Friday, February 01, 2008

London Feb. 1: Arriving in San Antonio, TX (SAT)

01FEB08 San Antonio International, San Antonio, TX (SAT)

We touched down at 10:20p which was our scheduled arrival time and after much breaking slowed down and headed for the gate. It was useless to get up, so I sat until it was time to do so. I bade a good trip to my seatmate and followed him out the door.

I then turned left and headed for the Baggage Claim area and outside. I called my friend and he said h was just turning into the airport. There was an officer keeping traffic moving as there were a few people just stopping and waiting. A FedEx MD-11 took off into the night skies while I waited. My ride showed up soon after and I got in. On our way out of the airport, I saw a Delta Air Lines (DL) Boeing 757-200 with winglets and in new colors at one of the hangars. The hangar in San Antonio does a lot of work; I’ve seen all kinds of planes there in the past. There was even an ex-Northwest DC-10 there still painted in the Northwest colors.

London Feb. 1: CO1459 Houston, TX to San Antonio, TX

CO1459 01FEB08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to San Antonio International, San Antonio, TX (SAT) 9:15p 10:20p 739 N??407

Flying Time: 0:40

I boarded this Boeing 737-900 with its eighteen 2-2 configured leather seats and 149 3-3 configured Economy seats. I had a middle seat, but I was happy as I had not made the earlier flight. The boarding process was quick and we pushed from the gate ontime I think.

I got to talking to the guy next to me for quite a bit and we had interesting conversations. By now we were at the runway and time for takeoff.

After takeoff, the flight attendants came through with water and juices; on their second pass, I opted for water as did the guy next to me; the lady on my right opted for orange juice. During the flight, I was looking at the map in the Continental magazine trying to plan my routing for getting to Europe the next day. I looked at taking SAS (SK) to Copenhagen, Denmark (CPH) or Swiss (LX) to Geneva, Switzerland (GVA) as choices. No decision as yet.

The Captain came on the PA and said we were cruising at about 24,000’ and would start our descent in about five minutes.

London, England Feb 1: Arriving at Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

01FEB08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

After what seemed much longer than an hour, during which I dozed off a few times as I was still tired from the Tel Aviv trip, I arrived at the airport at 7:12p, two minutes behind schedule. I cleared security after a little delay and then headed to gate C-23 for the 7:25p flight to San Antonio, TX (SAT). There were several passengers standing around so that meant they had not yet cleared standbys. I waited…

They were only able to clear one standby and the only reason why they were waiting was that one of the connecting flight had arrived in Terminal E which was a ways away. I did hear one customer complaining that it was ridiculous that the connecting flight was so far away from this flight. I am not sure what could have been done in that case though since customers connect to different flights. I assumed that his inbound flight was delayed; I think I heard him say he was coming from the New York area which was having bad weather.

The agent soon announced that the flight was full and that the next one would be at 9:15p; bummer, I was bumped.

After waiting to ensure that the flight had departed, I went to the Presidents Club closest to gate 44, our departure gate. There was also another flight from E10 at 10:55p, but I was hoping I would have to wait for that one. Luckily this was not the case.

I had a snack in the Presidents Club, checked e-mail and worked etc., until about 8:45p when I left for the gate. At the gate, I did get a seat, albeit a middle seat over the wing. I was extremely thankful though.

London, England Feb. 1: Houston TX

01FEB08 Houston, TX

After figuring it all out, I decided to take a short tip to see a friend in San Antonio, TX (SAT) and then head to London in the morning. The exact routing was not yet planned, but I had some ideas.

I darted out of the house at 5:15p, much too late to catch the 5:29p 102 bus to the airport from downtown. I figured I’d just catch the next one and play it all by ear and let it unfold. In a few minutes a bus showed up that was actually two minutes late. On my way downtown, I called Metro and found out that there was a bus at 6:02p arriving at the airport at 7:10p. the one before was at 5:49p, but it did not go all the way to the airport sadly; not sure why it has the same route number though, but Houston Metro is odd like that.

That bus showed up at about 5:52p or so and I confirmed wit the driver that he was not going to the airport and he said, “correct.” I continued my pone conversation with two of my friends as I waited. A guy came up and lit a cigarette and just spat right there on the pavement; gross!!! So much for being at least 25’ away from the building when smoking. Oddly enough he was not waiting for a bus at all…I think he was a homeless guy.

At 6:10p, the bus arrived and I was on my way to the airport.

Tel Aviv: Arriving in Houston-Intercontinental

Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

I checked the bus schedule as we taxied to the gate and there would be one at about 12:30p, it was now 12:15p and I thought, well, maybe I can make that one. The next one was at 1:15p. I got off the plane and headed for Baggage Claim. I did see the bus, but it looked like it was heading to the other stop and would come back to the airport in a bit.

Once I got to Baggage Claim, it was at the bus stop; I had no way to tell whether it was heading southbound or northbound. I still had to wait for my bag at carousel 6 as none of the bags had arrived as yet. At 12:35a, I got my bag, but it was too late as the bus had already left and apparently the one I saw was heading downtown (southbound). This means I would have to wait for the next one at 1:15p.

I took my stuff and headed for the bus stop. I sat down and worked until more people arrived and finally the bus. At about 1:16p, we left the airport and headed for downtown.

Tel Aviv Israel: Newark Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) to Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

C01011 1FEB08 Newark Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) to Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 8:50a 12:10p 733 N??327

Flight Time: 3:57

The line was a little backed up as I waited to boarded this Boeing 737-300 that had no entertainment system. I said hello to the flight attendants in the galley and continued past the 12 leather First class seats in a 2-2- configuration and onto the 112 cloth seats in a 3-3- configuration.

There were no issues making it to my aisle seat, where I settled in nicely and waited for departure. I was really tired, so I actually fell asleep before we pushed back. I was briefly awake for the manual safety demo and the entire pushback. I only wake as we taxied and the Captain said we were like #12 and that means we had to wait about twenty minutes until it was our turn. The good thing he said though is that he expected us to still arrive ontime in Houston.

I have no idea when we took off, but we did. I awoke to be served breakfast and asked what I wanted to drink. Breakfast came in the form of Corn Flakes with 2% milk and raisins. Odd, that there was no banana, but I guess it must be the departure time that determines whether you get a banana or not. This was good breakfast and I ate heartily as soon as the milk was able to soften the flakes and the raisins.

The lady next to me started to talk a bit and so I listened. She said that my leg was against hers while I slept and that she was actually warm, until I realized that our knees were touching and I moved away. That was interesting to hear as I was fast asleep and had no idea what was happening. She was pleased that I could sleep on a plane.

She had started in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada (YHZ) at about 6:00a. I told her that we flew pretty close to Halifax and then made a left turn towards Newark. She was in Halifax for business all week and it was really cold as she was from Houston. She was a really pleasant lady and told me that her kid was cute when we got around to talking about that. Unfortunately, the kid was a sickly child having born pre-mature and had a hole in her heart and also had asthma. If it was any consolation, I told her my sister was born with asthma and was fine now. It was interesting to listen to her story. We had a really great conversation and then it fizzled as we had explored all facets.

I went back to reading my magazine as her to listening to her Ipod Nano. Soon, it was time for landing and we came in for a smooth landing without any incident.

Tel Aviv Israel: Arriving in Newark Liberty International

01FEB08 Newark Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR)

We finally landed at about 6:25a and taxied to Terminal B. We were the only airplane there which was a good thing as it meant that we would clear Immigration quickly. Not that it mattered as we needed to collect our bags anyways unless were heading to another international destination, say Mexico.

I sat and relaxed as I was way in the back of the plane and I knew I had to wait on my luggage. When it was my turn I headed out, taking a look at the Business Class area as I did so.

The line to the Immigration was not too bad, but it was shorter than that to the visitors’ line. I had a short wait, said hello to the agent and got my stamp and went downstairs for my bag. I was really nonchalant as I knew I’d have to wait for some time anyways.

I went downstairs and the bags were still not out; it was now 6:45a. I now knew that there was no way I could make my 7:30a flight from Terminal C to Houston. I was having second thoughts as to whether I could have taken my bag on the plane in Tel Aviv although I had liquids above the 100ml mark and I think I could as I did not have to take out my liquids in Tel Aviv. This was all a moot point now anyways.

There were several people on their cell phones that had ignored the signs that said “No Cell Phones.” This prompted the agent to make an announcement. The announcement made no difference, so the guy started shouting at people and that seemed to curtail the practice. I guess they were bored waiting.

At 7:10a, my bag appeared and I approached the Customs agent. I showed him my documents, he said hello and told me to go ahead. I then followed the signs to the AirTrain and took it to Terminal C. The next flight to Houston was at 8:50a, it was now 7:20a.

At the check-in area, I swiped my card and was told that check-in was restricted to the gate so I have to seen agent for my flight. I did, but she was a bit unclear when I told her to put me on standby for the 8:50a. She tried for a bit and then left to talk to another agent. I then saw her talk to the Red Coat and then she returned to me. She then buried her head into her computer and picked up the phone to ask for help. After a few moments, she gave me a boarding pass, then I told her I do have a bag, so she added that to the transaction and tagged it to my final destination, Houston, TX (IAH). I also saw that she added a “Standby” tag to it.

I went upstairs and cleared security easily and made my way to the Presidents Club. Once there I showed my documents and then made my way to the Business Center area, which was not too crowded. All the couches were taken, so just as well.

I had a breakfast of a toasted bagel regular cream cheese, a banana as well as two poppy seed muffins and some water. I then went back to my seat and logged in using the complimentary wireless access and got caught up a bit. It was soon time to head to gate so I did.

Once there, I asked the agent if she had cleared the standbys and she indicated “no.” I waited and at about 8:45a, my name was called for an aisle seat; good deal, I thought. I told her I had a bag and she said it would be loaded, not to worry. I then showed my boarding card and boarded the flight.

Tel Aviv, Israel: Tel Aviv to Newark

LY27 1FEB08 Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV) to Newark-Liberty International, Newark, NJ (EWR) 12:10a 5:25a 772 4X-ECC

Flight Time: 12:05

I boarded at about 11:40a and stopped just short of the airplane as I finished up an Internet transaction. At the door, I was greeted by the flight attendant who ushered me to the first aisle of this twin aisle Boeing 777-200. I walked by the Business class area with its 2-3-2 configuration then to the first cabin in Economy with its 3-3-3 blue cloth seat configuration. There were individual monitors in each seat as well as overhead monitors at each bulkhead and around the airplane hanging from the ceiling.

I made my way to the second cabin and found my seat. There was a lady sitting in my aisle seat and I looked at my boarding pass again and she moved over to the window. She exchanged some talk in Hebrew with the lady in the row in front of this one as she did so. I settled in, looking through the Atmosphere in-flight magazine as well as the Duty Free catalog. I noticed that the Atmosphere said that this aircraft was equipped with Video On Demand (VOD). This was indeed good news. I felt below my seat and found a electric outlet and across the middle seat and found another outlet. This was indeed more good news as I was running low on power and fast.

I made a trip to the lavatory and when I got back, the lady at the window was in the process of moving to the row in front of me to sit with her friend. I think she was hoping to get this row free, but alas, that would not be the case tonight.

At 12:03a, the Captain came on the PA and announced in Hebrew and English a welcome on board and said that the safety video would start in a bit. It did on all the individual screens as well as the individual screens in each seat. The sound was low, but I think it was in Hebrew. On screen, there was text in Hebrew and English to the cartoon programming.

The departure time came and went and we finally pushed back at 12:13a, just 3 minutes behind schedule. On my left, I could see an El Al Boeing 757-200 in old colors at the gate and an El Al Boeing 767-200 in the new livery at the gate next to that one.

As we commenced our taxi the Captain came on the PA first in Hebrew and then in a clear and concise English explained that we were delayed leaving the gate as the tow truck was broken and they had to get a replacement. He continued saying that we would take runway 26 tonight and that our flight is unusually long this morning at 12:05 (I assumed it was due to winds); this was longer than our scheduled time he continued. He also said that when we arrived the weather would be fair, but would become heavy rain as the day progressed.

The taxi out to runway 26 was a long one and it looked like we taxied the full length of the runway before turning left onto it and starting our take off roll at 1:38a. The takeoff was quick and we were airborne in no time. I could clearly see the terminal below and only a few planes were at the gate. Delta bound for New York-JFK and Continental, bound for Newark had left just before this flight. There was also a Boeing 747-400 at the gate that was scheduled for a 1:00a departure to New York’s JFK airport. I could also see a Boeing 767-300 at the gate as well; it was bound for London-Stanstead; this is a once weekly flight. I was actually thinking of taking that route home. but changed my mind.

After takeoff, there was a voice on the PA explaining the service in Hebrew and English. First there would be drinks followed by the dinner service weather permitting. About three hours before landing, we would receive a second service.

I was waiting for the VOD to get activated, but that did not occur. I tried switching channels, but nothing as yet. I got distracted and noticed another passenger watching a channel with a movie on it. I changed my channels and realized that the channels were activated, but to my dismay the VOD was not. The movies for this flight were:
  • Martian Child
  • Michael Clayton
  • King of California
  • Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
  • In the Valley of Elah
  • TV Series and Short (Joey was one of the choices)
  • Gone Baby Gone
  • King Arthur
  • Light Entertainment
  • Israeli Video Clips

The English movies all had Hebrew subtitles and the alternate audio channel was dubbed in French also with Hebrew subtitles, even the Hebrew programming had Hebrew subtitles. There were also ten audio channels.

At 1:10a, I was served a snack (mini cereal crackers) and beverages, I greeted the flight attendant with “Shalom” and she responded “Shalom” as well as some other words in Hebrew, which I think meant “What do you want to drink?” I answered some water and wine. She handed me the snack and I was looking at it and she said, “you trying to learn Hebrew, and indicated that I had the packet upside down” with a smile. I cracked up as well. This has happened to me all trip; every time I try to read Hebrew, I initially turn it upside down sadly.

The meal started to be served at 1:20a with the special meals first.

I saw a flight attendant and asked him how come the VOD system was not on and he advised that is was not working; bummer L. I also asked him about the laptop power and he said he would check; somehow though, I think it was connected to the VOD system so I may be out of luck tonight.

Dinner came at 1:41a and the flight attendant gave me choices in Hebrew, I requested English and she said there was a tuna sandwich or chicken, I chose chicken and was offered a pita as well. The meal consisted of water, a salad, a coffee/tea cup. Cake for desert and chicken with something I could not recognize. It was all very good though and I ate heartily. There was a note in it that said there would be soup available throughout the flight and also a certificate saying that the meal was kosher.

I saw the flight attendant again and he said that the power system was not working either. He did offer to take my computer up to Business Class though and plug it in; a nice gesture I thought. I gave it to him and said about an hour should do it. He came back and said that he had to tell me that leaving it in a seat was at my own risk, I told him that was O.K.

I continued watching “Martian Child” with John Kusack and fell asleep after it was done and restarted on the same channel.

I awoke at 8:15a local time in Tel Aviv (1:15a in New York). We were heading straight for St. John’s New Foundland and were just directly under Greenland at 34,000’. I felt hungry and remembered that there was soup available so I made my way back to the galley. They had corn, broccoli and tomato as well as chocolate cup cakes. I had some corn soup and a cup cake. Later, I had another cup cake as they were really good. I also had some water as well.

At 8:40a, the flight attendant came through with water.

At 9:23a, we started getting a little chop so the seat belts signs went on; we now had 3:57 to go. This lasted for five minutes.

At 3:15a, the lights came on and the breakfast service started first with hot towels. Next the special meals were handed out and then the other meals.

The meal consisted of a roll, an omelet, a bowl of fruit, cheese, a yogurt and some cream. I ate everything except the cream.

After breakfast, I filled out my Customs form as I prepared for arrival. I fell asleep again and had to get up to prepare for landing in Newark where we landed without incident.