Sunday, March 19th
Iberia Flt. 3551
Scheduled Departure: 11:55pm
Scheduled Arrival: 2:15pm
Actual Departure: 1:30pm
Actual Arrival: 3:45pm
We took a taxi from our hotel over to Terminal 4 and soon joined the check-in queque. After about 25 minutes, we received our seats and were soon off to pass through security which was very quick and efficient. I like the fact that they have a table set up before you get to the actual metal dectector with the plastic bins. The creates less back up and hassle at the actual dectector. After grabbing a few bottles of water we started the looong walk all the way down to one of the last gates on the end of the terminal, H4. This is the point at which I went to grab my digital camera and it wasn't there, which included all the pictures I took on the flights over. Panic basically set in, and we started calling the hotel and even various restaurants we ate at. We ended up not finding it after looking through all our stuff, which was kind of frustrating. They soon started boarding on time, and we made our way to our seats, 18E & F. One thing I notice about Iberia's A321's is that they load them with cans using a K-loader. This is actually very odd to see because at US we load them by hand. I know that we're the only American based airline that operates the 321, so it might be commonplace elsewhere that it is loaded with cans, but after being in those bins so many times stacking bags it was definitely interesting.
After everyone was on board (I would say that flight was about 95% full) the captain came on and told us that the mechanics were checking out something with one the tires down below. He then came on again 5 minutes later and said that they decided they were going to need to change the tire, and it would only take about 20-25 minutes. I've seen our mechanics change and A330 tire in less than 30 minutes, so I figured that this was the right perception of time. Well, a little under two hours later he announced the mechanic had finally finished with the tire, and we finally pushed back. We had a fairly short taxi and took off towards the east, climbing up to 33,000 feet. Their buy on board service started, and my girlfriend decided to buy a small can of Pringles which cost about 2.50 euros. I then proceeded to read some of my book, and eventually fall asleep again from being quite exhaused form the busy weekend. We started to descend though some thick cloud layers, eventually breaking out of them when we were on final for 16L. The captain greased it on to a semi-wet runway, and we taxied over to the B-concourse where we parked and de-planed. We then took the Leonardo Express back into the city where we would relax and go out for a nice meal.
Sunday, March 20th
US Airways Flt. 3
Scheduled Departure: 11:15am
Actual Departure: 11:12am
Scheduled Arrival: 3:15pm
Actual Arrival: 2:20pm
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Photo © NP Poole
Photo © Carlos Aleman - SJU Aviation Photography
As per my usual routine, I said my goodbye's and see you soon's to my girlfriend and hopped on a bus to Termini Station where I would again get on the Leonardo Express to Fiumicino. I arrived at Terminal C and joined the very long check-in for the US Airways counters. There was a very large tour group ahead of me of what looked like junior-high aged kids from California, and I basically missed getting a head of them by about 5 minutes. I knew this flight was oversold by about 20, but I also knew there were about 27 seats open in first class. This means after the 20 oversales got their seats, there would still be 7 left. Another problem with this flight is that it is usually weight restricted very often, so sometime non-revs have trouble getting on. To combat this I always obtain a ZED fare before I go over. That way if I get stuck there, I can go somewhere like Paris and stay with friends and leave from there the next day because it is usually less-booked. I had no bags to check, and was issued a boarding card. I cleared security and got my departure stamp on my passport. I usually hit the duty free this time but I was running a little behind schedule so I decided to catch the tram over to our departure gate, C24. I arrived there and saw our aircraft would be #673, one of watch I haven't flown on before. I stopped to grab a cappucino at the cafe, and proceeded to the gate area.
This is where it begins to get a little interesting, especially from a non-rev perspective. As I was walking around, I ran into a good friend I have at work who is a US Airways mechanic. He and his brother, as well as about 5 other non-revs have been trying to get out since Saturday! They tried twice so far and had no luck, so they all had been staying at a hotel right near the airport. I immediately thought "there is no way in heck I'm getting on this plane today." One of the stranded gate agents, also from Philly, went up to check the seniority list and I was #1 out of 10. I knew my mechanic friend was hired right after me but just when you think only 2 years of seniority will get you anywhere, it pays off. I told them about my plan to go to Paris if I didn't get on this flight because the flight from Paris was pretty empty the next day. They all agreed they would do that as well, so I felt happier that even if we didn't get on this flight I would have people to travel with. The agents at the desk told us to keep our fingers crossed as there were people who didn't check in as well as mis-connecting passengers. Another problem was that Delta oversold their Atlanta flight be a whole bunch, so they decided to send them over to US Airways, which did not make the people who were stuck happy at all. After anxiously waiting for everyone to board, I heard my last name called! I could believe it, and most of the other non-revs followed suit behind me. I've never seen my mechanic friend more happy! I was assigned seat 2F, while my mechanic friend and his brother were assigned 6G & H. Most of the other non-revs were given seats in coach. I would check the list later when I got into Philadelphia and the flight was completely full in first class, filled to 41, and 219 out of 220 in coach. The only people who didn't get on were two buddy pass riders that were travelling together. If I hadn't shown up that day, they would have got on!
After I sat down and finally got settled, I took a look at the menu and ordered a spinich ravioli with sun-driend tomato sauce and a glass of red wine. We soon pushed back right on time, and I was able to sit and relaxed, very relieved that I got on. I know my friends in Paris weren't too happy though because I let them know I might be unexpectedly showing up that day! We had a fairly long taxi to runway 24 and were cleared to take off as soon as we arrived at the hold short lines. We had another fairly long takeoff roll, and shot up into the sky, turning right on a heading towards Elba and the city of Nice. We passed 10,000 feet on our way up to 39,000 feet, and hot towels were soon passed out. An appetizer of salami, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomato and some mixed greens were then presented, along with my ravioli right after. It was very tasty, but I do usually prefer the meal on the way over to Europe. After dinner, coffee was served with a plate of different cheeses and crackers for desert, and I decided to start the movie "Walk The Line". After finishing desert I settled in for the long flight of what was stated to be 8 hours and 53 minutes. I decided to flip through various other programming on the IFE including various TV shows from A&E, an episode of Joey as well as Friends, and the movie "A History of Violence."
About 5 hours into the flight I fell asleep, waking up right before they served a snack with consisted of a salad and a box of magherita pizza, which was quite good. I guess I slept all the other food off because I was quite hungry. About 45 minutes before landing the captain announced Providence was just off the left side of the aircraft, an we would be flying directly over The Hamptons in a few minutes. We started our descent just south of Long Island and hugged the coastline of New Jersey before making a sharp right turn just north of Atlantic City to head towards Philadelphia. As usual for arrivals coming into land on 27R we made a slight left hand turn just over the Walt Whitman Bridge where the gear was soon lowered. The winds were fairly gusty that day, and whoever's leg it was up front had a little bit of trouble setting us down as we floated a little bit down the runway. The right main was set down, and after about another 5 seconds the left main was gently set down and full reverse was applied. We came to almost a full stop right at the beginning of A-West and had a very quick taxi into gate A19. We deplaned and arrived a customs where there were already plenty of people. Last time I came from Rome we were also about an hour early and we were the first one in, but it seems that the other trans-atlantic flights also took advantage of the wind that day. I stood in line for customs for about 15 minutes before I soon cleared, said my goodbyes to my friend as well as the other non-revs I met and was soon off to the employee lot.
Overall I feel it was a really great trip. I was happy I was able to try out a new airline like Iberia and was very pleased with their service as well as impressed by the new Terminal 4. So far on my trips over the Atlantic I have always had great service from my fellow co-workers, and look forward to my next trip over in a few weeks. If your a non-rev like me most of the time, this is an example of how it's always important and best to have a back-up, especially when you go overseas. Hope you enjoyed my trip report! I will definitely have pictures for the next one as I just purchased another camera.