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Old 01-08-2002, 12:45 PM   #1
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CVG->CDG then FCO->ATL->CVG on Delta

What started out as a “let’s go somewhere for New Year’s Eve” trip has become a transatlantic trip spanning two continents and five countries. But with the airfare deals being offered, it was hard to pass up. Besides, I have never been to Paris, and my Dad has never been to Rome, so it seems like the perfect getaway.

We started our airfare search in November. As is always the case, airfares to most European destinations were very affordable. Most of the major cities can be reached from the Midwest for around $500 per person (round trip) in Coach, a fraction of the fares offered for mid-summer travel. We were a little surprised that we were able to fly into Paris and back from Rome for just over $500, but this is exactly what we wanted to do. Now it was time to tackle the next challenge: My dad insisted on flying in First/Business class for a trip like this. I knew from previous experience that these fares are $6,000 or more, and being the cheap one that I am, I just couldn’t see paying $6,000 for a seat on a plane. A quick search of travel.yahoo.com confirmed this: $6,000 was still the going rate. But wait! On Delta’s website, the exact same itinerary is pricing out at $1,200. Huh? I told my wife to just hurry and book it before someone realizes the mistake they have made. A few days later I realized this was no mistake --- it was a special offering for travel between select European cities within a fairly limited time frame --- and it was exactly what were doing!

December 28, 2001

Even though we live in Indianapolis, our trip begins and ends in Cincinnati (CVG) because it’s less than two hours from our house, and we can get a non-stop flight into Paris (CDG). As planned, we arrive two hours before departure, and find the Cincinnati airport to be almost deserted. I am using the short term parking area for my long term parking needs today because my Dad has a handicapped parking pass which allows us to park for just $6 a day instead of the usual fare. As is common with many short term parking garages post-September 11, many of the closest spots are no longer useable. However, we have no problem finding a handicapped spot, and we head into the empty airport.

The main drag in front of the airport is quiet, with only a few taxicabs and a van unloading. We head straight to the ticket counter to check in. Cincinnati is a hub for Delta, and naturally a large portion of the airport is dedicated to them. It seems really strange to walk into the ticketing area and see dozens of ticketing areas but not more than 15-20 people, and no waiting at all. I head to the International BusinessElite check-in line but there’s nobody there, so I just walk-up to another International check-in counter. The friendly agent asks us the usual questions, checks our two bags, hands us our three boarding passes, and reminds us that we are welcome to use the Crown Room on the B concourse while waiting for our flight.

The Cincinnati airport reminds me of the Atlanta airport in a way, only smaller. To get to the B concourse, we must take a long escalator to an underground tram, and then ride to our concourse. There are only three stops on the tram: the ticketing concourse, A, and B concourse. To get to C, you have to get off at B and take a bus. Thank goodness we don’t’ have to do that. But before we can get to the tram, we have to go through a security checkpoint. I was expecting to have a long wait, but was rather surprised to see only 20 or so people in line. They had quite a “cattle maze” set up, but they certainly didn’t need it today.

I was somewhat shocked to see the security company was Argenbright Security, the same company that has come under so much scrutiny lately especially with the recent events in Boston. But today they did a very good job. They even noticed a small pair of scissors my wife had forgotten about in her bag, and decided that she should have her entire carryon bag thoroughly searched and scanned and rescanned. Fifteen minutes later, they decide she is not a threat to national security and they let us move on to our next destination.

The Crown Room on the B concourse was quite nice. A large room with comfortable couches and chairs offers views of the ramp outside the B concourse. There are a number of widescreen televisions playing CNNfn and other programming. As is always the case, a bar was offering complementary cocktails and a spicy snack mix, and I enjoyed several glasses of Ginger Ale. I was rather disappointed that there were no telephone or Internet connections available in the main area. There were two phone areas at either end of the main room that offered a little privacy and a desk for your laptop. But it would have been nice to sit at the table with everyone else and go on-line.

About a half-hour before our flight’s scheduled departure time, we heard our boarding call, and headed to gate B05. The gate attendant took a quick look at our passports and sent us on our way to the two-year-old Boeing 777. I was getting excited. Not only was this my first time on a 777, but it was my first time in Delta’s BusinessElite. Soon I was sitting in my seat, playing with the seat controls. I was used to being squished into a tiny coach seat, and now I had more room than I knew what to do with, *and* an electronically controlled seat. I was in heaven! I enjoyed a glass of orange juice and my wife had a glass of campaign while we wanted for the plane to push back.

Although the plane was scheduled to depart at 7:00pm, it was almost 7:30pm when we finally left the gate. The pilot blamed the intensified baggage screening for the delay, but nobody seemed to really care. Ten minutes later we were cleared for takeoff on runway 18L.

Dinner wasn’t going to be served for another hour, so I got out my Laptop power adaptor, Laptop, and my Bose QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Canceling Headset so I could enjoy some music and hopefully cancel out the noise from the screaming two-year-old in the seat behind me. Many of the others in the BusinessElite section were enjoying their choice of movie on the built-in audio/video system on each seat, but I left mine tuned to the moving map display.

This evening, there were four entrée offerings, each of which came with a first course of salad and some salmon dish that I quickly pushed aside. I had a wonderful creamy cilantro dressing with my salad, and was offered a selection of three breads on several occasions. I think I must have had four of the grain rolls throughout dinner, and they were quite tasty. After the first course, my entrée was served. I selected the beef dish, although the two pasta dishes and the chicken dish also sounded good. My filet was served with roasted redskin potatoes, cooked spinach, and a roasted tomato. It was wonderful! After dinner, a desert cart was brought around, and we were offered a sundae with our choice of toppings, or a fruit and cheese tray. Both looked good, so we too a sundae each, and split the cheese and fruit offering.

After dinner, I made a futile attempt at sleep (I have never been able to sleep on any plane), listened to some music, and read the material in the seat pocket in front of me. Before long, a breakfast choice of fruit and serial, or an egg, cheese, and mushroom omelet was offered, along with a choice of a croissant or bagel. Because of a strong tailwind (and a ground speed of 680 MPH at times), we touched down smoothly on runway 26L at Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Paris on time, despite rain and clouds with tops at FL350 and bases barely 1000 feet.

The experience at CDG was less than enjoyable. Our plane was parked on the ramp “somewhere” and we had to board busses in the rain for our trip to the terminal. They are constructing new terminal areas, but they are a long way from being finished. We found our way through immigrations and headed to the baggage claim area. It took at least twenty minutes before our baggage made it, and we headed through the customs area to the rental car area.

The experience at Hertz was even worse. As a Hertz #1 Club Gold member, I have come to expect quick and painless check-ins and a car that is ready to roll. This was certainly not the case here. In fact, although my reservation was in the computer, they seemed really surprised to see me. The counter representatives were slower than molasses and seemed to be very disorganized. I asked for a map of the local area so I could find my hotel, but they didn’t even have any maps! He offered to give me directions to the area I was headed and it was sufficient for me to find where I was going. The only good that came of this experience was the car we got. I was told I would be getting an Opal, although I didn’t really care what it was as long as it worked. Since this was a one-way rental (and no car rental company wants to lose *their* cars), they found a BMW from Amsterdam that is almost identical to the car we left behind in Cincinnati (except for the diesel engine and 5-speed manual transmission).

January 7, 2002

We left our hotel on the elegant Via Veneto at 6:30am to catch our 10:15am flight to Atlanta. Since Via Veneto is near the north-east side of Rome and the airport (Aeroporti di Roma Fiumicino (FCO)) is a good 20 or 30 miles south-west of downtown, I wanted to allow plenty of time. (Plus we were “supposed” to be at the airport at least two hours prior to departure). We took a leisurely drive right through downtown (guided in a generally south-west direction by my handheld GPS) and found our way to the highway easily. The main highway to the airport leads you easily and directly to where you want to go. My destination was the rental car lot.

The rental car lots are all located in the short-term parking lot adjacent to the airport. It was very convenient. I took a ticket upon entering the lot, but wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I just left it in the car. The Hertz return was on the fourth level, and I was greeted by three Hertz attendants. They took care of my paperwork promptly and directed me to the exit. The garage was connected to the various terminals (and train station) by a network of indoor moving walkways.

Within minutes, we were standing in the ticketing area of concourse C. The check-in process was incredibly quick. Since we were flying BusinessElite, we had a very short line at the check-in counter where we were asked the usual questions, and then we moved on to the security checkpoint where there was no line at all. We had to take a short train ride to the gates, and then we found ourselves with the better part of two hours to kill.

The airport is really quite nice. They provide a VIP lounge for all Business and First class passengers, and while it’s not as nice as some I’ve been in, it is more than adequate, and it certainly beats waiting at the gate. There are many shops and restaurants available as well, and the shops are a bit more upscale than what you might find in most airports.

Our boarding time finally arrives, and we head to the gate. To access the jet ways at all the gates, you must take an escalator from the waiting area. The Boeing 767 is every bit as nice as the 777 we were on last week, but the seats are slightly smaller (but still very comfortable). Our flight departed almost an hour late, but the flight computer indicated an on-time arrival in Atlanta was still possible.

I was somewhat disappointed with the dining choices available on this flight. Our lunch included another salmon appetizer and a salad, a selection of breads, and four lame entrees. I choose the chicken which tasted a little burnt and came with some vegetables that tasted like they had freezer burn. For dessert, I had another sundae which was as good as before. After six or seven hours, we were served a light lunch which was a choice of a pastrami sandwich on rye or a pasta salad with chicken. Neither was particularly appetizing. After almost eleven hours, we touched down in Atlanta nearly on time.

The experience at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport was simply miserable. It started with a 20 minute wait on the ramp because another plane was still there. They finally changed our gate and got us off the plane well over a half-hour late. We arrived at concourse E with all the other International Arrivals, and then it was just one long line after another: First Immigrations, then baggage claim, then customs, then the Delta counter to give our bags back, and finally the security counter. We finally got to the train, and had to go to the opposite end of the airport (Concourse A) to catch our flight to Cincinnati. We had only a few minutes to spend at the Crown Club before we had to make our trek to the end of the concourse to catch our flight at A30.

Our equipment back to Cincinnati was a MD-88 and we were squeezed into Coach (12-A/B/C) because BusinessElite was sold out long before we made our travel plans. We were delayed on our departure because of baggage problems. We were told that they had to wait on additional baggage to be delivered and loaded that they hadn’t expected. We finally got away about a half hour late, and arrived in Cincinnati nearly on time.

When we got to the baggage claim area, we got to personally experience why Delta stands for “Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive.” Apparently their baggage problems in Atlanta included forgetting my dad’s suitcase. We had to wait nearly an hour before Delta would take our lost baggage claim, and after being awake for 20 hours (and with a two hour drive ahead of me), I wasn’t too thrilled.

January 8, 2002

Delta claims the suitcase will be delivered to my dad by 3pm this afternoon. He hasn’t seen it yet.
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Old 01-08-2002, 12:45 PM   #2
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CVG->CDG then FCO->ATL->CVG on Delta

What started out as a “let’s go somewhere for New Year’s Eve” trip has become a transatlantic trip spanning two continents and five countries. But with the airfare deals being offered, it was hard to pass up. Besides, I have never been to Paris, and my Dad has never been to Rome, so it seems like the perfect getaway.

We started our airfare search in November. As is always the case, airfares to most European destinations were very affordable. Most of the major cities can be reached from the Midwest for around $500 per person (round trip) in Coach, a fraction of the fares offered for mid-summer travel. We were a little surprised that we were able to fly into Paris and back from Rome for just over $500, but this is exactly what we wanted to do. Now it was time to tackle the next challenge: My dad insisted on flying in First/Business class for a trip like this. I knew from previous experience that these fares are $6,000 or more, and being the cheap one that I am, I just couldn’t see paying $6,000 for a seat on a plane. A quick search of travel.yahoo.com confirmed this: $6,000 was still the going rate. But wait! On Delta’s website, the exact same itinerary is pricing out at $1,200. Huh? I told my wife to just hurry and book it before someone realizes the mistake they have made. A few days later I realized this was no mistake --- it was a special offering for travel between select European cities within a fairly limited time frame --- and it was exactly what were doing!

December 28, 2001

Even though we live in Indianapolis, our trip begins and ends in Cincinnati (CVG) because it’s less than two hours from our house, and we can get a non-stop flight into Paris (CDG). As planned, we arrive two hours before departure, and find the Cincinnati airport to be almost deserted. I am using the short term parking area for my long term parking needs today because my Dad has a handicapped parking pass which allows us to park for just $6 a day instead of the usual fare. As is common with many short term parking garages post-September 11, many of the closest spots are no longer useable. However, we have no problem finding a handicapped spot, and we head into the empty airport.

The main drag in front of the airport is quiet, with only a few taxicabs and a van unloading. We head straight to the ticket counter to check in. Cincinnati is a hub for Delta, and naturally a large portion of the airport is dedicated to them. It seems really strange to walk into the ticketing area and see dozens of ticketing areas but not more than 15-20 people, and no waiting at all. I head to the International BusinessElite check-in line but there’s nobody there, so I just walk-up to another International check-in counter. The friendly agent asks us the usual questions, checks our two bags, hands us our three boarding passes, and reminds us that we are welcome to use the Crown Room on the B concourse while waiting for our flight.

The Cincinnati airport reminds me of the Atlanta airport in a way, only smaller. To get to the B concourse, we must take a long escalator to an underground tram, and then ride to our concourse. There are only three stops on the tram: the ticketing concourse, A, and B concourse. To get to C, you have to get off at B and take a bus. Thank goodness we don’t’ have to do that. But before we can get to the tram, we have to go through a security checkpoint. I was expecting to have a long wait, but was rather surprised to see only 20 or so people in line. They had quite a “cattle maze” set up, but they certainly didn’t need it today.

I was somewhat shocked to see the security company was Argenbright Security, the same company that has come under so much scrutiny lately especially with the recent events in Boston. But today they did a very good job. They even noticed a small pair of scissors my wife had forgotten about in her bag, and decided that she should have her entire carryon bag thoroughly searched and scanned and rescanned. Fifteen minutes later, they decide she is not a threat to national security and they let us move on to our next destination.

The Crown Room on the B concourse was quite nice. A large room with comfortable couches and chairs offers views of the ramp outside the B concourse. There are a number of widescreen televisions playing CNNfn and other programming. As is always the case, a bar was offering complementary cocktails and a spicy snack mix, and I enjoyed several glasses of Ginger Ale. I was rather disappointed that there were no telephone or Internet connections available in the main area. There were two phone areas at either end of the main room that offered a little privacy and a desk for your laptop. But it would have been nice to sit at the table with everyone else and go on-line.

About a half-hour before our flight’s scheduled departure time, we heard our boarding call, and headed to gate B05. The gate attendant took a quick look at our passports and sent us on our way to the two-year-old Boeing 777. I was getting excited. Not only was this my first time on a 777, but it was my first time in Delta’s BusinessElite. Soon I was sitting in my seat, playing with the seat controls. I was used to being squished into a tiny coach seat, and now I had more room than I knew what to do with, *and* an electronically controlled seat. I was in heaven! I enjoyed a glass of orange juice and my wife had a glass of campaign while we wanted for the plane to push back.

Although the plane was scheduled to depart at 7:00pm, it was almost 7:30pm when we finally left the gate. The pilot blamed the intensified baggage screening for the delay, but nobody seemed to really care. Ten minutes later we were cleared for takeoff on runway 18L.

Dinner wasn’t going to be served for another hour, so I got out my Laptop power adaptor, Laptop, and my Bose QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Canceling Headset so I could enjoy some music and hopefully cancel out the noise from the screaming two-year-old in the seat behind me. Many of the others in the BusinessElite section were enjoying their choice of movie on the built-in audio/video system on each seat, but I left mine tuned to the moving map display.

This evening, there were four entrée offerings, each of which came with a first course of salad and some salmon dish that I quickly pushed aside. I had a wonderful creamy cilantro dressing with my salad, and was offered a selection of three breads on several occasions. I think I must have had four of the grain rolls throughout dinner, and they were quite tasty. After the first course, my entrée was served. I selected the beef dish, although the two pasta dishes and the chicken dish also sounded good. My filet was served with roasted redskin potatoes, cooked spinach, and a roasted tomato. It was wonderful! After dinner, a desert cart was brought around, and we were offered a sundae with our choice of toppings, or a fruit and cheese tray. Both looked good, so we too a sundae each, and split the cheese and fruit offering.

After dinner, I made a futile attempt at sleep (I have never been able to sleep on any plane), listened to some music, and read the material in the seat pocket in front of me. Before long, a breakfast choice of fruit and serial, or an egg, cheese, and mushroom omelet was offered, along with a choice of a croissant or bagel. Because of a strong tailwind (and a ground speed of 680 MPH at times), we touched down smoothly on runway 26L at Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Paris on time, despite rain and clouds with tops at FL350 and bases barely 1000 feet.

The experience at CDG was less than enjoyable. Our plane was parked on the ramp “somewhere” and we had to board busses in the rain for our trip to the terminal. They are constructing new terminal areas, but they are a long way from being finished. We found our way through immigrations and headed to the baggage claim area. It took at least twenty minutes before our baggage made it, and we headed through the customs area to the rental car area.

The experience at Hertz was even worse. As a Hertz #1 Club Gold member, I have come to expect quick and painless check-ins and a car that is ready to roll. This was certainly not the case here. In fact, although my reservation was in the computer, they seemed really surprised to see me. The counter representatives were slower than molasses and seemed to be very disorganized. I asked for a map of the local area so I could find my hotel, but they didn’t even have any maps! He offered to give me directions to the area I was headed and it was sufficient for me to find where I was going. The only good that came of this experience was the car we got. I was told I would be getting an Opal, although I didn’t really care what it was as long as it worked. Since this was a one-way rental (and no car rental company wants to lose *their* cars), they found a BMW from Amsterdam that is almost identical to the car we left behind in Cincinnati (except for the diesel engine and 5-speed manual transmission).

January 7, 2002

We left our hotel on the elegant Via Veneto at 6:30am to catch our 10:15am flight to Atlanta. Since Via Veneto is near the north-east side of Rome and the airport (Aeroporti di Roma Fiumicino (FCO)) is a good 20 or 30 miles south-west of downtown, I wanted to allow plenty of time. (Plus we were “supposed” to be at the airport at least two hours prior to departure). We took a leisurely drive right through downtown (guided in a generally south-west direction by my handheld GPS) and found our way to the highway easily. The main highway to the airport leads you easily and directly to where you want to go. My destination was the rental car lot.

The rental car lots are all located in the short-term parking lot adjacent to the airport. It was very convenient. I took a ticket upon entering the lot, but wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I just left it in the car. The Hertz return was on the fourth level, and I was greeted by three Hertz attendants. They took care of my paperwork promptly and directed me to the exit. The garage was connected to the various terminals (and train station) by a network of indoor moving walkways.

Within minutes, we were standing in the ticketing area of concourse C. The check-in process was incredibly quick. Since we were flying BusinessElite, we had a very short line at the check-in counter where we were asked the usual questions, and then we moved on to the security checkpoint where there was no line at all. We had to take a short train ride to the gates, and then we found ourselves with the better part of two hours to kill.

The airport is really quite nice. They provide a VIP lounge for all Business and First class passengers, and while it’s not as nice as some I’ve been in, it is more than adequate, and it certainly beats waiting at the gate. There are many shops and restaurants available as well, and the shops are a bit more upscale than what you might find in most airports.

Our boarding time finally arrives, and we head to the gate. To access the jet ways at all the gates, you must take an escalator from the waiting area. The Boeing 767 is every bit as nice as the 777 we were on last week, but the seats are slightly smaller (but still very comfortable). Our flight departed almost an hour late, but the flight computer indicated an on-time arrival in Atlanta was still possible.

I was somewhat disappointed with the dining choices available on this flight. Our lunch included another salmon appetizer and a salad, a selection of breads, and four lame entrees. I choose the chicken which tasted a little burnt and came with some vegetables that tasted like they had freezer burn. For dessert, I had another sundae which was as good as before. After six or seven hours, we were served a light lunch which was a choice of a pastrami sandwich on rye or a pasta salad with chicken. Neither was particularly appetizing. After almost eleven hours, we touched down in Atlanta nearly on time.

The experience at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport was simply miserable. It started with a 20 minute wait on the ramp because another plane was still there. They finally changed our gate and got us off the plane well over a half-hour late. We arrived at concourse E with all the other International Arrivals, and then it was just one long line after another: First Immigrations, then baggage claim, then customs, then the Delta counter to give our bags back, and finally the security counter. We finally got to the train, and had to go to the opposite end of the airport (Concourse A) to catch our flight to Cincinnati. We had only a few minutes to spend at the Crown Club before we had to make our trek to the end of the concourse to catch our flight at A30.

Our equipment back to Cincinnati was a MD-88 and we were squeezed into Coach (12-A/B/C) because BusinessElite was sold out long before we made our travel plans. We were delayed on our departure because of baggage problems. We were told that they had to wait on additional baggage to be delivered and loaded that they hadn’t expected. We finally got away about a half hour late, and arrived in Cincinnati nearly on time.

When we got to the baggage claim area, we got to personally experience why Delta stands for “Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive.” Apparently their baggage problems in Atlanta included forgetting my dad’s suitcase. We had to wait nearly an hour before Delta would take our lost baggage claim, and after being awake for 20 hours (and with a two hour drive ahead of me), I wasn’t too thrilled.

January 8, 2002

Delta claims the suitcase will be delivered to my dad by 3pm this afternoon. He hasn’t seen it yet.
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Old 01-08-2002, 05:52 PM   #3
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CDGee Whiz...

I hate those busses at CDG. I think the airline ought to credit the flyer with an extra segment to cover that bus ride from the tarmac to the omnigate.
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Old 01-08-2002, 05:52 PM   #4
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CDGee Whiz...

I hate those busses at CDG. I think the airline ought to credit the flyer with an extra segment to cover that bus ride from the tarmac to the omnigate.
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