Well, I had to non-rev back to Newcastle last week to sort some stuff out. Little was I to know that it would develop into one of my most interesting trips yet…..
22nd August 01
BA124 Bahrain – London Heathrow Terminal 4
Boeing 777-236 G-ZZZ?
Dep. Time 0105
Arrival Time 0625
Seat 33H – Y cabin
Arrived at BAH airport in good time for the flight at 0105. The flight was fairly full but there was no opportunity for an upgrade. Got my seat 33H and made my way through passport control to the duty free shopping. They are building a new duty free at BAH which will be more central; the current duty free will be replaced with airline lounges. However, the duty free is still one of the best in the world. I saw the new Nokia communicator which has the colour screen…very smart. Went to the cafeteria and looked over the tarmac – saw the usual bevy of GF A320s and also a KL 767 bound for Amsterdam.
Went to gate 11 to board the BA flight. Gate 11 is used when there is VIP pax as it is close to the VIP area. Boarding was hassle free and I made my way to my seat. Saw that Club World (with the cradle seats) had nice new white headrest covers. I had an aisle seat towards the back of World Traveller. There were two people sitting next to me so as the plane pushed back I hopped into the opposite seat where there was a middle seat free.
We pushed back on time and exited the apron via the Mike intersection. We then taxied the full length of the parallel taxiway to the end of the runway. Lined up, opened the throttles, thundered down the runway and we were off, up and into the sky with the spectacular lights of Bahrain Island on the left hand side.
Started watching the film ‘The Tailor of Panama’ on the PTV while eating some sandwiches. There was something wrong with the sound so I decided to go to sleep.
Woke up about 0525 UK time as breakfast was being served. Decided to skip it and fitfully dozed until we began our final descent over London. Came in over central London and saw the new BEA Trident colours and the Concordes at the BA technical base before a landing on time on 27L. Heathrow was its usual crowded self – a UA 777 landed after us. We shut down the engines on the taxiway and were dragged onto the stand by a tug to comply with noise restrictions. We were on the far gate on the new cul-de-sac at T4.
I got off the aircraft and made my way through the flight connections system, first a bus to the FCC at T2, then security, passport control and a walk through to the T1 BA UK domestic lounge at Gate 5. Had a baguette thing for breakfast and coffee.
22nd August 01
BA 1326 London Heathrow Terminal 1 – Newcastle
Airbus A319 G-EUP?
Dep. Time 0930
Arrival Time 1040
Seat 5C – Y Cabin
Boarded through Gate 5b for this short flight to NCL. The flight was very full so I was pleased that I got an aisle seat. The aircraft was very new and still smelled very nice. We pushed back on time and the LCD monitors folded down to show us the safety demo. We taxied out to 27R for takeoff. After a brief roll we rotated and climbed towards our cruising alt. of 26,000ft. #
A hot breakfast of sausages, eggs, bacon and baked beans was served, with coffee or tea. Very good service for a 45 minute flight. The FAs were excellent and managed to clear everything away before the final descent. We came in over Newcastle City and landed to the west on the single runway. As we taxied in there was an Airtours A320 departing.
Deplaned, got my bag and got a taxi into Newcastle.
24th August 01
BA 1333 Newcastle – London Heathrow Terminal 1
Airbus A320 G-BUSG
Dep. Time 1400
Arrival Time 1510
Seat 23D – Y Cabin
I was originally booked on the 1930 flight but as I finished up in Newcastle early, I made my way to the airport to see if I could standby for an earlier flight. I didn’t have much hope of doing so as there was no space available when I booked two weeks earlier. However, when I got to checkin and asked, they said no problem, there are 15 seats available, and they gave me a boarding card straight away. So I was delighted and I went through to the lounge.
The flight boarded soon after and I made my way to my seat. Again the flight was fairly full but we still left on time. We taxied to the threshold close to the NCL terminal and soon we were climbing into the cloudy sky. We would have had a good view of the city were it not for the cloud.
The service was started – a ‘Deli Bag’ which contained a sandwich, cake and OJ. Very nice, but a bit cheap if you had paid the full fare! Too American for my liking – where was the old salad platter etc?
We landed on 27L at LHR again just before the runway switch. So we briskly taxied to T1 – gate 5d this time and I claimed my bag as my return flight to BAH was not until the following morning. Got the Hotel Hoppa bus to the Le Meridien Excelsior. A very nice hotel which I stayed in for one night – good food, comfy beds etc.
Woke up the next morning at 0630 and got the Hotel Hoppa to Terminal 1. Transited to Terminal 4 by the Heathrow Express which is the quickest way to transfer – more reliable than a bus and free!
As I was travelling non-rev I had to check in at the BA Staff Travel desks. They tagged my bag for the BA125 to Bahrain and told me to come back at 0845, 45 minutes before departure. So I hang around and had coffee, read the papers, did all the usual hanging around thing. Landside at T4 is not particularly interesting for 2 hours!
So I was called back at 0845 and was told that there were no seats. Hmmmm. What to do? After a quick consultation with my Dad in Bahrain I decided to go for the BA107 to Dubai which was also looking pretty full, and then if that didn’t work to try EK and then GF that evening. I stood by for the Dubai flight but was told that it was totally full. So I started to get issued an EK ticket by BA and I went to the cashpoint to get the money for it. Damn VISA wasn’t working
! As I was jogging back to staff travel the lady came out saying ‘We’ve got you a seat on the 107!!’. So she quickly tagged my bag and I ran to the gate, through fast track and the melee of Terminal 4. It was a bus transfer so I had to hurry!
25th August 01
BA107 London Heathrow Terminal 4 – Dubai
Boeing 777-236 G-ZZZE
Dep. Time 1230
Arrival Time 2030
Seat 25K – Y cabin
Got on the bus and phoned my Dad asking him to get me on the Gulf Air DXB-BAH flight that was scheduled for departure from DXB at 1210. He said ‘no problem, and see you this evening’. I got on the aircraft and sat next to a very nice German couple from Stuttgart who were going to Dubai on holiday. I asked them if they realised how hot it would be!
Before we pushed back the CSD came onto the PA and said that they had found a large teddybear, and would someone like to claim it? They then walked through the cabin with it. We pushed back on time and taxied to the runway – 9R. However, when we were adjacent to the Cargo Terminal we stopped. At we sat there for 10 minutes. I thought LHR was busy, but there were still a/c taking off. We then taxied on to the runway at an intersection, halfway along it and then off back towards Terminal 4. We stopped, and the Captain came on the PA. He said that the staff had found a suspicious package and that they were working out how to get rid of it. The captain said that he wanted to drop it out of the cockpit window (!) but BAA Heathrow wouldn’t let him!
So he said that we had to taxy back on stand for the police to come and retrieve it. The Captain then announced that it was the teddybear that was the cause of the alert. Apparently someone had brought it on board to give to someone who should have been on the aircraft but wasn’t! How stupid! We were then told that the stand did not have a refuelling facility and were dragged back to our original stand to refuel. All in all, a 2 hour delay. So I missed my connection in DXB so I phoned my Dad (again!) and asked for him to arrange for me to be met in Dubai and get the 0730 flight.
We eventually pushed back and took off. The passengers were great about it and full marks to the crew for keeping everyone informed at all times. We took off from 9R after an AC A330-300. I watched ‘Blow’ on the PTV and had lunch. We flew over Germany, down to Yugoslavia, north of Iraq and then down through Iran to Dubai. We landed only 2 hours late at 1230 – 20 minutes after my flight had left – so close! After we landed at SR A330-200 landed and followed us to the stand.
I have to say that Dubai is the most amazing airport in the world. It is spectacular and works really well. I went to Transfer desk B and got my GF ticket, and they checked me in so I was SEQ 001 in seat 8A.
This was at about 0200. So I had 4 hours to kill – which were spent eating, shopping, drinking coffee and sleeping! I saw a multitude of aircraft – the MH B777 departed for Newark, there was an Alitalia MD-11 going to MXP and a bevy of EK A330s and 772s/773s off to far away places such as JNB. There was also an AF A310 and a LH A340.
26th August 01
GF521 Dubai – Bahrain
Airbus A320-200 A4O-EN
Dep. Time 0730
Arrival Time 0730
Seat 8A – Y cabin
We boarded this short flight from Gate 29 which was a bus trip out to the aircraft. As we climbed the stairs I saw the BA flight from London arrive – it was a 777 in the new Union Flag colours, but with GE90 engines.
I had the first row in Y which was an emergency exit. We pushed back and taxied for take off to the easterly facing runway. There was a very short take off roll as we were very lightly loaded and a very noticeable pull up – I was pushed into my seat – very cool. We quickly got up to 31k feet for this 50 minute flight. We were served a croissant and coffee and given a free copy of various Gulf dailies – I took the Gulf News from Dubai.
We descended into Bahrain from the north and looped round to land on runway 12. The landing was smooth and I saw one of GFs A330s in the 50th anniversary scheme. This was the GF008 arrived from London.
I went through passport control and down to claim my bag. Surprise, surprise it wasn’t there. So I filled in a claim with the Baggage Services people (with some friends who had just flown EDI-LHR-BAH and had lost their golf clubs!) and went home.
I still haven’t got my bag, 24 hours later, but I am assured that it arrived in Bahrain at 0100 this morning, and I am going to the airport later to collect it!
This is the first time I’ve flown non-rev for about 10 years – talk about a baptism of fire! I’ve had denied boarding, re-routing, bomb scares and lost luggage – now I’m ready for anything!