Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of place & home

Posts tagged ‘flights’

SFO International Terminal, Wikipedia by user Coolcaesar, CC3 license, fotoeins.com

10600 km and 47 consecutive hours of travel, door-to-door

A trip from North America to Chile typically takes 24 to 30 hours door-to-door, depending upon connections at a hub airport. The following is a tale of 47 hours of travel from San Francisco, California to La Serena, Chile.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

1030h PST (GMT-8), East Bay : BART from El Cerrito Plaza to SFO.  There’s a lot to like about BART rapid-transit, especially when the train goes through the tunnel beyond San Bruno and comes out onto a thin cement viaduct which appears to hang gingerly over US-101/Bayshore Freeway.

1230h PST, SFO (San Francisco Airport) : plane is late; scheduled departure delayed by 30 min.  It’s raining and the ceiling or cloud-deck is low over San Francisco airport – no big surprise there.

1400h PST, SFO : after some problems which had nothing to do with the plane itself, flight leaves 45 min late.  No problem; I’ve a scheduled 2.5-hour layover in Dallas.

1600h PST, in the air over eastern California : plane descends below cruising altitude, we’re told we’ve got a problem with cabin pressure, and we’re landing in Las Vegas.  No oxygen masks were deployed, and everybody was calm and breathing normally.

1645h MST (GMT-8), LAS (Las Vegas McCarran Airport) : Checkmark one – plane lands safely at Las Vegas airport.  The pilot explains there was slow pressure leakage, but they couldn’t localize the origin; for safety reasons, the pilot decided to descend and land.  All pax are asked to leave the plane, as firemen/safety crew board the plane.  Checkmark two – we get to leave the plane, and everyone’s in the terminal.

1730h MST, LAS : I call American Airlines’ call center to find out if there are other options, but since I checked luggage, the agent advises best to stay put and see what happens.  Besides, the daily AA945 DFW to SCL flight, which usually leaves at 9pm from Dallas and I thought I was going to miss, has been delayed by 11 hours to 8am the following morning.   Someone comments that it’s a holiday weekend in the U.S. about which I had completely forgotten.  Swell.

1930h MST, LAS : after a couple of hours of increasingly cautious optimism, we’ve the green light to fly onto DFW. We’re asked to board the plane “quickly”, as the present crew is about to reach their time-limit.

2030h MST, somewhere between Arizona and Texas : … zzzzz …

2330h CST (GMT-6), DFW (Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport) : plane lands at Dallas Fort-Worth airport.  Pax are given hotel/meal vouchers, and the weary folks pile into shuttles, and pour out into the lobby of the Ramada (DFW North).  Oh look, there’s a Denny’s, but I’m too tired to even think about chicken-fried steak and a milkshake. I’ll be up at 0530h to catch the 0615h morning shuttle back to DFW to see if I can catch my delayed morning-flight to SCL …

Friday, January 14

0630h CST, DFW : Time to check in.  The nice agent says my DFW-SCL portion was canceled when I called American Airlines call center from Las Vegas last night.  Yikes.  “No worry”, she says.  She calls a couple of people to get the proper seating codes, and she calmly types away, trying to insert my two final flight segments ‘back’ into the itinerary.  After about 15 minutes, there’s an “aha!” from her side of the counter, and I sigh with relief.

0830h CST, DFW : Flight AA945 is on its way to Santiago de Chile.  It’s just another step forward, even if the “step” is 7800 kilometres in distance. Completely uneventful flight, and zzzzz …

2015h CLST (GMT-3), SCL (Santiago airport) : Usually, flight AA945 is an overnight flight which arrives in Santiago after sunrise. The 11.5-hour delay has flipped the script. With a beautiful orange-hue to the early-evening summer sky, the plane lands safely in Santiago airport. Border control is a breeze (with my Chilean work visa), and my luggage is already on the carousel. So far, so good. My work-colleague P was also on the Dallas-Santiago flight, and thanks to his vastly superior Spanish, we try to get the attention of an AA agent to see if we can get our hotel/meal vouchers, because there’s no way we’re flying to La Serena tonight.  An agent tells us his colleague will be on their way shortly.  We head on over to the AA counter near the luggage carousels.  Another agent comes by about 15 minutes later, and asks us to wait in the terminal land-side, outside customs control.  Customs is a breeze, because I declared my one jar of strawberry jam : no granola, seeds, or turtle-shells.  And then we wait, and we wait some more …

2145h CLST, SCL : The second AA agent finally appears with our hotel/meal/travel vouchers, and we find out we’re staying at the Sheraton San Cristobal on the southeastern flank of the hill at the edge of Bellavista in Santiago.  We get our shuttle-vouchers verified, and we get multiple slips of paper for our shuttles to and from the hotel.

2230h CLST, SCL : After the usual wait about what shuttle we’re taking and about how full our shuttle is going to be, our vehicle finally leaves the airport.  As there are three other pax in the shuttle, I tell P we’re probably going to be last.   I was so happy to be wrong as …

2250h CLST, Providencia, Santiago : … we’re dropped off first, and we arrive in the hotel to check-in.  I ask the gentleman at the hotel counter if we can use our meal voucher at one of the hotel restaurants. No, unfortunately, the restaurants are closing in 5 minutes, but the bar is available. OK, whatever : dump stuff in room, head to the bar, please give me a burger, fries, beer. Eat, drink, be merry … zzzzzz …

Saturday, January 15

1030h CLST, Providencia, Santiago : Up at 10am, pack what little I unpacked.  After check-out, I finally get to see how the hotel appears in daylight – not bad, very fancy – nice pool, too, and are … those … Argentinian/Brazilian pool-bunnies? Sadly, before I learn the answer to this very important question, the shuttle arrives to take me back to SCL airport.

1200h CLST, SCL : At Starbuck’s in the airport’s national terminal for their free WiFi, I’ve begun collecting notes to write this story of hilarity.

1400h CLST, LSC (La Serena Airport) : Flight LA312 arrives in LSC early. At the 47th hour of travel, I’m in the apartment at long last: unwrapping, unpacking. I head outside to my green front-lawn, looking up into that bright glowing ball high in the sky. The sky is clear and blue, there’s a slight breeze off the Pacific, and the air temperature on this summer afternoon is a very usable +22C/72F. With a beer in hand, I finally begin to unwind, over 48 hours after leaving my friends’ home in the East Bay.

Less than 24 hours later, I’m on a shuttle up to Cerro Pachon. The mountain is at an elevation of 2800 metres (9000 feet) in the lower Andes, and I’m at the telescope to begin my nighttime duty-function shift for a number of nights. Them’s the breaks, and time to get right back to work, and tackle the 500+ messages in my work mailbox …

LAN plane on tarmac, LSC airport, fotoeins.com

This post was originally posted 17 January 2011, and appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-T.

St. Nicholas Day 2010 (snack, LH flight)

(Written and posted 6 December 2010)

There is snow just about everywhere in central Europe.

With continued light snowfall, a blanket of snow already on the ground, and colourful sparkling lights over streets and at marketplaces, there is a quiet yet festive atmosphere in many cities and towns throughout the continent.

December 6 is known in many places traditionally as Saint Nicholas Day.

On St. Nicholas Day (2010) on-board Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt am Main, the on-board snack arrived differently, delivered in a small white St. Nick’s (Weihnachtsmann) pouch. Inside the pouch were: a small card with a greeting and a description of St. Nicholas’ Day, a cheese sandwich, a package of four small Lebkuchen, a little choco-Weihnachtsmann, and a mandarin orange.

That’s not bad for a snack for a one-hour intra-European flight a couple weeks before Christmas …

St. Nicholas Day, LH1405St. Nicholas Day, LH1405St. Nicholas Day, LH1405St. Nicholas Day, LH1405

The enclosed card from Lufthansa reads in English and German, respectively:

Every year on the 6th of December, it’s an old German custom to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. On that morning St. Nicholas makes the eyes of all good children sparkle with joy. Because on the night before, he came with his big bag of treats and filled their boots with nuts, sweets or little surprises.

We too would like to surprise you on St. Nicholas Day — with this little sachet full of goodies in the spirit of the season. After savoring the treats inside, you’re welcome to take it home as a little memento of the Lufthansa St. Nicholas. Enjoy!

Jedes Jahr am 6. Dezember ist nach deutschem Brauch Nikolaustag. Dann zaubert der Nikolaus am Morgen ein Leuchten in die Augen aller braven Kinder. Denn in der Nacht zuvor kam er mit seinem grossen Sack und füllte Nüsse, Süssigkeiten oder kleine Überraschungen in ihre Stiefel.

Auch wir möchten Sie heute anlässlich des Nikolaustages überraschen — mit diesem kleinen Säckchen voller Leckereien, passend zu den Festtagen. Gerne dürfen Sie es nach dem Geniessen der Köstlichkeiten als kleine Erinnerung an den Lufthansa Nikolaus mit nach Hause nehmen. Viel Vergnügen.

Published initially 6 December 2010 on Posterous, this post has moved and now appears on Fotoeins Fotopress (fotoeins.com).

“My airline is more important than your safety”

I guess when airline companies are on the road to slow economic recovery that a natural event such as a volcano eruption might happen to disrupt even the best of plans … even if volcano eruptions have been occurring since geologic time, and Iceland is a known active volcano zone. I guess as well that companies are just itchy to fly especially after limited test-flights were carried out by BA, LH, and KL. I also guess that companies would prefer to go out and regain their customer base as soon as possible. I suppose that the various agencies which have kept European airspace closed have been “overcautious without the most up-to-date facts”, have been “relying too heavily upon statistical or model data”, and are simply “inconveniencing” stranded customers halfway around the world as well as families of tourists returning from vacation. I might also guess that the companies would like to “blame” these same agencies, and by “natural extension”, the E.U. for economic losses incurred; airline companies are now beginning to look for government help, though the word “demand” comes pretty close. I don’t suppose these various governments would help all companies around the world for their respective losses in productivity or their respective employees for their lost wages …

Should any plane develop trouble going between SFC and FLT 350, I suppose that the first fingers of blame would be pointed at the very same agencies monitoring European airspace. The accusations would fly: the airspace authorities were not sufficiently careful to warn airline companies of the inherent dangers of flying through ash, and these authorities were being careless to put airline-staff and their customers at risk.

Well, I guess if the companies are yelling the loudest, they must all be true, all of the time.

– HL, 2105h GMT, 19 April 2010.

PostScript 1 : 2145h GMT, 19 Apr 2010

See also this BBC article regarding British Airways flight 009 (24 June 1982) and how the Boeing 747 lost all four engines as the plane went into an ash cloud, and the Wikipedia article for more information about the flight.  As always, your kilometrage may vary.

The absurd – MAD, or even FCO, as “major” gateways?

Given the predictions from the UK MetOffice regarding the migration of the ash cloud over Europe and the North Atlantic :

Media_httpwwwmetoffic_atddt

one might imagine that the volcano Eyjafjallajokull will continue to huff and puff for days. The next on offer might be to conceive some interesting options for gateways into the European continent.

If disruptions to flight-ops for LHR, FRA, CDG/ORL, AMS, ZRH, etc. were to continue, one might envision the (crazy?) possibility of using Madrid (MAD) or even Rome (FCO) as alternative gateways into which a number of major transcon flights would enter the European continent, assuming approved ascents and descents between surface and flight-level 35,000 feet (SFC and FLT 350).

As MAD appears to be in a zone relatively free of ash (see UK MetOffice map above), questions raised about the possibility of utilizing MAD as a “high-tier European hub” would include: terminal and facility capacity for increased numbers in inbound/outbound pax, in airline- and ground-staff, as well as gate-capacity and pax-controls (as well as the controlled separation between Schengen and non-Schengen traffic). Since MAD is an Iberia and OneWorld hub and is already served by various AA and IB non-stops (for example, to North- and South America), diverting additional AA, IB, and BA transcon/transat traffic to MAD from LHR or FRA might not seem so problematic. The fun begins when one begins thinking about incorporating operations by other transcon carriers from North America, the Middle East, and Asia, let alone the inclusion of Lufthansa, which operates the lion’s share of air traffic within Europe.

With possible flight-ops restricted to below FLT 200 and to VFR-only ops, “IntraEuropean” flights from MAD to other European cities/capitals would be curtailed and operated at strict frequencies.  It would be like bus-service after all, and I wonder if some of the airlines wouldn’t be going on a run for more smaller/narrow-body planes, or even RJs or turboprops, if the companies could figure out a decent service-plan and a return (if any!) on going to smaller aircraft. The impact on European LCCs would be something to consider, too, but that’s beyond what I had originally in mind …

As a whole, picturing an alternative means of entering Europe in an “ash-free” zone and how the facility like MAD would cope with additional capacity were both worth a moment’s pause.

Yeah, it’s crazy, and I might be wrong, but it’s just a thought.

HL – 0345h GMT, 19 Apr 2010

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