This is my first trip report on A-net, but it's slightly out of sequence from my most recent European trip.
First, some background: I booked these flights last December, after I booked the SEA-IAD-FRa and LHR-ORD-SEA flights on UA. I looked at several options from flying from Germany to the UK, and not surprisingly, BMI, LH, and Deutsche BA were outrageously expensive, far more than what I wanted to spend. Since I was going to Scotland to see my uncle after being in Germany, I considered FRa-Belfast, and the cost was nearly as much as I paid for a roundtrip on UA from SEA-BOS last summer. I remembered my Mom had flow RyanAir from STN up to Prestwick a year before, and said it wasn't bad, and sure enough, they had by far the cheapest flights. Since each one was an hour, I decided to give FR a shot. The SXF-STN was paid for in Euros, and the STN-PIK-STN flights was in GB pounds.
Wx: Partly cloudy
B737-800 (I think FR's entire fleet are 738's, but correct me if I'm wrong on that)
Like all FR airports, SXF isn't in the center of town, but in this case, south of the city and part of the future site of the new BBI-Brandenburg Flughafen (airport) set to open in a few years. My hotel was near the Zoo station in the former W. Berlin, and meant nearly an hour on the S-bahn to get to Schonefeld. The flight left at 9:40am, and I got there at about 8am. It was quite a walk from the station to the terminal, but given all the beer I consumed during the past 10 days, a long walk was in order!
I walked into the terminal and was really surprised that Schonefeld looked nice and kept up, I figured it would be a rathole, given it was the main airport for East Berlin during the DDR (East Germany) days. Evidently, a lot of effort has gone into upgrading it in the past few years. I walked up to the FR ticket counter and showed my internet printout, my passport, and got my boarding pass. I had to check in my larger wheeled suitcase, which wasn't that big, but unlike on the UA flight from IAD-FRa, I couldn't cram it into the overhead.
Once the flight was ready to be boarded, the lounge for Gate 0 was opened up, and the first order of business was showing my passport and boarding pass to the Deutsche Grenzpolizei (German border police) who smiled and stamped my passport. The plane hadn't arrived yet, and I noticed an Aeroflot A320 being prepped for a flight to SVO, a Germanwings jet, Easyjet, and an Tunis Air flight to Tunisia, and another flight headed to CGN. Our plane arrived, and I didn't know this until that point, but FR doesn't actually use the jetway.
A short time later, our plane was ready for boarding. Like any proud A-net member, I had my camera ready to go, and walked down the stairs to the tarmac towards the plane. An Easyjet plane was just being guided in to its stand, so I quickly snapped a shot of that, walked a few more feet, and then snapped a pic. of EI-DAG. At this point, the FR employee told me not to take pictures of the plane! Clearly, he didn't know he was talking to an a-net member.... . Too late, I thought...I already got what I wanted. The flight was full, from what I could see. The doors were shut, engines started, and we taxiied out to 25L, took off, then kicked back for the quick 1 hour, 10 minute flight into STN. The Captain had originally said 1h, 30m. Routing was westbound to HAM, across Holland near Rotterdam, and then a quick hop across the North Sea. Cabin service was as expected...typical announcements asking people to buy snacks and gifts and stuff. Not me, sorry. After cruising at FL360, then up to FL380, we began what seemed like a REALLY long descent into STN, and landed to the west I believe on Runway 23. I noticed this huge ugly DC-10 looking thing at STN, I'm guessing for safety training? Looked really strange, anyway. The walk from the gate into the terminal was really long, but again, I had a lot of beer to work off, so not an issue. I got into the main terminal, and was really impressed! STN was a nice facility, clean, spacious, and a lot nicer than the North Satellite at SEA, that's for damn sure. I walked up the customs officer, he asked me the purpose of my visit, stamped my passport, and then it was time to collect my suitcase, wait was about 15-20 mins.
At this point, I had nearly 6 hours before my flilght to PIK! The flight was supposed to leave at about 2pm, but then FR changed the flight by 3 hours a few months after I booked it, and I didn't find out until much later, when I confirmed the flight reservation. I wasn't happy, but then the flight back to STN was pushed back 3 hours, giving me 3 more hours in Scotland, so...whatever. I had already taken an hour or so through customs, so I got a coffee at this place called Costa in the main terminal...AWESOME! Starbucks doesn't hold a candle to this place, believe me. I hung out there for about a half hour, enjoying my coffee, before walking around the terminal, and then I discovered an Irish bar, called O'Neills. I grabbed a beer and a table, and then struck up a conversation with a guy from Malmo, Sweden, on his way to Palermo, Italy for an archaelogical dig there. He recommended the burger, so I had that for lunch, along with another beer. Before too long, another guy showed up, he had come in from Biarritz, France and was on his way to Knock, on the western coast of Ireland. We talked about how chicks from Sweden and other countries tend be more sexually promiscuous when not in their home countries. Hmmm....duly noted! Hanging out with these guys sure helped pass the time, anyway! Europe is great like that...being able to talk to total strangers about anything like we're old pals. By this time, I needed to take a leak and then check in my bag for the flight up to PIK.
7/14/04 STN-PIK #411
After going through security and having my bag thoroughly checked, I made my way out to the boarding area, and my boarding pass said 81, so I sat there for about 20 minutes, and then realized there was no sign of an FR flight coming anytime soon. I walked around and discovered the flight had been moved to 85. The aircraft arrived slightly late, so the staff wanted us to not fuck around and quickly get on the flight and sit down, so that Mr. O'Leary wouldn't have to explain a delay. This flight was about 90% full, there were about 5 seats near me that were empty. I was going to get a picture of the wing, but then ANOTHER FR employee told me not to take pictures, just like the guy in SXF. By this time, I was PISSED, and decided I wouldn't buy anything on board. No pictures, no extra revenue from food sales. The Captain welcomed us on board, but didn't give any routing info. for the flight up to PIK. We taxied out and took off from Rwy. 23. One thing that caught my attention right away was that we hardly climbed at all. Not having Ch. 9, I had no idea what altitude we were at, and made several wide turns it seemed. Eventually, we increased power and began climbing. My only thought was that STN traffic had to yield to incoming/outgoing LHR and LGW traffic, but I'm not sure about that. It was pretty turbulent for a while, but once we got above the clouds, it smoothed out. Flight was about an hour, and the inflight crew came around with stuff to sell. Like I said, no pictures of the plane, no buying onboard. So, I just wrote notes for my a-net trip report. We began descending not long afterwards, and it was amazing to see the dark green rolling hills of southwestern Scotland...Ayrshire, if I recall correctly. I remember looking out at the scenery and thinking that this was much more beautiful than the approach to Rwy. 12 at IAD. Smooth landing, but I think we landed fast, as the speed brakes were deployed for quite a while, as were the thrust reversers. Got off the plane into an absolute dive of a terminal! Yuk! All of a sudden, the North Satellite at SEA didn't seem so bad! Like SXF and STN, the walk from the gate area to the main terminal was LONG.
7/20/04 PIK-STN #416
Seat: can't remember, think it was 20A
After the hour or so drive up from Newton-Stewart, and a stop in Girvan for lunch, my uncle dropped me off at the main entrance, parked the car, and then met me inside. Check in of my bag was quick and easy. I chatted with him for a while longer, poked around a gift shop and bought some candy for my Mom, and then said goodbye to my Uncle. The security check in was easy, no searches this time. The boarding area seemed pretty simple: a few shops, lots of seats, and that was about it. I poked arond again, and found a Time magazine article about Germany, and bought that to pass the time before boarding. They called the flight for boarding, and like on the flight up, I wanted to board from the rear door on the 737, which meant I got to walk around the plane in order to get the reg. number for my report. Flight was uneventful...we took off from Rwy. 5 I think it was, turned to the right and headed SE, and then towards Manchester and on to STN. Uneventful flight. Since FR offered a discount for the train into central London, and I needed it, I bought the pass for 22 pounds, normally it's like 26. We broke through the clouds, and since I was sitting on the left side, I looked out and saw all of STN. I then knew we were on the downwind leg, and would shortly be turning left for the base leg, and then another left for final to Rwy 5. A smooth landing, and we taxied to our stand, and then again, a long walk to the terminal and out to the train to catch my train to Liverpool Street Station.
As Bugs Bunny would say...That's all, Folks! Hope you enjoyed it.