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Welcome everyone to this week's edition of "Where's JohnnyJet?" If you haven't yet read your November/December National Geographic Traveler magazine, then turn to page 36 to see an interview with yours truly! Now how cool is that?  In other news, my brother Frank did an excellent job last week with the first installment of his trip to Jordan. Part two should be in next week’s newsletter. By the way, the weather has been beautiful here in sunny Southern California. It's actually better than summer: 85 degrees, the beaches are empty and no fog! Gotta love it.

This week Amber Airplane made her famous monkey bread! I hate when she makes it, because it's so damn good that I seriously devour it within an hour. After seeing that picture in the hyperlink, I think it's time for me go for a run on the beach. Maybe I can talk Amber Airplane into putting the recipe on her new website/newsletter. (Did you know that after so many reader emails, Amber Airplane is going to share some of her secrets, stories and insights with you?  I can't wait until is finished!)  

Moving right along: I live so close to LAX that I don't mind (at all) making airport runs for friends. It's funny: Even though I travel at least once a week, I still get jealous when I drop them off. This week I made two trips. On my first run I took one of my best friends, Kevin and his wife Leslie. If you couldn't tell from the picture, they were off to Hawaii.  That really hurt! Amber Airplane was the second one I dropped off, and that was more painful -- but not because of where she was going. Just kidding! I love Cleveland.  Amber Airplane went home to show her ring to her family, and work on her website with her sister. Anyway, the upside of taking friends to the airport is that I can always (well, sometimes -- they aren't home too often either) call them to pick me up or drop me off. Who wants to pay $20 for a 10 minute taxi ride? 

However, on Thursday I couldn't ask any of my friends to take me to LAX at 5:30 a.m. to make my 7 a.m. flight.  Believe me, I thought about calling them, but I knew they would have killed me. So the night before I ordered a taxi, and was happy to hear it pull up five minutes early. But I wasn't too thrilled when I got in the cab and saw the meter running.  I asked the driver, "What's up with the meter running?"  He said, "Oh, I must've hit it by mistake – sorry!" and reset it. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. 

Then when we arrived at LAX I noticed the meter was $3 more than it usually is. I asked, "Did you guys just raise your prices?" He said, "No, why?" I said, "Because I do this trip almost once a week and it never cost this much.” He said with a fast, nervous, overly friendly voice -- like a con man -- "Oh, this isn’t my cab. Just give me whatever you normally pay.” I thought: “You creep! You fixed the meter so you can take advantage of some poor, unsuspecting tourist, and when someone calls you on it you give this lame excuse.” That time I didn't give him the benefit of the doubt, and shortchanged him a few dollars (I didn't tip him). It's funny: he was trying to rip me off, but I got him back. BTW: The same thing happened to me a month ago but with a different driver. When I called him on it, he said the same thing. Smells like a racket to me.

My stomach was growling so much, I grabbed a breakfast sandwich at McDonald's. I then got on my first flight of the day to Atlanta. You probably guessed I was on Delta.  As everyone knows, Atlanta Hartsfield Airport is dominated by Delta and its regional jets (Delta Connection, ASA and Comair). Delta probably controls 85-90 percent of the flights in and out of there. But did you also know that Atlanta is the world's busiest airport -- and it will soon be known as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport? That's after a heated dispute, which you can read about  here.

When I got on the plane, the flight attendants handed me a menu with some pretty desirable items. I was bummed I had eaten at Mickey D's, because it would've been my first time trying Delta's pay-for-food plan, but I wasn't going to blow $10 on a sandwich I wasn't going to eat. Anyway, this is what the food cart looked like in coach. They sell everything from chips and chocolates to sandwiches

In three and a half hours I was in Hartsfield Airport.  The flight from LAX to ATL is surprisingly short. I had only an hour layover and – surprise! -- I was hungry again. So I walked by the food court and watched where the flight attendants (FAs) and pilots were getting their food. That's always a sign of a safe place to eat, because FAs and pilots are masters when it comes to finding good airport grub. After my tasty little snack I walked to my gate and got on a MD80 headed for VPS. Don't feel bad if you don't know where that is; I didn't either. VPS is the airport code for Okaloosa County Regional Airport, better known as Fort Walton Beach Airport.  Unless you are from the South you probably don't know where that is, and until a few weeks ago I had no idea either. At any rate, here's a map to show you exactly where it is.  In case you can't surf the internet at work (like my buddy Mike), let me explain: It's in northwest Florida (you know: the panhandle, near the Alabama border). Many people call this area the Redneck Riveria, but as you will see, where I went there were no rednecks.  

The airport is also a military base. On one side of the airport were fighter jets, and on the other side were commercial jets. As we taxied down the runway I did a double take, because cars were driving alongside of us. As we slowed down I could see they were military officers driving to and from the base. But at first I was like, “Where the hell am I?!”  

When our plane parked we all had to walk down the stairs. The airport is in the midst of renovations, so in the future you won't have to do that. I actually like the old school stairs -- especially in warm climates, because it gives me a chance to get a feel for the place and the temperature right away.  What was crazy about the airport was that because of construction there were temporary maze -like borders set up that seemed as if they would never end. We had to walk at least 300 yards.

This was my first time to this part of Florida, and also my first time on a press trip. (I have been invited many times, but could never go because on schedule conflicts). The best part about a press trip is obvious: You go somewhere and have everything paid for. But I also learned you get to meet plenty of nice people. However, the worst part is that you don't get a true feel for an area, like a typical traveler would. Before I left for the trip I told Amber Airplane that no matter how much they schmoozed me I would write an honest report. If I didn't have a good time I would tell people that. I will not lie at any cost. 

Although press trips are new to me, organized trips like this are not. I used to be a part of them from the "other side" (sales) when I worked for  Marymount College in Palos Verdes,  California. I was an admission counselor, and one of my jobs was to organize trips for high school counselors from around the world to come see what we offered. I helped set up a program to give the counselors the best feel for our school. Obviously, our job was to make sure they had the best food and accommodations, and a chance to talk to our finest students and professors. Don't think this is a bad thing, or something new. It's not. Almost every college in the country does this, and for that matter most businesses do it as well.  

The smart counselors were the ones who wandered off around campus during their free time to see areas that weren't on the tour, and meet other students and professors who weren't in our programs. I learned a lot from watching those counselors, and I took their approach on this trip. I went in knowing my environment would be controlled, so in my "free time" I went around and asked a lot of questions of hotel guests and workers. I just wanted to make sure they had the same impressions I did. 

Like a bad boy I hadn't read my information packet, so I didn't know what to expect, how to dress or who would be on the trip. I didn't even know how I was getting from the airport to the hotel. I won't do that again. When I arrived at baggage claim I was relieved to see my name written on a sign held up by a driver.

I was picked up by a representative of  Dave's Bayside Airport Shuttle (tel.: 850-581-1505). I hear they are the best mode of transportation to and from the local airports (Pensacola, Destin, Panama City). I took them twice during the week, and both times they were professional and prompt. Because everything was paid for, I had to make a few phone calls to find out the actual costs. A ride from the Okaloosa airport to the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort (where we stayed) is $40 for up to three people; each additional person is $10. That's a fair deal, considering the drive is 24 miles.   

Okay, this is getting a little too long. I’m sure you need to finish your meal, and I need to go for a run on the beach. I will pick up here next week, and tell you all about my first press trip to Sandestin. 

Happy travels,

Johnny Jet

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  • *If you heard about us somewhere else or have the link to the story please email Johnny Jet media and let us know where!
  • I loved the story of your engagement at the Hollister Ranch, but was disappointed you didn't have a picture of the ring. I LOVED "the ring" picture in this newsletter. We are all giddy when we get our piece of the rock and AA is no exception, she looks elated!   P.S. I was in Denver for a wedding the same weekend you mentioned being in the airport. I think I missed my JJ sighting!   Katie - Minneapolis.
  • So you and Amber really do take a breather once in a while, sort of return to Earth, get your affairs in order and do the laundry. Your brother did an outstanding job in his report from Jordan and also a sense of humor. Genetic?  I'm surprised that you haven't mentioned the new airline ploy that Continental (maybe NW and Delta since they're brethren?) of giving the passengers flying the lower fares only 50% of their Elite message. I have an opinion about that but it's not fit for public consumption. I think that's a personal affront to the majority of the flying public and is pandering to the business folks. If the airlines want to reward the higher paying folks that's fine; give them 100% + of the mileage but don't take it away from the passenger. I think that the public should be outraged and barrage, or better yet boycott, the guilty airline(s). Continental is attempting to mollify the public to some extent by allowing full Elite mileage if you book entirely on line, but for only one year.   Since you appear to be making the News into a family affair, and I mean that as a compliment, perhaps you should consider having Amber write a column. It would surely show a different perspective on your gallivanting and offer a woman's perspective to boot. She can call it "Amber's Amblings" or if she's had one too many Mai Tais call it "Amber's Ramblings".  Peace,  NJ Burt
  • I almost e-mailed you last week when you mentioned Chili's was a great place to eat at O'Hare, and now that you've mentioned Corner Bakery I had to comment.  In fact, they are both owned by the same company, and I'm glad to hear your great experiences with them.   Amanda


    • Just wanted you to know that I used your tip on the phone service for my trip (back) to Australia.  What GREAT people and EASY!! I have a friend that bought a phone to use while traveling in South Africa earlier in the year and he paid US$1.99/minute.  JohnnyJetCellPhones were able to organize a rate through Optus in Australia for A$.29/minute (approximately US$.19/minute).  Can't wait to get back to Oz to see my friends/"family".  John W. - Atlanta, Georgia
    • Your Cellular Phone link does't work. I went directly to CellularAbroad and put "JohnnyJet" in as the promo code for the phone I just purchased.  Thanks for the information... I was just about to rent from another company with a much more expensive deal.  Now all I have to do is win the photo contest!   Wallace S.

    • NICE write up in Nat Geo traveler! Very impressive. I think that if you ever sell, you could seriously make some big $$ doing PR for travel related companies! Look what you’ve done for yourself! That’s saleable.  Chris - Atlanta
    • Just got my copy of the Nov/Dec edition and read the article about you. Congratulations!  Happy Trails! GlobalBrenda - NYC
    • I found you in the “Checking In” column in Traveler magazine- great site and info I will continue to use it.  Maureen -
    • Did Ali tell Frankie that Jesus turned water into wine in Jerash?  Or did Frank simply misunderstand?  Jesus' first miracle took place in Cana of Galilee--on the west side of the Jordan River, west even of Galilee. Read the story in the Gospel of John, chapter 2.  As a former resident of the region, I have to hope that the next installment of JJ's beloved brother's safari saga is critically edited to (1) correct errors of fact (one of Jordan's problems is unemployment), (2) drop boorish stereotyping (the Islamic call to prayer is not a call to slaughter infidels even if Frank seems to dream that it is).  Richard L  - Portland, Oregon
    • "Did you know you could get fined $1,000 for standing up when the seat belt sign is on?" Well look at this email a flight attendant sent me. "Well, it finally happened. Jane, Shelly and myself had an FAA inspector on our flight from LAS to DEN. We made sure all safety related duties were accomplished, like always ... (exit rows and seatbelt checks) but here is the interesting thing. A passenger got up when the seat belt sign was on and tried to use the First Class lavatory, (He was a coach passenger). Knowing the inspector was right there in seat 3C, Jane told the man that the seatbelt sign was on and that he needed to return to his seat immediately. He said he needed to use the bathroom and she said that he needed to return to his seat. He ignored her and went into the bathroom.The FAA inspector asked Jane to get that man's name and address and that he was going to fine him. The man gave Jane his information, shaking the whole time. He was a an elite member of the frequent flier program and he got caught. When Jane gave the info to the inspector, he, get this, asked Jane if she would like him to give the man an $1,100 or $2,200 fine.  He asked Jane the amount she thought the man should have to pay.That was because the man directly violated a Flight Attendant duty. We were floored. He also said that we should not have to put up with passengers verbal abuse and total disregard for safety. He also said that even if an FAA inspector is not onboard, and a passenger violates ANY safety issue, WE can impose a fine on that passenger. Just get the name and address and send it in to the FAA with a report and they will impose the fine of our choice (up to $2,200). The airlines don't tell us this because it is bad press for them, but it really restored in me some faith in the system and made me realize that the FAA respects the flight attendant a whole lot more than the airlines do.   So spread the word and keep safety first and foremost when you go to work.  And make sure your handbooks are up to date and everything is properly noted.  Don't be afraid of the inspectors...if you do your job like you always do, you'll be fine...and they are our friends...this proved it. 

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    More bad news from Delta...

    Effective Mar. 16, 2004, the number of miles required for selected SkyMiles award tickets and upgrades will increase. Here are the award-ticket changes:

    Within the continental U.S., award levels will rise from 40,000 to 45,000 miles for first class awards.

    Free Hawaii tickets increase from 30,000 to 35,000 miles for coach; from 60,000 to 75,000 for first.

    Other award mileage increases:

     - Central America, from 50,000 to 60,000 for business class.
     - Northern S. America, from 60,000 to 70,000 for business.
     - Southern S. America, from75,000 to 90,000 for business.
     - Europe, from 80,000 to 90,000 for business.
     - N. Asia, from 90,000 to 120,000 for business; 120,000 to
        140,000 first.
     - S. Asia, from 95,000 to 120,000 for business; 130,000 to
        140,000 first.
     - India, from 100,000 to 120,000 for business.

    Among the upgrade changes, the most notable is the increase to 1-way, 1-class upgrades between the U.S. and Europe: from 10,000 to 15,000 miles for upgrades from full-fare economy, and from 20,000 to 25,000 miles for upgrades from discounted economy fares.

    According to a Delta SkyMiles rep (who was unaware of the changes until my call), the Mar. 16 effect date applies to ticketing, not travel. So be sure to make award reservations before Mar. 16 to take advantage of the current lower rates, even if your award trip takes place after that date.

    For more, visit .

    Tim Winship
    FrequentFlier Crier

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