5 August 2000
Atlanta Hartsfield to Memphis Shelby
We got a ride to the airport for the 720am flight and arrived there just
before 630am. Curbside checked the single piece of luggage and then
proceeded to use the E-Service center to check myself in. I selected my
favorite bulkhead window seat 5A for both segments. My mom was travelling
on a CO non-stop to Houston at around the same time, so we proceeded to
Concourse D together, where my flight was just beginning the pre-boarding
process. Went over to mom's gate (which was about 20 yards down the
concourse) and obtained her boarding pass, and then it was time for me to
The flight was half full and I slept through the whole thing as is my
habit. I awakened to the "double ping" of the seatbelt sign as we turned
onto final approach and we arrived at Memphis right on time at Gate
B-23. My connection was due out from Gate B-24.
5 August 2000
Memphis Shelby to Houston Bush Intercontinental
I had about an hour to kill at MEM, so I grabbed breakfast at the
McDonald's by the US Air check-in counter. Heading back through security,
the pin in my jaw set off the metal detector as usual. The lady operating
the hand held sensor was very confused, and admiring of my dentist's
handiwork in constructing a nearly indistinguishable fake tooth from
porcelain once she realized what set it off.
I returned to B-24 to find that the gate for my flight had been changed to
B-23 and I would be going to Houston on the same aircraft I came in on. We
boarded smoothly and I took the exact same seat I had vacated about 45
minutes earlier. Once again the flight was half full, and we had the
country musician Toby Keith on board in 4A right in front of me. I slept
the whole way again and we arrived at IAH around 10 minutes early. My mom
was waiting for me at the gate and we headed down to baggage claim where
our friends were waiting for us.
5 August 2000
This weekend was "No Taxes for Texas", so we headed out to the mall within
minutes of dumping our bags at our friend's place. My mom got the guest
room and I was to sleep on a fold-out bed in the home office (which also
housed the computer!). We grabbed a Chinese lunch at "Fung's Kitchen" and
spent around $500 on various things. Dinner was at home and we turned in
around 11pm, but I stayed online for another couple hours.
6 August 2000
Everyone slept in on Sunday morning and we emerged around 11am. Lunch was
at an excellent Indian restaurant near Sharpstown (I can't remember its
name though). We spent the afternoon back at First Colony mall where my
mom finished up her shopping while I browsed the internet on my cellphone
(thank God for technology!). Dinner was at home again, but we stayed up
late watching movies on the big-screen TV.
7 August 2000
One of our friends was beginning his sophomore year at University of
Houston, so we spent the morning helping him shop for back-to-school
supplies. We spent the afternoon at the local AMC Multiplex watching
"Hollowman". The movie was very so-so, although the special effects were
quite incredible. Dinner was at the "Bombay Palace" restaurant. The food
was excellent, but the service left a little to be desired.
8 August 2000
We spent Tuesday morning going through the Las Vegas literature that
A330-300 had so kindly sent over to me. I called America West and
discovered that they would allow us to stand-by for an earlier flight than
our scheduled 1052pm departure. We decided to try for the 745pm flight
through PHX that would get us to Vegas about an hour earlier. Lunch was at
TGI Fridays and I polished off an entire rack of ribs myself. We left for
the airport around 530pm and arrived at Bush Intercontinental around
8 August 2000
Houston Bush Intercontinental to Las Vegas McCarran
We walked over to the HP gates and discovered that the PHX flight was
running about an hour behind schedule, so we would misconnect on PHX-LAS
and we were better off taking our original flight after all. Oh well, at
least we tried.
We wandered over to the Chili's by the security checkpoint and spent an
hour or so nursing large margaritas. Returned to the gate and checked-in
for the flight. Since we were so early, we were able to snare an exit row.
The flight itself was about as good as they come. The flight attendants
went with some rather amusing announcements. Some gems : "I am Larry, your
lead F/A and I will be assisted on todays flight by Curly and
Moe". "Alcoholic beverages are available at a nominal cost. However, in
the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure COMPLIMENTARY oxygen will be
made available". "Should our flight suddenly become a cruise, your seat
cushion can be used as a floatation device" and "This is a non-smoking
flight - however passengers who MUST smoke may step onto the wing and
enjoy our double feature of 'Gone with the wind' and 'Bye bye Birdie'".
Service was efficient and we touched down almost 30 minutes early at
Unfortunately, our gate was still occupied, so we sat on the tarmac for
almost 20 minutes watching the lights of the strip dance tantalisingly
before our eyes. We finally came in to B10, and disembarked to the sounds
of a slot machine clunking out a payment. Viva Las Vegas!
8 August 2000
Las Vegas, NV
I had managed to swing an excellent rate at Dollar ($20.99/day less 15%
for a compact), so we trooped off to their desk. The line was about 8 deep
when we arrived, but thanks to my FASTLANE membership we were able to use
a seperate line and reached the counter in under a minute.
I had tried to have my mom added to the contract as an additional driver,
but for some reason the system refused to accept her name (when they
entered "Mendis", the system would automatically kick out an error message
that "Mendis" was already the primary driver). The poor agent tried to fix
it for about 10 mins, but my patience grew thin and I told her to forget
about it. She was very apologetic, and went to print out a copy of my
modified contract. She came back with a smile on her face and told me that
the rental was due back by 1155pm "on your birthday" (August 10). She then
added that I had been upgraded to my choice of "any vehicle in the lot". I
was excited at first, but then I realized that my credit card's insurance
policy would not cover the CDW on an SUV, convertible or luxury car. So I
picked a minivan and we headed out to the lot on the shuttle bus.
The drive to the Riviera took around 20 minutes due to road work in
progress on the strip, and we found a convenient parking spot on the
fourth level of the enormous parking deck. It took us almost another 20
minutes to locate the check-in desks, but we finally got to our room
around 1am. The room was nothing special or extravagant, but was
Despite the late hour, the gambler within us demanded that we sally forth
to do battle with the multitude of slot machines below us. We spent about
an hour down there losing $20 to the nickel slots. We then headed across
the street to Westward Ho and Circus Circus, stopping for a while at the
former in order to sample their "World's Largest Hot Dog for 75c". The
hotdog was indeed HUGE (around 18 inches long) but tasted like a cross
between cat litter and motor oil. But for 75c, can I expect any more, even
9 August 2000
Las Vegas, NV
The Riviera had an ongoing promotion where they were offering
complimentary show tickets to any hotel guest who signed up for their slot
club, so we went down to the lobby once we awakened in the morning and
collected our freebies for the 9pm showing of 'La Cage'.
Our first stop for the day was Rio, where we had decided to sample their
highly rated Carnival lunch buffet. It lived up to its reputation and we
spent well over an hour devouring foods ranging from Sushi to Roast
Beef. Next stop was Luxor, where my mom wanted to check out an IMAX
screening. We watched the Michael Jordan movie and she was suitably
impressed. From there we headed over to Paris Las Vegas and Bally's.
Unfortunately, while leaving Paris I accidently closed the sliding door of
the van into the left side of my face. This left me somewhat dazed for a
while and with a bloody cut behind my left ear. We headed back to the
hotel after this, and I took a short nap before setting out around 815pm
for 'La Cage'.
The show itself was quite entertaining and starred Frank Marino as Joan
Rivers along with a whole host of female impersonators. It let out around
1030pm and we decided to head back to the South Strip for dinner. We
picked the Sherwood Forest Cafe at Excalibur and grabbed a light meal
there at reasonable prices.
We returned to the Riviera around 1230am and mom headed back to her nickel
slots while I took on the challenge of the poker tables. I played 7 card
stud for around 2 hours and was pretty succesful, winding up over $100
up. A large chunk of this came from one hand where my 4 deuces beat an
Aces over Queens full house. While we were there, a guy at the next table
came up with what was the day's high hand to that point - 4 Queens and a
King - which qualified him for the daily jackpot.
10 August 2000
Las Vegas, NV
We were awakened pretty early by my dad calling from Singapore to wish me
a happy birthday, and were able to check out by around 1030am. Our plans
for the day called for a trip out to the Hoover Dam, and we hit the road
by 11am. The drive took just over an hour and we spent almost 3 hours
there doing the tour, exploring the exhibits and walking across the border
Headed back towards town, but stopped at Sunset Station on the way for
their buffet. Once again, we made total pigs of ourselves and finally got
back to Vegas around 530pm.
Our first stop this time was Caesar's Palace. We browsed the forum shops
for a while and then took the IMAX ride "Race for Atlantis". It was good,
but very overhyped.
We then headed south on the strip and accidently turned onto a side road
just across from Mandalay Bay. Suddenly, I found myself faced with about
20 aircraft skeletons, proud remnants of what had once been United's DC-10
fleet as well as a few 747s and smaller aircraft. I stopped for a few
minutes to watch the sun set over these beauties.
We then headed out to Treasure Island, just in time to catch the 'Pirate
Battle' in their front yard. We spent over an hour there and headed back
to the van for the short drive back to McCarran, where our flight back to
Houston was due out at 1130pm.
10 August 2000
Las Vegas McCarran to Houston Bush Intercontinental
Our first indication that this flight was not going to be leaving on time
was an announcement that the flight incoming to the gate (from PHX) had
been cancelled. However, the HP gate agents steadfastedly maintained that
the flight would leave on time, despite the fact that there was no
aircraft sitting at the gate with barely 20 mins to go before departure.
The flight was also oversold by 2 passengers, but HP did not make any
announcement asking for volunteers. I gleaned this information from a
passenger sitting next to my mom in the departure area who was complaining
to someone on her cellphone that she had been checked in, but was not
given a seat number yet.
At 1125pm, an HP supervisor finally showed up and announced that the
flight was being indefinitely delayed "due to weather". Evidently the
incoming aircraft was delayed out of BWI due to storms there. This struck
me as very fishy since the BWI flight is operated by a 757. I approached
the supervisor on the side and told him why I thought he was full of **it.
He grinned somewhat sheepishly at being caught in his lie and told me
that he had instructions to attribute the delay to weather since there was
a good chance that this flight would not be going out at all tonight, and
this way HP could weasel out of compensation to passengers.
I didn't know whether to be annoyed or amused by this, so I then told him
that I knew about the oversold situation and would appreciate if we had
priority for the bump. He agreed and offered us $300 each in vouchers,
hotel accomodation and ground transportation. However, he said to "hold
on" before he went ahead and did anything.
The people in the waiting lounge began to get restless over the next hour
and a half, since the departure time kept getting revised by 20 minutes at
a time, even though there was no aircraft at the gate. I spent most of the
time chatting with the supervisor and he told me that this was a pretty
common occurance at LAS during the week - invariably 2-3 flight per night
Around 115am, a 732 came in from DFW that was supposed to continue on to
ONT. The supervisor left for a few minutes to handle the arrival and
returned to our gate with the news (that he passed on to me) that we would
be using that aircraft. Evidently, the ONT flight had only 45 pax booked
on it, whereas we were completely full up - so they were deemed
So how do you switch gates with 45 annoyed ONT pax sitting right in front
of the gate. Simple. Make a gate change announcement. Sure enough, within
minutes an announcement was made that the ONT flight was being switched to
a gate on a different concourse and the pax gathered up their stuff and
left. I was stupefied by this, especially since there was already a redeye
to JFK leaving from the gate in question. Sure enough, the ONT pax were
soon back, but our Houston flight had already commenced boarding by then!
Now how to deal with the oversold scenario? One middle-aged gentleman who
had plainly had quite a bit to drink approached the desk and began to
complain about something. The supervisor stonewalled him completely,
offering no answers except "I'm sorry sir, we will look into it". I am not
sure if this was an attempt to bait the man into losing his cool, or if
this was HP customer service at work! Either way, the intoxicated
passenger soon began yelling, at which point the supervisor calmly told
him that he always had the option of flying on another airline. The guy
retorted that he would much rather fly someone else. With that, the
supervisor bumped him and his wife from the flight, rebooked them on the
7am codeshare with CO and gave his seats to the pax waiting for a seat
assignment. No compensation due. Very slick.
We finally finished boarding around 215am and were airborne by
235am. Since we were at the front of the aircraft, I had to gate-check my
carryon. Flight time to Houston was just under 3 hours (all of which I
spent fast asleep) and we touched down around 720am, just about 3 hours
behind schedule. I never checked what happened to the poor ONT pax.
11 August 2000
Fortunately, my bag was already out on the conveyor by the time we got
there, so I called Dollar immediately and the shuttle bus to the rental
lot arrived a few minutes later. There were a few people already waiting
to pick up cars, but my FASTLANE membership had us on our way within
The drive across town on Highway 59 to Sugarland was pretty swift
considering the time of day, and we pulled into our friends' driveway
within the hour. We then proceeded to crash until lunchtime. After lunch
we headed out shopping yet again. Dinner was at home and we turned in
early for the night.
12 August 2000
Houston Bush Intercontinental to Memphis Shelby
Woke up nice and early and headed out to the airport on the Sam Houston
Tollway instead of Highway 59 because of construction work in the area
around Enron Field. The drive was painless and we returned the rental car
with just under 2 minutes left on the contract. Talk about stretching the
The shuttle over to the terminal arrived on schedule and we wandered over
to the NW desks where I proceeded to nab exit rows for both flights. We
then wandered over to Continental and got a boarding pass for my mom.
Since both flights were due out at around the same time, I hung around
for a few minutes with her and then headed back to my aircraft.
The flight was efficient as I have grown to expect with NW. An on-time
departure and on-time arrival sandwiched an altogether unremarkable
flight in every respect.
12 August 2000
Memphis Shelby to Atlanta Hartsfield
I checked my voicemail while disembarking from the aircraft and found a
message from my mom informing me that she had been bumped from her flight.
Evidently Greg Brenneman had shown up at the gate right after the doors
were closed with a must-ride to ATL, so she pulled the short straw as the
lowest priority non-rev on board. Anyway, she had been rebooked on the
wide-open flight 90 minutes later and would be arriving into Atlanta at
I strolled over to the Interstate BBQ as has become a tradition for me
during Memphis layovers and got myself a nice fat barbeque pork sandwich
for lunch. I stuffed my face (literally) in the departure lounge, to the
utter disgust of the other passengers, but boarded the aircraft in time
for us to push back bang on schedule (after washing away most of the BBQ
sauce that had dribbled down my chin).
Unfortunately, there were about 4000 other aircraft waiting to depart at
the same time as we were, so we were airborne only 30 mins later. Flight
time to Atlanta was just 51 minutes and we touched down and taxied to
our usual gate around 340pm.
The CO flight from Houston came in around 15 mins later and my mom emerged
in the middle of the mass of humanity that inevitably accompanies events
such as that. The single bag was waiting for us at luggage claim (since it
had accompanied me on NW) and we headed out to the MARTA station reflecting
on the fun trip we had just come off.
"The A340-300 may boast a long range, but the A340 is underpowered" -- Robert Milton, CEO - Air Canada