10 January 2003
Helsinki Vantaa – New York JFK
Finnair AY 005
McDonnell Douglas MD-11
Business Class, Seat 6L (Economy service in rows 6-7)
1415-1555 – On Time
Photo © Jussi Kettunen
I tried to use the self service machines but a message appeared on the screen prompting me to contact Finnair staff. AY005 has three separate counters, one for Business and Oneworld elites and two for economy. My carry-on was searched upon entering the check-in area – I don’t know why they are doing this as after check-in you are back in public areas of the airport. There was nobody at the business class counter and the lady was very friendly. A request for a better seat resulted in a phone call, and a boarding pass for seat 6L in the so-called mid-cabin. The last two rows of business class are assigned for economy passengers if the actual economy cabin is overbooked.
Security was quick as usual and I tried to use the Silver Wings lounge as Finnair’s Lento magazine states that all Oneworld Emerald and Ruby members are welcome. This should obviously be Emerald and Sapphire but I would think AY would give access to Rubys while this magazine is available on their planes. Nope, I was rudely denied entry. Oh well, this was my last trip as AA Gold, I hit Platinum via the challenge about 200 miles out of Helsinki.
Went to the non-Schengen area and was pleased to see the world’s first MD11 waiting at gate 32. Boarding started early, about 50 minutes before departure, I grabbed a selection of newspapers and made my way to seat 6L. This is in the first row of the mid cabin, but legroom is nevertheless very good, my feet barely hit the bulkhead when the seat is reclined. The pitch is 2” more than LH and this makes a difference in the bulkhead row. The new seat itself is very nice, however not electronically controlled. I do like the big touch screen PTV as well, as the picture quality is actually good unlike in those tiny ones back in coach (none on AY).
Pushback was more or less on time and we taxied to 04R for takeoff, passing a Lotus A320 parked near the hangars. The Douglas tri-jet showed its impressive climbing skills again – we were climbing like a rocket after a takeoff roll of only about half a minute. Flight time today was 8h20min and our route didn’t really go up north this time. Passed Greenland about 100 miles to the south of its southern tip for example. Headsets were distributed after takeoff and unfortunately the 3-plug socket works with 2-plug coach headsets, so no nice Sennheiser NC ones this time.
Drinks and pretzels were first served as we were cruising over Sweden, had my usual Baileys with ice. We started our Atlantic crossing near Trondheim, Norway and lunch service followed. Finnair has no choices in economy class, but the beef with mashed potatoes was pretty decent. It came with a salad, warmed roll and some good dessert that I can’t remember. Opted for some white wine and Coke with my meal.
I really didn’t feel like sleeping, so I played around with the PTV and watched Blue Crush and Showtime. Entered North America near Goose Bay and continued towards Boston and over Long Island onto Kennedy airport. A light snack was served 1.5 hours before landing – this used to be a substantial snack but they now serve just a small sandwich. After the snack, Long Island soon came into view and we were descending into JFK International. Landed on 31R at 15:50 and parked at gate 9 a few minutes later.
Immigration was absolutely deserted and I was standing at the AA Business/Gold check in counter at exactly 4pm, 10 minutes after landing. Got checked in for AA1751 without problems despite my Finnair E-ticket. I was somewhat worried after having problems with a SK one on Lufthansa. Noticed an earlier flight at 5pm on the screens and hurried over to T9. Business line over there was horribly long but luckily a nice AAgent escorted me to an empty desk as I inquired about a possible chance to standby on AA1639. This agent had no clue how to do it but luckily a supervisor helped her out and I hit the security lines with half an hour to spare with my Priorityverification card. Priority lane moved quickly and I made it to gate 46 at quarter to five.
10 January 2003
New York JFK – San Juan Luis Munoz Marin
American Airlines AA1639
Economy Class, Seat 19B
Photo © Sam Chui
I was handed a boarding pass for 19B and made my way to the jetway. The First cabin was full (sold as Business) as was the business cabin (sold as Y). My seat was in the row just in front of the exit and has limited recline and no MRTC. It was still bearable and the seats themselves are pretty nice with leather headrests etc. After all, I successfully got rid of my awful scheduled arrival or 00:25.
Push was on time again and the old 767-200 taxied past an AF Concorde, SQ 747 and a whole lot other international jets over to 31L for takeoff. Made a left turn after takeoff and headed straight towards San Juan. Bought a headset and watched Serving Sara as drinks were served, followed by dinner. It was a choice of pasta or chicken, took the pasta. It was pretty edible but everything on the tray was made of some real el cheapo plastic. Obviously it is cheaper than using the real stuff.
It was a very smooth ride and the skies were clear all the way down to the Caribbean this Friday night. Left the cruising altitude at 9pm and landed very roughly on runway 26 half an hour later. Stopped on the taxiway because there was no gate available capable of handling a Boeing 767. It turned out to be a very long wait – about 40 minutes before we made it to gate 6 I believe. An Iberia 747-200 took off while we were waiting – a nice old classic. Took a taxi to the Wyndham Condado Plaza.
Wyndham Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino
The lobby looked rather nice upon entering and check in was rather quick. I got no ByRequest benefits though as it was another Priceline stay – but got an ocean view king room. There are only two elevators in this ocean wing, they were always slow. The hallways look nice but the room itself was clearly showing its age. Comfortable bed, nice sofa, two chairs and a balcony with a superb view – I wasn’t complaining! The bathroom was tiny and there was a big storage room next to it, maybe someone needs this one for all their luggage but I would have preferred a nicer bathroom.
There’s a wide variety of restaurants and a few bars, as well as Caribbean’s largest casino in this hotel. Also the pool areas are rather nice and there is an entrance to Condado public beach from the pool of the ocean wing. The Condado strip itself seemed to be mostly hotels and some restaurants. There was a Subway close to the hotel for those not willing to spend big bucks at hotel restaurants. One major disappointment was that I was unable to find a computer with internet access, just an internet kiosk in the lobby. Overall great stay for $62 a night but I wouldn’t pay the $405 listed on the safe door.
13 January 2003
San Juan Luis Munoz Marin – New York JFK
American Airlines AA678
Business Class 8G (Economy service in Business cabin)
Photo © Mats Sålder
I made it to the airport shortly after 11am for the Finnair codeshare to JFK leaving at 13:20. Got boarding passes all the way to Helsinki and made my way to the gates quickly. Gate 7 was used for the noon 767 to Kennedy as well before mine. Decided to give standby a try again but the agent said it looks bad as AA678 was overbooked. After two final calls for the service, my name was called and I was handed a boarding pass for 8G in the business cabin.
The seats are pretty much like the Finnair MD11 business seats, but narrower and legroom is a bit worse. I liked the blue leather used though. As I had settled into my seat, a flight attendant from my JFK-SJU segment passed by and recognized me as well. Pushed back early for the 3h20min flight up to Kennedy. Took off from 08 after a company ATR-42 and climbed up to FL330. Drinks and pretzels were served, followed by lunch this time. Took the chicken and it was pretty edible.
The Bourne Identity was screened on this sector, decided to watch it as it looked like an interesting movie. We encountered a little bit of turbulence when approaching the Northeastern USA and the seatbelt sign was on for ages. I have always noticed that the US carriers use it much more than their European or Asian counterparts. The 767 landed on 31R and we made it to the terminal early.
13 January 2003
New York JFK – Helsinki Vantaa
McDonnell Douglas MD-11
Economy Class, Seat 46A
Photo © Mikael Kuusela
Went to the Finnair check in to ask about better seats – friendly agent wasn’t happy about the overbooked flight to HEL and swapped me to 46A from a middle aisle. I tend to get some sleep when I’m able to lean on the window so that was ok. She then went on about the restaurants at T8 and expensive airside snacks… Didn’t seem to be in a hurry at all. I grabbed a quick bite at McDonalds as there was still 3 hours to go before departure. T8 airside is a pretty damn boring place, now even the windows have been changed near gates 8-9-10, so you can’t see anything.
Chose a seat near gate 4 and watched a 767-300 being pushed back for a flight to San Francisco before heading back to gate 9 for boarding. A call was made in English and Finnish for pax with DL and AA boarding passes to go see the gate agent… Nobody seemed to understand what it meant and all of a sudden there was a long boarding line. Quite a funny sight. People were wondering how people got there without a boarding pass and that it definitely was a boarding call. Finally at 5:20 pm boarding was called and I had no problems going right through to the gate with my AA Gold card. One agent was trying to shout “rows 40 to 60 only” without success. The situation looked like a chaos with 300 pax. I have no idea why the European airlines don’t enforce the rules - it is very annoying to say the least.
Got a bottle of water and some newspapers at door 2L before heading to the back… I knew it wasn’t going to be a nice flight with all seats taken and with a short flying time of 6h50min. The seats in the back are of the older variety, no headrests and rather uncomfortable. Finnair has obviously reduced legroom since I last was in the very back, as it felt very cramped. Pushed back late due to cargo loading and headed to 31L after an American triple seven bound for Paris de Gaulle. Very powerful takeoff again and I was on my way home.
Some sort of drink service was offered (sparkling wine only) and they only made it from the back to row 47 before serving dinner. No choice again but the chicken was excellent for airline food. Had some coke with my meal and Baileys afterwards and was really looking forward to some sleep after they turn off the lights. Nice dream… lights stayed on until 05:20 Finnish time as they were slowly conducting duty free sales… Slept for about an hour and a half and lights came back on at 07:15. And of course Finnair has ho eyeshades so it was impossible to sleep.
A breakfast of yoghurt and a rather big sandwich followed and soon we were on descent into cold Vantaa. Landed without delay early on runway 15 and made it to gate 31 more or less on time.