My First USA Trip - 7 flights in 9 days

Profile picture for user Mark L

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As some of you may well know March 6th was my 19th birthday, and I was looking forward to a nice relaxing few weeks after this to get some work done, before going home for a long easter break. However on March 7th an old friend of mine asked me if I wanted to join him on a trip to the USA. With my bank account nicely replenished from various presents the day before, and a very good accomodation offer, I really couldnt turn down the £450 price tag, particularly considering I had never before left Europe before, let alone visited the USA. The only problem was the first flight left in 6 days time! Not one known for his spontanaeity, I decided to buck the trend of a lifetime, and went ahead and booked the trip. Despite this seemingly last minute booking, I ended heading to Belfast just two days later for a meeting anyway! After arriving back into Manchester on Sunday evening from BHD I was soon back at the airport the following morning for the start of my marathon trip. Our first of two stops was New York, however in order to get the combination deal we found through American Airlines, this meant bypassing all the direct services, and using the relatively less well known Manchester - Miami service, and connecting back up to JFK. AA157 MAN-MIA AA Check In at Manchester was much easier than I was expecting, although clearly far more drawn out in terms of security questions compared to domestic and European flying. We went airside, and waited for nearly 3 hours before boarding time, and watched our 767 arrive in from Chicago. There were very few passengers at the gate, I counted less than 70, which could easily fill the Q400s I am more used to. We boarded very quickly, however unusualy the Business Class passengers were asked to board before the economy passengers, a procedure I found quite odd, however repeated across all the AA flights we took. We were able to spread out lots due to the very low load factor, and after an uneventful, if rather long take off from 24L, I was being served my first ever intercontinental meal. I had the chicken, which was edible, but hardly nice. The IFE consisted of a large projector screen at the front of the 767's cabin, with smaller screens further down the cabin. Headphones were issued for free, along with pillows and blankets, and despite increasing numbers of people refusing to fly on aircraft without PTVs the IFE was perfectly enjoyable, and just like being in a cinema. 8 hours into the flight we were served a light snack, which was a pizza, as well as what must have been our 10th or so drink service. An hour and a half later and we were making our descent into Miami, and I got my first glance of the continent of North America, and my first State, Florida. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N362AA02mod.jpg We passed the airfield on our right, and made a series of turns in seemingly the wrong direction, before turning for a short final, and rolling out nicely towards the AA terminal. After disembarking relatively briskly we ventured landside to retrieve our bags, resubmitting them to security as is required when connecting between an international and a domestic flight. Immigration was totaly hassle free, taking about 3 minutes from joining the queue, to proceeding through customs. AA2282 MIA-JFK After a quick walk around outside in the 30 degree temperatures we went back airside again, and joined the mass of people waiting for our totally full A300-600 flight to JFK. Despite the crowded nature of the flight boarding was quite quick yet again. Sadly due to booking only 6 days in advance we had been unable to prereserve a window seat, and were therefore stuck in the middle. Despite it being dark at this stage, it was still a strange experience, and I certainly much prefer to be by a window. Tiredness was now starting to set in, and the next thing I knew I was being awoken with a start as we touched down at JFK. After a long taxi, and a very long wait for our bags due to a broken belt, we were walking out of Americans otherwise excellent brand new terminal to board our bus into Manhatten. During our stay in New York we were able to observe much of the comings and goings of Newark and La Guardia flying over us, however due to the relatively short nature of the trip we were unable to partake in any airport visits other than when using them for their intended role! However we did pass the South Manhatten Heliport on the Staten Island ferry: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N150US01mod.jpg
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AA1 JFK-LAX An early start got us to JFK for just after 7am, and due to both flights today being domestic we were able to use the self service desks to print our boarding cards. We quickly went airside, and wandered around the new AA terminal again, before boarding our 767-200 for flight 1 to Los Angeles. The 762 was just like the 763 inside, and was very difficult even to tell its shorter length due to the cabin separations. We departed New York to the West, and got stuck into the film, which was Harry Potter. The scenery was really magnificent all the way across the continent, sadly the windows werent that clean, marring some quite spectactular scenery. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N339AA01mod.jpg I purchased a snack box for breakfast, as even on this near 7 hour flight there was no complimentary food whatsoever. At $4 it wasnt really worth it for what was basically some dried fruit and biscuits. We were soon descending into LA, and the weather was very much like Miami, however the humidity had actualy turned into full blown rain: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N339AA02mod.jpg After arriving we had 3 and a half hours to kill, so decided to venture landside and walk around the inner permimter, where we noticed some interesting things including an Air Tahiti Nui A340 and an ANZ 767. Going back airside again, and we observed lots of AAs, Mexicans, and a large amount of intercontinental traffic. Also pulling off was the China Airlines 747 Dreamliner: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/B18210mod.jpg http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N433AA01mod.jpg AA1942 LAX-SFO Soon we were on our 4th flight of the trip, and our first ever MD80. We were right at the back, and the noise from the engines was just how people described it previously, rather loud, and in particular rather whiney. However the flight was only 50 minutes long, and we were soon being thrown around in the turbulence over the bay on our approach into SFO. After landing we went straight into town to find our hotel. On the 2nd day in San Francisco we hired some bikes and cycled across the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalido, where there was a sea plane base with this beauty parked outside: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N5220Gmod.jpg
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After a really enjoyable stay in California it was time to head home. Our hotel was only a 2 minute walk from the BART station, which in turn was only 30 minutes away from the airport. We connected to the AA Terminal, and checked in at the desk for our 3 flights that day. After proceeding effortlessly through security we headed to the gate area, and despite the rain were still able to grab a couple of photographs. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N568SWmod.jpg http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N983SWmod.jpg http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N573AAmod.jpg http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/JA8191mod.jpg AA1530 SFO-DFW This flight was slightly overbooked and AA were looking for volunteers to surrender their seats for a $300 travel voucher. We readily volunteered ourselves, but at the last minute there were some no-shows, and we were put back onto the flight. Despite this the flight pushed back on time, and we headed off to Texas. Again the scenery was very interesting passing over New Mexico: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N465A01mod.jpg We passed Dallas Fort Worth on our downwind traffic pattern, enabling me to get this overview of the sprawling complex: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/KDFW01mod.jpg AA2356 DFW-ORD After a 30 minute wait we were back on an identicle MD80 to the one we had just got off, as well as the swarms of them moving about the airport, and we were soon heading off to Chicago, not before I could get this shot of my first ever EMB140 though: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N809AE01mod.jpg Interestingly on this service we were given a free bag of pretzels, despite our JFK-LAX being nearly 3 times longer and no food distributed at all! There was lots of snow in the region last night, and as such some interesting patterns were being made on some of the landscapes. Chicago however was unaffected, and we made a standard approach in: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N430AA01mod.jpg AA were very good at reading out all the gates of the flights that passengers were connected onto, and we were extremely glad to see that we had about a 5 metre walk to our nex gate! During our taxi in I was able to get one of my last shots of the trip in the USA of the international terminal at O'Hare: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/APBGKmod.jpg AA54 ORD-MAN After the short hop across the corridor there was only a very short wait before boarding our final flight of the trip taking us back to Manchester. This flight was about 80% full, meaning that the much valued space at this time of night was at a premium. Neverthless after another lacklustre meal I was able to get a good few hours sleep before being woken over Northern Ireland for breakfast, which was a croissant and yoghurt. I was able to get one last short before the sun got the better of me, looking out towards Elgan in Bangor, who I am assured was looking right back at me! http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v641/regionaljetfleet/USA/N385AM02mod.jpg After a 10 minute hold we landed on 06R, and rolled back onto the end of the pier at T3, before breezing through passport control, and breathing a sigh of relief as we saw that our bags had made it through all 3 connections! Overall I was definitly satisfied with AA, and I will certainly have no qualms with flying them again. All the flights were on time, comfortable, and staffed by very good cabin crew. The IFE on the longer services was also perfectly adequete. However despite not even ever having flown long haul before I am quite sure it is far from the best based on reviews of hundreds of other airlines, and so I am definitly looking forward to flying BA to JFK in the summer, as well as trying out other airlines in the future as well. Now I'm off to bed, as I think I have been up for about 36 hours or something silly and I have a presentation to research tomorrow morning to give in the afternoon. Maybe I shouldnt have missed 10 days of uni... Nahhh! :diablo:
Profile picture for user RIPConcorde

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Excellent report, Mark! Quite a trip! Excellent shots too, especially the overview of DFW!
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I was able to get one last short before the sun got the better of me, looking out towards Elgan in Bangor, who I am assured was looking right back at me!
Which i did,and guess what i saw, a silver 767 on airway L975 heading towards MAN @ 0715 this morning:D (1st thing i told Mark this afternoon) Fantastic report mate, glad to see you enjoyed it. Its always special your 1st visit to the US
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Brilliant report and shots Mark, very jealous! :)
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A very enjoyable read mate along with great pictures as already said with the DFW overview and the great line-up you got at ORD!
and breathing a sigh of relief as we saw that our bags had made it through all 3 connections!
And I was worried about our bags at one connection :D.
It's always special your 1st visit to the US
I would agree with that, definatley.

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Excellent report Mark! Will look forward to catching up on msn. I flew N339AA from JFK-LAX on 28/03 last year.

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Great report and some pretty awesome shots to go with it! :D
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Simply a stunning report Mark :D
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Dull, Dreary, Pathetic, Teadious are all words to describe your report with :p
Not one known for his spontanaeity
Definetly right - you do try but your as suttle as a brick sometimes....
I was able to get one last short before the sun got the better of me, looking out towards Elgan in Bangor, who I am assured was looking right back at me!
I was looking directly upwards too!! :D
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I love you too Andrew x :rolleyes:

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Just noticed the 'International Terminal' photo. What an awesome line up! Sure would love to be a part of that.
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Brilliant report mate, and great pics!
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I can't believe that AA does not have complimentary meal service on their JFK-LAX flights. That, along with the SFO-JFK run, is probably the most prestigious sector in N. America. I have flown that route numerous times, albeit with United, and the service along with the food has been outstanding in both business and economy, and that was before UA's vaunted p.s. service that is the standard on those runs nowadays. I have not flown them since then, but if they are charging for meals in economy on those flights as well, I will be thoroughly disappointed. Nice photos, by the way.
Profile picture for user Mark L

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I can't believe that AA does not have complimentary meal service on their JFK-LAX flights. That, along with the SFO-JFK run, is probably the most prestigious sector in N. America. I have flown that route numerous times, albeit with United, and the service along with the food has been outstanding in both business and economy, and that was before UA's vaunted p.s. service that is the standard on those runs nowadays. I have not flown them since then, but if they are charging for meals in economy on those flights as well, I will be thoroughly disappointed. Nice photos, by the way.
Well with the flight number "1" we were certainly expecting more than we got. First and Business were rammed full though.
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Superb report Mark, glad you had a good trip. It's quite an odd sight seeing a bmi tail in that line up at ORD. You must have felt quite at home! I know exactly what you mean about being stuck in the middle of a widebody at night. Only one thing to do when that happens... Drink. Then again, you probably guessed I'd say that! Anyway, when will you be back up at LBA, as we haven't actually met there yet since DUB?! Paul

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An very comprehensive report with excellent photos