Thursday, July 15, 2021

First time in Cancún

July 2021

It seems quite unbelievable that during my charter period I didn't manage to visit Cancún. I did many other destinations in the Caribbean but not this one in México.

Our route to Cancún was launched very recently and it was a matter of time until it showed up in my roster. The aircraft assigned to the outbound flight was also a first for me: CS-TUK, the A330neo with the Star Alliance livery.

And how it feels good to arrive in Cancún around 10pm with a hot breeze of 30º C. The good charter vibes were totally coming back to me.

CS-TUK "D. Francisco de Almeida after arrival

However this was the shortest layover available (there are bigger pairings). Yet I was able to enjoy a full day at the beach in Isla Mujeres.

On our ferry to Isla Mujeres. The blue is unreal!

And finally we arrived in paradise.

Isla Mujeres

At sunset we caught the ferry back to the city center and had dinner in a restaurant called "La Coyota".

La Coyota - Cocina & Mixologia

And after dinner we were totally exhausted due to the 6-hour time difference and returned to the hotel. Before going to my room I went to enjoy the amazing view of the rooftop.

We stayed in Zona Hotelera, very much american style. Next day, only time for breakfast and for a little rest before the return flight.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Closing of a route due to the pandemic

November 2020

By that time, it was a rumor often heard that the San Francisco route would end soon. So, when I saw San Francisco in my roster I immediately did a mini-list of what I wanted to see and explore in the city in that short layover. One year earlier I automatically fell in love for San Francisco when I had a bigger layover but I still left many things to do for a next visit. This time, I was not sure if I would ever return to San Francisco again after this opportunity.

When I was warned that my return flight was canceled because the route was being discontinued and that I would return back to Lisbon as a passenger on the very same aircraft I was taking to San Francisco, I admit I was totally upset.

The flight to San Francisco took 12h35. 

A330-900 CS-TUE at San Francisco Intl

Since the return flight to Lisbon would depart only six hours after we landed, we went to the hotel for a much deserved small rest.

The City by the Bay in the morning

I didn't even try to sleep because it would be worse for me waking up only three hours later. So I just stayed in a low energy mode. This was my room's view:

And then, we were back to the airport again.

San Francisco International

Flying as a passenger, I was able to fully appreciate the traffic at the airport.

Flaps set and taxi-out for departure.

The in-flight maps of the IFE system are pretty neat and after take-off I was able to enjoy the amazing sights and the diverse geographical feats along the route, over the United States.

Sierra Nevada

Mono Lake and its Paoha Island


Soon it was time for dinner to be served and to appreciate the new china celebrating the company's 75th anniversary.

And more amazing landscape views...

As we progressed eastwards, night darkness fell very quickly and the show was over.

Overflying Wyoming / Colorado border 

Main course

After the meal, it was pretty easy for me to fell asleep after so many hours awake... In the end, I didn't miss the opportunity for a photo of the passenger cabin of our A330neo.

At this point, nobody knew if the route was closed for good or if it was only temporary.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Back in business: the new normal

October 2020

It's been a tough year for me but not because of the coronavirus. It all started with a serious injury that could've ended my airline career, way before the pandemic was globally known. The pandemic only made things worse and lengthy, but fortunately I made it after 7 months of painful physical therapy.

Yet, I still got emotional when my crew bus approached the beautiful Airbus A330neo for my first flight in a 9-month gap. When many crew members are packing up their uniforms to return them to their airlines and face unemployment, I was lucky enough to take the opposite direction, lucky enough to still have my job and return to it.

For me it would be a very different flight since it was an instruction flight. I lost my A330 qualification and I had to repeate the entire syllabus again. Starting a month earlier, ground school was just as easy for me as in other moments of my career. After all, the big advantage of having an aerospace engineering degree is that nothing else is rocket science for me anymore.

But for the instruction flight I had to make a very serious preparation. In normal circumstances, a 9-month gap is enough for many things to change in my job. Add a coronavirus context to it and a whole new world, a whole new normal was waiting for me. And I must be honest: I hate it. I'm thankful I still have my job, but I hate this new normal.

Our mission was a repatriation flight out of Caracas/Venezuela, although about 80 passengers were booked to Venezuela: we had passengers both ways.

As much as I am an aviation geek, I admit I was happy to stay at home for such a long time. I kept my mind busy all the time - I never read so many books in my life, I never watched so many Netflix series and listened to several podcasts, I never took so many strolls in the enjoyable neighbourhood I live. After I recovered from my injury I never took so many bike rides, which I love to do. And more important: I completely caught up on lost sleep accumulated over a decade of flying. I'm finally waking up even before my daily alarm rings. I'm financially stable and not so dependant on the variable part of my usual income. With so much chaos reshaping the face of our planet, I embraced my home and my neighbourhood as a safe and comfortable haven.

But finally it was time to return to my old job. It was time to finally embrace the A330neo as much I used to hate it before this gap. This aircraft is a delight for passengers due to its level of comfort but for those who work on it, it is a nightmare because of the options that were taken in terms of equipment and working conditions. But, it's what we have now and we must get used to it. Not to be neglected, it has beautiful and huge Rolls-Royce engines which remind me of my wonderful L-1011 days. And they are way more silent than the previous generation of engines powering the old A330s.

The outbound flight was smooth and without the trouble we faced dealing with a full load of passengers on the return flight and trying to comply with all the new COVID-19 rules...

On a personal side, after a 9-month absence I was comfortable enough with my duties and responsibilites on both flights, so the instruction flight was a success for me: I got my A330 qualification back. It helped me alot the thorough preparation of the flight that I did.

Let's hope things will improve from now on and that aviation will be back on track after being decimated by this anoying virus.

Some photos while approaching the Caribbean Sea...

... we've been told this was Los Roques archipelago:

And finally we landed at Maiquetía Airport.

It was a very short stay at Catia La Mar and I didn't venture outside the hotel.