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RTW Trip Part I: Den-Bkk (long, No Pics)

Wed Oct 04, 2006 3:53 pm

Welcome to my latest, Greatest trip report, my account of my Round the world trip. For the purpose of this trip report, I’ve divided the trip into four parts. This is Part One, Part Two will cover my tooling around Asia, Part Three will cover Australia, and my trip via the Kangaroo route to Singapore, Dubai and London, and Part four will cover some tooling around America I did to fill some gaps in my fleet lists.

As usual, there are no pictures. Not that I didn’t intend to take any, it’s just my camera got lost along the way. Because there are no pictures, I’ve tried to be as detailed as possible, but not so detailed that the report itself is boring. I like to structure my TRs more like short stories, without sub categorizing them to the Nth degree that can make them tedious to read.
I’m starting this time, by talking about how I came to plan the trip I ultimately took, what I was thinking and why I did or did not do what I set out to do. I hope you’ll find it interesting. If you’re not interested in that, you can scroll down a ways and find the actual trip report.
As always, comments are welcome and appreciated, and I’ll be posting part two in a week or so.

It started, about a year ago with a suggestion from my dad, who was concerned about my one to three pack a day (depending on the day) cigarette habit, if I’d stop smoking he’d buy me a computer. A week went by, I saw my dad again and I suggested an alternate, I’d always wanted to take a trip around the world, I’d rather have that than a computer. Dad was agreeable and never mind the stopping smoking part, I dove headlong into planning the trip. I had a lot of ideas. My first idea, which was very politely shot down by my fellow A.netters, was some 47 sectors in 14 days, like 4 sectors a day. While it was a great, lofty idea, it was, I agreed, unrealistic, and there was the concept that if I missed a single flight, the whole thing would go down like a house of cards. I started thinking realistically. Where did I want to go that I hadn’t been before? My first thought: San Juan, Puerto Rico. 365 dollars on my credit card bought me that ticket, then the angst began. Did I want to go east or west?

On the one hand I could get a fare from San Juan to Europe via Boston and Ireland for less than 500 bucks. That really, really sounded good. Still, I told myself as much as I’d love to be able to fly on an A330-200 and 300 on the same trip, there was the issue of me sleeping on airplanes. I simply do not, and have never slept well on airplanes. But, I told myself, if I go to Europe, then I can fly on an A321! I want to fly on an A321! But, again, a problem, I asked myself, what’s the point of flying on an A321 if I’m really not going to be “conscious” enough to enjoy the experience. It’s one thing to say I’ve been on one, but what’s the point if I’m so zoned out that I don’t really enjoy the experience? There is no point. Back to the drawing board. Yet, I really wanted to go to Ireland.

Yet another issue, if I go east, then I’m going to be fighting jetlag the whole way, thanks to not being able to sleep on airplanes, and then that won’t be any fun. I told myself I should go west, less jetlag, less spending the night on airplanes, more enjoyable trip. So, since I was going west, where did I want to go? Hawaii. Small problem, San Juan to Hawaii was expensive, more money than I wanted to pay, and I detested the idea of going overwater on a 737-800. All the cheap options seemed to have me flying ATA and thus being on a 737-800 from the west coast to Hawaii. As much as I like the 737-800, I didn’t want to go to Hawaii on one. More looking. “Hey! How about Portland, Oregon! Yeah! Then I can fly across the water on a widebody courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines.”

So, I take the next step and book myself from San Juan to Portland via Newark and Houston. Then Portland to Hawaii on Aloha and Hawaiian with stops in Maui, Honolulu and Kauai.”

Having now booked myself as far as Hawaii, the next logical step was either the South Pacific or Asia. Okay. Now, I could go to Fiji, and spend eight hours on a 737. No thanks. Or I could go to Korea via Tokyo. That was interesting, but I’d be on American Code shares on two different airlines, JAL and Asiana, and the cost was a little uncomfortable, especially since I could just imagine myself getting to the Honolulu Airport, being denied boarding for some reason, and having the whole rest of the trip go up in smoke. Think of something else. More looking. Aha. Bangkok on China Airlines via Tokyo and Taipei for 496 dollars. That was it. There was a downside, I’d be getting to Bangkok at one o’clock in the morning two days after I left Honolulu, but I supposed I could handle that. Ultimately the price won, so I booked it.

Christmas came around then and everything ground to a halt. Of course, one reason I was going to Kauai was to fly on the 717. That issue was solved when I went to Memphis before Christmas, and I flew on my first 717, and frankly I just wasn’t that impressed with it. Christmas came and went, as did New Years, and I got back to booking my trip, one sector at a time. Now, so far, everything was hunky dory, until I got a message from Delta just after the first of the year that my Orlando to San Juan flight had been discontinued, thanks to Delta deciding to shut down Song. Well, the whole reason I decided to go that route was to fly Song. I had heard so many good things about it. Delta rebooked me to go Denver to San Juan via Atlanta. Not really my preference, but, not like I had a choice.

Still, it got me to thinking about just simply scrapping the whole San Juan idea and going straight to Portland, to catch the flight to Hawaii. Of course then what do I do about my Continental ticket? It was not cheap, I did not want to just simply just throw it away. In the meantime, the Denver to Atlanta portion, which, I recall, had been a 757, was downgraded to an MD-80. Ugh. Three hours on a plane with no IFE. I wasn’t at all sure about that. Back to looking at the idea of flying direct Denver-Portland, even though it meant potentially throwing away my Continental ticket. Of course, almost all of the flights from Denver to Salt Lake City that went at any reasonable hour (like afternoon) were being operated by Regional Jets. Hell NO! I hate those things. I’m certainly not going to waste my vacation money on one.

Now, I don’t know when, exactly, I came to discover that Alaska was operating 737-900s between Denver and Seattle, but my mind said “I want one!” I was supposed to have one last year on my trip to Norway, but of course I missed the opportunity, because my Minnepolis to Amsterdam flight ended up being an hour and a half late, cutting a 1 hour and 5 minute connection down to 25 minutes, plus Northwest wouldn’t issue us our intereuropean boarding passes, insisting we had to go to the transfer desk, which was a huge hassle. Bottom line, forget the 737-900 last year, it didn’t happen.

Furthermore, I don’t know when I came to the realization that Delta and Alaska codeshared between Denver and Seattle! Yes! That was it. I’d forget San Juan and Portland and fly to Seattle.

Of course, now that I had changed my first sector to go to Seattle, there was the issue of my Continental ticket, which I did not want to go to waste. Another discovery, Continental flew between Seattle and Anchorage and they flew the 757-300, another plane I wanted. Yes again. Okay, now that I’ve gotten myself to Anchorage, and decided to skip Hawaii, how the hell do I get to Bangkok? It just so happened that China Airlines operated four days a week between Anchorage and Taipei, from whence I could connect to Bangkok. I also discovered that by doing this, even though it added three hundred dollars to the price of my China Airlines ticket, it added two days to my trip, meaning that instead of getting to Bangkok on the seventh, I got there on the afternoon of the fifth. Of course, by that time, I had already booked myself to travel from Bangkok to Hong Kong and then on to Manila on Cathay Pacific. Those sectors were premised on an arrival date in Bangkok of 9/7. by adding two extra days I had somewhat thrown myself off. Of course, I discovered that Cathay Pacific flew between Bangkok and Singapore.

That worked. I could fly to Singapore, spend the night and fly the next morning from Singapore to Hong Kong, picking up a 777-300 on that sector, then continue Hong Kong to Manila and my trip is back on track. All was well in Smallville, I’d just throw away my Hawaiian/ Aloha ticket and forget Hawaii this trip.

Having gotten these kinks out of the way, I booked the rest of my trip over the course of the next six months, going Manila-Kuala Lumpur, KL-Jakarta, Jakarta to Perth, Perth-Melbourne via Sydney, Melbourne to Auckland. And Stop again.

I started having some crazy ideas. My first idea was to fly Auckland-Los Angeles.

Having booked myself to Los Angeles, I had somewhat unwittingly boxed myself into a corner. Where to go next. Logic would have dictated that I just go home, but in my mind that kind of defeated the purpose. So, I started looking into some crazy ideas, what about Los Angeles to Frankfurt on Air India? Good fare, and it was a 747-400combi, yet another new type, but my mom threw a fit. No way was I flying from LA to Europe, think again, she said very loudly. I was still lingering on the idea.

The next step, I told myself, would have been Frankfurt to Johannesburg on Emirates via Dubai, then Johannesburg to Rome via Paris, Rome to Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires to London, London to New York and New York home. Well, I told my friend Jane what I was thinking and she practically had a heart attack. And of course, by proxy my mom practically had a heart attack, “come straight home from Los Angeles” was the decree! Well, now, that would be no fun. Hmm. Maybe I could change my Auckland to Los Angeles to travel Sydney to Singapore. Yes I could, and for not much money. And hey, I discovered, I could fly Auckland to Sydney on Aerolineas Argentinas and get an A340-200. Alright, things were shaping up!

Now that I had myself in Singapore, where next? South Africa? Theoretically yes. Nonstop was too expensive, like 1400 dollars. Via Dubai? Interesting but very long, like sixteen hours all tolled plus a long layover in Dubai, not sure. More looking. London? Possibly. Not bad. Finnair had a very good deal from Singapore to London via Helsinki with the chance to fly on an MD-11. Of course Emirates also had a good deal to go via Dubai. It was almost a flip a coin type deal. While I was thinking about how to get to London I began thinking of where to go once I got to London. Iberia happened to be flying an A340-600 from Madrid to Las Palmas, so of course I went for that.

Having booked the Iberia from London to Las Palmas, I decided to go with Emirates from Singapore to London via Dubai with a night in London at the Heathrow Hilton. So I would have spent the night in Las Palmas, then where? How about Dublin? Another good fare. I was almost done. Dublin to Orlando came next on Continental, followed by Orlando to home. Done. And this is exactly how the trip would have gone if those bastards at Iberia hadn’t downgraded the Madrid to Las Palmas flight from an A340-600 to an A340-300. I really wanted that A340-600! But, since I wasn’t interested in flying on the A340-300, I started rethinking the end of the trip.

How about Los Angeles and the chance to fly on a Continental 777-200? I was all over it. I then booked myself to travel Los Angeles to Orlando on Delta and another 777-200. and I still had my return for Orlando to Denver on USAir.

I was done, or was i? Not quite…..I really wanted to go to Seoul. Why not? More restructuring had me booking myself from Bangkok to Seoul on Korean Air and Seoul to Hong Kong on Northwest, blowing off the Cathay Pacific sectors Bangkok to Singapore and Singapore to Hong Kong, because I wasn’t comfortable transiting Singapore twice. Finally, two months before departure, I was set.

Now, logic would have dictated that since I had decided to go to Seoul, I should either cancel my Cathay Pacific Sectors Bangkok to Singapore and Singapore to Hong Kong, or rebook them to travel Bangkok to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to Seoul. Since the Bangkok to Seoul nonstop went at one o’clock in the morning, and I was getting in at twelve the previous afternoon, I decided I needed a backup, incase I overslept and missed the Bangkok to Seoul flight.

So I kept the Bangkok-Singapore-Hong Kong on CX, just in case.
I was finally set. It had only taken eight months of booking one sector every two weeks.

Once I had everything set, I booked my hotels in Sabre, looking for the cheapest possible hotels as close to each individual airport as possible. I would, as a result, find myself in an interesting mix of properties.

Some finagling with work got me the time off I needed to correspond to the trip I had booked and I was ready to go. 16 days, 25 sectors, 45,000 miles. What a trip it would promise to be, literally the trip of a lifetime. As trip day approached, I convinced my dad I had infact quit smoking and a check for 2500 followed, ensuring I’d have enough money to cover my hotels. When I left, on September 2nd, I had 2500 on my two credit cards combined, since mom had convinced me I didn’t want to be running around with 3000 dollars in cash on me, I had added 1000 dollars to my secured card, giving it a 2000 dollar credit limit, plus I had a second card with a 500 dollar limit. I also had 900 in cash to cover incidentals like cab fare, meals and whatnot.

I was completely ready to go, and trip day came soon after. With a flurry of activity, I printed off all my receipts, plus a copy of my flight schedule and hotel list for mom, I packed my suitcase and bought a rollaboard backpack for incidental items, extra clothes, food my mom wanted me to take, since she knew I really didn’t eat on airplanes, plus my Ipod, which, would prove to be completely useless, as the battery was dead by the time I got to Seattle and I completely forgot to pack the plug in adaptor to charge it, and a nice little digital camera I got for my birthday. I was planning on taking lots of pics, so I could torture my dad with them later, not to mention create a trip report that people might actually want to read.

So, where are the pics? Well, that was yet another issue, the camera was inadvertently left in Kuala Lumpur. Hence, there are no pics. Be prepared to read! Though I will try to make the trip report interesting, and I won’t subject you to the whole trip in one go. in this part, I cover the trip from Denver to Bangkok via Seattle, Anchorage and Taipei, and with the formalities out of the way, let’s go to Bangkok.

Sector 1 Denver-Seattle Alaska 565 737-990 N323AS
After some discussion, it had been decided that we’d leave for the airport at three o’clock for my 7pm flight. Better safe than sorry. Mom would be giving me a ride to the airport, but she would not be going with me. I’d be going this one alone. At three o’clock I lugged my maroon suitcase to the Bimmer and loaded it in the trunk, mom got her purse and we were underway. And I was not without slight apprehensions. I had never done a trip like this before, traveling around the world, literally, on my own, on one way E-tickets. All my brother’s jokes about the Hooskow reverberated in my mind as we got into the car and headed for the airport.

Surprise number one was my dad deciding to meet me at the airport. I had visions of Dad telling me he had decided to fly to Seattle with me, but no, he just came out to see me off.

A quick 45 minutes later mom and I and George, her friend, who had met us on the way to the airport, arrived at Alaska Airlines, I hugged mom, she wished me well and inside I went, just in time to see my dad sauntering up.

Check in was easy, I used the kiosk, and fear number one, that I’d see the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass (because I was traveling on a one way ticket) didn’t materialize. This was going to be a good day. I collected my flimsy paper boarding pass, checked my bag to Seattle and dad and I went somewhere to sit and enjoy a beverage. Thirty minutes later, I bid Dad farewell and headed for security on the bridge leading to the A concourse.

Compared to my last trip, to Memphis, there was no line this time. I walked up the bridge, went through security and headed down to the A concourse, to head to the underground train and go to the B concourse, to sit in the only spot in the airport that allowed smoking, the Aero Club Bar. Coming down onto the A concourse, I realized that the daily Lufthansa 747-400 was here, so I decided to go look at it. If I didn’t realize it before, the 747-400 is a huge plane. The registration cracked me up: “D-ABVR.” I couldn’t help but think that someone in LH fleet planning had a sense of humor because of course my gutter mind immediately thought “Da Beaver!” If this doesn’t make sense, common decency won’t allow me to explain it, if it does make sense, you’re cracking up. I suppose in their defense, maybe Lufthansa isn’t in tune enough with American Gutter Slang to realize what kind of connotation “D-ABVR” might have. I did, and I had to smile.

So, having gotten my smile of the day thanks to Lufthansa and their choice of aircraft registrations, I moved on, down to the train and to the B concourse and their great smoking lounge. I spent the next half hour perched on a stool, looking out over the fairly full United Flightline, taking a few pictures.

One more coke, one more cig and I was off to the gate. My gate today was C-32, I’m the first to admit I hadn’t flown out of this end of the C concourse in a while, so imagine my surprise, as I came up to C-32, where N772AS, the plane to Portland was still in, to discover that there are two new gates at the end of the C concourse, C-28 and C-29.

While the Portland flight loaded up, I wandered around, marveling at the new USAir gates C-28 and C-29. I wondered when those had gone up and why? America West was already operating out of C-30 and C-31 (for overflow I think) and Usair doesn’t have more than six flights a day from Denver, why build two completely new jetways? Why not just use the America West gates? I suppose the logical answer is that they need to keep their operations separate, since their certificates have not been combined yet.

I suppose I could also say that America West’s gates are probably fully used for their numerous flights a day to Phoenix and Las Vegas, so it just made sense to build two new jetways. I do understand why US moved, their gates were at the other end of the concourse, C-41, 43 and 45. they needed to be close to America West, probably for operational reasons. The old USAir gates, by the way, are now being used by Southwest.

I wandered back to C-32, since it was getting close to boarding time, and watched them push away N772AS. No sooner had it cleared the gate area when our plane, N323AS came in. Looking at the registration, I had to smile again and wonder if I was psychic. Why would I think this? The night before, I had been standing in the garage thinking to myself how ironic it would be if the 737-900 I got was N323AS.

And voila, today, here it is, amazing. More likely just a coincidence. What’s the significance? Well, N323AS used to be a 727-200, when Alaska operated a number of them, and that was also the 727-200 I had from Gustavus, Alaska, a very small bush airport with an 8,000 foot runway built, as many Alaska airfields were, during WWII, to Juneau, in 1987, the summer my brother graduated from High School. We took a trip to Alaska that summer to celebrate my brother’s graduation not realizing that my father was seeing another woman at the time.

One of the highlights of the trip, for me, was the incredibly scenic, very short flight on N323AS to Juneau.

And, almost 20 years later, I’m flying on N323AS again, albeit this time it was a 737-900.

Standing at the gate, watching ship 323 come in, I made a realization, the 737-900 is a big airplane. It really does deserve to be a in class by itself, and I think it would be a great 757 replacement. It’s large enough that it’s comfortable, it doesn’t feel like a 737. it clearly has the capacity, and it has the range. I’m surprised more airlines haven’t ordered it as a 757 replacement, it would, in my opinion, be perfect in that role.

I wandered around the terminal a little more, but there really wasn’t anything going on.

So, it’s 645pm, the door is open and here we go. Me and my roll aboard backpack are tromping down the jetway and onboard. Past first class with its sixteen inviting looking leather seats and into coach. Wow! Alaska has changed its interior! The seats, I notice are all leather. I wonder if only the new 737s have leather seats, or have they also changed the seats on the 737-400s and MD-80s to leather?

I had flown Alaska on a number of occasions when I lived in the Los Angeles area, and I don’t remember the seats ever being leather.

I parked my roll aboard in the overhead bin.

There was just one slight bit of awkwardness, someone was in my seat. Not knowing where he was supposed to sit, fearing it might be a middle or an aisle, I politely asked if he was in 13A. He quickly realized his mistake and moved to the row behind, I slid in next to a middle aged couple to the window and strapped in.

Alaska still has some of the most comfortable seats in the industry.
Having never been on the 737-900 before, I looked over the safety card and looked out the window at the empty gates C-28 and C-30. I took more pictures which would never see the light of day.
With everyone onboard, we pushed back six minutes early as we had a somewhat light load and I relaxed.

The flight attendants made their announcements, including stating the names of the pilots, always a good thing, the engines spooled up and we were on our way to the runway.

We took off and climbed out over Denver and I settled back for the trip to Seattle.

We leveled off at 38,000 feet.

I don’t remember this plane having IFE, but that didn’t really bother me. I was content to look out the window. At some point I pulled out the Alaska Airlines magazine and started doing the crossword puzzle. Very challenging crossword, I think I spent the whole flight working on it and didn’t finish it.

Once we leveled off, the flight attendants came through with hot cookies! And they were good cookies, it didn’t even bother me that there was coconut in them, I think they even made a second pass with more cookies, so I took a second one. So I had a coke and a cookie, worked on my crossword puzzle and the time flew, pardon the pun.

Soon enough we were descending upon Seattle. The descent took us right past Mt. Rainier and it radiated in the darkness. The view was great, even at night. we passed very close to the mountain. I can imagine that during the daytime, the view would have been nothing short of spectacular.

We landed and taxied to our gate, D-10, at the end of the D concourse, in the process, taxying parallel to the road that leads traffic into the airport, I could see the traffic! We pulled in next to an MD-80 at D-11. it amazes me to think that the 737-900 has a much greater capacity than the MD-80, which is a much bigger airplane. The capacity on our plane was 156 in coach and 16 in first, that’s 172 passengers. Compare that to the MD-80, which carries 138. I guess the difference is the extra column of seats, six columns, versus five on an MD-80. still, it’s interesting to think about. Another thing I noticed, besides the comfort of the leather seats, was the pitch, the legroom was great, more then enough room for my knees.

So, up we got, I got my rollaboard, followed the crowd to baggage claim, got my suitcase and headed out into the night, acquisition of my first 737-900 was official. I asked myself if I’d want to fly on one again? Yes. I’d even be willing to fly it cross country. I normally, wouldn’t say that about a 737, but the 900, like I said, is in a class by itself, it just feels so much bigger than the 7 and 800. Dare I say, I might even be willing to fly it to Hawaii, and that’s saying a lot coming from me, most of the time I’d never consider spending six hours suspended over water in a 737. With this one, I might.

Once I came off the plane, I stopped and looked a moment to see if I could tell where it was going next, but the signboards at D-10 were blank, so I gathered it was in for the night.

Now, thinks I, how do I get to my hotel? I called the hotel, to arrange a pickup, they told me I needed to go to the hotel shuttle pickup area and call them again. Okay. Now, where was that? Getting to the hotel shuttle pickup area was a bit convoluted. I had to walk across to the parking garage, take the escalator up one level, but once I was up there, I noticed signs for hotel shuttle pickups. I also noticed large boards with hotel information and courtesy phones. Interesting arrangement. The cabs, I noticed were on the other side of a concrete pylon, also in the parking garage, they were barely visible.

I picked up a courtesy phone, dialed the number for my hotel, told them where I was and they said they’d send the van right over, it had just left the airport. Thirty minutes later and I was on my way, to the rather roach motelish Seatac Skyway Inn. I checked in, went to my room, on the ground level, with a great view of the parkinglot and turned on the tv. Stat Wars was on. Cool, I fell asleep watching Star Wars 6.

Sector 2 Continental 667 Seattle-Anchorage 757-324 N75853
In coming to Seattle, I did harbor thoughts of doing the tourist thing, after all, I had more than twenty four hours here. I thought maybe I’d go see the Space Needle, or the Flight Museum. Talking with my friend Jane before I left, talked me out of the space needle, hea daughter lived in seattle for a number of years, and suggested that on a Saturday, especially on a holiday weekend, the lines would be around the block. Jane had suggested I visit the flight museum, and had even given me a flyer, listing shuttle pickup and drop off times. Once I got to my hotel, I realized it’s location made it impractical to try and get to another hotel where the flight museum shuttle would pick up. So I spent the whole day in my room.

I had a long night ahead of me, I wanted to conserve my energy. I slept in as much as I could, then spent most of the rest of the day in bed, watching tv, wondering why Continental chose to run this flight so damned late! I did consider catching the 530pm, and getting a great view of the inside passage on the way to Anchorage, but, the only reason I was even going to Anchorage was to fly on the 757-300, if I standby for the earlier flight, a 737-800, that defeats the purpose, so I stayed the course and stuck with the 930pm.

As I lolled about in my room, I watched Star Wars six again on and off. There wasn’t much else on frankly. I watched movies, slept and stood outside to practice my bad habit, I was in a nonsmoking room. Finally, as the afternoon wore on, I got motivated. If I was going to spend time somewhere, I might as well spend it at the airport. I took a shower, enjoyed the free shampoo the hotel provided. I really wanted a bath, but my room didn’t have a tub, a shower had to suffice.

Around six, I caught the van to the airport. In something that would be a trend on this trip, I was way too early. I checked in with Continental using the Kiosk and once again avoided the dreaded SSSS. So, first, I decided to go check out my gate, B-11. I walked down to the end of the B concourse, but our equipment was still enroute from Houston, so there wasn’t much to see.

Standing at the end of the B concourse, I noticed the blocked off entrance to the underground people mover and I had an idea. All the times I’ve been to Seattle, and it’s been a few, I’ve never been to the South Satellite, so I walked back to the entrance of the concourse and jumped on the people mover and headed out to the South Satellite. I was just in time to see the British Airways 747-400 in, getting ready to head for London, it was delayed by at least an hour, so I stood and watched and marveled at the 744 a while.

If I walked to one side of the satellite, I could make out A Northwest A330 sitting in a hangar. It was sitting by itself in a seemingly empty hangar with all the doors opened. I had to wonder what it was doing there. I know the Amsterdam flight goes earlier in the evening, and of course the Tokyo flight goes right around midday, I had to assume it was on some kind of mechanical delay.

I watched a moment as a Delta 767-300 taxied in to its gate on the A concourse. The 747-400 to London was now loading up, the waiting area was emptying out, and I was getting antsy to get back to my own gate. I made the long trek back to the B concourse and by the time I got back to my gate, our equipment was in.

By this time it was dark, and I decided I was glad I had looked up the ship number in sabre before I left home, with the jetway positioned at the number two boarding door, and it’s proximity to the ground blocking a view of the nosewheel, it was impossible to see the ship number. Not that I didn’t try, but it’s just not dignified at my age to get down on the floor, not to mention someone might have gotten suspicious and wondered what I was doing. I tentatively wrote down “853” in my log book, and reminded myself to look again once I got to Anchorage.

Maybe, I told myself, I’d have a better view of the nosewheel. I was a little bit skeptical, looking at maps of the Anchorage Airport terminal told me that A-8 was at the end of the concourse, and generally, you can’t really see the side of a wheel well of an airplane, where the number would be printed, from those gates, you get more of a head on view, or in some cases, no view, and that wouldn’t help. I do trust the information in sabre, since it’s provided by the airline, but I also like to verify that the information in the system is correct by actually eyeballing the ship number on the airplane itself, call me skeptical.

Since the load was light, no more than 50 passengers onboard, there was no real organized boarding, it was just line up and walk aboard. My seat this time was 14A, another window and I had the whole row to myself. I always like that. Looking out the window, I could see the engine hanging in the darkness just behind me, I always like that too, being near the engine. It just gives me a sense of confidence. Looking through the inflight magazine to see what movie was playing, to decide if it was worth it to spend the money for a headset, the movie looked interesting.

In the darkness of the night we pushed back, the engines rumbled to life, and the safety demo played. Frankly Continental’s safety video is probably the most low budget I’ve ever seen. You have the introductory message from the president of Continental, who frankly looks like a used car salesman, or maybe a personal injury lawyer, then you have the safety video, which isn’t even shot on a real airplane, you have people sitting on what’s clearly a set, and for the exit slide portions they used animated graphics, the least they could do is film it on a real airplane! Interesting too that the pre-departure announcements are canned. I guess this is a labor saving device, frees up the flight attendants for other duties, but I like it better when I’m being welcomed board by a real human being, not a cassette tape.

With boarding having finished by 915pn, they shut the door at 930 and we were pushing back into the night. The Rolls Royce engines were now spooling up. The lights were dimmed and we headed for the runway. Naturally, we were number one for takeoff, we rolled right onto the runway and began our takeoff roll. I like the powerful growl of the Rolls Royce engines as we climbed out.

Once we were airborne, the FAs made their post takeoff announcements, but never mentioned the names of the pilots. They announced the movie and came through the cabin selling headsets. Since there really was nothing to see out the window, it was pitch dark out, I paid the two, or was it five bucks, for a headset and watched the movie.

Duna, the movie they played, was probably one of the best airline movies I’ve ever seen, I recommend everyone see it. It’s about a boy who loses his father to illness and must return an orphaned cheetah they had rescued at the beginning of the movie back to the wild. It’s quite the adventure, kind of a modern day, South African, Huck Finn, definitely worth seeing. I don’t usually say that about movies on airplanes. The only downside was the audio, since the headsets are basically monaural, even though you have two ear pieces, and I was too lazy to get up and get my own headset from the overhead, the sound basically sucked, but the movie was great.

Thus did I while away three hours, watching the movie, looking out the window, and enjoying a coke and four bags to pretzels. There was no meal service, but four bags of pretzels sufficed. The guys in front of me were obviously nonreving because members of the cabin crew were coming by and saying hello. I assumed from their accents that they had boarded the plane in Houston and were traveling with it all the way to Anchorage. It sounded like they were going fishing in Alaska. They talked about fishing anyway.

Thinking about the sheer size of the plane and the lightness of our load, I wondered why in the world Continental put this much metal on this run? I suppose I could tell myself that the lightness of the load tonight was a fluke, that it usually runs fuller than this. I could also suggest to myself that maybe the needed a plane this big for its cargo carrying capacity. Considering that there was already a 737-800 that went at five thirty from Seattle to Anchorage, it just seemed like overkill to put a plane this big on the run. Now mind you, I’m not complaining, I thoroughly enjoyed flying on the 757-300, and I definitely want to fly on one again. They’re very solid aircraft, and comfortable too. It just struck me as curious.

My other curiosity was why Continental ran both flights so late. I suppose logic would dictate that since the aircraft came up from Houston, they really had no choice. They had to time the flight based on its arrival from Houston. Then, I thought why not leave Houston earlier? Who knew. And I’m the only one who probably cares about such things.

Soon we landed and rolled up to the gate, A-8. As I came off the plane, any concern I had about being able to verfy the ship number disappeared. The plane was parked parallel to a window that allowed me to see the nosewheel, bathed in light, and confirm that we were on ship 853. That worked.

So now it’s midnight and I’m headed down to baggage claim, to collect my suitcase and take it to China Airlines, which operates from the sequestered North Terminal. With thoughts of the Amazing Race, which passed through Anchorage in it’s last edition, I descend the escalator to baggage claim. I wait and wait and wait, and finally the bags start coming.

Waiting for my bag, and thinking how ironic it would be if the airline had lost my bag, I realized that Alaskaqantas is right, baggage claim at Anchorage does take forever. I think it took like half an hour, but finally, I got my bag and headed out into the night. Having nothing better to do, and a lot of time to kill, like four hours, which is a long time at this airport, I decided to walk to the North Terminal. In doing my research, as in looking at the airport’s website, it was mentioned that there was a free shuttle between terminals. I thought about taking it, but I couldn’t locate it right away, and besides, the distance seemed so short that it probably wasn’t worth the effort. I started walking.

Not a bad walk, not far at all. The equipment for the China Airlines flight, of course, was not in, it was still inbound from New York, it wouldn’t land until around three a.m. Walking along the edge of the road that ran between the South and North terminals, gave me a good view of three Alaska 737s sitting at the end of the C concourse, but, not having night photography equipment, and not wanting to call attention to myself, I didn’t try to take a picture. I also got a good view of the North terminal, with it’s very long jetways. The newest of these was N-2, closest to the road on the left as you faced the building. The other jetways frankly looked antiquated and at this hour the whole terminal looked abandoned.

The scale of the north terminal is just huge. Ticketing is on the ground floor, the same level as baggage claim for the other terminal, leading me to wonder where baggage claim is for this terminal. Coming inside I was confronted with a long line of side by side ticket counters, separated by a large area for baggage screening. To the left were the counters for Delta and Frontier and to the right were the counters for a variety of international carriers, including Korean, which I didn’t think even came to Anchorage anymore, and Asiana. China Airlines, which I think is the only Asian carrier that actually accepts passengers in Anchorage, was on the right most side of the international bank, with several positions. When I got to the North Terminal, it was 1215. (we were about 20 minutes early coming into Anchorage from Seattle) Checkin didn’t open til one.

Of course, with 45 minutes to kill, I stood outside and did what I do best, kill lung cells. That is the one thing I’ll say about smokers, it is something of a brotherhood, everyone is friendly, you bum a light, strike up momentary conversation with people, then they drift away. More people show up, more conversation, so it goes. 45 minutes passed quickly and I went inside. Time to check in. There was already something of a line forming. There was no e checkin kiosk here. It was all manual. The agents were friendly enough though. Standing in line I struck up conversation with a large American guy. He was on his way to Vietnam to see friends. I mentioned I was going to Bangkok, we talked about Thailand and how beautiful and crazy it is there. Check in was now open.

Now, one of my little fears on this trip was that I’d get all the way to Anchorage and be denied boarding. Then what do I do? Spend the next ten days or so in Alaska? Not a very pleasant thought. I approached the counter, heart slightly atwitter, handed over my passport and put my bag on the scale. The agent, a plumpish, thirty something year old guy, tagged it. He wanted to know where I was going from Bangkok, Seoul I said. I dug out my manila envelope (one of the things I had done before I left was to take all my e-ticket receipts and the three paper tickets I was holding and put them into a manila envelope) and showed him my Korean Air E ticket receipt and he was satisfied. He checked me in, handed me my boarding passes and told me to take my bag over to screening. I didn’t even have to stay with it, I just left it there and I was all set. Rollaboard backpack in hand I returned outside for another session of killing lung cells.

As it happened, one of the check in agents came out for his break, I bummed a light, we talked for a few minutes about my trip, where I was going and how long I was going, his eyes went wide, he was amazed. He also tipped me off to the location of the third level smoking lounge inside security.

Security opened at two. Which meant another hour of waiting. Between going inside and outside, I took note of a helicopter bolted to the ceiling, just inside the door. That thing just looked dangerous. It was clearly an old bush helicopter, painted bright orange, with the cockpit canopy open, and the rotors spread out. I looked at it a moment and shook my head. There is no way I’d fly in something like that. Like I always say, if it doesn’t have at least nineteen seats, I’m not going. I don’t do small planes. Everyone was basically content to sit and wait for security to open. I was content to alternate between going inside and outside. On one of my trips outside I ran into a nice lady from somewhere in the south, Alabama maybe, who was on her way home, so she had to wait seven hours for her connection. Where she had come in from I had no idea. We talked for a few minutes. Like everyone else, she was amazed at my trip, amazed and impressed. After a while she headed off to try and find a bench to sleep on, she wished me good luck, and I her.

Now, I decided I needed a drink to go with my cigarette. I’m one of those people who can’t smoke without drinking something, it just dries my mouth out too much (and the people who can smoke “dry” always amaze me, I definitely can’t do that.) I noticed a vending machine and got a coke. Between going inside and outside, I watched the ticket counter and kept track of the time, security would open at two thirty we were told.

At two a guy from China Airlines came over and gestured that security was open. Interesting that there was a tv monitor hanging from the ceiling below the entrance to security, we watched as he rode the escalator up, probably to make sure the TSA people were there, then rode it back down again, and began checking tickets and passports.

Once people began lining up, I deposited my somewhat full coke on a chair and headed to the door.

(Why waste it? because the only other alternative is to drink it down in like three gulps. I’ve done that in high school, drank a whole bottle of coke down in three gulps because I thought the bus was going to leave without me, and the bus did not allow beverages onboard. It’s not pleasant to do that.)

I came up, showed him my ticket and passport, then headed to the escalator and rode up one level, snaked my way through the small TSA checkpoint there, and down a hallway to find that our gate, N-2 was still locked off.

So we stood around for a moment, then someone on the other side came over and unlocked the doors and let us in. Naturally, I was keen to see if the Cathay Pacific A340 to Hong Kong was in, so I migrated around and found it sitting at N-5. At N-7, at the end of the terminal, a Southern Air 747-200F was sitting. I’m not really sure the point of parking a freighter at the passenger terminal, but there it was, obviously done for the night. It was all closed up.

Other than the CX A340 at gate 5 and the forlorn looking 742 at N-7, nothing was going on. I migrated upstairs to the smoking lounge, located as the China Airlines guy had mentioned, on the third level mezzanine. Interesting that was. It was huge, and it was split in two, clearly one side was for passengers and the other side was for employees. There was a wall of some kind of mesh in the middle, so you can see and hear the people on the other side, but you couldn’t interact with them. When I wasn’t in the smoking lounge, I was just meandering around the terminal, I really resisted the urge to sit, since I’d be sitting for the next ten hours.

Gates N-4 and N-6 were empty. In the middle of the terminal was something of a café with a duty free shop. There were a set of doors now open making it possible to walk from one end of the terminal to the other via a narrow hallway. I gathered that N-1 and N-3 were domestic gates, they were locked off, and they seemed empty. N-5 didn’t seem to have a waiting room, I gathered it may be a transit gate, and N-7 didn’t seem to be in use at all.

I think around three, or thereabouts, our equipment came in.

Sector 3 China Airlines 11 Anchorage-Taipei 747-409 B18207
Standing on the mezannine, near the entrance to the smoking lounge, I saw our equipment taxi by, causing me to head downstairs and assume a position near the gate. In order to see the equipment I had to stand near a clear glass wall that looked in on the customs area. I could then look through the customs area, or the entrance to it and out a window and I could see our equipment. Having arrived near the gate, having turned, it had stopped for a moment, and I assume it had to be towed in the rest of the way, as it came in very slowly and finally came to a stop. I noted the registration for my records. Lucky number seven. I like the way China Airlines puts the registration number right on the forward fuselage, that makes it very easy for those of us who collect those sorts of things to capture it. Had it not been printed on the side of the airplane the way it was, I probably would not have seen it.

The plane, unfortunately, was in China Airlines’ rather ordinary livery, not the blue whale I was hoping for, the Boeing house colors paint scheme. I wonder sometimes why change to a paint scheme that is less attractive than your last paint scheme? I admit, I liked China Airlines’ last paint scheme, it was classic, with the red and blue cheat lines above and below the window line and China Airlines in large block letters on the fuselage and the Taiwanese flag on the tail. Why change something that already looks good? I suppose, someone in marketing decided it was outdated or someone in marketing decided that since they were going to be ordering airbuses, they needed a paint scheme that would work on an airbus. That is, in the end, what I think a lot of new paint schemes are about, finding something that works on an Airbus, because Airbuses, unlike Boeings, don’t come in natural metal finish, so if you want that look, on all or part of the airplane, you have to paint it gray, and that’s not very attractive. Or, you find a new paint scheme that works on Airbuses, even if it’s not very attractive. Or, the alternative, hey just don’t order any Airbuses. Keep your fleet an all Boeing fleet. (Yes, I am biased, I like Boeing better than Airbus.)

Having watched the plane come in, I went back to the smoking lounge, to kill some more lung cells.

Departure time was now drawing closer. I came back downstairs to find, to my surprise, that the waiting room was packed. Just about every seat was taken, and the waiting room was not small. The waiting room we were in actually served three gates, N-2, to the far left, N-4 in the middle and N-6 to the far right. It was like the whole plane had emptied out. I had to wonder if this was normal? Are they required to deplane everyone and reboard everyone when the plane is in transit? Or are the passengers offered the choice to do this, and everyone does, because they’ve been sitting for seven hours and they have another ten to go. I suppose it could go either way.

I contented myself to mostly standing in the hallway opposite the waiting area, like I said, I’d be sitting for the next nine hours, I had no need to sit. I watched the mostly Chinese passengers as they sat and waited, occasionally I returned to the smoking lounge, but mostly I stayed in the gate area. The last thing I needed was to miss the flight because I was trying to get one more cigarette in. this flight does not run every day, so I’d have to wait like two days if I missed it, I didn’t need that.

Interesting that once the plane came in and everyone got off they opened up the customs area, but apparently no one was getting off here. When I looked at the huge number of passengers who had obviously boarded in New York, I asked myself why China Airlines doesn’t run the flight nonstop. It was clear that most of the passengers boarded in New York, there were just a few, maybe 50 of us, who actually boarded in Anchorage. When I looked at how packed the plane was, it makes sense that they only run the flight four days a week, clearly China Airlines is trying to maximize its load factors. The only thing I can figure as to why they don’t run the flight nonstop is that maybe it’s a range issue, maybe, the 747-400 the way China Airlines configures it, doesn’t have the range to fly New York-Taipei nonstop, that seems odd to say, but I know that when United first started flying the 744 between Chicago and Hong Kong nonstop, in 1996, I’ve been told United had to take measures to lighten the plane up, they had to take some of their 747-400s and specially configure them for the Hong Kong Service. I think they actually had to remove some of the seats, because the plane in United’s then standard 18-80-320 configuration wouldn’t be able to make it nonstop, especially during certain times of the year, when there can be considerable headwinds.

Maybe China Airlines runs into the same thing, so rather than take a weight penalty, they simply add a stop in Anchorage. I guess that makes sense. In any event, it worked for me, giving me a much easier and shorter transpacific sector. China Airlines is also the only scheduled passenger carrier from Anchorage to Asia (other than Cathay Pacific, but they really don’t count, because you can’t actually board in Anchorage, it’s strictly a tech stop, because the A340-300 doesn’t have the range to fly nonstop from Toronto to Hong Kong. I would think that Cathay Pacific could apply for fifth freedom rights between Toronto and Anchorage, but I assume there’s not enough demand to justify that. I also assume that there’s not enough demand on the route to justify an A340-600, which could do it nonstop.) In days of old, before the 747-400, a stop in anchorage was required, nowadays it’s just not required. So, maybe that’s the rub, maybe it’s a marketing thing, entice local Asian people in the Alaska area, if there are any, to fly China Airlines by suggesting that if they do, then they don’t have to fly all the way to seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles to get home, and China Airlines flies to every major Asian business center.

Soon it was time to board. I fell in line with the 300 or so other passengers and made my way to the door, handed over my boarding pass and walked down the incredibly long jetway and onboard. My seat for this sector was a bulkhead, 28A. I settled in, put my rollaboard backpack up and relaxed. The seats were comfortable, never mind the color, they were purple, and being in the bulkhead enabled me to somewhat stretch my legs out. There was a small monitor on the wall directly in front of and slightly above my head.

To my left as I looked out the window, I could see the two engines on my side jutting out from their pylons. The very long jetway rolled back and we were beginning our pushback. Then the engines started and we made our way to the runway. I was amazed at the number of cargo operators here. I didn’t realize Anchorage was such a big cargo hub, Air China, Eva Airways, Fed Ex, UPS, were all represented here. We arrived at the runway and lined up. I was already falling asleep. Being awake for the last god knows how many hours was taking it’s toll. Despite how packed the plane was, the takeoff roll was amazingly short and soon we were climbing out over Anchorage heading west towards Taiwan.

To be sure, this plane did not have PTVs, but with the monitor on the wall directly in front of me, it was like having my own personal tv. I really can’t say what the movie was, I didn’t watch it. Being in the bulkhead, there was a lot of room, relative to a standard coach seat, and I found I was actually able to get some sleep. I think I slept on and off for four hours. This made a big difference when it came to jetlag, I really felt no ill effects as I do on longer transpacific flights. The middle seat next to me was open, I like that. I would talk about the service, but what service? I think in the course of a nine hour flight, I saw the flight attendant like twice. Once when they came through with the dinner service, which I took but didn’t eat, and again for duty free, but that was about it. I was able to get some sleep though, which is unusual, I usually can’t sleep on airplanes. Getting sleep though, required being something of a contortionist, putting my knees out, and bending my head around against the wall, but then that’s always the case in coach.

We landed in Taipei at five thirty in the morning. It was light enough out when we landed that I got some good views of the Taipei area as we descended. Very green it was, with clusters of houses together.

Transit, once we landed, was the easiest I’ve ever experienced. We came off the plane at gate D-4, entered the lower level arrivals corridor, followed the signs for transit passengers, of which most of us were, crammed into this room, went through security, up the escalator and that was it. Not even a passport check! My first big fear, that I’d get all the way to Taipei and some stern faced chinaman would deny me entry, was for naught. Good. Once I had come into the departures level, I checked the monitors to discover my connection was going from gate A-3. Having quite a bit of time to kill, I decided to explore the airport.

First, I went to look at my gate. The waiting area, which serves A-1, 2 and 3, was huge and was accessed by a set of stairs. When I got to the gate there was a plane in, a 737-800 going to Hanoi. There was another plane in at A-2 going to somewhere else in Southeast Asia, Ho Chi Minh City possibly, I don’t remember. The Hanoi plane wasn’t even leaving for two hours so I had some time to kill before our equipment would come in. At A-4, which had it’s own waiting area, was an A330 going to Denpassar, and from the looks of the waiting area, which I went into to get a better look at that plane, that plane was going to be packed. With nothing better to do. When I came into the A-4 waiting area, they were beginning the boarding process, so rather than be in the way, since the lines to get to the door were enormous, I decided to go elsewhere.

I walked towards the D concourse, which was one of two new concourses added on. The difference between A and D was huge. While the A concourse was crowded and worn, with the departure lounges all accessed via stairs from the upper level departures corridor, the D concourse was beautiful, a carpeted ramp took you up to the concourse and once you reached it, it was all slick polished stone. Very tony. Just for the fun of it, I walked to my arrival gate, D-4 to see if the plane was still there, it wasn’t, it had been moved.

More wandering around. Having seen the A and D concourses, which are both on the same side of the airport, I decided to walk across and look at the other two concourses, B and C. Interesting layout Taipei has, it has two separate terminal buildings, separated by the main terminal and its associated parking. I walked across, through the main terminal, skirted behind the entrance from departure control (I could see the security guys sitting there. I held my breath a little bit as I passed behind their position, I kept expecting someone to ask me what I was doing.) And over to the B and C concourses.

The B concourse was newer than the A concourse, at least it looked newer. I did notice that the Northwest 747-400 to Osaka and Deroit was in, typically, there was extra security set up, so it wasn’t really possible to actually go into the waiting area and see it. Further along was an MAS 747-400 bound for Kuala Lumpur. I ducked into a smoking lounge nearby, I bummed a light from a guy who had come in from Los Angeles on his way to Karachi! It seemed kind of odd to me that one would get to Pakistan via Malaysia, but according to him it’s easier to go via Asia than it is to go via Europe. We talked a little bit about how long the flight from Los Angeles to Taipei is (about 13 hours) I assumed, since the plane was parked at the B concourse, that it had come in earlier, parked on the C concourse, where, along with the D concourse all flights from certain countries, including North America and Japan, come in, then was towed to the B concourse for it’s continuing journey to Kuala Lumpur.

It just seemed like he was going the wrong way around the world, but then again, who am I to talk? I was doing exactly the same thing! Going the wrong way around the world! To each his own.

At one of the B gates was a Cathay Pacific A340-600 going to Hong Kong. Wow, what a massive plane. I stood and watched it for a few minutes, wondering to myself if they’d take my China Airlines ticket and let me to go Bangkok? Nah, I decided, that was too complicated. Time was getting tight so I made the rather long walk back over to the A concourse where the 737-800 was now boarding. The A330 at A-4 had now departed and another A330 had come in to take its place. One thing I noted was that the number three door, just behind the wing, on the China Airlines A330 was full sized, not the half sized door I’m used to seeing. I had to wonder of this was an option available to any airline or a special thing just for China Airlines.

The 737-800, with winglets, pushed back and once it was out, they towed in our A340.

Sector 4 China Airlines 693 Taipei-Bangkok A340-313X B18806
When I first came into the gate area for A-3, earlier, before I went walking around, I wondered to myself how they could get an A340 into this gate. There didn’t seem to be enough room between A-3 and A-4 to accommodate an A340. I watched the 737-800 push back, thinking how glad I was not to be on that plane, not because I don’t like the 737-800 but because I know that it can get bumpy over here, and in the turbulence department, the bigger the better in my opinion. Once the 737-800 was gone, they towed in the A340 and it fit fine. Then again, I do have depth perception issues, so there may have been a lot more room than I realized.

I noted the registration, B18806, and watched as the plane was serviced. I was once again in a bulkhead, 6A, and I was happy to note that I had been given seat assignments all the way through to Bangkok, I didn’t have to visit the transit desk.

Now, so far things had gone swimmingly, as perfect as I could expect. There developed a slight snag. Just a little one. They opened the flight for boarding, I lined up, walked up to the door and handed the girl, who I think may have been new, my boarding pass and she wanted to know where my paper ticket was. What? What paper ticket? I pointed out that I was on an E ticket. She wanted to know again where my paper ticket was. Had she never heard of an E ticket? Now I was getting a little nervous. If she expected me to produce a paper ticket, that wasn’t going to happen. So, she took me aside, away from the gate reader, began making entries into a computer at the podium, but apparently wasn’t finding what she was looking for, some kind of ticket number. We stood there for a few minutes, and I think honestly, she had no idea how to process my ticket. Then abruptly, someone else came over, a middle aged man, took over, did an entry of his own in the computer, handed me back my boarding pass and gestured me onto the plane. Everything was okay. Whew.

I rejoined the line, handed over my boarding pass then walked up the jetway and onboard.

Once again, I stowed my rollaboard in the overhead, took my seat and came to a realization. This seat was rock hard. It felt like they were made with pre-formed cardboard. This was, without a doubt the most uncomfortable airline seat I had ever been in. Once I got settled in, despite the hardness of the seat, I started looking for the monitor for the PTVs I knew this plane had. China Airlines, on their website, crowed with great pride that their A340s were “state of the art” and had Avod. I was anxious to try it out. being in the bulkhead meant that the monitor wasn’t on the back of the seat in front of me, so then, where was it? I assumed it was in the armrest. Small problem, the armrest wouldn’t open. I think I played with it for a while, but I didn’t want to break it by prying it open, so I resigned myself to not having a PTV. The tray table, I noted was in the armrest on the right hand side, but the PTV monitor obviously wasn’t in there, and there was no great abundance of crew hovering around for me to ask where the PTV monitor was.

Fearing I’d break the seat, I gave up for the moment on locating the PTV monitor, I looked up at the monitor on the bulkhead wall in front of me instead. Now knowing where the PTV montitor was, was driving my dinosaur brain a little bit crazy, so I looked around some more, played with the armrest some more, then realized where the monitor was for the PTV, it was hanging down in front of my seat. Very odd location if you ask me. Very cumbersome monitor, looked straight out of the 60s! there was, I noticed a lever that you pushed to release it. I pulled the monitor up and looked at it a moment. Then I tried to lower it back down but it would not go down! Again, I was afraid if I pushed it too hard I’d break it. it took me a while to realize that to stow the monitor, you have to use the same lever to release it. I tried that, and it went right down.

I now contented myself to look out the window. Looking at the engine pylons, my first thought was “707.” Very draconian looking pylons. Soon, we were pushing back. The cockpit cam came on as the engines spooled up. It was pretty cool to watch us taxi in real time. We headed out, made a left onto a very narrow strip of asphalt that separated the apron from the taxiway, then made a right and headed towards the runway. We were following a Singapore Airlines 747-400. The safety demo played in both English and Chinese and soon we were at the runway, then onto the runway, then lumbering up the runway and rattling airborne.

With a 3 hour and 40 minute flight I decided maybe I’d try the Avod, after all, everyone on A.Net just raves about Avod. I would say that if you’re not used to it, and I wasn’t, this was the first time I had ever flown on a plane with Avod, it can be a very intimidating system to use. Rather frustrating really. With so much content, it was very difficult to find what you’re looking for, and the system reaction time was sooo slow. My first thought, as we became airborne and the system came on, was that maybe I’d watch a movie. My first, wrong, presumption was that you held the controller like a remote controller for a tv. It took me a bit to realize that it has to be held horizontal to be properly oriented.

I think one of the problems I had with the system was that it took forever to figure out how to make the controls work properly, and if there was touch screen functionality, it didn’t work.

After some time, I was able to navigate the basic categories and find things like Airshow, cockpit cam, and the video game system, which had quite a few classic arcade games as well as a number of card games including solitaire. In my opinion though, the controller, especially for someone who had never used Avod before, was too confusing, I think if I were China Airlines, as a customer service, I’d put a card in the seat pocket which explained exactly how to use the system, because for as many people has have probably traveled on Avod equipped flights, there are, I’m sure, just as many like me, who look at the system and say “forget it, I don’t want to break it.”

I never did figure out how to get the movies to work, so I just gave up on that.

Like the flight from Anchorage, the inflight service was basically non-existent, but then I’ve heard this about China Airlines, that they don’t have the greatest inflight service. I wasn’t expecting Singapor
Yes, I'd like to see airbus go under so Boeing can have their customers!

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