Returning to New Zealand: Flights and update

Returning to New Zealand

We finally made it! We’re in New Zealand! It only took us four months and four flight cancellations but we’re finally here!

We’re currently on Day 9 of managed isolation and I’m not going to lie, it feels absolutely surreal that we’re here in New Zealand. Despite the ‘returnee lynch mob’, everyone has been absolutely lovely and friendly. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience! Anyways, I thought I’d share with you our journey, what flight we used, processes and an update on how we’re doing and what our plans are!

Checking-in

We flew with Singapore Airlines on 16 July at 11.25am from London Heathrow, with a 75 minute transit in Singapore Changi Airport. In terms of flight cost, so far we’ve paid just over £2,000 for our one-way flights for the both of us.

We arrived at Heathrow at around 8am because I was paranoid and just wanted to make sure we had enough time to check-in and if there were any issues, we had extra time to cover it. Let me tell you, I’m super grateful for the extra time we had because when we arrived and checked-in, my bag alone was 40kgs (!!). I still laugh whenever I think about it because bloody heck, how did it get so heavy?! And how were our scales so off?! I don’t even think it had that much stuff in it… given that I repacked and got rid of more stuff before getting to the airport!

Our luggage allowance was 35kgs per person, not including carry-on, which is incredibly generous. Important to note that Singapore Airlines rules states that one piece of luggage cannot be over 32kg for health and safety reasons. I remember reading that but in my mind, I was safe and under 32kgs.

Anyways, we were told to repack our luggage and get our bags down to 32kgs (Tom’s suitcase was 33kgs) and we decided to buy another suitcase (this was an extra cost of £89.99). After repacking and getting my suitcase down to 30kg and the extra suitcase at 16kg, we stood back in line and waited for nearly an hour to get checked in.

Second time around, we had a different customer service rep and she mentioned that we were over our total baggage limit by 6kgs. To be honest, at that point we were completely ready to pay the extra fees. She was quite vague about costs and in the end she mumbled something about “overriding the note” then she printed out the bag tag and told us to put them up on the conveyer belt. We decided not to ask any questions but we were so grateful that she was letting us through without charging us and we didn’t even need to beg! By the way, they don’t seem to weigh carry-on luggage so I think there’s some kind of leniency here with how much you can take onboard. Of course on paper it’s 7kg but if you’re slightly over, it seems like it should be fine.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, the process for Tom to get checked in was quite simple as well. We had his exemption and his working holiday visa printed so we presented these at the desk. They made a phone call to get clearance and once he got the all clear, they checked him in and gave him his boarding pass. It’s fairly simple and straightforward, as long as you have the exemption issued by Immigration New Zealand.

Once we finally got checked-in (took us 2 hours in the end), we had to make our way through security and then straight to the gate. The lady at check-in told us we had to get to the gate fairly early as they are doing temperature checks and they’re boarding passengers based on those who are in transit and those who are landing in Singapore.

Heathrow was fairly empty so there wasn’t a huge wait to get through security. As our flight was departing from Terminal B (I think that’s what it was called?), there was a 15-20 minute walk to get there from security. There were some shops open, like Boots, where we stopped by to pick up a meal deal as we hadn’t had breakfast.

Once we got to the gate, a staff member walked around with a temperate gage and took our temperature. She then put a sticker on our boarding pass, along with a note on what our temperate reading was. When it was time to board, we queued up, showed our passport and boarding pass and off we went.

The flight

The first leg of the journey was busy. On the plane, they separate passengers in two sections: transit and landing. Transit passengers were placed at the back and all seats were filled. We sat next to a lovely Malaysian student who was heading back to be with family.

We were given a care package before we boarded and it consisted of a mask, hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial wipes. The spare masks are great especially since you have to keep a mask on as soon as you leave your house to make your way to the airport. I think I changed mine about four times through the whole journey. There’s nothing else to add about the flight; it was pretty standard. The staff wore face masks as well but that’s about it in terms of PPE. Oh and you are allowed to take off your mask when eating.

The transit

Once you get to Singapore, airport staff will board the plane to welcome you and give you a debrief on the process for disembarking and they issue coloured wristbands so they can tell who is landing and who is transiting. The whole process was very seamless and organised. We went out in groups of eight or nine and were led through the airport by a chaperone. We had to observe the 2m social distancing rules and they were quite strict about that. Once you get to the gate, you go through security and then you’re taken to a seating area where they tell you where you can sit (again, just to ensure everyone is abiding by the 2m social distancing rule). We waited for about 15 minutes before we boarded the next flight.

The flight part 2

Nothing new to report about the flight. It was less crowded but for some reason, they put everyone together. They didn’t really encourage people to move around and change seats. I think I only saw about two people move and that’s about it.

Arriving in New Zealand

By the time we landed, it was 10.10pm and naturally, Tom and I were shattered but also buzzing because we finally made it and the journey was over. Before going through Immigration, you’re asked the standard questions about symptoms and then you get your temperature taken. Going through Immigration was fairly quick and easy, even for Tom. He just presented his passport and that was it; they didn’t even ask him to show his exemption. After that, you grab your bags then you go through security and declare anything that may be a threat to our flora and fauna (haha couldn’t resist using this term – basically any food, hiking or camping equipment). Once you’re through, you hand in your arrivals card and you carry on walking until you get to the Exit.

When you get to Exit, you need to present your passport to someone at the door and declare how many people there are in your bubble and then they tell you which bus to get on. We were told to stand to the side so we freaked out and assumed it might’ve meant we had to go out of Auckland but then he told us we were going to “Hotel One as well” so we’re not quite sure why they singled us out from the queue even though there was no one behind us and only one other person in front of us.

The bus we were on was going to two different hotels known simply as ‘Hotel One’ and ‘Hotel Two’. Perhaps if we had asked, they would’ve told us what hotel we were going to but we wanted to be surprised and to be honest, we didn’t really mind where they were taking us. They did disclose we were staying within Auckland though.

The journey to central Auckland was fairly quick and once we arrived at our hotel, a representative from Ministry of Health came on board to talk us through what was going to happen. She called out people’s names to disembark bubble by bubble. We got the Grand Mercure Hotel, just off Queen Street so we’re fairly central. Once you get off, you check they’ve got the correct bags out and then you stand in line to check in. You’ll be asked questions about symptoms, your passport details will be noted and you select what you’d like for breakfast the following morning. You’ll then be given a keycard, an information pack and your complimentary laundry vouchers and then you head off to see a nurse who will ask you questions again on symptoms and if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. You’ll also be asked if you’re taking medication and if you have enough for the next 14 days.

Once you’re cleared by the nurse, you get your luggage and off you go to your room. I think once we finally set foot into our hotel room, it was about 1.00am.

So that’s our flight experience. Hopefully you’ve found it helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

I have to say I found the entire experience very quick and painless (excluding the mini stress with the luggage at the airport). We’re extremely grateful to be here and everyone has been super friendly and helpful.

I’m going to do a post on our experience in managed isolation soon so keep an eye out!

Published by michellerosewrites

Hi! I'm Michelle. I write, create and tell stories.

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