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March 4, 2009

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    Florida to Toronto

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Bonjour. I was going to continue with my recent trip around the world and finish telling you about the second to last stop, Shanghai. But instead, I will do that next week and update you on my current travels. Unfortunately, I have some sad news to report. Natalieís 60-year-old father passed away on Sunday and Iím presently in Toronto with her and her amazing family. If you could keep them in your prayers, it would be greatly appreciated. This all happened unexpectedly and getting to Canada last-minute was interesting so I thought I would share some of my tips and experiences.

First of all, if you have been following me on Facebook or Twitter, youíve probably seen that Iíve been to Florida and Canada numerous times in the past few weeks. Iíve been in Florida hanging out with my dad and I was there when Natalie called to say that her father, who had been hospitalized due to a lung condition called pulmonary fibrosis, had taken a turn for the worst. I had been scheduled to fly to Aruba that night, to check out the brand new Aruba Marriott. But I had to cancel that ticket and scour the Internet (using JohnnyJet.comís search engines, of course) to find a last-minute ticket to Toronto (YYZ). I didnít even bother wasting my time looking for bereavement fares; they are either non-existent or a waste of money. Instead, I priced out flights from the three major airports in South Florida closest to me (Check out and was able to find a ticket from West Palm Beach (PBI) via Charlotte (CLT) on US Airways for just $178. Everything else was at least double and nonstop flights were triple the price.

The flight from PBI to CLT is 590 miles and the flight from CLT to YYZ is 588 miles Ė talk about a perfect midway point! The first leg of the journey was on an 86-seat Embraer 175. Although US Airways slapped their logos and colors on both the outside and inside of this regional jet, it was really being operated by Republic Airlines. Yes, it was a similar scenario with the recent Buffalo plane crash a few weeks ago. That plane really wasnít Continental Airlines Ė it was Colgan Air. Iím not sure about you but after that crash, flying these smaller regional jets is a little more uncertain than it was before. It also didnít help that Iíd just read this article the night before, which was about aviation safety in America. Did you know that the last three fatal crashes in the United States from 2002 to now all involved commuter airlines?

I kept reassuring myself that itís still much safer to fly than it is to drive so I was able to ease my fears. The flight to Charlotte was uneventful (the best flights are) and my advice for you when flying on these planes is to board as early as possible since overhead space is limited; many of the passengers had to check their carry-on bags. Since I was in seat 1D (one of the best seats on the plane), I overheard one woman ask the flight attendant where seat 25D was. 25D, he asked. This plane only had 22 rows. The flight attendant looked at her ticket and surprisingly, she was on the right flight, so he told her to take any open seat. Another interesting conversation I overheard was the baggage handler telling the flight attendant that in the 15 years heíd been working there, heíd never encountered a flight with friendlier passengers than this one. He said most of them smiled and asked him how his day was going. I thought that was cool and will make a point to say hello to all those guys in the future.

After I booked my flight, I was waiting and waiting for the confirmation email. After about 20 minutes I decided to call to make sure everything went through including my plush seat assignments. The agent, who sounded like she was in the Philippines call center, said everything was confirmed and I was all set. I actually forgot all about the confirmation email until Monday morning when it arrived in my inbox at 8:47am -- 46 hours after purchasing it! Is that crazy or what? The best thing to do whenever you make a reservation is to call the 800 number (Check out, just to make sure everything is confirmed so you wonít have any problems at the airport. TIP: To bypass the annoying automated phone systems and talk to a live person, log on to to find out which prompts to dial.

I hadnít been to the CLT airport in a couple of years and Iíd forgotten how pleasant it is, especially in the main hall where they have a slew of restaurants, shops and a live piano player next to a cool bar with large model aircrafts circling above. The best thing to do is grab some food and snag one of their many white rocking chairs, sit back and relax. I had just over an hour to kill so I busted out my laptop and downloaded my email by popping in my Sprint wireless card (I rent mine from to avoid the two-year contract) and logged on to the Internet while sucking on a chunky strawberry smoothie from Jamba Juice.

The flight to Toronto was a quick one-hour and 20 minutes on a packed 737-300, which was indeed operated by US Airways. Before boarding, the gate agents conducted a passport ID check to speed up the process. When I handed mine to the agent, he chuckled and said that so far, I was the only American on the flight. Of course I was -- what fool would be going to five-degree weather unless they lived there? The only folks going to Toronto this time of year are business travelers and they wouldnít be leaving on a Saturday night.

Again, the flight was uneventful except that I was one of the last passengers to purchase a bottle of water ($2) on board. We landed just before midnight on February 28th and the following day, US Airways was reversing their policy and would be giving non-alcoholic drinks for free. When I asked one of the flight attendants how he felt about the switch, he said, "Actually, it makes my job more difficult since everyone wants something for free. Before, we could cruise the aisles and finish the drink service in minutes."

US Airways stopped charging because no other airline followed their lead and they didnít want a negative image. Whatís interesting is that the flight attendant said that US Airways didnít begin charging just to make money; they did it to save money. Since they knew most passengers wouldnít pay for drinks, they didnít need to spend the money on refrigeration or loading the planes with heavy liquids, which means the aircraft consumes more fuel.

Next week: Shanghai.

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Copyright 2009 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Natalie and her Dad

My Dad


Florida Barbershop


Charlotte Airport


CLT Piano Player




Next Week


  • I like your website very much ... However, I thought the photo used for the article on "babysitters4hire" was kind of weird. Is that a little girl? If so, it seems strange that she has no shirt on. Don't get me wrong, I'm no prude, but it really looks wrong, especially on a website. Other than that ... I find your information very valuable. Nancy V - REPLY: Thanks for the feedback! We really appreciate it. That picture is of Johnnyís nephew so no, itís not a little girl. We would agree with you if that was the case.

  • Somehow reading about places I have already been is more intriguing than reading about the new ones. Go figure. Anyway, we have had dinner at the highly ranked/regarded Chinese restaurant in the Grand Hyatt in 2006. Being of a similar mind as you about heights, enclosed places and skyscrapers since 9/11, I never really enjoyed the meal. Oh well. I am very interested to hear what you think of Shanghai in general. We thought that yes, it is amazing in its growth as a major modern city, but lacked the charm and history that we most want to travel to see. Having said that we will be there for 3 nights in May. If you havenít already left, we thought the museum in the iconic tower building basement was fab. Sure the Shanghai Museum is great, but the other one gave us an historical perspective that we loved. We stumbled on it luckily. Pam S -

  • The profession to die for...JEALOUS! Safe travels! Richie Ė West Palm Beach, FL

  • I really enjoyed the short time we were in Shanghai on a tour 3 years ago. On our first journey to the Bund, the smog was pretty thick, you were lucky to see across the river. Later, when we had a clear day, it was absolutely glorious. And we were treated to an evening drive-by when everything was lit up - better than fireworks as the lights seem to go on forever. Sure would have been great to have been there with you instead of Natalie (hee-hee!). Mary C - Minnesota

  • I went to China a year ago to visit a friend in Hong Kong. She was my tour guide through Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai & Bangkok. I hope you get a chance to get to the Shanghai Museum - one of my favorite places. Karen F- Staten Island, NY

  • It put Shanghai on my "to do" list. By the way, I think someone was having his leg pulled."We were going to take the Shanghai Maglev, one of the fastest trains in the world Ö it goes a third of the speed of sound (767 mph)." Bill P -

  • "Poor" Johnny exposed to all that first class flying and hotels. I really do envy him. Burt S Ė N.J.

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