This is the return part of our trip to Puerto Rico. First, a few pictures from San Juan.
And without further delay, off with the show.
As we had to check out at noon, we left to the airport around half past noon. It was a half an hour ride to the airport by taxi ($20 which is quite reasonable at least by Finnish standards). AA operates its flight out of terminal E. Before check-in all luggage that’s going to be checked has to be x-rayed by customs. There wasn’t any queue at check in and the lady was nice and helpful. The same can be said about the TSA at this end: even the sourpuss checking passports and boarding passes managed to greet the passengers.
The airside of the E terminal is actually quite nice.
We had lunch at a restaurant offering a view to some Eagle props departing and visited the duty free. The Eagle terminal matches neither the American nor the other airlines’ terminal. It was quite dark with no windows. It was clean though.
Flight #: 1416
Route: San Juan Luiz Muñoz Marín to New York JFK
Aircraft: Boeing 757
Scheduled flying time: 3.50pm-7.05pm
Actual flying time: 3.29pm-6.32pm
The jet bridge wasn’t in best of condition: the floor had rusted through so the tarmac was visible through it. Put as soon as I saw the most wonderful vision in the world, the refurbished seats in the aircraft, I couldn’t care less. No more torture chamber! There was no one to greet us at the door. The middle aged lady FA with really messy hair was going upstream to get to her position and answered my “Hello!” with a smile. My perception of AA was really improving.
The legroom seemed to be less than on the inbound but was good nevertheless. The seat was WAAAY more comfortable with movable headrest and sculptured backrest. Later on I also noticed the articulated recline which I also appreciated since the seat in front wasn’t in my lap all the time. When de-boarding I discovered the aircraft to be the international version.
The entertainment system was more advanced and actually told passengers audio-visually how to stow their bags and also featured airshow though it was stuck on the inbound route. Jan, the nicest FA on the flight, was helping people stow their bags and arrange the lockers so that more bags would fit. She spoke to everyone in polite tone of voice. The other crew was two Latino looking men, including one miniature version, and a purser. Boarding finished early at 3.29pm. Both the safety videos were shown this time according the book and the crew drank no beverages during safety checks. Thumps up AA!
At cruising altitude the drink service begun. I got a coke and a cranberry juice. Additionally the BOB cart seemed to be fully stocked this time though I bought nothing from there.
I spent the rest of the flight looking at the views, listening to my ipod and practicing my Spanish reading comprehension with the Nexus magazine and doing the Sudoku in American Way (although that as unimaginative as a magazine name gets the sudokus were a great addition). I visited the toilets at one point: they were redone but some idiot had though to put the trashcan lit under the sink. The result: people had put hand towels in the toilet bowl and of course it had blocked. I broke the news to crew at the back who said it had happened often on this type of aircraft.
It was already getting dark outside at that point. The crew did another drink round around our before landing.
However at that point we all began to feel sick. My mother actually began to feel like throwing up and I had to rush to the bathroom after the seatbelt sign had been illuminated (nobody said anything to me for doing that strangely enough). It looked little bit like food poisoning as I felt better after visiting the bathroom. It was a good thing I didn’t try to wait until terminal as we taxied around 20 minutes after landing.
The terminal transfer was easier than the previous time as we didn’t have to transfer our bags ourselves. At terminal 4 we used the nudie scanners for the first time at the security control (I don’t know actually how it’s determined when the regular scanning and when the nude scanning is used). The terminal was pretty bland and the toilets came to a close second to the ones at DXB terminal 2 for being so disgusting. The BA staff paged us for passport check at the BA counter for some reason that apparently had to do with transferring (he said he had to do that for 60 more passengers).
Flight #: BA114
Route: New York JFK to London Heathrow
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 G-CIVF
Scheduled flying time: 9.40pm-9.25am
Actual flying time: 9.55pm-9.05am
The boarding started on-time and we were in the first group to board. We were again greeted at the door by the friendly crew. The aircraft seemed to be a little newer than the inbound one.
The amenity kit
The seat next to me stayed empty and the aircraft wasn’t that full in world traveler thought the man on the aisle seat appeared to have been bumped from a higher class since the world traveler purser brought a different amenity kit to him and apologized for something.
After the boarding had finished a little late the captain came on and announced that our flight time would be a quick 5 hours and 50 minutes. After the safety video had rolled my mother began to feel sick again and flagged down a FA passing by. She promised to come by after take-off as she couldn’t do anything at that point. She did but at that point my mother had rushed to the lavatories to throw up. As it wasn’t motion sickness the FA, who looked like Joan Collins, brought some ginger ale and offered her crew seat at the back as it was closer to the lavs. She handled it quite professionally.
Meanwhile the drink service started. The other crew was two around 30 year-old males, one of whom seemed to be Spanish, and the approximately 40 year old purser and an Indian looking lady of around the same years. Our meals were brought first but I was the only one eating since I felt better already.
The main course was noodles which weren’t probably the best choice to be served on aircraft (quite messy).
There was a salad, a bread roll and some fruit on the tray in addition to some dried fruit packets. It seemed to be a vegetarian meal as well and probably wasn’t the best culinary experience I’ve had but I was hungry enough to finish it.
The lights were dimmed soon after and I watched a little TV until the sandman got the best of me.
Pan Am Clipper Majesty flying the very route we were flying.
I woke up when the breakfast was being served. Other passengers got a muffin but for us it was a snack pack containing juice, some fruit and a banana loaf.
Quite nice, though I didn’t eat the banana loaf.
We landed in Heathrow ahead of schedule and taxied to T5B. Thanked the crew when disembarking and headed to the shuttle to Terminal 3 (strangely enough all the Helsinki flights depart there). The terminal 5 was very clean and modern and while the terminal 3 wasn’t that new it was still quite nice and clean. We had to again clear security and soon we were in T3. I don’t know what is the merit of only showing the departure gate when the boarding begins. At T5 it was shown on our boarding passes. Quite inconvenient.
The gate however was the same as on the last time I flew the route with BA and was a bus gate down stairs. There was a holding pen where we waited for the boarding to begin. It began little late this time. The flight dispatcher on our flight looked like young Robert DeNiro.
Route: London Heathrow to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport
Aircraft: A320 G-EUYB
Scheduled flying time: 11.20am-4.20pm
Actual flying time: 11.19am-4.05pm
Helen and the purser Mr. White (didn’t catch the first name) greeted us at the door. The seats were made of leather and we quite comfortable though a bit slippery. The aircraft had the newest Airbus interior but still was run down with scuff marks in the overhead bin doors.
The legroom was excellent since these rows were normally Club Europe (only 4 rows today). Boarding was soon completed and both the captain and the purser made their welcoming announcement. The captain mentioned that is was going to be -15ºc in Helsinki today with cloudy skies. The flight time was announced to be 2 hours and 45 minutes.
We pushed back on time despite the delayed boarding. We were around 90% full in euro traveler.
After take-off Breakfast was served in both cabins which I found a bit strange since we departed mid-morning. The rest of the crew were two thirty something men on this flight and one of them handed a Ham and Cheese sub roll to me.
The roll was delicious and had great chutney dressing inside. Mr. White offered drinks soon after.
Somewhere over Denmark.
Some minor wear and tear
Toilets were quite clean though.
The rest of the flight was quite uneventful. I slept a bit before we started the descend to Helsinki. I asked Helen whether we were going to have a gate or a stand arrival and after consulting her colleague she told me that she wasn’t sure and that it would be a surprise.
We landed on runway 15 in Helsinki and oh yes, taxied to stand around gate 25. When leaving the aircraft to the bitterly cold -14ºc At the door, Helen said: “Surprise!” to me. British humor: love it or leave it... Well after the initial shock after San Juan’s 28ºc it wasn’t so bad. The bus took us to the far end of the terminal around gate 37 and our bags were again among the first to arrive. TSA had given us the courtesy of opening one of the bags on our behalf. They were unable to close it for some reason so it had been taped shut. My big brother was waiting us outside and in 3 hours we were home.
AY had the cleanest and best maintained one with the AA return plane coming second and the inbound coming dead last. BA planes were trademark worn but still quite clean.
A bit had to compare but the BA won, the headrest might look a bit weird but worked idiot proof. Of the short hauls, AY’s seats were most comfortable.
Well, as most meals were served by BA, its again a bit hard to compare but the sandwich on the LHR-HEL flight was so great that it isn’t a competition. The JFK-LHR first meals was quite disgusting actually but I was hungry enough so it passed. The rest were quite good but nothing special
Well BA with PTV’s is the winner naturally but AA has the best in-flight magazine. I did appreciate AY’s front wheel camera.
Well, I have only one sample of AY on this trip but they were the best: they greeted everyone proactively, helped people to stow their bags and used the polite form when addressing passengers (equivalent to Sir in English). The BA return flight crews were great as well. AA JFK-SJU was the worst on the trip but the SJU-JFK ranked higher than the LHR-JFK BA crew except for appearance. The BA LHR-JFK were a bit distant and Gidas, one of the crew serving my section, opted to point and use single word sentences even when talking to Brits.
Thanks for reading! Comments always appreciated.