Photo © Josh Akbar
Today was finally the day to go to Egypt! We were dropped off by our family at IAH and went to the International check-in area due to the fact that this was a Skyteam itinerary to Cairo. We would be taking CO to JFK and then connecting to Alitalia to Milan MXP and on to Cairo. When we tried to check in, the automated system could not do it. The agent issued us boarding passes only to JFK. I tried to explain that this was a Skyteam itinerary and that two different reservations agents and the Skyteam website guarantee only one check-in for the trip to Cairo. Alas, no one could get us the boarding passes for the Alitalia flights. That ensured we would have a nice line to stand in at JFK to check in again The bag was tagged to Cairo, and we were on our way to the gate. My wife and I were in the window and middle seat of the coach cabin in a 737-500. At 10:50, we pushed back on time and joined somewhat of a large line of aircraft waiting to take off. When it came to be our turn, we suddenly pulled off the runway with the captain announcing a weather hold. My wife and just shook our heads and said, "not again" recalling a similar incident last year that led to a day lost from our vacation trying to get out of Atlanta. I also vowed that if we did not get to Egypt tomorrow for any reason, I wanted a day tacked on to the trip in the end. We had worked too hard to save up for this and we would only be gone about a week, so each day counts. About an hour after pushback, we were released for takeoff. We rolled to the southeast and turned northeast towards the east coast. A hamburger and a small salad was served on this flight. At last, we were over the ocean descending into JFK. Our actual arrival into the gate was 4:30PM, which was about an hour past the original time. Upon exiting the aircraft, the next goal was to find out which terminal Alitalia was in. We had arrived in Terminal 4. There was no posted information we could find, and the monitors only had the flight information for the terminal we were in. We boarded the interterminal train and finally saw that Alitalia was in Terminal 1. After a few stops, we arrived there to find a large check-in line at Alitalia.
Scheduled 6:00PM-7:50AM next day
Photo © Brian Futterman - NYCAviation
We finally got to a check-in agent after a long wait. My wife then noticed that we were being given seats apart from each other even though we had reserved two together. After point this out,we were assigned a window seat and a middle together. The agent shrugged when we inquired about what happened to the original seats and we also mentioned the inability to check in at Houston on a Skyteam partner. The next step was to get through the long security line. Some people were given priority because their flights were very close to leaving. It seems like in the security lines, we get the slowest and most unprepared people to stand behind. You would think that as long as they had been waiting in that line, there would be some desire to get beyond it. We already had our shoes off, pockets empty, and belts off for our turn. After that, it was a quick trip to the restroom before the aircraft started to board. First class was able to board first, but for everyone else, it was one huge line. There were no row numbers called nor was there any type of zone boarding. We refer to this as the "free for all" style of boarding. As we were seated, there were several people angry that their seating assignments were changed and they were isolated from the group. I guess it was not just us. The plane pushed back a few minutes late and then seemed to stay on the ramp for a while. Finally the pilot announced something to the effect that we were number 70 or whatever for takeoff. We were in line to get in line. Slowly, we inched towards the runway. It seemed like a lot of aircraft from the other side of the airport were let ahead of us. At last, it was our turn, and we took off for Milan. The seat video units were nice as you had an on demand choice for movies and TV shows. There was also a Skyteam page that emphasized the seamless travel and a single check-in process for Skyteam itineraries I did take a digital photo of the screen. I had chicken for the meal, and my wife had fish. We made the mistake of not having accessible water bottles for the flight, because very little was served in the way of drinks. The cups are very small, and the glass was literally only half full. We were only given two shot glass sized drinks for the whole flight. Needless to say, we were quite thirsty upon arrival to Milan. After the main meal, I went to sleep once the trays were taken up. Several hours later, the sun began to come up. All I could see were clouds as we made landfall at France. A breakfast of a sandwich and dry bread was served. The southern Alps of Italy gradually appeared, and then we were on approach to Milan. I could tell that the airport is way out there from the city. The location of MXP seemed quite rural. We touched down 45 minutes late due to the holdup at JFK. We parked at a remote stand where buses were required to take us back to the terminal. We followed the line for transfers and cleared security once more. Then, we waited at the gate for the Cairo flight.
July 2, 2006
Photo © Massimo Pesenti SpotIT
As 10:00 approached, a long line began to form for the Cairo flight. It was adjacent to the Delta flight boarding for Atlanta. In some spots, the lines meshed together, making it confusing for the Delta passengers. However, our line was not moving. At about 10:20, an agent finally appeared, and now we were waiting for the door to open up to begin boarding. At 10:30, boarding started. We were seated just behind business class in the first row in coach. Our boarding passes has an "A" and "C" seat. Between my armrest and my wife's armrest facing each other was perhaps not even a foot of empty seat. It almost looked suitable for an infant, but we knew it was not an inventoried seat. So really, we were in a row of 2 seats. The captain announced that they delay was due to cargo and we would now be on our way. Takeoff was to the north back towards the Alps before turning southeast down the long peninsula that forms the bulk of Italy. A meal was served on this flight consisting of a salmon appetizer, meat and vegetables to make a sandwich, and a pastry. We had water bottles with us, but the flight attendant gave us plenty of water to drink on the flight. We napped for awhile after the long night. I woke up and noted that we must be over Greece, because I could see the ocean below and the land beyond it. After a while, the dry coastline of Egypt appeared. This was my first look at Africa. The cultivated land revealed the location of the Nile Delta, and I could see branches of the great river. There was a stark difference between the green cropland and the desert beyond. We descended and landed in Cairo 30 minutes late. We had arranged for a meet and greet from a tour operator. He was waiting for us just shy of passport control. Before that, we paid the $15 each for the visa stamps. Beyond the passport control was the baggage claim where we waited and waited. The bag did not arrive. My wife was livid as this had happened to us last year, except we did not get the bag for 5 days. So, we got in the line at the baggage office and filed the lost bag report. Then, we were taken to our hotel.
As a follow up, we did receive the bag 32 hours later. Evidently, Continental did not connect the bag to Alitalia in New York. This in addition to the promise of a single check in has prompted me to write a complaint to CO. So far, I have not been contacted regarding the matter.