Obviously, someone has to be a tad insane to attempt the following trip. It sure isn't for everyone. But man, was it ever fun!
I am doing this trip report in a different way. I am splitting things up into sections. If you are just looking at this report to take a gander at the 56 pictures, just scroll down to section 3. But if you do read the first two sections, you might be entertained.
Part 1: The Basics
My trip from New Orleans to Chicago to Dublin to London to Chicago to New Orleans took 32 hours to complete. 20 of those hours were spent inside airplanes, and the remaining 12 inside airports. All flights were on American Airlines except for DUB
, which was on British Midland. Before we get started, here is a brief rundown of the flights I took...
18 April 06
duration: 2h02 min flight time
service: pretzels and beverages for coach pax
load: mostly full, about six open seats in coach, about two open in first
Duration: 7h02min flight time
service: dinner, continental breakfast, beverages
load: business class only had four pax in it, coach was nearly full, maybe five open seats at the most
19 April 06
duration: 50 minutes flight time
service: buy-on-board food, drinks, and souvenirs
load: basically full, although the two seats next to me were empty
duration: 8h04min flight time
service: dinner, snack, beverages
load: maybe 1/3 full...I did not see first, business was about half full, and coach was more than half empty
duration: 1h55min flight time
service: pretzels and beverages
load: only about six open seats, all in coach...first was full
Part 1: The Airlines
1) American Airlines
American did a nice job for the most part. All of their planes were very comfortable. I really appreciated those cushioned head rests for the long oceanic segments. The flight attendants were very friendly, although the service was not stellar on the Atlantic segments. On both the ORD
and the LHR
flights, I did not see one single f/a for most of the flight after the first meal service. The service on both flights went something like this:
:45 after departure = first beverage service
1:00 after departure = first meal service
1:15 after departure = second beverage service
1:30 after departure = coffee was served
2:00 after departure = duty free orders were taken
the next 4 to 4.5 hours = did not see one flight attendant, no water service, nothing
one hour before landing = pre-arrival snack served with beverages
Now I am not one to constantly argue and complain about a lack of service, but it would have been nice to see them come around offering water, say once every hour or even two hours, instead of sitting down reading or playing cards or doing whatever it is they were doing. But like I said, they were very friendly, so I can't complain too much. But I have to give UA
the nod when it comes to economy Transatlantic in flight service. Just a little more bang for your buck.
The meals themselves were ok for the most part (you'll get to see some of them below) but I thought the catering out of Heathrow was better than the catering out of Chicago in terms of quantity. Coach passengers were offered a choice of chicken or beef on both flights (accompanied by the usual assortment of salad, somewhat stale roll, water and a dessert), and I stuck with the beef, so that I could compare the quality of the two meals. I guess both were about the same. The continental breakfast served prior to landing in DUB
was very good (no pic of that one, sorry), and consisted of a warm croissant and some yogurt, and the pre-arrival snack into ORD
(cheese pizza, grapes, and a cookie) was tasty and filling.
In flight entertainment did the job. I really did not mind the lack of PTV's on the 763ER since two good movies were shown (Elizabethtown and Hitch) and I had a great view of the screen (seat 25J) The PTV's on the 772 were good, but I thought the selection was kind of lacking for the "international flagship service" as they were so proud to announce in Heathrow. On the 777 I spent most of my time watching the in flight map and staring out the window as crossed the Atlantic at 40,000 feet through a cloudless sky.
As for comparing the aircraft in the American configuration, the 777 is the better aircraft in my opinion, but that does not mean that there was anything wrong with the 763. It was my first long haul 763 flight, and I was impressed. Sure it was showing some signs of wear and tear, but it was quiet and comfortable. A true pleasure to fly on. I wouldn't hesitate to take a 67 across the pond again. The T7
has all the bells and whistles and is just a huge, marvelous piece of engineering genius. The 67 is for the hard core aviation nut who realizes that PTV's don't make or break a flight. Well, not for me anyway.
The two domestic segments on the M80's were smooth as silk and pretty comfortable. I had seat 28F up to ORD
and then 8F back to MSY
. The MSY
leg was on a newer MD
-83, and the return flight was on an older ex-TWA MD
-83, complete with the old TWA shaped seats and TWA beverage/food carts. I really like the Mad Dogs. I've never had a bad flight on one.
What a great little airline! Check in for BD124 at DUB
was a breeze. The ticket agent was gorgeous, and she said "I hope you have a most excellent flight Mr. Oliveri!". I also need to comment on the efficient (to say the least!) boarding process. Our A321 had at least 170 passengers on it. Our flight was scheduled to depart for 11:20am, and boarding did not start until 11:00am. I was saying to myself "they'll never get this thing out of here at 11:20." Boy was I wrong. Maybe it's the better flying sense of the European folks or something, because everyone got on and into their seats in 12 minutes. 12 minutes for 170+ passengers. Try that Southwest! They boarded 17 rows at a time, starting with 17 through 34. And it worked. Unbelieveable.
The plane itself was spotless and comfortable. It was my first flight on a 321 and I couldn't have picked a better airline to fly on one as far as i'm concerned. The in flight staff were professional and very courteous. And boy did they look great in those blue uniforms and hats. Very stylish!
Honestly I didn't know much about BMI
going into the flight so when I saw they offered a full menu of buy-on-board items plus souvenirs and other assorted novelties on a fifty minute flight, I was truly impressed. I ended up buying a pre-packaged cheese sandwich, pringles, and a big bottle of water. It cost about 9 Euros for all of it, but the quality of the sandwich was excellent. I saved the water bottle as a souvenir.
Overall I had a great experience on BMI
. Friendly staff, clean, comfortable aircraft, and a wide assortment of things for sale, even on a flight as short as DUB
. Once again, American carriers can surely learn a thing or two about in flight service from airlines like BMI
. Even though BMI
charged for food as do most U.S carriers these days, BMI
did it with style. I can’t say the same when talking about most American carriers. So sad.
Part 2: Airports
Changing planes at ORD
was a breeze connecting from MSY
. On the way back, not so much. After I cleared customs and immigration (follwing the long trek from gate M4
) I had to make my way to the train that took me back to AA
's domestic terminal. That was about a five minute ride. Then finally back through a security line (I used the one next to the DL
counter...the main AA
security line would have taken a half an hour easily) and on my way to gate H13. It only took me 37 minutes to get from my 777 to my MD
-80, but four things worked in my favor: 1) The 777 was less than half full so it didn't take me very long to deplane. 2) I was walking as fast as I could the entire way. 3) I was not checking bags, so I avoided the long bag recheck line past customs, and 4) the line at immigration was not too long, maybe only 20 people deep when I got there. I probably would not schedule an international to domestic connection at ORD
again if it was under say 1h45m just to be safe. I hate rushing through airports. This time it worked out...next time, maybe not.
was a nice, easy-to-navigate airport. The immigration staff was pleasant, as were all the people I met there. I loved the huge train station-style arrivals/departure screen in the main lobby. Security was a breeze to say the least. I loved the wide assortment of duty free stores. Also, I got some great views of the ramp from the gate area. It was just a clean, attractive facility overall. Great job, DUB
What can I say about LHR
? It was a monster! I had been there once previously on a BA
-to-BA connection back in 1999, so I did not have very far to walk. This time, I was in for a treat. I had to go from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3. After watching the pre arrival video on the BMI
flight, it looked like it would be an adventure. Indeed it was, although like in ORD
, I made it to my next flight with no problems. It took me exactly 40 minutes to get from my BD
321 to my AA
777, and that included about eight minutes waiting on the terminal bus. I don't think I ever walked so far in my life as I did at Heathrow, and boy it was worth every second. Awesome airport.
Part 3: Pictures (apologies in advance for some of the blurry shots...some of the windows were dirty and/or scratched)
1) Taxiing out to runway 19
2) Climbout over the Mississippi River
3) Making a sharp turn over the river
4) Aerial shot of MSY
5) Getting ready to cross Lake Pontchartrain
6) Super 80 coach class
7) At flight level 340
8) descending into ORD
9) Smooth touchdown
10) Note the Sears Tower underneath the tail...a lucky shot...
11) This 763 was going to CDG
12) Cabin shot of my plane to DUB
13) Beautiful wing, beautiful sky
14) getting ready to depart...
15) and we're off!
16) just a few minutes after takeoff...not much daylight left...
17) mmm, dinner in coach
18) nothing beats a sunrise over the Atlantic
19) about two hours from landing
20) eventually the sun came out...
21)...only to dissapear as we approached a dreary DUB
22) touchdown in DUB
23) came to a stop after 7 hours and 2 minutes in the air
24) on board my BMI
A321 bound for LHR
321 with "football nose" seen on pushback...
26) ...as well as a few Shamrocks
27) gorgeous Irish countryside
28) getting ready to cross the Irish Sea
29) the best cheese sandwich I've ever had
30) cabin shot (not a very good one)
31) the clouds opened up and afforded me some amazing shots of downtown London on final into Heathrow
32) more London...
33) more London...
34) and a little more London...
35) short finals into Heathrow
36) BD124 arriving Terminal 1
37) just boarded my AA
777 bound for ORD
38) beautiful 747-400 of Air India seen as we were ready for takeoff
39) a flock of BA
40) cruising up to FL400
41) maybe 1/3 full coach section
42) dinner time!
43) in flight map (very useful)
44) approaching the huge ice fields off the coast of extreme northeast Canada
45) simply stunning...this view lasted for hours...
46) more ice...
47) and even more ice...there had to be a few polar bears down there...
48) bonjour Canada!
49) kind of chilly outside don't you think?
50) note the ice crystals on the window as we cruised over Lake Huron
51) pre-arrival snack
52) final approach into ORD
53) short final, full flaps
55) gorgeous sunset over America's heartland seen from my ORD
56) nice scene to end an incredible adventure
Well that's it, I hope you guys enjoyed this trip report, any feedback would be welcomed and appreciated!