Orlando to London (via Dallas) with American Airlines

Profile picture for user T5

Member for

19 years 11 months

Posts: 6,503

Now added the video... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HF8bv4-bs8M

It wasn’t until the evening of Monday 3 May that I could book my one-way flight out of Orlando, and having already lost a Martinair/KLM ticket for the end of January, I didn’t want to lose out again, so I held off for as long as I could before booking.

That morning, I had stumbled across a one-way fare with US Airways for the following day, which, at $507, was reasonable value, and by far the cheapest I was likely to get at the last minute. With my work in Orlando finally done, I returned home to find the fare and to book up – but it had suddenly disappeared! With the cheapest tickets now at $800 a go, travelling on Tuesday was out of the question.

I spent several hours searching for a good value flight, departing Orlando within the next couple of days. The prices – again – were not too attractive! I then decided to see what my American Airlines AAdvantage miles could get me. Having only made two long-haul return flights with the airline in the past, I didn’t expect my 20-something thousands miles to get very much at all, but I was very wrong! I was new to this way of booking, but gave it a bash anyway, and soon found some flights, which were within my mile budget. 20,000 miles got me a one-way flight to London Heathrow via Dallas. Having travelled through Dallas only last summer, I knew it was a nice and easy airport to connect at, but it meant going several miles out of my way and having to endure another flight on the awfully noisy McDonnell Douglas MD-82!

I had to pay taxes of $5.00 and then a processing fee of $100.00, but it was still a massive saving on US Airways and the direct options with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic (both at around $1,050.00 return).

American Airlines 2235
Orlando (MCO) to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
Scheduled Departure: 16:40hrs
Actual Departure: 17:19hrs
Scheduled Arrival: 18:35hrs
Actual Arrival: 19:05hrs
Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas MD-82 (N424AA)

I had checked in for my flights the evening before departure and selected my seats. Knowing that MD-82 gets very noisy towards the rear, I went for the most forward available window seat and that was 12A. With a 2-3 seating configuration, it also meant that I had only one person to climb over if I should need to get up during the flight.

Check-in at Orlando was quick and easy (just like the last time I flew out of the airport with American). Travelling very heavy, I had to pay $50 for my second piece of checked baggage, which was expected, and then grabbed my boarding cards and headed off towards security.

The security queue was very long and appeared not to be moving too quickly, so I grabbed a seat in the bright and airy departures area before joining it. With free internet on offer, it was nice to be able to make some calls home before taking my place in the line. I had been wrong about how fast it was moving though and it took just 15 minutes or so to get through, even with just two x-ray machines and metal detectors in use. I grabbed my few items of hand luggage and ran for the train to the gates. After passing through security at Orlando, all passengers must board a train, which transports them to one of four different ‘satellites’, from where they can catch their flight. Trains run every two minutes and good views can be had of the apron on the short ride. As our train made its way to the gates, it was raining heavily outside and a huge thunderstorm was passing over.

Knowing that American Airlines’ inflight service on domestic routes isn’t up to much, I stopped off at Burger King on my way to the gate, devoured a large double Whopper meal, and then went a grabbed a seat at my gate, again using the complimentary wireless internet.

Boarding started at around 4.20pm, and, judging by the few passengers at the gate, it was set to be an empty flight, and the trickle of passengers boarding had stopped by our 4.40pm departure time, so I assumed we would push back any second and be on our way to Dallas. I was quite pleased to see that the seat next to me was spare… but not for long!

I am never surprised by anything I see on American Airlines. I don’t expect much from them, so not to be met at the door by a smiling member of cabin crew wasn’t too much of an issue. Even somebody of my calibre could navigate the economy class cabin on this small aircraft.

The captain spoke to us a few minutes after our departure time and explained that every spare seat on the aircraft was to be filled with some passengers from the next departure to Dallas, which was affected by a delay. 30 or 40 passengers then came aboard and that vacant seat next to me was vacant no more, and now occupied. The captain explained that the extra weight meant extra fuel and that we had to wait a little while for the fuel truck to come back to us, which would result in a short delay. When the 757 next to us had been fuelled up, the truck returned for a second time, pumped in a little more fuel, and then drove off. A moment or two later, the aircraft was pushed back and on its way.

The taxi to the runway was a quick one, and with no aircraft ahead, we were able to taxi straight on and get airborne for the 2 hour 29 minute flight, which would see us flying at 34,000ft. Dodging some storms on the way out, we were soon in the cruise and on our way. For me, it was sad to Florida disappearing behind us. After all, it had been home for the past 15 months, and I had no idea when I might next return.

The inflight service was very limited and passengers were offered a complimentary drink, but that was the only offering during the entire flight. My can of Sierra Mist didn’t come with a packet of nibbles, but there was later the opportunity to purchase the usual airline snacks; Pringles, cookies etc, at typical airline prices. American Airlines only accepts payment for these items and for alcohol on credit cards, which isn’t ideal.

We made up some of the lost time on the way to Dallas and landed only half an hour late, and with a very short taxi to the gate, it seemed that even more time was to be saved. I heard one group of passengers behind complaining that their connecting flight was departing only 15 minutes later, so they were a little disgruntled when the aircraft seemed to stop just short of the gate. Much waiting later, the captain announced that an aircraft was occupying our gate and due for departure, but a technical fault had just been discovered. Soon enough, a new gate had been assigned, so we taxied there and were quickly disembarked. Just like when we boarded a few hours before, there was nobody waiting at the door to thank us or to say goodbye.

With my luggage already on its way to London, I only had to worry about getting myself from terminal A to terminal D, which was made easy thanks to the airport’s very efficient and speedy SkyTrain. Within just five minutes or so, I had gone from my seat on the aircraft to a different terminal at the airport.

American Airlines 80
Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to London Heathrow (LHR)
Scheduled Departure: 21:05hrs
Actual Departure: 22:11hrs
Scheduled Arrival: 12:25hrs
Actual Arrival: 13:42hrs
Aircraft: Boeing 767-323ER (N382AN)

Gate 30 was my destination, but with boarding still a long way off, I set off in search of food, and terminal D was certainly not short of places to eat. With so much variety on offer, I still don’t know why I opted for a Big Mac at McDonald’s, especially considering I had destroyed that double Whopper only a couple of hours earlier! After my meal, I enjoyed the airport’s free – but very temperamental internet – and then went to the gate, where boarding had just started.

I had seat 27J on the Boeing 767 and was in boarding group four, which was called pretty quickly. In fact, very few passengers seemed to board when groups one, two and three were called, so I assumed again that the flight was an empty one. I was greeted at the door by a woman who appeared to be rather old (but this was American, so it was expected), and she pointed me through business class and to my seat.

I got settled, shoved my case into the overhead locker, and kept my laptop by my feet, and then yanked open the window blinds. They were all closed for some reason, so I looked out into the darkness and got my first glimpse of the aircraft we were on. Its position meant that it couldn’t be seen from inside the terminal, so it was a nice to surprise to see a rather large winglet sticking off of the wing. Until then, I had flown only on the 737 with winglets.

On my seat was a polythene bag, which contained a small pillow and a red fleece blanket. A small yellow bag contained a seat of headphones, which could be used to enjoy the entertainment en-route, but being a 767, there was no seatback TV in economy class, so it was the big screens all the way. The two films to be shown were ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ and ‘Marley & Me’, which both had limited appeal when I read about them in the American Way magazine.

The crew announced that boarding was complete and they encouraged passengers to spread out. With a load of around 40-45%, entire rows were empty, so passengers took up new seats (and rows) and later used them to lie down and get some sleep on the way.

The captain spoke and told us of a delay to the flight. Not only had the aircraft arrived late from its previous flight but a fault had been discovered, so we were waiting for assistance from maintenance to solve the apparently minor problem. The captain had no idea when we could expect this assistance and apologised several times for the inconvenience.

After 30 minutes or so, the captain spoke again, and explained that maintenance had arrived and that the problem was at last sorted. We needed to wait for some paperwork to be completed and we would then be on our way. He again apologised and said how he was aware that a number of passengers were travelling on from Heathrow. He told passengers not to ask crew for information (because they did not have it) and went on to say that any passengers who missed connections would be accommodating on alternative flights and provided with hotel accommodate if necessary.

By around 10.00pm, the doors were closed and we pushed back, before taxiing to the runway for departure. Two American MD-82s were ahead of us and we had to wait for landing traffic, but we were soon airborne a little over 1 hour 5 minutes behind schedule.

The inflight service began soon after takeoff and consisted of a drinks service with a meal service not far behind. On this 9 hour 19 minute flight, we were to be served dinner and breakfast. The dinner offered was chicken pasta or beef and potatoes. I went for the chicken pasta and it was very good. The portion was of a decent enough size, it was hot throughout and it tasted good as well. To accompany the meal was a pathetic ‘salad’ (which was nothing more than a few leaves of lettuce topped with some shredded carrot), a bread roll with butter, a rather tasty chocolate brownie and a bottle of water. As we tucked into our meals, the crew kept passing through with the drinks trolley. Full cans were given out every time and the selection of soft drinks was good.

Able to stretch out across two seats, I managed to get around 6 hours of sleep in total, and was woken by light beaming through a window on the other side of the aircraft, which was a little infuriating. One passenger decided they wanted to see what views could be had. A little common sense would have told her that being half way over the Atlantic, there was nothing much to be seen – just ocean for as far as the eye could see! I don’t suppose her curiosity made her too popular with her fellow passengers though!

The breakfast service began about 90 minutes before landing and it was basic, but sufficient. A warm croissant was served with jam and butter and a yoghurt, and the crew returned with the drinks trolley, serving soft drinks and tea and coffee, too. Whilst we ate, the captain told us how the flight was progressing. He told us that the volcanic ash meant that our route would take us a little further south than normal (over France) and that would add more time to the flight.

We headed towards Heathrow, held south of the airport, and then made our way in on runway 9L, landing at 13:42hrs – 1 hour 17 minutes late. It can’t have taken more than a couple of minutes to get from the runway to our gate, which, being at terminal three, was right in front of us.

American Airlines again did a good enough job for me. Their service is basic and their older crew need some help with basic customer service skills and presentation, but otherwise, all was good. Neither of the flights were on-time but the flight crew cannot be faulted on their handling of the situation. We were always kept in the know and were never left for long periods of time without some sort of idea of what was going on.

And best of all, this flight worked out to about £70, thanks to the airline’s AAdvantage frequent flyer scheme. I made just two return flights with the airline to get this trip for free, so I will continue to fly American and reap the rewards!

Photos

Not of the greatest quality, unfortunately. There is also a landing video, which I will upload later this evening or tomorrow.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4018/4589101331_989a13654f.jpg

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4012/4589720620_b0c7c94176.jpg

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4054/4589721897_5a1a52d669.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3319/4589722475_360eee312a.jpg

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4072/4590342990_c5271e2597.jpg

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4018/4590343408_e0a8242d6a.jpg

Original post
Profile picture for user gatwickjosh

Member for

13 years 5 months

Posts: 459

Welcome home Mike!

Great Report!

Member for

12 years 8 months

Posts: 125

Nice to see you made use of your miles. You did well getting an award seat at short notice. A good report, and the winglets look cool.

Looks like we share a love of eating junk food while on the road!! Burger King/McDonalds = flying fuel.

Member for

16 years 7 months

Posts: 12,842

That's a great comprehensive report Michael