It’s not too long ago that I finished writing on my last trip done in 2009. You can find them here in case you missed them:
Istanbul Delight: AMS-IST On LX Business (pt. 1) (by Airbuseric Dec 3 2009 in Trip Reports)
Istanbul Delight: AMS-IST On LX Business (pt. 2) (by Airbuseric Jan 8 2010 in Trip Reports)
A friend attended me on the flight reported in the report here. Flying a widebody on intra-Europe services is quite rare, although I’ve done a few before:
MAD-FRA on LA A343
MAN-GVA on SV B772
AMS-FRA on JL B744F
TFN-MAD on IB A343
FRA-MUC on LH AB6
DUS-MUC on AB A332
AMS-PMI-AMS on MP MD11
AMS-LPA on MD MD11
AMS-TFS on OR B763
I didn’t hesitate too long to book me on another flight, and another Boeing 767. I logged only 2 flights before on this type (ArkeFly and Skymark), so it was still a welcome additional treatment for me. For about 65 Euro’s I found myself on board the silver American Boeing 767-300ER.
This flight will not last long and does not return in the summer schedules. It is a tag-on of the BOS-LHR flight and is doing a short hop across the Northsea to Brussels. The LHR-BRU-LHR flight is flown by a bunch of JFK-crew.
I was not sure how to go to Brussels myself. Either on an industry-rated ticket with KLM, or by train. After a few days I managed to secure a good fare for a 1st Class seat on ‘Thalys’, the highspeed train running between Amsterdam and Paris Nord. It calls also at Brussels-Midi. You need to change to a local, airport-bound trainservice.
Travel was done on January 12, 2010.
My bus to the airport was at 715am. Fully loaded with commuters to work, not the best way to start a day. It was cold too, outside. And snow on the roads, making it a bit slippery at some locations. The drive took longer then usual, but around 745am I arrived safely at AMS. I will take my train from AMS, since the airport offers a ‘Lounge’ for 1st Class passengers. A first time for me, to let’s check it out!
The NS Hispeed Lounge is located at Plaza shopping centre, in between Arrival Halls 3 & 4. The entrance is easy to recognize, and your ticket will be checked at the counter.
I was the only passenger going inside, and to be honest, the lounge is interesting. But I am not sure if this will really become a success, and also the location is too far away from the railtracks.
The interior is very ‘black’ but modern and stylish. Newspapers are provided, as well a few magazines. Dutch news on the television. The seating area is nice, but not set up for privacy.
At the bar you will find numerous drinks, wine/beer included. I didn’t see anything to bite on, maybe that was to be expected though at this time of the day. It does not seem a good place to grab some food for breakfast. Information panels in the lounge said my train was ‘on time’ so I didn’t stay long and went to the platforms.
Arrived there, and after taking my position for the right car, the usual announcements came:
1) The Thalys to Brussels and Paris will arrive in about 5 minutes (or, delayed by minimal 5 minutes!)
2) Thalys to Brussels and Paris is driving in opposite carriage-setup today. First Class is at the end of the train.
Usual stuff, but I can’t understand the matter. Finally the train drives into the station about 10 minutes late. On the signs still ‘on time’ though. Well done NS! The Dutch railways are just not able to organize. Maybe I can offer them some of my skills in the near future… I would be happy to provide them some of my knowledge and opinions.
Entrance to NS Hispeed Lounge at AMS
Inside the Hispeed Lounge
Reading table in the Lounge
Beverages on offer at the bar
Lounging at the Lounge
Are we running late today? It seems so…
Anyway, we left now and after 5 minutes the hostess came along with breakfast offerings. You can choose of 2 trays, various breads and coffee/tea/water. The breakfast is complimentary and included in your 1st Class ticket. A refill for the drink is given too.
Thalys (old style) interiour / First Class
Complimentary Breakfast in Thalys First Class
WiFi is free of charge (after registration) in First Class
We suddenly came to a stop after leaving Rotterdam station. After 20 minutes the driver announced problems with their infrastructure, and it will maybe mean about 1 hour delay (or even return to Rotterdam again). Not good I thought, and it would minimize my time in Brussels. We luckily continued our way in the correct direction, with a little as 1 hour delay. Well done once again! How reliable your travels can be sometimes…
I arrived at Brussels-Midi one hour late, and no refund-voucher was given. I’ll find out to get a refund later from the railway company. I quickly looked up the screens to catch the first available local train to the airport. It was a regional train bound for Leuven, calling at Brussels-Nationaal too.
For your information, tickets for Belgium trains can be bought online on the NMBS website and payment by creditcards is available also. The train needed about 15 minutes to get to the airport.
My connecting train at Brussels-Midi, to the airport
A basic interior in Belgium regional trains
When I arrived at BRU, check-in was open already and only 1 other passenger was in front of my at desk 3. One counter was serving for this flight, and I first had to talk with a security officer. She asked me about my purpose to travel, and was a bit wondered of my travels that day. She asked if this was my profession and about my luggage. Friendly enough though, and I was free to check-in.
AA.com offers seat selection online, and I was given my preselected seat at the counter.
American Airlines check-in counter at BRU
American Airlines & BA ticket counters at BRU
Passport control is located next to the check-in counters of AA, and done in seconds. A joke with the immigration officer, since his family name was the same as mine. The terminal in BRU is also a bit of a joke. Almost nobody was inside. It felt so deserted in that area. No passengers in the shops, bars mostly empty. Only a few passengers at the security-point leading to the gate area. I have seen these situations before at BRU, and I still wonder how this airline can keep it’s head up.
Security was done in seconds, a real breeze, and my gate (B1) was located on the right. I spotted the shining B767 right away. No winglets on this one, a slight disappointment maybe.
About 20 minutes waiting for me until boarding began. And good news for thirsty travellers: Starbucks is opposite of gate B1!
Deserted shopping areas in BRU departure lounge
… and still very quiet …
Flight Information Screen
Some other traffic… but in general very quiet also on the apron.
What a beauty. The shining American Boeing 767!
… one more, starboard side of the B767-300ER
Counter at gate B01
Boarding started at 1250pm, and was quickly completed. I heard the crew mentioning a load of 19 passengers. And that can be correct, in the aft Economy class section were I was seated I counted 17.
Flight No.: AA155 Date: 12JAN09
STD: 1315 ATD: 1309
STA: 1330 ATA: 1313
A/C: Boeing 767-300ER Reg No.: N359AA
Seat: 38J – Economy Class
Photo © Suresh A. Atapattu
AA First Class
As mentioned the load was almost nothing, and the crew was joking a bit in the complete back of the aircraft. The captain informed about our flight and that we would be ready to leave soon.
And indeed we pushed away from the gate a few minutes early.
The safety demo was visible on the screens above the aisles. This B767 had no personal IFE, and also no IFE boxes were under the seats. Legroom was tight though, and I know from experience that the B772’s are much more comfortable.Row 38 can look out of 2 windows, which is a good thing of this seat.
Taxiing took not too long towards runway 25R, used for our departure. Lot’s of snow around, not too often seen at an airport like BRU.
and off we go!
As expected with the load, a powerful takeoff lifted us in the air within 10 seconds or so. It was a really, really short run. Nice to experience again, after done this before on a Japanese domestic run. After a few minutes the captain came on the speaker and informing that, due to the very short flighttime, the seatbeltsign will stay on during the complete flight. And prompt the cabin crew came into action as well.
Climbing out of BRU
I didn’t expect much on AA, on this short flight. After reading so much about US airlines and cost cutting measures. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to get a bag of Tex Mex Nachos, and orange juice & water was offered as well. It was not from the cart. Crew came along the aisles with serving trays. Especially the male steward –a Elton John lookalike- was very friendly.
He came along once more, now with large cups of coffee or tea. In average, you get an above average service on this AA flight, compared to European Y-class on similar routes.
Juice and a bite
And a large coffee
Cabin View on AA155 BRU-LHR, almost empty cabin
Legroom/Seating in Y-class on AA B767-300ER N359AA
Enjoying a view enroute…
Throughout the flight the flight information, a map, LHR arrival information etc. was visible on the screens.
As expected the approach to LHR started already, and I noticed a BA 777 in a holding pattern, though we slipped through and came in straight for a runway 09L arrival. Cloudbase was rather low, but once below also London served me a white landscape. Gladly it wasn’t snowing today! That could have ruined my travels!
Were are we heading to? Approach for LHR…
After landing, a right turn, and basically straight ahead into our parking position, next to a company Boeing 777-200ER and an Air Canada A330-300. Disembarking was quickly too, and before I left I had a quick chat with the captain. We talked a bit about the company I work for, and about his schedule around this flight. He was New York based, and they did this run in between a normal JFK-LHR return, giving them 2 nights in the UK.
Vacating runway 09L
Docking into our parking position
Flightdeck on N359AA after landing
London terminal 3 always has some interesting traffic. You see so many widebodies, so many compared to e.g. AMS, which makes my homebase to look like a regional airport.
Other Terminal 3 traffic, e.g. QR & VS A346, MS A332, AC A330
I had to transfer now to Terminal 1, and stayed in transit. You will follow the ‘purple’ transit signs and been guided into a seperation room for the various terminals. Buses are driving on the airside roads to deliver passengers to their desired terminals. A bit old-fashioned way to do so at this very big airport, and maybe even inconvenient. But it offered me a few more glimpses on the apron, and also the Emirates A380 which was being served.
Transferring at LHR
… big bird is here. The EK A380 from DXB being served
After arriving in Terminal 1, I was walking into another security checkpoint, which was a breeze. Less then 10 people in front of me, unique for Heathrow? I never experienced such a smooth transfer at this airport before. In case you need, various airline transfer desks are located behind this checkpoint.
Terminal 1 was the the place were I had to kill a few hours. After checking out some gadgets at Dixons, reading some airline magazines at WH Smiths, it was time for some coffee at Nero, and try one of their sandwiches. It offered me a good place with a view on the apron, used by BD aircraft. I also saw a few widebodies taxiing in the background. Very entertaining to sit down a while, and read a bit in the newspapers I got earlier that morning.
Terminal 1 shopping
Café Nero with a view
The gate for my next flight was announced 1 hour before the departure time. It was gate 23, meaning a longer walk from the main hall. I was off to the gate, through a very depressive walkway. Come on LHR, you can’t call this an airport! Also the waiting area at gate 23 is a disgrace! No ceiling, old chairs, dirty carpet, electrical heaters in the middle of the hall, wires for electric power plugged in the wall. How can this serve as an airport… If I was the airline, I would not accept this gate to be used for my flights, but it was BD who took care for the next flight. And being the AMS-route, to be axed within a few months now, it didn’t care for them. Probably.
A quick chat with the groundstaff, finding out if the seat next to me was still vacant, and it was. Lucky me! And during the waiting in this area, another BD groundstaff informed all to use to restrooms of the airport now, since all lavatories on board were out of order. Also a few more technical issues with the aircraft would result in a small delay, he said.
Waiting lounge gate 23
Boarding started consequently later, at 350pm, only 10 minutes to go before schedules departure time.
Flight No.: BD111 Date: 12JAN09
STD: 1600 ATD: 1613
STA: 1820 ATA: 1815
A/C: Airbus A319 Reg No.: G-DBCK
Seat: 05A – Economy Class
Photo © Neil Guinea
Boarding completed, 5 minutes late. Loads around 70% maybe? Maybe middle seats not occupied. Good to see BD taking care of it passengers comfort, and not check single travellers in on these middle seats when it’s not needed. Meanwhile the captain informed about the lavatory problem on this aircraft, and they currently water was being served and we would be ready in a minute. After this, crew did their manual safety demonstration.
Awaiting pushback. A brandnew LH A320 (D-AIZB) next to us
Seats were comfortable. Thick blue leather seats, seatpitch is good enough. I still like the cabin setting on BD. Nice colours, good combination of blue and the brown tints. It gives a cosy feeling to me.
We started up and taxied out. The famous ‘Airbus barking sound’ was heard for over 5 minutes, while taxiing to runway 09R. We followed an NZ B744. What a sight! Would love to take NZ once to HKG and try their Prem Y product.
Also EP-IBB of Iran Air took off in front of us. This aircraft went off the runway in ARN 4 days later.
Taxiing to runway 09R
The Iran Air A300 (EP-IBB) which went off-runway at ARN 4 days later
A view on terminal 5, lined up on runway 09L.
We lined up and the evening came over London. Nice to see all the lights of Heathrow. The takeoff itself was smooth, and we did not encounter turbulence from the preceeding NZ B744.
I must say, the calmness on this flight made me sleepy and I apparently dozed off for the main part of this flight. I didn’t notice anything of inflight sales, etc. Can’t comment on that. Sorry!
Enroute LHR-AMS on BD111
I woke up again during descent. Cabin lights were switched off and cabin was checked. It was easy to understand that it would be a straight-in approach for runway 06, meaning a quick arrival when coming in from the UK.
Approach was nice, and I was able to see my house and garden. I live very close in the vicinity of the 06/24 arrival and departure route, and it’s always good to see my neighbourhood from the air.
Just a minute later we smoothly touched the concrete on runway 06, at 611pm. We are going to arrive ahead of schedule I thought, and so we did. Arrival gate was D22.
To conclude this day:
It’s nice to fly the AA B767, but the Thalys trains between Amsterdam and Paris are still not fully reliable enough to secure good connection. These trains make use of the newly opened railtrack dedicated for the highspeed trains, but still a lot of troubles occur. The railway company calls this ‘infrastructural problems’, but I don’t care. If you open a track then you should be able to provide the service as in a timetable, but apparently this is too much to ask for. I wonder how long it will take to get everything in order. Of course I gladly made my flights!
AA performed well. I was pleasantly surprised by the catering received on this really short flight. Crew was friendly to me. Loads were bad, and this flight only exists to keep slots at LHR, I heard. It will discontinue soon.
LHR was good to me, and I had a smooth transfer between terminals. But terminal 1 is a disgrace and I cannot understand why BAA keeps it open for serving passengers. They should quickly refurbish and restore the building.
BD was good enough, fare was really low on the LHR-AMS flight (about GBP40). I like BD’s interior, the seats are very fine for me. And, they provide a reliable service, and informed me well about the small delay.
Thanks for reading. Your replies or comments are appreciated of course. And stay tuned, I’m off to London and more next week again, hopefully with more interesting metal!