Air Niugini Economy Class GUR-POM

Belated trip report (part 4)!

On mah way home!

Diving was awesome!

Got to the airport a little early after the transfer from my resort in Milne Bay back to Alotau. There’s a little cafe/shop at the airport which sells soda and candy etc. I just got some water and sat around outside the terminal. It’s pretty small, and you don’t really want to clear security until your flight is called. Checking in was quick and easy. Security pulled me up on my camera gear for some reason. I don’t know, took about 20 minutes to clear security anyway.

Flight left 40 minutes early. Seriously. I already had a 6 hour layover in Port Moresby, and now it’d be closer to 7. #FML

Got the same juice tub and cookies I got on the flight over. Didn’t bother with either. Wasn’t hungry, and I already had my bottle of water from the airport.

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Again…

Landed early. Was then stuck with my bags for 7 hours waiting for the flight back to Cairns. Boredom ensued.

Air Niugini Economy Class POM-GUR

Belated trip report (part 3)!

So the domestic terminal at Port Moresby didn’t get the upgrade like the international terminal did. Not surprised. But due to the late arrival of the flight from Cairns, my transit time in Moresby wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Made my way to domestic pretty quickly and checked in easily. Security screening was its usual chaotic mess.

The little cafe that they have airside sells water and snacks. I bought a couple of bottles of water, figuring that I’d get dinner at the resort later that evening. Spent the next hour trying to find a wi-fi connection that worked. I failed.

Flight was on time. Shortly after take-off, the standard Air Niugini snack for domestic flights came out: juice tub and cookies. Gave both to my neighbour.

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I drank the water that I’d bought at the airport that you can see in the seat pocket.

Flight actually landed early into Alotau. Then things got messy. My resort transfer didn’t arrive. There were some arguments at the airport over what I was meant to do. It all worked out in the end and isn’t really relevant to this story…But ugh. Sometimes travel is a pain in the arse. I didn’t end up getting dinner until about 9pm, put it that way.

United Airlines Economy Class CNS-GUM

Townsville to Chuuk: flight 2…

So after landing at about 5pm in Cairns from my domestic flight, I had a roughly 7.5 hour layover in Cairns before the flight to Guam. Qantas wouldn’t check my bags through on to United, so I had to run circles around Cairns airport trying to find the luggage storage guy. Took a while, but eventually got him to put my dive bag into the security room so that I could head into the city to grab some dinner.

Predictably, I went back to my favourite Turkish restaurant (Ala Turka) on The Esplanade and ordered my favourite dish – the baba ghanoush salad. All the noms!

IMG_5796My favourite food in Cairns! It comes with Turkish bread by default, but I didn’t eat it.

After eating dinner in town, I went for a short wander (it was raining, so didn’t really want to walk around for long) before heading back to the airport for the international flight from Cairns to Guam. All straight forward with check-in, immigration, and security. They’ve installed the bloody body scanners at security screening now though. I hate those things. Blame the TSA.

Post-security, almost nothing was open. The Guam flight is the last of the night, and since it leaves just after midnight, and there’s no other flights in the same general time slot, nobody bothers to stay open. The little cafe that does pizzas etc. was open, as was the newsagent and the duty free place. I got a raw food bar and a bottle of Coke Zero from the newsagent. I was tired, and the Coke probably wasn’t the best idea, because I wanted to curl up and sleep on the flight. I would inevitably want to kick my own ass for that in a few hours.

The flight information from United says that the CNS-GUM flight only serves a snack. This, historically, usually means they don’t do special catering. So a bit of advance planning, and I made sure I had something to eat on the flight, given that inevitably, whatever United was likely to serve me would be inedible. To be honest, even regular passengers who don’t have special meal requests complain endlessly about the catering on United, so I really didn’t have any expectations. Which was a good thing.

The flight departed on time, and it was half empty. Most people had a row to themselves. We could stretch out and sleep! The snack got served about 20 minutes into the flight, and as predicted – no special catering. I literally couldn’t eat anything on the tray. There were cookies, a muffin, and a chocolate bar. I ate one of the snack bars I bought at the airport in Cairns and got some black tea, then pretty much passed out until we were about to land.

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What United gave me…

IMG_5798What I actually ate…BYO VGML.

We landed on time in Guam and then had a nice long queue at immigration. Joy. Transit was easy enough, and that was probably the most efficient and easy TSA screening I’ve ever done in my entire life! So clearly the TSA aren’t all bad, just the ones on the mainland US…*cough*MIA*cough*

Air Niugini Economy Class CNS-POM

As a result of flight schedules, I had to fly to Cairns on Christmas Eve, and spend Christmas Day there before flying to PNG on Boxing Day. Ended up getting myself on a day trip out to the GBR on Christmas Day to go for a dive. It got me out of my hotel at least. And while the day trips go to some pretty well worn parts of the reef, a dive is a dive…

Anyway, up early to get from my hotel to the international terminal in Cairns to check in for my Air Niugini flight to Port Moresby. No priority check-in, no lounge access, no business class. I hadn’t actually realised how short the flight was until I noticed that we were flying on a Dash-8 rather than a jet. Check-in was relatively efficient. Got queried over the weight of my bag until I mentioned that it had sports equipment in (which equates to being allowed 30 kg). No excess baggage fees!

Instead of an entirely separate post on this, a brief description of the food options at Cairns international terminal (T1). Be aware that there are not a whole lot of food options at the international terminal to start with. Inside there’s a small cafe and an Eagle Boys Express (pizza). The cafe sells the regular pastries and sandwiches as well as coffee and an assortment of cold drinks. There was fruit salad containers – in theory. They’d sold out when I went through. Of all places, the newsagency store sold raw food bars. Which it turns out I am forever grateful for…

I’d put in a VGML request when booking this trip, and at the time I’d expected to get it. But when I realised just how short the flight was (around 90 minutes), I figured that we’d be lucky to just get a snack and they wouldn’t do special meal catering. But upon check-in, they actually confirmed the catering, and that I had a VGML! But I met a couple of other people in the departure lounge who were also divers and on my flight, and they suggested buying some snacks to eat when we landed in Port Moresby, because the domestic terminal there had no real options. So I bought a few of the aforementioned raw food bars for the transit.

Get on board the flight from Cairns, and get given the standard meal. Which was chicken with pasta salad. I asked for my vegetarian, thinking maybe they didn’t realise it was intended for me. But, no. The caterers didn’t load my VGML. She then offered me an icecream. And, no.

I got myself a Coke Zero and ate one of the raw food bars I bought in Cairns airport. See, this is what I mean about always having a contingency plan when flying. I was told at check-in that my VGML was on board. It wasn’t. Catering in Cairns stuffed up.

IMG_5367BYO VGML!

Anyway, we landed on time and then I had to rush through immigration and customs to make the connecting flight to Tufi.

 

Emirates Business Class PER-DXB

So this trip started out with a mess…

I originally had flights booked to Lusaka on South African Airways (SAA), and due to a series of strange events with the people sending me on this trip, I ended up being forced to change the flights to Emirates. It’s not something I really had much say in. It’s kind of a “you win some, you lose some” type situation. The flights on SAA were more convenient in terms of schedules, and also meant not having to transit in Dubai. But Emirates has a far superior product in terms of their lounges and also their on-board service.

For the record, if you want to know why I hate Dubai so much? Once upon a time my brother was stationed in the Gulf – he’s in the navy. On their rare time off, they used to go to Dubai to shop and sit around in expensive hotels and relax. I went to visit him on one of his trips to Dubai. We were out with some of his navy buddies and got hauled up by the cops – because I was a female in the company of a group of men. Now I knew the rules, as a female the only males I could be with were my husband or other family members. Stupid rule, but whatever. Now how exactly am I meant to prove that my brother is my brother? We actually look nothing alike, and if you didn’t already know we were related, you’d think we had different parents or one of us was adopted or something. My passport was in the hotel safe and I only had a photocopy on me. My brother had his on him. Even though we share the same last name (since I’m not married), the cops weren’t convinced. You know how we got out of it? Showing them our Facebook profiles that had the “relationship” link showing that we were brother and sister. Seriously. That on top of the hassle I got from airport security for being a female travelling alone and the snide comments I got has pretty much permanently put me off wanting to travel to Dubai – even in transit.

Anyway, I had to suck it up and fly through Dubai regardless. Someone else was paying for this trip, and if they told me I had to fly Emirates, then I had to fly Emirates.

Check-in at Perth was easy. The business class check-in was empty and I walked straight up. Very glad for the extra baggage allowance, my suitcase weighed in at 29.4kg. I had a lot of work stuff in there though. I then ventured through security and into the Emirates lounge. You can read about my lounge experience here.

Priority boarding kind of worked. There was a priority boarding line at the gate, but once through the gate, you get stuck behind everyone because everyone boards through the same door on the plane. Screaming kids make me want to maim puppies. Just saying…

Upon boarding, I was pretty much ignored…Surprising for Emirates. I got asked if I wanted a pre-departure glass of champagne, and when I said I didn’t drink alcohol and asked for a glass of water instead, I was told that “drinks would be served once we were in the air“. Seriously Emirates? What happened to their renowned customer service? Not impressed. Iwas surely not the only one in business class who didn’t drink given that it’s a Middle Eastern airline!

Anyway, after that we got the usual hot towel, and they handed out the amenity kits. Always love the Bulgari! It’s the tea scented stuff, which I prefer to florals, so I’m happy.

20140123-002443.jpgI love me some tea scented perfume! I have a large bottle of a different Bulgari one at home actually.

After take off they asked for drink orders and meal requests. Again with the customer service fail…I got sneered at when the cabin attendant noted I had a VGML. Come on. I mean honestly, I was ok with being forced to switch to Emirates from my initial booking on South African because Emirates has better service. But this was really poor. Kind of stunned me given my previous flying experiences on Emirates. I still hate Dubai (I can’t say that often enough), but Emirates has always been great in the past. I wonder what happened? The entire business class cabin crew having a bad day?

Checked out the inflight enertainment options, and again was a bit hesitant when I saw the new release movies. Tons of options, just not a single thing I wanted to watch. So I checked the regular movies in their database…Winner! A huge collection of Disney and Pixar films (Finding Nemo is an obvious favorite of mine)! And some amazing other options like To Kill a Mockingbird. Old but awesome. And Jaws…Figured if I couldn’t sleep at least I had something to watch, even if I’d seen them before.

Eventually we got our drinks and a small bowl of warm nuts. Then dinner…I wasn’t hopeful when the tray was placed in front of me and my entree was salad – to go with the side salad already on the tray. I love salad, but really? It was served with multigrain breadrolls by default. I ate the salad.

20140123-002411.jpgWould you like some salad to go with your salad?

The main came next, and to my surprise, it was actually pretty good. There was some veggies in a tomato sauce, some steamed green beans, white beans with a carrot sauce, and some veggie and polenta cakes. Made sure it was all gluten free before touching it since there was potentially some hidden there. Tasty, but nothing to write home about either.

20140123-002420.jpgThe polenta cakes were a little salty for my taste, but an otherwise good main.

Dessert was more problematic. Apparently the caterers didn’t load my VGML dessert, so in the end, they got me a fruit plate from first class because all the regular desserts had dairy in. It was fine, I’m happy with fruit, and at least that way there’s no potential for stuff ups.

20140123-002429.jpgA VGML with fruit for dessert? How…Unpredictable.

After everything was cleared I had to do some work. After all, that’s why I’m going to Africa in the first place. Had to do some Powerpoint editing. I hate Powerpoint. Worked on that for a couple of hours before attempting to sleep.

And slept for 6.5 hours or so. Sort of. It’s never proper sleep on the plane, even with the lie flat beds in business class. Either way, I woke up just as they’d started serving breakfast. I actually wasn’t feeling so great at this point. Not sick as such, just a stomach ache, so it’s possible there was some very minor gluten contamination or something with dinner.

And…Fail. The breakfast tray came out with fruit, yogurt, a bread roll and a croissant. I checked the ingredients label on the yogurt in case it was soy yogurt, but no. Full cream milk. So I asked the cabin attendant if I’d mistakenly been given the wrong tray, because full cream yogurt and a croissant? Not vegan. It was indeed labelled as my VGML tray. Not her or Emirates’ fault I suppose, but rather an epic fail on behalf of the catering company in Perth. She was very apologetic, but couldn’t really do much about it. I ate the fruit, and then the main came out. Various cooked veggies and baked beans. I ate the mushrooms and spinach. I don’t much like grilled tomato and didn’t feel like potato, and didn’t know if the baked beans were gluten free. It was a bit of a disappointing breakfast, but wasn’t the end of the world. When I landed in Dubai, I was able to get something in the Emirates lounge.

20140123-075741.jpgApparently full cream milk yogurt and croissants are vegan now?

20140123-075749.jpgThe main breakfast dish…Vegan, and mostly gluten free, just not what I felt like eating. Win some, lose some!

After freshening up, it was time to prepare for landing.

Not the worst flight ever, but certainly didn’t live up to Emirates reputation for having a superior on-board product and service.