Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
This is the fifth and final part of my USA trip from April 2013. The previous four parts have seen me travel from London Heathrow, to Paris, Back from Paris to London, across to Washington on to Chicago, then down to Florida. If you have mssed them, they can be seen here:
USA 2013 Pt 4: Heading South on a Mad Dog ORD-MCO
USA 2013 Pt 3: Almost a disaster with AA DCA-ORD
USA 2013 Pt 2: BA A320/744 WTP CDG-LHR-IAD
USA 2013 Pt 1: The Beginning BA LHR-ORY
After having some pretty big issues on the previous sector of this ticket (which can be read about in part 3), I was a little concerned about this sector – especially as I had two connections to make, and this would be the sector getting me home. On the plus side, I had a printed confirmation of my reservation from AA that I picked up in Chicago and all three airports I would be travelling through on this part of the trip were BA destinations… so if there were any issues I could see an actual person face to face, rather than have to deal with somebody over the phone.
Despite feeling confident that I wouldn’t have any issues, the online check in process didn’t go to plan.
Pretty much the same issue that caused the trouble in part 3.
After packing my things up and saying my goodbyes to the family I headed out a little earlier than needed in case I had any issues. The traffic was a little heavy around the attractions that was a little concerning. I knew I should have gone the other way!
Arrival at the airport was just past 12 midday and after saying goodbye to the car, I headed off to check in with my fingers crossed.
Luckily, the machines did have the right name and all was fine today. The SSK printed my boarding passes without any issues.
There was also this offer once more – I was offered a similar thing in ORD and if I had known about the delay I had suffered there in advance I would have been tempted. But not today.
After declining this, my boarding passes were printed.
Once I had my boarding passes I went for a wonder around the mall like Orlando international.
I then headed through security. Even with my priority AAccess it was still chaos. Mainly due to the fast track sharing the same lane as the crew security, and due to them having priority it was a case of constantly being at the end of a queue. I’m not sure I’ve ever flown from MCO where security wasn’t anything but packed.
Once through it was on to the monorail and I grabbed a burger…
With a view.
After I had finished, I made my way down to gate 15 to find 757 N680AN waiting for me – with winglets.
I had a bit of a look around this area to see what else was around. Not a huge amount really, so I sat back down and waited.
Boarding was called at 13:30 and I was one of the first to board this full flight.
12th April 2013
757-223 / N680AN
Seat: 21A / Main Cabin
Off Stand: 14:04
On Stand: 15:07
Once onboard, I was surprised at how 1990’s this jet was compared to the other AA examples I had been on in the previous week. Guess the 757’s hadn’t been refurbished.
Legroom wasn’t too bad for this short flight.
One guy did sit in the aisle, but then a slightly older Canadian woman came along and he moved over to the middle seat, taking up most of my space. They then got into a pretty deep chat which lasted the entire duration of the time on board. There seemed to be quite a few Brits on board this flight, heading for the connection to LHR. So was I, but I was taking the more interesting route!
Communication from the flight deck was pretty non-existent. The cabin crew announced a flight time of just 44 minutes and a cruising altitude of 22,000ft.
Is it time to go yet?
We pushed back pretty much on schedule and made a slow taxi out to the active.
At 14:15 we made the characteristic 757 powerful take off into some moody looking skies.
Not much can be said about this flight really – our apparent routing was down the coast to MIA. The crew weren’t seen throughout and the seatbelt signs were never extinguished – and for once, everybody seemed to obey this.
The only time I knew the flight had progressed as far as it had was when we turned to the West and downtown Miami came into sight.
Due to the heavy looking clouds around, some of the views were a bit obstructed until we cleared them. Once we had though, it was a few turns until we were on finals for runway 12. In my many visits to MIA, I had never landed on this runway.
It was then a few turns, as the flaps were extended and the landing gear lowered before making pretty solid contact with the ground at around 15:00.
A fifteen minute taxi followed to gate D3. Along the way I saw a VX A23X with sharklets, the Dreamlifter and John Travolta’s 707.
There was quite a wait to disembark, however once I was off, it was through the length of terminal to my connection to ATL.
ATL is a pretty popular destination it seems!
I took a bit of a walk before jumping on the skytrain to take me the rest of the way to my next gate.
Turns out taking the skytrain was a good idea as it gave some pretty good views across the ramp!
I was concentrating on the Astrojet so much, I almost missed this classic.
After the brief ride, I arrived at the final station and took the short walk down to American Eagles facility.
Once at gate D60, it was a case of sitting and waiting for an hour or so until boarding. There wasn’t a massive amount in this area – a small shop and that was about it really.
I did see a couple of familiar faces though!
And a couple that weren’t so familiar.
This one was heading for Key West – never knew such a flight even existed!
Boarding was called at 16;45, after the ground crew announcing the flight was over sold. First they offered $300, then a few moments later $400, and a seat on a later flight. If I didn’t have a connection to make I would have been very tempted by this offer. Shortly after it was outside into the boarding area.
Nobody seemed too sure where to go, so I asked one if the ground staff who pointed me in the right direction. However, upon reaching the right place, there was a barrier and a staff member stopping the boarding process due to the aircraft not quite being ready. It wasn’t an issue though as it was a nice enough place to wait and it was a decent temperature whilst not being uncomfortably hot. A fellow passenger followed me to the right place and we and a chat about my travels and his. He was especially interested in my camera and said it was a great idea to document every part of the trip, so I could look back on it in years to come. Eventually boarding commenced at 17:00.
Confirmation of the reg.
12th April 2013
ERJ145 / N656AE
Seat: 4C / Main Cabin
Off Stand: 17:08
On Stand: 18:56
Once on board, it was quite tight, unsurprisingly.
I did have a seatmate – who spent the entire flight typing on his laptop. I would have preferred one of the single seats, but I was happy to just have a window!
We pushed back a minute or two ahead of schedule and taxied out to the active. Due to the previous departure being a Cargolux 744, we held for quite a while on the runway to avoid any wake turbulence issues. Once we finally spooled up, it was quite a fast takeoff for this little jet.
Passing the Sunny Isles
Clouding over again.
Shortly after departure, the lone cabin crew member, an older but quite good looking blonde with a Hispanic accent started the drinks service. Upon reaching my row, she handed me a beer, courtesy of Mr 1A – the guy who I’d chatted with at the gate – cheers!
The rest of the flight was a little turbulent, an there was quite a bit of cloud around.
Interesting that American Eagle have their own inflight mag.
Once we reached Northern Florida the clouds cleared.
A little sooner than expected, descent started. Conditions were pretty good in Atlanta meaning there were some good views to be had. We followed a DL 738 pretty much all the way down.
Landing was made quite a bit ahead of schedule and we made our way over to concourse T.
Shortly before arriving at the gate the cabin crew announced a list of connections and what gates they would be departing from, including the flight to London – although no mention of which airline. After disembarking, I had to make my way over to the new concourse F – at the complete opposite end of the airfield to where I already was. I knew that there was a transit, but wasn’t brilliantly signposted once you came out of the jetbridge. After some wondering I found my way.
Arrival at concourse F was a few moments later, and what a fancy terminal it was
I headed down to the previously announced gate F5, but on the way I spotted this.
Interestingly there wasn’t an aircraft on stand yet. I would have thought there would be if everything was running on time? Due to this, I went to see what this new concourse had to offer.
Upon arriving back at the gate, there still wasn’t an aircraft on stand, and now a 35-minute delay was showing. Now I had no more connections to make though, this didn’t bother me.
A few moments later G-VIIN arrived.
I sat and waited for the next hour or so, until I was paged by the ground staff. While I was waiting, I overheard one of the other crew members trying to move people around. I figured I was either being upgraded or thrown off, much like the last time I was paged to go and see somebody. In reality it was neither – my boarding pass was checked, I was asked if I had any checked luggage and everything was handed back to me. Hmm strange.
Boarding was called at just before 21:40. As usual, everybody was either flying in first, club or had frequent flyer status. I eventually made it on board around 22:00 and was pleased to see it was one of the refurbished 777’s.
Amazingly, this was my first flight on a 777 of any variant. I’ve even logged two 787’s, so glad I could finally get one in the books!
12th April 2013
777-236ER / G-VIIN
Seat: 23A / World Traveller Plus
Off Stand: 22:16
On Stand: 11:05
Once onboard, I settled in, my seat mate turned up, immediately removed his shoes and socks and fell asleep. The fact he was dressed in running gear, and the fact I saw him doing various excursuses in the gate area might have explained the smell… lovely. The flight crew came over the PA announced a quick flying time of 7hours and 10minutes and apologized about the delay, blaming it on the late arrival of the aircraft from London – well yeah, I figured.
So lets have a quick look around this new BA cabin.
Handy iPad storage.
Much better noise cancelling headphones
As I was one of the last to board, it wasn’t a very long wait before the engines were started and we pushed back – yes, the engines were started on stand. As we weren’t too far from the end of the runway, there was a bit of a hold whilst the cabin was prepared. Eventually at just before 22:40, an hour and fifteen behind schedule, we took off. This was the first time I’d been in a 777 of any variant. I was quite surprised at how quiet it was. A few of the sounds also reminded me if the Dreamliner, so obviously a few shared components – but hopefully not the batteries.
Shortly after departure, a drinks service was brought around, but no menus this time.
Then over an hour later, dinner was served. There was a choice of beef or pasta. I chose the pasta, a spinach and mushroom ravioli. Tasted very good.
After this, I continued to watch the latest James Bond film, and settled down.
Annoyingly, I missed the end of the film, but I did manage a good sleep, waking up a few hours later.
Shortly after waking up, I watched an episode of family guy.
And then breakfast was served.
After this, I was finally released from my seat and I went for a walk down the back – interesting to notice that BA still use the 9 abreast seating on their 777’s rather than the more popular 10.
Pretty small economy cabin
Around forty minutes before arrival, the captain was on informing us of our progress. He also mentioned we would be in the Ockham hold for about five minutes.
Despite the refit, theres still the awkwardly placed IFE boxes.
It was pretty cloudy, so not much to be seen until on finals at around 3000ft.
Touchdown was on 27R and we made the short taxi over to T5C.
There was a bit of a wait to disembark due to a jetty driver not being found. I’ve had this problem before – surely they know the plane is coming, so why not have all the people in place ready in advance?
Once off, it was on to the transit and up to arrivals.
Once again I used my e passport to avoid the worst of the queues but it still took around ten minutes to get through. After this, it was to the bus stop for the coach home.
British Airways were their typical selves really – especially on the European routes. The World traveller Plus cabin on the 744 felt a little tired, but was sufficient enough. I also feel that priority boarding would have been a good addition, that wouldn’t cost a thing. However the updated product on the 777 was very comfortable indeed and felt a lot more roomy and comfortable.
American Airlines are a funny airline really. Their ground staff really weren’t anything special at all – especially in my hour of need at Washington. I also feel they could have handled the delay in Chicago a little better than they did. The flight crew were the complete opposite though. Seems like there’s just niggling little things stopping them from being a good airline. Although not having travelled with the likes of Delta, United, Jetblue etc. from reading reports from them, they all appear to have the edge service wise.