Category Archives: aviation
“Suddenly” a trip back to the States
So I was browsing the internet during my lunch break at work yesterday and came across an ad online, where this guy needed to sell his plane tickets to Washington DC from Oslo (round trip). He didn’t need to go anymore, as the friends he was supposed to visit had moved from D.C to Vancouver, B.C, Canada. He asked 1500 NOK (approx $250) for it, and I decided to buy it from him. The only “problem”? The departure day is Thursday. This Thursday.
Yes, May 16th I will once again, and for the third time this year, get on a plane bound for America. I am obsessed with that country. 🙂
So after paying the guy 1500 NOK for the ticket I contacted SAS (operating and marketing carrier in this case) to change the name on the ticket, which cost 500NOK. No problem, and a new ticket was issued to me within minutes of me hanging up the phone.
Now, I don’t really know what to do in D.C for 5 days, so I contacted my cousin Molly and told her about my plans for the weekend. She is spending the weekend until Sunday morning, in Upstate New York by a lake, and she invited me to go with her and her boyfriend. So how the heck do I get to Lake George? By train or plane, were the options. I decided to book a flight direct to Albany (ALB) 2 hours after I arrive from Copenhagen in Dulles. I also booked a return ticket to IAD from EWR Tuesday May 21 when my flight back to Europe departs IAD in the afternoon.
I also booked a connecting flight to Oslo (OSL) from Kristiansand (KRS) with SAS, Thursday morning.
I will spend a few days up by Lake George first, then head to NYC for the Syttende May parade (May 17, Norway’s Constitution day) in Brooklyn, which is a yearly parade celebrated by Norwegian-Americans.
Flights are pretty full, but I sent an Optiontown request for my return flight IAD-CPH from economy to business class (paid, standby upgrade) so I’m crossing my fingers that will work out.
Well, I better start packing. Between me and my trip is 6 hours at work tomorrow, and some intense hours of packing.
A comfortable ride across the Atlantic
So, as I have mentioned earlier, I was supposed to go back to Norway January 20, but due to bad weather and maintenance issues with the aircraft, my flying got delayed so I had to postpone my return flight to Norway.
I first called United to see if I could change the return date to January 23, but that wasn’t possible due to my fare being non-refundable (bought off a sale in October) I then tried to look up one-way tickets to Europe, which are not cheap. Not at all. United wanted over $2000 for a one-way ticket MCO-KRS – in ECONOMY!!! A definite no-no. So after being on the phone with United for 30 minutes, I hung up and called my lovely airline Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) who could give me an award ticket, booked with my miles. The agent was very friendly and found a route that suited me perfectly, with short layovers (at this point I just wanted to get home as quick and efficient as possible) At first he thought I needed a round trip (I didn’t specify I would only need a one-way ticket this time) so he gave me an offer, 40000 miles for a round trip in economy. I then said I only need the one-way, and he figured out I had enough points for a one-way in business. I wasn’t hard to convince, and soon I was booked in business all the way from Orlando, via Frankfurt and Oslo, to Kristiansand. 66000 miles and 256 NOK later, I got my ticket by e-mail. A smooth experience, and actually the first time I have redeeemed any of my frequent flyer points.
I returned my rental car at Sixt, was expedited quickly and took the shuttle to the terminal. I checked in using the First Class / Star Alliance Gold check in counter which had no line what so ever. Checked my two bags and headed for security where Lufthansa apparently doesn’t have a priority lane, which I found kind of weird. I got through it with about 10 minutes of waiting, and took the train over to the concourse where my plane would depart in about 2 hours.
Lufthansa doesn’t have their own lounge in MCO, but uses Delta’s Sky Club. Not a very big selection of snacks, but I guess it was late in the afternoon and not many flights departing. Plenty of seating areas, I had no trouble finding a place to relax before my flight. The bathrooms were very nicely decorated and furnished. I had some snacks, changed into my “I’m crossing the Atlantic at night”-attire (sports bra and a sweat shirt. On board the plane I changed into sweat pants) before the Lounge Dragons announced Lufthansa flight 465 to Frankfurt was ready for boarding, and that a Lufthansa representative would meet us in the lounge and escort us to the gate.
WARNING: Text is below the picture!!!
We were then escorted over to the gate where boarding was about to start, but we were the first ones on board the Airbus 340-600 (registration D-AIHH) bound for Frankfurt. They used 2L for boarding and after I entered the cabin I took an immidiate left and found my seat, 8D.
When boarding was announced completed, no one had claimed 08A/C so I moved over to the window seat and got the two-seater all by my self. I like to have direct aisle access on long haul flights, especially at night, but with no one in the C seat I was good to go with my window seat 🙂
A photo I snapped of the leg room in 08D before I switched seats
Once in 08A, I was greeted by the purser with my last name (at first she thought Ms Larsen didn’t board since it was stated in her manifest that I would be sitting in 08D) but I gave her a hint that I just moved seats. She was very polite, and sort of apologetic. She hoped I had a good ground experience in MCO, which I confirmed, but my only complain would be no priority security. I was served a glass of champagne before take off.
Once in 08A, this was my view of the forward business cabin,
On our way to lining up on 35L, ready for take off!
MLB VOR was in our flight plan, but I thought we’d be cleared more direct. But no, we headed south to Melbourne after departure, then started our oceanic crossing from there.
I was handed the menu for tonight’s flight.
I went with the seafood salad as a starter, cod filet as main course and the chocolate for dessert.
But first, time for some beer and nuts. Warsteiner glass bottled beer is a classic onboard Lufthansa in business and first class. Back in economy they serve it on a can.
Seafood salad, probably the best dish in the entire meal. Crisp salad, hot roll and the prawns tasted fresh and delicious.
Nothing left of the seafood salad 😀
The cod tasted OK but the presentation lacked some I thought. Kind of sloppy.
“Would you care for some chocolate, Ms Larsen?” How awesome, they said Ms Larsen to me throughout the meal service. Nice touch! The chocolate was heavenly!
Time to get some rest! The old business class seats on board Lufthansa doesn’t recline 180 degrees. My biggest complaint with the seat, however, is the area around your feet when the seat is fully reclined. It reclines under the seat in front of you, and the space around your feet is very limited.
Never the less, I got 4 hours of sleep and woke up feeling pretty fresh and awake as we crossed in to European airspace. Breakfast service started 1,5 hours before landing.
The breakfast platter consisted of some fresh cold cuts as well as an egg omelet and some potatoes. Fresh fruit, tea and OJ complimented the meal.
Being greeted the best way possible by Europe: With an amazing sunrise
Short final for 07L (new runway) in Frankfurt where we landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
D-AIHH parked by the gate after the flight. I disembarked through door 1L and headed straight for the lounge.
Since I had some time until my flight to Oslo, I decided to go to the Welcome Lounge (outside of security) knowing that lounge has more showers than the business/senator lounges airside. Even thought it was kind of a long stroll from Terminal A, it was well worth it. Sophie the Frequent Flyer Bear liked it a lot too 🙂
Feeling refreshed after the shower, I headed to Terminal B where a bus gate awaited my next flight, SK4756 to Oslo. The flight was operated by LN-TUF, a Boeing 737-700.
On board we were served sea bass. The chocolate for dessert was very sweet, but rounded the meal off nicely.
Flying next to Denmark.
North Jylland, Denmark.
I hate transferring international-domestic in Oslo, because I have to go through customs, recheck my bags and go through security again. But it was the only option available on award tickets that day so I just had to suck it up. My bags actually appeared early on the baggage belt with their priority tags, so I headed through customs, up to the departure level and got through security.
Now, remember the girl I met when I departed Oslo 1,5 weeks earlier? Well, guess who I met in the domestic terminal this Thursday afternoon? The same girl! What are the odds?!? We just accidentally bumped in to each other. She was headed to Bergen for the weekend. Our flights departed from the same area of the terminal so we found a place to sit until boarding started.
This is the gate for my flight, SK221 to Kristiansand. You’d think it was the last helicopter out of Vietnam.
I was one of the last to board and found my seat, 11F. Full flight, and all the overhead bins were full. I ended up with my carry on Rimowa under the seat in front of me, with my backpack on my lap and feet on the Rimowa (Sorry, my dear little suitcase)
We took of late, but at that point I didn’t care. To be honest, I fell asleep before pushback and didn’t wake up until we had started our descent into Kristiansand.
It was a very comfortable trip, though it cost me some miles, it was definitely worth it.
The service I received with Lufthansa was very good. They are upgrading their business class seats to something similar to what Swiss offers. I’m eager to try that product out, but for now it’s hit-or-miss if you get an aircraft with the new business class seats.
The meals were consistenly very good.
My only complaint is, as mentioned before, the lack of priority security in MCO for business class/ Star Gold passengers.
That’s all I have for now 🙂 Hope you enjoyed following along my trip home from Florida!
Florida – getting there
Getting to Florida is kind of a long haul for me. My trip started Saturday, January 12 with a train ride from Arendal to Oslo, where I checked in to the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport Hotel which is literally as close to the airport terminal as you can get. Very conveniently located hotel. Grabbed a pizza from the airport and headed to bed.
Next morning, Sunday January 13, started early in the A.M. People next door were playing music very loudly. At 4am I could not sleep anymore and decided to start to get ready, though my flight wasn’t until 11 am and I didn’t plan to go over to the airport until 9. Well, no rush, and after getting ready, I went down to grab some breakfast. A lot of flight crews stay at this hotel, and I saw many first officers and captains eating breakfast before a long day at work. One day….
I headed over to the airport terminal to check in. United had representatives checking passports and ESTAs separately from check-in/ bag drop. United Premier Access Priority tags were put on the two bags I checked in, and I was handed boarding passes for both my flight to Newark and my connecting flight to Orlando. Security was a breeze, as I had access to the dedicated Fast Track security lane.
A funny thing I have to mentioned, it really wasn’t too funny until I returned to Norway, but I met a girl I went to high school with at the airport in Oslo. She was headed to Tenerife with some friends. More on that later, though 😉
After passing through security, I walked through the duty free shop, took the stairs up one level and entered the SAS Scandinavian/Business lounge. In my humble opinion, it is a good lounge with a decent selection of food, drinks and after 0100 pm also liquors (stupid Norwegian laws lol)
Scheduled departure time was set to 11.15a and boarding started around 10.30a. Today’s flight to Newark, United flight 39, would be operated by the Boeing 757-200 (ex-CO) registration N57111 (Ship #3111) – a fifty-seven first delivered to Continental in 1994. I quickly located my seat on row 22, which really isn’t the 22nd row, because United is trying to standardize exit rows as 20 and 21. So my row was the first row after the exit row, and also the first row in economy class. The seats in front are 45 Economy Plus seats and 16 international BusinessFirst lie flat seats.There are a total of 108 seats in (wh)Y.
Being Star Gold and flying United, I’m in boarding group 2. Group 1 is people with special assistance, military and Global Services (the top tier within United’s Mileage Plus program, by invitation only) , as well as First class. Group 2 is business class passengers, United Plat’s and Gold and Star Alliance Gold. I was one of the first ones onboard in the economy cabin and I found my aisle seat and got seated. I figured the flight would be very full, judged by the quick glance I got of the boarding waiting area, and the seats surely filled up. Eventually a guy approached my row and told me he had the window seat. I got up and let him get to his seat. When “boarding completed” was announced, the middle seat between us was not taken. I think it was the only seat not taken in the economy cabin. Intentional or not from the gate agent, it is certainly something I value a lot when flying long international flights in economy/whY.
Well, once comfortably seated, the International Service Manager (a really funny guy) announced that he hoped Newark was in our travel plans, as this flight was a non-stop service to Newark Liberty International Airport. He said we would push back from the gate early, after the fan blades in the engines had been defrosted (freezing fog in Oslo this morning) and we then would head over to de-ice before take off.
Uh. Or not. Approaching the scheduled departure time, we were still at the gate. Turned out the cargo had been loaded too far aft in the cargo compartment, and that they had to move some of it to the front. An operation that took close to 25 minutes. Alright, once the cargo was in the right place, we were ready to go. We pushed back, stopped, then the Engine #2 started. I was anticipating the start of Engine #1.. Which never came. Then #2 spooled down and the Captain announced they couldn’t start #1. Sort of an issue when you want to cross the Atlantic.
Back to the gate, a mechanic got on board, did his magic, left, and we pushed again. This time both engines started and we could set off to the west!
Take off was interesting. I noticed they spooled the engines, with brakes applied, a lot more than usual. I’m sure it had something to do with the engine #1 not starting properly and the Captain would make sure that everything was running smoothly.
Once in the air, 90 minutes late, we were served meal number one. I got the chicken. I don’t trust the beef option on board airplanes.
I watched “The Campaign”, listened to music and read a little. When we approached the Labrador Strait, we encountered some mild turbulence that pretty much lasted for the remainder of the flight. It was so bumpy at times I had a hard time holding my book straight so I could read lol.
We landed 50 minutes late in EWR, I hurried out of the airplane and ran towards the immigration hall in Terminal C. To my big surprise, it was EMPTY, making the process a lot better. And I still had a chance to catch my connecting flight down to Orlando in.. Well, 1 hour. After a few questions, my passport got its stamp and I could head down stairs for the baggage claim. The bags took forever, I must have waited close to 20 minutes before any bags showed up on the belt. Luckily my two bags were among the first bags (Note to self: priority tags in EWR have worked 3/3 times) and I got through customs and to the baggage re-check area. I literally just dropped my bags on the floor by a United employee and ran to the nearest security check point. Having Premier Access with United this Sunday afternoon was not really a benefit, as the P.A lane in security was sooo long. I think only Star Golds flew out of EWR that day lol.
Well, I got through, got scanned by the TSA and started the looong stroll to my gate. In the other end of the terminal. Great.
I made it to the gate just as they announced the gate was closing. The gate agent asked me if I was the passenger connecting from Oslo, which I confirmed. I asked her if my bags would make it on the flight, which she assured me they would. I thanked her, scanned my boarding pass and got on the plane.
The flight to Orlando, UA1262, was operated by the Boeing 737-900 N37408 (Ship #3708)
It was delivered to Continental back in 2001.
The plane was almost empty back in whY and the flight attendant said I could just pick any seat. I originally had 22F, but there was a guy in 22D so I decided not to bother him and took 23F and had the entire row for my self.
After departure I snapped some photos of an awesome sunset and fell asleep.
We landed on RWY18L and taxiied to the gate. Once off the airplane and inside the terminal I got on the free Wifi to check emails, and then headed to baggage claim where my bags were not the first to get on the baggage belt. Business as usual in MCO with the priority tags.
The SIXT shuttle picked me up from the terminal and drove me to the off-airport location SIXT has in Orlando. It’s only a 5 minute ride but still. There was a family onboard the shuttle as well. They were Danish 😛 and arrived with Lufthansa from Frankfurt. I thought that was a long wait at MCO before they got to the car rental shuttle. Lufthansa lands around 0500p and this shuttle ride was around 0800p. Hm..
Once at the car rental place, I got the keys for my rental car for the week, a Hyundai Elantra. Not as powerful as the Sonata I rented in November, but still a good, little car for me.
I decided to stay off the Interstate this late at night (I had been up for almost 24 hours, with minimal sleep on the flight down to MCO) and drove the backroads up to Lake Mary and my hotel there. The Homewood Suites by Hilton.
Home, sweet home 🙂
I got a take-out burger from a nearby restaurant and headed to bed. A long journey was over. A good one, but a little stressful in EWR with short connection due to the delay out of Oslo.
More to come on my biennial flight review and time building later!
Confessions of a Frequent Flyer
At the end of the year, I feel it is appropriate to sum up my year, with regards to travels and flying.
Near the end of 2011, I set a goal for myself “I will fly each month of the year” – a goal that seemed impossible at first, but as the year progressed, it turned out I wasn’t far from my goal at all.
Well, the goal was actually spoiled in January already, when I didn’t fly at all. But how did the rest of the year turn out for me?
As a grand total, I had 40 flights (+ 1 General Aviation (GA) flight in a Cessna Skyhawk 172SP), flying more than 79 000 km (49 000 mi.) A total “air time” of 122 hours (or more than 5 days straight) on board an airplane, I’m happy with what I got to see and do.
I had to go to Florida to keep my Instrument Rating current, and my mom decided to come with me. Or rather, it is impossible to rent a car or get a hotel room unless you’re 21 or older. So my mom was my chauffeur and buddy for this trip.
Our itinerary was Kristiansand (KRS) – Oslo (OSL) – Munich (MUC) – New York (JFK) – Tampa (TPA) – Boston (BOS) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Oslo (OSL) – Kristiansand (KRS) and was flown with a mix of Scandinavian Airlines, Lufthansa and jetBlue.
With regards to frequent flyer miles for my SAS Eurobonus card, this trip was a disaster. Economy class (booking class K) with Lufthansa only gave me 25% of the flown miles, you don’t earn miles on domestic flights in Norway and jetBlue was definitely out of the equation, even though they have an interline agreement with Lufthansa. So I ended up with a total of 2500 points/miles for the entire trip. But I won’t complain too much, it was a cheap fare.
That being said, Lufthansa was “as expected” on the transatlantic legs, and intra-european they were decent. We were lucky to get a refurbished A321 from OSL to MUC, the “NEK” (die Neue Europa Kabine = the new Europe Cabin)
A 3-class (First, Business and Economy) A340-300 brought us from MUC to JFK, where we exited the airplane extremely early, thanks to our seats being on the first row of economy, right behind business class. That only means one thing when arriving in America – NO line in immigration. We were through in a split second.
An Airbus 320 from jetBlue awaited us in JFK, and took us down to Tampa, and back to Boston 2 weeks later. I was happy with the on board product that jetBlue offers, especially the Direct TV. It was free, from what I remember, which is better than what you get on United where it’s only free for a little while.
In Boston, we boarded the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747-400, this individual being built in 1989! Old lady.
Well, technically, the return trip from Florida was in March too, but it was part of a trip that started in February so I’ll leave it like that.
The week after I came home from Florida, it was time to get going again. This time to Seattle!
My itinerary was like this: Oslo (OSL) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Seattle (SEA) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Oslo (OSL) – Kristiansand (KRS)
The flights OSL-FRA-OSL-KRS were all operated by SAS, and the flights to and from Frankfurt were in business class. Now, intra-european business class is nothing fancy, you get a blocked middle seat, giving you more space, and a hot meal. That’s really it. But it was a fun experience nonetheless. From Frankfurt to Seattle and back, I had the pleasure of flying in business class with Lufthansa on their A330-300.
I had a great seat, I was served good food and got plenty of rest in the comfortable seat (though it doesn’t recline 180 degrees)
Frequent flyer-wise, this trip was a bargain! For 10 000 NOK (approx 1800 USD) I got a round trip in business class, 11 000 miles traveled. Since the fare was booked in the booking class Z with Lufthansa, they give you 200% of the miles flown, leaving me with 22 000 frequent flyer miles and hitting the SAS Eurobonus (and Star Alliance) Silver tier. My frequent flyer card changed its color for the first time in my life. But this was just the beginning…
No travels in April, unfortunately 😦
Scandinavian Airlines all the way! Kristiansand (KRS) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Washington DC (IAD) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Kristiansand (KRS) for a weekend was the perfect get-away.
A mix of the Dash 8 Q400 and the A340-300 took me to the American capital and back. The weekend in DC was incredibly warm, and I tried my best to fill it with interesting stuff to see. Arlington National Cemetery, the White House, a tour of the US Capitol, the US Holocaust museum, the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, the Museum of Natural History, eating sushi at the best sushi restaurant in DC (supposedly, and it really was amazing), Washington Memorial, WWII memorial, eating strawberries on a bench on Lafayette Square.. It was just perfect, in every way 🙂
Some photos of my trip to D.C can be found HERE
On the return leg of my trip, I decided to spend some miles on an upgrade from economy to economy extra, which was well worth the price of 10000 miles. I got a better seat and a better meal.
I cashed in 10000 miles on this trip, including the Silver status bonus of an extra 15% on flights operated by SAS (or Blue1 or Widerøe)
June was a good month when it came to flying. It started with a mileage run to Madrid. A mileage run is a set of flights you take, and the sole purpose is to collect miles. My route was Kristiansand (KRS) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Madrid (MAD) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Kristiansand (KRS)
Yes, I did a day trip to Madrid.
In security in Kristiansand, I handed my boarding card to the security agent who said “Wow, that’s a lot of flights” – without further questions I headed to Madrid via Copenhagen on the Dash 8 Q400 and then the MD82.
Upon disembarking the MD82 in Madrid, I said good bye to the flight and cabin crew, like any other civilized passenger would do. Little did they know that I would board the same aircraft with the same crew in about 30 minutes.
More on the Madrid-trip can be found HERE
This itinerary left me with 5750 frequent flyer miles, a good pay for a day’s work if you ask me 🙂
But June isn’t over yet. Later in the month I visited my friend Ryan in England. My flights were:
Kristiansand (KRS) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Manchester (MAN) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Kristiansand (KRS) on the Dash 8 Q400, MD82, A319 and Dash 8 Q400 respectively.
I had a wonderful few days in Yorkshire filled with airplane spotting at MAN, eating breakfast next to the Concorde, visiting many historical sites, drinking multiple (I think I stopped counting after the 4th….) Jäger bombs with my buddy Ricky and just having a great time!
A few words on my England trip and some photos as well, can be found in THIS blog from June.
Upon landing back in KRS, I had earned 2300 frequent flyer miles, which was enough to get SAS Eurobonus (Star Alliance) Gold status!
It was time to travel again! This time to one of my favorite cities, Berlin. I have a friend who lives there so visiting her is something I really enjoy as well.
This was the first time I would travel as a SAS Gold member, and therefore I booked long connections in Copenhagen, just to enjoy the airport lounges a little more.
My itinerary was like this: Kristiansand (KRS) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Berlin-Tegel (TXL) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Kristiansand (KRS)
As usual, the flights between KRS and CPH were operated by the Dash 8 Q400.
On the flight from Copenhagen to Berlin I was upgraded from economy to business class. My first trip with SAS after I became gold, and I get an upgrade! How awesome is that!? Seated in row 4 on the MD82, I could barely hear the engines spool up during take off or during climb out. So quite up front. I’ve heard MD80-pilots say they are honestly concerned if the engines are really running during flight. There is no way they can tell by just listening. I don’t blame them, those aircrafts are so comfortable to travel with.
Berlin was wonderful as always, and it was great to spend some time there with my friend.
The trip gave me 3750 frequent flyer miles.
As a treat for my self for my birthday, I booked a trip to Frankfurt (FRA) airport, with a night’s stay at the Hilton Frankfurt Airport. You can read more about my trip to Frankfurt HERE , HERE and HERE
My itinerary for this trip was Kristiansand (KRS) – Oslo (OSL) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Copenhagen (CPH) – Kristiansand (KRS)
I was actually upgraded to economy extra on the return from FRA to CPH, which was a nice touch from SAS. 🙂
3125 miles for this trip.
NEW YORK AND FLORIDA!
I have written about this trip HERE but I will give you a summary of my trip here:
KRS-OSL 737 Economy class
OSL-EWR A330 Economy class
EWR-CLT A320 Economy class
CLT-MCO B762 First Class
MCO-EWR B737 Economy class
EWR-CPH A330 Economy class
CPH-KRS Dash 8 Q400 Economy class
12325 points for this trip which puts me in a good position for renewing my gold status with SAS in 2013.
So, there you go, my flying year 2012. It has been a remarkable year and I can’t wait to get started on my travels for 2013.
Wishing you all a prosperous, healthy and aviation-filled New Year!