Welcome to the past
I recently came across some notes and a couple of pictures of the TWA flights I took for my 21st birthday, which were shortly before their shut down. Some of the pictures are my own, easy to tell because they are the low quality ones (no digital photos back then), others are some I’ve collected. Sorry the pictures are are of low quality but I hope you enjoy anyway!
I wanted to visit New York, but the options from London all looked a bit boring. Then one day I jumped off the back of an old London bus and by chance TWA’s ticket office was right in front of me. By then TWA had almost completely pulled out of Europe, but did still operate a daily 767-200 (non ER) from CDG to JFK. The staff were really helpful, even arranging for me to be posted a New York city guide, subway and street map compliments of TWA.
Armed with my TWA ticket I flew from Stansted to Paris with Buzz aboard one of their Bae 146-300s. Buzz Bae146-300 at CDGMy TWA ticketParis CDG - New York JFK TW925 767-200 8th February 2001Pre flight:
I arrived at Charles de Gaulle One (the original round terminal) three hours before departure. For those of you unfamiliar with the place in 2001, it's was a real blast from the 1970's with no obvious sign of any work having been carried out from those days. CDG 1 Check in
I went to the TWA Ticket desk to enquire when check in opened as it was closed, but they told me it was already open and directed me to it. Unfortunately the route they directed me to take was closed, something a very nice young French Lady with a Machine Gun told me. Miss Machine Gun had clearly seen what was going to happen and was amused not angry. When the TWA counter manager saw they'd directed me into the arms of a machine gun toting army type, he literally ran over apologetically to disentangle me. The situation had a certain Cluesoesque feel to it.
He then walked me around another longer route, where he opened a check in desk and checked me personally. The days before online checkin!
Having passed through CDG's Central Travelators the queue for passport control was long and slow, there were people becoming anxious they'd miss their flight. CDG 1 Satellite 2
The TWA staff in Satellite 2 were very helpful, although announcements were not clear and they gave up trying to board by row numbers half way through which caused some confusion. The people in front of me couldn't find their boarding pass so another agent jumped out of no where and kept the line moving which was good. N602TW Delivered December 1982, withdrawn April 2001 - 2 months after my flightThe Flight:
The aircraft was still in TW's old red stripped bowling shoe scheme but looked clean and well kept, both inside and out. The seats had the new covers, in Trans World One they were grey with red pattern and in coach the seats had the same pattern but were blue. The bulk heads were covered in a blue carpet tapestry with they stylised TWA globe logo, although the walls had an awful brown pattern.
These photos give you the ideaTransWorld One 767-200Comfort Class (Coach) 767-200
The layout was quite spacious, offering 60 inch pitch in business (compared to the industry average of about 42 inch pitch at the time). I seem to remember thinking that economy was 32 inches, but the thick seats made it appear far tighter. Seat map
The seat pocket only had a safety card, it seems Ambassador Magazine had ceased by that stage.
The flight was completely full with two large groups, neither of whom admitted to speaking French or English and they refused to sit down.
You can watch the TWA 767-200 Safety Video from 2001 here:https://youtu.be/86NWf3fPa04
Departure was on time, with a 30 minute wait to take off and quite a long take off roll. It was very turbulent for the first hour.
After that the meal was served, I had Pasta (I think you could have chicken but no choice was offered) which was topped with Mozzarella, with Cucumber and Peppers. The tray also had a Guylian Chocolate, Bread Roll, Soft Cheese, Cracker, Salmon Salad and Water. I don’t have any pictures but I remember the portions were generous. There were two rounds of drinks served with lunch. All up there was a lot of food and it tasted nice.
Entertainment was via the main screen only. PTVs were not standard on a lot of longhaul aircraft at that time. After the meal our first movie started (Relative Values starring Julie Andrews). Once that finished a round of drinks followed (flat lemonade only), after which another movie (Remember the Titans) was played. Following a maybe 20 minute break a second meal was served. Apparently it was a tray with Ham and Salad Rolls, Chocolate Sponge Cake, Fromage Freit, Orange Juice, plus two rounds of drinks.
There was also a drink and snack set up in the galley for passengers to take from during the flight.
The crew were..... very experienced, all 60/70+ and mostly French people living in New York. I built up a good rapport with one who I think took pity on this lowly 21 year old backpacker and kept fetching drinks and generally cared for me above and beyond. Sadly she had no name badge, I'd have written to say thanks otherwise. I do recall she remembered everyone’s name and how they took their drinks.
Arriving into JFK the Manhattan skyline was on our right and clear in the sunshine, which was very nice. The landing was smooth.
Today you read about Saarinen building as a jet age marvel, back in 2001 it was an Airliners.net hobby to slam the place. In my view the JFK Terminal wasn't run down, although I was surprised how small the underground arrivals hall was.
I don't need a Visa for the US (I hold a UK passport) and the cabin crew were convinced I did, giving me the wrong forms etc. The worry of being told you needed a visa could be quite distressing to some, worrying that one might get sent straight back for having the wrong documents. I did have the right documents, except for ones TWA gave me, which did cause me problems and delays at Passport Control and the immigration staff were very unpleasant about it, even though it was nothing to do with me.The Verdict:
Overall it was a very good flight, there was tasty food and we arrived on time. The crew were excellent to me (particularly the one lady) and had good language skills. I would say they either liked you or not, it seemed to me the crew could be a tad ‘rough around the edges’ with passengers they took a dislike to. Either way these guys were definitely pros, the service flow's timing meant there was always some kind of service going on, be it drinks, a meal or a movie.
One quite funny thing, having arrived I went around to departures to get a drink. A very large flight attendant saw the staff shuttle leave and went into complete melt down hysterics in the middle of the terminal screaming, "Stop the bus, oh my god stop the bus, somebody stop the bus". The entire terminal stopped dead, even if the bus didn't. By chance a TWA baggage handler was stood next to me. He turned to me and said in a classic real dead pan New Yorker voice, “she could use the run to the next terminal!”
. New York JFK - Paris CDG TW924 767-200 13th February 2001
I sat and had a late lunch in Borders at 5 World Trade Center. Someone had abandoned a copy of some news magazine, which featured the latest conspiracy theory about the downing of TW800. It was strange reading about the downing of the flight I was about to catch. A few days earlier I'd flown past the Twin Towers in a helicopter and figured I’d try my luck to eat up there. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible. Picture from my helicopter flight
Slightly dejected I headed for JFK. From Manhattan getting to JFK was no easy task, the subways were not running and the roads were dug up. When I finally made it, the check in desks were heavily understaffed and a queue of literally several hundred people went the entire length of the terminal. To make matters worse, half of the small number of desks which were open were First Class only and empty. It wouldn't have taken much imagination to use them for coach passengers. Thank god pre 9/11 you could check in with hand baggage only at the gate! Check in area - without long queue
I had a coffee in the Saarinen head building at a very sad and run down cafe where I was the only customer, although the view was nice. Paris CafeMain headhouse
Passing through the famous red carpeted walkway I entered the Satellite. Although the Satellite was in good condition, the facilities were extremely limited with just a news counter, a liquor counter and a duty free counter. Apart from the toilets which were heavily vandalised, everything else was extremely clean and well maintained. Grey carpet with red dots and red seats were the theme.
The gate agents were very junior and offered neither good nor bad service. We boarded via a jetbridge to Door 1R
, not something you see very often. Push back was early at 1810 with a 30 minute take off queue at JFK. There was no pre take off service or comfort kit and again no magazine. It was also a very full flight. The Flight:
Soon after take off drinks were served and then a meal, which was once again very good. I had Pepper Steak (well done) with home fries and Californian Chardonnay (they did try to convince me to drink red, but that was a little too heavy for me). The flight attendant ‘gave’ some passengers pasta and ‘recommended’ steak to others, of whom I was one.
Ambassador Video was then shown on the main screen which consisted of (even then) vintage Friends, E TV and a History of TWA. There was then a break followed by a movie (Remember the Titans) which I'd already seen on the Westbound flight. View from my seat
Overall I didn't enjoy this flight. The guy behind was hugely tall, I made it too his chin and his foot passed my seat, I had to step over him to get out and his knee jammed into my back. Over hearing a conversation with one of the cabin crew (about how they both came from the same Paris arrondissement) it turned out he was a basket ball player. I felt for all our comfort TWA should have moved him to a roomier bulkhead, where there was a spare seat available. To top it off the person in front decided their seat's rightful place was in my face until landing, right from the second we pushed back off the gate including during the meal service. That left me with no space.
To make it worse the padding in my seat base had completely broken, when I stood up there was literally an inch deep canyon. The broken seat base meant I had no lower back support (my pillow didn't fill the gap). The ash trays on both arms had been removed but were not covered over and there was ten years of ash sort of encrusted within. To top it off the radio and therefore TV entertainment didn't work.
Overnight there was no snack or drink set up in the galley, a welcome feature on my first flight.
Somewhere over Ireland breakfast was served, a Banana Muffin. Cabin after landing at CDG
Although the crew were friendly and food good I was glad to get off what had been a very uncomfortable flight. The Verdict:
All up, despite the problems it was a fair effort on TWA's part, a mostly good service, let down badly by a few minor factors which did lead to a fairly miserable flight. The seats on their 767-200’s were not up to overnight longhaul flights and spoilt a lot of good work elsewhere - although these aircraft were being retired and replaced with new 767-300s around the time I flew TWA. The catering was superb.
I took a picture of my plane from the coach as I left CDG bound for Central Paris, before heading back to London. It was the last time I ever saw a TWA plane.TWA in 2001
Running up to my first departure it had appeared TWA were enjoying a mini renaissance, with brand new 717's, 757's and new Airbus narrow bodies just around the corner.
757 cabin training videohttps://youtu.be/x8nCBgHyeVo
They were investing in a superior Business and First Class product backed by customer friendly upgrades.
TWA Trans World One (Long haul)https://youtu.be/yOqcN562Zm0
TWA Trans World First (Short haul)https://youtu.be/lJcpr5MET_s
TWA were winning many awards for customer experience and had paid down most of their debt.
However, by the time of my first flight it had just been announced that TWA had entered Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and that they would close down operations unless short term loans from American Airlines were allowed by the court. So as I left it was unclear that they'd be in business for more than a few days. Luckily for me by the time I returned it had been agreed that most of TWA's assets would be acquired by American Airlines and they would continue to fly. However that deal also meant that TWA would cease to exist, leaving me very glad I choose them for this trip.