Thomas Bywater flies aboard flight NZ2, from Auckland to Los Angeles.



Plane: Boeing 777-300ER.


Flight time: Twelve hours in a plane, cruising over the Pacific. Six hours transfer in LAX, cursing under my breath.

My seat: 55G.

Fellow passengers: In spite of a delayed start, the mood was decidedly upbeat. Beside me was a passenger off to start a new life writing software for casinos. Behind me, a family of hyperactive kids travelling to the World Junior Karate championships in Las Vegas, practicing roundhouse kicks on the back of my seat. A passenger who decided to strip down to her sports bra and pace the aisles. A plane full of Hollywood extras, straight from central casting.

How full: As Kodak Theatre on Oscars night.

Entertainment: I had a scan through for a podcasts to help me fall asleep. Something called Waking Up with Sam Harris did just the trick.

Food and drink: Standard fare, chicken or beef. Though by the time supper had made it to row 55 the choice had been simplified to just chicken. However, the real fun began once the drinks trolley arrived. I asked for tomato juice. The steward was absolutely evangelical about "TJ" as he referred to it in airline shorthand. It was about the time he began extolling the joys of TJ's potassium levels that the enthusiasm crossed into the territory of Twin Peaks air. Next time, I asked for water.

The toilets: Clean, and functional.

The airport experience: Out of the international terminal and heading for domestic, I had four hours to kill. Taking to the taxi rank, I asked how far I could get. "I wouldn't risk it, sir," came the knowing response. There is no escape from LAX, even for ready money.


The bottom line: A touch of Hollywood glamour, even in the cheap seats.