Flying to Barcelona – Part 1

I arrived in Barcelona, Spain for Tech-Ed: Developers yesterday evening. I’m jetlagged but the hotel is nice and the people haven been friendly. I found myself in a couple situations where people don’t speak English (gasp!) already. I made it through only by having several Spanish-speaking friends in close proximity during my college years and having Spanish as the unofficial 2nd language in the U.S. That, and a lot of pointing.

I cut catching my outboud flight really close since I had to make a quick stop by my office at work to pickup a portable hard drive for my trip. The traffic going south on I-405 was very bad since it was raining and, curiously, Seattlites are not very adept at driving in the rain. I was checking bags for this trip since I would be in Barcelona for over a week and I was transporting a large, cumbersome item we will be raffling off at the event. The United agent gave me my boarding pass and told me to hurry as the Seattle-Chicago flight was on track for an early departure (yeah, right!)

My Premier Executive status on United gave me access to the express security line so I made it through the screening fairly quickly. I know the drill now so I had my 3 ounces-or-less bottles of liquids in a quart-sized Zip-Loc, shoes in one hand, laptop in the other, no metal objects and boarding pass in my pocket. I caught the tram over to the North terminal, headed to gate N6 and, sure enough, they were boarding. A few moments later I was situated in first class and called TB to let her know I made the flight.

After flying to the South Pacific a couple months ago, the flight from Seattle to Chicago seemed suprisingly short.

We arrived in O’Hare and I headed from Concourse B to C since my flight to London was departing from C16 in about an hour. I hit the Red Carpet Club lounge and was disappointed by the drabness and inexclusivity of the experience. After enjoying the club lounges in various airports abroad, let’s just say the United lounge in O’Hare is 1-star, barely. The food/snack situation was awful, there was no complimentary wi-fi, the coffee was served from a vending machine, and there were way too many people. I fired up my laptop to check my e-mail one last time before leaving the country and to review the rest of my itinerary. As I already mentioned no hablo Español so I wanted to make sure I was ready.

The announcement that my flight was boarding was made so I hurriedly shut down my laptop, gathered my things and headed to the gate. I arrived just in time to hear the gate agent make an announcement that the flight was delayed. The plane was late arriving from its previous destination. I was pissed. Not only was the Red Carpet Club lounge low rung when comparing amenities; its service, too, was poor. I walked back to the lounge and asked the attendant why the “now boarding” announcement had been made when the plane hadn’t yet arrived. She said she was unsure and apologized for the mistake. I got back on my computer to finish what I was doing.

The plane arrived, I boarded, got situated in business class and prepared myself physically & mentally for the long flight. I sold my iPod on eBay in preparation for getting a Zune (9 days, baby!) and resorted to listening to music on my mobile phone. It was OK but the sound quality wasn’t very good and I had 400MB of music (60 songs) compared to the 30GB (4500 songs) I am accustomed to. I couldn’t sleep and didn’t feel like watching a movie so I got through some more e-mail, did some reading and tinkered around with my laptop in between meals & snacks.

We arrived at London’s Heathrow airport and I experienced probably the worst security checkpoint experience I have ever encountered. You may recall the whole “no liquids” thing was precipitated by a foiled plot involving a flight originating in London. I always thought the FAA imposed the most asinine and stringent air travel policies. I was wrong.

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