MY FIRST TIME ON A 757
MY FIRST TRANSATLANTIC ON A NARROWBODY SINCE 1978
While surfing on some aviation site, I had clicked on a Park2go.com banner, claiming it to be"The Easiest Way to Park at EWR." Well, it was not all that easy to find, and once I got there, it looked like a junkyard. In the end, my car was OK, but I did worry a bit about my poor Civic during my Lisboa weekend.
The smoky Park2go minivan dropped me at terminal C. I had already printed my boarding pass at home. Security was the usual American blend of order and casualness: a elderly Sikh gentleman working for the airport was badmouthing the TSA employees within their hearing. The whole security process took 20 minutes.
02/15/06 - CO64 - Boarding Gate C123 - B757-200 - N33132 - Seat 25C - 100% full
Scheduled 20:15 - Pushback 21:00 - Takeoff 21:15
Scheduled Landing 08:00 - Landing 08:05
Photo © Jay Selman
02/20/06 - CO65 - Boarding Gate 22 - B757-200 - N17128 - Seat 19C - 80% full
Scheduled 10:40 - Pushback 10:25 - Takeoff 10:40
Scheduled Landing 13:35 - Landing 13:20
Photo © Fred Seggie - WorldAirImages
FIRST REMARK: I have never seen such a difference in fight time between Eastbound (5h 50) and Westbound (7h 40). I guess the flight back was like walking on a moving sidewalk going the wrong way.
I was at the gate early enough to see the plane arrive, from Orlando.
The Lisboa flight boarded between two other simultaneous flights, one to Gatwick (overbooked, looking for 6 volunteers to leave the following day) and one to Shannon. It was never clear which flight each announcement was for, so confusion reigned supreme "Which rows did she say? Trente quatro?" Not surprisingly, once aboard, the crew confirmed again and again this was the Lisbon flight. It would be easy to board the wrong flight in that concourse at that time.
My first look inside a 757 was underwhelming. At night, the cabin is very gloomy until those ugly luggage bins are closed. The knee space was decent, however. The safety announcements were on video, on small drop-down screens, with no live action from the crew. The video itself is very plain with no animation, and it was given once in English and once in Portuguese.
The flight was 100% full. The passengers were at least 3/4 Portuguese or of Portuguese descent, and well behaved. I appreciated the no-free-booze, as I had been bothered by ethylic emanations from my neighbors on my two latest flights (AZ and UA).
The cabin crew was a little glum outbound, but they did their job. No wasted smiles: it was closer to my DL experience than to the UA sense of good cheer. (On the way back, a dynamite purser worked magic and motivated the whole cabin crew to a much higher level. I complimented her at the end.)
The choice of movies on those sorry little screens was so drab and uniformly perimenopausal (In Her Shoes, Ya Ya Sisterhood, Must Love Dogs) that I didn't even unpack my earphones either way. I had a fantastic Portuguese novel: "Cousin Bazilio" by Eça de Queiroz.
Shortly before takeoff, the lights were turned off, and remained off for half an hour. There was no drink cart before dinner, so there was actually no liquid offered until you were almost done with your dinner (Chicken or beef, pretty nice, metal cutlery). After dinner, there was coffee service, in paper cups.
Croissants and fruit salad were served at sunrise, and the landing was lovely. Actually, this was an exceptionally smooth flight, and it felt like we never made a single turn after leaving the NYC area.
At the terminal, we had to take a bus to the gate.
LIS is old fashioned but clean, and security was a breeze. In the airy and more modern lobby, I bought a Lisboa Card, and that included the bus to go downtown. It is a short distance, but the traffic was awful and it was pouring.
Sudden showers did occur during the next four days, but I still was able to enjoy Lisbon, especially the Tile Museum, the Coach Museum, and the Tram #28.
On the way back, I needed to check in - in person - and I had trouble finding the Continental windows (no line, but I was 2h early).
Security at LIS was standard at first. However, at a secondary check, just before entering the secure boarding lounge for my flight, I was pulled aside and my luggage was checked, I was frisked, and my shoes were deeply inspected. I felt like the choice to double check me had been made earlier, and that this employee was waiting for me. Why? Short trip with no checked in luggage? Sort of mid-Eastern name?
Once in that boarding lounge, there was a large puddle in a corner, under a leak in the glass roof. But at least we didn't have to listen to announcements from competing flights, so boarding was extremely organized.
As I said, the crew was more cheerful Westbound, and a drink service was offered before the lunch.
My neighbor tied his knees together with a scarf, then slept most of the time
Unlike on the Eastbound flight, there were several drinking water passes, which is fitting since it was a longer and daylight flight. The "Duty Free" cart seems to be a big deal on CO. I always remember it as some sort of quiet formality on other airlines, whereas those CO F/As pushed it and apparently sold a lot of stuff.
The pre-landing snack was a good hot sandwich and a bag of potato chips. Landing was, again, extremely smooth and uneventful.
Finally, immigration is much better organized at EWR than at IAD or ORD.
CONCLUSION: CO gets the job done. There was nothing very remarkable about these flights, but nothing wrong either. Transatlantic IS a long time on a 757, mostly because of the lack of individual entertainment (which is not the 757's fault, I know). A choice of movies, constant access to the map, and the possibility to go to the back and have a soft drink would have broken the monotony.
[Edited 2006-02-25 13:56:41]