FR1182: Shannon Airport (SNN) – London Gatwick Airport (LGW)
FR1185: London Gatwick Airport (LGW) – Shannon Airport (SNN)
I’m a first-year college student who is lucky enough to have Wednesdays off so myself and a friend decided to do a daytrip to London to see the sights. This was decided back in October but only came up again recently when I was checking prices and Ryanair from Shannon to Gatwick return worked out the cheapest at €12 all-in (€22 really because we were paying with our Laser cards). This was an amazing price and much cheaper than my SNN-DUB-SNN flights ( Aer Lingus Domestic (SNN-DUB-SNN) On The A330+pics (by AmricanShamrok Feb 13 2010 in Trip Reports) ) a few weeks ago with Aer Lingus which worked out at €135!
Anyway I was excited about the whole experience because it would be my first time on Ryanair, my first time to England and my first time travelling on a Next Generation 737. The flights were booked two months ago and were about €18 cheaper than going with FR to Stansted and €66 cheaper than EI to Heathrow.
We checked-in and printed our boarding passes a few days before so we wouldn’t be slapped with a hefty fine at the airport. The day before our trip we went to the AIB Bank on O’Connell St., Limerick where we converted €100 into £85 – not too bad.
I arose last Wednesday morning (3/3/10) at 09:00 and met my friend. We had planned on walking to the bus station but it was pouring rain so we decided to drive. The cost of leaving your car at the station is only €4 and you can leave it there for as long as you want. The bus to the airport would cost €4.50 return (on 50% off student vouchers ) and we were onboard the #51 bus to Shannon Airport (continuing onto Galway) at 10:25.
We arrived at SNN at 10:58. Because I was travelling on a US passport I had to go to the Ryanair Visa Check desk where my boarding pass was stamped after my passport was checked for validity. The Visa Check desk is also the FR Ticket Desk.
Leaving Limerick City Centre
Approaching Shannon Airport on the N19
Ryanair only had one bag-drop desk open for FR1182
Ryanair Ticket/Visa Check Desk
There were only 5 check-in desks open at SNN at the time, EI had desks 1-4 open for EI384 to LHR and FR had desk 11 open for our flight. After stamping my boarding pass we went upstairs for breakfast.
Empty check-in area, a common scene these days at SNN
After breakfast we went up to the third floor viewing gallery where not much was happening and 3 people were sleeping on the seats, so we left quietly.
Carpark taken from the third floor
At this stage it was about 11:20 so we went through security. At the entrance to the security screening area an Airport Police official scans the bar codes of all boarding passes to ensure they are authentic. Mine wouldn’t scan for some reason so she just let me through – something that would not happen at LGW as you’ll see later!
The queue for security was short and I was through within 3 minutes. We then strolled around The Loop shop before exploring the airside section.
EI-DPJ which would take us to LGW
The Presidential Suite
Corridor leading to Gates 1-7
You have to go downstairs to access Gates 1-5 which are remote, non-airbridge stands. I have never been down here before as all my 32 flights to/from Shannon in the past have been via Gates 6-14 (airbridge-gates). I had thought that downstairs was just a waiting area for passengers with one exit out to the stands, but I found out that there were actual gates down here; very interesting.
An albino Boeing 757-200 at Gate 7/107 (note – not using airbridge); perhaps private using the US CBP which has just opened ?
Suddenly while I was taking the above picture, a loud automated announcement was made asking for passengers’ attention and to make their way to the nearest exit as soon as possible. This was followed by a series of loud alarms and sirens. Then the announcement was made again and it went in cycles. I looked around – other passengers were looking at each other scratching their heads and slowly beginning to go back upstairs to find an exit. There was by no means a panic anyway! Now construction is ongoing at Shannon and there were builders outside on the ramp who also heard the commotion but barely looked up and were appearing like this was a regular occurrence.
Sure enough, once we got upstairs to the departure lounge we were told that it was a false alarm and to return to our designated gate. It was exciting to say the least.
We decided to wander around a bit more.
To the left is where departing passengers to Gates 1-5 are directed, to the right is where arriving passengers from these gates come in
The temporary exit for arrivals in the departure lounge until the construction on the pier is finished
At the time EI384 to LHR was almost ready for boarding from Gate 9 so I wanted to get a pic. Before we went into the Gate 9 assembly area however we decided to go down further all the way to the bottom of the pier where I could see two US troops. Bad idea. As we passed Gate 9 a woman who worked there shouted from a distance “sorry there’s no boarding from down here, where are ye off to?”, I played dumb and replied “Gatwick?”. “Ok go back into the departure lounge and follow signs for Gate 3 or 5 I don’t know which.” “Oh thanks very much” I said. So we turned and headed for the EI A320 parked at Gate 9 for the picture I wanted to take. Just after walking into the assembly area the woman comes back – “sorry, the departure lounge is just up here”, “oh sorry” says I, “I don’t know where I’m going!” Pfff yeah right…
Back to the departure lounge so…during this time I recognised an EI air hostess that I had for my 2 flights to/from Dublin a month previous. She was either heading for EI384 or EI133.
One of two WHSmith bookshops in Ireland, the other is landside at SNN
The time wasn’t long going and we decided to go back to Gate 3 so we’d be first in line in order to get a good seat. When we got back there were already a good few there so we lined up and waited about 5 minutes for the boarding call. There were about 10 passengers in the priority queue. As we waited EI133 from Dublin landed as well as FR1313 from Birmingham. Today, due to the construction around the Gate 6/106 area, arriving airtraffic heading to Gates 1-5 coming in off taxiway A were being diverted around the airfield and down taxiway D1.
Boarding commenced at 12:35 and we were onboard at 12:45 via the aft door of EI-DPJ.
Captain John Carrigan welcomed us at 12:46; he had an American accent. He gave us details on our routing (SNN-Wexford-Exeter-LGW) and he projected a takeoff-to-touchdown flight time of 1 hour and 5 minutes.
The doors were closed at 12:54 and we were pushing back at 12:57. We were pushed back all the way to D1 due to the construction at the other side. We were given the safety demo from the crew at 12:55. The cabin crew were all foreign; I noticed Hungarian and Spanish bands around their necks. I’m guessing the aircraft was foreign-based too because the advertising (for a bank) on the overhead bins was in both French and German only. The load factor for this flight was ~75% with the first and last 4 rows blocked off.
We began taxiing to Runway 24 at 13:02. Once we reached the runway we held position for about a minute before beginning takeoff roll. Takeoff was at 13:08.
As soon as we reached 5,000 feet the crew were up and started the announcements for inflight sales. There were many of these announcements and there’s a huge emphasis on these sales. They also distributed the Ryanair Magazine for anyone that wanted one.
We reached our cruising altitude of FL330 at 13:23. Then at 13:41 Captain Carrigan came on one final time to advise us of our initial descent into London and anticipated arrival into LGW at 14:20, some 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
At 14:02 the crew announced 10 minutes to arrival – they were spot on, we touched down on LGW’s Runway 8R at 14:12.
We arrived on-stand at the South Terminal at 14:15. It was an airbridge-equipped stand but the airstairs were used for both doors.
After coming off the aircraft we had a long walk to the arrivals hall. En route we were asked to present our boarding stubs to an official instead of passports. When we made our way into the arrivals hall we had to find the train station that would direct us into central London. It was very easy to find and by 14:55 we were onboard a Southern train bound for London Victoria Station at a cost of £12.50 each.
On the train
Approaching central London
We got to Victoria at about 15:30 and just across the road is the Asiana Airlines London office:
Just outside this office we would hop on the tour around the city which we waited for about 10 minutes. It was a cold day.
London Victoria Station
The sightseeing tour would last 2 hours. It wasn’t a great tour to be honest; the tour guide was an automated system which you had to plug earphones into. It was also known to deliver the odd electric shock to your ear, presumably to make sure you were awake…
The bus moved swiftly past all the major attractions, not giving much time for pictures so apologies for the lack of them.
Big Ben (which was smaller than I expected)
The London Eye
Aircraft on approach to London City Airport
St. Paul’s Cathedral
I was interested to find out that there are two actual cities that make up London, the City of Westminster and the City of London; didn’t know that.
City of London
A bit of overkill on the Big Ben photos – I’m sure you get the idea
We also went over Tower Bridge and I got some great views of CityJet and BA CityFlyer RJ85s on approach to LCY. We never got to see Buckingham Palace though for some reason. Anyway we got dropped off at Victoria at about 18:00 and we ate at Garfunkel’s on the top floor of the station. I would highly recommend it. After that we found our train back to LGW and were on our way back around 19:30.
When we arrived at the South Terminal station about 20:00 we went straight to the two FR desks open for bag-drop and visa-check. FR had 4 flights going out; 2 to DUB, 1 to MAD and 1 to SNN. Other than that the terminal was very quiet. I decided to check out the EI check-in area after I got my boarding pass stamped but there was no one down there but the place was crawling with security and didn’t want to be barked at so I didn’t bother in the end.
I wanted to do some planespotting so we decided to go through security. At the entrance to security where our boarding passes got scanned we also had to look into a camera and take a photo. Yet again, mine wouldn’t scan and this was not Shannon so I knew I’d be in trouble. The agent asked me to go back to the FR desk and get a reprint. So I went back and rejoined the queue and eventually got my Servisair reprint. Once I got back to security I was the only one in the queue and about 10 security agents were gathered around talking.
I went to Duty Free and met up with my friend and waited for our gate to come up on the screen. It’s annoying that they don’t put the gate numbers up until 45 minutes or so before the flight.
Apologies for the lack of photos of LGW but I was intimidated by the amount of security cameras and guards around the place.
Anyway our gate came up as Gate 20 after a while so we all headed down the concourse. En route I came across EI249 boarding for Dublin and Cubana de Aviación flight to Havana as well as a fellow FR flight to Madrid. You get hardly any views of the apron though so that was a sickener.
Boarding commenced at 21:15 and we were onboard 10 minutes later via the front stairs. Our aircraft this evening was EI-DYS. The doors were closed at 21:30.
Pushback was at 21:32 followed by taxi at 21:35. While en route to the runway 2 EasyJet A319s landed as well as an Aer Lingus A320 arriving from Bucharest. We were second in line for takeoff behind FR5372 to MAD and we had to wait for a U2 aircraft to land before we were on our way at 21:45 on the dot.
Just after takeoff
After takeoff from 8R we made a left turn for a westerly heading towards Cardiff, the Irish Sea, Wexford, Kilkenny, Tipperary and straight onto Shannon’s “northeast-facing runway” in the captain’s own words. We climbed to an altitude of 34,000 feet, as usual with announcements and adverts every few minutes. The flight was generally smooth and I’d estimate the load factor at around 80% with the first 3 rows blocked off.
Still advertising the Christmas vouchers
Nothing much else to report for the rest of the flight, we started our smooth descent at 22:20 and touched down on Runway 24 at 22:46 after getting great views of Limerick and Shannon by night. Of course that annoying “yet another flight arrives on time” jingle was played. For both my FR flights the landing was very smooth, I know the 738s have a reputation for bumpy landings but to be honest, I’ve had a lot worse on the EI A330s. We did come into contact with the runway steeply though.
After exiting the runway at A, all the runway lights except the red ones at the end were either switched off or dimmed really low. I’d never seen this before. We then taxied for 8 minutes around the airfield making an ∩ shape due to the construction around the Gate 6/106 area. We arrived on-stand at 22:54 and within minutes we were out in the arrivals hall. After getting off the aircraft I noticed a new grey airbridge was attached to Gate 6/106.
My friend’s parents were in the vicinity at the time and offered to drive us back into Limerick instead of waiting around for an hour for the next bus. So we were back in Limerick at 23:30.
So that’s it. I was impressed by FR, no hidden surprises really, you get what you pay for. I was disappointed I didn’t get to see more of LGW but due to the tight time constraints it was impossible. The 738 lived up to my expectations, no surprises there.
My next trip report should be my journey to Chicago in July (SNN-???-ORD; the routing and airline yet to be decided).
Thanks for reading,
[Edited 2010-03-06 07:44:45]