I was up about 6:30, breakfast at the lodge, and their van took us downhill with our luggage to the building that houses Stewart Island Flights and the local post office. Weighed us and our luggage … same scale for both. Rainy day. Short flight to Invercargill was fine. Then two-hour wait there for flight to Christchurch. Then another couple of hours before the flight to Auckland. And then a few hours before we could board our flight to LAX. Each flight was on a larger aircraft than the one before it.

We could check our bags at Invercargill all the way to LAX, so didn’t have to deal with them in Auckland where the domestic terminal is quite separate from the international terminal. Nice. The flight to LAX was mildly bumpy, but no big deal. I was in Premium Economy as I was going over:

·      Seat is almost a compartment, very self-contained. Lots of leg room. A bean-bag footrest. A bottle of water on the armrest.
·      Food. Lovely food. Full supper with sparkling wine and pinot noir, smoked salmon to start, lamb with mashed kumara, etc. I was asleep before they took my tray away.
·      Took a couple of sleeping pills and did get in some sleep. Awakened from time to time by my bug bites and applied more salve through the night.
·      Breakfast was juice, cereal, yogurt, hot croissant, scrambled eggs with chives, roasted tomato, potato cake, and coffee. Wowzer. Couldn’t eat it all.

Got in at LAX early due to tailwind, but had to wait on the tarmac for about 15 minutes to get a gate. The entry process and getting things straightened out at American Airlines was “interesting.” Used the Global Entry kiosk and was through the customs part in a flash. Then I had to wait with everyone else for my luggage to come onto the carrousel. Too bad I had checked luggage since I could have been clear of the entire customs area in about 5 minutes.

Took the airport shuttle around to Terminal 4 and American Airlines. Zoo. Zoo. Long lines. I was put into a line that later on the agent told me I shouldn’t have been put there, but she took me anyway. Took about 40-45 minutes to get to the agent to see if I could change flights to the earlier direct one to STL. Yes. $75 change-of-ticket fee and $25 for my checked bag. Interesting that with curbside check-in in STL there ended up no bag charge.

Then security was also a zoo. Not only was it slow, but you had to do about everything except get undressed. Besides the normal stuff, they wanted nothing in your pockets (that included cash and credit cards!), no belt, nothing. Then I went through one of those body scanners and had to be patted down afterward. Finally could go to my gate and it was close to boarding time. I was in Group 4, which means the back of the aircraft. Window seat in the second-to-last row with the jet engine my view. Well, at least I’m heading home earlier. The transit time will have been 30-31 hours from the chat strip on Stewart Island to the grass landing strip in Invercargill to the regular runway from there and bigger runway in Christchurch and onward.

Pat and I had lunch in the Christchurch airport. Wonderful choices. We had Pad Thai. There was an Italian booth. In the Kiwi booth, you could get meat pies. In another, you could get lamb shanks and other full meals that were pre-packaged and heated for you. With it being 80 degrees outside, “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” was playing on the sound system.

Auckland airport was jammed with duty free shops. And they had several cute women in short-skirted Santa outfits asking you to sample liquor or chocolate. Huge duty free shops. I bought nothing more than salve for my terrible sand fly bites all along both ankles. And I applied liberally and often.

By the time I get to STL, I know I’ll be hungry. While that full breakfast was lovely, it was this morning! Time to eat again. And, yes, I do have pictures of the Air New Zealand food. You’re not surprised.

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