XLA 2222 MAN-JTR
TF-ARK (I think) 757-225
It seems SO long since I used anything other than T2 at Manchester and we were back there again. We arrived in plenty of time for check-in, I was joking along the way to my fiancée that some check-in desks at Manchester were in the arrivals area, some are even at the station! Little did I know, Excel is the one in arrivals!!! I don’t know how easily we would have figured it out for ourselves as there was a lady giving out ‘lucky pennies’ (hand it over when you buy duty free, and you may get your purchases free) just inside the entrance who pointed us downstairs when we told her where we were going. We went downstairs and had a quick and painless check in, then back up to departures proper. The escalators are right there in front of the Excel desks, so there shouldn’t be too much of a problem getting people up and down. Picked up a few last minute bits (we ALWAYS forget something, for the second holiday in a row it was our digital camera) and cleared security without any problem. Once airside we grabbed a coffee and got settled in for the wait. We were at the far end of T2 (215 for those who know ) where it seemed to be a US theme day. There was a Delta 767 on stand, a Continental 757 that pushed back and departed and a US Air 330 was towed past (to be remote parked maybe?) Having said that, there was also a Singapore 744 off on it’s way home via Zurich and a PIA 777 for destinations unknown. Remotely parked were 2 Air Atlanta 747s and a Travel City Direct 747 to keep the long haul theme going. I was keeping my fingers crossed that we would be using a 757 today (never been in one before!) and when one was towed onto the gate beside where we sat an announcement soon followed calling XLA 2222 to gate 214 – Yay! Boarding by numbers as usual with the front and rear sections first so with 27 A and B, we just needed to wait for a few more minutes.
Once on board though, it seemed quite nice – light, clean and (initially anyway) comfy leather seats throughout. It must have been 100% full today, I could not see a spare seat anywhere. We taxied out to the end of 24L and joined a short queue for take off. There were 2 hardy souls on the embankment outside the fence there with deck chairs and thick coats, not a bad day weather wise but very committed of them none the less! When our time came, it was everything I hoped for. Even 100% full the plane accelerated and climbed steeper like I have not felt before. I would LOVE to fly an empty one with a captain who is in a hurry! Once up there though, we settled back into cruise and the sales began – first snacks (but not drinks) were wheeled through, then the drinks followed. As always the prices are outrageous, so I passed on them all. The headphone plugs were single socket so I used my own and settled back to watch Mr and Mrs Smith while all the selling was going on. After 5 minutes I realised it was a very large pile of human food waste so I got my book out and read that instead. The meal service came round – chicken, a very nice raspberry pudding, a piece of cheese with crackers and even a free tea or coffee!!! :P It wasn’t too bad, in fact the pud was lovely. Three and a half hours after taking off we were soon descending through the islands of Greece. I would like to say the views were spectacular but it was quite hazy so it was pretty much limited to straight down. The approach into Santorini brought us past the mountain on our left. The woman behind me commented twice on this, once jokingly then with a little more worry in her voice! The pilot avoided it though and we had a very positive touch down. Santorini is also a military base and there are arrester cables across the runway, perhaps our pilot thought he was back on the carriers, either way I scored him an ‘OK 2’ Landing was almost as spectacular as take off with full braking and reverse thrust and we turned off and pulled onto the apron. A couple of minutes for the steps to come, and just 2 busses shuttling people over to the terminal but we were soon inside. Passport checks were quick then there was the usual charter scrum at the luggage belt (stand as close as possible - preferably with a trolley, if possible station further family members every 5 meters along) all of which meant that after we waited 10 minutes for our luggage, I needed to force my way to the front as ours was one of the first out!
Santorini really is a beautiful place, a great volcanic mountain in the middle, black beaches great food and nice people. A perfect place to spend a week whether you are a sun worshipper, or like us the sort who likes to put your feet up, read a book and go and have a good dinner later on.
XLA 2223 JTR-MAN
As all good things come to an end, all too soon we found ourselves in front of Santorini Airport. Now, you must pass your bags through and x-ray and go through a metal detector just to get IN the airport, however, I doubt the bored looking man on the x-ray machine was looking at the pictures, certainly, every single person passing through the metal detector set it off, but with no one there doing anything about it… Well anyway, it’s only a small place and there was a long queue to get to the check-in desks, so much so we couldn’t see them! We were also advised NOT to go through security until 1 hour before departure, as any more than 200 people would mean the place being too full!!! We could see that it was quite empty however, and I thought I saw a nice little terrace upstairs so we passed through some PROPER security this time! :P Sure enough there was a little terrace on top with a nice view of proceedings down on the apron. If only there was something going on! Just 3 left at this point, an Olympic ATR for Athens, a Smartwings.net 737 OK-SWV and an all white MD-82 TF-JXL which was there when we arrived too. Tuesdays must see a long parade of charters from the UK judging by the departure boards which showed all flights that day and the first one the next day!!! After they had departed, we had not a lot to do until our ride arrived from Manchester, 15 late. It was turned around and we boarded 20 down, but confident it would be picked up on the way home. We settled into 13 E and F (another 100% full flight) and taxied round to the end of the runway. No waiting for us today, we rolled straight on, had some power in before we were straightened up, stabilised for a second, then full power and another vertical departure, fantastic. I was looking forward to our IFE today, we were promised The Longest Yard (I am a big Adam Sandler fan) so I got my earphones out and went to plug them in. They were double sockets! I KNEW I should have gone and bought an adapter before I left!!! Even while I was doing that ”…due to technical difficulties we cannot show our film today” so I never even plugged them in and just went straight to my book (the 6th of the week!) Having some euros left over, we decided to treat ourselves and bought a couple of drinks and some Pringles before the meal service came round. A choice today – Chicken in mushroom sauce or Sausage and mash. I had the sausage, my fiancée had the chicken. It was quite good, even better, my fiancée had a bit of a headache, which meant she could not eat her chocolate pudding. It was made by the same people as the one going out and it was delicious, twice! Not a lot to see out of the windows. And by the time we arrived over the UK, it was dark. Amazingly, it was a very clear night, just the odd puffs of cloud here and there so I just sat glued to the window, trying somehow to figure out where we were! Didn’t stand a chance however, and it was only really when we were coming around for final approach that I figured it out. We came in on 24R and had firm braking and some reverse thrust, but not the same amount as we had in Santorini. We taxied to stand and as we were about opposite 2L, were among the first off. Not that there was much point however, there was quite a walk to immigration, and the officer checking my passport had to have 2 or 3 good looks to be sure it was me. My passport is 8 years old, my hair is shorter and receding a little and I now have a goatee, plus a weeks worth of beard from my holiday! In all my other trip reports, I have exclaimed surprise that upon arriving backing Manchester T2, we have our luggage quickly despite the experience of others. This time the curse struck us, and we had a 30 minute wait in the scrum at the belt. We went to get some cash for the taxi, but the (single!) arrivals ATM was out of order. Then the area outside for taxis to use was closed off, meaning taxis, busses and private cars were all using the same short stretch of road for pick-ups. Plus it was dark and cold (compared to where we were anyway!) but on the good side, it wasn’t raining! :P Welcome home!
Overall, I can’t fault Excel. We got there and back (pretty much) on time and they are professionals in the air.
Cheers for reading!
[Edited 2005-10-05 19:32:51]
[Edited 2005-10-05 19:35:00]
[Edited 2005-10-05 19:35:41]