It took us a little over 24 hours of flying and waiting in airports, but finally I am in another country!
There were about ten of us checking in at the QANTAS terminal at Auckland International Airport. We were too independent to bother with a group booking (honestly it was like trying to organise cats) and by the time we looked at our seats three of us decided to go back and have our seats changed so we were sitting next to each other. This proved to be a fatal mistake, as I was in the middle and I kept needing to get my bag down for my passport, or my books; or I needed to use the toilet or just go for a walk. Tools (who was in the isle) was not impressed.
Though I had blocked ears and a headache my sore throat had gone and I had some good books to read courtesy of my friend Blair. When my eyes were too sore to take any more in they turned out the lights and I managed to slip into a fitful doze.
Disembarking at LAX was quicker than I thought - we were off the plane rather promptly and because we were there through work our visa's had a (low) diplomatic level. This meant we popped through border control without too much hassle. Luggage went through customs without our presence and were transferred onto our next flight for us. We'd been told there is only a 50-50 chance your bags will turn up with you so everyone was talking about what 'line' they dropped their luggage off at and wondered which group would receive their bags at the other end and which group would be without. Thinking about it now we should have laid bets on the outcome. If my friend Kolky had been there he would have organised a "two bucks in."
After a fascinating security screening experience (my attention was captured by the colour x-ray of my bag) we made through to the domestic terminals at LAX. Here we had four hours to learn that tax isn't included in the sticker price on goods, a dime is 10c, a nickel is 5c and burger king tastes the same in LA as Auckland. We also learned that Americans can be amusing if you're a foreigner but foreigners aren't so amusing if you're American.
The passengers to DFW were called to board in the groups indicated on their boarding passes. But our passes were issued in Auckland and didn't have a group on them! OH NO!! We decided we were all going to board anyway (cats again) until the man announced passes issued elsewhere were going to be in group 5. So 'till group five we waited.
Finally after an hours delay we were on the plane. And after THAT my little group of independents looked like well behaved robots in formation compared to the pear-shaped cluster that made up the other passengers on board our 737.
People decided to swap sweats left right and, well everywhere. The air hostess just called out orders from the back of the plane. There was an extra passenger who had to leave. Then the weight and balance had to be recalculated, but instead of the pilot reading it off a graph (X-many passengers = W&B of Y) the maintainers on the ground had to work it out and run it out to the plane.
So another hour after boarding we were in position to take off.
It was a pretty boring flight. About 3 hours long, but with my ears it wasn't very pleasant. After landing I was in a bit of pain and being tired and grumpy I wasn't the best of company - just ask Kiwi Mother what I'm like to deal with when I'm like that!
Fortunately we all picked up our luggage, every article came through so congratulations American Airlines!
We were met by personnel who are already in the states on this project. They took us the 40 or so minutes to our accommodation and helped us check in. Then we went for food at the nearby 'Wattaburger' which is open 24 hours. Yay.
I've got to go out for dinner with the team now - so more on my initial experiences next blog.