The 13th January, 2011, marked my 21st birthday - I figured I could have a night out, but I was already going out New Years Eve, and most of my friends are usually busy with exams and other University related stuff at this time of year. Some time in December, Ryanair had a marvellously titled "F*ck The Freeze" £3 sale, so I spent a while looking at some possible itineraries for a 4-flight flying day. I settled on flying Manchester-Dublin-London Stansted-Dublin-Liverpool. Not incredibly imaginative, but it was one of very few routings that were all at sale price, and were doable with a minimum of 2 hours between each flight to avoid the worst... unfortunately, that wasn't enough this time around.
The itinerary that I hoped to take looked a little like this:
Flight #1 - FR553 Manchester-Dublin
Flight #2 - FR208 Dublin-London Stansted
Flight #3 - FR215 London Stansted-Dublin
Flight #4 - FR448 Dublin-Liverpool
And so begins this trip report...
/EGCC) Terminal 1
/EIDW) Terminal 1.
07:55 (07:55 actual)
08:55 (08:35 actual)
My day started again at 2am, with a shower and a very large mug of tea, ready for my taxi to Sheffield station at 3am. Like last weeks flights, I again caught the 03:45 First Transpennine Express service direct to Manchester Airport, and arrived promptly at 05:00, before making my way to Terminal 1 and proceeding through the speedy Terminal 1 security point.
For photos and more details about this part of the trip, see my last report here Trying Out Aer Lingus On MAN-DUB-MAN (by DanTaylor2006 Jan 9 2011 in Trip Reports)
As it was a little under 3 hours until departure, I whiled away the time sitting in front of the windows with my Boots meal deal and watching the goings on at this ungodly hour of the day. A VS
747-400 arrived, again in the new livery.
Jet2 G-CELC being prepared.
At around 07:15 the FIDS showed that gate 9 would be my departure gate today, which I had expected, given the FR
flight used this gate when I flew EI
last weekend. I proceeded down the narrow walkway to the pier, and attempted to find gate 9 - the numbering system in this pier is incredibly strange, so I managed to completely miss gate 9, and had to double back on myself...
Unusually, the EI
flight arrived before our 737, but ours was only 5 or so minutes behind. Boarding commenced a further 5 minutes after this, and we went down to the holding area while the aircraft was readied. A few minutes more, and we were walking across the tarmac in the wind, and up the stairs to our 737, EI
-DPT, where I was greeted by a warm smile from the female member of cabin crew.
Our Irish neighbour, EI
-DEE, who would get away before us... again, despite their departure time being after ours.
Boarding was slow as the flight was relatively full, a contrast to the 14% / 25 pax load on my EI
flight last week. The first few, and last few, rows were blocked for 'weight and balance' as I am sure you'll be familiar with. A couple minutes after the EI
departure had pushed, it was our turn, and we quickly started our engines and crossed runway 23R to head over to 23L, where we performed a rolling departure tailing the EI
A320 ahead of us.
Manchester Departure Video
We pierced the clouds soon enough, and turned right to head out toward the Irish Sea, and Dublin.
The hard sell started as soon as the crew were released, and the seat belt signs had been turned off. After 11 flights with Ryanair, one learns to switch off from the constant announcements and sales tactics, and just enjoy the view outside.
The Captain had announced flight time would be 50 minutes, but it was not long before he updated us again and told us we were cruising at 21,000 feet, and would be starting our descent soon, with an expected arrival into Dublin at 08:35, some 20 minutes ahead of schedule. As predicted, the engines throttled back, and we started our practically straight in approach to runway 28, landing at bang on 08:35.
Dublin Arrival Video
As you can hear in the video above, we received the cringe-worthy on-time fanfare as we turned off the runway. We taxied at speed to the D Pier, passing a DHL Airbus.
It wasn't long before the front and rear doors were open, and we were allowed to disembark. I chose the rear doors, as I'd let everyone get off first as I usually do.
So long EI
I proceeded to follow the lengthy walkway to passport control, for my all of a few minutes trip onto Dublin soil.
Passport control was painless, and after a quick breather outside, I headed back up to check in and headed toward the security check point. This was, as usual, painless and I was through in a matter of minutes.
Inspired by MichaelEI's trip report here My 18th Birthday On EI (w/many Pics, Videos Later) (by MichaelEI Jan 12 2011 in Trip Reports)
I decided to have a wander through to Terminal 2, which I'd failed to fly in/out of last week as EI
hadn't yet moved their UK operations!
The passageway from T1 to T2
Good spotting opportunities.
A couple of twists and turns brings you into the gate area of T2
. It's an incredibly smart terminal, and I like the TV
's that are located at each gate to provide some light entertainment while waiting for your flight. I think Daybreak and Sky News was on when I visited! The pier is very long, but at the end is an excellent view over runway 28. There are a couple of shops and coffee places here, but some weren't complete yet. I'll let the pictures do the talking...
Start of the gate area, and signage to US Pre-clearance.
Travelators are a definite must here.
Excellent viewing at the end... this is EI
-DES which I flew on DUB
just the previous week.
Runway 28 action.
After my little trek down the gates, I decided to check out the main departure lounge.
Escalators up to the departure lounge.
Smart departure lounge, could perhaps use some more seats though.
So all in all, I was impressed with Dublin's new Terminal 2! It just needs populating now... was like a ghost town in parts. With that done, it was back to T1 and onto flight #2...
/EIDW) Terminal 1.
London Stansted (STN
11:30 (12:05 actual)
12:45 (12:55 actual)
A quick check of the FIDS showed a 40 minute delay on my flight, and I began to worry... I knew I had 2 hours in Stansted, but I didn't need delays. I headed to my assigned gate, 102, and parked myself there and waited. A couple of crew flying to Stansted to start their day were behind me, and I overheard the Flight Crew say our aircraft would arrive at 11:45. Sure enough, at 11:45 it pulled up... queue the mad rush for everyone to get in the queue (WHY?!?!). As with all my flights today, I had priority boarding so I was in no rush...
10 or so minutes later, we were checked and sent downstairs, and almost immediately walked over to the aircraft, EI
-EKW, where I was greeted by another smiling member of crew. I must have struck lucky with the crew today, they'd all been great so far!
We got under way just before 12pm, some 25 minutes late, and taxied down runway 16 to the hold for runway 28.
After a short wait for a company 737, we pulled onto the active, held for a few seconds, then rocketed into the rainy sky, before performing a 180 to the right to leave the Irish coast toward Liverpool.
Dublin Departure Video
We headed across the Irish Sea toward Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and finally Milton Keynes. Cruising altitude, as announced earlier, was 31,000 feet. There were no views of the UK to be had, though, as it was covered in cloud.
Again, the hard sell started, and I sat back and relaxed.
What I believe is a BMI
Airbus, passing us.
The moon was out this afternoon.
Hello 'in your face' safety card.
Making the odd turn as we head south.
I do like the Boeing winglets.
Not long after Birmingham we started descending toward Milton Keynes, and finally into Stansted. The First Officer announced we'd be landing about 10 minutes behind schedule, so not too bad after all.
The approach to runway 22 at London Stansted was over field after field, and was quite bumpy this afternoon. Certainly a lot of wind around! We touched down as told at 12:55pm.
Stansted Arrival Video
We followed a company 737 in, and parked up at the farthest satellite at STN
, which had a large number of FR
birds around it.
Not long after, the doors were opened and we made our way the small distance into the building, following the passageways and escalators to baggage claim, bypassing passport control due to our arrival from Ireland.
I headed directly through customs and out to the chaos that is London Stansted. It's not my favourite airport in the world, and its cramped nature again had me itching to leave as soon as I had arrived. I headed out front for a breather, before coming back in and getting some lunch from Burger King.
A deserted check in area.
After the Burger King, it was time to head through security and catch flight #3... or so I thought.
London Stansted (STN
/EIDW) Terminal 1.
15:05 (N/A - Offloaded Self)
16:20 (N/A - Offloaded Self)
-DAZ (Replaced by EI
As soon as I'd passed through the excellent (just kidding) BAA security, my gate was shown as 83, which was in the pier directly connected to the terminal building. I headed up there and found EI
-DAZ was sitting waiting at the gate for us. About 10 minutes after everyone started turning up, the staff commenced boarding, but as we went downstairs and out onto the tarmac, they held us just meters from the aircraft.
I noticed through the open door that DAZ had the old cloth seats, which pleased me as it's been 10 or so years since I flew in a Ryanair 737 with this interior! I also find the seats to be far superior. After a lengthy wait, the dispatcher told me they were waiting on the cabin crew to arrive. About 5 minutes later they did turn up, and a few moments later we were invited to board. Here's where it all goes wrong...
Just after boarding.
Everyone boarded, the doors were closed and the safety demonstration was performed as normal - great I thought, everything's good. Until...
We didn't push back after the safety demo... and we continued to sit on stand for 10 more minutes, before the Captain eventually came onto the PA and informed us that a redundant system on the aircraft had failed earlier, and they needed to get an engineer onboard to look at it. Oh, fab, I thought. My mind suddenly went into overdrive as I planned my options...
Waiting onboard but going nowhere...
My flight to Liverpool left Dublin at 18:40, so the latest time I could leave Stansted and still make it was around 16:45, given flight time was going to be 1 hour 5 minutes. I went to the front and spoke with the lead member of cabin crew. I explained my situation, and she said the engineer was now onboard and it would be about half an hour maybe before they knew what was happening... I thanked her and returned to my seat.
We waited some more, and it was now approaching 16:15, so I started accepting the possibility that I would have to offload myself from the flight, and catch the train to Birmingham (where my parents live, thankfully) rather than fly back into Liverpool and catch a train to Sheffield. I couldn't afford to be stuck in Dublin having to fork out ~£200 for a new flight... the train home, at £32, was the lesser of 2 evils!
The lead member of crew kept coming to me in my seat giving me updates on the situation, and it was through this I learned that the radios had failed and we couldn't contact ATC. A little later into the delay, a lovely female member of the cabin crew came up and asked if I was the person connecting to the Liverpool flight, and asked if I was going to offload myself or not (she explained she was from Liverpool, and had a flight to catch at half 7 too!). I explained to her that I was leaving it until 16:45 to make a decision...
The Captain came on again at 16:30, and explained the fault with the aircraft and uttered the dreaded words "the engineer hasn't been able to find and fix the problem, so we've contacted the company and we're in the process of getting another aircraft fuelled and pulled around." With this news, my heart dropped, and I went back to the front of the cabin and asked, realistically, how long it would take to switch aircraft and depart. The Captain directly answered my question, as the door was open, and he said 30-35 minutes...
With regret, I told the lead member of cabin crew that I would have to offload myself. She was very apologetic, and called the dispatcher to come and get me. I went to retrieve my bag and walked to the front of the cabin, which was highly embarrassing as everyone was watching me! I felt like a criminal, haha.
The lead crew member again apologised, and thanked me, and I thanked her, because both she and the crew member from Liverpool had kept me up to date with the situation and had been incredibly friendly to me during this whole situation. I've never had a crew that have been that nice and good about a situation like this, so I didn't feel as bad as I walked down the stairs and back into the terminal...
So long EI
-DAZ! It wasn't to be...
I trudged along the corridor and was sent back to domestic arrivals, where the woman manning the doors asked me what I was doing. She radioed someone, and apparently I had to re-clear customs. So a member of staff came and escorted me, via the staff back passages, back to the baggage claim, where I passed through customs and went outside to the dark, dirty, depths of the airport for the train station.
Reluctantly I paid the £32 for a ticket home, £32 for a 3 and a half hour journey (that would take 2 hours tops by road). £32 is exactly how much I paid for my Ryanair flights for the day, when you factor in the card fee.
My new ride home.
By now I was absolutely shattered, so I tried getting some sleep given the journey was going to be so long. At 20:40 we pulled into New Street station, and I was picked up to go home... what an incredibly eventful afternoon.
To say that my day didn't go to plan is an understatement, and it was certainly the most eventful birthday I've ever had! I missed 2 flights, lost out on £58, and ended up in Birmingham instead of Sheffield. It's lucky I had the option to return to my parents house!
Maybe I lucked out on my crews, but every single one that day was a pleasure. The last set, on the flight I offloaded myself from, were in particular excellent. They kept me informed at every step of the way and were incredibly apologetic for the situation. I've not been looked after like that in a very long while, and you hear so many horror stories with Ryanair that when you receive service like that it makes you smile!
Dublin Airport was, as ever, a joy to use. Terminal 2 is excellent, and I hope to use it some time in the future. Manchester was as Manchester is, dull and dark and cramped... but not as cramped as Stansted, and I hope to not subject myself to this airport for a good while now.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, if you've made it this far! I hope it didn't get too long...
Flown: A319-21, A346, A380, B733-4, B738, B744, B752, B762-4, B77W, CR2, CR9, DH4, E190-95, F70-100, MD-11, MD-88, MD-90