Since M and I spent an ungodly amount of time in airports and on airplanes, we thought we’d give you the rundown! I have a lot to say, so M will write up his experiences in Part II.
Vancouver Airport: This airport is very nice; if you have the choice of long layover, definitely pick Vancouver! The terminal is just so pleasant and it feels more like an airy train station than stuffy airport. Of course, upon landing you do the requisite hike through dark hallways, but then you get to this:
Everything is made of wood and there’s a fake stream running down the center, so it has a very relaxed and natural atmosphere. To complete this image of perfection, there’s free unlimited wifi! If you get bored with surfing the internet, you can watch the active fish swim around their large tank:
The fish and their habitat are all from the Vancouver coast, which is a nice local touch. You can also watch the planes through the large windows by each gate. Luckily, my gate was near the central aquarium and food area, so I could easily grab a sandwich and watch all the goings-on (I regret not going to popular Canadian chain Tim Horton’s, but there was too much of a line). M suggests trying the poutine, which if you don’t know, is a Canadian dish of fries, cheese and gravy. Delicious! An overall 10/10 airport experience, would route through here again.
Air New Zealand: OK. Air NZ seems to believe that the only reason anyone travels to, or indeed has heard of, New Zealand is because of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, and so pimps these franchises out at every opportunity. I mean, I like the films as much as the next nerd, but it was a little ridiculous. Most of my reaction comes from the ultra-cheesy safety video. Words cannot explain, so please, watch this:
The in-plane version even had credits (most notably Peter Jackson and Gollum as himself). You’ll be glad to hear that the flight attendants were not dressed as elves. The theme continued to the movie selection, where the genres were “comedy,” “drama,” “hobbit,” “sci-fi,” etc. I could have watched both released Hobbit films, thus killing 6 out of the 13 hours of flight time, but I decided to wait to watch them with M. Instead I watched Gravity (excellent) and, on a Sandra Bullock kick, The Heat (a girly buddy-cop film). I managed to sleep for a few hours, then watched 12 Years a Slave, then episodes of The Big Bang Theory to cheer me up. The food was decent and the time went by faster than I expected, so besides the excessive hobbit-ness, it was a good experience. Pro-tip: on long flights, get an aisle seat so you can walk around whenever you want without waking your rowmates!
Auckland Airport: You may recall that I spent ten hours here, waiting for M’s flight to arrive. Unfortunately, it is nowhere near as nice as Vancouver. For one thing, only 30 minutes of wifi? There were some long padded booth benches though, which enabled me to get about an hour’s sleep before the airport got busy. The coffee was nice, if expensive, and I managed to get a prepackaged sandwich from one of the newsagents, which was cheaper than the fast-food options (there weren’t all that many options, since the terminal was quite small). After sleeping and reading the guidebook, I found the viewing area. This was very exciting, for it allowed me to watch the planes in relative quiet, since it was out of the way of the food court and gates.
Pro-tip: I’ve come across a few airports with these areas; they’re usually up some stairs and down a nondescript hallway, so few people venture there and you can have some respite from the hustle of the main terminal. If you’re staying in an airport for a while, look for one! Of course, at this particular airport the view from this area included this:
I don’t know what this plane is used for; no one got on or off during the four hours I watched it and it wasn’t sitting at a gate. I was hoping some actors would arrive and board the plane, thus causing something interesting to happen, but they did not. This is probably because the weather was terrible: in these pictures you can hardly tell that there’s a bay right beyond the runway. Luckily Auckland Airport had other hobbit-based diversions in the form of some large setpieces:
Yes, the sign does say that it’s “on loan from Middle-Earth,” though as a theatre person, I know that they’re made of painted Styrofoam. Still, pretty impressive from a distance. Overall, Auckland Airport was tolerable, but you wouldn’t want to have a long layover here. Trust me.