As of last night, I arrived back in the UK for another 3 week holiday. It was as good a trip as you would expect when the plan is for 31.5 hours between first takeoff (Wellington) and landing (Heathrow).
This year, rather than go via Hong Kong, I went via Shanghai on an Air NZ ticket. Still only with a planned 4 hour stop in Shanghai Pudong, and a change from Air NZ to Virgin Atlantic.
Very little of the timing ended up being quite right, but in the end it didn't matter. Leaving Wellington was fine [and helped in no small part by the Koru Lounge pass :-)]. We were delayed departing Auckland though to offload a sick passenger and family, along with needing to refuel the plane. No gripes - it was better to have the passenger looked after and the Air NZ cabin crew did a good job. The one affect of the delay meant having only a 3 hour stopover in Shanghai, so that was good. terminal 2 at Shanghai Pudong is really good. As with Hong Kong, it is bright and airy, clean and tidy, with lots of room to move around.
The Virgin Atlantic flight from Shanghai Pudong was a few minutes late departing, but we ended up 1 hour [yes, 1 whole hour] EARLY arriving at Heathrow. The immigration queue at Heathrow was fast; the biggest wait was for my bag - it was probably the in the last container out of the aircraft.
The change onto Virgin Atlantic was interesting. The small number of long haul sectors I've ever flown have all been with Air NZ, and so this was a chance to compare the two.
Air NZ was up to their usual high standards. It's nice to know that when you hop on the plane, the crew are polite, professional and have an air of confidence about them.
The Virgin Atlantic experience was a wee bit different... Virgin Atlantic have jumped on the "use a cartoon for the passenger briefing" bandwagon, but it just didn't come off as well as the Air NZ one. Too long, and a bit disjointed. Also, when the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew were speaking, it sounded like a pre-emptive strike - the big stick approach. Things like "you MUST have your seatbelt visible so we don't have to wake you to check it!". There was a big, unwieldy explanation of their booze policy, threats about forcing all passengers to turn off all electronic devices in some circumstances, and to top it off, and despite booking on a supposedly "full service" airline [I certainly didn't get a "low cost" airfare!], we would have to pay for snacks and drinks outside of the meals that were planned for and served.
Then there were the other announcements like the long and boring one about duty free purchases. The In Flight Entertainment was disabled until well after takeoff and from well before landing [another area Air NZ beats them in], not to mention advertisements for various Virgin and other companies being inserted prior to every movie. Even some of the seat headrests had advertising on them in case you suddenly have the desire to upgrade yourself into a seat with [slightly] more legroom... despite ignoring all the booking/ pre flight opportunities!
To be honest, it all sounded a wee bit desperate. If I wanted to be so blatantly marketed at, I would fly on Easyjet or Jetstar [actually, I have a couple of Easyjet flights coming up]. I don't expect this on a "full service" offering... and it's a pity that Air NZ is partnering with them for long haul...
On the plus side, the meals were OK, the cabin crew were polite enough [although I saw them ignore lost looking passengers from time to time], and the flight itself was fine. Would I fly them again? Yes, but my expectations have been reset somewhat [along with my price expectations...]
Anyway, enough of the moaning! Here are some pictures of Boeing aircraft from the stop over in Shanghai Pudong [Airbus in the next post]. Apologies for the quality of some of them; I was shooting through glass, and it was a bit hazy and drizzly at times. Anyway, top to bottom are:
The inside of Terminal 2
Boeing 747-422, N174UA, registered to United Airlines
Boeing 737-86D, B-5315, registered to Shanghai Airlines
Boeing 777-336/ER, G-STBF*, registered to British Airways
Boeing 747-430, D-ABVM, registered to Lufthansa
Boeing 747-467, B-HUF, registered to Cathay Pacific
* registration as best I can tell