It happened I was supposed to take vacations with a friend. The idea was a trip around USA. In March, at LAN.com, I got a tkt that was: SCL-MIA, MIA-LAX, LAS-SFO, SFO-BOS, JFK-SCL per $1100!
But, as we say in Chile, “the man propose, God decide”… my friend left me alone with my vacation. So I had money, a couple of weeks and no idea where to go, since I didn’t want to go to USA by my own (and I actually spent the $100 for a Visa renewal…)
So, I read in the paper an Iberia ad: Madrid per $850. And I said “ok, I would travel alone to Europe”. But… I called LA and I figured out that only 1/3 of the miles flown by Iberia counts for LanPass… and since I am accumulating miles for going to Australia next year, and I’m very close, FF was very important. LAN then launched MAD at $950. So I decided to fly LAN, got better service and add miles to my account.
Then I had to decide where to go within Europe, considering I’ve been there before. I took a look at Iberia at the beginning of April, and there were very good fares! The same for British Airways. So, these are the fares I got (tax not included)
LA SCL-MAD-SCL: US$950
IB MAD-ORY-MAD: EUR 82
BA CDG-LHR-CDG: EUR 66
IB MAD-SVQ / GRX-MAD: 91
A lot of flights for such a few time. But I decided to do it anyway, besides it was the first time travelling alone…
Photo © Brenden
Photo © Peter Unmuth - VAP
The trip begins. I reserved an aisle seat in the doubles columns at the rear of the plane. My hope is that no one took the window seat, so I would have them both. How naive. I was seated there till I watched my flight mate… a woman with a baby! So I thought: this looks bad, I will have to stand up a thousand times for her to go around.
A few minutes before taxing, the f/a asked me if I wanted to move to the couple of seats in front of us which were empty. So, I left here my previously reserved 37J and moved to 36 J and K!
We left gate on time, and we started taxing. It was funny because I had flown that very week for work to CCP, and I flew a 319 and a 732, so it was the 3rd flight of the week in a 3rd aircraft type. We took of slowly and smoothly as usual in a 343. All aircraft in SCL take off heading south on runway 17. Most flights going north turn right a few seconds after take off, but when they go to MAD, thy turn is much wider, and the aircraft actually flies west for a couple of minutes. Since I was alone in both seats, I could watch all the movements.
I was so happy and felt incredibly lucky… till that very moment. I was concentrated looking Santiago when an old lady sat next to me: “hi, a woman next to me was carrying a child, so I offer her my seat and the f/a moved me next to you”… so there I was, trapped by an old lady!
Dinner was great as usual. Salad, meat, rice, desert, coffee, wine, whisky, amaretto cream… delicious! Since I’m very good for bread, I asked a second portion. She passed me one and said me “sure, so you one just one more?”. Great service, as usual. Good for LAN!
I then watched “National Treasure”. Other options?: Ocean Twelve, the last of Jim Carry, Spanglish and some magazine channels.
I tried to sleep then, but it wasn’t easy; there was a couple in front of me (I won’t say their nationality), but I thing they had eaten a lot, if you know what I mean! Besides, some occasional turbulence woke me up from time to time. After a couple of hours, I just woke up and realized that outside it was day already. I watched then “Spanglish” on my PTV (I recommend Spanglish a lot, with Tea Leoni and Paz Vega, great! Specially the girl actress). I took a look outside over the Atlantic, and I couldn’t believe it! I could watch our own contrail, at last! I took a photo, but it looks just as a cloud…Landing at 13.30 (30 mins early).
MAD? My God such a nightmare of airport! Ugly as usual, full of buildings with no sense of unity, sooo long. When I bough my tkt to ORY I was worried about not having enough time to connect, and now I had almost 4 hours! I must walked it about a hundred times (now I wonder why didn’t I go to downtown, maybe because I was so tired!).
My baggage was checked all the way to ORY in SCL, so I didn’t have to claim it. Immigration was fast, and I had a lot of time to wait in Barajas…
Photo © Kjc Photography
Photo © Sergio Echeverria Garcia
Although I web checked at home, I decided to go to a counter. I got a new boarding pass. Since I was that tired, I just walked to my gate. I must confess that it wasn’t easy for me to match terminal 1,2 and 3 with gates A,B,C,D and E… but I did it. I took a nap at a seat, till they call us to board. We took a bus to our Boeing 757, BTW, I chose it due to I never flew a 757 before (as Iberia, my first time!). I was seated on seat 9, the one in the actual central door where all of us boarded, so I had to move my legs everytime someone entered.
Not much to say about this flight, it was on time, the crew was actually very friendly. Some “relaxing” images of birds and sighs in the screens. The food was charged, and not cheap at all.
Paris was rainy, so when the reversers deployed the water on the runway was pushed ahead of the engine. The jetway was placed at the front door, not next to me. I was happy to see my bag safe after being labelled in SCL and connected in MAD!
Photo © Fabian Gysel
Photo © Guy Daems - Brussels Aviation Photography
BA changed the a/C, since this flight was supposed to be flown by a 320. I arrived on time to CDG, terminal 2B. great connecting bus system among terminals! I was exited since I as I kid I watched a photo of this “8 shape” terminal and I always wanted to be there, and my only time before in CDG was connecting in 2E.
We had passport control, and I was kind of lost with the layout: first immigration, then counter –among gates-. When I found the counter, the lady in a very lousy English told me that the flight was full, and I couldn’t get a windows or aisle seat, so she gave me a center seat. I started to watch the stores, and I was passing metal control when I realized that no one was in the hall and they were public addressing calling me, but I was on time, right? Wrong! My watch had stopped and I was actually very delayed, but I got it! I took the lat bus, took a long ride and then 2 surprises: 1. it was a 321 (the fifth flight in a row in a fifth different a/c!) and 2. it was gorgeous! Leather seats shining, interior shining, all look so perfect! I was impressed since the very beginning with BA, and in such a short flight! The only problem that next to me in the window seat (which lacked one window, leaving a large fuselage wall right there in between the other 2 windows) there was this fat guy that immediately started to sleep! And he left so little space for me to look outside that wonderful airport.
Very turbulent flight, specially while descending. In flight service just as impressive as the rest: kind crew, a great snack served in a carton box very well wrapped; a sandwich, fruit, drinks…the flight map displayed in the screens.
After landing, we used a jetway and went to immigration process. Fast, some question “about my intentions” (not rude at all, very “efficient”). It actually made me laugh some signs warning passengers that the UK takes very seriously any sort of thread against officers.
After I claimed by bag, I took the replacing bus service to the tube station, a bus with great view of large aircraft as 744s landing in the runway next to us.
London? I LOVED LONDON!
Photo © Tim de Meijer - Euroshots
Photo © Guy Daems - Brussels Aviation Photography
I arrived on time by tube to Heathrow T4 and again connecting with the bus since the line is under work. Funny how they have some people hired to assist passenger with their bags at the station since there is no escalator.
Again, they told me that the flight was full and I didn’t get a window or aisle seat, so they gave me the 30B. Again, the aircraft was changed from a 320 to a 321. But, the woman told me to ask before boarding if there was a chance to move me to a window seat.
T4 was very interesting for me, some good stores (including one of the British Museum).
Since I was advised that it would take me about 15 minutes to walk to the gate, and after what happen to me in Paris, I got there on time, but the people was already boarding. When I showed my boarding pass, I asked to be moved and I was lucky, they did! This is how I got 32A. Then, the most funny thing that ever happened to me in an airport:
You’ll see, I’ve never flown a 747 and I do want to!. I started to walk down the jetway till I realised the aircraft in front of me was kind of big… I looked outside a tiny window and suddenly all my prayers became true: it was a 744.
But me and a couple of passengers behind started to note something weird: it was empty and it seemed used and not cleaned. Since it was obviously a mistake, I acted like “I want to check” since this was my first time on a 744. They kept calling at me “hey, come back” and I kept answering “I’m coming, let me see”.
Sad reality, I returned and I realized that we wasn’t supposed to walk down the jetway, but to take a side door to a stairs and a bus.
The flight was great again, as British Airways. I got to see the Concorde in display, soft flight, great view, great breakfast service (although it was all sweet, I missed something salted: fruit, a cake, yoghurt).
BTW, the Airbus 321 must be one of the smoothest aircraft I ever been! I’m not an airbus fan at all, but it really felt incredible! Even for heavy turbulence was soft, stable, elegant! I loved it!
Arriving in CDG, again passport control (with no stamp on my passport), baggage claim, Paris… Paris was one of my favourite cities in the world. Although I only went to Paris this time for visiting Versailles, I really felt uncomfortable in the city! I couldn’t wait to get out of there! For some reason, Paris “broke with me”…
There are 4 flights remaining, but this report is becoming too long. I will complete it later. Besides, I have to fly again early in the morning.
WILL BE CONTINUED…