Depart: 0625 (Actual: 0630)
Arrive: 0725 (On time)
Airbus A319-131 G-EUOI
Photo © Eduard Marmet
Photo © Rob van Ringelesteijn
My alarm went off at 0505 - the problem was, it should have gone off 95 minutes earlier! I had originally set it for 3.30am, but must have turned it off when triple-checking it before bed. Needless to say, I woke up and dressed in a record time. I didn't have time to brush my teeth or do my hair, and was in my car within 3 minutes! I did a record-breaking drive to Manchester, averaging 70mph over the 66miles to the airport (to put this in perspective, on my more sedate, but by no means slow return later that day I averaged 55mph! Oh, and the speed limit on motorways is 70mph!).
I pulled into the carpark, adrenaline pumping through my veins. I hadn't heard my music over the journey as I was thinking about what happens if I miss the flight. When I got a parking space, I hit the wall (slowly), but had no time to inspect the damage. I leapt out of my car, grabbed my bag and ran to T3. thankfully, there was no queue at security, and I was immediately putitng my bag through the machine. My bag was then selected for explosives testing, and everything was removed - my camera, lens, spare memory, batteries, documents I had with me - and wanded. I was jumping up and down at this point, but to his credit the security man doing this was as quick as he could be and appreciated my position.
I rushed to gate 141, which was still open, and handed them my boarding pass. I had an online check in pass (I'd really have been stufed, otherwise!), and so they simply verified my name, and I was on the aircraft. On boarding, I handed them my pass to discover I had got through security and onto the plane using my LGW-MAN pass - whoops! I explained my state to the purser, having a laugh after the earlier panic. She offered me a glass of water, which I declined, however it was a nice touch. I took my seat, 21A and put my coat on the coat hook. Finally I could relax. We pushed back a little late, behind G-MIDL heading to LHR, and taxied to 06L. On the way, we passed G-CPEO operating to LHR, the usual BA ERJs and DH8s preparing for their flights, SP-LDA for WAW and the entire Jet2 fleet parked on T1. The mornings SQ flight from SIN had arrived on 06R as we taxied, and as the skies were clear I could see the constant stream of landing lights coming from DAYNE for the 06R landing.
There was quite a long time between each departure, presumably due to the heavy traffic inbound London at the time. We eventually advanced onto 06L, and performed a rolling takeoff. There were a number of aircraft lined up on the taxiway, queueing for departure. We were soon climbing over MAN, still with most stands occupied, before we hit cloud over Stockport.
Soon the crew were released, and they started their duties very quickly. first of all, breakfasts were brought round. I was delighted to recieve a full cooked breakfast - bacon, egg, fried tomato, mushrooms and a sausage, with a roll. Drinks were brought round, and I got a coffee. The drink and food really hit the spot, as I hadn't yet had time to eat or drink. At this point, I was feeling very content - I had made my flight, and been given a decent breakfast and some caffeine, what more could I want?!?
The captain came on over the PA, and told us a little about our route (standard MAN-LGW, HON departure, travelling through the Midlands towards Oxford, before the STAR into LGW) and the weather. I was most disappointed to learn that not only were the winds easterly, the cloud was low and overcast - ruining any chance of photography during the day - though thankfully this wasn't the reason for my trip!
We started our descent, and the crew came round to collect litter. The purser chatted to me for a little while, asking about my trip and my journey in the morning. We were soon on the ILS, with the crew being asked to return to their seats. the cloud really was low - we only left the clouds about 150' above the ground, and so we were soon touching down on 08L. At the hold were a number of BA 737s, as well a a single 777, a Monarch A300, an Excel 734 and an FCA 757. We turned off beyond the cargo terminals, as the Monarch A300 lined up and started its roll as we taxied. Behind, a BA777 suddenly appeared from the thick cloud, proving to me how thick it was! We taxied to the domestic gates of the north terminal, and pulled up at 55D (not sure what the airside equivalent is!). Disembarkation was swift, as the load was probably no more than 60%, and I ended up following a group of VS crew through to arrivals, which is a long walk! On the way, I overheard one of them state he had lost his roster, and so wasnt sure if he was even flying that morning, and one of the other blokes tell the group that the Pussycat Dolls were actually blokes. They were in good spirits, as they were all off to Orlando.
I finally made it to the arrivals hall, and caught a number 10 bus to City Place, where I was to visit Aviation House for a CAA Medical! After which I caught a train to London, and spent the day doing some sightseeing .
Depart: 2100 (Actual: 2055)
Arrive: 2155 (Actual: 2045)
Airbus A319-131 G-EUPP
Photo © Ian Kirby
Photo © Tommy Desmet
I arrived back at Gatwick, and made my way from the rail station to the North Terminal via the Sky link. Having made it to departures, I went to the Fast Track security lane - an advantage of printing your own boarding pass! This time, I offered my correct pass, and had my photo taken. I then made my way to 'Eat.' for a sandwich. After a tasty prawn sandwich, I made my way to WH Smith, where I bought an FHM magazine to amuse me while waiting. I then decided to go to Starbucks for a coffee and a sit down - my feet were in pain after walking miles in London!
At about 8.30, BA2914 showed up as departing from gate 55. This is the usual location for domestic departures. I made my way past the BA Terraces lounge, and to gate 55, where our flight was leaving from 55D - the same on which I had arrived earlier. Despite the montior above the gate showing 'wait in lounge', boarding was well under way; in fact there was no queue at the gate. My pass was scanned, and I boarded the aircraft; this time G-EUPP. I took seat 21A once again.
The crew were in high spirits, and were very chatty in the rear galley. As departure time approached, no other passengers sat in Row 21 - my reason for choosing the rearmost row. I had a 3 to myself outbound, and the entire row on the return.
We pushed back, and were soon taxiing to 08R. LGW was quiet at this time, so there were no delays. As we approached the hold, a Britannia (soon to be no more ) 763 landed, and as we entered the runway I could see it leaving just ahead. Again a rolling takeoff was performed, and we were in the air after a very short rakeoff roll, giving an overview of the airport all lit up.
We entered cloud, and soon the ground was invisible to us. The crew were released as we performed a steep climb - one of the crew at the rear struggling to keep upright, and sliding down the aisle on her shoes! She eventually made it to the front by grabbing hold of various seats!
On this flight we got a chicken and sweetcorn sandwich, with a tub of water and a Breakaway chocolate biscuit. A full bar service was also offered, and everyone was served very quickly thanks to the light load (about 50% I'd say). I asked for a Coca Cola, and this was provided with both lemon and ice. I had soon finished the 150ml can, so I asked the FA for another as she patrolled the aisles. In return, I got 2 more 150ml cans.
Before long we were descending into MAN. We took an odd routing - at one point it felt as though we were holding as we did a mid air 180º turn. This I think was to help us intercept the 06L LLZ without having to fly through the ILS, or perform a steep bank.
We descended on the ILS, breaking through the cloud just over Knutsford services. We made a smooth touchdown on 06L, and turned off next to T3, giving us a very short taxi back to gate 141, where I had started the journey earlier that day!
I was soon back in the car park. Luckily, no damage was done to my car, and as I had cut the time so fine I got away paying 'just' £21.40 for 16 hours as opposed to over £26 I'd have had to pay otherwise. Though I'd personally have rather paid and not had to panic!
I cannot fault BA. Online check in was an absolute Godsend, without which I'd have missed my flight and therefore my medical. Neither flight arrived late, all crews were chatty and smiling, and seemed to enjoy the job. The food was tasty, and the breakfast in particular was well received by myself!! And for £56 - it was cheaper than Jet2 - and with Jet2 I'd have missed the flight!
Excellent work BA - and I look forwards to my next flight with you!
Which just happens to be in late November - LGW-NCE-LGW in Club Europe