Just returned from a wonderful trip down in Rhodos Greece, now it's time for me to write up a report so that I can share my memories with you folks.
Thu Jul 3rd 2003
BRU-RHO FQ 980
Boeing 757-200 PH-DBB:
I flew last Thursday with, as the topic says, on Thomas Cook Airlines. I was expected to be on an Airbus A320 but the aircraft was switched to a Boeing 757, a 757 borrowed from Dutch charter airline, DutchBird. I didn't know that until I arrived at the gate minutes before boarding. Check-in began two hours before scheduled departure time but we, our whole family, were at the airport more than two hours before departure time. There were lots of passengers on line so I knew the flight would be full. We asked upon check in to be seated in a row of 3, and one in an aisle on the opposite side of the aisle. We were four, me, my parents and my brother. We had the seats 8, A, B, C and D. I had the window, so as you airliner freaks can figure I was on 8A.
The most unbelievable thing about that trip was seeing the aircraft I flew on exactly eighteen years ago when I went to Rhodos for the first time. Back in 1985, I flew on the sole A300 TEA (Trans European Airways) had operated. That particular aircraft is resting in peace in Melsbroek, it's the military apron just North of the Zaventem airport. Here it is:
Photo © Laurent Herjean
. I explained to my parents that this was THE EXACT aircraft we were on when we flew to Rhodos at that time. They didn't beleive me until I explained them that TEA had only one Airbus aircraft in its history.
After a brief history about that airplane, it was time for boarding. We boarded at gate A67. The 757 was pretty full, load factor was well over 90%. The crew was Dutch, they were speaking in Dutch and barely French, but no English!
We were airborne at nearly 500PM local time out of RWY 25R, weather in BRU was pretty hot and rainy but there were no delays fortunately. After turing left and proceeding on course we clear the thick layer of clouds, I could see by the window a large cumulonimbus cloud near the Brussels Airport. We reach our cruising altitude of 37000ft, we continue our flight towards Germany where it was getting less cloudly, I could see a lot of landscape, Austria, then we continue down the coast of Italy along the Adriatic Sea. I told my mother who was sitting on the aisle that if I were seated in an F window seat I would have seen Milano Maritima, it's a small town in Italy where I used to go on holiday when I was a child. I spot a British Airways A320 passing in opposite direction
Dinner was served with beverages. Dinner was penne with a cream sauce, it was pretty good. I enjoyed it as much as I would have enjoyed it in a good Italian restaurant. That was our hot meal, it came with a roll of bread, butter and cheese. The desert was chocolate mousse but I didn't take it. When the meal service was over, we were already South of Italy heading straight towards Greece.
My mother tells me about the film that she was going to watch but I decide I would rather look outside the window.
Weather was crystal clear in Italy, I had a magnificient view of the coast on the Southern part of that country. The flight continued South of Greece, Oooh my god I had a spectacular view of Greece with all the mountains as well as all the surrounding island. The sea was so beautiful, it looked so blue, so clear...typical of the Greek seas. Passing Athens, we start our descent towards Rhodos. I had plenty of time to look at the Aegean Sea, we pass right over a cruise ship just before turning towards the island of Rhodos, the sun was going down. We line up with RWY 25, the landing runway in use at RHO, and at 850PM local time we touched down on Greek soil where my ancestors had lived. After a quick taxi to the apron, we parked next to an LTU 757 that was on its way out. I spotted a Martinair MD-11 as well. After disembarking, we had to wait close to a half hour to pick up our luggages. The monitors were not indicating our flight but when I saw a baggage claim carpet moving, I figured our luggages had to be there. After grabbing our belongings, we catch a cab and we head towards the hotel near old city of Rhodos where our relatives were waiting for us.
My cousin from Dallas was getting married there, that's what the purpose of this trip was. Rhodos is a very significant place for us in our family because that's where our ancestors, and both my grandfathers who passed away, were born. They were born when Rhodos was under Italian authority. We visited the old city surrounded by walls.
Food in Rhodos was great, we had feta cheese on about every meal as well as baklava for desert. Have you ever had baklava? It's a delicious Greek cake. That of course, is only one of the delicious goodies I ate in Greece. I love feta, I had that with grilled calamari.
The night before flying back to BRU, we went to a seafood restaurant in the old town. We all had fish with giant shrimps as a main course.
All good things have to come to an end, that trip went by so quick.
Tue Jul 8th 2003
RHO-BRU FQ 263
Airbus A320 OO-TCB:
Flying back to BRU, the aircraft was as I had expected before, an Airbus A320 in the Thomas Cook livery. I knew it would definitely be either a 757 or an A320. Scheduled departure time was 1155AM local time, we were there just before 1000AM at the airport but the check in line was not open yet. We were the first four passengers waiting to check in. Again, we were assigned all in the same row like we were on the outbound flight. We were quicly done with check in so we had time to relax before boarding. I spotted an Olympic 737-400 on its way to Athens, a Malev 737-400 also on its way out, an Avro RJ of Aegean Airlines and finally our Thomas Cook A320 coming in for a landing on RWY 25. I spotted it when it was flying on the downwind leg, I figured the pilot asked for a visual approach. I knew that would be the aircraft taking us back to Brussels. While spotting aircrafts taking off, my parents were asking me why some aircrafts of the same type (in this case 737-400's) needed more distance than others, I explained that the factor to this was the what the MTOW was on the aircraft, that it depended on the load (pax, fuel and/or cargo).
We boarding right on time, the aircraft was pretty empty, load factor was less than 50%. Because the flight was rather empty, we took three sets of three seats for the four of us. I normally had an aisle seat but I at the last minute I had again a window. I didn't mind the aisle seat but if I could take the window, why not taking it? I had seat 10F, just near the engine. We were airborne out of RWY 25, while climbing to our cruising altitude of 38000 ft, I had again a spectacular view of the Aegean Sea. We pass right over Kos, then we proceed over the Greek mountains before heading towards the South of Italy.
Lunch was served, same kind of meal, except that this time it was macaroni with tomato sauce. Quite good, I wasn't very hungry but I still enjoyed it. Desert was a vanilla pudding but I didn't take it. I had sparkling water to drink. I noticed that the food cart had the Lufthansa logo on it.
I was very surprised that the crew didn't make any P/A in English, only in Dutch and French. Airline crews have to speak English no matter who they work for and where in the world they fly.
We continue along the Italian Coast, I spotted an A319 or A320 of Croatia Airlines flying opposite direction just above us. I could barely see it but I saw the vapour trails very well. I figured it had to be at FL 390 since 39000ft is the maximum ceiling for the A320, we were at FL 380. After that, the pilot announces that we fly over the city of Venice. I saw it, I could see the rivers across the city. Then we proceed North across Austria, Germany and as we reach the Belgian border we start or descent into BRU. Weather was getting hazy as we were getting close to Belgium although not so cloudy. We fly right over Liege, then South of Hasselt, Louvain, and we finally lined up with RWY 25L. After an univentful landing in BRU at 235PM local time, we taxied to the gate at the Shengen Terminal, the A Concourse, next to a Lufthansa 737. I noticed that the route of flight was, compared to the outbound flight, the exact same but on the opposite direction.
After a quick walk to the baggage claim area, we grabbed our luggages and we drove home. One hour after disembarking, I was already home. This was a great memorable trip.
Photo © Miguel Snoep
Photo © Olivier Gailly