Karnes City – San Antonio
As blogged before, I had quite a few butterflies in my tummy on the day of our leaving for England/Scotland and was awake early.
As we had planned, shortly after 8 a.m. I took Sally and Chiquita to our vet, Dr. Patton, for boarding, and then we tidied up everything here and packed the last few items, among others my laptop. Quite early, in fact even shortly before 10 a.m., Mary’s cousin Margaret showed up to take us to the airport in San Antonio. As that was after the morning rush hour, we didn’t have to worry about missing our plane for Houston [departure 01:40 p.m.] because of too much traffic. I know, it looks like it’s quite over the top to leave from here at 10 in the morning for a plane departing San Antonio at 1:40 in the afternoon, especially as it usually takes just over one hour to get there, but that’s the way I am: I always want to have plenty of time to spare as one never knows what might happen on the way. And isn’t one supposed to be at the airport 2 hours early for international flights?
San Antonio – at the Airport
In any case, we were at the airport at Terminal 2 with ample time to spare, shortly after 11 a.m., and as both checking-in [we had already printed our boarding-passes the day before at home; well, Mary’s at least as mine didn’t work since I would still have to pass the “face control” 😉 for whatever reason] and security went quickly, we had time enough for a leisurely second breakfast – or early lunch – before we ambled over to the gate to wait for boarding to begin. Mary had a broccoli-cheese-soup and I had a yummy and fairly mild chili.
San Antonio – Houston
Our plane [if I remember correctly, an Embraer RJ 145], for Houston was fairly small with just 3 seats per row but that’s usual on that leg. We left the gate at 1319 hours, with a short delay of about 8 minutes, but we were in Houston 8 minutes early, at 14:04. We arrived in a corner of Houston’s G.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport that looked more like a third-world airport than like one of the nation’s biggest. Mary wrote in her diary, “We are in an area of the airport that looks as if we’ve landed in Podunk, East TX! We disembark on the outside via wide stepladder and we walk short distance to warehouse-looking building.”
On foot and by skytrain – or whatever they call that people-mover in Houston – we went to our departure gate. This time, as is usual on the way out, we didn’t have to go through security again. We wandered about some in Terminal E and looked about – as we had time a-plenty since our flight for Heathrow would was scheduled to leave at 1805 hours only. Then, while I sat down at the gate, Mary walked around some more, and also downloaded her boarding-pass onto her Smartphone. And, as we’d have to wait some more time for our supper [we had calculated we’d get some food on board the plane about two hours after take-off] we had some more nourishment at Starbuck’s: Mary a slice of blueberry cake and I an oatmeal-raisin cookie and a tall vanilla latte.
Houston – London
This time we didn’t fly Lufthansa, btw, since with them we’d have had to fly via Frankfurt and thus would have had another stop plus a longer time of travelling. We had decided to fly United Airlines, Lufthansa’s Star Alliance partner, which offer a direct flight from Houston into London/Heathrow.
Problems on Board after/while Boarding
Our plane from Houston to Heathrow, a somewhat ancient and worn-looking Boeing [I don’t remember the exact type], was fairly cramped and, to tell the truth, somewhat decrepit, too. Plenty of spots would have needed a new coat of paint, and the interior panels in the cabin did not only show clear signs of wear and tear but appeared to be quite rickety with panels loose in various places. In addition to that the overhead bins for our carry-on luggage were not the usual modern standard, which I’m used to from travelling on Lufthansa’s Airbuses, in size. My carry-on, which is really not excessive in size but of air-travel-compliant dimensions and which I’ve always been able to fit in the overhead bins except on those smaller feeder jets like that one from San Antonio to Houston [but on these planes my carry-on is regularly checked on the jetway anyway and put in the hold when I board] didn’t fit – neither could I stow it in the overhead bins nor under the seat in front of me, so that I was forced to have it checked and stowed in the luggage hold in the belly of the plane, which meant that during our flight of about 9 hours I would not be able to get at anything in the carry-on which I might want or need while flying. In addition to that the personnel was not overly friendly nor exceedingly helpful, to say the least. The flight attendant I asked to help me only answered that there were still empty overhead bins and then just left. I couldn’t help commenting that I wasn’t used to this from Lufthansa. And I got so furious that I simply put my carry-on in the middle of the aisle until a different flight attendant came by and took care of it, which means, checking it. I must admit that later that first stewardess came and apologized. But still: that’s not the service I expect. And another negative remark: United Airlines seems to economize as regards cabin personnel. Whereas it us usual on Lufthansa flights for always two flight attendants to hand out food and drinks, it was only one with United, which slowed down the process considerably.
My conclusion from this flight, even if on the way back we were on an absolutely new and modern “Dreamliner” [more about that in a later posting] and that experience was better in every regard – well, except for the number of cabin attendants: in future I’ll try to fly Lufthansa whenever possible, even if that means another stop and a longer time of travelling.
Comfort on Board
We had quite a bit of leg-room, as when checking-in online I had discovered that, for an additional fee of about $130/person, we could upgrade to “Economy Plus“, where the seats are farther apart. The greater comfort was well worth the additional expense, I think.
At 2 past 6 in the evening, i.e. 3 minutes earlier than our planned departure time, we left the gate, and shortly after that we were in the air, and were soon notified by the pilot that, because of a goodish tailwind we’d be in London about 30 minutes early [at 09:10 instead of 09:40]. That was good news. For supper we were served chicken with rice and veggies for Mary and beef cannelloni for me – a fairly usual fare on board a plane, nothing fancy but edible. Only the bread roll we got with it was not too tasty, to say the least. I said that the baker who did it couldn’t decide whether to create a hard bread dumpling or a doughy bread roll. Mary, btw, didn’t eat hers.
While then I slept quite a lot on the plane, Mary read a book, since the choice of movies, in her words, was “lousy”, and she usually is unable to sleep on a plane.
The flight was, btw, calm and uneventful and we arrived, after a snack [again not exactly of superior quality] for breakfast, slightly ahead of our scheduled time in Heathrow.
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