Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bristol, England: Arriving in Houston, TX (IAH)

17FEB08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

Customers were quite anxious about their connections, so after welcoming everyone to Houston, the flight attendant asked the ones with quick connections to press their call buttons. A few did and then she said that the rest of us should allow these customers to get off the plane first.

As we got to the gate, everyone complied. An announcement was also made that a few flights were being held.

I finally got off and headed for my bus after a quick stop in the Presidents Club for a snack.

Bristol, England: Newark to Houston

CO711 17FEB08 Newark-Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) to Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 2:25p 5:36p 733 N??334

Flying Time: 3:44

I got to the door and had to wait a bit as there was congestion in the aisle; this is kind of odd as no one had boarded for the last 10 minutes, oh well. I stuffed my jacket in an small open space in the overhead and took my backpack and stuffed that under the seat in front of me. I had to step over a passenger’s bag that she had placed under seat. Luckily the flight attendant found room for it before we departed.

As I sat down, I looked to my left and saw a Bombardier Q400 in Continental Connection colors; this is one of the new flights operated by Colgan Air.

I had seen one landing earlier while I waited to board the flight.

There was one guy staking out an aisle seat instead of his assigned middle one, but I hate to tell him that that seat would be full soon as the standby list was at least 30 strong. Eventually the owner of the seat showed up and he moved to his middle seat.

Departure time came and went and we were still at the gate with the seatbelt sign off…

Later the Captain said he was waiting for paperwork hence the delay. We eventually pushed back late and headed for the runway after the manual demo.

As we pushed back, I got a better view of the Q400.

As we waited to takeoff, I saw a Q400 execute a missed approach and then a TAP Air Portugal A310 land. It was now our turn after an ExpressJet ERJ-145.

After takeoff, at 3:40p snack of mini pretzels and beverages. A second drink service came at about 4:15p.

At 4:28p, the Captain came on the PA and said that we were experiencing some choppy air so he would turn on the seatbelt sign.

I fell asleep and awoke on preparation for landing. We landed without incident.

Bristol, England: Arriving in Newark,NJ (EWR)

17FEB08 Newark-Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR)

The aircraft taxied across the active parallel runway. I could see a few FedEx planes as well as an American Airlines (AA) Boeing 757-200 with winglets at the hard stand. As the taxi to Terminal B continued, I realized that there were several other carriers who had already arrived before us from across the Atlantic. There were two Continental jets, Northwest’s Airbus A330 9not sure where that one came from), El Al’s (LY) Boeing 777-200ER, which was the same one I took a few weeks back. Jet Airway’s (9W) Boeing 777-300ER, hopefully I can get on that one to Brussels tomorrow), Air Jamaica’s (JM) A320, two Privatair jets; a Boeing 737-700 and an Airbus A319 being operated for Lufthansa, and a British Airways (BA) Boeing 777 (G-VIIS).

I gathered my stuff and deplaned quickening my steps as I did so. As I walked to the Immigration area, Silverjet’s Boeing 767-300 pulled up and was waiting to be towed into its gate. Apparently, they had moved the visitors over to the U.S. Citizens line so now I was standing behind customers who had really long transactions. I think the airport agent who was supposed to direct traffic was chatting with a colleague and did not pay attention. I searched for the line that had the least people with immigration forms that indicated they would take a long time. By 1:08p, it was my turn after an 8 minute wait; I cleared with no issues and made my way downstairs for customs.

I showed my form and had no issues. As I cleared Customs at 1:13p, I made my way to the right and walked the short distance to Terminal C. This was so much quicker than taking the AirTrain.

I made it through security rather quickly and made the long trek down to gate 137. I made it to the gate at 1:20p, which was good I thought having gone through so many hoops. I checked with the agent at the counter and she advised that she had not yet cleared the list. At 1:35p, everyone had boarded and I was not one of them; the next flight CO711 was at gate 93 at 2:25p. At 1:45p, I headed that way as it was on the other side of the terminal.

I waited around with everyone else thinking I won’t make it as it is a 737-300 so there are only 124 seats. The good thing was that the next flight is a Boeing 767-200 which has a lot more seats at 174. I heard my name called and I got a window seat; how about that I thought. I boarded immediately as it was about 2:15p now.

Bristol, England: Bristol, England to Newark, NJ (EWR)

CO77 17FEB08 Bristol International, Bristol England (BRS) to Newark-Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) 10:25a 1:25p 752 N??108

Flying Time: 7:17

I made my way to the 16 cloth seat BusinessFirst cabin on this 757-200. As I got settled, my seat mate arrived as well. I exchanged my jacket for an amenity kit and a menu and was offered a pre-departure drink. I opted for water and so did my seat mate.

As I waited, the Ryanair Boeing 737-800 pushed back and later took off. Just before that a KLM Fokker F70 landed and taxied to the hard stand on the right of us. This was followed by an easyJet Airbus A319. Soon, the A319 pulled up in the space where the Ryanair jet stood.

At 10:07 the doors and the steps were pulled away. The safety demo started, but had to be stopped as only the sound was working. This meant that the demo had to be done manually, so they did that.

At 10:18a, we pushed back and headed for runway 9. We made a left turn and headed down the runway taking to the air at 10:27a. As we went down the runway, I saw an easyJet A319 at the hardstand near the tower.

I got a good view of the terminal as we barreled down the runway.

There was also another one with stairs attached at the other end of the airport.

As we gained altitude, you could see the airport and its surroundings. It was really nice to see. It just looked very cold as well.

I also saw a hill with a lot of wind generators.

Soon after takeoff, we were given hot towels and then our chair tables were covered with a pink table cloth. The flight attendant had a little trouble getting to me as I was by the window so I opted to help her out. The entertainment system started, but was re-booted again before I had a chance to start watching anything. The system is Audio/Video On Demand and uses a touch screen interface. There is no handset attached, hence, there are no games on the system.

My choices for entertainment are:
  • Movies (21) – Bee Movie, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, Bone Dry, Dan In Real Life, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Follow That Bird, Good Luck Chuck, King of California, Kiss Me Kate (Classic), Love in the Afternoon (Classic), Martian Child, Michael Clayton, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporiums, Paradise, TX, Scenes in The Park, Sydney White, Things We Lost In The Fire, We Own The Night, All the Presidents Men, Madagascar (with Arabic subs), Phantom of the Opera
  • Short programs (16) – Continental Airwaves, CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: Miami, Everybody Hates Chris, Everybody Loves Raymond, House, Inside The Actors Studio, Malcolm In The Middle, Phil Silvers Show, Road Runner Show, Shaun The Sheep, The King of Queens, The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Simpsons, The Story of India
  • Music (50) – including Bruce Springsteen, Barry Manilow, Chris Roth, Dean Martin, Foo Fighters, James Blunt, Kanye West, Queen Latifah and Nat King Cole
  • Flight map – a map showing our current location

At about 10:52a, the Captain came on the PA and gave his welcome aboard as well as reiterating the flight time and the current local temperature which had not changed since his announcement on the ground. He also said something about our route of flight and Shannon, Ireland, but it was difficult to hear him over the cabin noise.

I was given a small bowl of cashew nuts as well as a glass of water and asked what would I like to drink. I had a choice of American or French chardonnay, so I chose the French; it arrived within minutes.

I looked over and saw a passenger watching a portable DVD player; the TV show "Lost" was on.

She brought butter, salt and pepper, a saucer for the bread, more wine and utensils with a cloth napkin wrapped around it. She offered bread (multi grain, wheat, white and garlic), I chose garlic, but she said it was not hot enough and that she would return later with more.

Next came the appetizers (peanut marinated chicken breast skewer with coriander sauce, potato and truffle soup and savory vegetable and mushroom filled pastry).

Then the Mesclun salad mix with orange, pink grapefruit and almonds and my choice of tomato and thyme vinaigrette or sour cream dressing; I chose the vinaigrette.

I then started watching “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” as it seemed interesting.

The main course arrived next, it was halibut with grilled Shrimp served over saffron risotto, with fresh sautéed spinach and tomato ragoût with onion and bell pepper. For some reason I did not like it at all, so I did not eat much of it. It looked really good though.

Cheese and crackers and fruits came next and then an ice cream sundae.

I was full and tired, so I went to sleep just after being given a bottle of water.

I awoke when we had 1:58 to go and after using the lavatory, one of the flight attendant came by with a snack basket containing potato chips, chocolate, cookies and bread sticks. I noticed that the arrival time was set for 12:44p; wow, I thought, I hope we stick to that as my connecting flight is at 1:25p.

At 11:31a, we were given hot towels as a start of the arrival meal service. We had 1:12 to go at this point. The meal was Salmon with horseradish sauce, Fresh seasonal fruit, Chicken Cacciatore Pocket, Minced dark meat chicken, Emmental cheese and tomato sauce with white wine, mushroom and herbs in a pinwheel pastry pocket, with a cherry tomato, gherkin, Kalamata olive and onion garnish plus Chocolate.

The Captain said there were reports of turbulence so keep your seatbelts fastened. He also said that our descent will start in 30 minutes.

With about an hour to go, an arrival video was shown with information on arriving in Newark. It also showed how the documents should be filled out.

After the video, the lead flight attendant advised that he would be handing out documentation for everyone and that there was one correction; we would be arriving in Terminal B (oh no, that has now cut into my connection time severely, this will be a runner).

With about 0:48 to go, the Captain came over the PA and announced that we had 221 miles to go and that there was overcast skies, the temp was 16F and the winds were from the south touchdown at 12:47p local time.

We had this winding traffic pattern that gave us a brilliant view of the Manhattan skyline as well the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows bridge connecting Staten Island with Brooklyn.

We landed on the runway that is parallel to I-95 without any further delay or incident.

Bristol, England: Leaving Bristol, England

17FEB08 Bristol International, Bristol England (BRS)

I arrived at the airport on a very cold morning; there was frost everywhere. I approached the check-in counter and presented my documents to the security agent. As he checked them over, an agent came asked my name and gave me my boarding pass for BusinessFirst class; a window seat to boot. I thanked him profusely (obviously impressed). I then wrapped up the security checks and left the check-in area.

I walked around for a bit picking up some Bristol-related material before heading upstairs for the other security area. I stopped in the restaurant for a bit to see how the view of the planes was from there; it was marginal and obstructed, so I left.

I then cleared security and entered the departure area with its many shops. I did not bother to check for WiFi as there was a sign at the information desk that said there was a charge. I walked around a bit and found a Servisair Lounge, but I did not have the proper credentials for entry so I continued walking around. Outside the windows was the Continental wingleted Boeing 757-200 and a Ryanair Boeing 737-800 with winglets and painted in Boeing colors; a truly nice find. I sat for a bit and watched passengers board it. I did notice that they were using the stairs that came with the plane as opposed to the external ones like the 757 was using.

It was soon time to board, so I did. I walked across a walkway, through some corridors across the tarmac and to the stairs. It was freezing! It was good to get a close up view of the Ryanair 738 though.