Well, off I go again. Once more I headed to Dublin, the lovely capital of the Republic of Ireland. I was just there for 2 days in which time I saw my new niece and all. So in many ways it was a baby trip - however the fares were anything but baby-like. Although Ryanair had good deals to DUB from CWL their night-flights were not as convenient for me and so I had to take Air Wales, whose flights were more expensive this time around. Bmibaby does not serve DUB from CWL so that baby was out of the picture - then again it returned to the scene in a different way. Read on...
SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2003.
AIR WALES 6G 1225
ATR 42 300 G-KNNY
I got to the airport in good time, this time having finally timed my movements from home properly and catching the 0910HR airport bus from Wood Street Station in Cardiff. The journey cost £3 plus £1.60 for the ride from home to town. I arrived at 0935HR to find the airport fairly active - in part because the Rugby World Cup final was being played and so the TV sets in the pubs were the focuses of attention. Alas, the Air Wales counter was not even open. I waited by their ticket office for about 10 minutes but nobody appeared so I left to go for breakfast. While waiting at the office I noticed an easyJet flight to NCL being displayed on the check-in counter - I was surprised as EZ has not had any flights to CWL before and advertises its BRS services in Cardiff. In fact, as I overheard another passenger asking a KLM agent, EZ has started flights to NCL and LPL from CWL under contract. Air Wales itself is to start flying those routes soon.
KLM was checking-in its flight KL 1060 to AMS, which was being served by Fokker 70 PH-KZC. I saw it as I went upstairs to browse in the newsstand (but bought nothing - I was hoping to get a cap as I left mine at home but decided not to) and have a full English breakfast (notwithstanding that I am in Wales!) of beans, fried egg, sausage and the like. While there I glimpsed out at the wet Tarmac, with rain falling gently. A bmibaby (WW) 737-500, G-BVKA, arrived at 0957HR, splashing water upwards as it raced down runway 30. It then parked up to form WW 5951 to CDG. At 1014HR another WW 737-500, this time G-BVKD in "Visit Wales" colours, landed on rwy 30 and became WW 5117 to Belfast International (Ireland again, only on the other side of the border). I managed some pictures of this plane as it taxied to stand. Meanwhile the KLM flight was boarded but several stragglers resulted in many urgent calls being made for them to get on board, alternating with those for the WW flights which themselves had to repeatedly called. Eventually the KL plane left.
My check-in was scheduled to open at 1040HR so I had lots of time to kill so I sat watching the planes for a bit. At 1030HR G-BVKH, a WW 737-500, arrived and took up flight WW 5921 to Toulouse. By this time the check-in finally opened and so I went down, checked my one piece in and returned upstairs. The flight 6G 1225 was scheduled for 1210HR departure for DUB then ORK.
I cleared security and went into the departure area, again looking to find a cap. There were baseball-type caps available but I wanted a soft ski-type cap with a Red Dragon or Welsh emblem on it. Unable to find same, I gave up eventually. The shops at CWL are reasonably sized given how small the airport is and what is very noticeable is the heavy emphasis on summer stuff such as flip-flops, sunglasses and the like - all the stuff needed for a trip to Spain or somewhere like that. After all holiday charters make up a huge part of CWL's services.
By 1115HR I headed to the pub to get a juice drink and see the last of the rugby match. It was now extra time and England and Australia were slugging it out. I barely noticed it when an airport worker in reflective garb and all came into the pub to view the match - but did notice shortly after when an agent for the pub went to him and asked him to leave! Given the grand nature of the match I felt that to be rather harsh. He left somewhat dejectedly. By this time the match was at 17-17 with the clock winding down and then - Johnny Wilkinson kicked in the drop goal which gave England the lead! 20-17 - and the time ran out soon after! There were some cheers and sighs of relief from those in there at the time as England won the World Cup. It seems as though sometimes the nationalisms of the Celtic nations become a bit subdued when big things like this are at stake and, after all, Scotland and Wales are with England in the UK. I then took a few pictures of Atlantic Airlines Electra G-LOFD.
After that I went to Gate 1, from where my flight would board. Alas, there was no agent and nobody assembled. This remained the case for about 20 or so minutes by which time the 1150HR boarding time was long past. The flight was finally called at 1208HR and the 16 or so passengers went downstairs to a waiting bus which drove us to the plane, G-KNNY, which was parked at the eastern end of the terminal. Sister ship G-SSEA was also present, as was another (whose reg. I did not get) which was parked further away on another ramp and seemed to be getting tested. The boarding was at 1213HR. With my long legs I went for the front row seats, by the exit, so seat 2A (port side window) was mine. The open seating of 6G means that one has to make for one's desired seat once on-board.
The safety briefing followed then the engines were started at 1220HR. The plane then taxied out to runway 30 and took off smoothly at 1232HR, some 22 minutes late. The visibility was quite good below the clouds and so the West Aberthaw power station and RAF base at Saint Athan (Sain Tathan in Welsh) with its runways passed by soon after, then Bridgend (Pen-y-Bont Ar Ogwr) became visible. The plane then passed the industrial town of Port Talbot but clouds obscured the view of Swansea (Abertawe). It cleared up a bit as the plane went further west, over Carmarthenshire (Si'r Caerfyrddin) and then Pembrokeshire (Si'r Penfro), eventually leaving the coast just north of Fishguard (Abergwaun, a ferry port) with Milford Haven also visible. No sooner did the plane leave Wales than the sky became crystal clear and already Ireland was visible in the distance. The plane flew directly towards Rosslare (ferries from Fishguard and Pembroke Dock sail there) then turned northwards along Ireland's east coast. Wales remained visible though and as the plane approached Dublin some lofty mountains were visible in the distance - probably Snowdonia - then Anglesey (Ynys Mon) which is flat. The plane started descending at 1308HR and a spectacular view of Dublin was to be had.
As for the flight itself, it was very smooth and comfortable. I passed up the refreshments on board. Now, Air Wales is a no-frills airline and is ticketless and all that but its fares can be quite expensive. The ATRs are also quite loud in-flight and I really missed the Dash 8 Q300s of BWIA and Tobago Express - those noise reduction systems really do work!
The plane soon turned towards DUB and descended quickly, eventually landing at 1320HR on runway 28. DUB as always was quite busy and among the many planes present were:
aer Arran ATR 42 EI-RED
DHL 757-200 OO-OLO
Ryanair 737-200 EI-CJE
Aer Lingus BAE 146 EI-CLG
plus 2 other 146s were at the hangar, one with its logos painted out (probably retired as EI is ditching the type). An AN-124 was also present but I did not see its number.
After the plane parked at 1325HR the 6 or so passengers who disembarked came off - I momentarily forgot that the plane was going on to ORK and delayed getting off a bit! Nonetheless I got into the terminal quickly, got my suitcase and went to meet my brother-in-law to get the bus. On the way from the airport I saw 2 Volare Airbus planes, an A320 and an A330.
MONDAY 24 OCTOBER 2003.
AIR WALES 6G 1225
ATR 42 300 G-WLSH.
After 2 great, fun-filled days in Dublin I was on my way back to Cardiff. I got a taxi to the airport and arrived just after 1600HR to check in for my flight, 6G 1225, which was scheduled for departure at 1740HR. The one Air Wales counter was in Area 11 in Terminal 2 and I got checked-in immediately. I then filtered through security in order to go shopping. My bag, however, was passed through the X-ray scanner twice as it seemed that a crystal jug I had bought (as a wedding gift for my friends) was difficult to detect. With the second scan, however, they were satisfied and I was on my way.
I browsed through the shops, eventually buying some Guinness chocolates. DUB really has a huge range of duty-free goods - that said, it does have much more traffic than CWL with many transatlantic flights. Unfortunately I could not buy alcohol duty free (as I was flying within the EU) and the duty paid prices were expensive. After a bit more browsing I went over to gate area A, from which my flight would depart (gate A7). Some of the planes present were:
aer Arran ATR 42 - EI-CPT, EI-CBK and others
Ryanair 737-200s EI-CNZ, EI-CNA and others
but the darkness made viewing the numbers difficult. It also made photography impossible. The aer Arran planes were coming and going regularly, with flights to Sligo, Cork (ORK) and Donegal heading out. FR called its flights to PH), United Kingdom">EDI and STN. A BA ATP soon left, on its way to IOM. As it left I wondered - Isle of Man and all have BA service and not Cardiff! This is quite shocking seeing that Wales is part of the UK and Isle of Man is not. Once again, the thoughts on national relations... All the same, I had a pint of Guinness at the pub by the gates as one last one for now along with some doughnuts.
The Air Wales flight arrived at 1710HR and parked at gate A7, its red livery contrasting with the blue of the many aer Arran ATRs around. Again it seemed interesting - while aer Arran has many flights within Ireland and some to the UK it does not serve CWL or Northern Ireland. It would be interesting to know why it does not serve Ulster but insofar as Wales is concerned, well, it should seem clear why...
The flight was called at 1725HR and just 10 passengers got on. I took 2D, the right window seat on the front, by the exit. Now ATRs have row 1 back-facing and on the other Air Wales flights I had been on there were 2 rear-facing seats but on G-WLSH there were 4. As with the other planes the seats were in purple and were comfortable. I again had all my legroom as the plane was so sparsely occupied.
The inflight safety briefing soon followed and it was time to leave. By this time EI 737-500 EI-CDD parked nearby, forming a flight to AN / EGCC), United Kingdom">MAN and Airbus A321 EI-CPD was parked opposite by a jetway bridge. 6G 1226 started up at 1730 HR and was pushed back 2 minutes later. Within 5 minutes the engines were on full blast and the plane taxied out to runway 28 for take-off. An SAS MD80 arrived from Copenhagen (in the dark I could not make which series or number it was and I have been fooled before by SK MD80s in daylight).
G-WLSH turned onto the runway and was airborne at 1744HR, well on time. The plane headed over Dublin and then along the coast - the Liffey River was clearly visible in the dark and the city looked magical with all the lights aglow. The dimmed cabin lights added to the charm but soon after they were switched back on, reducing the impact of the view. Along the coast the lights became more sporadic and, as the plane headed over the Irish Sea, they disappeared altogether. I was a bit sleepy after the Guinness and dozed off a bit, the plane's smooth flight being impressive save for the high cabin noise level. Again I passed off the refreshments.
Soon enough the coast of Wales appeared, with Fishguard being first to appear. The captain announced descent at 1818HR as the plane flew over Swansea and dimmed the lights, thus affording a great view of the Port Talbot Corus steel mill a short distance on. The plane then flew through some clouds, passed Bridgend and St. Athan before landing on runway 12, Cardiff again being wet. The flight was thus over at 1825HR.
CWL was very silent with only WW 737-500 G-BVKD and 6G ATR 42 G-SSEA present, along with BAC Express SD 360 G-OCEA and the Electra. The bus came to collect everybody whereupon we were allowed through immigration freely. I got my luggage and went out for the bus back to the city. Another guy came out to the bus stand and asked about the buses. The schedule listed one at 1838HR to the city and, as it was 1845HR, I thought that it had gone already. He left and, lo and behold, less than 5 minutes later it came! The driver indicated that it was running late. I told him about the other prospective passenger as I struggled to get some pounds to pay (having used Euros all weekend) but he did not return. Perhaps he got another ride into town. As the bus rolled into Cardiff, the driver asked me whether I needed a taxi (he saw that I was heavily laden). When I indicated that I was taking bus 27 onwards he stopped the bus at the stand from which 27 departs - which is not the stand that airport bus X91 normally uses. That was very kind of him and I thanked him for that.
So, that was a great way of ending a great little trip. Now I have to rush off on an even longer journey later today - I am on my way to KUL! In the due course that report will turn up but for now I had a great time in Dublin and kudos to Air Wales. They are quite a good little airline.
Iechyd Da! (cheers)