Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Alexis-Mexico City, Mexico: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS) to Mexico City, Mexico (MEX) II

16APR08 Piarco International, Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago (POS)
I arrived at Piarco International Airport at approximately 5:30 a.m.; later than I had planned to, but a good time to arrive because there were only a few people in the line. I was all checked in by 5:45a with enough time to get something to eat before my 6:20a boarding time. I went through to departures at 6:05a.

I was surprised to see personnel at the departure tax booth as earlier this month it had been announced that departure tax would be included in the price of the ticket. I was asked which airline; when told American, the agent waived me through. So I am guessing that not all airlines have been collecting the departure tax necessitating this continued manual collection. After going through security I had only about five minutes before boarding began. I was in Group 2 so I was on board fairly quickly and settled in.

AA1818 16APR08 Piarco International, Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago (POS) to Miami International, Miami FL (MIA) 7:05a 11:05a 757

Seat Map

As the flight was not full boarding was completed in a short time. At 6:53a, twelve minutes before the 7:05a scheduled departure, the captain announced that we were waiting only on the final loading of cargo and luggage and we would be on our way. Five minutes later we pushed back.

On taxi out we crossed the runway at the intersection. The terminal at Piarco is north of the runway and the parallel taxiway does not go all the way to the end so an aircraft has to cross and taxi down the south taxiway to get to the runway threshold for departure. Just as our aircraft got to the end of the taxiway, a DHL Boeing 727 from Venezuela landed and we taxied onto the runway. I watched as DHL turned on the runway and taxied back to exit to the south ramp. At the same time a Caribbean Airlines (BW) Dash 8 crossed at the intersection. Then we began our take-off roll. As we went by the south ramp I noted with some satisfaction that DHL was already at its gate and applauded the efficiency of the controller on duty.

This is a good time to indicate that I am an air traffic controller working at the Piarco Control Tower and the Piarco Area Control Centre. I am also the deputy president on the executive board of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA). It is in this capacity that I am off to Mexico City to attend the IFALPA conference and the ICAO workshop I mentioned previously.

The flight to Miami went by rather quickly – I could not get any power from the power port so decided not to use my computer; and the movie was August Rush, which played on each leg of my journey to Arusha, Tanzania last month to attend our own (IFATCA’s) annual conference – so I spent the flight reading most of the American Way magazine.

Miami International, Miami FL (MIA)
We arrived early – 10:50 a.m. – as the captain had promised. Immigration was rather slow I found and I did not clear customs and rechecked my bags until 11:40 a.m. I spent some time in the bookstores searching, unsuccessfully, for a book I wanted before going through security at 12:20p. My gate was C7 and I got there at 12:38p. Again boarding went smoothly and doors were closed by 1:25 p.m.

AA2177 16APR08 Miami International, Miami FL (MIA) to Mexico City International, Mexico City Mexico (MEX) 1:40p 4:05p 738

Flying Time: 3:10
Seat Map
We took a while to leave the gate - I actually had time to start writing this entry on my computer - but were airborne quickly after pushback with only a short taxi to the runway. At 2:26 p.m. the captain apologised for the short delay in leaving Miami and indicated that with a flying time of 3:10 we should be arriving in Mexico City at 4:10 p.m.

Lucky me! The movie again is August Rush, but the power port is working so I can use my computer. I have a lot of reading to catch up on and several documents to write so I can get a start on that right now as soon as I fill out my Immigration and Custom forms and finish the Sudoku I started in the American Way.

Mexico City International, Mexico City Mexico (MEX)

So after an uneventful, but productive flight, I arrived in Mexico City just after 4 pm local time. We had a bit of a wait for a gate position and after disembarking, there was a long walk to immigration and customs, which was over with very quickly and I was officially in Mexico.

I hope my return goes as smoothly.

Lee - New York-JFK layover

16APR08 New York-John F. Kennedy International, Queens NY (JFK)

JFK layover
We get into JFK at 5:00 p.m. which is prime-time for trans-Atlantic departures and I have never seen so many Delta Air Lines (DL) planes in the remote parking areas getting prepped for their long journeys. I got to see one of the new Delta 777-200LRs during its ground time before departure to Mumbai, India (BOM). I was supposed to be on the first revenue flight to Los Angeles, CA (LAX) but mis-connected due to snow in Birmingham, AL (BHM). SNOW IN BHM?!?! Oh well, I am still a little bitter…

So I go by the gate (#20) for the Atlanta, GA (ATL) flight to see if there are any Gate Agents there. The flight loads I got off of showed the flight was sold out and I know from my experience, there could be a good chance for a bump, or I volunteer my seat in exchange for a flight voucher for future travel if Delta needs the seat because more people show up for the flight than seats they have. With good weather in JFK the chances of misconnects drop and the bump opportunities increase.

I talked to a Gate Agent and she took my information, as they would probably need volunteers. The routing the agent offered was Economy class on the 6:15a departure tomorrow morning and it gets into ATL at 8:44 a.m. I did not like that option as I have to check in by 8:55 a.m. and I would only have 11 minutes in a perfect world to check in and we all know JFK operations and how often that would happen. So I go to the Delta Crown Room Club (CRC) and use expertflyer to find a better routing. I would go JFK-DCA [Washington Reagan National] at 8:50 p.m. and get in at 10:00 p.m. on a Bombardier CRJ-900 and then stay overnight in DCA and leave on the 6:00 a.m. flight that gets in at 7:44 a.m. First class was available on both flights so I knew I could get confirmed F instead of Y.

I go down to the gate at boarding time and the gate agent definitely needs the volunteer. They are so overbooked that she processes my voucher for 400.00 now instead of making me wait around the gate until departure. I get my confirmation and new F boarding passes to DCA. Since I added a segment, I had to get a paper ticket for an online transfer in conjunction for the routing change. I still have my Shanghai flight on my mind and am hoping to find a way to get into Business Elite on that flight.

I am worried about the hotel situation because the Gate Agent told me to check in DCA on getting a hotel (DL would provide). I go outside security to the medallion check-in in Terminal 2 and there is a “red coat” at the check-in desk. Red Coats are supervisors that can bend rules and make things happen when needed. I ask him about the hotel and he calls the DCA station to make sure they would have a hotel for me. After a long delay, he gets confirmation that I will not have any problems.

During this layover, I am discussing my flight to Shanghai and after I pull out some of my tricks and secrets, when its all said and done I am able to use miles to upgrade my flight tomorrow to Shanghai.

After getting confirmation, I am bouncing off the walls with excitement – I just turned a $600 RT ticket into a $5,000 OW ticket with an Economy return! It has been a REALLY good day.

Lee - Cincinnati, OH (CVG) to New York - JFK, Queens NY (JFK) in First Class

DL160 16APR08 Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International, Covington KY (CVG) to John F. Kennedy International, Queens NY (JFK) 3:05p 5:21p 73H

Seat Map

As a platinum medallion for Delta Air Lines (DL), I get free space available upgrades to first class domestically and my upgrade cleared in advanced so I knew I would have a comfortable flight.

I chose this flight to get on the 73H, which is a new configuration in the Delta fleet. The 73H has been equipped with winglets and the Panasonic AVOD system for each seat and 24 channels of live TV on domestic flights. These planes are used almost exclusively for transcon flights and I found out from our lead flight attendant that it would be continuing to Portland, OR (PDX) from JFK.

After an uneventful flight, we descent over Newark Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) airport which is an awesome site from 10,000 feet. We land on runway 22L and taxi in without delay.

Lee - Cedar Rapids, IA (CID) to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Covington KY (CVG) and the layover

DL5088 16APR08 Cedar Rapids, IA (CID) to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International, Covington KY (CVG) 11:30a 1:55p CRJ operted by Comair

Seat Map

This was an uneventful flight – slept the whole way. We arrived into CVG around 1:35 p.m. and my flight to John F. Kennedy (JFK) leaves at 3:15 p.m.

I transfer over to B concourse from the Regional Jet (RJ) hell of C concourse and find the outback open for lunch. I set up my laptop and connect to the internet from the Delta Crown Room lounge on the floor above and get online to do some work and check emails.

Lee - Heading to Cedar Rapids (CID) airport


To the airport: I had a computer install in Waterloo, IA, which is about an hour from CID. I leave the store at the last possible time due to some problems at 9:30am. I have an 11:30am flight to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Covington KY (CVG) but had a lot on my mind as we had some major problems with the new registers we installed that caused our customer problems during their breakfast rush.

I ended up missing my exit and went east instead of south and I didn’t realize it until I was almost 10 minutes off path. I thought, oh my God, I might miss my first flight. I have flown 400 segments in the last 3 years and (knock on wood) never missed a flight that I did not plan on changing to a later flight.

I frantically pull out the map from the rental car company and found a cut through road that will help me make up time. I start speeding to try to make up time but my estimates have me at the airport 20 minutes before departure.

I have a bag that must be checked due to tools and Delta Air Lines (DL) has a hard 30 minute cut off for baggage on the computer and I have learned on another trip there is no way to override this cut off.

As I am racing towards the CID airport, I try calling the airport to get in touch with the DL counter – but to no avail, no one will give me the phone number or connect me to talk to an agent. I hope to get an agent to pre-print my bag tag since I know I can make the flight but not the cut off. I call a friend who works with ASA (DL connection) that I met in my former hometown of Wilmington, NC (ILM). He used to work as a Gate Agent in ILM and now travels to open up new stations – I knew he might be get the number if he is working at a station.

I get a text message back saying “In a meeting in ATL, will call you in a few.” I think, oh @#$@ I am screwed. I sent a text message to him explaining the situation and hope. 10 minutes later he sends me back just the phone number to the station – how he got it, I don’t know. I call the station and get an agent to pre-print the tag and now I know I am good to go with a huge sigh of relief. I have to make these flights as I leave tomorrow morning to go to Shanghai, People's Republic of China for a weekend trip.

Alexis-Mexico City: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago to Mexico City, Mexico

So Kerwin, believing that we mere mortals have the energy that he does, has invited me to blog about this trip. It is a good opportunity as I plan to start my own soon.

I am heading off to Mexico City, Mexico to attend two meetings, the 63rd Conference of the International Federation of Pilots' Associations and a Workshop by the International Civil Aviation Organisation on States Safety Programmes and Safety Management Systems Implementation.

I leave Port of Spain, Trinidad (POS) in a couple hours for Miami, FL (MIA) and then to Mexico City, Mexico (MEX) on American (AA). My ride to the airport should arrive soon, so I am off.

Until later,