Thursday, 3 March 2011

Returning around the world, transit at LAX

We stayed one extra night in the van because the hotel we planed to stay at in Christchurch (The Grand Chancellor) was severely damaged in the earthquake and may have to be pulled down before it collapses. Wilderness charged us very slightly more for the extra day than the same average day rate we had paid for the previous two months – that’s business!

Excluding the flight time from Christchurch to Auckland, our trip coming back (continuing east across the International Date Line via Los Angeles) was a short 24 hrs 40 minutes by comparison with that on the way out (25 hours 10 mins !)

Jumbo at LAX

Sam – this is the plane we flew back from New Zealand on – what sort of plane is it?

Because of the effect of the International Date Line we arrived in Los Angeles for the transit stop before we left Auckland on the same day and effectively had Wednesday twice.

Transit in Los Angeles is a totally different experience to transit in Hong Kong. Even though we are on a through flight and landed there simply to refuel and have no wish to enter the USA, not only do we have to have successfully applied for an ESTA, we then have to go through the usual unwelcoming and suspicious process of being fingerprinted and photographed by Border Control (we handed the immigration officer our large orange transit pass labelled quite clearly “this passenger is in transit” and we were then asked “what is the purpose of your visit to the USA today?” – what did he think we were doing there I wonder). Having passed these tests however, there is no intention however of allowing us to mix with other air-side passengers who will also have been x-rayed and searched, some of whom will also be on your plane. We are then herded into a “secure transit facility” for

Secure 2 

about two hours before being escorted back onto the same plane. This “facility” is a large room with chairs, a toilet and

Secure 1

a few freebies (drinks, crisps etc). The whole process seems to be totally pointless and does the US Authorities no credit. This transit experience is one to be endured rather than experienced (or in the case of Singapore – enjoyed).

We do however consider ourselves fortunate that we were not transiting between international flights, because there is no through checking of luggage if you go through LAX and change planes there, you have to do immigration, then collect your luggage, do customs, then check it in again then proceed through transit although in this case, you are allowed out to mix with other transit passengers.

If you are on a through plane and want to properly go airside, visit the shops, buy some food or whatever, you have to formally enter the USA through immigration, collect your bags, do customs, go land-side, re check-in, go back through security and then get airside (by which time your plane will have left). So of course, no one does this.

Eventually we got back to Heathrow (having watched many films), somewhat jet lagged and cold (it is 2c as compared with the 25c we left behind).

And so, a couple of hours short of exactly two months after leaving home, we open the front door and start the strange process of becoming used to living in something which does not move, has more than one room, does not require dump tank emptying ……… and is dark and cold! England is of course just approaching Spring so nights are long, the weather is often miserable etc etc. But there is little rain compared to parts of New Zealand!

We are quite tired now, it has been a very full-on two months. Everyday we were doing something or going somewhere or both and therefore a few days of peace and quiet will be welcome.

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