My wife, daughter and I began our sojourn last week Saturday. From Dunedin we flew to Auckland for a connecting flight to Sydney, Australia. Our baggage was considerably overweight, and Air New Zealand happily reduced my checking account by $200 for the privilege of getting all of our things home. It was an omen of more bad things to come. We were also informed that they could not transfer our bags to Qantas for the flight to Sydney – we would have to pick up all 6 bags, haul them to the International terminal, check the bags in there, and make our way through security there. The Qantas flight was relatively uneventful, but it took nearly two hours to get through immigration and then customs at Sydney Airport. By the time this was done it was nearly 5 PM, and by that point we were very happy that we had decided to spend a few days in Sydney before flying back to Hawai‘i.
Sunday was my birthday, and we spent it at the Taronga Zoo following a pleasant ferry trip through Sydney harbor which took us between the harbor bridge and opera house (to the left). The trip certainly did wonders to reduce our stress levels. Sunday was my wife’s birthday,so we wandered back to the harbor area, and had lunch at a surprising nice sports bar on George Street, before heading back to the hotel to pick up our things and head out to the airport for a 6PM flight. It turns out our bad luck hadn’t turned, just took a few days off like we did.
When we got to Sydney airport we got in the cue at the Qantas counter. After about a half an hour we got to an agent, who told us that we were on JetStar airlines. I blinked and said “Who?” Well, it turns out that JetStar is Qantas’ budget subsidiary, and even though we booked on Qantas the flight was handled by JetStar, and we would have to go and check in at the JetStar counter. Producing my best annoyed look, the agent offered to take us to someone who could help, and we were turned over to the first available agent. We checked in quickly and thankfully were not charged for excess baggage. A hopeful sign, yet alas, not all was well.
Our flight was delayed by three and a half hours after and earlier flight’s plane experienced mechanical difficulties and was given our aircraft. We were all required to leave the gate area and go through secondary security screening a second time after spending another hour wandering the airport. Our 6PM flight actually left about 9:30PM. Dinner was produced at 11:PM, though we were asked to produce our boarding passes to prove that we had paid for meals. Since we booked on Qantas and not JetStar apparently we were entitled to a free meal. Those that booked directly on JetStar and did not pay for the meal in advance were charge $15 for one of the most dreary airline meals I’ve ever encountered. They also paid $5 for headsets.
Upon arriving in Honolulu we found we had missed our connecting flight to Hilo and were informed that every Hilo flight was booked solid. The woman running Gate 57 was a particular prudish, dismissing other passengers from our JetStar flight that “Well, you missed your flight” as if it was their fault JetStar gave away our plane to someone else. We were on standby, and after watching two filled Hilo-bound flights depart without us, my wife and daughter made the third as standbys when we were told there were two available seats. I waited at the boarding area and asked the woman if they made the flight and she said yes. What she didn’t tell me, or didn’t know for some reason, is that there were several empty seats on the plane and I could have taken one. The plane departed with them empty as I headed to another gate and waited for an available seat to materialize. Gladly it did, though I almost missed it because the prude at Gate 57 neglected to release my record so that the employees at Gate 61 could access it. They got that squared away a few seconds before the gate was ready to close and I made a mad dash for the aircraft. 45 minutes later we were reunited in Hilo and made our way back to the house. I don’t think I’ve slept as well as I did that night in years. There is nothing like your own bed to sooth frazzled nerves.
I don’t think I’ll be making any international trips again anytime soon. Going to take a while to get over this one.