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NZ Quake II Features PingWi-Fi In Recurring Dirty Gig Role

May 11th, 2011 · Tags:Airports · Cities · Wi-Fi

What can one say about 18 hours in a plane? I mean, it is pretty cool crossing the International Dateline and skipping a day. But that long in any confined space is cruel and unusual … Thank goodness I knew what to expect when I stepped on board my first connection on the way back to New Zealand. And I knew the beautiful country waiting on the other side of the world …

Or did I? It has been nine months and a 6.3 earthquake since my last trip to Christchurch. I already knew the landmark cathedral in the City Centre’s Catherdral Square had crumbled — the same steeple seen in photos taken from the penthouse of my hotel just a few months ago now is in ruins.

But, no matter what mother nature had done with man’s best works, I knew the lush green pastureland would be unchanged. The snowcapped peaks of the Southern Alps would remain cold, crystal pure and timeless. There would still be sheep everywhere and some of the most friendly, hardy and resilient people anywhere.

So, long story short .. the air saga was well worth it. Notably, the first portion of my journey from Dallas/Fort Worth to Los Angeles — an American plane coordinated by Qantas — had Wi-Fi! There is no better way to fly … 4 hours of tweeting, blogging, sending off e-mail goodbyes … and yes mon, listening to reggae on my favorite Internet station at 40,000 feet, 500 m.p.h. is my kind of travel.

Kudos to American Airlines and Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi … me and my plastic got on line in nothing flat and milked every last megabyte from the connection all the way to the West Coast — 7 pings.

But … somebody at Qantas has some “splaning” to do. How can a reputable airline not offer Wi-Fi on a marathon flight over the pond? If you have flown anywhere lately … and especially on an overseas flight, you my friend, have been packed into a plane like so many salty fishettes. And of course, sardines might be preferable to some of the human being aromas one must endure on an elbow-to-elbow flight … (Read previous entries to this blog for specific examples.)

Wi-Fi won’t solve all those issues, but what better distraction?

You can also read in old entries on this blog, and from other sources, that there are various Wi-Fi solutions for air travel — namely land-to-air connections and air-to-satellite connections (which of course would be required over a large┬ábody of water … say like the Atlantic). So “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” what in the name of all things sacred are you waiting on, my friends at Qantas?

Why no Wi-Fi? Automatically deduct two points from the Ping-o-meter reading for that major infraction.

Now, beyond that, in all fairness, Qantas did an admirable job making the rest of the flight comfortable. For starters, as on most international flights the flight was teeming with flight attendants. Unlike their stateside counterparts, apparently Qantas still exercises its right to hire age- and weight-appropriate people to work on a plane. (Yes, I said that …) And in true Aussie form, the crew also are easy on the eyes. No, in fact, I don’t care how shallow that sounds. AND … if I am going to be packaged in a large container with someone, i prefer a little aesthetic consideration … And of course, somewhere during the long flight, we would all be players in a tourist slumber party so to speak too … so I am all for the Australians putting their best foot forward. Let the beach combers represent! But I will also say this to avoid being too sexist. It seemed to me that the Aussies working on the flight — male and female — were more than presentable. Yes, I am man enough to say that Aussies — women or men — are just good looking people. It is that simple.

I digress …

Oh … why was I flying Kangaroo coach to New Zealand anyway? Don’t ask me … someone else made the reservations. Regardless, it turned out to be a good decision. My last trip to New Zealand was on Air New Zealand and no offense to my beloved Kiwis, it just wasn’t as comfortable and service oriented as the Qantas leap across the water.

The meals during the Qantas flight were actually pretty decent. The drink cart was busier than a commuter train and it seemed there was a little more leg room than other international flights. I actually had room to test drive my new, 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro, and/or its step-sister the iPad that was tucked away nearby in my travel bag. Yes … IF ONLY there had been Wi-Fi.

Without an Internet connection, I was forced to listen to music that I own — for the hours in the air, which is reason enough to spend more money on iTunes for such occasions. And I used the time to review the hundreds of yet unpublished, and sometimes unedited photos taken for this travel blog. Good catching up (but that is in now way an admission that man should live without Wi-Fi).

Let’s see what else did I do to pass the hours? … OH … I checked out the flight path a few times on the computer screen in the chairback in front of me to monitor our progress … but that depressed me.

Then I switched over to the new movies available on the flight. If you read this blog, you have “heard” me say that I like to watch movies unbiased by any information on the plot. Well, true to my nature, I fired up “Black Swan” knowing little more than Natalie Portman won an Oscar … Natalie Portman purportedly trained as a dancer for months to prepare for the role … and Natalie Portman’s dancing double “came out” to claim rightful ownership of all the nifty dance moves. I didn’t know that Natalie’s character “came out” in the film.

Ha … Oh my … a bit racy for this viewer … and then couple that with the fact I soon realized there was a young girl sitting a couple of seats behind me, focused on the screen I was watching. Well …. apologies … I hope my careless movie watching didn’t provide a watershed ambiguous moment in her developmental years … “not that there’s anything wrong with that …”

Here is my review of said film: To borrow an infamous phrase from one of the early characters of the “great actor” Keanu Reeves, “That is one messed up little dude” … or dancer.

When my movie and peep show for the girl in Row 44 ended, i finally felt as if I could sleep. The young New Zealander gentleman to my right, however, could not. No worries mate! as the Kiwis are quick to say. He was up a couple of times, apparently a Kiwi with peewee bladder syndrome. No worries.

Finally, he settled in and I am sure I probably became fodder for any other bloggers on the plane … knowing I snore like a beast and there is little I can do about it.

I think I was dreaming I had Wi-Fi … that I finally got to parachute in New Zealand … that I had won the NBA championship … that I was in a hot tub with most of the flight crew … that Dairy Queen blizzards were frosting the sky … that I had won the lottery … and that we had a new president … when suddenly I was awoken.

What the!?! When I abruptly left this mother of all dreams, and opened my eyes in the dark cabin of the Airbus 330, the pleasant young gentleman beside me was no longer beside me. Ha … he was standing above me, with his feet on the arm rests of my seat.

I kid you not!

Quicker than I could say Queenstown, he skipped off the chair and into the aisle and disappeared into the back of the plane. Was a flying with Spider Man?

Ha … Well that was weird.

When he got back, we had our first conversation. I broke the ice with, “Dude, you’re pretty nimble. Are you a rock climber?” (Knowing Kiwis are notorious for outdoor adventure.)

He countered with “No mate, but I really needed to pee.”

Well score one for the Kiwis — ever polite, considerate and demonstratively agile.

We talked a little more over the next few hours, when the unassuming Kiwi made the mistake of asking me what I do.

Of course I mentioned the prime directive for my trip — to help a company in Christchurch return to business after the most recent earthquake. Of course, that was what first took me down under The Land Down Under months ago. Then the poor chap got an earfull of the premise behind

Jo, Nellie at Coffee Supreme 2010

Jo, Nellie at Coffee Supreme 2010

Ha! Think of my favorite comparison … sitting beside someone on a plane, who goes on and on and on is sort of like being a coyote trapped in a snare … you think you might have to chew off an appendage and make a run for it. The Kiwi probably felt like that. But, he was polite … asked for a business card and looked at few photos on my iPad … photos of Christchurch Round I, after the 7.1 quake.

More on quakes, fyi:

New Zealand Seismic 411

Oh .. get this … I showed him one of my favorite Kiwi coffee shops … Coffee Supreme … near High Street (which was hit extremely hard). Small world! He knew one of the women in the photo, taken behind the counter. He was no rock climber — “had girly wrists and no upper body strength” — as he put it … however, I was impressed he was a surfer and he had worked in lots of restaurants and hotels to fund his travels. We do what we do …

Soon we landed and made a connection in Auckland … and in a few hours were on our way to Christchurch. Guess what … thank me now that I didn’t right an entire blog about this. Qantas and American working in tandem lost one of my bags. Well, they found it on their computer system. It was tagged, yet never put aboard the plane back at DFW. The good news — they found it the next day and said they would deliver it to my hotel immediately. The bad news? Apparently “immediately” means in four days over at Qantas. But, finally, the bag arrived and I could quite wearing my new New Zealand sneakers on the job site.

Hey … that’s twice there has been a mix up with my work boots in New Zealand … what gives!?!

Show Us Your Boots

Let’s recap … great flight crew, no Wi-Fi, 50 percent of my bags made the trip with me, award-winning risque cinema, acrobatic passengers and people who practice hygiene .. Ha! including a flight attendant I came to recognize in the dark by his cologne as he passed through … the wireless-less flight to New Zealand on Qantas gets 5 pings on the 7-ping scale-a-roo mate.

Know what I sayin?