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February 6, 2008

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Super Bowl XLII

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I thought I was going to be home for at least a week and I was quite happy to kick back, relax and not get on a plane. But when my cousin AJ calls, I can usually be guaranteed a good time. This time it was for the ultimate sporting event. He told me to get my GIANT-rooting butt out to Phoenix in the morning because he had an extra ticket for the Super Bowl. After asking him if he was serious at least 20 times, I hung up and immediately logged on to (shameless plug, I know). But I began my intense, relentless search for cheap airfares. Thanks to Southwest, my wish was granted ($263 R/T). Unfortunately, there were no available return flights until Monday evening. I still booked it.

Naturally, I woke up at 3am. Not only had I been crossing time zones like Kris Kringle, but seriously … who could sleep the night before their favorite team is in the Super Bowl? I have no idea how the players do it. I lay there, staring at the ceiling, listening to the pouring rain. When I realized I wasn't going to be able to sleep for a while, I fired up my laptop and started punching away. A few hours later and I was getting tired. I knew my body wasn't going to want to get up in an hour so I logged on to It's been a while since I've flown with them or even played around on their site. I clicked the “view or change your flight” link to see how much it would cost to change my departure to the 11am flight. It turned out that because I had purchased one of Southwest's business fares (the only fare still available), any ticket changes were free! Kudos to Southwest, especially since their last-minute fares were half the price of their competitors' and their tickets weren't restricted like the other con artists. Not only did I change my 8:45am flight to 11am, but I noticed there was now space available for the last flight out of Phoenix (10:10pm) that night. That meant I could forget about bringing a change of clothes, go straight to the game and come back and sleep in my own bed. Now that's the way to do it!

I reprinted both my boarding passes, which brings up an important point for everyone, especially if you're flying Southwest. Southwest has open seating which means they don't assign seats. So the earlier you check in for your flight (passengers can do it up to 24 hours in advance online), the closer you get to the front of the boarding line, which means you get to pick your seat (ahem, row 11). And Southwest implemented a unique boarding procedure a few months ago. Instead of boarding in three groups, they board in boarding pass numbers. It would be both too long and boring for me to explain fully; instead see Southwest's web demonstration.

My alarm sounded at 9:20am, waking me from my jet-lag-induced sleep. I washed the drool from my chin in the shower, got dressed and drove straight to the airport. I pulled into Park One, my favorite parking lot at LAX. It's my favorite because it's the closest to the airport and is literally across the street from Terminal 1, which services Southwest and USAir. That saves even more time as there's no need to wait for a courtesy van – just make the 50-yard dash. Because it was raining, I spent the $6 extra (a day) for valet parking ($21.75). Tip 1: If you have an AAA card, you get a discount for the regular parking. TIP 2: To guarantee a spot, book in advance online using It can also be used to book any airport parking lot across the U.S. For lots outside of the PNF network, log onto This gives travelers peace of mind and saves both time and money.

This was the first time in my adult life that I've flown somewhere without bringing a bag. I mean, I didn't have anything. I'm talking nada, zip, zilch … I can't tell you how liberating it felt to arrive at the airport 40 minutes before flight time with absolutely nothing weighing me down. I walked straight to security, then to the gate, in time to find my spot in line. I was actually a few minutes early because Southwest begins boarding 20 minutes in advance but of course, better safe than sorry. Okay, I admit it. I went over to the McDonald's counter and ordered a McSkillet Burrito and wolfed it down before getting on the plane.

We took off just after 11am and flight time was a crisp and quick 50 minutes. I landed in overcast Phoenix at 1:30pm (an hour time change from Los Angeles) and there was a huge queue of taxis but no takers. Figures. The one time I was hoping for a line at the taxi stand, so I could have split cab fare to the University of Phoenix stadium. I was by myself with no luggage and it's a waste of resources and money. Can you believe that the 20- minute drive is a whopping $50? And that's using a meter. And it doesn't include tip. That same ride in Thailand would have cost $3! What a rip.

At least there was no traffic and I made it to the stadium more than two hours before game time (kick-off was at 4:30pm local time). My cousin AJ rolled up with his posse and handed me the golden ticket. I cracked a smile ear to ear and it got even wider, like Charlie Brown's, when I spotted the seat: Club/Loft. I knew what that meant – free food and drinks. Sweet!

Actually, finding AJ wasn't all that easy. The perimeter of the Super Bowl was blocked so to get from Gate 1 to Gate 3 was a hike … and I mean a hike. Sad to say, but I guess the tight security was to prevent anyone from pulling off a successful car bomb. There were no shuttles so I had to walk around the red tarp fence to try and find one of the few entrances. The stadium also did a nice job organizing the screening process. When I went to Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, the lines were 30 minutes long and there was no order. Here, they had plenty of machines and guards frisking people so there was no wait. Maybe the TSA could've learned a lesson or two. But the thorough security almost screwed me completely, which I saw happening to many other people. I was going to bring my big SLR camera with me but fortunately I left it at home. As I learned when I got there, it would not have been allowed in. The rules were: no cameras bigger than six inches, no camera bags and no medium- to large-sized purses. There was nowhere to check the forbidden goods, so people had to either dump them or bring them to their car, hotel or home. What would I have done? I probably would have walked over to the Renaissance Glendale Hotel and kindly asked (and generously tipped) a bellman to store it.

Walking in, it looked like there were way more NY GIANTS fans present but once the game started the Patriot fans were definitely the loudest. That obviously didn't stop the heavy underdog GIANTS. Walking to the luxury boxes, I knew I was in for a treat when a limping John Elway practically bowled me over. I entered the suite to find my boys Luis Gonzalez (Florida Marlins), Jimmie Johnson (NASCAR), Mike Hampton (Atlanta Braves), Kyle Boller (Baltimore Ravens) and most girls' fantasy, Nick Lachey. All these guys are super cool as were the other 12 people in the box. The best part was that most of us were rooting for the GIANTS and we all went crazy (I lost my voice) in the final two minutes. It was a victory of David and Goliath proportions and to be there, right in the heart of the action was amazing. It was incredible from beginning (American Idol winner Jordin Sparks singing The Star Spangled Banner) to end. Even the half-time show with Tom Petty was awesome.

I was still undecided about whether to change my flight yet again and spend the night in Phoenix or just go home. I finally decided that I really needed to get back to LA to actually get some work done … like write this story, pay some bills and update the website. So when the game ended, I made a beeline to the taxi stand. The line was already 150 people deep and there weren't any taxis. I had no choice but to make my way to the front and ask if anyone was going to the airport. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy but I just stood there and waited. Finally, someone else rolled up with the same destination. The taxi dispatcher was kind enough to give us precedence but the calls for more taxis came up empty. We waited for 15 minutes (it felt like an hour) and there wasn't a vacant taxi in sight. I overheard the taxi coordinators whispering to each other that the 400 people in line were all screwed. I looked at my watch. It was 8:45pm and I was getting nervous that I might be in the same boat because Southwest's last flight out was at 10:10pm and I didn't know how long it would take to get to the airport. Eventually, a taxi pulled up and when the driver said it would cost $30 apiece, we said no problem. We just needed him to put the pedal to the metal. Surprisingly, traffic wasn't bad and it only took 30 minutes to get to the airport. I had time to spare to watch the highlights in the airport bar with all the other GIANTS fans.

I should've known when I landed and saw all the private jets that we wouldn't be taking off on time. We did push back from the gate at 10:10pm, but we sat on the runway for 50 minutes. The pilot indicated that he had no idea what time we'd be lifting off and that the control tower wasn't even responding to their calls. That's the first time I've heard that one. He also said that all the corporate jets were taking precedence and I later read that there were over one thousand private jets at the Sky Harbor Airport and the surrounding smaller general aviation airports. That's approximately 10 per cent of all the private jets in the world! You know, if I'd missed my flight, I would have tried my darnedest to hitch a ride on one of those bad boys! LAX, anyone?

If you're going to be in the Los Angeles area this weekend, come check out the L.A. Times Travel & Adventure Show. It's taking place at the Long Beach Convention Center on February 9th and 10th from 10am to 5pm. I'm speaking on a panel about online travel tips and tricks for the fourth time in five years. Also speaking are Arthur and Pauline Frommer, Rick Steves and Phil Keoghan, the host of The Amazing Race. Tickets are $10 per day for adults; children 12 years of age and under may attend for free. For more information, visit the website or call (203) 878-2577 ext. 100.

Here's a one-minute Johnny Jet video of my trip to Phoenix and the Super Bowl. We also have all the Johnny Jet videos ever made on YouTube.

Next week, we go to the state in the union that everyone dreams about being in this time of year. I'll give you a hint ... it's a five-hour flight from Los Angeles and is where all the star football players will be balling it up this weekend.

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Happy Travels,
Johnny Jet

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Pictures From

The Trip


LAX Terminal 1




Southwest Snacks




Ton of Corporate Jets


University of Phoenix stadium


Long Walk


The Golden Ticket


More walking


Super Bowl Screening


Walking To Seats


My Cousin AJ


The GIANTS Take the Field!




Luis Gonzalez


Jimmie Johnson


Da Boyz


Mike Hampton


Halftime Show




Flight Home



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