To travel from Wellington in New Zealand to London involves twenty-four hours flying-time, plus several more in check-ins, departures, transfers and arrivals. Door-to-door for me, this time, it totalled-out at thirty-two hours which is, frankly, pretty tiring even without the chronic disruption to the body-clock.
What I, and my fellow passengers on yesterday's Air New Zealand flight NZ4, didn't need was what befell us on our arrival in Los Angeles...
At the start of our journey we had passed through security: we and our bags and baggage had been x-rayed and checked. The normal procedure when the plane arrives in LA is for passengers travelling on to another destination to be held in a transit lounge where they are checked by US security (by scanning retinas and fingers-and-thumbs profiles) and where they then remain for the, roughly, one hour it takes to clean, refuel and re-crew the plane.
Not so this trip...
Because NZ4 was an addition to the usual Air New Zealand flying schedule (necessitated by the number of returning Rugby World Cup spectators) it seemingly triggered some security alarm bell with the US air control. This is, frankly, weird since no flights can begin without their arrival being approved by the destination airport.
Anyway, five minutes before landing the air crew were notified that the transit lounge would not be used and we would all have to pass through security and customs and the re-enter as newly departing travellers.
For the next two hours we queued to be processed as arrivals (along, of course, with all the passengers who really were actually arriving in LA as opposed to just passing through) and then forced to leave the airport and then re-enter at departures and, of course, undergo the full check-in procedure with all those waiting to depart on various flights.
I smiled wryly at the notice assuring me that the US welcomed me and promised to treat me with dignity and respect as we "tired, poor, huddled masses" were herded along like recalcitrant cattle, scrutinised like potential terrorists, had our bodies x-rayed and searched and our carry-on luggage gone through item by item before we were allowed to, finally, re-board our plane for London.
Sadly, not everyone made it back in time and at least two passengers who got snarled up somewhere in LA's security bottleneck had their cases unloaded and were left behind.
I understand, endorse and applaud the need for rigorous security and vigilance – why would I not? I want to know that I am travelling in safety – but this was nothing short of petty-fogging bureaucracy that made unnecessary work for rafts of, doubtless overworked, officials and caused unwarranted discomfort and delay for at least one 707-load of passengers.
We were held up by a further 30-minutes due to Air Force One arriving or taking off (no aircraft can share immediate airspace with the Presidential plane) and whilst I didn't notice Mr Obama in the security queue, it is probably just as well because – despite the 'special relationship' – I'd have, undoubtedly, given him a piece of my mind...