Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bucharest, Romania June 2008: Arriving in Houston, Intercontinental, Houston, TX (IAH) from Amsterdam

15JUN08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

It was a decent enough landing, but when you sit near to the back of the plane, you always feel the correction much more. We landed on the runway that was close to the E gates so it took no time for us to park at the gate.

I waited for my colleague who was sitting further back and I think we were possibly the last two off the plane safe the crew. We headed for the Immigration area, noticing that a lot of flights had just arrived including the Lufthansa (LH) flight from Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) that was one of our backup flights.

I cleared Immigration without any issues although the lady wanted to know why I visited Bucharest and why I have visited so many places. I simply said that I had never been there before and I love to visit different places.

My colleague had to go to secondary screening so I had to wait for him. In about 40 minutes or so, he came back. We then cleared security and left and headed for the car park.

Bucharest, Romania June 2008: Amsterdam Schipol (AMS) to Houston Intercontinental (IAH)

CO59 15JUN08 Amsterdam Schipol International, Amsterdam Netherlands (AMS) to Houston Intercontinental. Houston TX (IAH) 9:50a 1:30p 762 N??159

Flight Time: 9:54
Seat Map

I greeted the greeting flight attendant on entry through the most forward airplane door. This gave me an opportunity to walk through the 2-1-2 configured BusinessFirst cabin with its 25 cloth seats. People were getting settled in and making their dinner orders as we walked through.

As I entered the 2-3-2 configured Economy class cabin, there was a bit of congestion on the right aisle, so I moved to the left aisle when I had a chance. It was strange as I made it to me seat, stowed my bag and my colleague was just showing up and he had boarded before I did.

It wasn’t until 10:02a that the lead flight attendant said that we were ready to go. The safety demo started at 7 minutes after the hour and then pushback started soon after. As I was in a middle seat, it was hard to tell what was going on outside. I did see a KLM Boeing 747-400 next to us waiting to go though and wondered if that was the one going to Houston.

It was 10:24a, when we took to the runway and was airborne quickly thereafter.

After the takeoff, the lead flight attendant made an announcement about the service to expect for the flight; first a beverage service, followed by a lunch and also another beverage service. Then midway through the flight, there is a snack service and 1.5 hours before landing there will be another snack service. He also mentioned the location of the lavatories and stressed the importance of using the lavs in your own cabin. While he was making his speech, we buzzed 10,000’ so he announced that approved devices can now be used.

A few people had already gotten up although the seatbelt signs were still illuminated. It is always interesting when I get back on U.S. airline-operated flights as they tend to keep the seat belt signs on longer. On most European airlines I’ve flown, the pilots will turn off the seatbelt signs while the airplane is still climbing.

The arrival video was shown immediately after takeoff and immigration documentation was also handed out. This is a little bit different than I am accustomed to as usually this is done close to the end of the flight after the last meal is served.

The movies started at 10:52a. We had a choice of ten channels and I thought I’d start with ‘College Road Trip” with Martin Lawrence and Raven Symone and see how far that gets me. I was a little disappointed though as the video was tracking badly L. Before the movie could start, the system was shut down.

At 11:00a, the lead flight attendant announced that he has to reboot the system and it will take about 5-10 minutes and that should fix the issue that apparently we were experiencing. He also noted that it was necessary to stow the handsets. I always wondered why that was the case. It would seem to me that the programmers could have come up with a better reboot procedure than that.

Here are the entertainment choices for today:

  1. Continental Presents House
  2. Definitely Maybe/Friends
  3. Continental Family Channel 2: The Ant Bully/Dexter’s Laboratory, Xiaolin Showdown, Sylvester & Tweety
  4. College Road Trip/Take Home Chef
  5. Horton Hears a Who!/Teen Titans
  6. Continental Presents CSI
  7. Comedy Programming: The Big bang Theory; Chico and the Man; The Game ; Everybody Hates Chris; Welcome Back, Kotter; The King of Queens
  8. The Entertainment Channel
  9. Airshow

In terms of Music selections:

  1. Opera
  2. Now & Then
  3. Ambient Groove
  4. Latin Fiesta
  5. Continental Lounge
  6. The Classics
  7. The Hit Factory
  8. Jazz Beat
  9. Continental Talk
  10. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  11. Country Roads
  12. Live Broadway
  13. Club Continental
  14. R&B Groove
  15. World Music
  16. B Tween
  17. Hindi Music
  18. Japanese Favorites
  19. Chinese Pop
  20. Shalom

For games, we had:

  1. Chess
  2. Poker
  3. Solitaire
  4. Invasion
  5. Elephant Memory
  6. Bzzz
  7. Blackjack
  8. Crave Crunch
  9. Caveman
  10. Hangman

At 11:01a the Captain announced that we were at 32,000’, our initial cruisin’ altitude; he then switched off the seatbelt signs as the flight was smooth now but reminded us to keep them buckled while seated. 9:54 is our schedule flight time with a schedule arrival time of 1:30 and we should be ontime he continued. The weather at 4:40a local time in Houston is winds are from the south at 5mph, it is warm at 79F/26C with partly cloudy skies; so sit back and relax and enjoy the flight. Welcome on board and thank you for joining us and we will talk to you once we get on the other side. As the entertainment system was down I could not tell where exactly we were at this moment.

One thing always gets me about these announcements is that do we really need to know the weather at 4:40a at our destination when we won’t arrive until 1:30p? It’s just a thought that is always on my mind when I fly. I mean he will tell us the weather once we are closer, so who cares what it is now?

The beverage service started four minutes later. All beverages are complimentary, but beer, wine or margarita or mixed drinks are 5 USD or 4 EUR. Oh, the headsets are complimentary on this flight.

At 11:15a, the entertainment system got reactivated at about which time the beverage cart arrived at my row. I hate to say it but I don’t think the reboot helped much at least not initially as the tape I was watching was still tracking badly. It got better later.

Lunch arrived soon after and offered a choice of beef brisket, vegetarian or chicken marinara. I opted for the chicken with marinara and brussell sprouts in addition to crackers, cheese, butter, a roll, dessert and a salad with Farm Kitchen Ranch dressing.

I ate heartily and fell asleep very quickly after the cleanup was done.

With 4.5 hours to go and somewhere over Northern Canada having just crossed the Atlantic Ocean just north of Gander, New Foundland, were served a small tub of ice cream with beverage of choice. I awoke and waited for it thaw out, before eating it and then falling asleep once more.

When I next awoke, it was 1.5 hours to go and they were serving a snack of a bag of potato chips, a nugget of chocolate and a warm chicken turkey sandwich with cheese. We were also served beverages.

After the cleanup and with about 0:25 to go, the lead flight attendant gave some additional information about required documentation and the arrival process. He stressed that it was necessary to remove all the liquids from your hand luggage if you were connecting to another city. Also if you are transiting to another country, it is not necessary to pick up your bags in Houston.

He also said that our estimated time of arrival was now 1:10p. It was 1:14p when we touched down.

Bucharest, Romania June 2008: Arriving in Amsterdam Schipol (AMS) from Bucharest, Romania (OTP)

15JUN08 Amsterdam Schipol International, Amsterdam Netherlands (AMS)

I am not sure which runway we landed on, but the end of it was close to Concourse G. it was a smooth landing, but we braked hard and headed for Concourse D. It was great to see a bunch of planes as we headed there.

The purser welcomed us to Amsterdam and advised that if you are a Romanian good luck on Tuesday as you are going to need it. He was referring to the football game between Romania and the Netherlands on Tuesday in the Euro 2008 football competition. The whole plane erupted in laughter and clapping.

We deplaned and headed for Concourse G so that we can pay the departure tax and collect our boarding passes. We did see some troops at one gate leaving from one gate. They were boarding an Air Berlin A330. I think this is one of the planes that they will sue for Transatlantic service soon.

I was also able to get a picture of our plane next to it.

Once that was done, we headed to the KLM Crown Lounge that was closest. We showed our credentials and settled in. It was great to relax for a bit before the long 10 hour or so flight across the Atlantic.

We left the KLM Crown Lounge at ten minutes after the hour of nine o’clock and headed for gate G7. It was quite a walk so we hustled. My colleague wanted to get a sandwich, but the lines were too long and since we were a bit late.

When we got to the gate, we went through security checks and then waited for a seat. The inbound aircraft was late, so boarding started late.

As the flight was full I got a middle seat and my colleague got the last window seat. Soon, boarding started.

Bucharest, Romania June 2008: Bucharest International (OTP) to Amsterdam Schipol International (AMS)

KL1358 15JUN08 Henri Coanda International, Bucharest Romania (OTP) to Amsterdam Schipol International, Amsterdam Netherlands (AMS) 6:00a 7:55a 738 with winglets PH-BXT

Flight Time: 2:35
Seat Map

We were greeted by the purser and ushered forward. Two passengers were just getting settled in Business Class as we made our way past them to our seats in Economy class. This cabin is configured in a 3-3 arrangement. The Business Class cabin has 15 seats also in a 3-3 configuration; all seats on the airplane were taken today.

I asked the passengers at the middle and the aisle to allow me to get through to my window seat after placing my bag in the overhead bin. There was lots of overhead space so this was not an issue at all. Oh, one of the flight attendants was from my flight the day before, she recognized me and said hello and I reciprocated.

The door closed at 5:50a and our push back commenced five minutes later. The flight attendants were doing their demos manually as this aircraft has no entertainment system. The purser advised that although there are life vests under your seats, there is no demo of the life vests as this aircraft was not flying over water. I also did notice that the aircraft has no life rafts either.

It was cool to see a Tarom Airbus A310 next to our plane.

and the Air France A318 which was going to Paris on the left side of us.

We made our way for runway 8R and was airborne at 6:03a. It was odd to see the speed brakes slightly deployed on takeoff on the wing.

The weather was amazing as we flew around the clouds to avoid the associated turbulence.

At 6:25a, we picked up a bit of lateral turbulence and you could hear the pilots cut back throttle on the engines almost immediately.

It was 7:15a when the breakfast arrived; I had kept myself awake by blogging and reviewing the pictures I took. The meal was in a brown box which had a yogurt, spicy organic bar, strawberry, butter and cheese plus plastic utensils; a warm roll was presented as well.

You could get your beverage of choice as well. They were actually serving from the back and the front and they met at my row.

Thrash pick up followed at about 7:35a.

At 7:40a, an announcement was made by the purser about duty free sales, first in Dutch and then in English. The items for sale can be found in the holland herald magazine; KLM has three versions of this magazines: one with duty free items and the entertainment for international flights another with duty free items and no entertainment and yet another with the whole enchilada. As this was an international flight without any entertainment, we have the first one.

He also added that the Captain has informed him that we expect to arrive in Amsterdam at 7:30a; twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Gate and transfer information will be forthcoming later in the flight.

Our descent started at 8:05a, which was now 7:05a in our time zone. The Captain came on the PA at 7:09a and advised that we just passed the border between Germany and Eastern Netherlands (it was cloudy out so I could not tell at all); our expected remaining flying time is expected to be 20 minutes if there are no air traffic delays; the weather is good and there is a light southwesterly wind and temperature is 10C with light rain expected later today; he then wished us a pleasant day.

Our arrival would be gate D5 said the purser and the landing runway is close to the terminal ; he then advised to check the Flight Information Displays on landing for the gates and if you have a boarding card go straight to your gate, otherwise you can just use one of the many Transfer Desks in the terminal.

At 7:20a, we were told to prepare the cabin for landing. It was great to see the landscape below as we headed in for the airport.

Bucharest, Romania June 2008: Departing the Henri Coanda Airport

15jun08 Henri Coanda International, Bucharest Romania (OTP)

It was exactly 5:00a when we arrived at the airport. We paid our cab drive in a combination of USD and LEI. It was pretty clear that he charged us more than he should have, but I let it slide. He had actually had the meter running as he was waiting for us.

Despite the rain, the airport was bustling with activity. There were the flights to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) at 6:50a, the 6:00a to Amsterdam (AMS) on KLM and Lufthansa’s A321 service to Frankfurt (FRA) at 6:00a. We could take anyone that had room, our first choice was Air France at 6:50a, but that was full so we decided to try our luck with KLM at 6:00a. We knew that the Lufthansa flight at 6:00a was a sure thing in case the KLM flight crapped out.

We checked with the Menzies agent who checks in both the Air France and KLM flights and he said that both the Air France and KLM flights were overbooked, but we should wait and he will advise. We waited until 5:30a at which point, they said that we would get a Business Class seat. A few minutes later, we got the bad news that due to a glitch, Economy class was the best they could do today, which for us is just fine.

We immediately made it through security without any incident noticing that the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt was an Airbus A321 that was painted in the old Lufthansa livery of the early 1900s; it was a beautiful sight to see.

Sadly, we had no time to stop in the stores and get last minute gifts at all. As we were walking to the gate, our names were being paged over the PA system. The same agents who had just checked us in were at the gate as well.

We showed our boarding passed, they took the larger portion and then we boarded. There was actually one other passenger who was behind us as well.

Bucharest, Romania June 2008: Leaving downtown Bucharest

It is 4:27a and we are headed for the airport in Bucharest. Our cab will arrive in two minutes. We have to decide whether to go to Paris or to Amsterdam and then home to Houston.