I’m finally in New York, and it feels great to be here, although it has been an incredibly long day.
We had an early flight this morning from Heathrow, and so I had to pick my friend up from his house in the middle of the night to make the journey to Heathrow Airport. I’m the sort of person who, whenever I travel, I like to be at an airport or similar at least an hour earlier than everybody else. This is mainly to allow for delays, but being early can sometimes have its benefits.
In 2001, I travelled with my family to the west coast of the USA a few weeks after 9/11 happened, and we arrived probably 5 or 6 hours before our flight. At that time airlines, especially American based airlines (we were flying United) were cancelling flights quite a lot due to a drop in passenger numbers. And so we wanted to get to the airport early enough so that, should our flight be affected, we would be at the front of the queue for any backup options.
So, when we turned up early and said “we know we can’t check in yet, but we want to ask what time check in opens?” we were, naturally, concerned when the United staff member said “Los Angeles? Ah…. wait there”. We assumed that our flight had been cancelled.
In the end our flight was ok but they had cancelled another LA flight that day and moved everybody on our flight. Since we arrived very early, to make some space on our plane, they offered us an opportunity to travel via San Francisco in Business Class on a flight that was just about to close. We naturally jumped at that opportunity. It meant that not only did we avoid spending hours at the airport but we also got about $12,000 of upgrades for free.
While we didn’t have quite the same benefit this time, American Airlines were incredibly helpful to us. I used the same trick again and went to the information desk to ask what time check-in would open, explaining to them that we arrived early to make sure I got an aisle seat due to having long legs.
The person at the information desk said that she was happy to assign seats for us at that time, so that we didn’t have to worry, and that we could just check in at our leisure once check-in opened later on. Which was great!
The flight was uneventful, and we arrived at JFK on time, before taking the air train and subway to our hotel – the Hotel Pennsylvania which is directly opposite Penn Station and Maddison Square Garden.
We arrived a bit early and so we checked our bags into the left luggage room before grabbing some lunch and exploring the area for an hour or so.
Upon returning to the hotel we experienced our first example of New York tipping culture which is a LOT more overt than any other place I have visited. Tipping is a big part of American culture, unlike in Europe, as wages for people in the service and hospitality industries are very low. However, at the luggage room, they were so overt about it that the guy behind the desk pointed at the tip jar and said “tips go here” before getting our bags. He also moved the jar closer to us and slammed it down on the desk upon returning, without knowing whether we had put anything in there or not, which I found a bit rude.
Putting that aside we checked in and went up to our room. I was ready to go straight out into the city but my friend was feeling exhausted and decided to stay in the room to take a nap while I went for a walk.
My first point of call was Central Park, where I spent an hour or so just walking around taking in the sights before slowly making my way back to the hotel via Times Square. I didn’t really have much of a plan, it was more about letting my friend have a nap, and so I also checked out the band that was playing outside Maddison Square Garden while people were going inside for a Rangers game.
We didn’t really do much for the rest of the day, just check out the local area and grab some food, but we have a lot planned for the days that we’re here.
Although I have to say, while I’m not much of a city break person, New York does seem to have a great atmosphere based on my experiences so far.