So what was good and not so on this trip so far?
First I managed to get upgraded to the Air New Zealand business class all the way from Auckland to London. This is great because Auckland to Los Angeles is a twelve hour overnight flight, and Los Angeles to London is another nine hour flight. The good thing about the Air New Zealand business class is the individual pods with flat beds.
The stop in Los Angeles is only a couple of hours, and you are supposed to be in the transit lounge. But for the business class passengers there's the option to clear the U.S. immigration, walk back to the terminal and visit the Koru Lounge.
I immediatelty left the aeroplane, walked through immigration and customs in less than 15 minutes total - and was stopped in my tracks by the TSA.
When you travel to and through the U.S. you will be in contact with at least three government agencies: immigration, customs and TSA.
I never had problems with the first two. But the TSA... Be prepared for long queues and employees who will look at you with a blank stare and simply "not think".
When I was reentering the terminal I showed my original boarding pass and photo ID (passport). He asked where is my boarding pass. I told him "that's it - it says London Heathrow with today's date". But he wanted one issued in LAX.
So I walked back to an Air New Zealand counter, asked for a new boarding pass and the person behind the counter was amused "they should not ask for a new one".
Well, explain this to the TSA - the Air New Zealand agreement works well with immigration and customs, but not the TSA.
Anyway, I had 90 minutes to have a shower, walk and eat something more substantial in the lounge - but at the boarding time Air New Zealand warned the departure would be delayed for technical reasons.
I think I made the right decision going through directly to the lounge, because everyone else in business class started pouring into the lounge - by then I had at least two hours ahead of the crowd and was able to relax instead of rushing around trying to get to the showers, food, drinks, arm chairs, etc...
The flight to London arrived a few hours late, but by the time I had deplaned in Heathrow Air New Zealand had me booked into another flight to Amsterdam.
London Heathrow is just a mess - hundreds of people waiting for a bus to change terminals, but not enough busses going around. And lots of work in progress. And it looks old. But the pizza was good.
Arriving in Amsterdam was refreshing. The airport is modern and nice. The immigration and customs must be the totalitarian governments worst nightmare: the immigration officer looked at my passport and applied a stamp - no scanning, no fingerprinting, no digital photo, no forms to fill. The same with customs.
Another thing was the impressive size of this airport. Not even in LAX or MIA I've seen this: the aeroplane landed exactly on time and it took 15 minutes rolling on the tarmac to reach the terminal. I've been 60 minutes in an aeroplane in MIA, but not moving, just waiting in the line for the terminal to be ready.
It is cold here, but not worse than back in Wellington at the moment though. Let's see how the next week goes.
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