New Zealand - November, 2015

The long-awaited moment was at hand. The bags were packed and all the pre-trip chores had been completed. It was finally time to relax and sip a beer while we waited for our airport shuttle driver.

Walt turned on the cell phone. What! Two messages from Air New Zealand! How could that be? And yet, there they were. Two messages informing us that our flight was delayed 5 hours! Instead of leaving Honolulu at 10:30 PM, we were now expected to depart at 3:30 AM the next morning.

We managed to re-schedule the shuttle until 11 PM, but that still left us with 4 hours to kill at the airport. During those interminable 4 hours, we experienced our first taste of Kiwi hospitality. We were greeted by the most pleasant airline employees you can imagine and given a sack lunch along with a voucher for free food at any airport vendor. Unfortunately, the only vendor open was Starbucks, but it was a nice thought.

Finally, our long-delayed flight arrived from wherever it had been delayed, and we stumbled on board where we were greeted by a crew of pleasant, courteous, ever-smiling flight attendants. I'm serious. These people were great - the antithesis of the surly flight crews we inevitably encounter on United Airlines flights these days. The plane was old and the seats were uncomfortable, but the food was actually edible and the alcohol was free.

When we finally touched down in Auckland, I felt like I had landed in an alternate reality. Everyone was so pleasant - even the customs and immigration officials. No one was in a hurry, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood.

What a civilized country!