July 6, 2003
Delta flight 70
ATL-CO / LIRF), Italy">FCO
Departing: 5:40 p.m.
Arriving: 9:05 p.m.
Seat: 46J (window)
Duration: 8 hours 39 minutes
Photo © Lee Archer
Photo © Greg Farlow
I managed to convince my mom that we should leave for the airport really early because we don’t go to Europe often and she knows I love planes, especially when they are going to “exotic” destinations (at least compared to places like RDU or MIA which are regular run-of-the-mill destinations from ATL; MUC or MD), Spain">MAD are more exciting), and that it would only be an extra hour out of her life and my brother’s and over how ever long they would live, that would be very insignificant. With that said, we walked from our house to a neighbor’s house at about 1:45p.m. and she drove us to the nearby MARTA station. For those unfamiliar with Atlanta, MARTA is the subway and bus system for the city. We got our train to the airport at about two o’clock and were on our way. The ride, as usual, took about forty-five minutes. From the airport MARTA station, we walked to the Delta international check-in area and got in line. It probably took fifteen minutes or so to get to the front where a nice check-in agent checked us in. I love how international check-in always takes more than two minutes. Check-in is just so exciting because it kind of really gets your trip feeling like it is going because you finally get your boarding passes. Maybe you think I’m weird, but I love the check-in part. Well, after she put the CO / LIRF), Italy">FCO baggage stickers, we walked over to the giant white x-ray machines. We were directed to the next one and there the man operating it took the bags and put them through. I noticed that when we got to Rome, there was a little blue plastic TSA pseudo lock sort of thing on the zipper. Maybe they had to search it. What was it for?
Now that check-in was completed, we proceeded to security, which went quickly and seamlessly. ATL security is very efficient, but I wonder if that efficiency sometimes comes at a sacrifice in quality. I have one particular event in mind that if you’d like me to tell you, I will, but otherwise I’m not going to bore you with the details. Basically a friend and I took a trip to ICT and he put some things in his carry-on bag for the specific purpose of trying to get searched and it was missed in ATL but found in ICT. It’s a funny story. We descended a large escalator down to the train between terminals that is just after security. My mom and brother wanted the exercise, so decided to walk to the E terminal, the international gates. I would normally have liked the exercise, but decided that I would rather get to hang out in the international terminal, so elected to take the train. It took it’s usual 8 minutes or so to get to the E gates from the T gates where I went up into the terminal.
For a while, I just looked around at all of the planes, taking pictures of ours and others. I was happy to be on N866DA because I hadn’t flown it before (I had flown N867DA last summer from CDG to ATL, but it was going to CO / KMCO), USA - Florida">MCO on this evening.) and it had the 2-5-2 seating which meant that our seats that I had carefully picked would remain the same. I then met my mom and brother in the food court area and got a muffin and frappuccino from Starbuck’s. It was good, but the frappuccino was so chunky with unground ice that I just gave up on my straw and ate it with a spoon. After that, we moved to our gate, gate E17, and sat down at the gate. I did a bit more exploring and then returned for boarding. It began about twenty minutes late because if I remember correctly, they were having trouble getting the plane cleaned and loaded with food in time. When the Medallion members were invited to board, we got on because my mom is a Medallion member. That is Delta’s elite program for those unfamiliar with Delta’s frequent flyer program. I always like that because you can get on and get comfortable without a stampede of people trampling you to death and leaving you a bloody mess on the floor for the rest of the flight, simply because you were trying to stow your baggage and they didn’t see you. Well, I guess it’s not that bad . I put my stuff in a little mini one person overhead bin, which was nice. I had carefully picked our seats to give us all bulkhead seats. This was my first ride in a bulkhead and I was looking forward to it. My brother and I were in the 2 section on the right side. Even though this plane is one of the newest ones in Delta’s fleet of 777s, it looked really ratty inside. There were a lot of stains, the leather headrests looked old, and it just felt generally kind of junky. No doubt, it was still comfortable, but I was surprise to see such a new aircraft be showing it’s “age.” The coach cabin was just over half full and the Business Elite cabin seemed to be reasonably full.
Relatively shortly after boarding had finished, the door was closed. The captain then announced that we would have a short wait and twenty minutes later, we pushed back. The plane taxied to the runway and with very little waiting to do there, we took off. The takeoff roll was average, as was climb. I was just happy to be on a transatlantic flight again. I love longhaul flights. Very quickly after takeoff, the first movie running commenced. Last summer when I flew from CDG to ATL on a Delta 777, each movie selection had three choices and when the movie was over, you got three totally different movies to choose from when the next movie playing began. This time, there were just three movies for the flight and you chose at the beginning of each cycle. The movies were “Head of State,” “Agent Cody Banks,” and “Maid in Manhattan.” I selected “Head of State” and began watching on my armrest PTV.
I didn’t know where to put this, so I’ll inject it here. Our flight path took us out of ATL, headed northeast crossing out over water at Norfolk, Virginia, continuing northeastwards following the East Coast, crossing south of Nova Scotia and St. Johns, making landfall near Brest, France, flying southeast across France, crossing out over the Mediterranean Sea eight miles west of Nice, flying over the northern tip of Corsica near Bastia, crossing out again across the Mediterranean, making final landfall over Italy northeast of Rome, then turning more south following the coast briefly and then landing in Rome.
Anyway, midway through the movie, the dinner service began. I’m not really into reading menus in trip reports, but I know a lot of you enjoy it, so here is the menu:
Seasonal garden greens with radish and cucumbers, offered with ranch dressing.
Beef tips enhanced by mushroom sauce, presented with green beans, carrots and garlic mashed potatoes.
Pappardelle with chicken strips. Pasta in marinara sauce accompanied by grilled chicken strips, topped with cheese.
Bread and butter.
Cheese and Crackers.
Strawberry cream cup.
Minute Maid Orange Juice
Fruit Cereal Bar Banana
Warm Croissant with butter and preserves
It was all actually pretty good. The service was really lacking on this flight though. I had noticed it from the start that the flight attendant serving our aisle was this old wrinkly bag that seemed offended that there were kids on the flight. She was noticeably nicer to the nearby grownups. I’m not one to say I didn’t do something when I did, but neither my brother nor I did one thing to annoy this woman. We said please and thank-you and were polite from the start and she returned the exact opposite from the start. Oh well. Not every flight attendant is going to be great and I wasn’t about to let her ruin the flight. I still enjoyed myself very much. She was just one minor blemish on the experience and nothing more.
At some point, I noticed two separate bugs flying around near me. I love it when bugs get on longhaul flights! They get to become such well traveled, culturally aware beings of the bug world, getting to travel from native Georgia to Europe. This is the second time I have noticed bugs on a transatlantic flight.
By the time the movie had finished, it was beginning to get dark outside and people were turning in for the night. I had decided days before that if I get tired enough to sleep, then I will try, but I will not force myself. In the past, I have tried to sleep on transatlantic flights, much to no avail, and it is just aggravating to be trying to sleep when everyone else is and I can’t. I decided to just enjoy the flight.
A coffee and tea service began right before the dimming of the lights. The lights were dimmed and I started reading some of my Airliner World magazine and looking out the window until I noticed that the next movie cycle had commenced. I had missed the beginning and was a bit too tired to try to figure out what was going on in another movie, so I just turned on “Head of State” again and watched that, not paying tremendous attention. Looking out the window is always an activity that I partake in on any flight that I have a window and this was no exception. It is so peaceful to look out the window and see the stars. There is never nothing to see on a night flight. If there is no light to see the ground, there are the stars in the sky to look at.
After several hours of periodic water rounds by the flight attendants, the sun began to rise. As always for what I have experienced, there were clouds off the coast of Europe, so I couldn’t see the water until we got closer. At this point, the third movie cycle began and I, feeling like something requiring the minimal brain usage of the three movies because I was tired, put on “Agent Cody Banks.” I put a halfhearted effort into paying attention, more interested in what I could see outside of the window. Eventually the clouds were no longer covering the water and then we made landfall near Brest, France. It had been many hours and thousands of miles since I’d seen my last land at Norfolk, Virginia. The first sighting of Europe for me is always exciting. We continued over France, me starving after just one or two pretzel services during the night, very much looking forward to breakfast. Flying over southern France, I reminisced about the last summer when I was there. It was one of the most wonderful places I have ever been! It was inflight there that breakfast was finally served. Thank goodness! I was on the verge of eating a blanket by then. Well, not really, but I was hungry. See the above menu for what it was.
The plane set out over the Mediterranean, crossing northern Corsica shortly afterwards. The landscape down there was very rugged and very beautiful. Not too long after that, I got my first sighting of Italy as we made landfall probably fifty miles north of Rome, then turned more south and headed down the coast over the land. The descent began. It was pretty dry looking down on the ground, but not arid. There were a lot of farms. I also noticed a lot of big sprinklers that I saw all over Italy later in the trip that were just like giant lawn sprinklers, pulsating and spraying in a circle. Right before the runway, the plane made a quick drop, leveled off, and then set down smoothly on the runway. We had arrived about fifteen minutes late. As it taxied to the gate, I noticed several Alitalia aircraft, a US Airways A330-300 (I didn’t know they served CO / LIRF), Italy">FCO until then.), two AA 763s, and a Continental 767-400. We arrived and deboarded, then, after a short walk through the terminal, got onto a train that took us to customs and immigration. The passport stamping part took about ten minutes. I was excited to see that at our baggage claim, there were also flights from Djerba, Monastir, and Taskent. Those were very exotic locations for someone from my part of the world. It took about twenty minutes to claim our bags, but the declarations part went very quickly as we had nothing to declare. A taxi driver sent by our hotel met us in the main area and we left the airport after a good flight. I was ready to sleep though by then.
Photo © Gianmarco Bettiol
July 18, 2003
Delta flight 75
Seat: 24G (window)
Duration: 10 hours 8 minutes
Photo © Rotate
Photo © BAF70
So ended a fabulous trip, but fortunately I like the getting there and getting home (flying), so this was just another attraction and not really the end. The day began with an early six o’clock wake up. We all three got showered and met a man in the lobby that my mom had met on a flight from ATL to ORD that had just moved to Atlanta. He was in Milan on business and flying to MUC that day to visit family in Germany. Well, the long and short of all that was that he was flying out of MXP the same day, so he was going to drive us to the airport. We packed into his car at seven o’clock and were on the way. It was about a forty minute ride from near the train station in Milan is located, which is near where we were staying, to Milan’s Malpensa airport. Driving in, I saw a lot of Alitalia longhaul aircraft parked in one area. When we got there, he turned in his car to the rental car place and we walked into the airport and ascended a large escalator into the main check-in and restaurant area. My mom and brother and I decided to go check in and get our bags checked before eating breakfast so that we wouldn’t have three bags to worry about while we were trying to eat, so walked to the Delta check-in desk. To get to the area where that desk was, we had to show guards with machine guns that we had tickets. Could that perhaps have been because the EL AL check-in desk was also in that area? It was manned and operated by Alitalia workers and after waiting in a short line, we were quickly checked in and were on our ways. I noticed that MXP airport was very open. It was no architectural wonder, abounding in beauty, but it was nice and roomy. After walking back to a little eating place in the main wide open area at MXP. I got a cream filled croissant and a cappuccino, which was a tasty combination. After talking for a little while, we said goodbye to the man that drove us to the airport, my mom and brother went to the bathroom, and I went off looking at planes. I love how there are so many windows at MXP that look out over the terminals and runways. Besides seeing the many Alitalia planes, I saw a South African Airways A330-200. There wasn’t a huge amount of diversity of airlines at MXP, but it was more than my home airport of ATL and seeing a lot of Alitalia planes is not a sight I see often anyway, so it was very exciting. It was beautiful seeing the Alps in the distance. I met up again with my mom and brother and my brother and I each bought ourselves a Greek Euro proof set at the currency exchange booths. I went to a different one because they only had one set at the one my mom was exchanging her remaining Euros back into US Dollars.
With that done, we went down an escalator leading to customs and the B gates of terminal 1. There was a medium line in the customs area, but it only took about fifteen minutes to reach the front where our passports were stamped and we were on our way. There were a lot of shops just after customs before reaching the gates and we peeked into some of these. We finally reached our plane and I put my stuff down, and went walking around our nearby gates to take pictures. The plane right next to us was an Alitalia 763 headed to BOS. There was also an Alitalia 763 near us that was headed to CCS, as well as one of their 772s going to JFK and an MD-80 going to Tirana, Albania. There was a Continental 762 going to EWR, and of course the Delta 763 going to ATL, the aircraft that I would be flying shortly. I also noticed that near the CO aircraft, just sitting around not at a gate was a Georgian Airlines 737. Does that airline fly to MXP or was it here for some other reason? It never did move over the next hour or so from its strange spot just out from the gate.
Suddenly, we noticed that boarding had commenced. Do the gate agents at MXP not board by row numbers? There went from being on line to a huge one for our flight, as well as with the CO flight to EWR, which led me to believe that they just say boarding has begun for all rows. We got in line and after a few minutes, were on our way down the airbridge and got on the plane. We found our seats, which were normal Y class seats. I find DL’s 763s to be comfortable in economy though, at least compared to some economy classes. It wasn’t too long until the plane was pushed back and began its taxi. On the way by another part of terminal one, I noticed a Turkish Airlines 737-800 with winglets, an Aeroflot 737-400, an EL AL 757-200, a TunisAir 737 of some sort, and a TAP A319. As we taxied farther out, I noticed an Alitalia MD-11 and a Continental 777 parked near a hangar. Just before turning onto the runway, an Alitalia 767-300 landed on a parallel runway.
There were no planes ahead of us, so we just turned onto the runway and began the takeoff. After another average takeoff run, the plane was airborne for our ten hour and eight minute flight to ATL. Before takeoff, the captain had announced that it would be nine hours and forty five minutes, but by the time the plane took off, the airshow was showing nine hours and fifty minutes and then we were delayed near ATL. Anyway, we first started off heading east, but turned around after a few minutes, heading west, giving me a good view of the Alps, which were close out of my window. They really are very impressive!
Pretty quickly after that, customs forms were distributed. I love filling out customs forms for some reason, so my mom let me fill out ours. At that time, a Syrian couple in sitting in front of my brother and I asked if I would fill out their customs forms because they couldn’t really understand English. I was glad to do so, so he gave me their passports and I got to work. During this time, we began flying over the Alps instead of just parallel to them. It didn’t take long though to be over flat farmland of France. It took me about thirty minutes to fill out the customs forms due to frequent glances out the window.
While over France, the first drink and snack service was done, giving passengers, of course, a drink and a snack of pretzels. The first movie was started then too. It was “About Schmidt.” After a bit over an hour, I saw my last land in Europe at nearly the same place I had seen my first for this trip, near Brest, France. Our flight path brought us out of MXP, over western Switzerland, over France near Paris, heading out over water near Brest, flying south of Ireland, making landfall near St. John’s in Newfoundland, coming over the US at Maine and flying down over the eastern states.
At about the time when “About Schmidt,” which was enjoyable, ended, lunch was served. Here’s the menu:
Garden salad with dressing.
Roasted chicken. Chicken breast medallions on a bed of orzo with corn and sweet peppers, topped with asparagus, marinara sauce, and a cheese sauce.
Pasta. Cheese tortellini with mushrooms in red pepper tomato sauce, topped with cream sauce and a tricolor bell pepper julienne.
Bread and butter.
Cheese and crackers.
Tangerine Cream Cake
Smoked chicken and cheese served on focaccia bread.
I chose the chicken. The chicken was really dry, but the orzo and bell peppers tasted really good. Desert was pretty good too. The snacks part was served many hours later.
Just minutes after “About Schmidt” ended, “Chicago” began. I had absolutely no desire to see this movie, so decided to not even watch. I found it odd to see them start it right after the first movie had ended. I would have thought that they would have spread out the movies some instead of show the only two in the first four hours of the flight, leaving the next six with just some of the little programs that Delta plays after movies on longhaul flights. During the second movie, I just read a book and looked out the window. During the movie, there was a drink service or two. One of them was probably a snack service. Those, as well as just drink services, happened periodically throughout the flight. About six hours into the flight, I got up and walked around the plane with my mom. She was pretty bored at that point, but I was still enjoying myself. It was freezing on the plane though, so I asked a flight attendant if they had any extra blankets. They didn’t, but she suddenly disappeared and came back with one. She had searched the cabin for someone who did not want theirs. The flight attendants on this flight were very nice. The main one serving our row was very kind. I liked her a lot. There was one weird one who would always yell, “Coffee or tea?” He was like a robot and sounded the exact same way every time. After stretching a little bit more, I returned to my seat. Flying over the ocean, it was mostly cloudy below with the occasional break in the clouds when I could see the water. After a while, we made landfall near St. John’s. It was very green and kind of pretty down there. Meanwhile, mini programs had begun occasionally showing on the main cabin screens. I didn’t feel like watching any of these, so just kept reading and looking out the window.
About two hours before arriving in ATL, the “snacks” portion of the above menu was served. Anything would have tasted good I was so hungry at that point. The flight continued on uneventfully, with the periodic drink services. Nearing ATL though, the plane was just not low enough to be landing shortly. We had made a small descent, but then just stayed at the same altitude. This didn’t change and by then, my mom figured something was delayed at the airport. After the plane was over the state of Georgia, it did a loop, heading north again and then returning to where it had been, descending this time. I was happy about this though because it would mean that this would be my first flight over ten hours! Wee ha! The captain brought the plane in for a smooth landing and taxied to the international terminal where we all deplaned and waited in line in customs for two hours. A disproportionately high number of Delta’s flights from Europe arrive at 3:40 p.m., making customs at that time absolutely mobbed. This flight should have arrived at 3:10 p.m., but due to a longer than normal flight, we were delayed enough to be arriving at about 3:40p.m. The captain never did explain the strange circle made in north Georgia.
Overall, both of these flights were good experiences. On the first flight, the flight attendant serving our row was really kind of rude. The plane was comfortable though and the food was fine. I enjoyed it a lot. The second flight had a MUCH nicer flight attendant serving the row I was in and the food was also fine. It was comfortable for economy class. My only real problem with both flights was that Delta starved the passengers to death. On the first flight of 8 hours and 39 minutes, dinner, a small breakfast, and a two or three pretzel packs were served. Over nearly nine hours, that is not enough food. It was worse coming home though. Although plentiful beverages were served, a lunch, a few pretzel packs, and a small snack were all that were served on a flight exceeding ten hours. I don’t mean to sound like a big complainer because the flights were still very enjoyable, I was just famished when I got off of them, especially the return flight. I noticed these catering cutbacks when comparing it to last June when I flew Delta from CDG to ATL. Passengers were fed much better then.
Delta is a fine choice for transatlantic travel, but bring your own food to supplement what you will be given.
I hope you enjoyed this rather lengthy trip report and that it was worth your time! I certainly enjoyed the flights they talk about.