Sometimes you want to go somewhere and are waiting to get a cheap airfare and you can't get it. Then suddenly it is there. I exeprienced this some time ago. I always wanted to go to Nice for spotting. However, the cheap fares were always sold out when I looked. Thus when easyJet announced their Grand sale late August I hoped that I had the chance to get to Nice. And yes on September 1st 00.01 I looked on their website and it was indeed possible to do a daytrip for the NLG 132 (USD 55) roundtrip fare (taxes included).
Thus on October 13th I woke up early (05.00) to take the first train to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. I didn't know what to expect as after I booked the terrible events happened in NY and thus didn't know if I could do some spotting in Nice.
AMS-NCE EZY871 G-EZYF B737-33V
The check-in desk opened just as I arrived. However, as usual I wasn't the first. Already many people lined up at the check-in desk for Nice and I wondered whether I could get a boarding card below the 30. Fortunately for me another check-in desk just opened and I checked in. Nowadays you seem to get a real paper boarding card (the first time) with the number (22) printed on it. As I had some time to spare before departure (I checked in at 0720 and the flight left at 0915) I went to my "usual" places to spot aircraft (being the end of the B-pier if I go to a Schengen destination).
After half an hour I walked from the B-pier to the end of the C-pier to read the Atlas 747 which now flies for the US government and went to my gate D72. This was the first time I had to walk on the upper part of the D-pier (usually I walk in the non-Schengen part) and I must say it's good. I arrived too soon at the gate (it would open at 0845), thus I walked to the end (gate D80) to do some spotting. While I was spotting I noticed that my aircraft (G-EZYF) arrived at the gate. I was very pleased to see that this was a "new" one for me . At 0845 I went down to sit with all the other passengers and waited for boarding to begin. As usual first families with children and the elderly were allowed on the plane and than the rest. As always in Amsterdam the gate agents don't know that easyJet boards according to your number and thus it was the typical easyJet mess when general boarding started. Somehow I manged to get through the crowd and boarded the aircraft. As people tend to sit in front of the cabin I immediately walked to the rear and sat down on seat 29F.
A couple of minutes later the cargo doors were closed and I expected a very early departure. However, I didn't count on two passengers not turning up. The cargo doors were opened (unfortunately they had luggage) and I wondered how long it would take. Then came the announcement from the captain that he secured a take off slot at 0930 (only 15 minutes delay) and that they have some problems locating the bags of those who missed their flight.
Fortunately at 0926 the plane was pushed back from gate D72. We had to wait a few minutes as an Aer Lingus B737-400 taxied to gate and we started rolling at around 0930. Todays runway for take off was runway 27. After take off we immediately headed south to Nice. The captain gave our route (via Geneva and the Alps to Nice) and said that the weather at Nice was very good. Flying time was 1 hour and 45 minutes (this meant we would catch up the delay).
I decided to go to sleep as I had three seats for myself making it a very comfortable bed (loadfactor was probably around 67%). However, suddenly I woke up and looked outside. I must say that I've never flown over the Alps before when there was a clear sky and I now know what I missed. It's the most beautiful scene I've ever seen from an aircraft. Flying over the mountains and looking at the summits with snow on it. Very beautiful (make sure you've a window seat when flying over the Alps).
After 1 hour and 30 minutes we started our descend into Nice Airport. We first passed the airport and now flew over the Mediterranean Sea. We made some small turns to the right followed by a sharpe turn to the right (almost 180 degrees). We flew over those lovely yachts (or better ships) and beautiful holiday cottages (villas) before we started final approach on runway 4L. The aircraft touced down at NCE exactly on time (11.10) and headed to the gate at terminal 1. When the aircaarft arrived at the gate everybody left the plane (including myself).
Nice Airport (NCE)
Nice is an airport under construction. I hoped that Terminal 2 provided some spotting possiblities but couldn't see one. Fortunately I spotted during final approach a site where I could go spotting. It was near the CAP3000 shopping mall. The only problem was how to get to the spot. After walking for about 30 minutes I reached the spot and settled down for the day (my return flight left at 2030).
NCE-AMS EZY876 G-EZYL
After more than 5 hours of spotting in the sun I decided it was time to go to the airport again. I arrived at terminal 1 and searched for the easyJet check-in desks. After I saw them I waited before check-in started. Again I wasn't the first one waiting to check-in. Fortunately I manged to get again a number under the 30 (this time I was number 28). Again I received a paper boarding card, this time with the usual easyJet plastic card. I walked to security hoping that I could eat (I was looking for a McDonald's) and spot something. Unfortunately Nice airport isn't very big and there was no McDonald's(or equivalent) in the boarding area. I thus was looking for a place to do some spotting. Given the limited possiblities I setlled down in a corner of the building. Fortunately I already anticipated that Nice Airport wouldn't have any McDonald's after secuirity and I thus ate my own food, which I always bring along if I fly (you never know what happens).
At 2000 we were to start boarding at gate E4 and thus I moved to the gate some time before. At 1945 it became very crowded at the gate thus I also went to the gate. After 15 minutes we started boarding for the return flight and I saw that it was yet another "new" B737-33V for me (still need to fly all the B737-73V's and the EZYH/O/R/T). I boarded the aircraft and immediately went to seat 29F (hoping that I would get three seats again). Unfortunately this flight was a little bit fuller than the onward flight (loadfactor approx. 75%) and thus only two seats.
The aircraft was pushed back at 2030 sharp and the aircraft taxied to 4R the runway which was used for takeoffs the entire day. The co-pilot (an American) advised people on the right hand side to look out of their windows upon departure as you could see the beautiful lights of the Côte d"Azur. And indeed it was beautiful. The aircraft made a sharp turn to the right just after take off (probably because the people who bought the villas don't want to hear the aircraft noise). The routing was almost identitcal to the route we've flown to Nice. Via the Alps, Geneva and Strassboug to Amsterdam). I must say that even in the dark the Alps look beautiful (all those lights). Flying time was, according to our American co-pilot just 1 hour and 35 minutes. The purser apologised for the fact that the easyKiosk was empty "due to a catering problem earlier in the day" (as this particular aircraft had flown AMS-BFS-AMS-NCE-LGW-NCE before our flight to AMS I wondered where the problem had arisen).
After more than 1 hour and 15 minutes flying we entered Dutch airspace (The Netherlands is very easy to spot from the air at night. You only have to look at the way residential areas are contructed). The first familiar point was Rotterdam, followed by the Westland. Thus I expected to land at runway 06. However, I was wrong. We flew over Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and headed for my home town of Alkmaar. As we passed the airport I could see very good the city of Amsterdam. I must say that I haven't seen this before (at least not at night) as this approach was new for me. Just after we passed Zaandam we made a 180 degrees turn to the left heading for runway 19R. We touched down at runway 19R at 22.05 and headed to the gate. The aircraft arrived there at 2215 (15 minutes ahead of schedule).
After a satisfactory day in Nice and two goods flights on easyJet (as usual) I headed to the railway station to catch the train knowing that I'll be flying easyJet again in a few weeks time (can't wait), but this time to GVA.