Next up was a minibreak in Scotland. My brother and I decided to take the train up from London to Edinburgh to stay there for a couple of days, then continued up to Inverness, where we also stayed for a couple of days. Rather than paying GBP50 and spending another eight hours on the train, we decided to spend just GBP20 each and fly back down to LGW.
To give you a bit of background, Inverness (INV) is a small regional airport in the Highlands of Scotland, a beautiful area full of tourists. The airport has never really had much success with international flights, so can only manage domestic flights, mostly down to London. That said, its most important connection, to LHR (which was flown daily with BD A319s), ceased in March 2008. There has been some good news this year though, as Flybe and Eastern Airways have significantly increased their offerings from INV to various regional airports throughout the UK.
U2 operate three daily flights into INV - an A319 each from LGW and BRS, and a 737 from LTN.
Inverness Dalcross (INV/EGPE) - London Gatwick (LGW/EGKK)
Airbus A319 G-EZIP
Thursday 7th June 2007
Scheduled departure: 1610 Actual departure: 1617
Scheduled arrival: 1750 Actual arrival: 1732
Photo © Mark Hitzert
Photo © Gerry Hill - WorldAirImages
We arrived at INV by bus from Inverness itself, and went straight to check in. At the time, U2 didn't charge for hold luggage, so we were able to check in a suitcase each for free (not bad considering we only paid GBP20 each for the flights).
The check in area reminded me a bit of SOU - but I suppose all small airports are similar.
Security was painless but, bizarrely, our names were called over the tannoy almost as soon as we arrived in the departure lounge. We had to go to a baggage check area, answer some questions about our hold luggage, and then were sent down a corridor back to the check in area, only to have to go through security again. I thought this was unusual, but during the next hour we were in the departure lounge, I would estimate around 40 people were called to the baggage check area, presumambly to be asked the same questions. Most odd.
The small departure lounge overlooks the equally small apron, which had this U2 737 preparing for departure to LTN:
By the time we arrived in the departure lounge for the second time, the 737 had already taken off - most disappointing!
I'm not clued up on my military aircraft etc, but this plane was the only other movement at the airport before our A319 landed. Presumambly training or something?
About 30 minutes before our scheduled departure time, G-EZIP landed and pulled onto stand:
For some reason, there's always one who thinks that boarding is imminent once the plane lands; and of course once one person stands up, everybody else gets up and joins the queue at the gate too.
As is the norm for U2, there was a scrum at the gate when we eventually did board. Passengers with young children were called first, then those who had paid for Speedy Boarding, then all remaining passengers. I wasn't too bothered where I sat; I just wanted a window seat! I suppose the advantage of this method of boarding is that the process is done quickly, whereas with preallocated seating people are in no rush to board and can take a while finding their seat.
I would estimate the load on today's flight was around 60-70 per cent.
The cabin crew did the safety briefing on stand as the engines started - although U2 are low cost, they can do their safety briefing in a much more professional manner than FR can.
I don't think INV has any tugs so we turned on the spot to get to the taxiway. As we were boarding, an FR 737 had landed from LPL, and we got a rather good view of it as we were on our way to the runway:
Little did I know that I would fly on this example, EI-DHR, from HHN to PMI a year later, in June 2008. More on that in a future trip report!
Interestingly, FR ceased operating their three times weekly route between INV and LPL in October 2007, but have managed to sustain their INV to EMA route.
At 1617 we turned onto the runway and started the short take off roll.
We continued east over the coast for around three minutes before turning sharp right to head south west towards Glasgow.
A town on the Scottish coast (anyone know which?) shortly after take off:
We cruised at 39,000ft for the flight. Our routing took us from Inverness to Glasgow, south along the west coast of England, passed the Isle of Man, then south east from Liverpool towards the south coast.
I think the land in the right of this photo is the Isle of Man, but it could be Scotland still:
We descended through thick cloud and turned many times, so I completely lost our location until we popped out of the clouds on short finals for 08R.
Within minutes we had smoothly touched down, and the spoilers were up:
We had made good time, and had landed some 18 minutes early.
Our taxi to the terminal took us past some sister ships of U2, plus another FR 737 - so it was just like being in INV again!
The UK and Ireland pier at LGW is fairly cramped and there aren't many windows, so I made the most of the one window I saw and took a photo of the plane!
I hadn't arrived at LGW on a domestic flight for a long time, and it wasn't the most efficient arrivals channel I've seen. Not long after we'd disembarked we had to join a queue where our photos were taken (we were given a piece of card with a barcode on it), then we proceeded to baggage reclaim then, just before we exited, we had to queue again to hand in our pieces of card. As we handed them in, a member of staff looked at the screen to make sure we were the same person as ten minutes before. I think it was something to do with the fact we were mixing with international arrivals and it was an extra security measure, but whatever it was, there was too much queuing involved and it must have taken well over an hour from leaving the plane to leaving the airport.
All in all, it was a pleasant, comfortable and good value flight. I'm not a massive fan of low cost carriers generally, but U2 is very good. As it was such a short flight, I didn't miss the free bar and declined to purchase anything from the easyKiosk.
On any future trips to INV, U2 will certainly be my preference.
Thanks for reading. Comments welcome.