Demoose From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 1952 posts, RR: 22 Posted (10 years 10 months 2 weeks ago) and read 26074 times:
Airline: First Choice Airways
Flight: FCA872C Manchester – Tenerife South
Date: 18 June 2004
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200 G-CPEU
Scheduled Departure Time: 0825
Scheduled Arrival Time: 1250
I arrived at Manchester Airport Terminal 2 at around 6am for my 8:25am flight to Tenerife with First Choice Airways, previously known as Air 2000, and rebranded earlier this year. As usual, the terminal was quite busy and my bag had decided to pick up an annoying squeak on the way to the airport. Anyway my mate and I headed over to the First Choice check in area where there was quite a queue but it was moving quickly. This morning First Choice had numerous flights to Tenerife and also some to Skiathos, Menorca and Reus judging by the luggage tags on other people’s bags. Soon I was at the front of the queue and called over to the available check in guy. As I approached he wondered why his colleague was whistling, until I told him that infact it was my very annoying squeaky bag! Just as I handed my tickets and passport over a woman came over with some letters for passengers on a 4 hour delayed Tenerife flight – thankfully it was not our flight, but the one at 10:45am which I had nearly booked myself on in order to have a bit more of a lie in! The check in guy told me that an aircraft had gone tech and they were ferrying one in from somewhere else, so not a good morning for the guys at First Choice Airways.
We were checked in, and I saw on the computer where he put us, an image of our 757 seating plan appeared and he highlighted seats 14A and 14B so at least I knew I had a window seat. I said goodbye to my squeaky suitcase and went through to departures. The place was heaving with typical British holidaymakers and hardly any spare seats so I took a walk down the pier where it was quieter. I couldn’t see many First Choice aircraft on stand, mainly Excel Airways which had a 767-200 and 757-200 both going to Tenerife this morning and quite a few Britannia 767-300’s were on stand. We were due to board at 0740 and the departures screen showed a slight delay but we would be boarding from Gate 300 – an unusual gate as it’s on a lower floor and is used to bus passengers to remote stands. So having found the gate we went and sat down waiting to board the buses to take us to the aircraft.
A family was sat opposite, and the mother was obviously scared of flying as she was in tears in her husbands’ arms, whilst their two young kids were just making things even more stressful for her! Other passengers were trying to calm her down and make her relax. A call for boarding was made at 8am, so we were obviously not going to make our departure time of 0825 seeing as we all had to board buses. We were driven down the back passages of Terminal 2 past numerous aircraft including a PIA 747 in the new livery until we pulled up in front of our 757-200 at the far end of Terminal 2, G-CPEU which is an ex BA aircraft. Only one door was being used for boarding, and again this seemed to take ages. Once onboard we found our seats, and surprise surprise who we had been seated next to, yep the family from hell, two 5 year old boys and a nervous flyer for a mum! I thought it shouldn’t be too bad as the kid on our row was being quiet for now.
I turned my attention to the window and looked out at everyone else waiting on the steps. A BWIA A340 then pulled up besides us which was a nice sight. With everyone onboard the crew made the usual welcome announcements, First Choice call their economy class ‘star class’, no idea why but they mentioned it quite a bit on this flight. The captain then welcomed us onboard and apologised for the delay, which was apparently due to a shortage of baggage loaders at MAN this morning. We would be flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet for this flight and along the usual routing down the west of the UK over the English Channel to France then onto the north western Iberian peninsular, along the coast of Portugal and then over the Atlantic Ocean to the Canary Islands. Flight time was 4 hours and 13 minutes and the weather en route was forecast as good. At 08:50am we pushed back from our remote stand and the cabin crew pointed our attention to the TV screens for the safety video. We waited, but nothing came on and it wasn’t long before the ‘cabin crew prepare for manual demonstration’ announcement was made. We taxied over the runway 24L and waitied whilst an Excel 757 and Astraeus 737 departed infront of us. As we entered the runway the engines spooled up and we kept rolling before take off power was selected and after quite a long run we lifted into the sky. I looked across at the poor woman scared of flying; she was just in her husbands arms whilst the two kids didn’t seem to care.
Luckily cloud cover wasn’t too low today so I got some nice views of the Cheshire countryside before climbing through the cloud. Cabin crew then began their service duties which began with a headsets and snacks service. The inflight entertainment was slow to start, with a promotional First Choice video being shown for the first 10 minutes and then nothing. Eventually the movie started which was the recent Starsky and Hutch, but I’d already seen it so wasn’t too interested in watching it. Around 45 minutes into the flight the crew came round with the usual drinks service 70p for a mini can of pepsi! £2.70 for a mini bottle of vodka! Well I wasn’t thirsty and knew there would be orange juice with breakfast anyway. We had now reached our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet and breakfast began.
First Choice, like most charter airlines these days, now offers meals as an extra, £10 per round trip for short haul. I had opted for these as a 4 hour flight is pretty long to go without any food for me! As a result, people having meals are seated at the front of the aircraft.
Breakfast comprised of the usual hot English bacon, sausage, egg, hash browns and tomato along with a bread roll, double choc-chip muffin, orange juice and tea or coffee. The choc-chip muffin was excellent, the best I’ve ever had with really big bits of chunky chocolate in it. Whoever put that on the menu deserves a raise!
Now feeling full I read my copy of Airliner World that I had bought at the airport. And that was the end of the relaxed time on my flight. The kid sat by the aisle in our row was getting bored and wanted to swap seats so he could sit next to the window. So being the nice guy that I am I moved to the centre seat so the boy could sit by the window. He was quiet for a few minutes but then was asking me to open his orange juice, which he then spilt all down the seat – good job they were leather. Then he was trying to take my arm off with the seat belt clip and asking me all these questions about what was outside. I tried to talk to him to make him sit still for a bit, he went by the name of Jake, and was 7 years old I learnt. His parents couldn’t really do much as the mum was still just terrified by the flight and now and then just shouted across to her son to behave and shut up!
The duty free service then came around, which was accompanied by a hugely long announcement promoting all their offers – they really are going for the big sell. Once this had passed, another bar service came round – and having sat next to this little brat of a boy for over an hour now I needed something stronger than orange juice so I had a vodka and coke! We were over the Atlantic now, with under an hour to run before arrival into Tenerife. The captain gave us the final details of our flight and the weather was looking superb outside!
We started descent just after 12:30pm and for the first time for me we came in from the north east of the Island due to south westerly winds. With the kid next to me refusing to move back to his parents, and his mum getting scared of landing again it was me that had to act as baby sitter making sure he had his seatbelt on. I looked out of the window opposite to see glimpses of the island of Tenerife, looking volcanic as usual. Gear was lowered and we touched down firmly on runway 26 and slowed down without any reverse thrust ten minutes late at 1pm. We taxied to the stand, and we were on one with an airbridge which took us directly into the terminal building. The family from hell reclaimed their child, and said thanks to me for coping! They were actually really nice to be honest; I can remember me and my brother being exactly the same at that age when we went on flights abroad. As I entered the airport, I stopped for a second to take a photo of our aircraft that brought me to Tenerife. Now it was time for my week in the Canarian sunshine!
Airline: First Choice Airways
Flight: FCA872D Tenerife South - Manchester
Date: 25 June 2004
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200 G-OOOY
Scheduled Departure Time: 1350
Scheduled Arrival Time: 1810
Well another week in Tenerife flew by as usual and after much drunkenness, but good behaviour it was time to fly back to the UK. England had just lost (controversially) to Portugal the night before, and it’s fair to say I was quite drunk and for some reason we got a Mexican takeaway after the match too – I do not recommend this the night before your going on a flight as I was feeling quite ill!
With my bottle of water in hand, we arrived at Reina Sofia Airport at 11am and headed over to the First Choice Check in area – we were a bit early but I was pleased to see that all flights could check in at the same group of desks so there was no need to wait around. After about 20 minutes queuing we got the front and was ‘greeted’ by a grumpy silent woman – she did not speak a word to us! If she was in the UK the CAA would love to have a word with her. I handed tickets over and passports, she tapped into her computer then returned them with the boarding cards – not a word spoken, actually my hungover face probably scared her!, but at least I had a window seat again, 12F.
We proceeded through to the departure lounge and thankfully it wasn’t as busy as previous times I’ve flown from this airport – it can be stupidly busy during some weeks in the winter. I sat down and looked out of the glass to the apron in front with all the inbound and outbound traffic. Excel were the dominant airline this morning with 4 of their aircraft landing in about 15 minutes, including 2 767-200’s. The most interesting thing I saw was a Hapag Lloyd 737 which was landing. It was floating way down the runway still very high and the pilot was struggling to get the gear on the runway. About halfway down the runway the main gear made a smokey touchdown but the nose gear remained high in the air. With available runway length reducing, the aircraft eventually did a go around, causing a bit of concern with some people watching from the terminal.
After that, my attention turned to my worsening stomach ache, and I went for a walk to, erm, the toilet. I then sat down in the cafeteria, took 2 paracetamol and had some coca cola. Half an hour later it kicked in, I was back to my usual self and was looking forward to my flight. Our flight was shown as on time, and would be boarding from gate 22 via buses by the look of it as a Britannia 757 to Luton was at one side, and a Monarch A300 to Manchester was at the other side. Our flight was called for boarding at 1pm and we headed onto the buses. We waited a long time before we set of for the aircraft and a Thomas Cook 757, G-FCLF, parked up right next to us whilst we waited. It was an awesome sight being so close to an aircraft.
On entering the aircraft I was very pleased to see that however grumpy the check in lady was, she had sat me by the exit door with extra legroom! Usually an extra charge of £25 is made for these seats. I was also near the crew and could hear the entire goings on with despatch as our flight was prepared for departure. This flight wasn’t as full as the outbound flight and there was atleast one spare extra legroom seat which I thought was a bit odd, seeing as some people would kill to have that seat. The captain welcomed us onboard, I think his name was captain R Worthington. We would be cruising at 36,000 feet for our return flight to Manchester taking the same route as our inbound flight and would arrive into Manchester around 20 minutes early.
The cabin crew on this flight seemed much happier and fun than those on the inbound flight. Usually it’s the other way round with Tenerife flights as by the time they are operating the return flight the crew have been on their feet for over 5 hours already. Anyway we pushed back 5 minutes early at 1345 and headed down to runway 08. There was no inbound traffic at this point so after the safety demo was over we entered the runway with no delay and engine power was increasing before we had even lined up fully. With that great whine from the Rolls Royce engines we lifted up from Tenerife and began our climb out along the eastern side of the island.
There was a nice view of Gran Canaria during the climb and it wasn’t long before the crew came round selling headsets and snacks. It’s very sneaky what they do here, the crew sell snacks on one trolley first – but no drinks, thus when you’ve had your Pringles or whatever you need a drink and that comes round next. On today’s flight the crew informed us of a special offer for drinks, as today they all came with free ice and lemon, a cup and napkin! Amazing! The menu for lunch was also announced, and apparently it was a Gordon Ramsay special of Bangers and Mash! I just opted for red wine to have with my meal, £2.70 please! The inflight movie started, which was Cheaper by the Dozen. Nearly all the passengers watching this kept laughing so loudly, especially one guy opposite.
Well as I hadn’t eaten any food all day yet I was now getting so hungry that it was hurting. The lunch wasn’t served until 2 hours into the flight! I was so pleased that unlike the drinks service, which started at the front and worked its way back to my seat, the meal trolley was wheeled right down to my row and stopped and I got handed the first meal.
I have to say the meals on First Choice are very good, probably the best I’ve had on a charter airline in recent years. Lunch comprised of Pork Sausages in red wine gravy with cabbage and onion mashed potato. Along with this came a spinach and mushroom pastry, chocolate cheesecake and cheese and biscuits, followed by the usual tea and coffee. Very filling, very tasty, very nice!
The trays were quickly cleared away to make time for the all important duty free service, quicky followed up the rear with another bar service. I was enjoying the comfort of being able to stretch out my legs for a change. Looking out of the window we were in some high cloud, climbing further to around 38,000 feet. We were now flying over the English Channel and onto the Bristol Channel and over the city of Cardiff. Thankfully the weather over the UK was pretty clear so I go some great views of various cities.
We began our descent into Manchester at 1730 and were informed that we’d be landing in 25 minutes. Our route then took us over Wales to Wrexham where we turned and headed for Liverpool where we flew right over the airport which was busy with Easyjet aircraft not surprisingly and there was a lot of air traffic flying below us, with some on finals into Liverpool and others like us, on their way into Manchester.
We then routed over north Manchester, getting a great view of the city centre before heading further east over the City of Manchester stadium before making a sharp right turn onto finals for runway 24R at MAN and I could see and Excel Airways 757-200 infront of us. The views were amazing as its not often you land into Manchester in bright sunshine and clear blue skies!
Gear was lowered over Stockport and the crew took their seats for landing. Touchdown was at 1755, and again no reverse thrust was used.
We taxied off the runway and the cabin crew pointed out Concorde out of the window whilst reminding people to keep their seat belts on until the aircraft stops otherwise they would be arriving at the terminal before the aircraft does! A quick thank you from the flight deck confirmed that we’d be arriving on stand 10 minutes early and we parked up at Terminal 2 and engines were shut down. I had noticed during the flight that the exit sign above the door had been held on with bright pink ‘Priority Crew Baggage’ stickers and when the door was opened for the airbridge the exit sign fell off, good job no passengers were stood under it!
I disembarked into an unusually sunny Manchester and made my way through to arrivals. Oh and as I waited at the baggage carousel for my bags, guess who appeared next to me, the family from hell who thankfully I hadn’t had to sit next to for my return flight! They said I was lucky I didn’t have to endure him on the flight back aswell, and I was!
Hope you enjoyed my report on First Choice Airways, I’d definitely fly with them again!
Crosswind From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2000, 2620 posts, RR: 57
Reply 4, posted (10 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 25726 times:
Glad you enjoyed your flights - and the food. I know what you mean about the hard sell, don't really like it myself. Think it's a sign of the times, all airlines are under immense pressure to maximise profits through inflight sales. At least you were more-or-less ontime...
Was the approach into TFS bumpy? It usually is, convective heating and the usually stiff sea breeze over the rugged terrain can make for some interesting landings - has the Hapag-Lloyd passengers found out!
In my opinion the window seats in row 12 (A and F) are the best seats on the 757, plenty of legroom and a good view! Just a shame you didn't get one of the brand new 757s, although G-CPEU and G-OOOY are fairly nice aircraft...
Demoose From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 1952 posts, RR: 22
Reply 5, posted (10 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 25670 times:
Hi thanks for the comments, to answer a few questions...
ScottishLaddie - Good point, I hadn't spotted that but in the cabin there was definately no noise that you hear from using reverse thrust - I was waiting for it but it never happened, maybe its because I was sat near the front perhaps? Still, it was a silent roll down the runway on landing maybe someone with more knowledge of the 757 could answer this!
Crosswind - Thanks again, the landing into TFS on this flight wasn't bumpy at all as I remember. It was the first time in 5 times flying into the island that i'd landed on runway 26 from the north east. Usually you come in from the south west on runway 08 and I remember landings from that direction to be bumpier certainly. On the day I returned I noticed quite a strong crosswind coming off the Atlantic over the runway and some of the aircraft landing on runway 08 had to do some last minute compensatory turns to get the aircraft down first time, others however didn't manage it!
Bwaflyer From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2004, 696 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (10 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 25590 times:
Reverse thrust - on the 73G that I work on, the flight crew select reverse idle on landing, which opens the engine cowling, but doen't spool up the engine, meaning that the the engines are saved a bit of wear and tear, but are ready for action should additional braking be required. That's how the captain explained it to me, but he could be simplifying it for a dumb blonde hostie!
Planesarecool From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 4124 posts, RR: 11
Reply 7, posted (10 years 10 months 1 week 6 days ago) and read 25574 times:
Great report, Its always good to hear how the charter airlines are doing and these reports inspire me most. On my return flight from Palma in about 4 weeks, I am flying First Choice and most likely a B757. Do you recommend these seats you sat in? Also how close were you to the "gaps" in the windows as shown here (After 5th window from 2nd door):
Demoose From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 1952 posts, RR: 22
Reply 12, posted (10 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 25326 times:
Planesarecool - i'd definitely say that row 12 is the best on FCA's 757's - you get extra legroom at the window seats, and they are located next to the two windows down from the number 2 door, you almost have 2 full windows next to your seat.
A340600 - Also First Choice Airways have changed their inflight meal service for summer 2004 - apparently the menu is much better than it was and i'd have to agree judging by the comparsion of breakfast with your photo! However they now charge extra for inflight meals, unlike previously when they were operating as Air2000 - its just the way charter airlines are going these days.
First Choice are a very good airline, the service was more like what charter airlines offered a few years ago before they all got rebranded and merged. However, they are all much the same today and it's often just one small thing which make one stand out from the rest when you fly with them.
Just to add, a kind of sad thing I picked up at the airport before flying out to Tenerife was that airport announcements at MAN now refer to Britannia flights as 'Thomson Flight...' Maybe i'm just being overly nostalgic!
Crosswind From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2000, 2620 posts, RR: 57
Reply 13, posted (10 years 10 months 1 week 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 25160 times:
That flight should be operated by a 757.
Not all passengers have to pay for their meals, generally those booking more expensive holidays plus longhaul passengers have meals included in the ticket price, but the full breakdown is as follows:
• Eclipse Select
• First Choice Premier
• High frequency charter
• Independent brans (Sovereign, Hayes & Jarvis, Meon Villas, Longshot, Citalia, Sunsail)
• JWT/Falcon passengers (Eire/Northern Ireland)
• Longhaul flights plus Egypt and the Gambia
• Premium Cabin passengers
• Scheduled seat-only passengers (DP flights)
• Ski flights
• Third-party tour operator passengers
• First Choice
• First Choice Lakes and Mountains
• Island Cruises
• Saver brands
• Sun brands (Sunstart, Sunquest, 2wentys)
Due to the very short flying times, all passengers on Ski flights will continue to get an abbreviated hot-breakfast/snack, as has always been the case.
Rb211ltn From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 133 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (10 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 24198 times:
Excellent report. I flew FCA in September from LTN to MIR on the A320. Both outbound and inbound flights were excellent, good meals and pleasant crew. Scheduled airlines have a lot of competition from the charter carriers in terms of service. I really enjoyed flying with them and would recommend them.
The customer is always right.....unless he is a passenger!