Friday, May 30, 2008

Safely Back On American Soil

Thank the Lord for safe passage so far. It is good to be back on good old American soil.
One of the toughest parts of the trip are the hours that we have to spend in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. We arrived at the airport at 9:20 AM for our 12:30 flight. As usual, we barely made it to the gate just as the flight was beginning to board. Our team stood in line at the ticket counters for check in for over two hours! To say the lines are long in Manila would be a great understatement. Cathay Pacific Airlines is a first class organization, but Manila airport is an absolute bottleneck.

Here is a photo of one of the Cathay Pacific 747's like the one we flew from Manila to Hong Kong to Los Angeles. Security is unbelievable over there. Bags are screened in Manila at least two times and then again at the gate. Then in Hong Kong, even though you do not go outside of the secure area, you still have to go through a security checkpoint at the "Transfer Area" where bags are scanned and searched before one proceeds to the gate area. As you go down the ramp to the Jetway, carry on bags are searched again by Chinese military people. What was really interesting on this trip is that the plane we flew in from Manila to Hong Kong landed at Gate 23. We all exited the plane, walked nearly a mile, went through transfer point E-2 and then proceeded to the gate for our departure to Los Angeles. Gate 23! We got back on the exact same plane we had flown into Hong Kong. This is the second time this has happened on a trip back from the Philippines, and it seems that there ought to be an easier way to do this for people who will be on the same plane for the second flight.

At any rate, the trans Pacific flight was as comfortable as one can be in economy class. That particular leg of the flight lasted 12 hours (two hours shorter than the flight over!) and the crew is very pleasant. This plane seemed to be brand new, and had some very nice features even in coach. Six of us had seats in the back three rows of the plane and that worked out great. Those three rows only have two seats instead of three because of how the fuselage narrows at the rear of the plane. There is not room for a third seat, but there is a good bit of elbow room between the inside seat and the window. In a jam packed 747 that is a nice feature with elbow room by the window and the aisle.
It is always a wonderful feeling to touch down at Los Angeles International Airport. Back in the good old USA! It is a welcome sight indeed. Our flight landed about 2:40 PM, we picked up our luggage and cleared customs and then parted ways with our teammates from New Orleans. Their United Airlines flight was due to depart for the Big Easy from Terminal 7 at 6:00 PM. Joey and I will be flying US Airways out of Terminal #1 at 10:45 PM. What's funny is that they will be back in New Orleans before our flight even leaves LA. We should have time to freshen up in Charlotte between 6 and 9 AM tomorrow before flying back to Tri State Airport.
Looking forward to seeing the church family on Sunday.
Thanks for your continued prayers on our behalf.

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