Sunday, April 27, 2008

Italy Apr.: Arriving in Paris Charles de Gaulle, Roissy France (CDG) from Genoa, Italy (GOA)

27APR08 Paris Charles de Gaulle, Roissy France (CDG)

As we touched down, on the left, you could see one of Continental Boeing 777-200ER at the gate in Terminal 2A.

Of course there were several Air France jets there as well. Terminal 2D was full of primarily Air France airplanes, plus one Northwest (NW) Airbus A330 and two Delta (DL) airplanes.

As we waited to cross the active parallel takeoff runway, two Air France Regional Embraer ERJ-145 took off as well as a Luxair Embraer ERJ-145 and another Air France Regional Fokker 70. It was pretty cool to watch them take off right before my eyes.

We then crossed the runway and taxied to a hard stand near Terminal 2F.

It still amazes me as despite the size of de Gaulle airport, we still have to get bussed to the main terminal from time to time. Once we all deplaned, we boarded the waiting bus and headed for Terminal D. There were several other Bombardier CRJ-700s as well as an Air France CityJet ARJ-85 in that hard stand area.

At Terminal D, we just went through Baggage Claim and then entered France.

We then headed for Terminal 2A where we checked in a little earlier than normal for our 12:55p flight as we had no bags to check and had already checked in online. Armed with our standby boarding passes, we went towards the French Immigration desk. A friendly airport staff told us to use the other area as it was less congested than the one we were trying to use.

We took the walk down to the other area, going through the congested narrow check-in area of Terminal A. There was no line so clearing French Immigration and security was a breeze. Off we went to the Continental Lounge.

We had a little issue gaining access, but it all worked out in about ten minutes or so. This Lounge used to be an Air France Lounge and was at one time used for Concorde. I can remember using it and seeing Concorde outside the window.

We settled in and had some refreshments as we waited for the flight.

As I waited, I saw Continental’s flight 10 from Houston arrive at 10:48a. I guess it is ontime/early today. Time dragged on very slowly, but it was good to see airplanes coming and going outside the window.

At noon, we departed the Lounge for gate A37, the Lounge and he gate are at opposite ends of the terminal. As we neared the gate, we heard the agent page us to approach the podium. We paid the departure tax and collected our boarding passes. I was lucky enough to get an aisle seat albeit in the very back of the airplane.

I also saw another of my colleague, he was also on the flight on Friday having spent the weekend in Paris, his home. It was time to board so we did, showing our passports and boarding passes as we did so.

Italy Apr.: Aeroporto C. Colombo, Genoa, Italy (GOA) to Paris Charles de Gaulle, Roissy France (CDG)

AF5846 27APR08 Aeroporto C. Colombo, Genoa, Italy (GOA) to Paris Charles de Gaulle, Roissy France (CDG) 7:30a 9:05a F-GRZM CR7 operated by Brit Air

Flight Time:
Seat Map

I walked down the jetway and towards the tarmac. It was great to see the 72-seater twin jet airplane waiting there without a jetway. Once on the ground, I noticed that it was the same aircraft as we had flown the previous day. I wondered if it was the same crew as well. I continued walking slowly behind an elderly lady in front of me so I could take in the surroundings. It was a cool morning and you could see tugs and boats moving around next to the runway in the distance. There was also a yellow helicopter taking off as well.

I waited as the lady gave her tagged cabin baggage to one of the four ramp guys, then she took the airplane stairs and I followed behind her. At the top of the stairs, I was greeted by the same male flight attendant from the night before. I said hello, he greeted me back checked my boarding pass and ushered me in. I commented that I was glad to see him again and he said they came back last night.

As I inched back to my seat in this 2-2 leather seat configured airplane, I noticed that the other flight attendant was also the same one from yesterday as well. My colleague filled me in adding that she had flown back and forth to Paris a few times and had spent the night at the airport hotel.

We got settled in and soon the door closed at 7:30a, after which an announcement was made to turn off the mobile phones. We got pushed back a few minutes later while the manual safety demo was done in French and English.

We taxied down the runway to the end and turned around as there is no taxiway at GOA. We then powered up and took to the cold morning skies. The view was not as spectacular as yesterday as it was a bit hazy, but still made for a good view of the city below. We made a nice left hand turn which allowed me to see the entire airport below.

As soon as we leveled off at our cruising altitude, a meal of croissant and pastry with choice of tea, chocolate juice water or coffee was served at 7:52a. In a few minutes, one of the flight attendants came back through with another croissant and pastry service.

It was a beautiful as we passed over the Alps and saw the clouds just sitting in the crevices of the mountains. Wow.

We started or descent at 8:16a.

At 8:31a, an announcement was made in French about documentation, advising that you may need a visa to enter France.

As our descent continued, I noticed that we were approaching the city of Paris. I had flown into Paris many times, but never over the city, so this was a treat.

Soon, the Eifel Tower loomed into view on this hazy morning.

It was amazing to see Paris like this. It was hard to tell which monument was which though.

As if the pilot wanted the other side of the plane to see the sights as well, we made a right hand turn and now you could see the Eifel Tower through the right window of the plane. I later used an Air France Magazine to decipher where everything was located on the pictures I took. We then continued our slow descent into Charles de Gaulle airport leaving the city of Paris behind. It was fantastic!

I looked off to my left and was able to see a Boeing 737 landing.

I knew it had a blue tail with a yellow logo, but had no idea which carrier it was. It landed before we did on the runway that is close to Terminal 1.

Terminal 1
We landed moments after spotting a few airplanes over by the cargo area.

Italy Apr.: Departing Aeroporto C. Colombo, Genoa, Italy (GOA)

27APR08 Aeroporto C. Colombo, Genoa, Italy (GOA)

We arrived at the airport departure level at 6:00a. We got on the queue and waited our turn to check-in. As we waited, the folks checking in before us had an oversize bag and were asked to pay for it. There was some conversation and finally they went to the ticket counter to make the payment. It was our turn as one of their party waited for the other to return.

We had no issues checking in as the ticket we had although not for the same city pairs was for the same zone. The agent called to confirm that all was well with the tickets and it was.

As the flight was open, we got seats right away. Boarding time was 7:30a. Since I had so much time on hand, I decided to get a picture of the airport from far away. As I did so, I saw an Air Dolomite Dornier at the hard stand and took some shots as it boarded.

Down the way, I saw two other big yellow propellerized airplanes as well as what looked like two experimental ones. Do you know what type of airplanes they are?

I did finally get my distance shot as I stood before the airport Sheraton to do so.
After that I headed back to the terminal and was able to see that Dornier taxi away.

I then rejoined my colleague inside the terminal and we both watched it take off.

We cleared security without any challenges and then headed to the Duty Free store and did some window shopping almost buying things we really did not need. As I left, I noticed the two ladies re-packing their carry-on bags near their gate. I also saw an AirOne Airbus A320 being pushed back and getting reading to get underway.

I then went over to my gate next to which was an Alitalia MD-80 at the gate getting ready to be pushed back. The AirOne A320 passed by and took off right away. Soon, it was time for the MD-80 which actually took off in the other direction so I was able to get some take off shots as well.

It was almost time to board at about 7:15a as I continued updating my blogs. I’ll upload later as I had to pay for Internet access here. I joined the queue, but not before I dropped my camera and later I found out that the lens was now broken :-(. I showed my boarding pass and passport to the agent and then boarded.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Italy Apr.: Ended up in Genoa, Italy (GOA)

So all the flights to Venice, Italy (VCE) and or backup Florence, Italy, (FLR) so we ended up going to the only Italian city that I've not been to that had seats, Genoa. Italy (GOA).

Alexis - Mexico City 2008: Back home

So I am home now. The day after I arrived, I received a call from a pilot with whom I had had a really nice talk at the Conference. He wanted to remember something I said about the job of air traffic control since he would be meeting soon with the air traffic control association in his country. That was good to hear as the close our organisations work together the safer aviation will be.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Italy Apr.: Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

25APR08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

It was 5:55p when we got dropped off at Terminal E. The security line was short and we had no issues making it through.

We both made it into the Presidents Club and tried to relax for a bit. I actually met another colleague there who was also going to Paris. I picked up a copy of the Financial Times, but really wanted a copy of the Wall Street Journal as well. My colleague was getting a little antsy as it was 6:05p, so she went ahead to the gate.

As I left the Club, I saw another colleague of mine who was trying to flying around the world in some kind of interesting routing. We had talked earlier, but had not come up with anything concrete. Options included Houston to Dubai and back to Houston via Atlanta, GA (ATL) on Delta (DL) as well as Tokyo, Japan (NRT) via KLM out of Amsterdam (AMS) and then Northwest from Narita to Seattle, WA (SEA) and then back to Houston. The flight to Amsterdam was delayed so he was kind of at a loss, but I told him to just continue on that routing and hope for the best. I had to hastily depart as I was really running late for my flight at 6:40p. I’ll find out on Sunday what he ended up doing.

I got to the gate at 6:15p (a little late), collected my boarding pass, asked for a different seat, was denied as the flight was full so I then boarded.

Alexis - Mexico City Apr. 2008: Miami, FL (MIA) to Port of Spain, Trinidad (POS)

AA1663 25APR08 Miami International, Miami Fl (MIA) to Piarco International, Port of Spain Trinidad (POS) 4:45p 8:20p 757

Flight Time: 3:08

Seat Map

The initial turn around was rather quick. By 5:35 p.m. boarding started. I noted that they were now showing a departure time of 6:20 p.m.. The passengers were all settled long before they finished loading the luggage. We eventually push back just after 6:20 p.m. and were taxing by 6:27 p.m.. We were later given a flying time of 3:08. I spent most of the flight reading. The movie was "Mad Money", which I had seen and enjoyed, but my headset did not work without the adapter that I had left in my other bag in the overhead locker, so I gave the entertainment system a pass.

On the approach into the Piarco, I noted that the aircraft seemed not to be holding, but the approach seemed to take a long time. After landing at about 9:55 p.m. we got to the gate at 10:00 p.m.

On deplaning, I asked the pilot what kind of approach he did. He said he came straight in, but had to slow for an aircraft ahead. That accounted for the turns I felt. He was doing what is termed "dog-legs" to create space. He said that he flies in to Trinidad regularly and commended the job we air traffic controllers do.

Italy Apr.: Leaving downtown Houston

We departed work at 5:01p. Traffic was light and in no time without using the HOV lane, we arrived at the airport parking facilities.

Alexis - Mexico City Apr. 2008: Delayed in Miami, FL (MIA)

Miami International Airport, Miami FL (MIA) 11:20 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

I set off looking for the book that I did not get last week. I am successful this time. After some browsing I go to eat; I read a bit and then answer some e-mail and try to organise my Inbox. At 3:00 p.m. I leave to clear TSA security. I check the board for my flight and see that there is no gate change, but there is a time change with a delay to 5:45 p.m.. I decided to continue to the gate, ultimately because I felt that I would be just as comfortable there as anywhere else.

At 3:55 p.m. American Airlines (AA) has just announced, for those who don't already know, I guess, that our flight to Port of Spain, Trinidad (POS) is delayed to 5:45p, but that realistically we should expect a 6:00 p.m. departure since the flight is international arriving from Aruba Netherlands Antilles (AUA) and requires more time to clear Customs.

They have just made another announcement about a gate change for AA1663. I guess that they had changed gates but have switched back to the original D39 which is the gate we are sitting at and which is the gate they gave me this morning.

It is now 5:06 p.m. and there is no activity at our gate yet so I won't be surprised at a departure even later than 6:00 p.m. I am premature. It is 5:10 p.m. and the arrival announcement is made, with a departure estimate of 6:05 p.m.; arrival POS 9:34 p.m.

Alexis - Mexico City Apr. 2008: Arriving in Miami, FL (MIA)

Arrival in Miami International, Miami FL (MIA) 10:37a

True to their word, we arrive in Miami in 2 hrs 31 min. That means I did not have to hear one of those ironic announcements about air traffic control delay. As an air traffic controller, it is amusing to hear an announced "air traffic control" delay instead of an "air traffic" delay. The delay happens because there is too much traffic in the system. During rush hour on the highways, we know that there is too much traffic on the roads; we don't blame the traffic lights! In fact, we know that were it not for the traffic lights there would be even more chaos.

Anyway, as I depart the aircraft, I asked the crew what time they were airborne. They told me that they pushed back eight minutes early and there was a flying time of 2:31. It seems that they don't pay much attention to the actual airborne time. Another irony since that is what we record and, at least in my jurisdiction, give religiously to the pilot.

Immigration and Customs

I take my time leaving the aircraft as usual. Once I get to the Immigration hall, I proceed to the far left and sure enough there are not many people in the lines there. Passenger always head to the officers that are in front of them when entering the hall so the lines to the extreme ends always have fewer people. Today the officers are working faster than last week. And I am through rather quickly even with the delay for a change of officers.

This allows me to have an interesting conversation about stress with the officer who on finding out that I am an air traffic controller remarked that I did not look stressed. (I will resist the urge here to digress on stress.) By 11:20 a.m. I have rechecked my bags. Not seeing my flight listed, I went to an agent to find out the gate, surmising that it was too early. I was given gate D39, with the usual proviso that it was subject to change.

Off to Venice, Italy (VCE)

At least that is the intended destination.

A colleague of mine loves to go to Italy and I told her that I'll go with her whenever I have a free weekend. That free weekend is this weekend although other trip options have come up such as:

Norway and a trip to South America.

She is a nervous flier so this will be an interesting trip. Already the Air France (AF) flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Venice tomorrow is overbooked, so that will make it interesting. The good thing is that if we get there, we can get back the next morning as the early morning flight is fine.

Our back up is to get to Florence, Italy (FLR) which is also overbooked on the outbound, but O.K. on the Sunday a.m. return.

We will see...

Alexis - Mexico City Apr. 2008: Mexico CIty, Mexico (MEX) to Miami, FL (MIA)

AA2144 25APR08 Mexico City, Mexico (MEX) to Miami International, Miami FL (MIA) 6:55a 11:05a 738

Flight Time: 2:33

Seat Map

We pushed back at what I make to be 7:50a. Having visited the Mexico City air traffic control tower the day before, I try to visual our pushback and subsequent taxi. The control tower is 120 feet tall, so the view is magnificent. It was easy to see all the surrounding ring of mountains, even though hazy, and appreciate that Mexico City is in a valley; albeit one that is more than 7,700 feet above sea level.

In less than ten minutes we are off. There are two runways in Mexico City and departures are from the 05L, while landings are on 05R. A flying time of 2 hrs, 33 min is announced. (I note that this is considerably less the 3 hrs 10 min flying time in the opposite direction. I make a mental note to find out why.)

The movie is National Treasure 2, which I have seen so know it is not worth my time getting my headset out of my bag. So I rested as best as I could, feeling the effects of the time I had to get up.

Alexis - Mexico City 2008: Pre-departure

Pre-departure: 25APR08

It is 5:00 a.m., and as I feared, my taxi has not arrived. I wait ten minutes and then reluctantly call my colleague, who sounds surprisingly alert. He says he will call the taxi-company and call me back. I wait, wondering again whether I should just take one of the (few) cabs passing in the street; and telling myself this is what I pay for being an "English only" speaker.

As I stand outside the driver of a car from the other side of the road signals to me and I presume this is my ride. He makes the block and comes back. I put my bags in the car and go back into the flat for my next bag. The telephone rings and it is my colleague telling me that the car should be there anytime. I tell him there is one here already. He gives me the number of the car and I am left wondering and whether I got into the wrong car. I say my goodbyes and thank yous, close the doors and starts scrutinising the car more closely.

The driver senses my doubts and makes the signal of having received a phone call. I get in the car and we are off, but he looks for and gives me a company card. A bit later, he picks up the clipboard and reads off my name. It is only in hindsight that I realised how perceptive he was and how much he tried to reassure me. The thing is I was just happy to be getting to the airport.

As I was only five minutes away from the airport I had elected to leave at 5:00 a.m., knowing, however, that if anything went wrong, I could be left rushing.

When I get to the counters there are not many people so check-in was quick. I proceed to my gate (A35) and find that it is right next to a restaurant so I have breakfast. Boarding starts while I eat.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Salt Lake City Apr.: Departing Salt Lake City, Utah (SLC)

23APR08 Salt Lake City International Airport Salt Lake City, UT (SLC)

After a short drive in a light rain, we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. I returned the car and was charged the fuel surcharge of 10.50 USD if you return the car having traveled under 75 miles and do not have a receipt for gas. We had actually driven only 38 miles and the needle had not even moved at all.

We entered the airport terminal and all used the four kiosk to re-print our boarding passes and then made it to the security area. One of my colleagues pointed out that the TSA has a posted with different categories; Expert Traveler, Standard Traveler and Family Traveler. They used the ski resort icons plus pictures of skiers skiing and sitting in a ski lift to denote the categories.

There were no issues clearing security except that I asked one of the guys what happens if I don’t want to take off my shoes. He said then I can’t fly! Really?, I said and then he said that if there is a medical reason why I don’t want to take off my shoes then they have additional screening procedures for that.

We were famished, so a stop in Burger King for a salad was warranted. While there I talked with some guys in the line who were going on a Rugby trip to Indianapolis via Chicago O’Hare on American Airlines (AA). They were all dressed in khaki pants and a black polo shirt. I commented to my colleague what a difference this was to the guys I had seen in Houston Intercontinental last Sunday. It is pretty obvious that this coach is teaching these young men some sense of public decency. Thank you for that.

After eating my fries, we went to the gate with my salad in tow. I’ll have it on the flight as this flight is only a beverage service flight :-(.

Once at the gate, I checked if boarding had commenced as it was 2:15p and it had not. I did notice that a wheelchair bound passenger had boarded just as we were arriving.

In a few minutes, the agent commenced boarding by row numbers so we all boarded accordingly.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lee: PVG-ATL on Delta 18

22APR2008: Shanghai, People's Republic of China to Atlanta on Delta flight 18 in Coach

After getting checked in, I got a lounge pass to the contracted departure lounge in Shanghai. Delta offers all Skyteam Elite Plus and Business customers a lounge pass and as a Delta Platinum, I am also a Skyteam Elite Plus.

I clear customs and immigration without issues even with the 1 day stay and head to the lounge. The lounge was overcrowded and unimpressive so I decided to tour the airport. I still had these damn souvenirs to get. I ended up finding a great deal in the duty free shop for Cigarettes for my step-mom and a liquor for me. Both cost 37.00 US but it would have been almost 90.00 to purchase them here locally. After an hour and no luck with the gifts, I found a sore irony - the single largest supplier of these damn tourist trap gifts (shot glasses, etc) does not have 1 store that I found to actually sell them to the same Americans they make them for!?!

Depressed, I decided to head towards the gate as I knew we would be boarding soon. I passed the flight crew as they were heading to the gate to board and the ones that knew I was on the return trip were asking me how the layover was and the ones (like pilots) that didn't know I was on the return flight had this puzzled, deja vu look on their faces as I had been in the cockpit before departure in Atlanta 2 days earlier. Boarding was uneventful and I was happy to find that Bonnie, the coach lead FA I had gotten to know earlier on the first flight, was working my section on the return. I did have to defend my row one time to someone trying to change seats but there was no issues after that. I was fortunate enough to try both meals offered at dinner - the beef and pasta - as they had extra provisions after everyone was served. I watched several movies and ended up falling asleep after the sun had set. Our flight plan was an extremely southern route: we went out over Japan, started crossing the Pacific around Tokyo, and entered US airspace at basically the Oregon / California border. The winds must have helped the flight out. Even though we had less pax on board and had winds in our favor, we were heavier at 651,000lbs and 33,000 gallons of fuel - a fact contributed to the outrageous amount of cargo stuffed in our belly. This has been one of the top cargo performers for DL since starting.

I wake up once with some good turbulence that my seat belt has to restrain me - I quickly go back to sleep getting rocked to dream land. After some much needed sleep, I wake up to find I slept through the breakfast service and the FAs were preparing to clear the trays from the others that had eaten. Bonnie, not missing a beat, saw that I had woken up and she asked me if I was ready for breakfast. I told her yes and she quickly came back with not only the tray of food, but also a split of sparkling wine and 2 extra OJs so I could have a morning mimosa. She kept me well liquored up the entire flight, which I found as a nice gesture! I forced myself to stay awake as I could not throw my sleep schedule off anymore because I had a full week's worth of work starting early on Monday. I hung out in the galley some more to keep from falling back asleep.

After a very long 15 hours, we touched down on 27L and taxied to E concourse gate 17. Our flight would continue to TLV later that night as E17 is the only gate in ATL that has the supplemental security screening required for the TLV flight. I got home and quickly went to bed at normal time and was ready for work without incident.

I had a great time on my crazy weekend trip and I am already planning my next destination!

Salt Lake City Apr.: Arriving in Salt Lake City, Utah (SLC)

22 APR08 Salt Lake City International, Salt Lake City UT (SLC)

The runway on which we touched down was very close to our gate, so it took just about a minute for us to make it to our gate at 2:11p. I waited my turn and deplaned. It felt good outside in this 55F weather; much warmer than I had expected.

We made our way to the car rental, got our car and departed the airport.

Salt Lake City Apr.: Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Salt Lake City International, Salt Lake City UT (SLC)

CO2071 22APR08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Salt Lake City International, Salt Lake City UT (SLC) 11:50a 2:09p XRJ N??102

Flight Time: 3:00
Seat Map

I greeted the flight attendant as I boarded and she said hello back. I made my way down the narrow aisle of this 1-2 configured leather seat airplane which is just about 6’ 2” in height. At 6’ 1” I had to actually lower my head as I walk through.

I found my seat and settled in as the boarding process continued. I was taking some notes and folded down my chair table to do so. Noticing it was messy, I went to the lav to find a napkin to clean it. As I did so, the Captain came on the PA, welcomed us onboard and said that our time from takeoff to touchdown today would be 3:00. That is a long time to be in an ExpressJet I thought.

Once back at my seat having completed my cleaning job, I noticed a lady and her two children getting settled. The lone flight attendant came over and said that they would have to move to row 7 as the row they were in did not have an extra oxygen mask. They complied and she helped them to do so.

A few minutes later another family of three entered the plane and sat in that open row. Here we go again, I thought. Well, not quite as the parent moved to a seat further back. Another family of three boarded; wow, lots of kids on this flight today.

My phone rang with the identity of an unknown number from the New York area. It was a friend of mine whom I had not heard from in ages. It was great to catch up with him in that short space of time.

It was way past our 11:50a departure time now and a few passengers boarded. Apparently they had been booked on the later flight and had stood by for this one and made it. One of them sat next to me at the aisle seat.

The flight attendant made an announcement to fasten seat belts and prepare for departure. She then came through and checked seat belts, then closing the door at 12:02p. She then played the safety demo instructions over the PA and did the demonstration as instructed by the female voice.

We pushed back at 12:05 and started our taxi at 12:08p with only one engine running. The other one started as the taxi continued. As we went past Terminal A, only an American Airlines (AA) MD-80 and a United Express CRJ-700 were at the gates.

As we inched nearer to runways 33R and L, I saw a Northwest CRJ-900 land and heading to the other side of Terminal A. Almost at that moment, the Captain told the flight attendant to take her seat for departure; she was already sitting.

Using runway 33R-15L, we took to the skies at 12:14p.

It was a hazy morning as we gained altitude and made a wide right turn and headed out. We had a little rough ride as we cleared the thick clouds over the airport and surrounding area.

I heard the 10,000’ ding and then the flight attendant gave her welcome aboard speech, advising about SkyMall, electronic equipment, joining the frequent flyer program. She also said that beer, wine or mixed drinks were 5.00 USD. There is no entertainment in this aircraft, so no mention was made of that.

Shortly after, a choice of a turkey or a ham sandwich was offered. They both came with a bag of potato chips mayo and a Milky Way bar. I chose the turkey sandwich which came with lettuce. I waited to eat my meal until the beverages followed a few minutes later.

It was 12:44p when the Captain announced that we were at our cruising altitude of 36,000’ with 2:30 minutes to go. He said the ride was smooth so he turned off the seat belt signs.

Offers for drinks came at 12:45p; I opted for Ginger Ale and water.

Thrash collection came at around 1:07p. I was quite tired so I went to sleep.

I awoke as we were descending into the Slat Lake City area. It was a beautiful day and it was great to see the mountains.

The Captain came on and said that the descent was going to be a little rough. It was not too bad though. We landed without issues and taxied in.

Salt Lake City Apr.: Leaving Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

I left the Presidents Club about 11:20a and headed for the gate. The boarding process had not started as yet, so I just waited. I looked around for my other colleagues and saw two of them close to the gate. I went over and said hello and sat with them. The fourth person in our party then came over and joined us.

We chatted as we waited, getting into a conversation about luggage. It was soon time for boarding. I noticed a lady with a kid strapped to her chest and one in a double stroller. I commented to my colleagues that there should be a law that a single mother cannot travel alone with two kids as it is so hard on them. She boarded first as she needed to do so. She was quite organized and quite efficient as she made her way down the jetway with the two kids.

I then boarded with two of my colleagues

New computer?

Well, as you know, I dropped this one back in October last year and have not fixed it as yet. It is getting pretty bad as the housing is now completely gone off the right hinge.

I'm actually considering getting that new NP 2133 Mini Note:
There is a British guy talking about it here at, but he does not really say much.

Its competition is the Asus Eee PC at


Salt Lake City Apr.: Arriving Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

I made my way into the terminal and cleared security with ease. A guy had walked away from his bag without realizing it, so I asked whose it was and he held up his hand from behind security and I just pushed it through for him.

I headed for the train to Terminal B as I was at B68. I had not realized that they had built out parts of the gate 84 area so much to accommodate for the CRJs operated by Chautauqua Airlines dba Continental Express.

Once in Terminal B, I made my way to the Presidents Club where I had breakfast and logged into work.

Salt Lake City Apr.: Off to the airport

It was 7:52a when I awoke. This was about 35 minutes later than I had planned. I got ready and headed out so I could catch the 8:30a bus. I arrived at the bus stop at 8:32a, luckily the bus was late in arriving. About two minutes later, it arrived.

At 8:50a, we pulled into the connecting stop downtown, right on time. I could see a TSA employee at the stop, which meant the bus had not yet arrived [I later found out he was a bus driver :-)]. After a short wait, the next bus to show was the 102 to the airport.

It was an uneventful ride and I managed to stay productive. There was a lady on the bus that talked the entire ride quite loudly. Just useless junk. She even continued talking after we arrived at 9:54a. She then went to the smoking area and had a cigarette still with the phone glued to her ear. This is why cell phones should be banned on airplanes...

Salt Lake City Apr.: Duty calls

I have to take a trip to Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) for work so off I go.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lee - The long awaited follow up post - PVG

21APR2008 - In Shanghai, People's Republic of China

by: Lee

Well after enough "encouragement" (as Kerwin would call it) and "harassment" (as I might refer to it...), I finally have set aside some time to add to the blog. :-)

Once I arrived to PVG, we were held up by paperwork for about 10 minutes before they would allow us to deplane. Tim, the Lead FA, was waiting for approval from the station manager and it took forever for them to check off that everything was good. Once we deplaned, I was happy to see all signs in the airport had English on them as well. This would make for an easy trip. I went through immigration without problems or delays as I was one of the first off being in the business cabin. I saw an ATM after immigration but it was out of order - no big deal I thought. I went down to the baggage claim and the priority tagged items were already coming off of the belt because of the delay in deplaning. I looked for a DL employee but none were to be found. I did not have any checked baggage but wanted to find out if they had an arrival lounge or facility as I desperately needed a shower after 16 hours on the plane and the 430am alarm time out of DCA to get to my connecting flight. After spending about 5 minutes, I decided to leave and officially enter China. I also passed a full service currency exchange stand set up inside of the baggage claim area before customs. I never use these stands as they tend to have horrible exchange rates - a decision I would end up regretting shortly.

Once I cleared customs, I immediately looked for 2 things: 1 - an ATM and 2 - the DL check in counter to follow up on the arrivals question. On the bottom floor of the airport, the exchange facility was closed and the ATM was out of order. I then went to the 3rd floor where check in was and found a DL employee at the ticketing line in the check in area. I knew to look for the employee wearing the full DL uniform with a DL name badge verses the contract employees used in this station. I explained to the station manager I had just arrived on DL 19 in J and would like to find out if they have an arrival facility. To my amazement, the only lounge they had was for departures only and they had no other agreements for arrival facilities. If I had paid upwards of 10,000 US for a J ticket on a 16 hour flight, I would have been very upset at the lack of a simple arrivals facility to shower in.

Now that half of my list was completed, I started looking for an ATM. It seems that every ATM was out of order in the airport. I finally after 20 minutes of searching went to a full service window and after another 10 minute wait found they only exchange cash. They directed to the last assessable ATM before security and thankfully this one was working. I pulled out 700 Yuan ($100 US) for my 26 hour layover.

My next stop was the Mag-lev train; the only commercially operated mag-lev train in the world. The train would top out at 300 KM/Hr on the journey and cut the 45 minute drive to under 20 minute total commute towards the city. The mag-lev train has an attached metro line 2 stop and it just so happened that my hotel was 1 stop away at the end of the line 2. This made for an extremely easy transfer to the hotel.

Buying a ticket on the metro was another story - Chinese people all cutting lines and mobbing the automated machines. An American on the mag-lev train warned me of this - and now I see why. Once I finally fought my way to the front of the line, I was very happy to see that English was also an option for the machine. I quickly found my station and found that a one way ticket was only 3 Yuan (about $.50 US).

I get to my hotel, the Parkyard, which is part of the Preferred Hotel Group. They have an arrangement with my domestic hotel points program (Choice Hotels) that allowed me to get a free 4 star hotel for only 30,000 points. I check into this very nice upscale hotel without issues and immediately hit the shower. I also find free Internet access which allows me to check my email and plan some of the trip.

I get ready to hit the town at about 5pm local time. I have a travel book which is usually in the "top 10" group or foders group - it is now a tradition for me to buy one for each international trip and they end up on my bookcase afterwards. I want to go to get a picture of the Tower that is famous part of the Shanghai skyline. I finally make my way to the main shopping district that has a pedestrian only walk way - (nang street, I think). I start looking around and find out I am an immediate target for the street vendors selling "real" Rolex's and other items... and they do not understand I don't want anything to do with them. After about the 30th time, I start messing with them back by speaking Spanish to try to throw them off. This works for a while but they are still persistent. I finally figured that a very loud, rude "NO!" would get them to stop quickly - too bad this had to happen for what seemed like 100's of times.

It started raining during the first part of the shopping walk and only got worse when I finally made it to the shoreline for the memory photo. I then took an underwater tram over to the other side to find out how long the line was to go up the tower. I got over there and found a mall - I decided to look for a traditional souvenir gift shop that would have those little stupid things Americans love: shot glasses, spoons, etc. as I promised several people I would get them something and I couldn't find anything on the main shopping drag. The mall was huge - 10+ stories of shops and I went through them all and had no luck finding even 1 shot glass. I was quite disappointed and by this time getting a little tired. I headed out to find the metro station. On my way it started raining even harder and I hit my first construction road block trying to find the station. I finally detoured around on foot but had no luck finding the nearest station. It took me over an hour of walking in the driving rain to finally get to the metro station. I felt like I was starting to get sick and if I had known how to tell the cab driver where to take me I would have just given up and taken a cab but I had no clue where the hotel was on a street map.

I finally get back to the hotel and change out of my now soaking wet clothes. I change and hit the bed around 930pm local. I sleep until 6am local and get up and am one of the first in the breakfast buffet line that is included in the free room. I wanted to get up early as I still had a lot to see before having to leave for the airport at noon local. I get on the train and head towards the tower again - this time I am going to the top. On the train, I realised the US and Europe politeness in subways is non existent in China. But being the tallest person in the country does have some advantages - I had to run over some people to get off the train at the correct stop as everyone immediately tries to jump on the train when the doors open, even before those trying to get off have the chance. 6'4" gives you the advantage of mass. :-)

I go up the tower and see some great sites and take some great pics around the city. These pics are currently listed on my myspace page at - if you are interested, send me a friend request and I will gladly add you - just mention the blog so I know you are not spam :-). Once getting to the top of the tower, I quickly realised my hour ordeal in the drenching rain was a waste - had I gone left instead of right out of the mall, I would have found a metro station in less than 100 meters. I was not happy as I still did not feel 100%.

Still wanting to find some traditional gifts, I decide to head down to the other major shopping district off of line 1. I get off and walk another 40 minutes and passed 100's of shops. There were no shops with these traditional gifts anywhere to be found. Very discouraged, I decided to head back to the hotel to get ready to leave for the airport. In the morning, there were 5 seats available for upgrades with miles on my flight and I wanted to see if I could swindle my way back into J again knowing it was a long shot at best.

I checked out and headed to the mag-lev train. I had extra Yuan and decided to spring for first class as it was not much more expensive. I found the only difference was 2x2 seating and more leg room. There were only 8 people in the coach and we did have a great view out the front but it was kinda a waste of money - oh well. I get to the check in counter and the lines were horribly long, even for J check in. After waiting in the ticket line for 30 minutes with only the person at the counter in front of me, I decided to check on my phone to see if I could get to as they have a mobile site as well. It worked and I logged in and found the upgrade fare class now showing zero seats so I knew I had no chance of getting up front. I went back into the J line to check in and that took another 45 minutes. I asked at check in if I could get a row of 3 seats to myself and the agent offered row 50 seat D and she would block E and F which I jumped on. Even though I would have liked to be closer to the front or the window, the idea of being able to lay down to sleep on the long ride back was much more appealing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Introduction - Lee

I have also been invited to add to the blog by Kerwin. My name is Lee and believe it or not, I do not work in the travel industry. I am a frequent flyer who loves the industry and is a huge plane buff.

I work in the restaurant business and fly about 100,000 revenue miles a year on SkyTeam and Delta Air Lines (DL). I ended up meeting Kerwin in, of all places, Singapore (SIN) for the first flight for the Airbus A380-800. I won one of the eBay auctions and redeemed Delta mileage for a Singapore Airlines (SQ) first class ticket to take my flight.

So enough with introductions, on to my first blog: Cedar Rapids, IA (CID) to Atlanta via Cincinnati and JFK on April 16, 2008.

London Apr. 18: Arriving in Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

20APR08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

Our touchdown was smooth on the runway that is the farthest from Terminal E. I am still amazed at the fact that these airplanes fly many hours over long distances, land like nothing happened and turn around and fly back...

Across the way at Terminal D, I could see an Air France (AF) Boeing 777-200 (777) pushing back and a British Airways (BA) Boeing 777 at the gate.

The Lufthansa German Airlines (LH) Boeing 747-400 (744) and KLM’s Boeing 747-400 Combi had already left for Europe it seems.

We taxied across the other parallel runway and then headed for Terminal E passing the almost bare Terminal D. I looked behind me and saw a Delta Connection CRJ-700 as well as a Northwest Airlink ERJ-175 taxiing in having just landed.

We ended up blocking in at 4:10p after which I deplaned and headed for the Immigration Hall. Oh, once the doors were opened there was a Concierge that advised of the baggage carousel being used.

At immigration, we were the first flight to arrive in this wave although we were thirty five minutes late. The Immigration Officer wanted to know why I went to London for a day and I advised that I wanted some R&R and he asked what was that. So I told him. Eventually, he stamped me through, then I cleared Customs.

I was heading to the local bus and saw a group of boys in shorts, t-shirts, slippers and socks, etc. I was reminded that there was some basketball thing in Houston this weekend so they were returning home. Actually, my nephew was in the same tournament and had returned home yesterday. I think they drove.

The coaches might have taken a little extra time to just have the boys put on some proper travel clothes. Come on coaches, the game of basketball is not just about playing the game. It is also about the development of these young men. You have influence on these young men, please use it to advise them on how to dress when taking public transportation.

As I travel often I see how sports teams dress when they travel, and the ones in Europe do not dress like the boys I saw at the airport today. Sadly, it was not only one team, but several teams were dressed like they all just woke up and came straight to the airport today.

O.K. I’m off my soapbox now.