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Published: November 19th 2014
DAY 1: AKL-PPT-LAX-IAD:
Air Tahiti Nui / American Airlines
After nearly 7 months of meticulous non-stop planning, the day of departure is finally here... The anticipation is so exciting, but it is mixed with feelings of anxiousness about leaving the kids behind to fend for themselves and them missing out on what will be the MOST amazing trip. Oh well, they can do all this themselves when they grow up...
Jan from across the road picks us up to drive us to Auckland and we arrived in plenty of time - a good start.
Our flight to LA via Papeete left early afternoon on time and despite my expectations of Air Tahiti Nui not being very high (their reviews were pretty mixed, with plenty of comments about their uncomfortable seats and unfriendly staff), I thought the first leg was great. It was actually quite nice to get off the plane after only 5 hours to stretch and see somewhere new (if only we knew then how intimate we would become with Papeete airport). After only a short stop we're back onboard, although a different aircraft this time - older and not so nice. Still, we all managed to
get a few hours sleep and before we knew it we were landing at the enormous LAX.
We deplaned on the runway about 5km from the terminal and were bussed thru to the main International terminal to clear customs and immigration. What a joke! There must have been 2000 or more people in snaking queues waiting for not nearly enough staff to process them into the USA. Movement was barely visible! Consequently it took us nearly three hours to get thru here and collect our bags. We vowed to never transit LAX again if we had any other alternative.
We then had to check in and queue again for our domestic flight across the continent to Washington DC. We made it with about 15 minutes spare - whew! Another interesting experience was the boarding of the American Airlines flight. They do it in zones in what should be an orderly fashion, but due to the ignorance of some and the lack of space it was utter chaos. We had paid extra for "comfort plus" seating - turned out to be a fantastic decision (a couple of extra inches legroom makes a HUGE difference to one's comfort) and the
flight was much more pleasant than we expected.
We arrived at Dulles Airport at nearly midnight local time. An interesting way to deplane - walk onto a bus in which the passenger compartment has been raised to be level with the aeroplane's door. Once full it is lowered down to normal height - fantastic!
Collected our rental car with no hassles (a Dodge Caravan) and with Steve driving and Craig navigating we found our hotel with no problems at all. It was so nice to have a shower and fall into bed! Although for such a long journey, we all felt surprisingly good.
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