[This is a repost, following bandwidth issues with previous one. Vids are out]
Trip was from Calgary AB, Canada (YYC) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD) on AC/KL. Contrary to rumours and solid expectations, I did not fly Ethiopian - ET was playing hard to get (fare wise), while my adventurous side was up for something new - KL. I also got to avoid flying an ET B752.
Routing was YYC-YYZ [change planes] YYZ-LHR [change planes, terminal, overnight at LHR] LHR - AMS [change planes] AMS - KRT [hang out in plane forever] KRT - ADD, then ADD - AMS [change planes] AMS - LHR [change planes, terminal] LHR - YYC
Caught the red-eye out of Calgary, leaving just as it started to snow after a lull of a few days. This, a flight I have taken a few times , allows for travelling without wasting precious daytime doing so (at least within North America). Arrived at YYZ on time, with daytime flight out to LHR delayed by some 30 minutes due to a late arriving aircraft. Before I went up to the AC lounge, came across what appeared to be quarantined folks - a flight from London to Vancouver that had diverted to YYZ the previous night. Poor souls. Breakfast and on-line checkin for my KLM flights later, and I was back at the gate, where our aircraft was just being pulled in. A B763 that was new on the outside, ugly old on the inside. I slept through most of it, and as we got closer to LHR, Cap'n announced a possible holding pattern, which was later cancelled. We arrived some 10 minutes early. Immigration then luggage in hand, hopped on the Heathrow Express to T4.
LHR Terminal 4. Inaccessible by transit overnight, taxis want an arm, a leg and a liver for a fare ... some folks have to come to the airport the night before to catch early flights. I got in late at night, hung out with a new Nigerian friend. The 15+ armed-to-the-teeth soldiers scouring the terminal inch by inch was an added touch to the whole experience.
Left HSBC Airport on a KL B738, arrived at ING Airport early. But we did taxi to our gate for a time that is equivalent (if not more) to our flight between the two airports. I think I even slept and woke up twice during this taxi.
Not too comfortably seated @ 35-J in a KLM A332 (why do I always fall for those IFE boxes under seats A and J on A330s?). Full flight, surprisingly, mostly Europeans on board.
Sister ship parked on the other side.
Descending into Khartoum. That's the Nile.
Great to see that the map has cities written as pronounced: Gonder. Mekele. Not Gondar, Makale. PA announcements also had the right pronounciation for Addis Abeba.
Snapping pics of the same stuff ... sun was coming down, and I would not get any at ADD ...
We used runway 36.
Ol' school ...
Some UN aircraft movements occur, with an MD8x and some turboprops. LH590 from Frankfurt arrived some 20 minutes after we did. She was late. She would also leave for ADD before us, leaving me imagining the immigration line upon arrival at ADD.
Qatar Airways arrives, also late.
We left Khartoum after picking up AMS-bound pax (we're full again), then an hour and a half later, descended into Addis. Surprised to hear the FA announce that taking photographs at the airport is prohibited. It was too dark to take any pictures anyway. Approach to Runway 25L, gear down, and we suddenly gain altitude - as it turns out, we were set to land on 7R. And did we land or what? I almost offered my fellow pax a hand in picking up broken limbs and teeth. Cap'n remained in his cockpit as we disembarked at a jetbridge into the new terminal. My concern for the immigration line was not unfounded: 1 hour and 20 minutes. Damn LH! The line up at immigration, by the way, warrants its own trip report. Visa on arrival beats the exorbitant amount Ethiopian embassies around the world charge however.
Addis was as great as ever. What needed to be done in four weeks was done. The fact that in a country with 70 million inhabitants, I could unexpectedly run into and positively identify a fellow a.netter still baffles me - it truly is a small world.
So it was time to return. Lineup at the KL counter lasted 1.5 hours. Saw Girma Wake, CEO of ET, mastering his domain late on a Saturday night. Back to KL counter and focusing on something non-ET, this European airline charges excess fees with a vengeance, the reason for this long line up - people were unpacking, taking out stuff they'd leave behind, some paying more than the average Ethiopian's yearly salary. As for me, 19.8 kilos of checked baggage, and I was on my way. Another IFE box under my seat 20A, after being bussed in a slick ET bus to our remotely parked A332. Flight not as full as our arrival into Addis. Lucked out and had the seat next to me empty. Did not last long: a talkative old Dutch lady could not stand her middle seat in another row. I did not deserve to hear about her amazing 30-day expedition throughout the four corners of Ethiopia.
This is all I could snap from my seat, thanks to you know who. I did not hear of "no picture" announcements after I boarded, and having checked with others that had flown into ADD in the preceding weeks, none heard of such announcements and even had pictures to show. On a related note, have ya'll seen Ato Raimund Stehmann's pics at ADD? A couple for now, he has many more in the database.
Arrival at AMS was some 10 minutes late. About an hour and a half before my hop to LHR.
Sat in an aisle seat in the exit row of this half full B738. Lady by the window starts to yap about her inability to purchase duty free for her friends, and that she hated everything from flight attendants to duty free attendants. Lucky for me, half of the front of cabin was empty (why was everybody at the back?), so traded my nice seat for a window seat four rows ahead. Nice sights outside the window, especially @ LHR.
Immigration at LHR was typical, although with more of what appears to be secondary screening, behind closed doors - flights from Africa had arrived. Picked up bag, hopped on the Heathrow Express to T3 - I had arrived at the zoo. Checked in with AC for my nonstop to YYC, and started wandering around - not much to see. Went past security where they enforced the one carry-on rule as though there was no other law, and got into claustrophobic T3 waiting area.
I knew that ET's Saturday night flight to LHR had come by then, so went on a mission to catch a glimpse of her, a B752.
It was time for my flight. Went to the gate, where Tel Aviv-style behavioural questions awaited at the entrance, by some female security officer. She asked if I was going home. I was really between "Home" and "Home" - I was torn, but still said "Yes".
Boarded, another "A"-seat on an A330. This time however, the next seat was unoccupied. Fog delay, we were told. I made sure I "owned" seat B by painfully stretching into it.
One Air Canada, Two Air Canada, Three. The third one arrived just before our push back. Then it was "catch what you can", with shots of MEA, Tarom, Olympic, Alitalia, Icelandair with winglets, Air India, Emirates, EgyptAir aircraft, to name a few.
Notice the ET B752 above?
After this, it was a matter of sleeping and waking up, all the way to YYC, where reality awaited.
All in all, the trip went well. The trek on the way out was not as tiresome as I thought would be. AC service was as stale as ever, while KL's long haul crew were amazing. KL short haul crew were great too, but it looks like the communal comb on both flights was missing.
Another lesson learned is to be aware of the implication of buying two separate tickets. While all went well, I was bound by ex-Europe luggage allowance on KLM, wich is 20 Kilos total checked luggage. My dear European friends, what do you pack when you go overseas? That allowance is peanuts. KL even weighed my hand luggage, which had to be a max of 12 Kilos. The two pieces of luggage system (at 50lbs each) applies for pax on a single booking to/from North America.
[Edited 2007-03-04 07:52:23]