Hi and welcome to this trip report! It’s been a while since my last report, more than 8 years in fact. In the last years, I’ve felt it being too much of a hassle to carry around cameras and notebooks as well as cell phone, ipod etc. everywhere to document my travels. However, now with the advances in technology such as smartphone cameras and ipads, I’m going to give it another shot.
This will be a documentation of a trip I made in October, to surprise a good friend of mine at his wedding in Iowa. I spent a year there as a foreign exchange student in high school, and have been back a few times since then. It’s now been 4 years though since my last visit, and I’ve been more than eager to jump on a transatlantic flight and experience the hospitality of Midwestern USA! This first part will cover the outbound leg LPI
which looks as follows:
I made the booking in August after I had cleared with my professors that I didn’t have any mandatory moments the dates for my trip in the classes I’m currently taking. Unfortunately, during the time it took for them to give me an answer, prices rose from around 4750 SEK
to around 6300 SEK
. Originally, when the prices were still low, I wanted to stick to my Star Alliance loyalty and get a flight from ARN
where I found a great deal with SK
/UA through LHR
. That would also enable me to catch a flight on the 787, which I yet have to experience. However, when the prices went up, I felt that the train ride to and from Stockholm would make the trip too expensive, and I decided on taking the KL
flight from my hometown LPI
. This routing would get me on my first transatlantic 767 flight (A333 on the way back). Ironically, LPI
has no public bus service, despite it being a city airport, and thus I needed to take a taxi which cost me about as much as a train ride to Stockholm. Oh well, at least I avoid the always terrible train ride back home from the airport when getting back from the US with a jetlag.
Oh, the excitement of travelling. Whenever I'm about to embark on a journey, I feel as if I'm a young child waiting for Christmas. Sadly, this translates into not being able to fall asleep the night before the trip, just like the night before Christmas when I was younger. This can particularly cause problems when you have a really early flight in the morning. This night was no different, and I managed to fall asleep after 1 AM
, having to get up 3 hours later. I made sure with a number of alarms that I wouldn’t oversleep.
There was no need for all this noise though, as I woke up by myself at around 3:40 feeling excited and awake. After eating breakfast, showering and taking out the trash I left my apartment at 04:50 to discover that my cab that I had ordered to 05:00 was already there, a VW
Passat. The ride to the airport took about 15 minutes, and when we got closer I could spot a KL
E190 in the Skyteam livery. My first ride on a plane with a special livery since riding on an SK MD
-80 with the special "red painted plane with several white painted planes on it" as a kid. Maybe someone else remembers them?
In the taxi heading towards the airport
is a really small airport with only SK
with an ATR and KL
with an E190 operating here. Being just a 2 hour train ride away from ARN
, there is no domestic service, and the travelers from here are mostly business travelers judging from the people I saw at check-in and security. I quickly dropped of my checked luggage and headed straight through security since there is nothing to do in the terminal building. Security went quick, and I sat down in the gate area with the complimentary local newspaper Corren. There are only two gates at LPI
, but both of them were being used since the SK
flight had a 6:00 departure. At 5:40, the SK
flight boarded and the gate area emptied a little. 10 minutes later, it was our turn and after the sky priority and business class passengers had boarded, I was one of the first people through the door.
The entrance to LPI
Inside the terminal
Heading towards the plane
This was my first experience on an E-jet and my first impressions were good. My knees almost touched the seat in front of me, and the seat itself was quite short so my head was sticking out above it (I'm about 6'1) but it was still quite comfortable. I really liked the large windows though. At 0610, the doors shut and the flight attendants began their announcements and the scheduled flight time was 1h 45min. This was the first time I heard that it was OK
to use smartphones and tablets in flight mode during the entire flight, something that I found convenient. The taxi itself was so short that we had to wait until the security demonstration was done before we could enter the runway and we took off at the exact departure time 0620.
View from my seat
The take-off was to the southeast so no view over the city for me. Not that it would have been much better taking off in the opposite direction though since we entered the first cloud layer very quickly. I could almost see the sun rising from my window, or at least some degree of sunlight. After 20 minutes in the air the crew served breakfast which consisted of some kind of egg sandwich that was quite tasty. I accompanied it with orange juice and coffee. Because of the clouds, it was hard to make out the exact route, but once the clouds cleared after about an hour, I guessed that we were somewhere close to the German/Dutch border. At 0730, we started descending and the crew made a second drink run as well as serving some form of cookie, which I found somewhat strange since they could well have done it 10 minutes earlier and use those extra minutes to prepare the cabin for landing, but they seemed very unstressed and handled it with ease. I must say that I was very impressed with the service for such a short flight. Good job KLM! At 0745, the flight deck announced that we had 15 minutes to go before landing. The approach took us over some suburbs and the Amsterdam Arena. I guess the approach was almost straight from the north since I could see something that resembled a large body of water on my right side. We touched down on time and quickly exited the runway, followed by a taxi around the airport to park at the cityhopper farm. I exited the plane as one of the last passengers and was greeted by the morning sunlight and the wonderful smell of jet fuel. I looove the smell of jet fuel in the morning! On the bus to the terminal, I met a guy working for a large company in the Linköping region who I got to know last week at a career day at my university last week. He was on his way to Brussels for a 2 day business trip, and commented at how great it was with the KL
service to AMS
, since flying through ARN
just wouldn't work because of the (in business terms) long distance to the airport. Something that I guessed since the flight was completely full.
Taking off through the clouds
The sun begun to rise as we reached cruising altitude
Clouds clearing as we neared our destination
The unexpected cookie
Descending over the Netherlands
Almost back on the ground!
Parked at the farm
Once inside the terminal, I went through arrivals to check out the observation deck. Much of it was closed, but I had some good views over the active runways as well as the D-gates. My flight to ATL
was scheduled to leave from gate D43, but there was no DL
763 there yet. I stayed at the deck for maybe 30-40 minutes and also had a look inside the Fokker that is there on display. A little before 10 o clock, I went back and headed through passport control to the D concourse. I was a little surprised that there was no security check, although I knew that there were individual checks at the gates, and also a little disappointed that I got straight into the D-concourse without being able to access the E and F gates for some sightseeing. I walked the length of the concourse to see if my plane had arrived, but at D43 there was a KL
flight departing for Doha that had just commenced boarding. Realizing I was starving, I went to find a place to eat and hopefully have a beer, and I found that the Murphy's pub suited my needs perfectly. I had the lunch offer of a burger with fries and a pint of Heineken for €13.95 which I thought was somewhat reasonable for airport food and beer.
The Fokker at the viewing terrace
Inside the Fokker
The Fokker flight deck
One half of the D-concourse
The other half
Not many people at the terrace at this time
After finishing my meal, I walked up and down the D concourse a couple of times, checking out the activity outside. Photographing was hard though since you can't get direct access to the windows. Before going through security at the gate, I bought two bottles of water, one to drink immediately and one to bring with me on the plane. Unfortunately, since the security check is right at the gate, you can't bring a larger bottle on the plane, say 1 liter, which is really inconvenient IMO. I'm sure there is some point in organizing things as they are now, but I can't really see it. Once you are inside the gate area there is little to do and nowhere to go, although there are thankfully bathrooms and tables with power outlets. Security went somewhat smooth although I had to take out much more things from my carry-on than normal, such as chargers etc. They also had to scan the wedding gift I'm bringing again, but thankfully I got to keep the wrapping. At 1230 I was inside the gate, and the announcement came that boarding would start in 10 minutes. I went to the bathroom one last time, and when I came out most people who were in the gate area had already boarded. I joined them and sat down in my seat 35A. My first impression of the cabin was that it was spotless. Everything was crisp, clean and felt new. The 767 with the 777 interior has to be one of the best long-haul planes out there, since wherever you sit you are only one seat away from the aisle, and if you are at the aisle, only one person will have to climb over you to get out. For a very long time, the seat next to me was unoccupied as well as the row in front of me. From looking at the seat map at the online check-in, I knew that the flight would be pretty much full, but I still had some hope that maybe there would be some no-shows right in my seating area. It turned out that I had no such luck. In the end, both the seat next to me and all other seats around me were occupied.
Inside the D-concourse
My ride to ATL
View from my seat
At 1330, we pushed back, followed by a fairly short taxi and a take-off from runway 24. As soon as we were safely in the air, I turned on the IFE system and explored it for a while. There were many, many movies available as well as several episodes of various TV
shows, music, games etc. I started watching the movie Draft Day over the English Channel, and seeing as there were only clouds to see outside the window as well as a blinding reflection of the sun on the wing, I kept the blinds shut almost all the way. The IFE system had a great feature where you could turn on the in-flight map and still keep your movie in a smaller window on top of the map to allow you to watch both things at the same time. Unfortunately, my first experience with this resulted in disappointment. For me, both the movie and the map froze and I could not exit and go back to the menu. This was a bummer, since I had a long flight ahead of me, and movies are great above the Atlantic Ocean where there is little else to watch. Around this time, the flight attendants came around with hot towels, something which surprised me positively, and I thought about asking them if there was an available seat with a working IFE, but decided not to as I didn’t want to lose my window seat. Eventually, this turned out to be no problem since my IFE started working again and did so for the rest of the flight.
Taxiing towards the runway
Leaving continental Europe
Where my IFE got stuck
Over Ireland, the flight attendants served drinks and various small packs of snacks. As I could smell food in the cabin, I figured this was the drink to accompany my meal, and had some red wine (in a cup, not the entire bottle) as well as water. When the meal actually came around after a while, there was another drink service as well, so I had to quickly finish my drinks in order to fit my next drink on the tray. To eat, I had some kind of Thai chicken curry which looked small and boring to begin with, but turned out to be both tasty and filling. It came with a side salad and some bread, however no dessert. Oddly enough, I don’t think I’ve ever been really disappointed with my airplane food, perhaps because I expect very little in the wake of airlines such as Ryanair.
Drink and snack service
First view of the Atlantic Ocean
My second lunch of the day
View of the spotless cabin from my seat
After collecting the empty meal trays, the crew distributed pint-sized water bottles and dimmed the cabin lights. The water bottle was much appreciated, since it was hard to bring water on to the flight because of the security check at the gate at Schiphol. I relaxed with my movie and tried to get some sleep once the movie was finished but with little success. When we were nearing the North American coastline, I put on Anchorman 2 which coincided with the crew handing out snack boxes containing some cheese and crackers. As we got further into Canadian territory, we experienced some turbulence and the flight crew kept the fasten seatbelt sign on for a while. When we entered U.S airspace, the crew made another drink service.
Our status above the Atlantic Ocean
My view outside for a majority of the Atlantic crossing
Nearing land again
The clouds had by this time cleared and we were treated to some gorgeous views of the U.S east coast. Unfortunately, we hit clouds once again near New York, so I couldn’t get a view over the city, but I was able to make out Washington D.C as we continued further south. Hot towels were once again distributed and with one hour left of the flight, a hot sandwich with ice cream was served. Both very tasty. For the last hour of the flight, I chatted with my seat mate, a Brazilian guy around the same age as myself. He was heading back home to Brazil after studying in the Netherlands. Upon arrival in Atlanta, he would transfer to another flight to Sao Paolo. I can’t say that the thought of getting on another 10-hour flight made me particularly jealous. 2 hours to DSM
was about as much as I could handle at that point.
My first view of North America in 4 years
My choice of music for the flight
I believe this is Bangor, Maine
Massachusetts coastline. I would not mind owning a summer house there!
Washington D.C in the distance
Beautiful weather over the Appalachians
Descending over the suburbs of Atlanta
When we touched down in Atlanta, there were apparent signs of bad weather in form of huge amounts of rain on the ground, but luckily we did not experience any turbulence during descent. We parked at the E concourse and headed for immigration. Normally, I would try to race my fellow passengers to the immigration desks in order to avoid spending too much time in line, but I really had to use the bathroom so I ended up being one of the last passengers to reach the baggage claim. Once there, I had to wait even longer since a bag got stuck in the carousel and staff had to be called upon to fix the situation. My bag was one of the last to arrive and I feared a long wait for immigration. Luckily, there were no lines at all and I could immediately walk up to an available immigration officer. He had the same kind of intimidating presence as Sgt. Doakes from the TV
show Dexter, and he started asking me very quick questions about my stay in the U.S, how I financed the trip and what I was bringing with me. I was tired and hadn’t warmed up my English, so I couldn’t formulate answers at the same tempo as the questions came, and I must have come off as a very goofy guy. Nevertheless, I was let into the country and headed for the special security check for international transfers. There was a short line but nothing major. I could tell I was tired since I constantly forgot to put things through the x-ray that were in my pockets and I felt bad for delaying the entire process. When I finally got to the terminal, I got visual proof why ATL
is the busiest airport in the world. There were people everywhere, and wherever I stood, I was in someone’s way. Since I had a couple of hours to kill, my original plan was to explore the different concourses, but considering my tiredness and the amount of people in motion, I decided to stay in the B-concourse. I had some Quesadillas and watched the sun set over the endless rows of airplanes while listening to some podcasts. The later it got, the emptier the concourse got as well which allowed for some exploration, and after eating I walked up and down the concourse a few times before sitting down at my gate.
Touchdown on a wet runway
Parked at the gate
View from the B-concourse
Sunset over ATL
Boarding for my last flight was slightly delayed, and when we pushed back, we had a delay of 10 minutes. The flight was packed, and the A319 was in much worse condition than the 767 I crossed the Atlantic on. When reaching the runway, we took off immediately and made a sharp turn to get out of the way of other planes taking off after us. I managed to stay awake for a short while after taking off, but I fell asleep quickly and stayed asleep until we started our descent into DSM
. We landed safely and entered an empty terminal building. I picked up my bags, was greeted by the friend I was staying with and driven to his home about 15 minutes from the airport. Almost exactly 24 hours after leaving my apartment in Linköping, part 1 of this trip was over.
Boarded and ready to go
Taxiing past endless DL
A blurry view of ATL
To summarize, I found these flights very enjoyable, perhaps better than any flights I’ve had before. The aircraft were mostly in great condition, and the service from both DL
was impeccable. I have previously avoided flying long haul on North American carriers, but I have to say that DL
delivered the best product I’ve ever experienced with the aircraft and service in top notch condition. AMS
is a nice airport, but the individual security checks for each gate is a hassle. ATL
is easy to use, but also crowded. They did a great job with immigration though. Probably the smoothest experience I’ve ever had arriving in the US. Compared to my first trip there in 2003, they have come a long way in making it a better process.
Part 2 of this report should hopefully be done before the end of the month. I have some exams to do in the coming weeks, but I can hopefully find some time to complete it once they are done. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!
A319-A321, A332-A333, RJ85, B733-B738, B743-B744, B752, B762-B764, B772-B773, CRJ200-CRJ700, Dash 8 Q300-Q400, ERJ 145,