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Flying to Hawaii

2010 September 16
by rob

March 25, 2009

So, argh, out of bed at 1 AM. I showered shaved, finalized my packing and got a taxi to the airport for NZ$10. I checked in, paid the silly departure tax and then proceeded to eat the rest of the sourdough bread that I bought in Avarua a few days ago. Yummy! All of the shops in the airport were closed since it was a ridiculous hour. The waiting room in the small airport didn’t even have enough seats for everyone. Many people had to stand. I think the plane must have been full (or close enough). The Polish couple, Edward and Donata, were in the waiting room and we chatted. Some guy played his ukelele to entertain us.

We seemed to leave a little late, around 4 AM, I think. Along the way, somewhere over the long stretches of the open South Pacific Ocean, we passed over the International Date Line and suddenly we moved forward in time to…

March 26, 2009 – part one

We landed in Auckland (AKL) just around sunrise. My flight was only about three hours. Since my next flight was also on Air New Zealand, I was given the option when I checked in in Rarotonga (RAR) to check in my bag all the way to my next destination: Sydney. I chose not to, however, since I had extra time waiting in New Zealand and I wanted to visit duty free to get a last bottle of 42 Below kiwifruit flavoured vodka. It was essential to do it that way in case I had to go through security in Sydney.

Wait, isn’t the title of this post “Flying to Hawaii”? Why was I flying to New Zealand and Australia? Isn’t that the long way around? Isn’t Hawaii located directly north of the Cook Islands? Yes, this is true, but there are no direct flights from the Cooks to Hawaii. If you’re having trouble picturing it, perhaps this map that I constructed on the Great Circle Mapper will help you. Click it to see the full size image.

Flight from Rarotonga to Hawaii... the long way

Flight from Rarotonga to Hawaii... the long way

These flights were particularly challenging for me to plan since I crossed the Dateline in both directions in a short period of time. It’s hard to get all the date changes straight in your head. Now that I’ve done it a few times, I can say with confidence that I understand the Dateline much better than I used to! It seems like an arbitrary and artificial thing to be changing dates like this simply by flying across a line. It’s no less artificial than the rest of the time zones that we’re more used to.

While waiting in Auckland I spent some time talking on my mobile phone to people in Canada to use up the last of my credit on Vodafone. That was the end of another glorious overseas phone number for me!

My flight to Sydney was rather uneventful. On both my Air New Zealand flights that day I used the video-on-demand a lot. I liked Air New Zealand a lot for their good service and good content on their seatback video. It actually had things I wanted to watch! I did greatly disapprove of how they didn’t pay out air miles on their sale fares (which I traveled exclusively on). Oh well.

The real fun stuff that day took place after I landed in Sydney (SYD). My Australian one-year working holiday visa had expired already and I didn’t have a new visa to be there. Since I wasn’t going to leave the airport and was supposed to be there less than six hours I wasn’t supposed to require a visa. Before coming here I had already called the Australian consulate in Auckland to confirm that I should have no problems.

The problem was, though, that my next flight was on the ultra-budget airline Jetstar. Jetstar didn’t accept interlined bags from any airlines. They required that I check in my bag manually. To get my bag, though, I’d have to pass through Australian immigration to get to the baggage claim area.

I attempted to go through immigration, but they totally bounced me out of there. They wouldn’t let me through without a visa. I explained that I needed to collect my bag and they complained that that was definitely a problem with Jetstar’s policies. The immigration officer even said that they should fine Jetstar for wasting their time so much. I was not the first person to attempt this maneuver.

I had previously talked to Joe Clancy about this, and he advised me what to do. I needed to talk to a representative from the airline. Jetstar, being an ultra budget airline, didn’t even have a transfer desk. I had to go to their parent airline’s, Qantas, transfer desk to get help. The lady there was super helpful. After many phone calls (sometimes to wrong numbers since her directory was out of date) she got me checked in remotely to my outgoing flight. She also got someone to go the baggage claim area for me, find my bag, retag it for Honolulu (HNL) and check it in. She said my boarding pass would be printed at my departure gate. I didn’t have any receipts, passes, or any piece of paper as evidence. I had to go on blind faith that everything would work.

Even though the bureaucracy took a while to resolve, I still had some time to kill. I cashed in the last of my New Zealand Dollars for Australian ones to get dinner and snacks for my nine hour overnight flight to Hawaii. I had a tandoori chicken wrap and salad for AU$18 (CA$15). I didn’t even have enough money to buy a beer.

Even though I didn’t have to pass through airport security, there was still a guard checking boarding passes before I could even reach my departure gate. I instructed the guard that he had to either go to the airline agent to get my boarding pass for me, or escort me there so I could pick it up myself. The guard summoned a lackey to take me there. Sheesh.

My plane to Honolulu seemed only about half full. There were EXTREMELY LOUD children clustered all around me and I knew they weren’t going to let me sleep. I escaped from my seat after takeoff to a couple of adjacent empty seats near the back of the plane. It was too bad that I hadn’t escaped earlier since there were some people that already claimed all of the four-across seats to lie back flat on. I had to lay contorted across only two seats. With the help of some sleeping pills and ear plugs, though, I did manage to get a few hours of shut eye.

Sometime in the middle of the night, the clock struck midnight and the date advanced to March 27. However, we flew back over the Dateline and the date reverted to March 26. But I’ll write about that instance of March 26 next time…

Rob Szumlakowski
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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