We are interested to know if you have any feedback on transiting through Houston airport en route to New York (from Auckland on Air NZ). We have passed through Los Angeles (LAX) several times without any problems but can find only negative comments about Houston (IAH). We are planning a trip to New York and are trying to decide whether to go through LAX or IAH.
You're in luck - Travel Editor Winston Aldworth transited in Houston last week, on his way to New Orleans, so we can offer you a recent personal account. "It's a cracking airport," he reports. "Our Air New Zealand flight came in a few minutes early and we had a clear run to the luggage belts.
"At the luggage belts, there was a staff member thoughtfully placing the suitcases right side up and neatly lined up so they'd be easier to pick up. Nice touch, Houston.
"Key point: Remember you'll need to get your luggage before you go through Customs.
You're coming off an international flight, so you need to do the whole 'anything-to-declare' thing.
"Once you're through Customs, you drop your checked-in luggage off again at a point about 50m around the corner from the Customs desks. It's easy.
"Houston is a big airport. So be prepared for a lengthy walk to your next gate. Many of the food joints are good, so once you've located your gate, you're not far away from a good burger and a decent beer.
"My transition to a United flight was smooth, but it won't always be so. I spoke to another Kiwi passenger on a later flight, who had unexplained delays on their domestic connection. You get that when you're flying domestic in the US. That's a 'US-domestic thing', not a 'Houston thing'."
I received plenty of responses to the question about reciprocal medical treatment and travel insurance for New Zealanders in Australia.
"For many years we have travelled to Australia on a regular basis. On several occasions, we have visited a Public Hospital for medical treatment. After filling out the obligatory forms, there has never been a problem receiving the 'free reciprocal health cover'. Yes, payment is required for ambulance trips but this is no different to what we would pay in NZ. We are always amazed to speak to people who do not know this agreement is in place." - Sheryl
Ken Rose had also made use of this agreement while in Melbourne last month.
"Some senior medical staff don't fully understand the RHA and think, at best, that it covers only emergency treatment," he said. "I was also frequently asked if I had Medicare, the Australian cover for health. You have to keep insisting that you don't need Medicare because NZers are covered by the RHA just as Australians are in NZ."
And regarding pre-existing conditions, he recommended Special Risk Insurers -- "Cover is about US$5000 ($6968) for people 65-80, which would give some protection against large ambulance bills and extra travel and accommodation costs, etc, so should be enough for trips to Oz."
Ken Trehearne also sent in some advice about pre-existing conditions and insurance.
"Any member of a Probus Club, or the same by any other name, affiliated with Fellowship NZ, though not with Probus South Pacific, has availability of travel insurance through broker Willis NZ with DUAL NZ for the club member and one non-member guest -- ideal for a travelling couple. In the circumstances, DUAL does not require knowledge of any PECs as it needs only a letter from the GP of the pending traveller/s indicating it is okay to travel."