Week 6 of non revenue summer travel is still in full force, alive and well and marching forward. Week 6 of my travels would be a big one as I would once again leave the shores of the United States. I originally had planned to go to Auckland, New Zealand this past weekend, However plans changed drastically. One day before departure plans were set to go to Hong Kong. So without further delay... Week 6 of my summer travels.
July 4th was the set day to travel. I had to work that day until 3PM. After that I headed home got packed and was out of the house by 5:50 for the 8PM flight to LAX. I was quickly stopped before I left the house by my mom telling me I was not to ask anyone at the airport ticket counter to make me up ID95 (95 percent off regular fare) passes for a flight on All Nippon Airways. After a quick persuasion she called down to the airport and got me and my friend all set with passes on ANA, and I was off to the airport.
I arrived Sky Harbour Airport around 7:45PM. After hearing an ear full from the ticket agents about how nice our trip sounded, we headed off to gate C to wait for seats on flight 6033 to LAX which is operated by a CRJ of Sky West. The flights usually are very full on the CRJs however tonight on the fourth of July they were rather open. We got cleared to our seats. Myself in seat 8D.
My first experience on the CRJ was great!
The 1 hour flight ended in excellent fashion! The approach into LAX was unforgettable! At first I thought there was a huge police bust going on down below in the streets. I soon realized all the flashing lights I was seeing was not LAPD but fireworks! The closer we got the more amazing the scene! During very short final to runway 25 left,I noticed a lot of fire works being shot at our direction. In a joking manner after seeing these rockets launched our way I called out "Fire works to close, go around". At that moment the engines started to power up, gear came up and we started to climb. My first ever go around! I was so excited that I had got to experience a go around and that I would be treated to more views of the fireworks. After a long time in the pattern we made it back down onto the ground without getting shot down by the home boyz hanging out with fireworks on the approach path.
After a few hours in LAX it was now time to catch my next flight of this mutliple leg journey to Hong Kong. I was now listed to fly on UA flight 124 to Chicago O'hare which would depart at 11:45PM. Flight 124, a Boeing 747-400 was also rather light in loads tonight. After a long wait to be called for a seat I was cleared to seat 12A on the upper deck. During take off from 25 Right I couldn't help but laugh to see people launching off fireworks at 12 midnight! The 3 hour and 40 minute flight went by too fast with such a nice seat! It was nice to see a meal or what they called a snack served. The snack was a turkey and cheese sandwich with a nice slice of cake. If I had not got that snack I would have killed myself due to such extreme hunger.
The early morning arrival on runway 14L was just as brilliant as I expected it to be. Beautiful sunrise and a beautiful touch down at 5:32AM, a few minutes early. I went to speak with the pilots for a few minutes after arrival. Very nice talkative crew for sure. It was a surprise to see the first offiver wearing batting gloves after the arrival even though he had the radios and communication job for fligh 124. It turned out he is a very great man to know in the airline industry. I accepted his business card and his companies info flyer right away. I ended up being the last person off, but I didn't care after meeting a special man to the airline industry.
After we arrived Chicago, my friend and I took a train into the city to visit another friend for a few hours. Mostly we were around the sears tower for breakfast before heading back to ORD around 10AM. It didn't even seem real that I was about to be off to Hong Kong during the train ride back to ORD. But no matter how unreal it seemed, it was more then real when we arrived at gate C18 where I was given seat 16H (window upper deck) right away for flight 895 to Hong Kong.
I was the first one to get onto the plane and went straight upstairs to my very comfortable seat on the right side of the plane. My first thoughts were of course how I wish we would be flying into Kai Tak airport with a right side window. Oh well I thought, at least I got to see it back in 1998. I then went to visit the pilots for a few short minutes. Once again, another friendly 747-400 crew of pilots. The facts for the day were pretty cool to learn. 871,000 pounds, Maximum thrust would be required for departure, we would travel 200 miles south of the North Pole, and flying time to Hong Kong was according to the pilots a "short" 15 hours and 3 minute flight. After a few more minutes in the flight deck I returned to my seat and prepared for departure.
Push back was right on time at 12:30PM. After engine start up we taxied out behind the first UA flight to Tokyo Narita of the day to runway 32L. We taxied onto the runway 15 minutes after push back and held for a brief moment. The idle engines tone suddenly changed as the engines began to spool up. Before the monstrous roar of max thrust seemed to demand all attention of the passengers right then and there. The site of flowers, and other parts of the grass area getting sucked into the number 4 engine was quite a sight! It seemed to take forever for our 747-400 to gain any speed on the take off roll. 50 seconds into the take off roll, speed was in full supply. It was apparent by the amount of springing action on the wing. 1 minute and 3 seconds after spool up, United 895 Heavy with all its sheer power, beauty and grace leaped into the sky with unspeakable authority infront of a line of other small aircrafts on the ground.
Our would fly north over Wisconsin before going up through Canada. Drink and meal service started shortly after take off. The meal on today's flight to Hong Kong was great! The appetizer consisted of 3 Shrimp, smoked Salmon, grilled zucchini and a garden salad with sesame ginger dressing. The main course was Cantonese styled Scallops with noodles and veggies. This was surprisingly good! I normally don't like scallops but today on UA I sure did! Desert was the famous Eli's Cheese Cake as many of us have grown to love over the years. After the meal service I decided to watch a movie. I don't know why I chose to watch Big fat liar, but it wasn't to bad for entertainment. After that movie, I switched on the airshow map, grabbed a few bottles of water from the galley at the back of the upper deck, and went to sleep.
I slept about 10 hours on the flight to Chicago. I didn't miss much scenery along the way besides the upper reaches of the northern hemisphere. On the Asian side we flew over Russia, Mongolia, straight down China, directly south into Hong Kong. Arrival into Hong Kong would be a good couple of minutes early at 4:23PM on Junly 6th. During the initial approach into Hong Kong the weather seemed nice and clear! A shock for me since I have never seen HK that way hardly ever! That would quickly change. After a turn to final approach runway 07L the sky started to get a bit dark. After a rather hard touchdown due to a nasty little crosswind, it started to rain. Nice way to be greeted back to Hong Kong I thought!
We taxied for just a few minutes before deplaning near the end of the super terminal at Chek Lap Kok. This time I had no desire to talk with the pilots after arrival. I quickly gathered my belongings and headed down stairs to the L1 door for a quick exit of the 747.
After taking the train to Immigrations, we were held up at the officers counter. My friend and I had mixed up departure forms. The officer noticed this and became a bit pissy with me and made me fill a new one out, all the while my friend had already been cleared and was laughing at me. It was then onto customs via the baggage claim which is supposedly the same amount of area as Yankee stadium in New York. I wouldn't doubt that fact either! Hong Kong custom officers never seem to want to look at you when you approach the exit so it makes for no wait what so ever. Finally we were now into the large arrivals area and on our way into Hong Kong.
I managed to have yet another great time in Hong Kong. First night in my friend and I were invited to a exclusive party that an owner of a bar in Lan Kwai Fong (large bar area) was throwing later that night. What could get any better then being at a private party in a rented out bar in Hong Kong, with great music, beautiful girls that couldn't seem to get enough of being around my friend and I!! Leaving that party at 4:30AM, I never realized how much fun Hong Kong really was!!!!
Monday came around to quick for me. After maybe 7 hours at the most of sleep over the past 2 nights it was time to head back to Phoenix, AZ. By 6:30AM, we are on the airport bus and on our way back to Chek Lap Kok. Today we were going to be flying standby on All Nippon Airways flight NH912, a Boeing 747-400 bound for Tokyo Narita. Right at check in we were issued our tickets which I thought was a relief since United Airlines flights were very oversold this day out of Hong Kong to all cities.
NH 912 was going to depart from gate 34 today. We arrived the gate 50 minutes before departure. The lounge seemed so empty for a 747-400 flight! I also had hopes of perhaps getting a jumpseat on this flight as I have done a few times on Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand. I was roughly the 5th person to board the aircraft. I had planed to head straight to the flight deck and introduce myself to the pilots before asking if I may jumpseat. My whol plan came crashing down right as i turned the corner on the upper deck at the stairs to see the flight deck door closed. I asked the beautiful flight attendant if I may visit the pilots, But I was denied. Pisser I thought! So I returned to my seat 39A and settled in for departure at 9:20AM.
Push back was just on time. At this moment it started to rain like crazy at CLK. It was a great view to see the nice ANA logo on the winglet as with the red dot of the Japanese flag on the wing all while the jet blasts were rushing the water off the ground in a hurry. All Nippon 912 taxied out to runway 07R for departure. Just as we began to turn on the parallel taxiway to 07R I looked inside the cabin. To my absolute shock on the video displays was a view from the Nose gear looking straight ahead. I had to look twice to make sure this was not an animated cartoon of what would be seen! Never did I now of this view being shown to passengers! As we started to line up on the runway I was very torn in deciding what to watch... out the window or the video monitor. I couldn't help but look at the monitor. Take off was very mighty and powerful as all 747-400 departures are! I did manage to look out to see the huge spray of water the jet blasts were kicking up! That is a view I imagine all of us aviation fans love!
After 39 seconds of take off roll our 747-400 (JA402A) lifted off into the nasty, low hanging clouds that were covering all of Chek Lap Kok. I was very lucky that a break in the clouds was just over Kowloon as well as over Kai Tak Airport. The view was spectacular as always. Sure enough, it was a depressing site to see Kai Tak in the state it was in. NH912 then raced back into the thick clouds, which would last for awhile after.
Drink service came a bit longer then usual. But the service made up for it. Being 20 years old I took full advantage of the drinking age on ANA. Even if it was only 9:45AM I was not gonna pass up free drinks on the flight! I started to drink a few Asahi's and Kirin Ichiban beers before lunch. Lunch on All Nippon Airways was incredible!!! The meal was huge! Nothing like I have ever seen! Appetizer was two slices of thin pastrami, smoked fish and pumpkin salad with a hot roll. Next was a dish of Soba noddles and sauce. The main course was a side of Seafood with fish and Shrimp. A side of white rice and veggies. Desert was a sort of apple cheese cake with raspberry sauce on the side. The meal was finished off with Japanese green tea. What an excellent meal that was!! I then moved onto a few more beers while my friend got another meal because it was so good. After he finished his second meal we moved onto drinking the mini bottles of sake. With a lot of laughs going on the flight attendants came by and gave me a postcard of the flight deck, signed by the crew and a ANA 747-400 model plane. She apologized that I couldn't visit the flight deck and gave a huge smile. This incredibly kind gesture more then made up for not visiting the flight deck. From then on I was more then impressed by ANA. Even though the seats were not the new upgraded ones, I could care less. The Flight attendants were not only beautiful, but so friendly, caring and helpful. Not like the robot type flight attendants many come across on Asian airlines. ANA Is one hell of an airline!
Arrival into Tokyo was great! The flight attendants even came to tell my friend and I if we were to look outside we could see Mt. Fuji. This was just unreal how nice and thoughtful these girls were to us! Once again the video display from the nose gear was back on the screen for final approach onto runway 16 at Narita. The approach was excellent! The pilots nailed the landing right on the center line and 1000 feet down the runway! The boys did a nice job! We then taxied to a remote stand where we deplaned down air stairs. Of course as an aviation nut, I loved this and got my camera ready for a few shots on our 747-400. I had one taken just of me with the 747
as well as with one of the flight attendants. We then took a bus over to terminal 2 where we passed many aircrafts including 747-400s from ANA,JAL, China Airlines, Delta MD-11 in old colors and a JALways resocha DC-10! When we were waiting to connect over to terminal 1 for our next flight on UA 838 to San Francisco, the crew bus then pulled up a bit down the way. I was shocked when all the flight attendants started to wave at us as they left the bus! I couldn't believe how amazing they were!
It was now off to Terminal 1. We arrived roughly 1.5 hours at the gate 23 where our flight to SFO was departing out of. To kill time we went to Duty Free shopping where a lady had free samples of Remy Martin Cognac. I took 3 of the skull busting shots! Never take shots of that stuff by the way! After just a tad bit more alcohol we returned to our gate where boarding was just starting. I then was called up for my seat. I was given 16G on the upper deck. I let my friend have the window since I always have the window seat. I couldn't care, it would be dark soon, and I was under a good influence of alcohol and ready to sleep. We boarded right away and settled in to the same seats we had going on the ORD-HKG flight.
After push back we taxied out to runway 16. Take off was not as dramatic as any of the previous ones. The thundering take off roll lasted 51 seconds before jumping into the pink Japanese sky. During drink and meal service I watched a bit of the movie "clock stoppers" which wasn't to bad. The starter for the meal tonight was great! Tumpura Sushi rolls were excellent. Of course bread and garden salad came with it as well. Dinner was a sea food mix of Shrimp, Clams, Scallops and halibut all in a great coconut milk sauce. Dessert was a caramel cake of some sort. Very tasty once again!!
Right after dinner I was out like a light! I didn't wake up but once on the 9 hour flight to SFO. I was woken up for breakfast service which consisted of a fruit dish. And a crrosant. A spinach and cheese omelet was great as well! After that it was a short ride into SFO from then on. Arrival was on 28L. Touch down was very nice and smooth! We taxied shortly to gate G92. After we got off the 747-400 in a hurry, my friend and I were shocked to find the immigrations area packed! Never before had I seen it this full after coming in from Sydney numerous times this past year. All of them were from the arriving Mexico city flight. This was not what I hoped for after all the hours flying and time zones crossed. Finally after 30 minutes in line we were processed back into the USA and on our way to the Domestic terminal of United where an even bigger problem awaited us.
I was a bit worried of the flights home to PHX from SFO before we left on the 4th of July. I figured it wouldn't be to big of a problem and we would get out either on either the first or second flight to PHX. How wrong was I!! The first flight out to Denied boarding and there were several other standby's listed. Next up was the 2:20PM departure. Yet again oversold! Even more denied boardings on this one. The next 2 flights didn't look much better. The second flight was the last flight of the day to PHX. After learning the 6:15 flight was oversold by 10 in coach my friend and I realized we would probably not get on the 7:30 flight to PHX. It then called for drastic measures.
All flights were nasty today. We could get to DEN or LAX but flights into PHX were all overkill! When push comes to shove it gets bad. Bad is when we started to call Grey Hound bus service to check on rides from Los Angeles to Phoenix. We could not allow to not get into PHX before tomorrow as my friend had work at 8AM. My friend then called his girlfriend back in PHX and told her to start driving to LA and pick us up at LAX. 6 hour drive is quite a drastic measure. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
We then got first class seats on flight 1833 SFO-LAX flight departing at 3:30PM. After the 1 hour flight down to LAX with a lot of tension running high,we were pretty much set to hang out over at the In n out burger near runways 24R/L for the afternoon and evening until his girlfriend arrived LAX. We figured we might as well try for the oversold CRJ to PHX at 6PM. This flight was sold 57 seats out of 50. Not looking good for two exhausted standby passengers just in from Hong Kong. After sitting around during boarding one gate agent asked me what my last name was. She then told us it is looking possible now! The only thing was 2 last connections inbound. Even a gate agent was standing out in the walk way looking for anyone running to the gate. After several terminal pages for the two passengers with 5 minutes before departure, they gave us the ok and sent us on our way down gate 85 with seats 1C and D. Amazing I thought! How horrible his girlfriend had been on the road for some 2 hours now and was nearing Blythe, CA. After taking my seat I noticed 2 people come rushing across the ramp with bags and a gate agent following. Both my friend and I took our seat belts off and were ready to get off the plane and be sent away. Shockingly there were two other seats open and these two people were seated and the door was closed on the CRJ. After all the stress, tension and drama, we were on our way home.
The one hour flight to PHX seemed to last a life time! I could not wait to get home and get out of the sticking clothes I had been in for some 30 hours now. Finally after a simple drink and snack service, we arrived PHX on runway 25L and taxied quickly to gate C. I never got off an airplane as fast as I did then! I was very glad to be home for sure!
Even after all the headaches and troubles trying to get home, I still think my weekend trip was unbeatable. I feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to travel as I do and experience such a exciting life of travel so young! I think back and realize this trip will be one of my most memorable. From all the nice upper deck seats. To the girls on ANA even to the home boyz sipping 40s of malt liquor, launching fire works at us on short finals. This trip was awesome and I hope you all enjoyed reading this very long piece of writing. Thanks for your time! Comments and questions are more then welcome!