Not Your Average ASU Student's Spring Break

by Charles M. Kunz

All right I know what you’re thinking, Arizona State University Freshman on Spring Break, he must be going down to Rocky Point or Cancun to get very very drunk. Well as appealing as that sounds, I wouldn’t earn enough Frequent Flyer Miles by doing that, and can I pass up that AANYC promotion? I should hope not! So I saddled up both my warm weather and cold weather clothes, and got ready to spend time on both coasts and Florida all in one week. It’s Spring Break Flyertalker Style.

American Flight 356
Scheduled Departure: 7:30 AM
Scheduled Board: 7:00 AM

“I have really got to stop doing this to myself” I said as I splashed warm water on my face in an effort to get the rest of the shaving cream that my razor had missed off. In order to complete an odd routing (such as today’s PHX-DFW-BNA-STL-LGA) I have to be awake at 5:20 in the morning. This allows me time to make one of the early departures to an AA hub. On mornings like this, I usually don’t remember rolling out of bed and having a shower. It isn’t until I press the cold Gillette steel onto my cheek that I become at least partially conscious. As it was too early for the sun to come up and too late for my beer swilling buddies to still remain awake, I had to utilize Supershuttle to get to the airport today. Unfortunately, the Phoenix area was having a rare morning and it was pouring rain. It seems anyone who lives out west cannot drive in the rain so my Supershuttle showed up 15 minutes late. By that point I was wet and annoyed and didn’t react to the half-hearted half-mumbled apology of the driver. But even still I was at Skyharbor at 6:15 AM with plenty of time to spare.

Check in was a breeze. I feel AA handles it far better then UA at PHX as AA staffs its First Class/Elite line with more people allowing the line to move quicker. This morning I had a one minute wait between getting in line and hearing “are you taking the scenic route or something?” Reasons for traveling fully explained, I shouldered my two carry-ons and headed upstairs. Holy Christ on a Cracker I thought as I saw the security line for the Gates 15-25 (Delta/Northwest) pier. The line was over 600 people long and had wrapped itself around the escalators to get upstairs from the check in area. Inversely, the Gates 1-14 (America, ATA, Aloha) pier had no one in line. Perfect, enough time for an overpriced Starbucks bagel with a little schmear (cream cheese) and coffee concoction before heading off to Dallas. As I stated earlier, security was empty so I was through it quickly and procured my preferred Arizona Paper ( The Republic ). There was only a brief wait at the gate before I strolled on board:

Gate 6
Seat 8A Main Cabin – Exit Row
757-200, N706TW
Actual Board: 6:53 AM
Actual Depart: 7:2 AM – 8 Minutes Early
Take off 12 minutes after departure

My seat aboard today’s 100% full ex-TWA aircraft put me right next to door 2L with all the legroom one could ask for. During boarding as I was the first coach passenger onboard, I entered into an enjoyable conversation with the flight attendant. She had positioned herself next to my seat to survey the massive ingress of passengers which was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, today’s load was some of the more non experienced travelers that although loveable, are not yet familiar with the many nuances that make an easier flight for everyone. Today’s free tip, if the overhead bin is shut, it’s full, don’t open it to see if there is room for your stuff. Upon seeing this, the f/a commented that the plane had nearly no closets and she had no idea how the TWA flight attendants stowed their coats in the winter. Hmm, interesting point. Soon all passengers and their respective luggage were secured and we were off to colder skies but at least ones minus rain.

Today’s bill of fare for my cabin provided a full cup of the passengers preferred beverage with a hearty dose of ice and a healthy granola bar of this month’s flavor. This meant I had a Cran-Apple juice to compliment my Oatmeal Raisin bar. After this I felt I should get a little reading done so I got Mystic River down from the overhead and was about to start reading it when I fell asleep. Now, I never used to sleep on planes, but recently I’ve realized that as long as you’ve had your meal or drink and they’re not playing a movie you want to see, there’s no point to forcing yourself to stay awake if you are tired. As it turned out, the short respite was all I needed as when I awoke (during the announcing of connecting gate information), I felt excellent. I returned the book to my bag, freshened up and then we were deep in the heart of Texas (where the sage in bloom is like perfume).
Scheduled Arrival: 10:47 AM
Actual Arrival: 10:40 AM
Gate C26

American Flight 322
Scheduled Departure: 12:37 PM
Scheduled Board: 12:07 PM

I do love a long connection at DFW. The airport is well suited for a meal as they have both good amounts of fast food restaurants plus some sit down places and two amazing Admirals Clubs (I cannot comment on the B Concourse Service Center though). As I had a C Concourse to C Concourse Connection I headed to the (anyone see it coming?) C Concourse Admirals Club! Before I could present my credentials to the gate keeper on the ground level, I had to wait on a family of three all in Full Fare First Class seats to Richmond. It was patiently explained to them that their tickets did not grant them access, but they could buy a membership. There were no takers among them.

I had an enjoyable time at the Admirals Club, slinging back free sodas and using the free internet before that crappy bagel had long since evaporated and I needed better food. I left and went over to the McDonalds near C6 and as I consumed food that would make Dr. Atkins thwap me with a rolled up newspaper. As I ate, I watched the 737-800 to LaGuardia load up and mused how a lesser Frequent Flyer would be on that flight.

Now C3 is one of the nicer DFW gates. It has windows that haven’t been covered due to the construction and generally has an open feel about it. There was only one problem today, there was no Super 80. A quick check of the arrivals board showed the plane was due inbound from Tucson and was going to arrive 25 minutes late, 5 minutes after our scheduled boarding time. Argh, I was irked. Still, airports are no place to mope. Being the worrier I am, I called up Sean and had him tell me the latest possible BNA-LGA nonstop and latest possible BNA-LGA connection. After he adequately made fun of me for worrying, I got the information I needed. I then called my friend Josh to see how his trip home from San Francisco was going. While talking with him I realized something, Gate C3 also has good cell phone reception unlike most of the other gates! After what seemed like a while but wasn’t much time at all, we had a plane and they allowed us to board:

Gate C3
Seat 9A Main Cabin
MD-80, N417AA
Actual Board: 12:34 PM
Actual Depart: 12:55 PM – 18 Minutes Delayed
Take off 10 minutes after departure

Once again we had another full flight. Even so, I’ve noticed that when there’s a delay ensuing, the passengers form a kind of unspoken agreement. After the bond is made, they take as little time as possible to get situated to ensure we all get out of there fast. Today was no exception as places were found for all bags and people very quickly and we were off earlier then I had hoped. Next to me was a grizzled EXP who looked very annoyed he had to share coach space with the likes of me. Hang in there buddy, only 5 more days and you don’t ever have to sit in 9B again.

Once we were wheels up, the flight attendants sprang into action. Even though a certain other airline with a DFW hub would serve a fast break on this one hour 18 minute flight, I was not on a Widget bearing plane. Everyone on the Silver Bird received a full can of preferred beverage and a salty yet scrumptious pretzel bag snack. I drank my Dr. Pepper while attempting the Mensa Quiz and Crossword puzzle and generally reminding myself why I attend ASU. Thanks American Way for letting me struggle with 9 letter words that can be formed into other 9 letter words. Soon though I was able to forget my shortcomings and concentrate on the approach into The Volunteer State which allowed it’s runway to grasp our plane. After a brief taxi this flight was over.
Scheduled Arrival: 2:19 PM
Actual Arrival: 2:25 PM
Gate C2
American Connection Flight 5788
Scheduled Departure: 3:41 PM
Scheduled Board: 3:11 PM

Now, one of the reasons I picked this crazy routing was that one of my goals in life is to see all 50 of the states in this great country. For too long it seemed I had been lacking Tennessee. With no plans to visit the place for any kind of prolonged visit I decided a stopover was in order. But for me to be able to go tell it on the mountain that I have spent time in Tennessee, I had to go outside security and touch solid ground. So with no misgivings I did. I exited the secure area, headed down a couple of escalators and walked outside. Across from the parking garage, I basked in the weak sunshine for a little before going back inside to re clear security.

Unfortunately this proved to be a daunting task. In spite of the fact that I had everything out of my pockets and my shoes were off, I managed to activate the metal detector. Instead of being allowed to go back and try again without my belt or watch, the bored agent decided he needed a good wanding to complete his day. Therefore I ended up on the business end of said wanding. Sexual Harassment by beeping two foot long phallic object done with, I headed down past deserted American gates. These gates once supported this airport when it was considered a hub and connections here weren’t outlandish. Ironically my gate was in the shadow of the old Admirals Club whose long since shut doors still bore the 5 stars inside a circle. The symbol reminded me of a forgotten time when Fokkers were new and we flew mainline jets nonstop from Newark to Raleigh Durham. During my wait, a US Marines F-18A landed to be refueled and its progress was watched not only by me, but the two gate agents and a handful of other enthusiasts. Once it had taxied to the other side of the airport, they declared pre-boarding (for mothers with children only, not Group 1’s) and then general boarding for:

Gate C12
Seat 11A Main Cabin – Exit Row
ERJ-140, N295SK
Actual Board: 3:20 PM
Actual Depart: 3:35 PM – 6 Minutes Early
Take off 6 minutes after departure

During boarding I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. A look at the screen to see who it was showed it was Parental Unit M. This brought out a sigh before I answered it. The conversation was what I expected, a diatribe of warnings about how I was to behave (or else) over break. One misgiving I had about going home was that when I grace Rye, NY with my presence, I am no longer an 18 year old college student but just Diane Kunz’s son Charles. Meaning everything I’ve learned and discovered and become out in Arizona is thrown out like a United 767-200. I realized that for the next week I was going to have to swallow my pride and yes ma’am/no ma’am constantly if I wanted to remain sane. Soon enough I was able to hang up as we shut the door and the Chautauqua Flight Attendant (after reminding us of Chautauqua’s 30th Anniversary, also celebrated by promotional cards in the seat pocket) activated the safety demonstration. Although my Exit Row seat provided me with excellent legroom and a nice window, I had to affirm to the F/a that I was “ready willing and able” as I always say to operate said exit in the event of an emergency.

After our takeoff from Nashville, the F/a (despite the fact that this was an EVEN numbered flight) brought her drink cart all the way to the rear and started the service from there. I hope someone on the ground will explain to her exactly what FEBO means. The Chautauqua Cervice consisted of a bag of Fisher’s Cheddar Snack mix containing pretzels, cheese puffs and peanuts and a Full can of Cran-Apple. This offering was definitely adequate for a one hour five minute flight. If only AA would ditch the pretzels for this mix, I enjoy the mix more. Drink polished off, I decided to stimulate the ol’ noodle with some reading and entered the world of Boston Homicide via my book. I really did enjoy reading M.R. and I recommend it to anyone who needs a read, it’s even good enough to be read when NOT traveling. Soon though I had to shut the book on Dave Boyle for a while as I enjoy the decent into Lambert, as this was my first trip to STL since the downsizing I wanted to remain extra alert to see the changes. I felt them as soon as we hit solid ground, the place was just, empty. No American MD-80’s stacked up as far as the eye could see, no 763’s doing the evening departures to LGW and HNL, there was just nothing there. The D Concourse presented the worst site of all. Any junk American needed stored, like extra baggage carts or D-24’s Jetway was thrown haphazardly in front of the old Connection Concourse. I averted my eyes and stared at my backpack on the ground in front of me, this was a sad sight.
Scheduled Arrival: 4:55 PM
Actual Arrival: 4:34 PM
Gate C5

American Flight 682
Scheduled Departure: 6:10 PM
Scheduled Board: 5:40 PM

Before I could make my trek to the Admirals Club I had to reclaim my valet checked Duffle Bag. As I sat in my A side seat watching the bags come off the plane I saw mine. I saw it not be caught by anyone’s hands, I saw it fall off the conveyer and end up upside down on the ramp. I then saw it picked up and thrown and land (upside down still) on top of the cart, thanks STL rampers. Once in the Jetway I was greeted by a bit of a mess. The majority of the ¾’s full plane had tagged baggage and as they were giving us the bags one at a time, the congregation was in a state of confusion. Eventually I was able to push my way through the waiting people, grab my bag and enter the terminal. If I thought the feeling of dereliction was bad outside the terminal, it was horrible inside. Four out of the six departure monitors were empty as were most of the gates and cities that had once enjoyed mainline service (PHL, MSP etc.) had ERJ’s waiting to be flown to them or worse yet no service at all. The Admirals Club was no better as it literally 4 people including me in it.

I decided that because I don’t enjoy eating at “Snack Bar”, one of the few STL concession stands, I’d buy some Club Grub. The sandwich and bag of chips I received set me back $7.75. For that I received a sandwich similar to one you receive in a Bistro Bag, just bigger and heated up (it even came with Dijonaise). But the money went to American so it was cash well tendered. While waiting for my sandwich, I had a chat with the amicable bar tender who was reading some trash novel a passenger had left behind. After I asked him if he wrote as much as he read (he admitted to reading a lot), he said he didn’t write but wanted to start. I suggested he write about something he was passionate about (as I write about traveling). To this he gave me a very odd look and said “I like Science Fiction.” At this point I politely took my food and left before I got into another discussion on whether we really landed on the moon. Two of my dorm mates are convinced otherwise.

After consuming my meal, I decided to take a leisurely walk down to C16 to see if the rest of the terminal was as bad as what I’d just seen. Unfortunately it was. The last time I’d made an STL connection was in August of 2003 when I was on my way to PHX. At the time every gate had an MD-80 or the odd 757. Back then the terminal rang with clashing announcements of Group 1’s to Atlanta could board versus New Orleans which was pre-boarding First Class only. Today it seemed that if I’d shouted “American Rules!” they could have heard me 10 gates away. I really did enjoy St. Louis the old way; this new half-ass STL leaves a curdled taste in my mouth. I arrived at my gate a little early and was forced to wait as boarding was delayed due to an unexplained reason. Finally at 6:10 it was time to say “how ya doin’?” to New York State.

Gate C16
Seat 8F Main Cabin
Actual Board: 6:10 PM
Actual Depart: 6:09PM – 1 Minute Early
Take off 8 minutes after departure

This flight was my first relatively empty one of the day. I ended up with all of 8DEF annexed to 2003 Rye High School Graduates. Although, First Class only had one revenue passenger and a Chautauqua Captain making me wish I’d upgraded myself. The f/a’s today reminded me why I enjoyed riding the Silverbird Express as they embodied everything a passenger could ask for. They were polite and funny but not over the top, they didn’t sing to me or engage us in stupid games, but they were always around to make sure we had everything we needed. Once airborne as we had a light load, a little extra was given to every passenger. I ended up with two cans of Dr. Pepper and three bags of pretzels. These were just enough to compliment my earlier meal. I enjoyed the short ride up to New York writing and listening to some Moody Blues (remember, it’s easier to try then to prove it can’t be done – “Blue World”).

Right before decent I walked back to use the rear lav’s and on my way peeked into the rear galley. In there was a giant black hefty bag trash bag that was slowly accumulating more and more refuse. I wondered how long it had been there but it certainly wasn’t just our flight. Now the New York approach is one of the most fabulous there is, up there with San Diego and Honolulu, that is if you’re not an idiot like me and sit on the A side. I was treated to a panoramic view of Staten Island and Brooklyn instead of downtown Manhattan, slick one Kunz. Even with my screw up, LaGuardia accepted our plane. Soon we docked and it was time for me to try old the home life again.
Scheduled Arrival: 9:25 PM
Actual Arrival: 9:08 PM
Gate D3

Waiting for me just beyond security was a 54 year old man in a casual weekend clothes. This was none other then my father who had started his day in Hamilton, New York watching his old hockey team Colgate lose. He had then driven all the way to LaGuardia to fetch me, now that’s parenting.

--March 14, 2004 – Rye, NY – Pawling, NY--
Even after my adventure yesterday, I got up early and my father, brother William and I drove 47 miles north to the hamlet of Pawling in Duchess County. Located upstate is a hunting club in which my dad owns part interest. Once there we practiced in the age old art of male bonding as we enjoyed discharging firearms while catching up with each other. As I had another busy day ahead of me tomorrow, I decided to have an early evening. Before bedding down I made sure to steal my Brother Edward’s alarm clock so I wouldn’t oversleep.

American Flight 1859
Scheduled Departure: 8:00 AM
Scheduled Board: 7:30 AM

Once again the alarm exploded on the bedside table in the wee hours. My bed was made and I had showered, but I don’t remember any of this. All I remember is walking downstairs into the kitchen at 5:15 AM to find my father ready to go. He was headed out to the Central African Republic on Friday and he had to lug equipment he’d need to his office. Because of this I had successfully convinced him to take me to LaGuardia even if it meant going 20 miles out of his way. Today’s trip called for a LGA-MIA-TPA-LGA jaunt. This would serve as half of the qualifying flights I needed to get that AANYC cert as well as allowing me to pick up Miami. An airport I had only heard the horror stories about, today I was going to see, hear, smell, touch and taste them.

Once at LaGuardia, I entered the terminal and gave a small smile, it was teaming with business travelers just like me. Flying on weekdays has its perks as the clientele is generally more adept at traveling. While waiting to check in my friendly (for once) LGA AA agent asked me what I was doing going down to Tampa for the day. After I pointed at the giant AANYC banner behind her, she said “ah, we’re getting a lot of people like you. Wait a minute; you’re under 21, a Platinum and an Admirals Club member, wow.” I do enjoy conversations with airline employees, when they’re not angry about something that is.

Speaking of being angry about something, I rounded the corner to head down to the D gates pier and the sight of 400 some odd people trying to make it down to their flights was my wake up call. I approached the rent-a-screener and I asked her for the Elite Line and she said “no line! You go down to the end of that one!” Good to know those 52K+ miles weren’t in vein last year. Thankfully as I already stated the line was filled with Group 1’s and First’s and we moved fast. 20 minutes later I was at the head when I heard “Hey Charles.” I turned around to run into someone I had graduated High School with. Now that is a small world experience. Frankly, I didn’t really like the guy or I would have invited him to the Admirals Club with me, but he can rot at D4 before his MSY flight for all I care.

Speaking of the LGA Admirals Club, if I had to list places that where I’ve spent the most time, in the top 10 would be the LGA and JFK (T8) Admirals Clubs. Frankly, I know the outlay of the LGA club so well that I’ve directed confused patrons around it before the helpful front desk staff could answer their queries. This morning was like all the others. I poured myself a glass of OJ and Cran J and ate a bagel before checking emails and talking to one of my dorm mates who was unfortunately stuck working the front desk at 4 AM Arizona time. But then it was 7:25 and I strolled down to the gate where the flight was boarding and I was onboard:

Gate D8
Seat 9A Main Cabin
MD-80, N430AA
Actual Board: 7:30 AM
Actual Depart: 8:10 AM – 10 Minutes Late
Take off 28 minutes after departure

Today’s flight was packed to the gills. 30% of the load was business travelers, 30% students on spring break (mostly headed down to Nassau). About 30% were Senior Citizens going back down to the heat and the rest of the 10% were too odd to put into a group. What a nice welcome to any Miami flight. As this was LaGuardia on a weekday, we had an agonizingly long wait before push back followed by a worse one to takeoff. I believe we were number 20 for rotation. Of course to add insult to injury, we turned off the taxiway to a penalty box by the Delta/NW terminal for a couple minutes before finally heading for the southern US.

Once airborne I finished up my New York Times and had the usual breakfast service of drink and granola bar before drifting off to sleep. Once again I was awakened up as they read out the gate information. Of course I had managed to lean on my right ear and when I woke up it was numb and tingly.
Scheduled Arrival: 11:11 AM
Actual Arrival: 11:23 AM
Gate E4

American Flight 984
Scheduled Departure: 1:02 PM
Scheduled Board: 12:32 PM

My transfer had been announced as E4 to B12 which would put me at a gate right next to the Admirals Club. Therefore, I grinned and bore the 15 minute walk even though I was extremely sore from playing squash with my family the night before. Once at the Admirals Club I was informed that we had a gate change and were now leaving out of D4. Oh well that’s just lovely, I get a long walk back to a full flight what could be better? The D concourse Admirals Club was one of the worst I’ve been to in a while. The bartender would disappear from behind the bar for prolonged periods of time to do god knows what and the general atmosphere seemed to be of confusion and apathy. By 12:10 I’d had enough and I decided to take the walk back to D.

On the way walking through the winding corridors with low ceilings that reminded me of being in an office building I noticed the following.
- A place where an “Authorized Personnel Door Only” was having the door jamb painted, but the painter had wandered off leaving the door wide open and his paint brush stuck to the door.
- A woman in a fur coat (did she realize it’s 80 in Miami)?
- 30 Frat Boy’s all wearing identical blue blazers and khaki pants off to some Caribbean destination.
- At Gate D4 a divorcee shouting at her son on the phone because he didn’t want to stay with his “******* father”
- A man wearing a fishnet shirt and nothing under it.
It seemed everyone had fake hair, bad tans and wore cheap jewelry. They were also buying drinks from a bar kiosk like it was going out of style. I was glad when my brief MIA experience was over and I could board:

Gate D4
Seat 10A Main Cabin – Exit Row
757-200, N654A
Actual Board: 12:35 PM
Actual Depart: 12:59 PM – 3 Minutes Early
Take off 12 minutes after departure

After I sat down it seemed like the people would never stop coming. Every seat in Coach and most of those in First were filled. This left petty spats over overhead bins and armrests to rage up and down the cabin. I thanked the Elite Gods for allowing myself to pick an Exit Row Seat ahead of time and I shut my eyes until it was over. Thankfully it soon was and we took off and over-flew some elevated tracks of Miami’s subway system, something I have heard nothing about. Once airborne, the F/A announced there would be no service in the Main Cabin making this probably the least memorable flight I’ve been on in all of 2004. Soon enough, our big bird touched down in Cloudy Tampa and I had 4 hours to kill at what I heard was a very boring airport.
Scheduled Arrival: 2:04 PM
Actual Arrival: 1:54 PM
Gate F79
American Flight 1282
Scheduled Departure: 6:15 PM
Scheduled Board: 5:45 PM

--March 15, 2004 – Tampa International Airport, Tampa, FL--
Once I’d deplaned, I tried to override my natural instincts that require me to walk at a brisk pace. Hopefully if I could slow down the day would move faster but to no avail. After riding the shuttle back to the main terminal, I walked around the Marriott Hotel and looked through nearly every store. Following that, I ate lunch at TGIFriday’s. Meaning I have now eaten at a Fridays at JFK (T8), PIT and TPA. The Tampa one has had the best service and food so far. After chicken fingers were consumed, I got my boarding pass and found myself at Gate F80. This was after having seen the entire landside terminal and F pier with an hour and I still had an hour and a half to go before scheduled boarding. Overall the airport had a nice selection of shops with a decent restaurant selection but it was geared heavily towards a leisure crowd. Thankfully I had my cell phone and my book and using both I managed to get through the next hour and a half until we boarded:

Gate F80
Seat 8F Main Cabin
MD-80, N523AA
Actual Board: 5:42 PM
Actual Depart: 6:08 PM – 7 Minutes Early
Take off 12 minutes after departure

This plane should have been painted in black and white pinstripes, not red, white and blue. The vast majority of the coach cabin consisted of people on their way back from Yankees Spring Training games. The First Officer was a huge Yankee fan himself so he positioned himself right next to the boarding door and he was firing questions like “How’s Jeter look? How’s A-Rod look?” at anyone in Yankee garb. I learned from these conversations that Jeter had been playing the Prima Dona down at camp, how naughty of him.

I’d never taken off from Tampa before (or even used the airport) but the take off was stunning. We ended up over Tampa Bay, crossing an extremely long bridge. The large body of water coupled with the fading sun made for a very nice view. Once airborne it was all business again. That being a Dr. Pepper with Pretzels and work on my laptop while the kids in Row 7 and 8 regaled those around them with stories of who gave them autographs and who was rude about them (from what they said, don’t ask Torre for an autograph).

Now I’ve been flying a lot these days (as of March 20 I have 51 YTD segments) but I will never stop enjoying the sight of a sunset from the air. As routine as flights are for me sometimes, no amount of repetition can take the beauty of the sun melting into deep blue sky away from me. The stars coming out and the quarter moon only made it better. Once again I had forgotten to get a seat on the damned A side and we had the same approach as two days ago. For the second time in three days I watched New Dorp turn into Bensonhurst which melted into Forest Hills until we were down at LaGuardia. Once there my father greeted me with the news that it was going to snow tomorrow. Oh lovely, I think I’ll just get on a plane to Phoenix right now.
Scheduled Arrival: 8:49 PM
Actual Arrival: 8:32 PM
Gate D8

--March 16, 2004 – Rye, NY--
Today for the first time in over a month I had nothing to do until late that afternoon. This meant I got to make like a teenager and just sleep until I felt I was done sleeping. This was accomplished at 1:30 PM when I got up and made myself some oatmeal. I also decided that even though it was snowing really hard and I was still sore, I’d go out and play some squash at the Club with my brother, after getting my haircut of course.

American Flight 291
Scheduled Departure: 7:30 AM
Scheduled Board: 7:00 AM

At 5:10 on that Wednesday morning, my father and I were greeted with quite a sight. It had indeed snowed a good amount the night before. And of course neither of us had remembered that we would be driving to JFK this morning. But we bravely knew what had to be done. My dad grabbed a can of windshield deicer and I (who was only wearing a short sleeved shirt) grabbed the snow scraper. Working as Team Kunz we managed to get that car de-snowed in less then ten minutes. That being done, the drive to Kennedy was surprisingly easy for a morning after a snowstorm. I guess New Yorkers have just realized that sometimes the weather will be inclement and that if you are cautious you can drive in it (unlike people out west who have heart attacks when a few drops sprinkle from the sky).

The construction on the new terminal was looking good today silhouetted against the gray sky. With prospects of a terminal that hadn’t once belonged to United or been built too many years ago to remain effective, I walked into the Terminal 8 Admirals Club to check in. Unfortunately I was greeted with the news that my flight was to leave from Gate 43 and I was in the wrong terminal. This would mean I got to walk outside in the cold (remember I don’t have a jacket) to get to my gate. Bah I said as I went to go spread butter and jelly on a bagel only to find there were no bagels, just some horrible Rye bread. Well today wasn’t going very well. I decided to cut my losses and saunter over to T9 where hopefully the plane would be catered better then my favorite Admirals Club.

As my luck this morning seemed to be higher then the average hippy at Woodstock, I was not surprised to see a huge line growing at Security Check Point for Terminal 9. I don’t know what the problem about this place is in the morning, but everytime I come here in the AM the line is gigantic. Thankfully there is a First Class/Elite Line and I managed to get into it. Although I first let some people hoping to get on the Final Boarding San Diego flight go ahead of me. Just keep paying it forward Kunzie and you’ll get that sweet reward eventually. As much as I hate the snow, I owe it one as the planes that were draped in snow looked absolutely stunning. Especially the SJU bound A300 at 48A which had sheets of white stuff all down its fuselage, I loved it most. Soon though it was time to stop the loving and get myself to the other coast via:

Gate 43
Seat 10A Main Cabin – Exit Row
757-200, N185AN
Actual Board: 7:08 AM
Actual Depart: 7:34 AM – 4 Minutes Delayed
Take off 19 minutes after departure

I knew today’s flight would be an enjoyable one. I was sitting on one of American’s newer 757’s, this one having been delivered in 2001 and I had 10B empty. But the best part was that I was going someplace warm and I was taking my first actual vacation since October of 2003 (ironically I went to California then too, but to San Diego instead of Long Beach). The woman in 10C (who subsequently moved to 9D to be with her husband) gave me a brief rundown of Long Beach. I was told I’d have lots of fun and how much more she enjoyed flying to LGB over LAX. Her sole reason was that you only had to walk across the street to find rental cars. When I asked her if it was hard to get a cab she appeared shocked and said “it’s not a honky tonk town you know!” Too bad, I was hoping to meet a honky tonk woman who’d take me upstairs for a ride.

There is nothing better then being able to take off from someplace where it is cold and snowy and get to go someplace where it is sunny and warm. Unless of course you have to go conduct a business meeting or something but that wasn’t the case for me. What I really loved about this take off was that it was drab and miserable in New York, but even so, after getting above the clouds the sun was shining and everything was bathed in golden light. After the plane leveled off I reclined my seat, stretched out my legs and waited for my meal. It has been over a year since I got a hot meal in AA coach (I’ve had too many Bistro Bags to count though) and I figured I’d get something decent. Soon I was asked if I wanted rice krispees or the old standby of a cheese omlette. Having not partaken in any Admirals Club grub, I selected the omlette. I was thusly presented with a tray containing my omlette and the piece of Canadian Bacon American has been using since the early 90’s. Next to that was two slices of honey dew, also there since the early 90’s plus a biscuit which came with butter. Now this was new and American must know me because I love biscuits as much as I love DC-10’s. After devouring everything on the tray I was able to say that was a quality meal. The omlette had cheese and some spices in it, the bacon was good and the fruit tasty. I really did enjoy that airplane breakfast, something I don’t usually say, thanks AA!

The meal having been eaten and the movie being Intolerable Cruelty (which is intolerably bad) I decided to sleep. I have learned that packing an eye mask in my shaving kit is a catalyst to a good plane ride’s sleep. Earlier this month I picked one up flying United Business giving me 3 hours good sleep and when I woke up, we were over flying SNA. This left me just enough time to get oriented before we landed at LGB. The amusing part about getting into LGB was that the AA 757 out to DFW hadn’t pushed back yet. We were thus forced to remain on the taxiway until it had pushed back. During this time the First Officer assured everyone that we would still have an early arrival. I believe sweat was wiped off many brows on that plane.
Scheduled Arrival: 10:49 AM
Actual Arrival: 10:37 AM
Gate 23
--March 17, 2004 – Long Beach, CA--
Finally, a vacation, everything that I was going to do was planned by me and me alone. I walked outside of the terminal into the brilliant California Sunshine and breathed in hot air. I had a feeling today was going to be a good day. My row mate from the flight was right, there was no problems getting a cab. There were over 20 lined up and the cabbies even had an argument over who got my fare. I ended up in a minivan cab (for just me and my one bag) which I rode to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Once there, I purchased a ticket for both the Aquarium and the Queen Mary for the reasonable sum of $34. Now, this is what I call an aquarium, it was large with lots of different exhibits. These included ones based on Sea Otters, Sea Lions, Sharks and Jelly Fish and others based on certain areas of the world including Australia and Baja, CA. The only drawback with me showing up on a Wednesday meant that nearly every school in Southern California sent a few busses over. This resulted in me having to wade through throngs of children and deal with “BUT I WANT CANDY!!!!”

After I had my fare share of Clown Fish, I headed across the street to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. which provided me with a very enjoyable meal. To celebrate my Jewish Heritage I went with a Pork Sandwich. I was a little miffed by the high level of service I received. Firstly, when I asked for a table for one, the hostess said “do you have a girlfriend who would mind if I joined you for lunch?” As she delivered this without a smile or a laugh I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or get her number. I ended up doing the former. Later while eating my sandwich I saw a hand reaching for my face and I instinctively flinched. It turned out it was just a waitress trying to get some BBQ sauce off my face. Where I come from (NY) we aren’t this touchy unless we have six inches of pure steel to back it up!

After my meal I began a nice slow trek over a causeway to get to the QM. As I had nothing to do and all day to do it and the weather was beautiful I took my time. While walking along the coast of a bay I began to reflect. Although I was alone and it would have been nice to have someone to talk to, being alone did gave me a sense of freedom. If I felt like sitting on the grass and watching the sun shine on the downtown buildings, I could do that. If I felt like eating at 2 instead of 1 PM, I could do it. And if I felt like pouring strawberry ice cream on my head and letting the seagulls pick it off, I could do that too. Sometimes it’s just nice to be in a new place by your lonesome, I certainly enjoyed it.

Once at the QM, I noticed there was a Russian Submarine docked along side it, now this was a treat! I happen to find submarines extremely fascinating. I’ve been on the USS Nautilus in Groton, CT and that sparked me to start reading books about submarines ( On the Beach by Nevil Shute is a great choice). I immediately paid $10 and clambered aboard a Foxtrot Class Russian Sub (non-Nuclear) Scorpion (ironically there is a Scorpion in On the Beach too ). The submarine was set up so you could take a self-tour; along the walls were P/A speakers that had a recording detailing every room in a faux Russian accent. The only drawback was that this Submarine was set up the same was it was when it was built in 1974. To get from compartment to compartment you had to go through a hole that was 2 feet off the ground and only came up to 4 and a half feet. To manage this I had to grasp the top of the portal and stick one leg through at a time, not an easy task when you’re 6 feet 1, 208 pounds and carrying a backpack!

Once done with my underwater experience I embarked on the Queen Mary. As my mom had pointed out the night before, she had taken me onboard this same ship back in 1986, this time I remembered a lot more. The QM was great fun, I walked all over it, viewed the exhibitions they had and took in Long Beach from up high. Once done with my Ocean Cruise, I walked over to the Coast Hotel where I enjoyed a dinner at their restaurant. After ordering my meal the waiter asked me “do you work for Skywest?” I was temped to say yes and get a $5 discount, but I didn’t want to have to call up my parents and say “yeah I’m in jail in California because I impersonated a pilot.” After being fed and watered, I ordered a Supershuttle. It shortly thereafter arrived and was piloted by a very jovial and entertaining driver who regaled me with talks of driving to Palm Springs and 200 car pile ups on the 405. But then I was back at LGB and it was time to go home.

American Flight 294
Scheduled Departure: 9:15 PM
Scheduled Board: 8:45 PM

I felt as we pulled up at the Long Beach terminal that I should have been emerging from a 1936 Ford. I should also be wearing a brown pinstripe suit, with a hat. My breast pocket should contain a handwritten ticket for a DC-2 making 2 stops on its way up to San Francisco. Instead I was in a Supershuttle van wearing khakis and a polo shirt, about to board a 757 nonstop to New York Idlewild, I mean JFK. Seeing the terminal was like looking back in time to the golden days of air travel where I wasn’t holding an E-ticket and didn’t have the option to check in with a machine. To celebrate this thought, I checked in at the counter before taking a walk around the terminal. For a small airport it had a decent amount of concessions. These included a small snack bar on the ground floor where I tried my hand at CA Lottery. There was also a souvenir shop and a restaurant upstairs. After poking around until 7:45, I decided to go to the secure area and sit down and read. Even though it was only an hour until boarding, I found the security line empty. This was explained by the screeners caution that there was nothing to do in the gate area. She was absolutely correct. There were two other people in the gate area which housed HP, AS and AA’s gates plus a stray B6 gate. In a corner was a closed snack cart and a bathroom. In the opposite corner was a TV displaying scenes from the Aquarium of the Pacific. After a while a 757 from DFW arrived and discharged its passengers and then people began to filter in for the JFK flight. Unfortunately our plane got delayed ex-JFK so a slight delay ensued. I became a bit annoyed as I had to meet someone at JFK and I hate being late more then I hate LRTC. Eventually the door was opened and we all made the trek to:

Gate 23
Seat 10A Main Cabin – Exit Row
Actual Board: 9:05 PM
Actual Depart: 9:30 PM – 15 Minutes Delayed
Take off 8 minutes after departure

The trek out to our plane was a long trek indeed. We had to circle the 757 which would be doing the early DFW flight and we ended up about 1000 feet from the terminal. This was out near a bunch of parked service trucks. Once again the kind of camaraderie I’ve seen from delayed passengers prevailed. We boarded quickly and stowed ourselves quickly. During boarding, I said to the F/a standing by Row 9 “didn’t you operate AA 291 this morning?” and she said “yes, what are you doing back so soon?” I could only respond with “quick trip.”

During pushback, I thought I’d made some above god happy as 10B and C were open ensuring a quiet night’s sleep. Of course at the last second a mother traveling with six kids moved herself and the fattest of the children next to me. I was not pleased but I just nodded at them and smiled. Once airborne while eating the usual redeye snack (two crackers, triangle of cheese and Milanos cookies) I reflected that I have now used all six airports that have transcon AA service to JFK (those being LAX, LGB, SAN, SFO, SJC and SNA). To compliment that, I have used all airports with 757 redeye’s (LGB, SAN and SNA). I say someone should find a Gold Medal and give it to me, I’ve earned it.

Musing and snacking aside, I slipped U2 into my CD player and put my face mask on to attempt the flight to dreamland. It was then that I realized AA decided to show “Duplex” on this flight. This meant that every few seconds I’d here “AHAHAHAHA that’s great!” from either the people on my right, in front of me or behind me. Honestly, couldn’t they have played the most boring, laugh free movie they could find? “The English Patient” would have sufficed. After a while right as “The Incredible Fire” was ending I managed to drift off to sleep. As has become standard with me, I woke up with “Flight Attendants prepare for arrival.” Groggily I stared out the window to see we were about to cross the coast at Rockaway before landing at JFK. Once on the ground we had the long taxi around Terminals 5 through 7 until parking back at 8. On the way out the flight attendants gave out leftover F class cookies and they told me not to get on another plane anytime soon. If only that was the case.
Scheduled Arrival: 5:11 AM
Actual Arrival: 5:15 AM
Gate 3
--March 18, 2004 – Kennedy Airport, Jamaica, NY – Rye, NY--
Once exiting the plane I hit the nearest bathroom to make myself presentable. Once looking neat and pretty I positioned myself near the doors to Terminal 9 where I patiently waited until SanDiego1K arrived. Once she did, I escorted her to the Terminal 9 Admirals Club where she was my guest for this morning. Look at what the world is coming to, an 18 year old meets a lovely, charming woman over the internet and he has the privilege of escorting her to an airline lounge, I love it. After 15 minutes of doughnuts and coffee, we bid each other farewell. Her ride was a 757 in First; mine the Airtrain to the A train to get back to Manhattan. To get home I decided to change to the 4 train at Nassau Street which was a huge mistake. I ended up being packed shoulder to shoulder with a large mix of commuters. The mix was so wide I had to enjoy the moment. To my right was a Spanish stock trader, to my left a black teenager on his way to Hunter College, in front of me was a short Asian woman looking terrified and behind me a white woman with very short cropped hair on her way out to the suburbs like me.

Eventually Grand Central came and I grabbed a train back to Rye where I slept before being treated to lunch by the mother unit. Following that I treated my brother to dinner (only because the restaurant had Idine though).

--March 19, 2004 – Rye, NY - East Elmhurst, NY--
I had planned to go out to Long Island to see my grandparent’s graves but once again it snowed. This left me stuck just having lunch with my mother and brother before spending my last few hours with the Kunz family before heading down to New York. I had an early flight out of LGA the next morning at 8 AM meaning I’d have to leave the house around 6 AM. But with my dad being off in the Central African Republic doing what hunters do, I had no way to make it to LGA in time if I left Saturday morning. Thankfully Priceline saved me again and for $65 I would be staying at the Wyndham Garden Hotel at LaGuardia. Getting there was no easy task; I rode the 7:49 train to Grand Central, transferred to the 7 line to Jackson Heights where I took the Q33 bus. This endeavor took about 2 hours door to door, as opposed to a 20 minute drive.

The hotel was a great deal, I had a large room with all the amenities I expected. Upon check in I was asked if I needed a wake up call and received it the next morning (at the LAX Marriott, one of my other homes, I have to call to get the call and often it doesn’t come). The hotel restaurant was also very nice. Although service was a bit slow, the food was perfect and welcome to my hungry body. Ultimately I did think I spent a good price for the value I received.

American Eagle Flight 5003
Scheduled Departure: 8:00 AM
Scheduled Board: 7:30 AM

Today’s plan called for me to hop up to Boston for most of the day to visit a High School buddy who attends Boston University. That afternoon I’d zip down to JFK and pick up the nonstop to PHX which was offering double miles. I woke up at 6:40, and was downstairs to grab the 7 AM shuttle bus awake and alert. The operation was nearly flawless except for the driver thinking I said Delta when I said American. Even so I was at the First Class check in desk at 7:10 and had boarding passes in hand; I should run into no troubles…except the 100 person long line waiting to get into Concourse C! Once again no Elite/First Class line in sight and once again a 20 minute wait. The wait took so long in fact that I walked right onto the plane one minute after arriving at the gate!

Gate C2
Seat 2A Main Cabin
ERJ-135, N737MW
Actual Board: 7:38 AM
Actual Depart: 7:58 AM – 2 Minutes Early
Take off 20 minutes after departure

One thing I love about flying regional jets is, baggage issues aside, the planes board very fast and you are almost always early. Today due to the new FAA weight mandates and our plane not being full, I was asked to move to Seat 6C. Before I could protest that I wasn’t fat, just big boned, the man in 2C agreed to move. Fat People 1, AA 0! Once we were pushed back, a repeat performance of Monday ensued. We were in a long line of jets (mainly US and AA) waiting for take off. Once airborne, the trip up to Boston allowed us to follow the Westchester coast allowing views off all the beachfront towns from Mt. Vernon through Port Chester. This included a view of my very own domicile. Something I’ve never been able to take in before and something I loved.

Soon thereafter, the f/a began the in-flight service. Unfortunately she followed FEBO and started the service from the back of the cabin. This meant I was the second last to receive my Cran Apple and snack box. The snack box which is listed as “Breakfast” contained breadsticks, “spread-able cheese” (as opposed to the unspread-able kind that leaps off your knife), King’s Fruit Mix (cherries, applies and raisins) and Oreos. Being hungry, I devoured everything even though I really wish they’d provide a bagel or a muffin for breakfast. Once the boxes has been collected, we flew over the icy waters of Massachusetts Bay and touched down before making the short taxi to the Siberia gates at BOS-Logan.
Scheduled Arrival: 9:10 AM
Actual Arrival: 9:03 AM
Gate B24

--March 20, 2004 – Boston, MA--
I walked out into the chilly weather and grabbed the shuttle bus to the T. At the station I was met with the news that the MBTA has hiked its fare to $1.25 since my last time in Boston (February 2003). After paying the highway robbery, I rode a packed Blue Line train (with an AA employee) to Government Center. From there I took the Green Line to Kenmore where it abruptly stopped due to construction and a shuttle bus took me the rest of the way to BU – East.

The differences in Boston University Dorms and ASU Dorms are night and day. At ASU to let myself or other people in, I use a metal key and can enter in through either the main entrance by the front desk or directly into the stairwell. I could bring 40 naked, chainsaw wielding psychopaths in with me and no one would know. At BU, I had to approach a front desk, surrender my driver’s license to the security guard and Dion had to swipe his ID at a turnstile for us to be let in. That’s as tough security as my dad’s law firm! After showing me around the dorm (which is a 20 story or so high rise), Dion and I hit downtown Boston. We stopped at Charlie’s Steakhouse for ribs and then did a little shopping along Newbury Street. After a while I had to get back so I walked back to Kenmore and did the reverse of earlier trip and ended up at the airport with time to spare.

American Eagle Flight 4807
Scheduled Departure: 4:05 PM
Scheduled Board: 3:45 PM

Once back at the airport I popped in at the Admirals Club to watch the A300 to SJU prepare for its flight. After that I rode the shuttle bus to the Amelia Earhart terminal (does anyone else see the irony here?). Along the way I noticed the bus driver (an Eagle employee) had a printed itinerary sticking out of his messenger bag. Inspecting it showed he was on his way to Lima, Peru that night, non-rev privileges and all. The Eagle terminal was offering both the JFK and YYZ flight when I arrived but thankfully there was no confusion. Before allowing passengers down to their gates, we had our boarding passes scanned at a desk and then were told to proceed. Once at the gate the stubs were checked to make sure we were on the right flight. Soon we were boarding:

Gate B30E
Seat 2A Main Cabin
ERJ-135, N704PG
Actual Board: 3:47 PM
Actual Depart: 4:05 PM – On Time
Take off 10 minutes after departure

Today’s flight went out completely full (37 out of 37) with 1A being occupied by a SFO bound f/a whom was working the JFK-SFO evening departure. The f/a for our flight, Wendy, didn’t speak very good English. She had a thick accent and skipped a lot of words so “Take it out and follow along” became “Take out and forrow arong.” The huge benefit of using the Eagle Satellite terminal in opposed to the Siberia gates (B22 to B26) is that you’re on the runway and in the air very fast. Had we not had to wait for landing US traffic, we’d have been off the ground in about 5 minutes.

Once airborne Wendy neglected to follow my previous two RJ flights and not start from the back. But this way I got my soda and pretzels quicker so props to her. Once the trash was collected, Wendy and the other f/a had an interesting conversation. It seemed the 1A seated F/a used to be SFO based living in Saratoga, a San Jose suburb (where my friend Josh lives when he isn’t in school). After a while though, she couldn’t take the commute anymore so she moved over to Boston. The Eagle f/a was a twice furloughed ex-AA f/a who had moved onto Eagle. When the 1A seated f/a asked her if a lot of people who were furloughed were now at Eagle and Wendy said she didn’t know. I then spoke up and said that a lot of Eagle employees made a career out of Eagle and didn’t use it as a stepping stone to the majors like at other airlines. Soon enough talks of furloughing gave way to Republic Airport and then over the marshes where I hear mob witnesses sleep eternally. Once down we repeated the same taxi from two days ago. This left me to make a bit of a walk over to T8 for the last leg of a very long week.
Scheduled Arrival: 5:15 PM
Actual Arrival: 5:06 PM
Gate 40E
American Flight 299
Scheduled Departure: 6:00 PM
Scheduled Board: 5:30 PM

I shouldered both my backpack and duffle bag and made the reverse trip of two days ago by walking under the Airtrain and upper-roadway all the way to Terminal 8. After setting off the metal detector and putting my belt and watch back on I headed out to gate 4X. 4X isn’t really a gate. It is a door across from Gate 4 which means before boarding a flight you sit with the passengers who are leaving from Gate 4. Why it was built like this I don’t know but it was. Once at the gate, despite it being 5 minutes to scheduled boarding time, they’d already boarded all groups, all rows. This meant I was able to just stroll on board and grab a white bag of Bistro. Because of the early boarding time I was part of the last 30 to board:

Gate 4X
Seat 10A Main Cabin – Exit Row
Actual Board: 5:25 PM
Actual Depart: 6:02 PM – 2 Minutes Delayed
Take off 43 minutes after departure

While waiting to head back to coach I noticed the seats were the newer version seen on the MD-80’s, just without headrests. When I remarked on this to the f/a, she said that they’d put seats back in this aircraft, but only on this aircraft she assured me. Not so I said, you’re forgetting the A-300’s. To this she looked annoyed and told me she didn’t fly those. That put me in my place.

The plane filled up to about 85% capacity but luckily 10B was open allowing me a more enjoyable flight. Now we pushed back relatively on time but something happened between that and take off. There was a large line for take off so I leaned my head on the window. When I had fallen asleep I expected to be airborne when I awoke, only to find that 40 minutes later we were only just starting the takeoff roll. We weren’t de-iced as it was above freezing and not precipitating so the delay must have been large amounts of traffic. I didn’t realize lines got this long on Saturday evening’s. Now that we were finally off, I was treated to the sight of a deep blue sky with just the hint of fading sunrays in the extreme west. This was a final glorious sight to end my long trip.

Shortly thereafter I was handed a Dr. Pepper as well as a second Bistro Bag by the woman in 9B. She told me she’d rather eat what she’d bought at the airport. It was a win for all those involved as I got more turkey, cheddar and Dijonaise (mixed with Ruffles plain, carrots and brownie) and she got to feel happy. While noshing, I watched “Sleepers” on my laptop until it ran out of batteries. After that I felt sleep was in order yet no pillows had been placed anywhere in the cabin or in the bins that I saw. When I paged the f/a, she said that there were no pillows but she’d try on a blanket. She spent two minutes scouring the plane until she brought me one. She even delivered it with a smile. I hope she realized my thanks was real, the woman had actually seemed offended AA hadn’t given her pillows. She also truly made it her goal to find me that blanket, which is the level of service we all can expect from an airline.

And then once again I was awoken to sounds of “Flight attendants prepare for landing” and views of the Arizona State campus including my dorm delighted my eyes. We touched down and pulled up to the gate and once in the Jetway I felt that hot but not sticky yet sweet Arizona air. Home again at last after 11,716 miles crossing this great country.
Scheduled Arrival: 9:41 PM
Actual Arrival: 9:27 PM
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