Sunday, March 30, 2008

Heathrow Inaugural: Arriving in Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

30MAR08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

The clock on the wall read 3:33p when we landed with a bump, you could feel the airplane teeter from side to side as we slowed. It is just a little windy on the landing today. I am always amazed at how quiet the engines are though as we decelerate. The guy next to me pointed out that the map was showing our location south of the airport; so it means we are not at the airport. It was odd that it showed us south of the city (the airport is north of the city).

The lead flight attendant welcomed us to Houston and thanked us for flying the inaugural today. He also mentioned that to ensure we had our documents and feel free to call upon a flight attendant if we needed assistance.

We continued taxiing over to gate E-18, right back where I started about 31.5 hours ago.

After gathering my stuff, I deplaned and headed for the Immigration area. I was happy to see that they changed the area; now U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents use one side and Visitors use the other. I hope this means they have more Immigration officers too.

It was not crowded at all, so I was able to see an Officer rather quickly. She asked where was I coming from and I told her. She then asked why and I told her. She paused and looked at me and asked why? It is historical, I said, she laughed and stamped my documents.

It felt strange to have arrived nonstop from Heathrow to Houston. I had not done that before (neither had anyone else until this day) and the closest I've been to that is taking British Airways flights over Washington Dulles (IAD), Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) and Detroit/Metro Wayne (DTW).

Earlier today though, British Airways was scheduled to fly the same route as BA195 departing at 10:30a from Terminal 5 and arriving at Terminal D at 2:40p on a Boeing 777-200ER. Due to Terminal 5 issues, the flight departed at 2:40p and arrived at 4:11p, this means CO5 is the first flight to provide nonstop service from London-Heathrow on March 30, 2008.

British Airways also had a second flight BA197 which was following us across the Atlantic scheduled to depart at 1:15p and arrive at 5:30p also on a Boeing 777-200. The actual times were a 5:30p departure and a 6:28p arrival.

It is a great weekend in aviation history, I am happy that I was able to partake in it. I hope you enjoyed the coverage.

Heathrow Inaugural: Airplanes in London-Heathrow, London England (LHR)

Heathrow Inaugural: Leaving London-Heathrow (LHR)

30MAR 08 London-Heathrow International, London England (LHR)
I wanted to go see Terminal 5 and tried, but after waiting for the bus from Bus Stop 7 for about 10 minutes, I bailed on that idea as it was too risky to not get back in time for the flight. I could have also taken the Heathrow Express, but the timing had to be right. There is always next week anyways. It was interesting as the map of the Heathrow Express still does not show Terminal 5 on it, but in the elevators, they have taped over a strip that has Terminal 5 on it.

I went back upstairs and cleared security forgetting the sealed bottle of water in my bag from my flight over. This triggered an entire search of my bag and delayed me for a bit. I was given the option to drink the water so I drank about 2/3rd of it. I remember in one airport, I was told I could not drink the water and had to turn the whole thing over.

I then headed towards gate 11 and the Holideck. This is the lounge that KLM uses. It opened a few years ago and I remember paying about 10 USD I think to use it at the time. There are three levels, the best of which is the Observation Deck which gives you about a 300 degree view of the airport. It is great to watch takeoffs and landing there.

I showed my Presidents Club card as well as my boarding pass and was granted access. I asked about wireless access and was pointed to some instructions to the left of the desk. Just before going in, I took some pictures of the gate areas for the two flights; one to Newark, NJ (EWR) [the first inaugural flight from Heathrow] and the other for the flight to Houston. The airplane to Newark was the one I had arrived on; the Houston airplane had not yet arrived.

The flight attendants for the two flights.

Aircraft #10 being serviced so it can return to Newark, NJ (EWR).

Back in the Lounge, I did a clothes change and that felt great; no showers in the Holideck I’m afraid. I then made my way up to the Observation Deck and just took it all in slowly. Airplanes of all sizes were landing like almost every minute it seemed.

Across the way was Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-800, to its left an American Airlines Boeing 777-200 and to its right a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400. It was fantastic, the world’s three largest commercial passenger airliners were right next to each other. The A380 dwarfs the Boeing 777, if you can imagine that!

The was a Delta Air Lines (DL) Boeing 767-300ER (N179DN) at one of the gate on the other side of the terminal.

I walked on the other side of the Deck and I looked over to my left and the Continental Boeing 777-200 from Houston had landed and was taxiing into the gate.

I got online for a bit, but did not have enough time to make an update. I was somewhat concerned about getting on the 11:15a flight, but not too much as I had the 4:00p Boeing 767-200 service to Newark. It just makes for a much longer day though.

I went to gate 12 to see my friends who were leaving on that flight. Once there they told me that they were going to try for the Houston flight instead. I went back to the Lounge and took some pictures of the arriving planes. One of those was a US Airways (US) Airbus A330-300; I had totally forgotten that they were coming into Heathrow as well.

I was able to get one more shot before I went back downstairs and that was of an Air New Zealand (NZ) Boeing 747-400 coming in from Los Angeles, CA (LAX) prior to arriving from Auckland, New Zealand (AKL).

Soon, it was time to get down to the gate. I was so caught up in the whole operation, I never ate nor drank anything while in the Lounge. I can’t even tell you what they have there. Next time… At the gate, to the cheer of the passengers and the employees looking on, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony by two of the company’s executives and the flight attendants for the flight.

Once that was over, the boarding process started.

It was not looking food, but at the very last minute, I got an aisle seat, so no need for Plan B.

Heathrow Inaugural: London-Heathrow, London England (LHR) to Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

CO5 30MAR08 London-Heathrow International, London England (LHR) to Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 11:15a 3:22p 777 N77019

Flight Time: 9:52

I started to walk down the long jetway and was greeted by a throng of people. There were two ladies handing out souvenir gifts for the inaugural. It was Clotted Cream Fudge in a silver box that read on one side:

Now serving
Inaugural flights
March 30, 2008
Continental Airlines

After collecting my box, I was flagged for additional security. After all that I then boarded the airplane through the second door from the front.

I was greeted by the flight attendant who waved me down the first aisle of this twin aisle 285-seater jet with its 50 BusinessFirst and 235 Economy seats.

I found my bulkhead aisle seat and decided to sit in the row behind it as I am not a fan of bulkhead seats unless I have no other choice. At 6' 1", I prefer to stretch my legs out all the way under the seat in front of and I also hate having to lift up that TV monitor, plus the chair tables are usually odd in the bulkhead and even if you wanted to the armrest cannot be lifted.

For entertainment today, we have the audio/video on demand touch screen system with the choices below. There is also a regular power plug just below the seat, there are two for each cluster of three seats. It is interesting to note that the entertainment choices are identical to those in the BusinessFirst cabin.:

  • Movies (339 including August Rush, Bee Movie, Batman Returns )
  • Short programs (178 including 30 Rock, The Class, Everybody Hates Chris, House)
  • Music (213; classical, country, jazz, pop, R&B/urban, rock and world))
  • Games (26; arcade, board/puzzle, educational, gaming and kids)
  • Flight map

There was a bit of seat shuffle at the end, but it all quited down and we had about six open middle seats all in my area of the airplane.

We had to wait a bit for our departure as we were waiting for bags of connecting passengers. It was not until 11:51a that we pushed away from the gate. The safety video played and then the cabin was prepared for departure.

The taxi out was delayed additionally as Terminal 4 is on the left side of runway 27L, so we had to wait for landing aircraft in order to cross the active runway. On our way over to the takeoff runway, I saw the A380 from Singapore Airlines pushing back. As well as Korean Airlines' Boeing 747-400 Cargo, Kuwait Airways Boeing 777, United's Boeing 777 and just a bunch of other airplanes.

Finally, it was our time and we took to the skies at 12:18p. The inaugural flight to Houston was finally airborne.

After takeoff, the lead flight gave an overview of the service stating that we would have a lunch service first and then an inflight snack later, plus an arrival snack. Coupons or cash could be used for beer, wine or margaritas at a cost of 5 USD or 3 GBP in Economy class. Movie headseats were complimentary.

Peanuts and beverages were served at 1:00p.

Shortly after, there was a choice of Chicken Vesuvio with rice or beef lasagna at 1:33p; I chose the chicken which was served with a roll, butter, crackers cheese, a salad and a apple type dessert.

I fell asleep after the meal while watching a short comedy with two New Zealanders who were being discriminated against as everyone thought they were from Australia.

I awoke with 3:22 to go to an ice cream and drink service. I was parched so this was right timing.

Landing documents were handed out with 2:49 to go as I worked on my computer as I had in-seat power. I was even able to charge my phone as well.

With 1:15 to go and me now entrenched in the movie "Juno" the arrival snack was served. It was a warm turkey and chicken sandwich plus chips and a chocolate bar.

The arrival video started at 2:42p; initially you could hear it on the PA, but then it went silent and you could only see the video.

We prepared for landing and I kind of sat around as I did not take out my book before all was settled. It was a beautiful day out although just a tad bumpy while coming on for a landing. I wonder how many spotters are out there watching this historic flight come in for a landing?