Monday, October 9, 2017

God Save the Queen! Flying on the last domestic Boeing 747 flight (or so we thought)

Photo by Joe Pries, used with permission.

This is one of those times where I'm having a hard time putting my thoughts into words, considering just how special and epic this adventure was.  I'm going to start from the very beginning, and just crawl my way from there.

This all started in early June when I first heard about the one-off flight on one of the websites I routinely follow as a travel agent.  It simply said that Delta is putting the Boeing 747 on it's final trek home to Detroit from Asia via Honolulu and Los Angeles on September 5th.  I was floored.  I took a look at how much the fare would be to get onto this particular flight, and I was heartbroken.  The fare was over $800 one-way just doing Los Angeles-Detroit.  Well, that's that, I was thinking.

A few months later I get the invite from a higher up to come out to the California for an impromptu meeting.  He also mentioned that we will also be heading down to Los Angeles for an "event held by Delta Airlines".  I thought nothing more of it and it didn't even hit me it was the same date as the retirement.

So the day before the sendoff I flew to San Francisco for the meeting, then down to Los Angeles, going back to connect through Salt Lake City in the process.  Why would I do something like this?  Well, it was allowed, and I needed to rack up a few more miles.  So I finally made it Los Angeles, and was whisked away to my home away from home, the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena to spend the night.

After yet another fantastic and flawless stay at the Langham (where I actually had some time to wander around the property for once), not to mention the higher than incredible welcome back chocolates waiting for me in my room when I checked in,  I ended up at LAX quite early since I wanted to get some spotting in (it's been a while), so my first stop was the iconic In-N-Out burger joint on Sepluveda Blvd. for lunch while watching the planes coming into land over us.  Awesome place, definitely one of my favorite spots in LA, not just for the avgeek in me, but anyone in general should visit this place, but get in line, it'll be packed to the gills when you get here!

After lunch I made my way to Terminal 2, part of Delta's new home in LAX (giving up the long held Terminal 5 from Western Airlines to be over run by the Ultra- Low Cost Airlines), and checked in about 8 hours early for my flight.  I was under the impression I was just a tad too early, but the agent checked me in and took my bag. Phew!  Off to Security screening, and the inevitable pat down.

Delta recently moved from their former long time home of Terminal 5 to both Terminals 2 and 3 (the former iconic TWA terminal seen in countless movies), giving them more space and flexibility, or so they say.  They have Sky Clubs on the upper levels of both terminals with great views of the ramp and the North runways (but seriously, whats up with the Cup Noodles?).  These clubs have become my favorite go to spots for spotting inside the LAX terminal complex.  Free liquor, snacks, and you get to watch planes all day long?  What more could you ask for?  Needless to say, I hung out in the T3 SkyClub for a few hours spotting until I saw the Queen arrive from Honolulu into the Sunset.

Once she touched down and taxied past the SkyClub windows to her gate at T2, I finished what I was doing and made my way to the inter-terminal bus leaving out of Gate 35P, looking at the Delta branded Porsche pull up to the Terminal with no doubt a Diamond Medallion member catching his next flight.  The ride over to T2 was neat, with a Delta A330 just having pushed out of its gate and on it's way to Atlanta, and our bus driver scooting us by well under the wing of the big bird.

I don't know why, but I got confused and almost lost looking for the elevator up to the third floor of Terminal 2.  I thought I had seen it on my way to the gate, but I asked a Delta agent in the middle of the concourse and she pointed right at it.  Upon first glance, the elevator is almost hidden by the gift shop next to it, and it threw me for a loop.  So up I went into the SkyClub, and after check-in there was a big sign stating the retirement of the 747 and the room to the left was blocked off for a private party.  A few of the folks at the entrance saw the shirt I was wearing with my big, red, Northwest 747 on it (where Delta inherited their fleet from) and was invited in.

Turns out I had unknowingly crashed the farewell party the Diamond Medallion members were throwing.  Since I had my upgrade to Delta One in hand, I was invited with open arms.  The high flyers had taken up ALL but one (my seat) of the 48 Delta One seats on the Queen.  Everyone in the lounge was in good spirits and I met several incredible people that brighten up my news feeds on a regular basis.  The SkyClub was gracious and had food and drink aplenty on hand, and there were cameras all around.  I only stuck around for a good 45 minutes before having to find a quieter corner of the SkyClub and get in touch with home.  Chatted with the family for a bit, then gathered my stuff and headed down to the gate to meet another friend from online that was also on the flight.

By the time I got down to Gate 25, the waiting area was completely packed.  Found my friend and hung out with the crowd around him until boarding, The mood in the gate area was definitely MUCH different than any other flight I've ever boarded.  Everyone was in a good mood and happy, even those not flying to celebrate the Queen, just getting from point A to point B.  The gate agents came on several times to announce the flight and that boarding will begin earlier than normal due to the circumstances and special occasion.  Finally, the gate agent came on and began boarding the flight, with SkyTeam Priority and First Class passengers (yay me!) first.  I scanned my boarding pass and down the jetway I went, phone in hand and video rolling.

At the end of the jetway I was, entering the Queen with my right foot first and my customary hand pat of the fuselage before entry, I hung a left instead of the customary right and following the other Diamond Medallions to our seats (pods if you ask me).  I was in 9D, the center seat on the port side aisle, just behind the galley and L1 entry door.  These seats were amazing (even if my fat ass STILL needed a seat belt extender on the Big Boeing), and was completely lie flat, perfect for those premium passengers that flew the Queen to far flung Asian and Oriental destinations from Minneapolis, Detroit, New York/JFK, and Atlanta all those years.  The seat isn't front to back straight, in fact, it's in a style called "reverse herringbone" where the seat is slanted what..10-15 degrees in, so you it's easier to face your neighbor, and it is incredibly private and there is a LOT of storage space!  So I got myself settled in...sort of.  The rest of the cabin filled up, and the party got started, and a few of the folks from the forward section came back, yanked me and the others out of our seats and we all marched upstairs for the cockpit visits and customary traveling fool photos.

The Upper Deck on Delta's 747-400's were the cherry seats (there's only 14 of them to begin with), and they were the very first ones to be sold.  I was fine with that, 9D was perfect for me, I was just grateful to be in Delta One, let alone be on the flight period.  There was a massive line for cockpit shots and a few of my new found cohorts were having fun taking shots crowding themselves into the super exclusive upstairs lavatory, the crew rest, and finally into the cockpit.  There was a Delta crew member from my home base of Salt Lake City hanging out in the cockpit to snap photos for the folks who wanted a pic of them on the jumpseat.

Back downstairs I go, and finally got myself settled in.  The Flight Attendants came by and took our orders for the pre-departure beverages and passed out special earbuds with the Queen on the cover as a memento for this very special flight.  With so much storage space, I stowed my laptop above me, but kept my headphones, book, and other personal articles from my pockets in the storage cubby on the center console. The In-Flight Entertainment System was a much larger screen than the ones I am used to in Coach, and with the touch of a button, the screen popped out and I was set to peg the in-flight map for the duration of the journey.   Freaking amazing setup, if you ask me, aside from the narrow confines.  We pushed back right on time, and on both sides of the plane you could see the glow of hundreds of wands from the ramp agents below lining up to pay their respects to a plane they have worked with, flown on, and load and unload thousands of times over the decades.  It was incredibly touching and more than a few of us shed buckets of tears at this simple, final gesture.  The taxi out to the departure runway didn't take long at all, and the Queen lifted off with grace and ease, and was so smooth you wouldn't notice we were taking off if you didn't look around to see the cabin tilt up or the ground outside drop from view as were hurtled over the beach and out over the Pacific.

The 747 was originally envisioned as an "Ocean Liner in the Sky", and boy let me tell you, it feels like it.  As far back as I can remember, all of my 747 flights have felt this way.  It feels nothing like a flight in say, a 767 or 737.  I laid the seat all the way down to catch a few winks before our all too quick arrival into Detroit.  I like to sleep on my side, and I had no problem turning over and getting comfortable, if a tad claustrophobic due to the distance between my nose and the sidewall. wonder the amenity kits have eyeshades in them.  I slipped one on, turned on my music from my phone (which was plugged in to the in-flight power), and dozed off until we were well into our descent.

Touchdown in Detroit was feather-light and it was still pretty dark out while we taxied around and to our gate.  Once the plane was parked at gate 54A, and the seat belt sign went off, I took my time gathering my belongings and getting off the plane.  After deplaning and giving the old girl a quick kiss before making my way up the jetway, I stopped just before the jetway door and, along with quite a few others, took a few photos of the Queen at her gate for what we thought was the final time hauling revenue passengers.  Once out into the gate area us Medallion members that were part of the group partying in LA was lassoed into an empty part of the gate area for another group photo op with the Queen right behind us.  We were also invited up to the SkyClub, but my connecting flight was leaving in about an hour and I didn't want to risk missing my onward flight to LaGuardia Airport in New York City, and I said my good-byes and made my way to the departure gate at the other end of the concourse.

Before arriving at my gate I took a peek out the windows as the sun was coming up, and out at the remote parking stands away from the concourse was another Queen taking a well deserved rest...right next to her replacement, the new flagship of the fleet, the Airbus A350.  At the time of my adventure, there were two on property in Detroit, as that will be their first base, doing route proving and getting flight and ground crews familiar with the plane before entering revenue service.  She's a gorgeous looking bird, and I for one, can't wait to take a ride on her to some far flung Asian destination.

My flight to LaGuardia went by in a flash, considering I passed out just as we were pushing back from the gate, and woke up during touchdown.  My seatmates told me I was out the entire flight and snoring like a freight train.  I needed that nap in a major way, I had to get freshened up before catching my private car transfer to Newark Airport to meet up with an old friend before flying home on another airline.

It turns out this wasn't the 747's swan song for Delta, as just a week later, they were pressed into service hauling people and supplies in and out of the damaged areas in Florida that were hit by Hurricane Irma.  Now THAT's a fitting sendoff for a Queen.

In hindsight, this was such an amazing adventure, and I'm grateful I was given the opportunity to be along for the ride.  I met quite a few new people I'm glad to call friends on both ends of the country and from points in between.  I spent some quality time at my beloved Langham Huntington Pasadena Hotel (a HUGE thank you to the amazing staff, and to Jennifer, my go-to gal for anything and everything Langham related).  A heartfelt thank you to my higher ups that sent me on this whirlwind adventure, and to the one and only Queen, the Boeing 747-400.  I might not have covered as many miles on her as others have (my only trips on 747's were on the original 747-100 and 747SP with TWA back in the 1980's and 1990's going to visit family in Greece), but my appreciation for her place in airline and aviation history is well placed and I was glad to be there for the farewell.  Last but not least, an huge thank you to Delta, for setting this flight up the way they did, and for the Diamond Medallion (DDMF) folks for throwing the party to end all fleet retirement parties, thank you, from the very bottom of my tiny little heart.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Highways and Byways: Traversing Utah's backroads and scenery Pt. 1

I'm going to come right out and admit it.  Utah is a topic I'm better off NOT talking about.  I've lived here for the majority of my life, but I've never had ANY interest in ANYTHING about this state.  That being said, I put it upon myself to get past that stigma and find something to write about, as even I have to admit, the scenery here is breathtakingly gorgeous, unknowingly inspired by one of my favorite classic disaster movies of the 1970's.  Any who, I digress, moving on to the blog itself.

Utah is home to some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery in the United States.  Now that I think back on several road trips myself and other coworkers have taken, they really aren't that bad, despite road-tripping not being my preferred way to vacation.  For years, the thought of being stuck in a car for hours on end with others just NEVER appealed to me (yet I have no problem being on a plane with others for hours on end).

The first drive I have to write about that's blown me away for years now, is the drive from Logan up through the winding Cache National Forest to Garden City, Utah; on the shores of Bear Lake.  Just hang a right on 4th North and follow Highway 89 past Utah State University and on into the forest.  The winding road makes for some amazing scenery in the daytime, especially at high noon on a late Spring day, when EVERYTHING is visible.  After about 33 miles of uphill, winding country highway, you get to the Bear Lake Overlook and Visitors Center, and I promise, the view is simply to die for.

The descent from the overlook is beyond belief and shows the majority of Bear Lake, also known as the "Caribbean of the Rockies" due to how clear the water is.  Welcome to Garden City, Utah.  This quaint little village boasts some the West's best raspberry harvests, and some of the absolute best over-the-top Milk Shakes around.  There are several places in town and around the lake to try, but in my opinion, the every best is La Beau's, on the southwest corner of Highway 89 and 75 North.  Many local notables even credit with La Beau's as having made the original raspberry shake.

Head on up Highway 89 a few miles, there's the KOA campground on the East side for those outdoorsy types that haul their trailers and toys up here every summer.  The state also has it's own campgrounds on several parts of the shoreline as well.  Further North you have several timeshare resorts that have popped up, and more in various phases of construction, much to a lot of citizens dismay.  All of these are right across from the entrance to the Bear Lake Marina, with it's sheltered harbor, providing slips for 305 boats, not to mention the 80 foot-wide, 5 lane launching ramp, and beach side campgrounds.

Continuing on Highway 89 North a few miles is Camp Hunt, the Boy Scouts of America's summer encampment.  I've spent a few summers here, and sometimes I miss it.  Then again, my idea of camping out now involves room service and valet parking.  That's it for this drive northbound before you hit the border of Utah and Idaho, and the sleepy little village of Fish Haven lie.

Heading down the South side of the lake, you cover the rest of Garden City, and turning East along the shoreline you'll come across several rentals and resorts with shore side access.  Now, I do recommend driving the entirety of the loop around the lake, it's a gorgeous drive, especially in sunrise or twilight hours.  But be mindful of the wildlife.  They are everywhere, it is their home after all.  You'll see everything from raccoons, to deer and elk, and everything in between.  It is one of the more spectacular areas of the state, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hollywood Hospitality revisited: The Langham Huntington Pasadena

Have you ever checked into a hotel and felt like you were entering your own home?  I felt that way from the instant we stepped out of our ride from the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.  The Valet AND bellman were expecting us and greeted us by NAME, and guided us to the front desk while the luggage was carted away.  How'd they know?  Ohh...they had our luggage out and read the tags before the passenger door even opened.  Fabulous!

The Langham Huntington Pasadena was built as the Hotel Wentworth in 1907, but construction setbacks, the Great San Francisco Earthquake, and torrential weather delayed the opening, and the venture shut down after its first season.  Enter railroad tycoon Henry Huntington.  Huntington purchased the property in 1911, and after renovations and extensions, plus the addition of the now-iconic central tower, opened for business.

Having been sold to the Sheraton Hotel Corporation in 1954, it remained flagged as a Sheraton for years until being closed in 1988 for major renovations and repairs.  The lanai and cottages that were a part of the property remained open while construction began and was reflagged as the Ritz-Carlton Huntington until it was sold in 2007 to the Langham Hotels for $170 Million.

Enough history, onto the property herself!

We had arrived there on a Sunday, thinking it'll be a slower than normal day.  Boy were we wrong.  As stated above, the bellhops helped us out of our ride and hauled our luggage inside.  Check-in was a breeze, and I was again greeted by name as I stepped up to the counter.  Having stayed at Langhams before, especially this one in particular, I have become accustomed to this.  If you are fortunate enough to have Colleen take care of you, you will have nothing to worry about, she is one of the finest people the Langham employs, always going above and beyond for the guests,  Once I got my keys, up to the room we went, that first stay was in a Club King room on the 8th floor, with access to the renown Langham Club.

Once in our room, we started unpacking and checking out our digs.  It was a very nice room, classically furnished with an amazing bathroom, needless to say there was space to stretch out.  Susie's favorite part was the free wi-fi that comes with the room.  While we were unpacking there was a knock on the door.  One of the concierges came up and brought a plate of fresh fruit and a huge bottle of Evian...along with a tray of K-cups of tea for our in-room Keurig machine, bottles of honey and fresh lemon wedges.  "We heard you coughing at check-in and just wanted to help you out in getting better".  I was amazed.  I went though that entire tray in 8 hours.

We had arrived at the hotel a bit early, so me and Susie decided to check out the pool.  Because there was an event sponsored by Netflix there that first visit, there were plenty of celebrities to be seen getting sun by the pool and hot tub areas.  The pool is heated year round, and from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the poolside bar is open for business.  We stayed and relaxed with the stars for about an hour.  It was amazing, never in a hundred years did I ever think I'd be sipping bubbly in a hot tub with John Stamos and Andrea Barber.

Back in the room, I sat down and took stock.  It was very nicely appointed and a good size (550 Square feet for the Club King Room, other stays ranged from the 415 Square foot Deluxe Patio Room on the first floor, to the slightly larger 450 square foot Deluxe Premier Room on the 6th floor during my last two trips), with killer views of the gorgeous courtyard on one side, or the pool and tennis areas on another side, to the horseshoe gardens facing the west.  As usual when I travel with Susie, a rollaway is already placed in the room and turned down for the night, which she loves (and strangely enough, thinks they are more comfortable than the regular beds).  The bathrooms are completely covered in Italian marble and stock with Chuan Spa amenities (which are some of the greatest bath products I've ever used).  This hotel really goes out of the way to make their guests not feel like they are staying in closet sized accommodations.


Twice I've had the luxury of using the Langham Club.  That first trip we had walked in right as the Club Concierge was setting up for the Club's dinner presentation, so we got in right in time for the last of that day's afternoon tea service.  I love this tradition, and Susie and I have made it a twice every winter ritual (the first was at the Langham Huntington, the most recent was at the iconic Langham London, the first day they rolled out the Holiday Tea Service for 2016-2017).  The Club is actually in a quiet little nook of the 8th floor, with plush seating arrangements and plenty of options to quench one's thirst, or grab a quick stomach settler before dinner downstairs in the Royce Steakhouse.  Some of the perks include computer work stations, complimentary pressing of 3 garments, and the above average higher than all else concierge services the Langham properties are known worldwide for.

During my most recent stay, Cherilyn, the Service Stylist, took myself and a co-worker on a tour of the hotel, telling us more about the history of the property, and showing us all OVER the resort.  From the acclaimed Chuan Spa (#1 Spa in Los Angeles, according to LA Magazine), to the award winning and incredibly mouth-watering menu at the Royce, to the outdoor and laid back vibes of the Terrace Cafe, or to the mellow and dark Tap Room, there's something for every sort of guest that stays within these hallowed walls.  My coworker was so blown away with the property, she has begun selling it at a MUCH faster pace than I have, even though it IS my go to resort for anything North of LAX or in the Burbank/Pasadena area.

So as far as this Travel Agent is concerned, the Langham Huntington Pasadena is THE resort hotel to stay at in the North Los Angeles/Burbank/Pasadena area.  The attention to detail and care received are worth FAR more than the great nightly rates and package deals available.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mind-blowing Mountain Hideaway: Spending a pet-friendly weekend at the Waldorf Astoria Park City

I very rarely take a vacation INSIDE the State of Utah, where I live.  Usually, I'm on the first flight of the morning out of Salt Lake City to anywhere.  This was however, Mother's Day weekend, and I had just returned from the Los Angeles basin just two days prior.  Plus, I didn't want to subject my family to TSA screening this weekend.  So, as a shocker, I took Mom and the rest of us to the Waldorf Astoria in Park City for Mother's Day weekend.

The resort itself is nestled at the foot of the Canyons Ski Resort Area, just a few miles North of Park City itself.  Park City is a year-round destination, with world class skiing/snowboarding in winter (it held the most mountain-based events during the 2002 Winter Olympics), and amazing camping, hiking, and outdoors activities during the Summer.  The shoulder seasons of Spring and Fall offer slightly chillier temperatures, but with the changing colors during Fall, this area is an amazing display of Nature at her best.

So we arrived there on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon, just before the 4:00PM check-in time (the drive from our home took just under an hour), but that was no problem.  The valet quickly and efficiently offloaded us and sent us on our way in while he parked the Volvo.  The front desk is not your standard front desk setup.  It is quite simply, two executive office desks set off to one side of the grand and picturesque main lobby.  My Dad looked around asking "What are we doing here?".  I had to suppress a smile as I got us checked in and on our way, with expert and extremely courteous and friendly assistance from the front desk agent.

Up to the 7th floor we went, and into a spacious 1-Bedroom Bi-Level Suite.  Clocking in around 740 square feet, this suite is perfect for a family of 4.  Upstairs is completely private with a master bedroom/master bathroom setup (and what a bathroom it is!).  On the main floor you have the half bathroom downstairs, incredibly spacious living room (even with the sofabed pulled out and made), high vaulted ceiling, incredibly set out kitchen stocked with Viking appliances, dining area, gas fireplace, and a full size washer/dryer combo in the entry.  There was even a pair of dog bowls laid out for Buddy, filled with fresh water and food, with treats for him on the counter as well.  Oh, and you can't forget the balcony with the AMAZING views of either the mountains around you, or if you are on the other side, the resort spread out and valley view below.

Once we got our luggage delivered and settled in, we let the housekeeping staff do their thing with the nightly turndown service while we headed into Park City for dinner.  Upon our return (after gawking at the vintage Ferrari's that had pulled up to the Valet and taking Buddy, our Cocker Spaniel, for his evening constitutional) the room was dressed down for the evening and we unwound on the balcony (some of us later than others) and in the living room.

After my folks went upstairs, Susie and I took Buddy for another adventure, exploring the hotel and what it has to offer.  Off to one side of the Grand Lobby you have the Palette Gift Shop for last minute wearables, a few select Waldorf branded items, and often forgotten sundries.  Crossing to the other side of the expansive lobby and its massive fireplace, you have the Powder Restaurant.  We didn't get a chance to eat here during our stay, but I will go up and try it out here soon with some buddies on a day trip up the mountain.  Heading out the doors to the balcony that wraps around the double sided fireplace you get a breathtaking view of the resort and the valley behind,  NOT a bad view to wake up to.  Going down the stairs you are greeted by the warm flames from the firepit (wheres s'mores are constructed, toasted, and devoured nightly from 7:30PM to 9:30PM).  The heated pool and whirlpool are on the other side of the gate, and there was quite a crowd there that evening, despite the chill in the air.

There is also a range of spa options and fitness studios and the well equipped gym to keep your mind and body in shape during a stay there, as well.  There are weekly classes at the resort featuring yoga, kickboxing (yay!), Pilates, and other circuits and trainings.

Checkout the next morning was a snap and we were on our way in 5 minutes, with fresh cut roses for my Mom, and bottles of water for the ride home, and another treat for Buddy.

I book the Waldorf Astoria resorts quite a bit, especially this one, and now that I've stayed here, I can honestly say I will do a MUCH better job at selling it, as I do recommend this one, as I did the original Waldorf Astoria in New York City.  The price is not bad for the service and room you get, and the staff there are absolutely amazing, and really go out of their way to make you feel like you are home.

Photos by the author or by the Waldorf Astoria Park City Resort.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Fighting the good fight, warding off jet lag

Anyone whose flown from coast to coast or across the oceans, or for that matter, ANY red eye or long distance flight knows ALL about jet lag.  It might only be 9AM where ever you land, but back home, according to your body, it's the middle of the night.  You're walking through customs feeling like you're underwater.  I've gone through it quite a but myself, but I have my own ways of fighting it.

1. Do NOT fall asleep for long periods.

If you really have to, take a quick cat nap to clear the cobwebs.  At the same token, listen to your body, if it's telling you to sleep, do it.  Set an alarm if you have to, but I promise, you'll never get to sleep at night and reset your body clock if you sack out for 8 hours right from the get go.  If you cant do catnaps, you might as well just power through the day, get out and get some fresh air and sunlight.
Another thing that might help you out.  Pick a time zone.  I've found in my transcontinental travel from one coast to another that it is better to either pick keeping your body on either your home time zone or the one you'll be visiting.  More often than not, I find myself adjusting to the time zone I'm in, unless I'm in transit.

2. Stay Healthy

As a rule, flying tends to leave one seriously dehydrated.  One thing I've started doing is bringing a bottle of water with me onboard.  No, you can't take it through security, BUT, you can buy one at the shops or restaurants by the gates.  On longer flights this becomes crucial.  I've narrowed my own drinking onboard to just water and Ginger Ale.  No alcohol for me, though.  Not only because of my own internal battles, but drinking inflight tends to dry you out faster.

Once on the ground, try to find some time to work out.  Most every hotel has a fitness center or a pool, so keeping up with your at home exercise regimen shouldn't be too difficult.  In my own experience, I use the hotel pool and swim.  It's not my full workout, but hey, its something, and usually it does the trick to keep me from becoming a zombie during my travels.

3. Vitamins and Supplements

I'm a tad iffy on this one.  The only thing I really use is those Airborne tablets that dissolve in water.  A glass in the morning and at night for 2 days straight works, especially after a long haul from the US to the Middle East or the Eastern Mediterranean.  I know others use a plethora of other tablets or pills, but unless its prescribed, I tend to stay away.  Airborne though has a bunch of vitamins and minerals that replenish your immune system, thus making you feel better, but also keeping you from catching a cold or other inflight ailment (the recycled air on most older planes is truly horrendous).

I also stay away from sleeping pills, especially Ambien.  I'll tell you why.  When I first started out in my airline career some 20 years ago,  every day off I had I was flying to someplace new.  Just hop on the first plane with an open seat and fly around the route map for 2 days.  Back then it was easier, with larger planes like the L-1011 and 767's (or in my case 747's domestically), airline employees knew which flights were almost empty, thus becoming non-rev specials (as we called them because the majority of passengers were airline employees, therefor, non-revenue generating passengers).  It was not a challenge for me to do a Salt Lake City to St. Louis to New York/JFK to Barcelona (or any other European destination we served) flight on my 1st Day off, then fly back the same routing the next and still be home before midnight to be up and at the airport for work by 5AM the next morning.

In those days, I'd pop an Ambien and try to get 4-5 hours sleep.  It didn't take long for me to realize I was a zombie for more than half my early morning shift.  So I tried almost every other sleeping aid out there, and nothing worked.  My doctor finally told me to stop using those drugs and try a natural remedy, such as a capsule of Melatonin and a cup of Chamomile Tea and call it a night.  He was right.  Melatonin worked great for me, until I was required to start sleeping with a CPAP machine to help with my Sleep Apnea.  The light noise from the machine worked fine and to this day still puts me to sleep within minutes.

That's about it on my end, all of the above tend to get me recharged and on the ground in whatever time zone I'm in within a short time frame.  Also, I know there are about a thousand other remedies out there, so let me know your favorites!  Everyone is different, and it truly is interesting to see what works for others.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Welcome to the Friendly Skies...or are they?

It takes a lot for me to post about any sort of "social justice" uprisings.  Most millennials (I unfortunately fall in this age range), hipsters, and uneducated persons have recently taken up in arms over the supposed bad treatment of a passenger on board a United Express flight, resulting in his being dragged off the plane and any passengers with a phone to catch the proceedings from damn near every angle.


So every uneducated passenger on Earth thinks just because you buy a ticket means you are ENTITLED to that seat.  In all but a few instances you are, but in this case, the passenger was not.   Once past the jetway doors, passengers fall under the responsibility of the flight crew as per US Aviation and Maritime law statutes.  There is little doubt that United could have avoided the entire situation by recognizing the overbooking prior to beginning the boarding process, but the fact is that the passenger's decision to act like a petulant child made it necessary to remove him.  Those of you who act like he is some sort of social justice hero are little better than the passenger himself and, as usual, fail to see the bigger picture.  When you are on board an aircraft your life, and the lives of everyone else fall under the flights crew's care and responsibility.  They have a required duty to comply with and enforce the laws that govern aviation operations (especially under FAR part 121), and passengers have a legal obligation to NOT interfere with the crews performance of said duties.  This passenger took it upon himself to unilaterally dictate to United, the flight crew, and basically, the Federal government that his authority over the flight was superior to their own.  At that point, the Captain made the right decision in calling for security to forcibly remove him.

I know a lot of my readers might think I'm biased towards protecting the airline because of my airline background.  I assure you, I'm not.  I have my own issues with United, which have no place being aired out in this post.  What I take offense to, is the people who have zero knowledge of what passengers are entitled to and what laws govern being on a commercial airliner once on board.  

These millennials who were quick to get to social media and "boycott United" can sit down now.  The last few days I've booked nothing but United from all corners of the globe.  How's that boycott working for ya?  

One more thing, a lot of "social justice warriors" compare this passenger to Rosa Parks.  I'm sorry, but that offends me to my core.  Rosa Parks stood up for a law that was fundamentally wrong on so many levels.  This passenger decided to make a spectacle of himself in hopes of a big payday at the end.  I'm glad he got his teeth knocked in.  

Thanks for flying the friendly skies, see ya aboard soon.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Brave New World: Decyphering the International Airline Electronics Ban

In the last 48 hours or so, I have been bombarded (excuse the pun) with emails, Instant Messages, and Texts asking about this new International Airline Electronics Ban.  I have to admit, when the first messages came in, I had no idea what had been handed down, as this was around 4:30 in the morning when my phone started dinging.

Here's what I know so far and what I understand about it (thanks to several cohorts of mine as well):

On March 21, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a ban on all electronic devices (aside from medical devices and cell phones) on flights originating in the Middle East and terminating in the United States.  Now, I know a lot of my acquaintances are crying foul and think this is the current administration's way of banning all Muslims.  I'm here to tell you it is not, this affects all flights originating or terminating at Middle East points with direct non-stop service to the United States and the UK.  In fact, in hindsight, we should've had these restrictions in place for the last decade and a half.

So, the types of electronics that are no longer allowed on board are (but not limited to):

Laptops, tablets, E-readers, cameras, portable DVD players, any electronic game bigger than a smartphone, travel printers/scanners (who travels with these anyways?) and anything else electronic that is larger than a common smartphone.  This ban does not include any necessary medical devices, those are allowed to remain in the passenger's possession after security screening and boarding.

From the United States, the airports that are under the ban include:

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (with nonstop flights to Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, New York/JFK, San Francisco, and Washington/Dulles on Etihad Airways.  No US Carrier has served Abu Dhabi since the 1970's)

Amman, Jordan (with nonstop flights to Chicago/O'Hare, Detroit, and New York/JFK on Royal Jordanian, no US Carrier has served since 1994)

Cairo, Egypt (with nonstop flights to New York/JFK on EgyptAir, every now and then Delta or United Airlines will do summer seasonal service, but have not resumed this since the Arab Spring uprising)

Casablanca, Morocco (with nonstop flights to New York/JFK and Washington/Dulles on Royal Air Maroc, no US Carrier has served Casablanca since the 1970's)

Doha, Qatar (with nonstop flights to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston/Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/JFK, Philadelphia, Washington/Dulles, and beginning in January 2017, Las Vegas)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (with nonstop flights to Boston, Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston/Intercontinental, Los Angeles, New York/JFK, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington/Dulles by Emirates.  Newark, New Jersey is also served by Emirates, but it is a direct service through Athens, Greece.  No US Carrier has served Dubai since Delta discontinued its Atlanta service in February 2016)

Istanbul/Ataturk International Airport, Turkey (with nonstop flights to Atlanta, Chicago/O'Hare, Houston/Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/JFK, San Francisco, and Washington/Dulles on Turkish Airlines, Delta discontinued it's JFK and Atlanta flights back in May 2016)

Jeddah/King Abdul-Aziz Airport, Saudi Arabia  (with nonstop flights to Los Angeles, New York/JFK, and Washington/Dulles on Saudi Arabian Airlines, no US Carrier has served Jeddah since 1989)

Kuwait International Airport, Kuwait (with nonstop flights to New York/JFK on Kuwait Airways, United Airlines discontinued service from Washington/Dulles in January 2016)

Riyadh/King Khalid International Airport, Saudi Arabia (with nonstop flights to Los Angeles, New York/JFK, and Washington/Dulles on Saudi Arabian Airlines, no US Carrier has served Riyadh since 2001)

The United Kingdom has also announced the same ban of flights to and from the UK, but the list includes airports in Lebanon and Tunisia, as well.  These are not on the list of airports in the US due to the fact there are no direct flights between them (much to my chagrin).

The Department of Homeland Security has stated the current directive runs until October 14, 2017, and might be extended another year.  Currently, there is no impact on domestic flights within the United States, or with flights departing from the United States to the above listed destinations.  Electronic devices will continue to be allowed on all flights originating within the United States.

May I take the time to suggest travelers to visit the Dept. of Homeland Security website for more information on this.  Also, and probably most importantly, government officials are NOT advising US or British Nationals to avoid travel to these countries or these airports (Dubai, Istanbul, and Doha are the three biggest connection points in the Middle East, so it's hard to avoid them anyways).  Also, consider booking with a Travel Agent to secure the best flights that meet your needs to and from these countries (I can definitely find you a way in and out of all of these affected cities).  In my opinion, the decision to travel is a very personal one that must be made by the individual.  Everyone should always stay informed and remain vigilant and alert during their journeys.

If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask me.