Vacation Day 25
Monday, February 15th
As today begins I am part way through a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Atlanta, Georgia.
The first thing I will do here is to change the time frame from Brazilian Standard Time to Eastern Standard time. This means that as of midnight, the flight has been in progress for three and a half hours with six and a half to go. The route the flight takes is almost a straight line from Rio to Atlanta. I think there are some minor adjustments here and there along the way but the straight line is very close the the actual route it took. As the flight progressed the head winds that were shown on the moving map display were steadily increasing, particularily once we crossed the equator and into the northern hemisphere. During the last couple of hours, and most noticeably on the final segment heading towards Atlanta the display was indicating head winds of 165 to 180 miles per hour (between 265 and 285 kilometres per hour). The seat belt sign was on for most of the flight even though things did not seem that bad. I imagine this was because of the head winds and problems that may occur. You could tell the plane was working quite hard fighting the winds.
About 90 minutes before arrival they served a very light continental type breakfast. It was not much but it was all that was required.
Arrival was just a few minutes late and it seemed like we had to taxi forever to get to the gate. It was in concourse E at Atlanta's Hartfield Jackson International Airport. It would likely be useful to provide a brief description of the airport at this point as it will likely help with what comes next. The airport consists of a terminal building with five seperate buildings called concourses connected to it by an underground subway like train. The concourses are where the gates for the planes are and are labeled "A", "B", "C", "D", and "E". "A" is closest to the terminal and "E" is the furthest out. Just to give you an idea of the size of this, each one of these concourses has between 32 and 36 gates. There is also a concourse "T" with 15 gates that is attached to the terminal building.
I suspect that concourse "E" is where the international flights come in as it has Passport Control right in it. Maybe the others do to but I do not know. It was a lengthy walk to Passport Control with a stop at the washroom along the way. This is a huge area with four lines, two each for people with US passports and for people with other country passports. Well it is obvious which line I had to use. This line moves rather slowly because, in many of the cases, the people entering the U.S. need to have their pictures taken and fingerprinting done. That really slows things down. I think I spent 45 minutes here. At least I did not need to be fingerprinted or photographed, they had done that in Toronto before I left.
The next step in the process was determined by whether or not you had checked baggage that was entering the U.S.. I did not but I thought it would be prudent just to check the carousel any way. There was nothing of mine there so I went on the the next step. This was a TSA security check to get into the terminal. Everyone on connecting flights (and maybe everybody whether connecting or not) had to do this. It just happened at a different step in the process. It was one of those ones where you had to take off your coat, your shoes, take the laptop out of its case, and everything out of your pockets. There was a father with his young son who was having a really bad day with the child just in front of me and that slowed things down. They were not American but looked Middle Eastern which did not help any. This, along with checking for the luggage took aproximately another half an hour.
I think was between 8:00 and 8:15 that I finally made it out into the main area of the concourse. The next step was to figure out which gate the flight to Toronto was at. The boarding pass from Rio said one but that it was subject to change. An guess what, it had changed. It went from B8 to A17. Apparently Delta does a lot of this sort of thing because changes were being anounced endlessly. I had also heard that they frequently change seat assignments, as it had happened to several people on the ship and they raised a stink and got them but back. So, I had to take the train from concourse "E" to concourse "A". The trip with the three stops only took about 5 minutes and the gate was way at the end here, just like it was in Rio. I was at the gate by 8:30 which was 70 minutes before the flight was to leave.
I had time to sit and watch the CNN Airport Network and have a Coke. Who else would you watch and what else would you drink in Atlanta since both of these companies have their head offices there. The Coke machine was interesting in that it would take a Coke card. There was a another machine beside it where you could purchase this Coke card and preload it with so much money. Then you would just swipe the card in the machine, make your choice, and the amount would automatically be deducted from the card. It would be just like the cards at Tim Horton's or Williams only this was a vending machine. Neat idea as it would eliminate the need to look for money in a busy environment such as this or any airport.
The time came to board the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) for the flight to Toronto. Being a small plane they were gate checking anything carry on that rolled. My camera case was almost as big as some of those but they did not say anything about it. The gate attendant here looked at the boarding pass they gave me in Rio, entered something into her computer, printed a new boarding pass, scanned it and let me keep the one I had. I do not think it had a barcode they needed. The boarding process in Rio was not electronic at all so my guess is the boarding pass they printed there did not have what they needed for the gate check in Atlanta. Space is very limited in these smaller jets and there was some question if the camera bag would fit in any of the overhead bins. A passenger, who had obviously flown in this type of plane in the past, said to try putting it in one further along in the plane because it is a bit bigger. It was not much bigger but just enough to get it in. I got the right seat (8A) the first time on this flight.
The plane left the gate a few minutes late, and was something like 10th to take off which took 20 minutes or so. I have no idea what route they took until it got close to Lake Erie. I recognized it right away. We came up along what likely was close to the Pennsylvania - New York state border. The plane then turned and followed the south shore of the lake far a short distance. On this day the lake was still 9 nine tenths covered with ice. The plane then turned north, crossed the lake and looked like it just about followed the Welland Canal to Lake Ontario. The people on the right side of the plane would have had a nice view of Buffalo and the Niagara River and Falls. My view was the Burlington Skyway with the city of Hamilton and the bay in the distance. Lake Ontario had no ice at all on it.
We crossed the shore of the lake just east of the Ford plant and after some turns ended up landing on the runway right next to the 401 at the front of the airport. There was a long taxi to the back end of Terminal 3. One thing I noticed that there were almost no planes at the airport. It was the Family Day holiday but I do not think what that should have mattered. We stopped at one of the gates that does not have a jet way. I guess that is because Pearson Airport does not have any of its jet ways modified to handle the small jets like the CRJ. Atlanta has at lease some of their gates modified so the jet ways can be used. The fight was about the same amount late as we left the gate in Atlanta. So they opened the door of the plane and we all climbed down those stairs that that are built into the back of the door and onto a bus. After everyone claimed their gate checked carry on's the bus took off following one of those winding routes to the customs area. One thing nice about this was that we got delivered right to the customs area and did not need to walk that endless route from one of the regular gates to get there.
We entered and there was no one in line. That was a surprise. Mind you with the very small number of planes that were there it probably should not have been that much of a surprise. Got through there is less than 10 minutes with no problems. Got to the baggage carousel and I think waited less than 5 minutes and had both bags. One had a problem that I corrected enough to allow it to roll, handed in the customs form and headed out.
My ride was waiting and by 12:45 we were on our way to the car and shortly after that on the way home. Was home by just after 2:00PM and the trip was over.
Final thoughts on the trip.
What was the best part? I think Antarctica, hands down. The Falkland Islands were interesting to. The rest was interesting but not really anything special. Being a tourist in the bigger South American cities such as Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro was no problem for me but they made a big issue of safety. It does not give you a comfortable feeling. The group consensus after the four days in Rio was, "Ok we seen it let's get out of here".
The baggage problem at the start of the trip and the first time in 9 cruises that I have had a problem with the dinning room table assignment, that both happened in the first couple of days, tainted the trip a bit. If you eliminate those early problems then the trip went extremely well.
As I have in the past I feel there are a couple of thank you's required.
First, as always seems to be the case, is Colleen Renton at Goliger's Travel. As always she did her thing and anything she had control over went fine. I still recommend her highly.
American Airlines caused the baggage problem. I still think it was unnecessary to take us of that flight. They did get the baggage to us. It would have been the next day had we not been on the cruise. They did give me 4000 frequent flyer miles for the inconvenience so I guess that does make up for it in some measure.
LAN Chile airlines on the other hand had no problems. I have nothing bad to say about them. They dealt with a problem, both in Toronto and the baggage problem once I arrived in Chile, even though it really was nothing to do with them. High marks to them.
High marks also to Holland America Lines for the excellent cruise and especially for the way the handled the baggage problem that was had nothing to do with them either. Also high marks, for the most part, to their shore excursion staff and contractors. There were no major problems here either.
The Intercontinental Rio hotel did a fine job too. There was certainly a lot of security people around which was a bit unusual. There were no other real issues other than a funky toilet which was a problem others had as well. I dealt with it and did not get the hotel involved as I was not sure if it was really a problem or not.
Delta Airlines was excellent too. Other than the unique situation which probably affects all the airlines in Rio there were no problems and my baggage arrived with me.
Last the McKeller's who provided the airport transportation Scott both ways, with Cheryl as well on the way back.
Thanks again to all of the above.
This completes this trip and this web document of it. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe learned something from it.
Created: Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Last updated: March 14, 2009 8:49 PM