May 242012

Even before the trip began…there was to be drama.  Storms were forecast in the DC to NYC corridor late afternoon, and when that happens flights tend to get really messy really quickly.  Today was to be no exception…my flight was preemptively delayed early morning for 2 hours…pretty much ensuring my 2 hour, 16 minute connection was going to be REALLY close.  However…when it came down to it…the delay shrank to 90 minutes, then 1 hour, then just 30 minutes a couple hours out.  We boarded on time…pulled away from the gate on time…and waited.  Pilot came on 15 minutes later telling us that for flow control, and “confusion with ATC” our new slot time was 90 minutes away…but maybe we’ll get lucky!

In the end, we did get lucky, going wheels up only about 45 minutes after scheduled departure time.

ExpressJet Flight 4695, Operating as United Express
Washington, National (DCA) to Newark, New Jersey (EWR)
Departure 16:59, Arrival 18:14
ERJ-145, Registration N17196
Seat 1A

I know lots of people don’t like the BDJ-145 as it’s affectionately known (Barbie Dream Jet), but I actually don’t mind it at all for short flights.  I almost always have been getting my preferred seat 1A for my regular hops up to Ottawa lately, and it’s a pretty comfortable ride.  With nobody sitting in front of you it’s private and quiet, and all in all…can’t complain.  Crews are usually excellent, and this one was no exception.  I think I got 3-4 refills of Diet Coke, and the 50 minute or so flight was over quite quickly.  Really not much to say – parked at the A gates at Newark, took the shuttle over to the C gates, and had a good 45 minutes in the Presidents Club…er…”United Club” to recharge the iDevices before the long flight.

United Flight 82
Newark, New Jersey (EWR) to Delhi, India (DEL)
Departure 20:30, Arrival 20:15 Next Day, Flight Time:  14:25
Boeing 777-200, Registration N76010
Seat 2E

This was my first time on the ex-Continental 777s with flat bed, and overall I was pretty impressed.  They certainly beat business on the ex-United 777s, mainly because there are no “middle” seats.  For me, most important thing on an overnight is aisle access with nobody climbing over me.  Hence, I don’t like the window sections of two (either I have to climb over someone, or they have to climb over me) and the ex-Continental 777s with two seats in the middle are perfect.  Overall, the hard product here is excellent.  It’s too bad the ex-United planes screwed up business so badly.

Also, this was to be my longest flight ever.  At 7,323 miles it would top my previous longest flight that I had done four times (San Francisco to Hong Kong) which clocked in at “only” 6,914 miles.  With 14:25 of flight time, there would be plenty of time to eat, sleep, watch tv, etc.  One of the most amusing parts of the plane was the entertainment system still was all Continental:

The meal was dragged out for nearly two hours, making it around 3 hours into flight time when I tried to sleep.  Since it was past 11pm on my body clock that wasn’t hard, and I was out for a good 7+ hours.  Woke up, played with the iPad watching tv for a few hours, small snack, and soon we were landing in Delhi.  In all, this was much easier than the SFO-HKG flight, since body was on a natural sleep cycle, and I passed over half the flight sleeping.

Total Miles Traveled So Far:  7,522

Upon landing went straight to baggage claim, and it was nearly 30 minutes before the first bags came out…and mine were the last two off the plane.  So much for the Priority tags.  It was nearly an hour after landing when I finally got out of customs, and fortunately my driver was waiting. He did take my bags, but the walk to the car (which was in the car park) was at least 10-15 minutes – pretty surprising.  Usually hotel cars are able to get much closer.  It was all made up for when they had water and diet pepsi waiting in the car…remembering my preferences from my last stay – a big win for them.

Hotel Review:  ITC Sheraton Maurya, Delhi

Check-in was quick and efficient after the 15 minute trek to the hotel, and was upgraded to a nice junior suite for the short overnight.  Got to the room, and a small snack and wine were waiting…just the thing to help with a good night’s sleep after just having slept on the plane a few hours prior.

Caught up on e-mail, and placed a wake-up call…which was offered with a boxed breakfast delivered to the room along with coffee or tea.  The coffee service showed up right on time, and it was much appreciated as I tried to get the body clock back on track.  Overall, it was a fantastic choice for a transit hotel, the hotel’s car service was very reasonably priced at under US$25 each way and the upgrade and snacks were very much appreciated.  If I ever have an overnight transit in Delhi again, it will definitely be my go-to choice.

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