Hi everyone. This is Ben.
I flew friday moring with my grandma to Nice on Virgin Express, the weather was hot. The aicraft was a 737-300. I flew back today by myself and it was also a 737-300.
Let me tell you a little bit about that airline: Virgin Express, based in Brussels, is a low fare airline that flies only within Europe. They fly to several destinations including Barcelona, London, Nice and Rome. Their fleet consist of B737-300's and 400's. They are cheap but they don't give any meal, not even peanuts! You just get a drink, that's all. But it's OK, the flights last two hours at most. That airline was started about three years ago, it used to be EBA (Euro Belgian Airlines). This is what happened: Victor Hasson (I know him!), now CEO of CityBird, used to be the CEO of EBA. He sold his airline to Richard Brandson when he started CityBird with a couple of MD-11's in early 1997. So Virgin Expres, although based in Brussels not London, is a subsidiary of Virgin Atlantic.
On the outbound flight, the flight was pretty much full. A bus took us from the gate to the 737 parked in the middle of the tarmac, on the way to the plane I saw a Continental DC-10 and a Delta 767-300ER taxiing to the departure runway. The Delta 767 was in the new colors, it was beauuuuuuuutiful!!!!!!! You have now idea how beautiful it is when you look at it real close. Oh I love it. So we step on the plane, I took a middle seat because I coudn't get a window and my grandma had an aisle. We were seated on the third row, there is only one class of service on Virgin Express, the seats are light brown. Some stewardesses are pretty, like on many airlines. On both flights I had pretty flight attendants. Although I wasn't seated near the window, I still could see outside. We taxied to RWY 07R for take off and planes were landing on RWY 02, which is unusual. But it happens once in a while. Usually, they land on RWY 25L and take off on RWY 25R. After takinf off on RWY 07R, we made a right turn and flew Southbound to Nice. The crew didn't say the altitude but it must have been FL290 (or 29000ft if you prefer). It was all cloudy in Germany and the Northeast part of France, when we overflew the Alpes, there was a Swissair A319 going just opposite direction! That one must have been at FL280. Nice was 30 minutes away, I heard the pilot lowering the throttle and we started our descent. "We are beginning to descent" I told my grandma. "How do you know?" she asked. "I have a feeling that the engine power is reduced" I repled to her. She was surprised, she looked at me with wide open eyes. So we did a couple of turn, followed by a procedure turn, before intercepting the localizer for RWY 04R, RWY 04L was closed. So we land on 04L and one minute after vacating the runway we were at the gate. A nice lady was greeting us by giving flowers. "Welcome to Nice" she was saying. You have no idea how beautiful French women are.
Now comes the return flight. I flew back home today. At Nice I saw a few Air France A320's, a British Airways 757 taking off, an SAS MD-80, a Tunis Air 747-100/200 (I coudn't tell which one it was because it had 10 windows on the upper deck and thin PW JT9D engines), a Lufthansa 737-500 and a Sabeba 737-300. Yes both Sabena and Virgin Express fly to Nice from Brussels. I don't think that Tunis Air has 747's on scheduled flights, maybe it was a charter flight operated by another company, I don't know...Anyway my flight was a 737-300. The flight was delayed for half an hour because of air traffic congestion. When I checked in, I was surprised that I was given a seat assignment. "I cannot give you a window!" the ticket agent said to me. So I explained her that there were never seat assignements on Virgin Expres. "Yes, it's recent, we have them now" she replied. Next time I fly that airline, I'll see if they give seat assignments. "Shall I give you an aisle?" she asked. I said it was OK. That was flight 893, my seat was 15C. On the outbound segment I didn't have a seat assignment, but on the return flight I did. Departure time was scheduled at 210PM and we started boarding at 235PM. Although I was seating at the aisle which is two seats away from the window on the 737, I could barely see outside. So we taxied to RWY 04L, we took off at 255PM and we flew northbound to Brussels. Although they didn't say the altitude, I guessed that we flew at either FL280 or 310. In flight, the sky was blue above us, there was no turbulence but there were lots of thick white cumulonimbus below us, all the way. I was sitting next to a woman with her son, I was discussing with her about several diffent things. She flew Virgin Express in the morning and she told me she found the crew rude. She was painting her nails on the plane and the flight attendant wouldn't let her do so. I was surprised to hear this, I told her I never had a rude crew and that I was always satisfied with all the airlines I flew. After a quick nap, we start our descent into Brussels and at exactly 420PM we touch down on RWY 25L. Three minutes later, we park in the middle of the tarmac near the Sabena maintenance hangar. We stepped out of the aircraft on the stairs through the front door on the , I could smell the kerosene! I love the smell. It was a nice flight despite the delay. The crew said it would be 1h40min but it actually was only 1h25min! I saw in the maintenace center, an A340 in the new Sabena colors(blue titles and blue tail with large circle full of white waves and crossed by a big blue S) having a rest, a couple of A330's also in the new colors being inspeced inside the hangar and a 737-200 under intensive repair. The doors were taken out, the nose cone was widely open and I could see the inside of the JT8D engines. There was also an other Virgin Express 737-300 but with new colors: all white with a red and blue circle on the rear of the fuselage and the word "Virgin" on the tail written in red like on the current scheme. While returing to the terminal on the bus, I saw an SAS 737-600, a VASP MD-11 and a brand new Sabena A321 for the first time, in the new colors of course. I walked out of the terminal, I took my car and exactly one hour after landing I was home. It was a nice trip.