Well, time for another one of my non-rev trips across the pond. I figured I'd actually write a trip report to give all of you a little more insight on non-revenue travel. I haven't written a report in quite a long time. I did have some pictures, but it seems my girfriend and I misplaced my camera while in MAD somewhere, so unfortunatley now I have none. This was my third time heading to FCO since January since my girlfriend is over there for the semester. The benefits of working for an airline really do pay off in situations like this, although I can't wait for her to come home. Anyways, here goes the trip.
Wednesday, March 15th
US Airways Flt. 2
Departure Time: 6:00PM
Arrival Time: 8:15AM
Flight time: 8 hours 15 min.
I arrived a little bit later than I normally do before I leave on a trip like this because I ended up leaving my other job a little bit later that I wanted to. I parked in the employee lot and took the shuttle and arrived at A-West a little before 4:30. After coming inside I checked myself in using the kiosk, and proceeded through security. Once past security I picked up some gossip magazines that my girlfriend loves but is not able to buy over in Italy, as well as a bottle of water. After saying hi and talking to a couple of agents I knew who were passing through the hallway, I proceeded to gate A19 where aircraft 671 was waiting for it's passengers. I realized that this was the same aircraft that brought me back to PHL from FCO three weeks prior. The flight was oversold by about 10, but there was plenty of room in first class. This is where first class upgrades come into play as they will usually get you anywhere you want to go to/from Europe. I went up to the desk and chatted with the agents for a bit and was given seat 5A, which coincidentally was the exact same seat I was given on the way back from FCO last time. This means I would be sitting in exact same seat on the exact same aircraft heading back over.
I sat in the gate area listening to my iPod when the crew finally arrived. I was glad to see our captain for tonights flight would be Capt. Harris, who I meant once before a long time ago. Very nice guy and one of US Airways' finest pilots. The agents started to board around 5:15, and Zone 1 was called so I proceeded to the jetway and was greeted at the door by a very cheery flight attendant. My coat was taken, and I was immedialtey given a choice a champagne or orange juice. I choose the champange and made some final calls before I would have to shut my cell phone off. My seat mate arrived and we exchanged pleasentries. He asked if I've ever been to Rome before and I told him that this was my third trip since January, though I would actually be spending most of my time in Madrid for this trip. He had a stunned look on his face, but then I told him who I worked for. He was headed over for some meetings and it would be his first time to Rome. He started to ask for advice and information about getting from the airport to the city, things to see, etc. which I gladly provided. After two glasses of champagne, the flight attendants came around and took drink and dinner orders. For the past couple months our envoy meals have been designed by Chef Kinkead of Kinkead's in Washington, D.C. I'm a fan of his restaurants so the food usually hits the spot. I had a choice between two maryland style crabcakes, a bar-b-que filet mignon, or a chicken dish. I had the filet on the last trip and it was superb, so I could not pass it up again even though the crabcakes seemed tempting. I also choose a merlot for a drink. The doors were finally closed and we pushed back right on time. The engines were started, flaps set, and we began our long taxi to 27R.
After arriving at 27R I was surprised to see we got there just in time and were number 7 for takeoff. This is great considering there is usually a huge line at this hour and having to taxi all the way from A-West to 27R usually doesn't help your chances of having a short wait. After the departure of a Southwest 737-700 we lined up the throttles were moved forward. After what seemed forever of a takeoff roll we took to the sky and made an immediate turn to a heading of 240 for noise abatement purposes, and began out climb to our final cruising altitude of 39,000 feet. About 20 minutes my merlot and a dish filled with honey seasame sticks and cashews were brought. I started to settle in and flip through the IFE system. I decided to watch Monsters Inc. just because of the fact that I haven't seen it for a really long time. An antipasti was then delivered consisting of some mixed greens, mozzerella, and tomato which was very good. Dinner was then served, and it was just as excellent as the previous time. Along with the filet is a sort of an enchilada type side which is just as good as the filet. After another glass of wine and finishing my meal the plates were cleared and desert consiting of some fine cheeses and a slice of chocolate cake were served, as well as coffee and after-dinner drinks. I definitley accepted the offer for desert and had a cup of Bailey's and coffee to go along with it. I then started to get comfortable and watch a variety of programming consiting of episodes of Friends, Frasier, The Simpsons, and the movie" The Greatest Game Ever Played."
I fell asleep somewhere over the Atlantic and awoke about one and a half hour before arrival. About an a hour before arriving a light breakfast was served which included fresh orange juice, coffee, a bagel with cream cheese, and a bowl of fresh fruit. Hot towels were then distributed which always feel nice after an 8 hour flight, and we started to our descent right around Nice. One thing I wish US would do is install a moving map, which would really be an added benefit. We soon made a left turn to cross the Italian coastline and then a sharp right to line up with 16R. We continued our descent through a heavy cloud deck filled with lightning, and soon after Capt. Harris put our 330 down very gently on Italian soil. We came to a smooth stop with no reverse thrust and soon pulled into gate C24 where I said my thank you's to the flight attendants and proceeded to gate B7 where my flight to Madrid would be waiting.
Thursday, March 16th
Iberia Flt. 3677
Departure Time: 10:40AM
Arrival Time: 1:15PM
Flight Time: 2 hours 15 minutes.
Since I've already been to Rome a number of times my girlfriend and I decided we would meet in Madrid since we've never been there before. She was in Berlin enjoying her second stop on her spring break, so I bought her a ticket from there to Madrid, and purchased my ticket from Rome to Madrid. I can't remember the last time I actually bought a confirmed ticket, but I did not want to run the risk of try to get a ZED fare and missing flights.
I cleared security very quickly and arrived in Terminal C. After a long walk I reached the customs both where my passport was stamped, and arrived at gate B7 where I could still have almost a two hour wait. I decided to whip out my book "King of Torts" by John Grisham, and started to read all the while intrigued by how many Americans were waiting in the gate area. There were two very large tour groups of people, one of which would be on my flight and another heading to Frankfurt on Lufthansa which was leaving from B9. The aircraft was a little late in its arrival and finally around 10:20 we were all boarded. I was surprised to see that there was really no order of boarding. Basically, wherever you got in line was when you boarded. I think calling boarding by zones or rows really does save a lot of time as you don't have a bunch of people stopping in row 6 and create huge backup in the jetway. I was greeted by a very pleasant a cheery flight attendant, and took my seat. Annoucements were made in both Spanish, English, and Italian, which is quite impressive. I can also safely say that all the flight attendants were extremely young and attractive, which you can't really say most of the time in the U.S.! We pushed back a little late, around 10:50, taxied to runway 24 where we took off in the sky due west to MAD. We climbed to our cruising altitude of 10,000 meters, roughly 33,000 feet. The buy on board service was started, but I fell asleep right before it came around. I guess I was really tired, because I really didn't wake up until about 20 minutes before landing. The landscape of central spain is beautiful, and I really never have seen anything like it. I forget exactly which runway we touched down onto, but it was very smooth. We had a very loooong taxi to the new Terminal 4, which has only been open for about a month and a half. Once I stepped into the terminal I was surprised to see how huge it was! Very high ceilings and bright colors make it an extremely plesant. I was informed that my girlfriend's flight from Berlin would be arrive a little late, around 4:00, so I had roughly three hours to kill. I read my book and walked around a little bit touring the new terminal and it's shops and restaurants. I was informed that my girlfriend would be arriving at the satellite terminal and would be taking the train over to baggage claim. I proceeded downstairs, and she arrived around 4:15 with a very big grin. It was about 76 outside, and it was about 20 or 30 degrees in Berlin, so needless to say she was a very happy person! She had no luggage to claim, so we proceeded out into the warmth and sunshine for a weekend full of sangria and tapas!
Unfortunatley I have to run off to work, so part two of this trip report will come very soon when I get home!