"The transport of as many as possible people in one aircraft as early in the morning as possible with the least possible service on both the airport and aircraft."
I usually do not fly on charter airlines, last time being about 10 years ago, also on Transavia. But when going on a package-holiday from AMS you don’t have a choice on what airline to fly on. Let me get it straight; this is not a compilation of complaints, but a review of a day’s travel the way me and other passengers have experienced it.
Here we go…
AMS-SMI (Samos, Greece)
Flight HV 325
Scheduled dep. Time 05.25 am, actual dep. Time 05.35 am
Scheduled arr. Time 09.50 am, actual arr. Time 09.50 am
Seat 3F (window)
I booked this trip through internet and because of that our tickets and hotel-vouchers would be waiting for us at the Holland Handling desk in the departure hall, which would be open all night we were told. Knowing this we decided to go to the airport very early, my brother-in-law bringing us to the airport because of the lack of public transport that time of day, and the very expensive parking-fees. So we arrived at 01.30 am only to find the desk closed and a sign saying it to re-open at 03.30am. Luckily there is a 24-hour a day bar in de arrivals hall were we spend 2 long hours waiting.
Roughly 2 hours before scheduled departure time, but already long lines at the desks because of the many charters departing the same early hour. Transavia’s check-in desks are manned by KLM-ground crew who seemed to do an efficient job. 8 others in front of us, we waited about 15 minutes before our turn. I prefer window seats, and as we would be flying a southerly direction at sunrise, I requested an F-seat, as far forward as possible, so there’s no wing obstructing my view and was rewarded with 3F. I tried to get 1F, but was told the “more legroom” seats are reserved for pax with disabilities, kids, or pax over 6 ft,6”. I’m none of those…We were questioned about carrying any sharp items in our hand luggage.
We headed straight for security-check and found a line of people at least 40 meters long! Out of the 4 security-posts only one was manned at the time we joined the line. It’s not nice to see other security-guards hanging around chatting, while they could have opened another post to speed things up. Our hand luggage was of course screened, no searches were done. We cleared security check 1 hour before departure.
Schiphol is a great airport! I won’t go into detail, just come and have a look! Only negative thing this morning was a coffee-shop were we went to have a bite to eat, which was understaffed, long lines and then quickly stuff it all up your throat to not miss your flight…
Photo © Peter Unmuth - Vienna Aviation Photography
Boarding at gate B63, only a 2 minute walk from the main terminal, should have started at 04.40 am but we arrived slightly late due to the lines in the coffe-shop, but everybody was still waiting at the gate. We saw our 757 with it’s no.2 engine-covers opened and a whole lot of mechanics working on it… we expected a delay but fortunately the covers were closed after 10’ or so and boarding started soon after that. there was no request by ground-crew for boarding by row number so what you get is an aisle full of people looking for their seats. I always find it works better an faster when boarding starts “last rows first”. Seat pitch is 30 inches at most, seats are hard and the armrests couldn’t be lifted. Very uncomfortable to sit in, let alone sleep. Push-back was about 10 minutes late. No safety-demo was given by crew, instead a tape was showed from droop-down tv-screens. Taxi to runway 06 was quick due to lack of other traffic and we took of immediately. Take-off roll seemed quite long, probably to create as little noise as possible. Breakfast was served a good 40 minutes after t/o and consisted of an omelet with on the side some fried potato-cubes and red sauce, a bread roll with a jelly cup and butter and for ‘dessert’ 2 tiny profiterolles.
I managed to get some sleep when things got cloudy beneath us. Before that I saw the city of Utrecht, Soesterberg AFB, Nijmegen, Dusseldorf en Frankfurt airport. I woke up flying over Bulgaria. It was still cloudy then but things started clearing once in Greek airspace. Flying along the isles of Limnos, Lesbos and Chios we descended and once reached Samos on our left we turned left to heading approx 090 degrees towards the airport which is on the east side op the island. Now this is where the stunning part of the whole trip starts! Over-flying the island's mountains we continued our descend ( those mountains came pretty close I can tell you!) until suddenly I saw the airport appearing right-below and must have been at about 3000' or so. Runway (09-27) length is 2000 meters. Just past the airport we made a sharp 180 turn to the right while continuing descent and kept flying along the runway, this time obviously from the other side, south of the airport. The airport-area is surrounded by mountains on the north, west and south and is know as "difficult to approach" Just passing the runway (see picture) it looked as if we were to fly straight into a mountain, then suddenly banking sharply to the right again with a lot of throttle when we did another 180 degree turn. Just 4 or 5 seconds after completing the turn the captain put us down on rwy 09 very gently. This was absolutely the most stunning, breathtaking landing ever!!! Locals on the island later told me we were lucky there was hardly any wind that day, usually in the summer there is a stiff northerly wind which makes things even more complicated and may "go arounds" occur there, or worse, flights are diverted to other airpots in the area.
Photo © Stefan Sjögren
Photo © Stefan Sjögren
We spent a fantastic week in Samos, I can recommend it to anyone!!
All in all the flight was average as far as service and food. The seats need to improve as well as general cleanliness of the A/C. Crew were friendly and professional. Nice touch: during flight a sheet with a map of the flown and to-fly routing with all sorts of other flight information is handed out by the cockpit-crew and is to be passed on to the next row. Not a nice touch: flightdeck did not inform pax about the rather unusual landing, many pax were unpleasantly surprised by the whole thing!!
I'll post the return trip later.
Hope you enjoyed,