I was attending the European Turf Society's Field Days in Ghent, Belgium. These field days are held bi-annually in-between the ETS Conferences, the last being in Angers, France in 2010. I had researched many different options of flying into BRU direct, but the costs and timings were difficult and/or expensive at best! So I opted with an EK ticket into/out of LHR, and opted for the Euro-star across to Ghent via Brussels.
Checking in was, as always is, simple and easy to do using the online check-in on the EK website. Arriving at SYD, went to the First Class/Business area and dropped my bags and given a fresh boarding card. I was dropped off by a friend, and after a coffee with him, I bid my farewell and proceeded through immigration. Luckily for me, having Gold Status, I was given an Express Card, and I used the lane where I cleared immigration in no time at all. I then headed to the EK Lounge for a relax and a drink prior to the boarding call.
7th April 2011 EK419(A6-EBY) SYD-BKK-DXB B77W
DEP - SYD 19:45
ARR - BKK 01:55
DEP - BKK 02:40
ARR - DXB 06:15
Flying EK is not a new experience for me, having flown 22 sectors across A388 (7), B777 (12) A345 (1) & A332(2) with them giving me Gold Status. Boarding the mighty B77W and heading to the rear of the cabin was somewhat familiar. I can not remember my seat number off hand (and its not recorded in my flight log) but I do recall the seat next to me was vacant all the way through to DXB. Departure this evening was via 16R. A mate of mine who works in SYD for DJ was working that night, and he was watching the departure whilst on a short break from nearby.
The flight itself was uneventful, I was welcomed aboard personally by the Purser, which was kind neat yet embarrassing at the same time not long after the seat-belt light went out. There was a meal service (typical EK style) and apologies for no real photos on this leg. I did manage to get a little (30 minutes tops) sleep, as I was trying to stay awake on this leg, and sleep on the BKK-DXB leg, which I managed to do!
Arrival into BKK (I think 01R) was a little bumpy when compared to other flights into BKK, and we were thanked for flying EK on the night. We were told we could leave items behind in the overhead bins, but we would need to take everything from the seat pockets, and that there will be a new crew taking over. I deplaned, cleared security (the BKK security the coldest and rudest people I've ever experienced!) and headed to the EK Lounge for a shower and a drink. I also contacted my friend in the USA via SKYPE. The EK Lounge in BKK was quite nice I thought, well stocked and lots of space and the shower was FANTASTIC!
Boarding announcements were called, and we then headed down to the gate area, after clearing a small security check at the top of the escalators. There was a large 'holding pen', where once the numbers added up, boarding was permitted. Of course, being Gold I could enter at my leisure, which I did to avoid the rush and to put my camera bag up first in the overhead bin (I dare NOT leave it there earlier, camera, lenses and a laptop inside!).
Departure was a long and slow out of 01L tonight, and soon after being airborne, the Purser again welcomed me aboard. Some of the looks on people around me were priceless, wondering what the fuss was about, but I welcomed his welcome and thanked him for coming to see me. the meal service was fast and efficient, and then I got some sleep.
Suddenly, the lights came on some hours later, and the breakfast carts were heading up the aisles, we weren't that far out of DXB now! Breakfast, (cheese omelette, sausage, potato and juice and coffee), was pleasant and hit the spot.
Arrival into DXB consisted of a couple of laps around near Al Qor/Hatta region before heading into 30L for a smooth touchdown, and then taxiing to the gate. I cleared security fairly quickly this morning and headed to the DXB EK Business Lounge, which is totally separate to the EK First Lounge. This lounge was quite large and airy feeling, and there was lots on offer food wise.
8th April 2011 EK01(A6-EDK) DXB-LHR A388
DEP - DXB 07:45
ARR - LHR 11:35
Boarding calls were made, and it was once again time to fly... I headed to the gate after a quick bit of shopping (looking) and boarding was WELL underway So I got to the end of the line, and I was one of the last remaining passengers to board. Now, this part I do remember what seat I had, as when in SYD, the check-in agent gave me a seat allocation there and a boarding pass. But, to my surprise when I got to 75K, there was a Kiwi lass there! I excused myself to her, and suggested she had my seat, but her recant was, "NO, I have MY seat and CLEARLY you are mistaken" and showed me her boarding pass. Sure enough, she also had 75K! One of the EK F/A came over to see what the problem was, and seeing we both had the same seat allocation, went to see the Purser. BEFORE she left though, I mentioned to her that I was Gold Status, and that I wouldn't mind going 'upstairs' To my surprise upon her return, she said "Mr Aussiepomm, would you like to follow me up to Business?" Like YEAH, of course I will, and I gave a sly smile back to my Kiwi counterpart... The good old Aussie/Kiwi rivalry at its best, and she wasn't at all happy!!
Once upstairs, I was moved to three seats all up, first seat was 20K and it was a similar story to downstairs with a fellow passenger (fair enough, as I am an invitee) so I was moved to 20A and got comfy. However, this was not at all long as a lady of Middle Eastern decent sitting in seat 20E request that I be moved so as SHE can have a seat BY HERSELF and not next to another man... At first, I was no-way, but the F/A were trying their best to not offend anyone more than they needed, so I moved across to 20F and she to 20A, so I lost my window to LHR. I was upset, but I was cool with the idea of a Business Class seat DXB-LHR!
Departure was from the same arriving runway 30L. The seat belt light was left on for a little bit, but once removed, the Cabin Manager came over and welcomed me aboard, and softly apologised for the confusion and thanked me for understanding the other passengers requirement. Nice touch really.
Soon, drinks were offered, and followed by lunch...
I also went to the bar, where I chatted with some of the fellow passengers over a drink (or four)! For almost ALL of the flight, Miss 20A did not move, she refused meals and either slept or just sat there like a 'stunned mullet'!
I managed an hour or two of sleep closer to LHR just to freshen up, where upon arrival, I could get to my hotel easily and have dinner and sleep.
Arrival into LHR was via 27R, and it was a very cool April day. The day was clear on approach into LHR from what I could see from tail-cam! We taxied to the gate, and deplaned easily without much of an issue. I thanked the crew for a very pleasant flight as I was exiting. Arriving at the immigration hall, was nothing short of a nightmare! However, I put my Australian passprt away, pulled out my United Kingdom passport, and headed for the nearly empty EU lines.
I did a bit of spotting before heading across the channel to Europe, and I got a few 'new' shots to add to my collection of things we just dont see in Australia!
I was soon heading to the Euro-star to get the train across to Brussels Midi and then up to Ghent for the ETS Field Days. Ghent itself, is a lovely city, and is easy to get around. Here are a couple of the city, and some Turf Science pics as well...
It was time to head back across the pond to London, where it was time to meet up with a mate of mine from Sydney who was also in the UK down in Southampton. The plan we had was that he would come up to London for a couple of days of touristy stuff, but more importantly, spotting at LHR! It was kind of like the days before going to Ghent, but we met up with some locals and based ourselves at the Esso Service Station for 27L departures. these were my 'best shots' of the bad bunch from the day as it was very overcast...
Soon enough, it was time to head home, and as I had checked-in online, it was a matter of arriving at LHR, drop bags and head to the EK Lounge. There was a lot of people in there tonight, and there was limited space available, but I managed to get not only a window overlooking 27L arrivals, but a nearby power socket to charge up my laptop and iPhone! I grabbed some food, something to drink, and settled in for some 'window shopping'. I was in luck this evening, as I got some 'rare stuff' after a tip-off, and the others were just luck, all of which were shot through the glass at LHR!
I'd have to admit, sadly, that I do not remember much at all of this flight, as after the dinner service, I slept solidly, and I didn't even get breakfast as I had slept through that! But I wasn't concerned, as I could eat in the EK Business Lounge!
Again, clearing security in DXB is busy, but relatively quick, and I headed to the very busy lounge area. I got some food, and then I had a shower to freshen up as well.
Before long, it was time for EK412 direct to SYD. this is a 14 hour flight, and one that I have done many times now!
17th April 2011 EK412(A6-EDB) DXB-SYD A388
DEP - DXB 10:15
ARR - SYD 06:55
This flight was FULL, and I mean FULL! Not a spare seat was to be had at all. The flight was totally uneventful, and the meals were good. A small snack was delivered mid flight, and the breakfast was another cheese omelette combination as on other flight.
Arrival into SYD was slightly early from memory, and my mate was already waiting in the arrivals hall. Clearing immigration and Quarantine was done easily, although as I had been to a rural area in Ghent, I mentioned this to the AQIS people. We discussed what it was all about, and I mentioned I had washed shoes in an approved foot-bath commonly used in the nursery industry in Australia, I was allowed to clear without a problem.
Another great set of flights thanks to EK. All up, I would certainly fly them again, regardless of status. London was again a great destination, as was Ghent being a 'surprised jewel' of which I would more than happily go to if I had the opportnity. The next ETS Conferencr is in Kristiansand, Norway. I am already investigationg flights to Oslo, as flying into KRS is so expensive! This is in June, so expect another TR then!
Maybe Ghent, as a destination, isn't that common? But hey, you're the first, so that's a good start! It was a difficult day as well when spotting out at the Esso, but it was also good to get those VS jets! Thanks for reading it though!!