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Florida Guide > Travelling

Flying with Delta to Orlando Part 1

Many people choose to fly direct to Orlando, but as we visit our home regularly we use a variety of airlines to get us there, including American carriers. This Christmas we decided to fly with Delta who fly to Orlando via Atlanta in Georgia, as they offered the opportunity to fly back via New York where we could stay for 5 nights.

For those of you who have never flown indirect I hope that this will give you some idea of what it involves. However, every flight is different, and do remember that all flights can be delayed, and many people make their internal connecting flights with no problems whatsoever. This is just the story of one flight, our flight at Christmas, 2008.

Our flight is at 12. 05, and as we like to check in early we arrive at the airport soon after 8. 00 am, having left our car in a nearby airport car park. Check-in is really easy as there are plenty of machines which you can use instead of checking in with an operator. A Delta operative is standing by our machine and helps us through the process, printing out our boarding cards and directing us to where our suitcases must be dropped. We wheel our luggage over to the check in desk and by some miracle they are not overweight. They are labelled up and soon disappear onto a conveyor belt. It is one of the quickest and most pain free check-ins we have ever experienced.

We decide to go through security so that we can get some breakfast and then relax before our flight. Security is almost empty, and we quickly arrive airside in Terminal 4. This terminal is being updated, and is really quite pleasant as it has plenty of windows looking over the runways so it is bright and interesting. It is not yet complete, with more building work going on to improve facilities, but we find a place to eat breakfast and begin to relax with a cup of tea and some food.

After breakfast I ‘park’ my husband with the hand luggage and look round the shops. A few purchases completed, and plenty of reading material for the flight, we sit and look out of the window at passing aircraft taking off and landing until boarding starts.

The time passes rapidly and all too soon they are boarding at our gate. The plane is fairly old but clean, a wide bodied 767. The seats are leather and there is a good amount of space between them. Boarding is swift and at 11. 45 they announce that the doors are ready to be shut and we are soon to be off. But of course, there is, by now a queue for take-off, and we sit and sit, until we finally pull back at 12. 30, about 25 minutes late. As we taxi to the runway the captain says we must wait for others to take-off ahead of us. Finally, at a little after 12. 45, we shoot down the runway – and up into the clouds. There is little to see as it is very overcast, but we are on our way at last.

The aircraft has no seat back screens, just strategically placed TVs which you can watch from a distance. We were prepared for this so it is no disappointment. Service is swift and we soon have a drink in front of us. Just after 2. 00 pm our lunch arrives, not chicken or beef, but chicken or pasta. We both opt for chicken and gingerly peel off the foil lid. I think I am in the Australian jungle as there in front of me are several curly cream things which look remarkably like witchety grubs. I wait for the Captain to tell us that the more we eat the more stars we will get towards our next meal – thank goodness they have taken the heads off. I bite into them and they are warm and soft but utterly tasteless – I think they are pasta but apart from the fact that they don’t move, they could well have come from a Bush Tucker trial. A splodge of what appears to be spinach sits to one side of two chicken tenders ‘marinada’. It tastes a bit like seaweed and I am afraid that I have to give up on it, but I try the chicken which is a little like India rubber.

Both Paul and I make a gallant effort to eat the chicken but it really is so chewy we put the foil back and give it up as a bad job. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect a gourmet meal, and frankly there are very few meals that I have had on a plane that were more than edible, but it really needs someone like Marks and Spencers to come up with some decent food. The roll is edible – unlike the Virgin ones which could be used to build roads, and there is a little biscuit for pudding. Now on the label is says it is from the Royal Burgh bakery in Scotland, but I think it was made for Botany Bay (for the ‘You’ll wish you’d stayed at home’ Cruise Line, for their afternoon tea – ship’s biscuits and water only of course. ) I cannot believe that the land of shortbread could produce such a miserable excuse for a biscuit. It is supposed to be double chocolate but it is thin and pretty tasteless. Not that Virgin do much better with their ubiquitous chocolate pots.

The staff are very attentive – of a certain age of course, which makes a difference, none of your trolley dollies. No blonde bombshells in short skirts and stilletoes – oh no, just a few who look as if they have gone through a hedge backwards – one has long hair scraped back into a rubber band with whisps escaping. By lunch time she had screwed the pony tail up into a clip, but it looks even worse! They are a motley crew – in a variety of uniform styles – one rather large lady looks as if she is going to pop out of her waistcoat at any minute as she has a rather large paunch! Mind you, I think it must be the most soul destroying job, giving out drinks etc for hours on end. Actually they are really good with drinks, as we had one after we took off, two with lunch and they have just brought around water, so way better than many airlines.

We have good seats, exit row, so more leg room and as there are no screens there are no ‘boxes’ under the seats, so plenty of space for feet and bags. The captain puts on the seat belt sign so maybe we will get a little respite from the loo queue. Unfortunately the downside of having exit row seats is that we are right by the loos and there has been a continuous stream – sorry about the pun! – of people waiting to use them. At a rough guess I would say men outnumber women by 6 to one. But at least the loos are clean.

It’s now nearly 9. 10 and we can see that the plane is going to be very late into Atlanta. It is flying very slowly due to extremely strong headwinds, and although it should have been just a few minutes late it is now over half an hour, so our connection looks dodgey. Apparently they are having bad weather too, with very strong cross winds that are making landings difficult, slowing down the traffic. That is a pain as it means we will miss our flight and we are pretty shattered. So we won’t get to our villa until very late. However, they have been very good, bringing drinks every hour, and an ice cream mid afternoon, but no sign of any more food and we are starving as the meal was not very nice. It has been a bumpy ride and absolutely freezing on the plane – minus 63 degrees outside and very cold inside.

Tea arrives, and very nice it looks too – a hot slice of pizza, which my husband enjoys. Unfortunately I don’t eat cheese so I pass mine over to the lady behind who does not like her vegetarian sandwiches. I pluck up courage to tell the flight attendant that I can’t eat the pizza and instead of the normal ‘sorry we don’t have anything else’ she says she will go and see what she can find. She returns quickly with a tray with rolls and butter, a large packet of crisps, and a chocolate biscuit. I am impressed, and very grateful.

Tea over, the rubbish is collected, and we begin our descent into Atlanta, Georgia, one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. We are very late, over half an hour, and as we taxi to the gate we are held up waiting to cross the runway – which adds even more time to the flight. We have already put our hand luggage under the seats in front of us so that we can make a quick getaway, as we are very short of time. Our flight connection should have been fine as we had nearly two hours, but our late arrival has reduced that to one hour and 20 mins. It is going to be touch and go.

The doors open and we make a run for it. Will we make our connection? It looks increasingly unlikely.

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Page added on: 2 January 2009
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