We did it! Alana and I have officially begun our next adventure! We just got in to New Zealand this morning and have settled down in an airbnb in a lovely Auckland suburb known as The Shire… Okay, okay, it’s Grey Lynn. So before we set about adventuring I thought it would be good to recount the details of our voyage here!
Our first flight was from Newark to LA with Virgin America. I had never flown with Virgin America before and was very impressed upon boarding the plane. The interior had, for lack of a better word, a hip, club-like atmosphere. Everything was lit in a soft purple glow, and there was cool music playing on the speakers. When we began to taxi the captain gave a lively and humorous introductory speech and the flight attendants did as well. They all gave off a very “cool” vibe.
When the safety video began to play as we were taxiing I was blown away once again! This was no mere repetition of the same lines about how to fasten and unfasten the seat belt and locate the life vest. This was a full on song and dance theatrical production taking place on the little TV screen in front of me.
However the initial hype didn’t live up to its promise. We were glad to see that there was a TV screen in back of the seat in front of us. At almost 6 hours, some entertainment would be welcome! Very little was available for free though. Movies cost $8 a piece. There was free TV from a variety of channels, but sometimes the signal could be spotty and would cut out.
In addition to this there was no food provided. They had a convenient ordering system set up in the TV but the only things available for free were water, soda, and juice. It’s been a few years since I’ve flown domestic and perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my experience in China these past 3 years, but I’ve become used to a much higher standard of service and it seems like Virgin America is really lagging behind its Asian counterparts.
When flying with most major airlines in Asia (excluding budget carriers since you can’t complain with airfare under $100) you get a free meal, regardless of how long the flight is. I remember last year when I was flying from Hong Kong to Shanghai with China Eastern we were given a full meal even though the flight was only about two and a half hours.
To put it simply, Virgin America was all flash and no substance. I don’t really know what to say about flying in the US. The prices are so much higher and the standards are so much lower.
After we landed in LA we had a very brief layover during which we barely managed to scarf down some food from Panda Express before boarding our flight to Auckland!
The second half of our journey was with Air New Zealand. We were flying on a 777 which felt a little cramped compared to a larger plane like the A380. There was a pretty good entertainment selection so I settled in to watch Dr. Strange while I waited for dinner.
I got my dinner a little bit before everyone else because I had requested a vegetarian meal. My meal consisted of some kind of bean patties with tomato sauce on them, a grain I didn’t recognize, and I huge lump of soggy spinach (very much like the kind I used to get in my school lunches in China!) It was hands down the worst food I’ve ever eaten on an airplane, or anywhere else for that matter. Here I am complaining about not having any food on our first flight and then I get some and I can hardly palate it! Next time I’ll be more grateful!
Now as terrible as the food was it had some pretty powerful sedative effects. Not long after I finished eating I passed out and slept for a good 6 hours which is pretty impressive considering I typically have a very difficult time sleeping on planes. When I finally did wake up it seemed like almost everyone else on the plane was out cold as well. Alana had a similar experience and we’re not convinced the food wasn’t laced with sleeping pills.
After I woke up, having pleasantly slept through a large portion of the trip, I watched a couple more movies and suffered through a horrendous vegetarian breakfast (featuring another lump of soggy spinach!) before our journey came to a close in Auckland.
In summary, if I had to rank all the airlines I’ve ever traveled with from best to worst the list would look something like this:
- Korean Air
- Eva Air
- Air New Zealand
- China Eastern/Southern
- Thai Airways
- Philippine Airlines
- All those SE Asian budget airlines (Vietjet, Tiger, Nok)
- Anything in the US