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.

Ponce, PR (PSE): Newark-Liberty, Newark NJ (EWR) awaiting the flight

Newark-Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR)

I got to the gate around 11:15p (12AN) and the crew and all the passengers were still waiting by the gate. Reason: there was no Boeing 737-800 at the gate. The airplane had just arrived from another international destination and was at Terminal B. It eventually arrived at the gate at 11:30p and boarding started at 11:40p.

Announcements were made in both English and Spanish and boarding was done by First Class and Elite Status as well as those who need extra time and then row numbers from the last row forward. People whose rows were not called kept crowding the entrance so it was difficult to see what was going on. Despite that, the boarding process was smooth.