Here's the first half of the trip to FCO: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/86214/
On the way to FCO
After three amazing weeks in Italy, it was time to return home. The last two weeks were my study tour, and with a few days of rain in Tuscany (Sansepolcro, near Arezzo) and seeing the same people every day for two weeks, I was burnt out and ready. Italy left it's impression on me, I'll DEFINITELY BE GOING BACK!
We had a bus pick us up at the monastery where we stayed in Sansepolcro at 4am, so that we could arrive at FCO at 7am. Some of the folks on our tour had early morning flights up to AMS and LHR. Anyway, after the party the night before, we were all pretty hungover, and 45 minutes into the bus trip I needed a stop so that I could vomit. After two good blasts, I was somewhat better, and survived the rest of the trip.
Arrived at FCO amid a gorgeous Roman sunrise. I didn't feel that great again, so I said goodbye to my friends and found a restroom. Two more good blasts into the sink, and I was over it. I noticed some vomit splash on my slacks from the roadside episode, so I quickly changed into another pair I had, and tossed the other ones.
Found the super long line for checkin, US was at stand 385 and 386. 20 minutes in line, then another 5-7 mins. to get to the counter. I checked my bag on #1403 to PHL, and #893 to SEA. I asked the lady at the counter if there were any seats open in Envoy class, and she replied "I sorry, zah fliiiiiight is fooooool." Alright, fine. Probably still smelled vomit on my breath even though I brushed my teeth after. I got the train out to the Int'l. terminal, which is C I think. I found a store to spend my last Euros on bottled "fizzante" water so I could begin the serious rehydration process, and then ran into some friends from my tour who were waiting for CO43 to EWR. My plane wasn't there yet...it was due on C24, I had arrived on C23 (where there plane was) when I got to Rome on 8/27.
So here goes...
US Airways Flight #1403
Registration: sorry, didn't get it guys and gals...
Seat 23A (read below...this changes)
ETA @ PHL: 15:00
Flight time: 9h, 16m
I got to the checkin counter with ticket showing 23A. I thought for the hell of it to ask for an upgrade to Envoy, even though I already knew the answer. Well...good thing I did...the hottie gal at the counter said there was a possibility, if some couple didn't want to split up. She called the couple to the counter and sure enough, they didn't want to split up, so the seat was MINE!!! Got it...persistence pays off! 400 Euros...and I had a reissued ticket for 1G.
I watched CO 43 to EWR with my friends on it take off from Rwy. 25. There were three DL 767s at the C concourse, as well as a CX744 to HKG, and an El Al 767 presumably heading for TLV. On the other side there were a few AA flights, heading for JFK and ORD.
On board, pre-takeoff
Finally, it was time to board. With a big smile on my face, I walked down the stairs at C24 and up the walkway that led to the jetway. Turns out the cleaning folks weren't done yet, and we had to stand in the jetway entrance, and some old guy was whining that he was being delayed. Another guy showed up, who would be my seat mate, and had several bottles of booze. We finally boarded, and I realized that 1G was an AISLE seat, and that just wouldn't cut it. I asked the guy next to me with the booze if I could switch seats, and he obliged. The flight attendant (Judy) came by and asked if I wanted a mamosa, so of course I said yes. I asked the guy again for a favor, this time to get a shot of me in 1H with mamosa in hand. I'm feeling really lucky at this point, and so I asked the flight attendant if I could visit the flight deck, since I had never seen the A330's....this was only my 2nd flight on an A330. Again...got a YES.
My morning had gotten progressively better: after four rounds of vomiting, an upgrade to first class with mamosa, and now here I'm sitting in the captain's seat of the A330!!!! I asked about the route, and the captain walked me through the entire route on the FMS:
-Take off Rwy 25, head NW towards Elba, over Monaco, French Alps, north of Paris near Brest and south of London, towards Dublin, and then up to the 55th parallel and across the pond to Goose Bay. Then, down over the Canadian maritime islands, off the coast of Maine, towards Boston, then south of Providence, RI...over the eastern tip of Long Island, towards Atlantic City, across southern NJ, and landing on Rwy 27 at PHL.
While not the 777 or 744, I still enjoyed seeing the flight deck, and thanked the crew at least 5 times for their time and letting me come up. They commented on the fact they liked the A330 and enjoyed flying it. I came away with a good impression of the A330 as well...I prefer the 767 and 777, but would definitely fly on an A330 again, too.
Departure and Takeoff
Pushback was on time. We taxied around C, and towards 25. At this point, I noticed a Russian Aeroflot plane, I think it was a Tupolev...but it was the 727 rip off, I knew that. I have a picture if someone wants to see it. We pulled up next to one of the AA flights...the reg. # was N335AA (99% sure) and it then departed off 25. It was our turn finally, and we used about 6-7,000 feet of runway before rotating. In row 1, I love rotating! A few short seconds and I heard the nose gear retract, and we were quickly over the Mediterranean, and saw the different contrasts of blue. We gradually turned right, to about HDG 330 or 340 I guessed. We passed over the island of Elba, and then shortly afterwards, I could make out the harbor of La Spezia, and then made out the Cinque Terre where I spent five incredible days. As we got closer to Monaco/southern France, it got cloudy, so I said a silent goodbye to the Italian coast, and reflected on three amazing weeks there. God I love Italy...please go if you have the means. Seriously!
I ordered the "express meal" which looked good, and consisted of smoked salmon, roast beef in a pastry wrap, salad, cheese, and a few other things I forgot about it. I only had one other alcoholic drink, a Heineken. They with the booze next to me ordered one merlot after another. I think he traveled that route pretty often, as the flight attendant knew him.
The seat was pretty nice...more on that later...but I reclined back after the lunch and rested/napped for a while, which was a big help to me. I then watched "Failure to Launch" but 95% through I needed to use the restroom. I asked the f/a if I could pause it, and she said press some button. I got back and it wasn't paused at all, but stopped. I didn't know you could forward back to that point, so that was about 2 hours wasted...didn't see the end. I then watched "The Pink Panther" in its entirety, which was just plain stupid.
Later on, we had a vegetarian pizza snack and ice cream, which was nice. I had a coke with it. I turned "Inside Man" on and watched that..reminded me a lot of "Dog Day Afternoon" with Pacino (1975 I think). By this time, the seat was acting up: it started gradually falling back to full recline, and I was able to raise it back up again. But, 10 seconds later, it was falling back again. I called the f/a over and mentioned about it, and she set the seat to full landing configuration, and that solved it. But, no more reclining for me.
Landing at PHL
We passed by Maine, over Long Island, and towards Atlantic City. The captain came on and said we were 60nm from PHL, and said that we'd have to hold for about 5 minutes due to flow issues. The movie was still on, but the system was turned off and we were on final approach to Rwy 27 at PHL. We came in over the Navy Yards, over the Delaware river, saw downtown Philly, then Lincoln Financial Field and the other two stadiums, and then we touched down. Not perfect like my landing at FCO, but smooth. We arrived on A23 (I think) and then I snapped a few shots of the plane after getting off.
Customs and Layover in PHL
Nice customs area, not crowded...I like the Int'l. concourses at PHL...classy and new. Too bad the rest of the airport wasn't like that! Anyway, the agent asked me the purpose of my trip (vacation, study tour) and asked I was a student or professor, and then asked what my field of study was (Int'l. Business) and then stamped my passport. Baggage claim seemed slow, then got my bag (which had an Italian-made ceramic plate in it...I was nervous about that) and then on to the LONG security line. We were on this skybridge over the roadway, and then finally through security. I found this odd: when I left security, I easily could have gone back to the Int'l. departure gates if I wanted to? I don't know, maybe it's just me. Anyway, I ended up in this courtyard thing and found an ATM, and then walked towards the C gates and for something to eat. I found a TGI Fridays and a had a Jack Daniels burger and a Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer. I called my Mom and said I was "home" and then she told me that my Grandpa had been very sick while I was away and we nearly lost him. But, he recovered and is doing a lot better now.
I walked towards the dump, aka C concourse for my flight to SEA. This will be short, as I need to wrap this up and get back to studying for my Law quiz.
US Airways #893
Seat 22H (US moved my seat from 11A)
ETD: 6pm EDT
ETA @ SEA: 9:03pm
Got on the plane, found the seat by the window (thankfully) and this guy dressed like a gang-banger sat down next to me. He was quiet (probably didn't speak English) and we silently competed for the armrest/elbow room for the next six hours. Pushback was delayed, and then we waited for takeoff. Sunset was gorgeous...we were taking off from 27L I think. I saw the LH flight to FRA (A343) take off, and followed him west, and then saw him turn south and eventually to the east. Finally, our turn...we headed due west and eventually passed over what I later figured out was Saginaw, Michigan, then over Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and then to Seattle. That flight REALLY DRAGGED...I was so glad to get off that plane. Had a nice glimpse of Seattle at night...so peaceful, almost frozen in time.
Smooth landing on 16R and then taxi over to A3.
Baggage claim, and HOME..
I went to Carousel 9, where I met up with my friends again who were on CO 43 to EWR. Turns out they landed an hour earlier, but CO wasn't staffed properly and had no one to offload bags. We were all pretty beat at that point. They got their bags and we said 'arrivederci'. My bag survived the PHL bag handlers again (!) and came out shortly thereafter. Grabbed a shuttle van home to Mill Creek, and was relieved to find my home in the same condition I left it in. New stereo was fine, too. I noticed the plastic locks I had on my bag were broken, and there was a nice letter to me from my good friends at the TSA that they opened my bag. I packed my dirty socks and shirts near the top to protect my plate (survived! Yay!) and so I don't think they even looked through it. It looked exactly like I packed it a day earlier.
FCO-PHL: The upgrade to Envoy Sleeper Class, in the final analysis, was worth it. I enjoyed the lay-flat seat, and that was great for 9 hours. Service was ok, food was ok, too. For EUR400 ($512), I'm glad I spent it. Normally a B+ overall, but the fllight deck visit bumps the grade up to an A-.
PHL-SEA: Like SEA-PHL on the way out, I had low expectations for this flight, which were met with ease. It seemed to last forever, but then I had had a VERY long travel day by the end of it, so that's not US' fault. Grade: B
Hindsight being 20/20, I'm glad I got the 13,498 nm added to my account, but if I had to rebook the flights today, I would have spent more and gone SEA-LHR-FCO-LHR-SEA on BA, or SEA-PDX-FRA-FCO-FRA-PDX-SEA on LH.
US Airways is alright, I mean, I got there and back safely, my bag survived unmolested by the legendary US bag handlers at PHL, as did the ceramic plate, and for the price I paid, it was good value. I won't criticize/slam US or the A330...no complaints at all. But all things being equal, US wouldn't be my first choice next time.