It was with more than the usual degree of excitement that I jetted off on a tropical getaway earlier this month. According to my records, I hadn't had an overseas trip of note for nearly two years (unless you count a whirlwind two days in Sydney, Australia, last May). So, since I wasn't all that familiar with this international travelling lark, I had a heightened sense of awareness of both the annoyances and the joys dished up at Auckland International Airport.
1. Slow family at airline check-in
I sometimes exaggerate but I could have spent close to twenty minutes as the third-in-line at an Air New Zealand check-in counter. (Yes, I wasn't evolved enough to do the electronic check-in; as explained earlier, I'm a veritable newbie, fresh off the boat.)
I'm not sure how this particular family of two adults and two children spent the entire time but I do know they devoted close to ten minutes filling in departure cards (yes, at the counter). We'd filled in our departure cards the night before to ensure our pre-flight interactions proceeded smoothly. We needn't have bothered. We should have filled them in while twiddling our thumbs in the queue.
Deciding this was ridiculous, we shifted queues. No sooner had we done so than the slow people concluded their glacial check-in process. We shifted back to the original queue and were finally second-in-line.
2. Another disorganised family
What were the chances that the next lot of people ahead of us was also more tortoise than hare? First, they checked in a bike packed in a cardboard box. Some people probably think this is fairly standard. But I'm not a cyclist; I ride horses and I don't normally present my horse as oversized baggage on a passenger aircraft. Just saying.
Then these people were asked if they had a frequent flyer card. (You know, the thing that you'd normally present upon booking so that you're not bothered with these details when there are people behind you in the queue.) The woman looked vacant, started flicking through her phone and mumbling about a trip to Sydney. "Here, found it," she said a few minutes later with a tone of triumph normally associated with discovering gravity or Everest or something else of momentous significance.
Finally, these people left and we thought the counter was ours. But no. They'd forgotten to take their boarding cards. The Air NZ woman had to run after them to complete the transaction.
Maybe these three little quirks weren't important in the scheme of things but to witness them hard on the heels of the previous family required a great deal of patience. (For the record, the check-in for our party of three took maybe 90 seconds.
We fell into none of the traps that had foiled the others. I'd half expected applause from those behind us for such a swift transaction. It didn't happen. It's human nature to just register those things that irk rather than be grateful for the people whose efficiency helps systems run smoothly.)
3. Misplaced the Air NZ lounge
It had been so long since I last travelled that the Air NZ lounge had moved. We automatically went up the usual escalator, turned left and approached the glass doors which remained obstinately shut. A note advised the location of the new lounge.
We were no longer familiar with the layout of our home-town airport. What amateurs! Perhaps I shouldn't have been so quick to frown upon those passengers earlier. We can all make mistakes. We should be tolerant of the foibles of other people.
After walking past the duty free shops and finding the right escalator, I recognised Slow Family Number Two immediately ahead of us on their way to the lounge. I was like: "Noooooo! Not them!" Tolerance is overrated.
4. Best airport lounge ever
The new Air NZ lounge is just amazing. It has a verdant living wall and egg-shaped chairs swing from the ceiling. The walls of the ladies' toilets are painted a crazy fusion of purple, magenta and fuchsia. The food area is dominated by an enormous screen showing footage of brown birds amid pink blossoms against a blue sky; it's so real it's unreal.
For breakfast I ate a delicious muesli, yoghurt and berry concoction layered in a tiny glass vessel. Then just when I thought things couldn't get any better I approached the hot drink area. A gentleman whom I can only describe as a Hot Beverage Concierge asked for my order. I was a little sorry my answer wasn't more glamorous than white-English-Breakfast-tea-with-the-milk-in-first-please.
"What are you thinking?" whispered my significant other on the first day of our holiday among the palm fronds and balmy air. Perhaps less romantically than he may have been expecting, I replied: "I was wondering if there's a way of getting into that lounge without having to bother with the going overseas bit - you know, just to relax or maybe get some work done."
Thereafter ensued a discussion about buying the cheapest ticket available, entering the lounge and just never leaving. Would they realise someone had moved in? How could they tell? And could they even stop me? Yes, really. It was that good.
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