Chron profiles one Houstonian's travel hobby

The Chronicle's Dai Huynh profiles a Houston man who makes a habit of being on inaugural Continental Airlines flights:

Circling the Earth by plane would add 25,000 miles to your frequent flier account. Imagine doing that four times a year.

Jim Shelly travels city-to-city, country-to-country for his job as a sports consultant and marketer. He averages more than 100,000 miles per year, or four times around the world. You would think the Houston-based road warrior would have grown weary of life in the sky. Not Shelly, who has boarded every major Continental Airlines inaugural flight of eight hours or longer since a dare in 2001.

He doesn't fly on the inaugural flights for work, either. He does it for fun, and on his own dime.

"It's a buzz, going over and coming back," Shelly said. "There's an excitement that is hard to replicate. Look around, I don't think anybody is going to sleep on this inaugural flight to Mumbai."

Last fall, Shelly was on Continental's first daily, nonstop service between Mumbai and its New Jersey hub at Newark Liberty International Airport. All around him, the mostly Indian passengers were standing in the aisles, chatting about the significance of the nonstop route that would allow U.S. travelers to bypass lengthy connections in Europe. Also, Mumbai is India's commercial center. The new service, several people said, further validates India's influence on the business world.

"They're excited," Shelly said. "Who can blame them? It's almost like they're making history because they're the first on this flight. It's unique; it's something not many people get to do."

Unless you're Shelly. His first inaugural flight was to Hong Kong, followed by Amsterdam, Geneva, Beijing, New Delhi, Mumbai and most recently, London Heathrow Airport. Next year, he plans to board Continental's inaugural flight from Newark Liberty to Shanghai.

Many sane people probably wonder about Mr. Shelly's unusual hobby, but I have to admit being a little envious. I would at least spend a few days at the locations, though. Same-day turns to exotic places don't make much sense to me, but maybe he's already seen it all.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 06/01/08 09:22 PM | Print |

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