Rotorua to Christchurch trip takes group to Auckland, 28 hours later
When Roger Harper and his colleagues boarded a flight from Rotorua to Christchurch, they did not expect to find themselves in Auckland 28 hours later.
The group had planned just the one stop, in Wellington, on their way home on Wednesday after a conference in the central North Island town.
Instead, flight diversions, delays and a spot of bad luck meant three extra stops. A group of six was split, with half waiting in Wellington and half in Auckland, Harper said.
"You can't get upset about what you can't control. You've just got to go with the flow, and it's certainly got to the point now where we're sort of laughing about it.
* As it happened: Storm hits NZ
* 'Incredible' winds hit Cook Strait
* Thousands cut off by storm in central NZ
* Stranded drivers break into home
* Cyclone-force wind hammers Wellington
"It's a marathon trip."
The disruptions began when the group's first flight was diverted from its original Wellington destination to land in Paraparaumu.
"While we were flying between Rotorua and Wellington we started to circle. I noticed it straight away because I'm going 'wait a minute, the sun's on the other side of the plane'.
"We were stuck [in Paraparaumu] for two-and-a-half hours ... We hired a shuttle van to get us into Wellington, and in the meantime I'm on the phone to Air New Zealand, trying to sort a flight out. Of course everything was stuffed out of Wellington because of the weather."
From there, they booked accommodation for the night as the first available flight leaving Wellington was at 10am on Thursday.
"But that had to go via Auckland ... We had to fly to Auckland and get a flight to Christchurch, which suited us all of a sudden because, of course, Wellington was just delays everywhere."
Harper and his colleagues would transfer from their 10am flight from Wellington and finally be on their way to Christchurch from midday on Thursday.
But the Wellington to Auckland flight was delayed "due to the weather conditions in Wellington and the late running of the aircraft", an Air New Zealand spokeswoman confirmed.
"So we missed our Auckland [to] Christchurch flight by 10 minutes," Harper said.
"We had to re-book and, of course, all the flights were booked so we [were] delayed again until 7.30pm."
When they arrived in Christchurch about 9pm on Thursday, Harper and his colleagues – based in either Timaru, Geraldine or Ashburton – would have up to two hours' drive before making it home.
The trip put into perspective a previous delay when initially leaving Christchurch for Rotorua on Monday.
"We arrived at [Christchurch] airport for a 10[am] flight. We were at Christchurch airport until 3pm because of fog. We thought that was bad ... it was nothing."
Despite the delays, Harper said he and his colleagues remained positive about the situation.
"You've got to laugh. You've just got to. We haven't got upset."
He said Air New Zealand had "actually been very good" through it all.
"I'm on a first name basis with the 0800 Air New Zealand number because, of course, as soon as you get a cancellation you've got to ring them and re-book flights.
"As soon as your flight's cancelled or changed, you ring them and they'll get you on the next available flight. There's no costs or anything. They'll very quickly sort it but, because everything else is blocked up, you've got to be pretty quick on it because everyone else is doing the same thing."
A spokeswoman for Air New Zealand said the weather had "caused considerable disruption" to its services over the past two days.
"We have done our best to minimise the impact on our customers by reaccommodating them on the best available alternate services, which may mean travelling via a different route or by road as appropriate.
"We do apologise to customers for any inconvenience."
In total, Harper's trip would have worked out to be more than 35 hours.
"It is what it is. You can't change it."