Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sydney, Australia: Arriving in Houston, TX (IAH)

2MAR08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

We touched down and headed for the gate; I was pretty much still sleeping and did not really awake fully until I got to the gate and the brakes were set.

I deplaned while calling the Metro bus line to see what time was the next bus; it was 1:35p and the current time was 1:27p. I don't have much time at all.

I stopped in the Presidents Club and got a bite of crackers and cheese to eat there and then quickly headed for the bus stop.

This long day is still not over.

Sydney, Australia: Los Angeles, CA (LAX) to Houston, TX (IAH)

CO294 Los Angeles International, Los Angeles California (LAX) to Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 8:00a 1:14p 738 with winglets N??291

Flight Time: 2:42
Continental Airlines
Seat Map

As I got down the jetway, it was backed up a bit, so I had to wait. Once on board, the agent was making an announcement that in order to make more space for other passengers’ bags, please put the smaller bags at your feet and refrain from putting the coats in the overheads just yet; she then thanked everyone for their cooperation.

I walked past the 16 leather seats in a 2-2 configuration in the First Class cabin, past the divider for Economy class in its 3-3 configured cloth seats. I found a place for my bag and then settled into my middle seat for the 2:42 hours journey.

The door closed at 7:55a, then the safety demonstration commenced on the overhead monitors, first in English and then in Spanish. Departure time came and went without a word of why we had a delay. At 8:14a, we pushed by still without any word. The row I was in has no window at the window seat, so I could not see out on that side, hence I had no idea what was going on outside.

We taxied out to the runway and took off at 8:27a.

After takeoff, the flight attendant made an announcement welcoming us onboard and saying that today's move is "Enchanted" with Patrick Dempsey and also that we will have a breakfast on the flight.

Then the Captain came on the PA and said that there was 3 miles of fog at the field, temp was 55F with winds from the South and light rain.

Headsets were offered for 1 USD and alcohol was 5 USD (quite a difference from Qantas from Cairns to Sydney, I though).

The movie started soon and I watched as I had breakfast of Chex and raisins with milk. I had some tea as well.

The crew came back with a second drink helping and shortly after that the Captain said that we had bad weather as he was approaching El Paso, TX and it was at all levels so we had to bear it. It did not last too long afterall.

The movie played on which was quite good actually. I fell asleep though so I missed the end of it :-(.

I had to wake up and put my seat up for landing and then I went back to sleep as I was still tired.

Sydney, Australia: Arriving in Los Angeles, CA (LAX)

02MAR08 Los Angeles International, Los Angeles California (LAX)

We touched down at 6:35a breaking heavily and then exiting the active runway. It was not a long taxi to the gate as Qantas (QF) now uses American Airlines’ (AA) Terminal 4, thanks to the oneworld Alliance partnership. Gone are the days of the Bradley Terminal; thank heavens!

An aside: it is very weird to experience the same time/day twice; it is a good thing I had a good morning in Sydney, so I don’t mind living it all over again…It is now 1:35a in Sydney on March 3, 2008 since we crossed the International Date Line. The lead flight attendant reminded us of that after giving us the welcome to Los Angeles, the local time and advising us to take all our belongings even those passengers who were continuing on to New York-JFK. Departure time was set for 8:50a, so he advised that after Immigration and Customs, collect your bags, re-check them and then head upstairs, clear security and re-board the same airplane to JFK.

The Captain came on the PA and announced that we had to wait to get to our gate as there was an AA jet getting out of the way. In addition, he continued, if you are familiar with their spot in LA, it is a tight one and the aircraft must be towed into the gate after shutting down the engines. This means that it is necessary to wait for the seatbelt signs to come off before getting up and disembarking.

We finally got up to the gate at 6:53a and had to wait again as ground power was not attached as yet. The Second Office came on the PA and announced that the #4 engine was still running so we are required to remain seated until it is turned off and the seat belt signs are switched off. At this time, there were several people standing even before the brakes were applied. I just hope none of them fall on me…None of them sat down after the pilot spoke. The flight attendant tried to get everyone seated, but to no avail...

At 6:56a, the lights came off and it was now safe to get out. I sat for a while as I was only four rows or so from the back of the plane so it would naturally take a while for me to get out of the plane.

Eventually, it was my turn and I made my way forward, saying good bye and good morning to the crew and agents as I did so.

I made my way to the Immigration area to a chock full line of U.S. Citizens with passports; I did not see a line for those with just alien registration cards, so I am not sure what was the purpose of that sign. The visitors’ line was much longer and was progressing quite slowly.

Once it was my time, I greeted my Officer, chatted for a bit and cleared answering “No,” to his question of whether or not I had any food with me. Customs was a breeze as I was out of there in less than a minute.

I asked the agent the way to Terminal 6 and she said go outside and make a right. I followed those directions and was at Terminal 6 in no time after making it up an escalator the check-in area.

The Terminal was quite crowded, but I managed to use a kiosk in the online bag drop line as there was no line there. I was booked on the 11:45a flight, but I wanted to change it to the 8:00a; the notification said to see an agent when I tried to do so; I assume as it was 7:27a and check-in was possibly restricted to the gate.

I changed to the 9:15a since that was the earliest that I could change to at the kiosk, just in case there were no seats on the 8:00a. I got my boarding pass and then cleared security with relative ease. I made it to gate 60 and asked the agent if I could get on that flight. She said, “yes,” but all she had were middle seats. She offered a bulk head, but I declined that as I would have no where to put my bag and also, there is not enough legroom for me. The Exit rows were all occupied as well. I took my middle seat and boarded. I figured three hours in a middle seat won't kill me if nearly 13 hours did not.

Sydney, Australia: Leaving Sydney Inernational, Sydney Australia (SYD)

02MAR08 Sydney International, Sydney Australia (SYD)

I arrived at the airport at 9:51a, even after missing the 9:00a train from my friends’ stop. I was too busy having breakfast and checking mileages for my possible options from Sydney so I left their place at 8:50a.

I first headed upstairs to the check-in area and chatted with Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) as they have a 10:20p flight to Hong Kong arriving at 5:55a on March 3, 2008. It had room so push comes to shove that is my last back up out of Sydney although it makes for a really long day though.

Next stop was Emirates (EK) to see if my waitlist on the flight via Bangkok (BKK) to Dubai (DXB) had cleared and it had not :-(. They had just finished checking in the inbound flight to Auckland (AKL) and were clearing up. I then headed for Etihad Airways (EY) for the Airbus A340-500 flight to Abu Dhabi (AUH) and was told that it was full and they were trying to get passengers on other flights.

Umm…I am zero for two now. I went over to Air Canada (AC) to see how their Boeing 777-200LR service to Vancouver (YVR) was. When I got there I saw a flight 2234 on the board also to Vancouver. I also heard the agent finalizing some upgrades for that flight. As it turns out, AC2234 was AC34 from two days ago; a mechanical I assumed. But it was now 10:34a and too late for me to get on it as it was leaving at 11:00a. Bummer, I thought as that flight would have connected with the 8:00a Continental flight to Houston.

I had seen the aircraft at the gate and was wondering why they were loading a 1:30p departure so early with cargo; now it all makes sense.

She said that the 1:30p looked bad as well, but if I wanted to try it I had to be back by 12:45p the latest to be checked in. I thanked her and headed for Qantas (QF).

At Qantas, the agent checked me in for the noon flight and said it did not look too bad, although all three cabins were overbooked, but not by too many; maybe I’ll get lucky and make it to Business Class at least I thought. He said to be back no later than 11:15a. I thanked him and headed for the Observation Deck.

It is always nice to hang out there as you get a pretty good view of the terminals and the operations. I saw a few airplanes being towed as well as landing and taking, then it was time to go.

I was keeping an eye on my bag and saw a guy who obviously was not there to watch planes looking around. I kept my eye on him and he continued on.

It was almost time to return to Qantas anyways so I did. In a few minutes, I collected a middle seat boarding pass close to the back of the plane. I thanked the agent and headed for the security area.

There were no lines and by now it was 11:30a and boarding had started by the announcement on the PA. I cleared more security near the gate and then waited a bit. As I did, I saw the Air Canada Boeing 777-200LR taking off as well as Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ER.

I asked the agent for a better seat, but he said there were none available and I was quite lucky to get a seat.

I then boarded.