I joined the ‘New Zealand Snow Safari’ tour for solo travellers with Encounter Travel and flew with Emirates, Sydney to Christchurch.
I’d flown Emirates just once before, but it was eight years ago, and although on the same route my memory of the flight was vague. I was looking forward to trying Emirates again. Emirates ‘nailed it’ on all levels of service, comfort, inflight entertainment and their meal service.
AIRLINE & FLIGHT
Emirates Flight EK418
16 August 2015
Sydney, Australia to Christchurch, New Zealand
2160 kilometres (1342 miles)
MY TRAVEL CLASS
Emirates operates, EK418 Sydney to Christchurch daily
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Emirates offers their own loyalty scheme called Emirates Skywards. It’s free and easy to join online at www.emirates.com
When you fly with Emirates, add your frequent flyer number to your booking to accrue points, on eligible fares. If you are flying with one of their airline partners you may also be eligible to earn points towards your frequent flyer membership. They have 12 airline partners affiliated with their loyalty programme and include, Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin America, South African Airways and Japan Airlines to name a few.
Also, if you are a member of other partner loyalty programmes with Emirates you can convert these points to miles with Emirates Skywards.
- For the banks, these include American Express and Citibank – Australia.
- For hotels, the list is extensive including major hotel chains such as, Crown Hotels, Hilton Worldwide, International Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International and a number more.
- Plus other partners include select car rental companies and some retail and lifestyle brands.
EMIRATES CODESHARE PARTNERS
Emirates have an extensive network of worldwide flights to over 140 destinations. Also, they codeshare with a few carriers including airlines such as Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin America. For Australians, they generally have good flights options to many destinations, via their hub, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
FLIGHT MANAGEMENT & CHECK-IN
I checked in online and printed my boarding pass.
I arrived to the Emirates bag drop queue 2 hours and 20 minutes prior to the flight departure time. I had no wait, and the bag drop off was quick and easy. The representative at the counter was friendly and welcoming, with well wishes for my travels.
Emirates have some generous luggage allowances and it’s calculated based on total weight.
For my economy fare, I was permitted a total weight up to 30 kilograms with total linear dimensions per bag not exceeding (length + width + height) of 300cm (118 inches), per piece.
If you are a higher tier Skywards member you may be eligible for more checked luggage allowances than the standards.
Otherwise, in general terms (excluding Canada, North and South America), it’s 30kg in economy, 40kg in business and 50kg in first class. A note about flights starting from the United States if your first carrier is not Emirates, you will need to check with the carrier for allowances.
Restricted to one piece of carry-on baggage with a weight up to 7kg (15lbs), that does not exceed 55cm x 38cm x 20cm (22” x 15” x 8”). There is the exception of duty free purchases of liquor, cigarettes and perfume in reasonable quantities are also permitted in addition to the carry-on limit.
If your carry-on is a bag with built-in wheels it must be less than 114cm (45”) in total dimensions (length, width and height).
TIME IN THE AIR
From Sydney to Christchurch, it’s a scheduled 3 hours and 5 minutes. Our push back from the gate was delayed as our aircraft had been held up when it departed from its origin, Dubai. Finally, we took off at 10:35am. We caught up a bit of time but still, we arrived later than our scheduled arrival time to Christchurch.
THE SEAT REVIEW
My seat: 29H (aisle, right hand side)
Economy seat configuration is 3-4-3 (in a few rows there are some different configurations)
Total seat capacity for the flight: 364
8 privates suites in first class / 42 seats in business class / 304 seats in economy class
On boarding, they offered two Australian papers to read.
Then, waiting on my seat was a pillow, and earphones. The only thing I missed, which always impresses me, is a bottle of water at your seat when you board. As an average sized female, with a height of 166cm, the seat comfort was good. The head rest had adjustable sides so you could rest your head easily and get extra support.
- seat pitch is 81cm (32”)
- seat width of 43cm (17”)
Their inflight Entertainment is called ‘ice’. Maybe they want to rethink that name? It stands for ‘Information, Communication, Entertainment’. But for me, it instantly conjured thoughts of the drug Ice, and the battle to kerb its horrendous impact on society.
That aside, they have an impressive entertainment line-up of on demand entertainment, with over 2000 channel of movies, TV shows, music and games. The screen is seat back and is it’s a digital widescreen.
‘Film Club’ is Emirates inflight entertainment magazine, with over 200 movies including the regular Hollywood line up, foreign films and the classics. It’s easy to use with a touch screen option or you can use the hand held device from the console.
Plus, they have an inflight magazine, ‘Open Skies’.
A commendable inflight service. Service was prompt and delivered with a smile. It was a short flight so there was not a lot to judge but my experience was pleasant.
ABOUT THE MEAL
The flight included a main meal and beverage service, including alcohol. I opted for a vegetarian meal, booked in advance. Yum! Great option.
TIP: If you have special meal requests, remember to request them before you travel, and at least 48 hours in advance.
It was an early lunch service. The main meal was a vegetable ratatouille with couscous and mashed peas (I love peas, so I was happy). The starter was a hummus with a lemon wedge, and dessert was scrumptious. Tea and coffee were offered, following the meal service.
ABOUT THE ARRIVAL, CHRISTCHURCH
Christchurch Airport services domestic and international flights and is one of the main gateways to New Zealand’s South Island. On our flight, we were handed the Customs and Border Protection form for arrival to New Zealand.
At Customs Control
The baggage collection area at Christchurch is not large. Bags came out in a reasonable time frame and clearing customs was a quick and orderly process.
TIP: New Zealand, like Australia has strict customs regulations. Be sure to accurately answer the questions on the declaration form and declare items that are restricted, to avoid financial penalties.
The Arrivals Hall
The arrivals hall is small but it has all the conveniences you may require including a few ATMs, car hire desks and mobile phone stores. There’s an ATM that dispenses major international currencies also.
The two mobile phone companies were; ‘Vodaphone’ and ‘Spark’. Both offered great value plans for purchasing a local New Zealand SIM card for calls and data (be sure to check your phone is not ‘locked’. If it’s ‘locked’ then another SIM card will not work. You need to check this with your provider at home).
Airport to City Transfers
Super Shuttle is a major provider of airport shuttle services in New Zealand. If travelling solo, it’s a lot better value to book the shuttle as taxis are around NZ45-50 to the city centre. The shuttle is only NZ24. My vehicle seemed very new and the driver was a wonderful welcome to the town, with some interesting facts and figures to share.
Excellent! Would I fly them again? Yes
A SIDE NOTE
Although my tour started from Christchurch, a lot of travellers to New Zealand in winter are coming across to ski from Queenstown or Wanaka. On my last visit many years ago I booked a flight Sydney to Queenstown. However, we never landed in Queenstown as the weather conditions meant that flights were diverted, and in my case to Dunedin. Since I’ve mentioned my story I’ve heard others report the same experience. This meant a long, and cold bus transfer from Dunedin to Queenstown. It took a bit of the shine of the trip.
There’s a few reasons to consider Christchurch as your arrival point;
- the drive between Christchurch to Queenstown (about 6 hours drive time) is incredibly scenic
- flights into Christchurch from Sydney can be considerably less than the direct flights to Queenstown.
- avoid any chance of a flight not landing in Queenstown due to poor weather conditions.
- Christchurch needs the tourist dollar. It’s still got a long way to go to make i’s way back to its pre-earthquake status, back in 2012
A Solo Traveller, interested in New Zealand?
Some solo traveller trips to New Zealand coming up:
New Zealand Adventure, 10 days 30 December 2015 – 8 January 2016 for ages 30 to 49 years
New Zealand Highlights, 16 days 6 – 21 November 2015 for ages 55 years & over
New Zealand Ultimate, 11 days 30 December 2015 – 9 January 2016 ages 55 years & over
My review is subjective, based on my own experience and it does not give any guarantee that you will have the same experience or opinion as me.