Monday, December 24, 2007

Amex Lounge closed

Oh, I forgot to mention that there was an American Express Centurion Club, but it was closed.

I am at the gate and there are no markings that this is the Tokyo/Tijuana flight, so I will inquire befor I board. People were lined up. but don't know why.

A muffled announcement was now made and I heard Tijuana, so I am in the right place. I also double checked on the board and I am in the right place.

The boarding announcement

The agent just made the announcement so I have to go; funnily enough it was all in Spanish :-). But Tijuana and Narita is the same in Spanish and everyone else was leaving anyways andit is 9:26p, so I don't think I need anything more.

So there are four computers in the computer room as well as fax machine and also two work ares for computers.

Finally the message came on again and this time English was added, they must know I am here.

Oh, by the way, there is an ATM in this Lounge, nice an convenient...

next entry will be from Tijuana or Tokyo.

Finally a lounge

Inside Benito Juárez International Airport

I went to area B as I was told by the agent who checked me in. As is customary when I travel, I double check any information that I think sounds odd. I asked three agents who were together and one answered and said that she thinks I need to go back to the International departure area since I have an international boarding pass; sure enough the gate was 23 in the International area.

The Security area was empty and it was a breeze to get through. No beeps!

I followed the signs to the Lounges and the Continental Presidents Club was closed at 3p due to the Holiday. United's Red Carpet and American's Admiral CLub are in teh same area, but I do not have a membership for either.

A LH B747-400 is taxiing by; it is my goal to take that flight to Frankfurt at some point in 2008.

I digress... I stayed outside the Presidents Club for a bit while I finished up some online work. Then I pressed on to find the Aeromexico Salon Premier Lounge. The sign on the door of the Presidents Club indicated that I needed to find that Lounge if the Presidents Club was closed.

After walking in a circle following the signs, I found the Lounge. i stood by the door and nothing happened. I saw an agent inside who just looked at me. I walked away thinking they were closed and then he motioned to me to come forward and the door opened. Apparently, they are having trouble with the door.

I presented my documents, they were accepted and I got a firm "Welcome to the Lounge" from the female agent who did the verification.

The Lounge is quite nice, with complimentary drinks, Internet access, a few computers, plenty of chairs and a view of the field. An Aeromexico Boeing 737-700 was at the gate just outside the window.

An old movie with Patrick Dempsey as a teenager was playing, but it was dubbed in Spanish, it sounded really funny :-).

I await the call for boarding of the flight.

Awaiting the flight

Benito Juárez International Airport

I took a walk to the "A" zone at the other end of the terminal. I was at the "F' zone when I arrived. This airport is huge and it looks like they've made a lot of improvements since my last visit. There is even a new terminal opened 15 November; it said that the following airlines are using it; Aeromar, Delta Air Lines and Lan Copa Continental and Aermexico; but all these airlines are still in Terminal 1, so I guess the move is still on.

I did see the Air Train that goes over there, but you have to have a ticket to do so and I could not bother with it all.

I got hungry and had McDonald's (grilled chicken sandwich and fries, plus water) for 80 pesos plus 15% tax of some kind. It is actually more expensive than Subway (65 pesos) which I thought was odd. The fries were good though :-). Just outside, I found a seat with a power plug, but in the smoking area. From this base of operation, you are reading this blog entry. I was also able to correct a few typos on the original blog post and cleaned it up a bit.

At 80% charge now.

Christmas 2007 Trip: Off to nowhere; first stop Mexico City

Planned Itinerary

1 CO1524 24DEC MO Houston-Intercontinental, TX (IAH) to Mexico City, Mexico (MEX) 738 214P 439P
2 AM 58 24DEC MO MEX toTokyoNarita, Japan (NRT) 777 1005P 645A 26DEC
3 NH 111 26DEC WE NRT to Singapore (SIN) 744 1040A 515P
3 JL 719 26DEC WE NRT to SIN 744 1055A 535P
4 SQ 221 26DEC WE SIN to Sydney, Australia (SYD) 380 830P 700A 27DEC
5 QF 167 27DEC TH SYD to Cairns, Australia (CNS) SS1 905A 1105A
5 QF 922 27DEC TH SYDto CNS SS1 1040A 1245P
5 QF 926 27DEC TH SYD to CNS SS1 120P 325P
5 QF 932 27DEC TH SYD to CNS 73H 725P 930P
6 CO 903 28DEC FR CNS to Guam (GUM) 738 135A 605A
7 CO 956 28DEC FR GUM to Honolulu, HI (HNL) 738 820A 230A
8 CO 905 28DEC FR HNL to Nagoya, Japan (NGO) 764 205P 640P 29DEC
9 NH 338 30DEC SU NGO to NRT SS1 750A 855A
9 JL 54 30DEC SU NGO to NRT 744 835A 950A
9 NH3204 30DEC SU NGO to NRT 763 230P 355P
10 CO 6 30DEC SU NRT to IAH 772 510P 150P

Houston George Bush Intercontinental

I arrived at the airport with 40 minutes to spare. The security lines were not crowded at all, so it was a snap to get through. I did not beep so that made it easier. I made my way to gate E2 and waited for my name to be called.

While there I decided to check for all my tickets one more time. Every ticket was accounted for except the Mexico to Tokyo-Narita ticket. Strange as I could swear I had it. There was a snafu with the tickets as when I ordered them on Friday last, the machine ran out of paper. So I had received some of the tickets and not others. I did not reconcile them before I went to pick up the rest earlier this morning, hence the error. I also think that I may have left the ticket on my sofa in my living room at home.

I now found myself wishing I would not make the flight just so I could go get the ticket a few doors down the hallway. Had I noticed earlier, I would have gone straight there when I arrived at the airport.

The gate agent who was quite busy checking documentation made an announcement that all standbys should go to the wall to his left. I was already standing there, so there was no need to move. Quite a few people came over and stood to the left and right of me. This is not a good thing I thought or maybe it is. Many of them appeared to not look like airline employees as well. As it turns out, I got a seat (normally I am happy that I get a seat, but this time, I had mixed emotions).

Apparently, many of the customers on the standby list had already cleared on the earlier flight and the list was not cleaned up. One of the agents was not happy about that as he cleared up that issue. His action freed up several seats; at least ten.

I figured that I arrive in Mexico City at 4:39p so the ticket office should still be open, then I'd just get a ticket then. At worst, I'd have to fly back to Houston to get one. Then I'd have to fly to San Diego, CA (SAN) if there was still a flight and take the train down to Tijuana, Mexico, walk across the border and take a cab to the airport to catch the same flight when it departed at 1:25a on Christmas Day, so no worries.

Or just fly to Los Angeles, CA (LAX) and take Japan Airlines (JL) nonstop to Tokyo, Japan (NRT) or possibly get to Vancouver, BC Canada (YVR) and take Air Canada's (AC) late flight. I'd get there somehow as long as the timing of getting back into Houston was right.

1 CO1524 24DEC MO IAHMEX 738 214P 439P

I boarded and headed for seat 11F. The twenty seats in First Class were full and I actually think that they had done an involuntary upgrade so they could accommodate all the standbys in Economy Class. There was someone sitting in my seat, so I asked him which seat he was assigned. He just moved over and allowed me to sit, so he was banking on my not showing up so he could claim my seat. I sat down and got settled.

Before the gate departure commenced, the safety demonstration started on the overhead monitors; first in English and then in Spanish. During the demos, the pushback started and we departed the gate at 2:23p (9 minutes late) and had a semi-long taxi to the runway and without delay had a nice takeoff that took us down towards Houston-Hobby airport and towards the Gulf of Mexico.

The flight attendant had advised us that the flying time would be 1:50. As is customary, later, the Captain came on the PA, added his welcome aboard and said we should arrive early at 4:30p.

It's been a while since I've been to Mexico City, the country of Mexico in general as I'm protesting the departure tax. Which is kind of an oxymoron since the departure tax out of London is about twice as much as that of Mexico and I go to London quite often.

The movie on the flight is "Daddy Day Care," which they started playing right away due to the short flying time. I hope it finishes before we land.

Before the meal, the flight attendant came by with the immigration documents. The documentation is different for Mexican nationals as opposed to others. Actually it appears that the Nationals have to fill out an extra form. I had to do a Customs form and a regular immigration form. I placed "In TRANSIT" where it asked for a hotel since I was only staying a few hours. Actually had I not forgotten to purchase the ticket for the Mexico City to Tokyo segment of the trip, I would not have had to fill out any documentation at all as I would just have stayed in the gate area and hung out in the airport lounges instead, but oh well.

The meal of a larger than usual turkey sandwich with lettuce and a packet of mayonnaise, baby carrots and a Milky Way was served right away. One thing I can always credit Continental on is that the meal is always served within the first hour after take off unless there is some kind of turbulence. I ate the sandwich healthily after applying some mayonnaise, then ate the baby carrots and to my surprise the Milky Way. I was full now.

I did not really care for the movie as it’s been playing on all my flights all month and for some reason I don't really care for it. The formula has been done several times is the reason I think. It does provide comedic content and serves as a way of passing the time. I decided to continue writing a few lines in my current books instead.

At 4:02p, we started our descent into Mexico City; man that was quick. As I thought, the movie was still playing and I’m not sure if it would be finished in the next 30 minutes. It was a pretty bumpy ride on the descent. The Captain had also said that the conditions at the field were hazy. Well, the movie finished twelve minutes later as we continued our slow descent; the haze and clouds were pretty apparent and quite unbelievable. It was a pretty site as we swooped down on this 60M plus population city, high above the mountains.

Benito Juárez International Airport

We landed safely at 4:30p and taxied to the open gate. I could see a Boeing 777 across the way in the Aeromexico hangars and wondered if that was the one for our trip. On exiting the plane, I quickly made my way to immigration and customs so I could go get the ticket. I was in luck as they were still there.

As it turns out, they are closing early today as they have two less flights. I got my ticket and then checked in for AM58 to Tokyo via Tijuana. I actually have to board as a domestic passenger from here as the flight is a domestic flight until it gets to Tijuana. So I have to keep my immigration card until then. I will also have to show my arriving boarding pass so that I am not charged the departure tax.

I walked around checking for Internet access and found a place for $8/hour; ridiculous I thought. I powered up my computer and voila there was free Wifi from a neighboring restaurant. I've been standing for the past 30 minutes finishing this up...