If you live anywhere in the South, you’ve likely heard the old joke that says “whenever someone dies, they don’t go to heaven (or that other place), without connecting in Atlanta!”

Having spent 14 years living in various southern cities and connected through Atlanta more times than I care to remember, there’s no doubt the scene at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) the other weekend is one that won’t soon be forgotten.

A peak into an empty "C" gates at ATL, thanks to an airport worker who allowed this pic while the door for employees was open.

A peak into an empty “C” gates at ATL, thanks to an airport worker who allowed this pic while the door for employees was open.

Recently, I needed to take a number of flights for family reasons, and in the current coronavirus climate, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My adventure took me  through one Delta mega-hub (Atlanta ATL) to another (Minneapolis MSP), where typically the flights would be full. However, this time they were only about 25 percent occupied. The ATL to MSP flight, usually an A321 or 757, had been replaced by a smaller 737-800.

No passengers and just 2 pilots occupy the "Plane Train" level at ATL below the C gates.

No passengers and just 2 pilots occupy the “Plane Train” level at ATL below the C gates.

Atlanta currently has multiple concourses closed with fully sheetrocked walls and security doors to allow only airport and airline staff to enter. The “C” and “E” terminals were just empty shells. TV screens packed with flight info now had just a couple active monitors.

BONUS: Feeling the impact of COVID-19 on the US Commercial Airline Industry

The food court in the E terminal had just one restaurant open: McDonald’s. They were so happy to see anyone that they gave me 10% off my McDouble — that 20 cents will go far someday, I just know it! You know it’s bad when even airport concessions start discounting prices.

An airBaltic A220, with the Lithuanian flag livery. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson

An airBaltic A220, with the Lithuanian flag livery. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson

Just a few days ago, I published my experience flying in airBaltic’s economy class on my flight from Amsterdam (AMS) to Vilnius (VNO). After after some great adventures in Lithuania, I was ready to hit the skies again — but this time in the front of the (air) bus — I was flying in airBaltic’s Business Class. I was excited to see how it would compare to economy and see how a low cost carrier would handle a premium product.

The airBaltic check-in & lounge experience at VNO

Check-in at VNO was quick and easy. VNO does not have dedicated counter space for any one airline. Rather, overhead monitors display which check-in counter is for which airline at that time, and signage can be moved around.

After I had checked my bag and gotten through security, I wandered through a large section of duty free items before finding the lounge. The lounge was mostly empty, and I didn’t have much time. The lounge featured a self-service bar, with some wine, Lithuanian herbal liqueurs, and other spirits.

Beverages and breakfast pastries. A nice spread for this boutique lounge. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson

Beverages and breakfast pastries. A nice spread for this boutique lounge. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson

There was a also a fancy coffee machine. At this early in the morning, I was not in the mood for alcohol but coffee was a must have. Specifically, coffee with two cubes of sugar.

An airBaltic A220 pulls up to the gate at AMS. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson

An airBaltic A220 pulls up to the gate at AMS. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson

The advertisement on the jet bridge read “Uncharted Territory,” as an airBaltic Airbus 220-300 pulled in at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport (AMS) in December of 2019. This was the plane that would be taking me into territory that was personally uncharted for me. First, I was flying to Vilnius (VNO), the capital of Lithuania, where I had never been. Second, it was a type of aircraft that I had never flown on before. Third, it was also on an airline that I had never flown before, airBaltic.

To Lithuania In Economy Class on airBaltic’s A220

The boarding lanes prior to boarding. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson

The boarding lanes prior to boarding. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson

The boarding process at AMS involved lining up by fare class purchased, as displayed by overheard monitors. I lined up in the economy line, scanned my boarding pass, and walked down the jetway, towards uncharted territory. As I boarded the plane, I was struck by how spacious the cabin felt. At 6’2″, there was plenty of space for me to stand up.

The seats were arranged in a 3-2 configuration, similar to old McDonnell Douglas models. The windows were larger than those in preceding narrow body aircraft models. This allowed enough natural light into the cabin that the overhead lighting almost made no difference. The interior was mostly a light gray with neon green accents. Between the amount of natural light and the color scheme, the cabin gave off the feeling that you were almost in a modern day office.

I made my way past the first two rows, which were in the business class cabin, to row 14. Seat 14F was on my left, the side with three seats in the row. As it is an exit row seat, my bags had to go in the overhead bin rather than beneath the seat in front of me. AirBaltic equipped their A220s with Airbus’ Airspace bins, ensuring plenty of room for everyone’s carryon luggage. I put my bags in the bin and sat down.

Air France A380 Close-Up

A little over ten years ago, Air France took delivery of its first Airbus A380 and flew its first commercial service from Paris to New York. Since then, the superjumbo has been the flagship of Air France’s fleet. But ten years is an eternity in the fast-moving airline world, and time takes its toll on hard-working airplanes. Air France originally announced plans to retire its A380 fleet by 2022, but with COVID capacity cuts, the airline just announced yesterday that the plane will be removed from service immediately. So whenever your last flight on an Air France A380 was — if you ever flew it — it was your last.

Air France A380 Business Class Cabin

I had the chance to fly an Air France A380 last year on the same historic route that started its story with Air France: CDG to JFK. I’ve had some good times flying A380s in the past. My very first AirlineReporter story was a Lufthansa A380 trip report. And I got to fly a BA A380 in Club World a few years ago.

But by the time the flight was over, I could see why it was a plane that wasn’t going to be in the fleet for much longer. I did appreciate some things, like the super-smooth takeoff, whisper-quiet ride, and soaking in the spectacular scale of the double-decker. But the AF A380 is a plane that’s stuck in the past, and overall I won’t miss them much as they transition to their well-earned retirement. Whether you’re an A380 fan or a hater, read on for the full scoop.