After we checked out of the lovely Hilton Queenstown, it meant our New Zealand trip nearly at its end. The final segment of the NZ trip was a flight to Christchurch. There weren’t a lot of options for this flight that would have had timing work well for our needs. I saw flights both on Air New Zealand and Jetstar (low cost carrier that is a Qantas subsidiary). I was able to book a nonstop flight on Jetstar for under NZ$50 per person including baggage fees. I’m not normally a big fan of these no-frills carriers, for example, I’ve only flown Southwest twice. But for that price, I just couldn’t justify the more than 50% premium to fly with Air New Zealand, so we booked Jetstar. Despite the relationship between Jetstar and Qantas, I did not receive mileage credit for this flight. Only higher fare classes are eligible.
Jetstar from Queenstown to Christchurch
Signpost outside Queenstown airport
Jetstar is self-service even for tagging bags
Unfortunately, the inbound aircraft was coming from Auckland and was quite delayed, but that allowed for some time for photography. This airport is one of the most scenic I have visited. There is only one runway which points towards the lake, and there are mountains all around.
The appropriately named Remarkables Mountains.
The ‘coolest’ sign denoting a men’s rest room I’ve seen. The women’s had a similar sign, but I didn’t feel it appropriate to document it photographically.
There are no jetways at ZQN. This is an ANZ flight to Auckland.
Finally our plane arrives…
Once on board, the flight was not particularly noteworthy. We were assigned seats at check in. The flight was probably 80% full, we were lucky to have an open seat next to us on the A320. Legroom was poor, as expected. The flight was pretty short, but they did offer their buy on board food/drink service.
One last view of Queenstown after takeoff.
Once we landed in Christchurch, thanks to our delay, we had even less time than we had planned on. We took a shuttle to our hotel near the airport, dropped our bags, and then booked a cab to take us into the city so we could explore. We had an early flight the next morning, so we stayed near the airport. Many of the center city hotels were closed due to earthquake damage.
Note: since my visit, there have been additional aftershocks in Christchurch, although the major quakes in September 2010 and February 2011 were the most destructive. Outside the central part of the city, there is minimal damage, although many businesses are closed. The airport and other transit options are fully operational.
Lots of LOTR references all over NZ, although this one was unexpected.
Our taxi dropped us as close as he was able in the central part of the city. Several blocks at the center of town were completely cordoned off. It was remarkable to see a city just completely shut down. Outside the fences, things seemed normal, but inside, the damaged buildings tell quite a story.
a view towards the Christchurch cathedral
Some temporary structures just outside the “red zone”
Lots of signs like this all over. I found this depressing.
Views like this were sobering, this was one of many buildings “clear” by rescuers after the major earthquake in February. This was the tracking system that was used. This particular restaurant is within the cordoned off area, so its been closed for 11 months or so.
Final thoughts on Christchurch
Christchurch was a nice place to visit, although it would have been nice to enjoy it when it was fully open. It was striking to see all of the significant damage nearly a year after the most recent major earthquake. It will take years to rebuild.
After touring, we found some excellent Thai food. Thanks to some locals who befriended us, and some tasty drinks, we ended up staying much later than intended. As became quite common during our stay in New Zealand, we were asked “What do you think of NZ, and why did you decide to come here?” Christchurch in its condition was sobering, but the people are proud of their home, and its clear, those that have remained are going to see it through. Thanks to our new friends, our last night in NZ was short, as we had a very early wake up call for our flight to Melbourne. Unfortunately, this became a bit of an adventure. I vented about this situation some time ago, and I will discuss much more detail of my Air New Zealand flight between Christchurch and Melbourne soon.