FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1705 posts, RR: 41 Posted (3 years 4 months 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 8147 times:
New year - time to start traveling afresh again! This trip started as the cheapest 29 EUR one way ticket on Air Berlin HEL-HAM, booked for a random Saturday afternoon in January 2010 way back in August 2009. I hadn't really given much thought on what to build around it (was thinking of going to Kiel or Sylt, though, but probably not a good idea in the middle of the winter...) when AB sent me an email about the Saturday flights being canceled for the winter schedule. I was subsequently rerouted to HAM via DUS, which had the nice side effect of getting me another flight on an AB Dash 8, always nice, but more importantly getting me there almost five hours earlier than originally planned. This of course opened up many more possibilities, and after figuring out that I had enough time to catch one of the AB shuttles down to the PMI hub I started looking for suitable destinations to connect from there. Subsequently I found out the the whole HEL-HAM route is now completely gone - a shame but at least I flew it twice last year.
In the end I narrowed it down to two possibilities: either OPO or VLC - both places that are on my "to visit" list and both offered decent fares at around 70-90 EUR from HAM. I settled for OPO, mainly because it offered some interesting possibilities for the trip home the following day. For that journey, I really wanted to fly TAP as I've never flown on them before - they were offering great fares on a number of routes that have LCC competition like LGW, AMS, BCN and MXP. However there was an even more attractive opportunity: Portugalia (NI) is operating a number of routes ex-OPO on their Embraer 145s after being taken over by TP some years ago - I booked OPO-BRU for less than 60 EUR since it was conveniently timed at early afternoon and getting home to HEL from BRU should be rather easy.
Oh well, that's at least what I thought. I had planned on catching the Sunday evening AY flight home as that is pretty conveniently timed and one that I've taken a number of times, but AY did something weird and pretty much withdrew all of their discounted one way fares - the direct flight would've cost an absurd amount of money ticketed in fully flexible Y... (BTW this is still the situation today, no decent one way fares at all!). SK via ARN or CPH was an option but a bit pricey, but good old airBaltic came to the rescue - so I booked the late night BRU-RIX-HEL connection for around 80 EUR. It will get me home a bit too late for my liking, but beggars can't be choosers.
A 6.30 departure means waking up at OMG o'clock and catching a way too early bus to the airport, where I am already around 5.30. Too early, but buses aren't exactly frequent this time on a Saturday morning. Not too many people around, so security is quick and effortless. Time to grab some caffeine and a sandwich for breakfast at the cafe - interestingly the girl asks for my AY Plus card, apparently they are now partners since the beginning of the year. I wonder how many miles I will get for my 10 EUR purchase...
Today's gate is 23, right next to the coffeeshop, where boarding starts around 6.00. Not too many people at the gate area. A middle-aged Russian lady in front of me gets a scalding from the gate agent for leaving her passport in her checked luggage but is allowed to board anyway. The ride is D-ABBT, luckily a new one for me.
I had been a bit worried about my tight connection in DUS as HEL had been experiencing some delays earlier in the week, so I picked the bulkhead seat 1F when doing OLCI to be one of the first ones out of the plane in DUS. The bulkhead offers good legroom, but due to the curvature of the wall the window seat is rather narrow and not that comfortable. Oh well, at least the two seats next to me stay empty, allowing me to spread out.
Boarding doesn't take too long and confirms what I observed at the gate area - load is somewhere around 50% today. At 6.15 the captain welcomes everyone onboard, explaining that we are ready go as soon as the plane has been deiced. A flight time of 2h5mins is expected, with departure from the far runway 22R. Not all of this information is repeated in the English announcement, though. Luckily I understand enough Deutsch to pick up the details.
The bane of winter flying in the Nordics (and this year Central Europe as well):
They still haven't fixed the airshow, I wonder if Tallinn should be called Atlantis instead:
Deicing takes around 15 minutes, and we push back four minutes after the scheduled departure time, followed by five or so minutes of taxi to 22R and a powerful take off. Right after the seat belt sign is switched off the FAs start the service - the standard AB cheese or ham sandwich and a couple of drink runs.
Sandwich and apple juice:
After 30 minutes of flight the captain comes on again with detailed route information (again more detailed in German) explaining our route as "HEL to TLL, across the Baltic Sea to CPH, HAM and finally DUS, landing towards the southwest (I assume this means runway 23 then)". No views until final approach as the skies are completely overcast, and the screens are mostly playing some TV shows instead of the preferred airshow.
I spend most of the flight reading my newspaper, finishing it just when our descent starts around 1h45mins into the flight. I realize that I'm sitting on the wrong side of the plane as the A side facing east is presented a very beautiful sunrise while our side is still in complete darkness. During final approach the toddler on the other side of the aisle tries to scream his lungs out - until he suddenly falls asleep just as we touch down on runway 23L after a bit over 2 hours of flight. I've always wondered how kids manage to do that - would be a great skill to have even as a grown up! The instant falling asleep, I mean, not the screaming.
Quick taxi to a jetway in the B pier next to a Condor 757-300 (what is it doing here? I thought it would be at the LH pier A) and I'm one of the first ones to deboard.
D-ABBT at the gate:
The Hamburg flight is departing from two gates over, so no worries about tight connections. I ask the gate agent for a gate check tag for my rollaboard as it is too large to comfortably fit into the small bins on the Dash. Boarding is scheduled to start in ten minutes or so, so I decide to hang at the gate area, and soon enough we are let into the waiting bus. We wait five minutes for some stragglers in the freezing bus (oh, how I hate bus boardings for this reason) until someone finally shows up and the bus sets off. I can see a pair of AB Dashes parked on the apron in front of the C pier, but instead of driving straight there we make quite a detour around the apron. It gets us close to some nice planes, including a DL 767, OK ATR-42 and a bunch of TUIfly 738s so I'm not complaining.
Finally we pull off in front of AB/LGW's first Dash-8, D-ABQA. Just my luck - they have ten examples in the fleet, I've only flown on one previously and of course it is this very same bird. Oh well, things happen.
I drop my rollaboard on the cart and board. There are two young male FAs on this flight, rather friendly.
Lots of German newspapers and magazines are offered in the overhead bins over the first few rows - nothing in English (or Finnish) though so I decide to skip. Most of the other pax seem to be interested, so boarding takes a bit of time as people are searching for their favorite reads, some people are hogging five or six different papers! The plane is around half full, so plenty of room to spread out, including the seat next to me.
There's an announcement about the expected flight time, but I can't really make it out - I think it is 45 minutes or so. We push back a couple of minutes early, but this advantage is eaten up by the long and slow taxi to 23L, where we spend some time on the holding point waiting for landing (including AB A330 and AY E170) and departing (the plane from my previous flight takes off in front of us) planes. I wonder why - as there are two parallel runways wouldn't it be better to use them both for more efficient operations? A number of planes are obviously given priority as they pass our position in the queue. Finally after over 20 minutes we enter the active. The take off run is very impressive - the acceleration and feeling of power is great and we hardly use a third of the runway before rotating and shooting to the skies with a very steep and fast climb. These Dashes are very nippy indeed and the light load of course helps as well.
Nice lineup of tails:
Why an earth are they towing this bird across the active:
Low clouds, so in no time at all the ground disappears from view. Right after departure we make quite a steep right hand turn to point us towards the northeast. Service is a croissant and drinks. The croissant is very good - fresh and soft, but the coffee is nasty powdered stuff.
It's a quick and uneventful flight with just clouds and the occasional plane to see out of the window. I read through the AB inflight magazine during the flight. Less than half an hour after take off a gentle descent starts, some time later the seat belt sign is switched on and we land into snowy Hamburg on runway 15 after around 45 minutes of flight.
We wait for a while at our apron parking position next to a Hamburg International A319 before the doors are opened and we are ushered to the waiting bus (argh). The AB chocolate hearts are handed out during deboarding.
I almost forget to grab my rollaboard but luckily a fellow passenger waiting for his reminds me of this and I go back to pick it up. The bus ride to the terminal takes again an annoying detour before depositing us to the arrivals entrance. I seem to be the only person heading up the stairs for connecting flights, all the others make a beeline for arrivals.
The Hamburg airport has seen some renovations during the last years and is now looking rather neat. Especially the shopping area and the centralized security checkpoint next to it have been much improved. With 45 minutes until the next flight boards I buy a soft drink and find an empty area in front of the window to watch the traffic.
CO to EWR:
This is for all you Turkish fans:
CO taking off:
After half an hour I make my way to our gate, which is already packed with people. No "Ballermann" types are to be seen - I guess this is not really the season for that. As expected lots of older people - at least half of all the passengers seem to be over 60. Mostly German pax, but some Spanish as well.
This flight was scheduled on an A321 - and I was looking forward to flying an AB example as I've yet to fly one. OLCI for this flight was showing an A319 seatmap, but I wasn't too worried as it wouldn't be the first time the AB OLCI is acting up (I once had a seat on a non-existent row on a 737-700 and the back galley FA didn't let me sit on her lap on the back jumpseat, bummer!). This time my fears are confirmed - looking out of the window I see an A319 instead, damn. At least it is a new registration for me.
HAM-PMI AB9332 A319 D-ABGS Seat 24F 11.02 - 13.30
Boarding starts around 10.40. The agents announce boarding by row numbers, but it is not really enforced and the few obedient people who are waiting for their turn completely block the gate by standing in front of it so it's a bit of a struggle getting through, especially with my rollaboard in tow. The whole operation is quite shambles, if you ask me. My seat on the second to last row allows me to board among the first group.
Boarding takes a long time as some of the older folks are quite confused by the seat assignments and in no hurry to settle down with their belongings, blocking the aisle. It also looks like a completely full flight, I see no empty seats anywhere.
These Cityhopper E-jets look great:
Despite the boarding hassle we still manage to push back three minutes before schedule for an announced flight time of 2h10mins. A longish taxi to runway 05 is
followed by a long take off run, I guess we have quite a bit of weight with the full load and lots of luggage.
The building in the background that looks a bit like the famous restaurant at LAX is the Lufthansa Technik hangar:
Air Berlin offers hot meals developed by the famous Sansibar restaurant in Sylt for purchase on the longer flights. I decide to try the German institution currywurst and it is actually very good. Though there's no wooden fork (something that you'd get in any Imbiss with your wurst - part of the experience) as described in the menu - the plastic one just doesn't feel the same! I decline on the offered sandwich (cheese or turkey this time) as the sausage is quite enough.
Half an hour into the flight our captain announces that we are just passing FRA, having overflown HAJ previously. From here we will continue to FKB, BSL, GVA, MRS and across the Mediterranean to PMI. There's quite a bit of traffic in the skies around FRA and Southern Germany.
Another flight that is mostly overcast, somewhere south of FRA there are a few openings in the clouds - this is Karlsruhe:
Mountains in the Schwarzwald:
A hazy shot of BSL:
I spend the flight watching a movie on my Ipod, not having enough time to finish it. Over the Med the clouds clear up - not that there's anything else to see than water, though! After around two hours our captain announces descent and landing at 13.30. A bit bumpy on descent, but it settles after we reach the northern coast of Mallorca. There are some great views of the island and its mountains - sure beats the snow and coldness we left behind!
We fly an S-shaped pattern with tight curves over the coastline, I guess to fit into our place among the arrivals stream. The great views continue during our final approach:
Looks rather wet:
We land quite hard on runway 24R after 2h20mins in the air. It's wet at the airport as well:
There are lots and lots of Air Berlin planes around, I count at least twelve and more keep on arriving. The AB hub operation in PMI is very impressive indeed. Last time I was here was 20 years ago and the airport sure has grown a lot ever since.
Short taxi to an apron parking position and deboarding to two waiting buses. The warm air, sun and nice smell of spring (in January!) feel very good (I'm not a big fan of winter nor coldness, despite being a Finn!) so I stand outside for a while before boarding the packed bus. Another interesting drive to arrivals - we drive a long time in the wrong direction before turning around and driving back to arrivals. Nice setup.
Palma de Mallorca Airport
Up the stairs to connecting flights where two AB agents are assisting people with connections (speaking German). I ignore them and check the monitors instead - a bus gate nearby is scheduled for my Porto flight with boarding in 25 minutes or so. I barely have time to answer nature's call and think about having a quick beer at a nearby Cervezeria when a boarding call is made, 15 minutes before the boarding time indicated on the monitors. I abandon the idea of beer and make my way downstairs to the gate instead, where boarding is indeed commencing.
The next flights:
Another bus, another long wait for all the passengers (have I ever mentioned how I hate bus boarding?) to arrive. Most of the people seem to be Spanish or Portuguese, with only a handful of Germans. After ten minutes everybody seems to be onboard - 50 people or so - and we drive the short way to an A320 in the old AB colors. Luckily another new registration for me.
Niki next to us - I love the livery:
PMI-OPO AB7784 A320 D-ABDD Seat 4F 14.55 - 15.41
Up the stairs where a very disinterested young FA stares into the ceiling instead of greeting passengers. Welcome onboard, indeed. As mentioned, a light load so lots of room for everybody, including a whole block of 3 seats for me. 14.30, 15 minutes before the captain comes on, explaining that we are ready to go but are still waiting for one missing passenger (at least that's what I think I heard). Well, 15 minutes of waiting and the lost sheep finally shows up - except that it isn't a passenger but a young Spanish male FA instead! He gets a bit of a scalding in Spanish from the flight dispatcher who's standing next to the 1L door. Right afterwards the ground staff leaves and we close the doors, pushing back ten minutes after schedule for the 1h40mins flight across the Iberian peninsula.
See, it's not all Air Berlin:
There's a bit of departing and arriving traffic, including a few company planes before we enter runway 24R and promptly take off.
Who is it:
Ahh, now I see:
Some nice views of Palma city and the southwestern part of the island as we turn right towards mainland Spain.
Service is a drinks run and a snack basket with either sweet (some kind of cake roll) or salty (crackers) snacks. I decide to have the malted beverages I missed on the ground.
Once we reach the mainland over VLC it becomes cloudy, staying so for the remainder of the flight. The captain explains our route as "PMI to VLC and straight to OPO" and the Porto weather as 15 degrees with light showers and low clouds. I finish my movie and spend the rest of the flight dozing and listening to music.
While descending it becomes clear that it indeed is rather wet in Porto, with rain all around us and the ground looking rather miserable. We seem to be landing on runway 17 as we follow the Atlantic coast southwards, touching down on the expected runway at 15.41 local time. A couple of minutes later we dock to a jetway at the impressive looking modern terminal and are allowed to deboard.
A not very hospitable looking Atlantic:
Quite wet here as well:
PGA Fokker 100 next to us:
The airport is connected to the city with a modern, if a bit slow light rail connection they call the Metro. I buy a 24 hour ticket from the vending machine for 5.60 EUR, a decent deal as it will also cover my trip back to the airport the next day and all the rides inbetween. The journey to the Trindade station takes over half an hour, mostly because the stops are quite frequent. There I change into another line for two stops, spend a few confusing moments looking for my hotel and finally arrive there a bit over an hour after landing.
I'm staying at Tryp Porto Centro - a chain that I've used a couple of times in Spain and found to be quite good and excellent value for money. My double room is a bit on the small side, but is clean and offers all the amenities one could want, including free Wifi. Not a bad deal for 55 EUR for the night, although breakfast is an extra 9.50.
Interesting view from my window:
Here are some pictures of Porto:
How many different Port wine brands can you spot:
The same view in daylight:
The impressive bridge over the Douro river at night:
And again in daylight:
The Portuguese sure love their ceramic tiles:
Here as well:
It's a bit hilly near the river:
To get up from the river, one could take these stairs:
Or be lazy and use the funicular:
This is what I did:
Sunday morning I take another walk through the Ribeira district near the waterfront to see it in daylight as well, before heading back to the hotel, packing up and catching a taxi for the quick ride to the Trindade metro station. The metro schedules on Sundays are not too frequent, so I figure this is the best way instead of waiting for connections. The taxi driver tries hard to get me to change my mind and ride the whole way to the airport with him, but I refuse - after all the metro ride doesn't cost anything with my day ticket. The train to the airport takes a while to arrive, and another half an hour later I'm back at the airport, around one and half hours before departure.
I did OLCI the previous night at the hotel, but didn't have access to a printer so need a boarding pass. I try first the self service machines, who will have none of me and direct me to a counter instead. No queue to the counters and a pleasant enough girl prints me a boarding pass and hands me a gate check tag for my rollaboard after I request one.
Modern and impressive architecture:
Security is bit confusing as there's a counter in front of the checkpoints where I assume they go through your liquids but instead the two agents there are just helping people to pack them properly, handing out plastic bags for everyone who needs them. After I figure this out I pass the choke point, and am through in no time as all as there are many lanes open but not too many passengers.
Airside I buy a few bottles of wine and Port, I guess you can't leave Porto without the namesake drink! I'm not sure of the onboard offerings so I fortify myself with a snack at one of the many restaurants - I'm delighted to find that the prices at this airport are very reasonable - not the inflated airport prices one often sees in many places.
A case of bad weather in Madrid perhaps - the morning IB/Air Nostrum service was delayed by three hours, with subsequent delays on the TP services as well:
This SN Boeing departs for BRU 25 minutes before us. Interesting that both this and our flight carry both SN and TP flight numbers. Couldn't they coordinate the flight times a bit better:
Boarding time printed on the boarding pass is 12.10, a good one hour before departure which I doubt will happen. The boarding pass also reads DISCOUNT in large letters - I know I paid a very small amount for my ticket but do you really have to rub it in my face? So closer to 12.30 I make my way towards our assigned gate 7, which is downstairs in a very nice looking bus boarding area:
Boarding starts around 12.35, is another bus job where we wait the requisite 10 minutes for all passengers (have I mentioned... oh, never mind).
Short drive to our Embraer CS-TPN, obviously a new reg for me, parked next to a FR 738. I leave my bag in the cart and head inside.
Two youngish female FAs, both dressed in red PGA uniforms welcome us onboard. The cabin features light blue leather seats, with some rows having grey seats instead. The leather is well worn and torn in places, but very soft and comfortable to sit. The A seats on the Embraers are my favorites, all the benefits of aisle and window seats and none of the disadvantages! Load is rather good, estimated around 80% in eco. Three rows of business today, one or two pax there.
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1705 posts, RR: 41 Reply 1, posted (3 years 4 months 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 8155 times:
Argh, once again cut in the middle. Here's the rest:
Our captain seems to be in a hurry as we push back 11 minutes before schedule, right after the doors are closed. The FAs do the safety demonstration while we are racing (and I mean it, we are going very fast) to runway 17. Before us the SN 737 for BRU as well takes off:
Looks like there's a race going on - let's see who wins. We are lighter and more agile, whereas she has more powerful engines... The captain doesn't bother to hold short at the end of the runway, instead a quick announcement in Portuguese is made which I assume means that we are about to take off before the engines roar and we accelerate like a rocket down the runway. The other FA is still standing on the aisle while this happens, she seems to be very surprised and dashes for the back galley jumpseat. The "welcome onboard" announcement is being made while we rotate, very amusing. Finally our flight time is announced as 2h15mins, oh make that 14 minutes as we spent a minute of it already...
The FAs take their time to service the business class passengers. Afterward snack boxes are distributed in economy, consisting of a warm bread roll filled with ham, salad and tomato relish and a small piece of chocolate cake. Drinks are offered as well, including beer and wine. The cart has an impressive selection of hard liquor as well, dunno if those are available in economy or whether it is only reserved for biz passengers. Anyway a generous pouring of very good Portuguese (what else?) red goes well with the tasty roll - although the ham is the same stuff we in the Nordics traditionally (over-)eat during the Christmas time. Reminds me of the leftovers we usually eat for the week after Christmas. A second drinks round follows, no problem for a refill of the wine.
Another overcast day, disappearing into the clouds right after take off. Further over the Bay of Biscay the clouds give way for some views of the French coastline.
Spot the ship:
We make landfall directly over Saint-Nazaire with the famous Pont de Saint-Nazaire bridge over the Loire river barely visible on the bottom left corner.
From here we continue northeast crossing the northwestern part of France. The Seine near Rouen:
Just before descent I think I smell cigarette smoke like somebody is smoking in the toilet. I'm not sure if I should alert the FAs or not, but nobody else seems to notice anything. A middle-aged lady emerges from the back toilet, but she doesn't smell like cigarette smoke at all when passing by my seat so I decide to leave the matter. Descent starts near Lille:
Our captain makes an announcement, but due to his heavily accented English and the bad PA system pretty much the only thing I gather is that we will land after some amount of time (gee, that helps a lot).
We touch down on 25L after a bit over two hours in the air. We stop on a taxiway just off the runway for a while, for some strange reason the captain switches the seat belt sign off and I head a number of clicks as the passengers unfasten their belt clips. Come on people, can't you see that we are nowhere near a gate or a parking position!? The Flemish (or Dutch?) guy behind me even makes a quick phone call while we continue our journey towards the Schengen A pier. The flight attendants do not seem to care at all.
The old terminal building that was supposed to be turned into a LCC terminal - is this project still going forward:
Not many planes at BRU this time of the afternoon - most of the gates in the A pier are empty:
We taxi round the whole pier to a gate next to a SN Avro. A bit of a wait after the delivery at aircraft bags are brought to the cart (why? I wouldn't mind waiting outside smelling the sweet smell of jetfuel A-1, thank you) before we are allowed to leave the plane. I pick up my rollaboard and head up the stairs to the jetway and further into the terminal.
Bye bye CS-TPN:
I did OLCI for the BT flights as well the previous night, but still need the boarding passes. First stop is the transfer center at the base of the A pier - no airBaltic sign anywhere, just Star Alliance and SN. I ask the friendly guy at the SN counter - AviaPartner is the handling agent for BT at BRU but despite the desks having their logo they apparently are not operating any transfer desks anymore. He assures me that they can give me a boarding pass at the gate which is exactly what I wanted to hear - I don't really want to make the long journey to the main check in hall and back again (anybody who's ever done a Schengen flight at BRU knows what I'm talking about!) and besides I've seen some reports about various BT stations enforcing the 8 kg cabin baggage limit - my rollaboard with the wine and stuff definitely weights more than that! I figure that they wouldn't be so strict at the gate.
Lots of flights:
This done I take a look around the shopping area, looks like there are some new shops and restaurants and the whole area has been given a small facelift since the last time I was here. A bit later I grab some supper at Quick (Belgian homegrown version of McDonald's) - unfortunately the fish burger is rather disgusting, not recommended at all. Then it's time to sample some of the tasty local brews at the Belgian Beer Cafe, a tradition for me which I try to do every time I'm here.
Time passes and I decide to head to the gate to see if somebody could help me there - I stumble upon the gate just as a cute young agent is setting up shop. I ask her for a boarding pass - she tries to print it but the printer jams and she tells me with a sigh that she needs to do a handwritten one instead. I ask her to doodle a nice picture for me as her handwriting is so pretty, suggesting a flower or a plane but she just tells me that "I will take the bigger part anyway so you can't keep it" and refuses to do it, with a smile though. I tell her that she doesn't need to bother with the second boarding pass, I can do that in Riga instead.
Finally I ask her when will we board - the incoming flight is around ten minutes early so boarding should start in around 40 minutes - enough time to grab one final beer.
The slick A pier, much better than the non-Schengen B one:
I'm not sure if Manneken Pis is the best motif for a Coke machine - could conjure up some false images of the stuff:
Having done that and bought some chocolate as well I make my way back to the gate. The plane has already arrived and is YL-BBJ, another new reg for me. Boarding starts almost right away, and as usually I'm the very first one to board the plane.
There seem to be a number of Finns on this flight, curiously all spread close to my seat. Well, considering the late arrival time of this flight, TLL and HEL are the only places where one can still connect to from this flight, so I guess it's no surprise. The OLCI seatmap showed six rows of business class, but there are only three configured with two passengers sitting there. Economy is around half full, most middle seats seem to be empty, including the one next to me with a young Finnish girl on the aisle seat.
Boarding the light load takes less than ten minutes and we push back three minutes early. Flight time today will be 2h5mins. We wait for a bit on the holding point for 25R for other departing traffic, a SN Avro is given priority over us as well. Take off is very powerful, the lights of the Brussels area looking impressive in the cold dark night air. It doesn't last for long though as we disappear into the clouds very soon.
Not much else to say about this flight, for the first hour I read my book and buy a final beer from the BOB service, for the next hour I fall asleep listening to some music only to be woken by the FA poking on my shoulder asking me to take off my headphones for landing. I have a hard time keeping awake, only fully waking up by our rough landing on runway 18.
It is minus nine degrees outside and I'm only wearing a thin jacket and a T-shirt so I'm pretty happy that we dock to a jetway in the B pier.
The airport is completely deserted, with all the shops and bars closed. There are only two flights remaining for the day, TLL and HEL and while making a pit stop I hear some passengers for the TLL flight being paged and told to go to the A gates, so once I see some passengers descending to the B gate area I figure out that must be our flight and indeed it is. I ask the friendly agent for a boarding pass, which takes some time - she claims that I'm not checked in (hmm, I still have the OLCI PDF boarding pass on my laptop with a seat assignment, wonder what that's about?) and gives me a random aisle seat instead of the window one I had selected. Oh well, there are only around 20 people in the gate area so I figure I can freely switch onboard and decide not to bother her about it. I ask for a delivery at aircraft tag for my rollaboard, showing it to her but she doesn't seem to understand, just telling me "It's okay..."
Boarding is late, commencing at 23.50, only five minutes before the scheduled departure time. For once the bus fills promptly and in no time at all we dash across the dark apron to a familiar Fokker, YL-BAU this time - my fifth flight with her.
The same gate agent tells me that maybe I should put my bag to the cart, offering me a gate check tag - I tell her that this is exactly what I asked for at the gate, she seems to be a bit embarrassed so I tell her "Never mind and thanks", dropping my bag with the tag at the cart and boarding the plane.
RIX-HEL BT327 F50 YL-BAU Seat 8D 00.11 - 01.15
The plane is freezing cold, must've been standing in the cold for some time. I switch to 8D instead of my assigned 8B as somebody is already sitting in 8A. The flight attendants apologize for our delay, but offer no explanation for it. No word from the flight deck during the whole flight either. A quick deicing at the parking spot and then we start the engines (and more importantly, the heaters!), depart 16 minutes late, taxi to runway 36 and take off.
Right after the seat belt sign goes off I put on my noise-canceling headphones and drift off to dreamland. At some point the batteries run out but I'm tired enough not to care. The next thing I know is that we are on short finals to runway 15 at HEL - nobody bothered to tell me to put my headphones away, interesting. Landing is ten minutes late, short taxi and we stop on the main apron, deboard to a bus and are driven to T1.
As it is far too cold, late and a 20 minute wait to the next bus home I take a taxi instead which gets the job done in less than 15 minutes.
Porto was a definite surprise, I expected an interesting and beautiful city, but it surpassed my expectations. An interesting mix of old and new - surely makes for a great weekend destination. Shame about the weather, January isn't the best season for visiting. I can imagine springtime to be very nice here.
Airlinewise AB was as expected from a major German airline - punctual, professional and consistent. Shame about the equipment change, but these things happen. Nice fares - highly recommended.
BT is BT - cheap but not nasty. It still remains my favorite carrier. Can't really say more as I'm probably quite biased.
TP (or PGA) was a great surprise - friendly crew, great service and an interesting plane. Crazy pilot though. Not sure if mainline TP is the same standard of service - need to try them out in the future.
Next trip is an attempt to catch the airBaltic 757 by the way of a HEL-RIX-LGW-HEL daytrip in one and half weeks' time. Happy contrails everybody!
EICVD From Ireland, joined Mar 2008, 2068 posts, RR: 5 Reply 2, posted (3 years 4 months 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 7843 times:
That was an excellent trip report, a very enjoyable read. Some great photos too, especially of Majorca. My last 3 summer holidays where there so they brings back nice memories, recognize quite a few of the resorts were I stayed aswell. Thanks for posting, looking forward to the next report.
Dublin, where Sam Maguire will be coming home to in mid September
Akhmad From Netherlands, joined Sep 2005, 2332 posts, RR: 53 Reply 3, posted (3 years 4 months 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 7729 times:
Wow, you've really got a nice adventure to get to OPO. I enjoyed the city scenery's and your flight with NI very much as I have been there about five years ago with NI as well. It brings back all the memories.
AB is amazing. The newspapers, free sandwiches and soft drinks and the chocolate on disembarking simply high-lite the flying exprience despite being low cost.
FLIEGER67 From Georgia, joined Sep 2003, 4387 posts, RR: 57 Reply 4, posted (3 years 4 months 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 7698 times:
you´re definitely a member of the fast party.
Really well done.
A real nice selection of airlines and aircraft with the Portugalia E145 for sure my number one here.
Good to know that everything going in the right drection,
not ever usual these days, you know.
And Porto is a really nice city also from my point of view, done a daytrip last year, indeed a good old and new mix and an impressive terminal, like you stated.
AYA333 From Finland, joined Aug 2008, 110 posts, RR: 0 Reply 6, posted (3 years 4 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 7546 times:
Wow! Another great report!
AB Dash really seemed quite nice. I´ve only been on SK Dash that really did seem old, tired and cramped so this was a surprise. And of course the views you´ve had when boarding your plane at DUS were wonderful
Airbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4015 posts, RR: 52 Reply 10, posted (3 years 4 months 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 6778 times:
Nice! AB still going well, nice to catch the Q400 (I will catch my first one tomorrow I hope), and good service always. I like this carrier, and a shame that they don't have good services from AMS anymore. Though, this summer, RMI is on the schedules again, and we still hold their daily PMI flight (badly timed).
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 1): Just before descent I think I smell cigarette smoke like somebody is smoking in the toilet. I'm not sure if I should alert the FAs or not, but nobody else seems to notice anything.
For sure the captain or copilot. The smoke is brought towards the back of the cabin via the airvents. I experienced exactly the same on an UX B738 flight. Once checking the cockpit after landing, I found the whole cupholders in the cockpit used as ashtrays
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 1): The plane has already arrived and is YL-BBJ, another new reg for me.
So, how many aircraft do you have to fly on BT to get it all completed?
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
Contact Air From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 1154 posts, RR: 14 Reply 11, posted (3 years 4 months 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 6771 times:
Once again a fantastic report with great pictures. Porto seems to be a very nice city for a weekend trip indeed.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): This trip started as the cheapest 29 EUR one way ticket on Air Berlin HEL-HAM, booked for a random Saturday afternoon
Quite a good fare for such a long flight. AB has got some really interesting offers during off-season.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): A flight time of 2h5mins is expected, with departure from the far runway 22R. Not all of this information is repeated in the English announcement, though.
That's not too impressive - on a "City-to-City" flight with probably many international passengers I would have expected a full English announcement. There might be a difference on typical charter flights with nearly only German passengers.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): in the B pier next to a Condor 757-300 (what is it doing here? I thought it would be at the LH pier A)
Actually at most German airports Condor isn't handled by LH any more so I guess it doesn't matter too much.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): This SN Boeing departs for BRU 25 minutes before us. Interesting that both this and our flight carry both SN and TP flight numbers. Couldn't they coordinate the flight times a bit better
Somehow strange indeed. But at least load factor wasn't too low so the demand might be there.
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1705 posts, RR: 41 Reply 12, posted (3 years 4 months 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 6750 times:
Hi all, thanks for reading and the comments. Always appreciated, keep 'em coming.
Quoting AYA333 (Reply 6): AB Dash really seemed quite nice. I´ve only been on SK Dash that really did seem old, tired and cramped so this was a surprise.
Yeah, the SK ones were getting rather old and definitely looked a bit worn and shabby compared to these almost sparkling new AB/LGW ones. Also the seats are the new slimline models that make it somewhat roomier than the SK seats that were more traditional.
Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 10): For sure the captain or copilot. The smoke is brought towards the back of the cabin via the airvents. I experienced exactly the same on an UX B738 flight. Once checking the cockpit after landing, I found the whole cupholders in the cockpit used as ashtrays
I thought of that but assumed that they'd respect the EU smoking ban at workplaces. But I guess if the captain or FO needs his nicotine fix, this is the way to do it
Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 10): So, how many aircraft do you have to fly on BT to get it all completed?
I was actually checking the fleet list last week but can't remember exactly, I've flown on all the Fokkers and neither of the two 757s. I think there are three 735s missing from my log and 6-7 733s. Slowly getting there, although there are far too many Fokkers plying the Finnish routes...
Quoting Contact Air (Reply 11): Quite a good fare for such a long flight. AB has got some really interesting offers during off-season.
Yeah, I think all the routes at least ex-HEL have a few of the 29 EUR seats available, that's why I usually book a bunch of flights whenever they open the winter/summer schedules for booking. Too bad they are nowadays charging the 10 EUR booking fee on these cheapest fares as well - this wasn't the case still a couple of months ago.
Quoting Contact Air (Reply 11): That's not too impressive - on a "City-to-City" flight with probably many international passengers I would have expected a full English announcement. There might be a difference on typical charter flights with nearly only German passengers.
That's quite typical actually. I've had many German captains or FOs who left out some of the small details (runway numbers, headings, more detailed routing etc.) when repeating themselves in English. Probably happens with other languages as well, a few times with Finnish carriers as well. That's actually why I like American (and to a lesser extent British) carriers, you usually get some really good information in English.
PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6183 posts, RR: 79 Reply 14, posted (3 years 4 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 6392 times:
a nice start into the new year, interesting itinerary. Portugalia's product looks quite good, nice surprise.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): Finally we pull off in front of AB/LGW's first Dash-8, D-ABQA. Just my luck - they have ten examples in the fleet, I've only flown on one previously and of course it is this very same bird. Oh well, things happen.
Good to hear about the croissant, but I cannot believe AB serves instant coffee now. They used to have a very good coffee.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): This time my fears are confirmed - looking out of the window I see an A319 instead, damn. At least it is a new registration for me.
It's the newest one in the fleet, so not too bad.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): Air Berlin offers hot meals developed by the famous Sansibar restaurant in Sylt for purchase on the longer flights. I decide to try the German institution currywurst and it is actually very good.
I have always wanted to try one of these meals, good to hear you liked that one.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): Service is a drinks run and a snack basket with either sweet (some kind of cake roll) or salty (crackers) snacks. I decide to have the malted beverages I missed on the ground.
I'm wondering why AB and LH serve that awful Warsteiner...
Good deal with the brewery perhaps? Well, Air France once served me Budweiser on a BOS-CDG flight.... Warsteiner definitely beats that.
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 16): Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter):
D-ABBT at the gate
- Really? Looks like an Airbus to me.........
Mark, you are absolutely right. Looks like I got my photos mixed up and this is what was parked on the next gate. Thanks for the heads up.
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 16): - I'm still amazed you are missing the 321 from your log book, especially witha ll those flights recorded!!
Sorry if I wasn't clear enough - I've flown plenty of times on 321s (35 says flugstatistik.de), it's just that I've never flown on an Air Berlin one. That's the only AB narrowbody in their fleet that I've yet to fly, so would be nice to catch one.
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 16): - I'm amazed BT have anything left you've not flown on.
Sure, a good number of 737s and the two 757s. There are far too many Fokkers flying the Finnish routes, I guess that's why I've covered all of them . Actually I booked some longer connections at RIX for some of this spring's flights just to avoid the Fokkers and get on the 737 instead...
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1705 posts, RR: 41 Reply 20, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 5438 times:
Hi & thanks for the additional round of comments.
Quoting Infodesk (Reply 19): I love the way you book a cheap flight way in advance and end up making such a trip out of it.
I love it too - that's why I keep on doing it! It's kind addicting and very interesting as well.
Quoting Infodesk (Reply 19): Pity you didn't have more time in PMI, that January sunshine looks very tempting.
Oh yes, knowing beforehand the less than inviting weather forecast for Porto I was VERY tempted to miss the next flight and spend some sunny moments in Palma. Maybe next time.
Quoting Infodesk (Reply 19): I see what you mean about getting back to HEL so late. Being so used to ZRH, I tend to forget that other airports have flights at such unearthly times. Here no flight has an STA later than 2255.
Helsinki-Vantaa doesn't really have any real curfews at night time flying (I think they restrict the number of flights a bit, but definitely no total ban here) so there are plenty of arrivals in the late evening period. Actually the busiest arrival period is probably weekdays between 22.00 and midnight when the second batch of European flights are returning to base. Living that one additional flight hour away from the busy Central Europe (plus our time difference of +1 hour as compared to CET) kinda makes it necessary to have it this way.
Quoting Infodesk (Reply 19): some new regs for your log, a new airline, a nice city....what more could you want?