Since I didn't do that, I at least wanted to see the BA 744s there before they were replaced with 777s for the Summer schedule. The schedule is to have the BA 744s back in October I think.
This trip report is a combination of three different trips, but all within 7 days or so. The first one was completely spontaneous. I work near DFW and they have a self-service kiosk in my building. It was 5:02pm and I realized I was at a stopping point at work and could leave. I checked the computer, and the 737-800 at 5:40pm had about 20 seats left. The return leg had about 100 seats open. I decided, on a whim, to try for it!
The cutoff at the check-in machine is 30 minutes before departure. I made a reservation on my computer and got to the machine at 5:06pm. The cutoff was 5:10pm. There was a pilot using the machine. He was staring at a seat map, and couldn't decide what seat to take. I glared at him from behind.
5:08 he finally decides to not change his seat. I even remember it was 13F. It shouldn't take a pilot that long to make a decision! The seat map looked wide open.
As soon as he walked away I quickly checked in and was complete by 5:08pm. I was hoping it was allocate me a seat, but it was down to airport agent seat assignments only, so I took my "priority verification" and ran back to my desk. At my desk I checked in for my flight back to DFW on the internet (1 hour cutoff on that). My flight back was at 7:40pm IAH-DFW and it was empty, so I got a seat and printed out my boarding pass. That way I wouldn't have to explain myself to anyone in Houston!
Then I sprinted for the car, drove to the parking garage at Terminal A, where I was departing, and got through security at 5:28pm! Departure time was 5:40, but of course, I would have lost nothing if I didn't go.
I got to the gate and they had not boarded yet. Maintenance was on the plane! But at 5:40pm they began boarding, and the gate agent noticed me, and asked if I was standby. I said yes. She apologized, saying she thought she had called everyone. I told her it was no problem (not explaining what I was doing).
I had listed for coach. She said all she had left were middle seats. I told her that's OK, but I had been hoping for a window. She said, "well, I have a window in First Class if you want that?" So I took it! Why not live a little, right?
Photo © Klaus Ecker
Here's my plane for that roundtrip to IAH. N975AN.
Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera or anything, so there are no pics to show, but I do have 90 pics to show you here in a minute. When we landed at IAH, I ran out to the A/B garage and went up to the 7th level. From there I could see the BA 744! Usually when I plan trips in advance, there's only about a 25% chance that I actually take them. I was planning to go to IAH that Saturday, but knew there's a chance I would cancel my plans at the last minute, so I was glad I did this for the purposes of at least seeing a BA 744 there. As it turned out it was G-CIVH, which is the only BA 744 I have ever flown! There's a trip report about that flight here!
Photo © Phil Broad
The return flight was remarkably empty, being on a Tuesday evening. There were maybe 40 people onboard, so I had a row of 3 seats to myself behind the wing. Continental has not depeaked their operation, so they all leave at the same time and have huge lines for the runways. We had a 35-minute taxi-out, which is built into the schedule of my return flight. Time in the air is about 40 minutes, but the flight is allocated 1:20. I've experienced long taxi-outs on this flight before.
The captain announced that it would be a very long taxi out, due to Continental's departure push, but he reassured everyone that it was anticipated in the schedule and we would make DFW on time, even though there were more than 20 aircraft in line for the runways.
The flight attendants made it a pleasant experience, by turning on the new NBC programming. I watched an entire show before we took off!
OK. Now I'll blend the next two trips into one storyline if I can. It's Saturday morning and there's a Houston George Bush Festival planned for the day at IAH, celebrating the airport's 40th birthday. That was my reason for deciding to fly down for the day. My other trip, which was the following Tuesday was for work. I went with some others to ExpressJet's training center and their SOC for work. So now you know why I went. The Tuesday when I went to Expressjet was day 2 of the Qatar flight, so I told the group I was with that I was going to stay behind and fly back in the evening. I said goodbye to them at 2:30pm. One started asking me what I was doing, and I started stumbling over my words, not wanting to say that I wanted to see Qatar. She could tell I had a personal reason for staying and didn't want to embarass me, so she dropped it! I didn't want to come out of the closet as a plane spotter! Haha!
So, morning of departure. The weather was bad on Friday but was predicted to be beautiful in Houston.
I got to the airport a bit early, and so I made my way over to Terminal D. As I was arriving at Terminal D, I noticed something I had never seen before. A 777 was landing on 31L! That's a highly unusual thing, because that means it was cutting off 5 runways landing on that runway. DFW had some high winds and basically 5 runways were closed. They could only use the Northwest runways. The 777 was Korean Air, so I went to the gate to see it!
HL-7765. According to Hoons, this is Korean's newest 777!
I got seat 12F on my MD80 N463AA, which was AA 845 at 9:55am to Houston. There was somebody on the aisle but the middle seat was empty. That's always a relief. We had about a 70% load maybe.
We pushed out right on time and taxied for 35L. While waiting to board I noticed, with strong disappointment, that they had begun using the Northbound runways for departure and not just the odd 31R/L runways.
My first Continental plane spotted for the day!
You can't tell from here, but they were in the process of moving the NWA gates over to DL. Now at DFW the NW gates are vacant. CO took one NW gate. DL took one more gate, which was an AirTran gate.
Holding short of 35L. I'm sure we looked just like that!
Click here for the takeoff video!
Onboard in flight. They did a full beverage service on the short flight. I had a spot of coffee.
Approaching Houston, it was the normal western landing operation, so we flew past the airport, giving me a good view of it. Also, since the thunderstorms on the previous night cleared the junk out of the air, I saw the Gulf of Mexico and Houston Bay! That's really rare! Either that or I just never remember to look for it.
And the Gulf/Bay:
Here is the landing video. You can't really see it, but we are landing on 26L, flying alongside a Cessna, landing on 26R, which had some guys from houstonspotters.net flying in for the festival
As we taxied to our gate, my first pic is of a 737, but not a Continental one. AA headed to MIA.
Here is my MD80. N463AA
I have sometimes flown down to IAH for a quick roundtrip just to get a glance of the very impressive international lineup and also some of the salsa verde at Panchitos. Here's the joint:
It's a good Mexican place, so good that they generally have trouble speaking English!
Here's some more of the AA/UA/US/F9 side of Terminal A, which is the only isolated part of the airport. It is not connected to the CO operation, so you cannot walk here or ride a train/bus from any CO gates. CO does send a shuttle bus to the other part of Terminal A where DL and Colgan Air operate.
This picture somehow appeals to my love of Viking (Norwegian/Danish) history. I'm not sure what the proper interpretation of this tree is, so I see it as Ygdrassil. Look it up if you're into history or mythology!
This Chili's has a decent view of the ramp with plenty of CO taxiing by between the south C and E gates on their way to the 15/33s for takeoff. Last time I ate here, I was about to catch BA 294 with nonstop 777 service to ORD (and then London). If you don't believe me, it's in this trip report!
However, I started thinking of other options for lunch. But first, I went outside to see what was going on from the A/B garage (which is very popular with airplane spotters). Check houstonspotters.net to see all about it.
When I walked out on the garage I noticed 3 other guys doing some spotting there. I wasn't going to stay long, so I didn't go say hi to any of them. I should have been more friendly, probably!
It was 11:00am and there weren't any of the big international foreign heavy jets at IAH. I noticed that it was actually rather chilly. It was in the 50s with high wind. That did it for me. I had been thinking all along about going into Houston rather than going to the airport fair, and the weather put me over the edge. I was going to eat at my favorite lunch spot and then go to the Galleria. Then return in time to see all the good Euro-heavy jets!
I rented a car from National for a really good rate, and headed down Highway 59 into the city. I sort of grew up going to Houston a lot, as in spending a weekend there every 3 months or so, at the Galleria. Then my uncle got cancer and went to M.D. Anderson in Houston, so I spent even more time down there. I hadn't been to Houston in about 6 months, so I wanted to go for a quick visit.
Here is where I ended up. It's touristy, but they actually have great BBQ!
Did I mention it was touristy? The Goode Co. gift shop is next to that Armadillo, and their Mexican and Seafood restaurants are across the street.
I own a T-shirt with their slogan. "You might give some serious thought to thanking your lucky stars you're in Texas" (Did I mention it was touristy?)
Outdoor dining! Authentic surroundings! (Did I mention it was touristy?)
So then I went to the Galleria. It is about 4 times the size of the Dallas Galleria. Houston's was there first! What I did not expect was the ability to do some aviation-related photography while I was there.
5-star luxury, but they don't offer first class on the QR 777-200 LR.
Don't you love the three glass elevators? They did the same thing for Emirates when it was starting at Houston.
Is only having 80 worldwide destinations really something to brag about?
I'm glad they have advertisement all over the mall. It shows how proud Houston is to have the new service, even if Qatar paid for it all.
I had to add this one to complete it even though it was in Terminal D at IAH (not at the Galleria).
As I returned to the airport, I decided to fill up the rental car and then head over to Lee Rd.
As I was filling up with gas, I was at a station where you exit for the airport from Highway 59, so there were planes very low overhead landing on runway 27. I love how this stuff works out. The one and only airplane that flew very low overhead was the Air France 777-300!
Then I headed to Lee Road. It's a gravel pit at the approach lights to runway 27. It's not nice like DFW's Founder's Plaza, but it is certainly worth a visit. You can do better photography from there than at DFW's Founder's Plaza, because the photographer is closer to the planes.
Here are a few shots I took:
I usually don't do too much in the way of photography. For me, taking pictures of planes is photograpy. My definition of plane-spotting is taking registrations to see what all I have seen and look them up. It's not too common in the US, but I learned it from folks in the UK, where it is much more common.
So I returned my rental car, which I had rented for only about $20, and went to Terminal D. Both big airports in Texas have the best flights at Terminal D, by the way. Here are shots of the check-in areas.
Singapore to Moscow Domodedovo and Singapore.
The Singapore Crew
Emirates Ticket Office
OK, so enough of the check-in area. I went up to the garage, and got there just in time.
Here it is parking. There's a rumor that this gate is going to be rebuilt as an A380 gate. There actually is construction going on there, so I'll give it some credence.
Most of my pics are overexposed because I was using my SLR, which I haven't used in a few months and was trying a new setting. A few came out OK, like this one, so I'll post those here.
These guys are doing that rumored construction (on a Saturday).
Looking the other way over Terminal E with a view of downtown. It was a very clear day.
One of the 4 scheduled daily passenger 747s taking off. KL sends this one. LH sends one and BA sends 2, although that was the last day for BA 744s until October.
At IAH all planes generally make steep turns right after takeoff. This didn't come out very well, but you can see the dramatic turn at a pretty low altitude. That was PH-BFI, by the way.
So now it was time to go into the airport. I went into Terminal D to see what was going on.
Singapore 777-300. 9V-SWJ
This area with all the jetbridges might end up as an A380 gate should Houston need one. There's D-ABTE
Singapore in Texas! I still can't believe it!
I think of Air France as a very crisp, clean-looking plane. Many make fun of them because they get very dirty with all that white. This plane was in appalling shape! Look at the missing paint! F-GSQJ
The other side looks fine.
Nearly forgot to include a CO 777 pic here!
British Airways 747 G-BYGG. One of my main goals was to see this here. I haven't seen a BA 747 at IAH since the days of the funny tails!
Here's the last picture I took of a BA 747 at IAH! It is dated 2004, but I'm not sure if that's right. Sorry for the bad quality. It's a cheap scan.
There it goes.
SQ leaving for Russia! It looked like it had a heavy load. There was a big line in the check-in area, even in the premium classes, and a gate full of people.
With SQ gone, I decided to go hang out in the Continental President's Club in E, which is one of my favorite lounges, having 3 levels, and it has a good view of CO's terminal, but no good view of a runway.
The Entry statement.
Up to level 2.
Looking down from level 3.
Some of the ambiance. I like this colorful picture.
Large windows overlooking the center of Terminal E.
The upper level self-service beverage/snack area for tea/coffee and snacks. The bar is on level 2.
In a different lighting.
I took this for nostalgic reasons. There was a research paper I had to finish, when I was working on my master's degree, and I was a bit ahead of schedule. I had allocated myself a weekend plus Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday off in order to finish it. I got most of it done on that weekend, so that Monday, 2-3 years ago, I flew down to IAH and wrote the rest of it from one of these desks here! I finished it before the last flight back to DFW. Then I rewarded myself on Tuesday by flying to JFK for the day! Ah yes, nothing like airline benefits!
I seem to be writing more about nostalgia these days. Does that mean I'm getting old?
Change of pace. Here's the bar. See how large it is!
There is also a TV viewing room with huge comfy chairs, but I didn't want to take a picture of it because lots of people were watching some important sporting event, which didn't interest me.
So I went back to my favorite seat on level 3 and read a book while waiting for Qatar to arrive.
This was my first time noticing an extra emergency exit on the 737-900!
A Continental heavy.
So I went down to the Terminal D again to see what was there. You'll see different planes because now we are on the following Tuesday! BA has switched to 777-200s and so has Air France.
All the paint is on this one! F-GSPA
I took this mainly to have a reason to catch that tail. G-VIIY. That's the plane from the trip report I linked earlier where I flew IAH-ORD-LHR. It's back at IAH again! The 747 that I saw on the previous Tuesday was the 747 that I had flown once ORD-LHR on BA. So I was having good luck with my spotting!
PH-BFM with the "Asia" logo that let KLM serve TPE.
Here's the Air France cabin crew getting their briefing. I didn't want to bother them, so it's a shot from a long way away.
Now I'm going to show you all the premium international airline lounges. British Airways has two different lounges! One is for the first class and top tier only.
The other is for the more common J/F, Silver and Gold Executive Club.
I love how Air France has these information displays. I was looking forward to flying them this summer until they just cancelled their 2nd daily flight. Now they will only offer one per day this summer. I had a DL FF miles ticket on them and just cancelled it.
In the construction they are doing, there is a premium area being built for the more foreign carriers, QR, EK, and SQ. I'm not sure if it's operational yet.
I started looking for SQ. Singapore should have arrived by this point, but it wasn't at the gate. I went over to the walkway between Terminal D and E and looked down at the check-in. Look at Singapore's long line!
I went to the departure board and saw they had a slight delay.
Delayed 10 hours! I looked it up on the computer and the plane spent 12 hours at DME between SIN and IAH. It must have had a mechanical problem and was delayed while it was being fixed. SQ can't really replace a 77W in DME! They just have to ride out the delay.
Here's their friendly information sign. The passengers probably weren't smiling so much. Can you imagine your 5:30pm flight delayed until 3:30am??
After spending a little while longer, I started looking out for Qatar's second arrival to Houston. It was already overdue. SQ was 10 hours late, EK was 2-3 hours late, and QR was 30 minutes late. I'm not sure what the deal was!
There it is! A7-BBB
One more shot of IAH's last 744 when there were 2 per day. G-BNLK
Privatair with nonstop 737 service to AMS!
I actually had two flights home. I'll show the pictures from one and the video from another.
On Saturday I flew on Expressjet E145 to SHV. On Tuesday I flew an AA 738 to DFW.
On the way to Expressjet in the lovely Terminal B, I noticed this new advertisement. Now I don't feel so bad about taking videos of takeoff and landing. It looks like they encourage it here!
Here's some Continental Express staff deciding if they are going to let me on the E145. I was, of course, on standby.
Just showing off how lovely the terminal is.
The people look a bit unsettled because they just announced a delay. SHV is a heavy maintenance facility for Expressjet, so I guess SHV gets its share of broken planes.
After a 30 minute delay, I was allocated a seat. It was booked to about 35 and there were some nonrevs (especially since 200-300 Expressjet employees work in SHV).
I'm really proud of this video, which is from the AA 738 takeoff. It's a good overview of IAH and I even zoom in on the Qatar plane. I went nuts with the annotations, but it lets you know what I'm attempting to show. Here is the link to the video
Thanks for getting through this long trip report. As you can tell I am very fond of IAH and you can see how impressive its international lineup is. I didn't mention all of CO's international service, but it's pretty impressive too.
Thanks for reading.
Comments are always welcome.