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September 10, 2008

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Malibu Beach Party

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Greetings! This week we fly out to California to attend a Malibu beach party and then almost head back to New York City in the middle of Tropical Storm Hanna. Would you believe that I actually grabbed my bags from the overhead bin and walked off the plane because I didn't feel comfortable? More details to come. Also this week, you don't want to miss my sister Georgie-Jet's first story about her incredible trip to New Zealand. Join her as she begins this week with part one of a four-part series. Plus, Mike Manna is back, this time showing us around the picturesque region of northern Italy known as Valmarecchia.

Since my brother has been taking his radiation and chemo treatments like a champ, I decided to go back home to California to take care of a few household chores, sort my mail and attend a party in Malibu. First of all, the Delta flight to LAX couldn't have been easier; we took off on time (1:30pm) and landed 30 minutes early. On top of that, I got upgraded, had live T.V., a hot meal and like everyone else in first class, had an empty seat open next to me. Now that's flying!

I can't tell you who owns the high-profile house where the party I attended was hosted but I can tell you that the place was unreal. Seriously, it has to be the nicest home I have ever been to! It was so outrageous that it was not only nicer than most 5-star hotels I have stayed in but it was bigger, too. Cindy Crawford has a sweet house a few doors down but I almost felt sorry for her looking down at it from this palatial pad. The grounds of this home felt like being in the south of France and it must have cost at least $40 million to build. The compound has multiple buildings including a separate beach pad right on the ocean. And then there's the fitness studio at the far end that was bigger than my home. If walking down the winding staircase to the beach is too arduous, there's an elevator to whisk you down quickly and in style. An organic food company catered the party (like any good Malibu beach party should be!) and the hot tub was filled with bikini-clad models. I felt like I was on an episode of Entourage. A couple more drinks and it could have been Malibu Girls Gone Wild.

I was ready to go back to New York City this past Saturday when my sister called and asked, "You aren't really planning on flying back tomorrow, are you?" I told her I was and she informed me that Tropical Storm Hanna was approaching the east coast. I turned on CNN and confirmed it. So I logged on to the Internet to find out if Delta was offering fee waivers like American, jetBlue and Virgin America were. The waiver would have enabled me to travel on a different day without paying the $150 change fee or the difference in the current price of the ticket. Like most travelers, I'd much rather not have to deal with delays so I stay far away from JFK Airport, even if it's just drizzling. And when the forecast predicts heavy rain and 50mph winds at the same time I'm supposed to land ... no thanks! I will travel a day or two later. Unfortunately, the New York airports weren't listed on Delta's Tropical Storm Hanna fee waiver page so I called them up directly. To make a long story short: I called three times and spoke to five agents (they kept transferring me) over a period of 17 hours. I liked the fact that two out of three times I connected with a U.S.-based call center. The one international call center I reached was in Jamaica. In my experience (and I have a lot), the problem with international centers is that the agents have no pull and are like robots but without superior knowledge.

Every single Delta agent I spoke to gave me the same old response: We aren't offering fee waivers so if you want to change your ticket, it will cost you. They forgot to add, ... up the ying yang, but I knew what they meant. The final agent I spoke to was such a you-know-what. "I don't care what American and the other airlines are offering," she said. And when I asked to speak to her supervisor, she gave me a flat out no. I was flabbergasted and asked her name. "Jay Rayme from Cincinnati," she said. I said, "Your name is J-A-Y?" I thought for sure she was lying (I still do) but she freaked out on me. "Sir, I can't believe you're making fun of my name!" she yelled. It was an argument I wasn't going to win and I didn't want her to put any negative comments in my history file. So I finally conceded, packed my bags and rushed to LAX. Yes, even with the forecast and the fact that CNN and the FAA website reported that JFK was experiencing over four hour arrival delays.

I would have bet the house that this flight would not take off on time. Even Delta's previous flight (8am) was two hours delayed and the heavy rain wasn't expected to begin until an hour or two after they landed. I made it to the gate just as they were boarding; there was just a short line at security. I asked the agent if I had gotten upgraded or not (Delta gives free space available upgrades to their frequent fliers) and she confirmed that I had. What a relief! I had seat 2A, a window and my seatmate was a cool, well-dressed British guy. Neither of us could believe that we'd actually boarded on time. It was then that I noticed that there was no entertainment system in the seatbacks or electrical outlets like most of Delta's transcontinental flights. In fact, this was a really old 757. As I was writing in my travel journal and sipping my pre-flight drink, I noticed that the floor below me was soaking wet. It wasn't like it was a spilled drink; there was a lot of water. I told one of the young flight attendants. FYI: If you haven't noticed, Delta has hired a bunch of underpaid twenty-year-olds to replace the high-paid seniors. I'm not saying this is a bad thing but they are still wet behind the ears. Anyways, I made sure the flight attendant didn't blow me off and told the pilot who was kind enough to come out and explain in a not-so-friendly voice that it was a leak from the previous flight and that they'd turned the water off. "There shouldn't be any more problems," he said, explaining that they were no longer using the front lavatory. There shouldn't be any more problems? Not exactly the words you want to hear when flying.

After the pilot informed me that they load 150 gallons of water for each flight, I asked if he really thought that we'd take off on time and land, not only on-time, but at JFK and not at some remote airport that we might be diverted to? He said that everything was on schedule but that we'd have to see what the weather and the control tower in NYC says and does. "We might have to hold for a bit en-route," he said. I just didn't like the uncertainty and the fact that it was an old plane with a leak, going into a major storm. I just didn't have a good feeling to say the least. They were about 10 minutes away from closing the door when I felt a bit of anxiety come over me. I got up and spoke to the gate agent who was at the entrance of the plane, paging a passenger. I explained the situation and told her that I didn't feel comfortable. She said it wasn't a problem and that I could reschedule, especially since I hadn't checked a bag. I grabbed my carry-on bags and walked off the plane, while everyone watched me, wondering if they should do the same. While a gate agent was changing my ticket (as a one-time courtesy), he told me that the person in 4A had done the same thing a few minutes prior. I was relieved that it wasn't just me.

Of course, I monitored flight 240 like a watchdog when I got home. I was amazed that the flight not only took off four minutes early but arrived into JFK 15 minutes early, too. I have no idea how smooth the ride was but at least they made it. I feel good about my decision even though I was wrong as can be! I'm sure glad none of those agents took me up on any bets because I would have lost a lot of money. Looking back, I definitely would have stayed on that flight if it had been one of Delta's newer interior planes with the entertainment systems in the back of each seat and electrical outlets. The distractions would have put my nervous wandering mind at ease. So the big question is: how can you tell if you are on one of Delta's newer interior 757 planes? You need to pull up the seat map for your flight on If coach seating begins at row 20 and ends at row 45, you're on an old interior plane. If coach goes from row 18 to row 44, you're on a new interior plane. As for the 737, which Delta sometimes flies cross-country, my buddy Brett from the Cranky Flier says that in an old interior 737, coach ends at row 32 but on a new one, it ends at row 33. What's so great about the entertainment systems? They have 24 channels of live satellite TV, movies, HBO, 2,500 MP3s and games ... all on-demand and uncensored. Not only that, but the seats have power ports.

I changed my ticket to the 6:30am flight on Monday, which was just fine except for the annoying flight attendant who kept making unnecessary announcements in her squeaky voice while everyone was trying to sleep; luckily I wasn't one of them. I didn't get upgraded but I did have an exit row aisle seat with an open seat in the middle. I had live TV and even though I had to buy my own food, I was more comfortable than I'd been in first class on Saturday.

Itís Fashion Week in New York so most of the hotels are sold out or even more overpriced than usual. Of course, my sister Carol was in town so she dragged me to her friend Tory Burchís show. It was actually pretty cool the way Tory had things set up; it wasnít your typical runway where guests canít mingle. This was just the opposite. It was basically in a converted garage on the west side and I guess any place will look good with a bevy of beautiful models wearing designer clothes. Afterwards, we went over to the Bryant Park Hotel to see Andria Mitsakosí new fashion clients (the necklace is Simone Gabor). All of this took place just last night. Who knows what the rest of the week has in store! NOTE this New York City Two-Night Vacations From $260.

Sorry! No video this week but we have all of the Johnny Jet videos ever made on YouTube.

So there you have it! From beaching it in Malibu to walking off a plane, it was a bit of a crazy week! Next week, I'll tell you about my trip out of the country.

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

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Pictures From

The Trip


Delta to L.A.


On the Plane


First Class, Baby!


Driving To Malibu


House Entrance


Path To One of the Many Rooms


Main House




Organic Food




Path To Beach


Or Take The Elevator


Cindy's House (In the Middle)


Now That's a Party!


What Can I Say?


Seat 2A


Water On The Ground (Taken With My Phone Camera)


Delta's Buy On Board


Flight 10 To NYC


Fashion Week


Tory Burch




  • Both this weekís and last weekís newsletters were great. Your trip to Shelter Island reminded me of the first Johnny Jet newsletter I read many years ago. I enjoy all your newsletter, but especially like those where youíre with your family. I feel like Iím on a trip with my family going to places that have lots of memories. Iím glad to read that your brother Frank is doing well and to see that your dad was with you. Cherish those moments as they are what life is all about! Geof OíConnor - San Diego

  • I had to reread your article regarding the inexpensive Shelter Island Pharmacy a couple of times because when I read about the $3 cupcake my eyes jumped out of my head. Then I noticed that you bought it another place, LOL. Cheers, "Doc" Meyer - Montevideo, Uruguay (Expat)

  • I have read your Newsletters now for several years and used some of your advice for traveling. Ruthann L - Wasilla, Alaska

  • I have read your emails for years and find that you are very well versed on travel almost everywhere. Three of my friends and I are sailing on the Azamara Quest in November of this year. We arrive in Mumbai, India, on December 7th at 9 A.M. and depart Mumbai on December 8th at 6 P.M. We would love to see the Taj Mahal. The Ship offers a shore excursion which is 4 days (they would catch up with the ship in Cochin, India, on December 10th) we would like to make the trip in one long day, if at all possible. We really didn't want to stay over in a hotel, if we could avoid it. I have written to 2 travel agencies in India, but they really don't have anything that makes me feel like they do this kind of thing without you booking a 3 or 4 day package and neither spoke of how you would get to Dehli. Any ideas? Thanks, Nancy B - REPLY: I know what your friend is talking about. The travel agencies are very rigid and they want to sell a plan that goes for three days at least. Her trip can be done. But will be hectic and tiring. As she is arriving in Mumbai at 9 am she can take a flight to Delhi at 2pm which will put her in Delhi around 4 pm. She can hire a Air Conditioned Toyota Innova(van like Sienna) from a reputed travel agency and drive to Agra. It takes about 4 hours to drive to Agra. She can stay the night at Taj(very nice five star hotel at $350 a night) or Holliay Inn ($250 a night). Tour the Taj Mahal early in the morning and head back to Delhi at 10 am. She can get on 3pm flight in Delhi and head back to Mumbai. I will be nervous doing this as it's cutting very close to the departure time of Cruise Ship. And it will be very tiring for the fact that it will be their first days in over whelming India. I think the trip can be up to $650 per person if they are a group of 4. $350 for air tickets. $150 for transport between Delhi and Agra. $150 for hotel in Agra. They can use to book their air tickets and hotel. I found out that they have flights to Agra but when I searched for tickets they are sold out. One option will be to call/email them. Hope this helps. I wish, I know a reliable travel agent in Mumbai who can put together a trip for them. One thing is sure that any amount of pain is worth to visit Taj Mahal.

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