I decided to go to London for a day (well, a half day because I’m not a morning person and didn’t fancy a 06:30 departure) to do some Christmas shopping. It was early December and I rounded up a female companion to accompany me – once I mentioned shopping she didn’t need too much convincing. This would be my second ever trip to London.
I was up early on the morning of 5th December for the hour-long drive from my West Limerick home to Shannon. I collected my friend on the way and were at the airport just before 09:30. I parked in one of the Long Term carparks and that sets you back €9.50 per 24-hour period. I wanted to get airside as fast as possible and because we were on Ryanair, we had printed our boarding passes beforehand so we headed straight to security.
Not too sure how much longer Irish public buildings will be allowed to display nativity scenes like this
As per usual the airport was a ghost town.
Once airside I checked out the new Loop duty-free shop which recently underwent a €1m refurbishment. To be honest, it looked very similar to what it always did to me. I was expecting better things. My mother asked me to get her a few things so I made use of the “Shop and Collect” service whereby I could pick out the things I needed and pay for them now, and collect when I arrived back at Shannon. I found it to be a very handy service – and free too!
This is the site of the world’s first duty-free shop.
We were boarding from Gate 2 which is one of the non-airbridge gates downstairs so we headed down. Boarding was due to start at 09:50 but we soon found out the inbound aircraft, from London-Stansted, was delayed about 25 minutes. Gate agents came around and tore the little stubs of the boarding passes while we waited. No one left the queue for the gate and everyone stayed standing (or sitting on the floor) until boarding commenced.
Ironically, you can no longer fly nonstop between Shannon and Paris
Eventually the aircraft arrived as flight FR103 and I watched as the passengers disembarked. Boarding soon started and I was at my seat at 10:25. The flight was very full at about 90% and a good few passengers had Priority Boarding too. I was a little concerned I wouldn’t get a window seat but I boarded at the aft door and low and behold, I got seat 26A.
Date Monday, 5th December 2011 Airline Ryanair Flight FR1182 Aircraft Boeing 737-8AS Tail No. EI-EFB Aircraft Name - Scheduled Departure 10:10 WET Actual Departure 10:37 WET Departure Terminal & Gate Gate 2 Departure Taxi Route D1, D2, RWY24 Weather at Departure Scattered showers, broken cloud, winds SW Scheduled Arrival 11:35 WET Actual Arrival 11:51 WET Arrival Terminal & Gate South Terminal, Gate 20 Arrival Taxi Route (N/A) Weather at Arrival Dry, sunny, winds, W Class – Seat No. 26A Captain John Moran First Officer Ray Richardson Cabin Manager Michelle Actual Flight Time 1 hour, 14 minutes
An Aer Lingus Regional ATR 72 preparing to head to Edinburgh as flight RE3672
Nothing unusual to report on the taxi out or takeoff. We were off the asphalt of Runway 24 at 10:43. As we flew out over the Shannon Estuary and turned left over rural west Limerick and Adare, I made out quite a few familiar landmarks.
The flight was very uneventful and smooth. A typical Ryanair flight with all the announcements and sales and what not. The weather improved as we headed further east.
Descent began at 11:19 over the city of Bournemouth and the captain informed us of this a few minutes later. The aircraft came in over the southern coast of England and made a left turn towards 26L. We were down at 11:47 and at Gate 20 of the South Terminal four minutes later.
’FB would turn back around to SNN as FR1183 about 25 minutes later
Gatwick looked the same to me as it did when I was here last in early 2010, before the major renovations under the new ownership. In saying this, I only passed through a section of the arrivals area. There was clearly still work going on at immigration as it was a mess. One thing I find annoying about LGW immigration is they retain all boarding stubs on flights arriving from Ireland or internally.
We got the Gatwick Express into Victoria Station in central London and firstly walked down by Westminster Abbey and the London Eye.
We then got the Tube to Oxford Circus where Christmas shopping ensued. Our return flight to Shannon was at 19:25 from Heathrow – I deliberately picked LHR-SNN as I had never before flown from LHR before. We finished shopping at about 17:00 and got the Tube from Bond Street to Heathrow Terminals 1, 2, 3. We had to change lines at Green Park. This was my first time using the Underground and it was very seamless and efficient. The trains were packed though.
It took about an hour to reach LHR and were at Terminal 1 around 18:15. The gates at the LHR Tube station wouldn’t allow me through and I had to pay a few pounds extra at the ticket desk for some reason. Anyway, we printed our boarding passes from the self-service kiosks when we got in.
Straight through a thorough security check where my iPhone was randomly inspected with a DNA-testing-type swab and we got food at one of the airside cafés. There were quite a few Aer Lingus flights departing as demonstrated by the boards. Aer Lingus is one of the largest foreign carriers at Heathrow with 23 daily slot pairs in the winter season (3 flights to/from Belfast-International, 4 flights to/from Cork, 13 flights to/from Dublin and 3 flights to/from Shannon). My flight this evening was flight EI387 departing at 19:25 from “Gates 77-86”.
We headed down towards gates 77-86 and first went through a passport check (…why? Common Travel Area?) then we entered a dedicated Aer Lingus reception and lounge entrance on the way. A lot of passengers were sitting in this area waiting for the gate to appear on the screens.
A took a sneak peek at the agent’s monitor behind the desk and discovered our boarding gate was going to be Gate 84. We proceeded on our own down the tube-like corridors.
Passengers were waiting at Gate 83 for the EI177 service to Dublin and further down, the EI37 to Belfast.
It seems these gates are dedicated solely to EI operations. It was coming up to 19:00 now and there was no aircraft or passengers at Gate 84 which led me to believe I was looking at the wrong thing on the agent’s screen. Just then, sure enough, an A320 taxiied in and parked as we watched on. It was EI36 coming from BFS. The aircraft would now be changed over to operate the SNN flight. I found this interesting. EI must make many aircraft changes between bases at LHR.
The screen then displayed our flight. We sat right next to the podium and were sure to be among the first to board.
Boarding was called just before 19:10 and I was the second to board. At 19:15 the SNN-based crew introduced themselves and incorrectly announced the flight as EI386. It didn’t take long for the rest of the passengers to board and the overall load factor stood at about 65-70%.
Date Monday, 5th December 2011 Airline Aer Lingus Flight EI387 Aircraft Airbus A320-214 Tail No. EI-DVK Aircraft Name St Brigid/Brighid Scheduled Departure 19:25 WET Actual Departure 19:25 WET Departure Terminal & Gate Terminal 1, Gate 84 Departure Taxi Route (N/A) Weather at Departure Mostly clear, light winds Scheduled Arrival 20:55 WET Actual Arrival 20:54 WET Arrival Terminal & Gate Gate 6 Arrival Taxi Route RWY24, C, D2 Weather at Arrival Showers, winds SW Class – Seat No. 19F Captain Kieran Garrett First Officer (N/A) Cabin Manager Amanda Gibbons Actual Flight Time 1 hour, 24 minutes
Why was this bird at T1?
We pushed back bang on time at 19:25. One of the other EI aircraft at T1 was the retro-livery, EI-DVM. The other was EI-CVB. We began taxiing at 19:29 and did not takeoff from 27R until 19:44 due to runway congestion.
Like the inbound flight earlier on, there was nothing exceptionally noteworthy about this flight. We reached cruising altitude at 20:00. It wasn’t long after this (about 20:25) we began descending again. The captain announced that we were flying over Rosslare Harbour and passengers at the right-hand side of the aircraft would be able to see the lights of Dublin in the distance. I could barely make it out though.
Final approach was declared at 20:30 and we hit Runway 24 at 20:46. At the time, Taxiway A near the control tower was closed for upgrade works so we did a U-turn and exited via Taxiway C instead. We docked at Gate 6 at 20:54, a minute early.
It takes quite a few minutes now to reach immigration if the aircraft parks at the pier due to the new arrivals layout. You have to go upstairs one level and down two levels again. It makes SNN seem a lot bigger!
We simply had to wave our closed passports at the GNIB officer and passed through the baggage hall and customs.
I collected my airport shopping purchases from earlier that day in the designated Shop and Collect office and paid for parking. After dropping my companion for the day at her friend’s house at Limerick Institute of Technology, I was back in my student residence in Limerick city just after 21:30 and that completes my 11 hours or so of travelling.
clydenairways From Ireland, joined Jan 2007, 1233 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (2 years 6 months 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 6363 times:
Quoting AmricanShamrok (Thread starter): Once airside I checked out the new Loop duty-free shop which recently underwent a €1m refurbishment. To be honest, it looked very similar to what it always did to me. I was expecting better things.
Did you notice the out of place "Pine Kitchen table" in the middle of all that white new look shop! Gotta love SNN
LGWflyer From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2011, 2348 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (2 years 6 months 3 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 6058 times:
Hey AmricanShamrok! Thanks for sharing your TR, enjoyed your pics of LGW and LHR. Hope you had a good day in London!
Quoting AmricanShamrok (Thread starter): Gatwick looked the same to me as it did when I was here last in early 2010, before the major renovations under the new ownership. In saying this, I only passed through a section of the arrivals area. There was clearly still work going on at immigration as it was a mess.
The South has had some work done like the security bit etc but still needs to be finished. The North Terminal however has gone under major improvments and looks so much better! Next time you are here at LGW you should have a look at the North (that is if they haven't still not finished the South Terminal by then ).
AmricanShamrok From Ireland, joined May 2008, 2890 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (2 years 6 months 3 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 4850 times:
Quoting clydenairways (Reply 1): Did you notice the out of place "Pine Kitchen table" in the middle of all that white new look shop! Gotta love SNN
Didn't even notice! But yes it does look tacky now upon further inspection!
Quoting LGWflyer (Reply 2): The South has had some work done like the security bit etc but still needs to be finished. The North Terminal however has gone under major improvments and looks so much better! Next time you are here at LGW you should have a look at the North (that is if they haven't still not finished the South Terminal by then  .
Thanks LGWflyer. I've never been to the North Terminal I must say but no doubt I will someday! Gatwick should be an inspiration to this country as the fate of Shannon's and Cork's futures are currently being hammered out (to make them independent or leave them as part of the Dublin Airport Authority). The improvements that have been made at LGW, both in terms of passenger numbers and structurally since independence from the BAA will hopefully be taken into account here.
Indeed. Shannon holds a very unique legacy internationally - first duty free, among the first to host many aircraft (747, A380 etc.), first US preclearance outside of N. America, Space Shuttle emergency landing site, etc. etc. I have great pride for this airport!
Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 5): Seamless and efficient are rarely applied to the tube - glad you enjoyed your trip though!
Really? I must say I was very impressed with the whole system.
Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 5): Random passport check. 99% of the time there is no outbound passport check leaving the UK, irrespective of the destination. Even with the CTA they have the right to check ID.