The departure board said our flight, scheduled to depart at 01:00 would begin boarding at 00:38, which made me smile, because departure boards at Spanish holiday airports are almost always works of fiction. Our flight was finally called for boarding at about 00:50 and we boarded the bus to be taken out to our aircraft. We were driven across the apron past aircraft of Air 2000, Air Europa, Spanair, JMC, Britannia, Airtours and Monarch over to our waiting A320. This time G-OOAC, which pleased me because I had not previously travelled on this aircraft. When the bus arrived we were kept on the bus for almost 10 minutes before we were allowed to board the aircraft, without explanation. At this point we split into two groups, those sitting at the front and those sitting at the back to board by the appropriate doors. At the bottom of the steps the CSD gave us a very warm welcome given the late hour and we took our seats. Everyone got onboard surprisingly quickly, no stragglers, and soon the captain informed us we would be taxiing out. Again he apologised for the delay and said we should make up some time as we would have a short flight assisted by tailwinds giving a flight time of 3 hours 35 minutes.
By the time the engines were started the crew started the safety video, which was new and very clear. It started with a captain speaking from the flighdeck asking everyone to pay careful attention and to put down our newspapers and magazines and watch closely. The video was a mixture of live action and computer generated images, and was also subtitled, the first time I have come across this in a safety video. We taxied off stand and made our way towards runway 08, and there was no delay in our departure, the takeoff roll commencing at 01:34 – just over 30 minutes late. Again the aircraft seemed to amble but climbed away very quickly continuing straight ahead for some time before making a left turn towards the north.
Climbing initially to 31,000ft the crew again showed the information video, before starting the film which was Galaxy Quest At this point there was some activity near the front of the plane as several crew members peered into an overhead locker and some passengers stood in the aisle. It soon became apparent that someone had put a bottle into the overhead, which had leaked its contents over everything else in there! The crew mopped it up with handfuls of paper towels and jay cloths and moved all except the offending bag to other storages.
Shortly afterwards there was a bar service, again with 4 trolleys working towards the centre of the cabin, so it was completed fairly quickly. By now we had climbed to 35,000ft and the Captain informed us we were tracking over the Atlantic towards Lisbon. Next came a surprise, 2 of the crew started the Duty Free service, usually completed near the end of the flight. However the reason later became apparent, and few people wanted to shop at that time in the morning so it was over fairly quickly. Soon we were served a hot breakfast of Cheese Omelette, Bacon, Sausage, Savoury potatoes and Spicy Tomato. This was served with Orange juice, Breadroll and a Muffin. This was followed up by Tea or Coffee. Again another excellent meal from Air 2000. It always surprises me how US carriers often don’t serve meals on redeye flights, which this one definitely was(!), or try and get away with serving a muffin on its own as breakfast. Everyone I was travelling with ate and enjoyed the breakfast and I only saw one person refuse the meal.
As soon as the trays were cleared away, the cabin lights went off. The IFE continued and cabin service ceased, although if you rang your callbell they would bring a drink or whatever you wanted. I never sleep on planes unless it is a really long flight, but putting the lights down allowed those who wanted to sleep to do that and improved my view out of the window! I got a spectacular view of Lisbon and the Atlantic coast of Portugal/Spain by night! By the time we were over the Bay of Biscay dawn was starting to break, overcast cloud, which would be unbroken for the rest of the flight, prevented me from seeing anything below us. However for sometime I could see another aircraft on a parallel course, below us, which we overtook. All too soon, before I could properly see the sunrise, the Captain informed us we had crossed the British coastline at Exeter and were about to commence our descent into Birmingham for a landing on runway 15. Weather – Overcast clouds with a base of 400ft with patchy fog below that, nice weather to come home to!!! We entered cloud very early in the descent and stayed in the overcast from then on. Just as the seatbelt sign went on the cabin lights came on, and the cabin crew passed around the cabin offering hot lemon-scented cotton towels to everyone, to help wake us up and freshen us up before landing. The approach was quite rough and we didn’t emerge from the cloud cover until a few seconds before touchdown and even then it was quite foggy. Touchdown was smooth, but braking was very gentle because there is no rapid exit at Birmingham, and the aircraft was allowed to roll the full length of the runway before taxiing to the apron. Our landing time was 05:15, just 15 minutes late, giving a flying time of 3 hours 41 minutes. At this time of the morning it was fairly busy and we were forced to park on a remote stand beside a Sabena RJ85 and Monarch A321. There was a short delay while we waited for busses to arrive; It was very depressing to disembark the aircraft in the cold milky light of a thoroughly miserable British “Summer” morning.
Baggage claim was fairly quick given there were 13 of us, probably because our bags would have been the last to be loaded, and we soon made our way to the train station for another miserable rail journey home.
Well that’s it, another good flight, service routine a little unusual to allow maximum time to sleep. The crew still remained cheerful despite having been on duty for such a long time in the middle of the night. Once again the A320 endeared its self to me. I will definitely be flying Air 2000 again, as my username would suggest, I still think they are the best at what they do with the possible exception of Virgin Sun, but I haven’t had chance to fly with them yet.
Photo © Paulo Carvalho
Photo © Andreas Paschinger
G-OOAC at Tenerife
Photo © Chris Sheldon
G-OOAC at Birmingham