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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Traveling to Cairo, 2011 - Part one.

In past years, our winter trip to Cairo was via Amsterdam. Northwest Airlines offered a pleasant non-stop from Minneapolis to Amsterdam. Once there, we had a four or five hour layover and then flew non-stop to Cairo on NWA's partner airline, KLM. This had the advantage of avoiding a stop in New York City. We dislike changing planes in NYC because it usually entails a change of airport and delays seem to be more frequent there.

As Northwest Airlines disappeared into Delta and those distinctive red tails on the planes turned mostly blue, the stopover time in Amsterdam grew longer on our favored route. This year it would have meant an eleven-hour stop.

We booked a flight on a Delta baby-jet (operated by Mesaba Airlines) that flew into Kennedy and left us with a four hour layover there. Sure enough, just before we were to leave for the airport, we got a call telling us that the departure would be delayed for almost two hours. Now we were worried.

At the airport, Mesaba Airlines flights depart from the northern concourse that we hadn't seen for several years. It is a long, long concourse and has been remodeled since I flew from it years back on long-past North Central Airlines. I noticed a Fox News Channel Store.

Surprise! I didn't know FNC was in the retail store business. This will be good news to my sister-in-law who gets more and more steamed each time she has to sit in front of a CNN broadcast in an airport! I was more favorably impressed than these amateur reviewers were by finding my first FNC store. And they had cherry-flavored diet Doctor Pepper! What's not to like!

The next discovery was an art gallery.

Now this was not exactly like the "Old Masters" exhibit found in Amsterdam's Schipol airport. But it was pleasant to view and mostly features art and photography by airport and airline employees. I enjoyed this photograph of the waving flag by a TSA employee, Steve Schneider.
ToCairo2011-05 ToCairo2011-07

I thought the gallery was a good idea. I even felt better about the TSA after seeing a couple of their works. Other artists came from Compass Airlines, the Metropolitan Airports Commission and Regional Elite Airlines. I wonder who paid how much to set this up? Maybe I really don't want to know that.

Mesaba Airlines flies Bombardier regional jets. I knew that Bombardier made snowmobiles but who knew they were into commercial aircraft, too. Well, a vehicle is a vehicle, I suppose.

As the ground crew began loading luggage, I saw two of our heavy suitcases tossed out onto the icy tarmac. More worries!

I later decided that they were just pulling the connecting flight baggage to put it at the front of the compartment. But I'll keep it in mind the next time I pack a bottle of wine in my checked baggage.

I'll have to give Mesaba credit for great staff. With the two-hour delay, passengers with closer connections than ours were getting concerned and the gate agent handled them very politely. And the cabin crew on the flight was as pleasant as any I've seen in many years. We ended up with plenty of time to make our connection as did a nervous group making an earlier Tel Aviv connection at the gate next to ours.

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