This blog is in two parts. The first was written but not posted in December 2014.
Pt 1 - Virgin Sucks!
We went to the Gold Coast the other week and booked via Air New Zealand but ended up flying on Virgin Airlines....partners sharing and all that jazz.
The trip started out as a weekend in Brisbane to see the Lion King, but it seemed like a waste to go all that way for two days so we made it a week on the GC and were joined by one of Ann's cousies and a tennis mate.
We didn't know we were flying Virgin until we tried to check our bags and we were sent down the line but the trip over wasn't too bad, apart from being sent to belt 3 for our bags, while they were being loaded onto belt 6 or 8, or whatever, but it was coming back that was a pain in the arse!
After a pleasant week we escaped from Broadbeach just before the electrical storms hit, but they caught us up in Brissy as we we waiting at the gate to board the aircraft. We boarded on time and what do you know, as soon as everyone was onboard, the pricks announced that we would have a 20-30 minute delay because the separation between landings and take-offs had to be extended due to the storm......FFS, why couldn't the pricks have left us in the comfort of the departure lounge!!??.....and then the delay turned into 55 minutes!! (To be fair, that would probably have been the same on any airline)
The delay really pissed me off though, because we were crammed into the seats. Ann has a Koru Membership and one of the benefits enjoyed by that is priority seating at the front of the aircraft.....we were seated in row 23 of 30! Not really a biggy, but those memberships aren't cheap, so it was annoying. Ann and I aren't exactly the slim, trim and fit specimens we were a year or two back, but we still fit comfortably into an airline seat and at 180cm, I'm not exactly overly tall, but as I said, we felt like sardines because the seat in front of me appeared to be partially reclined and the aisle seat next to me was occupied by a 160Kg behemoth!!
The steward didn't seem to notice the sag in the lady's seat prior to take-off, but when he asked her to strighten up on the descent, it wouldn't budge and I couldn't hellp passing a remark to the effect that, "so the aircraft is f...d after all!" The annoyance for me was the lack of consistency. What was he looking at prior to take-off?
As for my matey in the aisle seat, he needed an extension belt to strap in and we couldn't swing the armrest down, consequently I was cocked over toward Ann with a kink in my back and I eventually got a sore arse. 'Luck of the draw' I guess, but what made me spew was that there was a young girl across the aisle and one row up who had a spare seat next to her!!! Once again, the friggin' steward was standing there with extension belts in his hand when we settled into our seats, but he had to be asked for one....and it obiously never occurred to him that the big fella next to me warranted a pair of seats!....useless prick.
So as it turned out, the flight was an endurance event .....and then there was the landing! Holy shit, I happened to be looking out the window on the approach as we swooped in on the runway and he didn't appear to flare out to wash off pace...or apply any power to ease the touchdown. Consequently, the pilot drove it into the deck with a big crunch and a wicked shimmy. I've been on a lot of flights in my time, both commercial and Air Force, in all sorts of conditions and that had to be the hardest slam that I've experienced!!
I was a bit peeved and thought about lodging a complaint, but the week has been rather busy and it all soon slipped from my mind, but I had to pick-up Ann's brother and his partner from the airport on Friday night. As it transpired, they happened to fly in from Cairns on Virgin and they were supposed to come via Sydney, thern it was Brisbane, then they arrived but their bags didn't....and they were slammed into the deck....and the service was crap......and Virgin Sucks so they won't be using them again!!!
I don't intend to use Virgin again but I'll never say never!!
Pt 2 - Virgin Sux ...Again!
I've always thought it was most unfortunate when the Air New Zealand flights to Aus became hosted on Virgin aircraft. After my first disappointing experience with them, I have continued to feel the flights were sub-standard ....but last night took the cake....again!!!!
We got diverted!
Now one could argue offer that a diversion due to weather is an Act of God, and me being a religious, albeit sceptical man, I should well agree, but unfortunately, 20 years working on and around planes, one tends to spend a few hours riding in them, plus I've ridden quite a few civil aircraft in and out of Wellington in my time and in my humble opinion....Virgin just plain sux!
It all started about 20-30 minutes out and the Captain announces how we are progressing and what the weather conditions are like on the ground ...17°, drizzle and gusty North Easterlies ...but then he added that no worries because if it was a bit rough to land, we could go around again??!! WTF! I thought? What pilot in his right mind suggests that the weather might be that bad or he might not be up to the task?
Well, naturally enough, it's pitch black at midnight so there wasn't a lot to see, but we did fly through the odd squall of rain and light turbulence, there was a bit of buffeting on approach, we crossed threshold and the right wing dipped but the pilot corrected, the power held and we seemed to be smooth and clean ...and then the bastard gunned it!
*Sigh*...10 minutes added to the flight! Second approach, still black as pitch until we see the runway lights as we cross the threshold and once again, without any provocation from my conscious self, my brain says, "WTF!! Shit he's high? ....and shit he's fast? ....the bastards got no intention of landing!!" and sure enough, we are 35 minutes out of Christchurch. At that point I commented to Ann, "I thought he would have tried harder because this will cost a fortune."
At about 0100 we were on approach into a calm Christchurch and when the plane didn't seem to flare, but just touched front then right wheel, I thought, "No wonder the c... didn't want to land in Welly!?" We taxied in, then paused on the tarmac for several minutes under the pretence that we were awaiting the controllers to allocate a gate? (more on this later)
We pull up at the gate ....and sit on the plane for an hour and a half!!??
And then the bullshit starts to flow. We have to wait for the ground-crew to get back .... hmmmm ... isn't that them milling about outside?? We speculate that we can't get off because the customs officers won't be there ....but when we finally get off the plane, we find they were there all along, as well as the Duty Free staff as there was a late flight arrived from Sydney after us and all was open.
Then all was revealed. The mention of accommodation was amended to, "there won't be enough for all." ...then, "Oh dear, it's 0400 and you have to get on the flight back to Wellington by 0700 so it's not worth going to a hotel, we'll get blankets and pillows"! And so it was we ended up on hard benches in a brightly lit hall with music blaring and every now and then a message, "This is a safety conscious airport, please keep your children from playing on the escalators." ...(at 0430 in the morning!!?? ...p-l-eeeease!)
Anyway, we figured that the miserable bastards kept us on the plane long enough to avoid the cost of accommodating us, then splashed out on giving out 'Refreshment Vouchers'. Yes well, they were worth $12 and one can certainly whet one's appetite in any airport in this country for $12 ....and even then, the bastards didn't manage to give them to everybody! (Ann & I weren't fussed though as we sloped off to the Koru Lounge once it opened at 0500. We had a good feed then went back to check our bags through, but it turned out that only some names had been transferred from the international to the domestic flight. The attendant tried to blame this on the fact that it was still about 0400 in Aus, but I reminded her that when all this transpired at midnight, it was only 2200 in Aus.
The Kiwi Air New Zealand staff soon figured a way to override the system and got us checked in, issued with boarding passes and on our way. The new pilot managed to get us onto the runway in Wellington in relatively calm conditions ...with only one bounce, Ann only had a little difficulty getting our pre-purchased duty free, whereas others had been misinformed and had to settle for a refund and we finally made it home.
So ...Virgin Sux! I don't understand why the pilot couldn't land? I've come into Wellington in a Friendship where the cockpit door flew open and we could see the horizon disappearing both out of the top and bottom of the screen and 'the man' got us down safely. I was once standing by the RNZAF Air Movements hangar on the Rongotai side of the airfield and witnessed a Safe Air Bristol Freighter hit a gust whilst taking off. He was suddenly thrust up about 300 ft, then was out of the gust and he bounced, ...heavily, but he droned on and out. This guy had baled 20 minutes out.
Then instead of dealing with the issues, there was a lack of staff and communication to stall, then a 'litany of lies' to fob us off and the apologies just served to rub salt in the wounds. So Virgin Sux.
Unfortunately our next visit to Aus is scheduled for September and the tickets have already been booked with Air New Zealand ...so I will have to suffer another crappy flight with Virgin ...but we will have to look seriously at our options in future.
It’s odd really, I don’t feel like I’ve done much riding this summer, but the fact is, I’ve done one 1,000 km ride and three 1,000 milers since October and a bit of Conehead stuff since just before Christmas. On top of that there was the 1300km MDA ride before Christmas and the wee scoot up to and around Hamilton then back between Christmas and New Year… all in all, nearly 15,000 km.
I guess it’s because I haven’t done many club rides and the km have been compressed into a few weekend bursts, but I figure three 1600+ Km rides within a 6 month period must be quite rare… at least in NZ anyway.
The first was the annual pilgrimage to Turangi for the Nth Island 1600, in which 60 riders took part and I rode with James (XP@) Riley (also on an ST1300). That was blogged here: http://www.kiwibiker.co.nz/forums/entry.php/6069-Are-we-there-yet
The second came about because Murray Gray wanted to do a 1000 miler after he had turned 80 and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to be privileged to be a part of his attainment of ‘legendary’ status and that ride is blogged here: http://www.kiwibiker.co.nz/forums/entry.php/6394-1600-Km-With-Gray%E2%80%A6-The-Birth-of-a-Legend!
With a vid here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctXZ6BggIgY&feature=youtu.be
The last ride has been blogged, but unfortunately I can’t post it because it was an earlybird ride of October’s NI1600, because as one of the organisers, I wanted to get the checkpoint photos for the Rider’s Guide, as well as do it now to free me up to be a volunteer on the weekend, as things could potentially get quite hectic if we get a good subscription to the new Nth Island 800 event that is being included with the 1600.
When one includes the 320 Km each way to Turangi from Wellington, the last ride turned into nearly 2300 Km in 27 hours and although I harboured faint hopes that I could have done the whole thing in 24 hours, unfortunately the weather was against me and, at the end of the day, I wasn’t in that much of a hurry nor was there motivation to push the boundaries further than I did.
Distance riding is a strange beast. We often wonder why we continue to do it after overcoming the challenge of the ‘first time’, but Murray has done sixteen 1000 milers and Brian eighteen, while I’ve done ten with three of them extending to over 2,000 Km.
We’re absolute nutters!
On the other side of the coin, James and I are quite fond of riding in carparks. We are coneheads, but James is more of a conehead than me. He’s so into it, he built up a CBR125 especially and now he’s nearly finished tweeking a CBR600 as well. He seems to like coming off them because then he knows he is pushing the bike to its limits, but it’s paying dividends for him because he now edging into the top ten in the world on the WC-Gymkhana circuit, whereby a course is posted on the internet and participants have a certain time in which to submit videos of their attempts on the time.
So I’m just a nutter, but James is absolutely certifiable!
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.