Yesterday I flew home from Dublin. The day started at 6am with a taxi to the airport, discussing EPFL managers and their bizarre strategies with the driver. The first flight was from Dublin to Heathrow on British Midland, which was scheduled to be operated by an Airbus A319. I’d checked in online the day before, and chosen seat 6F, near the front of the economy section. When I boarded, I discovered that they had substituted a larger A320, and 6F was now in the last row of business class. But economy was full, and business was mostly empty, so the flight attendant told me to stay where I was, and I got business class service (cooked breakfast and free beverages, rather than the pay-for-every-single-item service in economy).
The next flight was Heathrow to Chicago on a United 767. I had to check in with a human being at Heathrow, because the website wouldn’t allow me to check in online, and the self-service kiosk wouldn’t scan my “green card”. I think that the agent took pity on me, because she tagged my boarding pass for complimentary lounge access. ((There is no Red Carpet Club in Terminal 1; instead there’s a Star Alliance lounge, which is rather nicer than most RCCs)) .Boarding was delayed by 25 minutes because of a maintenance issue, and strong headwinds compounded the problem. We arrived at Chicago at 4pm, 40 minutes late, and when I turned on my iPhone the first email message that I saw was an alert from United telling me that they’d rebooked me on the 8:40pm flight to Seattle. Presumably they had decided that I wouldn’t be able to clear customs and immigration and get to the C concourse in time to make my 5:20pm connection.
I breezed through immigration and customs ((I hadn’t checked any bags.)), muscled my way onto the inter-terminal train ((And yes, the escalator at concourse B is still broken.)), found the shortest security line, raced through the tunnel between concourses B and C, and boarded my original flight with 10 minutes to spare. I even got my original seat, because the flight was less than half full.
The final stretch from Chicago to Seattle was a little tedious. The same headwinds kind of that had delayed LHR-ORD were at work, and in spite of pushing back 5 minutes early, we reached Seattle 15 minutes late.
Thoughts on the trip overall? From a work perspective, it was very productive. From the point of view of the air traveller, it was OK. No upgrades (except the inadvertent bump up on the BMI leg from DUB to LHR). One free lounge admission, so I didn’t have to use any of my RCC coupons. The most comfortable (and spacious) seats were actually on the United 757 on the final leg; Economy Plus on the 757 seems more generous than on the 767. ((Perhaps the 767’s bulky IFE equipment under the seat is the culprit.)) Terminal 5 at Heathrow is really cool, and comparable to many of the other new airports that I’ve seen recently. Iasi has the tiniest international airport I’ve ever seen; it’s smaller than, say, Monterey in California. And Tarom wins the award for the strangest food service: a small, plastic-wrapped sandwich, consisting of a thin slice of bologna and an even thinner slice of cheese between two half-slices of dry, Wonderloaf-style, white bread.