Friday, April 18, 2008

London Apr. 18: Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

There was a long line at security and one of the reasons for it was that the TSA agent on the X-rays was being trained. Do you have to train him at peak time?

Eventually, we cleared, checked our gates and headed there. My other two colleagues headed to one Presidents Club and I headed towards the one in Terminal E as it was closer to my gate.

I decided to go and get a ticket for the flight from London to Toronto to Houston on Air Canada (AC). On my way there, I ran into a colleague who was heading to San Diego, CA (SAN). Unfortunately, he did not make the earlier flight and had to wait for the next one in about an hour and a half or so.

I got my ticket expeditiously and then headed for the Presidents Club at about 6:20p. After collecting some reading material, some snacks and beverages, it was time to leave and head to gate E20 for the flight. While I was in the Club, I heard an announcement for CO34 to Gatwick, huh? That flight should have left at 4:00p and it was still here. I looked at the board and it was now scheduled to leave at 6:43p. Ouch, I wondered what happened. I was actually tempted to take it, but refrained.

When I got there, the agents were checking the passports so there was a bit of a queue at the gate. I waited my turn and got my boarding pass for an aisle seat in the second of three Economy class cabins. I was in luck too, as this seat had in seat power.

I got on the boarding line just as the agent said they were boarding all rows.

London Apr. 18: Leaving downtown Houston

So, the decision was made, London it is.

I was going to take the 5:30p bus which arrives at 6:21p with a colleague who was heading to Memphis, TN (MEM) to visit a company down there at some God awful hour of the night. Another colleague was going to the airport, but had mentioned that he was taking an earlier flight, but if that changed he would let me know and that I could ride with him.

As I was about to leave at 5:00p, my colleague returned and said that his meeting ran late so he would take me. I asked if it was O.K. to take my other colleague and he said yes. I then called him and advised him of the situation.

The drive to the airport was not an issue. We did not even have to use the HOV lanes. We pulled into Fast Park and in no time were at Terminal C.

Lee - Atlanta, GA (ATL) to Shanghai, People's Republic of China (PVG) 4/18

DL19 18APR08 Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Atlanta, GA (ATL) to Shanghai Pudong International, Shanghai People's Republic of China (PVG) 10:05a 1:45p +1 day 777

Flight Time: 15:40
Seat Map

We start boarding 45 minutes before departure and I am the first person to board the aircraft. I put away my bags and get comfortable for the 15 hour and 40 minute flight. I find the handicap restroom so that I can later change into my Singapore Airlines (SQ) PJs I packed for the trip.

When I left for my Cedar Rapids, IA (CID) business trip, I also packed for this weekend trip just in case I could not get home due to taking bump (I always plan to take a bump if it looks good). I then went to the flight deck and asked the relief captain how close to MTOW (max take off weight) we were. The 2nd. longest flight on the Delta Air Lines (DL) map clocked in at 649,000lbs with a MTOW of 656,000lb so we had a little more room for cargo or fuel.

The Captain after finding out I am plane buff got up to stretch before the flight and let me sit in the left seat. The First Officer showed me the Fight Management System (FMS) computer that had our planned course already programmed. Today we would take a northerly route to the 78th parallel and then back down over Russia and into China.

I returned to my seat at 4J and was immediately greeted by one of the 11 flight attendants (FA) on the flight today. The purser, Tim, came by and introduced himself to each person in Business when he handed out the menus. After looking over the selection, I chose the Lobster Bisque for an appetizer and the Filet of Beef prepared by Michelle Bernstein, DL’s current celebrity chef for their business class for my main course.

I indulged in both white wines; the Torrenes from Argentina with starter of seared Tuna and the Sauvignon Blanc with my soup. I then switched to an Italian Red for the main course. Each time, Catherine, the FA in charge of the group of seats I was in, completed proper wine presentation with a tasting pour first. I finished with fruit and cheese and then an ice cream sundae with a Baileys and coffee.

I am completely stuffed and finishing up these blogs while watching some HBO on the AVOD system. After completing the meal, I changed into my SQ PJs from First Class and got some strange looks from the other customers and I must say it is kind of strange changing into PJs to go to sleep at what is 1pm EDT. Oh well, I plan on arriving well rested as I, just like the crew, only have 26 hours in PVG. I am excited that I will have the same crew returning as that increases my chance of free booze in Economy class (Y) on that long of a flight. More to come after sleep. :-).

So I woke up after my nap with still 9 hours to go. I got some good sleep and now am up with the crew. I have taken extra time to meet as many of the FAs as I can since I will be returning with them on Sunday. The crew has been great and the lead FA for Economy, Bonnie, wanted to see the A380 flight pics although only none of them fully understand why I would travel to Shanghai for a day. I wanted to get to know Bonnie and the Economy crew since they will be taking care of me on my return flight. Smiles and small talk can go a long way towards perks during the flight home. Part mileage, all experience, and stories and pics for a lifetime.

With still 4 and a half hours left I have come to a sad conclusion: AVOD needs more storage. I have watched every movie I wanted to see and have listened to my play list too many times to count. Its going to be a long flight home…

Lee - Atlanta, GA (ATL) - check in at E concourse for Shanghai (PVG)

18APR08 Atlanta Hartsfield International, Atlanta GA (ATL)

Checking in for the flight
We pull up to A concourse in ATL and I quickly transferred to E concourse where Delta Air Lines (DL) has a full service check in desk. I did not have any checked bags and did not want to leave the sterile area to have to re-clear security in ATL on a Friday morning.

I go to check in and hit a road block – the check in agent has to pull miles for the upgrade to J class and re-issue the ticket but notices I have a T class fare instead of the Y class I was re-booked into to allow the upgrade.

She reads the notes on the PNR (reservations) and goes and checks with a supervisor. After about 15 minutes of stress and thinking that I would be sent back to Economy (Y), she gets the O.K. to finish what the JFK supervisor has started. She pulls the mileage and prints my J class boarding pass and off to the Business Elite lounge I go.

I am granted access to the lounge, grab a glass of Champagne to celebrate my weekend get-away. There are great views of the Boeing 777-232ER going to Tokyo-Narita, Japan (NRT) and you can also see our 777-232ER a couple of gates away.

I finish some work stuff and send some emails and pull up the seat map to Shanghai, People's Republic of China (PVG). To my astonishment and happiness, I find a window seat in the forward cabin, and the aisle seat is also free. I immediately go to the gate to check in there and show my visa to the agents and to get a seat change. A lead agent processes my request and I ask if possible to keep the aisle seat free next to me. She said, no promises, but would try to see what can be done.

Lee - Washington National (DCA) to Atlanta Hartsfield, Atlanta GA (ATL)

DL801 18APR08 Washington Reagan National, Washington D.C. (DCA) to William B. Hartsfield International, Atlanta GA (ATL) 6:00a 7:44a 757

Seat Map

So I get up at 4:20 a.m. in order to call a cab to take me to the airport. They will not take advanced bookings and the desk clerk says they need 15-20 minutes to get to the hotel. I am not happy as I didn’t get to sleep until after 12:30 a.m. due to the late arrival and a headache.

I check in without problems and promptly sleep the entire flight – only to wake up to turn off my noise-canceling headset.