The Journey Home

December 3rd, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Got to Tel Aviv at 11 pm Saturday night and crashed briefly at a place provided by Yani. Then had to taxi to airport at 3 am. The taxi did not turn up though, so Ebba and I ended up dragging out suitcases down the road onto the main street, where we managed to hail one.

At the airport, went through much much tougher security than I have seen anywhere else in the world. In one sense it was very reassuring that they take security so seriously, meaning you have a safe flight. On the other hand it meant I only hit the lounge 15 minutes before I had to go to the gate. The security process was:

  1. A 5 – 10 minute interrogation by a young female airport official while waiting in the queue for first x-ray. She asked me detailed questions about why I went to Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait, Dubai and Iran. When I said I had a friend working in Kuwait, she asked why was she working there and she didn’t even smile at my response it was because she earns three times what she would in NZ. Also asked me several times if anyone had given me anything to carry for them, as it could be a bomb.
  2. Then went through first x-rays of all luggage.
  3. Then had a total search of my suitcase (presumably based on my suspicious itinerary to date) which took ten minutes
  4. Then passport control. More questions
  5. Then a x-ray of my hand luggage
  6. Then a search with a wand of not just me, and the hand luggage, but also my shoes, my camera, my books etc.

While all the security was a hassle, it did mean at least I could be confident we would have an incident free flight. And , of all countries, does need to be vigilant. If interested, see Wikipedia on El Al security.

Was sad to leave Israel, as it was such a fascinating place. There is a wonderful blend of racial backgrounds. Another country I am definitely going to return to. Very grateful to Davidi and Young Likud for their first class hosting, and to my European friends who made the trip so fun.

Flew to London, which took almost six hours. My ticket conditions meant I had to continue around the world, so could not take the much quicker eastern route back.

I had a standby upgrade request for the 11 hour leg from Heathrow to LA, but the flight was full. Annoying that one had to go through security scan, even in transit. The lounge there was quite nice, and got some work done.

Then landed at LA after 11 hour flight. They no longer allow you to access the Koru Club, if you are Star Alliance Gold, due to security restrictions. Very peeved as really wanted a shower. Then a 13 hour flight to Auckland.

Did get an upgrade to Premium Economy, which was my first time trying that section out. Biggest boon for me was a power supply as I worked on laptop entire flight catching up with emails, writing blog posts (including most of this one) etc.

Having the seats recline back more is useful, but also proved a hassle as the person in front put their seat so far back I could not use my laptop in front of me. But by chance luck was with me as I was in a window seat (despite a standing request for aisle seats). In premium economy they had a foot wide ledge (with storage space beneath them) next to the window. Not only is it great for storing papers and books (and even the laptop so I did not have to get it from overhead after takeoff, but it allowed me to use the area as a work station by balancing the laptop on my arm rest and a cushion propped up on my shoes on the ledge – a real no 8 solution :-)

So my advice for travellers if to go for the window seat if in premium economy (or at least the upstairs section).

Got into Auckland at 7 am Tuesday and stayed overnight.

Franklin

Went to the famous switching on of the Franklin Road Xmas lights. 99% of the houses on the 1 km long road put up extensive lights and decorations. It’s a wonderful community initiative and the entire road was a party zone. They were even giving away free food.

I attended one of the parties, which was great fun. Damien Christie spent the night introducing me as David Farrier from TV3!

Woke up with a hangover around 10.30 am and almost missed my flight to Wellington.  I blame xxxxxxx.

Is good to be home, but have had wonderful month in a region I have long wanted to visit. And I must be one of a very few people who have done Iran and Israel consecutively in the same trip!

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12 Responses to “The Journey Home”

  1. anonymouse (721 comments) says:

    The storage space by the window in PE is only on the upper deck on 747s, it is not a feature in downstairs section or on the 777.

    [DPF: Oh I was lucky then]

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  2. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    The young women who chat with you while you’re in line are in fact highly trained profilers.

    They just talk to you and decide whether or not they’ll let you get on a plane. and yes they shaelessly profile. Theres a reason no one hijeacks El Al

    [DPF: Oh yes I realise she was profiling me. She was very good at her job]

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  3. philu (13,393 comments) says:

    i must admit..it is the only one of your many.many holidays..

    that i have felt a tad green with envy over..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  4. dime (10,102 comments) says:

    I go premium economy on my trips to HK. bloody good. only $300 more than economy each way. approx.

    no lounge access is LA for a gold member? thats shitty. couldnt get into another star alliance lounge? or is it just an air nz terminal. never flown out of LA.

    actually, what were ya thinking going through LA?

    [DPF: No choice as was around the world ticket]

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  5. Chthoniid (2,047 comments) says:

    Prem Economy is one of the best innovations AirNZ has brought in.

    More to the point, I agree with dime, LAX should be avoided whenever, and wherever possible.

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  6. anonymouse (721 comments) says:

    Dime: He was in the enforced “transit” when you are on NZ 1 from LHR to AKL, only Prem Business are allowed out of holding to go to the Lounge. It is a US homeland security thing, not an aIr NZ thing

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  7. DRHILL (121 comments) says:

    While watching TV programs like Border Security I can understand why they would check people’s travel plans so carefully.

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  8. grumpyoldhori (2,362 comments) says:

    David, it is a lot easier for you Hobbit sized people, but we of a normal height (over 1.8 metres) find airline travel to be just so damn uncivilized.
    Which is why I am looking at taking berths on a container ship to the USA, then flyover the religious part and another container ship to the UK.
    Our own cabin, shower, etc etc, that is civilized travel.

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  9. Scorpio (416 comments) says:

    Welcome back David.

    And thank you for continuing to blog during your trip.

    I always find your take on issues interesting, and informative.

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  10. libertyscott (359 comments) says:

    Anonymouse is wrong, there are window side storage bins for luggage downstairs in premium economy on Air NZ in 747s, at least on the A side. It is by far the best premium economy cabin, as it is quieter.

    You can access the Air NZ International Lounge at LAX as a Gold member, but only if commence your trip at LAX, not transiting on NZ1/NZ2. The simple reason

    However NZ1/NZ2 passengers can access the premium section of the transit lounge, it isn’t much but the seats are better and there is wine and snacks.

    Air NZ’s premium economy is now looking a bit dated compared to Qantas, which has better seats or better yet BMI which has old business class seats far wider with much more recline. The only reason I book premium economy is to spend airpoints and upgrade vouchers to get business cheap.

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  11. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Yes – security both in and out of Israel is interesting. They stop (asking where youve been, why, when, who, what you had for lunch, etc) at the point where one feels about to tell them shove their ‘security’ into a place where the sun doesnt shine!!
    I was intrigued by their request to take a photo of my feet with my camera. (a large old style looking one). They told me later that it wasnt unknown for pistols to be hidden in them and they were used as weapons. So taking a photo of ones feet was relatively safe to everyone else!! – and at least temporarily Inconvenient for the owner of the camera.!

    Now – Only a masochist would travel to or from Europe via USA…………

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  12. Richard Hurst (871 comments) says:

    “Went to the famous switching on of the Franklin Road Xmas lights. 99% of the houses on the 1 km long road put up extensive lights and decorations.”

    Climate Criminals! I’m surprised the Green Party weren’t there ripping the lights down and protesting at such an outrageous waste of energy! Shame on Franklin Road! Think of the carbon emissions from that event! Oh for shame!
    ;)

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