Though it may seem a bit hard to believe, this flight was the first time that I had ever crossed an ocean in an airplane. I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't an interesting experience.
We had arranged for a car service to pick us up in Connecticut, and we were delivered to Terminal 8 at JFK at 12:15. Having checked in online, we merely needed to check our bags , though that left us a bit lost. A customer service agent pointed us in the right direction, though still we had trouble figuring out the proper place to get our bags tagged. American's kiosk agents must be fairly used to this because they quickly took care of us. After wheeling our bags to the belt we were off to security which had practically no line. I had my mobile boarding pass at the ready and had no problem scanning it as needed. We made it through the scanners quickly and collected our things. Total time from curbside to airside was about 30 minutes.
T8 is a nice, relatively modern terminal with plenty of space to move around, and was surprisingly empty at mid-day. After making a quick pit-stop, we decided to venture towards our gate in the B concourse and find some lunch. Food options were very limited in our part of the terminal, in fact both of the restaurants that we found had oddly similar menus, apparently the result of the food being prepared in a remote kitchen and carried in to the restaurant. Overall, lunch was tasty, though the service was very slow for an empty restaurant. With a few hours still to kill before our flight, I wandered off to the C concourse for a bit of terminal spotting.
About an hour before departure, I wandered back to the gate. Boarding began just about 30 minutes before departure and was a nice orderly process.
Although I knew not to expect things like personal video screens onboard our 767, I was still a bit surprised by how dated the interior seemed. The overhead bins seemed small and some standard sized rollaboards had to be squeezed and shifted to get the bins closed. I also noticed the lack of personal air vents for each seat, which I had heard of on European carriers but not on any of the major US airlines.I was also a bit surprised not only by the size of the overhead screens, but with how far away they were in some cases. From my seat, it was like looking at the small tv across the kitchen at home. One pleasant surprise was that a packaged pillow and blanket were on each seat in Economy. As we were getting situated we noticed how particularly pleasant and funny one of the flight attendants was, but more about him later. We pushed back right on time and taxied over to runway 13R for departure where there were only a couple of planes ahead of us.
Once we were airborne, the fun began. First came the beverage service, which included beer and wine as complementary selections in addition to the normal selection of soft drinks. My wife and I both chose the white wine and received a passable Chardonnay, while others in the cabin received a Pinot Grigio, though what was received was a random selection. Next came the dinner cart, with choices consisting of "bad beef" and "bad pasta" according to our favorite flight attendant. I chose the beef, which consisted of a small portion that tasted somewhat like a McRib along with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, while my wife chose the school-lunch grade cheese ravioli. Both trays came with a salad, bread, cheese & crackers, and a packaged desert bar. Also on the tray was a half-sized bottle of water which I socked away for later in the trip. As we were eating, the flight attendant made several passed up and down the aisle making comments such as "this takes nasty to a new height," drawing repeated laughs from the passengers.
After finishing my dinner, I cued up a movie on my iPad as the in flight movie had yet to begin. Finally, about 2 hours or so into the flight the first movie "Hyde Park on Hudson" was started. Though I had mild interest in seeing it, the audio quality coming out of the jack in the armrest was poor at best and the beginning didn't grab enough of my attention to make me want to deal with the barely audible soundtrack; I went back to what I had brought with me. After finishing my movie, I decided to force myself to get some sleep. Though the cabin lights had been dimmed, the light from the overhead monitors was annoying and I found myself digging for an eye mask in my bag. Another item which I was very happy to have brought along was a small inflatable pillow which, coupled with the airline pillow, made the seat slightly comfortable for sleeping. I got 3-4 hours of broken sleep and awoke just after we had flown over Paris.
A short while after I woke up, while we were flying over the French countryside, the breakfast service began. "Pancakes, waffles, cheese omlette, steak & eggs" our flight attendant called repeatedly, before adding "you didn't really think you were getting that did you? But it woke you up!" Our actual breakfast consisted of a lukewarm croissant and a foil-topped container of OJ, along with a beverage service with coffee, tea, and juice. It wasn't much but it was enough to get us through the airport and on the road. As we ate, I noticed that our descent had begun, and that the cloud cover below was increasing. After crossing the southern French coastline, the clouds quickly became a solid layer and all we saw of Corsica was the snow-tipped peak of a mountain. We landed in Rome from the North, I believe on 16R, and after a few minutes of taxiing we were at our gate. Finally came the maze of walking to the train to the main terminal, then the maze to passport control where there was a short wait. After another short wait for our bags, we breezed through customs passing an individual with an entire suitcase of bread being inspected. Our Italian adventure was just about to begin!