, we had to park the plane way the hell out near the end of the tarmac. Next up, the ground crew had a heck of a time getting the stairway up to the airplane door. Then the bus to to the terminal was not ready. There goes all my early arrival time (about 20 minutes) right out the door. The announcement said that our bags would be served up from Belt 6. Using the electronic passport reader, I received the big red X and had to proceed through the help lane. The young couple in front of me couldn’t speak English and didn’t have their documents filled out. This translates to even more of a delay while they tried to find an interpreter – really and in my lane?
After the international communication incident, I cleared and proceeded to belt 6 only to find out that they had switched belts on me – shame on me for not looking at the display. Now serving our bags up on belt 1, all the way at the other end of the building. Run Forest Run. Collected my bags and then queued up in from of the most pissed off guy at customs that I have ever seen. I ask about my connecting flight. With a s**** eating grin he said it was a 20 minute walk and I would never make it since I had to be there an hour ago. He suggested using the transfer bus, but that would take 30 minutes (there’s that grin again). As I moved way, he yelled ‘just follow the green line’. Off I go at a walk-run pace making sure I don’t lose focus on this green line that seems to disappear from time to time. Finally arriving at the domestic terminal, exactly 13 minutes later with sweat pouring from my forehead, I enter the doors and start looking for some help and a bag drop. Found the bag drop and the lady there said I could slow down and take it easy because the flight never leaves on time. You will be fine she said with a lovely Kiwi smile. Ok, this is going to work out after all, I thought to myself.
Landing in Queenstown after a cloudy 1.5 hour flight, I collected my bags and headed to the rental car stand. Nice ladies, although one of them was a screamer and had the voice of a bull-horn. Apparently, it was important for every in the airport to know what she was doing and to whom she was talking about (my poor ears). The other lady told me that I was early and I would have to wait at least two hours while they processed and serviced my car. She grins and said it would be ready in an hour. Ok, off I went for some breakfast and I found my favorite flat white in a man-sized bowl. I am happy now regardless of the wait for the car.
Arriving at my large black Ford 4x4 SUV, double parked in a compact slot, I immediately notice that the steering wheel is on the WRONG side of the car. OK, I can do this. I get the car started and programed the GPS for the hotel. Horns blaring behind me, lights flashing in front of me – damn, I’m on the wrong side of the road. Ok, I can do this. Everything is back on track however, I had to pull over to watch three Hughes MD500 NTR (no tail rotor) helicopters land in formation - nice touch guys
I arrived at the Hotel without further incidence, although the round-a-bouts really required some serious concentration. Jim arrived about two hours later and is still sporting a very sore back. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel and called it a night. Welcome to New Zealand.