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!