|12-22-2002, 01:28 PM||#1|
Join Date: Mar 2002
TYS-ORD-DUB and return on AA/EI in Y
The inspiration for this trip came one day when I was surfing the web and happened to come upon Aer Lingus's site. I saw a fare special from Chicago or New York to Dublin for $99 each way. Certain my eyes had misled me, I poked around on the site some more, and didn't find any obvious catches. Flights from NYC were sold out for the forseeable future, so I decided to take advantage of AA's new 3x daily service TYS-ORD, on ERJ-145s. The fare to ORD was slightly over $200, so the total fare from TYS to DUB was around $400. Not bad for a long weekend in Europe (though not as good as the $20 fares I've seen on here recently! ).
Tickets in hand, I headed to Knoxville McGhee-Tyson airport on December 7th, packed lightly and ready to go. I made the decision I was going to check all my bags so as not to have the hassle of dragging suitcases around the airport. As I approached the counter, the AA agent waved me over wiht a disgruntled look on his face. I handed him the confirmation printouts for both the EI flight and the AA flight. After typing for a few minutes on his computer, he informed me that according to him, my EI flight did not exist and that he could only check me in for the AA flight. Now, in the AA magazine, under the OneWorld Alliance section, it says OneWorld partners can do partner check-in, seat assignments, and issue boarding passes, in addition to accruing miles. However, this was not to be, throughout the trip. The AA agent asked for my EI ticket numbers, which I gave to him, and then for my passport. After typing for about 5 minutes, he handed my passport back and informed me he could tag my bags for Dublin, but that I would have to check in for the EI flight in Chicago. Happy that, at least, my bags would be transferred, I asked for and received an exit row seat on the ERJ flight to ORD. I took my boarding pass and went to clear security. My sandals seem to decide on a random basis whether or not to set off the detectors at TYS; today they did not, so I breezed on through, got a book at the little store behind security, and continued to the gate area to wait for the flight to be called.
Boarding started a few minutes behind schedule out of Gate 2 (TYS has 12 gates). When my group was called, I proceeded to the jetway (I did not get randomly selected; I was to miss this particular bullet for the entire trip) and down onto the aircraft. The ERJ is a somewhat cramped affair; I'm disappointed that AA has pulled their F100s out of TYS, as the latest trend seems to be for everyone but DL to operate these horribly cramped RJs. The most notable exception is NW's ARJ, which offers the best room I've ever had on an RJ.
We took off about 5 minutes behind schedule to the south, immediately banking to the north through a wide curve, giving a beautiful view of the city (the day was 100% clear all the way up to ORD, giving some of the best views I've seen on a plane in a long time). We quickly reached cruising altitude and the FA came around with drinks. One thing I really like about AA is that they have Dr. Pepper, though I don't like their little mini-pretzels. I got the full can, too, not just a glass.
Our flight was about an hour and a half and culminated with a gorgeous view on approach of the Chicago skyline. We flew north over Lake Michigan before turning to approach ORD from the north. Our landing was smooth, and we taxied for about 8 minutes before parking at the jetbridge, where I endeavoured to navigate to the international terminal number 5.
Changing terminals at ORD requires you to exit security, go up a set of escalators, across a bridge, and down another set of escalators to take the tram. I took it 2 stops to Terminal 5, where I repeated the escalator/bridge process and walked over to the EI desk. There was a normal entrance to the line, and another entrance marked "Connecting flights" which led to a "No checked baggage" desk; however, there didn't seem to be much regard for the line, and the agent at the connecting desk was processing passengers from the other line. I eventually got checked in; upon asking to put my AAdvantage number in, the agent informed me that AA would not allow mileage credit on EI flights. (?!?) This was to be repeated by the gate agent whom I later asked. Slightly disappointed, I got issued my boarding pass and proceeded to re-clear security and wait at the gate; next door, a BMI flight to Manchester was boarding, which I watched until boarding was called for our A330 to Dublin.
Boarding was by row number but was a bit of a zoo anyway; I did not get randomly selected. I boarded and proceeded waaaaaaaaaay back to the back of the A330. EI has their planes in 2-4-2 configuration in Y, except for the back few rows which are 2-3-2 to allow for the rail for the curtain around the crew rest seats.
The passengers finally finished boarding, and we pushed back from the gate to begin a 10-minute taxi or so. A safety video was played (unlike USAir's very nice A330s with personal on-demand IFE, this A330 had old, bulky CRT monitors which descended from the ceiling when activated. The video appeared to be done using a cheesy claymation-esque 3D program (though I particularly liked the scene of the character furtively trying to sneak a smoke in the lav). The video finished up and we took off with the 3 seats next to me empty (I was in the middle section, on an aisle seat). I thought I was going to get the row to myself so I could stretch out and sleep, but shortly after the seatbelt sign went out, someone came back and sat on the far aisle. Oh well; 3 seats are better than 1, anyway. The FAs came around with a drink service; I got a truly miniscule can of Sprite (100ml or so) and waited another hour or so before dinner. The question of the evening was:
Beef or Chicken?
(This question was to be repeated on the return flight.)
I opted for the chicken, which was edible, although not wonderful. I did like the dessert, though.
It was another hour before the FAs came around and picked up the trays, leaving me with just a few hours to try to squeeze in some sleep. After asking permission from the gentleman on the other side of the row, I put up the armrests and tried to get some shut-eye. Before I knew it, the lights came on again and it was time for "Breakfast", which was a roll, a cup of OJ, and something else I can't remember (not particularly inspiring, in any event).
Customs forms were passed out, and we landed in Dublin in rainy weather. The immigration area at Dublin is nicely appointed in wood and glass, and I passed through smoothly to baggage claim, where I waited about 15 minutes before my bags came out. I went through the green channel without being stopped, and proceeded to a small internet area, where I checked my email before heading over to the Europcar desks (who were acting as agents for Auto Europe). After a brief squabble on whether or not I could take the car into the mainland UK (the contract said I could, they said I couldn't), I proceede out and picked up my Nissan Micra. This car, I warn ITYTers everywhere, has no power whatsoever. Zero, zip, zilch. I had to floor it to pull out from a traffic light at anything approaching normal speed. And motorways? Forget it. It was evidently governed at 50 mph.
Something interesting I noticed about Irish highways: They have distances in kilometres, but speed limits in mph. Ireland needs to fish or cut bait as far as the metric system goes; distance/time calculations are far more difficult with the present system.
After driving around Ireland for a couple of days, I took a ferry over to Wales and spent a day there. However, when I arrived at Holyhead port in the evening, I heard the dreaded words:
"Due to heavy winds, this evening's ferry has been cancelled. We can try to put you on one in the morning."
I had to check in no later than 3:15 AM for that ferry, despite the fact they knew it wouldn't leave until 5:30 at the earliest, so I went to a close B&B and went to bed at around 7 PM, further screwing up my body clock. I got up at 2:15 and got a nice, long, hot shower, then proceeded to the ferryport, checked in, and waited for an hour and a half in a line of cars to board the ferry. Eventually I got on the ferry and proceeded back to Dublin, and then followed the somewhat meager signage to the airport. I got there and returned the car, where the friendly Europcar agent gave me a ride from the rental place over to the terminal. I proceeded to the EI desk marked "Transatlantic" only to be told that 1) the exit row seat had been preassigned and 2) checkin was not yet open for the Chicago flight. I waited around the airport for another hour before I was allowed to check in, then proceeded through security to the US Immigration area, which was not yet open. I waited for it to open, proceeded through it, and eventually was able to board the EI flight back to Chicago.
On the flight back I was made painfully aware of EI's amazingly tight seat pitch. The food was bad, the FAs were surly, and the IFE was boring. That about sums it up--I slept for as much of the 7-hour flight as I could. Upon arrival, the FAs blocked our exit until all the FC passengers had disembarked. Normally I wouldn't mind this, but some of the passengers took 10 minutes to get their stuff together and get off the plane (the door we were using was the one behind the FC cabin).
Since we'd gone through immigration in DUB, we were waved on through in ORD, where I waited 20 minutes for my luggage and I went through customs without a hassle. I managed to recheck my bags and get my boarding pass to TYS in just a few minutes, whereupon I took the train back to Terminal 3, cleared security, and waited at the gate. AA announced that the flight had been overbooked and offered the next flight out in the morning, hotel accomodation, a $250 voucher and double miles to anyone who volunteered to be bumped. Someone took them up on the offer, and when we boarded the plane there was 1 empty seat left.
I slept for most of the flight back to TYS, where I reclaimed my luggage without a problem and headed on back home. All in all, a pleasant trip, though I wasn't thrilled with EI.
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