Oct 112013

So, yeah, this is a bit overdue, but things have been crazy with two trips to West Africa the last month, a trip to Provincetown, Mass. in between, and things being crazy at the office. Hopefully I’ll get these cranked out pretty quickly, since I have two trips to Hawaii and two more to San Jose, California coming up in the next month thanks to the United $10 mistake fare!

A couple of months ago, my good friend John (who’s written a guest blog here before on Air Canada) told me he’d be making two trips to West Africa for work in the coming months, and since I’d never been to any of the countries he was going to he suggested I come along. I didn’t have too much planned at the time, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get a bit of an inside view on the place, so I jumped at the chance. The first trip would be a long 5-day weekend trip to Lagos, Nigeria and the second trip would be Cotonou, Benin and Accra, Ghana for four days. I decided to extend the second trip while I was in the region, and planned stops in Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire as well. Soon, the time to go was near!

United flight 356
Washington DC, National (DCA) to Houston, George Bush (IAH)
Depart 15:17, Arrive 17:24, Flight Time 3:07
Boeing 757-200, Registration N523UA, Manufactured 1990, Seat 3E (aisle)

Not terribly much to say here – it was a standard domestic flight, a cheerful pre-merger United crew, despite the fact the aircraft was older than dirt. Arrived into Houston on time, and had a few hours to kill in the United Club. Boarding was delayed about 30 minutes for the flight to Lagos, but soon we were settled in and it was time to go.

United flight 142
Houston, George Bush (IAH) to Lagos, Nigeria (LOS)
Depart 20:15, Arrive 14:50 next day, Flight Time 12:35
Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, Registration N45905, Manufactured 2012, Seat 1D (aisle)

This was to be my first flight of any real length on the 787, and fortunately my three short 2-3 hour domestic flights had clued me in that row 1 was the place to be.  All seats in business class have the same pitch/legroom, but the footwells in row 1 and row 4 have double the space for your feet due to the way the seats are staggered.  It’s a good thing, because it was going to be a very long flight and I was planning to get lots of sleep.  The planned flight path:

IAH to LOS flight path

…and a pre-departure glass of sparkling wine in a plastic glass.  Ah United, keeping it classy as always with $10 bubbly wine in a plastic cup!

IAH to LOS pre-departure beverage


It was a full flight tonight, and there were quite a few families in business class.  I had the good fortunate of having a 13 year old Nigerian girl as a seatmate who immediately upon sitting down asked me if I liked Justin Bieber.  Argh!  She then proceeded to spend like ten minutes professing her undying love for him.  It was pretty amusing, and she was quiet the rest of the flight after that, so in the end it was merely amusing instead of irritating.

The meal was pretty standard United international business class, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Appetizer – shrimp and salmon:


Salad – it’s a salad, hard to get too excited.  The sundried tomato (singular) and mozzarella balls were a nice touch :


Main – some sort of beef with green beans and polenta.  It was tasty, but nothing special.


Cheese – actually a fairly tasty selection, but nothing exotic.


Dessert – of course, the hot fudge sundae with a bottle of Baileys to pour over it.


By this point I might have had a few glasses of wine, and it was time to put the seat flat and pass out.  Pass out I did…for over nine hours!  The best sleep I think I’ve ever gotten on a plane, nine hours straight.  Maybe there’s something to the claims the the lower altitude and higher humidity on the 787 really do make a difference.  Either way, I slept like a baby, waking up just over the west coast of Africa.

IAH to LOS map

For once I woke up in time to have the breakfast, which was a choice of an omelette or cereal with pastries/muffins. Usually on flights to Europe in order to maximize sleep I skip breakfast, but this time I still had nearly two hours until landing so had some cereal and a cinnamon bun. Yum! Soon, we were pulling into the gate and it was time to experience what I’d been told was nightmarish Nigerian immigration.

Except…there was no nightmare. It was a piece of cake, and I was through in probably 15 minutes and leaving out of the airport. My friend had sent a driver, and before long we were picking him up at the office and headed back to the hotel. It had all gone incredibly smoothly…maybe Nigeria isn’t so bad after all!

Got to the hotel, the Four Points by Sheraton, which was really quite nice. One of the nicest Four Points I’ve stayed at anywhere. Ice cold air conditioning, comfortable beds, friendly and helpful staff, good security, and a couple of good restaurants, coffeeshops, and pubs to get a bite or drink at. Of course, it was welcome to Africa time with an Africa-sized beer in the Four Points’ pub:

africa sized beer


After a drink, it was time to clean up, shower and head out to dinner!

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