We’re sat at JFK airport waiting for our American Airlines flight to Heathrow after a great week exploring New York and celebrating Dawn’s 50th birthday. It’s been a fascinating trip that I’ll write more about later. I’ve also got a huge backlog of photo’s to sort out too as the camera’s been kept busy over the past few days. Yesterday we took a ferry trip right around Manhattan, which proved to be far more interesting than I expected. Dawn also booked for us to go to the top of the Empire state building, which I’d never visited before. Despite the hazy weather it was a fabulous experience.
Flying home is always tinged with sadness. You never really want a trip like this to end, but American Airlines have done their best to make it an even more dispiriting experience than usual. Dawn tried emailing them to check about food allergies (foolishly, I’d forgotten to do it when we booked the trip). They never got back to her. Yesterday I checked in online only to find that – if we wanted to sit together, AA wanted to charge us between $75-150 a seat for the privilege! They seem to be a Transatlantic version of Ryanair now. At JFK the AA staff insisted we had to use machine check-in and wouldn’t let us talk to counter staff (so there was no chance to ask for a seat change). Not only that, but the machines then tried to sell us ‘priority boarding’ for another $40 apiece! To say I was less than impressed would be an understatement. I’ve never encountered this on any of my trips to India or Southeast Asia. I’m told this practice is spreading amongst airlines. All I can say is that I’ll be making sure that I’ll be avoiding any long-haul airlines that are tempted to ‘ching’ passengers in this fashion.
Once, flying had a certain cachet, it was an exciting, even glamourous experience. Not any more…
UPDATE: 30th May 2018.
Credit where it’s due, our AA flight to the UK was a really good flight! Despite the fact we’d both been allocated middle row, B numbered seats (one in front of the other) we managed to sit next to each other due to the number of other passengers who’d also been split up all playing musical chairs to swap seats! I can’t help wondering how much extra revenue this policy creates compared to the ill-will it causes. What I can’t fault was the condition of the plane or the service. Although the airframe was 16 years old the interior was far more recent, the seats were comfortable, the legroom reasonable and the facilities (electrical and USB sockets) were good. The seatback TV screens were excellent, with really good definition whilst the entertainment system had a wide variety of films and other programmes on offer. The cabin crew were a also a delight. Unlike many crews, they were all older (and more experienced) women who were both extremely helpful and polite. This combination made the time on out six and a half hour flight fly by – literally! Mind you, this was aided and abetted by the large glasses of wine the Stews were happy to serve!
As our flight didn’t land until late in the evening I’d booked us a hotel near the airport so that we could get our heads down before heading North this morning. Right now i’m typing this update from the 10.52 Grand Central service to Halifax, which could be an interesting journey as the East Coast Main Line’s up the spout again. It seems that a lightning strike took out signalling in the Newark area earlier this morning! As we’re on a DMU we’re could be diverted via the GN/GE joint line from Peterborough to Doncaster via Lincoln. Luke Barty, our Train Manager is doing a sterling job trying to keep passengers appraised of the situation, although he doesn’t know himself which route we’ll take yet. To his credit he’s not hidden behind the meaningless ‘operational incident’ phraseology loved by GTR, instead he’s spelled out to passengers exactly what’s happened and what’s going on.
In the end we stayed on the main line to join the queue of trains being hand-signalled through Newark. Whilst this happened Luke talked to the passengers like adults and explained exactly what was going on whilst apologising for the fact that he couldn’t (yet) establish how late we would be. It was a text-book example of how to talk to passengers when things go wrong.
(12.20) BEST LAID PLANS…
Poor Luke! Just as he was making an announcement to passengers after passing through Newark, our train suddenly swung to the Right and it became obvious that we were being diverted via Lincoln after all – just on the shorter diversionary route! To his credit, he coped with aplomb.
We’re now crossing the Lincolnshire flatlands under misty skies. Still, neither Dawn or I are in a hurry. We have coffee and a plentiful supply of biscuits, wifi and a view, so we might as well enjoy the experience…