Thursday, October 28, 2010

Roman Holiday

One of the least desirable effects of the recent sale of NewCo is that our non-rev benefits are getting decimated on January 1st. Buddy passes are going away, priority passes are going away, our priority is getting lowered, and parents will now have to pay "yield fares" so high that they make non-revving a moot point. Worst of all, our international travel will be limited to one round-trip per year. I don't mind saying that this is a slap in the face to a lot of people who've served WidgetCo's passengers well the last few years, and we're going to lose some of our best flight attendants over the arbitrary removal of a benefit that costs WidgetCo nothing.

That said, it doesn't look like anything we do is going to change the situation, so many of us are taking advantage of the benefits we have while they last. This weekend, I had four days off and Dawn was busy, so I was looking to take a quick trip somewhere. My mom, who has never been overseas, said she'd like to go to Europe before her benefits get cut off. To my mind, if you can only go one place in Europe in your lifetime, it has to be Paris or Rome. I've spent about an equal amount of time in each, but the flight loads favored Rome, so that's where we went.

I got off work at 8pm on Thursday, traded in my crew bag for a pre-stashed backpack, met up with mom, and boarded the 9:50pm flight to London. We got business class on the way over - the lie-flat seats on the B767-400 are great! - and landed in London a few minutes early. Good thing, too, for the later Alitalia flight to Rome had filled up; our early arrival allowed us to just make the earlier connection. We touched down in Rome a mere 10 hours 20 minutes after takeoff from Minneapolis, which has to be close to a non-rev record!

We had a great weekend. Highlights included unexpectedly seeing the Pope say Mass at St. Peter's Basilica and a madcap scooter ride through Rome's crazy traffic. Despite forecasts calling for rain, the weather stayed very pleasant (partly cloudy & 70ยบ F) until Monday morning, when we departed. We got on the first flight out that we tried, although we subsequently made it out of JFK by the skin of our teeth after flights to Minneapolis unexpectedly filled up. And then I got to fly MSP-ORD-DTW-BHM-DTW on Tuesday, just as the largest windstorm in recent memory struck the Midwest. The altimeter in MSP was 28.66 when I took off on Tuesday morning!

I'm going to miss taking little trips like this. It's just added motivation to get out of NewCo ASAP. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the weekend.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Fall Flight

Fall is in the air in Minnesota, which is good because I love fall weather, football, postseason baseball, thunderstorm-free flying, apple cider, pumpkin pie, and changing leaves, and bad because our six-month winter is just around the corner. Autumn here is measured in weeks, not months, so it behooves one to get out and take advantage while you can.

Last Sunday, Dawn and I rented N738FZ for a leaf-peeping excursion to Duluth and up Lake Superior's North Shore. I originally planned on making a day of it by stopping at Two Harbors or Silver Bay for lunch and returning via Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, but someone else needed the plane after us, so we just did it as a non-stop 260 nm round trip. Obviously, we need our own airplane!

It was a beautiful day for flying, and the leaves in the northern portion of the state were at their peak colors. We flew low, navigating by roads, rivers, and lakes. Dawn would occasionally open her window and lean out into the icy blast to take photos, and other times would take the controls so I could do so out my side. It was a lovely time, and a reminder of just how great small planes are for gaining fresh perspective on familiar territory.

Here are some of the best photos from the day.