“…as if it were settled, the expedition was bound to take place, and the wonder to which he had looked forward, for years and years, it seemed, was, after a night’s darkness and a day’s sail, within touch.”
I close my portable copy of To the Lighthouse and shovel it into my suburban Maryland’s local library tote. The first portion of my round-the-world trip is about to begin. I’m embarking on a round-the-world voyage in just seven short days. The route I’m taking is GDL-MEX-CDG-BKK-TPE-LAX-GDL, on four different airlines: Aviacsa (GDL-MEX), Air France (MEX-CDG-BKK), China Airlines (BKK-TPE-LAX), and Mexicana (LAX-GDL). Way too many stops considering that the only two places I’ll actually visit are Bangkok and Los Angeles.
The Aviacsa aircraft, which would stop in Mexico City before continuing on to Mérida, was parked off-gate. So we have to take one of them buses. The bus braves us through the tarmac and stops on the side of an Aviacsa 727 aircraft. I am not too happy at this moment because I am one of those people who find aircrafts with engines by the tail or the rear section architecturally and aerodynamically unsound. It’s probably a prejudice that lacks a concrete, technical basis but, whenever I have choices, I always decline to fly on the MD 80’s, MD 11’s, Embraer 145’s and the 727’s. (Are there other models whose engines are not beneath the wings?) But, folks, I’ve come this far and there’s no turning back, is there? I have to make it to Mexico City before midnight, before my carriage turns into a pumpkin and my dream to fly around the globe goes awry. I gather all my courage, walk up the stair and enter this 727.
Aviacsa Boeing 727-200
I get settled in my window seat. The aircraft is in good condition but you could see that it’s been renovated again and again. The food tray, for example, is made of wood. You could feel it. It was hand-painted with some light indigo acrylic but I bet all my money in my checking account right now (which is about 338 bucks and 66 cents) that the material inside is wood. I suppose that an old aviation adage holds true in this instance: “IT HOLDS BY THE PAINT.” As long as it’s colorful and shiny on the outside, it’s airworthy.
It seems like we’re ready to take off but then the captain announces that we’d be sitting on the tarmac for 20 minutes as the incoming traffic is backed up at Mexico City Airport. I guess it makes sense—energy-wise and safety-wise—what’s the point of hurrying up to wait, right? Then, after 20 minutes, the aircraft starts moving. Shortly we take off into the night.
Out of all of Mexico’s non-Cintra carriers I’ve flown on—Aerocalifornia, Azteca, and Aviacsa—Aviacsa is my top choice by far. Aerocalifornia has very old airplanes and Azteca is OK but the inflight service is so-so and they only serve beers and soft drinks. Aviacsa, on the other hand, serves liquors even on a short hop like this. I jingle myself with a little glass of Finlandia vodka mixed with mango nectar—yummy. There’s nothing like a cocktail drink on a Friday evening, especially when it’s sipped in the sky—drains all my weekdays’ cares and worries away. Another thing I admire about Aviacsa is that the flight attendants are EXTREMELY enthusiastic. They never stop smiling. Trust me, if a Thai person from Thailand (dubbed the Land of Smiles) says that someone smiles a lot, that person REALLY SMILES A WHOLE HELL LOTS. I mean, what on Earth was it about with all those smiles and giggles? I got so jealous: I don’t know what their boyfriends did. Musta been somep’in good.
Anyhow, I give Aviacsa 11 out of 10 for the following reasons: cheap tickets, safe-looking aircrafts, super friendly service, premium alcohol offered in economy. And for those of you who are str8, love flying, and are curious to see what Mexican “exotic beauties” look like, book a trip on Aviacsa, guyz. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. We are not descending to Ciudad de México.
Sorry this picture is not too clear. But I promise you that all the heavies of MEX were there to receive me: Iberia, KLM, Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, and LAN. No wonder the air traffic was so bad. Aw, what an honor.
Then I retrieve my luggage and breeze through the linear corridor of MEX in order to the international side. On the way, there’s an exhibition showing the new Terminal 2 that’s being built as we speak:
The next thing I know, I’m standing in front of Air-France check-in area. IT IS A MESS. This is AF’s second flight to Paris that evening, packed as one would expect from a Friday-night flight. The first flight which is leaving right now is on a 777 and was code-shared with Aeromexico. The second one (the one I am taking) is operated by a 747 and is code-shared with Alitalia. So there were French, Mexican, and Italian passengers (and, of course, one VIP passenger from Thailand, thank you very much).
You know? I often like to think that there’s no such thing as unkempt French people—that even the most provincial French men, those you see hand-picking truffles somewhere in the countryside—would at least cover his head with a beret and wrap his neck with some sort of scarf, wearing leather shoes (with or without socks) and never carrying a backpack while traveling; that they would never wear flip-flops and sloppy t-shirts that expose their tattoos; that they would be the anti-thesis of “American beach bums.” This flight, however, proves me wrong because it’s full of French tourists who were just that—men and women with tattoos wearing thongs and whatever they could put on. I still couldn’t believe they were French. Not that there’s anything wrong with wearing your beach clothes to fly transatlantic, because they were on vacation after all. But, seriously, if it had been up to them to decide the couture culture of France, French civilization would be dramatically changed.
Back to the subject. Yeah, I was saying the check-in area was such a mess. They have separate check-in counters for Premières and Affiares but EVERYONE waiting there has to be triaged one by one by this Air France lady. This is most inefficient. Basically the whole check-in area is fenced off and one passenger or a group of passenger is admitted one at a time. So I have to cheat a little. I play an innocent Asian tourist, walked inside the fenced area, acting like I was lost. Then a security agent approaches me. That’s when I say “Business-eu Class-eu por favor-eu” (with Japanese accent) and bound once. And like magic, I get escorted to l’Espace Affaires counter. The Japanese tourist thing? It works every time, especially here in Mexico. I bound and act lost and people get nervous and I get whatever it is I want; like using bathroom for free, sitting on nice reserved seats in nice restaurants by accident, or driving away from traffic police without paying a peso…I keep bounding until they say yes. Sometimes I can be such a b-tch, but tonight I feel so mellow. I must be on my people-pleaser mode: all smiles and Smooth-as-Silk, the way Thai people are supposed to be, however artificial it might seem. My Asian upbringing comes handy today I guess.
I check in, have my luggage checked in all the way to Bangkok. The check-in lady also gives me my boarding pass for the Paris-Bangkok leg. She also says that I am the first to check in on that aircraft to Bangkok, thus gaining me the right to seat 1E (1A and 1B does not exist on AF A340 because that’s where the entertainment system is located). I was hysterical. My a.net know-how’s and frequent flyer intuition are now telling me that this A340 must be bi (meaning bi-cabin, no pun intended, seriously). Since I am flying Business but got assigned to 1E; so there’s a good chance that the A340 that would take me from Paris to Bangkok is equipped with the Nouvelles Espaces. I almost had an a.net orgasm at the thought of this. And you know what pops up in my mind? Do you remember that really snobbish girl in 1A on my MEX-EZE MX flight, the girl who I thought was a sad epitome of Mexico’s upper crust? Well, I relived the event and, in my imagination, I see myself looking at her and getting all ghetto. I’d be like: “Whad cha doin’ over heer, girle?” Then I’m gonna bump her off the seat with my butt and, sheet, she’d be OUT! She’ll be back in her Miami pied-à-terre, reading La Gente Bien and devising a way to liquidate me the telenovela style.
After security check and immigration control, I unwind at Aeromexico’s international transit lounge. It’s a small and ordinary lounge which I’ve written about in the past so I won’t spend too much time on this. One big difference I notice now is that, after the airport’s overhaul, there are now metal beams that block all the views everywhere at Benito Juarez airport, this lounge included. What’s the point of this? Does anyone know? To block the sun? To deter a bazooka fired form a passenger from inside the terminal?
What an off-turner for us voyeurs. This is a crime against aviation enthusiasts and the person who did this has to be put on trial at the Hague!
The flight is supposed to depart at 11:55PM. So we were called to board at 11:20PM. I was relieved by the notion that I’d be in my seat well before the clock strikes midnight. The boarding area is well-organized this time, unlike the last time I took this flight last Fall. It is heartbreaking, however, to see that all the Air France staff are all light-skinned and then everybody else working as airport’s security agents who probably earn slightly more than 100 pesos per day (if they’re lucky) were all Indians, standing outside the fenced area, doing petty jobs—that’s a glimpse of Mexico for you.
I approach my seat—supposedly 7L—but I sit down on 7K. I did this because the coat hangers of these two seats got switched. It takes me a while before I figure it out. DUH! What a dumb dumb. Sorry, people, for having cast shame on the a.net institution. Having found my seat, I get cozy and plunge into my champagne.
I dunno. I think I left home with a heavy load of good-inflight-service karma or something. Usually Air France offers nice foods, wines, IFE system, and comfortable seats but AF is too often marked down by its flight attendants, who don’t really smile and think that any extra gesture of service implies a sort of social inferiority, that it would upset all the progresses achieved since the French Revolution. But, on this flight, I am charmed by my section’s flight attendant who is friendly, funny, and best of all, dressed PERFECTLY in one of those new AF outfits. She’s so enthused. She’d be telling me how, when she flies to Bogota, police have to escort Air France crews to their hotel. And she’s so apologetic. During breakfast she tells me, “Veuillez nous excuser, mais these viennoisseries are not French style. They’re Mexican style and are hard.” More gastronomically chauvinistic than the French, then you’d be dead ’cause the only thing you can ingest outside your country is water! But it’s nice to get special attention like that from one of the world’s most aggressive peoples.
OK folks, here’s a million-dollar question. Based on my choices of newspaper and magazine, see if you could tell what kind of person I am:
a. A real b-tch from hell reincarnated in a man’s body
b. Gauche Caviar—a socialist/leftist who never says no to a good jar of caviar
c. A regular Liberal Arts student who doesn’t know what to do with his life
d. All of the above
e. (FREE ANSWER)
Either e-mail me your answer or post it as a reply. The winner gets...a round of applauses from me.
So who’s hungry? Let’s see what people eat when they fly Business Class from Mexico City to Paris:
Foie gras avec compote de mangue
Mango sorbet and a mango cake. I know, I totally got mangoed up on this flight
Now is nappy nap nap time everybody.
When I get up, we’ve almost crossed the pond. Breast, I mean Brest, is only a hand reach away.
WOW, now that’s a beautiful view right there:
Wait a minute. I didn’t order a Mexican breakfast? I said I wanted a Portuguese breakfast!. And it has to be served by the captain himself!
Huh…we’ve finally descended to Roissy. The flight attendants say that they have not a single copy of the immigration form. Great! Then we touchdown at CDG and I’m disappointed not to see the Roissy rabbits, which usually run into their holes when a plane lands. They must be hibernating or something. Do rabbits hibernate? Has there ever been any rabbit sucked into the engine?
As we pass through immigration, it turns out that none of us has to fill out those yellow forms to enter France. I always thought they never served anything anyways—what a waste of paper. Overall, for this leg, I give 10 for inflight service and 7 for cabin comfort. It was comfortable but not THAT comfortable. Not comfortable enough to pay 3000 USD or more for. After all I’m one of those people who’ll never pay for Business Class with my own money (if I had the money to spend). I don’t think it’s worth it. I’d rather use the money to fly lots of economy flights and collect the miles and get upgraded every once in a while. I got upgraded to l’Espace Première once on a CDG-LAX flight two years ago. The service was poor and next to my seat was this really cocky CEO of a US multinational. You know one of those people who read their glories in their shits every morning and actually find them. This time around I think I got lucky and fell on the right flight attendant so it upgraded the entire experience.
Here’s the last look at the 747 that flew me from Mexico. Who knows where it goes next:
I’m exhausted right now. I buy some French stamps at a magazine kiosk and stop by at a postal box and drop some important letters. I do this because the postal system in Mexico is more than often unreliable. Then I walk toward 2C, from which my flight to Bangkok departs. Most of the passengers at 2C are Asians. My flight leaves at 1115 PM which means that I have about 5 hours to relax. The lounge is now empty but will eventually fill up because the flights leaving at 11:15PM from 2C are flights bound for São Paulo, Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
The hushed remove of 2C AF lounge. NICE…:
If you are a video game buff, there’s something for you in this lounge too. These PSP pods are everywhere in the lounge. I suppose Sony is trying to promote its product.
I really can do with a shower right now. After a nice cup of real coffee, I walk toward the reception desk and ask if there’s a shower room in this lounge. She says yes and hands me the key, a set of towels, and a shower kit.
There’s nothing more refreshing than taking a shower close to airplanes :
After the shower, I start doing some of my homeworks. I’ve got a lot of stuffs to turn in by e-mail when I land in Bangkok. I’ve been praying that the A340 I’m taking is retrofitted and that they have power outlets that ACTUALLY work so I can do my homework. I won’t be able to sleep on the flight to Bangkok anyways because I slept all the way from Mexico already.
Time flies when you least expect it too. We were called to board at 10:30PM. I pack my laptop, walk up the stair (the 2C lounge is hidden beneath), and board.
Here’s mi bus to Bangkok:
Pleeeze, let it be the Nouvelles Espaces seats. I close my eyes as I step into the aircraft, turn to my left, open my eyes and, there they were—brand new, lie-flat l’Espace Affaires seats!!!!!!!!!! YES!!! Yes! %^^&&(()*) YES, yes, YES!!!
Now this is the real thing right here. This kind of seat, I’d pay 3000 USD for:
Before I end PART I, I bet some of you nosy individuals are wondering how much I paid for this l’Espace Affaires caprice of mine? Well, for the entire trip MEX-CDG-BKK, I paid:
(ONLY)130 Euros + (ONLY) 60,000 Flying Blue miles
Now that’s what I call “A LITTLE LOYALTY THAT GOES A LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG WAY.”
TO BE CONTINUED. PLEASE CHECK BACK IN TWO WEEKS FOR PART II.