Friday, August 08, 2008

Beijing 2008 - The Summer Olympiad: Newark Liberty, Newark NJ (EWR) to Beijing, People's Republic of China (PEK)

CO89 Newark Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR) to Beijing Capital International, Beijing People’s Republic of China (PEK) 12:10p 1:50p+1 Day 777 N78003

Flight Time: 12:46
Seat Map

I boarded and was greeted by a flight attendant who directed me to my window seat in the BusinessFirst cabin. I made a right at the door in this 2-2-2 configured cloth seat cabin which is adjacent to the Economy class cabin with its 3-3-3 configured cloth seats.

I said hello to my seatmate who was on the phone and she allowed me to get to my seat. While I was settling in, a menu and an amenity kit was handed to me. An offer for a drink was made so I got some white wine to start off the trip; it arrived in a few minutes.

My main course choice was taken and I chose the stir-fried chicken over the chef’s selection of grilled Sterling Silver New York sirloin steak, herb-crusted halibut and Chinese noodle bowl. I also had to choose my salad dressing of blue cheese over the Champagne vinaigrette.

I wrapped up some calls and checked e-mail for the last time. I also plugged in my new adapter and it was not working :(. Baffled, disappointed and a bit angry, I tried the outlet for the other seat and still nothing although the light was green on both of them. It was not when I had initially plugged it in.

I am traveling with two computers, yes I am a geek, but I do mix vacation with work as that works well for me. One of them was out of power and died while I was reading an e-mail. Bummer I thought. I let it all go and tried to relax thinking that later I’d figure it out.

An offer of newspaper came by and I picked up what was left of the New York Times, the sports section and the China Daily. Except for the Financial Times, I still had not read the papers I picked up back in Houston.

We started our pushback soon and the safety video also began in English with Mandarin sub titles. By now, my seatmate and I had exchanged pleasantries after both wrapping up last minute calls. She was actually going to Beijing for the Olympics as well but in a slightly different capacity than I. There were obviously a few others going for the same thing as well.

I was not really paying much attention (I was having a wonderful conversation with my seatmate), but we pulled up really close to a Kalita Boeing Cargo 747. This was really the first time I had seen one of them up close. There was cargo in the plane already and more was being added.

After a short wait, it was our turn and we took to runway 19-11 and were airborne in no time making right hand turns as we did so. I was sitting right next to the engine so my view was somewhat obscured.

After takeoff, the lead flight attendant explained the service to us. We would have lunch in a bit as well as a mid flight meal and then about 1.5 hours before landing yet another meal. Duty Free is available onboard, etc.

As soon as we leveled out, I tried the outlets at two other open seats and still no go. I was now convinced that it was my unit that was broken. The lead flight attendant helped me out a bit too, but nothing. To my delight, my seat pulled out her device and offered it to me as she said her computer was fully charged and when she needed it later, she would just take it back. Fair enough I though; a random acts of kindness! Her device is a little different as it allows you to plug a normal plug into the hub. I had seen some of those while shopping yesterday, but they were much bigger than this one.

I played around with the connectors and realized that the guilty party was the connector from the hub of my device to the seat. Go figure that I buy a new device and it is dead out of the box. I then plugged in the work laptop and caught up on some e-mails for a bit.

I had started to look through the movie selections but nothing seemed to jump out at me at the moment. Here is what’s on tap today:
  1. 88 Minutes/Ojo Critico
  2. Annie Leibovitz: life Through a Lens/All Greek to Me
  3. Snow Angels
  4. The Drama Channel
  5. Continental Presents HBO: Sex and the City, Rome, Entourage, Extras
  6. Sleepwalking/What It Takes
  7. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House/Global Trends
  8. Continental Presents Independent Films: August the First/Pure and Simple with Michael Nischan
  9. Continental Presents House
  10. The Storm Riders
  11. Leatherhaeads/Behind the Scenes
  12. Continental Family Channel 1: How to Eat Fried Worms/Animaniacs, Powerpuff Girls
  13. L for Love, L for Lies/Full Record of the World
  14. What Happens in Vegas/30 Rock
  15. Continental Presents CSI
  16. Comedy Programming: Creature Comforts, The Facts of Life, Everybody Hates Chris, Welcome to the Captain, The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Cosby Show
  17. The Entertainment Channel
  18. 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. B&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
I decided on one of the Chinese titles, but it was sub-titled so I could not understand what was going on, but I enjoyed the action as I am a big fan of karate movies.

The meal service started with an offering of hot towels (I noticed that this was done in Economy class as well). This was followed with offerings of mixed nuts (cashew, almond, pecan, etc.) and beverage of choice. I had some French Chablis.

Next came the appetizer cart with smoked salmon with cream cheese and caviar accompanied by creamed horseradish sauce and roasted duck accented by red chili pepper. Well, this is what the menu said, but we actually got shrimp and crab meat instead of the smoked salmon and caviar. There was no notice nor explanation of the switch though.

The mesclun salad mix and romaine lettuce with baby pear and pecans with my choice of blue cheese dressing arrived next with generous helpings of bread throughout the service.

After this, the main course arrived with chop sticks as a choice of utensils.

I looked at the screens and realized we were heading due north, fantastic! Here are some pictures.

Cheese and crackers plus fruits followed and then dessert.

I chose the ice cream sundae over the warm fruit cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. I really was very full, so I asked to have my sundae later, but the flight attendant said I could not as it would melt. Reluctantly, I had it.

Duty Free came by and I declined the offer. I started to think that maybe there was a device in the catalog, so I checked it out. Indeed there was and it was the same device that my seatmate had at a cost of $125 about the same cost as what I paid for my device and it was tax free! I thought about purchasing it, but I remembered seeing one at my local Micro Center store for $39.99, only it was a bit of a monster. The note on this said it was the world’s smallest such device. Indeed it was compact. I guess I’ll have to make some time to shop for this item in Beijing. I really need to be productive on my way back as well.

I was falling asleep on myself, so I connected the personal computer to the power port as the work one was now fully charged and went to sleep without haste. A bottle of water was handed to me just before I went to sleep though. Here is where we were in terms of location:

I awoke for some strange reason in time for the mid-flight snack of Taiwanese-style noodle soup of prawn, soya egg, meat sauce, bok choy, bean sprouts and noodles in a rich broth and cherry linzer cake.

We had about 5:48 to go and had just passed the International Date Line. We were flying North of the eastern tip of Russia now. This is actually my first time flying the Polar route as the first time I attempted it on my Newark to Hong Kong flight, the flares were too high so we did the normal route.

It was now time to do some stuff on the personal computer so the next few hours was spent being very productive as that was a part of the plan of sitting in this cabin in the first place.

I took a walk down the Economy class cabin and people were sleeping, watching the movies, playing with their electronic devices, reading and just staring about. Kids were running around and entertaining themselves. I guess the time has to be passed somehow.

At 11:30p (1:53 to go) local time in Newark, NJ the arrival service started in the Economy class cabin. The BusinessFirst service did not begin as yet. Two minutes later, the cabin lights came on in the BusinessFirst cabin, looks like it was time for breakfast.

First there was a hot towel, then a tray came with utensils, water, butter, salt, pepper and fruits (grapes, strawberry, cantaloupe and pineapple).

After the meal, landing cards arrived. Each person must fill one out for China. We now had 1:06 to go and Beijing was dead ahead on the map. Our estimated arrival time is 1:24p and it is 12:18p in Newark, NJ.

The lead agent came on the PA and advised that the documentation is being handed; possession of a non-Chinese passport must fill out this form. If you have items to declare then you have to fill out a Baggage Declaration form. All transit passengers must complete the form as well. He also re-iterated the flight number and the arrival date as August 9, 2008. He concluded that a video will be shown as well in just a bit. The announcement was repeated in Manadarin.

Soon, we started descending into Beijing...

Beijing 2008 - The Summer Olympiad: Arriving in Newark, NJ (EWR) from IAH

08-08-08 Newark Liberty International, Newark NJ (EWR)

I did hear the guy behind me saying that the landing was a bit rough. I guess I was really sleeping. We taxied into the gate area after seeing an American Airlines (AA) Boeing 757-200 with winglets, an El Al Boeing 777 as well as a PrivatAir Boeing 737-700 taxiing to the gate having just arrived from Germany.

I noticed that we pulled up to gate 74, which I think is the flight to Beijing; N78003.

It took a while to get off the plane, so I just sat there and updated the blogs.
Once off, I went over to the gate and collected my boarding pass. I did score the upgrade.

Beijing 2008 - The Summer Olympiad: Houston, TX (IAH) to Newark Liberty, Newark NJ (EWR)

CO89 08-08-08 Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Newark Liberty international, Newark NJ (EWR) Boeing 737-800 w/winglets [16/141] (738) N16288

Flight Time: 2:58
Seat Map

I boarded when it was my turn actually after they said rows 10 and higher. When I got into the jetway, it was backed up though. Eventually I made my way into the aircraft saying hello to the two flight attendants at the door. The customer behind me commented on how tall the female one was and she smiled back and they had a little banter going.

I slowly made my way back to my seat located almost to the back of this 3-3 cloth seat configuration in Economy and 2-2 leather seats in First class cabin. As I did so, the captain came on the PA and gave the arrival weather and our flight time of 2:58. There was still ample space for bags in the overhead and I was able to find a space about three rows forward of my seat.

The lady at the aisle got up and gave me access and I settled in. It was now way past departure time and we were still in the boarding process. Soon the doors closed and we pushed back at 6:44a. The safety video also started at that point.

On our way out to the runway, I could see two US Airways (US) Boeing 737-300s, two American Airlines (AA) MD-80s a United Boeing 737-300 as well as a Northwest Airlines (NW) Airbus A319. Directly ahead of us was a United Airlines (UA) Airbus A320 which eventually gave us the right of way to runway 15L. I am assuming an ATC delay for its Chicago, IL (ORD) destination.

It was now 7:00a and we were airborne in seconds. We made a hard right hand turn and basically made an almost 270 degrees turn which took us over the runway and the airport terminal. It was cool as I could see an ERJ landing as well as an American MD-80 taking off behind us. There was also the morning traffic heading to work in the city.

It was great to look outside and see the blanket of clouds below.

The film today is “Leather Heads” with George Clooney and Rene Zelweiger and there is a charge of 1 USD for the headsets, but you can use your own if you have them. We will have a beverage and breakfast service onboard today; alcoholic drinks are 5 USD and non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary.

The entertainment system started with a preview of the Heroes being available on DVD. Then there was a preview of the movie. By then the flight attendant had already passed through offering headsets for 1 USD. Shortly after, the movie started.

You could feel us slow down for a bit just as the flight attendants were making their way up the aisle with the beverage cart. Although I’ve already had breakfast,

I was eager to see what was in store this morning.

The seatbelt sign had just gone off when breakfast arrived at 7:41a; it consisted of honey Nut Chex cereal, milk and a banana.

Just before that the Captain came on the PA at our cruise altitude of 37,000’. He said that we were 1,022 air miles away and we will be on the ground in 2:10. The temperature is 78F and he anticipates a smooth ride so the seatbelt signs were turned off; but while you are seated keep them fastened. Our route of flight would be east of Memphis, TN then to Nashville, TN to Philly, PA and then to Newark.

It was 7:55a, when the beverage cart arrived; by then I had already finished my cereal and banana. I did have some water though and the lady next to me had some orange juice. She had long finished her breakfast as well.

As I was a bit tired, I tried to recline and get some well needed sleep.

I awoke on descent and put up the tray table and the back of my seat. I then went back to sleep. The next thing I knew it was 11:00a and we were touching down on runway 4L I think it was in Newark International.

Beijing 2008 - The Summer Olympiad: At the gate in IAH

At the gate in Houston Intercontinentnal, Houston TX (IAH)

At the gate, I asked for and received my boarding pass as it was already waiting. I then continued to blog as I waited for boarding to start. I believe it was about 6:15a or so when it started.

Beijing 2008 - The Summer Olympiad: At the Car Rental Facility

At the Car Rental Agency

The agent checked the car in and then I looked at the bill and noticed that the rate was incorrect. The rover told me to go inside to have it corrected. Just what I needed this morning; a delay. I made my way inside and luckily there was no one at the counter. In a few minutes, the agent adjusted the rate and I was out of there.

I got in a bus as it arrived and in a few minutes was off to the airport terminal. At the terminal, I got checked in, showed my visa and cleared security with ease. A guy got stopped as he had a bottle of alcohol that he had bought in duty free.

I stopped to check the FIDs, but the one with my flight on it was not working. It is also strange, that the display does not show Beijing as a destination and CO89 leaves from Houston to Beijing via Newark...

I then went to the Presidents Club where I had breakfast and waited for a seat. Using, I realized that I got a seat and headed downstairs to claim it.

Beijing 2008 - The Summer Olympiad: And I'm off

It's 8-8-8 and I'm off to Beijing.

It was 3:35a when my alarm clock went off; sadly, it had only been less than an hour since I lay me down to sleep. I crawled out of bed and got ready and by 4:22a, I was on my way, still tired.

The morning drive was easy and without incident and I arrived at the Avis lot at the airport at 5:00a.