Taking the Great Circle on a single heading.

…actually it was two, but more on that later.

Six years ago I had just completed major surgery in Seattle and was staying in a hotel waiting to be certified “fit to fly” back to Sitka. (This was not my first rodeo.)  Something called Comicon was going on in Seattle.  It is a convention of people dressed as comic book, science fiction, and fantasy characters.  I walked through the lobby greeting Klingons, Batmen, and orcs.  I came across a group of women in exotic head dresses, red with white silk flowing down.  I asked “Aladdin, or One Thousand and One Nights?”  One of the women smiled and said “No, Emirates flight attendants.”

At that time, I had never flown Emirates.  I have since had that pleasure several times.  Looking at the map Emirates was the most direct way home.  Mauritius and Dubai are in the same time zone, and Seattle, when it is on standard time, is exactly 12 hours behind Mauritius.  That means if you fly straight north until you are flying straight south you get to Seattle.  It is the one time you can follow a rhum line and still take the great circle route.

We negotiated with the insurance companies that paid our way out of Mauritius, one wanted us to fly Mauritius to Paris to London to Seattle. Somewhat longer and much less direct, although less expensive.  Fortunately for me, they only had economy and premium economy seats.  I wanted business class, and more importantly, my doctors wanted business class.  To stop the internal bleeding, they gave me blood thickeners, not good on long flights.  They said I needed to constantly move my feet and get up and walk, much easier in business class than in economy.  The company handling the HAL Platinum Protection plan agreed (they were very good to work with, they checked in frequently and seemed genuinely concerned about my health.)  The doctors certified my height (6’2” whatever that is in centimeters) and weight (138 KG) and everyone agreed that I would not be able to move sufficiently in economy to stop clotting, so it was business class for me. 

They had to certify that I did not need either a doctor or a flight nurse to accompany me, although there was one doctor who seemed to be lobbying for a trip to Alaska.  But I did need a medical escort.  Suzi knew my meds, so she was my escort riding with me in Business Class.

Only Emirates had the business class seats available.  They had a LOT of empty business class seats.  They fly two Airbus A380 double decker jets to Mauritius each day and business and first class were not very full.  I do not understand Emirates business model, but I approve.

The airport is on the other side of the Island, about an hour’s drive from Port Louis.  The airport was still decked out in Mauritian Independence Day decorations.

We had dinner in the Air Mauritius Business Class Lounge while waiting for our Emirates flight.

Business Class on an Emirates A380 is something else.  You go to the second level of the plane and walk through first class to get to business.  First class has individual cabins with sliding louvered doors, desks and lie flat beds.  It also has showers, no kidding.

Business Class is also darned good.  Chairs become lie flat beds, there is an entertainment center with a big screen AND a tablet device.  Cubbies have water, sparkling water and coke right at the seat in kind of a mini bar.  After you take off the flight attendant asks if you want a matrass.  I did, so they made up the bed with a pillow and comforter.  Unfortunately I could only sleep for an hour at a stretch before I had to get up and walk to keep from clotting.  I was wearing full length compression stockings to help keep my blood flowing.

Even though I could not allow myself to sleep much I could do leg lifts and knee bends and I made good use of the books I bought at the English Language bookshop in Port Louis.  I followed our trek due north to Dubai on the navigation program.  The food was great.  It is an Arab airline, but they had a well-stocked wine cellar.  I drank mostly water, as per doctor’s instructions, but did indulge in some well-aged Graham’s Tawney Port.  The plane has a bar in the back with a constant flow if booze if you want it and unlimited snacks.  Six and a half hours later we were in Dubai.

The business class lounge in Dubai is a mezzanine that runs the length of the terminal with its own jet bridges to the airplanes.  There were several buffets and comfortable chairs.  A wheelchair greeted me at the jetway and scooted me to the lounge.  Four hours later it met me in the lounge and scooted me to the jetway.

The flight to Seattle was on a Boeing 777.  Seattle has not built any stands and jetways to accommodate the Airbus A380.  I am not sure if this is because Seattle is a Boeing town and they weren’t going to spend any money to dock any damn airbus monster jet or they just didn’t get around to it.

The 777 is not nearly as quiet as the Airbus.  The toilets are more cramped, and the business class layout is not as comfortable, but it is still pretty comfortable, with the matrass and comforter, an almost lie flat bed and minibar. 

We flew north, over Iran and the Caspian Sea and then across Russia, over Kirov and Perm.  I wonder how many international carriers still fly over Russia. We flew north, over the Arctic Coast, just east of Franz Josef Land, until we were flying south.  We made landfall in Canada just east of the Mackenzie Delta and flew south following the Alberta, BC border until we made the turn into Seattle.  This flight was 14 and a half hours, so I was glad the entertainment system had lots of movies, documentaries, and good music to listen to.  I was up every hour to walk, not a lot of sleep, so by the time I got to Seattle I was beat.

In Seattle a wheelchair met me at the gate. In Seattle, the wheelchairs are organized.  They link several together in a train and an electric engine pushes them over the new sky bridge between the S terminal and the main terminal.  The bridge is tall enough for a 747 to fit under.  We were whizzing along at a clip where I couldn’t take pictures.  I wasn’t awake enough to do that anyway.

At customs they decoupled the train and each of us got pushed through on our own.  Because we have global entry, we cleared customs quickly and my pusher got me to the hotel shuttle pick up curbside where we got the Marriott van and then into another waiting wheelchair.

At the hotel we made a big mistake.  It was 3 PM.  We should have stayed awake until bedtime but decided to take a nap.  I set the alarm to wake us in time for dinner.  After dinner it was morning in Mauritius.  Having taken the edge off my tired with the nap, I had trouble sleeping.

We had a late checkout at the Marriott and it was off to the airport for our afternoon flight to Sitka.  The van is supposed to drop us off in the hotel shuttle zone, but it took me to the ADA wheelchair area where they needed two ladies to push me to the counter, through security and along the D concourse, which has several sloping up ramps.

On the flat the ladies would get some speed going so when we hit the upward sloping ramps they could get the chair up the ramp.  (Where is the electric engine when you need it?)  Sometimes someone would step in front of us and they would shout “coming through.”  At one point a little dog stepped in front of the onrushing chair and squatted.  The ladies shouted, the dog owner pulled the leash, the dog set his legs but was small enough to be dragged out of the way leaving a trail of poop behind him.  The ladies avoided getting the wheels fouled.

Our Alaska Airlines Plane

Our friends Dave and Janet met us at the airport.  We got home to be reunited with our long lost but well-traveled suitcase that Alaska Airlines failed to get to us in Fort Lauderdale, Jamaica, Panama, and Tahiti and that, somehow, ended up in in Salt Lake City before beating us home to Sitka.

Reunited with our long lost and well traveled suitcase

The next post will be some lessons learned and, perhaps, some news you can use if you end up with a medical emergency while on a cruise.

5 thoughts on “Taking the Great Circle on a single heading.

  1. I literally hung on every word and looked closely at every picture. What an experience! Costumed airline attendants (very fancy), plush business class accommodations, wheelchairs-ramps-and poop…Oh, My! No deep sleep allowed! Just WOW! I think that doc deserves a trip to Alaska just to tend to you.

  2. What a trip home! But you made it.
    Would it help to think at least you didn’t have to pack that suitcase before you left the ship? And didn’t have to lug it half-way around the world to get it home?

  3. Phenomenal. Like reading a non stop interesting book. I had to read all of it twice. Outstanding doctors! You and your bag have set records for world travel and fascinating experiences. You both should write a book . ~ Aloha!

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