This trip report is about a trip I completed to ZRH on company business for my employer, Delta Air Lines. As a note, I was confirmed for this entire itinerary. My COBUS pass allowed me confirmed seating in coach class with space available upgrades to First Class or BusinessElite.
Friday, May 25, 2001
Delta Air Lines 384
San Francisco International to Hartsfield Atlanta International
After arriving in SFO from a trip to visit a friend in LAX, I decided I would go to ATL on the redeye that evening instead of taking the 7AM flight the next morning, in order to allow me to spend the day in Atlanta with B747-437B.
So upon arriving in SFO on AA, I walked over to Delta's concourse to pick up some papers before heading home. As it turns out, Deltamatic went down as I was walking out the door, and I was asked to stay and help out with the situation. Being my usual nice self, I agreed to do so.
Long story short, I didn't get from the airport to my house until about 9 PM, which left me only about 90 minutes to get ready for a midnight flight.
I arrived at the airport at 11:15 PM by cab. It's amazing how expensive cabs are in the Bay Area now. Approximately $35 for a 10 minute drive. Outrageous, but not as exorbitant as paying $130 for 14 days of long term parking. Looking back, I probably could have gotten a special permit to park for the week in Employee Parking, but it didn't occur to me at the time.
I helped myself to the computer at position 3 and checked myself in. As I walked toward the security checkpoint, I realized that I had forgotten to add myself to the standby list for First Class. I returned to the counter, did that, and headed over to Gate 41, hopeful that I would get an upgrade, because it was going to be a middle seat on a full flight if the upgrade didn't happen.
Shortly before boarding, I was called over to the service desk, where Ethan, the gate agent, collected my coach boarding pass and handed me one for seat 5B.
I boarded when First Class was called and took my seat. We pushed back right on time, and taxied out to 1R. Takeoff and climbout were rather uneventful. We reached our cruising altitude within 25 minutes or so, and the flight was a typical redeye transcon. Our aircraft was N605DL, Ship 605, which was Delta's 5th 757 and one of the first aircraft to be repainted in the new livery.
The snack in First Class was a roast beef sandwich with a horseradish sauce and a small salad. The sandwich was surprisingly good. I swallowed it in all of 5 minutes and fell asleep as soon as the flight attendant collected my tray.
I awoke to hear the double ding, which indicated that we were on final approach into Hartsfield. Our landing was routine and we taxied to B23.
May 26, 2001
The first order of business was to go over to B747-437B's place to get rid of my stuff. I took MARTA up to North Ave. and walked half a block to his place. We hung around for awhile, discussing the future of Delta Air Lines, Inc. and checking out the latest gossip on trip.com and Flyertalk, as well as made fun of the moronic posts of "United Airline" on Airliners.net.
In the afternoon, it occurred to us that it might be a good idea to eat, so we went down to Underground Atlanta and had a nice lunch at Johnny Rockets. We wandered around a bit, and thought about crossing the street to go over to the World of Coca-Cola, but decided against it when we saw how long the line was over there.
Eventually, the time came to head down to Hartsfield. We returned to B747-437B's place, got my luggage, and headed to the MARTA station. We arrived at Hartsfield around 6:00 for an 8:30 flight. We wandered around E Concourse and spent the majority of our time making fun of an over-enthusiastic Delta ramprat apparently nicknamed "Goose" as he led the process of loading up Ship 7007 for a trip to DUB and SNN. She pushed back fairly routinely, and I, a 777 fan, taunted B747-437B, a 747 fan, as 7007 performed a simultaneous dual engine start in full view of our window at E16. Only airline brats could taunt each other about something like that.
We watched her taxi out and lift off into the clear Georgia sunset, and then it was time to head over to the departure gate, E1.
Saturday, May 26, 2001
Delta Air Lines 66
Hartsfield Atlanta International to Zürich Kloten
We arrived at E1 and I ran into a coworker of mine from SFO who was also going to ZRH on business. He told me that he had set things up for us to sit together, and all I had to do was check in with the BusinessElite Concierge at the gate. Ack. The last thing I wanted to do was spend a 8 hour flight talking about work related matters. I asked him if he had reserved a window seat by any chance, and he replied that to the best of his knowledge there were no windows available. Hopeful that I might be able to finagle my way out of this predicament, I told him that I much prefer window seating and I was going to ask if that was available.
On that note, I walked over to the service desk and checked in with the BusinessElite Concierge, who informed me that I had been assigned a seat next to my coworker in a center section aisle. I asked if by any chance any window seats were available. She printed my boarding pass for seat 12A, which was not only a window, but also the last row of BusinessElite. YES! I went back to my coworker, told him that I had been moved into a window at my request. I told him that for what it was worth, I planned to sleep most of the way to ZRH. So he grudgingly accepted his fate and that was that.
I shook B747-437B's hand, thanked him for showing me a good time in Atlanta, and boarded Ship 1503, an ex-Gulf Air bird. This was actually my first time in one of our Gulf Air 767s and I had meant to check out the galley setup and 2L/2R, but forgot. Shows you how important that was to me.
I took my seat, gave the friendly F/A my coat, and asked for a bottled water with ice. For awhile it looked like there wasn't going to be anyone next to me, and I was a little concerned that I would end up riding next to my coworker and hearing about work related matters for 8 hours. Fortunately, right before they closed up, about 5 or 6 S3s boarded, taking up the empty seats in BusinessElite, including the one next to me. Fortunately, the person sitting next to me was not much of a talker, which meant I would be able to get plenty of sleep.
Shortly before pushback, the Second Officer came back to the rear BusinessElite cabin to check on the pilot rest seat. The guy had a mullet. I had never seen a Delta Air Lines pilot with a mullet before. And hopefully I never will again.
Our pushback was right on time, and we taxied out to 26R and held for a few moments. The GE CF6 engines spooled up, and we were off. The takeoff run and climbout were quite impressive, considering what a heavy load we were carrying. The sky was almost completely dark within 5 minutes after takeoff, so I turned my attention to the Airshow map on my PTV. Once it indicated that we had passed through 10,000 feet, I pulled out my Discman, connected it to my new Bose Acoustic Noise Canceling Headset, and enjoyed the soothing jazz of Stan Getz for about half an hour. I can't say enough about how impressed I am with the Bose ANR headset, even now that I'm somewhat used to having it.
About an hour or so into the flight, the Flight Attendants started the meal service in BusinessElite. Our menu offered the following:
Goat Cheese Crostini with Fig Chutney, accompanied by Citrus Shrimp Bundles and a refreshing Mango-Lime Salsa
Seasonal Garden Greens, tossed with Croutons and Cherry Tomatoes, offered with your choice of Honey French Dressing or Fat-Free Balsamic Vinaigrette
Assorted Rolls and Butter
Grilled Beef Tenderloin enhanced by a Mushroom Sauce, accompanied by White Lentils and a Vegetable Medley consisting of Carrots, Green Beans and Squash
Seared Turbot Fillet complemented by a creamy White Wine and Scallion Sauce, featured with roasted Sweet Potato Mash and a Vegetable Medley
Farfalle Pasta enhanced by Roasted Red Pepper Cream accompanied by Green Beans, Corn and Leeks. Smoked Turkey Pesto Sausage may be added to this Entrée.
Cream of Mushroom Soup garnished with Portobello Mushrooms
I enjoyed the shrimp appetizer, and when offered a salad, I selected the Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing. The lettuce was quite soggy, and I was disappointed with the overall quality of the salad.
I selected the pasta entrée with sausage. It was excellent, one of the best airline meals I have had. Right as we started our entrees, the first movie cycle began. I selected "Proof of Life" starring Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. I had been meaning to watch it for awhile, as it was recommended to me by a friend who had seen it on Delta about 4 times!
I passed on the cheese plate after dinner, but definitely did not pass on the Ice Cream Sundae, which I asked for with caramel, whipped cream, and chopped nuts, as I always do. The nice thing about BusinessElite flights is that they always have the caramel, as well as the Blackberry Sauce for those who like that, whereas in Domestic First Class or International Business Class to Mexico and certain Latin American markets on 737s and 757s, it's something of a guessing game as to whether they will upload the caramel and blackberry or just chocolate sauce. Oh well, simple pleasures, right?
Finally, the flight attendants passed through the cabin offering Neuhaus Belgian Chocolates. I accepted one and relaxed as the closing credits of "Proof of Life" rolled. Great film. When they started Cycle 2 I selected "A Simple Plan," another movie that I had been meaning to see for quite awhile. It's sad when you are able to scratch movies off your to-watch list more often by flying than by going to the movies or to Blockbuster Video.
I finished "A Simple Plan," put my eyemask on, and fell asleep.
I awoke at the gentle tap on my shoulder from a flight attendant. "Sir, we are on final approach, could you please raise your seatback and stow your footrest?" I was somewhat less than pleased that landing had to come at such an inopportune time. I had been sleeping quite deeply. I complied with the request and began to put my Discman and Bose ANR Headset back into my carry-on bag. Once that was done, I spent the rest of my time looking out the window as Switzerland's beautiful rolling hills grew closer and closer.
We touched down 14 minutes ahead of schedule at Zurich Kloten Airport and taxiied into gate B32. As I looked out the window, the first thing I noticed apart from a lot of red tails with white crosses on them was the observation deck on top of Terminal B. As we turned the corner to B32, which is at the base of the pier that forms Terminal B, I took note of how many people were taking pictures at that very moment of our aircraft as it taxiied in. My conservative estimate would be at least 30 to 40 people taking pictures, with a huge crowd just watching. I was impressed by that.
Clearing passport control and customs was quite easy, as I was one of the first 50 or so passengers off the flight. I handed my U.S. Passport over to the immigration official, who glanced at the bio page and looked up at me to make sure the face matched the picture. He asked me how long I planned to stay in Switzerland. I told him 7 to 9 days. He smiled and wished me a pleasant stay. As I had no checked baggage, I walked past the baggage claims and was waved through customs with even greater ease than at passport control.
Sunday, May 27, 2001 through Saturday, June 2, 2001
I strolled out the sliding doors and into the surprisingly warm Zurich air. I knew the weather was going to be nice, but I had not expected it to be as downright hot as it was. I found the courtesy shuttle for the Mövenpick Hotel with surprising ease. The hotel was about a 3 minute drive away from the airport, and the route took us right past the SAirGroup Training Center, which was exactly where I would be spending the working part of the week. Near the airport, I also noticed an enormous advertisement for some sort of McDonald's hotel in Zurich, called the Golden Arch. I squirmed in my seat and looked away, feeling positively embarrassed to be from the same country as something so ridiculous and blatantly commercial.
That evening, I had some time to kill, so I took the hotel shuttle to the airport, and from there took the train to Zürich Hauptbanhof station, which is Zurich's "downtown" train station, so to speak. I strolled down Banhofstrasse until I reached the Lake of Zurich. I must have stood there for about 15 or 20 minutes, just marvelling at the natural beauty of Zurich and of the Alps off in the distance.
The next time I went into town, I crossed over to the other side of the Limmat, and strolled down Niederdorfstrasse, enjoying the beauty of Zurich's "old town" and watching as other young people, both Swiss and tourists from all over the world, enjoyed the warm evening air. I had dinner at Bauschanzli (sp?), a nice self-serve restaurant built on an artificial island at the mouth of the Limmat which was once used for military defense of the city.
Due to time limitations and the fact that I was occupied with business from 0830 to about 1700 from Monday through Friday, I did not have the chance to go up into the Alps. I had been hoping to go to Lucerne, however, the opportunity simply did not present itself.
As I packed up on Friday night and reflected on a whirlwind week in Zurich, I promised myself that I would return to Switzerland before long to see more of this amazing country. At present, I am in the preliminary planning stage of a return to Switzerland, in addition to Austria.
Saturday, June 2, 2001
Zürich Kloten to Paris Charles de Gaulle
I arrived at the airport at 0645 for a 0725 flight. The Swissair counter was not as busy as I had expected it would be. Nonetheless, I strolled over to the Business Class check in and, well, checked in. I told the agent that I had an interline connection at CDG to Delta 21 to Atlanta, and he checked the bag all the way through to ATL. I was assigned seat 2A in Business Class and informed that we would be boarding at 0655 at A64 for an on time departure.
I cleared passport control and security after waitng in queues that were quite frustratingly long. After picking up a few things at the Duty Free shops, I proceeded to A64, where my name was paged to the service desk shortly after I arrived. I went up to the service desk, where the gate agent told me "Mr. XXXXX, we have a situation where the flight has checked in over capacity in Economy Class, so unfortunately, I am going to have to unseat you."
I replied, "That's unfortunate. This may be a problem, as I have a 2 o'clock connection in Paris onto a Delta flight."
His response: "Well, I've checked with the Captain, and I am authorized to offer you the cockpit jumpseat, if you'd like to sit there."
"Okay, that's not a problem for me."
So he took my boarding pass, scribbled out the seat assignment, and wrote "J/S" right above. He invited me to board when Business Class was called. I did so, and grabbed a USA Today World Edition from the newspaper rack as I walked down the jetway. As it turns out, I didn't touch it once during the flight.
I greeted the Captain and First Officer and presented my improvised boarding pass along with my Delta Air Lines Employee Identification badge. We chatted for a minute or two as I got settled in the jumpseat and strapped in. Pushback came right on time at 0700.
We taxied out to a runway whose number I honestly cannot remember, waited for a few SR A319s and one A320 to take off, and it was our turn. We lined up, the Captain throttled up to about 94% N1 and we were off. We climbed at approximately 3000 feet/min to 29,000 feet and cruised at at MO.74. Once we passed through 10,000 feet, the Captain asked me what brought me to Zurich, how I liked it, the usual questions. I found out from him that his day would consist of ZRH-CDG-ZRH-CDG-ZRH-CDG-ZRH-VIE-ZRH, or somesuch. Quite a day. He admitted that he actually enjoys flying a day of turns like that, since the flying is so much more exciting.
Soon enough, we began our descent into Paris. We chatted all the way down to 10,000 feet, at which point I grew silent. At the Captain's request, the First Officer requested expedited clearance to de Gaulle, which was of course denied due to the fact that we were not an Air France flight.
We made a fairly bumpy instrument approach and touched down quite softly. As we taxied to our remote stand, the Captain pointed out Ship 7005 as she taxied gracefully to C91. He commented on how beautiful he thought she was, and asked me if I planned to be at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, to which I replied, of course. Finally, we pulled into our stand, and I shook hands with both pilots, thanked them for an educational yet entertaining ride, and disembarked.
Saturday, June 2, 2001
Delta Air Lines 21
Paris Charles de Gaulle to Hartsfield Atlanta International
We boarded a bus which unloaded us into Hall B, I think it was. I cleared Passport Check and walked over to Hall C, which is where my Atlanta flight would depart out of. Upon my arrival at Hall C, I decided to have a word with one of the Delta agents at the Delta ticketing desk before attempting to check in. I had a feeling there would be a problem with my PS-Y/SA-J pass, as it's not something you see every day at CDG FTO. Tiziana, the Delta ticketing agent, said it was a good thing I came by before attempting to check in. She wrote down the phone number of her position and told me that if there were any problems with the AF personnel, to have them call her.
With that, I walked over to the coach class check in counter for DL21, where a gentleman-I'm using the term loosely here-working lobby asked me for my tickets and passport. I showed him those along with my Delta Air Lines employee ID. He glanced at the pass, saw the Delta ID, and immediately slapped all three items back into my outstretched hand. He smiled condescendingly at me and said "You're a nonrev. You should just leave the airport and don't come back for about a week. All the flights are full." He then proceeded to name the destinations Delta flies to from Paris, as though I didn't already know. "Atlanta, New York, Cincinnati. All full."
I responded, "Actually, if you look at my ticket, you'd see that I am a Positive Space passenger traveling on Company Business. I'm confirmed on Flight 21 to Atlanta."
He looked at my pass. "Where does it say Positive Space? It doesn't say Positive Space anywhere here."
My response: "See the little box next to the letters PS-Y? Yeah, that one. See that? The X in the box indicates that the pass is a PS-Y pass. I'm confirmed in coach, with an upgrade to BusinessElite on a space available basis. In fact, I just spoke with a Delta agent at Delta ticketing, and she said you could call her if there was any confusion. Here is her number."
But he would not hear of it. "I'm sorry, you are nonrevenue. I'm going to ask you to leave so that we can check in the passengers that are going to actually go today."
I went straight back to Tiziana at Delta Ticketing and explained what had happened. She called over there and told them in no uncertain terms to check me in like a normal passenger. She smiled at me and said, "Hopefully that will be the end of your problems. We've got about 7 seats left in BusinessElite so you should be cleared to it at the gate, since we'll definitely need that seat in coach."
I returned to the check in counter, and made it through doc check and got to the ticket counter, where another guy asked me, "you are company passenger?"
I asked him to define the term "company passenger."
He responded, "Company passenger means passenger of the company."
What a great definition. I responded, "Yes, I suppose you could call me a company passenger, but I am not on standby. You know, I really don't see what the problem is here."
He said, "We have a special check in desk for you. Lower level, positions one through eight."
At this point I knew he was full of it, since the next level below the ticketing level at CDG is a parking garage. But I dutifully went down there to check, and once I confirmed that there were no ticket counters down there, I went back to Tiziana at Delta ticketing and explained to her what happened. Furious, she walked me back to the check in desk and instructed them quite firmly to check me in. Finally! I thanked her and she walked back to Delta ticketing. The AF agent printed my boarding pass, which had my assigned seat of 33J. She noticed that I had a seat assignment and cancelled it, placing me on the airport standby list.
I protested, "Why did you do that?"
She responded, "Don't you understand? We have a full flight."
At this point I realized that resistance was futile. I was told there were 7 BusinessElite seats, and I hoped I would get one of them at the gate. Coach was oversold by about 40, and I realized that if I didn't get a seat, I would have to spend the night in Paris. At that moment, I realized that not getting on the flight would not be such a bad predicament to be in.
I cleared security and passport control with no problem, went over to C89, and took a seat. Ship 7003 would be the one to take us home. I watched as the caterers made the final preparations and she was towed into C89. A few minutes later, a Continental 777 pulled into C91 from Newark. Very nice looking bird, but not quite as graceful as Delta's 777 in the '97 colors.
The gate agents arrived shortly after the aircraft was towed into the gate. Shortly thereafter, two AF mechanics arrived and opened up the cowling on the #2 engine and inspected it quite intently. Air France mechanics, Rolls Royce engine…. I thought to myself, I hope they know what they're doing.
Soon enough, they started paging confirmed passengers to the service desk for seat assignments. Once they were finished calling names, I approached the desk and asked whether or not I was going to be able to get on the flight. The AF agent rudely handed me back the standby card and said "You should not bother us, we have a full flight and you're obviously not going to get on."
At this point, my patience wearing thin, I approached the Delta agent and told her my story in its entirety. She apologized profusely and cleared me to 5G, apologizing again that the window I had requested was not available. I thanked her just as profusely, realizing that there are fates much worse than an aisle seat in BusinessElite, and pushed my way through the enormous crowd of people jamming the boarding area.
Once I reached the front of the crowd, I went through the obligatory document check and was allowed to board. I walked down the jetway to 2L, where I was greeted by smiling Delta Flight Attendants who offered to take my coat. I turned left to the forward cabin, took my seat, and thumbed through the B777 Entertainment Guide as the On Board Leader took my drink order. After I was fairly settled into my seat, I walked up to the flight deck to greet the flight crew. I chatted with them for 10 minutes or so, finding out that the reason that the engines of our 777 were getting so much attention from the mechanics was that the inbound flight crew suspected that something was wrong with the auto start function, but that everything checked out, so we would have an ontime departure. I thanked them for their time and returned to 5G, letting them get back to their work.
As I sat in 5G, lamenting my center section aisle, the elderly lady next to me in 5D was fussing in French about whether or not her friend had boarded the aircraft yet. I realized this was going to be a long flight. A few minutes later, the On Board Leader kneeled down next to me and said, "I don't know if you want to do this, but I'm going to run it by you. The lady next to you is really nervous about whether or not her friend has boarded yet. She has, and she's in 10J. That's still BusinessElite, of course, but it's a window. I don't know if you-"
I cut her off, saying I would love to have a window seat. I gathered my belongings and moved to 10J, which is the bulkhead row of the rear BusinessElite cabin. Fortunately, the bulkhead in BusinessElite is nothing to complain about.
10J looks directly out over the #2 engine and right down the leading edge of the right wing, making for a spectacular view of the graceful upward flex of the 777's wing. I looked down and saw that the AF mechanics were just closing the cowling. One of the mechanics entered the aircraft through 2L and went to the flight deck for a few moments, then exited through the same door, which was promptly closed. The Captain made a PA announcement apologizing for the slight delay and explaining the trouble with the engine auto start. A few moments later, we pushed back. I took one last look at the Continental 777 at C91 and then went back to my newspaper. No sooner were we out of the gate than an Air France 777 was towed in.
Taxi out to the runway was short and uneventful, and we held short for another Air France 777 on final. Once it landed, we taxiied into position and held another 30 seconds. Then I heard the unmistakeable sound of those Trent 892s spooling up to the trademark Rolls Royce buzzsaw sound. The takeoff run was impressive, as always, pushing me hard into my seatback, and causing some silverware or something to clatter onto the galley floor. It seems that every time I ride in a 777, something falls onto the floor in the galley on the takeoff run. I watched as the wing slowly started to flex upward. Seconds later, we rotated and lifted off.
I looked at some Air France Concordes parked at remote as we climbed steeply into the clouds and turned sharply. I pulled out my PTV, set it on the Airshow, and reclined my seat. We shot through the cloud layer at about 7,000 feet and continued our very bumpy climb all the way up to 37,000 feet. I enjoyed my usual selections of Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck during this time.
The chop settled down a bit once we were at our cruising altitude of 37,000 feet at MO.86. However, the light chop persisted until we were about an hour into the flight, at which time the Lunch service started.
Our menu consisted of the following:
Smoked Trout with Tomato Caper Relish, garnished with Lemon Sour Cream
Fresh mixed Garden Salad with Red Leaf, Butter and Frisée Lettuce, topped with julienned Tomatoes an d Pine Nuts, served with your choice of creamy Blue Cheese Dressing or Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Assorted Rolls and Butter
South American Beef Tenderloin pan-seared in Garlic-Herb Marinade, accented by a Mustard-Caper Sauce, Potato Gratin and a Green Bean Medley with sautéed Shiitake Mushrooms, Balsamic Red Onions and Corn
Herb Grilled Breast of Chicken enhanced by a creamy Riesling Wine Sauce, served with buttered Noodles and a medley of Red Pepper, sautéed Button Mushrooms and blanched Green Beans.
Saffron Risotto Pasta tossed with a Vegetable Medley consisting of Tomato, Zucchini and Green Pepper. Grilled Atlantic Salmon may be added to this Entrée.
Chicken and Mushroom Soup simmered with Wild Rice and a dice of Parsley, garnished with Parmesan Cheese on Crostini
FRUIT AND CHEESE
Dried and fresh Fruit with a Cheese board featuring selections from around the world designed to perfectly complement one another in flavor and texture. Our Vinum Dessert Wine and Port make a perfect accompaniment.
Premium Vanilla Ice Cream Sunday with your choice of Chocolate, Caramel or Raspberry Sauces, with your choice of Chocolate, Caramel, or Raspberry Sauces, Whipped Cream and chopped Nuts, garnished with a Pirouline Cookie.
Neuhaus Fine Belgian Chocolates
At the conclusion of the first meal service, a variety of snack will be available for your enjoyment.
Chicken Waldorf Salad Sandwich made with grilled Chicken and a small dice of Apple, Raisin and Parsley, offered with an Apricot Wild Rice Medley topped with chopped Walnuts
Cavatappi Pasta Salad with smoked Turkey Breast, tossed with Roma Tomatoes, Feta Cheese Kalamata Olives, complemented by a Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette
The trout appetizer was somewhere between disgusting and worthy of being fed to the dogs. I had my salad with the Blue Cheese. This time, the salad was excellent.
For my entrée, I wanted the chicken, but was told that they were out of it. So I was just as happy to have the beef, which was excellent. At this time, the movie cycles began, but I wasn't in the mood for movies. I listened to Brubeck and stared out the window for awhile, contemplating the Atlantic Ocean 7 miles below.
After lunch, I had my usual Caramel Sundae. I continued to look out the window. Eventually, I grew tired, brought my seat to full recline, and fell asleep.
When I awoke, we were over Americalola Falls, Georgia, descending through 24,000 feet. I sat placidly through our smooth descent into Atlanta. Our touchdown was so smooth it was barely discernible. We taxiied over to E Ramp and coasted gently into E16, bringing an excellent flight to its conclusion. I cleared immigration and customs within about 20 minutes of arrival.