Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year Trip 2007/2008 :Seattle-Tacoma International, WA (SEA) to Anchorage International, Anchorage, AK (ANC)

CO667 31DEC07 Seattle-Tacoma International, WA (SEA) to Anchorage International, Anchorage, AK (ANC) 9:17p 11:54p 753 N??858

The boarding process was smooth; as I boarded I noticed someone sitting in 8C and 8A was empty. The flight attendant reminded him that he has to store his bag above his head and he acknowledged. One of the reasons I hate sitting in that row unless I absolutely have to do so.

I made my way back to my seat without any issues. The back of the plane is sparse, but still not totally empty.

The captain came on the PA and said temp is -6C, O.K. that is cold! To minimize the amount of stuff I am carrying, I carried only a light sweat shirt since I did not plan on going outside tonight. Flying time is 2:51 he continued.

Two guys had switched to another seat and then the folks for that seat showed up so they had to move over to their old seats. If you are going to move, don’t do it until the door is closed or you’ve asked a flight attendant. I did notice a guy eyeing the two empty seats next to me, I think he is deterred now :-).

The take off was smooth at 9:36p into the dark night. It was a beautiful sight to see all the lights below. We headed north following I-5 as we did so. Once could see downtown Seattle, the football stadium with the majority of the lights turned off and also the Space Needle before turning left and out across the Puget Sound.

The movie today is “Hairspray;” headsets were offered at a price of $1. I had seen parts of “Hairspray” already and don’t really like it so I won’t be watching it tonight although I do like musicals. After the headsets were handed out, the movie started.

At 34,000’ the first office came on and gave her welcome aboard. 11:25p is the expected arrival time she said and the wind is at 6 miles/ 21F is the temp. We will be updated with an arrival time when we are closer to Anchorage. I always wonder about the reason for giving the wind direction and speed? Does it really matter to the passengers on board? Just a random though; if you know leave a comment please.

One of the flight attendants handed out two packets of peanuts each; I guess no sandwich on this late night fight. Beverages followed soon after as the movie played on the overhead screen. Luckily, I have some cheese and crackers from the airport Lounge to tide me over.

Round about now, 12:21a in Houston, my low battery light came on; I had 22 minutes left, strange as a few minutes ago, it said 1:11 :-(.

About 10 minutes from the end of the movies, the flight attendant made an announcement asking for a Doctor in the house as someone had fallen ill; a call button rang so there was one. Just a few rows from me another person took ill as I hear them scream. Someone else rushed to their aid and one of the flight attendant produced what I think was a defibrillator.

Wow, now two persons are sick. There was quite a commotion in the walkway as all this continued. Luckily everyone was fine. As we landed, it was a beautiful view of the city of Anchorage. The city just sat at the end of the mountain chain in all its lights. You could see fireworks going off all over the city in little spurts. I could also make out the runway.

We had a smooth but loud landing as we slowed down on the runway. There was snow everywhere and it just looked cold as it 21F as the First Officer had said.

The flight attendant welcomed us and advised that we should remain seated and allow the sick passengers to be taken off by the paramedics. I looked out the window and there were two paramedic trucks and a fire truck. Not sure why we needed the fire truck, but oh well.

As soon as that was all done, we deplaned about 11:30p after arriving way early at 11:15p.

New Year Trip 2007/2008 : Ted Stevens Anchorage International, Anchorage, AK (ANC)

I just arrived in Anchorage and I'm going to find the Alaska Boardroom which is in the other terminal. There is free public WiFi here.

New Year Trip 2007/2008 : Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Seattle-Tacoma International, Seattle WA (SEA)

CO667 31DEC07 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Seattle-Tacoma International, WA (SEA) 5:20p 8:20p 753 N??858

When we got to the first open seat, it was also a middle seat as apparently the person in the middle had moved over to the aisle. She moved out of the way and allowed the guy to sit in the middle without saying a word. I then continued on to my middle seat between an elderly lady and a younger lady who was knitting.

I got settled in and it was soon time for push back, two minutes early, I think. Oh, this aircraft has a 3-3 configuration in Economy class with a total of 192 seats as well as 24 First class seats in a 2-2 configuration. The entertainment system uses overhead monitors.

I was really tired, so I kept dozing off and really had no idea when were airborne. I awoke and saw “Stardust” playing on the screen; I had already seen it, so it was O.K.; it is a good movie by the way. The crew then came around with today’s meal service.

After the meal, I fell asleep again although I tried to do some writing. Next thing I knew, we were descending into Seattle and “Frasier” was on the overhead monitors. I had slept the majority of the 4:17 flight. I pulled my seat forward and put the computer and newspapers away and went back to sleep. I was actually parched so I drank the rest of the water that sat on my table.

We landed pretty hard, but very quiet and taxied up to the gate. As the flight was pretty full, I just sat there for a while until it was almost my turn to get off. It was odd as when I was in Asia, the people would not allow me to get off when it is my turn; basically if you are already in the aisle they won’t let you get out of your row, one has to be a little aggressive; not so tonight as we got off without any issues. The passengers going to Anchorage were told that they could either stay on board or place “Occupied” signs (the back of the barf bags) on their seats and deplane with their carry-ons. I had to get off as I did not know what was my seat assignment for the next leg of the journey.

New Year Trip 2007/2008: In Seattle, WA (SEA)

Seattle, WA (SEA)

Spoke to the agent to get a boarding pass for the rest of the trip since I was just told to take an empty seat.

I got the standby boarding pass now for the Seattle to Anchorage segment. I then entered the Presidents Club and made my self comfortable. I had a lot to do in less than an hour.

I heard my name being paged and went to collect my boarding pass. The agent had given me 8A which is the Exit row by the door, but I hate that seat as people tend to congregate there a bit and also there is no place to store your bag. She offered 11A and finally 38D which had the row empty; sweet!

I returned to teh Club as the boarding process continued. First the Elite members, persons needing assistance. Then the transit passengers from Houston.

I'll board soon...See you in Anchorage, AK.

Happy New Year to you all!

New Year Trip 2007/2008: Houston-Intercontinental, TX (IAH) to Seattle-Tacoma, WA (SEA)

CO667 5:20p 8:00p Houston-Intercontinental, TX (IAH) to Seattle-Tacoma, WA (SEA) 753 N??858

On the flight, they had a beef pizza, a Twix, carrots and sauce. I ate only a small piece of the pizza as it was too cheesy and had some pieces of carrots as well.

I ate the carrots carefully, but heartily.

The movie was Stardust and then some TV shorts; I then fell asleep despite trying to work.

We had a hard but quiet landing and taxied up to the gate.

New Year Trip 2007/2008: Houston-Intercontinental, Hosuton TX (IAH)

Houston-Intercontinental, Houston, TX (IAH)

I arrived at the airport at 4:29p, cleared security and then looked for my gate. The first two screens with the “As” were blank so as I had received my TripAlert and it said gate 43, I went in that direction. I found another set of Flight Information Displays at the crossroads and looked for “Anchorage.” I only saw the non-stop flight that was leaving at 5:25p from gate E8. I wondered where was flight 667? Then I thought, “I bet it is under ‘Seattle?’” Sure enough it was as the flight made a stop in Seattle, WA on its way to Anchorage, AK. But what about those passengers were going to Anchorage? I think they may be a bit confused.

I headed for the Presidents Club, showed my documents and entered. The two ladies at the desk, greeted me with a Happy New Year, to which I responded in the same fashion. I needed to make a quick lavatory stop so I did. Next, I went to the bar and had a complimentary glass of white wine after I had picked up some cheese and crackers. They also had some fruits (apples and bananas) and some corn chips.

I logged on and did an online order that had to be done before midnight and also read some work and personal e-mails. I was checking flight and it did not look very good for getting a seat as it was checked in full.

I went over to the gate as the agents made a final boarding call message for the flight. As I was heading out, I grabbed a banana and took it with me.

At the gate, there were a few people waiting around, but the majority had boarded. The red coated agent gave two boarding passes to this one girl and then he was called away to another gate. The agent made two final boarding calls before returning two tickets to a couple who had apparently volunteered to be on a later flight. I assume they were only going to Seattle as there were no more flights to Anchorage for the day.

Then she called one passenger’s name and told three others that only one seat is left. They said they would just wait for their originally scheduled flight then since they don’t want to split up. So my name was called and the other guy and I were told to follow the agent down.

At the airplane, we waited a bit; the guy was asking me what I did and if Seattle was home for me. I answered him that I was a travel writer and that I lived n Houston. He said, kind of interesting huh, since I may not get on the flight, I chuckled. The agent then came back and said to take the only two open seats on the plane; one aisle for the other guy and the middle for me.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Trip 2007: The other Club in Narita (NRT)

This Club has better food than the other one, but it is more crowded. It was pretty much cheese and crackers at the other one. It is 3:48p, so we will be boarding soon.

Christmas Trip 2007: Changing Clubs in Tokyo

I'm heading over to the Club nearer to the gate now. It's been fun watching planes; this airport is quite busy. Just think almost every take off and landing has been a wide body and they keep coming and going...Incredible I think.

A Japan Airlines Boeing 777-300 just landed, before that was a Northwest Boeing 747 cargo and prior to that a Northwest Airlines Boeing 747-400 took off and prior to that one a Korean Airlines Boeing 777-300 took off... A Dragonair A330 is on the runway and a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 in the new colors is behind that one.

Christmas Trip 2007: Arriving in Tokyo-Narita (NRT) Terminal 1

I deplaned and followed the crowd. I saw a sign that directed me through security and to a bus for Terminal 2. I took that way and while I waited, I was paged. Apparently, I do have to go through immigration first and then re-enter the secured area once I am in Terminal 2.

I followed the lady and went through immigration where she told me to fill out yet another form. As I was almost done an officer told me not to and to just go to the immigration officer. I did got them stamped and then went to customs, where the officer too the form and said go ahead.

Outside I found the bust to Terminal 2 and boarded it. Within a few minutes I was there. I picked up my boarding pass and entered security. But before I did, I had to do a waiver of departure tax since I had already paid it in Nagoya.

I found the WorldClub that I had not checked out and hang out there so I could catch up with the blogging. It was fun to watch planes come and go.

Christmas Trip 2007: Nagoya (NGO) to Tokyo-Narita, Japan (NRT)

14 JL54 30DEC Nagoya Chubu International, Nagoya Japan (NGO) to Tokyo-Narita International,Narita Japan (NRT) 8:35a 9:30a 744 JA8913

Flying Time: 0:45
Departure Time: 8:31a
Arrival Time: 9:31a

It was funny to hear all the different codeshared flight numbers as this flight was codeshared with American, Air France and British Airways. Rows 1-12 boarded through the first jetway and everyone else through the other one on the right. I was greeted by the flight attendant and told to head upstairs for my seat. I did notices that Business Class was right by the door with a 2-3-2 configuration and way in the nose I caught a glimpse of the First Class cabin. I was seated in the last row and the guy whom I was standing behind at check-in was sitting in 81C.

I know that the overheads are smaller on the upper deck, so I thought that my backpack would not fit, but it did. I settled into my seat, high above the ground in this 3-3 configuration from rows 71-81.

The flight attendant came by and offered blankets and pillows followed by newspapers and magazines. The guy next to me was going to Delhi for a week and was astonished that I only stayed in Nagoya one night. He apologized for his bad English, but his English is by far better than my Japanese as I only know about four words in Japanese.

The lead flight attendant thanked us for boarding orderly so that we could have an early departure, then the safety announcement played in both English and Japanese at the same time.

Our taxi and take off was swift and we were airborne in no time. It was a beautiful morning and as we turned left, once could see the entire island; pity the camera's battery was dead...

As we leveled off, we had a beverage service. Then it was time to descend into Narita on this short 0:45 flight.

We landed without incident and took quite a while to get to our gate as it was on the other side of the airport and occupied. Not an issue as I got a chance to see the planes and my connection was not until much later during the day. We got to our gate at 9:31a. There was a short delay before we deplaned however.

Christmas Trip 2007: Arrived home

Finally I'm home was a great trip; more later

Christmas Trip 2007: Nagoya Chubu, Nagoya (NGO)

Central Japan International Airport Centrair, Nagoya Japan (NGO)

After the complimentary breakfast at the hotel (soup, bread and croissant), I went outside before dawn (6:20a) and started to walk to the airport. I noticed that the shuttle van was ready, so I jumped in. I arrived at the terminal at 6:30a after waiting for some other passengers.

I went upstairs and found the Japan Airlines counter to check in for JL54. This flight arrives in the international terminal although it does a domestic routing. The aircraft is used on an international route. You can only take it if you have an international connection out of Narita.

I produced my onward ticket as I checked in and after a few phone calls, I was given a boarding pass and some documentation in triplicate to give to the authorities as I progress. I also had to enter the country in Japan, so basically go through immigration. I was excited as i was in 81A in the Upper deck in Economy Class.

I thanked the agent and left the counter and headed for the waving gallery. Before going out there, I tried to connect to a WiFi and there were no free ones now; I guess the one I found is only available near the train station. I then headed out to the gallery.

I took out my camera and realized that the battery was dead :-(. I had forgotten to re-charge it last night. Crap! I took out the video camera and it had to make do.

I left the area and headed for the security lines which were quite long unfortunately. I heard my name being paged and wondered what now. I went back to the counter as requested and the agent said I had to pay the passenger facility charge for the airport. I said that I had only arrived last night and produced my boarding card. It was funny as she spoke to me in Japanese at first and I gave her a blank stare and she paused, thought about it for a second and then spoke to me in broken.

She got on the phone and called someone and then we waited. It was getting progressively later now and the security line was getting longer; there would be no way to get the flight ontime if I stayed in the regular line. The agent also realized this as she kept looking at her watch. Checking had already closed for my flight and they were now handling Thai Airways.

After what seemed like forever and really uncomfortable silence between the two of us, the phone rang, then she said that I have to pay the tax since I did not arrive today. The total is 2,500 YEN. She then took me over to the ticketing counter where she took me to the front of the line and told me when I was finished to head over and see her and she would get me through security.

I offered to pay in USD, but she said no, but she would accept a credit card, so I gave her one. Once done, I headed back towards the other agent who got someone else to take me to the front of the line through the crew/connecting passengers line. It is funny as I had asked before if I could use that line and the guy told me no; now we had carte blanche.

I then went through security and immigration and made it to the other side by 7:55a. Boarding was commencing at 8:05a. I saw a note on the Sakura Lounge sign that my card was accepted. I checked it out, but I needed a same day boarding pass on Continental to do it and since I was flying in JAL and had arrived on Continental yesterday, I was out of luck.

I made my way down to gate 16 where boarding on the Boeing 747-400 started promptly at 8:05a.

Christmas Trip 2007: In Tokyo-Narita, Japan (NRT) again

I arrived in Tokyo at 9:51a, just a minute after schedule. I am awaiting my flight to Houston now in the WorldClub in the airport. I'll start sending out some updates now.

Christmas Trip 2007: Leaving Hotel for the airport across the street

I got up at 5:30a on Dec. 30, 2007, is getting and will head out in 3 minutes hopefully. I had a restless night and fell asleep quite later than the time I got to bed...

Off to breakfast and the to try and catch JL54 to Tokyo.

PS: I am in room 727, which I think is so cool!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Trip 2007: Cairns, Australia

So, I have not told you what I did in Cairns as yet, so here goes.

I ended up renting a car as that was better than hanging out in the airport for 12 hours or taking a shuttle into the city.

I headed for the SkyRail that takes you over the rain forest to the town of Karunda. As it turns out, I was just in time to then take the train back. I got a got price even securing a discount for the SkyRail portion, so my total cost was 77 AUD.

The rain forest is just huge and just goes on for miles! I made the two stops on the way up to enjoy the view. Once in Karunda, I walked through the city a bit and then headed back to the train station. If you are ever in Cairns, I highly recommending visiting this town.

I made my way back to the train station making it there with 7 minutes to spare. My seat was opposite four young Japanese girls who were in Cairns for a week. They spoke some English so we were able to interact on the way down. I switched my window seats with them from time to time so they could take pictures.

The ride takes about 1.5 hours and is well worth it as the views are spectacular.

Once back at SkyRail, I drove around for a bit looking for an Australian to U.S. plug since I did not have one. I eventually found one at a store called Tandy. It was great to interact with the Australians who are so friendly.

Next I went into the city of Cairns as after talking to a young man in one of the stores, I realized that Port Douglas was too far away and would take too much time to visit.

Once I arrived in Cairns, I had to go visit a street that bore my first name. That was a special moment. As it turns out, the street is also at the corner of another street that bears the name of a colleague of mine, so of course I took pictures.

I got a parking space eventually and walked around the Night Market, which was O.K., but not spectacular. I then went to an Internet cafe and spent 10 AUD for 2 hours of time. I could have paid 15 AUD for 24 hours, but I was leaving soon enough.

Once I was done, I passed back by the night market and then had a sandwich and Fries from McDonald's and then had it in the care before driving back to the airport in the rain. I did stop and topped up the car as well.

Christmas Trip 2007: Honolulu, HI (HNL)

Honolulu, HI (HNL)

I headed for the immigration/Customs area; I had secured a ride to Waikiki so I was psyched about that as I knew that it would be perhaps taxi only at this hour. There is a local bus for a dollar, but I doubt if it was running at 3a.

I took quite a while in Immigration as there were only three agents working the U.S. citizenship line; good grief. One of them was working the crew line.

Finally, it was my time and I said hello to the agent who greeted me. He looked at the document and was like six countries huh? I said Yes. What were you doing? I said, just flying. He asked when did I leave, I told him on Christmas eve. Quite a trip he said and stamped my Customs form saying welcome home. Oh he did ask if I was heading to Houston and I told him eventually.

So, I go to the Customs lady and she asks me a bunch of questions makes some notes and send me to secondary screening; just what I need when I am in a hurry. There was only one guy doing this area so I had to wait as there as another passenger behind me. I was very irritated as I knew that my ride had already left by now.

After what seemed like forever, it was my turn. It took so long just to enter the information into his computer. Then my bag was checked, nothing was found of course and then I was sent on my way; aargh!!! Of all the times to go through secondary screening, I did not need that tonight.

I got outside and my ride had left. I checked the cost of a taxi and it was possibly 35 USD; it was a metered ride to Waikiki. I called the four airport hotels and their rates ranges from 99 USD to 129 USD. I even checked the airport shuttles for 9.00 USD, but although they said they would come immediately, I actually woke up one guy and another just rang without an answer. I guess they should post their hours of operation.

I usually take the local bus into town for 1 USD, but it did not start until 7a. the security lady told me.

So with a heavy heart, i chose the cheapest hotel. They sent a bus for me and it arrived within 5 minutes as it was already at the airport. When I got there, there was a police car pulling someone over and looks like they were being arrested.

I signed up for the room asking for a high floor; the guy said nothing and then gave me a floor on the ground floor, which I totally hate. I asked him if he had anything n a higher floor and he said no and I just felt he was lying. He then gave me a key as well as a remote for the TV. You can tell the class of a hotel when you are given the key with the remote. I also asked about Internet access and he gave me a sheet of paper with a userid and password. Oh, the guy said in a gruff voice, despite the fact that you are checking in at 3:30a, checkout was still at noon. Like I really cared since I had to leave at time anyways.

I went down to the room and it was not up to standard at all. I just felt unsafe I guess for some reason. Also there were no plugs to plug my electronic items into; there was one and it was behind the bed. So I only plugged the computer in it. It was also an almost dead spot as it pertains to cell phone coverage.

I so hated this place. Anyways, I eventually fell asleep after setting the alarm clock for 9:30a. I perished the thought of asking for a wake up call.

I was up and atom at 9:30a and did some blogging then got ready and left for the airport.

Christmas Trip 2007: Majuro (MAJ) to Honolulu, HI (HNL)

12 CS956 28DEC Majuro (MAJ) to Honolulu, HI (HNL) 8:00p 2:30a N14249

Flying time: 4:25
Estimated Arrival Time: 2:31 AM
Pushed Back: 7:50 PM

Once everyone was on board, there was a short delay (this is usually so the stairs, etc. can be clear of the plane) then the engines were started and we departed the tarmac. This is the longest segment of the trip. In the past, the next stop would have been Johnston Island another military island, but this leg was removed a few years back.

As is standard, we used the runway as a taxiway, turned the airplane around and took to the night skies. The turn radius on the 737s is amazing; we basically turned on a dime.

Once airborne, the standard announcement was made by the lead flight attendant. It was 5 USD for alcohol and 1 USD for the headsets for the movies. Finally, we would see something on the screen. I thought that although there was no movies, etc. on the other legs, we would see the Airshow, but that was not the case. Immigration documents for the U.S. were handed out as well.

For dinner, we had a choice of chicken curry with rice corn, peas and carrots or beef Stroganoff. The meal came with a brownie, a salad with pepper cream dressing and a sweet roll.

By now, I had a guy sitting next to me who said he was on a surfing trip. Eight days ago they had picked up a boat in Majuro and this morning, the boat dropped them off on Kwajalein. I knew they did not look like military types… He said that Kwajalein was an interesting place and that was all he said.

The Captain came on the PA and said we were level at 35,000’ and that he would switch off the seatbelt sign as the weather was good. He also gave some weather details; basically, it was raining in Honolulu and it was hot. It was funny as he gave the information in total pilot speak; saying that we were at flight level 350 as opposed to being at 35,000’.

The first movie was “No Reservation” and the second one was “Home Alone 2.” I saw when the first one started, but the next thing I knew after finishing dinner and brushing my teeth and reading for a bit was that we were landing in Honolulu, HI (HNL).

We taxied to the gate and the arrival time was 2:23a on Dec. 28; seven minutes early.

It was 8:22a local Guam time when I left Guam on Dec. 28, so if you do the normal math we went back in time about 5:59 :-). The total travel time is 14:01. This site helped me calculate this information.

Christmas Trip 2007: Majuro (MAJ)

Amata Kabua International Airport, Majuro (MAJ)

Arrival Time: 7:01 PM

The left side of the airplane had to deplane, so I did. It was great to visit another airport, although for a very short time. Once inside the transit lounge, I could see that they were selling arts and craft as well as another stall with alcoholic drinks and beverages. Interesting enough, they had Corona and New Zealand beers. The cost for a beer was 3 USD.

I tried to find an electric outlet and when I did, it was not working. After waiting around a bit, I saw one that high above the ground; it looks like they had installed new ones as the ones from the ground were no longer working. It was too much work to get to it, so I did not bother. I looked to my phone, but there was no signal either.

I noticed a funny sign in the transit area; one of the “Do Nots” on it read: “DO NOT write on walls and doors.” I thought that was interesting and wondered why that had to be added. Another was “DO NOT spit betel nuts and copenhagen on floors and walls,” again, someone must have been spitting nuts out; my guess is also that these are popular items on the island.

People milled around buying arts and craft as well as beer and beverages. It was actually a tranquil atmosphere as we waited for the flight to be ready once more. Boarding was announced without a PA system and the boarding process was the same as it was throughout.

Once back outside on the tarmac, I took a few night shots of the plane the operations around it. This was the last stop on the island hopper and I felt a bit nostalgic. It was also very windy and really humid.

PS: On my first trip through the Marshall Islands a few years ago, I met Imata Kabua who was then President of the Marshall Islands. He is cousin to Amata.

Christmas Trip 2007: Kwajalein (KWA) to Majuro (MAJ)

12 CS956 28DEC Kwajalein (KWA) to Majuro (MAJ) 6:15p 7:08p N14249

Flying Time: 0:45
Estimated Departure Time: 5:58 PM
Estimated Arrival Time: 7:01 PM
Pushed Back: 5:58 PM

The engines started and we taxied out to the runway. We used runway 24-06 as the taxiway and then took off on runway 6. It was very windy as the takeoff occurred; actually it was windy the entire time we were on Kwajalein. The takeoff was pretty neat as you could see the other nearby atolls. Once airborne you could definitely see the effects of the wind on the surf.

I don’t think we had any beverage service on this flight, although it might have been because I fell asleep. I awoke when we were landing in Majuro and it was already dark outside.

Christmas Trip 2007: Checking out NGO

The airport area is pretty cool. I went walking and there is a 24hur shop called Lawson downstairs where I got a can of Sapporo and one of Kirin. I also bought an inside shirt for 680 YEN, way to much, but I needed one. I bought size L, but I think that is too small :-(.

The airport has a neat shopping experience as well as an Observation Deck that is open from 7a to 9p; pity I got there at 9:05p. I'll see if I have enough time tomorrow to check it out bright and early at 7a.

You can wish yourself to Nagoya by train for 850 YEN or 1,650 YEN by high speed boat, but you have to go by 9:50p as that is the departure time of the last boat.

Last flight our of here is on Emirates to Dubai. I actually thought of taking that flight while at the airport, but the arrival time is 5:55a into Dubai and that would mean going to London-Heathrow and then to Newark or something like that. Pity that the Dubai to Houston flight does not operate on Sundays...

I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone as it is way cool.

More updates coming your way.

Christmas Trip 2007: Kwajalein (KWA)

Kwajalein (KWA)

Gate Arrival Time: 5:19 PM

We landed at 5:15p and taxied back to the gate. The flight attendants made an announcement that no pictures should be taken. Passengers deplaned; including the ones in that special shirt that got on two stops earlier. I turned on my phone, but I got no signal; the computer battery was dead, so I could not check for a WiFi signal.

We were catered at this station, I am guessing with the meal for the last leg of our flight. The aircraft was also inspected by security officials from the island.

My view from the window was spectacular as I could see the surf crashing on the nearby beach. People kept coming and going as they watched their loved ones board the airplane.

The flight attendants also made an announcement saying that all passengers should take their originally assigned seats as we were full out of Kwajalein today; people started coming on ad indeed there were a lot of people. The majority of whom sat between row 16 and beyond.

Once the process was completed, there was a short delay, then the door was closed.

Pushed Back: 5:58 PM

Christmas Trip 2007: Eureka, I found a room

Nagoya, Japan (NGO)

After checking on all three hotels, I settled on the third one as it had the best rate and like the Comfort Inn at 9,000 YEN with a 10% discount, they also give a 10% discount; 5,986 YEN (taxes included), a little under 50 USD, now that was easy.

I am a few thousand percent happier than I was last night in Honolulu, HI. Now even if I go into Nagoya tonight at a cost of 1,700 YEN on the train round trip, It will still be less than the cost of that room in Honolulu, HI. The rate also includes breakfast, but it starts at 6a, the flight is at 7:50a, so maybe I can just eat and then go as the airport is literally across the street.

This hotel, the Toyoko Inn, is nice and clean and looks very new. I saw signs in the elevator that they had three more opening up in January 2008. I have enough plugs to plug in everything I have and more; no converter needed.

Now if I could only figure out how to turn up the heater as it is 15C in the room I'll be O.K., the markings on the remote for the heater are all in Japanese...

Oh, my phone does not work in Japan, but they have e-FREE in the room so I can blog and catch up finally.

PS: The heater is responding...
I need a Kirin!

Christmas Trip 2007: Kosrae (KSA) to Kwajalein (KWA)

11 CS956 28DEC Kosrae (KSA) to Kwajalein (KWA) 3:30p 5:36p N14249

Flight Time: 0:45
Estimated Departure Time: 03:09 PM
Estimated Arrival Time: 05:20 PM
Pushed Back: 03:09 PM

The ground staff gave a message similar to the one that was given in PNI. We started the engines and headed for the runway and with a quick turn around on the runway, spooled up the engines and were airborne.

I was out of battery now so I had to make notes on paper :-(. Paper was my receipt from getting gas in Cairns, but it was all I could find easily.

After the takeoff, which on these islands are always spectacular, the flight attendant made the announcement that she made on all the other segments. I think I could repeat it word for word now :-). We had a good load out of Kosrae. What I noticed is that it is customary for people to give flowers when departing these islands as many passengers had wreaths either around their necks or head. They were quite elaborate and very beautiful. The wearers seem to really appreciate them as well.

Surprisingly, there was a meal and an elaborate one at that; remember, this is a pretty short flight of only 0:45. We were expeditiously served a ham sandwich with mustard, peanut butter & honey wafers plus some Chamorro Chip cookies with the Continental Airlines brand on the packets. I ate heartily, trying not to think about the calories I was consuming on this meal.

They came back and cleaned up and soon after we started the descent for Kwajalein. it was a beautiful approach as we landed next to a pristine golf course. We were told that Kwajalein is a military installation, so no pictures are allowed to be taken and we had to all remain on board; security checks will be made on board.

Christmas Trip 2007: Searching for a hotel at NGO

Just tried Centrair; their rate is 121.20 USD, will try the other two now.

Christmas Trip 2007: Arrived in Nagoya, Japan (NGO)

Just arrived in Nagoya, trying to find a reasonable hotel.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Trip 2007:Kosrae (KSA) to Kwajalein (KWA)

11 CS956 28DEC Kosrae (KSA) to Kwajulein (KWA) 3:30p 5:36p N14249

Flight Time: 0:45
Estimated Departure Time: 03:09 PM
Estimated Arrival Time: 05:20 PM
Pushed Back: 03:09 PM

The ground staff gave a message similar to the one that was given in PNI. We started the engines and headed for the runway and with a quick turn around on the runway, spooled up the engines and were airborne.

I was out of battery now so I had to make notes on paper :-(. Paper was my receipt from getting gas in Cairns, but it was all I could find easily.

After the takeoff, which on these islands are always spectacular, the flight attendant made the announcement that she made on all the other segments. I think I could repeat it word for word now :-). We had a good load out of Kosrae. What I noticed is that it is customary for people to give flowers when departing these islands as many passengers had wreaths either around their necks or head. They were quite elaborate and very beautiful. The wearers seem to really appreciate them as well.

Surprisingly, there was a meal and an elaborate one at that; remember, this is a pretty short flight of only 0:45. We were expeditiously served a ham sandwich with mustard, peanut butter & honey wafers plus some Chamorro Chip cookies with the Continental Airlines brand on the packets. I ate heartily, trying not to think about the calories I was consuming on this meal.

They came back and cleaned up and soon after we started the descent for Kwajalein. it was a beautiful approach as we landed next to a pristine golf course. We were told that Kwajalein is a military installation, so no pictures are allowed to be taken and we had to all remain on board; security checks will be made on board.

Christmas Trip 2007: Off to Nagoya

I got a seat so I'm off to the gate. We will communicate once more in Nagoya tomorrow night Dec. 29, 2007. The arrival time is 6:40p

Christmas Trip 2007: Switched Clubs

I am now in the Presidents Club, where the atmosphere is different. The Club is a little large and there are crackers and cheese, peanuts, fritos and fruits (pineapple and grapes). I had some of the latter.
There is a mini business area so I can plug in although I opted to do so in a corner area with comfy chairs; there are also two TV areas.

I am still awaiting my flight with about an hour to go before departure.

Christmas Trip 2007: Kosrae (KSA)

Kosrae (KSA)

Arrival Time: 02:36 PM

It was a smooth landing on Kosrae despite the strong wind straight down the runway.

I disembarked with other passengers and got my passport stamped as I noticed that the guy was doing it for others. This terminal is really old and is divided into two places. Everyone here is so laid back it is not funny; well it is. The heat and humidity was intense as well.

They boarded by row numbers but we (transit passengers) mixed with the new passengers so we had to wait for most of them to go. I asked a Japanese couple where they were going and they said Majuro; another passenger asked me where I was going and I said Honolulu; he said the same. He had not been to Honolulu since 1976 he said! He was going as he was working with his church having retired from the military. There was also a Group in very colorful shirts that was also boarding.

I could not find a power cord and by now I was out of power, so I could not re-charge or check for a wireless signal. My cell phone had no signal though.

There was one passenger changing her seat, which I thought was odd.

As I got back to the plane, I picked up my bag from the baggage cart and boarded the plane.

Christmas Trip 2007: Kosrae (KSA)

Kosrae (KSA)

Arrival Time: 02:36 PM

It was a smooth landing on Kosrae despite the strong wind straight down the runway.

I disembarked with other passengers and got my passport stamped as I noticed that the guy was doing it for others. This terminal is really old and is divided into two places. Everyone here is so laid back it is not funny; well it is. The heat and humidity was intense as well.

They boarded by row numbers but we (transit passengers) mixed with the new passengers so we had to wait for most of them to go. I asked a Japanese couple where they were going and they said Majuro; another passenger asked me where I was going and I said Honolulu; he said the same. He had not been to Honolulu since 1976 he said! He was going as he was working with his church having retired from the military. There was also a Group in very colorful shirts that was also boarding.

As I got back to the plane, I picked up my bag from the baggage cart and boarded the plane.

Christmas Trip 2007: Pohnpei (PNI) to Kosrae (KSA)

9 CS956 28DEC Pohnpei (PNI) to Kosrae (KSA) 1:45p 2:46p N14249

Estimated Departure Time: 01:29 PM
Estimated Arrival Time: 02:32 PM
Pushed Back: 01:29 PM Arrival Time: 02:36 PM

Boarding was smooth and this time around I did not have anyone joining me in my row. There seem to have been a seat dupe, but there were plenty of open seats so that was not an issue. One of the reason why I chose to take this trip was that the flights were not too busy on all legs.

There was a kid behind me, that kept kicking my seat as his mother watched and did nothing. i turned around and to both of them to stop it and it subdued a bit.

As soon as everyone was on board, an announcement was made in the local language of PNI; I could only understand the city names so it sounded like the message was about what to expect from here on in. The agent left the aircraft and the doors were closed, the stairs were pulled away, we started the engines and then headed for the runway, making a left as we departed the apron; turned around on the runway and departed without any delay.

Once airborne, the flight attendant made her announcement and then the documents were handed out and the beverage service was started. Peanuts were served followed by drinks.

The captain came on with his PA saying that we will land at about 2:46p. it is 30C and we will actually be early and will start our descent soon. In about 10 minutes or less, we started our descent into Kosrae.

The kid had stopped kicking my seat now as he was asleep.

Christmas Trip 2007: Pohnpei (PNI)

Pohnpei (PNI)

We landed really hard, but any landing on these islands is a good one; the couple next to me was now at their destination. We taxied back using the runway as a taxi-way.

It was now my side of the the plane's turn to get off and wait in the transit area for inspection. I did saying, I'll be back" to the crew again. This is going to be fin I thought...

On the ground, the facilities were quite small, but cozy. The re-boarding announcement was made without a PA system and the normal boarding process commenced.

I checked for a wireless signal but none was found. I also did bring my power cord to get some charge while here and I was able to plug in. This room had a TV going (American football) as opposed to the bare one in TKK.

It was now 8:03p 27DEC in Houston 1:03p local time on 28DEC. Time travel is really freaky.

It was now my turn to board. As I walked out I asked one of the guys if he was from PNI, he said no, he was actually from Kosrae and was in the military and was heading home. I was trying to find out what was there to be done in Kosrae, but no luck there.

Christmas Trip 2007: HNL awaiting the flight

I just arrived at the airport. On the ride over the lady asked me where I was going; Tokyo I said without thinking, then said actually Nagoya. I asked her how was her Christmas and she said she had to work adding "they don't think we have families." She also said she will be working New Year's day as well.

I thanked her for the ride, tipped her and exited the van. I checked myself in and then headed to the security area, showing my credentials and entering. As my computer came through the guy asked to swab it and took it away. he then said to open; I quipped, "it does not look like a computer?" I don't think he heard me as he said yes and I moved on; you could tell I am a little annoyed at the system today...

I then headed to the Northwest WorldClub and presented my credentials. She explained that there was a Presidents Club next door that I could use if I wanted, but I am also welcome to use the WorldClub.

I asked about shower facilities in either this Club or the Presidents Club next door and she said that neither has, but the Qantas Club does, but you don't have access. She then said, you look fine, to which I smiled and said, not for now, but in the future is what I was looking for.

The Lounge is nice, but nothing compared to the ones in Tokyo. The usual newspapers, a well stocked bar and some snacks. It was hard to find somewhere to plug in my electronic items though.

They do have complimentary Internet access though, so I can make this blog entry; kudos for that.

why i hate this hotel

So more reasons why I hate this hotel; when I checked in last night, they gave me a remote for the TV with my key; that is always a bad thing whenthe front desk gives you the remote at check-in; what the remote is that costly that people steal it? Or the clientelle you expect will steal remotes?

So I am checking out and I give him my key, he asks me for the remote and I have to go back to the room to get it :-(. Good grief!

gotta run

Christmas Trip 2007: Leaving the hotel in HNL

I'm heading out of the hotel so I will continue the updates at the airport. It was good to get a shower in a non-airport environment even if the hotel sucks!

Christmas Trip 2007: Chuuk (TKK) to Phonopei (PNI)

9 CS956 28DEC Chuuk (TKK) to Pohnpei (PNI) 10:45a 12:58a N14249

Estimated Departure Time: 10:30 AM
Estimated Arrival Time: 12:49 PM
Pushed Back: 10:30 AM

I boarded saying hello to the crew once more.

I took my seat as did others. I realized that the couple next to me were in seat 17 as opposed to my row as the lady said she thought the "14" on the boarding was the seat number, not the gate number. I guess the other guy had made the same error. The folks for those two seats took the once directly behind as they were empty. I did not have that luxury in Guam.

The flying time would be 1:04 minutes to Pohnpei says the crew before starting the safety video. The engines started and we headed out; on the islands, the airplane parks and ensures that it can get out on its own power as there is no pushback carts; at least I did not see any.

More documents were issued for the new passengers and the normal announcement of the service to be expected was given. We were served peanuts and beverages on this leg.

Soon, we started a long and what seemed early descent into Pohnpei. The water around the islands are absolutely stunning!

Christmas Trip 2007: Guam (GUM) to Chuuk (TKK)

Guam (GUM)

I left the Lounge at about 7:48a and headed for the gate, just two clicks away. They were already in the boarding process, but no seat was assigned as yet.

Soon, my name was called and I was assigned an Economy Class window seat. I asked if I would be upgraded on the other islands if there was a seat and I was told no. This would be my seat for the entire flight. Odd, I thought, but I guess it is too confusing to do otherwise.

I boarded, commending the agent on her boarding style; it sounded so great when she rattled off the names of the airports and ended with Honolulu, Hawaii. She made the announcement a few times as I was standing there.

8 CS956 28DEC Guam (GUM) to Chuuk (TKK) 8:20a 10:37a N14249

As I boarded, the flight attendants checked my boarding pass and welcomed me on board. I greeted them and advised that I would be staying with them for the duration of the flight. I walked through the 2-2 Business Class cabin which was almost full and made my way to Economy Class in its 3-3 configuration.

I noticed that there was someone sitting in my seat, so I alerted the flight attendant of the situation who was standing nearby. He asked the guy for his boarding pass and he was actually seated at an aisle seat further back in the plane. I put my stuff away in the overhead bin and took my window seat.

I said hello to the couple next to me who as it turns out was on my flight from Cairns. They were heading to Pohnpei (PNI) for eight days. I had a good chat with them about their arrival in Guam experience and they commented that they were fingerprinted and that was not a fun experience.

A gentleman passed down the aisle in a uniform other than flight crew or flight attendant and I told the folks next to me that he is our mechanic; they seemed startled, but I assured them it was fine. This flight takes a mechanic in case one is needed as there are none on the islands; that is such a cool job, I thought. There is also an extra pilot and an extra flight attendant I think.

By now all the passengers had boarded and it was push back time. The crew were now in the aisle as the safety video had started; an English version. It was a short taxi to the runway and we were airborne in no time. It was great to see Guam in the morning sunshine as I had arrived when it was dark. We made a hard left turn so I was able to see the airport and its surroundings in its entirety as we turned left and headed out; it was quite a beautiful sight.

The lead flight attendant welcomed everyone on board and explained the service for today stating that we would have a hot sandwich. The couple and I were talking about this trying to decide if we would get a meal or not. They had taken Virgin Blue from Melbourne to Cairns and mentioned that they charge for meals on that flight and I was saying that meals are done at meal time and depending on the length and type of flight.

I was actually delighted as I did not expect anything, but kind of thought there would be since this is a Continental Micronesia-operated flight and the flight is international.

Documentation for the Micronesian Islands was passed out to those who needed them; the flight attendant saying that I would get my documentation in 10 hours; I laughed. At this point, this seemed like eternity.

The meal service was soon started and consisted of an egg, ham and cheese English muffin with a fruit bowl and an apple juice. The normal fare of beverages was also served. Clean up was completed quickly after that.

It was 9:30a when we started our descent into Chuuk; wow that was quick I thought. Not much time for Duty Free, I thought as well.

For Chuuk, we were told that we had to deplane but only those on the right side of the plane; if anyone else wanted to they could but would have to take all their stuff with them; so of course I did, you never have to ask me twice to get off a plane and touch my foot on a foreign soil.

The landing was pretty much a plant, but knowing that the runway is short, it worked. We landed on runway 15 and then turned around on it and taxied back towards the gate.

There were lots of people looking at the plane coming in as this is quite the event for them.

Once I deplaned and entered the terminal, I checked for a wireless signal, but alas there was none. My phone did not work either. This is going to be a long day. I love small airports! I checked again and one wireless signal showed up, but it was protected and required a network key. I did not see any power plugs so I could recharge; besides I did not bring the electric cord.

Boarding started at :21 with priority customers first, etc. this was done by a gentleman just speaking to us not on a PA system, this was the greatest thing , so casual and so orderly.

Christmas Trip 2007: In Honolulu, HI experiencing the same day twice

It is very weird experiencing the same day twice, but I am. I just awoke and will do the updates in a bit. I feel better now, but just annoyed about this hotel.

Christmas Trip 2007: No shower in Guam

Guam (GUM)

In Guam, I went through the Immigration and security formalities and re-entered the concourse. I searched for the Lounge and asked an agent where to find it. He pointed towards the direction.

After checking in there, I asked about a shower facility. He said there is none but is the biggest thing on his wish list. I was a little annoyed, but what to do. I made the most of the bathroom facilities to at least change my clothing, wash my face, brush my teeth and shave. In 35 minutes I was ready to go again.

Now I wait for my flight at 8:20a to Honolulu, HI (HNL), first stop Truuk (TKK). This is going to be a very long day.

You perhaps wont hear from me until I arrive in Honolulu, HI at about 2:00a on Dec. 28, 2007. I'll have to go down to Waikiki for a room if I cannot find one that is reasonable at the airport.

Christmas Trip 2007: On my to Guam

Cairns International Airport, Cairns Australia (CNS)

I arrived at the airport about 10:46p and it was still raining. I had missed the left turn for the international terminal and ended up going around one of the round about twice and ending up close to where I wanted to be, but not quite. I think I was in the waiting area for the international terminal; kind of like the cell phone lots in some U.S. airports.

I continued driving and then found the left turn and parked the car in the Avis Return area. I took my own sweet time and got everything together as much as I could without opening the door as it was still raining a little harder now. After noting the mileage, etc. and ensuring that I had not left anything in the car, I exited, got the stuff from the trunk and headed for the door.

First item was to get my bag together and check out the shower. I walked through them and they seemed virtually untouched. I’ll have to drop a letter to the airport officials and see if they can do a little better with them. If I remember correctly in Sydney, you can at least go buy shower stuff from the nearby store. I could not find anywhere in Cairns where that could be done. In addition, the sink does not have any soap attached or any paper towels. It just all seems so mismatched. So , with that said, I decided that the shower thing would not work; instead, I washed my face and hands n the male toilets as there was soap and paper towel there. I did use the space in the shower for re-packing though; bt in the male toilet there is no place to hang your coat unless you are using one of the stalls; who designed these facilities?

7 CO903 1:35a 6:05a Cairns, Australia (CNS) to Guam (GUM) 738 N??232

Once on board, I made my way to my seat and settled in. All the other Business Class passengers were already seated. Each seat had a plastic bag with a pillow and a blanket. It is a 2-2 configuration of all leather seats totaling 14 seats. I looked over into the Economy class area and they had a while flap over the seat back that read “Resort Shuttle.” I think this is the brand that is used for the Guam operation for all those flights to/from Japan and other cities. Economy class is configured in a 3-3 configuration for a total of 141 seats.

A little girl ran forward and noticed that the door was closed; I guess she forgot something. As it turns out, they left a pillow in the baby’s chair. The baby stated crying. The flight attendant explained that the stroller was already in the hold and the airplane was pushing back so there was nothing that could be done.

We pushed back quite early at 1:11a. Everyone was accounted for I guess so there is really no need to wait around. The engines were started as we pushed back. The safety announcement was first made in English and then Japanese; there is a large amount of Japanese passengers on board; remember that “Resort Shuttle” reference?

It looks like we used the runway as a taxiway, but it was dark so I can’t really tell for sure. We straightened up for runway 15 and took off into the dark, wet skies. You could see the lights of the city below and the dark rain clouds hanging around. Not too many lights were on in the city, but you could see those of the casino still lit.

Once we buzzed 10,000’, the flight attendant also explained the noting that the flight number is CS903 as opposed to CO903 which is what is printed on the boarding pass (this flight is operated by Continental Micronesia whose code is CS).

Alcoholic beverage is on sale for 5 USD. There will also be inflight duty free which will close approximately 1 hour before arriving in Guam.

While she made her PA, we had a little chop, well quite a chop for a little while.

After her message, the inflight system started with a Duty Free commercial. One of the flight attendants came by with a complimentary headset. Next another flight attendant came by with a hot towel.

The movie had started and it was “Surviving Christmas” with Ben Affleck and the guy who played Tony from the Sopranos, James Gandolfini and Christina Applegate. I don’t think I’ve seen that one just yet. It’s been out for about two or so years I think.

The lead flight attendant came by with the appropriate forms; as it turns I don’t need anything since I am connecting to another flight immediately. It’s been a while since I’ve tansitted Guam, so we will see what gives.

The Captain came on and said that we were at 36,000’ and that is our cruising altitude for the night. He also said that he would turn of the seatbelt and that we would arrive twenty minutes early. As soon as he finished, the baby started crying once more, but that was short lived. I fel bad for the mom since the baby was not well it seemed.

The flight attendant came by with linen for the table and asked me if I wanted to have a midnight snack. I was also asked what I wanted to drink and I opted for the chardonnay. The midnight snack arrived with Chardonnay in tow; a fruit plate a small salad and a chicken and melted cheese sandwich and a Hershey’s chocolate.

The crew was very attentive to our needs and ensured we were well looked after. I fell asleep and awoke to see my tray being slowly removed from in front of me. I went back to sleep.

The next thing I knew is that I was being awaken as we were landing in Guam at 5:42a, 23 minutes early.

Christmas Trip 2007: In Honolulu, HI

Well, I'm in Honolulu, HI, not too happy, hotel sucks, Customs delayed me, but will tell you more tomorrow when I awake...

Christmas Trip 2007: on board

7 CO903 Cairns, Australia

As I boarded and took my seat, I was offered champagne, mimosa or water. I opted for a mimosa and was not disappointed.

Oops, we are leaving so gotta go.

4:08 enroutime
82F in Guam.

Christmas Trip 2007: Heading to Guam

I am departing Cairns, Australia now and will arrive in Guam bright and early. I will try to update you on the rest of the Cairns story and the events of the flight.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007 Trip: Cairns International Airport

Cairns International Airport, Cairns Australia (CNS)

I cleared Immigration again (it is confusing) and then Customs and had to hand over my boarding pass. I had notes on it since the computer had failed, so I had to write them off on another piece of paper.

I walked over to the shuttle bus counter and the lady said it was 7.50 AUD each way to get into Cairns. I could arrange for them to take me back when I was ready.

I then walked over to the Avis counter and checked the price of a car for the day; the guy initially said he had nothing, but then that he had a Hyundai Getz for 55.65 AUD plus a boat load of taxes per day. I told him I'll take it as I checked online to see if I could get the same rate. I had found WiFi from an airport Lounge as the computer was working again.

I did not take the insurance as I thought that American Express would cover it. I later called them using the direct line and they do not cover Australia and five other countries (Jamaica, Ireland, Japan, Italy and New Zealand). So I headed back to the guy and signed up for the insurance. In a foreign country where they drive on the other side of the road, one cannot be too cautious at all.

I did notice that there were three showers at the airport, but you have to bring your own towel and soap although someone had left soap in one of them. They were free of charge and located in the International terminal.

I finally left the airport and headed for the SkyRail that would take me through the rainforest. I also needed to get an adapter so I could charge the computer that had now died. I tried using the plug for the razor in the toilet, but that did not work well at all, so I gave up.

Cairns, Australia

I arrive there in no time as I got good directions from the Avis guy. I was in luck they had space (apparently you have to book 24 hours in advance). I would go up with the SkyRail and come back down with the train, then be shuttled back to my car; what fun!

I bought the tickets and headed up the mountain. It was fantastic, you could see almost all of Cairns below including a spectacular view of the airport in teh distance. At one point, as far as you can see was rainforest.

The stop also included a look at Baron Falls which provides hydro-electric power for the area.

Note: I'm a bit tired now and have to get going so I can get to the airport and get checked in, etc. it is now 9:47p local time on 27 Dec. I will continue this in a bit...

Christmas 2007 Trip: Sydney to Cairns

6 QF167 9:05a 11:15a Sydney, Australia (SYD) to Cairns, Australia (CNS) 763 VH-OGT

I figured that the person sitting in my seat was upgraded and the new seat was not yet assigned. I’ve done this to many times, I internalized… He told me to wait just outside the door and entered the airplane. In a few minutes he returned and got on the phone and called his colleague; looked like I was right, so he went to advise the lady who was sitting there. In the interim, the purser said hello to me and we struck up a conversation. I told him about my itinerary and he said; hey, we’re going to Tokyo why don’t you continue on with us. I told him that I was purposely taking the long way and he laughed. They were heading onto to Tokyo with a 1:40 minutes or so ground time in Cairns. The layover in Tokyo would be about 25 hours.

By now the agent had returned saying my seat was now empty. I said thanks for chatting and good by for now and headed to my seat.

The Business Class cabin on this Boeing 767-300ER is configured as a 1-2-2; it is always interesting to see how each airline configure the premium cabin of the Boeing 767s. Economy class was the standard 2-3-2 configuration with the cabin in two compartments. This one is much different from ANA’s as the aircraft has two Exit forward of the wing as opposed to ANA’s two exits over the wing. Qantas also uses a coat closet to divide the cabins and ANA’s does not.

I settled into my seat saying hello to the lady who seems to be sitting with her husband. I managed to stuff my bag in the middle overhead bin as the side ones that are taller were all full.

The purser came on and explained our delay saying that we were waiting on some paperwork. The Captain also explained the delay and apologized for it. He also gave some updated information on our journey today. Cairns was 26C with rain and we would arrive at 11:05a. in addition, Cairns is an hour behind Sydney. So, I wonder what I will do in rainy Cairns…

The safety demo started and it was funny to see the word “aeroplane” being used in a sentence. The demo was in English with subtitles for the hearing impaired.

We eventually departed at 9:27a and headed out to the runway. As we pushed back, I noticed a LAN Airlines Airbus A340-300 at the gate (CC-CQA), that is a nice flight from Santiago, Chile (SCL), umm… There was also a Cathay Pacific A340 taxiing around, OneWorld alliance at work, I thought.

I remember seeing the tower on our way out, but the next thing I remember is seeing the flight attendants in the aisle with breakfast; I must have dosed off.

A 250ml bottle Fruit Frusion (pineapple, orange and mango juice), Kellogg’s Sultana Bran Crunch with milk, a warm raisin bread with butter and a yoghurt was served immediately after takeoff; that was an excellent breakfast. On the main screen there was some Qantas promotional items and then the “Simpson’s Movie” started with 2:17 to go.

Tea and coffee was served immediately after and the clean up came about 10 to 15 minutes later. I got up and used the lavatory and also looked for the magazines that were missing from my seat pocket. I was able to find the Duty free one and the missing December 2007 Australian Way inflight magazine; which was almost as thick as the one from ANA. The one from Singapore Airlines was quite thick as well. I did also find “Travel + Leisure” the Australian edition among many other titles.

I sat back down and started doing some typing and fell asleep; when I awoke, they were serving some water in a bottle and a muselix in a packet which seemed like a crowd pleaser, but I declined to eat it.

I also watched a video about Cairns and decied that I would try to see the rainforest when I got there.

We landed in a few minutes a little delayed but not by much. We were instructed to ensure that we had the boarding pass with the "D" on it if were exiting in Cairns; some people did not have it and had to go find it onboard. Sucks to be them I guess.

Christmas 2007 Trip: In Sydney Airport

Sydney International Airport, Sydney Australia (SYD)
27 Dec at 7:15a

I followed the signs to Immigration and Customs. There was not much of a line at all, so it was smooth sailing, well almost. The officer asked me the flight number for my connecting flight, to which I answered “I don’t know.” He looked at me strange, then asked, is it the international Qantas flight, to which I said no as I was planning on taking the domestic flight at 1:20p anyways. He then let me through saying as long as I don’t take the international flight then it is O.K.

At customs, they sent me to the quarantine area and then another officer asked if I had any food and if it was all my bags and then let me go through without doing the quarantine as he deemed I was not a risk and had nothing to hide.

As it turns out, I damaged the edge of the computer, so when I close it, it does not stay off, but keeps shutting itself down as the latch seems to be broken. This is bizarre as this feature has been broken since I got the computer and I’ve been trying to get Fujitsu to fix it all the time; now they will just blame it on the computer being dropped and it will never be fixed at their expense; sigh…I can’t wait to hear how much they will charge me.

But I digress; outside, there were several meeters and greeters. I was thinking of possibly driving up to Cairns as I saw the car rental signs. I walked over to Thrifty and asked how much of a drive was Cairns. The lady looked at me strange and said that they only rent cars and that I should ask at the information desk and pointed to it. I ignored that comment and went over to Avis and asked the guy there the same question. He says, that it is about 12 hours to Brisbane and he was not sure how much further to Cairns. His answer for the time to Brisbane did it for me as I don’t have that much time to make it up there and stop and enjoy the Gold Coast. At Avis, they do try harder. I thanked him and headed towards the departure area which is located upstairs. I saw a Citibank ATM and stopped to use it, but the line was too long so I gave up.

While I waited, I was trying to connect to the Internet; Sydney airport had a connection which told you to connect to Opus and Telstar; the rates (quoted in AUD) from Opus were hard to comprehend, so I decided not to bother since I was not sure what I was doing just yet.

Upstairs, I saw that QF167 was leaving at 9:05a; it was 8:08a and you had to check-in in area D. I went there and told the lady of my plans; she says I should try the flight although is fully booked, actually over booked. I also asked about the other flights to Cairns that day. She said the 1:20p looked O.K., but the later one at 7:35p or so was full. I decided to just go ahead and try 167 then, so as not to chance it.

In a few minutes, I was called and given a seat. I cleared security and headed towards the gate through the Duty free area. As I walked, I saw a free Internet kiosk; I was in luck I thought. I waited until 8:45a and gave up on it. I did see the A380 at the gate across the way though and took pictures and a video, so you will see those later.

I went down to the gate and presented my boarding pass, which the electronic gate reader rejected. The agent checked and said that my seat was assigned to someone else. He said I should walk down with him and he will sort it out.

Christmas 2007 Trip: Singapore to Sydney on the A380

Cairns, Australia

I finally found a place that has Internet access and I can use my computer. I had no luck in the Sydney airport and when I got to Cairns airport, my battery ran out before I could make the update and I could not find a place to buy an Australian adapter in that airport. So you can catch up with me in the next few posts.

26 Dec. 2007
Singapore Changi International, Singapore (SIN)

As instructed, I went back to the Transfer Desk at 7:50p and waited. I then asked the agent if the standbys were cleared and she went and got my ticket. She asked me for my passport and then gave me a boarding pass for seat 33E on the main deck. I asked if there was a seat available on the Upper Deck and she advised me to ask when I got to the gate. She then instructed me to get to the gate as they were boarding. I then thanked her and went towards the gate.

I stopped briefly to enter a blog post about getting a seat on the flight. Needless to say, I was very excited about this happening.

I walked over to gate F31; the only area specifically designed for the A380 at Changi and cleared security. I had forgotten about the water I had taken from the previous flight and the security folks tagged me on that one. I just drank it right there and then.

I asked the agent if I could switch my seat from the lower deck to the upper deck and she obliged, writing the number on the boarding pass and changing the “MAIN DECK” designation to “UPPER.” Cool, I figure that I always fly on the lower deck, so now it is time for a change.
I took a picture of the seating configuration, noting that I was at the back of the bus in row 80; kind of nice I thought, row 80 on the A380…

5 SQ 221 26DEC WE Singapore (SIN) to Sydney, Australia (SYD) 380 830P 700A 27DEC 9V-SKA

As I boarded, I went to the right for the upper deck and passengers in the main deck and Suites (although they are on the upper deck) went to the left. It was weird going up so high while boarding an airplane. I stopped and looked outside to see how high I was. An agent cautioned me to come this way, so I did.

On entering the plane, I was greeted by two flight attendants. The male took my boarding pass and sent me down the aisle on the right. I walked past the Business Class seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. They are so wide, I think that three persons can sit in them with ease. A flight attendant was handing out hot towels as we were boarding.

When I got to the Economy Class section, a flight attendant took my boarding pass and showed me to my seat; WOW! I thought. She even offered to hang my jacket, which she took along with my boarding pass. Now this is service I thought.

I actually scored a seat in the Exit row at the back of the plane, just three rows from the back; the last two rows have a 2 seats together configuration. The Economy class section is configured in a 2-4-2 configuration. The cabin interior is that of a combination of an Airbus A340-600 and the Boeing 777-200 as the lighting is from the Airbus and the bins from the Boeing . It is all really nice and clean; very well done I thought. The windows are huge, tapering to a smaller circumference as it goes to the outside of the plane.

They had poinsettias on the sides of the plane as it is Christmas; this was a very nice touch and added character to the cabin. Every seat has a video screen with Audio/Video on Demand service. There also an Ethernet cable, a USB port and a port for what looks like a headset or a video in/out cable. Below the seat is a power cable to charge your electronic stuff. All that is missing is the Internet now.

People were just getting themselves settled in and taking pictures all over the place. There is a step at the back of the galley that leads to the lower deck. It is actually quite steep though. I’ll have to take the camera around later and take some pictures.

I looked through the KrisWorld entertainment guide and oh wow! Way too many movies. The menu choices are:

· Entertainment
o Movies
§ New Releases
§ Action
§ Comedy
§ Drama
§ Family
§ European
§ Chinese
§ Japanese
o TV
o Music
o Radio
o Games
o Settings
· Just for Kids
o Movies
o TV
o Music
o Radio
o Games
· Travel
o Flight Path
o Connecting Gate
o Live Text news
o City Guide
o Inflight Phone
· Learning
o Health Info
o Executive Book Summaries
o Cultural Quest
o Take a Flight
· PC
o File manager
o Spreadsheet
o Presentation
o Media Player
o Photo Viewer

We pushed back at about 8:41p and it was difficult to tell; I had to look through the window by the door to tell. The two right engines were started first and I did not even hear when the left ones started. In a few moments, we were on our way. I was psyched!

For takeoff, we had to clear the seat area of everything, but we were able to place them under the seats in front of us. Except that folks by the doors did not have that luxury; their stuff had to go in the bin above.

Takeoff was smooth and very quiet. It is different being so far off the ground, you hardly feel it all. I talked with the flight attendant who was sitting in front of me after we were clear of the ground for a bit. I wanted to know if this was the only plane they had so far. He said yes and they were getting another in January and then one more and after that one per year I think. Additional routes would include London and Tokyo. I felt special to have been on the only aircraft they have which had only been flying since Oct. 25, 2007 when I was here last.

I got up to use the lavatory after the seatbelt sign went off and while the service started with the flight attendants handing out a brown amenity kit that contained a pair of socks as well as a toothbrush and toothpaste. This was followed by a menu; you know how I love that part of the flight. I was talking to another passenger and we decided to take a walk downstairs to check it out. We chatted for a bit and before long the seatbelt sign came on as we were having some turbulence. So we had to go back upstairs to our seats. This plane is huge!

Today, well tonight, we will have dinner followed by breakfast. The menu had a page with all the beverages listed. It is the normal fare, except on Singapore Airlines you also have the Singapore Sling included.

For dinner we would have:
Marinated prawns with crispy romaine lettuce

main coursesBaked fillet of perch with garlic paste, wood fungus and carrots, fried rice
Beef goulash with vegetables and mashed potatoes

Cheese and crackers

Ice cream

from the bakery
Roll and butter

hot beveragesCoffee – Tea

For breakfast

fruit appetizer

from the bakery
Assorted breakfast rolls (roll, muffin)
Butter – fruit preserve

Hot beverages
Coffee – tea

The crew then came by with glasses of beer, wine, apple juice or orange juice and as usual always smiling. Then they followed that up with roasted peanuts in a plastic packet with a napkin included.

Dinner was then served and I opted for the perch which was really tasty; the lady next to me had the beef which also looked good, but would have been too chewy for me. Although the meal was good, it took a while to chew it as there was some shrimp in it that really stuck to my teeth.

Dinner was quite good and was cleared up expeditiously; I was able to brush my teeth after chatting with two guys for quite sometime. I also was able to check out the cabin below, although out efforts to see the Suites were denied. I did find out the Business Class was full except for possibly two seats. Economy class looked very full as well.

There are three compartments on the main deck for Economy Class and not enough lavatories I think as the lines were quite long on both decks. The main deck had a 3-4-3 configuration while the upper is 2-4-2 as it sloped at the top. It was hard to see so many people in one space, but it is impressive!

I then walked back to the back of the plane and took the stairs back to the upper deck. It was time for a little sleep and watch some more of the spectacular entertainment system.

With about 1:30 to go, we got hot towels although I just missed it as I was asleep. We were then served breakfast which was quite good. The sun had come up so it was good to see outside.

We landed without any issues after the crew prepared the cabin. It was weird to land when sitting so high off the ground. The engines were not as quite as I thought they should ne though.

The GE90s are much quieter on landing.

I started to gather my things and ended up dropping the computer :-(. This will cost me to have it fixed now, I thought since it is my fault. As we deplaned, there was some kind of hold up and I got a chance to see the Business Class cabin and take a few pictures. There is really no way of seeing the Suites if you exit this way. I assume that there is another stairs near the forward galley behind the cockpit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas 2007 Trip: I got a seat

Well, I got a middle seat on the A380 flight on the main deck.

See you in Sydney.

Christmas 2007 Trip:The A380 at the gate in Singapore Changi (SIN)

So, just because you cannot be here, I've made a video for you. The aircraft is being serviced at the moment at gate F31 in SIN.

Christmas 2007 Trip:The A380 - A picture is worth 1,000 words

Christmas 2007 Trip:Tokyo to Singapore: The journey

Note: This report is being sent from Singapore Changi airport. I found Internet access in Singapore for:

Plans available:1) S$6 per ½ hour2) S$8 per hour (+10mins bonus, total 70 mins)3) S$12 per 2 hours * Promotion valid till 31 Dec 2007. I chose option 3; the exchange rate is 1.42 to the USD.

Tokyo-Narita International Airport, Japan (NRT)

I left the Northwest WorldClub at gate 15 and headed for gate 32. It is pretty amazing that Northwest has at least three Clubs here. This just shows the scope of their operation. The Club I used has an Air France Salon right next to it. The two Clubs I checked out were nicely done and in my opinion are far superior to the ones in the U.S.

Just before I left the Lounge, a Korean Airlines A300-600 pushed back, an Air France Boeing 777-200ER arrived followed by an Alitalia Boeing 777. Prior to that the Aeromexico Boeing 777-200ER on which I arrived was pushed to a hard stand. As I walked to my gate, I saw a Continental Boeing 767-400 at the gate; it had just arrived from Guam. SkyTeam at work, I thought.

As I got to the ANA gate, I looked around the gates and now it is Star Alliance at work. I passed a United Airlines Red Carpet Club, but I have no credentials for it, so I did not even ask about it. Down the way is an ANA Star Alliance Club. At the gates were a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777; this one makes one stop in Bangkok I think on its way to Singapore. It was a choice, but got in at about 7:30p, too close to the 8:30p departure and would cost more. There were also, a few ANA airplanes, mostly 767s, an ANA Boeing 777-300 with a logo celebrating 10 years of Star Alliance, an Austrian Boeing 777 that came in from Vienna, Austria (VIE); I had missed taking that flight in last October when I visited Japan. As I boarded, a SAS Airbus A340-300 taxied in.

4 NH111 26DEC WE Tokyo-Narita, Japan (NRT) to Singapore (SIN) 763 10:40A 5:15P 26DEC JA603A

We pushed back at 10:38a; it took a little time for the engines to start though. As we pushed back, the safety video started. It was English, Japanese and Chinese subtitles plus hand signals all at the same time.

We had a minimal taxi time and takeoff was without delay as we were the only one in line for takeoff. As we taxied, there was a camera showing us what was ahead and once we took off, it showed what was below us. This is always cool to see.

The flight attendant made an announcement about what to expect for the flight. We would get a snack first and then have a choice of seafood or pork both served with rice. They also explained the document requirements for the flight once we arrive in Singapore including the fact that Singapore does not allow chewing gum into the country.

The entertainment system was activated and there was news playing on the main screens throughout the cabin. There were already headphones available in the glove compartment in the seat pocket in front of me. The entertainment system seems identical to the one on the Aeromexico flight and actually had the same issue where the movie would be playing once you got to the channel, but as I learned, pressing Stop twice takes care of that.
Channel 1 – Forward/Downward camera

Channel 2 – Airshow

Channel 7 – The Bourne Ultimatum

Channel 8 – Stardust

Channel 9 – Mr. Bean’s Holiday

Channel 10 – Crossing Over (Chinese)

Channel 11 – Take Me Out to the Snowland

Channel 12 – Talk, Talk, Talk (Japanese)

Channel 13 – The Burmese Harp

Channel 14 – Prison Free-for-All (Japanese)

Channel 15 – Eye In the Sky (Cantonese)

Channel 16 – Eye in the Sky (Mandarin)

Channel 17 – ANA Travel Navigator

Channel 18 – ANA Gourmet Guide

Channel 19 – 5 Minutes Chinese Lesson

Channel 20 – National Geographic

Channel 21 – Best Hit USA: Time Machine Special

Channel 22 – ANA Sound Shower (music videos)

Channel 23 – Travel Information (Japanese)

Channel 24 – Cabin Information (information about the passenger layout area and is about 0:55 long)
The Captain came on the PA, gave his welcome aboard and said that the flying time was 6:30; I think that was the amount of time left. He also said that our arrival time would be 17:15 local time in Singapore.

The appetizer was a snack pack of starch, regular rice, cashew items with your beverage of choice. The flight attendants came by and handed me a picture of the two meals with the descriptions in Japanese and English; I picked the seafood, which was a combination of different types of seafood; I know that one of them was fish. Both meals came with a chocolate cake, a roll, a 280ml bottle of water and peas plus a potato salad and a cookie.

The meal was quite good and they followed it up with an offer for white or red wines.
I looked through the entertainment selection and I decided to watch the Mr. Bean’s Movie.
I fell asleep at some point and awoke when we had half way to go, as I was still sleepy, I went back to sleep. My circadian rhythm is off; my body is in sleep mode as it is currently night time where I live.

I awoke again at 2:02 to go; local time where I started the journey on Christmas eve is 1:07a. I’d normally be awake anyways…The seatbelt sign was on for a while and when it came off at 1:57 to go, you heard a cheer come up from the cabin; I was also relieved as well as I really needed to go to the restroom.

I took the opportunity to check out the aircraft. There are two exits forward of the wing as opposed to being over the wing. The Economy class cabin is divided into two parts; the first part has five rows then the rest of the cabin goes from row 22 the Exit row to row 40. Economy class is 2-3-2; standard for a Boeing 767 and Club ANA Class is 2-1-2. Each seat also has a footrest in Economy class.

I also noticed that the entertainment system has an Interactive mode; this mode was disabled on the Aeromexico system. This mode basically allowed you to navigate the system differently, the sections are:



Games (10 games)

Business & News

I found eleven additional programs under the Video section that I did not find when going channel by channel.
Simple is Best


Suberanai Hanashi

Just for Laughs Gags


Virtual Trip


Baby TV

Santa Claus is comin’ to town

Around China

On the Road

With about 1:30 to go, we were served vanilla ice cream and juice, plus tea or coffee with a moist towelette in a plastic casing.

I started to run out of battery so I ended the transaction.

We landed on a cloudy afternoon in Singapore, but it was a beautiful sight to see teh city on landing. The beaches were awesome as well.

It was 5:05p when we arrived at the gate. I got my stuff together and departed the airplane.

Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN)

I headed for the Singapore Airlines Transfer Desk in Terminal 2 immediately. I had to take the quick train from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2.

I took a number and was serviced efficiently after a few phone calls about the ticket, etc. I was then told to return at 7:50p to be possibly assigned a seat.

I don't think I will have an opportunity to blog again until I arrive in Sydney on Dec. 27, 2008 at 7a, but we will see.

Tick, tock...

I made a quick entry at a free kiosk just outside the Transfer Desk, to let you all know what is going on. I then walked around until I found some really cool desk for laptop users. They have power cables, typically every country is represented except Australia in terms of plugs. I then got wireless Internet acess for the following rates:

Plans available:

1) S$6 per ½ hour

2) S$8 per hour (+10mins bonus, total 70 mins)

3) S$12 per 2 hours * Promotion valid till 31 Dec 2007.

Before sitting down, I took a video of the plane at the gate not being serviced as yet. I'll add a photo as well.

Christmas 2007 Trip:I've arrived in Singapore (SIN)

Singapore Changi International Airport, Singapore (SIN)

I just arrived in Singapore about 36 minutes ago. I've found a free public terminal to make this entry. I will try to find somewhere so that I can use my own computer. I don't have any Lounge access for any of the facilities at this airport so we will see how I get on.

I am checked in for the A380 flight (SQ221) to Sydney, Australia (SYD), but wont know if I get a seat until 40 minutes before departure; 7:50p. In the mean time, I will walk around, check the plane out if it is at the gate (local time is 5:41p) and try to find a Lounge or some kind of Internet access. I also need to charge the computer, so that will pose a challenge as well.

PS: The Blogger interface is in Spanish, I am guessing it is still remembering the settings from Mexico.

Christmas 2007 Trip:I got a shower...

Tokyo-Narita International Airport, Tokyo Japan (NRT)

I exited the airplane after saying goodbye to my new found friends. My goal now was to find a lounge and get checked in for my next flight either on Japan Airlines or ANA, not necessarily in that order.

I followed the signs to International Connections and had to clear security showing my ticket as I did do. My preference to Singapore is Japan Airlines, but I'd take ANA if I needed to do so.

As it turns out, we arrived in Terminal 1 and Japan Airlines is in Terminal 2 and since there is a NWA WorldClub in Terminal 1, that sealed the deal that I will take ANA.

I started looking for a Lounge and found two, but one opened at 1p and the other at 8a; it was now 7:30a.

My next task was to find a check-in counter for ANA. I saw the gate of departure and headed there and all the check-in counters I passed were not yet open and of course there was no one at the gate as yet.

While I walked, I found a place where I could get a shower for $5 or a room and a shower for $9 for an hour; so if push came to shove I could still have a shower for a minimal cost.

I walked almost the length of the Terminal and finally found a check-in desk. I presented my documents and within a few minutes, I had a window seat on the 10:40a departure.

It was now 7:39a so I still had time to walk back leisurely to the NW WorldClub where i arrived at 7:54a. They were not yet opened so I waited around; an agent saw me waiting and opened the door and welcomed me in.

I asked if there was a shower available and she pointed me to another club that had showers. As it turns out, the Club was right next to the gate where I arrived. I hustled over there entered and got the shower. This was one of the best showers I've had I have to admit.

I welcomed the opportunity to change clothing as well. Now I am ready for a the next 7 hours in a plane.

After the shower I had breakfast in the lounge. This is really a nice lounge with a good view of the planes lots of setting and a number of Macintosh for the Internet as well as complimentary WiFi. There was also ample reading material. I did notice that the Christmas tree was in a pile on the right when I walked in. It's only one day after, that was quick I thought.

I am also charging batteries as I am not sure when I will be able to do this again.

Next stop is Singapore where I will have about 3 hours to connect to the A380 flight assuming we arrive ontime. See you in Singapore.