Saturday, April 12, 2014

Empire State of Mind (Part III)

Continued from Empire State of Mind Part II, released on 4/2/2014.

My stay in New York City was incredible, even though I did not get the chance to do some sightseeing (the 9/11 Memorial is on my bucket list).  Needless to say, it was time to go.  Check out was a snap and I schlepped my bags over to Grand Central and backtracked my way to JFK Airport on the 6 and E trains.  I did make one small detour, though.  When the E train got to the Union Turnpike Station, I hopped off and back on to check in on Foursquare.  The reason for this stop was, this was my stop when I lived in Queens, so I checked in and snapped a picture just as the Subway doors were closing.  OK, enough foolin', back on the train to JFK.

I made it to Jamaica Station, and back on the AirTrain, where i had a killer view of everything in front and below, so I got to see most of lower Queens go by underneath as we got closer to JFK.  Now, if the weather could've just cooperated a bit more, I would've like that very much!  Coming up to the Federal Circle stop, where the Car Rental Building is, you can also see the now abandoned Ramada Plaza JFK, home to so many airline disasters out of JFK (TWA 800, EgyptAir 990, Pan Am 103, Swissair 111, American 587 come to mind), and hosting the victims families.  I had stayed here on various misconnects and cancellations, as well as during my initial move to NYC.  It's kinda sad to see such a building get treated and abandoned in that manner.

Taking the curve around all of the Terminals you come up to JFK's Terminal 1 which houses big foreign airlines such as Japan Airlines, Saudia, Turkish, Air France, Aeroflot, and more.  Then you come up to Delta's ancient Terminal 2, which originally housed Eastern and Northwest, then a big gaping construction site where the former Pan Am "WorldPort" used to stand, which has now been demolished to make room for Delta's new combined terminals 2 and 4.  After Terminal 4, you come up to jetBlue's T5 (also serving Hawaiian Airlines), guarded by the thankfully protected TWA Flight Center (the original Terminal 5), one of the most beautiful airline terminal of the Jet Age, albeit inadequate and small for today's airline operating environment.  I should know, I started my career at TWA, and spent 3 weeks each Summer at JFK on the Ramp and on the Passenger Service side of it.  Do I miss it?  Of course, I wouldn't be human if I didn't.  but I love the direction life is going now as well, and my return to the airline fold is shaping up to be amazing.

After T5, the train passes the now demolished Terminal 6 (originally housing National, then TWA's domestic Terminal, and finally America West and jetBlue before the new T5 was built) and Terminal 7, home to United's fledgling JFK operation and British Airways mini-hub.  The train starts moving again and come around one bend you see various jetliners from different parts of the world at the remote stands close to Terminal 8, where they wait until their next flight back home.  The train slows down and comes to a stop right in front of the Terminal, where you exit and take the covered hallway into the baggage claim level.  Escalators appear on the left to take you up to ticketing and security.

I have to say this about the American Airlines staff I encountered in the ticketing hall.  I went down one hall that was marked for AA Economy and Main Cabin Extra passengers.  I was stopped at the entry to the ticketing queue by some older staff who have apparently been there far too long.  In harsh, gruff tones they barked at me saying I was in the wrong area and to trudge my bags to the other end of the terminal and seek assistance there.  Yikes!  Off I went to drop my bags and make my way through security.

Once past the TSA checkpoint I went upstairs to the Admiral's Club to recharge, have a drink and download a movie to my phone for the 6 hour flight to sunny Los Angeles.  What do I pick?  Why, "Airport" of course!  After about an hour of loading up on Cape Cods and chocolate chip cookies by the handful, I made my way to the gate, and onto the plane, which ironically, was the same 767 that brought me from LA the other day, N322AA. 

Takeoff was quick and we bolted out of JFK like a rocket, out on the infamous Canarsie departure point, and on a northwesterly course up over the US/Canadian border and down over Lake Michigan and the Midwest down to Los Angeles, where we landed a few minutes early.  The 6 hour trip flew by fast after my movie, I managed to zonk out and sleep the remainder of the way.  Pulling up to the gate in LAX, I saw a brand new American 777 on one side, and the 767's replacement, the A321 on the other.  A changing of the guards indeed.

I had to hustle to the remote Commuter terminal to take my flight back to Salt Lake City.  After barging my way into the tiny Regional jet, this other sizable fellow sat next to me, with crossed arms the whole way back behind the Zion curtain.  Skywest does run a  good operation for American Eagle, though, and I sincerely hope they upgrade their flights to Los Angeles in the near future with this merger with US Airways.  They are a treasure of an airline, and I can't wait to try out the A321 on the next trip to New York.

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