As a first time longhaul flyer I had plenty of fears and preconceived ideas. But not much could have stopped me heading off on my first big trip to the other side of the globe.
For me, preparation was key to alleviating any concerns, and knowing I’d done all I could.
Because I was traveling alone on my way to Europe and meeting family there, I decided early on that I wanted to be as comfortable as possible, within financial limitations. So, I booked a Premium Economy seat with Air New Zealand. From Auckland to Heathrow, with a change in LA, was a total of 22 hours and 45 minutes flying time.
Arriving at Heathrow airport was the beginning of a great trip to Europe.
Ground staff at Auckland International Airport were attentive and considerate, as I wanted a little time to say goodbye to my Dad. Then when I needed to go to the departure gate I was escorted with no hassle.
Boarding the flight I was checked in, attended to, and left alone when I wanted to sleep.
It seemed nothing was too much to ask for – not that I’m one of those people.
Changing flights in LA, the ground staff again were lovely, attentive and chatty.
When I was asked if I wanted to sit ‘around the back’ before boarding, it crossed my mind that I may have been about to be shoved away in a corner. How wrong I was. I was taken to an area where the flight crew for the next trip were hanging out. It had a view and space. I had not been shoved in a corner, but instead put in what seemed to me like a VIP waiting area.
The next flight crew were fresh and ready for their flight. They chatted to me, introduced themselves and identified who would be the main crew member in the area I was seated.
I happily boarded again, this time with added confidence because I’d met the cabin crew in advance. Then I relaxed into a second enjoyable leg to my long haul.
Arriving at Heathrow Airport, ground staff were again helpful and friendly.
I then boarded a very small Air France plane to Paris. It was small, French and only a one hour flight.
I was very pleased to arrive in Paris feeling good, rested and happy, thanks to the great flights with Air New Zealand.
I met up with my Mum and her husband Cliff. We traveled mostly by train, through Paris, Lucerne – Switzerland, Milan, Venice, Monterosso, Florence, Montepulciano, and Rome. There were many moments where I had to pinch myself simply because it was so amazing to be there. I had an up close encounter with a Roman road when I fell over and grazed my face and gave myself a black eye. But that makes for a great story, and so far minimal scarring.
A trip of a life time!
But I knew the return trip would be more of a challenge, even though I wasn’t flying alone. I would be flying Emirates and hopping all over the globe this time. Rome to Dubai, Dubai to Colombo, Colombo to Singapore, Singapore to Melbourne. It took serious stamina. But it made a difference that Emirates delivered a brilliant service in economy class.
Exhausted but pleased to be off the plane, I spent a day in Melbourne which afforded some quality time with my brother.
Then back onto an Air New Zealand plane for a three and a half hour flight home. I never expected this flight to be the worst.
I boarded the plane and was greeted with a “Hello” and “Are you traveling alone?”
I told the crew member that I was not traveling alone, and indicated towards my mum and her husband.
Shockingly this changed the behaviour and language of several crew members.
My mother was asked, “Is she okay where she is sitting?” I heard, turned and responded “Yes, I’m fine.”
Later in the flight, when the drink trolley came around, again the question came: “Does she want something to drink?”
I answered for myself. Although extremely shocked at this bad attitude, language and service, I held my tongue and did not sling abuse back.
Welcome home Anna. Don’t forget some of us still have no idea how to treat people with disabilities. They say you get what you pay for. But I didn’t pay for poor service.