Travelling Light

What a journey. Chicago to Hong Kong via LA in just over 24 hours.

Now as most of you know I’m fairly immune to travelling and have taken more than the odd flight over the last few years – over a million miles on Cathay Pacfic, but that’s another story – but this trip was stressful. Mindful of the fact that my presence at our leaving do this weekend was certainly subject to a three line whip – which is what I would have got if I had not arrived – I ensured I left Chicago on time at 16.15 on Thursday afternoon. My flight to LA was at 19.15 , so I was assured of time for a slurp in the lounge first.

Well that was an experience. I’m clearly far too used to Asia travel as the American Airlines lounge – snappily, but not happily called the Admirals Club – provides you with one free drink only. The others have to be paid for. The food is woeful – and not free. So what’s the point, you might as well be in the bar downstairs? Which is where I went to sit by the monitor and check on my flight.

Not good. Gate H12 was happily disgorging passengers from Phoenix while those eager to leave for Orange County queued for their 19.16 departure. What of the 19.15 to LA?? Ah, delayed to 20.15. Still, plenty of time to make the connection to HK at 23.45.

Then AA873 is pushed back to 20.25 – one hour and ten minutes late. To cut a long story short, by this time I have worked out that if we don’t leave by a quarter to I won’t make LAX in time to change terminals and catch the CX flight to HK. Order mild panic with a side of anger. Ten minutes later we board, chaos as despite the fact that the average american is substantially bigger than the average asian, the planes are the same size.

I, who am relegated to coach – a part of the plane I choose to visit very rarely – have my bulkhead seat snatched by a howling infant and am relegated to what really is the back of the bus. Boarding too many fat people with too much carry on baggage – myself included I will admit – takes too long…. taxiiing takes too long… take off, well you know where I’m going. Or not, that is.

So, we are airborne at 21.00. Too late. I won’t make the connectioin. Enquiries are made to a flight attendant who is really very polite and of absolutely no use at all. I am not the only one on the flight with an international connection and promises made that we will be allowed off first, so we have the best chance of catching a flight that may already have left, remain unfulfilled on landing. I leg it from Domestic to Tom Bradley International terminal in desperation.

Fortune smiles on the brave and those who don’t check in luggage and as I run down to gate 101 (irony anyone?) I realise the flight has not departed and I will make the party. Queue relief at lack of lashes which turns momentarily to panic and then relief as my boarding pass is rejected by the machine at the gate for the simple reason that I’ve been upgraded. Sheer unmitigated joy. First Class for 14+ hours on CX883 to Hong Kong.

I reflect on the stress of the journey so far as I quaff the first glass of Krug, with a little lobster hors d’heuvre and realise it is bloody good to be back in Asia, if only vicariously.

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