It's not a junket really

Discussion in 'Trip Reports and Trip Photos' started by simongr, Mar 18, 2007.

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  1. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    OK this is my first trip in quite a while. It is incredibly badly timed and it’s looking like a junket to everyone else. My boss wants his global team to meet semi-annually to go through processes, plans get us all on the same page. The 2007 first meeting was planned for March/April and it coincides with our institute conference in Orlando. At the same time his boss wants all the people in upstate New York and amazingly that conference is scheduled for the week after the Orlando conference so the timing works well.

    As is my now usual approach I am taking a DONE4 and trying to maximise miles and opportunity to visit friends and family. My original itinerary was SYD-HKG-LAX-MIA-MCO-LGA-ORD-LGA,JFK-BGI-LGW-PFO,LCA-LHR-HKG-SYD. However my conference in upstate New York is a little earlier than I planned so I have dropped the LGA-ORD-LGA trip – it was a day trip to Chicago airport that probably wasn’t necessary.

    So my trip is now Three days Orlando, New York for 4 days, upstate New York for 3 days, New York for a night, London (with family for a night), Cyprus for 3 days and finally home via London. Its quite a whirlwind trip and quite a range of carriers. I will be writing some of these reports on the flights and am taking notes as I go – so this is my first serious trip report :)
     

  2. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    The build up

    Before the first flight there is quite a bit of build up. Just to set the scene my parents have been visiting for a couple of months, I have moved house and its my mothers birthday the day before I fly. I am flying Saturday morning so “work from home” on Friday – basically getting myself geared up for the trip – making sure everything is ready. That started by with a proposed 6AM conference call – well after my alarm went off at 5AM I checked the blackberry and the call has moved again. Well at least I can get on with packing.

    Halfway through packing I realise that the little crack in my spinner bag is now a large crack in my spinner bag. I am doing my parents a favour and taking some of their excess luggage back to Cyprus for them so I am going to be fully loaded.

    A crazy das across Sydney in the afternoon to get a QP pass for my parents, on to my old barber for a haircut, collecting mrssimongr from work, off to a buy a new case (I have had a my eye on a Samsonite spinner for a while and I get it 20% off), a camera and food for dinner.

    Finally packed and at 4AM the alarm goes off. The car pulls up at 5:45 on schedule and my now slightly longer trip to airport begins.
     
  3. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
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    Ah looking forward to this. Is spinner a wheely bag?
     
  4. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

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    Yes - one with four wheels so it can be pushed around - takes up more space but much easier to manage.
     
  5. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
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    thanks for clarifying
     
  6. NM

    NM
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    I have always avoided those style of bags as I expect the wheels would be the weak point and easily broken by the airline's baggage (mis)handlers. What has your experience been like?
     
  7. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    You would be correct in your assessment. I bought a cheaper bag ($110) before my last US trip and the wheels did in fact break on the first trip. As this is a samsonite I am hoping it will last longer. After the first four flights the bag is quite scratched already - but the wheels seem ok.
     
  8. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    #8 simongr, Mar 19, 2007
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2007
    Journey – SYD-HKG
    Flight no. – CX110
    Class – Business
    Seat – 11H

    So finally we are off – to the QP that is. Hopefully this will be one of my last visits to the international QP – well it shouldn’t be too long after my next trip that I should EXP and I get to go to the F lounge (if its ever finished at SYD ;)). Check is a bit of a nightmare – I try to get my tickets changed to delete the LGA-ORD-LGA segments to save the US$125 fee for changing my ticket. Given that the previous night’s CX flight out of Sydney was delayed by 10 hours the CX staff have other things to focus on and can’t work out what needs to be done (given how long it took in LAX – maybe that was a good thing) so I try and check in.

    As predicted the check in staff is quite stunned at my routing and as I am not entirely awake I don’t immediately to tell her to check me through to MCO (it took a couple of attempts to get her believe that MCO was really Orlando). But seats are checked all the way through – the same seats I pre-selected. First row in J so I will get first food choice. My plan is to stay awake for this segment so I can adjust my body clock. Last time I planned something like that I was asleep on take off.

    The QP is fine and after just the one glass of bubbles (oh how I miss the Moet in the F lounge) I saunter down to the gate and my first delay of the trip hits me – 20 mins late boarding. Instead of going back to the lounge I mill around for a few mins and come back to find the queue for boarding huge. Without a hint of smugness I zip past the queue into the J boarding area. Onboard I get a suspicion that something is up – the girl in the seat next to me is looking pensive – as I start to unpack she asks if I will swap seats so she can travel with her boyfriend. Part of me is screaming – “Damn-it I picked these seats way ahead of time using my status and this is the first time that I really did this and now you’re asking me to give it”. Sadly the softer side of me kicks in and I make the swap 11H for 12H. Later in the flight this presents an interesting confusion as the CSM comes to welcome the Oneworld elites and says “Hello Mr Simongr” to the asian gentlemen in my seat…… That is the only flight that there has been a welcome for me though.

    General impressions are that as ever the CX seat is nice but the cabin on reflection is starting to age – its only my later flight on a 744 that I realise how much older the cabin looks – that might be a comparison of the thoroughfare that is the Airbus vs. the upstairs protected cabin on the 744.

    The flight is eventually delayed by an hour – which is attributed by the pilot to the “shambles at check in as a result of the delay of the previous night”. However we have loaded extra fuel so plan to catch up the hour in flight by flying faster – one wonders how appropriate that is in the age of global warming…

    After a relatively simple breakfast (when will I learn not to order the frittata???) it’s a very, very quiet cabin until lunch – I actually have to summon someone to get me a drink before I die of thirst. At least the beer is cold when it arrives. Before lunch the traditional G&T arrives (Gordon’s rather than Bombay Sapphire – this business class is starting to be hard work ;))

    CX have updated their amenity packs – a new squarish container with dark stripes for men and pink stripes for women.

    Lunch is eventually served and I am not altogether again blown away. I had read some comments on the CX section of flyertalk about how CX only serve on standard economy style dishes – no flair or innovation and it was true – all food was served in a standard white dish. I opted for the Chinese option which was chilli chicken. I am not normally a fan of spicy food but this was pleasantly not too spicy. As ever I skipped the pudding and went straight for the cheese – a delightfully strong cheddar, not too burning a blue and a creamy brie. As ever though there weren’t enough biscuits. It was washed down with a lovely dark port – and at this point I am quite satisfied.

    I watched a few movies on the flight – I was planning to watch stuff I had on my laptop but with the expected food service a laptop was tough to manage on the tray table with a food tray.

    Finally a little behind schedule we begin our descent into HKG. I am really looking forward to visiting the Pier I actually meant the wing and sadly seem y posts later on this topic :( for the first time. We are arriving into gate 3 so the Pier should be the closest lounge. Should be a nice relaxing hour or so in the lounge and then some decent sleep on the flight to LAX.
     
  9. serfty

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    Gate three is actually really close to "The Wing"; what really matters is your departure gate ... if in the 50-60's then it's the Pier ...
     
  10. NM

    NM
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    The Wing is opposite gate 3 and a very long walk to the Pier at gate 62. You will really appreciate their FLounge when you reach Emerald.
     
  11. Keith009

    Keith009 Established Member

    Mar 6, 2005
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    Nice report so far, mate. Keep it up.

    ROFL - I remember flying MEL-BKK-FRA-ORD across 2 separate tickets, with the first sector on TG. The check in agent appeared very flustered and hit like 50 million buttons on her keyboard. It was only after a polite inquiry that I realised she had no idea what the code for Chicago O'Hare was. I didn't want to embarass her but fearing what harm she might inflict upon herself judging by the mild hyperventilation I bore witnessed to, she calmed down considerably after I told her it was 'ORD.' She commented that she's never seen anyone using that flight (TG982 MELBKK) to go to the US.
     
  12. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    Journey – HKG-LAX
    Flight no. – CX882
    Class – Business
    Seat – 83C

    So I am off to the Wing (yes I know I said Pier in the last post). Remembering my last transit through HKG when I unexpectedly (to me) had to go through security screening I was prepared for it this time… that was until I saw the queue of 150-200 people getting into the screening point. Thinking there must be some express lane for people like me (not sure who people like me are but if it avoided the queue I wanted to be one of them) I milled around a little – giving the economy pax from CX110 the opportunity to get into the queue ahead of me – d’oh!

    Fidgeting and muttering and huffing I waited in the queue. Once inside the screening area the scope of the problem grew and I became even more ill-tempered. I knew every second I spent in this queue was one less second in the Wing. After at least 45 mins of this (note that my total time from off-boarding (should that be deplaning?) through immigration and collecting baggage through security and into the Admirals Club including a change of terminal in LAX (allegedly the worst place in the world) took about 40 mins) I am finally through. At this point I realise that my trip to the Wing is off. Due to the delays and this screening time and the fact that all US flights board from gates 48-50 I decide to go straight to the gate. It’s a good job that I did as I didn’t realise that I would now have my hand luggage hand screened for liquids. This was thankfully a quick process and the nice little chap even put my CX amenity kit toiletries in a zip-lock bag for me.

    At this point I am a little tried of HKG and when I see the massive queue for boarding I am very relieved that I am in J. Relieved that is until I realise that the massive queue is for J pax. About 15 mins later I am finally boarding and I get to my seat in the upper deck (seeing as how this flight is full and I am in no hurry to deplane at LAX the upper deck is a good option) and the nice CX FA brings me my champagne – phew.

    There is a plan to this flight – I am going to eat and then sleep. This is my first experience of a 747 on CX and I surprised looking at the cabin at how much newer it seems than the A300 I was just on. I am intrigued also about the configuration – not being an experienced frequent flyer I hadn’t really appreciated the existence of differing cabin layouts. The upstairs on CX is so different – they have the two sneaky seats at the front right of the cabin and the seats aren’t all aligned.

    The amenity pack is a little different – black stripes this time and no dermalogica. I still can’t bring myself to ask for a ladies amenity kit for mrssimongr so she will have to make do with whatever is left from this one. Despite having bulging hand luggage I stuff the pack into my bag after offloading the socks.

    Again dinner wasn’t impressive – I went for the pesto ravioli with a tomato ragout – but it was a little sweet. The cheese selection was ok but again – short on crackers!

    I finally start dozing so I turn on the AVOD and start watching Casio Royale. Waking up about 90 mins later I turn off Casio Royale and try to sleep. The bed is just not quite long enough for me at 6’2” to be able to lie straight and flat – if I do this sort of trip again and I am planning to sleep CX might be off the menu.

    After quite a lot of sleep (maybe 6-7 hours on and off) I wake for descent. I skip cooked breakfast and make do with a croissant and some fruit. As this is a daytime descent into LAX I peer through the window (whilst trying not to be intrusive to the pax next to me with the window seat). All of a sudden its like being a kid again as I look out the window and see, for the first time, the Hollywood sign!!! It may not seem like a big thing but I am still relatively new to this Jetset lifestyle and seeing this just makes my flight :).

    It’s not long before we are landing (and I am still looking at the sign). My sense of dread and foreboding is increasing. I have resigned myself to not going to Santa Monica for mrssimongr and will be in the Admirals Club for 7 hours. My dread rises as I realise I am landing into the infamous TBIT travel hole, will have to go through immigration and find my way to T4 and go through the onerous TSA process….
     
  13. garyjohn951

    garyjohn951 Active Member

    Jul 21, 2006
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    If you want more crackers just ask. I have a couple of times on CX, seems they heeps of them in the galley.
     
  14. serfty

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    #14 serfty, Mar 21, 2007
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2007
    It's a very simple thing to do; I may have been under the influence of HP's the first time but I do this at least once per trip if on CX. Both the lady serfty's (Mrs & 14YO) are very pleased to get these. Good for one's domestic karma.

    The FA's always seem very pleased to help ... in fact they seem used to such requests and treat them with good humor tinged with a bit of empathy ;)
     
  15. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    Journey – LAX-MIA
    Flight no. – AA234
    Class – First
    Seat – 2B

    So the ordeal begins. I am already behind being upstairs in J – so I know there are potentially maybe 30-40 people ahead of me. I am tall and walk pretty quick (I reckon I could give NM a walk for his money) so I will try and catch up with trampling over the slow and the weak (well no promises there). I am already getting flashbacks of my last experience of TBIT – we didn’t know that we had to go through immigration even though we were transiting and by the time we had worked it out – Air China had dumped it’s load into immigration. To my delight this time there are virtually no queues – only about 7 people in front (a number of older couples who are not quite at one with my level of speed desired). At immigration there are a couple of questions as to why I am here and I scan both fingers whilst answering – my delicate initial touch is insufficient so I have to press a little harder. Its hard to explain why I am here – yes I am here for an institute conference but I am mostly here to catch up with the global team and finalise a project – so I err with caution and say business.

    I am swiftly through to baggage collection – and this is a somewhat tedious wait. Eventually after the F luggage is out the J and whY luggage arrives and eventually mine does too. Up comes the spinner handle and I make my way to next check point. For the past 20-30 mins I have been watching the two guys and have already worked out which one will be the faster queue so I whiz up to my new mate… only to be given the hand as a delegation of Asian businessmen/diplomats are rushed in front of me!!!! Not much longer and I am going up the familiar ramp where we got into strife last time. As I turn the final corner the asian delegation is now being greeted with lays and photographs… patience simongr you have plenty of time. Now to the next TSA baggage handler. Now we all know the TSA are the worst people on the planet and are mostly thieves and perverts ;) – my impression changed slightly when after handing over my luggage and starting to walk away the TSA handler notes that the luggage tag is snapped through and tapes it up for me to make sure my luggage gets to MCO for me… I must mention this to the Former Head of Homeland Security when I see him this week.

    So now to find T4 – I reckon there must be a shuttle bus but given how much time I have I decide to walk all the way there – 10 paces later T4 arrives. I whiz through security screening (thanks to HKG my amenity kits are in a zip lock bag) and now its off to the AC. I know my first job is going to be asking how many drinks vouchers they will give me followed by my ticket changes.

    In through the door and all is good – three vouchers to start. Upstairs to my first real dealing with an AC AAngel. Her name is Avviana (spelling not confirmed accurate) and she is from Brazil originally. I start to explain the changes needed and she starts to sort it out. She needs to phone Tariff (not sure if that’s a guy or girl but it sounds foreign ;)) – whilst she is on hold and chatting about my massive itinerary (not a euphemism) I casually ask whether my F class BP will get me into the Flagship lounge rather than the AC. She smiles sweetly and hands over the F lounge swipe card and takes away my AC drinks vouchers – I foolishly ask if I need other vouchers only to be told that it’s an open bar – cha-ching!!!

    The AAngel tells me to go in and drop off my bags and come back to see how she is progressing with my ticket change. Still nervous that I will be found out I gingerly go into the F lounge and am very happy. First up I have a bottle of water to re-hydrate. Drop off my bags on a chair and pop back to see the AAngel to see how she is doing. She is still on hold with Tariff so I go back to the lounge and get a shower – just out of the shower and I hear “Will mr simongr please come to the front desk” … three times. Out I go and the ticket is all sorted but there is the fee. One of the other AAngel’s that has been working with mine says she wants to check the flights to make sure no screw ups – and there were screw ups – my SYD-BNE-SYD has been deleted. So the AAngels try again and this time I leave my Amex card so they can process it and get back to me.

    Back to the lounge and I hook up T-mobile wireless internet and have a chat to family, set up the webcam so they can see me and see the lounge.

    I am called back to the front desk and this time its really sorted. I now have about another 4 hours so I watch some TV on the laptop, surf the net and tick along – the odd glass of bubbles and the occasional beer is consumed.

    Thirty minutes to flight time I wander to the gate – making sure I wave to the AAngel saying thanks on my way out – you never know when I will be back here and might need another favour. Off to the gate and a little wit becomes a long wait – finally the 9:20 departure becomes a 10:30 departure so I decide to head back to the lounge for a “sneaky beaky” beer before take off. Into the lounge and there is my AAngel and again the F lounge pass is forthcoming :D I am just walking up the stairs and look over my shoulder only to see the face of a former colleague coming up behind me!!! Ii sneak him into the F lounge and have a catch up beer. I have been meaning to catch up with him for a long time – strange that I have to fly to LAX to do it!

    Well after a good chat I back on the trail. The flight is boarding so I saunter on. I should be tired but I am not feeling tired – I am now concerned that I will get no sleep and be exhausted on Sunday. On board my seat buddy is curled up in a blanket and plugged into her ipod – so no chatting there I foresee. In seats 2EF (well the window/aisle over the gangway) are two very chatty girls going to “Coaster Reeker” and my lack of sleep is not enhanced by their constant yapping. The service is good from Robert – a cold beer is forthcoming early on and the fruit/cheese plate is ok. The seat is the typical domestic F seat so not much recline. For my second beer I am informed (by mohawk sunglasses at night on a plane FA) that they only have Heineken – I would prefer a Bud honestly. Later Robert waves to me and holds up a cold Bud (grrr at Mohawk boy).

    I doze for an hour or so and finally we are getting into MIA. I don’t have my QF card and technically this flight is not part of the same day international itinerary so I might not get access to the AC. I know I don’t have long at MIA but it would be nice to recharge the laptop and grab a cuppa.
     
  16. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    Journey – MIA-MCO
    Flight no. – AA404
    Class – First
    Seat – 2H

    Miami airport – what can I say? Firstly I was able to get into the AC which was a bit of a relief. A quick chat via msn with mrssimongr, a coffee and a donut. I am a little bored so I figure I will take a relaxing walk to the gate. The lounge staff have said that it will take me 20 mins but I know that is just for slow walkers. The map I see shows MIA as a pretty spread out but small airport so I start my stroll. I know I have 25 mins until boarding so I have plenty of time. After a while I see one of the (many I subsequently find out) “We are improving our facility just for you” and revised maps – strangely although I have been walking for 5 or so minutes I haven’t left the concourse I was on. That didn’t look so large on the map. Up a set of escalators and there is another sign for Terminal A – and a very very long corridor ahead – with not a soul. I am wondering if I am waling to Orlando at this point. The corridor goes on and on and on…. I only saw about 2 people in the next 10-15 minutes… Finally I exit the corridor and the gates are a little way ahead. I casually check out the newsstand (still no sign of any ruffles sour cream and onion potato chips – one of my favourite brand/flavour combinations). I get to the gate and hear them announcing “Group 1 passengers please make your way to the aircraft” – I have missed my First boarding!!!

    I am stunned by the number of people (aka gate lice) that are standing in front of the gate waiting for their group to be called (AA board in groups – First class/premium first then groups 1-6 filling from the back – I think). Battling through I have my first experience of an AA Airbus – and it looks not much different to other F products on AA.

    We are on the tarmac for quite a long time before we start to taxi. Nicely the Pilot tells us we are third in the queue so we should be away soon. The guy in front of me has the air of someone who is going to annoy me on the flight and unsurprisingly 2 seconds after wheels up he is fully reclined with his feet on the panel in front of him! I now find that the airtime is only 30 mins so I don’t bother to open laptop – I just read the American Way mag and fail to do the sudoku.

    I skip the water and orange juice but grab a biscuit. All in a very uneventful flight itself. So finally I am in Orlando after 30 hours of air time, 10 hours in lounges, three security screenings, one shower and just a small shandy ;)

    Now it’s party time at the conference!
     
  17. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    The Gaylord Palms – Orlando

    This is only a short trip report – not sure you all want to hear about the exciting world of [insert name of industry here]. Basically the conference is being held for three days at the Gaylord Palms resort. First though I have to get from MCO to the Gaylord. I have booked a town car. Sadly I have become such a snob so for me its Town Car or limo – I think I am kidding myself that I am really important. MCO is one of those cute airports that has a train/monorail from the Terminal to the baggage collection point. I am my usually speedy self and am second on the train and quickly into the arrivals terminal. The driver is there to meet me and then we have to wait and wait and wait and wait. I point out to the driver that he should note no-one else from my flight is here yet so I don’t expect my luggage to be here… Eventually though I have my bags and am on my way.

    This is my first time in Orlando and again I am struck how the US is really very similar to Australia. One unique element though are the fly screens on the houses!!! Now in Oz we have fly screens on the doors but the houses here have basically a mesh tent attached to the back of their houses covering the entire yard – somewhat unusual to me.

    On arrival at the Gaylord I start to realise what I am getting myself into. It’s hard to describe but imagine a hotel that is designed for grown ups but designed by Disney – there is a castle in the centre of the hotel, a two masted tall ship, alligators and the Everglades – all inside the hotel. Basically it feels like a theme park!

    Skip forward a couple of days and I am packed ready to go to New York for phase two of the trip. I diligently check out the oneworld website to assess lounge access at MCO. I am QF SG so I get access to the lounge even though I am flying on my AA FF number. Oneworld inform me that there is no AA lounge but there is a BA Terraces (aimed I guess at the all the British holiday makers). I decide to travel with the rest of my team about four hours early to the airport knowing that I can chill in the lounge.

    As most of you reading this are probably aware there in fact is not a BA Terraces lounge in MCO – so I am now faced with four hours in MCO with nothing to do, no laptop power and just fast food to eat… I start mooching around the airport in desperation when I stumble across the Hyatt lounge bar – I start scoping out the available plug sockets/outlets and casually sit down and plug in the laptop. After a few minutes a member of the wait staff asks me if there is anything I need. Felling slightly guilty I order some tea and settle myself in for a few hours. It actually works out quite well – I get a couple of beers and have a slice of pizza and finally it’s time for my next flight – my first on the infamous MD80!
     
  18. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    Journey – MCO-LGA
    Flight no. – AA1832
    Class – First
    Seat – 4E

    After the trauma of the lack of lounge ;) I am almost looking forward to getting onboard. Also the reports of the MD80s (Mad-dogs) has me thinking that I am almost getting onboard a DC10 with steel benches for seats. Sadly I am disappointed with the lack of excitement and this reflects the entire flight experience for me – this is possibly the most mundane flight experience in a long time.

    One thing I don’t understand is why a 10PM flight LAX-MIA gets a meal service (steak salad or cheese & biscuits) and a similarly long flight at 8PM gets beverages only. Well the traditional couple of beers was had along with the heated cookie (I am sure that they warm those things in the same machines as the MacDonalds Apple pies).

    A while ago I bought a Targus in-flight power adaptor. I have successfully used this on a CX flight a few times – however it is horrendously bulky – especially as I have to plug in my international plug adaptor (I foolishly bought it in the US without thinking it through – I really am a travel novice on some levels still) as well as my laptop power pack. A thoroughly unwieldy arrangement (but more on that later). Being a novice still I also fell for the rookie mistake of assuming AA flights had empower ports rather than cigarette lighter ports – to save space in hand luggage my cigarette lighter port was in checked luggage…

    Anyway in summary as office Barbrady would say about this flight Nothing to see here … move along please

    I apologise for even reporting on this flight :(

    Mind you I was struck by another reclining midget. I mean c’mon you are about 4 feet tall – why do you need to recline. Is it a short person thing? Some sort of power trip? Some demonstration of your influence over the tall person behind you? I did not see a single other person reclining in the cabin! Bloody midgets… Apologies to the people of lack of size – exaggerations used only – I have some very short friends and they haven’t reclined on me once

    However – the excitement really starts at LGA. Now that might surprise some of the New Yorkers here but lets think this through. There are about 6-8 baggage carousels at LGA and we have three flights all landing within a short span of each other so obviously we would space out the off loading so that the PAX aren’t climbing over each other. The other option would be to push all baggage through one carousel…

    Forty minutes later and a lot of exasperation I am finally seeing baggage from our flights coming off. That priority baggage is really working for me I must say. Now here is where I rant again. You know I have a problem with short people but I have a bigger issue with kids – basically even shorter people who I can’t actually see! Now if my parents told to me stay away from the carousel so I didn’t get in people’s way I would have grumped but stood by the trolley – why then do so many kids insist on playing with the carousel and trying to get bags that are almost as big as they are???

    Finally I have my bags (confirming my luck of no lost bags on flights ever so far – praise be to God, Allah, Buddha or Jehovah – whoever is looking after my bags) and now I try to find the taxi rank. Now to give you some context I am English and grew up in Birmingham and lived in London before moving to Sydney 7 years ago. It’s been a long time since I saw snow, a very long time. Out of LGA the first thing I see is snow – somewhat grey I must admit but snow nonetheless. Now I know I am in New York. Into the cab and we are halfway to the city before he “realises” that the meter isn’t running. He quotes me $28 which is reasonable based on my prior experience (at least it wasn’t $45 like the other guys in my team paid for Jitney). So we are off to the W on Lexington and the smile on my face grows as I get closer to the city I love to visit (seeing the snow makes me realise that I wont be living there any time soon ;))
     
  19. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    1,742
    The W on Lex

    I have four nights in New York before heading up to the Hamptons (which is not in upstate New York I was very forcibly told). There are only things to say about the W – style over substance and were these rooms designed by a team of very short monkeys? The place stank of cigarette smoke and frankly if I wasn’t trying to earn points for a future free visit to NYC then I would have checked out.

    However – the upside to being at the W on Lex – is that I am on Lex and in New York, New York. The next few days are a whirl. We get some really good work done in the office on Thursday and Friday. We have dinner at the Country Café on Thursday and it’s the best food I have had in the US – ever. Its wonderfully presented, portions are nice and small and the flavour is great. Sadly the service is a little slow until late in the meal when they realise we have spent about $800 for 5 people – but late is late and if I had been paying the standard 15% would not have been applied.

    Finally on Friday night I am going to have a night alone. One of my colleagues from Sydney is flying in and as he hasn’t emailed me yet I start a stroll to the movies at the AMC at the Lincoln Center. Halfway there the email comes through that dinner will be at 7:45PM and where do I want to go. I am still not as comfortable eating in New York as I am shopping (I really am considering a Bloomingdales card :)) so we settle on “Smith and Wollensky’s”. Its funny for me as we get there at about 7:45 and I haven’t had a single beer so I am stone cold sober – whereas a lot of people at the bar certainly are not. The steak is great although I am realising that by the time I leave the US I will haven’t eaten a whole cow – which my colon might not forgive me for.

    The next morning I am free for the day but we have dinner planned with a few of the guys tonight before we go to the Hamptons tomorrow. I plump for watching 300 at the Imax a brilliant if somewhat depressing movie. Also a great Imax experience – and coke and popcorn makes for a highly nutritious breakfast. The rest of the day is spent finally closing up some gaps in my comic collection after a visit to three comic shops – something I have always wanted to do.

    Dinner on Saturday is at Mr K’s on Lex – and I have to say that I have never had worse expensive chinese food. A very poor experience and also very expensive (mind you we were good and had non-vintage Champagne). After we catch up with a colleague for a quiet drink – at 3AM when the bars close in all our hotels (seriously we tried to find one open) I stagger to bed.

    The next morning I feel a tad seedy and stagger onto the bus for our trip to the Hamptons. Now that was an experience. We stayed somewhere that looked like a relic from the 70’s but had a price that was unbelievable – in the high season its US$26,000 per week for a 4 bedroom suite!!!! The food was horrendous and we shall never speak of it again.

    Back to the city on Wednesday and I get tickets to the Nicks vs. the Cavaliers (kind of apt for me as I own two cavs) with a couple of the guys from our NY office. They are very disappointed with the game (well it was Nicks/Cavs I mean c’mon) but I am blown away. It is such an overwhelming experience – there is stuff happening all the time – popcorn sellers, candy/fairy floss/spun sugar, dancers, drummers, Iraq war veterans – its just massive and I am at Madison Square Garden. It’s a huge night and I love it. I like to compare it to the rugby union games I go to where they are trying to do this same sort of stuff. But there it just doesn’t work – here it does. There is noise constantly and distractions and all the while in the middle 10 guys are shooting hoops – this is just brilliant!

    So now my time is done, I hear the final curtain call and my third New York odyssey is almost over – I have to so that this time I did New York my way. The alarm is set for 5:40AM as I need to repack. The Town Car is coming for me at 7AM and then I will be “offski”. So long New York and thanks for all the fish (or should that be steak?).
     
  20. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
    14,229
    1,742
    Journey – JFK-BGI
    Flight no. – AA1385
    Class – Business
    Seat – 6A (due to FEBO)

    We are in another Town Car to JFK. ON the way down from the Hamptons (and I guess to as well) we drove past the site of the World Fair/Expo from years ago that was featured in the first MIB movie – the discs on top of the spires were the alien ships. I was stunned both times I drove past to/from the Hamptons and again I look at it and see Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in front of me. I try to get a little video and we shall see how that turns out.

    Into T8 at JFK and check in. I am paranoid about my weight limits but am relieved that when it hits 66lbs that the check in chick comments on my BA flights so all is good. I then get told I will have to cart my bags to another terminal but I nice sky cap agrees to take my bags to the location (now question is should I have tipped him as he just put my bags on a big trolley with other people’s bags). I have my BPs for this and my next flight through to London so I mooch to the lounge.

    I get in based (incorrectly) on my QF status but I don’t push it – but am annoyed that I don’t get any vouchers to leave for the FT members that might be passing through that day. The AC is actually very nice – simple and elegant almost.

    I hook up to the internet and Skype a couple of calls to wife and mum to update on travel etc. I am really using Skype with my Bluetooth headset well now – hopefully less loud than the guy who was selling race horses on his mobile…

    One interesting feature of the lounge was see the US helicopters service (8mins) to the city taking off – I wonder if I can get that past my boss next time :)

    Anyway the flight. This is AA business class – that’s their terminology not mine. You have to realise that I am very spoilt when I fly – its Qantas, Cathay and BA all the way and AA is just not up to scratch really. I love their FF program but they have been destroyed by the post 9/11 cost cutting (coupled with the pre 9/11 excessive employee benefits) and just can not compete with non-US airlines for quality of service.

    We had quite a wait for take off and we don’t turn over the city of take off so my window seat choice is wasted. I am struck by how similar NYC is to Sydney as I fly out. The coastal outlook, the dunes in places – I really think I love NYC because it is so similar to Sydney – but with extra fun. Its great in small doses if you have plenty of free baggage space :)

    Ok – one quick insight – they have FEBO for food but not for drinks so my fist drink is a while in coming – but when it comes the beer is icy cold – just how I like it. Lunch is served at 11:15AM – slightly earlier than I would normally hope for – but its ok. Its some sort of grilled chicken with a nice smoky BBQ sauce and some rice dish that seemed to have croutons (well pieces of bread but lets give them the benefit of the doubt :). The guy next to me had salad dressing poured over his shirt but for his trouble he got a dry cleaning voucher and a bottle of (crap) wine.

    The mainscreen entertainment was crap as ever. Again I am very spoilt by AVOD on CX (and some QF) so the concept of a mainscreen is just rubbish to me. I caught up with some supernatural on the laptop.

    Now the plan was NOT to sleep but I did doze for a while (sorry) and we slowy fly over the islands into Barbados. BGI is not a world class airport – it’s a sad reflection of my life that the lack of an airgate is a big deal for me :oops:

    But we land on schedule (landing is good) and it’s off to immigration for my smooth transit through lovely BGI
     
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