In February of this year I decided to take a trip to South Africa, the reason for this was to show my two sons the country of their birth and to visit their grandparents still living just outside Johannesburg. Neither of them had been back to SA since 1994, so a lot had been forgotten.
The trip was to be taken in July, so to avoid the high season summer fares across the Atlantic I had to do some creative fare hunting. Eventually, the cheapest (and most interesting) turned out to be:
YYC-LGW on Thomas Cook (Part 1)
LGW-DXB on EK (Part 2)
DXB-JNB on EK. (Part 2)
Departure YYC Jul 1st TCX 26L
Schedule Departure Time 15:10
We left for check in during the overtime of the England vs Portugal knock-out game, arrived to check in at 11:50. There was not a long line up and the check in was efficient and quick although it get lengthy closer to departure. I had paid the extra ₤7 for prior seat selection that was pricey in CAD$ but probably worth it. We were allocated the seats I had selected. We were boarded by rows, and never ceases to amaze me how passengers don’t listen or ignore the boarding announcements and just rush to line up regardless of where they are sitting!
A picture taken of our aircraft at the gate.
Our seats were disappointing as they had a bulkhead behind us so we could not recline our seats, making us even more squashed when the characters in front of us put their seats on full recline ( a pet peeve of mine especially when you are trying to eat).
Pushback was at 15:20. We took off on runway 16 which is great as it forces you to turn left then fly out over Chestemere as you take the great north circle route.
Our aircraft leaving off runway 16 with undercarriage doors just closing (cheating, it was taken by me exactly a week before we left!)
The interior of the aircraft was OK. Legroom was a little tight but not too bad for a charter, we found the seats quite narrow though and our (broad) shoulders were constantly rubbing! The PTVs were OK a little novel for us as on AC there is no such thing on the YYC-LHR route which we have done quite often.
Legroom with PTV (sorry focal point is on the seat back)
This shows the 9 abreast seating which probably explains our perception of the narrow seats. AC has a 2-4-2 configuration on their A330s.
We were informed of the charges, headphones ₤2.75, drinks ₤3.00, the headphone adaptors for ₤1.00 do not take i-pod headphones! Shows were the usual recent releases on DVD (Big Mommas House 2, Harry Potter IV and Hoodwinked). I read, and the boys watched a DVD on a laptop that was dragged along with us.
Supper arrived, and it all comes packed in huge cardboard box in which the meals are packed into their own individual cardboard boxes! Roast beef and Yorkshire Pud (no choice). The beef was chewy! A chocolate pudding was desert, with tea coffee etc. It was OK what more can I say about something that comes in cardboard box!
Meal scraps and boxes were cleared up quite quickly. This is a fault I have of AC, I get the impression that the clearing up is left to linger as long as possible on AC as it tends to trap most pax in their seats. As soon as the clear up is done many pax get up and wonder around or go the washroom.
Everyone then settled to sleep, or watch the PTVs. The airshow was not an option which what I usually have on as I read.
Soon it was breakfast which was served at 0545 (UK time) Again in boxes, a bacon Panini and all the other breakfast trimmings. It was quite nice, I must admit, though a bacon butte is rather hard to ruin!
Our route brought us in over Belfast, Liverpool and Birmingham, then West London and onto LGW. We had to wait our turn with some turns over who knows where as the airshow was turned off, which is strange as it is the most interesting part of the trip? We finally landed about 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
London was experiencing a spell of hot weather, that coupled with the harsh reality of being booted out of the world cup, we could definitely feel a palpable air of sadness amongst the locals.
Thomas Cook was OK. The fare was only a little bit cheaper then AC considering all the extras that we had to pay for. I would probably use them again.
The amazing (and empty) Gatwick Express that we caught to go into London, for the day.
Part 2 will deal with LGW to JNB via DXB soon!
[Edited 2006-08-13 06:16:30]
[Edited 2006-08-13 06:21:37]