To escape from a rainy Central Europe, a colleague of mine and I decided to embark on a little tour through Southern Europe. After checking flight availability and taking into account such factors as interesting airports, routes, airlines and aircraft, we went for the following routing:
FRA-BCN Iberia MD-87 EC-EXF
Very early takeoff in the morning at 06.20... not too many passengers on this Sunday morning, maybe 30 in economy and 3 in business. I found it interesting to see monitors and inseat audio in a MD87. The monitors don't come down automatically though but have to be lowered and raised by hand. A decent cold breakfast on a tray was served, and the remaining rolls/pastries from Business Class were distributed in Economy! This would never happen at Lufthansa, they would say it would weaken the class differentiation... Anyways, all in all a nice flight, beautiful sunrise over the Alps, and nice views along the Mediterranean coast and on approach into Barcelona. Arrival 15 minutes before schedule. The only setback was that the crew wouldn't tolerate any photography/video at any time of the flight! By the way, this particular MD87 had been based in MIA previously.
Despite the early time, Marlo Plate was so nice to come out to the airport and drive us over to the approach to rwy 25 for some spotting, and with beautiful morning sun and very agreeable temperatures we spent a good time chatting and shooting aircraft on approach, the highlight being BMI new colors A320. Most other aircraft were Iberia and Spanair, no unusual movements, but still, BCN offers really great spots for photography. When the Air Littoral CRJ came in, we knew it was time to head back to the airport, as this aircraft would take us on to NCE. Thanks again, Marlo!
BCN-NCE Air Littoral CRJ100 F-GPYP
One of at least two Littoral CRJ in all white colors (previously in Team Lufthansa colors), a bit disappointing, but so what, when you sit inside it doesn't really matter. Flight was maybe 75% booked with approx. 40 pay on board. Nice takeoff over the sea and again scenic views all the way to NCE, with the beautiful French Cote d'Azur and many yacht harbors. A delicious snack with Mediterranean snacks was served by the trilingual flight attendant. The cabin is nicely done with grey leather and colorful headrest covers in red, blue and yellow with flower patterns. The same design is used on other items such as meal trays, creating a harmonious image. Air Littoral is rightly proud of its Mediterranean style, they say fly with the "gens du Sud", people of the South, to set them apart from other, Paris based French carriers. Curving into NCE after the 50 minute flight allowed views of the airport which is situated on a peninsula, almost like an aircraft carrier at the edge of the bay in which NCE is located.
Looking around NCE airport revealed little chances for spotting, the apron is very much shielded by buildings, walls and fences from the outside. I guess you have to walk further for approach shots or rent a boat. So we decided in favor of a nice afternoon at the ocean promenade along downtown Nice, which also proved to be a good idea. At least I got some shots from the waiting room before our next departure. NCE is Air Littoral's hub, serving many Mediterranean destinations with its colorful regional fleet, and other highlights included Saudi MD11, Greenlandair 757 and a Russian IL62 with VIP titles.
NCE-LYS Air Littoral ATR42-500 F-GPYP
Boarding on the open ramp, we went a few steps too far off to take a photo of the beautiful Littoral colors, and were reminded by the charming ramp agent "C'est joli mais c'est interdit" - it's nice but forbidden, but then she still let us take the photo. Another lightly booked flight (13 pax!) took us on another scenic route up north to Lyon. Circling out of and around NCE allowed more views of the city, then we followed the Western edge of the Alps. Again a trilingual flight attendant served drinks and snacks on this 40 minute hop.
Lyon's Saint-Exupery airport, newly renamed after the great French aviator and poet, is a modern airport in the French style with very expressive buildings, especially the TGV high speed train station. However, the commuter concourse turned out to be very cramped and sticky. 12 narrow bus gates were used to board some 20 flights within an hour. The commuter ramp was really impressive, some 20 CRJ, ERJ and props, mostly operated by Brit Air, Proteus and Regional and mostly in AF colors taxied in and out. Highlight was the new CRJ700, one in AF and one in Brit Air colors - this machine looks hot! One of the many CRJs would be ours that would take us home to FRA.
LYS-FRA Air France by Brit Air CRJ100 F-GRJF
Our final flight for the day. Departure at 20.15 after sunset, in a long row of departing regional aircraft. Again good food and beverage service and a friendly flight attendant. Another nice cabin with dark blue leather seats and red and white-striped headrest covers. And another ontime flight on this trip, like all others. We arrived home tired but happy. A great escape for one day!
Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been...