I've recently uploaded two other trips of mine in 2007:
British Airways LHR-HEL-LHR
I'm sure I don't need to give much of a background to Ryanair (FR) - I'm sure you all know their ethos and business model! Generally, I can't stand them. I think their staff are useless, their aircraft are tacky and uncomfortable, their food is disgusting and overpriced, their baggage charges ludicrous and their list of destinations comical (primarily because I can't pronounce many of them) - but.... having said all of that, they are the only airline I know of where you can travel all over Europe for GBP10 per flight (and sometimes just 1p). And for that, I cannot complain! I just laugh at the pure tackyness of the Ryanair experience - from the cabin crew who can't speak English properly to the dreadful recorded adverts that play on loop as you board.
Stansted (STN) is FR's largest base, and Alicante (ALC) is a relatively new airport for them - they used to just fly to Murcia (MJV) and call it "Murcia (Alicante)", but not only do they now fly to ALC, but it has since become a base. It would seem that FR is now flying to airports that were once U2 territory; other examples being FAO, AGP and PMI.
In May last year, a friend and I decided we wanted a bit of sun, so booked a two day trip to Alicante for GBP20 return each - this was in the days before 1p sales and GBP10 was an amazing deal! Since then I've rarely paid more than 1p for a FR flight. Indeed, shortly after booking the ALC flights, FR had their first ever 1p sale - luckily though, ALC wasn't included in the deal, so we didn't lose out. We did, however, book many many flights for winter 2007 and spring 2008... I've travelled for 1p to DUB, BGY, TRF, HHN, CRL, NYO, KIR, BRE, PMI, NTE, LRH and OPO - trip reports for all of these trips will be posted soon.
Anyway, back to this report. Unlike many flights from London to Alicante, the FR flights were nicely timed, so that added to the convenience.
London Stansted (STN/EGSS) - Alicante (ALC/LEAL)
Boeing 737-800 EI-DAD
Tuesday 12th June 2007
Scheduled departure: 1120 Actual departure: 1152
Scheduled arrival: 1455 Actual arrival: 1508
Photo © Jordi Grife - Iberian Spotters
Photo © Patric Borg
I have a friend who works at STN so got a lift with him - he needs to be at work for around 0900; perfect timing for my flight at 1120. I met the friend who was travelling with me in the terminal (he had arrived by coach). This trip would be my first of many from STN in 2007.
FR seems to change its check in, baggage and boarding pricing policies all the time. I always go for the free option which, for this trip, was airport check in (which you now have to pay for) with no priority boarding (which would have costed at the time, but was free for most of my 1p trips later in the year, and has recently changed back to costing a fee again). A tip if you haven't flown on FR before - read all the small print so you don't get caught out! FR are very good at catching you out and finding an excuse to charge you for something.
As we were at the airport in such good time, we had plenty of browsing time at the duty free shops. We sampled Baileys, Pimms and an aftershave or two.
The procedure at STN is that gates are assigned around 75/80 minutes before departure time. It is a good idea to get to the gate early if you've not got priority boarding so you can be at the front of the non priority queue. Some of the gates require you to get a transit train to them, but FR rarely use the gates at these piers - FR have their own pier (which is narrower than the rest and isn't equipped with airbridges). I can't remember the number of our gate, but it was on the FR pier, so we strolled over to it in plenty of time so we could be near to the front of the non priority queue.
The aircraft didn't arrive on stand until around 15 minutes before our scheduled departure time (25 minutes is the normal FR turnaround time) - we later found out from the Captain that the aircraft had arrived late from MMX (a route FR no longer fly) due to "departure restrictions".
Boarding was a bit of a scrum, but I got a window seat, so I wasn't fussed. I would estimate the load was around 50 per cent; not bad considering it was quite a new route on an off peak day.
We were pushed back at about 1140 (meaning they had managed a 35 minute turnaround) but then had to wait at the end of the runway for a good four or five minutes. It seemed to be peak U2 arrival time as we waited for three U2 A319s to land:
We were airborne at 1152.
Surprisingly for FR, the Captain sounded like he should've worked for BA - very professional and friendly. He gave us detailed route information a few times throughout the flight.
Here's a cabin shot shortly after take off:
Note the old style FR seats. The first 737-800s to be delivered to FR had fabric seats that reclined (all EI-C** aircraft and some of the EI-DA* aircraft), whereas all other FR aircraft have tacky leather/plastic seats that don't recline. As we were on an older aircraft, we got the more comfortable seats. Most enjoyable.
We ascended into clouds and didn't break through them until we were nearly at our cruising height.
I didn't buy any food or drink from the trolley (not worth it) nor did I buy a scratchcard. I thought the way they sold the scratchcards was quite frankly disgraceful; I quote from one of the male cabin crew "I will perform a striptease in the cabin unless the last ten scratchcards are sold". He proceeded to unbutton his shirt until somebody agreed to buy the rest of the scratchcards. You wouldn't get that awful sort of selling anywhere else but Ryanair!
We didn't see much at all during the flight (I slept for a fair bit anyway) until we started our descent just west of Valencia. I scrambled across to the other side of the aircraft and took this shot of Valencia:
I wanted to see Valencia from the air as I had been there on a cheap U2 trip in December 2006:
The cloud base was very high so we got some good views of the Spanish landscape during the descent. Before long, we made a few left turns to line us up for finals at ALC.
The ground gets closer:
The touchdown was fairly heavy, as was the braking. We landed at 1508 local, some 13 minutes late.
Once we had disembarked I was hoping to get a good shot of the plane, but the airbridge was right in the way!
It is very unusual for FR to use airbridges, so I appreciated the air conditioned walk from the aircraft to the terminal!
As we had no baggage to collect, we headed straight outside (there was no passport check) and got on a bus to Alicante itself. We had a great 48 hours in Alicante - lots of sleeping, eating, drinking, sunbathing, swimming in the sea and even a boat trip to Tabarca!
Alicante (ALC/LEAL) - London Stansted (STN/EGSS)
Boeing 737-800 EI-DCY
Thursday 14th June 2007
Scheduled departure: 1540 Actual departure: 1553
Scheduled arrival: 1720 Actual arrival: 1656
Photo © Tony Marlow [Airplane-Pictures]
Photo © Markus Buttinger
On the Thursday we got the bus back to the airport and headed to check in, and then on to departures.
As we had a bit of time to spare in the departure lounge, I could have a good browse at the (mostly English) activity on the apron. The one thing that annoyed me though was the computerised voice doing the announcements - the same annoying voice does the announcements at AGP and VLC as well! "Please passengers proceed to the gate" it says everytime a flight starts to board.
Anyway, back to the traffic at ALC. There were three WW 737s on the ground (two of which can be seen in the photo below) going to MAN, BHX and CWL. The AB plane was heading to PMI, whilst the LS 737 that had just been pushed back was heading for MAN:
This one was going to MAD I think:
Perhaps the most impressive plane was this newly delivered Flybe Embraer heading to SOU:
They announced the gate well before the flight landed so we waited in the seating area for a while before boarding was announced. As soon as the aircraft had arrived at the gate, boarding was announced and we had to wait like cows in a cow pen until the cabin crew were ready for us.
The Captain welcomed us onboard and said due to air traffic control restrictions, we would have to wait for a while before we could pushback. In the end, we were given an earlier slot and were pushed back just about on time, and were rolling at 1553.
There were some good views of the coast after take off:
We made a left out to sea and were given a super view of Alicante as we climbed:
We then passed what I'm told is chav paradise... Benidorm:
Just like we did on the way south, we got another good view of Valencia. This time we were looking at it from the east so could see straight down the runway at VLC:
As we headed north towards the Pyrenees and France the cloud become completely overcast and this was the view from my window for the rest of the flight:
As the view was so boring, I fell asleep (two days in Alicante is tiring!) and didn't properly wake up until we popped out of the clouds on finals to STN. The town in this shot is Bishop's Stortford:
We landed at a very wet and grey STN early, at 1656.
It was the end of a long day for the crew, who had arrived at STN for work at 0530 that morning and had done a trip to MMX before the trip out to ALC and back.
Arriving at STN is mostly an easy experience apart from passport control, where there is always a long queue. Hire more staff BAA!
In conclusion then, the trip to ALC was very successful. As I said at the beginning of the report, I don't really like FR, but for GBP20 all in I can't complain.
Watch this space for more FR trip reports very soon...
Thanks for reading. Comments welcome.