DATE: Sunday, 29th July 2007
AIRCRAFT: Airbus Industrie A330-202
REGISTRATION NO: EI-DAA (Nicknamed St. Keeva / Caoimhe)
SCHEDULED DEPARTURE: 14:45 GMT
SCHEDULED ARRIVAL: 16:45 CDT
We live on the Limerick/Kerry border so our trip to SNN takes usually about 1 hour 30 mins. Today our flight would be departing at 14:45, much later than usual because the flight originates in DUB. We were at the airport at 13:00. We had checked-in online the day before but we still wanted to get there early. EI check-in was open for EI133 to Boston and EI111 to New York City. I was travelling with my mother, brother, sister and best friend Chris. In line for bag-drop didn't we bump into a teacher from school?! What a coincidence! She looked twice before realising she recognised us. "I sure hope ye'r not goin to the same place I'm goin!" she said jokingly (I hope). We said we were off to Chicago and to our shock/horror discovered that she was on our flight. So on the off chance you're reading this -Hi Miss Connors! - We also bumped into a cousin of ours from our hometown who was flying out to New York. Anyway after talking to these people we headed upstairs to the Estuary Café. You will never eat a better Irish breakfast than the one here lads! It's worth just coming down just for the sausages! So anyway we said our goodbyes to Dad (who'd be joining us later in the trip as he cows that needed tending to at home for the time being).
Security took no less than 5 mins although there was a long line. We browsed Duty Free and got a drink from the shop/bar in the lounge. After some time our flight was called to US customs and Border Protection. We got in line and it took about 15 mins to reach the desk. We all had American passports except Chris but he passed through without hassle and we went into the boarding area. There was a very long line for the pre-boarding security which inspected carry-on bags of liquids/gels. I had never seen this procedure before at SNN so it was kind of annoying. Once we got up close I recognised the aircraft as EI-DAA which was one of the aircraft with PTVs. PTVs always seem to make the trip go faster so we were excited about that.
|This was taken seconds before the security lad told me that cameras were not allowed and to put it away - strange!|
The aircraft had just landed from DUB and the the airbridge was just being docked when we reached the gate. We would be boarding from Gate 7. Then something happened that I had never seen or heard of before. The Boarding agent was letting all the people who had got on in Dublin disembark here to clear US CBP. It must have been congested in Dublin that day and the agent seemed like she was rushing them - understandable though. I'd estimate that about 30-40% of the passengers were getting on in SNN and the rest were Dubs. We sat at the window and watched as EI133, a A333 (didn't get the reg) taxied and took off on runway 6. I never remembered taking off on RWY6 before so I thought it would be a change of scenery. Boarding began at about 14:25.
Ours was the last transatlantic flight of the day. We boarded first under the "parents travelling with small children" procedure. We took our seats, I was sitting at 26K (on the wing) and the rest of our group was more or less around me. It was a sunny day with scattered cloud - warm too with calm easterly winds. As I waited for boarding to wrap up I started reading the Skyshopping magazine. Nothing of interest to me - I was going to buy the Aer Lingus pen but for €9 (cheapest), forget it.
Empty gates at Shannon - a scary sight
Boarding was done after about 20mins and we pushed back at 14:48. The captain today was Susan Kavanagh (I had never heard of a woman captain in EI and I'm not being sexist by any means!) The first officer was a Brit under the name of Steve Williams. We taxied via Taxiway Alpha to the runway. Here's another unusual thing that happened and anyone who knows why this might be please suggest. We stopped at the end of Taxiway A for about 5 mins. I presumed we were waiting for an aircraft to land or takeoff or something but nothing. Then the engines roared up and we turned right onto runway 6 without backtracking for immediate takeoff. I had never seen a widebody takeoff from 6 without backtracking. Maybe there was a go-around or something? But I did not see any other aircraft.
We took off at 15:06. One hour hour into our climb The Head of Cabin Crew (Maria Stokes) announced that they would be coming around with drinks. Each drink came with a small bag of pretzels, a plastic cup and tiny napkin. I had a coke. All this was complementary. I remember looking out the window to see the very prominent Aran Islands through a cloud-free sky. The flight was packed - a good sign no doubt. The PTVs were great - seemed like the journey was halved because of them. I watched the Airshow for most of the journey. Anyone know when EI will have all their A330s equipped with PTVs?
Shortly after the drinks were served they announced that dinner would be distributed soon. The choice was chicken with rice or beef lasagna. I hate "plane food" so I packed a Chicken and Stuffing sandwich at Shannon and ate that instead. The crew member however did not take no for an answer and I had to choose, I picked chicken so if Chris didn't like his beef, he'd just eat mine. Tea/coffee was served after this. I'm not much of a tea/coffee person so I passed. On the PTVs the estimated time of arrival at ORD was 16:45 - right on time for most of the flight.
The cabin crew on this flight were exceptional. Never before had we met such friendly and helpful crew. Of course Limerick were playing on this particular Sunday and we enquired to one of the attendants as to how they got on. They said to give them a few minutes and they'd speak to the captain. Sure enough she came back with a little slip of paper from the flight deck displaying all the scores of the GAA championship matches that day. Limerick won!!! But I was more interested in the piece of paper - it was typed up and said EI-DAA on the top. Are these like little fax machines for the cockpit or something? Ms. O'Connor was sitting three seats behind us and came back asking us if Limerick won when the flight attendant left. Then another member of crew noticed I was writing all the flight details down and asked if I was interested in aviation. I was talking to her for about 10 mins discussing my dreams to be a pilot some day and it turns out she was from a village in Limerick not too far from us. Deirdre Keane was her name. Duty free was distributed a few hours from landing and most people got something. About an hour and a half from landing another round of tea/coffee was served along with a light snack. In this case it was a scone with butter, jam and plastic cutlery. I ate half the scone.
The movies offered for this flight were "Blades of Glory" and "Meet the Robinsons" I didn't really pay attention to them though. The inflight magazine "Cara" was interesting and bragged how EI was launching three new destinations to the US (SFO, IAH & MCO) and how it's upgrading its fleet to A330-300E and A350XWB. At about 16:00 CDT first-officer Williams briefed us on the descent into Chicago. He said weather conditions were favourable and that no delays were expected. With this the "fasten seat belt sign" came on. Turbulence throughout the flight was few and far between so overall pleasant conditions. I tried, but didn't get much sleep. Soon after, the crew came around collecting donations for UNICEF. The weather outside was much the same as the weather we had left at Shannon - clear with a few clouds. It was a bit hazy though.
We descended near Lansing, MI and started turning right towards Lake Michigan. Around this time, the ETA on the screen changed for the first time declaring us late by 10mins - 16:55. We flew over the lake and just north of downtown Chicago. But since I was sitting on the starboard side I didn't get a good look at the skyline. We then turned left due south and circled ORD giving magnificent views of the airport. I have the pics of it but I can't add any more.
We landed on Runway 9R at 16:52 (7 mins late) and taxied to Gate M10 via taxiways M6, M, 27L Pad, D6, International Taxi-line. Some airlines parked at the international terminal included Austrian Airlines (767 from Vienna), BMI (332 from Manchester), Air India (744 from Mumbai via London), American Airlines, United Airlines, British Airways (744 from London), Turkish Airlines (343 from Istanbul), SAS (340 from Stockholm) and Swiss (332 from Zurich). The other, direct Aer Lingus flight from Dublin (EI123) was parked at Gate M12. This aircraft was scheduled to depart back to DUB at 16:20 so I was lucky to see 2 Aer Lingus aircraft parked side by side at ORD. A scene which we probably won't see for a long time again. A huge feeling of civic pride swelled up inside me to see 2 of the Irish carrier's A330s parked together - a sight which can only be seen today at JFK or maybe BOS. That aircraft was EI-EWR, also a A332 (St. Laurence O'Toole). Little did I know at the time I would see 2 EI aircraft again on the return leg which I will post later.
We disembarked, said goodbye to the crew, and we were led down to the arrivals hall where we collected our luggage. We passed that sign that said "Welcome to Chicago" in all the languages of the countries that ORD served. The "Fáilte" was sitting proud near the top right in old Irish style writing and I have a pic. of that too but I can't upload anymore. Our carosel was carosel 9 which was unusual because its normally carosel 1. We skipped some of the long line for passport control unknownst to the people behind and by the time they noticed we were past the desk. We came out to the meeting hall through Door B and met our grandparents and relatives. It was a great feeling to step out of that airport into the 30+ degree heat!
Overall the flight was one of the best in years. This was contributed to by the fact that this flight was direct from Shannon, the aircraft had PTVs, the crew were very friendly and outgoing and there were no hiccups along the way. I know long-haul flights with EI are a hit and a miss but I must compliment them on this trip. Hopefully when I go this summer it will be just as good.
So thats my first ever TR done. Sorry about the lack of photos. Feel free to leave comments.