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December 19, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 St. Kitts to L.A.
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Goeie More from South Africa! Can you believe that I finally set foot on the soil of one of my all-time dream destinations? Getting here was an adventure in itself but traveling business class on South African Airlines made the long flight easy. If you're up for accruing some serious frequent flier miles (our travels take us from St. Kitts to Miami to Los Angeles to New York to Dakar and then on to Johannesburg), then log on. If you're not a fan of long flights, then perhaps Juliet Pennington can entice you to visit The Spa at New York's Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Or you can travel to the south of France with Tom Calicchio this week. The choice is yours.

ST KITTS TO MIAMI TO DELRAY BEACH
Last week we left off on the island of St. Kitts. Instead of flying directly back home to L.A., I spent a couple of days with my sister, niece and nephew in Delray Beach, Florida. I needed to pass through Miami International anyway so it was a great opportunity to spend some time with them. Delray Beach is 55 miles north of Miami so I decided my best option would be taking the Tri-Rail. Since it was a Sunday, the one-way fare cost only $4 (normally it's $5) and I didn't have to deal with driving or spending $150 on a taxi. But when I arrived at the station (a free five-minute shuttle bus ride) I learned that on Sundays, they don't operate on the usual weekday hourly schedule. So I ended up killing two hours by walking across the busy street to the Wyndham Miami Airport Hotel to get some din din and catching some Sunday night football. I was surprised by how chic the hotel lobby was and my Buffalo spicy chicken sandwich ($10) in their modern restaurant hit the spot before the 69-minute train ride to Delray.

THE KITE RUNNER
The most exciting thing I did out in L.A. was attend a screening of The Kite Runner. It was at the Paramount Lot in Hollywood, which is always a trip to visit. The party was hosted by Australians in Film and after the two-hour, incredibly moving movie, there was a Q&A with the Australian producer Rebecca Yeldham (who also produced The Motorcycle Diaries.) It was fascinating to hear how the movie came about and I was shocked to learn that they had begun work on the project back in 2003. They cast Afghan boys in two of the movie's lead roles and shot most of the film in Western China. The acting was excellent including that of the talented Khalid Abdalla, who played the role of Hassan. He's originally from England but has an Egyptian background and the only film part he previously could land was of a terrorist (United 93). To learn to speak Dari, he moved to Kabul and in just two months he mastered the language. Wow. I wish I could learn languages like that. I've been in America all my life and I still haven't conquered English.

SECURITY AT LAX
Because of Sunday's nor'easter, I was forced to travel to JFK a day early. I arrived at LAX an hour before departure and it was still 10 minutes too early. To be able to travel like this it's essential to travel with only carry-on and to print your boarding pass at home. Because I have elite status with Delta, I was able to go through the Medallion Only security line. I thought it was weird there was no agent checking identification, but I was in a hurry so I kept on moving. It wasn't very comforting until the TSA agent on the other side of the security screening checkpoint (which I had just gone through with my two bags, shoes, jacket and everything out of my pockets in separate bins) said, "Where's your TSA stamp?" What TSA stamp? At LAX Terminals 1 through 6 require the agents at the first checkpoint to stamp and initial boarding passes. But they don't at Terminal 7. Why are there so many inconsistencies with the TSA? When I replied that I hadn't been given a stamp, I was told that I would have to go back downstairs with all my stuff to get one. I thought that was insane and pleaded that it wasn't my fault. When she wouldn't budge, I politely asked to speak with her supervisor who was nearby. Fortunately, she was understanding and took my pass and ID to get it stamped while I waited with my bags. If I hadn't been polite, my arse would've been in the back of the line.



DELTA ROCKS
I was flying to JFK in one of Delta's new interior planes with the entertainment systems in the back of each seat. My buddy Brett from CrankyFlier.com taught me that the way you can tell if a Delta plane has these before you book your ticket is to pull up the seat maps on Delta.com. 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. You definitely want to get on these planes because the entertainment selection is awesome. 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 in business have power ports!

LAX TO JFK
As an added bonus I got upgraded. Don't you love Delta for giving its frequent fliers free upgrades? I sat right in front of Reverend Run (Run DMC) and his family. When I got on the plane I said, "What's up, Run?" like we were best friends. He looked me over for a moment, then extended his hand and smiled. He and his family were polite and his wife seems like a good mother. Flight time was four hours and 45 minutes and after takeoff, business class passengers were given the option between a sausage omelet with fresh fruit or, for the healthy people (or the suckers in the last row), fresh fruit and yogurt. In coach (on the west coast flights to and from New York), the Buy On-Board program has been reinstated. Depending on the time of day, passengers can now purchase (using cash or credit) sandwiches and salads developed by celebrity chef Todd English. As we reached the middle of the country, those of us on the other side of the curtain were offered the usual snacks; Sun Chips, Biscoff cookies, crackers and peanuts. Just before touchdown, small boxes of Godiva chocolates were handed out.

PEOPLE MOVERS
As you can see, Delta does a lot of things right but what I don't understand is what's up with their jetways at JFK? Twice in the past two weeks (at two separate gates), they've claimed that the jetways weren't working and brought passengers to and from the terminal using the People Movers that are common at Dulles.

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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip

 

My Sister, Niece and Nephew

 

Wyndham Miami Airport Hotel

 

Buffalo Spicy Chicken

 

Tri-Rail

 

Nor'easter

 

Delta 757

 

Delta Sandwiches

 

Over Chicago

 

Delta Terminal at JFK

 

Delta People Movers

 

Rockefeller Center

 

Freezing!

 

Maxim Radio

 

Grand Central Terminal

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