SATURDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 2005
LHR – POS (STOP BGI)
BWIA WEST INDIES AIRWAYS
FLIGHT BW 901
AIRBUS A340-313X 9Y-TJN (C/N 93).
Photo © Christopher Hammarborg
As is always the case with my flights from LHR, my trip started off with a long journey from Cardiff, a trip in itself. This time around I opted to use the National Express Airport bus service from Cardiff Central Station. After getting everything ready and set the taxi came at 0200HR to take me to the station. The taxi drove through the busy streets of the Welsh capital which were full of revellers trying to get taxis home, many looking much the worse for wear from drink. Indeed as the taxi dropped me, with my two (2) suitcases, off at the station I could see and hear the street action – police were outside a club opposite the station after what appeared to be a fracas. As for the station itself it was almost deserted with only one (1) other bus passenger there. Gradually other travellers came and the time passed quickly before the bus appeared at 0243HR. I boarded the bus and it set off at 0255HR for LHR.
The bus travelled via Newport (0321HR), Chepstow (0348HR) and over the old Severn Bridge (M48) before rejoining the M4 for the long lonely journey to the airport. National Express does not do local drop-offs at that early hour so the stops were purely for taking up airport passengers – two (2) joined at Newport and one (1) at Chepstow. Needless to say I took short naps along the way. The bus driver announced an amenity stop at the Leigh Delamere services near Swindon in Wiltshire with a stern admonition that the bus had to leave at 0435HR – the bus arrived there at 0415HR. I jumped off and bought two drinks and a snack for later at the airport. Once the bus went off again I napped again.
The bus stopped at Colcot, near Reading at 0515HR and then arrived at LHR’s Central Bus Station at 0600HR. Alas, nowadays the Airport Express no longer stops at Terminal 3 so I had to drop off at the station and then walk across the airport to find my check-in counter. The airport was starting to stir at the time and a few planes could be heard coming and going. I arrived at the BW counter at 0615HR only to find it shut with two (2) other prospective passengers waiting. Now, knowing the long lines that are legendary of BW’s check in at LHR I went early to avoid the crush only to be put into a seemingly-eternal waiting stack!
I met one of the other passengers, a lady travelling to Trinidad having visited a friend who was waiting to see her off. We thus had a long chat while waiting. The other passenger was an elderly lady apparently heading to Guyana (so she said) but was a bit confused, bless her! After the announcement came that check in would open at 0730HR and the rest of us, plus a few others who had come, formed a line, the elderly lady started to moan loudly about not being able to fly to Guyana and started arguing with some of the staff present, who actually were trying to convince her that she was in the correct line and just needed to wait. Dissatisfied, the lady left the front of the line and made her way to the MH office, asking about her BW flight! Now MH is a great airline but it would certainly have taken her a very long way from GEO…. Needless to say she was soon sent back to BW by which time check-in was open. I was the 2nd to check in and got my boarding pass for seat 22K, a starboard window.
Once that was finished I went upstairs to the restaurant area with my new friends. All the same, my friends who were getting married were actually on my flight (I booked that flight after knowing that they were going to be on it). I strolled around upstairs and at the check in looking for them but without success. After a quick check of my email at a kiosk (one of the computers actually swallowed my money but refused to give me a connection and my call to the help-line was unanswered!) I decided to clear the security check at 0900HR and did so uneventfully.
Once through I decided to look around the shops to buy one or two things but bought nothing apart from a newspaper. Eventually I caught up with my friends, who were shopping together, as you might imagine. I roamed around all of the shops while BW’s flight remained uncalled – it was only called for boarding at 1130HR. The plane for the flight was 9Y-TJN, the A340-300 in full BW colours. I eventually boarded at 1150HR, the boarding following the order of the aft seats first.
Once aboard I settled into my seat and fastened the seat belt. The plane looked quite clean and presented a great first impression – something BW generally does very well. The plane was almost totally full, another usual sort of occurrence on the LHR route, BW’s most profitable.
The Captain came on to apologise for the late operation of the flight, which was attributed to delays at LHR (as always). The safety feature was then carried out. Unusually, the safety demos were done by the cabin crew standing in the aisles rather than by video – does BW not have safety videos for the A340? After all on the older TriStars videos were always used. All the same, as long as the message gets across the means used matters little.
The plane was pushed back at 1210HR and taxied out. Nearby planes were AC A330-343X C-GFUR and sister ship C-GEOU, a 767-375ER. (I wonder if any of the AC staff on those planes realized that 9Y-TJN was once one of their own planes; it flew with AC as C-FTNP.) Nearby was G-VSHY, a VS A340-642 and a Thai 747-400 whose registration I did not get. I was also able to view the landings on 09L which included a BA A321-200, EI A321-211 EI-CPF, BD A319s G-DBCB and G-DBCF. As the plane taxied across the airport I also spotted:
LH 737-330 D-ABEU
VS A340-313X G-VAIR
AA 777-223ER N794AN
AC 767-333ER C-FMWV
UA 777-222 N217UA
VS A340-642 G-VGOA
Across the airport just north-west of T3 I noticed an LY 777-200 parked. Now, it being Saturday and thus the Sabbath, LY does not operate any flights. What was ironic though was that two (2) BI 767-33AER jets were parked next to it. Brunei does not recognize Israel and refuses entry to its citizens so it was a somewhat eerie sight to see the planes together.
The Airbus joined the huge queue of planes (a typical LHR experience) waiting for take-off. This line included:
BA 747-436, 767-336 G-BNWA , 757-236 G-BPEC and various A320 family planes
SQ 747-412 9V-SMR
AI 747-437 VT-EVA
Several other planes were parked at remote stands about the airfield. Apart from the usual LHR candidates there was a Biman Airbus A310-325, S2-ADF.
After what seemed like eternity, the Airbus finally started down Runway 09 Right at 1249HR and became airborne over the Surrey region, passing Staines shortly thereafter. The plane’s route took it along the South Coast of England to Land’s End in Cornwall and thence across the North Atlantic with only the Azores to provide further land sighting between there and the Caribbean. The plane climbed to 32 000ft (F/L 320) and ultimately reached a maximum altitude of 34 000ft (F/L 340). Shortly after take-off I asked to be switched to seat 22C to be nearer to my friends – my wish was granted. As a result I was able to chat a lot with them and thus have an enjoyable flight.
At 1315HR drinks were served – I started with a soft drink which was complimentary. Lunch followed at 1405HR – I had chicken with rice and pumpkin. The Caribbean styled food was certainly welcome – while I do cook it is not often that I get to taste Caribbean food without first having to sweat over it! So while the portion was relatively small I enjoyed it fully. More drinks came around and I alternated between wine and soft drinks. The red wine which has become my travel staple was not free at £3 per bottle.
The IFE then started up. On this plane there were screens which descended from the ceiling. BW’s magazine programme “BWee’s World”, which has features from many of the Islands it serves, started – I always find this programme very interesting and informative. Somehow, despite being from the Caribbean I always learn new things about the fascinating region. I would actually challenge anybody to come up with a better in-flight feature then “BWee’s World”. After this half-hour long programme was run twice the movie started. I am never a fan of movies in flights so I bought a deck of playing cards and enjoyed the company of my friends. It is not often that I travel with others these days.
The duty-free trolley came around at 1605HR (or 1105HR Eastern Caribbean Time, the time zone that I will use hereafter) but I bought nothing more. More drinks came at 1300HR (I had ginger ale) and at 1405HR tea was served. This comprised scone and a sandwich along with a warm beverage (I had tea). All in all it was quite good and I continue to be impressed with BW who does look after its passengers well when on-board its longest routes, namely those to the UK.
The Airbus started its descent into BGI at 1505HR and soon afterwards the in-flight entertainment came to an end. The plane descended through the clear Caribbean skies and lined up with Runway 09 at BGI, passing the South Coast of the popular Caribbean destination of Barbados. It landed at 1541HR and soon came to park at the airport’s terminal. As is usual in the afternoon BGI featured many other aircraft including:
VS 747-400 G-VGOA
BA 777-200 G-VIIA
AA 757-223 (did not get the number)
The BGI bound passengers then disembarked while the in-transit passengers had to remain on-board while the plane was refuelled for the short hop to POS. The good old days of being able to walk into the terminal for a bit and possibly buy something in Barbados’ great duty-free shops are now firmly over, it would seem.
The turnaround was very quick and soon the plane took on its passengers for POS. It was pushed back at 1609HR and was airborne within four (4) minutes. The plane rose quickly from Runway 09 – it was after all a lot emptier of fuel and payload! It soon turned to the South West and headed for POS, with a cruising altitude of 32 000 feet (F/L 320). At 1630HR it passed Tobago, which lay in the shimmering sea below – TAB would be my destination on the very next day.
Trinidad itself soon appeared. The plane passed over the Northern Range and headed towards the capital of Port of Spain. It then lined up with Runway 10 and descended quickly with landing at 1645HR. POS had several other planes around, including BW’s other A340-300, 9Y-JIL.
I disembarked from the plane via the jetway and, with my friends, quickly cleared immigration and customs. I bought some wine at the duty-free shop before going through customs – Trinidad (and also Barbados) allows incoming passengers to buy duty-free items at local shops and use them to claim part of their allowances. I then got a ride home with my friend’s folks.
So, back in hot Trinidad! It felt good to be back at home as always. Now, for a week full of action…
SUNDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 2005.
POS – TAB
FLIGHT TB 1500.
BOMBARDIER DASH 8 Q311 9Y-WIN (C/N 499).
Photo © Isa Ali
Just a few hours after arriving in Trinidad and thoroughly tired, I nonetheless joined my mother for an early morning flight to TAB, scheduled for departure at 0550HR. The POS – TAB domestic route is very busy, being vitally important to both islands and especially to Tobago as many Tobagonians must travel to Trinidad for various business and personal matters and conversely some services in Tobago require people from Trinidad to go across regularly. As such this route is served by no less than fifteen (15) flights a day, most by Tobago Express (TB) and others by LIAT (LI), Caribbean Star (8B) and BWIA itself. BW actually owned part of TB, the remainder being held by a consortium of Tobagonian businesspeople but of late I have heard that BW have relinquished their shares in the airline.
My father took us to POS where we checked in as early as 0503HR for the flight, TB 1500. There was little line at that time of morning and I was given seat 4D, a Starboard window seat. My mother had seat 4C.
From the Tobago check-in area, which is at the very end of the long check-in hall which serves all of the airlines serving POS, we strolled over to the newsagent to by newspapers and then cleared security to enter the Tobago departures area. This area is adjacent to the check-in area and serves all flights to TAB, even those of LI and 8B which actually continue internationally. For those flights the planes flying them park at the international gates nearest to the Tobago terminal (some actually use domestic ramp spots) and the passengers for BGI, GND etc. pass through international passport checks and the duty-free shopping area as do all other international passengers. They then assemble at the appropriate gate area for boarding. The domestic passengers on those flights merely go through the security check at the Tobago terminal and are called for boarding at the same time as the international passengers. Needless to say these complex arrangements are not needed for the TB flights, which are all purely domestic.
As the flight was called at 0525HR we boarded, walking into the fresh early-morning air to board the Dash 8, which is still painted in the white and pink of Bwee Express. Things went wrong, however, once on board as there seemed an inordinately long wait before getting going – typically the plane departs almost as soon as all the passengers are boarded. The safety briefing and all had been announced but the plane remained firmly on terra firma. The minutes ticked by gradually and at 0540HR the Captain announced that there would be a twenty (20) minute delay as documents were awaited from BW. That sounded very strange indeed…why?
The minutes continued to drift by and by 0600HR, with a delay truly in force now, tea, coffee and orange juice were served, thus making it the first time in more than 20 years that I have had any sort of service on a domestic flight! Once the attendant appeared with the tray it became apparent that the delay would indeed by very long. At 0625HR more passengers boarded the plane, this being indicative of the later flight to TAB being merged with the delayed earlier one. The plane, a fifty (50)-seater, was now full having had just twenty-six (26) passengers on board initially.
Finally, at 0705HR, one (1) hour and fifteen (15) minutes late, the plane finally started up and taxied out to runway 10. Other planes visible at POS at that time were:
BW A340-300 9Y-JIL
BW 737-8Q8 9Y-GEO
CO 737-700 and 737-800 – I did not get the reg.
The plane taxied quickly and got airborne at 0710HR for the fifteen (15) minute flight to TAB – the delay was five (5) times as long as the flight itself! Once in the air the plane’s route allowed a geography lesson of Trinidad as it passed the Santa Rosa house racing circuit, the towns of Arima and Sangre Grande and over the Northern Range before heading over the Galleons’ Passage, the inlet of Atlantic Ocean which separates Trinidad and Tobago.
The plane unusually went around to the Eastern end of the TAB runway strip (runway 27) and landed on that runway at 0725HR. This was the first time in many years that I have landed in TAB in that direction. This end of the runway is near to a relatively undeveloped area and the plane landed seemingly just as soon as it passed over land. On landing the plane taxied along the runway past the control tower and then parked at the tiny terminal, the only plane there at the time. It was only at this time that I found out the real reason for the delay.
TB pilots had been protesting at the time and as such had not been turning up for work. As a result the TB flights had to be operated by BW crews and as the parent airline had its own flights to take care of as well the number of flights which could be operated was limited. This accounts for flight documents from BW being needed for the flight. The delays would cause much disruption on the route over that weekend and many people were left stranded on both sides. At least we were there. I collected my luggage and we got a taxi to Scarborough to my grandmother’s place.
So, there we are again – the short hop to TAB being hampered by long delays. Disruptions to the domestic service have been rife over the years and despite changes in the names of the airlines serving the routes and the planes used the problems have remained the same. One wonders how these problems could be ever full sorted out.
TUESDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2005.
TAB – POS.
DASH 8 Q311B 9Y-WIP (C/N 538).
Photo © Nigel Steele
After two (2) days of rest and relaxation it was time to return to POS. Tobago remains fairly tranquil despite the escalation of violence in Trinidad of late and is a good hideaway for a holiday. I went to the beach and had a swim, enjoyed a serving of curry crab and dumpling at Store Bay near to the airport and took a stroll up to Fort King George in Scarborough. From there one gets a great view of Tobago, a view that becomes positively magical when the sun sets and the lights of the town come on. This is truly an enchanting sight to behold.
I had a taxi to the airport from my grandmother’s home at 0830HR and arrived in good time to check in at 0910HR. There was little line there at the time and so the check-in was quick. From there I went over to the vendors to buy my obligatory stocks of sesame seed balls, tamarind, coconut cakes and other local sweets which I always enjoy – so much so that I have to bring some back with me. After loading up with the candy I went over to Gate 3 for boarding.
TAB’s tiny terminal has three (3) departure gates. Gates 1 and 2 are on the ground floor and are usually used for domestic departures while Gate 3, located upstairs, is used for international flights and has a passport check and a small duty-free shopping area. Now, though, Gate 3 is partitioned into two and has a domestic gate area which is separated from the duty-free shopping. What remains up there though are notices advising “Strictly NO Photographs”! These I first noticed back in 2001 when I flew to LGW (a report on that is on this site) but they remain. This is a pity though as the view of the ramp is quite good.
Shortly after entering the gate area the flight was called. I boarded at 0935HR and took up seat 1A. The Dash 8 was fully on time today and taxied out at 0942HR towards Runway 09 (the usually used strip at TAB) and then took off at 0947HR. Tobago rapidly slipped away as the plane made a sharp bank to the south-west and headed towards POS.
Again geography lessons can be had as the view is stupendous. The plane passed over the Northern Range at Blanchisseuse and then over Arima and Tunapuna before heading close to Port of Spain and turning to line up with Runway 10 at POS. The descent was smooth and quick and the plane landed at 1007HR in bright sunshine. POS had several other planes in, including
LI Dash 8 300 V2-LES – left for TAB, GND, BGI
BW and 8B Dash 8’s
The plane soon parked at the Tobago terminal and I disembarked quickly and retrieved my luggage then went out to wait to be picked up. With a bit of a wait expected I wandered around a bit to watch planes – but with no viewing area at the new terminal it is a bit of a strain. People usually watch planes at either end of the huge terminal, where there is a high fence. At the western end there are vendors selling doubles (a local snack made from chick pea flour and filled with chick peas) and so I had some while watching a few planes come and go. I was particularly waiting to see the Conviasa plane but did not actually see it land as rain fell in spurts. As I finally left the airport I saw the plane (a 737) parked alongside a Zoom 767.
MONDAY 3 OCTOBER 2005.
POS – LHR.
BWIA WEST INDIES AIRWAYS
FLIGHT BW 900.
AIRBUS A340-313X 9Y-TJN (C/N 93).
Photo © Massimo Pesenti SpotIT
The long way back beckoned as soon as the wedding was over. The wedding itself was held on the previous day into evening and was quite lovely. On the morning of 3 October I thus found myself scrambling a bit to get all the little things which I could get easily in Trinidad but which would take a concerted search to find here in the UK. With all things sorted and packed I was on my way to Piarco International Airport (POS) at 1645HR.
I checked in at 1650HR. I had upgraded my ticket with BWee Miles to First Class for the return journey. BW charges if the upgrade is made less than twenty-one (21) days before flight (it is free if the upgrade is made twenty-one (21) or more days before travel). Strangely enough one has to pay for the upgrade at check-in and not at the BWee Miles office in Port of Spain (which is separate from BW’s main office in the city). I thus had to pay the upgrade fee of US$35 before being fully checked-in and allowed to go through.
After saying goodbye to my folks I went into the duty-free area of the airport at 1705HR. Now POS certainly has a good range of duty-free shopping available, a situation that has improved considerably since the new terminal was opened in 2001. I bought two (2) bottles of rum and then wandered upstairs to the departure lounge. The POS terminal is shaped like a V set against a wider V – or, you might say, an H with the two (2) vertical strokes angulated, the outer ones more so. The BW gates (8-14) are on the eastern part of the outer V, the gates used by other airlines (CO, AA etc. using gates 1-7) on the western arm. With separate security checks to each side it is not possible to roam from one to the other. That said there are lots of windows in the area in between which facilitate viewing. While there I saw the following:
YV 1054 Venezuelan-registered plane (I could not identify what type)
9Y-WIT TB Dash 8 300 – arrived then later departed
9Y-WIP TB Dash 8 300 - departed
V2-LFG 8B Dash 8 300 – arrived
9Y-ANU BW 737-8Q8 – departed for BGI, JFK
V2-LFM LI Dash 8 300 – arrived
While there I was of course awaiting boarding for BW 900, which was scheduled for 1745HR; however that did not take place on time. I continued to view the planes moving about the large field. At 1755HR two (2) Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias, which were parked by the old terminal and were thus package service operators’ planes, suddenly started up and taxied for take-off. The first left at 1755HR, the second four (4) minutes later. 9Y-WIT then departed for TAB at 1803HR followed by the Venezuelan bird at 1811HR.
At 1809HR it was announced that there would be a further ten (10) minute delay in boarding so I continued to do some spotting. TB Dash 8 Q300 9Y-WIN arrived from TAB at 1815HR and was followed in two (2) minutes later by a Caribbean Star Dash 8 100. At 1819HR the flight was finally called for boarding. The Airbus A340, 9Y-TJN, was parked at Gate 11. While the flight appeared to have a large number of passengers and thus would appear to take a while to board, First Class passengers were allowed to do so at any time during the proceedings. I thus went briefly to take care of business and returned to find myself at the very end of the boarding line!
I took up seat 2A, a port window. Lo and behold, a relative of mine who I had not seen in many years was in the seat next to me. As a result I had good company on the short sector to BGI, which is where he was heading. Soon afterwards the final preparations for departure were carried out and the plane was pushed back at 1835HR. The plane then taxied out past the terminal, across the runway and on to the very end of Runway 10 where it turned for take-off. After a powerful roar from the CFM56 engines the plane was airborne at 1839HR, leaving behind Trinidad which was ablaze with night-time lights.
BW’s First Class seats on this Airbus have individual PTV’s with a choice of movies plus the audio channels are available. Most notably of all is the flight tracker which I would view most of the time (I am really not a fan of in-flight movies). I also gazed a bit out of the window to see the last sights of Trinidad, then sister island Tobago which appeared at 1845HR. Indeed a plane could be seen to approach TAB, which is at the South-West tip of the island. Five (5) minutes later a snack of chick peas (channa) and cashew nuts was served along with a choice of drinks – I opted for red wine, my favourite in-flight beverage. The flight was largely smooth and unremarkable apart from the fact that I was actually conversing for most of the journey.
The Airbus started its descent into BGI at 1910HR while still over the sea. Soon enough the heavily populated parishes of St. Michael (which includes Bridgetown) and Christchurch appeared and the plane gently approached BGI; touchdown on Runway 09 occurred at 1925HR. The plane then taxied to the terminal and shut down. Once there it was a case of more goodbyes as my relative left the flight here.
BGI at this time was almost deserted, the only other planes on the Tarmac being two (2) LI Dash 8’s, one of which was V2-LES (a 300). They would depart at 1932 and 1937HR. In BGI the Airbus refuelled – now this is an anomaly for BW in that it refuels in the intermediate islands on its flights to LHR (BGI, UVF or ANU) and never takes a full fuel load in POS despite Trinidad being an oil producer. The fact that the fuel prices are actually higher at POS may explain this; all aviation fuel in Trinidad and Tobago is sold by National Petroleum whereas in the other islands various companies offer the jet spirit (Shell, Texaco, Exxon etc.) and this may be the reason. It may also have to do with the potential difficulties of landing the plane in the intermediate stops with a large fuel load. While the plane was refuelled all the passengers were asked to remain on board – a bit of a shame as BGI is always a good airport to walk around for a bit.
The plane then took on its additional passengers for the long haul to LHR. In all there were only about seven (7) passengers in the First Class compartment. Soon after that it was pushed back, the time in BGI then being 2009HR. As the plane started to taxi for take off an American Eagle ATR 72 arrived from SJU. The plane made its way along the long taxiway to the threshold of Runway 09 (BGI has the longest runway in the Eastern Caribbean at 3280m) and then took off at 2018HR heading due East past the parish of St. Philip. Soon afterwards it turned towards the North East and on the pathway to LHR. The time in the UK at this point was 0118HR BST and this will be the time-zone reference used for the remainder of the report.
The IFE was now fully on and so I kept the flight tracker on constantly. More significantly though was the music available. As the plane soared into the night it was totally dark outside and all the stars were visible, creating an enchanting view outside. Then, on came “Hold Me” by Whitney Houston and Teddy Pendergrass, a hit from 1984. I knew this song from ever since it first came out but now it just seemed to add an extra element to the flight and so I will always remember this song when looking back at this flight – and vice versa. In fact, with the musical loop being an hour long I would hear it on seven (7) of the eight (8) times it was played during the journey, the one (1)exception being during a nap!
At 0200HR BST the attendants came around, serving wine; I had a glass of Champagne. The starter came just five (5) minutes later, I had Dorado salad. The main course of tenderloin steaks came after ten (10) minutes and I had a glass of red wine with that. To cap it off I had biscuits and cheese at 0225HR with a glass of port followed by fruit dessert and coffee at 0250HR. The massive gulf in the standards of the service between First and Economy are so great that I sometimes think that I should not ride Economy again – but then if I did so I could not afford to travel as often. Perhaps it should be saved for special long-haul journeys – as well as those occasions that I can get upgrades.
The plane travelled across the empty ocean generally very smoothly with only the occasional jet stream winds giving rise to any turbulence, which was generally mild. The flight tracker referenced the flight with several check points along the way, starting with St. Andrew in Barbados then St. Francois in Guadeloupe and St. Pierre, a French territory near Canada. In some ways the plane was betraying its AC heritage by having a flight tracker often referencing French points – and in the tracker alternatively displaying data in English and French. Interestingly when the tracker displayed information in English the various parameters were shown in imperial and metric units while when French was the language only metric measurements were shown. Perhaps this reflects the difference in philosophy between the English and French (e.g. in UK road distances are all in miles, in France they are in kilometres).
At 0345HR the duty-free trolley came around. Initially I intended to pass up the trolley as I already have a full set of BW models but the flight attendants showed me a remarkable little device, a calculator and organizer which, on flicking a clasp, unfolds itself automatically! It was so neat that I decided to buy one. Once I put it away I just reclined and listened to the music with the flight tracker on my screen. It was sometime here that I actually fell asleep for less than an hour.
As usual, I kept looking out for the Azores, those tiny Macronesian islands (the term Macronesia is the collective name for the Azores, Canaries and Madeira) which are the one diversion point on the route. The plane duly passed them at 0549HR BST, little specks of light set against the absolute darkness of the air and sea. Perhaps one day I will visit these islands, which have gradually become set up as an upmarket destination. Oddly enough, though, the flight tracker only referred to them after the plane had long passed them – something which I had noticed on my previous A340 flight to LHR back in 2004.
The plane made its way Northwards with the flight tracker subsequently referring to Extremadura in Spain, Bunratty Castle in Ireland (which I have actually visited before, in 2004) then Wexford. Breakfast was served at this time (0755HR) and consisted of fruit juice, tea, cereal, croissants and a Danish pastry. It was quite good and provided that extra bit of energy needed to navigate LHR after landing. The plane then continued along the South Coast of England. The tracker referred to Glastonbury, home of the great music festival, then Dinard, St. Malo and Bayeux, all in France. As the plane passed Southampton I was able to see the Queen Mary 2 in harbour – an impressive sight!
By this time the IFE was stopped and so I had to give up the music, which was quite good after all. The journey before lining up with Runway 09 Left, eventually landing on it at 0930HR. On the way I was able to see some of the brightly-coloured South West Trains equipment at a station as well as Windsor Castle. This was the first time that I had ever departed and returned to Runways 09 at LHR on one trip.
The plane eventually taxied to the gate at Terminal 3, passing all of the usual LHR suspects. I was very tired so I did not note any numbers. The plane parked and soon I disembarked and wished the crew well. I cleared Immigration and Customs easily and then went out to catch the bus back to Cardiff. Of course, knowing that BW often has delays on its LHR flights I had booked the 1225HR bus, only to see that I would now have a tidy three (3) hour long wait! Additionally I had planned to visit the aircraft model shops while waiting but I was simply too exhausted to take my two (2) large suitcases over there and back. As such I flopped down wearily until the bus came – and after another two (2) hours and a half I was in Cardiff. That particular Service 201 is usually split between two (2) coaches, one of which runs non-stop to Cardiff and the other takes in the other destinations (Chepstow, Newport, Bridgend, Port Talbot and Swansea). I was glad for the non-stop run!
So, what are my conclusions? BW is still a great airline despite its many problems. It is always warm and welcoming on board, as if I am back in Trinidad from the moment I board. The First Class service is truly great while the Economy service, while invariably restricted in comparison, is still quite good. 9Y-TJN is still in quite good condition but BW should keep it fully tip-top and also work on their other A340-300, 9Y-JIL, which still attracts particularly bad press. As for Tobago Express it just needs to get its act into order – you simply cannot have such indifferent service and great irregularities and yet go calling for higher fares. Yes a profit would be good but this is a domestic service that is being operated here.
Overall, though, this was a great trip and, yes, “Hold Me” will always be the song I associate with the return flight. Above all, this is my post number 2000 – it has taken me five (5) years and nine (9) months to get to this milestone. I got to number 1000 in just one (1) year and four (4) months but ever since I have posted a bit less frequently as a result of being generally busier. All the same I look forward to more great trips and the opportunity to write more reports.