Sunday, April 20, 2008

Introduction - Lee

I have also been invited to add to the blog by Kerwin. My name is Lee and believe it or not, I do not work in the travel industry. I am a frequent flyer who loves the industry and is a huge plane buff.

I work in the restaurant business and fly about 100,000 revenue miles a year on SkyTeam and Delta Air Lines (DL). I ended up meeting Kerwin in, of all places, Singapore (SIN) for the first flight for the Airbus A380-800. I won one of the eBay auctions and redeemed Delta mileage for a Singapore Airlines (SQ) first class ticket to take my flight.

So enough with introductions, on to my first blog: Cedar Rapids, IA (CID) to Atlanta via Cincinnati and JFK on April 16, 2008.

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

20APR08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

Our touchdown was smooth on the runway that is the farthest from Terminal E. I am still amazed at the fact that these airplanes fly many hours over long distances, land like nothing happened and turn around and fly back...

Across the way at Terminal D, I could see an Air France (AF) Boeing 777-200 (777) pushing back and a British Airways (BA) Boeing 777 at the gate.

The Lufthansa German Airlines (LH) Boeing 747-400 (744) and KLM’s Boeing 747-400 Combi had already left for Europe it seems.

We taxied across the other parallel runway and then headed for Terminal E passing the almost bare Terminal D. I looked behind me and saw a Delta Connection CRJ-700 as well as a Northwest Airlink ERJ-175 taxiing in having just landed.

We ended up blocking in at 4:10p after which I deplaned and headed for the Immigration Hall. Oh, once the doors were opened there was a Concierge that advised of the baggage carousel being used.

At immigration, we were the first flight to arrive in this wave although we were thirty five minutes late. The Immigration Officer wanted to know why I went to London for a day and I advised that I wanted some R&R and he asked what was that. So I told him. Eventually, he stamped me through, then I cleared Customs.

I was heading to the local bus and saw a group of boys in shorts, t-shirts, slippers and socks, etc. I was reminded that there was some basketball thing in Houston this weekend so they were returning home. Actually, my nephew was in the same tournament and had returned home yesterday. I think they drove.

The coaches might have taken a little extra time to just have the boys put on some proper travel clothes. Come on coaches, the game of basketball is not just about playing the game. It is also about the development of these young men. You have influence on these young men, please use it to advise them on how to dress when taking public transportation.

As I travel often I see how sports teams dress when they travel, and the ones in Europe do not dress like the boys I saw at the airport today. Sadly, it was not only one team, but several teams were dressed like they all just woke up and came straight to the airport today.

O.K. I’m off my soapbox now.

London Apr. 18: London Heathrow London, England to Houston, TX (IAH)

CO5 20APR08 London Heathrow International, London England (LHR) to Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 11:15a 3:35p 777 N78009

Flight Time: 9:26
Seat Map

At the airplane door, the flight attendant welcomed me on board and told me to use the second aisle to access my window seat. I followed her lead, found my seat, had the guy get up to let me in and got settled in.

While we waited, the Captain came on the PA and said his piece from the flight deck. He said the winds in Houston are from the south south east at 10mph, the temperature is 70F and our flying time will be 9:26.

Next the lead flight attendant came on the PA and reminded us to put our luggage in the seat in front of us or in the overhead bins and soon, we will have to turn off the cell phones or any electronic device. I am actually sitting at a seat with power; all seats from rows 17-23 in Economy class have access to a power port using an adapter.

A minute later, the lead flight attendant advised that all customers have boarded so we can move around. Quite a lot of moving occurred as the flight was not full at all.

Four minutes later, an agent from Heathrow wished us al a pleasant flight and asked that all Heathrow ground employees disembark. The lead flight attendant then followed that up with an announcement about turning off our electronic devices. He then told the flight attendants to prepare doors for departure and standby for the all call. It was now 11:09a.

It was 12:03p as we waited for pushback. The lead flight attendant gave out newspapers that were left over from Business class. It was 12:07p when we did pushback. I was looking out the window and there was a lot of ground movement behind us. This included a Northwest A330-300, plus a bunch of British Airways (BA) flights.

It was 12:10p when the engines started. I did notice that the Singapore Airlines (SQ) Airbus A380 had pushed back and was heading to the runway. It was actually next for takeoff. This is great, I'll get to see it take off. It did take off and you can see it here.

The safety video started in English as we taxied out. There were several airplanes waiting to leave using runway 9R-27L; British Airways (BA) Airbus A319, BA Boeing 777, Turkish Airlines (TK) Airbus A340, BA Airbus A319, TAP Air Portugal (TP) Airbus A320, Malaysia Airlines (MH) Boeing 747-400, Air Canada Boeing 767-300, SAS (SK) MD-80 and a BA 767-300. The airplanes kept increasing as we waited.

At one point, there was nothing happening and then a British Airways Boeing 777-200 landed; I guess there was so much traffic that they had to use this runway for both takeoffs and landings.

You can see some more pictures of the planes at Some of them are from the previous day, see if you can tell which ones are those?

It was not until 12:36p when the Captain instructed the flight attendants to be seated for departure. We were next behind the SK MD-80 and behind us on that side of the runway were a British Airways Boeing 777-200, a KLM Boeing 737-800 with winglets, a KLM Fokker F50 and the two Qantas Boeing 747-400s, one heading for Hong Kong and the other for Singapore. At 12:39p, we were airborne disappearing into the clouds rather quickly.

We did quite a few maneuvers to clear the airport airspace. You could see a British Airways Airways Airbus A319 off to our right doing maneuvers as well, having just departed as well .

Soon after takeoff, the lead flight attendant came on the PA and explained the service for the flight. He said that we would have a beverage and lunch service where beer, wine and cocktails were 5 USD or 3 GBP. Duty/Tax Free items will be offered so take a look at the new catalog in the seat back pocket. All major credit cards and foreign currency is accepted as payment, At about 1.5 hours before landing, there will be a snack service.

Then with about an hour remaining, they would hand out Immigration and Customs documents. Our movies can be found in the Private Screenings magazine in BusinessFirst and the Attractions magazine in Economy class. He also advised that we could use our electronic devices and don't forget to join the OnePass program online at or we could as a flight attendant for an application.

There were four lavatories in the middle of the Economy class cabin and two in the back of the airplane. Please use the lavs that are assigned to your cabin of service please. So please sit back and relax and enjoy the flight.

At 1:01p, the entertainment system was activated, unfortunately, the movie I had chose to watch, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” was not working and in its place was "The Debaters" which I had seen on my way over. The flight attendant mentioned that he was having issues with the tape. I started to search for something else and settled on "The Holiday" with Jude Law. Well, a minute later, the lead flight attendant came on the PA again and said that tape was busted as well :-(. In its place, he would show “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep" followed by a documentary called Fooled by Nature.

The promised beverage service started at 1:07p with a pack of pretzel and beverages of choice. I opted for some Ginger Ale and a cup of water.

I heard the guy in front of me ask the flight attendant for a headset, so I gave him the extra one that was in the empty middle seat next to me. The headsets are usually on the seat in a plastic bag with the blanket and pillow. But sometimes, some of the packets do not have any headsets as was apparently the case here.

The seatbelt signs were turned off at 1:18p as it was smooth sailing now.

Chicken Vesuvio with rice or beef lasagna choices came at 1:41p. I took the chicken. It came with two crackers and cheese, a roll and butter plus a salad with La Flora Italian dressing and dessert.

At 1:43p, there was an announcement asking if there was a Doctor onboard to ring their call button. I never did hear a call button ring though... After lunch and watching the tear jerker movie, I fell asleep.

About three hours or so later I awoke to see the flight attendants serving ice cream and juice at 5:53p London time (11:53a Houston time) it was now 4:05 to go and we were over Northern Canada.

I was awake now, so I turned on the computer that was charging using the laptop power port using an adapter and started to do some blogging, etc. This blogging stuff is hard work indeed.

At 1:14p Houston time (7:14p London with 2:43 to go) a flight attendant came by with water. Headwind was 14mph and we had an estimated arrival time of 3:57p.

At 2:46p (1:09 to go) and just northwest of Memphis, TN, our arrival snack was presented along with beverages. It was a chicken and cheese sandwich with mustard and a bag of potato chips and a chocolate.

At 3:19p, the lead flight attendant made the announcement about documentation. U.S. citizens, green card holders only need to fill out the Customs forms while customers with visa should fill out the white I-94 form and those from the visa waiver countries just need to fill out the green forms. Everyone must clear Immigration and Customs and if you are continuing to another you do not have to claim your bags in Houston, otherwise you must do so.

Fruits are prohibited into the United States, so leave them on the seat, surrender them or just eat them he continued; please let us know which forms you desire as the flight attendants pass through the cabin. A short video about the forms and Houston was then shown at 3:24p.

At 3:26p, the Captain came on said we are landing to the East which will add considerable time to our arrival time, which will be at 4:06p. The weather is partly cloudy with a temperature of 86F/26C. Winds are from the east at 10mph. He continued, “thank you for choosing us for your travel and hopes we enjoyed our travels. Enjoy your stay in Houston or your final destination and hope you use us for your future travel plans, have a great stay now, so long.”

As we descended, we had quite a bit of buffeting as we went through the clouds; it was white all around us. As we cleared the clouds and lined up with the runway, I could see a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-800 with winglets across the way landing on a parallel runway. Our approach was faster, but we both touched down at about the same time at 3:59p.

London Apr. 18: Airplanes in London Heathrow London, England (LHR)

London Apr. 18: The A380 taking off in London Heathrow International on 20APR08

London Apr. 18: In London Heathrow London, England

20PAR08 London Heathrow International, London England (LHR)

I made my way to the Continental counter in Terminal 4 and printed my boarding pass using the self-service kiosk. I had an aisle seat in the second cabin; the Exit row I think, but changed it as I wanted a seat with a power port. These are in rows 17 to 23 in Economy glass. I saw one of my colleagues and said hello. We chatted for a bit before I did my security checks.

I bade her goodbye and then headed for the airport security area. I was asked if I had any liquids and I said no and moved on. Saying yes, is just annoying as they want to give you bags and ask annoying questions. Well, all my stuff is already in bags and I have no water with me, at least not today. I do think they have way too many of those people standing around annoying people.

Speaking of annoying people, I saw one of them have this guy as they thought his bag was too big. So he had to stuff it in the sizer to prove it. Of course I could not escape it, so my bag had to be checked despite the fact that I told her it was fine. You would think that the amount of bags they see, they would be able to tell by now if a bag is bigger than is allowed or not.

The rest of the security system was fine, so I proceeded to the Holideck where I presented my documentation and gained access. It was now about 10:30a. The board said to “go to the gate” for my flight. I tooled around in the Holideck for a bit, had breakfast, took some pictures and then left.

When I got to the gate, boarding had not started and I saw the crew still outside and a catering truck at the rear of the plane. I guess we are delayed today. The gate area was quite crowded as there was a Qantas (QF) Boeing 747-400 flight leaving from the gate next to ours. Its first stop would be Hong Kong (HKG) on its way to Sydney, Australia (SYD). Coincidentally, there was also another QF flight to Sydney, but it was going through Singapore (SIN). This one was at gate 10, so the Continental flight was sandwiched by the two QF flights.

I walked around a bit more and came back and still no boarding. I did hear an announcement though of an apology for a delayed departure which was due to the late arriving aircraft. The crew had gone down to inspect the plane which was still being cleaned. Boarding would start shortly.

I took the long walk back to the Holideck and checked and sent a much needed e-mail. In a few minutes, the guy at the front desk announced that the flight was boarding as a special announcement. I then wrapped up my activities and went down to gate 9.

When I got there, they were just boarding Elites followed by special assistance passengers. In a few minutes, they boarded the masses and I went on board. As I walked down the jetway, the lady in front of me commented on how long of a walk it was. I concurred. Most of the jetway is actually in the terminal building. The actual jetway itself is really short. This time, I was not stopped for another random security check so I was safe. The checkers were busy checking others is the reason I think.

London Apr. 18: Leaving London, England

20APR08 London, England

I awoke at about what I think was 6:30a, but went back to sleep as it was way too early. My alarm clock then woke me up at 7:40a. I turned it off and awoke again at 7:54a. It was time for a shower, etc. and then departure a little later than I wanted to at 8:40a.

I then made my way to the tube station on this cold and foggy morning. It was 8:55a when the southbound Northern line train showed. I took it to Kings Cross St. Pancras and changed for the Piccadilly line which will take me all the way to Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 and 4. The train 2 minutes after this one will go to Terminal 1,2,3 and 5.

It was a nice ride out to the airport, just about an hour in all. A couple came on a few stops down the line and i think they were airline employees as the guys bag looked like a pilot bag and had the words “CREW” in blue lettering on a tag on the bag. Their body language was interesting as they sometimes held hands and then most of the time, they were just quiet staring at the route map for the train. I busied myself with updating the blog until I ran out battery and then I read a copy of Business Traveller.

We arrived at Terminal 4 at 10:04a.