Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
This is the fourth of a five part series covering my trip to the USA back in April of 2013. So far I’ve travelled from my home airport, London Heathrow, to Paris Orly and then from Paris deGaulle, back to London Heathrow, across the pond to Washington, and then to Chicago where part 3 left off. If you’ve missed the previous parts, they can be found here:
USA 2013 Pt 1: The Beginning BA LHR-ORY
USA 2013 Pt 2: BA A320/744 WTP CDG-LHR-IAD
USA 2013 Pt 3: Almost a disaster with AA DCA-ORD
This part will cover my flight with American Airlines down to Orlando, where I have family. Luckily this sector wasn’t anywhere near as stressful as experienced in part three, although it still wasn’t without trouble.
As the flights that BA gave me on the original booking got me into Orlando a little later than wanted, I booked this sector separately through the AA website.
A pricey £125 later, and I was all set. The most appealing factor for me on this sector was the fact it was scheduled to be operated by the MD-80, a type that I had logged before, but not for well over 20 years. So I was long overdue getting re acquainted.
Check in via the AA app was a pretty smooth process – while waiting in line for the elevator at the Willis Tower!
The day started more abruptly than anticipated, due to a fire alarm going off in the hotel. I know I wanted a wake up call, but something a bit subtler would have been more suited. I don’t think I’ve packed up and got dressed quicker in my life…
I checked out of the hotel at just before 08:30, again a little earlier than I wanted, but as I was up I figured I’d grab some breakfast at the airport. I caught the shuttle over to terminal 3, arriving at a wet terminal around ten minutes later.
Once at a wet terminal, I headed inside to grab my souvenir boarding pass.
I then went to a ticket agent and to tried and get some sort of printed confirmation of my upcoming flights, so I can avoid the issues experienced on my previous sector. Once again, the agent confirmed that everything was as it should be, and even managed to reserve me window seats for all flights. As far as I was aware, BA had done this for me (twice) but for some reason either BA hadn’t told AA or AA just wasn’t listening. There really are some communication issues between the two…
Once this was sorted, it was through security. Due to my BA status I was entitled to use the fast track – again, something that AA gives which BA don’t. Around five minutes later, I was through and headed off for a heart attack on a plate.
Bit of history in the food court
Once breakfast was done, I was free to roam T3 for the next hour or so.
Eventually, I headed down to gate H16 where my flight would now be departing from. Once I arrived, there wasn’t an aircraft on stand, so I stood watching the various movements.
Still the MD80!
At 10:20, the ground staff announced that due to the earlier bad weather there would be a slight delay. Firstly due to not having an aircraft and secondly due to not having a crew. Luckily I wasn’t in a rush, as a few minutes later the gate agent announced a further delay due to the aircraft being in a hold above ORD. As I had a decent view, I didn’t mind too much.
Was this our jet?
Nope, How about this one?
Around five minutes prior to departure, the ground staff were on again, this time saying the aircraft that was planned to operate our flight had been diverted Milwaukee, due to not having enough fuel to hold above Chicago, and that they didn’t know what the plan was now – weather it was to wait for the original plane, find us a new one or cancel the flight.
A few moments later, the guy on the desk was on the PA again, saying he didn’t know what was going on and that he had ‘go do something else now’, and with that everybody was left to fend for themselves. Once more, pretty poor customer service from AA, at least from the ground staff. I sat and waited for a while before going for a wonder once more.
A few minutes later the new gate, H8, was announced.
The remaining time was spent getting various email, app and PA updates from AA – mostly informing me that departure time was being pushed back.
And watching the various AA movements.
At 12:50, the new ground agents said that the aircraft still hadn’t left Milwaukee, so a 13:15 departure wasn’t looking likely, although there wasn’t any official word saying otherwise. A couple of minutes after this, they were back on saying that the aircraft had now departed and was due onto stand at 13:15 – and that despite no official updates coming from upstairs, it’s likely to be around 30-40 minutes after the aircraft arrives before we can depart. I could see for myself what was going on though:
At 13:20, it was finally announced that our aircraft had landed, and we were given a departure time of 14:05. Even so, it still took quite a while for an aircraft to arrive on to stand.
Finally, at just before 13:40 N433AA pulled on to stand, delivered in 1987 – so nice and retro!
A pretty quick turn around followed and boarding was finally called at 14:00.
Due to my priority AAccess I was one of the first to board, although due to a lot going on around it was a little hard to hear the boarding procedure.
8th April 2013
MD83 / N433AA
Seat: 24A / Main Cabin
Off Stand: 14:21
On Stand: 17:49
Once onboard, I found the legroom pretty good. I did initially have a seatmate, but once boarding was complete a flight attendant asked if we were travelling together and then told him to ‘jump back’ as she hated seeing empty rows – suited me!
We then pushed back, taxied about twenty feet and then came to a stop for about ten minutes.
Once back underway again, we headed down to the active, passing a stricken friend along the way.
This one flew me LHR-WAW back in December. Such a shame to see this.
Shortly after, we powered down the runway. I was expecting this MD to be a little louder, especially down the back , but surprisingly it was comparable to other jets.
Once again, I connected to the inflight wifi, and today it was free of charge. Not too sure if this was due to some sort of compensation due to the delay or a special offer. Nothing was mentioned by the crew though.
Once we had reached our cruising altitude, the captain welcomed everybody onboard and apologised for the delay. This was due to high winds in the Chicago area and therefore putting a few runways out of use at ORD.
A few moments later the cabin service began. I would have thought that after a two and a half hour delay the least they could have done was served a meal up free of charge, but it wasn’t to be.
I decided to head back to the rear washroom, and that’s where all the noise was generated on this jet! The cabin crew member was sat in the rear jumpseat reading, shouted to me that the washroom was free, and I still wasn’t totally sure of what was said! How she could concentrate on reading in that noise, I’ll never know! Guess she was just used to it.
The rest of my time on board was spent surfing the net, watching the world going by and tracking the flights progress
Initial descent started at 17:20 local, and the captain gave a brief update first off apologizing for the delay and saying that the weather is pretty good with a temperature of 85 degrees. Finally a bit of warmth after a long winter in Europe and less than impressive temperatures in Washington and Chicago.
After the seatbelt sign was switched on, one of the crew came through the cabin cheerfully and casually saying “seatbelts… seatbelts everybody”. One thing that struck me about AA over this trip was how the flight crew were generally pretty good, however the ground staff were a little indifferent.
The power station in the distance means were nearly there!
Pretty soon after we were finally down into Orlando international. There was a reasonable taxi over to the terminal, pulling in along side a company 757.
Upon arrival on to stand, the crew once again apologized for the delay and wished everybody a safe onward journey. Once I had disembarked, it was on to the shuttle and through to the car rental. Thank goodness there wasn’t any immigration to deal with! MCO is probably one of my least favorite airports, as its nearly always chaos!
As the British Airways flight had just arrived (and the fact I had booked through BA in order to get the Avios) there was quite a queue. Not helped by the fact by the girl in front wanting an upgrade to the biggest 4×4 possible but not quite sure if she actually wanted to pay for it. Around half an hour later I was out to pick the car up.
Not exactly what I booked, but I wasn’t complaining!
It was then a 45 minute or so drive to my aunt’s house in Clermont.
I arrived at her house at around 8PM, some four hours later than expected. Luckily we had been in contact while I was stuck in Chicago and she tracked the flight online so knew that I would be late, so saved me some dinner! Went down a treat, as I hadn’t eaten since around 9AM! The beer was welcome too!
The following day was pretty relaxed – breakfast out by the pool, before heading off to the shops.
That afternoon, I headed up to one of Floridas original attractions – The Citrus Tower.
Orlando in the distance
Before heading to Wendy’s to grab a burger.
After this it was back home for a few hours by the pool, before heading out to my favorite restaurant.
Yes, that is roadkill on the menu…
Deep fried alligator – yum!
Wonder how long before this lot ends up on the menu?
The following morning, I headed down to the lake for a walk, and then went to see what the old town of Clermont had to offer – not an awful lot really. I guess the big WalMart and many other chain stores opening up a few years ago saw most of the local shops off. Still, it has a nice local feel to it.
After this, I headed back for a couple of hours, watched the US version of Jeremy Kyle (you think the UK version is bad…) before heading off into Orlando and the Florida Mall.
That evening my uncle cooked up a great BBQ by the side of the pool.
The next day I did something I had been meaning to do on my previous three trips to the area but never actually got around to. The Kennedy Space Centre. I had been before but I was too young to remember it so I could do it on my own terms now! To be honest it was a bit of an anti climax. Whilst interesting, there didn’t seem to be an awful lot there, and I was surprised there was almost no mention of the space shuttle. Although I’m led to believe this will be changing in the coming months.
On the way back, I did something else I had been wanting to do on my previous visits – go to the B52 park at the airport. I had initially planned to do this when I arrived, but due to my late arrival, I decided against it. Another advantage of doing this was that I would miss out a couple of tolls on the Turnpike. Around the airport they are every mile or so, and the trip to the space center ended up costing me quite a bit – which wasn’t good considering I was running low on cash as it was, and I was reluctant to draw some out of an ATM due to the fees my bank would charge. Although I would later have to do this anyway…
Not bad views, but a little far away
Car Vs. Plane
After around fifteen minutes, it started getting a little humid and cloudy so figured there was probably a storm on the way – so made my way back. In the end there were only a few sprinkles though.
Definitely warming up
Once back, I had some dinner watched some TV and went to bed. The following day I would head back to the UK via MIA and ATL, but you’ll have to tune into part five to hear how that went!