The first 12 hours weren’t so bad


I suppose it depends on which 12 hours you’re looking at. Our day started at 6am EST with a wakeup and ride to Newark to catch our first flight on the way to Auckland – Newark to San Francisco. For the Saturday before Christmas the airport was pretty much what I expected, which is to say bedlam. Seriously, it was pretty ridiculous. Even the Presidents Club was overrun with kids, all families on their way to somewhere warm for the holiday week. So a quick 5.5 hour flight to San Francisco and then we headed downtown to meet up with a former co-worker for lunch and a drink. The trip downtown got us up and moving around and helped to break up the 10 hour layover into something somewhat reasonable. As we headed to the BART station to go back to the airport we were treated to a nice view of moonrise and sunset over the Bay Bridge.


The other first 12 hours – that of the flight to Sydney were pretty good as well. We got on the plane in San Francisco around 10pm PST now having been awake for about 20 hours, but still determined to make it through the dinner and enjoy the service that we would receive in Business Class. Dinner was served very quickly, very much in contrast to the Alitalia flight we took last year for our New Years trip where dinner consumed about three of the eight hours in the air. This one was done in just under two hours, including dessert. And then it was time to put the seat into the sleep position and zonk out.

I’ve been in business class on a few airlines now (5, I think) and I have to say that the seats on United are the only ones I’ve ever experienced where all the adjustments are manual. There’s a “switch” but it serves more as a lock than anything else. So to recline you just lift the switch and lean back. No big deal for reclining, but when it comes time to sit up and eat the process involves some contortion as you lift the switch with one hand and reach behind yourself with the other in an effort to pull the seat forward to the desired position. Ditto for extending the leg rest, which involved reaching down and physically pulling the seat into position. I understand that there are a number of savings, including weight and mechanical difficulties in not having the electronics in the seats, but I still wouldn’t make that choice if I was running the airline.

After about 6-7 hours of sleep I came out of my slumber and noticed that the full moon was illuminating the clouds below in a rather surreal way. I tried to get a couple pictures but that didn’t work so well. Shortly thereafter sunrise came about. I’ve posted before about the glory of sunrise from the air, and I have to say that today’s flight was no exception. Scattered clouds add to the effect, and having the huge wing of the 747-400 and the two engines in the shot is pretty much the icing on the cake for me.




Out the other side of the plane the moon was still high in the sky, though working on setting. With both of these going on at the same time it was hard to choose which way to look.

It was right around hour 12 that things started to go badly. It was breakfast time and the flight attendants were working the cabin quickly to make sure that they could serve everyone and get everything cleaned up and packed away in time for our arrival. And they were rushing. So it wasn’t all that surprising to see the FA spill a glass of juice in the row in front of us. Even worse, it was right in to the guy’s laptop on which he was watching a movie, so that put her in a pretty frantic mood, and I’m pretty sure that she still hasn’t recovered. She got snippy with us because we were still watching a movie (Live free or Die Hard) and that was clearly interrupting her efforts to do whatever it is that she was trying to do. And then she gave us a lecture on manners and being polite. I actually managed not to attack her, which I think shows a lot of maturity.

We’re about an hour out from arrival now and then a 3 hour layover and another 3 hour flight to get to Auckland. It has been a pretty long day, and I’m sure there will be another nap at some point to help deal with that problem, but we’ll be at the hotel before too long and then on to more adventure.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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