Myt332 From Australia, joined Sep 2003, 9114 posts, RR: 68 Posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 8129 times:
This trip report is written to commemorate and 'celebrate' my 5000th post on the forums as well as my third anniversary on this epic website that is of course Airliners.net.
So for me gone are the days of booking a holiday a year in advance. Gone are the days of counting down the weeks and months on your calendar, wishing the time away, planning every day you're there and of course, the mandatory starting of the packing two weeks before you go! For me at least, travelling these days consists of thinking what I'm doing this weekend or the weekend after, seeing if I can fund the trip somehow and then seeing who else wants to go or perhaps vice versa. If I've been invited somewhere then I’ll seldom turn it down and will see how I can fund the trip. If all turns out I'm usually off some place and why shouldn't I be? I'm young dumb and full of debt but I wouldn't have it any other way regardless of what I say at times.
Counting down the months has become days, counting down the weeks has become hours.
The way this trip came about was thru a conversation with Mr Justin Wood. He asked did I want to go to Prague and I said yes. I'd been once in 2004 and I enjoyed the place. It had culture, history and good beer. That's all I need in a city break. In the end I left it up to Justin to book the flights as it also turned out there was an 'a.net' meet up going on in Prague that weekend and he wanted to co-ordinate our arrival with some other guys and gals. No issue there at all, at least we'd had some other people to hang around with whilst we were out there.
The flights got booked and he got us on the redeye 0735 flight from Heathrow with CSA Czech Airlines. I say redeye in the sense that at that time of the morning, our eyes would still be red raw from the hangover! The return flight was two days later on BA to Heathrow and was at 0735. Well that is the last time I let him book the flights, doesn't he know I don't do mornings?
As a result of the early flights I needed to get myself down to London from Manchester the night before. We decided to go halves on a night at the Jury's Inn which cost £24 each. I got a discounted staff ticket on BA booked three days before I left thus solving the issue of how to get to LHR. However I should also mention at this point that a few weeks prior to booking, my parents had booked the family on a five day holiday to Gibraltar which was leaving from Gatwick on the afternoon of the Monday I would return from Prague. I'd know about this for a while but felt this side trip was both viable and something I didn't want to miss out on!
25th August 2006
Friday morning came about and I finished off packing my suitcase after I gave it up as a bad job the night before. I got a lift to the train station three miles away in Chorley at about 1000 for the 1020 TransPennie Express (see: BMIFlyer) service to Manchester Airport. It was still school summer holidays at the time so the platforms were full of the local chav and chavettes waiting to go for a 'fun' day out in Blackpool, Preston or maybe even exotic Bolton. I stood there with my case waiting, getting stared at by the wildlife. I can only assume they were wondering why I wasn't wearing white Reebok Classics and why I had bestowed on my case a British Airways luggage tag from a previous trip. I truly think they thought I was in the money and were more than likely thinking up ways to mug me! I switched my phone over from the MP3 player to Radio1 and hid the device back in my pockets as finally the train arrived!
After fifty eight minutes the service arrived at Manchester Airport and I made my way over to Terminal 3 and straight to the self service machines. I slipped in my Executive card and waited for my booking to be retrieved which took a few seconds. I had already checked in online the previous night but came here to collect my boarding pass and to make sure what aircraft it was. I hit the seat availability map and up popped at the bottom, 'A320-111'. Great, no in-flight map this time!
I went to finalise the check in but the machine then stupidly asked me for the credit card I used to make my booking. I had a quick search in my wallet but it appears (c'est une poire) that the one time I forget it, I actually need it; sods law. So I pick my luggage back up and walk over toward the staff near the main check in desks and explained my issue. This girl smiles and tells me that I was doing it wrong, ha hardly, and to put my credit card back in the machine and then search for the booking via my flight number. I did tell her that the issue wasn't finding my booking as I'd already done that but more the fact it didn't accept BA's in house Executive card as enough proof that it was me checking in.
Well we both stood there waiting for the machine to hurry up and process the big "f*ck you" message it eventually came back to us with. I looked at her and being such an original guy said, "I told you so". Well that was it for her, she lead me off in a huff to the check in desk, laughed and said she was going to go home. I didn't think that was such a bad idea for her.
So now checked in it was time for security but first I had to go outside and await the arrival of Daz(ultra). He was lending me his Canon 10D since I had left my camera in PMI in June. When he arrived he basically just gave me his camera bag and then left for work, seems he was in a bit of a rush but oh well, nice of him anyway! I walked back in the terminal and read a notice saying that strictly only one piece of hand luggage was allowed and this would be enforced without exception. The word 'excrement' went through my mind as I stood there with my hand luggage hanging off one shoulder and Daz's fairly big camera bag hanging off the other.
I had to quickly improvise and somehow managed to squash a 10D and two lens', the camera bag, a laptop, two chargers, my book and jacket along with headphones, wallets and a banana (?) all into my bag. The zip didn't really want to close and I ended up deforming it in the end but I got it all zipped up and that was good enough for me!
So onto security and my first time through since the palaver of the suspected water bottle and lipstick Al' Qaeda bombers of August 10th! The security barriers had been re-arranged so that all three channels now had to go through one entry point which was staffed with numerous people shouting at people that their hand luggage was too big. Double excrement. I just thought to myself that there was nothing I could do now since my suitcase was checked in, so I armed myself with my passport and boarding pass, swung my bag as far back on my back as it'd go, looked down at the floor and casually walked past the checkpoint hoping I wouldn't get stopped. I turned back after I had past them and thankfully they didn't notice, what a result! They were way too involved with an old woman and the fact her hand bag was too deep to fit in the modified luggage frame. What buffoons!
I took my shoes off as I went through security and took out everything from my bag which I had just packed! Everything was getting screened today. I got selected for a random body search, I usually do these days, and after a quick frisk I headed over and spent the next five minutes re-packing my bag; nightmare.
As usual I headed into the departure lounge and over to the smoking area which was pretty much the only empty part of the lounge! I sat down and whilst I had my cigarettes with me I had no lighter as they weren't allowed through! After a few minutes some sexy Latino member of Alpha staff came over and I got a light of her. I was the first to ask her but not the last as we, the hard done to passengers, were all in the same predicament.
I noticed behind me at Gate 142 was parked G-BUSB which was going to be my flight to LHR and as it goes, my second time on the aircraft. After around half an hour boarding was called and I was the fifth person to get onboard taking up my seat in 07A. The flight wasn't completely full and I had the middle seat next to me free with an older woman in 07C. The flight pushed back on time and we headed out to Runway 24R for departure. The Airport Pub was packed and had a bouncy castle set up (see: Pilot Kaz) as we taxied past and lined up, waiting for traffic to clear ahead of us. After a short wait we were off and on the HON1R SID away from MAN.
We climbed up to 18000 and fairly soon the All Day Deli was being passed out. I overheard there were two options available, cheese and ham or cheese and mushroom. Well that would be great if I could eat cheese so I had to gear myself up to shout over at the crew member when she got to my row. She arrived, looked at me, smiled, and handed over a box while asking do I want a sandwichno, not that one.
I had to move my hand to form a stop gesture and asked her about a cheeseless option to which she seemed irritated. She had a quick look through her little trolley and pulled out a chicken wrap with honey mustard, much better. The lady sat next to me seemed quite envious. The drinks were handed out around seven minutes later and I took a beer; "Is Heineken alright for you sir?", to which I obviously replied, "Sure it is."
Who doesn’t appreciate free beer?
You can't really say much else about a 35 minute flight but I will say this about the catering. Ok fine, I don't expect gourmet food but what would be nice is a little bit of choice onboard. This time I got lucky and so did the other passengers as we had two options albeit both with cheese. Maybe on a 35 minute flight I don't need something to eat although that's not the issue here. Food is offered and thus I will have a little whine and a moan if it's not up to scratch. Most of the time and if you're lucky on BA European routes, the most you will get is a sandwich or something similar like a wrap and whilst the quality is mostly ok it's the lack of choice that lets it all down.
In all honesty it's quite hard to screw up making a sandwich. All you have to do is keep it cool and make sure the ingredients used won't make it go soggy and voila. However, and I will go on about this, the lack of choice onboard basically sucks. Two normal options plus the vegetarian choice and all have them have cheese on? Do the people that think up this lack of choice menu actually understand that some people have intolerances to certain things? BA even disregard your preferences in your Executive Club account, the club who advertises, "We invite you to come and experience preferential treatment." and "At British Airways, we believe you deserve more. More recognition. More individual attention. And a more rewarding and enjoyable experience whenever you fly with us and our partners. Bullshit?
Out of the last twenty five BA flights I've taken this year, the amount taken since I changed my meal preference, only on two of them have the crew actually recognised the fact and come to speak with me. Both of them were on GT and on one I was particularly impressed. As usual there was only a cheese sandwich available, one of the melted variety this time, genius! So the Purser of the flight explains to me that on some flights only one band of food is issued, I think that was the term he used and so on these one band flights special meals aren't loaded. This must be the majority of BA Europeans. I wasn't really interested in what he was saying, it wasn't my issue I just wanted it resolving but he went away and returned later with a tray with a banana, some bread rolls, preserves and a glass of water. I was pretty impressed with that and I must say kudos to who ever you were!
Back to the flight in hand then and after all the rubbish was cleared up and the cabin secured we entered the Bovingdon hold as there was a wait to get into LHR. We did three circuits in this, leaving me a bit disorientated, before we headed off toward the Lambourne area and then made for LCY where we made an approach to Runway 27R at LHR.
BUSB heading past London City Airport
We touched down and had a bit of reverse thrust applied didn't BA try not to use reverse thrust much at LHR? before we exited and parked up at gate 74, domestic area at T1. After disembarkation I was off to meet Justin who would be arriving in just under an hour from Southampton. I just about remembered to stop and get my case as I walked past carousel 11 and 12 on my way out. The cases took about twenty minutes to arrive.
Justin ended up being a few minutes late arriving after which we caught the free bus over to the Jury's Inn. We spent the next few hours chilling out at 'The Green Man' and had dinner at Pizza Express in T2, don't worry, I had a cheeseless pizza! We headed back to the hotel after a stop off in Wetherspoons and headed up to the bar for a quick drink after which we got the munchies and headed down the A34 to the BP garage for a sandwich around 2300 hours.
Me and Justin heading to T4 and on to T2
We met some interesting young Irish people on the way home who thought I was god and so rightly offered me some of their home made Vodka Redbull, which I graciously accepted. I didn't really have a choice. Justin also ended up partaking in this activity! Very amusing shamus!
Bedtime came just before midnight leaving us with a few hours before a battalion of alarm clocks fired at 0445. My phone had the default Nokia alarm go off, Justin had some soft jazz playing for his, the TV was doing something bright and loud although the telephone’s wake up call never did materialise! Still, we were firmly awake and Justin was the first to the shower taking a whopping thirty minutes to get dressed leaving me with just fifteen before the Hotel Hoppa bus was due to leave! Nearly as bad as a woman.
We made the bus and fairly soon arrived at T2 around 0550 which was packed as ever. Thankfully we didn't have to join any of the gigantic check in queues as the previous night after we had dinner in Pizza Express we decided to ask at the Czech Airlines customer service desk if OK had any self service machines. Alas, nobody was about so we did what any smart person would do; we went and asked at the Aeroflot desk. Let me tell you something about the girls that were behind the desk, hot as hell and so happy and bubbly. Coar, why can't they all be like that?
So secure in the knowledge that OK shared self service machines with AF, although it’s not advertised anywhere, we went and found some machines, entered in our ticket number and a few other things and voila, we had our boarding passes. Row 18 I think, seats E and F, just fine. The bag drop point at this point was completely empty and after a quick cig outside, we dropped our bags off and went to find the security line / Spanish inquisition. It stretched far back into the terminal and curved back on itself like a Daytona racing track. It took roughly 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue where again, everything was taken out of the bag, shoes off, belts off, no Evian allowed, no toothpaste allowed but toothbrush, yes. It was just strange and very over the top. It didn't make me feel any safer, just a lot more irritated and hot! It's not what I wanted to be doing with a hangover either. Luckily though this shift wasn't really enforcing the hand baggage size restrictions.
We made it through though and walked straight down to the gate, 113 was it? Who knows but our A320 was sitting there in the pouring rain after night stopping. Boarding commenced around fifteen minutes later and we where finally on our way to Prague, at 0715!
Upon entering the cabin my initial thought was that it was pretty nice but fairly identical to BA but with Skoda adverts as headrests. Quite amusingly the headrests also contained a picture of a sports drink bottle, the type that is now banned. Obviously they Czech's didn't really care about it too much or just couldn't afford to change them. There was a friendly greeting in Czech and English from a crew member followed by a quick scan of our boarding cards before we were then allowed to make our way to our seats. Fairly comfortable too and they even included not a 'coat hook' but a 'coat pull' on the backs.
Our pushback was delayed a bit and there wasn't any information given to as why but it was LHR, it was probably just busy. Our departure finally came about on Runway 27L after a white VLM Fokker 50 had departed. A strange one since they don't fly here. Justin filmed the takeoff which is shown below.
We climbed thru the London airspace and headed east which would eventually take us over FRA. The breakfast service commenced after about twenty minutes and by this time I was starved and welcomed anything to help mop up last nights beer and that damn vodka Redbull. I could still taste the stuff repeating on me and it wasn't the nicest taste.
Takeoff from LHR
The breakfast then was welcomed with open arms as I was handed my tray containing sliced cheese, god damn it, some sort of ham, salad, a yoghurt, preserves, a bread roll and a cup containing 'almost fresh milk' and another lump of cheese for good measure. What is with that? To be honest, I left the cheese, yoghurt and couldn't really face the salad so early and since I don't drink tea or coffee the only thing I had was a ham sandwich I put together. Whilst I had the satisfaction of constructing this tiny little snack myself it just didn't quite compare to an All Day Deli one. without cheese of coure
Now as ever in life and still being semi yoofs, me and Justin said we would get a beer on our way to PRG. However, we both chickened out and I took my usual glass of water and Justin got Pepsi? I left him with his caffeine rush to wake up while I went with the natural option and went asleep for a bit! The next time I awoke we were over an airport I recognised as FRA at which point I decided I'd go use the bathroom. I got up and yawned my way down the isle in my socks, I really wanted to be somewhere else at that point as I was having the occasional moments of alcohol recirculation. One of those moments occurred when I was in the toilet as I decided to open all the little compartments in there and see what was up for grabs. I emerged a few minutes later with 8 CSA branded freshen up wipes stuffed in my rear jeans pocket and a bottle of odour neutraliser stuffed in another pocket. See, this is why alcohol and flying can cause issues! Oh well, no harm, only clean hands and no more smells for the duration of the trip.
Passing over FRA
Our decent soon started into Prague Ruzyne International taking us down toward runway 24 and giving a nice overview of the Czech countryside. At this point in time Peter (L0231) was just three or four minutes behind our A320 on his way from BRU, although we never saw his plane.
Approach to PRG
We taxied onto stand at T2 and was met on the air bridge by Judith (Zrdua) which was a nice surprise! It was like being an unaccompanied minor. She made things really simple for us as all we had to do was follow her and not even bother reading the signs to arrivals. That was probably a good thing as it still wasn't too easy to focus! I showed the Czech guy my passport and entered the country whilst Justin went and asked for a stamp. The luggage arrived on the carousel about twenty minutes later, not a bad effort for the guys at PRG according to Judith!
Everybody else that we would be meeting was waiting up on the car park roof. These guys were Kas, (Airkas1), Janni, (Jap) Yirina and of course that reprobate, Peter (LO231) who somehow had managed to get out before us even though he landed after us. Damn those Schengen guys.
The next few days spent in Prague were honestly great. I got to meet some new faces and catch up with some old ones, just generally had a good time. Like I say, Prague has an interesting culture, history and good beer. Budvar doesn't disappoint. The Saturday evening was spent in a bar full of mad aviation guys, it made the Brit Trash of 2004 look sane but it was definitely fun.
BUM900. Just amusing
The group on a moody afternoon in Prague.
'Friends' Czech edition
After a few days in Prague, some of which was spent stuck in a lift, it was time to head back to London and then straight onto Gibraltar. Our accommodation for the two nights had been in a dorm room at Charles University and it was certainly memorable. Whilst only 7EUR per night each it was definitely not the worst accommodation I have stayed in whilst abroad! I think that Justin, Kas and Janni will also agree that it was a good laugh staying there! Mine and Justin's flight back to London was set at 0730 on BA so this meant leaving the dorm room at 0500. Kas and Janni where also leaving back to AMS and CPH respectively, Kas on SkyEurope and Janni on CSA. Their departures times were within fifteen minutes of ours and so whilst the other two got a lift with Judith, me and Justin made our own way via taxi and actually beat them even though technically we didn't need to be there early! Thankfully we were flying a proper airline so had checked in online the night before.
28th August 2006
Once we got to the airport me and Justin went and formed the beginning of the check in queue so that we could get our boarding passes and drop our luggage off. After a five minute wait we did just that and then walked off to find the other guys in T2. However, hunger struck and we soon found ourselves eating some sort of sandwich, which unlike normal, had just three pieces of bread in it thus making one big triangular sandwich. It was like half a club sandwich just a lot drier!
Anyway, we soon found the guys in T2, Kas was walking toward us through the crowd and Janni was sitting solemn waiting for a wheelchair. Hmm ok, different. Judith then materialised from somewhere and whilst we waited for Janni's wheelchair, me and Judith went out for a quick smoke. Once we had gotten our morning fix I normally don't actually smoke a lot we went back and found the group plus hired help in the form of a wheelchair pusher. Well he was soon fired and I took command of the wheelchair for some reason pushed her after the others towards departures in T2. Myself and Justin would be leaving from T1 but after Judith, who was in her uniform and starting work at 0700, had spoken to the security staff we soon found ourselves airside in T2. The point of this remains unclear to me as we headed straight for T1 and to the viewing area outside which was bloody freezing but interesting!
Fairly soon after the rest of the gang had eaten it was time to part company as me and Justin headed down to our gate and through some more security. Our shoes stayed on this time though. The flight was departing on time and the crew soon came and boarded the aircraft and got it ready for departure.
G-EUPD at the gate
Boarding commenced via seat row number and this time I ended up with the window seat. I watched out the window as Kas headed off in his Sky Europe B73NG as well as Janni in her OK B735 although I didn't know exactly which one she was on at the time.
Waiting to go
We were the last to push, as scheduled, and after a brief wait for departure after a Smart Wings B735 and Janni's plane we were rolling ourselves and off back to the UK. It was the usual lacklustre 319 takeoff and a straight climb up to FL380 over some empty fields and sparsely populated towns.
I always find it strange when I fly BA mainline on Euro routes as I'm so used to taking them solely on domestic. I'm used to the rushed service and the quick climb to FL180, three minutes at that level and then straight back down. Climbing to FL380 and not having my All Day Deli within ten minutes after departure just confuses me.
Climbing out from PRG
Finally the food arrived but I was to be disappointed as guess what they had brought as offerings? That's right, a melted cheese sandwich made for BA by www.supplair.com. The breakfast box as they call it, contained a disgusting looking fruit cocktail and a muffin as well. The only thing I ended up eating was the muffin of which Justin donated his too. The smell of coffee then soon started to fill the cabin and I nearly chocked from the stench, I really can't stand that smell at times. I quickly got myself two glasses of water, one extra for my breakfast compensation I figured, then reclined my seat and went to sleep for a bit, I was still pretty tired since being up from 0400 local and only getting to sleep at 2300.
Their idea of breakfast
I awake roughly fifty minutes later as we were approaching the Thames Estuary and about to begin our descent. I pulled my seat forward and stowed my tray, which had miraculously cleared itself of rubbish! A flight deck announcement was made informing us of congestion around the London area, what a surprise! However when we finally got closer it became apparent no holding was necessary and instead of making any orbits at Lambourne, just turned toward LCY and the right for the ILS of runway 27L or something very similar.
After landing the CSD made his announcement in the campest way possible which was pretty funny. "Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Heathrow and very shortly welcome to Terminal One". Hey numpty, how can you welcome me to a place you only just arrived at yourself? "Looking out my window the weather is looking a lot more autumnal since the last time I was here." Well that's just great mate, you're sitting inside an air conditioned tin can with it's own climate and you're judging the weather for one hundred people through a port hole in your door that's the size of my fist! "If you are here in London on a business trip, we wish you a successful one, if you are here on holiday, we wish you a pleasant one. If you are making your journey home, we wish you a continuing safe one and if you are connecting on to another flight, we hope it's a British Airways one." Where's my sick bag! Suffice to say he got a few laughs and it was funny but just so damn camp at the same time. Lucky for this guy then that I was connecting on to another flight and indeed it was going to be a British Airways one, just not from LHR. For my next flight in four hours time I'd have to make my way to Gatwick.
Once we finally reached the gate on the international pier we gathered all our belongings we could remember and headed off to passport control and baggage reclaim. We saw some bloke from Sky Sports News on our way but I didn't have a clue who he was. Justin on the other hand seemed suitably impressed. To be honest, I was more impressed at the fact that the line for immigration was only one person long, what a result! The lines next to us for 'other passports' were pretty damn full though, shame for the Czech's. Me and Justin both liked that though!
After a ten minute wait for our luggage to appear from the LHR monster, me and Justin were soon headed thru 'Nothing to Declare' and out the door and towards the Central Bus station for our respective coaches. It's pretty funny how things work out; I not having a reservation end up using the National Express self service machine and getting on a coach within ten minutes whilst Justin has to wait thirty minutes for his coach he pre-booked. Sods law again.
I took the time on the coach to make contact with my parents who had flown down with BA the night before, MAN-LGW, and should be checking out of the Ramada Plaza round about now if all was going to plan. I make the call, my dad answers and I hear, "waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa waaaaaa." Well, it seems the kids are still in one piece but for how long? We finally get to the point and arrange to meet in North Terminal around 1030 which was just a little after my coach arrived. Sorted.
The coach was substantially quicker than the last time I took this service but then again, the last time was the Farnborough Airshow weekend and the M3 junction gets a little bit nightmarish at those times. Still I arrived at LGW on time and went and met my family who were just getting out of the hotel courtesy car. Everything was good to go.
28th August 2006
Of course when I say the flight is operated by BA I actually mean it is operated by GT, Gibraltar Airways and what better route to fly them? So having checked in online whilst in Prague I just headed over to the self service machine and retrieved our booking, this time using the payment card used to make the booking, no messing about.
"Touch screen to start.... followed by the musical notes: du du!"
"Insert card" Ok..
"Please wait while we retrieve your booking"
"Choose passengers you wish to check in now" Me, tick, my mother, tick, father, tick, brother, hmm tick I guess and sister, tick and confirm.
Do I want to change my seats? Nope. 'Proceed'.
"Has my luggage been left unattended at anytime?" Well yes, it was just on it's own in the coach hold but I'll choose 'No' anyway.
"Has anybody given you anything to take onboard?" Well I was given a sick bag as a present from Judith but I'll choose 'No' anyway.
"Luggage to check in now?" Yep
"Receipt Required?" Last time I chose that option with my family it printed out five boarding cards as well as five receipts so no, not this time computer.
"Go to the bag drop off in Zone F"
So we headed over to Zone F and joined a bloody big queue for, and I quote, "Fast... Bag... Drop". Well it wasn't fast and I didn't drop my bag at all, I'd my break my duty free. The queue took roughly twenty minutes to get to the front of which was abysmal. I may have well just checked in as normal, what is the time advantage here?
There were also some staff members patrolling the line shouting random things about what we could take onboard, it was all a bit patronising. Soon enough we had handed over our bags and I tagged the pram up like usual to take down to the gate. I'd gotten used to this added security now so it didn't bother me too much and again my bag was allowed through without hassle. It seems though that my mother forget to get rid of some lipstick which was detected by the guys at BAA! They may be retarded rules but at least they are enforced well enough.
We had just less than two hours to kill before the flight so I took the time to get onto the BT Openzone wifi and catch up on a few things. Amazingly I was offered a beer by my dad but I turned it down since I was still feeling a bit rough from the past few days. I just needed a bit of food first so I went off and got a sandwich from that place near the sushi bar. I'm not sure what it's called but it's where I normally go to in North Terminal. On my way back I headed to World Duty Free to see what the prices were like and got accosted by a Armarni sales lady and got sprayed in 'Code'. It smelt alright but at 30GBP for a small bottle, it could stay there, I really didn't have a lot of money to spare!
Soon 'Go To Gate' appeared on screen and we made our way over the bridge to Pier 6 and to our awaiting flight. Funnily enough Ghana Airlines B757, N930RD (see: B747-437B) was parked on remote stand 132 which is straight ahead of the stairs from the bridge. I wondered what she was doing there but not wanting to pay out on a call to Ghana, I figured I could wait a while.
Dyland, N930RD, our A320 to GIB and an MYT332 taking off
Pre-boarding (see:Get on before you get on) was announced for gold and silver card holders, business class people, folks that needed extra time to board and last but obviously not leased, people travelling with children. Cha ching, on we went and took up our seats in 18 A B C D E.
Boarding went fairly quick and the captain announced we'd be pushing back ahead of schedule, that was until we had two no-shows at the gate. We ended up waiting fifteen minutes in which time the baggage handlers did try to get the bags off but the no shows turned to late passengers and they finally joined the flight. Thankfully there were a bunch of squaddies at the back of the Airbus who cheered, clapped and made the two stray passengers feel about 2cm tall. Quite excellent, it made me feel better!
Eventually we pushed started and joined the queue for departure at the end of 26L. It was a fairly substantial queue and we were toward the back of it since we were late. After a few Easyjet A319's and a TCX A332 it was our turn and we were soon flying the runway heading on a climb up to FL170.
Takeoff from Gatwick
We continued in a straight line till we reached Southampton where we made a left turn toward Jersey and then down toward the Bay of Biscay. The All Day Deli delights were soon handed out and I'd like to say that I got something other than a sandwich but I can't. Today we got half a soggy tuna sandwich and a chicken tikka sandwich one to boot which, sadly, didn't do much for me nor my family. The bar service made up for it though and I got a beer and a two glasses of water. Once again the only beer that was available was Carlsberg which I'm not to keen on and I would have much rather preferred the Heineken or Stella that you can get on BA mainline flights. I think this is the case because as much as I've tried I can only get this one type of beer on GB Airways flights?
Left turn at Southampton, hello again Justin
All day Deliage
The IFE on the flight consisted of the moving map on the overhead LCD's and eight channels of audio which is pretty much fine for a short flight. I'd rather see where I was than watch some old sitcom from twenty years ago. The other IFE consisted of the passengers which were a mixed bunch to say the least; it's always the case with a GIB flight. You'd have people like me and my family; just going away for a few days, the rabble, off for a bit of cheap sun and a quick getaway.
You have military personnel and their families, commuting back and forth, full of old tales about the rock, boastful, loud but friendly. Then there are the inhabitants of the rock themselves, they generally keep to themselves much like you would when you travel by train or bus and essentially to them, that's just what these flights are. They are a necessity, a lifeline to a far flung out crop of the UK, a British Overseas Territory that is a thousand miles from London and is just 2.5 square miles in area.
Currently the only commercial flights the airport has is to and from London, two or three a day and so when of these lands it's always a bit of an occasion. Even though we're all in the EU these days, Gibraltar still remains a bone of contention between the UK and Spain and whilst trying to remain impartial here, it's not us it's them!
Back on September 10th 1967 there was a referendum in which Gibraltar's voters were asked whether they wished to either pass under Spanish sovereignty, or remain under British sovereignty, with institutions of self-government. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of continuance of British sovereignty, with 12,138 to 44 voting to reject Spanish sovereignty. The latest referendum put to the Gibraltarians put the vote at 17,900 votes to 187 to remain British.
"The UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes."
So the flight wasn't dull and after a while I headed back to the galley to pick up a white wine and vodka and lemonade. The crew never smile when I do this as I start a chain reaction and fairly soon there'll be a crowd queuing for free booze but c'est la vie.
Passing one of the Easyjet A319's that took off before us at LGW.
The drinks lasted us just fine and after duty free sales, which are technically just tax free, we began our descent down towards The Rock. We passed close to Malaga airport, which is the one of the diversion airports for GIB and continued heading south for today's approach.
The prevailing winds today meant that a surveillance radar approach (SRA) to runway 09 was to take place which is by far the most thrilling. The cabin was secured for landing as we descended through 3000ft on a westerly heading to point 'Victor' which is 9nm south of Gibraltar. On a clear day this approach gives you a clear view of the Rock to the right as you head around it. The gear and flaps were then lowered and we turned right onto a northerly track to take us towards the bay and descended further as we headed past the 5nm radar fix.
Heading into the bay
The Visual Decision Point (VDP) came and passed and we made a 90 degree turn to the right to line us up with the runway, now just 2nm away. ATC will then have been swapped from the 'talk down controller' to the tower frequency as we got our landing clearance. hopefully by this time the Royal Gibraltar Police had cleared all pedestrians and cars from the road mid way down the runway!
Final to Runway 09
The bay and tankers below got closer then land appeared followed quickly by a firm touch down with no messing about on the deceleration. The runway here is plenty big enough at 6000ft but it's not a place to take liberties you could say, unless you want to go swimming. We crossed the road in the full swing of braking before exiting down at the short taxiway that runs from the end of 09 back to the terminal. Welcome to Gibraltar.
Taken a few seconds after landing
So it was good to be back, my fourth time visiting the Rock and as we approached the empty ramp area, a large group of forty people could be seen stood outside on the Victoria Suit balcony, waving and welcoming our Airbus and the residents/ Brits it was bringing back. I really don't think I've seen such a welcome at any place I've flown to before. The exception of course being PIA at MAN but that's another story....
Welcome to The Rock!
The maximum amount of commercial aircraft I've ever seen at GIB is three and I think that's not going to be seen again for a while since ZB dropped MAN. Alas today there was just our sole aircraft at the airfield and so it wasn't long before we were disembarking out into the warm humid air of, well, the UK! Down the steps and to the right to queue up outside while everybody shuffled through passport control.
G-TTOF, our aircraft, at GIB
Ahh passport control, a narrow corridor, an old wooden desk with two signs hanging from the ceiling. "EU Passports" and "Others". Well there was nobody on our flight that wasn't from the EU so the queue got ushered onto both sides of the desk which sped up arrival into the baggage reclaim hall, which is in the same room as immigration. Whenever there's a flight it's manned by two coppers in full British uniform with a stern face, it's a nice touch. You don't wait too long though as it's not like the baggage handlers are busy in GIB so after a while we all shuffled off towards the packed arrivals hall and outside to try and decide which end of the taxi queue was the front and which was the back. Nobody quite knew so I took charge and somehow became the taxi marshal and being the gent that I am, only got the fourth cab that turned up for me and my family.
We pulled up at the Rock Hotel for our four night stay and got assigned our two rooms, a double for me and a suit for the parents. The hotel is a 4* and is one of the best around playing host to the wedding of John Lennon and Yoko Ono back in the day. It's interesting, for one night in my room at the hotel I could have stayed fourteen nights at the accommodation I was at the previous night in Prague. Nice contrast.
View from my room
We had booked for me and my dad to go to Tangiers, Morocco on the Wednesday 30th but the night before we would have left, Blands Travel phoned our hotel to inform that the trip was cancelled. I was a bit let down at that as even though I hate boats, I wanted to cross the straights of Gibraltar and go to Africa for the day. Well, it just wasn't to be. Instead, we headed to Eastern Beach which is right next door to the runway and whenever there is a movement, you get one hell of a view. Alas this time I had my head buried so far into a book and my headphones turned up so loud that I neglected to hear G-TTOF, the plane I flew out on two days previous, taxi and takeoff from 09.
The first thing I knew was the woman next to me point toward the runway and as I quickly turned around my headphones just popped out from the force of that swift motion as this A320 seemed to jump up out of nowhere and flood the beach with noise. I was not amused as I looked down at Daz's camera and 300mm lens.
Any better way to relax?
I thought I'd make up for missing the Airbus. Woops, got caught!
Taken as I went for a walk back to the airport
I'd also decided that on Thursday the 31st I would head over to Jerez, Spain to go visit Jamo (see:Jamotcx) who was over there for a year doing his pilot training at Flight Training Europe. The only way for me to go was by coach and this as going to take 3.5 hours but it was something I'd have to put up with, it was an adventure anyway. I found the coach courtesy of Google before I left for PRG and so it was just a case of booking a return ticket online with T.G.Comes Autobus back at the hotel. Free wifi, what a great thing that is.
The coach routing was La Linea (the Spanish border town of Gibraltar) to Seville calling at Algeciras, Tarifa, Vejer de la Frontera, Chiclana de la Frontera, Puerto Real, El Puerto de Santa Maria and finally some hours later, downtown Jerez. The departure time was 0915 and so I was up early to take advantage of the full English breakfast included with our room bills. By 0800 I was done, full and had vacated my room and dropped my suitcase off in my parent’s suit electing to just take my trusty sports bag with me instead. It was full to the top with three jars of curry, 8 baking potatoes, one litre of gin and one litre of Kronenbourg. Apparently Jamo had given me a shopping list of things to pick up from Morrissons in Gibraltar, damn Brit.
I took a taxi down to the frontier, got my passport out and started the short walk over into Spain. There is a full passport control and customs here as it's a part of the UK technically but at 0830 it was deserted. The usual main gate for pedestrians was closed so I had to walk in the road and when I finally got to immigration I was a bit startled to find the officer with his feet up reading the paper. I didn't even bother opening up my passport for this clown so just flashed my maroon booklet at him and walked past. Of course I took five steps forward and turned around to make sure he didn't have a gun pointed toward my head but as expected he hadn't moved and so I continued on in search of the bus station.
I finally found the thing, thanks to a Gibraltar local and I was soon sat in front of my coach half an hour ahead of departure time. I did think maybe I should go ask if I need a ticket printing off but nobody at all spoke English and I've learnt that the inhabitants of La Linea aren't exactly keen on the British so I went and sat for a while.
My coach to Jerez
Before long the driver turned up and I went and gave him my hand written ticket reference. Bad move, he didn't have a clue what it was until I said the word 'internet'. This in turn made him rummage for a piece of paper with a list of names on one of which was mine. He printed a ticket off and voila, I was off. There is a direct road between La Linea and Jerez but the bus took the costal road and it may well have been interesting but I would have preferred a direct service!
A random place in Spain we stopped off at
I made it to Jerez after numerous stops in Spanish shanty towns and took a taxi out to the airport were Jamo was waiting for me. Being inland it was certainly warmer than Gibraltar had been; I'm not sure how Jamo coped in trousers and a shirt! Of course being a pilot in training he did have a flight to make in his PA-28 but after a quick check of the METAR he judged it too windy, 11knts, and too hot, 35c, to fly. Oh well what a shame, time for some Cruzcampo Cerveza and then on to the bar at 1700 hours for something a bit nicer! Well it was Carlsberg the same stuff I got on GB Airways but it was welcome!
So that evening was spent getting a bit pissed until midnight. It's a shame there wasn't any kebab shops around that area, a quick stop at Kebabish down the curry mile in Manchester would have been great. The whole campus feels generally English but if there isn't a kebab shop, it just isn't kosher. (see:joke on two levels)
Me and the future Flybe pilots
The next day I'd gained airside access with Jamo to go have a wander about the ramp and have a nose around some of the aircraft. It was also time for the weekly Thomas Cook flight back to the UK and as it goes, back to MAN. I had the wrong lens in but I just got G-FCLI rotating here. We didn't hang around the ramp long though as he had lessons and I probably shouldn't have been there anyway!
G-FCLI to MAN
Jamo on the ramp at XRY
A few hours later we both headed over to the terminal to go grab some beer before I got the coach back to Jerez, La Linea and then finally a brief walk back to Gibraltar.
So the building itself was quite nice and modern and Monarch Scheduled will be starting flights here from MAN next year. There was a food court area upstairs which looked out over the main apron, a few German charters were out there whilst we were there namely a Hapag-Fly A300 and B738, Condor A320 and B753 as well as an IB MD87. There are also two daily Ryanair flights to London Stansted but I never managed to see these, shame....
The definition of charter
The other side of the ramp
Eventually I left James and took the coach to downtown Jerez where I had a wait for the connection to La Linea. An hour and a half to spare so time for a beer and right across the road was the perfect cafe type place to go grab one. Of course Jerez isn't catered for English tourists in the slightest yet so I had to use my broken Spanish to get the beer, "Cereveza por favor!" It may have been a poor effort but I got my drink so I was happy with myself. It's just a shame I didn't ask for a 'grande' as I had to go ask for a second around thirty minutes later. It's also a shame the Chris Moyles Pod Cast isn't any longer..
My beer in Jerez
Bus departures. Mine is '21:15 La Linea'
Finally the coach turned up fifteen minutes late from Seville. I guess that's on time for the Spanish. The driver though was even worse than the one the day before. I tried telling him internet booking, pointed at my name, my booking reference, pointed to his little piece of paper in the corner with names on but he was clueless and I was dismayed. Why are people so slow? He shrugged at me, I shrugged at him but I didn't move off the coach and blocked the other people behind me. I'd paid for this coach, I had my seat and I had my reservation. He was at fault not me regardless of the fact I couldn't speak Spanish, he should have recognised it was an Internet booking reference I had in front of him. It was getting towards 2130 hours now and the standoff was nearly over and I was going to be victorious. If I didn't make this coach then I didn't make my flight the next day to London and I'd be fucked so to speak. Eventually Fernando caved in although I wouldn't have known it unless the person in row 1 ushered me down the isle. Lousy bus driver.
There was a seat toward the back in front of a nicey young girl, I took it and settled in. I get travel sick on coaches sometimes so with a few pints inside me this would be fun. ETA at La Linea was 0015 on Saturday and as it was now 2132 on Friday we finally headed off. Thankfully I did manage to sleep on and off until we reached Tarifa by which point the once packed coach was nearly empty.
The girl behind me stood up and tugged on my sleeve and asked something in Spanish about the station we had just reached. I paused a minute to think of the Spanish for "will you suck.. " but in the end just said, "Que? English?" Nice move. She smiled and with a friend walked off the coach as we then left for Algerciras and La Linea. Only one hour to go and I'd had enough now as we twisted our way along the coast and finally after a while, pulled up at the next stop which left just me and one other passenger on the bus. Quite interesting really as she was upfront talking to the driver and I was lay down near the back.
I started to recognise where we were, not far from Gibraltar I figured. The coach wasn't even nearly on time now forty m
Myt332 From Australia, joined Sep 2003, 9114 posts, RR: 68
Reply 1, posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 8125 times:
but I honestly think this is the norm in Spain. The coach then slowed for a roundabout and instead of taking the road toward La Linea dived off into a Petrol Station of all things. Seriously, was this buffoon coach driver was going to fill up whilst still on active bus duty? Yes.
I checked this guy then as he got out and proceeded to put the nozzle into the tank up near the front. Did you know coaches don't need to have their engines off to refuel? I couldn't quite believe this so took a few photos of it. In the end we took on 207 Litres of diesel costing 202 Euros before heading off again without a word, not even a Spanish word, of apology.
Our side trip to the petrol station
Oh well, fair enough, if that's the way he wants to play it I thought as we then just randomly dropped off this women in the middle of nowhere. It was now just me and my arch enemy Fernando the bus driver.
For a minute or two I wondered if he was actually going to take me to this bus station or leave me in a random part of Andalucía. Thankfully he pulled into the station just before 1am and opened the rear coach door for me. I was bemused by the ride back and so in the time honoured British way shouted down to him in the nicest possible voice, "Bye bye dickhead!", smiled as he turned around and left. Next time fill up your coach on your own time.
I then had a sudden urgency to leave Spain and headed ,with my dad who came to meet me, for the border at a fast pace. Apparently who wanted to walk accross to Spain for the hell of it?
The town of La Linea isn't exactly the nicest place and I was dying to get some sleep before my flight in a few hours. The border came into view we turned the corner and it looked deserted. I couldn't even be bothered getting my passport out this time so just walked straight through immigration and customs and into Gibraltar. It's quite strange as during the day the queues to enter and exit can be huge but obviously not at night or in the mornings.
The taxi rank at the airport was our plan to get back to the hotel but it was empty, I'm not sure why I expected it to be manned at 1am, so I set off walking across the runway and just paused for a minute on the centre line to take it in. It's not really everyday you get to do that.
I carried on and figured the nearest taxi rank was going to be in the main square called Casemates which was about ten minutes away. I got there to find the square still buzzing and filled with a few coppers maintaining the peace, it was Friday night / Saturday morning after all. Fairly soon I was in one of the many Nissan Vanette taxies roaring my way around the forts and narrow streets, up hills and around ancient canons on my way up to the Rock Hotel once again. Of course my room hadn't been kept on so I was staying in my parents suit which was plenty big enough although I wasn't too keen on sleeping in the same room as Dylan, four, and Jessica, two. It was only for a few hours thankfully and I did get seven hours sleep before I had to be up to get back to Gibraltar airport for our Speedbird to London.
2nd September 2006
After breakfast we ordered a taxi to come and take us to the airport at 1000 which got us outside the terminal for 1010, it's not a long way. There are ten or eleven check in desks inside the airport although I'd hate to see them all in use. Our one A320 took up three desks and the majority of space in both departures and the arrivals hall; it's a cosy airport to say the least. Check in was done manually and all our boarding cards were hand written on old style World Tail cards. The luggage tags on the desks were also old school ones with the Chelsea Rose emblazed on the ends. (See:Commercial flop)
Knowing the size of the airport departure lounge I didn't fancy heading through security until the plane had landed so I headed upstairs and outside to the Victoria Suit balcony to check things out and wait for our aircraft to land. The visibility wasn't that great and the top of the rock was eclipsed in cloud but still fine to land in. 1115 rolled around and the road across the runway was closed, just three minutes till she was here. The distant dot soon got closer as the A320 came around from the VDP and touched town two minutes early from LHR. Nicely done.
G-TTOB lands from LHR about to cross the road
Coming down the taxiway
Approaching the stand
The turnaround time down in GIB is one hour so after she had reached her parking spot we headed down to security which was a breath of fresh air compared to back on the mainland UK. For a starters my shoes stayed on and my laptop and camera remained in the bag. It was just like how it used to be back home. How it still should be.
Ancient Mac OS still runs the show at GIB. Or not apparently.
Boarding commenced on time and once again we were invited forward for priority boarding thanks to the kids. There were three families in front of me that all went and queued up at the steps to the front door of the aircraft but I didn't even contemplate that and walked straight to the back steps and caught the crew member off guard. She didn't seem to know what to do with paper boarding passes? Anyway, her colleague up on the aircraft gave me the thumbs up so off I climbed and took my seat in 18A with the rest of the family in B, C, D and E. Poor is the person who got 18F as they'd be next to my sister the whole way home.
Sadly things were going too well and just before we were about to pushback it became apparent that a passenger wasn't feeling too well and so her and her family of four had to be let off. Well this delayed us nearly an hour in the end as it took a while for their bags to be found. I wish I could even say there was a bit of excitement about the whole drama but even though there was an ambulance in attendance she was able to walk off the plane so it was all just a bit dull!
Finally though we got going and backtracked to Runway 09 for departure. I got thinking would this affect my flight transfer at LGW but I figured I'd still have four hours till my flight to MAN even with this delay.
Back tracking and linded up on Runway 09
As ever at GIB, the power was applied on the brakes waiting for it to build up before lurching forward down the strip that is just a short 6000ft away from the Mediterranean Sea. We started to rotate as we passed over the main road and climbed straight ahead up over Eastern Beach and on a heading of 090 for quite a while as we climbed up to FL340.
I didn't even notice a the random Air Finland B752 land
We took a left at AGP and headed straight toward Spain. The IFE was exactly the same as the way out and sad to say, so was the food consisting of the chicken tika and tuna sandwich mix. Better than cheese at least.
Our routing out of GIB
The soggy sandwiches
I got a few clear photo's of MAD as we passed over after which I sat back reclined and supped on my Carlsberg that I'd got along with my water from the hostie. It's like a little ritual now to always get a glass of water or two with the bar service, all that 'alcohol is bad for you in the air' business may be getting to me.
The beer had arrived
Passing over MAD
I dozed off for a bit and awoke as we were headed over the Bay of Biscay and running parallel to a BA B752. My mother looked over and asked did I want a drink and sure why not. She then sent poor little Dylan running down the isle to tell my dad who was already down there getting a bottle of red wine to pick me up a beer. Nice one, Dylan brought it back a few minutes later.
Shortly there after duty free sales came around and a flight deck announcement was made saying that there was heavy rain and winds in the Gatwick area so to expect for a less than gentle approach. He was pretty much proved right as we descended into the clouds the ride became more fun.
Getting near to Gatwick
We got established for 26L with the usual stuff you expect in gusting conditions, a lot of swinging from left to right, up and down with constant power changes, all good fun. T
Nothing too bad but fun
The landing was firm enough and we taxied back down 08L towards North Terminal. There was a wait of ten minutes for a gate to become available although in the end we just used a gate that was in site all the time and was empty. Go figure.
Another trek across Pier 6 and then a mammoth walk over to immigration which really is quite a long way! There wasn't much of a queue thankfully although something had to burst my bubble and that was the incompetent baggage handlers at BA. The baggage reclaim screen simply said for every BA flight, "wait"; and we did, for a long time.
Thirty minutes went by and a lot of people had had enough and started complaining at the BA Customer Service desk. I didn't really see the point in fighting with these people, it's not like the could make our luggage appear any faster but it would have been nice to get some information. Well, my wish was granted and the agent ran off a list of flights affected and re-assured us our luggage was on the way. Well it sure was and it appeared eighty minutes after we landed which was truly abysmal and put together with the flight delay we ended up being two hours late emerging into arrivals. No worries though, we had three hours till our next flight so we went back upstairs to check in again for the next flight to MAN at 1915. We would have checked our bags straight through from GIB-MAN but GIB wasn't able to offer us that service, c'est la vie.
2nd September 2006
I quickly checked my family in at the self service machines and headed over to the 'Slow Bag Drop'. It really is like the two key aspects of self service check in balance themselves out at BA. I really am beginning to lose faith in the actual point of the process. At one point it speeded me up through the airport and now it just means I have to join two queues, the bag drop being the thorn in the side of the whole thing. I got the four cases sent through and an extra tag for the pram so we could push Jess to the plane later on. Job sorted.
With a few hours before the flight we decided to head down in a taxi to 'The Six Bells' in Horley, we'd been there before and we thought we'd go grab dinner down there. We made sure to order a return taxi back for 1815 to LGW in time for our flight at 1915. It was only a five minute drive anyway and it was also quite nice to have some proper food instead of those BA sandwiches; along with a few pints of Amstel. Not too bad at all. So after dinner the taxi turned up as ordered and we headed back to LGW in good time for the flight.
I lead the group back inside and headed towards the security lines complete with passports and boarding cards inserted at the photo page. On my way I saw a flight information screen so diverted over to check if our flight was on time. As I read down the list of flights I noticed that most of them were showing a delay and so I braced myself. I finally found our flight, " 1915, Manchester, BA2912 - Cancelled"....... What! I double checked and made sure I could read in a straight line I'd had one or two by now and sure enough my flight was showing as cancelled, the only one to show that too! God damn it. My parents then caught up behind me and asked if we were on time to which my reply rather loudly was: "It's been f$*%ing cancelled!" Woops, slip of the tongue there. They thought I was joking but nope, I pointed up at the screen and my dad too repeated what I just said.
Our flight to MAN is cancelled
So I was in charge then and my first point of call was going to be the nearest BA person to tell me where the customer service desk was! The nearest BA person to me happened to be sat at an empty First Class check in desk so I asked her and she kindly pointed me around to Zone F I believe. I got there and there was a family who was travelling Air Southwest to NQY who had been delayed. They were going on WOW111 at 1955 and whilst their aircraft was sat at the gate, it had to first fly LGW-PLH-NQY-LGW before they could board the aircraft. The previous flight, WOW110 had been delayed from 1625 to 1830 which was the time at present. So, a nice long wait for those guys but technically longer for me.
I finally got to the front of the queue then got told that no, I don't want to be here, I want to be back over in Zone C where I just got sent away from. Great So we all headed back over to Zone C and to the domestic bag drop area once again. There were two queues, one for the regular passengers and one for BA2912, I joined that one. There was an older woman who was spouting information about the flights and where the MAN passengers were staying and what flight we'd be rebooked onto.
The hotel was going to be the Sofitel 4*, nice one, the rebooked flight was BA2902 at 0640 the next day. Oh excuse me one second, I don't really think so. My parents upon hearing this left me in the queue and decided to go do something about it. I was stood in the queue then for around ten minutes more when this guy tugs on my left sleeve and whispers, "Oi mate follow me, I'm gonna sort you out." I thought it was a threat at first until I turned around and saw it was some guy in BA uniform motioning to follow him. Well ok fair enough I will and I walked over to this other desk where my parents where standing grinning. Apparently we had just claimed the last few available seats on BA2904 at 0900 which was excellent. There's always a way around the system, it's just finding it.
The guy who sorted this out for us was called Mark and he did pretty good things for us. I was told later on that whilst my parents stood at the desk, two suits on our cancelled flight also walked over and requested a later flight. Everything except this 0900 flight was full but since Mark wanted the whole last five seats for our family, he put his finger on his lips to my parents and told his colleague that all the seats were gone. You have to appreciate that! He also gave us his number in case the Sofitel has issues about our new boarding cards saying BA2904 instead of BA2902.
However first of all what did we need? Yes, our suitcases which we dropped off hours ago. So we walked back over to the Customer Service Desk as I went in search of help. I knew we needed escorting back airside so after a wait for somebody to appear they organised a member of staff to take us and a few other people through.
From each party only two people could go though to save time. We then got taken through the staff channel and as per usual we had to take our shoes off and get the usual body search. The staff channel then brought us out into the baggage reclaim hall where we found our bags just sitting there between belts 3 and 4. Good job nobody took them as their own! We then had to wait for the other people to find their bags although when that was proving fruitless, they had been thru checked from Calgary, the staff member told us to head out the way we came. Alas we got back to security to be told we can't come through here and to head through customs. Hmm ok then, which channel do we choose? LGW is in the EU right? Blue it is.
Finally we got to the Sofitel, attached to North Terminal and the staff there were very helpful and gave me and my family a suite and a double room plus £22 of room service for dinner each, yes, even though we just had dinner at the Six Bells in Horley. See that's the thing, we felt that even though we didn't really want £110 worth of room service between three people (Dylan and Jess would be in bed) we felt that we had to have it.
So once we got to the rooms I thought I would take what is rightfully mine! Sadly the room service allowance didn't include alcohol but when I got in what did I see, yes, a minibar. I expected it to be empty but uh uh, nope, she was full; but for how long?
My free room at the Sofitel
I noticed the mini bar system in use was one of those IR ones where if you remove an item it logs it via the network and adds it to your bill. Well even though we had no intentions of checking out in the morning I thought I'd take a look at the wires coming from the back on the minibar and would you believe it? The coax network cable had mysteriously fallen out of the wall? Hmmm. Of course the hotel would sure know if I took anything but they wouldn't know for just that little bit longer; so I took out a Stella at £3. In fact I took out thee Stella's, two Vladivar Vodka's, two Jack Daniels, one Bacardi rum one, one Whyte and Mackays Whiskey and two bottles of water. My compensation for them cancelling my flight I figured BA and Sofitel would write off the £25 worth of booze and actually had that confirmed from somebody in the know.
So when I got around to ordering room service took the 'Smoked Scottish Salmon, Chicory Salad and Black Bread' for £10 to start and Vegetarian Curry with Pillau Rice, Onion Baji and Mango Chutney for my main course. I don't do dessert; I just had another can of Stella and a Vodka and Lemonade I acquired from the minibar. All in all my food came to £26.45 and was pretty damn good. I also contemplated getting some pay per view films you know the type but it was 2315 by now and I needed sleep.
Where did the booze go?
I set my alarm for 0630 the next day and went down for breakfast with one of my parents. We weren't too sure if it was included but there was nobody at the restaurant door so we went in, even though I never actually eat in the mornings. Talk about taking the piss. One full English breakfast later and we made our way back to our rooms to get our bags and head over to the terminal and through to airside. By now it was 0750 so that left us with plenty of time before slow bag drop closed. Security was the same as usual and we all posed for a photo as we passed through security.
We'd timed this all pretty well and when we got over to boots and the kids play area, the screens changed and told us that our flight should 'Go To Gate'.
3rd September 2006
Boarding commenced and since there is only a small A319 crew base at LGW, I immediately recognised some of them from my previous A319 LGW legs. There was no hold up in getting underway this time although there was a sizeable queue for takeoff. The joys of the busiest single runway airport in the world.
Pushback from the gate. Can you spot Ghana Airlines again?
Don't ask really, just don't.
After fifteen minutes we taxied onto the runway and held for vacating traffic. As with most takeoffs with BA and their A319's you know it's going to be de-rated and overall slow and lacklustre. But as we started our roll and got to that usual slow pace it's as if somebody changed their mind and went for it, it was quite interesting and fourteen seconds later we were airborne and seven minutes later we were passing through FL200 on our climb up to FL240.
Since the flight has started before 1000, flights to and from LGW will still serve you a full hot breakfast but I have heard this won't be the case for much longer. Still, we got it this time and I managed to eat it even though I had already had a 'proper' full English back in the hotel. I guess it's that whole, it's free so I'll have it mentality.
More free food. Edible this time too!
We maintained our cruise altitude for a few more minutes before starting our descent into MAN only thirteen hours after we should have originally been. The runway in use was 24R I figured as we passed past the familiar quarry’s and towns that lead to the approach.
MeccaChester airport in view.
Manchester Airport became visible at 1002 and by 1004 the autopilot was disconnected. It was audible from where I was sitting in 03A. The touch was smooth and we taxied on to stand just nine minutes late, for this particular flight anyway.
bmi A332 in the engine testing bay
We'd told Dylan that if he was good during the flight that he could go see the pilots so on our way off the plane we asked the crew and were allowed in with no problems. I took him in to the cockpit and said hello to the pilots, I wasn't too interested but Dylan loves it and got sat in the FO's seat. I got a quick photo of him for posterity's sake.
The brother on the Flightdeck
The FO who was out of his seat and having a chat to me then thought it a good idea to give Dylan and Myself a sticker they keep in there saying "I've visited the flight deck." Oh bloody funny guys! I took my leave at this time and the captain thanked us for taking the time to come say hi.
Me and my sticker... it came off after the photo
The baggage reclaim hall was full by the time we got there but we only had to wait a few minutes before our luggage appeared, a lot better than the amount of time we'd been held up at LGW. Our taxi was waiting outside Terminal 3 and fairly soon we were on the M6 heading north 35 miles to our house. It was finally the end of a nine day trek around Europe but it'd been fun alright and in all honesty, I didn't cause too much trouble while I was away. I think?
Questions and comments on a postcard? Thanks for taking the time to read all this, I realise 13,000 words is quite a lot for trip reports these days, kudos to you. Oh and before anybody mentions it, yes I know, my aniversary is on the 8th September but this is my first post since before then. It counts as I say so!
Oh dear, i'm sure you know where you are on a MAN-LHR hop, England?
Quoting Myt332 (Thread starter): Well we both stood there waiting for the machine to hurry up and process the big "f*ck you" message it eventually came back to us with. I looked at her and being such an original guy said, "I told you so".
HA! I hate using those things, and they never work for me and my card. So I go to the line where i'm pounced upon by some eager BA member trying to get her colleagues off work and for me to use the self service. The last time this happened, in MAN funnily enough, I told the agent "No thankyou, I have to check-in the old fashioned way, goodbye". It really annoys me when they practically force the use of it!
FLIEGER67 From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 5243 posts, RR: 54
Reply 6, posted (9 years 2 months 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 7508 times:
great report and pics also. Very detailed and good to read.
Reminds me to my time around two weeks ago in the Jerez area.
I know the place on the coastal route where your bus stops!.
TriStar500 From Germany, joined Nov 1999, 4706 posts, RR: 39
Reply 10, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 6801 times:
Great report Alex! I especially enjoyed your trip report to Gibraltar - having been there myself last year, I must say that it is really an interesting spot, sort of like a "Little Britain" right in Spain (although the rest of the Western Costa del Sol is hardly any less British nowadays).
Homer: Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!
Quoting Myt332 (Reply 15): Did you get to take the A8 in the end or did you go in the A6?
I took the A6 but it was ok. The ride to/from Hanover was a pain in the ass, a lot of traffic (many trucks), a few construction zones with 60 kph speed limit, and this annoying rain while it was dark, driving faster than 140 kph was impossible. The main thing for me was that I had xenon lights.
Quoting Myt332 (Reply 15): If so then get buying some snow tyres quick!
I have an appointment at the Audi Center tomorrow at 1 PM, the A8 will finally get snow tires.
PlymSpotter From Spain, joined Jun 2004, 12040 posts, RR: 59
Reply 17, posted (9 years 1 week 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 5555 times:
Quoting Myt332 (Reply 1): The previous flight, WOW110 had been delayed from 1625 to 1830 which was the time at present. So, a nice long wait for those guys but technically longer for me.
Oooh, and Air Southwest delay, who'd have thought it
Fantastic report there Alex, I think a visit to Gibraltar should be on the cards for me soon, apparently it is part of the South West now! Did BA ever contact you about emptying the min-bar, if not, then I might have to try the same next time I get a cancelled flight.
...love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again...