Helen van Berkel flies Air New Zealand Flight 27 Houston to Auckland.

The plane:

A Boeing 787.

The airport experience: After a late-arriving flight from New York into Houston — and expecting to have to pick up baggage before checking in — it was a race for me and other connecting passengers as we "excuse me, excuse me-d" and clambered over the backs of other disembarking passengers. The required terminal was, naturally, roughly a million miles away and our names were being called as our straining lungs and red faces arrived at check-in. I left the gate staff on the phone chasing our luggage, said a little prayer for my abandoned suitcase and boarded.


My seat: 60F — right next to the aft loos.

Fellow passengers: Next to me were utterly charming and perfectly behaved children, a young brother and sister flying alone to Christchurch. In front were badly behaved grown-ups, determined seat-recliners who needed repeated reminders to keep it upright during takeoff, food service and landing.

The food: We were served Mexican beef and rice for dinner and a choice of fruit or omelette for breakfast. And, oh boy, it was nice to get Kiwi smiles again.

The entertainment: The usual excellent section of new and old movies but I was exhausted and slept after watching The World According to Garp — only to wake approximately every hour or so when the toilet flushed thunderously almost right next to me.

The toilet: The unthinkable happened. Turning to replace an empty toilet roll I accidentally pushed the flush button. I don't think I have ever moved so fast in my life but I can lay that fear to rest: the flush does not suck out your insides.

On time: We were due to land at 6.05am and landed at 5.39am. From the back of the plane to an 8.30am appointment on the other side of Auckland, it was another dash through Customs and baggage claim. As my bag was last on, I figured it would be first off — and there it was, jauntily leading the little baggage parade on the conveyor belt. I was getting a hug from my pick-up ride by 6.09am.