Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tel Aviv, Israel: Leaving Ben Gurion Aiport

I am at the airport now awaiting the departure of the El Al flight to Newark, NJ (EWR).

The check-in process was not too bad, but very. very strict.

I took th opportunity to use the free WiFi and caught up on a few things.

I then cleared security and Immigration and headed for the gate. This terminal is really large in all dimensions. Once in the rotunda area that leads to all the gates, I went to the Currency Exchange counter and changed some local currency as I had just about 7 USD’s equivalent left. I then walked around the rotunda and its various stores including a McDonald’s.

I then started looking for lounges. There are two; El Al’s King David Lounge and the Den Lounge. The Den Lounge is accessible using credit cards that are addressed in Tel Aviv or with an invitation from the airline. A Continental Presidents Club card along with a Continental ticket was also acceptable. I could have also paid 100 ILS (Shekel) or 25 USD to enter. Well, I had only about an hour before departure so it was not worth it at all.

I finished up some other stuff and then boarded.

See you in Newark.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tel Aviv, Israle: Ben Gurion International, Tel Aviv Israel (TLV)

Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv Israel (TLV)

We landed at Ben Gurion without incident and taxied into the terminal. I could see a few El Al planes all over the place. In addition to a Boeing 747-200 in old El Al colors over by the hangars. My colleague thought we would get a hard stand, but I reminded him that it is a new airport and we may get a gate and we did.

I said my goodbyes, gathered my stuff and headed to the Immigration area. It was a long walk in this huge beautiful terminal! Immigration was a breeze, they just took my passport asked a few questions stamped it and a piece of paper and I moved on. The paper was taken by the next official I met.

I walked over to the baggage carousel and waited for my bag. A note said that I could expect the first bag at 9:55a, it was 9:48a. By 9:53a, the first one rolled off. I spent the waiting time talking to another passenger who was a concert pianist who had just been in Monterey, Mexico for a competition. By 10:05a, my bag showed up and I headed through Customs and outside.

They really spent quite a bit of cash on this new airport. I took some time to walk around a bit and was very impressed by it all. They even have a vineyard and also an orchard which was quite cool. There is a train to three major area cities as well including Tel Aviv for which the cost is 15 EIS. The departure area is also quite nice and seemed well organized although deserted at this time. There flights to places I had never seen before and I could hardly pronounce at all, it was way cool.

We went back downstairs and took a cab into the city for a cost of 110 EIS.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tel Aviv, Israel: Houston to Newark

We made our way over to the gate and boarded without any issues.

CO510 28JAN08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Newark-Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) 8:50a 1:10p 735 N14628

As I boarded, I said hello to the greeting flight attendant who said hello back. The eight leather seats in First Class were already full. I continued to make my way back through the 3-3 configuration in Economy class.

As I boarded so early at 8:20a or so, I had time to see a lot of people get on. As I had just my one bag, I had no issues storing it at my feet.

I had the window and a lady with a young baby was in the middle and another at the window. All other seat combinations were full, so I could not help her out by moving. The lady at the aisle did give her the aisle though.

We departed ontime and headed for the runway while the flight attendants gave the safety demo.

Take off took a while and we finally left at 9:06a. Takeoff from 15L was really smooth and we climbed out without issues. I could see a Continental Express ERJ-145 that had taken off before us who had turned left off in the distance over the city of Houston. A flock of birds flew by, but were closer than they seemed so they were not a danger.

Breakfast of Corn Flakes with reduced fat milk and a banana was served before 10:00a local. This was quite good, so I ate and continued reading the newspaper as well as some computer stuff.

There is no entertainment, but people were sleeping or were watching their iPods and other devices so they were fine. These morning flights do take a lot out of you.
Will post pic later.

I got a great view of what I think is the Cleveland Hopkins airport, but I am not sure.

We landed in Newark after a bit of circling. We had to wait for a JetBlue A320 to land on th parallel runway. Once we crossed it, we made our way to gate 71.

One could see a Jet Airways B777 at the gate as well as El Al B777, Lufthansa's Private Air's 73G and their A319 Business Jets. British Airways' B777-200 was also at Terminal B.

We were at a tow in gate so we had to wait. The pilot made and announcement to remain seated and everyone complied.

Cell phone conversations

There was this guy who called some company who he had interacted with. Apparently, they overcharged him for the service protection and he did not want it. So he gave out all his details, except the credit card number on the phone. The phone conversation got ugly at one point. H gave his e-mail address at the end as he was able to get them to waive the charge. I think I should e-mail him and tell him to be more discreet the next time; what do you think?

Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV): At the airport in Houston-Intercontinental (IAH)

I decided to check my bag all the way through as it was easier to deal with. I took off my jacket and stuffed it in the bag and it fit!

I went to the bag drop and it asked for my confirmation number, oops, I did not have it. I tried my identification and nothing happened. I checked my phone and I had received a check-in reminder with the number in it; luckily I had not deleted that.

The agent checked my documents and then I entered the security area. This was not too painful, but slow people again.

As I cleared, I went to Presidents Club and had some breakfast and waited for the flight.

Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV): The drive

This will be my first time to Tel Aviv after wanting to go for quite some time now. I had an early flight to make a connection in Newark at 3:50p.

My colleague arrived promptly at 6:26a; four minutes earlier than planned. I told him I'd be there in 2 seconds and four minutes later we were on our way.

I was amazed at how many people were on the road at this time of the morning, I was even more amazed at how many cars were in the parking lot of the 24 hour video store that we passed.

The drive to the airport was smooth and uneventful as the traffic moved properly. There was no waiting for the airport bus as one pulled up the minute we got to the stop.

San Jose, CA: Epilogue

When I got home, I realized that the "E" on my keyboard was missing :-(...This bites, I am sure it is in the sat pocket on that last airplane...I tried to use the "E" from another computer, but it is too big sadly. Yes, I will call to get the computer fixed; it is just that it is quite an inconvenience.

It is amazing how often you use an "e" in a sentence. One thing about this trip is that I did get to see some new computers and I think I may get one as the cost is about $399. Umm...maybe I can get it and then send this on out to fix. I will tell you more later as I am tired now and have to be up in about 2 hours as I am off to Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV).

Oh, I realized that there are no pictures from this trip, at least none I can share with you all anyways :-).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

San Jose, CA: Houston-Intercontinental. Houston TX (IAH)

Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

I heard the Captain say we were heading for gate 43. I got a text from a friend who had just arrived from Cincinnati, OH (CVG), he was offering me a ride home. I got off the plane and we made arrangements to meet near the Terminal Link since h had arrived in Terminal B and I in C.

I then made a quick trip to the Presidents Club for a quick snack, then met up with him. We then took the bus to the parking facility.

San Jose, CA: Norma Y. Mineta International, San Jose, CA (SJC) to Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

CO1576 27JAN08 Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International, San Jose CA (SJC) to Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 6:15a 12:02p 733 N18350

Flying Time: 3:26

As I boarded, I greeted the lead flight attendant, who said hello and joked that I could have done the trip for him. I asked if he was here all weekend and he said yes. Good deal, I thought.

This was a different 737-300, but it too had no entertainment system on board; no big deal, on these early morning flights, most people sleep anyways.

An announcemnt was made to not stow the jackets in th overheads to allow customers to store their larger bags. I don't think people adhered as there were several coats in th overheads.

We all settled and were ready to go. A passenger got a last minute upgrade from the back so I am sure he was thrilled.

The departure time passed and the captain came on the PA and said we were delayed due to a fuel pump issue I think; as I had fallen asleep so I did not hear too clearly what he said. There were groans in the cabin when he was done. I went back to sleep.

At about 6:44a, a lady in the back said she wanted off the plane. She mentioned that she had some bad news before boarding and did not want to fly anymore. The flight attendant helped her to get to the front of the plane.

At 6:47a, the Captain came on th PA and said that issue was fixed and we are leaving now. I then saw the lady coming back; I guess she changed her mind. We pushed back at 6:48a and the flight attendants started giving the safety demo. The sun was actually coming up by now as well.

I had no idea when we took off, but awoke to a request for breakfast. It was actually quite good. It was a container of Total whole grain cereal with reduced fat milk, a packet of raisins and a chocolate chunk cake. I just had some water with it all and then went back to sleep.

Later, I awoke to put my chair upright and next thing I knew we double bounced on the runway. I went back to sleep as we taxied up to the gate.

San Jose, CA: Norma Y. Mineta International, San Jose, CA (SJC) on my way out

Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport

I arrived at 5:09a; on the drive in, I noticed that they were expanding the other terminal. This is much needed as the facilities at Terminal C just plain sucks! You can see the improvements here at this link. It boggles my mind that only Southwest, Mexicana and American/American Eagle uses Terminal A the moment while all the other eight airlines crowd into Terminal C which is quite the zoo; but I digress. Oh, if you are using this airport, you may want to check this page for construction updates.

The check-in lines did not seem too bad at all, but the airport was busy. I cleared security by 5:15a without any incident, except for a really slow guy in front of me.

The flight information display had 22 entries which represented 16 flights due to codeshares. The earliest was Delta Air Lines’ (DL) 6:00a to Salt, Lake City, UT (SLC) and the latest one at 9:23a on Alaska Airlines (AS) to Seattle, WA (SEA). What was funny was that there was a flight listed as QX2452 to Portland, OR (PDX) at 7:00a and I don’t think that Alaska Airlines lists the codeshared flights with Horizon Air (QX) as QX flight numbers, but as AS flight numbers. At the gate, it did show that QX flight number as well.

As I walked by Noah’s New York Bagel, I noticed that the line was quite long. As I waited for the flight, I noticed that the lead flight attendant was the same one as the flight on Friday day night.

At 5:30a, the agent made an announcement that if you had checked in online, you need to come to the podium to verify that your seat was O.K. The reason for this was that they do not have a scanner at the gate. She also announced that all passengers on the standby list should approach as they were all cleared as well. The two announcements brought about ten or so passengers to the counter.

When I showed my boarding pass at the gate, they did have a scanner, but I guess it was not working.

We walked out to the covered temporary walkway to the plane; it was quite windy and it sucked that it was taking a time to board so we had to stand in the cold for a bit. The lady commented to me that it was good that it was not still raining. I could see an US Airways A319, a JetBlue A320 and a United A319 at the hardstands.

San Jose, CA: In San Jose

I'm taking an earlier flight this morning so I have to get to the airport at about 5:15a. This is really early so I will be sleeping on that flight. The flight is at 6:15a.

Friday, January 25, 2008

San Jose, CA: Norma Y. Mineta International, San Jose, CA (SJC)

We pulled up to gate C1 and then had to disembark into the elements. The weather was just as bad as Houston was :-(; rain and cold.

We walked along the long covered area to the terminal. Once there I realized how much it had changed in two years. The TSA had taken over and oops. I walked out and called the hotel for a pickup. They came in about 10 minutes.

This airport needs work and has gotten worst since I was last here.

I did check for WiFi and they had Wayport for 6.95 USD for the day, there were no free connections.

San Jose, CA: Houston-Intercontinental. Houston TX (IAH) to San Jose, CA (SJC)

CO421 25JAN08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to San Jose, CA (SJC) 6:30p 8:55p 733 N??310

Flying Time: 3:57

As I boarded, I noticed a few meals on the counter in front of me, I think I spotted pizza in one of the trays and also a metallic tray with a cardboard cover, which I think was the First Class meal. I said hello to the flight attendant as I made a right turn and walked through First class, stopping as we waited for a passenger to get settler.

On board this twelve leather seat First Class cabin in a 2-2 configuration and 112 cloth Economy seats in a 3-3 configuration aircraft, I made my way to the back to my seat; it was full and only a few overheads were open which were all full or just had room for a small bag. My roller board would not make it; this is one of the reasons I hate to travel with this bag, but I did not feel like stuffing my stuff in my back pack on this trip. I put my computer and magazines down on my middle seat as did another passenger and started making my way back to the front so I could check my bag. The flight attendant intercepted me and opened the First class overhead bin. I placed my bag in it and there was also room for the other passenger’s bag. This was a nice touch and I was very impressed and thanked him profusely as he just saved me quite a bit of time having to wait for my bag in San Jose.

I went back to my seat and settled. There were a few seat changes to make a passenger more comfortable and then the doors were closed and the safety demonstration began. It was hard to tell if we were moving as the guy next to me had the windows closed, but I could see out the ones on the right and determined that we were indeed moving. I also noticed that it was still raining.

This airplane has no video monitors so the demo was done the old fashion way, live and in person. This is a rare treat these days. This meant no movies or any kind of entertainment; a little tough on a 3:57 minutes flight, but I had my computer and lots of magazines to keep me occupied. Besides, I was tired having gone to bed at 2:15a and gotten up at 8:00a this morning. The lady behind me was playing “Go Spiderman,” a knock off of the popular card game “Go Fish.” I found it odd that she would not have him listen to the safety announcement instead…

We had quite a long taxi out and the flight attendant did mention that they had to remain seated after takeoff as it would be bumpy. I think I fell asleep before we took off after talking to the guy next to me a bit. He too was up early and had flown from Dallas that morning and was heading back home to San Jose. We yapped a bit about technology and travel. As we talked, I realized that it’s been two years since I’ve been out to San Jose.

After takeoff, I awoke as I was served the in-flight meal. For dinner today, we were served a hot pizza, with a KiKat, baby carrots and Ranch dressing. I did not really have the appetite for the pizza as I would spend too much time trying to get the cheese and the dough out of my teeth and braces :-). I had some crackers and cheese with me, so I ate that with the baby carrots and had some Ginger Ale (they were out of Apple juice) and water. As it was, my mouth ached from eating the crackers. The flight attendant actually gave me a can which was cool.

Later as they were picking up the trash, another flight attendant asks me if I fly a lot and I said yes as he recognized me. I did not recognize him though, oh well.

At 9:04p local Houston time, the flight attendants came around with water. They had done the same about 30 minutes or so earlier after the meal service. I thought they were going to do a second drink service, but that never occurred. It was strange as I had heard one of the flight attendants say that he was out of Diet Coke for the second service, oh well…

The lady in front of the guy next to me was getting comfortable and her sweater’s sleeve showed to the left of her seat; the guy did not know what it was and moved his hand really quickly and almost dumped his water in his lap. For some strange reason he was able to avoid disaster.

I was awoken so that I could get ready for landing. The landing was interesting as there was a lot of turbulence.

We landed without incident and taxied to the gate.

San Jose, CA: Houston-Intercontinental. Houston TX (IAH)

Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

As fate would have it, she went to Terminal C first since there were three passengers going there and only me to Terminal E. We verified our gates, entered the ever so slow security lines and cleared security eventually. They had just one x-ray machine open so it was really slow going. Not sure why that was the case at 6:00p on a Friday.

My colleague wanted to go check out the new Boeing 737-900ER that was making the Las Vegas NV (LAS) flight at about 9:00p that night. He thinks it was at gate 40 something. First we made a stop in the Presidents Club for some eats; not time for any drinks as I had to jet. He had some time, but he was focused on seeing the plane, so he left the Club when I did. He had verified that the flight would leave from gate 39. We had discussed earlier that we should have taken it to Las Vegas and then taken a flight to our final destination from there. We could have easily taken Southwest Airlines (WN) to Los Angeles, CA (LAX) and to San Jose, CA (SJC) respectively, it was very tempting. I mean, this was the inaugural flight of the -900ER for Continental. We are such geeks I thought.

We parted ways at the intersection; my voice echoing as I stood under the center and said “see you later.” That is always a fun thing to do.

During the time in the airport and on my way to the airport terminal, I got multiple texts from other friends who were going to Chicago-O’Hare, IL (ORD) and New York-LaGuardia, NY (LGA). The one to Chicago had some trouble getting on his flight, but the one to New York, was seated on his flight and was leaving ontime at 5:50p.

I rushed to my gate which was at E14, quite a walk from gate C43 where I was. When I got there at 6:13p, it was empty; wow, I thought that was efficient. I got my middle seat boarding pass from the agent and made my way down the jetway. Alas, I stopped shortly, the jetway was backed up without explanation. This lasted for about 6 minutes and then it started moving, inching forward.

San Jose, CA: On my way

Jan 25, 2007 at 5:00p

At 5:00p, we left the office, with me dilly dallying a bit so I could get my computer shut down. My colleague who was driving had to stop by his house to pick up his camera and then we could go. Once we got on the highway, traffic was a bit snarled on this wet, cold and foggy afternoon. Houston had looked like this all week unfortunately, but tomorrow we would get a break as it was forecasted to warm up and the fog would burn off.

We took I-45 to US59 and then onto the HOV lane and headed north for the airport. The traffic on the road was light, but stared to crawl as we progressed, so we were happy that we were on the HOV lane. By about 5:44p, we exited at the airport exit and parked at the parking Spot 2. We found an uncovered parking spot and took the waiting bus to the terminal. I told the lady that I was going to Terminal E, but if she went to Terminal C, I would get off. The airport is really built badly as if the shuttle buses go to Terminal E or C first, getting back to either terminal requires that the buses leave the airport and then return. This wastes valuable time if you are running late as we were.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Weekend plans

I think the plans are for San Jose, CA (SJC) to meet some friends...Leave Friday and return on Sunday.

What are your plans?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

London Jan. 18: Back in Houston-Intercontinental

Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

We landed on runway 8L and I looked over and noticed that the airport was using three runways for landing, which is always cool. On the ground I could see a few airplanes waiting to takeoff on runways 15L and R.

We had quite a long taxi to get to our gate and actually had to wait for an aircraft to clear 8R. Lufthansa's A340-600 was pushing back from D11 and Air France's Boeing 777-200 was still at the gate, I think a little delayed perhaps since it was about 4:30p. The guy next tome commented how cold it was (50F), but it was sunny out so it did not appear cold; typical Houston I said.

We docked into E18, next to a Boeing 767-200 at E20; when these two gates are used for widebodies, E19 cannot be used.

I disembarked and headed for Immigration. I called to see what time was the next bus and it was at 4:49p, so I had to hurry as it was 4:37p now. the next one was at 5:39p and I did not really want to wait.

E18 is actually closer to Immigration than most gates anyways. I made it to the line and luckily there were not many people there. Of course I got the line that had people with problems. Luckily it did not take lone and I was through in a few minutes. The guys asked me why I was only goes for a day and I I told I just went to visit friends. It is always funny when they ask questions as if it is a crime to just leave the country for a day, anyways... He was nice about it thought.

I ran downstairs showed my Customs form and exited. I ran downstairs again to see the train and it had just left, so I decided to walk to Terminal C. I had to take off my coat as I was sweating now.

Once at Terminal C, the bus stop was empty, but that just meant that the bus came and took up the people and went to the last stop and is on its way back; this was a good sign. I walked out and waited, calling my parents as I did so. My mom is out of the country and I wanted to touch base with her and my Dad as well, since oddly enough I had a dream about my dad on the plane and I never dream about dad. Both were fine. the bus came within two minutes, I boarded and then headed downtown.

London Jan. 18: At Gatwick airport

I got off the train and headed upstairs to the terminal. I then boarded the shuttle train to the North Terminal. Once there, I checked in for my flight and cleared security with much ease. I twas now 9:38a. I browsed in the WH Smith bookstore before going to the Lounge where I showed my credentials and entered.

The WiFi was not working so I hardwired in and that was fine. This would have been a bummer if I had a MacBook Air since it does not have an Ethernet cable.

I had some breakfast of a banana, fruits, potatoes, bread and a few slices of chicken.

I then submitted the reports and caught up on some other matters.

It is now time to board the flight to Houston.

London Jan. 18: Leaving London

777 Update...

At present, the authorities are trying to move it from the end of the runway. they think they will accomplish it today (20 Jan 2008), but the going will be slow and it depends on the local weather. They think it will be as slow as moving the space shuttle onto the pad. Luckily the hangar is close by; they are hoping they don't have to cut it apart to move it. As of this writing, it is still sitting at the runway and delays at LHR on arrivals run from about 30 minutes to 3 hours...

Leaving London

The first train at my station was at 7:30a, I arrived at7:52a and got a train within a minute. I connected at Kings Cross/ St. Pancreas for the Victoria line to Briton, my destination is Victoria. At Kings Cross, I easily changed to the Victoria and only wasted about a minute for a train. It was unusual that the display did not say what time was the next train as it was broken.

I arrived in Victoria at 8:14a and it was dark when I got into the main train station. A whole section had no lights at all. I thought that it was quite odd and I had never seen it like that before. The WH Smith store that was always open was in darkness. Only of the two major TIDs were working. There was a Gatwcik Express at 8:15a, so it was not shown on the board, the next one showing was at 8:30a from platform 14. I looked at the displays and saw that there was a Southern train at 8:17a, it was now 8:15:30 and counting. I thought that maybe I could catch the 9:30a flight at Gatwick if I got on this train.

I ran around the corner to the kiosk and saw a “CASH ONLY” sign on it, aargh!!! The one around the corner from it also had a “CASH ONLY” sign. I tried to use cash as I had a twenty and had a little difficulty as I had to ensure the bill was smooth. Eventually it worked and gave me 9.10 GBP change in coins :-(. I ran towards the turnstile and saw the train pulling away on platform 17. Disappointed, I turned away and headed back to the TIDs to see what time was the next one; it was at 8:32a on platform 19. The good news is that I already have a ticket, so I walked around a bit more noticing the dark areas. There was an announcement made to be careful and that the darkness was caused by a power failure.

I then walked back to the turnstiles and placed my ticket in it and entered the platform area. The area around the train was dark and there was no information on the monitor near the train. I walked down the train a bit and then entered, albeit a little apprehensive. I then heard a reassuring announcement that this was the right train. I also noticed a guy placing lanterns along the train, I thought that was so London-like I guess and could not help thinking of the Sherlock Holmes days…

A few other announcements were made throughout the time as additional people joined me on the train; one lady asking me if this was the train to Gatwick.

At 8:32a, we pulled out and are on our way to Gatwick on this 8 coach train with its 3-2 configuration and very narrow aisles.

Arrival in Gatwick was at 9:10a.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

London Jan. 18: London-Heathrow

The pilot had told us that we had to taxi across the South runway and sure enough we did. You could see the downed Boeing 777-200ER at the end of the runway as we crossed it.

We paused a bit before going to our gate. Once at the gate, I got a better look at it as well. All the doors were now closed and the slides removed. It also appeared that it was floating about the ground so it may be on jacks now. You could still see the landing gear off to the side near the plane.

I disembarked and made the long walk to the Immigration area. You could still see the airplane from inside the terminal.

Luckily the IRIS system was working so I was able to use it and save about 30 minutes.

I headed for the Customs area and was stopped by Customs; first time ever in the UK. I told him that I don't buy anything duty free as it is more expensive here and he said go ahead.

Once outside, I headed for the Underground; paid 7.00 GBP for a zone 1-6 day pass and boarded the waiting train.

London Jan. 18: Paris to London

BA309 19JAN08 Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris France (CDG) to London-Heathrow, London England (LHR) 321 G-EUXD 12:25p 12:25p

Flying time: 0:45

As I boarded the crew checked the boarding passes and was saying that we would perhaps sit for a bit as Air Traffic Control in Heathrow was getting things sorted out. The delay could be up to three hours she said; judging from how long that other plane sat there, I could well see that happening. Oh, well, I’ll just read and sleep ;-).

This aircraft is about the size of a Boeing 757-200; it has a single aisle and in Club Europe has a 3-3 configuration but usually no one sits in the middle seat. In Euro Traveler, it is 3-3 configuration. Unlike the 757, it is an open cabin, so there are no solid bulkheads.

I made my way back to my seat and got settled in. The lead flight attendant came on the PA and gave her welcome on board.

At 12:56p the Captain came on, introduced himself and said our slot time is not good, that is the bad news; we won’t move from the stand for about two hours. He says he’s been flying for about 25 years now around Europe so he has a strategy why he has everyone board knowing that we have a two hour wait. If someone else is careless and misses their slot, then we can take advantage of it and get going. He continued, saying that our actual wheels up time is 2:10p UK time (3:10p France time).

The reason for the delay is for the incident that occurred a few days ago (he was very good about how he mentioned this); the aircraft is still sitting at the end of the runway so this is inhibiting the landing and takeoff; he advised that he will keep us informed so not to worry. He sounded really upbeat so that was good as he introduced his cabin crew. Weather is wet and rainy at Heathrow temp is 15C. There may be bumps along the way so keep the seatbelts fastened.

There was lots of chatter in the cabin after the announcement; just people being worried about their connections really.

He came on and said that our slot time has changed to 2:00p UK time, everyone laughed, but we shaved 10 minutes off; he then said that the cabin crew will do a drink service before we depart and drinks are on him. He also said the he would be in the cabin for any questions and his first office at some point as well.

Passengers were asking questions about their connecting flights. This does prove my theory about customers connecting throughout Europe to get to where they are trying to go. There were a few customers who were going to the U.S. from here as opposed to flying to the U.S. nonstop from here.

The Cabin Service Director had to explain the reason for the delay to a customer who did not understand; she did a good job. She then made an announcement that they have given all the information they have and just allow them to give us a meal service and they will update them on information as soon as they know more. It is hard to keep people from worrying about missing their flights; Heathrow must be a nightmare!

I totally understand people’s concerns, luckily London is my final destination for today. I’ve read that with only one runway active the airport is down to about 50% of arrival/departure capacity per hour on the lone remaining parallel runway.

Some people in the back of the plane were complaining of feeling warm; the crew adjusted air condition to help with that situation.

The Captain was now in the cabin answering questions, he looked a little older than his voice, if that makes sense.

The meal service came in the form of drinks of choice and a cheese Ploughmans Wrap; chatter had pretty much died down, but you could still hear a little talk and concerns about their travel plans. One thing that customers sometimes don’t realize that if we are delayed so are others using the airport, so some of them will make their connections; also if there are multiple flights to a destination, the airline will do their best to accommodate you on those flights. One issue here too is that customers are connecting to other airlines other than British Airways; I heard a few mention Virgin Atlantic to the U.S.

At 1:27p local time, the Captain came on the PA and gave an update, 1:45p UK time is our new slot time; things are getting better he says and keeping with his pledge to keep us informed.

At 1:33p, an announcement was made that landing cards would be distributed to those who needed them; if you are not an EU citizen and London is your final destination then you need one, so I collected one. I joined the IRIS program (, but it has not worked the last four times I’ve entered the U.K. this system allows you to use an express area as you’ve already registered with the system. I hope it is working this time around as something tells me that the lines will belong today.

Another British Airways A321-231 arrived at 1:36p; G-EUXH, this is the 2:40p departure which I am sure will be delayed as well.

At 1:50p the Captain came on the PA and announced that our new departure time was seat at 1:30p UK time, which is within 40 minutes! Flight time is 45 minutes he added. He also said that he continues to work on getting a better slot time. All this time, the flight attendants had been cleaning up the cabin and I continued reading all the papers I collected in the terminal area.

There was an article in the guardian that there is a site at that talks about pilot gossip etc. that you can check out, it was noted however that the site had crashed due to a lot of traffic.

At 2p, the seat belt sign came on and the Captain said ATC was fed u of us annoying them so we go the go ahead to get out of here… a whole 30 minutes early it seems.

We pushed back at 2:03p and the safety demo started in English only. We started our taxi at 2:07p and was off the ground at 2:23p as there was a alight wait at the runway. On take off, I could see an Air France A340-300 taking off from another runway; it made for a spectacular sight.

After takeoff, the flight attendant announced that they would only do a beverage service since they had already served the meal. As soon as the seatbelt signs were off, I made a dash for the toilet, but two others had already beat me to it; the wait was not long though and there were two others behind me.

The overhead monitors kept track of our progress as we go back in time one hour flying at 24,000’. The drink service started just before we got to the French coast.

At 2:41p the Captain came on and said we would start our descent soon and expected to land in about 25-30 minutes and we have to cross the southern runway to get to terminal 4, so there may be delays in that.

We had a slight delay in landing, but not too much.

London Jan. 18: Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris France (CDG)

Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris France (CDG)

We had a smooth touchdown and the taxi to the gate was not too bad as well. Across at Terminal E, I could see Aeromexico’s Boeing 777-200 in the new livery as well as a Delta aircraft. We were behind a Swiss A319 waiting to cross the active runway. A Continental Boeing 777-200 took off and then we were able to cross the runway behind the Swiss aircraft.

As we made our way to the gate, I could also see an Air France Regional E-190, an Etihad A340-600, Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777-200 and we pulled up next to Air India’s Boeing 777-300ER in new colors.

I gathered my stuff and disembarked heading for the Immigration area. My documents were checked, I cleared Customs and headed outside to the greeters. My other colleagues headed for the Transfer desk for their flight to Tunisia at 12:50p or so. I always prefer to go to the appropriate terminal by entering the country as opposed to using the Transfer facility; its always been easier for me.

I checked the FIDs and found my flight which was departing from Terminal B at 12:25; BA309 to London-Heathrow. My colleagues’ flight was leaving from Terminal F.

I walked outside to get some fresh air and it was well worth it. I re-entered the terminal when I got to the entrance for 2B, walked under the roadway and up the other side to the terminal. I stopped to get a finger nail clipper and had to show the lady what I meant. I said to her in French that I did not know the word in French and she told me; but I did not commit it to memory. As it turns out, they are too expensive so I did not bother; 4.50-4.90 EUR!

I found the check-in area and had to go through French Immigration to do so. I was told to use another area as opposed to the one I had found. I did so and had to wait a few minutes to clear Immigration. I found the check-in area and waited my turn on the not so busy queue.

One thing about large airports is that people connect from all over; on queue that I could discern were passengers from Mexico City, Australia and the United States, plus locals from France. As I waited in line, I checked for a WiFi signal and found two; one for the airport and another for Orange (phone network). For the airport network, I had to choose your phone company or Boingo for access. The T-Mobile rate was 0.18 cents per minute which I thought was really high; no free WiFi here at all, so I decided against connecting.

I then checked in without any issue and got a window seat in the rear of the A321. The agent advised me that the aircraft was delayed by about 15 minutes, but on checking, it was now 30 minutes delayed. I thanked her and went to find a seat.

There is an Air France Salon and a British Airways Terraces lounge here, but I had no credential to enter so I walked around until I found a seat, since I did not want to enter the secure area just yet as it was only 11:05p. I checked the FIDs and it was still showing the flight as ontime at 12:25.

As I waited, I watched as a lady who was going to Bakou repack her suitcase. There was some argument in a language I could not understand going on at one of the check-in counters. But I did understand that this lady may not make the flight as the agent kept referring to his watch and pointing. Others looked on in an odd manner as well. The flight was at noon and this was occurring at 11:15. The agent told the other check-in agent to close the flight in 10 minutes. This is Azerbijan Airlines (J2) flight 74. I eventually worked itself out I think, the lady gave them two bags and disappeared to the connecting counter; she had left her make up case behind. She returned momentarily and then ran for the gate for her flight. It was now 11:23a.

I entered the secure area about 11:50p and waited. I only had to give up my 1/3 bottle of water as I passed through. I did see a BA A319 at the gate, the same one I saw before when I was checking in and wondered if it was just waiting for clearance to go to Heathrow; odd I thought as the jet way was pulled, the pushback tug was attached and there were three guys waiting there. The aircraft was occupying our gate, so if it is not our aircraft, then we are severely delayed, I thought. I take it Heathrow is still feeling the effects of that downed Boeing 777-200ER of two days ago. It must still be on the edge of that runway making it unusable. There was an Air Algerie A330 behind it waiting to taxi out.

There were a few newspapers available; The Guardian, Le Metro, The Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal Europe, plus the Airport magazine and Air France magazine. There was also a PlayStation 2 with Gran Tourismo 4 ‘Prologue’ loaded. I tried to play it, but did not succeed as I could not figure out how to change the perspective, so it looks like I was driving looking out the back of the car.

I then saw the Azerbijan A319 taxiing out, I hope that lady made her flight..

At 12:10p, an announcement was made that the flight would be departing from gate 32; an agent and a Police officer helped us made the change since the gates are not connected. At the same time, I looked out the window and saw G-EUXD taxiing in. As soon as we all switched, the airplane was at the gate and the passengers disembarked. I fear that we will be further delayed than 1:00p since that other airplane was schedule at 10:38a and it is still sitting there L.

This gate had more newspapers available than the other one; Le Figaro, La Monde Weekend, FT Weekend and La Tribune. These were offered in an Air France logoed kiosk. The British Airways kiosk also had copies of the Daily Telegraph.

The agent made an announcement at 12:21p that as soon as the aircraft was prepared they would start boarding; I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

At about 12:25p, that BA A319 departed, that is a good sign indeed. Boarding commenced at 12:42p without an announcement as passengers were getting a little anxious. I boarded with everyone else. In the distance, I could see he Continental Boeing 777 on which I arrived taxiing out to the runway that is near Terminal 1.

London Jan. 18: Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris France (CDG)

CO10 18JAN08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris France (CDG) N??019 6:35p 10:16a+1

I made my way through the check-in line and presented my boarding pass which was scanned by the agent. I heard two beeps and wondered if anything was wrong, but all was well, so I continued on. At the door of the airplane, the agent greeted me in French, so I continued chatting with him in French. I had flown with him before and he is quite an interesting agent. I like his American French accent. He pointed me to my seat and I got settled in, while saying hello to the passenger across from me to whom I am acquainted.

As I sat, the lead flight attendant came by and took my jacket as well as saying hello. I knew him, so I said hello as I had not seen him in a while. Soon, I was offered a pre-departure drink, I opted for water and then I was offered an amenity kit as well as a menu of today’s fare.


Warm roasted nuts with your preferred cocktail or beverage


A demitasse of seafood bisque with lump crabmeat accompanied by mini beef Wellington and a tandoori chicken skewer with ancho chili sauce

SALAD and warm breads

Fresh seasonal greens and frisée with sliced tomato, red onion, corn and a Kalamata olive

Your choice of Cabernet Sauvignon vinaigrette or Parmesan peppercorn dressing

Freshly baked garlic bread and assorted rolls with butter


The Chef’s Selection

Grilled Sterling Silver� New York sirloin steak with pepper rub and herb glaze, sautéed spinach, roesti potatoes and a piquillo pepper filled with stewed eggplant and fresh mozzarella cheese

seared Breast of Chicken

Filled with fontina cheese and spinach, accompanied by port wine sauce, creamy polenta, broccolini and carrots

Herb-crusted Halibut

With extra virgin olive oil, parslied potatoes and braised fennel, served over tomato and olive ragoût and fine green beans

Pasta Bowl

Crescent-shaped pasta with truffle and potato filling, creamy mushroom sauce, caramelized onion and truffle butter, grilled fresh green asparagus, topped with roasted red tomato and freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Select American and imported cheeses, fresh seasonal fruit, assorted gourmet crackers and bread, served with Port wine


Dreyer’s Grand vanilla ice cream with choice of toppings
or an assortment of petite pastries

Fresh Brew® gourmet roasted regular and decaffeinated coffee made exclusively for Continental Airlines or tea with your choice of milk or lemon

Enjoy a cup of freshly brewed Emilio Caffè Italian Espresso or Cappuccino available exclusively in BusinessFirst on our 777 and 767 aircraft.

pre-arrival breakfast

A selection of juices

Fresh seasonal fruit and yogurt

Assorted breads including cinnamon and crusty rolls and warm croissants with butter and strawberry preserves

cheddar cheese Omelette

Accompanied by grilled smoked pork loin, turkey sausage and broccoli gratin potatoes

Selected Cereal

Served with milk and a banana

Fresh Brew® gourmet roasted regular and decaffeinated coffee made exclusively for Continental Airlines or tea with your choice of milk or lemon

The captain came on the PA and announced that we were delayed just a bit as there was still cargo being loaded as well as some passengers’ bags. He assured us that even with this delay we would still arrive ontime.

· Movies

o All (335), new releases, action/thriller, classics, comedy, drama, family, world cinema

· Short programs

o All (179), comedy, drama, entertainment, family, global TV HBO on Demand, lifestyle

· Music

o All (243), classical, country, jazz, pop, r&b/urban, rock, world

· Games

o All (26), arcade, board/puzzle, educational, gaming, kids

· Flight map

· Volume control

· Help

· back

With 1:20 to go under Ireland; breakfast

Yoghurt, tea/coffee, roll/cinnamon roll/hard roll, jam, fruit bowl (grapes, orange, grapefruit, pineapple) plus choice omelet (cheese, ham, beef sausage, spinach) or cereal and banana.

The Captain came on the PA (south of Rouen 35 minutes out) and said we are 15 minutes ahead of schedule at 10:30a

15C = 55F visibility is 10Miles 10-15 miles from the southwest low scattered clouds at 2,000’ above the field about 121 miles out at 20,787’; a seatbelt message came on in English and French and then in English again.

The flight attendants helped us prepare the cabin for landing and returned my coat. It was a beautiful morning in Riossy as you could see a far distance without obstruction.

London Jan. 18: Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

Jan 18, 2008

Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

At terminal C, I bade goodbye to my colleagues and headed for terminal E. it was now 5:56p and I knew I had to hurry. Sadly, there will be no time to stop in the Presidents Club on this trip.

I raced through security although everyone seemed to be moving so slow, and made it to the terminal. I was gate E18 so I had to really get to the other end of the terminal.

I made it there in time and caught up with two of my colleagues who were also on the same flight. We chatted for a moment and then I went to the gate to collect my boarding pass. Good deal, I scored a BusinessFirst seat today.

London Jan. 18: On the way to the airport

Jan. 18, 2008

The drive to the airport was a wet one. In addition traffic was horrible. Luckily there were three of us in the car so we were able to take the HOV lane. The HOV lanes in Houston are kind of weird as they are a single lane that is used for both directions depending on the time of day. So usually in the evenings it is northbound and in the morning southbound.

Also, the exit for the airport lets you out at the north end of the airport and if you want to get o the south end, you have to get off and take the service road on US59 to the Beltway or Greens road as there is no exit from the HOV lane to the Beltway.

We exited and made our way to Greens Road, then made our way to the parking facility. There was no waiting as there was a bus leaving for the terminals.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Today's Journey

Well, the weekend is here so I'm off to somewhere. I have a few choices, well two Washington D.C. or London, England. It will more than likely be London either via Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS) or Paris-Charles de Gaulle, France (CDG). Who knows...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Monterrey, Mexico (MTY): Back in Houston, TX (IAH)

We taxied up to the gate which took quite a while to accomplish as we had landed on the Terminal E side of the airport. We docked at D3 and had a really long walk to get back to the International Arrivals building. It is at least a 7-10 minutes walk.

The Immigration officer did not respond to my Hello, he just wrote on my form and said "Next.' How rude I thought as I said thank you and left. He did the same thing to the person behind me sadly.

We made it downstairs and out of Customs where a Hello to the lady there yielded a hello back and a smile; what a difference.

One of my colleagues said the agent asked her "where are her people from?" which I thought was funny...

We then headed for the parking lot and headed home in the cold dreary night weather.

Monterrey, Mexico (MTY): CO2115 17JAN08 Monterrey, Mexico (MTY) to Houston-Intercontinental. Houston, TX (IAH)

CO2115 17JAN08 Monterrey, Mexico (MTY) to Houston-Intercontinental, Houston, TX (IAH) N15948 ERJ 6:05p 7:30p

We all boarded as quickly as possible and settled in. There was a Delta Connection CRJ on the left of us and there was also an Aviacsa Boeing 737-200 being pushed back so the noise level was enormous. the quiet of the 1-2 50 leather seats was quite welcomed. I said hello to the flight attendant and she acknowledge it, which usually means a good crew.

I switched seat with a lady who was traveling with two kids and her daughter so they could be together; it was an even swap; a window for a window and all were happy. They each got to sit next to one child.

At 6:20p, the doors closed and a minute later, we pushed back from the hard stand then taxied out to the runway; it was still quite hazy and raining as nightfall arrived on the airport.

The English safety demo started as we made our pushback followed by the Spanish version.

There was a Mexicana A319 landing on runway 29 as we waited. We were behind a Boeing 737-300 with markings that were not exactly visible from where I was sitting. There were several new carriers that I saw here in Monterrey; Aladia, interjet and Magni Charters to name three of them and of course Aviacsa, Mexicana and Aeromexico.

At 6:36p, we were airborne as it continued to rain. The flight attendant came on the PA and gave her welcome adding that we would get a snack and then beverages. She then came through with a sealed plastic container with m&ms, beef salami, a pack of crackers, a packet of peppercorn cheese and a napkin. I tried not to ea before the drinks came but I failed just as she a few seats away. I also tried to stay awake too as I was so tired. When she arrived with drinks, I had some water and apple juice.

Documentation was the next chapter of the flight; U.S. citizens only need a Customs form, others need an I-94 white form or the visa-waiver green form if your country participates in the visa waiver program. I had already received my Customs from when I checked in so I was good to go.

I was able to sneak in a 15 minute nap, but soon the Captain came on the PA and I could barely hear him say that we would start our descent in the Houston area. It was very faint though; This was at 7:15p.

It was 7:44p when touched down on the runway in Houston and it was just twilight there. An announcement was made welcoming in us and advising us of the procedures; i.e. we have to take all our bags with us an pick up our bags at customs when we get inside. Also ensure that we have our documentation filled out for the Immigration officials.

Monterrey, Mexico (MTY): at the airport in MTY boarding the flight

Once at the gate, I realized that the flight had not boarded as yet. I relayed the lounge information to my colleagues who thought it was good information to use the next time and also noted that if we were further delayed than 15 minutes, we could use the lounge.

We boarded at gate 11 which displayed our flight, but that gate was actually boarding a delayed Delta Connection fight to Atlanta, GA (ATL) instead. We were directed to the gate next to it, 11A instead. We headed over there, showed our documents, had a mini search and then boarded the waiting bus in the misty and cold rain. The umbrellas were actually on the bus which I thought was interesting.

We were then bussed the short distance to the plane; it was just a tad longer than where were had walked the day before once we got off the plane. Once at the plane door, we waited a bit and then boarded.

Monterrey, Mexico (MTY): At the airport again

I am at the airport in the Aeromexico Salon;

The check-in process was smooth and no issues. The airport is cold though. I had no issues through security which was a breeze. This is really a nice airport.

I was taking pictures and was told to stop by the security officer so I did. I was watching an Aviacsa Boeing 737-300push back as well as an Interjet A320 pulling in.

I then left and walked around and found a few lounges; Aeromexico's and and Mexicana. I gained access to the Aeromexico Salon with my boarding pass and my Presidents Club card. I also could have gained access using my American Express Gold, Black or Platinum card to the American Express Centurion Club.

I await the flight...

BA 777 had an incident in LHR

Well, I'm in Monterrey so I am not on it; glad all is well though; i.e. no deaths.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Monterrey, Mexico (MEX): In Monterey

The drive to the city was fantastic. You could see the large mountain in this Mexico's third largest populated city behind Mexico City and Guadalajara (home of Ugly Betty). It is also Mexico's largest industrial city ad the capital of the state of Nuevo Leon.

The city is large sitting at the base of the mountain; some of the house lead up the side of the mountain and a part of the city is on the other side of the mountain accessible by a well constructed tunnel. The mountain is famous as a part of it looks like a horse's saddle.

I had dinner at a local place called la Valentina at Ave. Lazaro Cardenas 2660-B Valle Ote. in an area called San Pedro Garza Garcia.

Monterrey, Mexico (MEX): At the Monterrey International Airport, Monterrey, MX (MTY)

On landing, there were about five airplanes waiting for take off including an Aeromexico Boeing 737-700 with winglets and an Aviacsa Boeing 737-200; Mexico is always a fun place to see lots of 737-200s.

As we taxied over the the really nice terminal with its jetways, an Aviacsa Boeing 737-200 landed behind us and taxied in as well. They took the gate while we walked down the stairs and into the terminal a short distance away. That Aviacsa airplane was really taxiing fast into that gate I thought.

We cleared Immigration and Customs without incident and saw our driver waiting with our names; that is always nice to see.

We went outside and got into the car as I took a picture of the front of the airport.

Monterrey, Mexico (MEX): CO3020 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Monterrey, MX (MTY)

CO3020 16JAN08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston T (IAH) to Monterrey, Mexico (MTY) 4:00p 5:35p ERJ N12934 operated by ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., dba Continental Express

Flying Time: 1:18

I said hello to the flight attendant as I boarded; she was smiling as I had done a funky switcheroo with my backpack and my computer bag before boarding.

I turned right and walked to my seat through this single aisle 50 leather seats 1-2 configured airplane with the lone lav. at the back of the plane. The overheads were full so I stuffed my stuff under the seat; they just about fitted too. I also grabbed a blanket in a plastic sheath from the overhead; I had taken a pillow from another overhead on my way down.

I settled in and chatted a bit with my colleague who was having a headache. I offered her an Advil and she said she would try to see if she could sleep it off first, but appreciated the Advil.

At 3:55p, the Captain came on the PA and announced that we would be cruising at 32,000’ today and the journey should take 1:18 of flying time. It was not repeated in Spanish; odd, I thought.

We pushed back at 3:58p as the flight attendant gave the safety demo in English. By the time it ended, we were taxiing under our own power to the runway. I was wondering where was the Spanish version when it started playing.

I looked through the window and could see a United Express ERJ-175 taxiing into its gate at Terminal A. just then a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-700 pulled up next to us. You know you are a small plane when a Boeing 737-700 looks big to you.

Off in the distance, there eight other planes ahead of us including a Northwest Airbus A319 and a few other ERJs and one private jet. As we taxied closer to the runway, I could see a KLM Asia Boeing 747-400 Combi taking up its position in the queue for runway 15L/R. The Captain told the Flight attendant to take her seat and we were airborne by 4:07p.

The flight attendant said that we would have beverages and then a snack service; on our way to the airport, we were wondering if there was a meal on this flight. We thought yes, since it is a business market.

I took out my computer as soon as I heard the ding and started the blog for this flight. The guy next to me pulled his out and it took up the entire tray table; it was a Dell that was literally twice the size of my computer if I turned it sideways; way too big for my liking, where is my MacBook Air?

After the beverages were served, minus coffee as the flight attendant announced that the machine was broken, we were served a turkey and cheese sandwich with some baby carrots and a Kit Kat. She then followed up with documentation for entering Mexico.

The bread for the sandwich was rather large and a bit bulky for want of a better word. I ate around it and left most of it in the wrapper. I also did not have the KitKat and after much chewing, finished the baby carrots. Trash was collected after all that during a little turbulence.

The documentation for entry into Mexico differs based on whether you are form Mexico or not. As a U.S. citizen, I had to fill out a visitor form as well as a Customs form. I think Mexicans fill out the customs form as well as another document for Mexicans only. Immigration forms are always annoying as they are sometimes lengthy and want your life story. The simplest I’ve seen is perhaps France, where they usually want just basic information on a small form and oftentimes when you get there, they don’t take it from you.

One tip for you is that you should always bring a pen with you whenever you travel as in cases like these you will need it. Also, you never know who you may meet and need to take their contact details or give them yours. One other good tip is also to memorize your passport number, alien number, if applicable, and the expiration dates of these documents. It comes in handy when filling out the forms and saves you time from having to rifle through your passport.

The Captain came on the PA when we were twenty-three minutes flying time from the ground and said that we had started our descent into the Monterrey area and due to turbulence the seatbelt signs would continue to being lit. He continued saying that there was light winds, temp of 10C which is 50F. He thanked us for flying Continental Express and wished to see us on a future flight; the announcement was not repeated in Spanish.

The flight attendant then came through again one more time picking up trash. The guy next to me was filling out his form and so was I. He asked me if it was necessary to fill out the bottom of the form and I told him yes.
We landed without incident and taxied to the gate.

Monterrey, Mexico (MEX): Walking to the gate in Houston, TX

As I was close to the gate, well, I kind of lost track of time, I left the Club at 3:42p, checked the FIDs first to ensure that the gate has not changed and then headed there. When I got to the gate, the agent said hello, checked my passport and scanned my boarding pass.

Monterrey, Mexico (MEX): At the hotel

I just arrived at hotel in Monterrey after about an hour's drive from the airport. It is a beautiful city, kind of like Las Vegas with its vegetation

It is kind of funny to watch Smallville in Spanish :-)...

Monterrey, Mexico (MEX): At the airport in Houston Intercontinental

Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

This is a quick trip for work across to Monterrey, Mexico (MTY). I've not been to this city, so it should be cool. I really enjoy going to new places as I never know what to expect.

It was smooth sailing on the highway to the airport and getting from the parking lot to the airport terminal was a breeze.

At the airport, I'm hanging out in the Presidents Club in Terminal B while I await the flight at 4p. I just had some crackers and cheese; you know my routine by now.

The TSA guy was scary as he balked at this lady before me, telling her to stay behind the line and wait until called; this is odd as I'd never seen a line like that at the TSA set up anywhere. The guy was really rude as he could have done this much better than he had.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The new MacBook Air - I want one

Steve Jobs just kicked off the MacBook Air at the MacWorld conference in San Fran. I've been wanting a new computer although the one I have a Fujitsu Lifebook is only 1.5 years old. It is a pain and has never worked well from the get go and Fujitsu refused to fix it to my liking although it is under warranty. It does not help that I dropped it while on the A380 in Sydney and will have to pay to get it fixed even though it is under warranty.

So I thought about the Mac as I need to get some good video editing and image editing sofware anyways and still keep doing my writing using Word. A friend told me to wait a bit and see what MacWorld brings and it brought the MacBook Air.

So, I'm psyched and will look into it further; hey it easily fits into an Interoffice Memo envelope! Read more about it at

What do you think?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Des Moines, IA (DSM): In Des Moines, IA (DSM) to Houston, TX (IAH)

I boarded this all Economy class 37-seater with leather seats in a 1-2 configuration airplane and made my way to my seat. There was a lady sitting in the aisle seat on the phone so I sat in the window across from her.

She eventually looked over and said if I wanted her to move. I said no and that I would move if someone else only as I knew there were only two other passengers to board the plane. Those two passengers boarded and I just moved to the back row where there were two seats open on the right. Now you can call me the lav. police...

We closed up early and a female voice from the cockpit welcomed us onboard. It was odd that this was actually a totally new crew taking us back. So it means that the crew who just dropped us off would overnight as my flight in was the last one for the day. She welcomed us onboard

Des Moines, IA (DSM): In Des Moines, IA (DSM)

As we taxied in, an American Eagle 145 was taking off. The airport of this state's capital is larger than expected.

I got off with everyone else and looked around the terminal. I headed out to the check-in area and walked around outside in the below freezing temperature. I came back in and got my boarding pass and went upstairs to security after checking fr some local information.

The lady at the information counter thought it strange that I was asking for a bus schedule. She said there is a bus, but it does not run on Sundays. I asked her for a schedule but she said she had none. She was funny too, as she said you can even walk it as it is only five miles, then she said she joking about walking. I then took up some brochures said thanks and went to the security area.

It was slower than Ponce if you can imagine that. I wanted to see if they had complimentary WiFi, but it took forever to get through the security lines and there were maybe 10 people ahead of me if that many. By the time I got through and made my way back to the gate, I had to board the flight back.

Des Moines, IA (DSM): Houston-Intercontinental Houston, TX (IAH) to Des Moines, IA (DSM)

CO2479 13JAN08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Des Moines, IA (DSM) 2:10p 4:22p 135 N12528

Flying Time: 1:54

I got on board and settled in.

The gate agent closed the door at :02, the captain came on the PA and told us that we should be leaving soon and that means we will have an early arrival.

At 1:06, we started our taxi and was airborne rather quickly using runway 15L as there was no one out there. Oddly enough, we made a hard right turn and then almost 180 and made our way across the airport. It was a beautiful view from above.

Forty minutes into the flight, the captain came on the PA and said that we had 1:14 to go and we had levelled off at our cruising altitude of 35,000' and doing about 420kts with a head wind. He said we should be early by about 15-20 minutes.

We were served two packs of peanuts and beverage of choice today; I ate that as well as some crackers and fell asleep after doing some reading.

I was awoken when we started descending into Des Moines. There was snow everywhere; it just looked really cold. We landed smoothly and taxied to the jet-bridged gate.

Des Moines, IA (DSM): Houston-Intercontinental (IAH)

Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

I had decided to visit Des Moines if I could make the flight, so once at the gate, I checked my messages and it was leaving from B77 at 2:10p and I arrived in C22 I think it was at 1:32p. I rushed over there stopping in the Presidents Club for a quick snack and arriving at the gate just in time to hear my name being called as well as other passengers. I collected my boarding pass and boarded.

Sadly, no time to made a blog entry though as th computer was out of juice and would take a little time to get going.

Ponce, PR (PSE): Newark, NJ to Houston, TX

CO303 13JAN08 Newark-Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) to Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 733 10:25a 1:20p N59338 with winglets

Flying Time: 3:20

Finally we could board the aircraft. The First Class cabin has 12 leather seats in a 2-2 configuration. Behind the divider is Economy class in a 3-3- configuration and one exit row.

I always try to visualize where I am sitting and when I did I was not too happy about it, but I pressed on. I asked the guy at the aisle to let me in and he did. The reason I was not too happy was that he was a big guy and he encroached on my seat :-(. This will be a fun three plus hours.

His right shoulder was placed firmly on the right armrest so I had no resort by to lean to the right; luckily the lady at the window was asleep and had leaned into the window. In addition, the jacket he was wearing was sticking me due to the material that made it.

We soon pushed back once everyone was seated and the safety demo started; we were four minutes off the mark. We were not off the ground until 10:48a as we used a runway that was a little far away.

It was great to see the city in all its splendor on a very clear day.

The movie today is "The Nanny Diaries;" headsets were offered for 1.00 USD and we were told we would get a snack on the flight. This 737-300 is one of the few that Continental has that has inflight entertainment on it. It also just got installed with fuel saving winglets.

The Captain came on at about 11:25a, but I could not hear anything he was saying at all; he just sounded muffled; basically all I heard was turn the seat belt sign off and then the ding.

Lunch came in the form of a charboiled beef cheese burger with American cheese; sounds familiar? plus baby carrots and a Twix, plus beverage of choice. I ate it all except for the Twix, despite the pressure on my teeth :-(.

I reclined my seat, but so did the guy next to me, so I pulled forward so we could both fit. I tried to fall asleep and did, waking up when we touched down and taxied to the gate as I was really so tired.

Ponce, PR (PSE): At the gate in Newark

Newark-Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR)

I got to the gate at 9:58a, there was a crowd at the gate and I asked one guy if they had cleared the standby list. He said yes and that I should to talk to the agent; I did and was given a boarding pass with a middle seat about 2/3rds of the way back. I took it and was about to board when a friend called me. We chatted for a bit and then I boarded at 10:03a.

The jetway had people standing there as I guess customer had trouble getting settled inside. As I waited, a flight attendant said that there was no more space for bags, so she started tagging the ones for people behind me. During the wintertime, it is always bad as most everyone wears a coat and no one wants to hold their coat in their lap the entire flight. Consequently the overheads are full of coats; I wished there was a better solution.

Des Moines, IA (DSM): Back in Houston-Intercontinental (IAH)

I just arrived at the airport from Des Moines, now I have one more state to go, North Dakota. I'll get the updates on in a few hours. There was no Internet access in some of the airports and others, I just did not have enough ground time and battery power to make an update.

Ponce, PR (PSE): Newark-Liberty, Newark NJ (EWR) for the third time

In the Presidents Club, where I had a bagel with cream cheese as well as two small muffins and a banana as I wait for the next flight.

A guy was just seen walking his dog in the airport which is a no-no; all in cabin pets must be kept in the kennel for the duration of the trip. This is one of the conditions of carrying a pet onboard. Oh, when I arrived in Ponce, PR, there was a pet onboard that was yelping the whole time after we landed. A few people were noticeably upset.

I'll walk down to the gate in a bit. Oh, I've added a Des Moines, IA (DSM) segment to this trip as Iowa and North Dakota are the two lone not visited U.S. states. If I make it to Iowa I'll have one more to go.

Ponce, PR (PSE): Aeropuerto Mercedita, Ponce PR (PSE) to Newark-LIberty, Newark NJ (EWR)

CO337 13JAN08 Aeropuerto Mercedita, Ponce PR (PSE) to Newark-Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) 738 6:00a 9:10a N36207

Flight time: 3:44

I boarded from the rear of the plane as instructed, which is always a treat since that rarely occurs. I found my seat and settled in as others did the same. I looked out the window to my left and JetBlue was boarding as well.

JetBlue pushed ontime at 6:00a before we did as my flight had some seating issues; looks like some customers did not sit where they were assigned, so others were without a seat. Folks, please take your assigned seat when you board. The place to change your seat is not on the airplane, but when you check-in either online or at the airport on your day of departure.

The Captain had come on at about 5:53a and said that he did not foresee any delays; they were loading the last of the bags; the weather in Newark is at freezing, so 32F and that snow was expected later today. That is always daunting when you are leaving a place where the temperature is 85F.

Free headsets were passed out before we left the ground, then the safety video in English started followed by Spanish. Due to the seat issue, the pushback at 6:03a started just a bit after the English safety video started.

The engine started at 6:05a and we were off the ground by 6:09a. I could hear the JetBlue plane take off as we taxied down to the end of the runway. We will chase them up the Caribbean today. The takeoff roll was much faster and noticeably different than in Newark; we were airborne much quicker and started a pretty steep climb into the still dark morning.

The announced movie was the same as on the way down, so I don't think that is correct. If I read the Continental magazine correctly on page 84, it should have been "The Pink Panther." In the same vein, the movie southbound should have been, "Garfield Gets Real," "The Game Plan" is only shown from Houston to the West Coast and Canada. My guess is that the wrong movies were loaded on the aircraft last night, so the crew just made do.

Within an hour after takeoff, I was served a pita pocket cheese omelet, banana muffin, raspberry yogurt and a fruit cup (cantaloupe, pineapple and some other fruit I can't identify, it tasted like papaya, but I cannot be certain). it was all quite good, but my molars complained when eating the omelet so it was slow going. I topped it off with some water and tea with lemon.

As our departure time was so early, you could hear people snoring throughout the cabin. As I say this, I remember a little kid who had come with his parents to see his grandfather off as he was so sleepy, his mother made him kiss his granddad and then he reached for her, she lifted him and he passed out immediately on her left shoulder. 6:00a on a Caribbean island is way too early for a flight and that JetBlue fight was even earlier as I think its departure time would have been like 4:30a or so.

The battery low light came on so I had to shut down the computer; then I went to sleep. I awoke when we started our descent into Newark.

Again, when we landed there was clapping proper clapping when we cleared the runway and the airplane stopped braking. We taxied up to our gate where we waited a bit to get off the plane. We were quite early, I think it was 8:50a local.

Ponce, PR (PSE): Aeropuerto Mercedita, Ponce PR (PSE)

Aeropuerto Mercedita, Ponce PR (PSE)

As I suspected, there are no jetways here, so we taxied to the hard stand. As we cleared the runway, a JetBlue A320 took to the skies; that is an odd departure time I thought. I looked across to the hard stand and there was another JetBlue A320 (Absolute Blue) there as well.

I deplaned down the stairs with everyone else; it was a zoo at baggage claim as the JetBlue flight had just arrived as well. I made my way through the chaos to the outside where there was more chaos as there were tons of people greeting their families.

You could smell the warm Caribbean air partially laced with weed, alas it is party time it seems as there was music billowing from a red Honda Civic parked not far away. I am amazed at the number of people in the airport at this hour. If I did not know it was 5:00a, I would not have believed it was.

I made my way to the departure lounge which was really adjacent to the arrival lounge, all on the same level. It was just as crowded, as there were passengers checking in for the JetBlue and the Continental flights which were leaving shortly at 6:00a. There is also a counter for Cape Air and one for spirit airlines, plus a tourism counter for what looks like a charter company.

A lady just asked me if I have change for a 5, but I don't. I think she wants to use the soda machine. I remember a little girl was saying "una pesos," but the machine takes 1 USD; interesting.

Oh, I tried for Internet access and there is none, so you will get this when I return to Newark or whichever airport I arrive next that has WiFi. I await a seat for my return flight.

I waited for all teh customers to be checked in and then asked the agent about the standby list, he says they clear it at th gate and then printed me my boarding passes. The flight is weight restricted he said, due to the short length of the runway and the number of bags that customers have. I told him I had a backup on Cape Air to San Juan (SJU), that I want to use and don't want to use, he and his colleagues smiled.

The security line was long as both the Continental and the JetBlue flights leave at the same time. I got on line at 5:25a and was through at 5:47a. Considering that the departure area is really small, this is pretty bad. One of the issue way the line seems longer is that about 2/3rds of it are families accompanying their relatives. Also, there is no priority lines at this airport, everyone gets on the same line.

It gets quite emotional when they can't go any further. I felt like I was at a funeral as people were hugging, sniffling and crying and passionately touching each other. I felt out of place, as if I should be hugging someone too, it was odd. I guess as I travel so much, I am de-sanitized about the saying goodbye experience. Do people really think they won't see their loved ones again?

I approached the counter and the agent knew who I was and gave me a middle seat towards the back. I did not even ask for a change as I knew the flight was full and I was kind of happy to get a seat, although I really wanted to try the Cape Air service to San Juan (SJU), but perhaps another time and another market. I now have three months in which to use this ticket.

Ponce, PR (PSE): Newark-Liberty, Newark NJ (EWR) to Ponce, PR (PSE)

CO336 12JAN08 Newark-Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) to Aeropuerto Mercedita, Ponce, PR (PSE) 738 11:55p 4:45a+1 N36207

As I boarded, I noticed the first class cabin with its 16 leather seats in a 2-2 configuration. There was a drawn curtain and a bulkhead that separated that cabin from the 3-3 configured Economy class cabin; my home for the next few hours.

As I walked to my seat, I noticed that every seat had a blanket and a pillow in a sealed plastic bag on them, perfect, I thought. A guy was trying to stuff his item in the overhead and there clearly was no room, so I mentioned to him to use the other side of the plane. He looked at me strange, I think he must have been thinking that he can't use that side as it is not over his seat, but he did anyways. Once that was done, I was able to pass to get to my seat.

Two passengers boarded and at sat one on either side in the row in front of me. I guess they wanted a row to themselves; that did not last for long as the flight attendant brought by two persons who needed seats and asked them to sit in the same row. If looks could kill as the lady stared down the two others and so did her son. It was kind of comical to watch.

Everyone got settled in pretty quickly, an announcement was made with the flight number and destination in both English and Spanish and then the door was closed. Oh, just before the door closed, a passenger moved to the aisle in my row; I said hello, but he did not answer. I thought it strange, but just continued with my activities. He did look at me though.

We pushed back at 12:10a as the safety video (first in English and then in Spanish) rolled on the overhead monitors that flipped down from the overhead bins.

It took us until 12:31a to be airborne and it was the slowest take off in a Boeing 737 I'd ever experience. For a moment, I thought we would not make it. I commented to the guy at the aisle as to how slow the plane was and again he looked me straight n the face and said nothing; again I thought it was odd that he did not utter a word.

The takeoff was graceful and one could see the Manhattan skyline off in the distance. It was a clear unobstructed night so you see quite a bit.

I fell asleep for a while and awoke to see the flight attendants at the front of the plane with their service carts.

The movie playing was "The Game Plan" with the Rock; headsets were offered for free. The guy next to me offered me his, but I told him no thanks. It was strange as he was watching the movie without a headset and he offered me his. Again, I thought it strange that he still have not said a word.

He woke me to tell me my meal had arrived by shaking my shoulder. I was surprised by the meal choice of a hot charbroiled beef burger with American cheese, a salad with dressing and a brownie. This was served with beverage of choice.

The guy at the aisle was showing the flight attendant what he wanted as opposed to telling her, so it was then that I realized that he either could not or did not speak.

The meal was quite good, although I struggled with chewing the burger and only had 1/3 of the brownie. After eating, I spent the next few minutes trying to get food out of my teeth...

Clean up was pretty quick after, so within an hour after takeoff all the stuff was cleared.

At 12:37a, all the lights were turned out and the movie continued on the overhead monitors, it was time for bed. I shut the computer down and bedded down for the night.

I was awaken about 30 minutes out t get the cabin ready for landing. I pulled my seat forward, the guy in the aisle offered me a stick of gum, I declined and went back to sleep. We touched down momentarily and really braked hard. A resounding cheer erupted from the cabin; oh yea, Caribbean landings usually generate a cheer.

It as 4:46a on my phone, Ponce is one hour ahead of Newark.