Returning to the family, the Supertramp way

by Charles M. Kunz

Remember the lyrics of that old drinking song that got featured in the movie Jaws ? The lyrics went “Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I want to go to bed”. Well I feel I can apply that to my life right about now. One semester is over of my college life at Arizona State, and although I was very happy to move out to Tempe and still am, the one month reprieve will be quite good for me. Still, there are people back in AZ I will miss for the month I’m gone, but they should be there when I get back.

American Flight 1060
Scheduled Departure: 7:56 AM
Scheduled Board: 7:26 AM

“What are you doing Charles?” I thought when the rude awakening (literally) came at 5 in the morning. “Oh yeah, requalifying for Platinum!” These 6,099 Qualifying Miles ought to due the trick I figured as I blindly stumbled through the early morning motions. I shouldered my two bags and headed out the front door, usually I could take the side door in the stairwell to save time but I wanted to see the lobby one last time for the next month. After that little piece of sentimental goodbye I headed out and took my place next to the little parking lot that adorns East University Drive in front of the dorm. I was worrying a little as I had made a Supershuttle Reservation (through America for fifty Flightfund Miles) which left me wondering if the guy could find the parking lot. It turned out I wasted perspiration over nothing as the driver showed up a minute early. I pilled into the van and in twenty minutes I was at Terminal 3, not a great place to start the day at but I was seeing most of American’s Airports today, five in fact in three time zones. Oh before I forget, my routing is PHX-ORD-MCI-DFW-SNA-JFK.

Previously I had only flown out of Terminal 3 once (last year, PHX-STL-LGA) and back then I had checked in at the gate, unfortunately that is no longer an option so I was expecting little in the way of agreeable check-ins. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised, two manned coach desks, five e-ticket check-in machines and two manned First Class Desks. I was at the First Class desk within a minute of getting into line and I got ready for what I knew would be an amusing encounter based on my routing. When the agent asked me where I was headed I said “Eventually New York-Kennedy, but wait until you take a look at this.” As soon as she saw it her eyes widened and she called a supervisor over to have a look at the computer screen. Once the inevitable “why?” question was raised I said that AAdvantage Platinum meant a lot to me and she chuckled and handed me a ticket folder packed with enough boarding passes to make even an FAA Inspector grumble at the impending bad day.

Everyone who travels as much as we do knows that sustenance is the name of the game, when you get a chance to eat, you do. As my routing was mainly in American Coach in the year 2003, I knew I was looking forward to one granola bar, a few packs of pretzels and honey roasted almonds and a bistro bag. And that was spaced out over twenty hours. So when I saw a Starbucks, I knew what I had to do. Bravely and boldly I handed over a five dollar bill and a fistful of change and got a Tall Coffee and a Bagel. I sat and enjoyed the food while watching traffic below on the access road to T3 and T2, now here’s a quandary, why isn’t there ever a Hertz Bus when you need one, but when you don’t, at least four drive by?

Now I didn’t know there was an Elite Security Line at PHX, so I joined the end of the line for the two metal detectors but as it turned out, after a TSA Agent inspected my boarding pass and pointed me in the right direction, I learned the detector on the left is for Elites/First Class. I like this place better already. What I don’t like is the lack of an Admirals Club, with two new transcons coming I feel it would be prudent to open up a new one. But as George Bush Senior was parodied as saying in Saturday Night Live, I have a feeling they’re “not gonna do it.” So my black card remained in my right hip pocket and settled down in a gray seat to read the USA Today. I must say my timing skills are impeccable, by the time I finished the last movie review they called First Class followed by group one for.

Gate 6
Seat 9F Main Cabin
Actual Board: 7:29 AM
Actual Depart: 7:53 AM – 3 Minutes Early
Take off 9 minutes after departure

I boarded past a full First Class cabin and sat in the empty Main Cabin, unfortunately life imitated art and the Main Cabin filled up to capacity much like its forward sibling. Seated next to me was a business man in 9D on his cell phone with hands-free earpiece. I probably should look into getting one of those as New York State Law says no hand-held cell phones while driving. 9E held a nice looking young woman who seemed rather tired. I know some people on this board like Elton ( Seat 2A ) would have struck up a conversation and found out what interesting stories these people could tell us but I’m not like that (although I admire and get to enjoy thanks to this board how he is the opposite). On flights I’m rarely the one to initiate conversation, if they start it, I’m happy to carry on a verbal interaction, but usually I don’t like to start them. Once airborne I was treated to the view I had been looking forward to for months, in the morning Phoenix takeoffs usually go over North Campus right above University Drive. This meant I flew directly over my dorm and was treated to a perfect view of all of campus. Seeing the school from the air with some of the first sun to ever grace 12/18/2003 gave me a feeling a good feeling that no cries of “but it’s a party school” could ever touch. It has been an interesting four months; I met people, dated girls, made friends, did well, and so forth. This can’t be reflected adequately on paper and I know people don’t see either me or my classmates as smart but I found my fit. That means something more then a 1600 on an SAT could ever to me.

Soon the drink cart came around, I knew what I was going to get, a full can of Cran-apple and the standard Granola Bar. Let’s see, in February the flavor was Apple, in June it was Chocolate Chip, November brought Cinnamon Sugar and this months flavor is… OATMEL RASIN! My brother says I fly too much from these kind of comments but I can’t help being observant. I decided to tackle the Skymall holiday season edition, I don’t think a $3,995 (plus shipping) grille will make my dad love me anymore, but maybe that’s why I went about 2,200 miles away from home for college. Our pilot today was quite the tour guide; he pointed out Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos, NM as we passed them and coupled with the lovely cloudless sky left me enjoying the view. Soon though I slept and when I awoke connecting information was being announced for Chicago. Nothing like a power nap to get me ready for a few segments! I had checked earlier and it looked like the connection was going to be H11A to H4, the f/a confirmed this and I breathed a little easier. Due to American rescheduling my entire ticket, I had a thirty-seven minute connection time and I didn’t quite Letter in Track in my RHS days. Soon we glided over what I think to be the 294 and then touched down next to the M concourse. It was derelict save for a UA and BA 777 with a KE 747-400. Wait a minute, the f/a said H11A, why are we making a right turn in between the H and K concourses? Oh wait, unannounced and unexplained Gate change, typical.

Scheduled Arrival: 12:14 PM
Actual Arrival: 12:03 PM
Gate K8

American Flight 1187
Scheduled Departure: 12:51 PM
Scheduled Board: 12:21 PM

Once out of the jet way I hit the concourse at a brisk pace, I was a man on a mission, a mission to not misconnect and get prime overhead bin space. But it had been six hours since that bagel and I was feeling rather hungry. Well thank you Connection Gods, H4 is right by the ORD Food Court! I decided anything with a fork would be ill situated for a flight so a Big Mac and Fries it was. Although I am annoyed, it costs over a dollar less in O’Hare then it does in my home town, shouldn’t that be the other way around? I parked myself at the gate where three Marines were preboared before First Class passengers, had it been anyone else I would be been insulted, but I am a prime supporter of our Armed Forces so they can board before me darn it! It seemed that the other passengers disagreed as there was plenty of groaning. Still shortly I had my boarding pass in the machine and was onboard another MD-80.

Gate H4
Seat 5A First Class
MD-80 N484AA
Actual Board: 12:25 PM
Actual Depart: 12:47 PM – 4 Minutes Early
Take off 9 minutes after departure

Unfortunately, Sean ( B747-437B ) is out of town so I didn’t have anyone running Mission Control for me behind the scenes. I did have my friend Josh worrying about my connection though so I was able to drop a line to him just to let him know that it looked like I was going to make my tight connection. It almost appeared that I was wrong as the tug driver came running after our plane gesticulating back at the gate, then he seemed to change his mind and he waved us to go take off. At the time I didn’t care I was only thrilled I wouldn’t misconnect but now I have to wonder why he figured we had to return to H4. Still we were off the ground and I’m alive to write this trip report so it appears nothing happened. The flight was standard issue short mileage First Class MD-80’s, a full can of whatever I wanted to drink, plus the cup of pre-departure drink earlier, and a tray of Honey Roasted Almonds and Pretzels (“take all you want”). The flight passed by quickly as I read the American Way doing well on the crossword puzzle and Mensa Quiz. My self-pride later diminished as my dad who had gone to Boston this week said how easy how he found the crossword puzzle. I had previously only used MCI once so I didn’t know much about the approach but it was a nice one, brown farmland gave way to Interstate Highways and a nice downtown and after a hard right turn near Downtown Kansas City Airport, residential neighborhoods reemerged and we touched down near the old TWA m/x base. When I had last utilized this so called “International” airport there were old DC-9’s and 727’s stacked over there with the old scheme collecting dust, now it was several 757s and an odd MD-80 in American scheme, most of them missing engines. How things change.

Scheduled Arrival: 2:18 PM
Actual Arrival: 2:02 PM
Gate 78

American Flight 2925
Scheduled Departure: 3:14 PM
Scheduled Board: 2:44 PM

As I mentioned before my experience with Kansas City Intl (as it’s printed on AA boarding passes) was limited to an inbound with WN and an outbound with CO, I had also sat at the Admirals Club but this was four years ago and I didn’t remember much. Thankfully a Flyertalk post cleared up most of my questions and I was able to get my bearings upon stepping out into the terminal. I still do not understand the idea behind this airport, lots of little secure areas instead of one large one? Was there some smoke filled back room where a man with big beefy arms with his shirtsleeves rolled up said “Don’t let them get to the bathroom without leaving security”? I’ll never know. I headed upstairs to the temporary Admirals Club and upon entering it I thought I’d stumbled into an office party. The room held about fifty people, a lot standing up milling around, the rest situated in small groups huddled low over rickety tables. In the right corner was the bar, which consisted of two folding tables with coffee dispensers and cans of drinks. A “may I help you sir?” snapped me out of my fog and I presented my card and was told my DFW flight was running fifteen minutes delayed due to ATC Problems in Chicago.

After wending my way to the left side of the room I realized why N951U told me this Admirals Club had the best staff. A woman came over, took my drink order and brought it back to me with a bag of pretzels. When she realized I didn’t have a table she went into the back room and got one for me. Every time I go to an Admirals Club I remember why I spent the $350 to get a membership and I’d gladly pay more just to be helped by some of the best staff in the American family.

After a pleasant half an hour I decided to get to the gate. For some reason I managed to set off the metal detector even though I hadn’t in Phoenix and if anything I had less to set it off this time. The TSA who did the wanding had a strange mannerism, as he moved around me with his intrusive device he would say things like “going up yer back, now around yer right arm.” He also noticed the Canadian Flag Pin on my SF Giants hat and said “Never been to Canada, I hear its real beautiful like.” I resisted the urge to ask him if he’d ever left the state, but there was no reason to be snide as he was just doing his job (and doing it well too). The scene that greeted me at Gate 79 was not one I wanted to see, the place was teaming, almost all seats filled, haggard agents presiding over the mess and no plane. Then at 3:01 our MD-80 rolled in, about when we’d be getting ready to push back had things proceeded normally. The first person to board was an FAA Inspector who was jump seating, I called after him to “inspect the plane some IFE” but he either didn’t hear me or ignored me, probably number two.

Gate 79
Seat 5F First Class
Actual Board: 3:15 PM
Actual Depart: 3:53 PM – 39 Minutes Delayed
Take off 11 minutes after departure

The flight attendants did their darndest to get us off the ground quickly so those with tight connections at Dallas could make them, unfortunately it seemed the passengers wanted to fight her. Half of them had wandered away from the gate and had to be found, the ones that did get on board seemed to have brought half of the Samsonites in Missouri with them and fights over the bins raged. Pre-departure drinks were and in fact could not be served as the aisles were jam packed even after the door was shut. Once we taxied and took off I took a moment to inspect the rest of First Class, I was greeted with a rather odd assortment of Premium Cabin Passengers. 5B held a man in overalls who seemed to know everyone who got on board as he would call out and exchange “how ya doins?” 4A had a man in a wife beater with tattoos who went nuts on the free beer, how can someone down three cans of Bud Light with an announced flying time of 1:06? Next to me was a business man who worked the first half of the flight, then pulled out his bible and a questionnaire marked “How can I get closer to the Lord?” He began to fill out answers and I decided he didn’t want my help. Service on this flight was a little worse then what I’m used to in AA First, drinks only, no munchies and other then Beer Slinger who shouted for more brew constantly, there was no other passes by the F/a. Still I enjoyed the comfortable ex-TWA seat while I read The Nanny Diaries which my ex-girl friend from back home recommended. The book is actually ideally suited for travel and I recommend it.

Soon connecting info was announced, I had a ticketed 75 minute connection but I knew it had been shaved down to around 45 now and I was hoping for a quick transfer and that was what I got. A long sigh of relief came from me as I heard C15 to C11, no person alive wants to see me attempt to run, let alone me attempt to run with a duffle bag and laptop bag. And then the wheels found their purchase and it was time number five for me at Dallas this year, I really know this place too **** well I think.

Scheduled Arrival: 4:52 PM
Actual Arrival: 5:25 PM
Gate C15

American Flight 1221
Scheduled Departure: 6:05 PM
Scheduled Board: 5:35 PM

Aw fudgenuts was my first thought when I realized I was in one of those infernal jetways that goes on and on and on with no end in sight, much like Interstate 80 in rural PA. After a hard right I got to the gate and I heard exactly what I was expecting, the flight was full, they needed volunteers and they would award a $200 travel voucher to the lucky few. I decided that as this was Yuletide season, I should try for it. I handed the g/a my two boarding passes and said if they could get me to SNA and give me accommodations there and a seat on the early morning SNA-JFK I would do it. He told me he’d see what he could do and for a while I thought I was in luck. I watched as standby passengers were all given seats and then I got the call for “Passengers … and “Koontz”” to approach the podium. I decided not to point out there wasn’t a –t in my name. He told me and the other passenger that he didn’t need our seats and then it hit me, where was I going to stash my two bags? I was in an exit row. Oh well I’d figure it out.

Gate C11
Seat 10F Main Cabin – Exit Row
757-200 N718TW
Actual Board: 5:35 PM
Actual Depart: 6:08 PM – 3 Minutes Delayed
Take off 17 minutes after departure

Once in the Jetway I remembered how great having Group 1 privileges was as the place was packed with families checking strollers and toddlers being cajoled into booster seats. While waiting I noticed the person in front of me was accessing Flyertalk from his laptop, he said he just read the site but I hope he reads this report although I do wish I had his seat in First. Once on board my worst fears were realized, every seat taken and I was the last on the plane and my bag was huge. I managed to get the laptop bag stashed above row 17 with little difficulty and I decided that I had to be on a roll so bravely I headed for the back of the plane. I had reached row 34 and I figured my luck had run out when I found an f/a and asked her if there was anywhere I could put my second bag. My heart goes out to her as she emptied pillows and blankets from an overhead and told me I could try and fit it in the last bin on the plane. I was so happy when the lid shut I clamped her on the shoulder and broke into a huge smile. Although my bags were far away from where I was seated and I’d be the last off in SNA, I was just glad they wouldn’t be riding beneath my feet, otherwise I couldn’t say I was the only person to fly out of my dorm without checking a bag (a big feat I do think!)

And then we were off with nothing to keep me company in my seat but my book and a Bistro Bag. Now once airborne I wasn’t expecting too much from my White Bag of Wonder as I think Bistro Breakfasts can go soak their heads but I was pleasantly surprised. A turkey and American cheese sandwich with Dijonaise, baby carrots, Ruffles original and Double Chocolate Crunch Bar greeted me. I polished off one with ease and requested another to accompany the beverage of my choice (Dr. Pepper). I was hoping for a movie on this flight but then I remembered my headphones were 7 rows aft and I was NOT spending two bucks to see some edited junk anyway so I spent the entire flight finishing up most of my book. It turns out the flight only offered Eye on American which I could gladly skip, even if I had the headphones. I was hoping we’d chase the sun to Orange County but all I got to see was a tiny bit of light off in the distance, not the solar spectacle I was hoping for. Tangent time, AA seems rather inconsistent with the designation for our destination, the printed boarding passes from ticket desks list it as “John Wayne” while on it’s “Orange County” and the ones from the ticket machines say “Orange Cty” I dislike inconsistency.

Feeling very much alone as I was in the middle of a plane surrounded by no one I knew and without most of my possession I began to stare at the ground and ponder. My thoughts turned to women as they so often did and for a moment I lamented on my recent loss of a girl I cared very much about, then what the future held for me and the ladies, but the announcement of final approach shook those thoughts from my head, safe for another night flight. Unfortunately I think the pilot’s mind was also elsewhere as he touched down too far on the runway and had to apply a full reverse, we only just stopped at the last taxiway turn off. The taxi to the terminal was abnormally slow as I believe there was traffic in front of us and instead of keeping us updated, the P/A began to play a rather odd assortment of music. There was some pop, some soft rock and some country; I have only heard this on ex-TWA 757s. And then we were parked and I stood next to door 2R and watched everyone leave, after fifteen minutes I went to the back and collected my bags and walked out talking to an F/a who was fascinated my day had started in Phoenix, I was now in Orange County and would soon be in New York, ahh all in the life of a young Platinum. My life reminds me of that Styx song “Too Much Time on my Hands” only the protagonist in that song spends his time drinking and I spend mine accruing FF miles.

Scheduled Arrival: 7:15 PM
Actual Arrival: 7:23 PM
Gate 8

American Flight 272
Scheduled Departure: 9:15 PM
Scheduled Board: 8:45 PM

After getting my card swiped and being told I was “all set” I walked into the lounge and instantly stopped to do a double take. The entire room consisted of a bar, around eighty chairs and a bank of computers but that wasn’t what stopped me, there were no walls, instead just glass panels meaning the entire club was up for surveillance from Gate 8, several ticket counters and a variety of Ground Transportation desks. All that was missing was a sign saying “Frequent Flyers in their Natural Habitat.” I was reminded of the Twilight Zone episode where an astronaut finds himself in a similar situation, at least in our case we weren’t being held against our will. Analogies aside I went and used a computer and sipped complimentary beverages until it was near time to go, as I had never seen this airport before I wanted to get a look around the terminal for a while. On the way out I asked to have 12E blocked and the woman at the desk after much typing said “there it’s now listed as undesirable.” I’ve given thought to getting my foot in the aviation door and one of the fields I felt I could start as a Gate Agent but watching various agents over the course of a year work I wonder if I could do it, there seems to be no pattern or logic to the keys that they press, I don’t know if I could keep up.

Taking a look down the long terminal I felt like I was a bullet in a pistol. The site of a long concrete tunnel stretching on for yards and yards is a strange sight to a weary traveler such as myself, I decided that I was in no mood to explore and Orange County has the “good” airport seats as I call them (the black ones opposed to the gray ones). Soon enough it was time for me to board and my little sojourn was about to end.

Gate 9
Seat 12F Main Cabin
Actual Board: 8:38 PM
Actual Depart: 9:07 PM – 8 Minutes Early
Take off 9 minutes after departure

I was impressed by the gate agents and flight attendants getting our plane ready to go and the early boarding lead to an early departure and then we were pushed back and taxing out to the lone runway. On the way out to the runway the pilot had an interesting announcement that was new to me as I’d never utilized John Wayne before. He informed us that due to noise abatement procedures we would hold on the threshold, run the engines to 100%, take off at a steep angle and then once at one thousand feet cut power to 25% until over the ocean. He assured us that this was perfectly normal and we shouldn’t worry about the sudden loss of noise, I was reminded of the book Airport. As much as those books are lauded for being inane, they do teach you quite a lot as their authors research their facts. The take off was quite impressive, the full powered lift, then the reduced power causing a bit of a drop, then the swing out over the Pacific at Night, it was absolutely stunning. I have yet to find an airport in California that doesn’t give an impressive take off, and I’ve used LAX, SAN, SFO, SJC and SNA.

Right after takeoff an f/a said “once we reach a cruising altitude we will be in the cabin to serve you your choice of beverage and a light dinner.” Food! I don’t remember this being listed as a meal flight. Unfortunately before I could start dreaming of chicken or beef, another flight attendant said “There will be NO meal in coach” and my dreams crumbled in front of me much as they had for the CEO of Valu-Jet. Still, we received a little white bag with two crackers, “vegetable cheese spread for bagels” and two Milanos. This would have been perfect had the cheese spread not been sans knife and every time I stuck a cracker in the spread it broke. I remember back in the day when I could at least get a plastic knife, but hey, at least we got some sort of food to go along with a drink.

After an hour and a half and a Styx CD the last eighteen hours at airports and on aircraft caught up to me. I stretched myself out across my two seats but the darned TV screen showing “Seabiscut” gave me a harsh glare so I took the advice of a trusted friend and put a blanket over my head. Three hours later I woke up over the Atlantic Ocean just off Rockaway. This was definitely an improvement over my other redeye last month where I spent the entire flight straight as a board in my seat. Sometime during my snoozing I crossed 50,000 YTD Qualifying Miles, I will be Platinum again through 2/05. Soon we were down on the numbers and we had a quick taxi to the International Terminal, we got in early and a brisk walk from the end of the concourse to the main part of the terminal would wake me up, once again I had arrived home and this time, New York was going to have to put up with me for a full twenty-nine days, good luck Empire State!

Scheduled Arrival: 5:16 AM
Actual Arrival: 5:07 PM
Gate 8

I was still tired and the Admirals Club was waiting with a hot shower (albeit with only one towel) and plenty of coffee, OJ and bagels. Now as it was early on a weekday and my dad was off doing whatever New York Corporate Lawyers do, I had to rely on my two favorite friends, the New York City Transit Authority and the Port Authority of NY/NJ. Today was going to be my first ride on the Airtrain, ever since the construction had begun in the late 90’s I had been looking forward to avoiding the Van Wyck. Unfortunately, AA didn’t seem ready for the Airtrain as there were no signs in the terminals pointing the way to go, but I know Kennedy like some men know their wives, inside AND out  I knew I could walk out and across the roadway and grab an elevator up to the platform. I hopped on the train and was instantly reminded of the Newark Monorail except for not having individual compartments. The train was quiet, clean, fast and efficient. I was able to make it to Jamaica Station in about seven minutes. Unfortunately I had to pay $5 to get out of the terminal and the transfer to the Subway was not efficient, I had to walk outside and get freezing cold before I made it into the warmth of the tunnels. Soon I was at Grand Central, and then on a commuter train to the suburbs and then I was back home and you know what? It’s good to be home! Home       Trip Reports Index       Whine And Cheez Index       Discussion Forums

Copyright  © 2001- 2013 Sean Mendis. Unless otherwise stated, the contents of this site including, but not limited to, the text and images contained herein and their arrangement are the property of the site owner. All content on the discussion forums is the responsibility of the respective posters and the site owner bears no responsibility. All trademarks used or referred to in this website are the property of their respective owners. Contact with any comments/questions about this site or its content.