Hey guys and gals,
I recently returned from my final trip of 2017, to a couple of oil rigs in the Arctic (In the middle of Winter, lucky me right!
The first rig I had to visit, was on the relatively unknown (to a.net anyway) island of Svalbard, home to the northernmost airport in the world. It seemed rather difficult for the people who plan our trips to make the trip a series of simple connections, so I found myself first flying to Tromsø in Norway, spending a night there, before finally continuing onto Svalbard. Airline: Norwegian
Route: London Gatwick, UK to Tromsø, Norway
Scheduled Departure: 14:20
Actual Departure: 15:00
Scheduled Arrival: 18:50
Actual Arrival: 19:31
Scheduled Flight Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Boeing 737-800 (EI-GBB)
Being on a "flex" ticket, I was able to pick my seat in advance on the Norwegian website using their handy manage-my-booking feature.
Upon going to choose my seat, I was able to pick from a whopping choice of 2, 26A, or 31B, or I could choose extra legroom for a small fortune.
My first thought was wow, didn't realise Tromsø was so popular, nor did I realise people from Tromsø particularly wanted to visit London, secondly, how stupid would I be to choose 31B
I arrived at LGW at around 1200, in plenty of time for the 1420 departure. Our flight was delayed by 30 minutes due to the late arrival of the aircraft from Stockholm. Check-in was pretty dead, and I was able to drop my bag off and print my ticket pretty quickly.
The next hurdle was security, last time I passed through here it was pure chaos. However, LGW have upped their game and I was through security in a total of 6 minutes.
I'm not a massive fan of the South terminal departure lounge, as no matter how busy it is, it always feels crowded, and at this time of day which I would imagine is dead compared to 5/6am, there were still no places to sit.
At around 1355, we were called to the gate, where boarding started immediately.
I soon realised, that the flight was near enough empty, I counted around 30 pax boarding alongside me, which bought into question why Norwegian produced a full capacity seat map when trying to choose my seat.
Although with a small number of pax, they still managed to seem to make boarding chaos, with kids running around on their own, backwards and forwards from the airbridge to the departures area, and special assistance pax waiting at the back of the line.
We walked down the airbridge, down some stairs, onto the tarmac, to board the aircraft via stairs. The weather was awful, however the Norwegians amongst the pax brushed it off like they were in Tenerife.
Once onboard, the crew were chatting amongst themselves in the flight deck, and the 30ish of us took our seats quickly.
The legroom was actually adequate, however I felt like I was sat on a plank of plywood.
Once the door had closed, the flight deck announced a delay due to ATC restrictions and a quick apology for the delay of the incoming flight.
Soon enough though we pushed back, and joined an endless line of bright orange easyJet airbus' waiting departure. After what seemed an eternity, we were climbing through the thick grey clouds. Almost immediately after departure we hit moderate turbulence, this carried on for quite a significant portion of the climb, but once out of the clouds it was smooth flying and bright sunshine.
The crew swiftly came around with the B-o-B service once the seatbelt signs were off, and I purchased a ham & cheese toastie for £4.50, along with a coke for £2.00.
"It's just cooking somebody will bring it down to you soon".
Almost 35 minutes later, and having finished my coke, I was delivered a charcoal black Ham & Cheese toastie which looked like it had just been nuked.
After one bite, all I could taste was burnt bread, so I binned it.
The coke was good though
The flight continued without further event, the crew did a final service about 3/4 through the flight with little success, and after a beautiful sunset, we finally made our approach to TOS.
The approach was beautiful, with beautiful scenery and perfectly smooth flying, finished off with a soft landing onto the runway, only to be ruined when the pilot flying slammed on the brakes and tried to Tokyo drift off at high speed onto the taxiway
Late, we arrived on stand in Tromsø.
I quickly picked up my bags, which were delivered quickly after passport control, and I met my driver who took me to the Radisson Blu in the city.
Tromsø looks like a wonderful city, and it is a shame I never really took the chance to go and see it, instead choosing to pig out on room service and fall asleep
8am the next morning, I am up, had a quick breakfast and I am on my way back to the airport. Airline: SAS Scandinavian Airlines
Route: Tromsø, Norway to Svalbard/Longyearbyen, Norway
Scheduled Departure: 12:20
Actual Departure: 12:22
Scheduled Arrival: 14:00
Actual Arrival: 13:48
Scheduled Flight Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Boeing 737-800 (LN-RCZ)
Class: Business "SAS Plus"
I checked in online, and reserved seat 2A. Even though this flight was the second leg of the flight (the aircraft routes OSL-TOS-LYR), the flight was pretty empty.
Tromsø is actually a very neat little airport, very cosy. There is a SAS Cafe Lounge, where you can scan your boarding pass and a little turnstile will allow you entry. Here you have a choice of drinks and snacks such as pastries.
However, my gate was announced, and I watched as LN-RCZ, one of the few 738's around nowadays without winglets, touched down and docked at the gate.
At this stage, the weather was like a blizzard, and I can promise you that the UK would have come to an absolute standstill, snow had settled on the ground, on the aircraft and pretty much everything in sight.
Boarding was announced quickly, and SAS plus customers were welcomed first. I was surprised to see 4 rows with only me and one other pax.
The purser welcomed us onboard, a lovely elderly woman who took my jacket and hung it in the closet for me.
The middle seat is blocked like any other european biz class.
Snow had formed a beautiful white layer across the entire airport, and soon the captain announced we would find ourselves being de-iced, but it would not delay us as we were ahead of schedule.
Soon enough, we were being pelted with that awful smelling de-icing fluid.
A couple of minutes passed, and we were soon being pushed back, leaving an evident trail in the snow as we made a left turn.
Having never done this before, I felt quite nervous as we powered down the runway in what seemed to be a snowstorm. As I suspected, takeoff was pretty turbulent, but we were soon through the thick of it, and the crew started the meal service.
Here is where "business class" becomes questionable. We were offered the same B-o-B items as the pax in economy, only they were free.
So much for economy, however have to hand it to SAS their B-o-B selection is pretty good, and I enjoyed a pretty good cheese sandwich, with a coffee.
Apart from the absolutely terrifying Arctic ocean, there was nothing to see throughout the flight, mainly because it got darker and darker as the flight progressed.
The flight was smooth, and upon arrival in Svalbard, it was complete darkness, at 2 in the afternoon!
We made a very smooth landing into the very barren airport of Longyearbyen, and disembarked via the front door only, onto the tarmac. We then proceeded through a bright pink shed labelled "Arrivals", and into the baggage reclaim hall, which has a very neat figure of a Polar Bear on it.
After I collected my bag, I made my way outside, and met my driver who took me to me hotel. It's a very basic airport as I expected, it has a very cool post outside the terminal, with arrows and distances pointing to different cities. Where it is stood, it is 3043km from London
I stayed at the Radisson Blu, Spitsbergen, which is a very cosy and quite romantic by the coast. It is very charming, and has a British pub inside, where I tucked into a Sunday roast dinner (if you know, you know
) like a typical Northern English holidaymaker would when overseas, I even managed to watch some highlights from the weekends football.
Tomorrow, I'd be up at 5am, to catch a flight to the first rig, not that the time made a difference, as the sun is permanently down at this time of year.
5am rolls around and I am up again, on my way back to Svalbard airport to catch a 6:45 flight to the first rig, which is just 45 minutes North.
At just after 06:35 I boarded a Canadian operated, Norwegian registered Aerospatiale Super Puma, which will take me to both oil rigs which I am to visit.
I fell asleep shortly after take off. I must note that this helicopter is very very quiet, if I couldn't see what was happening in the cockpit, I'd probably think the blades weren't turning
As we approached Oil Rig number one, one of the crew opened the big cabin door which slides open to the left of the aircraft, letting in a horrendous ice cold breeze and freezing rain which accompanied it, which soon woke me up.
However, they were experts at landing in shitty weather, and we touched down very gently onto the helipad. The wind meant the helicopter couldn't stay long, and so departed back to Svalbard, returning later to come and pick me up.
A very small rig, probably one of the smallest i'd visited, and so there was not much to look at. Before long I found myself stood on the helipad waiting for the Super Puma to take me to rig #2.
Once onboard the crew notified me that the weather had worsened and so the trip to rig #2 has been cancelled, I will be returning to Svalbard.
I arrived back in Svalbard at around 1830, and made my way back to my hotel.
Tomorrow, I would be departing this strange island, back to mainland Europe. Airline: Norwegian
Route: Svalbard/Longyearbyen, Norway to Oslo Gardermoen, Norway
Scheduled Departure: 13:35
Actual Departure: 13:50
Scheduled Arrival: 16:35
Actual Arrival: 16:15
Scheduled Flight Duration: 3 hours
Aircraft Type/Reg: Boeing 737-800 (LN-NGS)
Unfortunately I found myself flying back to Oslo on Norwegian, the previous experience with them was poor, and I was hoping they'd be able to redeem themselves on this leg.
Check-in was very quick, the flight however was quite full today. Security was pretty much non-existent, and in the distance, the lights of our 738 coming into land could be seen.
The departure lounge is very minimalistic, there is a small shop and a cafe, with lots of tables and chairs, pretty similar to a motorway services. The SAS Employees who are the only ones around at the airport have name badges, with no names, instead the badges offer advice such as "Watch out for the polar bears" or "Remember to bring your sunglasses".
The aircraft parked parallel with the terminal, offloaded a couple of people, and we boarded pretty much straight away, using again the front door only.
Strangely enough, 2 of the crew on this flight were British, neither of whom spoke a word of Norwegian.
The crew looked very tired, and it was evident as they were constantly yawning in the front galley
The crew on this flight however were a lot friendlier than the last, and the flight actually departed on time.
Shortly after take off the crew started the b-o-b service, which actually got quite a bit of business, I did not purchase anything this time, instead opting to catch up on some sleep.
The flight passed quickly in the world of dreamland, and as I woke it seemed strange to actually see the sun again
The arrival was pretty straight forward and smooth, and we soon parked up at the gate.
I had a connecting flight, however I had to collect my bag and re-check in, so I made my way.Airline: Aeroflot
Route: Oslo Gardermoen, Norway to Moscow Sheremetyevo, Russia
Scheduled Departure: 23:40
Actual Departure: 23:51
Scheduled Arrival: 04:15+1
Actual Arrival: 03:57+1
Scheduled Flight Duration: 2 hours 35 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B (RA-89051)
After checking in at the Aeroflot desk, and dropping my bag off, I made my way through to the departure lounge.
I made my way to the OSL Lounge, the Aeroflot designated lounge, however this closed at 20:30, way before our departure time, so I found myself a "quiet" spot in the terminal, grabbed a coffee, and caught up on some work.
At around 23:15, boarding was called. The boarding was very efficient, and the seemingly full load of passengers were patient and cooperative, which made boarding very quick. Skyteam Elite members, Aeroflot Bonus Gold and Platinum members and Business class pax boarding first.
We were greeted onboard by quite a delightful of a crew, both in terms of friendliness, and the fact they were very easy on the eye
They offered us a welcome drink, Orange Juice or Water, I took an OJ, and relaxed into my very spacious seat. The crew also offered out actual plastic menus of what is on offer for dinner, as well as a nice little Aeroflot logo blanket. The seats are 2x2, however I was fortunate to have the seat next to me empty, the seats are comfy and wide, with plenty of legroom.
The tiredness was starting to hit me, and so I wanted to get in the air, get some food and go to sleep!
Boarding was completed quickly, and the Captain welcomed us onboard, gave us some info in English, Russian and Norwegian, before we pushed back and made our way to the runway.
The noise on these Superjets sounds like someone has amplified the sound of an electric razor
We turned onto the runway, and powered up down the runway. It seemed to be at almost half throttle as when we got half way, the aircraft launched forward, pinning me back into my seat, before finally becoming airborne.
We climbed pretty much vertically, in a very steep climb, but we reached our cruising altitude in no time. The crew began the inflight service.
A small dinner offered today, a seafood platter, and a beef stew-type thing, with Oreo cheesecake for dessert.
To be honest, apart from the stew, the seafood and the cheesecake were actually very very good, and I credit Aeroflot for being able to provide such high quality food on a short service such as this!
This was followed by a round of Tea and Coffee, I took a Coffee, as by this stage there was no point sleeping, and it too was very good.
The drinks were accompanied by small chocolates.
Not too much longer later, we were descending towards Moscow.
The descent again was at quite a steep rate, and before we knew it, the bright lights of the city were in the distance.
We descended pretty much nose down until we flared and slammed onto the runway at SVO.
We soon arrived at our gate, I disembarked, headed through a lengthy customs, before collecting my bag.
I quickly jumped in a cab, and headed across to Domodedovo airport for my next flight.
I arrived at DME at around 07:30, in plenty of time for my next flight.Airline: Red Wings Airlines
Route: Moscow Domodedovo, Russia to Sabetta, Russia
Scheduled Departure: 10:40
Actual Departure: 11:14
Scheduled Arrival: 16:20
Actual Arrival: 16:12
Scheduled Flight Duration: 3 hours 40 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Airbus A321-200 (VP-BRS)
My flight had already been assigned a gate, and the aircraft was already waiting at the gate, along with several passengers from the flight.
The flight pax were predominantly Russians, however there were several Chinese workers headed to oil rigs and mines in the area.
DME seemed to be buzzing with activity both on the ramp and in the terminal.
Boarding was called at 10:25, and we boarded in no particular order. Thankfully, we boarded via an airbridge, as there was an almighty snowstorm belting down on the airport.
The crew were pretty blunt, and quite stern when talking to pax, whether that's just the Russian language I don't know, as none of them really spoke any English.
The flight was actually pretty empty, and I secured row 17 all to myself, the Airbus was packed in tight, and the seats were very cramped.
The safety demo was made in Russian, and very badly translated English, however the announcements from the flight deck were very detailed, and very interesting as we were told pretty much every detail of the flight, in clear Russian and English.
After a quick de-ice and pushback, it was a relatively short taxi to the runway, and soon enough we were airborne.
After take-off the crew slowly began to offer us Lunch, which consisted of some form of unknown meat, Chicken I think, with pasta. Non-alcoholic beverages were free, so I got a coke. Alcohol was on offer to purchase.
The meal wasn't very good, it came with diced carrots, a slice of ham, a stale bread roll, and some kind of sweet wafer which was the only edible thing there.
The coke was poured from the bottle, and it came lukewarm. I guess Red Wings aren't very renowned for their spectacular service then
maybe if there's a Russian a.netter who can enlighten me to what their reputation is like.
However, the flight passed without anything noteworthy, the crew offered another drink service shortly before arrival, but we soon found ourselves back in darkness and back in the snow, as we made a smooth approach and landing into a very deserted Sabetta.
From here, I collected my bag, and I was taken to a nearby natural gas plant, where I would find my bed for the night.
Absolutely exhausted, I passed out at around 6pm.
7am, and I am boarding a questionable Mil-Mi-38 helicopter, which would take me to the offshore Oil Rig which I will be looking at today.
The flight took around an hour, in the pitch black, the flight was actually smooth.
The rig I am visiting today is actually a drill ship, however for the purposes of safety it's classed as an oil rig.
After a thorough inspection, all is well, and I am back on the questionable helicopter heading back to terra firma.
I arrived back at the gas plant in Sabetta at around 21:00.
I got my head down, and prepared for my flight back tomorrow.Airline: Red Wings Airlines
Route: Sabetta, Russia to Moscow Domodedovo, Russia
Scheduled Departure: 15:50
Actual Departure: 15:50
Scheduled Arrival: 17:40
Actual Arrival: 17:22
Scheduled Flight Duration: 3 hours 50 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Tupolev 204-100
I got to Sabetta Airport at around 14:30, plenty of time for the 15:50 departure.
Today's flight was the only departure out of Sabetta all day, so check in was dead, a total of 29 pax onboard todays flight to Moscow.
Security was nearly non-existent, as was any kind of hospitality in the departure lounge other than a small cafe.
Our sleek looking Tupolev pulled up on stand early, which allowed us to board early much to the appreciation of the flight crew.
Once onboard we were greeted by a friendly young crew, who seemed a lot happier than the inbound crew the day before.
The aircraft seemed well looked after, the cabin seemed fresh and clean, and the leather seats were un-damaged.
The seats were comfy, wide, with lots of legroom, they also reclined ridiculously far. The overhead lockers were enormous too.
Watch where you put your arms, as there is a light switch and a crew call button on the arm rest
After a safety demo in English and Russian, we made the short taxi to the runway, and we were soon heading back to Moscow.
Shortly after take off the crew started the service with a quick drinks run, I got a coke, this was followed by dinner which was a choice of Chicken with Buckwheat or Fish and Rice. I got the Fish, it was half decent, and was actually edible so can't complain. The lay-up was exactly the same as the previous flight, including the sweet wafer.
Shortly after the crew cleared the trays, they performed another drinks service.
The flight was pleasant, and we were soon descending towards DME.
The flight deck were very informative at every step of the flight, including during the approach which was odd.
Approach and landing at DME were smooth, and we taxied to the gate, docked, and disembarked. The baggage reclaim took a while, and around 40 minutes later I got my bag, and headed to "The Lotte Hotel".
After a decent nights sleep, it was finally time to head back to London. Airline: British Airways
Route: Moscow Domodedovo, Russia to London Heathrow, UK
Scheduled Departure: 18:35
Actual Departure: 19:05
Scheduled Arrival: 19:55
Actual Arrival: 20:02
Scheduled Flight Duration: 4 hours 20 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Airbus A321-200 (G-EUXF)
Class: Club Europe
Having used online check-in, bag drop was a breeze, as was security.
I was expecting to be onboard one of BA's "Long haul" A321's fitted with club world, so it was very disappointing to be told at bag drop that the aircraft had been changed, and my Club World bed of 4F was now a standard Club Europe 7F.
Again, to my disappointment, I didn't leave much time to visit the Navigator Club Lounge, as boarding had started by the time I passed security.
I jumped the queue at the gate, to the disgust of several pax in the Traveller queue, and boarded straight away.
The crew seemed very friendly, I was greeted onboard by a young girl who took my coat for me and stored it away, and offered me a drink. I just took a water for now.
Boarding was finished pretty quickly, and we watched that funny new Comic Relief BA Safety Video, which was refreshing at least.
We joined a long queue of Russian airlines, before finally taking off heading back towards Blighty.
Shortly after take off we were offered hot towels and warm nuts, along with a drink. I played it safe, and took a coke.
Once airborne it hit me again how disappointing it was not to be able to try out the A321's beds, instead i'm stuck with the same sh*t I get going from Manchester-London on a 35 minutes flight
Starter for this evenings flight was Leek and Potato Soup, a Cheese Soufflé, or a fresh salad.
I took the Soup, which came with croutons and was delicious, the wonderful flight attendant, Summer, ironic considering it was -15 degrees where we left, and 2 degrees where we are headed, recommended a red wine to accompany it and she was indeed correct, it was great.
Main course, was Salmon, Chicken Tapaka, Braised Beef, or a salad of Tiger Prawns. I took the Salad, which was absolutely amazing, i'm unsure who BA's caterers are in Moscow, or if the aircraft is catered in London for both legs of the journey, but they have done a superb job.
Dessert was a chilled chocolate fondant, which too was delicious, and served with a decent coffee. This was followed by a service of fruit and cheese, however I skipped this.
Throughout the remainder of the flight the crew kept us well supplied with drinks, chocolate and other snacks.
Soon enough, as we dropped through the clouds, we flew over London, which was beautifully lit up at night, all the way across from London City Airport, The Shard, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park/Winter Wonderland and through West London, the views were spectacular.
We touched down quite hard onto 27L, and taxied to the A Gates.
I said bye to the crew and made my way to customs, which wasn't too painful, before waiting an hour for my bag to arrive at the belt.
I jumped in a cab to my hotel, ready for my meetings in the morning, before finally heading back home to Manchester (I won't report on this flight).
An unusual trip for me, very cold, very very very cold in fact, on some unusual airlines and aircraft.
I hope you have enjoyed, thanks for reading, comments are always welcome.