This post is part of our series of trip reports on Morocco.
Actually this trip is a lot of firsts for me. First international trip, first transatlantic flight, first time flying Ryanair, and first time visiting Africa.
One of my aunt’s coworkers was getting married in Morocco. I have many cool aunts, but this one is possibly the most well-traveled, with multiple trips to South Africa, Spain, Belgium, and Germany under her belt. She also happens to be of Silver Medallion status on Delta, which at one time was Platinum Medallion, so it went without saying that she would want to fly Delta as much as possible.
There are extremely limited ways to get to Morocco from the United States. In fact, the only direct air service is Royal Air Maroc, the national airline, which operates nonstop flights from New York (JFK) to Casablanca (CMN) using Boeing 767-300 aircraft. However, the fares are quite high, and they have a poor rating from Skytrax. Plus, we wanted to fly Delta. So we decided on Brussels as an European gateway to Morocco.
Unfortunately, Ryanair is one of the only airlines who operates flights into Morocco on a regular basis. EasyJet flies from Paris, but that can be a wildly expensive city, especially in summer. Ryanair also flies from Madrid, but since I would be visiting Madrid later in the summer, my aunt and I decided that Brussels was a better call.
Of course I had heard horror stories about Ryanair, but I was not apprehensive about flying them. I had such a wonderful experience ahead of me, and I was not going to let a couple hours spent onboard an obnoxious airline ruin my visit.
Let the fun begin!
First Leg // Baltimore (BWI) – New York (JFK) on DL6125 ERJ135 N572RP
I wasn’t too excited to be on an ERJ, because I try to avoid regional jets whenever possible. However, this was my first time on an Embraer 145, so I was determined to try to enjoy as much of it as possible.
My first impression of the ERJ was that it was very small, at least compared to a CRJ. I had seat 6A, which was on the 1 side of the 1-2 configuration. Legroom wasn’t too bad, actually, and the windows were at the right height, so I didn’t have to stoop down to look out, unlike a CRJ.
The single FA was very nice, but for the 1hr 3min flight to JFK, there was only a drinks service, which was fine by me. Approach to JFK was very bumpy, and there was even a second where the plane felt like it was in freefall and some people behind me were screaming. I don’t know if it was just general turbulence and buffeting or if there was some wake turbulence. Whatever happened, we landed safely and 30 minutes early to boot. Normally I would have been jumping for joy, but I had a 5 hour connection in JFK anyway, so I wasn’t too ecstatic.
Second Leg // New York (JFK) – Brussels Nat’l (BRU) DL140 B757-200 NXXXTW
I had gotten my Brussels boarding pass at BWI, so I just hung around in the terminal. One thing about Delta’s terminal at JFK (T2/T3) is that there is little walking space around the gate areas. So when a flight boards, there is just a crush of people, some who are boarding the flight, and some who are just trying to pass by.
Boarding started promptly at 6:20 for Delta SkyMiles Mediallion Diamond, Platinum, Gold, and Silver elites, as well as SkyTeam and Alaska Airlines elites. My Aunt and I boarded through the SkyPriority lane and were greeted by three very professional flight attendants, all who were smiling and attentive throughout the flight.
I was seated in seat 19B, one of Delta’s newly minted Economy Comfort seats. First impressions were very good.
The seats were quite comfortable. The legroom was perhaps the best part. There was nothing in front of the seats, except for the F/As jumpseat, which was a non-issue. All seats on the aircraft had moveable / winged headrests which could be adjusted to a comfortable position.
As boarding seemed to finish up, many of us noticed that the flight was not very full, especially towards the front, probably only about 70% in coach. The result was that my seatmate, in 19A, found a whole row to himself, leaving me with seat 19A, an empty middle seat, and someone in 19C, the aisle.
I absolutely love window seats. The obvious downside, especially on a long flight, is that getting up to use the bathroom or stretch your legs is pretty much impossible without seeming like you’ve caused an inconvenience for everybody else. This was the best of both worlds. I got the window, but still had the freedom to stretch my legs at will.
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the seat, but the one caveat it has is the IFE. Delta’s IFE, which featured AC power and AVOD on this flight is it’s weak suit. The AVOD is not awful, and is probably comparable with other carriers on this route. However it has some issues which I will detail later in the report. The power worked adequately, though, and I was able to keep my iPhone charged through the whole flight.
Departure was on time, and we were in the air immediately. I love the 757’s powerful takeoff.
The F/As working the Economy section were superb. Delta is lucky to have them. They were kind and professional, but even more than that, it really appeared that these F/As really enjoyed their jobs. They were never put off by a request, and made every effort to make everyone comfortable on the 8:05 flight.
This was my first TATL flight, and I did not sleep well at all. It wasn’t that the seat wasn’t comfortable, but it was just me. I did manage to grab about 90 minutes of sleep by angling the windowside headrest wing so that I could lean against it, which was actually surprisingly comfortable.
Because I was in a bulkhead/exit row seat, the PTVs were located on retractable arms that rotate up from the floor, like in First/Business. So you needed to rotate up the PTV arm, then angle the PTV itself so that it would face you. The problem is that it wouldn’t stay in one position, so it would keep moving forward and back without warning.
Also, the moving map feature would display stats in four languages, which it would cycle through randomly. This isn’t awful, but you select a language on the PTV in the initial process, so I don’t know why the moving map can’t stick with just the selected language.
The choices for the meal were chicken or pasta. I chose the chicken and it was quite good. Not a meal I’d regularly enjoy on the ground, but it was well cooked and tasty for being packaged in foil. It was served with stuffing, vegetables, a roll, cheese and crackers, and a packaged brownie for dessert. There was also a drinks service before the meal was served, and a coffee/tea/water service afterwards.
I slept or watched movies for pretty much the rest of the flight, until the sun began to rise.
About 90 minutes outside of Brussels, the F/As served a snack/breakfast, which consisted of a banana muffin, a banana, and another drinks service.
We landed about 30 minutes ahead of schedule at 8:50. Passport control was a breeze, and we went outside to catch the shuttle for the 65km ride to Brussels South-Charleroi Airport.
This was a spectacular flight. The flight crew was absolutely wonderful. In the day and age where passengers complain about subpar service and nasty cabin staff, these three flight attendants were a bright light in the sometimes dark airline world.
Delta scores high marks for this service. I actually enjoyed the 757 service, it felt very exclusive and personal. Some people I told thought that the 757 was a terrible idea, but I rather liked it.
Third Leg // Brussels-Charleroi (CRL) – Fes (FEZ) FR8081 B737-800 EI-XXX
I was not too excited to fly Ryanair, but it turned out to be better than I had expected.
We arrived at Brussels-Charleroi with about four hours to kill. Checkin was not yet opened, so we people watched and had a soda at a bistro, Salon de the PAUL. Having just eaten breakfast on the Delta flight an hour and a half ago, my aunt and I decided to just enjoy sodas. There was an assortment of food at the cafe which looked excellent. They had baguette sandwiches, an assortment of French pastries, and other food such as quiche and various French foods.
Finally, it was time to proceed to checkin. We had paid in advance for the 20kg baggage allowance, and our bags were tagged without any problems.
After security (which was dead, by the way) we proceeded directly to our gate. After 36 hours up, we were dead tired and nearly fell asleep right at the gate area. Boarding was announced shortly after, and we boarded via the tarmac.
Once inflight, the cabin hassling started. First came the drinks/food cart, then duty free, then another snack cart, and finally the flight attendants came back around hawking lottery tickets. Luckily, I sat in the window and my aunt sat in the aisle with an empty middle seat. I fell asleep as soon as we were airborne, and so did she, but the flight attendants woke her up at every cart to ask her if she wanted to buy any products.
I was also surprised to see that the flight attendants opened the flight deck door multiple times during the flight. They didn’t leave it open, and I couldn’t really see exactly what they were doing, but it was just curious to me.
I didn’t really see much of the landscape, as I slept until the wheels hit the ground in Fes. It was hot, but not humid, and the landscape was simply barren. We made our way through immigration, and claimed our bags. We found our driver outside and continued into the city of Fes.
This definitely wasn’t the most comfortable flight I’d ever been on, but it wasn’t awful. I would fly Ryanair again, but only out of necessity. If I ever had a choice of airline to take me intra-Europe, I probably won’t be flying Ryanair.
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Photos by Taylor Michie for the Racing Winds Blog.