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Old 01-27-2003, 06:31 PM   #1
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AUS to IND for the weekend

Last year I was quite the world traveller. Two trips to Tokyo, countless trips to Europe, and an Australian tour. This year, in sharp relief, I'm "Mister Midwest". My first trip of the year took me to IND, as will my next two scheduled flights. It's amazing how short the flight from IAH to IND feels after you've become conditioned for 14 hour transpac flights. Hardly even long enough to be worth breaking out the laptop and so short that I don't mind the lack of EmPower port!

This trip was non-business, though, which is unusual for me. I got a call from my Mom last week that the documentary produced from the final reunion of the 352nd Fighter Group of the Army Air Corps, my Grandfather's unit in WWII, was complete and would be shown in Louisville. Since I'd been sadly unable to be at the final reunion I was very eager to at least be present at the first showing of the documentary and get a chance to see Grandpa and his mates again (that's him in the middle with the white hair and blue shirt ).

Flights into Louisville were poorly scheduled (and commuter jets!) so I opted to fly into Indy and hitch a ride with my family who were passing through Indy by car on their way to Louisville.

The day got off to a poor start when I realized that my cell phone had died. The handset speaker was completely nonfunctional. What terrible timing! The 17:10 flight out of AUS was late arriving which was worrisome. With only a 39 minute layover in IAH there wasn't much time to spare if all went smoothly and I was concerned that I was probably on the last flight to IND. The plane finally arrived at 16:50, a good ten minutes after boarding was supposed to have started. I inquired with the gate agent if it was a regional delay or just our flight and was told that it was just our flight which was delayed in leaving it's previous location. No joy on hoping for general congestion at IAH which might delay my other flight as well. The agent did volunteer to get me moved closer to the front of the plane to accelerate my egress at IAH, but I'd already been EUA'd to 2E so there wasn't much need for that. It was a considerate and appreciated offer nontheless.

It was 17:40 before they'd managed to clear the plane of the arriving pax, clean it, board us, and finally push back which left me nervous but really is a pretty impressive turnaround considering that the flight was packed full. I didn't have much patience for the late boarders who wasted minutes of my life trying to avoid hand-checking their carryons due to insufficient overhead storage space.

The lateness of our flight must have gotten us priority routing out of AUS and into IAH, we went straight from the gate to takeoff without the usual queuing and waiting I'd expect and the flight pushed the limits of speed expected from a 737. We were touching down at IAH before I knew it, way faster than the flight usually takes. All told, we only touched down twenty minutes late from a thirty minute late departure. I had a brisk but non-stressful 20 minutes to make the walk to my departure gate for the IND segment thanks to my up-front seating.

I was one of the last to board the 737-700 which would be taking me to IND and had to do some creative shuffling of the overhead space in order to wedge my carryon bag in. Some steerage upgraders who clearly weren't up to speed on CO F seating had filled up the overheads with their coats, not knowing that the FAs would be collecting and hanging them, so I had to play coat check coordinator to clear the space I needed. Damn silver elites clogging up the works for us real pax!

The crew for the flight cleary weren't accustomed to the equipment or the route, I watched in amusement for a few minutes while one of the FAs scoured the storage bins for two seat belts and demo masks to perform the safety speech. After a few minutes of this (she had managed to find one seatbelt but not a second) I realized that we were on a video-equipped plane and that the safety demo wouldn't be done by the FAs. I pointed this out to the FA and she blushed and told me I deserved a gold star.

I spent the short flight watching Band of Brothers on DVD (put me in the mood for the reunion) and didn't touch any of the magazines or book that I'd bought in AUS.

Indy was COLD. Snow! Ack! I'm ruined living in AUS and being accustomed to Texas weather.

The drive to Louisville was uneventful, although I managed to do another Strasbourg. On the way down my mom asked me what I'd packed for the dinner. She'd neglected to tell me that it would be a semi-formal affair. First thing Saturday morning in louisville I had to run out and find a store to buy a full outfit (and shoes!) to wear that night. It was a lot easier than Strasbourg, given that the staff spoke English, but was equivalently expensive. I got a nice outfit from the deal, though, and I'll always enjoy wearing it and remembering the weekend.


My Hero

Sunday we drove back to Indy and mom dropped me off at the airport to catch my 18:25 flight home. I napped most of the way to Houston and remember very little from the flight. The meal was the same chicken sandwich and soup that we'd been served on the way there so I declined it and just drank red wine. We arrived at IAH and learned that our intended gate was not available, so we got diverted to the B terminal. I had to ride the little shuttle thing over to the "real" terminal.

My layover in IAH was long, just shy or two hours, so I camped out in the P Club and got online. The airport was completely deserted. Not only is Sunday night normally slow but it was in the midst of the fourth quarter of the super bowl so even fewer people were inclined to be in transit at that time.

I ambled out of the P Club and off to my gate a few minutes early. I suppose I looked like a friendly face as I stood and waited for them to announce boarding because I was approached in broken english by a Korean girl who wanted assistance in using the pay phones to place a call. My last trip was to Tokyo and I still have vivid memories of the discomfort and stress that came with not speaking Japanese and having to navigate and negotiate my way around a foreign city. I had a great deal of empathy for her situation.

I cursed my broken cell phone which would have made the situation trivial to deal with. We walked over to the pay phone and she pulled out an Austin number that she was trying to call and an insufficient pile of change from her coin purse. In the interests of time (boarding was about to begin) I just billed the call to my AmEx and handed the phone to her so she could talk (in Korean) to what was presumably her family in Austin. It was at this point that I noticed that her boarding pass was not for this flight but was for the earlier, already-departed flight to AUS. She'd either been confused or arrived too late to catch her actual flight. There were scribbles on the boarding pass, but it was clear she hadn't made boarding arrangements for this flight (the last flight of the night). Ack!

I hurried over to the gate agent and asked if there was room up front for a plat companion upgrade. She checked and said she could fit someone in and asked to see some boarding passes. By this time the Korean girl was off the phone and was standing looking a bit stressed out. I motioned for her to come over and handed both of our boarding passes to the gate agent.

I got a bit of a grilling and at first the gate agent seemed reluctant to help. "Wait. She's not even supposed to be on this flight? Is she really your companion?" I suspect perhaps she'd observed the phone dealings and realized that we were strangers. I just answered a bit icily "she is now. Can we do this, the flight is about to board" which seemed to quell any remaining hesitancy and a new boarding pass was printed. We were all set! I really fear for what would have happened had I not been around, the Korean girl barely spoke any English. We boarded together and I directed her to her seat (3E, right behind my 2E). She thanked me many times and I felt like quite a hero.

We took off, sat for thirty minutes (enough time for a red wine and some peanuts, but that's about it) and next thing I knew we were in Austin. I made sure my Korean charge made it to baggage claim (her checked luggage arrived with our flight so I presume it was airline delays that caused her to miss the previous flight) and into a Taxi (she had a little slip of paper, clearly prepared by someone else, with "Attention Taxi Driver -- please deliver this person to..." instructions on it). I hopped into my car and zoomed home -- a successful venture.

My next trip, this Thursday, is the same flights to IND but this time for work... As is my next trip, tentatively scheduled for 17-Feb. Hooray for the Circle City.
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Old 01-28-2003, 12:57 AM   #2
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How can the gate agent say she isn't your companion? Can't you make whoever you want your companion?
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Old 01-28-2003, 01:05 AM   #3
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Yep. Who is the airline to say if someone is or is not my companion? Although, to be fair, upgrading a total stranger isn't really in keeping with the spirit of the companion upgrade perk it's certainly not in violation of the rules as CO has written them.

In any event, I feel more than justified in this case. It was simply The Right Thing To Do.
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Old 01-28-2003, 02:33 PM   #4
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Given that there were seats available in F moments before boarding, clearly there was availability that would have gone otherwise unused, so it doesn't really matter to them anyway.

This is especially true since I'm very familiar with the flight in question that you were taking that evening. I've often been one of only two or three other pax in FC on the 738 that serves CO233.
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Old 01-28-2003, 07:56 PM   #5
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1B was empty during the flight, so yeah, you're right.
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Old 10-06-2008, 04:55 AM   #6
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What I needed was a European cell phone I could use during my trips abroad.
And after doing some research I decide to stay with http://callineurope.com/; the rates they offer look more competitive compared to few sources I verified. And I won't have to pay any monthly fees and will be able to reroute my US number.
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