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Lucky Giants fan wins daytrip to New Zealand (Huh?)

San Francisco residents and Giants fans, Ms Thuy Thi Le and her boyfriend, Mr Kim Dang after they were announced the winners of Air New Zealand’s “Giant New Zealand Weekend”.

An ecstatic Thuy Thi Le as she was announced the winner of a free trip to New Zealand at the Giants game last Friday

Did you hear about the lucky couple who won a free one-day trip to New Zealand at the Giants vs Diamondbacks game last week?

Get this: Bay Area residents Thuy Thi Le and her boyfriend, Kim Dang, were declared the winners of a unique Air New Zealand Twitter contest during the first inning during the San Francisco Giants vs Arizona Diamondbacks game at AT&T Park last Friday.

The winners had to immediately depart the game for SFO to catch Air New Zealand’s 12-hour overnight flight to Auckland. The flight departs SFO at 10 pm and arrives in Auckland at 5:55 am.

The pair enjoyed Air New Zealand’s lay flat business class seats on the way down, and woke up in Auckland for an action packed day of activities which gave them a taste of some of the great things New Zealand has to offer. Then, on that very same day at 7:15 pm, they boarded another overnight flight to bring them back home to San Francisco, arriving at around noon on Sunday.

Thuy's 12-hour day trip included free helicopter transportation

Thuy’s 12-hour day trip included free helicopter transportation

During their whirlwind experience the pair was treated to private helicopter transportation between locations as they dined, jumped, sipped and zipped their way through picturesque New Zealand landscape.

How’d they do that? The Giants partnered with Air New Zealand to challenge fans to tweet why they should be chosen to take the nonstop Air New Zealand flight to Auckland for the ‘Giant New Zealand Weekend.’ Thuy tweeted: I should be flying to New Zealand so I can climb the Franz Josef Glacier, place a Giants Flag on it and let it wave with PRIDE! #AIRNZGIANTS.

Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon, who was in San Francisco for the event, said, “Market research shows Americans tend to overestimate the amount of time it takes to get to New Zealand.  The reality is that it’s a comfortable 12-hour overnight flight.  You can jump on board, enjoy a great meal of New Zealand food and wine, go to sleep and wake up in Auckland.”

The lucky couple having a nice lunch at the famous Huka Lodge on New Zealand's north island

The lucky couple having a nice lunch at the famous Huka Lodge on New Zealand’s north island

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After arriving in Auckland; the winners headed to check out the incredible view from New Zealand’s tallest building, the Sky Tower. They then boarded their private helicopter to fly over the breathtaking scenery of Waikato and the Rotorua thermal region, including spectacular views of Mt Ruapehu and Hobbiton.

The pair landed at an exclusive luxury lodge for a gourmet lunch before flying north again to Waiheke Island, home to boutique vineyards, olive groves and adventure activities such as zip lining.

The final stop was at one of Waiheke Island’s premier vineyard restaurants to sample fine wine and canapés before a short helicopter transfer back to Auckland International Airport and their nonstop Air New Zealand flight home to San Francisco.

“This was truly a GIANT weekend experience I will never forget,” said Thuy. “From the breathtaking views of Auckland atop the Sky Tower, the serene atmosphere of Huka Lodge in Taupo, the wild and crazy zip lining adventure on Waiheke Island, and the magnificent wineries dotted throughout, New Zealand truly has something for everybody. Now knowing it’s only a 12-hour flight from San Francisco, I am definitely going back to reunite with our fellow Kiwis!”

Zip-lining with Eco-zip in Waiheke Island

Zip-lining with Eco-zip in Waiheke Island

-Chris McGinnis

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Inflight mobile phone calls coming soon. Thoughts?

Passengers on this gorgeous Air New Zealand A320 can now make cell phone calls in flight. (Photo: Air New Zealand)

Passengers on this gorgeous Air New Zealand A320 can now make cell phone calls in flight. (Photo: Air New Zealand)

Whether you like it or not, in-flight mobile calls may soon be coming to an airline near you.

Air New Zealand recently signed up with Geneva-based OnAir, an onboard system that allows airline passengers to use mobile phones, laptops and other portable devices to communicate with the ground using voice and/or data connections.

While some carriers, such as British Airways and Qatar Airways, use OnAir to allow only data communications (text, e-mail), Air New Zealand joins several other airlines, such as Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Royal Jordanian and TAP Air Portugal, that use the technology to allow mobile voice calls on certain flights. It’s a highly controversial notion in the US, where lawmakers have proposed laws that would ban in-flight voice calls.

OnAir and other companies such as Aeromobile employ picocell technology, deemed safe by aviation authorities. With the flip of a switch, any airline using OnAir can set the system to offer both data and voice calls on any flight. (Voice calling is available to anyone with a GSM phone and an international roaming agreement- calls typically run $2-$3 per minute)

To read the rest of this post and learn which other airlines could be offering cell phone service, click here and read it on my BBC.com Travel Blog

Richard Simmons does airline safety dance

I’d probably be less enthused by this hilarious pre-flight safety video if I were a frequent traveler in New Zealand and had to watch it every time I boarded. Once is enough. But kudos to Air New Zealand for making passengers perk up and pay attention!

What do you think? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

QANTAS to dump SFO-Sydney nonstops

The big red QANTAS bird that took me to Sydney two years ago. I'm sad it's now flying away.

The big red QANTAS bird that took me to Sydney two years ago. I’m sad it’s now flying away.

I have not seen this reported in the U.S. media yet, but I’ve learned from the Australian Business Traveller website that QANTAS intends to ditch its SFO-Sydney flights on May 14th.

The 747-400 flight will move to Dallas/Ft Worth airport, the main hub of QANTAS’ Oneworld alliance partner, American Airlines.

This will leave the only nonstop choice between the Bay and Australia to United Airlines. However, Bay Area travelers can still opt to fly Air New Zealand’s daily nonstop to Auckland, then connect to Australia from there.

In a recent interview in Australia, United CEO Jeff Smisek termed the older, raggedy United 747 currently plying the SFO-SYD route as “unacceptable.” I would hope that upgrades to the flight are imminent as a result of that comment, but without direct, nonstop competition on the route, I’m not expecting too much.

I’ll sure miss seeing that red kangaroo tail when I drive by SFO.