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.

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· Music

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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.