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FLYING TO ORLANDO WITH DELTA Part 2
Our flight from London Heathrow with Delta has been delayed, and the journey has been slow due to strong headwinds. We land at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the busiest in the world, ready to catch our connection down to Orlando. We now have to get off the ‘plane, pass through Immigration, collect our bags, go through Customs and then get from one end of the terminal to the other. . . no mean feat with just over an hour to spare before our flight to Orlando takes off.
We reach the Immigration Hall and there is one queue – one very long queue. It snakes round and round like a Disney queue with none of the screens to keep you occupied. We join the queue and begin to estimate how long it will take to get to an Immigration officer – the best estimate is way too long! As we inch our way towards the final line we watch as people are directed to the right or the left, to join queues in front of Immigration Desks. As luck would have it we are directed to the right, and despite our pleading that we have a connection to catch we are just told to stay in line. We are unlucky. Our line is slow, and we watch as dozens of people who were shown to the left hand side proceed swiftly through Immigration while we stand hopping about anxiously, watching the minutes tick by. A good tip for those of you doing this is to try to join the queues which have been used by US residents. You will be directed to the non-US citizen lines but once all the Americans have passed through the US Citizen’s lines they are opened up to all, and they are always quicker. However, the guy directing us won’t let us go to the left, so we must wait.
After nearly an hour we reach the Immigration officer and thankfully we are photographed and fingerprinted and soon on our way. Our cases are waiting on the carousel, and we haul them onto a luggage trolley ready to go through customs, and then onto the baggage drop for our next flight. I ask the baggage handlers if we are likely to catch our connection – which is due to go in 20 minutes. He says leave your bags and we will deal with them, just run for the train. We are at E and must get to A, via a train, which will take at least 10 minutes. There are no Delta staff to tell about our predicament, so I look round wildly and see a lady standing nearby in orange overalls. I ask her how we get to our gate and tell her we are about to miss our flight. She springs into action, telling us to follow her, and she leads us onto the train. She takes out her mobile phone and attempts to call the gate to tell them we are on our way.
Of course our gate is at the furthest end of the airport and unfortunately she cannot remember the correct phone number. However, when we arrive she sprints off the train, and runs up the escalator, with us following closely behind. She runs all the way down to the gate, ahead of us, and when we arrive she has already spoken to the Delta staff to say we are nearly there. Thankfully our flight is delayed as we would definitely have missed it otherwise. It is about 3 minutes before our plane should have left, and we sink into the seats, having thanked our ‘angel’ profusely for her kindness.
We need not have worried. We are still waiting to board half an hour later, and eventually we make our way onto the plane. We have excellent seats with plenty of leg room, and the plane fills up rapidly. We wonder how on earth all the hand luggage will get stowed as some Americans have suitcases which seem huge.
Everything is stowed, the doors are shut and we push back from the gate, breathing a sigh of relief. We taxi out onto the runway, and are soon soaring over Atlanta. Within minutes we are offered a drink, but after only 3 rows the captain puts on the seat belt signs and the trolleys have to be stowed. He is expecting turbulence so it is too dangerous to continue with the drinks service, so we are lucky to have been given ours already. Outside the window I watch as the lights of Atlanta fade as we climb swiftly to 30, 000 ft. The flight is short, only an hour, so almost as soon as we reach our cruising height we begin our final approach.
The lights of Orlando twinkle below us and I get that usual tingle of excitement as I think about arriving at our beautiful home. We land, and taxi to the gate, where we are one of the first off. We walk straight off the plane, and as we have already completed Immigration we go straight to baggage reclaim. Within minutes our bags sail round on the carousel and we are ready to go and collect our car. The flight has been quick and efficient, and now we can be on our way to our villa, and a good night’s sleep.
What we have learned from all of this is that it is better to have a longer time between flights. One hour 50 minutes should have been ok, but when immigration is busy it is tight, and only the fact that our plane was delayed ensured that we made our connection. Of course Delta would have put us on the next plane but that would have meant an even later arrival in Orlando, and if the flight had been full we might have had to stay overnight.
Would we do it again? Of course! It was just bad luck that there were strong headwinds and the flight took longer than scheduled. The seats were comfortable with plenty of leg room, the service was excellent and far superior to many British carriers. The food, well it was average, and the pizza was certainly much better than the usual curled up sandwich. There were no seatback screens or individual in-flight entertainment, but that was no great problem for us. The flights were an excellent price and we were able to include a stop-over in New York for 5 days at no extra cost, which suited us brilliantly.
However, I would not recommend it with young children, as if there are delays, it could take longer than expected.
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