Unknown aviation territory

I have flown many times and with almost all major international airlines at one stage in my life or another. However – when I found myself looking for yet another long haul flight to Europe I realised there are still some new or otherwise unknown players in this field.

Searching not only for the cheapest and fastest flight – with my ideal option (a so-called open jaw – one way to London back from mainland Europe – Germany ideally) and dates in mind but also keeping my eyes firmly on comfort and reliability I narrowed the field down – only to find that by that time the price had skyrocketed. So back to the drawing board – and that is when my background in the travel industry (and as someone who actually issued tickets – yes the old paper versions) came in very handy.

In the end I settled on two one way flights – both booked online with STA travel (a one time student travel agency that now offers flights for everybody) – Auckland – London and the second one way Prague – Auckland.

So today (or by the time you read this yesterday or even further away) I found myself waking up at 4am(!) after an unsettled night at the ¬†Budget Ibis Hotel at Auckland airport (really… very budget but clean and very close to the airport) to check into my flight with Virgin Australia – again a so-called budget airline by some – with a connection via Melbourne onto Royal Brunei Airlines to London (with another stop in – you guessed it Brunei or so I thought).

What can I say – despite the generous 30kg baggage allowance and the admittedly friendly cabin staff – I find them somehow lacking on a number of otherwise expected services.

For starters if one does book direct – one has the choice of booking meals and entertainment with the ticket – I did not have that choice but did know that I would not get a meal (at least not one that is included in the price) but also they do not have regular entertainment services – one can either hire a tablet and log onto their onboard wifi system – or after downloading the app use your own tablet or laptop for that purpose. Rather tideous for an international airline I must say.

Then again the glorious days of cheap flights with plenty of service and added bonuses (the overnight bags with socks and eye shades and toothbrush/paste) are long gone (at least in Economy class).

While I started to write this post I got distracted – I started watching people, I do that a lot and always wonder where are they flying to and why and what is the reason why some are dressed rather funny or take well above the cabin luggage allowance on board without being checked.

What about that guy in the ugly black and red striped shirt and with one shoe almost falling to bits – why is he wandering up and down in a kind of waddle… or that very tall and slender African girl who travels with her mother and sister but sits apart from them in the waiting area (she’ll make a gorgeous model one day), and then are those who try desperately to start a conversation about their very important life with anybody who will listen.

Like the guy sitting next to me whose friend won tickets and a VIP trip to the FIFA World cup Finals – and he had to fly to London in order to get to Rio because Melbourne – Rio would have cost AUS$6000. Strange how people sometimes connect in a very awkward way while flying for 20 hours or more around the globe.

All I know is, that despite the obvious advantage of Royal Brunei’s price to Europe AND their great new plane – the Boeing Dream Liner – I can’t find any reason why one would want to stop in Brunei – at least not at the airport. As far as International airports are concerned that one must be the worst of the lot. That is no understatement – it is small, VERY small, only two toilet area’s – squatting only – ok nothing wrong with that per-say but at least have them clean…only two small souvenir shops and one coffee shop – that’s it.

Also it is worth mentioning that this is the only airline I’ve experienced so far that starts every flight with a prayer to Allah for safe travels – kinda nice actually – not even Emirates does that.

That new plane they have – the Boeing Dream Liner is rather cool as well – fewer people and very slick design – loved the window shades that are dimmed – and not closed by hand – and or my short legs – plenty of leg room. The food was by airline standards above average and the crew on all 3 flights (yes 3 not two) was very friendly and attentive.

Which brings me to my only complaint – which is not a big one but would have been nice to know – the Brunei-London leg of the journey was not a Nonstop flight but actually had a transit in Dubai. The heat when one leaves the aircraft to get to the waiting transfer bus is almost physically pushing one down – I’ve been there before – once for a whole week but it amazes me every time.

In contrast – arriving in rainy London with a mere 10 degrees outside was a bit of a shocker to the system – I was wondering if I should have stayed home:-)




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