Friday, April 25, 2008

Italy Apr.: Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

25APR08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

It was 5:55p when we got dropped off at Terminal E. The security line was short and we had no issues making it through.

We both made it into the Presidents Club and tried to relax for a bit. I actually met another colleague there who was also going to Paris. I picked up a copy of the Financial Times, but really wanted a copy of the Wall Street Journal as well. My colleague was getting a little antsy as it was 6:05p, so she went ahead to the gate.

As I left the Club, I saw another colleague of mine who was trying to flying around the world in some kind of interesting routing. We had talked earlier, but had not come up with anything concrete. Options included Houston to Dubai and back to Houston via Atlanta, GA (ATL) on Delta (DL) as well as Tokyo, Japan (NRT) via KLM out of Amsterdam (AMS) and then Northwest from Narita to Seattle, WA (SEA) and then back to Houston. The flight to Amsterdam was delayed so he was kind of at a loss, but I told him to just continue on that routing and hope for the best. I had to hastily depart as I was really running late for my flight at 6:40p. I’ll find out on Sunday what he ended up doing.

I got to the gate at 6:15p (a little late), collected my boarding pass, asked for a different seat, was denied as the flight was full so I then boarded.

Alexis - Mexico City Apr. 2008: Miami, FL (MIA) to Port of Spain, Trinidad (POS)

AA1663 25APR08 Miami International, Miami Fl (MIA) to Piarco International, Port of Spain Trinidad (POS) 4:45p 8:20p 757

Flight Time: 3:08

Seat Map

The initial turn around was rather quick. By 5:35 p.m. boarding started. I noted that they were now showing a departure time of 6:20 p.m.. The passengers were all settled long before they finished loading the luggage. We eventually push back just after 6:20 p.m. and were taxing by 6:27 p.m.. We were later given a flying time of 3:08. I spent most of the flight reading. The movie was "Mad Money", which I had seen and enjoyed, but my headset did not work without the adapter that I had left in my other bag in the overhead locker, so I gave the entertainment system a pass.

On the approach into the Piarco, I noted that the aircraft seemed not to be holding, but the approach seemed to take a long time. After landing at about 9:55 p.m. we got to the gate at 10:00 p.m.

On deplaning, I asked the pilot what kind of approach he did. He said he came straight in, but had to slow for an aircraft ahead. That accounted for the turns I felt. He was doing what is termed "dog-legs" to create space. He said that he flies in to Trinidad regularly and commended the job we air traffic controllers do.

Italy Apr.: Leaving downtown Houston

We departed work at 5:01p. Traffic was light and in no time without using the HOV lane, we arrived at the airport parking facilities.

Alexis - Mexico City Apr. 2008: Delayed in Miami, FL (MIA)

Miami International Airport, Miami FL (MIA) 11:20 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

I set off looking for the book that I did not get last week. I am successful this time. After some browsing I go to eat; I read a bit and then answer some e-mail and try to organise my Inbox. At 3:00 p.m. I leave to clear TSA security. I check the board for my flight and see that there is no gate change, but there is a time change with a delay to 5:45 p.m.. I decided to continue to the gate, ultimately because I felt that I would be just as comfortable there as anywhere else.

At 3:55 p.m. American Airlines (AA) has just announced, for those who don't already know, I guess, that our flight to Port of Spain, Trinidad (POS) is delayed to 5:45p, but that realistically we should expect a 6:00 p.m. departure since the flight is international arriving from Aruba Netherlands Antilles (AUA) and requires more time to clear Customs.

They have just made another announcement about a gate change for AA1663. I guess that they had changed gates but have switched back to the original D39 which is the gate we are sitting at and which is the gate they gave me this morning.

It is now 5:06 p.m. and there is no activity at our gate yet so I won't be surprised at a departure even later than 6:00 p.m. I am premature. It is 5:10 p.m. and the arrival announcement is made, with a departure estimate of 6:05 p.m.; arrival POS 9:34 p.m.

Alexis - Mexico City Apr. 2008: Arriving in Miami, FL (MIA)

Arrival in Miami International, Miami FL (MIA) 10:37a

True to their word, we arrive in Miami in 2 hrs 31 min. That means I did not have to hear one of those ironic announcements about air traffic control delay. As an air traffic controller, it is amusing to hear an announced "air traffic control" delay instead of an "air traffic" delay. The delay happens because there is too much traffic in the system. During rush hour on the highways, we know that there is too much traffic on the roads; we don't blame the traffic lights! In fact, we know that were it not for the traffic lights there would be even more chaos.

Anyway, as I depart the aircraft, I asked the crew what time they were airborne. They told me that they pushed back eight minutes early and there was a flying time of 2:31. It seems that they don't pay much attention to the actual airborne time. Another irony since that is what we record and, at least in my jurisdiction, give religiously to the pilot.

Immigration and Customs

I take my time leaving the aircraft as usual. Once I get to the Immigration hall, I proceed to the far left and sure enough there are not many people in the lines there. Passenger always head to the officers that are in front of them when entering the hall so the lines to the extreme ends always have fewer people. Today the officers are working faster than last week. And I am through rather quickly even with the delay for a change of officers.

This allows me to have an interesting conversation about stress with the officer who on finding out that I am an air traffic controller remarked that I did not look stressed. (I will resist the urge here to digress on stress.) By 11:20 a.m. I have rechecked my bags. Not seeing my flight listed, I went to an agent to find out the gate, surmising that it was too early. I was given gate D39, with the usual proviso that it was subject to change.

Off to Venice, Italy (VCE)

At least that is the intended destination.

A colleague of mine loves to go to Italy and I told her that I'll go with her whenever I have a free weekend. That free weekend is this weekend although other trip options have come up such as:

Norway and a trip to South America.

She is a nervous flier so this will be an interesting trip. Already the Air France (AF) flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Venice tomorrow is overbooked, so that will make it interesting. The good thing is that if we get there, we can get back the next morning as the early morning flight is fine.

Our back up is to get to Florence, Italy (FLR) which is also overbooked on the outbound, but O.K. on the Sunday a.m. return.

We will see...

Alexis - Mexico City Apr. 2008: Mexico CIty, Mexico (MEX) to Miami, FL (MIA)

AA2144 25APR08 Mexico City, Mexico (MEX) to Miami International, Miami FL (MIA) 6:55a 11:05a 738

Flight Time: 2:33

Seat Map

We pushed back at what I make to be 7:50a. Having visited the Mexico City air traffic control tower the day before, I try to visual our pushback and subsequent taxi. The control tower is 120 feet tall, so the view is magnificent. It was easy to see all the surrounding ring of mountains, even though hazy, and appreciate that Mexico City is in a valley; albeit one that is more than 7,700 feet above sea level.

In less than ten minutes we are off. There are two runways in Mexico City and departures are from the 05L, while landings are on 05R. A flying time of 2 hrs, 33 min is announced. (I note that this is considerably less the 3 hrs 10 min flying time in the opposite direction. I make a mental note to find out why.)

The movie is National Treasure 2, which I have seen so know it is not worth my time getting my headset out of my bag. So I rested as best as I could, feeling the effects of the time I had to get up.

Alexis - Mexico City 2008: Pre-departure

Pre-departure: 25APR08

It is 5:00 a.m., and as I feared, my taxi has not arrived. I wait ten minutes and then reluctantly call my colleague, who sounds surprisingly alert. He says he will call the taxi-company and call me back. I wait, wondering again whether I should just take one of the (few) cabs passing in the street; and telling myself this is what I pay for being an "English only" speaker.

As I stand outside the driver of a car from the other side of the road signals to me and I presume this is my ride. He makes the block and comes back. I put my bags in the car and go back into the flat for my next bag. The telephone rings and it is my colleague telling me that the car should be there anytime. I tell him there is one here already. He gives me the number of the car and I am left wondering and whether I got into the wrong car. I say my goodbyes and thank yous, close the doors and starts scrutinising the car more closely.

The driver senses my doubts and makes the signal of having received a phone call. I get in the car and we are off, but he looks for and gives me a company card. A bit later, he picks up the clipboard and reads off my name. It is only in hindsight that I realised how perceptive he was and how much he tried to reassure me. The thing is I was just happy to be getting to the airport.

As I was only five minutes away from the airport I had elected to leave at 5:00 a.m., knowing, however, that if anything went wrong, I could be left rushing.

When I get to the counters there are not many people so check-in was quick. I proceed to my gate (A35) and find that it is right next to a restaurant so I have breakfast. Boarding starts while I eat.