I hope I can entertain some of you during those complicated days.
Pretty much the same like last time – my father had a business meeting in Spain, Tarragona CT this time, and he asked me if I want to come along. The dates were OK with my studies (I only missed 2 days at the University), so it was a good opportunity to visit new places and add few more flights to my logbook.
Since last time we were in Barcelona and Valencia, we looked for another place to visit and decided to go south, to Andalucía, that our entry and exit point was Seville’s San Pablo airport – SVQ, from Barcelona BCN.
The Jewish holyday of Passover was celebrated in Israel this month, ended just a day prior to our flight. That meant dozens of planes flying full to Israel returning who spent the holyday abroad, and flying back to their bases empty. That meant for us – great flying fares out of Israel.
I wanted to fly on the 7th and to return on the 13th (my father's meeting was in Tarragona on the 12th), but there was way cheaper Air Europa flight on the 14th (the night between 13th-14th actually) so we decided to stay extra 12 hours in Barcelona in order to take that one (in less then half the price!). The Booking itself was done online using an Israeli travel agency website which offered the best price of that particular flight 3 weeks prior to departure. No seat choosing option was available.
I searched for domestic flight from BCN to SVQ (one way), and after some price comparison I found that the best offer in terms of Price+time was on Vueling Airlines – thus I booked the flight on the airline's friendly website. I decided not to choose seat in advance (10-2 euros per passenger, depends on which seat) since there is usually no window seats problem on narrow jets flights and as long as I have window I don't care if it's on the pront or in the back.
Vueling offers check in online option – I used it and checked in online 6 days prior to our flight; we got seats 29A+B, 3rd row from the back to the left (fine with me). There was still option to choose seats with extra charge (same price, 10-2 euros).
On the return leg, I was surprised to find that Ryanair is operating direct flights from SVQ to Reus airport (REU), the nearest airport to Tarragona, and not to BCN. Hence I booked the return leg on FR saving that way time and money both by avoiding the ride from Barcelona to Tarragona and by flying Ryanair. I never flew true LCC airline like Ryanair before so in addition it was a good opportunity to see what it is all about. I didn't choose the priority boarding option (4.6 Euros each - from the same reason I didn't choose seat with Vueling).
With Ryanair check in online is mandatory, therefore I checked in online for the FR flight too, with no seat assignment (as usual with Ryanair).
Both Domestic flights were booked 12 days prior the first flight. One thing that pissed me off is the extra charge for using credit card, both on Vueling and Ryanair – addition of 10 Euros per reservation. How they expect me to pay when booking on line?
The holiday passed and the time has come for my second visit to Spain in 3 months.
We arrived to TLV airport at 05:15, SDT was 06:55.
Drop off area:
Check in was done on G level, in an area usually use only star alliance airlines (while UX is skyteam member). My hope for empty flight vanished with the sight of the long line, the only 3 counters open were those of our flight, manned by the 3 slowest airline employees in west asia – the check in waiting took us no less then 35 minutes (!). We were told that the flight is fully booked, and we got seats 3A+B without been asked about our preferences. The check and boarding processes were done by Areo Handling employees and not by Air Europa.
The check in mess – this is only a third of the line:
Add to this waiting a 10 minutes line (relatively long) in the passport control hall, and it turned out that we were in the airside area when boarding already started, so no duty-free/lounges this time.
Israel Independence day posters along the passports->duty free corridor:
FIDS (for B wing only):
B1a gate is using for flights parked on remote stands and it is located one lever under the regular (airbridges) gates level. This is the first time that I fly international from remote stand since the new international terminal in TLV opened, in late 2004.
We got on the 3rd and last bus, and we were force to wait another 15 minutes inside the bus due to a rude late passenger.
The TLV airport bus that took us to our 738:
Monarch B757, taken on our way to the airplane:
Air Mediterranee A321:
Igale Azur A321:
Ben Gurion airport control tower:
Boarding via L1:
Flight number: UX456
Airline: Air Europa
Airplane: Boeing B737-800 EC-HBN (Built 1999)
Route: Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Israel (TLV) -> Barcelona El Part CT Spain (BCN).
Date: Wednesday, April 7th 2010
Runways: 26 -> 07L
Gates: B1a (Terminal 3) -> A21 (Terminal 1)
Wheels off: 7:33 (GMT+2)
Touchdown: 11:15 (GMT+1)
Full stop: 11:21
Airborne time: 4 hours 42 minutes
Gate to Gate time: 5 hours 12 minutes (scheduled 4:40)
Once boarded, we were greeted in "Boker Tov" (good morning in Hebrew) by smiley FA, and went to our seats.
We were seated in row 3, which is the last row (3/3) of "Blub Business" cabin, UX's J class. Our flight was operated as single class flight; but if I would have bought this seat as a biz class seat I would have want to get my money back: there are 6 seats in a row (3-3, 737 standard) so the seat isn't wider then the rest of the cabin, and the legroom is smaller then some airlines Y class, take a look:
So except for this “club business” sign and the (open) cretin behind us, this cabin and business class has nothing to do with each other, still, with the friendly greeting onboard and the biz-like seat, Air Europa was a nice surprise so far.
The safety video was played while we taxied to RWY 26.
Post-takeoff view of TLV:
Morning rush hour on highway number 1 on the entry to Tel Aviv:
East Rishon LeZion:
West Rishon LeZion:
Crossing Israel’s coast line heading west:
Food: After takeoff, drinks were offered together with boring cheese sandwiches – nothing to write home about, but with an airline offering only BOB service on short flights it was more then I expected. Duty free items were offered right after.
After the duty free service, the FAs (crew of 4, all female) disappeared from sight, all the way till landing. No another round of drinks or any other kind of service during this almost 5 hours long flight.
Safety card and inflight magazine:
Duty free magazine, sick bag and BOB menu:
When I got up to use the front lav, about 45 minutes before landing, I saw all 4 FAs in the front galley. Another passenger told me that there was no crew member in the back, and that the toilets are filthy back there (the loo in the front was kept pretty clean). Still, when the passenger in the first row asked one of the FAs a question (how to get from the airport to somewhere) she answered politely in professionally.
Entertainment: None. Except for few commercials after takeoff, the screens were blank thought the flight (not even a map of the airplane location).
Some flight view – it was a great day to fly with some spectacular views; this is the Greek island of Karpathos:
More of Greece – Thira:
Our small wannabe-biz cabin:
The rest of the cabin, right behind me, LF=100% today:
Southern Italy and Southern France:
Entertainment – better then some movies I saw:
Descending from south along Costa Brava:
We made bumpy descend to RWY 07L, the touchdown was smooth, but breaking was violent – it felt as if the Captain wanted to make it to one of the taxi exit point fast, otherwise I have no other way to explain the hard breaking, when there was still more then half of the runway left. No a word was said about the 40 minutes delay.
Look to the wing while breaking:
Air Europa Embraer:
We taxied to gate A21 in T1 (the new and large one), passed passport control in about 10 minutes, our suitcase was one of the first out, and we exited to the arrival hall.
Connecting at BCN:
From the arrival hall we got up the escalator to the departure floor, and headed to the Vueling check in zone. After checking in (described few paragraphs ahead) I used the free time to visit BCN's T2, the older terminal now uses mainly for low cost flights.
The escalator connecting the arrival and departure floors:
After checking in, I went to tour out T2: it is divided to 3 sections, A, B and C. A section was closed after the opening of T1, B section has the arrival section and holds all departures from T2 except EasyJet flights, and C section uses only EZY departures.
External part of A section:
External part of B section (it was designed by Juan Miro):
External part of C section – now uses only Easyjet flights:
C section check in area:
Old control Tower:
T2 arrival area:
B section check in counters:
A section closed check in counters – too bad, it is very impressive check in hall:
Bridge connecting T2 to the airport’s train station:
Flags of the European Union, Spain and Catalunya outside the Terminal:
I took the airport shuttle bus back to T1:
T1 drop off area:
T1 FIDS – a bit fuller then T2:
We went to Vueling check in counters 3 hours prior to departure time. Vueling has a large check in area used for all it’s flights. We stood in line, with the home printed boarding passes, when an airline employee approached us and told us that if we did the check in online, we can skip check in and just to go to a baggage drop counter – good, since the line there was way shorter.
We waited for about 2-3 minutes, then we were accepted by kind agent. I asked if I can move forward, and she kindly agreed, then moved us to row 7, seats A+B.
Baggage drop check in desk sign:
People get to the airport with no tickets and buy them here?
The drop off line:
Vueling Airlines check in area:
After my T2 tour, I got back to T1, then I passed security with no line at all, and got back to the airside of T1.
B gates – the terminal largest gates area, uses for EU (and domestic) flights:
Spanair pair – B717 & A320:
My ride for today – Mrs. Ling.Veu.Ling:
The boarding call caused an huge line in front of the counter, and only after few minutes a counter employee called only to the passengers seating in lines 15 to 31 to board. Only when just a few people remained in line all passengers were called to board, then we boarded as well, only to wait in another line at the airbridge. Once onboard, we were “greeted” by grumpy FA, who didn’t say a word, only after I told him ‘hello’ he said silent “hola” in noticeable unwillingness. One hell of a warm welcome.
Half of the airbridge line – another half was behind me:
Airline: Vueling Airlines
Airplane: Airbus A320 EC-KCU "My name is Ling.Vue.Ling" (ex. Clickair, Built 2007)
Route: Barcelona El Prat Catalunya (BCN) -> Sevilla San Pablo Andalucía (SVQ).
Date: Wednesday, April 7th 2010.
Runways: 07R -> 09
Gates: B27 (T1) -> 2
Wheels off: 14:54
Full stop: 16:12
Airborne time: 1 hour 16 minutes.
Gate to Gate time: 1 hour 28 minutes (Scheduled 1:35).
The flight was pushbacked on time (Vueling enforces a strict policy of closing the gate 10 minutes prior to takeoff), and we taxied to runway 07R.
Mini-Alitalia during Taxi:
Airport view after takeoff:
Barcelona view after takeoff – weather wasn’t to good as can see:
Entertainment: None. (free) Drinks: None. (free) Food: None. Legroom was horrible – It’s only 1:15 flight, and my knees hurt like hell after landing because during the 1 hour and 40 minutes I spent inside that airplane my knees were squeezed to the seat in front of me. Flight views and keeping the schedule were the only good things on that flight.
A picture worth 1000 words:
Safety card, airline magazine:
Sick bag, BOB menu, my boarding pass:
Cabin view from my seat backwards – load factor very high:
The only empty seats were those in the front rows, which cost extra:
After another bumpy descend, the plane turned left over eastern Seville and landed on RWY 09. Short Taxi brought us to gate 2.
Airbrakes on during descending:
Welcome to Seville:
Baggage claim hall:
Unorganized arrival hall:
External view of arrival floor:
Now an important tourist warning: DO NOT LEASE A CAR FROM “GOLDCAR”!!!
We made reservation for this car rental agency, got there (their office is not at the airport) then we were told that we can not lease a car “because we do not have international drive license”. That is b/s: the Israeli driving license is designed like the European one, it is written in English (and Hebrew) and myself so as my father used it to rent cars all over Europe (EU and non-EU), USA & Canada with no problem. Still, a woman working there refused to lease us a car in spite of our reservation. She also refused to contact the agency which we booked our car from, said, rudly “do it youself, it’s not my job”, and when we asked for a supervisor she said “I manager”.
Well, unpleasant, but still – they have the right to do so. Then come the part I wasn’t expecting: when my father asked this goldcar employee to give some kind of document that we didn’t get the service we paid for to get our money back, she refused to give us anything and – believe it or not – she even refused to tell us her name! Who heard about service provider who refuses to identify himself?
All that was done rudely in front of other people, including some shouting in Spanish which I didn’t understand. Eventually we leased car from other local agency at the airport (no problem with the license there, naturally) but not before we were humiliated in front of other people, saw and heard things that we thought can’t happen in a place with so much tourism.
The only way to treat those people is to spared out the word and to get them out of business.
After that unpleasant incident, we Spent 4 days in Andalucia, here are some pics:
Plaze de la Corredera:
Rabi Moshe Ben Mimon statue:
Typical Andalucían view – olive trees from horizon to horizon:
Same location at night:
Sierra Nevada Mountains:
Costa del Sol: