Archive for May, 2008

Mexico City – Miami, FL | AA2198 | 14F

May 30, 2008

On my way back to Miami – sitting in the admirals club and really disappointed in the wireless service – Internet is damn slow.  I was able to get an emergency seat after all – so there is some light at the end of this dark dark tunnel of business travel.  So far the flight seems like it will leave on time.

The gate was mayhem again – there are just too many frequent fliers between Mexico and Miami – the gate agent should have taken charge and enforced a "one line" line instead of a circus.  The flight did leave on time though.

Off topic, I found a great tool to write posts offline, Windows Live Writer.  It is basically a stripped down version of Word that allows you to add several weblogs from various platforms.  Has the functionality to add tags, videos, photos, tables, maps, etc.  So I can be writing my post, save it, and all I have to do is click publish next time I connect to the web. 

Landed on time – immigration just took a very long time…

Kansas City, MO – NYC, NY (LGA) | Midwest #76 | Seat 12B

May 30, 2008

What a flight. I have only flown Midwest once before and I embarrassed myself. This was years and years ago and an old boss adn I went to the airport and he asked for first class, knowing full well that Midwest has an entire first class-ish cabin. The gate agent winked and said yes, so I asked to be upgraded too. They patted me on the head and played along.

I haven’t avoided Midwest, i just haven’t had a reason to fly them. I got lucky today – the flight was 1:20, but i thought it was 1:50 so i got to the gate when they were doing the final boarding call. The guy in the seat next to me seemed like a doofus but I have good ignoring skills so I wasn’t worried. Just before takeoff a guy from another seat asked the doofus next to me to trade. Turns out doofus had a friend, no, make that a drunk friend, who wanted to sit with doofus.

The kid who ended up sitting next to me was great. Steve is moving to NYC from San Diego and is looking for a job in marketing. Bright kid, asked good questions, was definitely not afraid to seize the moment and had a personality. I gave him my card and told him I’d love to have him come for an interview. I hope he calls.

Doofus and drunken friend didn’t have such a good flight. Toward the end, drunken friend required extra barf bags to accommodate both barf and a bloody nose. Then, when drunken friend got up to deplane he banged his head into the overhead compartment. I guess that makes him a doofus too.

On a side note, the Asian noodle and shrimp salad on board for 11 bucks was quite good for airplane food.  And the fresh baked choolate chip cookies that are apparently a Midwest staple were a hit with me.

Miami, FL – Mexico City, Mexico | AA 2199 | 24D

May 27, 2008

Getting up early for a flight is always a real pain – the only good thing is that the roads to the airport are usually empty. I was pleasantly surprised as I did expect the airport to be busy considering Memorial Weekend just “flew by”. My plane was full, but I already knew this – I have been checking the seat map religiously trying to get an emergency exit seat without any luck. Miami / Mexico City seems to be a very popular route – especially among the frequent flyers – I was once one a plane to Mexico that had over 40 Executive and Platinum. On this flight they actually boarded by row numbers, skipped the frequent flier pre-board.

Flight was quiet, except that about 30mins into it the flight attendant asked if anyone on board was a doctor – as long as it is not for the pilot, I am okay with that ;). Kidding aside, one passenger seemed to be light-headed. Thankfully there was a MD available – they wet the patients, I mean passengers forehead and lied him down in the back. Seems to be doing okay, no one flipped out.

I was lucky enough to have the seat next to me empty – think it is the only one available…did some emails, read, and took a brief nap.

Albany, NY – Tampa, FL | Southwest #3045 | 3F

May 26, 2008

Rough start to this morning. I hit a deer on the way to the airport which will definitely cost a pretty penny in terms of getting it fixed. Then, a runaround with the various police agencies I tried to get to fill out a police report. But, third time was a charm, and hopefully everything will go smoother with the insurance company tomorrow.

I expected the airport to be a madhouse with today being Memorial Day and all. Quite the opposite. I got my ticket, checked my bag, and pranced over to the US Airways ticket counter. The staff in Albany has always been superb and have always been a reason for my loyalty to US Air. I told them about my experience with the reward ticket and they were upset. The shift manager complained about a structure that doesn’t allow common sense to prevail, and asked if there was anything they could do to keep me as a customer. Sure, redeposit my miles without charging me $200.  “No can do.” Ok then, later.

Southwest Airlines has a dirty little secret that was music to my ears. For approximately $20 extra you can get a “business select” seat. This allows you to have a boarding position between A1 and A15 which essentially guarantees a good seat. And they gave me a coupon for a free drink too. Not that I need to rock a bloody mary at 10:00 in the morning, but it was a nice gesture. So, here I am, happily settled in to 3F, no one in the middle, and on my way to Tampa.

The crew had a good time on this Memorial Day flight. They asked trivia questions (which five US state capitals start with the same letter as the state?) and played jokes on passengers. The guy in the first row took the brunt of it. They served his coffee with a fake bug in it, and then a few minutes later came down the aisle with several cups of “fresh brewed coffee.” When he said he’d have one the flight attendant pretended to spill them all over him, but luckily it was a gag and they were filled with ice.

The chatty pilot just tried to convince the plane that flying was better for the economy than driving. His rationale was that the plane burns 700 gallons of fuel per hour but if everyone drove to Tampa they’d burn much more than that. Ummm, pilot dude, you might want to check how many passengers you have on board before making broad proclamations like that. One of these days when I have some free time I’ll do the math. But in the meantime, my crush on Southwest (and yes, even their chatty pilots) continues.

Why it’s over between me and US Airways

May 25, 2008

It was good while it lasted. Sure, we had our ups and downs, but I always forgave them. Living 30 miles outside of Albany, NY and having to travel via air a bit, I came to count on US Airway’s frequent connections. I didn’t hold them responsible for all of the many travel nightmares I had at the country’s worst airport (Philadelphia) and didn’t blame them when they lost my bags (often), had mechanical problems (occasionally), or had delays that caused me to miss connections (too frequently to count.) I still appreciated what they did for me, and the fact that they got me from point a to point b safely and on-time-ish.

I was Chairman’s preferred on US Airways for two years, but started switching to United after a few too many delays at Philadelphia, including one where they told me they couldn’t get me home for three days so I recruited another stranded passenger to drive and rented a car. I hate to drive, but that is a story for another day.

The reason for the break-up is simple – they screwed me over. I am taking Maddie to Disney in July and booked our flights on US Airways. I was filling out travel forms earlier for another trip and realized that the agent I spoke to booked us on the wrong day. So, I called US Air and asked them to switch the flight to a day earlier. “I’m sorry, award travel is not available the morning of the 14th.”

So, I told her to sell me a ticket and just redeposit my miles. “I’m sorry, it will cost you $100 per ticket to cancel your ticket and redeposit the miles into your Dividend Miles account.”

“That can’t be right,” I say. “I want to use my miles, but you are telling me there is no flight. So instead I am going to buy my ticket and use my miles another time. And, oh by the way, your agent screwed it up to begin with.”

“Oh, I understand. But we can’t give you your miles back for free. There is a $100 charge per ticket to redeposit your miles. What credit card will you be using?” asked the US Unfair Shrew.

Suffice it to say I am not redepositing my miles, nor did I buy my ticket on US Airways. I bought the ticket on Southwest, and was pleasantly surprised that it was cheaper and a direct flight, getting me in to Orlando an hour earlier than US Unfair would have. So, I’ve dumped US Air for Southwest. I’m sure lots of other airlines would love to have the 125+ flights per year that I used to book on US Unfair.

Tampa, FL – Albany, NY | Southwest #3905 (5/23) | 9C

May 25, 2008

Well this was kind of a mess but I am grateful I got home. I was supposed to be on United Tampa to Albany, connecting through Dulles, departing at 1:40 and landing at 6:25. I was with Stacie, and she had an even tighter flight, 12:35 to LaGuardia. But, our clients were chatty and it wasn’t meant to be.

We screeched into Tampa on two wheels at approximately 1:15. In a surprising twist of fate Stacie had to change to a flight with a connection, and I got a direct flight on Southwest. I’ve never been a big fan of Southwest as I don’t like the waiting on line and jockeying for a seat. On this day however I was a big fan.

The flight was uneventful, the luggage was returned quickly, and the flight attendant gave me an extra pack of peanuts. Everyone was happy. Even the creepy guy with the panhandle mustache couldn’t bug me – thank goodness for my iphone.

Everyone got home at a decent hour, which was miraculous given the holiday weekend. I just hope we all do so well when we fly back to Tampa tomorrow. I am giving Southwest another try since it is a direct flight.

NYC (LGA) – Tampa, FL | Delta #1807 (5/21) | 36A

May 25, 2008

I was heading to Tampa for a meeting with a client and had to get there early. I don’t normally fly Delta so it was no surprise that they shoved me in the back of the plane. The walk down the aisle was so long that I started to think they’d hand me an apron and tell me to get to work.

The flight itself was uneventful. I sat with Stacie and we got a ton of work done.

I have to say, the gate area for this flight at LaGuardia was a mess. They run commuter flights out of the gate next door so there were hundreds of people milling around. The gate agent for the commuter flights wishes he had been a game show host, or at least that is what his announcements would lead you to believe. He rambled on and on and on, and kept getting cut off by the automated announcements, and would then start over again. It was just too much at 7am.

San Pedro Sula, Honduras – Miami, FL | AA 942 |5C

May 20, 2008

The plane was just as empty as my flight over…again there was no one next to me – always nice when you do not have someone “invading” your personal space. Immigration was fairly quick, although, as always, I had the honor to go to the room for what is called “soft check” (there is no physical contact).

Cannot complain over my last two flights with America Airlines, my wife on the other hand went through hell last weekend – I will have her story shortly, the ordeal is not over yet, we hope today is the end of it…

Miami, FL – San Pedro Sula, Honduras | AA 949 | 5B

May 18, 2008

I have become a “lazy” and not posting my travels on time – unfortunately this makes it pretty difficult to remember any particularities of the flight…then again, problem just means that it was uneventful as ever. I do remember landing in San Pedro and being knocked in the face by the heat – I thought Miami was hot. The flight was about half full and I was lucky enough not to have anyone next to me. Food was only okay – I should learn not to eat the lasagna anymore.

Miami, FL – Washington, DC (IAD) | United 7506 | #8A connecting to IAD – Albany, NY | United 7950 | #18B

May 9, 2008

Felix was nice enough to run my last two sessions at WOMM-U today so I could leave early and get home before Maddie was out of school for the weekend. I’m glad I could do this given I’ve been on the road for 12 days.

The day started uneventfully enough, I got up, showered, and got myself to the airport without incident. Then the fun started when I learned that my changed ticket hadn’t actually been ticketed. So, between negotiating with the ticketing agent and the corporate travel office, I lost about 45 minutes. Luckily the flight was delayed by 45 minutes or I wouldn’t have made it. I have to give a special thanks to Jorge Maldonado, the Miami-based gate agent who was very helpful, had a great sense of humor, and went above and beyond the call of duty.

I wish the airlines realized how much the experience in the airport influences a consumer’s choice of airline (at least this consumer anyway.) United is in the new J terminal at the Miami airport and let me tell you, it is a ghost town over there. There is a randomly placed food court with crappy coffee that took a while to find. And, don’t even try to find a healthy option for breakfast. Does anyone really eat those greasy pre-packaged muffins? I couldn’t find cereal other than Apple Jacks, and there wasn’t a piece of fresh fruit to be found. Of course, had I wanted a tuna on rye at 8am I would have been good to go.

The flight itself was fine. I like the Embraer 170 regional aircraft as there are no middle seats and there is more legroom than on a 737, for example. They even have 6 seats in first, but they aren’t worth the cost / miles for an upgrade. Five thousand miles for an extra package of pretzels, and coffee before we take off.  No thanks. The landing was interesting on this flight – DC was highly cloudy with a lot of rain. It was one of those landings that you are in the middle of the clouds one moment, and then because of how low the clouds are, you are practically on the ground as soon as you come out of them. I always find that jarring, but the pilots did a great job of landing the plan safely.

I landed in the D terminal and had to cut across to the C terminal at Dulles which is an easy trek. Despite my plane being late I had time for a cup of java at Starbucks and a magazine at Borders. The airport experience in Dulles was much better than Miami.

The connecting flight from Dulles to Albany was fine. I got in on time, baggage claim was quick, and I was on my way.