The long (flight) journey to New Zealand

Flying to New Zealand is long, time consuming, and can be tiring! Most flights from India to South Island go via Asia and then Australia (2 stops). If you book early, you might be able to get a one-stop flight to Christchurch with Singapore Airlines, but otherwise it is pretty much a two stop affair. North Island has more options, but we are focusing on South Island for now. This two stop thing can actually be a good thing because it gives you some time to stretch your legs and walk around.

Almost every airline, Emirates, Qantas, Etihad, British Airways, etc. goes to Christchurch through one east coast city of Australia. The Australian airports are interesting ports for transiting, because citizens of many countries REQUIRE a transit visa, irrespective of whether they change terminals/airlines, and regardless of how long they spend in Australia (even 1 hour transit time requires a transit visa!). While getting the transit visa is not that complicated (there is no stamp in your passport, just an email printout that you need to carry), it just adds to the process of planning and preparation.

With all that in mind, we kept an eye on various airfare options for a good 3-4 months. We finally bought a Qantas ticket from the official Qantas website. Our route had all Qantas flights, but they were codeshared (operated by another airlines, but marketed by Qantas…modern air travel has become complicated). It turned out that we were going to fly THREE different airlines to get to Christchurch. Jet Airways would take us from India to Singapore, Qantas would fly us from Singapore to Sydney and then we had to get on an Emirates 777 to get to Christchurch.

I have traveled a lot throughout the world, but I had never done 3 flights in one journey, so I was a little curious as to how things would pan out. And about a week before travel day, things started to get a little chaotic. Qantas does not have any presence at Mumbai airport, so I had to check-in with Jet Airways (who were operating the flight for Qantas). So to make sure all is well, I called up Jet Airways and confirmed my booking. I asked them about baggage too. To my shock, Jet initially said the bags will only be checked up to Singapore, but later said that I have the option of checking the bag to Sydney also. But in either case, I had to go out through immigration to baggage claim and then re-check the bags in (at either Singapore or Sydney). That did not sound right. Besides, I did not have hours and hours of connection time to stand in immigration queues, go out and come back in!

So I called up Qantas and guess what, they said that Jet Airways have provided the wrong info and that the bags should be checked all the way through to Christchurch, my final destination. The issue of contention was that nobody was sure as to whether Emirates (the third segment of our journey) would receive our bags at Sydney (as in a through check-in) or whether we would have to hand it to them (which meant collect bags and re-check them in). I was starting to feel that a three-airline journey is not that much fun after all.

After going back and forth between all three airlines, Qantas finally spoke to the Jet Airways manager and informed me that bags will be through checked all the way to Christchurch, and that I do not need to run around Sydney airport like a crazy person. If I had any issues with through checking bags at Mumbai airport, then I just had to mention a couple of names of some airport managers, who had given confirmation on the whole baggage process. Luckily on travel day, everything went smoothly when we were at the airport. All checked-in to Christchurch and not having to worry about our bags, we could now spend our previous little connection time doing window shopping at Singapore and Sydney!

All three flights were alright. The Qantas flight from Singapore to Sydney had completely brand new interiors that they were “trying out” for the first time. They were quite good indeed. Qantas economy had good leg room as well. For some reason, we did not receive boarding passes for all three segments of our flight at Mumbai airport (point of origin). So we had to get our boarding passes printed at Sydney airport for our flight to Christchurch, which the helpful Emirates staff did for us. The last leg of the journey (Sydney to Christchurch) was very tiring, as jet lag started to kick in along with general tiredness from a long journey. It was a sunny summer afternoon as we started to approach Christchurch. As soon as we were above South Island, we saw stunning mountains and blue water bodies. It was a sign of things to come. Suddenly the tiredness was giving way to the excitement of seeing incredible natural beauty. We were finally going to set foot on New Zealand, after a long 20 hour journey!

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