UK_Dispatcher From United Arab Emirates, joined Dec 2001, 2595 posts, RR: 30 Posted (8 years 10 months 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 13676 times:
Departure Airport: Bahrain (Manama) – International (Muharraq) (BAH/OBBI)
Arrival Airport: Athens - Eleftherios Venizelos (Spata), Greece (ATH / LGAV)
Airline: Gulf Air
Flight number: GF 41
Aircraft type: Airbus A340-313X
Registration: VT-JWC (c/n 651)
Date: 9th September 2005
Class: Y (Economy)
Scheduled Flight time: 4hrs 35mins
Having spent a week working in Riyadh, Dammam and Bahrain, it was now time to switch off from work for a couple of days, and travel to my friends' wedding on the Greek island of Rhodes. I had known for several weeks that I was going to be in Bahrain the day before the wedding, and had started looking at the flights some weeks ago, to see how I could make it to RHO from BAH. I found out that Gulf Air operated a daily flight BAH-ATH using an A320, and that Aegean Airlines and Olympic Airlines operated several daily flights on the ATH-RHO route.
Not knowing whether or not I was going to travel until just a few days before, I found myself in a travel agency in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, purchasing tickets for the ATH-RHO-ATH sectors, having purchased my BAH-ATH-BAH tickets in Abu Dhabi a few days earlier. By this time, there was no availability showing on any of the RHO-ATH flights. I was waitlisted for the early morning Aegean Airlines flight, which was the only flight showing any availability the previous week, and luckily the reservation came back confirmed.
I awoke early, at approximately 0630, and took a courtesy bus from the Bahrain Hilton, to Bahrain International Airport. Having proceeded through the security checks to the main check-in area on the departures level, I noticed that most of the check-in counters were very quiet. I carried my bags across to one of the Gulf Air counters, and was checked in by a very pleasant lady. It was a relief to get rid of my two large bags, which were mainly filled with training material and dirty washing from the previous week, but as I was not returning back to my apartment in Abu Dhabi until after this trip to Greece, I had no choice but lug them around with me.
After being handed my boarding pass, I decided to go airside straight away, as there is nothing to remain landside for at BAH. Before I went airside, I had to go and pay my 3 Dinars departure tax, at the counter adjacent to the departure channel. As I had a wallet full of Saudi and UAE currency, I decided to pay using 30 UAE Dirhams. Once I recieved my reciept, I walked through to the Immigration counters, where my passport recieved a departure stamp. Once I got into the gate area, I could see that it was rather busy, but luckily, I had recieved an invitation from Bahrain Airport Services to use their new business louge, to which I proceeded straight away. I was greeted at the lounge entrance by a very courteous lady staff member, and shown into the lounge. The lounge is very pleasantly presented, using mainly black, brown and beige colours, and offers a very good variety of reading material, snacks and beverages. Within a couple of minutes, I was drinking tea and munching coco pops, making up for the fact that I did not have time for breakfast in the hotel. The lounge offers a reasonable view of part of the apron area, and I could see that further along the pier there were two A340-300s, one Gulf Air and one Jet Airways. As I ate my breakfast, a DAS Air Cargo DC-10F arrived and taxied onto the cargo apron, and an Egyptair Boeing 737-500, SU-GBJ, landed and taxied onto stand very close to where I was sitting. It was nice to see this, as the only MS aircraft I usually see back in AUH are a mixture of wide-body Airbuses, and Boeing 777-200s. Also parked nearby was Gulf Air Boeing 767-300, A40-GJ, in the rather attractive, blue 50th anniversary markings.
After relaxing in the lounge for a while, I decided to head downstairs to the departure gate. My flight was assigned gate 14, which was just over a five minute walk away. Naturally, when I got to the gate, the first thing I had to do was subtly take a photograph of the aircraft that was to take me to Athens. The aircraft operating this flight was to be VT-JWC, an A340-300 of Jet Airways.
Within a few minutes of arriving at the gate, the first boarding call was made, and the usual rush ensued. This always makes me wonder what goes through peoples' minds at this stage, especially on full-service flights with allocated seating. Naturally, I waited until the rush was over, and was one of the last to make my way along the airbridge. I had been allocated an aisle seat at check-in, and asked at the gate if there were any window seats available. I was then kindly changed to seat 70K. A few years ago, when I used to be a check-in agent, I always used to offer people a choice of window or aisle, but I have noticed recently that most check-in agents do not do this. I made my way for boarding through door L2, noticing a sticker applied to the right of the door, which explained that this aircraft was operated by Jet Airways, on lease to Gulf Air. I made my way through the business class section, and was impressed by the modern and presentable seating.
Sadly, it was economy class for me today, but I had my window seat, and was very much looking forward to the flight. I made my way to the rear of the economy section, placed my cabin baggage in the overhead bin above rows 70/71, and took my seat by the window. The economy section was very presentable, and my initial impression of Jet Airways' aircraft was very good.
As I took a look out of my window, I coold see a Qatar Airways A300-600 arriving on a nearby stand, as well as an Emirates A330-200, A6-EKV, on the adjacent stand, being prepared for a flight to Dubai.
A few minutes later, we were pushing back, and a Gulf Air A330-200, A40-LH, could also be seen, as well as the DAS Air Cargo DC-10F I had seen arriving earlier, on the cargo apron in the distance.
As we taxied out to the take-off runway, we passed Gulf Air Boeing 767-300, A40-GJ, in the special markings that I commented on earlier, as well as an A320-200 in the standard GF colours, before taxying past BAH's new, stylishly designed control tower. This was still under construction when I last flew here in June.
A couple of minutes later, 'WC was turning onto the runway, and was soon airborne for ATH.
Take-off from BAH
It always seems noticeable how slow the climb rate is on the A340-300. I believe the A340-500 has far superior take-off performance compared to the earlier -300 series, so it will be interesting to compare when I take my first trip on board the -500 series.
As the aircraft slowly climbed away from Bahrain, there were some nice views of the clear, blue gulf below. It would be interesting to find out what the dark blue line is in the first picture, and whether the ship in the second picture is a wreck, or whether it is intentionally positioned in this area of what appears to very shallow water, as this was by now quite a way off the coast.
The first land we passed over, apart from the occasional tiny island, was part of the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia.
After a while, I had a play around with the IFE system, and took a look at a short video about Jet Airways, which was quite interesting. It didn't really talk about long haul services, and only featured the carrier's B737-400 aircraft, so must have been at least a few months old. It did, however, create a very good impression of the company - the kind of impression I have always had of Jet Airways. The IFE system was pretty good, offering a selection of TV programmes and movies on demand, as well as music on demand from quite a number of albums available. I spent some time listening to music, but didn't really feel like a movie.
It was soon time for the meal service to begin, and there was a choice of two or three dishes. I chose the mixed grill, which consisted of chicken, lamb, kofta and shrimp. This was actually on par with some of the food I have recieved in business class with some carriers, and the gentleman seated next to me also commented on how good it was. I also had a Sprite, followed by a cup of tea.
I overheard one of the cabin crew telling one of the passengers that she was from Jet Airways, and that they were operating this aircraft for a total of three months, before they start their new BOM-BHX service. This was news to me, as I did not realise 9W were to fly to Birmingham. I know that there was also at least one Gulf Air crew member on board, as I had chatted briefly with her shortly after boarding. She took an interest in where I was going today, as I was probably the only British passenger on board, and it turned out she was from Liverpool. Naturally, I knew that before she told me, due to her slight scouse accent. I suspect she may have been a Cabin Manager from GF, probably travelling as the GF representative among the 9W crew.
After a couple of hours, we were getting closer to the Mediteranean, passing over Syria, and then to the lusher coastal area that is Lebanon.
We passed to the north of Beirut, and an airfield was visible by the coast. Any information on this airfield would be most appreciated.
It was nice to see the blue Mediteranean Sea below, as this was my first trip out of the middle east for over three months. After leaving the coast of Lebanon behind, We were soon passing over the eastern end of the island of Cyprus, and the island's unique shape made it easily distinguishable.
I would have liked to have been able to see the southern coast of Cyprus, particularly Paphos, as I had been there on family holidays in both 1993 and 1994, but we appeared to be flying just to the north of the southern coast, which meant a lot of what I could see was the Turkish occupied northern part of Cyprus. It surprised me just how many airfields there are on this relatively small island, especially in the area around the capital city of Nicosia. A couple of Turkish emblems could also be seen on the mountainside as we continued west.
We then passed over the northwesternmost tip of Cyprus, and I immediately thought of the towns of Polis and Latchi, and the Akamas mountains, which I had visited with my family in the past. I am not sure, however, whether they are visible in this picture, as I believe the coastline that can be seen in the picture below may actually curve westwards again, before curving south for a second time, and those places may actually be southwest of what can be seen in this picture. If anyone familiar with Cyprus can confirm this, I would be most grateful.
UK_Dispatcher From United Arab Emirates, joined Dec 2001, 2595 posts, RR: 30
Reply 1, posted (8 years 10 months 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 13653 times:
After passing over Cyprus, the southern coast of Turkey was visible to the north, and made for a pleasant sight on such a beautiful day.
There were several islands visible off the Turkish coast, this one being quite distinctive with an airfield at the top of the island. Again, any info on this would be appreciated.
Another very distinctive feature of the coastline were these two or three islands which were shaped very much like an exclamation mark. Interestingly, also visible in the right of this picture are what appeared to be three aircraft carriers.
After skirting the south coast of Turkey for some time, we started passing over what I assumed were the first of many Greek Islands. I'm sure someone will be able to identify this particular island, even if only by its airport.
Before long, we were making our initial descent towards Athens, and the many more islands and clear blue sea below made for a very pleasant descent.
Soon, the coastline of the Greek mainland became visible, and we were soon on final approach into ATH.
Landing at ATH
I was quite surprised at how small the new Athens Airport appeared to be, as we taxied towards the main pier.
One of the more interesting aircraft in evidence today was Air Scotland B757-200, SX-BLW, with additional Greece Airways titles. I was actually surprised to see that this airline was still operating, having been somewhat cynical when reading about it at the time it was established.
We arrived at the gate alongside Singapore Airlines B777-200, 9V-SPF, and the similarity between the colourschemes of 9W and SQ could clearly be seen.
My impression of this Gulf Air/Jet Airways combination was very good, and I would certainly try either of these carriers again. The Gulf Air representative was very pleasant with the passengers, and the Jet Airways crew appeared to be very happy to be flying for Gulf Air. The Jet Airways cabin and IFE were very good, and the Gulf Air catering excellent. All in all, this was one of the most pleasant flights I have taken - a credit to both Gulf Air and Jet Airways.
This was not the end of my journey today, as there was a second flight to take in order to reach my final destination of Rhodes. I called at the OA transfer desk, where I was issued my ATH-RHO boarding pass, and reserved the seat next to me for my friend, who apparantly had not been through-checked from LGW. I then collected my baggage and took it upstairs to the main check-in area, where it was tagged and sent down the belt. I then had a few hours to kill before my friend was due to arrive from LGW, so I headed up to the McDonalds on the upper level, which offers good views of the aircraft activity along the main pier. The two largest carriers at ATH are Olympic Airlines and Aegean Airlines., and plenty of their aircraft were in evidence.
Olympic Aviation B717-200, SX-BOB
Aegean Airlines B737-400, SX-BGV
After watching my friend's flight arrive, I headed down to the B gates, from which our onward flight was already showing as departing from. These gates are on the lower level, below those being served by airbridges above, and serve the remote stands via coaches. As I waited for my friend to meet me in the gate area, I took a look out of the window, and was afforded a very nice view of Lufthansa A300-600 'AK, which was being prepared for its next flight.
After meeting my friend in the gate area and having a couple of beers, we headed along the corridor to the gate which had been advised on the monitors outside the gate area. There was a security check to pass through before this gate area could be reached, and once inside here, there were no information monitors at all. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 1830, and at 1820 we, and a number of others who were in the gate waiting for the same flight, became slightly concerned at the lack of any staff, or references to the flight. The only staff in the area were dealing with Aegean Airlines flights, so there was nobody to check with from Olympic Airlines. Eventually, one of the passengers established that the flight had been changed to another gate, which was back through the security point, and a good 5-10 minutes' walk away. Anyone who had the original gate stated on the boarding pass and had proceeded to the gate in good time would be unaware of the change due to the lack of any flight information monitors, and no clear gate change announcements.
When we reached the new gate, an argument ensued between an OA representative and a number of Greek passengers who had just arrived ahead of us from the original gate. It seemed that our dash to the gate had been pretty futile, as the flight had been delayed due to a lack of crew. After a rather heated argument with one lady passenger in particular, the OA representative put out a delay call to advise that the next information on the departure of this flight would be one hour later, at 1930. From experience with my previous airline in the UK, I know that 'next info' does not necessarily mean that any more information will be available at that time, and advised my friend that we may not get to RHO for quite some time. Now very tired, we sat and chatted for the next hour, and at 1930 an announcement was made to advise that there was now an estimated departure time of 2010. This was better news than I was preparing for, and before long we were boarding via the airbridge. A glance out of the window at the gate had revelaed that the aircraft taking us to RHO would be SX-BKE 'Stagira', a B737-400. I knew that the previous OA flight to RHO was scheduled to be operated by a B717, but I had sacrificed the opportunity to fly on a 717 by choosing to travel on the same flight as my friend.
It had now been dark for some time, and there was no opportunity to take any photographs before or during the flight.
I had been allocated seat 3F, and had reserved 3E for my friend several hours earlier, so we took our seats in the first row of economy, rows 1-2 being the business class section. The cabin looked like it had not been updated for some time, but for such a short flight I was not complaining.
As we took off, I realised that this was my first trip on a 737 for quite a while, the last one I remember being either a -200 series with Ryanair, or a -400 series with British Airways, both of which were at the beginning of the year. The flight was short and uneventful. We were given a packet of pretzels and offered a drink.
My friend and I sat and chatted, and we were soon descending towards RHO. We passed the lights of the airport to our right, before making the turn and lining up for the final part of the approach. As we landed and taxied to the terminal, I could see the Aegean Airlines nighstopping aircraft, as well as a B737-500 of Tarom, which had just arrived on a flight from Bucharest. As we disembarked, I was able to take a quick photograph of the aircraft, the only opportunity I had to do so.
We waited approximately ten minutes for our baggage, and met a friend outside the terminal who drove us to the resort of Lardos, where we would be staying.
It was difficult to gauge an impression of Olympic Airlines on such a short flight, but the lack of clear information at ATH had been something of a disappointment. I would be flying back to ATH two days later with Aegean Airlines, so would be in a position to compare by then.
As always, I checked out the history of the two aircraft on which I had just flown, and established the following:
Jet Airways A340-313X, VT-JWC
This aircraft is leased from South African Airways, where it was previously flying as ZS-SXF.
Diesel1 From UK - Wales, joined Mar 2001, 1638 posts, RR: 11
Reply 3, posted (8 years 10 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 13430 times:
My only comment is that the number of pics meant my aging work pc only just coped, and for non broadband users download time could be horrific - if this factor meant that anyone missed out on the report it would have been a shame - perhaps it would have been best split into a report for each flight?
LHR27C From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 1279 posts, RR: 16
Reply 13, posted (8 years 10 months 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 12529 times:
Excellent report, especially with so many superb photos - a great read! Brought back many memories of ATH (looks like you landed on 03L if you're interested at all!).
One of the plus points about OA is that getting the jumpseat with them is still possible if you show you're an aviation enthusiast. On my way down to ATH last February with them from LHR, a quick note to the captain got me the jumpseat for departure from LHR and a spectacular sunset landing in ATH - probably my most memorable flight ever. On the way back I wasn't so lucky, but it's worth asking!
Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned forever skyward
BA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8561 posts, RR: 54
Reply 14, posted (8 years 10 months 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 12500 times:
Hi, excellent report & photo's - as usual!!
Quoting UK_Dispatcher (Thread starter): Anyone who had the original gate stated on the boarding pass and had proceeded to the gate in good time would be unaware of the change due to the lack of any flight information monitors, and no clear gate change announcements.
TKMCE From India, joined May 2002, 841 posts, RR: 2
Reply 19, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 11878 times:
Interesting to hear about flying on a Jet Airways aircraft on a GF flight. Way back in 1997, I once flew Bombay Madras on a Jet Airways flight which was operated using a leased GF A320. As I understand the lease was for a very short period, but I guess I was lucky to fly on one of the very few Jet Airways services flown using an A320!