I flew a lot in that period, and I am going to make a trip report of everything I flew divided in sections. This first section is going to be dedicated to the legs between my hometown of Medellin, Colombia and Bangkok, Thailand. Later will come the flights I had within Asia, later the return from Bangkok to Medellin and last but not least, some domestic flights I had within Colombia.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Part I - Colombia to Thailand
Medellín (Rionegro) José María Córdova (SKRG/MDE) - Bogotá Eldorado (SKBO/BOG)
Embraer 190 - HK-4453
Seat 14F window
0:30 flight time.
We came (my boss and I) came to the conclusion that that time around it would be cheaper to go out of Bogota, even with the added expense of the ticket from Medellin to Bogota, which is why the very first flight was a Colombian domestic one from Medellin to Bogota. The flight from Bogota to Bangkok was booked solid, but for this one leg I had the freedom to choose whichever I wanted. So I chose this flight because I hadn't flown AeroRepublica since they flew DC-9-30s and had the tricolor scheme and because I had never flown on an Embraer 190 and I wanted to try it (I want to try everything I haven't flown on), I wanted to see how had they changed since I had last flown them given the myriad of changes they had gone through, new colors, new owner, new fleet... etc.
Airplane at gate
Photo © Andres Ramirez
LAN from Lima and Quito.
So I flew out to Bogota in AeroRepublica's flight number 7505 operated by Embraer 190. The check-in and the time in the waiting room passed by without
anything noteworthy, everything calmed and on time. When I was boarding, my boarding pass fell and found its way through the little opening between the Airplane and the tarmac, falling there. I told a flight attendant and it was no problem getting it back (it wouldn't have been a problem but it had the sticker to claim the baggage, which unlike the Airports I have been through in the US is asked for in Colombia).
Boarding (little blurry)
My view. Beside me the HK-4501, the very first Fokker 50 I ever flew on.
As noted, the flight was perfectly on time and the Airplane seemed to be as comfortable as they depict it (maybe it helped a little that I had an exit row and had a little more space), it didn't seem noisy at all and all things equal, I wouldn't hesitate to use AeroRepublica again, they have come a long way!
It was a full flight, I could only see three empty seats.
The usual strawberry juice, half an hour later we would be landed at runway 13R in Bogota.
Photo © Andres Ramirez
Turning, el Rancherito restaurant and the Medellin - Bogota road visible.
Turning over MQU VOR.
Descending to Bogota.
Everything went fine. I suffered the AeroRepublica of the past (once they left me waiting 5 hours in Eldorado due to technical reasons with not even a snack and in another opportunity they sent my baggage to San Andres island, when it should have arrived with me in Medellin), but in this flight I didn't experience anything inferior to what I have experienced in Avianca in any sense, and even though this was just an average flight, the flight attendants seem to be happy and the Pilots were ultra nice when I asked about a flight deck picture after we had landed.
Reaching the gate beside an Embraer 170 of Satena.
Photo © Andres Ramirez
Cockpit shot, thanks to the crew!
The airplane at its gate.
I stayed some days in Bogota and then continued towards Orlando.
Bogotá Eldorado (SKBO/BOG) - Orlando McCoy (KMCO/MCO)
Airbus A320 - N662JB
Seat 5F window
3:50 flight time.
My final point in the US was Washington DC, the only flight from Bogota to Washington in Avianca was very expensive that time, and choice had been made to fly out of Bogota instead of Medellin because of a very good deal we found on jetBlue. So I would be flying to Orlando on jetBlue and then to Washington DC on United from there.
jetBlue had just been flying to Bogota - Orlando route for a few weeks and they had very good reviews, I was obviously excited about trying a new Airline. I had already flown on A320 but back in the times of Aces Colombia, so it was nice to experience it again after so much time (it was the trip of getting back to old things left behind, first AeroRepublica and then the A320).
The flight was scheduled to depart at 9am so I had to wake up very early to be in the Airport at 6am. I called a taxi, it was night still and there was mild rain. I reached the terminal at 6:10am and went to check in, there was a small line already but I arrived just on time because 15 minutes later the line behind me was huge. I checked in and went to eat something, get some dollars and take some pictures.
Watching the traffic
My Airplane that day - N662JB
I moved to emigration and the line was long but moved fast, then a check by the police and then another one in the waiting room.
We finally boarded and I sat in my 5F window seat (I had one of the big pitch seats and didn't pay for it, thanks jetBlue!), there were 4 flight attendants, two men and two women, one of which was hotter than a United lemon cookie. The flight was full, or so was my perception.
HSBC highway to Airplane
Ready in my seat
The door was closed at 8:57am but I don't know why the pushback took longer than expected, and while they were at it, turned the engines on and finally took off about half an hour passed, we finally took off with a slight delay.
Turning after taking off
We overflew Barranquilla, Jamaica, Cuba, between Miami and The Bahamas and finally into Orlando.
There were no significative clouds or turbulence, but this time around I had a baby in the row in front of me messing around. The seat was very comfortable and there was PTV in every seat, but in this particular flight it didn't have much use since it was only working from North Cuba.
The service was nothing to write home about, but not a single thing to complain about either.
They didn't offer meals per se, but there were ilimited snacks and beverages. Since the PTV wasn't working, I just turned to the even better entertainment flying can offer which is to just look out of the window and look at the hot flight attendant every time she passed by.
Ernesto Cortizzos Airport - Barranquilla, Colombia
Blue chips and ice tea, ilimited for who wanted
The PTV was inop during most of the flight, they warned us about this before take off in Bogota
Now serving Bogotá
PTV finally working
A DC-10F from Arrow Air descending to Miami
After we were parked I again asked for authorization to take a cockpit picture and there was no problem either. When I got out of the cockpit I thanked the flight attendant in Spanish and he replied:
-”Gracias no, son diez dólares” (-"Thanks no, it's ten bucks!")
He was obviously kidding, I wouldn't hesitate to fly jetBlue again.
I was going out when I realized I had left a SD card and some rechargeable batteries in the pocket of the seat (in the first flight the boarding pass ended in the tarmac and now I was gonna leave the SD card and batteries). I backtracked but I was told by security I couldn't go in the Airplane again. I was fine with it, but I told security if he could call one of the flight attendants and while I was at it the first officer came out and I asked him if he could bring me back my stuff, he did so without trouble and so I thanked him and continued my way to immigration and customs.
Parked at gate.
Photo © Andres Ramirez
The ten bucks picture
The airplane in gate (it continued to New York)
I continued towards immigration and the line was short, nothing to do with Miami. I waited for my turn and when I reached the CBP officer he spoke to me in Spanish, so I spoke in Spanish to him.
After I was done with the officer I continued to pick up by baggage but it took a looooooooooooooong time to come in the conveyor belt, when it finally appeared more time than anticipated had passed and I began to worry about the next flight. I went to customs and there was a girl in front of me, she was asked:
-”Do you have any food?”
The girl said no and the officer had her continue. It was my turn and I was asked the same thing:
-”Do you have any food?”
I said no and I was told:
-”Go to number 2".
"Go to number 2" meant go to secondary customs inspection, which is no problem with me since I only had some clothes and a couple of books (but again, they seem to love to send me there). What I didn't know is that there were 5 more people waiting for the inspection before me and the customs people were taking their time to do it. So it took some time before I was called, and more time while they checked my baggage (in Spanish too). I received good treatment in the whole process, but it took an eternity!
Orlando McCoy (KMCO/MCO) - Washington Dulles (KIAD/IAD)
United (TED) 1262
Airbus A320 - N489UA
Seat 8A Window
2:00 flight time.
I finally got out of customs and took the AGT train to reach the main terminal at Orlando.
When I reached the United counter there were 20 minutes remaning before the flight I was supposed to take took off, since I had baggage to check they told me there was no way I could reach that flight now. The slight delay in Bogota and the situation at customs left me short of time, it should have been enough in theory.
So I asked if there was a later flight, and I was told there was another one at 7pm and that I was going to be put in the waiting list, that I should go to gate 42 and ask there about seat availability. I tried to call to Washington but I didn't get a reply, so I found a public PC that received cash (in luck it has to be said, since most things in the US are with credit card and I don't have one) and it "charged" me with 10 dollars for just 20 minutes of internet, that's how expensive it was. I wrote to Washington telling about what had just happened and fortunately my boss was online and we agreed that if I didn't get a seat in the next flight I should write him again to see what could we do then and to reschedule the next flights. In theory I arrived in Washington DC at 9pm and departed to Tokyo the next day at 1:30pm if I found a seat, if not, I wouldn't make it in time to the Tokyo flight and I'd have to sleep in Disneyland.
With them in Washington knowing about my situation I relaxed, I wasn't really worried, these things happen but it was not nice my boss not knowing where I was since I was not going to be in the original flight that was taking off precisely when I was writing to let him know I had missed it while I was in Disneyland. With this settled I just began walking the Airport and taking pictures.
Inside Orlando Airport's terminal there's a Hyatt hotel.
Photo © Andres Ramirez
Photo © Andres Ramirez
When I got to the gate there was no power in that part of the Airport and I had no way of knowing anything, I told the agent there that I was in the waiting list and that I didn't know if I was going to be able to board or not, I asked him what could I do then... he told me to wait, I saw him begin walking and after some minutes he returned with a boarding pass for me. I had indeed gotten a seat and the agent had been pretty nice and diligent, something not so common these days.
I boarded and felt pretty well, since everything was going to plan after all.
We began taxiing and I saw 3 747-400s of Virgin Atlantic (yes, three at the same time in Orlando) and varied AirTran and jetBlue. We took off swiftly and we were on way. I went listening to XM radio, there were good headphones available and I had good pitch... everything seemed "fishy" until I realized I had been given an economy plus seat and not my usual economy class seat. I don't know if the whole airplane was configured like that or what, but it was nice.
The flight was 75% to 80% full.
The United (TED) A320 that would take me to Washington.
Mickey mouse in the gate
Sit and ready
Two 747-400 from Virgin Atlantic in the gates
Another Virgin 747-400 taxiing
I had a nice sunset (at 8pm... just the other day the spring would start officially) and it was a nice flight, the first officer was a woman which was nice.
When we landed I asked for permision to take the cockpit picture but the flight attendant told me "we are not authorized to do that nowadays"
So I deplaned but I had an itch about the denial, because one thing is the crew discretion, they can say yes or no and I am fine either way but something else is a company wide order stating what I was told. I asked a friend whose father is a United 777 captain and he confirmed me that there is no such thing, so well, I had a non-allowing flight attendant this time. There was another female flight attendant which was kinf of hot but not as much as the jetBlue one.
This time the baggage came out very quickly (no use now, I had no more flights that night) but I didn't see my boss. I waited for him and he didn't appear so I went to get some change to call him, and just when I was going to insert the coin in the phone I heard him calling my name.
He had just arrived and told me to go quickly to the parking lot because if he took less than 15 minutes it was free haha.
Finally in Dulles (a little blurry)
We arrived at his some in the Washington DC suburbs, I ate something, took a shower, we spoke and I went to sleep. It had been a long (but nice) day.
Washington Dulles (KIAD/IAD) - Tokyo Narita (RJAA/NRT)
Boeing 777-200 - N220UA
I can't remember my seat, window (34A says a blurry memory...)
13:45 flight time.
On way to Dulles
We went to the Airport, my boss left me in the entrance and went to park. He told me we'd meet in the line, but there was no line, when he arrived I was already checked in, with my boarding pass in hand and ready, when he saw that he said:
-”This is what you get when there is bad economy… no one is flying, this would be hell in other times”
And well, I do remember that for an earlier flight to Beijing in June 2008 the line was long indeed, but in the other hand the Tokyo flight seemed not so empty once in the Airplane. Go figure...
UAL803 to Tokyo on time.
There was an Asian family fighting, it seemed like a domestic dispute. The mother was shouting like crazy and the father and son seemed to be all embarrassed, while the counter girls looked and gossiped, and obviously I couldn't miss the show which I enjoyed until some girl hugged the mother and calmed her, one minute after that the police arrived.
I bid goodbye to my boss and passed through the TSA check, this time I had a normal boarding pass (without the death SSSS I had in the Beijing flight boarding pass), so everything went pretty smooth. I boarded my delicious 777 in which I had never flown and sat. Beside me there was a Japanese woman of 40 and something years and in the seat pass the aisle another Japanese of 20 and something which was hot like 3 United lemon cookies.
Between USA and Canadá
My sector was attended by two Japanese girls most of the flight, both kind and nice. Unlike the Beijing flight, this time didn't go polar but we overflew Canada, Alaska and the Pacific Ocean instead. The flight seemed to have a 75% occupation.
Flying over Alaska
UNITED LEMON COOKIE!
There was almost no turbulence, and there was PTV, albeit pretty small, I listened to some music and saw Slumdog Millionaire.
I got up and walked and took a picture of the passengers cabin when a guy asked me if I uploaded to Airliners.net, I said yes (when they don't reject me) and we talked about Airplanes for a while.
Cabin (after taking this picture I was asked by a guy if I uploaded to Airliners.net)
Flying over the Pacific Ocean
Third and last meal
We arrived to Japan and I felt very well. I had always wanted to go to Japan, and even though I was only connecting at least I could see it from the air.
In fact, I recognized the Kashima-Ibaraki stadium where the Kashima Antlers play. The Antlers used to kick my butt while playing J-League on Playstation with Verdy Kawasaki but I always managed to at least score once running the side with Tsuyoshi Kitazawa... but I digress, back to Aviation!
Lots of ships began to appear (and Japan was amidst one of their worst crisis in history, I can only image the traffic with their economy at full steam), then I saw some train rails and a little after we landed at Narita. When the engines were shut off a flight attendant that I hadn't seen in the flight walked down the whole aisle thanking every passenger personally for flying United, even us mere mortals in economy. I said "you're welcome" and prepared to disembark.
Zoom to the ship
Photo © Andres Ramirez
Last turn before landing
The connection at Narita is pretty agile, if one has an international connection one just goes to a special line, clears security and that's it, one is ready to embark again. Pretty agile from the eficiency and comfort point of view, but I wanted to be able to the terrace on fifth floor. To do that I would have had to clear immigration and that takes time, I risked missing the Bangkok flight so I rather didn't.
Narita Airport Authority
N220UA, next destionation Singapore, same flight number.
The terminal is big anyway, so I just walked and looked at the place and its traffic while I awaited for my next flight. In this part of Narita's terminal 1 there were A LOT of United Airplanes. If I hadn't been listening to Japanese announcements and looking at the signs I could have believed I was in Chicago or Washington and not in Tokyo.
Tokyo Narita (RJAA/NRT) - Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (VTBS/BKK)
Boeing 747-400 - N194UA
Seat 47A window
6:00 flight time.
As I said, I was walking around Narita and looking at its traffic. In the waiting rooms there are massage chairs with a sight to the Airplanes. I thought that was a very cool idea even though I didn't use any, I didn't have yen and I was about to depart anyway. I went to the loo to wash my hands and there was of a little stream of water for those that clean their butt Asia style. I still couldn't believe I was in Japan...
Terminal 1 flights
United flights, mine was 891 to Bangkok (and the 803 I had arrived on continued to Singapore)
Massage seats for spotters
Arse wiping Japan style
Thing is I walked as much as I could and it became night, so I sat in the waiting room, looked at the traffic and just waited time to pass by. Boarding was called and I entered my 747-400 for the trip to Bangkok. I sat and I had the row for myself, it was just behind the emergency exit but not the emergency exit itself. All the exit row was empty, the flight would have had a 65% occupation or so.
N194UA, ready at the gate.
Ready to Board
Sit and ready
We started taxiing, the crew was based in Seattle and Tokyo. Once again I had nice and kind Japanese flight attendants and I just watched the taxi sequence and the lots of Airplanes of JAL and ANA (and United), with the long line for takeoff Narita looked sexy that night. A Northwest A330 took off and then it was our turn, I saw what I could but in the night you couldn't see much.
By this time, I had been awake like 20 hours, so I just bucked my seat belt, made myself comfortable and fell asleep. I don't know how much time passed, but when I woke up what I saw was a kind of deja vu... the very same sight I had seen when I fell asleep!
I had no one beside me so I looked at the screen and indeed, we were approaching Tokyo again!
I asked a flight attendant what happened and she told me that the WX radar had gone bust and there was bad weather in Bangkok.
Back to Tokyo...
Landing again in Tokyo
We landed in Tokyo again and parked in the same gate. The Captain said that if at 10:30pm we hadn't begun moving again his duty would expire and we could also have problems with the curfew at Narita and other things. I was getting excited because I was going to get a night in Narita, but no, the damned (but efficient) Japanese technician fixed the damages by 10:20. We immediately pushed back and this around a Thai girl sat beside me and some people from the US occupied the exit row.
Back in the gate
We took off and I fell asleep again, when I woke up this time we were approaching Thailand. I looked what I could an dwe landed in Suvarnabhumi without any problems, like at 3 am.
Landing in Bangkok
I started to feel dizzy in the gate... nah just my shaky hand.
They gave us a card for a voucher because of the delay. Immigration and customs went flawlessly, in the end they sent me a 250 dollars voucher. They should have apologized for not giving me a night in Narita! (just kidding)
So this is the first part of this report, following in part II the flights I had within Asia while in Bangkok.
Thanks for reading and pardon any mistake I might have, English is not my native language!
P.D: This forum doesn't seem to allow youtube videos anymore... if anyone knows how please let me know!
Otherwise I'll post a list of links tomorrow (I am too sleepy now), because there were a lot of videos as well!
[Edited 2010-03-03 01:46:31]