I’d arranged a taxi to meet me at Fagali’i Airport, and was back at Aggie Grey’s way before my flight to New Zealand. Since I’d already checked out in the morning before heading to Pago Pago, decided to grab a small appetizer at the hotel restaurant and enjoy one last sunset beer. Hotel provided a free shuttle to the airport about two hours before the flight, and in no time I was there and checking in. Nothing exciting, immigration and security were a piece of cake, and soon I was in the departures lounge. The duty free store was all sorts of festive:
Our plane arrived from Auckland about 30 minutes late, giving us only 30 minutes to turn it around, so it was becoming clear we’d be slightly late. Of course, they waited until the scheduled departure time to tell us it was going to be “a little late.” A little late became a little later. And a little later. An hour after departure time, I was getting worried the turnaround crew would go illegal, so asked the gate agent what the story was. Appears there was only one working lav on the entire plane, and they were doing their best to fix it. 90 minutes past departure time they gave up, and we decided to board:
Air New Zealand flight 997
Apia, Samoa (APW) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL)
Depart 21:45, Arrive 00:45 next day, Flight Time 4 hours
Airbus A320, Registration ZK-OJC, Manufactured 2003, Seat 11C
As we were boarding, the flight attendants informed us there would be a one beverage limit per passenger “except in case of emergency” due to the fact there was one working washroom for over 150 passengers. It was a completely full flight except for four seats, and coincidentally all 4 seats were in the same row…a row which according to ExpertFlyer became completely empty 10 minutes before departure, and then they placed one passenger in the middle seat of each row. These passengers were very chatty with the gate agent, and it’s a safe bet they were either friends or employees. Rather sad.
Before takeoff, it was time for the most epic safety video ever:
Some thoughts on the flight:
It was only about four hours, which is about the limit of what I can tolerate in economy, even in the exit row. Fortunately my row-mates were polite and not overly large, so it was a pretty good flight. The odd thing is, how the food on the flight works. You only get free food and drinks if you purchase a more expensive fare, which appears to be approximately a Q fare or above. I figured this meant very few people, but it looked like nearly half the passengers were offered a meal. Everyone else had to pay for something from the buy on board. The meal was actually decent, certainly on par with what you’d get in domestic first in the states.
The coolest thing about the plane was that you could order drinks or make requests through the seatback touchscreen. It even knew what fare you were on, and if you needed to be charged for your request or not. After dinner, I decided to try my luck and order a second glass of wine. The very friendly flight attendant appeared with it about 5 minutes later, and reminded me it was only one drink per passenger except in case of emergency. I smiled at her, and said “it’s dark…I won’t tell if you don’t tell…and plus…the wine volume in my blood is getting dangerously low…almost to emergency levels!” She laughed, and just said to use the touchscreen when I needed more. Needless to say, a great crew can make an otherwise average flight great!
Landed quite late, just after 2am local, and fortunately immigration and customs was a short wait. Took the airport bus downtown to my hotel, and was finally in bed just after 3am. Was very glad I’d canceled my kayaking trip the next day due to rain, since it would have been a very very short night otherwise. I was staying at the SkyGrand hotel, and for some reason they’d kindly upgraded me to a nice corner room where I promptly passed out the moment my head hit the pillow.