Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brussels, Belgium: Arriving in Houston, TX

21FEB08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

We touched down late at about 5:45p. I did see Emirates' Boeing 777-200LR at the gate as we taxied by. It took us forever to get to gate C43 though.

After landing, there was a mad rush for people to get off the plane to make their connections. Even the flight crews for flights were rushing. I deplaned, caught up with my colleague and we departed the Terminal and headed for the bus stop to take us to the parking lot.

Brussels, Belgium: Newark Liberty, NJ to Houston, TX

CO23 21FEB08 Newark Liberty International, Newark, NJ (EWR) to Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 1:45p 4:47p 752 N??127

Flying Time: 3:43

On board, there was major congestion as passengers tried to find places for their bags in the already filled overhead bins. This aircraft has a configuration of 2-2 reclinable cloth seats in the First Class cabin and 3-3 cloth seats in Economy class. The is Audio/Video On Demand (AVOD) in First class and overhead monitors in Economy class. There is also in-seat power up to the second exit row in Economy class. Some of the 757s actually have AVOD in Economy and power in every seat, but I was not lucky that this was one of those airplanes. This flight is actually the continuation of CO23 from Dublin, Ireland (DUB).

I was lucky enough to snag that last space after moving around a small bag and a jacket in the overhead. As I sat and waited for departure, the Captain came on the PA and said he was expecting an ontime departure. At this point, we were about 5 minutes from the scheduled departure time.

A passenger had put his bag under the seat in front of him, but it was too big, so that took a little while to sort out. Luckily there was a Spanish speaking flight attendant around to help out the situation. Our departure time came and left as passengers continued to board and put their stuff away. There were at least three bags brought forward by the crew to be checked.

Eventually at about 2:00p, the door closed and at 2:06p, we pushed back as the safety demo played on the overheads. We had a short enough taxi out to the runway and was airborne at 2:29p. As we taxied out, I could see a Jet Airways (9W), Boeing 777-300ER at the hard stand, a few Continental jets at Terminal B, including a Boeing 777 (I wonder where that one came from since most of the 777s arrive at Terminal C), two Privatair jets (Airbus A319 BJ and a Boeing 737-700 BJ), an Alitalia Boeing 767-300 and Silverjet’s Boeing 767-300. I could not take any pictures as I was not at a window seat.

After takeoff, the lead flight attendant welcomed everyone and announced that the movie for today is ‘Bee Movie” with Jerry Seinfeld. Headsets were 1 USD or you could use your own. I opted not to bother watching this movie as I know I will be flying again soon and won’t have anything to watch. She also said that there would be beverages served on this 3:43 flight to Houston today.

As we got to our cruising altitude, the Captain came on the PA and welcomed everyone onboard and said that we should arrive in Houston at 4p. I think he mean 5p though. He also said that we should try to allow the flight attendants to serve us by keeping out of the aisle unless necessary.

Soon, headsets and a pack of pretzel were passed out and then the movie started. Beverages of choice came next, with alcoholic drinks costing 5 USD. As the flight attendant got to me, she exclaimed that she had recognized me from a previous flight. I recognized her too, so we exchanged pleasantries while she served me and the others around me. After the initial service, the thrash was cleared away, then a second drink service was made.

We had quite a bit of turbulence for a portion of the flight, so the seatbelt sign was on for quite a bit. I ended falling asleep after doing some work. I had plugged in my computer so I could get a charge. This took me about 5 minutes as I wrestled to plug the computer in into the receptacle at the left of my foot. The lady next to me was even helping me.

I awoke to prepare for landing and ended up falling asleep again.

Brussels, Belgium: Arriving in Newark Liberty, Newark, NJ (EWR) again

21FEB08 Newark Liberty International, Newark, NJ (EWR)

We taxied across the runways and made our way to C125 where we had a short delay as the ground crew prepared for our arrival. I deplaned and headed for the Immigration area. There were some passengers ahead of us from Dublin and Shannon Ireland who did not have to clear Immigration as it is done before they leave Ireland. I then followed the signs to the U.S. Citizens lines.

I was disappointed to find that all the Officers were assisting Visitors. This meant that all the U.S. Citizens had to wait a long time to be serviced. After about 10 minutes, it was my turn and I was processed almost immediately and sent on my way. I waited for my colleague just outside the booth.

We both cleared Customs and headed outside. He went for a smoke, I headed to the Presidents Club as I had some work to catch up on and a few e-mails to send. I cleared security after having to throw my unused bottle of water away. I forgot that I had it and the machines showed it up. I asked the TSA agent what was she doing with it and she said that they throw them away. I mentioned that it is quite a shame as the bottle of water is sealed and people are dying of thirst in other countries or dying from contaminated water and we are throwing them away by the bottle. She agreed, but said those are the rules. So I’m on a quest to figure how to stop this waste!

I showed my credentials and advised the agent that I had a guest arriving later, so I gave them his name. I found a seat with ease as the Club was not too crowded at all. I got quite a bit of work done before it was time to leave and him re-joining me.

Soon, it was time to go and we headed to the gate at C120. As I was boarding, I got a phone call that I had to take. Once that was over, I boarded and had to wait in the jetway for a bit.

Brussels, Belgium: Brussels, Belgium (BRU) to Newark Liberty, Newark NJ (EWR)

CO61 21FEB08 Brussels International Airport, Brussels Belgium (BRU) to Newark Liberty International, Newark, NJ (EWR) 9:20a 11:40a 764 N67058

Flying Time: 8:17

As I boarded the plane, I was greeted by a flight attendant who directed me to my seat. I just had to wait a minute or so as there was a flight attendant in the galley doing some checks on the meals for the flight.

I joined my colleague who was already seated at the aisle of this 2-1-2 configured cabin with is 35 cloth seats with a decent recline. economy class has a 2-3-2 configuration of 200 cloth seats.

As I settled in, the flight attendant took my jacket and welcomed me onboard. Another crew member presented me with an amenity kit and a menu for the flight.

Through my window, I could see several airplanes outside:

Austrian Airlines Airbus A320

brussels airlines Boeing 737- 700 with winglets

Lufthansa Regional ATR72

Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER heading to Newark

brussels airlines Airbus A330-200

Finnair Airbus A320

Private jet

As we took off, I could see two Boeing 747 freighters at the cargo area.

After takeoff, we were offered a hot towel, then our tables were made ready for lunch by first placing a pink table cloth. I started to look through the "Private Screenings" magazine to see what was the offerings today. I did not see anything that I wanted to watch, but decided to watch "Scenes in the Park" with Ewan McGregor and a host of British stars on channel 6. Here are my other offerings:

  1. Dan in Real Life/The Office
  2. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead/Cash Cab
  3. Bone Dry/NASCAR Angels
  4. The Drama Channel
  5. Continental Presents HBO: Big Love, Da Ali G Show, Deadwood
  6. Scenes in the Park/Style Star
  7. Love in the Afternoon/Premier Destinations
  8. Continental Presents Independent Films: Paradise Texas
  9. Continental Presents House
  10. Elizabeth: The Golden Age/Tales from the Palaces
  11. Continental Family Channel 2:Second Lions/The Jetsons, Foghorn Leghorn's Fractured Funnies
  12. Martian Child/Global Trends
  13. Sydney White/The Simpsons
  14. Continental Presents CSI
  15. Comedy Programming: The New Adventures of Old Christine, Malcolm in the Middle, Everybody Hates Chris, everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, Shaun the Sheep
  16. The Entertainment Channel
  17. Airshow
  1. Chess
  2. Poker
  3. Solitaire
  4. Invasion
  5. Elephant Memory
  6. Bzzz
  7. Blackjack
  8. Cave Crunch
  9. Caveman
  10. Hangman
  1. Opera
  2. Rewind
  3. Ambient Groove
  4. Latin Fiesta
  5. Continental Lounge
  6. The Classics
  7. The Hit Factory
  8. Jazz Beat
  9. Continental Talk
  10. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  11. Country Roads
  12. Live Broadway
  13. Club Continental
  14. R&B Groove
  15. World Music
  16. Kid's Korner
  17. Hindi Music
  18. Japanese Favorites
  19. Chinese Pop
  20. Shalom
Next we were offered a drink of choice and warm cashew nuts. In BusinessFirst, there is no charge for alcoholic beverages, but there is a charge of 5 USD or 3 EUR in Economy class.

This was followed by an appetizer of a demitasse of potato and truffle soup accompanied by a savory vegetable and mushroom filled pastry and peanut marinated chicken breast skewer with coriander sauce.

Then a Mesclun salad mix with orange, pink grapefruit and almonds with tomato thyme vinaigrette and freshly baked garlic bread and plain roll. I was presented with rolls throughout the meal.

Then the main course of grilled salmon and shrimp with lemon herb sauce, crêpe filled with mushrooms, potatoes au gratin with spinach, apple crêpe, breakfast syrup and warm croissants with butter and strawberry preserves arrived. This was the first time I had tried the brunch menu and it was really good. Other choices were the halibut, steak or a pasta.

Then crackers and cheese plus fruits and choices of after dinner drinks arrived. I did not feel like any cheese and crackers, but had some fruits (grapes, strawberry, pineapple and cantaloupe). No after meal drinks for me.

Finally the sundae plus coffee showed up; I had vanilla ice cream with cherry, strawberry and sliced almonds. A bottle of water was also presented. I fell asleep almost immediately after as I was both tired and full. So much for letting all this food digest properly.

The movie was qhort and quite good so I was able to see it in its entirety. It tells the stories of a number of people who goes to the park on a weekday. The park is Hampstead Heath in North London. I've been to the park, so I was familiar with the surroundings. It is a good movie if you ever get a chance to see it.

About an hour and a half before landing, my colleague tapped me on the shoulder and I awoke to an arrival snack. 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 oliveand onion garnish.

After the snack I brushed my teeth and prepared for our landing. I also filled out my Customs form after making an error on the first one. You'd think that by now I know where each line is on this confunded form.

The view was spectacular as we landed into Newark. One could see the Verrazano Narrows Bridge that joins Staten Island with Brooklyn as well as the Goethals bridge on Staten Island. You could also see Manhattan as well as a hazy Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The skyline is just not the same without the twin towers though.

We landed with a very noisy deceleration, but it was a safe one.

Brussels, Belgium: Leaving Brussels, Belgium

21FEB08 Brussels International Airport, Brussels Belgium (BRU)

The airport shuttle van arrived at the airport at about 7:45a after making two stops at the area hotels. Once at the already busy terminal, we checked the really large Flight Information Display, found our check-in counter, checked in with ease and then headed for the departure area.

Jet Airways had flights to Chennai, India; Delhi, India (DEL); Mumbai, India (BOM); Newark, NJ (EWR); New York-JFK, NY (JFK) and Toronto, ON Canada (YYZ). Impressive I thought, I can’t wait to see the planes at the gates.

We cleared Immigration, then shopped for some chocolate and then cleared the security area. They do have a fast track area, but only for a few select airlines. Once through security, it was time to find a Lounge. The Diamond Club accepted my Presidents Club card, but I was not allowed a guest, so I did not bother to stay as I was with my colleague. Good to know the card is accepted though for future reference.

We returned to the departure level and realized that we were at the last gate, B37. As we walked down, I could see three Jet Airways planes (two Boeing 777-300ERs and an Airbus A330) on the right and one (a Boeing 777-300ER) on the left of the concourse. The A330 was heading to Toronto. Two planes were missing though, I assumed that they were on their way.

We got to our gate and the boarding process had started. We were also just in time to hear our names being called for seats. We scored the upgrade today so that was a good deal. I checked for WiFi and it was present as the signs said, but there was a charge for it, so I shut down and boarded the flight.