The rise of Facebook as a great time-waster is pretty well-documented, and now aviation geeks have their own way to flush hours down the lavatory: Let me introduce FlightMemory.com, a Web site that lets you input all your commercial flights. It then tracks your time and mileage and plots it on a map. You can even order a poster based on your flight paths. (Thanks to Things in the Sky for the discovery.)
What’s kind of useful is that you can choose to enter the bare-minimum of details, or delve into
excruciating detail about every single thing the airline, TSA and airport employees did wrong – or you can praise them for those times when “customer service” isn’t a punchline.
I’m still working on getting my flights in, but I’ve made some headway. It’s quite a lot of fun, especially since it appears to be of German origin and translated by members of The Scorpions while they were on tour with Van Halen circa 1985 (“We can now offer you some new thingies for your pleasure – introducing the FlightMemory shop!” … tell me you couldn’t hear Klaus Meine saying that!).
Obviously, this took me down memory lane – in the spirit of Flightmemory, here is a list of my Top 5 best-ever commercial flights – I don’t really need to do my 5 Worst … that’s pretty much any time American Airlines was involved!
1. Los Angeles to Auckland, NZ. Qantas. 12.25 hours. Aside from the usual Qantas comfort -boarding and finding the welcome kit on your seat, the cool flight attendants, the on-demand
entertainment- this was a rarity for transcontinental flight: No jet lag! The flight left at 9 p.m. local time … I ate, slept, caught some movies, ate, slept more, woke up and I was in Auckland at 6 a.m. local time. I was pretty fresh, having felt like I just had a long night. BONUS – Some serious turbulence shook us from Hawaii to Auckland, bouncing the 747-400 around. Some wouldn’t like that, but I call it fun.
2. Los Angeles to Honolulu. American. About 5 hours. American Airlines sneaks into my best-of! But hey, when you land in Honolulu, everything is better. I loved the airport’s open-air walkways and the immediately balmy feel of the air. You can’t be in Honolulu and not feel a huge weight come off your shoulders. Plus, I loved the landing – a hard turn for the final approach. Always fun in a DC-10!
3. Quepos to San Jose, Costa Rica. Nature Air. 39 minutes. From start to finish, this was an absolute blast of a flight. A taxi dropped us off in the middle of the jungle at a paved airstrip. There was no control tower, just a thatched-roof hut … that happened to sell tasty homemade desserts! There was no
security gate, and an 11-year-old tico grabbed our bags and loaded them in the cart. A few minutes later, a DeHaviland Twin Otter landed. People got off, the 11-year-old put our bags on, and we were wheels-up moments later. The view is absolutely splendid and shocking green, with low-lying clouds wreathing the mountaintops. At that point, it was the smallest plane Sarah had ever been on. She started off squishing her armrests with a death grip, but she soon relaxed, captivated by the view out the window.
4. Belize City to San Padro/Caye Ambergris. Maya Island Airways. 35 minutes. Make no mistake about it: Belize City’s Phillip SW Goldson Airport is by far the most spastic, chaotic, overheated and incomprehensible airport I’ve ever seen despite its Lilliputian proportions. You can only imagine my pleasure when our connecting flight was a three-passenger Cessna 182! This quickly became the record for Sarah’s smallest plane ever, and she was again a bit leery at first.
But the pilot had smoove skills, and the view was simply awesome – islands, clear water, clouds, a setting sun. It was just turning to dusk when we landed at an unpaved strip in San Pedro amid a lively island town that caters to divers. We grabbed our backpacks and walked to our hotel without a fuss. So much fun!
5. Wellington to Nelson, New Zealand. Air New Zealand. 39 minutes. Wellington is my favorite airport ever. No security checkpoints, no fuss, easy-to-understand procedures and friendly people. You read that right: We did not have to pass a security checkpoint to board our DeHaviland Dash-8. For some reason, I love boarding up the stairs instead of using a jetway. Call me old school! We couldn’t enjoy the view since the sky was socked in with clouds. We got bounced all over the
place which I, again, consider fun. Though the flight was incredibly short, the lone flight attendant was very gracious … same for the Air New Zealand crew on the two-hour haul from Queenstown to Auckland.
HONORABLE MENTION: Sydney to Darwin, NT, Australia. 4 hours. Qantas 767-300.