Leaving Aotearoa Part II: AKL-LAX, Los Angeles, and back on Air Canada to Montreal

Posted by Patrick Lam on Friday, December 10, 2021

Table Of Contents

AKL-LAX

How had I checked 60kg of luggage? Air New Zealand’s checked baggage allowance in Economy is 1 bag, plus 1 for Star Alliance Gold (AC E50k in my case). But I’d also bid $350 for an upgrade to Premium Economy (aka PY), which came through a couple of days before the flight. The $1000+$350 flight was still cheaper than some fares I’d seen at $1500, though I had also seen $800 fares but missed them for my dates. Air New Zealand oneUp bid upgrades give the upgraded class’s baggage allowance if they clear before the flight; this allowance was 2. Yay! I could bring more stuff (almost all of my stuff) back to Canada.

Some people really like compression socks for flights. I had compression socks. I hadn’t used them in 2 years, because 1hr flights don’t require compression socks. After boarding, I thought I would put on the compression socks. Then, I had a moment (uh, 15 minutes) due to the diameter of my calf plus that of the compression sock exceeding the diameter of my jeans. Yikes. I guess this is a problem that’s solvable with scissors, but then I wouldn’t have socks.

I don’t do extended reviews of flights, but I’ll do a capsule review. Air Canada’s PY has seats similar to domestic AC Business and food closer to Economy; the main meal is better than Y but served with Economy wine. Air New Zealand’s PY seats are also similar to AC domestic Business, feeling slightly less comfortable than I remembered on AC, but more comfortable than Economy for sure. The meals are much better than Economy and not quite as fancy as AC Business, with the good wine for dinner and a full breakfast (rather than a slice of banana bread).

Also, a 12 hour overnight flight is actually quite good for sleeping. I feel like the trans-Atlantic flights from the East Coast of North America are too short for a good night’s sleep (Toronto to Paris is 7h15). I felt much more rested after this flight. My noise-cancelling earbuds are good. The P2 mask isn’t super comfortable but I wore a cloth mask most of the time (the flight was coming from mostly COVID-free NZ after all) and switched to the P2 mask just before deboarding.

Welcome to NZ6 LAX-AKL; pants problems; beef for dinner; fish cake for breakfast; me with P2 mask; landing at LAX.

Twenty Hours in Los Angeles

Landing at LAX felt a bit like rejoining the rest of the world, starting with the Emirates liveries I could spot on planes. Seeing planes other than Air New Zealand and Jetstar plus regionals has been rare for the past two years.

Thanks to Global Entry, I got to baggage claim in 20 minutes without speaking to anyone. I just used the customs declaration machine, scanned my passport, and showed my receipt to the US Customs and Border Protection officer. I was one of the first people at baggage claim.

It took a further 15 minutes for my baggage to come out (it wasn’t one of the first) and another 25 minutes to take the shuttle out to the Alamo desk. It took me a while to operate the kiosk somehow, but all together it was another 18 minutes until I was at the car.

Emirates livery; segregation by passport; bird in Irvine; Santa Monica Pier; Seaway Motel.

With the car, I could drive to Irvine for dinner with Brian. Fortunately, I didn’t need to drive to Panorama City for a COVID test, having planned out things correctly. It was miles upon miles of LA-area highways, pretty dysfunctional. I guess that in a normal place, one wouldn’t think that Irvine is quickly reachable from LAX. Maybe it isn’t really reachable. We do things because we can (even if it sucks). Induced demand at work. Like, if the way to go there was by train, and the train schedules don’t allow, then one just wouldn’t go. Which is probably a plus.

First food in the US was a gyro pita, eaten outdoors, at Luna Grill. I guess that I am literally writing home about it, but would I? Probably not. It was pretty good.

Back to check in at my motel (not as nice as a NZ hotel and slightly more expensive at C$105 vs typically NZ$90, but 15 minutes from LAX) and then out to Santa Monica to meet Jon.

Since there’s still a pandemic going on, we walked around Santa Monica, including the pier and the pedestrian zone. It does close fairly early at night. Not bad, not super compelling as a destination during a pandemic (what is?), but pretty safe.

The morning after

Next morning I went to get gas (see table below), picked up a rapid antigen test at the pharmacy (hard to get in some parts of Canada), and proceeded to the airport. Returning the car was much faster (8 minutes and the shuttle left instantly) and I got to the airport in 16 minutes, with time for a quick stop at the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, where I ate food without a mask in a place potentially with COVID. Eeps.

where raw arr
Wellington NZ$2.45/L US$1.63/L
Los Angeles US$4.80/gal US$1.26/L
Montreal C$1.46/L US$1.14/L
Waterloo C$1.32/L US$1.03/L
Prices and conversions as of December 10. Sure, USD hegemony, why not.

While checking in, I saw two parties who had to reschedule their flights due to having expired COVID tests. It was really Someone Else’s Problem so I don’t exactly know what happened, but it didn’t seem awesome for them.

I managed to upgrade my flight LAX-YUL and had an enjoyable flight.

At the gate at LAX; chansons de feu de camp; Air Canada J breakfast, with the sausage; flying over SW Ontario; Montreal.

YUL

I spent 35 minutes at Montreal Trudeau airport: used the NEXUS machines, waited 20 minutes for my luggage, and got another test on arrival. There was some confusion because I’d used the NEXUS machines and hence Canadian customs hadn’t put any stickers on my passport, but they figured it out. This was just before Omicron and having to wait until test results come back (still not sure how that’s implemented). My test came back negative around 19 hours later.

The test people referred me to the Public Health staffer to double-check my vaccination record. But I had to wait while a French-from-France immigrant was complaining about not being able to leave the country without vaccines. There was a race issue as well, since it was a white French woman ranting to the black Public Health public servant. I couldn’t help pointing out that her rights to not be vaccinated were subject to reasonable limits.

60kg of luggage is too much for taking the 747 bus so I took a taxi to my parents' house (which would not be a suitable place to quarantine, since my parents are over 65). My parents' place also isn’t a great place to sleep, but that’s another discussion. Getting there at 7:45PM is completely reasonable.

KLM, Air Algérie, Air Canada; AC at the gate; 13 international arrivals; 30 minutes is an overestimate; my luggage, now in Montreal.

And that’s how I got back to Canada.

Postscript: To Kitchener

I had a few adventures in Québec which will show up in my December report (reffing in Repentigny, visiting Québec City, taking the train back) but I eventually made my way back to Ontario with my fully-loaded car. Getting out of Montreal was annoying, mostly but not completely due to forgetting stuff at various places. I mailed some gifts and took advantage of a stop in Outremont to pick up a dozen St. Viateur bagels. I almost forgot stuff I’d left at my parents' place, but my dad reminded me just as I was about to leave there. I finally managed to leave Outremont at 11:07, which I felt was pretty late, but did give traffic a chance to dissipate.

I stopped in Kingston for gas but not food. Along the way I ate 2 bagels. I wouldn’t buy blueberry bagels from them again.

I then drove through to Mississauga, where my aunt was enthusiastic about seeing me and had supper ready. This is the aunt I stayed with during kindergarten to get me into Quebec English school. She even brought out tea that my grandmother had imported from Vietnam back in 2005 and that she’d been saving since then.

But the snow was coming and I left Mississauga at 7:15pm for a slightly sketchy 1h15 drive. I stopped once again in Kitchener to drop off some bagels with friends (and also to store some luggage so that I wouldn’t need to lug them through the Kaufman lofts). I was a bit worried about a master’s thesis I had to read before the seminar the next day, but still stayed there for 2 hours. Oops. Then I finally got in to the place that I’m housesitting.

Long day, no pictures. Driving on the 401 is definitely not a NZ experience, and one I really don’t miss. COVID willing, I’ll be going back to Montreal by train in a week for a judo training camp.

Reverse-engineering how we got here

My dad also pointed out that MP’s bike was at their house. I had totally forgotten about that. Foresight! We’d planned to be in Montreal for the summer of 2020. Ha. So I had prepositioned it there in November 2019 by biking to the Kitchener GO, taking that train, and then the VIA Rail train, locked the bike up downtown for the weekend while refereeing in Deux-Montagnes, and finally brought the bike to my parents' house.

As for the luggage on the way to NZ, we had brought it to our friends' place in Toronto, then driven the car and some stuff to store to Montreal, taken the plane back to Toronto, picked up the luggage, and flown out. This was almost two years ago and I’d completely forgotten the logistics! I thought we still had luggage in Toronto, but nope.

I still don’t know where all my stuff is, though. My summer bike, in particular, is an open question.

Have you seen my summer bicycle? (Picture November 11, 2019.) I forget where I put it!