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July 26, 2006

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?            Amsterdam-NY-Dallas-L.A.-NY-Copenhagen

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Greetings from 35,000 feet above the Atlantic! Would you believe I am on yet another flight back to Europe? This time, though, I’m on a plane with wireless high speed internet access. You can read more about this flight, including my destination, below. Meanwhile, last week we left off from Amsterdam (here’s the link to the archives). This week takes us back home to the United States, with stops in NY, Dallas, L.A., then back to NY before jumping on this flight! I hit all three of New York’s major airports within 10 days! If you’re into racking up tons of frequent flier miles, then pack your bag and whatever helps you pass time. We’ve got a bunch flights to catch!

After my trip to Amsterdam in late May, I had a return ticket to depart out of Paris to L.A. But because I was in The Netherlands, I didn’t feel like going back to Paris and then straight home. I really wanted to see friends and family on the East Coast, so I decided to see if I could find a deal. Sure enough,’s search engines turned up an incredible one: $459 (including taxes!) for a United flight from Amsterdam to Washington D.C. (Dulles) to JFK, with a return trip a month later on Lufthansa (JFK-Frankfurt-Amsterdam). Of course, I booked it.

Fortunately I scored an exit row aisle seat on the 777. The flight to Washington was a quick 7 hours and 24 minutes. After clearing customs I went to Concourse A, where all United Express flights arrive and depart. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. Then I looked at my watch, and realized it was early. Sure enough, an hour later around the time people start getting out of meetings, the place turned into complete chaos. I don’t think I have ever been to a terminal that’s so crazy. That place is in dire need of some management. Everyone working there acted as if it was their first day on the job – EVER. Come to think of it, no one looked older than 20 — so maybe it was their first day! Multiple flights were leaving from each gate, the PA system was not loud enough, there were too few seats, and my flight -- scheduled for 5:05 p.m. – was listed on both the sign at the gate and the departure screen as already departed, even though it was just 2:44 p.m. (look at this picture). Passengers were going nuts!

Because I was traveling by myself and not in a hurry, I decided to take AirTrain. My goal was to get to Grand Central Terminal as cheaply as possible. A taxi would have cost $55, while the AirTrain/subway combination was only $7 -- a no-brainer. The AirTrain to Jamaica Station was fast (10 minutes), easy and spacious: Just a few other passengers were riding. You pay the $5 fee when you get off. If you don’t have a MetroCard, there are easy-to-use machines just before the exit. (Tip: Put $10 or more on your card, and receive a 20 percent bonus.) After you exit, follow signs for the E train. It’s a 100-yard walk, and the new station building is state of the art. Take the elevator down to the subway, and pay $2 for the 35-minute ride to 53rd and Lexington Ave. on Manhattan’s East Side. Follow the signs for a free transfer to the 6 subway, and take the downtown train one stop to Grand Central. If you time it perfectly, the entire trip should take an hour.

I arrived back in NY just after Italy won the World Cup. I picked up a friend, and we headed straight to Little Italy. I can’t imagine a better place in America to celebrate an Italian victory than this place. Little Italy was packed with fans of all ages, chanting "Forza Italia!," wearing Italy t-shirts and beeping horns as they drove by waving the Italian flag. Some fans said some funny things, made even funnier by their New York accents. One guy yelled: "Hey, does anyone know where Little France is?"

My friend and I were starved, so we had dinner outside at a restaurant called Novella (191 Grand Street, tel.: 1-212-966-0555). The wait was only 10 minutes, and the food was good – not great. Though our food came fast, the service wasn’t the best. We had to ask our waiter three times for bread. Maybe he deliberately did not bring it because he knew it was old?

Next stop: Dallas, Texas. Yee haw! I flew out of La Guardia, another airport that can be an awful experience if you time it wrong. My suggestion is to not travel during peak times -- but if you must, arrive extra early. Fortunately I had a 3 p.m. flight, so I missed the crazy evening peak travel (and the power outage that occurred a few days later -- here’s that story). My flight to DFW and then to LAX were both on an American Airlines MD80. Both were 3 hours long, and went by quickly. Interestingly, on my trip to L.A. the American Airline agent charged me $25 because my bag weighed 57 lbs. -- 7 over the limit. I was running late, so I had no time to start taking items out. Before I paid the fee I said, "I didn’t get charged yesterday for the same bag." The agent replied, "You got lucky." I asked, "What if you’re an elite member, or have a first class ticket?" She said, "Here at American we treat everyone the same." I like that attitude -- but I don’t know how many elite members or first class passengers do.

I was in Dallas for only 16 hours. That’s good, because it was HOT: 100 degrees! I was there to check out American Airlines’ new Business Class seats, which will be installed on every 767-300 and 777 by the end of 2007. Currently, only one 767-300 boasts the new seats. I’ll write a more in-depth article about them when I actually get a chance to fly in one of those planes. It’s difficult to tell what they’re really like just by seeing them at their headquarters and the factory. They do look amazing, and I like some of the features such as a dual tray table, so passengers can simultaneously eat and work.

As an airline buff it was a huge treat to visit American’s headquarters and see their daily operations. The entrance features a huge map of the world, with marks in the cities that American and its partners serve. Afterwards we drove 30 minutes to Fort Worth, to see those new seats being manufactured. This was my first visit to an aircraft seating manufacturer, so it was another special opportunity. The company American (and 8 other airlines) use, Recaro Aircraft Seating, Inc., is based in Germany. It specializes in seats for luxury cars like Porsche and Ferrari – and, of course, airline seats.

In Dallas I stayed at an Embassy Suites close to the airport. This was my first time at an Embassy Suites in a long while, and I was quite impressed. For $109 guests get a huge suite, including a bedroom, a living room separated by a clean bathroom, two TVs, phones and a kitchenette. It’s perfect for business travelers on extended stays, and families. Other perks: The staff was very friendly, and guests get free access to a huge American breakfast, workout room, pool and airport shuttle (it’s 10 minutes to and from the airport – call for pickup when you land). Wireless internet costs only $9.95 a day, but if you are a Hilton Honors member (it’s free to join) the patchy service is free. Embassy Suites Hotel Dallas - DFW Intl Airport South, 4650 W. Airport Freeway, Irving, TX, tel.: 972-790-0093.

On the way to dinner we stopped at Dealey Plaza. There is a tribute to President Kennedy, and an "X" in the road a few feet from the Grassy Knoll marks the spot where he was tragically shot. It’s almost surreal walking around there. Of course, though, a bunch of people are trying to capitalize off the assassination. I actually was impressed by this fast-talking, friendly man selling Conspiracy Newspapers for $5. He seemed to know more facts than my history professor.

Just a few blocks down from Dealey Plaza, I had dinner with some friends and employees from American Airlines. They took me to the Iron Cactus, which serves up tasty Tex-Mex. The restaurant is nicely decorated, but I bet during the day it’s a lot more crowded. This downtown business area was eerily quiet in the evening. Each table gets fresh chips and two kinds of salsa. We started with fresh guacamole, made at the table ($8.95). I ordered the pollo relleno (tender breast of chicken stuffed with cornbread and cheese), served over rice with jalapeno cream sauce and sauteed herbed vegetables ($14.95). A fat-free meal like that wouldn’t be complete without dessert. Iron Cactus, 1520 Main St., Dallas, TX; tel.: 214-749-4766.

A couple days later I needed to be back in New York for my return flight back Europe. My return first class ticket on American came complete with helicopter service to Manhattan. When I checked in, the agent asked me for my final destination. I said, "Wall Street," and she laughed. Then I told her with a big smile that I was taking the new helicopter service (I wrote about it a few weeks ago), and she said, "How cool!" I agreed. She checked my bag all the way through to JRB (the helipad’s airport code) so I didn’t have to deal with my bag at JFK, and I was off.

What’s great about flying American between LAX and JFK is that they’re the only airline with wide bodies (767-200’s), and they’ve got the most (10) nonstops between these two destinations. These planes offer 3 classes of service: Economy, Business and First. First Class was really comfortable, with plenty of leg room and good food. However, after seeing American’s new Business Class seats, First looked kind of old. These seats don’t have their own built-in entertainment systems; instead, flight attendants come around with mini-DVD players, a vast selection of recent films and a pair of Bose noise reduction headsets. But their wires were everywhere; they kept falling out of the player, which turned off the system. After a few minutes I gave up and worked on my laptop. Surprisingly, when I asked if American was going to upgrade these seats they said there are no plans in the near future.

Unfortunately, I caught the flu a couple days before so I missed my Lufthansa flight. The ticket had so many restrictions -- because it was so inexpensive – that it was cheaper for me to just buy an entirely new ticket to leave a few days later. I scoured the internet for hours before finding a one-way ticket out of Newark to Prague via Copenhagen for $550 on SAS (Scandinavian Airlines).

I was on the East Side of town, so I didn’t feel like going to Penn Station (33rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues) and taking the AirTrain (here’s a link to their service). Instead I took the Newark Liberty Airport Express Bus. It departs and drops off every 15 minutes at 120 E. 41st Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues (next to Grand Central Station). One-way tickets cost only $14 ($23 for roundtrip), and can be purchased on the bus or at the Subway sandwich shop next to the stop. The bus stops at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, then heads to New Jersey via the Lincoln Tunnel. The trip takes 45 minutes without traffic. Buses operate between 4:45 a.m. to 1:15 a.m.

Because I am a gold member on United (an SAS partner), I skipped the long economy line and checked in at the Business Class line. I was also able to use their really plush lounge, stocked with good food, plenty of beverages (including swanky Voss bottled water), an array of international newspapers, comfortable seats and some work stations. Wireless internet was available for $7 an hour.

My flight to Copenhagen could not have been easier. I was upgraded to Premium Economy, which usually costs double ($2,275) the price of regular Economy. These seats have 5 more inches (total: 37") of leg room; they’re almost an inch wider (total: 18.3") than economy, and they recline (total: 7") almost 2 inches more than coach. The flight took only 7 hours, and I had a quick connection in CPH. The in-flight entertainment system not only had a bunch of movies and games but on-board cameras! One camera faced out; the other pointed down. The flight attendants were attentive, the food was good (dinner, then breakfast) and -- the best part -- they had wireless internet! Called SAS Net Access, it costs $26.95 for the whole flight or $9.95 for an hour. I freaked my family and friends out when I started IM’ing them and calling them from high above the Atlantic. Can you believe I was making phone calls using Skype for 2 cents a minute? You gotta love it!

Next week we explore Prague (Praha)!

Happy Travels,
Johnny Jet

*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Pictures From

The Trip


Amsterdam to Dulles


Lunch In Economy


Snack Box Before Landing


Plane already departed?




Jamaica Station


Times Square


Little Italy


La Guardia


Food In First


American’s Headquarters


New Biz Class Seats


At Recaro


My Room


Dealey Plaza


Fresh Guac




Helicopter To Wall St.




Newark Bus


Newark to Copenhagen


Premium Economy






Landing In Copenhagen



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  • AWESOME! Emma M - Englewood Cliffs, NJ
  • I loved the Amsterdam write up and video. I just booked a trip THIS MORNING to Amsterdam and Brussels so this was very timely. I will definitely use your tips for sights and dining while on my vacation. I'm a huge fan - keep up the great work! Wendy Ayres - Seattle, WA
  • Loved your video of Amsterdam! Those masses of tulips were awesome. And the price on them, 10 euro for 50, incredible. Hope to visit Amsterdam in 2008. Thanks for the mini travelogue. Keep up the good work. Mary Schultz - Milwaukee
  • You missed telling my favorite trait of the Dutch--the ability to laugh at themselves--love a joke even when it is on them--they may be the only place left in the world who don't take themselves too seriously--they are a joy!!! J Reese - Rye, NH
  • Loved your Amsterdam article -- wrote your guide recommendation into my e-mail address book ... Are you off to Croatia next week? If so, enjoy :-). We just returned from our 25th anniversary trip to the former Yugolslavia republics. Cliff and Sandy -- Cape Canaveral FL
  • My sister and I were in Amsterdam a few years ago, and it's funny but you're the first person I've heard who commented that the people there are so tall. That was one of my primary observations, too. I'm 5'11'' and she's 6', so are used to being among the tallest people and we definitely noticed the difference in Amsterdam. Also agree with your statement about people speaking English. It seemed as though EVERYONE there knew it. Julie Williams - Des Moines - Iowa
  • Dear Johnny Jet, Your pictures to Amsterdam were just so beautiful. Purple tulips (WOW). Another place you can see beautiful tulips is springtime in Ottawa, Canada. We went there several years ago. It was the end of May. It was a big festival. Check it out. You really feel like your in Europe there. Good luck with your travels. Jane M - Woodstock, Maryland. The Land of Pleasant Living. We have the best crabs and crabcakes anywhere.
  • Excellent job describing your trip and I loved the pictures! James Menlo Park, CA
  • Thanks for a look back at my May trip to Amsterdam. It is such a fascinating city. We hit the Red Light district at 11PM and I would recommend a late night visit to your readers as that is when things are really jumping. The crowds only add to the excitement. The Keukenhoff gardens were even more amazing in the first week of May as all the flowers were really at their peak. Your video with the accompanying music is awesome. I really enjoy all your trips but especially the ones that allow me a second look to places I've already been. Thanks again Johnny! Barbara B - Greene, RI
  • When were you in Amsterdam? It looked cold and we didn't think tulips were still in bloom. Barry & Jeannie -- Cornwall, PA REPLY: I was there on May 20-22 and it was a bit chilly.
  • The video was good, gave one a sense of Amsterdam -- not sure about the music, but overall very good. Anna W – Warren, VT
  • Little known fact is you can buy a USB adaptor that will allow you to use a regular house phone (corded/cordless) with Skype. Here is an example: Other examples. Happy Travels, Doc M - Virginia Beach, VA

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