It's 4:30 am in the morning. This is normally an ungodly time to wake up, but when I know I have a big trip ahead of me, the morning can't come fast enough. I had gotten roughly 6 hours of sleep, and as I woke up I was filled with the excitement of knowing that in about 24 hours from now I would be in Grand Forks, ND in order to attend my brother's wedding. The only airline serving Grand Forks is Northwest, but since I am a Star Alliance member, the closest I could get to was Fargo. However, since Fargo is situated only about 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Grand Forks, it did not really make that much of a difference to me. My trip would take me to many stops en route. From Trondheim to Copenhagen to Newark to Chicago, and, finally, to Fargo. I could have flown directly from Copenhagen to Chicago, but flying through Newark cut the ticket price by almost 200 dollars, and, being an airline buff, I did not mind an extra connection. Some relatives of mine were flying straight from CPH to ORD on the same day as me, but, as it would turn out, taken the long route would ultimately turn out to be the wise choice as the CPH - ORD was over two hours delayed, thus causing my relatives to miss the ORD - FAR flight. The only thing that worried me about my trip was that the connection window in ORD was only 40 minutes. Fortunately, fellow airliners-member flightopsguy had advised me to try to get on an earlier flight out of EWR, and this would indeed prove to be a very helpful tip! More on that later.
I took a quick shower and ate a few sandwhiches I had prepared the evening before. The taxi was supposed to arrive at 4:55, so that did not leave much time for dilly-dally. By 4:50 I had already showered, dressed, and eaten, and I kissed my wife goodbye before heading out of our apartment. The taxi did not show up at 4:55 however, and since the flight out of TRD was scheduled to leave at 6:05 am I got a bit nervous. The drive to the airport is roughly 20-25 minutes, so I checked the watch every minute, contemplating whether or not I should call the taxi company and complain. Fortunately, the taxi arrived by 5 am, and by 5:20 I enterted the small airport in Trondheim. I proceeded to the SAS check-in line, and it did not take more than a few minutes to check in my luggage as well as receiving the boarding passes for the first two stretches of the trip. The airport was very quiet and comfortable this early in the morning as the only flights leaving that early are flights to CPH, OSL and AMS. Here is a picture of the SAS check-in line:
After checking in I proceeded through security and was able to snap a photo of the domestic terminal which passengers have to pass through before entering the international area. I was also able to take a picture of a SAS plane parked next to the domestic terminal:
The international area is quite small, but at least it has a small bar, an eating facility and a tax-free shop. Outside the window on this cold May-morning I could see the Wideroe flight that would take us to CPH:
Boarding commenced just 10 minutes after I arrived in the international area, and I quickly made my way to the back of the aircraft where I would sit for the next 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Trondheim (TRD) - Copenhagen (CPH)
Aircraft: DeHavilland Dash 8-400 Turboprop
Scheduled departure: 6.05 a.m.
Actual departure: around 6:15 a.m.
Flight time: 1 hour 45 minutes
The WF flight was only about 1/4 full, so this would mean a relatively quiet and comfortable trip to CPH. Here is a picture of the cabin as the last people were boarding the aircraft:
Our plane left the gate on time, but due to the unusualy cold temperatures the preceeding night, de-icing of the airplane was necessary. This meant that plane took off a few minutes later than scheduled, but this hardly mattered. I was able to take a few shots of Norway as we ascended towards the sky on this early tuesday morning:
After reaching cruising altitude, the crew got ready for breakfast service. SAS and WF no longer offer free food and drinks on most of their flights, but on the early morning flights, a free breakfast is still served. The breakfast would also turn out to be very delicious. It consisted of fresh, warm rolls with butter, ham, cheese, red pepper, a pickle and some lettuce. In addition the breakfast included yoghurt with musli, orange juice, and coffee. This was a very nice treat, and if there is one thing about SAS and WF that truly stands out it is the quality of their rolls. While other airliners usually serve cold, hard rolls, SAS and WF serve them warm and freshly baked. The breakfast:
The rest of the flight was quite uneventful. The flight crew seemed quite happy to converse with the passengers and make sure that everyone was comfortable. As we started our descent towards CPH I noticed that the weather was quite cloudy and rainly, but I was still able to snap a few pictures during our descent. I think we landed from the west, so these shots are most likely shots of Denmark and not Sweden, but I could be wrong:
The plane came to a stop a out on the tarmac, meaning that we had to take a bus into the terminal. Normally this would be an annoyance, but I did not mind since it would give me an opportunity to take a few pictures. On the bus ride into the terminal I was able to take a picture of the flight I just disembarked, The SAS Airbus I would take to EWR, a Singapore Airlines 777 and a Thai 747. As you can see from the pictures, the weather was really bad in Copenhagen today!
Inside the airport I had plenty of time to explore since my flight to EWR was scheduled for a 12:20 pm departure. I have flown through CPH a few times, so I am quite familiar with the terminal and the layout. I always find CPH a nice airport to transfer through. The arcitecture, the variety of shops, and the spotting options make this one of the better transfer points in Europe. After buying new batteries for the camera, as well as exchanging my Norwegian money into American dollars, it was picture time! Wandering around the airport taking pictures really made me realize why I love travelling. There is just something about being in a place where the people you see will be spread all over the world the next day. Just standing and watching the departure screens fills me with excitiement, something I am sure you fellow airliners understand! I managed to get some pictures from inside the terminal (sorry, they are a little bit blurry), lots of SAS pics due to this being their main hub, and a picture of the Delta flying the newly established route between CPH and ATL:
The hours in CPH went by pretty fast, but 4 hours in the same airport is still one hour too much. I was actually able to meet my relatives who arrived from BGO just 10 minutes before I had to go to my gate. As I mentioned earlier, they were scheduled on the direct flight to ORD, but, due their flight being delayd, we would not hook up again until the next morning.
I next proceeded to the gate which lay in the far end of the C concourse. There were a lot of people in this area as flights to both EWR and IAD depart at the same time from two adjacent gates. Here is a pic of the plane I was about to board:
It appeared that the EWR flight was going to be quite full today. Boarding was delayed about 15 minutes for a reason I'm not sure of, but around 12:10 it commenced.
Copenhagen (CPH) – Newark (EWR)
Aircraft: Airbus 330
Scheduled departure: 12.20 p.m.
Actual departure: 12.50 p.m.
Flight time: 7 hours 55 min.
I made my way to my seat, and, to my surprise, it turned out that I had been given the emergency exit seat. Well, well! At least this would mean plenty of space to stretch my legs. I still have to admit that I nonetheless prefer to have a legrest as my feet tend to cramp up if I am not able to elevate them a bit. Yet, on SAS, an emergency exit seat is about as good as it can get in Y. The return trip to CPH eight days later would really prove this!
The plane was finally able to take-off, some 30 minutes behind schedule. The captain informed us that the plane would be able to catch up on this delay so that we would land in EWR on time. “On time” meant that I would have 1 hour and 25 minutes in EWR to try and get on the earlier flight leaving EWR at 4.10 pm. Would that be enough time to clear immigration, get my luggage, go through customs, change terminals, check in all over again, and make it through security? I thought it better not to think about it too much so I settled down in my seat and switched on my PTV:
IFE on SAS’s transatlantic flights are really nothing to write home about. You have a selection of about 8-10 movies, but they are not AVOD (the SAS inflight magainze states that AVOD will be installed on all long-haul flights during 2006 though). Instead they run on continuous loops. The fact that bothered me the most was that the films obviously were edited for content. When i flew SQ to the Far East in December, all the movies were uncut. Other than this, the IFE consists of a few games, some music channels, a few documentaries and, of course, the inflight map. Watching the edited movies annoyed me, so I basically left the TV on the inflight map the whole flight. If there is one thing about SAS they deserve credit for though, it has to be the cameras they have mounted on the front of, and underneath, the aircraft. Watching take-off and landing from the pilots’ POV is really a treat for us flight addicts! Yet, I find SAS to be a sub-par airline on most accounts these days.
About 1 hour and 45 minutes into the flight, lunch service began. Drinks were distributed to all passengers (all of them mercifully free of charge, but as of October 1 SAS will start charging Y passengers for alcoholic drinks). Food was served shortly after. On SAS you do not have a choice in meals if you are one of the unfortunate sobs seated in Y. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it deal. In Economy Plus, you get a choice of two meals, whereas Business class usually offers 4 meals if I am not mistaken. Today’s meal in Y was filet of pork in tomatoe sauce, rice and peas, a cream salad, lemon fromage and water. Of course, sodas, alcohol, juice, coffee/tea were also offered:
The meal was a mixed deal for me. I found the meat and the sauce to be quite good, but the rice was quite hard and dry. In addition, the cream salad (don’t ask me what the heck was in it) was absolutely disgusting. I was only able to take a few bites of it before I had to stop. The lemon fromage looked quite nasty, but, surprisingly, turned out to be fresh and tasty. I ate everything except the salad, but I have to admit that I did not feel completely full after the meal. Seems to me that if you are a grown man, most airlines will not really serve you enough food on these long-haul trips anymore.
After dinner I felt like taking a short nap, so I went to the lavatory and brushed my teeth, before leaning my seat back and putting on my eye mask. The woman seated next to me did the same. Unfortunately some extremely loud german-speaking passengers managed to position themselves right in front of our seats and chat, chat, chat for what seemed like an eternity. These people must clearly have seen that we were trying to get some rest, but they obviously did not care. After about 30 minutes I just gave up the idea of sleeping and put on my MP3 player in order to listen to some music instead. At least I would be able to drown out the sounds of the other passengers.
The rest of the flight was relatively uneventful and boring. When I was not listening to music, I usually walked around the cabing in order to stretch my legs. I took this picture of the forward Y section:
One thing that disappointed me were the FAs on this flight. After serving dinner they pretty much disappered completely and were hardly seen again until second serving began. Only once during the next 5 hours or so did I see them walk down the isles - this time to distribute a small chocolate candy for each passengers. A nice treat, but I think that checking up on the passengers only once for such a long period of time does not really constitue the best of service.
About 1 hour and 30 minutes before landing, second service began. I was almost starving at this point, so I couldn’t wait to get some chow. The meal consisted of a slice of pizza:
The pizza turned out to be quite good. Of course, Domino’s it ain’t, but for being airline pizza this was not bad at all. I ate every crumb, and although I still did not feel “full,” my worst hunger had been taken care of. After the serving had ended most passengers settled down for the approach to EWR. As we apporached Newark, I snapped away with my camera:
The time was about 2.40 p.m. local time when we landed. I braced myself for the stress I now had to face. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best!
First of all, I have to appologize for not including pictures from this part of the trip. Seeing as how I was under time pressure I simply did not have time to stop and snap away. After disembarking the plane I quickly made my way to immigration. Luckily, it turned out that my prayers had been answered. We were the only flight arriving, meaning that the immigration hall was completely empty! Hooray! It did not take more than 5 minutes to clear immigration, and I quickly made my way downstairs to the baggage hall. My suitcase took about 15 minutes to arrive, and I got quite pissed when it turned out that the handle had been broken. This meant that I would have to actually carry, instead of dragging behind me, the rather heavy bag from now on. Customs was fortunately also cleared in no time at all. I now had about 50-55 minutes until the 4.10 flight to ORD departed. At the transfer point I was informed that getting on the flight might be possible, but that also meant that I had to check in the luggage all over again when I got to terminal A. They advised me to hurry up, and hurry up I did!
Stressed and sweaty I made my way to the airtrain that would take me from Terminal B to A. I had not been to EWR in eight years, but it still looked the way I remembered it. A bit worn out and a bit drab, but still better than many other US airports. I remember Terminal C as being quite nice though, but on this particular trip I would only be confined to Terminals A and B. From the train I had a great view of Manhattan despite the day being somewhat cloudy.
Arriving in Terminal A I made my way to the UA check in-line. I now had 40 minutes until the plane departed. Again, I was blessed with good luck as there was only one person in line before me, and, even better, the check-in agent behind the desk was more than happy to put me on the earlier flight to ORD, and she even apologized for having to give me I a middle sea!. She also informed me that the flight I originally was supposed to be on was delayed for 20 minutes, and this would have meant that I almost certainly would have missed my connection to FAR. Finally, she advised me to go straight to the gate, as boarding was supposed to commence in just 5-10 minutes.
Security in EWR can be a pain though, and it did take me 15 minutes to clear it. When I finally made it to the gate area, I noticed that most of the passengers had already boarded. Still, I decided to purchase a sandwhich at a small store since the SAS flight left me hungry, and since I knew I was not going to get any food on the flight to ORD. I was one of the last passengers on the flight, but I had made it! I had transferred through EWR in 1 hour and 15 minutes. I congratulated myself and sat down in my seat, quite exhausted, but also happy that I had made it. Let me once again give a great thanks to flightopsguy who advised me on this!
Newark (EWR) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Aircraft: Airbus 319
Scheduled Departure: 4.10 p.m.
Actual Departure: 4:25 p.m.
Flight time: 1 hour 50 min.
Being seated in a middle seat left few opportunities for photos, so, unfortunately, I did not take any photos on this stretch. The plane left the gate on time, but, due to traffic, we had to wait for a little while on the tarmac before we could take off. With a scheduled flight time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, we still arrived in ORD almost 20 minutes ahead of schedule though.
The flight really did not leave me with much to write about. Listening to Channel 9 was quite cool, and the inflight service consisted of drinks and pretzels. I ate the sandwhich I had bought in EWR, and even though it did not taste much, it managed to do the job of making me full. The FAs were quite nice and attentive, and I have to give them credit for that. I still remember a UA flight from SFO to HNL a few years ago in which the FAs were truly grumpy and unfriendly, but on this flight they were exemplary.
As we started our descent towards ORD, I got this intense feeling of fatigue. Waking up early in the morning, travelling for so long, and rushing through EWR obviously played a role in this. As we landed I started wondering whether I would be able to get out of my seat or not as I started feeling extremely sleepy. The landing in ORD was smoothe and nice, and as we parked at the gate I really had to summon all of my remaining energy to get out of the plane.
Stumbling into the UA concourse at ORD I felt like being in a dream. The sun was shining through the glass roof, and the intense light made me feel like a wreck. I had one more stretch until I was at my final destination, so I had to be able to stay awake for two hours until my flight to FAR was leaving. It turned out that some water really did the trick though, and after drinking half a bottle I felt quite rejuvenated. I was even able to take this picture of planes parked at the UA Express area of ORD:
The rest of my time at O’Hare was spent walking up and down the concourses. I was afraid that I would nod off if I sat down, so I decided to walk as much as possible in order to keep the blood flowing. There is just something surreal about desperately wanting to go to sleep and not being able to. I had never been to Chicago before, but it certainly lives up to its name as a busy airport. The amount of people there was quite amazing, and I saw that many travellers had to stand up because there simply were no more seats available.
Finally the time approahced 7.45, and the flight to Fargo was fortunately on time! Boarding commenced around 7.20, and I made my way to the small airplane that would take me to my final destination this day.
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) – Fargo (FAR)
Aircraft: Canadair Regional Jet
Scheduled Departure: 7.45 p.m.
Actual Departure: 7.50 p.m.
I made my way to my seat, and again I was unfortunate enough not to get a window seat. I must therefore apologize again for not including pictures on this segment. However, I promise that my return trip will include lots of pictures from the flight back to ORD.
It turned out that the play was only 1/3 full, so some passengers were ordered to the back of the airplane in order for the plane to maintain the proper weight balance. I was seated next to an engineer about my age, and we chatted for most of the flight. This was nice since I was able to stay awake for the 1 hour 25 minute flight to FAR. The schedule had the flying time at 1 hour and 50 minutes, and since we departed ORD just 5 minutes behind schedule, this meant that we arrived in FAR 20 minutes early.
As on the other UA flight, drinks and pretzels were served to all passengers. There was only one flight attendant on this flight, and she did a great job all throughout. The sun went down as we were descending to Fargo, and by the time we landed at Hector International Airport it was dark outside. The local time was 9.25 p.m, so this means that I had been awake for roughly 24 hours now.
Fargo airport is nice and airy with quite a cozy atmosphere. It was really a nice place to arrive in after having travelled for so long. Unfortunately the evening got a bit sour as it turned out that my bag did not arrive! My guess was that the luggage had not made it onto the flight out of EWR since I checked the pretty much at the same time as the flight was being boarded! However, since we had to return to FAR the next day in order to pick up my delayed relatives, I felt confident the luggage would arrive then. Nonetheless, I filled out a missing luggage form, before walking out into the North Dakota night. My brother, his soon-to-be-wife, and her mom picked me up, and we drove the 1 hour 15 minute drive to Grand Forks. The next morning we went back to Fargo, and, lo and behold, my luggage arrived on the same flight as my relatives arrived on. I took this picture of Fargo airport since I was too tired to take one the night before:
I now had my luggage and was ready to start my vacation in the US. Stay tuned for the return trip featuring a truly miserable flight from EWR to CPH! I will write it as soon as i can. Hope you all have enjoyed reading so far!
[Edited 2006-05-31 22:22:49]