Monday, December 3, 2007

Bienvenidos a Mexico (Welcome To Mexico)

Passport ready, a few pesos in my pocket, lots and lots of patience, and I thought I was ready for this trip.

It started on Friday with a quick turnaround to New Orleans and back. Then we loaded up a full plane for Mexico City. On board that night were quite a few Dallas Cowboys fans that had come up for the game the previous night. Dallas had beaten the Green Bay Packers in Irving, Tx. The fans seemed very happy and were in good spirits. It was apparent that many of them had done a lot of Christmas shopping because they had a bunch of gifts and stuff on board with them.

While I was reviewing our flight plan our dispatcher called to advise me that there was an ongoing eruption of Mt Popocatepetl near Mexico City. No lava, just ash...but ash is bad for airplanes. Jet engines will not run when any ash is ingested. So now we had to determine where the ash cloud was so we could avoid it. It was a night flight so we couldn't rely on visual indications so we had to accept the Mexican authorities reports. They were reporting that the ash plume was drifting away from the airport and would not be a problem. Mexico City is famous for it's pollution problem and we can always expect to have to fly a complete instrument approach because of the smog problem. But tonight the concern would be the ash cloud.
So off we went and climbed up to 33,000 ft and enjoyed a smooth dinner flight to Mexico City.
I had the chicken and my FO had something that resembled pasta.

Arrival traffic was pretty heavy even though we were arriving at just before midnight. Apparently the ash cloud was causing some problems with air traffic control and the arrivals were all having to be routed via the same arrival route in order to avoid the ash.

After the instrument approach and landing we were told by the control tower that there were no gates available and that we would have to park at a remote parking spot and use buses to get everyone to the terminal. After waiting for 30 minutes for the buses to arrive, we were finally on our way through customs and immigration. The lines were extremely long due to a problem with the passport scanners. Every passenger was taking about 5 minutes each to get processed. Then to top it all off, the customs folks decided to inspect all the crew's baggage. What???

Not the passengers...the crew's!!

I shot a photo of my FO having his suitcase searched. I asked one of them what they were looking for and they said "contraband".......Why would an airline crew member bring contraband into a country like Mexico we all thought? Or any country for that matter.

I considered protesting but thought better of it. The thought of an airport hotel room sounded better than being detained by the authorities in a Mexican jail.

Our hotel is located across the street from the airport so we all walked over to it. At least the check in went smoothly....My head hit the pillow just before 2:00 AM.

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