The KLM 747-400 City of Nairobi sitting at the gate in Toronto. A sight that, not long after my flight, was no more – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
How does one get to Rwanda, anyways? This is probably not a question many North Americans have asked themselves. But it is one I heard a lot recently, when I had an unprecedented opportunity to travel to the East African country of Rwanda. This was an incredibly unique experience in many ways, and the flights involved were no exception. For this trip, I flew from Toronto to Kigali (Rwanda’s capital city), via Amsterdam on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. This is one of only a handful of options for that particular trip, the others being Brussels and Turkish Airlines. So, this February, I found myself at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, ready to embark on one of the longest series of flights I’ve ever taken.
That’s no plane! The first leg of my journey was a train ride into Toronto – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
The nose of our 757 shadowing the engine nacelle as we climbed above the clouds. Heading west from Iceland at 5 p.m., we had sunset conditions for the whole flight
à¾etta reddast is an iconic Icelandic phrase that roughly translates to “it’s all going to work out.” It seems a suitable title for the review, because everything on my economy-class flight on Icelandair worked out very well.
My flight was from Keflavik International Airport (KEF) to Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) in seat 14A aboard TF-FIK, a 20-year-old 757-200 that must have gone through a refurbishment relatively recently, as the interior looked very fresh. The aircraft had originally been built for Iberia back in 2000, and, if you look closely, you can find traces of that heritage the aft lavatory doors still have their “occupied” signs written in Spanish.
I was headed to Seattle on a Monday evening in February (before the coronavirus became an issue); not exactly prime tourist season, even by busy Icelandic standards. Correspondingly, the flight had quite a few empty seats. Once people finished shuffling themselves around to sit with their traveling companions, it left me in the fortuitous position of having an entire row to myself, a treat that I haven’t enjoyed in a very long time.
Backing up a bit, though, boarding was fast and easy. It was my third visit to Iceland, and my first time departing from a jet bridge at the terminal instead of being bused to a hardstand – KEF has been busily building out its terminals to add more jet bridges and basic capacity.
It was snowing outside, so even though I was disappointed at the missed photo opportunities you get when boarding from the ramp, it was nice not having to go out in the snow to get on board.
A snowy February afternoon at KEF airport
Wamos Air A330-200 at JFK – Photo: Creative Commons | Adam Moreira (AEMoreira042281)
Last year, I wrote about my experience flying with Norwegian Air on the 787-9 Dreamliner from London Gatwick (LGW) nonstop to Denver (DEN). On that flight, we were in their “Premium” cabin, but I peeked back at economy and thought it looked pretty good. It had a standard 3-3-3 Dreamliner configuration, reasonable pitch, and AVOD screens at each seat. The crew was friendly as well.
This year, my family was heading to Paris for the new year, and I had booked our outbound flight with miles (my kids were very excited to be flying business class for the first time, and on the upper deck of a Lufthansa 747-400, to boot!) Given that I needed a one-way flight back from Europe (which are usually obscenely priced on legacy carriers), I figured we’d fly Norwegian again, this time in economy. Norwegian prices their fare based upon the one-way journey, which is what you’re used to for U.S. domestic flights. For a very reasonable $511 each, we were booked nonstop from LGW to DEN. Our fare included advanced seat assignments, checked and carry-on baggage, and meals. Everything was going to be just fine. Then I got this text.
My first Alaska Air E175 pulls up to SLC
It has been a few years since I first flew on an Embraer E-Jet. That was on Air Canada, from Seattle to Toronto and I was sitting up front. The very long (for a smaller aircraft) flight was a breeze, but being in first class surely helped.
Since then, I have not had the opportunity to fly on another one. When I saw that Alaska Airlines was adding them to their fleet (via SkyWest and Horizon), I was excited. I figured it would only be a matter of time before I would get the chance to fly one, and when I recently took a trip down to Salt Lake City (SLC), I got my opportunity.
On my flight down, I flew on an Alaska 737-800 — been there, done that. But when I looked at my flight options back home, I saw that there was the option to fly on the E175. Yes’¦ that please.
I’m not a particularly frequent flier. In fact, aside from a brief job hunting period in 2015 that saw me leaving SEA for a different destination each week for three weeks straight, I haven’t flown on commercial airliners more than twice a year ever. With that in mind, it was an interesting contrast when I booked my Delta Air Lines tickets for PAX South (a video game fan convention) with a route of FSD-MSP-ATL-SAT in economy to get there, and SAT-MSP-FSD in first class on the way home.
My trip planning had been determined by two main factors. The first was that the outbound routing gave me two legs on the MD-90. I love the DC-9 aircraft family, and will happily grab any opportunity to fly on them, particularly as they’re becoming increasingly rare in the fleets of major carriers. The second factor was my returning connection. When I booked my flight, I was only going to have a forty-five-minute layover in Minneapolis. I hoped that booking myself into seat 1A would ensure that I could make my connection, no matter how many terminals apart my two flights were.