Tuesday, November 21
We left for the airport at 10 a.m. with our flight out departing at noon. My uncle drove us to the airport in my mother's van and my older sister (who wasn't going on the trip) followed in her truck with all the luggage.
At the airport we met Margaret (my sister's friend) who was going to Rome with us. Everyone but my sister was able to quickly get their baggage checked and their boarding passes. I had decided to take my bags as a carry-on because we only had a 45-minute layover in Philadelphia. I wanted to make sure that my clothes made it to Rome with me.
Leaving my brother-in-law (Jody) and my sister to finish checking-in, the rest of us went through security and proceeded to the gate. A few minutes later Jody ask me to go back to the ticket agent with him. It seemed that my sister forgot to have her name changed on her passport after she got married. So the name on the ticket didn't match the name on her passport. She left every other form of identification at home so could not "prove" that she was the person on the ticket. After a few tense minutes, including a call to Rome by the ticket agent, they agreed to reticket her using her maiden name.
Back at the gate we discovered that our flight was delayed. Our original flight schedule was: 12 noon departure from Birmingham to Charlotte arriving at 1:30 p.m.; 3:15 flight from Charlotte to Philadelphia arriving at 4:45 p.m.; 5:55 p.m. departure from Philadelphia arriving Rome at 9:00 a.m. the following day. However, before we left we discovered that our Charlotte-Philadelphia flight had been changed to a departure of 3:45 arriving at 5:15 leaving only a 30 minute layover.
Now our first flight to Charlotte was delayed. This delay had been caused by someone getting through security in Charlotte and the entire airport being shut down while a search was made. A 9:15 flight to Charlotte was still waiting to depart. Our 12:00 flight left 30 minutes late (but still departed before the 9:15 flight). We arrived in Charlotte around 2 p.m. with plenty of time to make our connection.
Our plane for Philadelphia was sitting at the gate so we hoped our next flight would be on time. As we were waiting Jody, Margaret, and Alan purchased pizzas for lunch and I purchased a grilled chicken sandwich. We boarded on schedule and it seemed all the passengers were on board, but we didn't move. Finally, 45 minutes after our scheduled departure time we pushed back from the gate. At this point we were all very worried about making our connection to Rome. No reason was ever given to us as to why this flight was so delayed.
As we were getting closer to Philadelphia it seemed more likely than not that we would miss our connection. Sallie asked a flight attendant if they would be able to call the Rome flight and inform them that 6 passengers were just arriving and could they hold the plane a few minutes. She was rather rudely informed that there was nothing they could do and the we would just have to run for it and it was up to us if we made the connection.
At the Philadelphia airport it was close to three-quarters of a mile from where our Charlotte flight landed and our Rome flight was to depart. We decided for Margaret and Alan (my brother) to take off running and see if they could get to the plane and have them hold it till the rest of us arrived. As soon as we could get off the plane they started running and the rest of us were walking as fast as we could with our baggage. Right at the end my sister "hailed" a passenger cart to assist our mother the last two hundred yards.
We made our flight, barely. If it weren't for Margaret and Alan running, I doubt we would have made it. As soon as we sat down the doors were shut and the plane pushed-off from the terminal. The pilot then had the audacity to come over the speaker and announce that we would be arriving in Rome an hour early! This was the only flight of the day that was departing on-time and would be arriving an hour early. There was no reason why they couldn't have held this plane 15 - 30 minutes when they realized that passengers were coming on inbound flights that had been delayed.
In fact, the plane was only about two-thirds full and there were many empty seats. It seemed that someone was sitting in our seats so the flight attendant just told us to take the two bulkhead seats (Pat and myself). I didn't argue. I love the bulkhead seats for the extra leg room they provide and not having someone reclining into your lap. The unfortunate part of the bulkhead seats is that you are unable to stretch your legs out in front of you. My knees begin to hurt if I can't stretch out so several times during the night I had to stand and walk the aisle. But this is a minor inconvenience and I would always prefer the bulkhead.
We flew on one of the new A303 (I believe) planes that USAir has in their fleet. The best thing about the flight was the interactive personal entertainment centers for each seat. As we were in a bulkhead seat we had a small screen (about 5 inches) that swung-up on a metal arm from beneath our seat. Other seats had the small screen in the back of the seat in front (where the in-flight phones use to be located). Attached to your armrest is a remote control device connected by a retractable wire (there is a remote on one side and a phone on the other). The remote device allowed you a choice of about 10 movies, 30 television shows, and many, many, albums. You could start, rewind, fast forward, and pause each of these whenever you wanted. I believe the shows/music are stored digitally on a hard-drive/dvd platform (just guessing) and the operating system is windows based (I know this for sure because I saw the windows logo pop up at one point). This was awesome and made the flight much more enjoyable. I had seen most of the movies listed so I choose "Where The Heart Is" starring Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd. The only addition I would like to see is a position chart on screen (GPS) showing what the plane was flying over.
During the movie, dinner was served. I had chicken and rice. I also added a couple of miniature whiskies to my collection. After dinner and the movie I leaned back and managed to get several hours of sleep. A couple of times during the night I gazed out my window at the crystal clear stars. Orion's Belt was prominent as well as Jupiter crossing the sky. At one point I saw a meteor.
The sun begin to rise about 6:30 Rome time. Looking out the window we could see the tops of mountains rising through the clouds. We were soon over flying down the coast towards Rome. The land we were flying over had a "tropical look." By that I mean it reminded me of the landscape in parts of south Florida.