Ever since my first and also latest trip to HEL on LH (to be found here: Tales From The North: Heaven To HEL And Back On LH (by sultanils May 23 2011 in Trip Reports)) I was determined to pay HEL another visit, but now the proper way, meaning on a Finnish carrier (Blue1 or Finnair). My next idea was to try and combine this with a trip on Estonian Air’s CR9, a lovely regional jet and an airline with a great color scheme imho. Searching for fares yielded some interesting facts… Finnair was quickly ruled out because too expensive, I’d expected that. Blue1 had a good deal: € 110 from BRU to TLL via HEL, whereas BRU-HEL was to be operated by the beloved B717, and HEL-TLL by Golden Air’s AT42. An interesting combo for sure, so booked without any hesitation. Estonian Air had a promotion going on: € 79 one way from TLL to BRU in the evening on the CR9, so perfect to conclude this daytrip.
But… as usual I waited a day too long and the Estonian Air fare rose to as high as € 140 for the same travel date, bummer… I waited some more weeks and kept checking the Estonian Air’s site for more promotions but alas, prices kept on roller coasting up and down but they never reached again the amount I was willing to spend. So I looked for another solution: Air Baltic came up with a good solution: HEL-BRU via RIX for about € 70. OK, I thought, so I might just ‘not fly’ the HEL-TLL leg from Blue1 and just settle with BRU-HEL. And you know: BRU-HEL was actually € 20 more expensive than BRU-TLL so in the end I made me my own promo.
Since I wanted to make sure this was all going to work out, I contacted fellow user FlyingFinn for some advice, it seems he knows a thing or 2 about flights in the Northern region. In reply FlyingFinn mentioned he had also booked HEL-RIX that day on Air Baltic so we automatically qualified for a a.net meet and a joint flight. No need to tell I was most happy with that!
Then some 3 weeks before the flight I received and email from Blue1 informing me that my flight to TLL (which by now I was theoretically still booked on) had undergone some changes and I was now rebooked onto SAS via CPH. Goddamn, that was the last thing I needed right now. After contacting the Blue1 service center and dissing up some fake explanation as to why this new routing was not suitable for me, they kindly rebooked me on the Blue1 BRU-HEL which I was originally to take. Sigh… I was happy now and all set to go on the following simple route: BRU-HEL-RIX-BRU.
On the day of travel, I decided for once to go to the airport with my motorbike, saving me already € 16 on parking fees. The one disadvantage of this is that I had to stow all my gear (jacket, trousers, boots, gloves, helmet and some other stuff) somewhere. A while ago I had bought myself this special Ortlieb bag which can be tightly sealed and locked to I decided to use this one and stuff all my gear in it and lock it up to my bike and hoping it’ll all be there when I came back.
Having done olci the day before (with seat advice from FlyingFinn, thanks!) I immediately proceeded to the A terminal arriving there at about 1h prior to boarding of my first flight.
BRU terminal A shopping arcade:
And the obligatory shot upon entering terminal A:
Interestingly, the inbound flight arrives at 8h40 and doesn’t leave again at 9h50, all scheduled times. That’s a bit of a long ground time, not? Well, at least on time departure would be most likely now.
FIDS at gate, note the codeshare with Brussels Airlines:
Another FIDS, I guess LIS bound passengers will not be happy:
During the little wait, I did spot the usual suspects and used my cell phone to browse on the free WiFi (at least for me) provided at BRU.
To Montréal and to Addis Ababa (you’ll know which one goes where I guess):
Jet’s go to JFK, DEL, MAA, EWR, YYZ, BOM or MUC?
Dedicated to Airbuseric:
Some more Jet’s…
During my wait at the gate I got a text message from FlyingFinn informing me that OH-BLG would have the honors today of bringing me to HEL, and indeed not before long this lovely machine came into sight after smoothly kissing rwy 25R.
OH-BLG inbound from hell… err HEL, perfectly on schedule:
Parked at gate A52:
And OH-BLG indeed!
Boarding started around 9h20 and by the looks of it, the load would be very light this morning. My bp was scanned and I was wished a ‘goede vlucht’ by the friendly gate agent.
Aircraft: B717-200 (B712)
STD-STA: 9h50-13h20 (2h30 flight time)
Shot from the glass jetbridge
My first Finnish words: ‘blue flow’
A friendly nod from one of the 3 female flight attendants and moments later I plunged down into the soft blue cloth seats. Comfy enough with ample legroom, 2 empty seats next to me and a clean window. During the usual welcome announcements in Finnish, Swedish and English I was watching the ground crew loading some cats, their moaning was even heard in the cabin. I wouldn’t like to be boxed in either…
Not ‘raining cats & dogs’ but ‘loading cats & dogs’
Neighbour about to push back
And we are pushing back as well
Who will be going first? (It was us)
On the way to rwy 25L we passed the usual SN big ones, being prepared to fly into the African continent.
Lovely SN A333
There’s Belle and I’m (in) the Beast
Entering 25R for departure
The takeoff run was short and powerful. I took a photo in line with the window which shows how steep we actually went.
Some pics of BRU’s premises…
A look at our departure runway, 25R:
We were in the clouds quickly and after a while established on cruise altitude of 34000 feet. A service run was conducted by the 3 female f/a’s: coffee & tea on the house and the rest was bob. I got myself a cup of tea or two and some delicious chocolate wafers to go with that.
Emerging above the cloud layer:
A view on ‘rural’ Flanders:
And passing by Doel’s nuclear power plant at Antwerp harbor
So what happens when drinking lots of tea: you gotta go! I chose the toilet in the back. The back cabin was quite noisy due to the presence of the engines, luckily FlyingFinn advised me on taking the seats in front.
Cabin shot from the back of the bus
A browse through the inflight magazine revealed this promo article on the Belgian city of Gent.
A while into the flight the front office told us we were speeding at +900 km/h and because of the favorable jetstream today that would give us an ontime arrival. That would prove otherwise later in the day…
Some 30 mins before landing, the sky cleared up some, permitting some nice views down on approaching HEL. I’m sure our ‘local residents’ can call all these views by name!
Interestingly only clouds above land:
Pine forests all the way
After arrival on 22L, we taxied to gate 15 at T1. I bid farewell to the ladies and thanked them for the flight.
For Airbuseric as well:
Bye to the ladies!
Our neighbour still wears the old clothes, as favoured by many among us.
Although I also like these new ones…
I met up with FlyingFinn in T1 and we did some chit chat at a bar (thanks again for the sweets!) while waiting for our flight to RIX to board. Soon enough we went to and through the gate (apparently being the last passengers) and boarded the bus at the bottom of the stairs. We drove off to the apron and stopped in front of this lady:
Under wing shot:
And the tail section:
Upon boarding FlyingFinn advised me of the typical Air Baltic F50 smell I was about to, well… smell and indeed it was nasty.
Aircraft: Fokker-50 (F50)
STD-STA: 14h40-15h45 (1h05 flight time)
Minutes later I found myself in seat 14A at the back, the plane ended up being 100% full. 2 f/a’s on duty on this service. After the demo, we went off on our own power and left the buildings via rwy 22L.
The legroom was acceptable on this one but the cabin looked in general very well used, no wonder on this 21y old bird.
Upon climbout I was met again with some lovely Helsinki views:
Service was bob as expected, I got myself a Twix bar. A quick word from the flight deck announcing an ontime arrival in sunny Riga. That sounded promising. Meanwhile the f/a’s also advised connecting passengers on the gate numbers for their next flight.
Passing by the city of Tallinn:
And the city of Pärnu and it’s airport:
Closing in on Riga, this is the mouth of the Daugava river, flowing through the city.
Still following the coast:
And passing by what appears to be a water refinery station:
After touching down on rwy18 in not-so-sunny Riga (where did the guys in the flight deck see this sun then?), we taxied to our apron stand from where a bus would bring us to the terminal.
Smartlynx: nice machine!
One last cabin shot, you can actually see on every corner of the seat that is has been touched a lot!
Bye bye now!
Once in the terminal, FlyingFinn was able to guest me into his second home (as he calls it): the Air Baltic lounge, a nice little tranquil place.
There was a nice view:
We talked some more this & that but soon enough the lounge staff came to advise me that my flight was boarding. I said FlyingFinn goodbye and went off to gate B7 to get onboard. I overheard one of the passengers complaining to the gate staff that ‘normally they have a “37” to BRU and now this little machine’. He had to give his rollercase to the loaders when arriving at the plane because there was not enough place in the overhead bins. Tsss…
Aircraft: Bombardier Dash 8-400
STD-STA: 17h15-18h40 (3h25 flight time)
Lovely looking Dash, only 8 months old (dedicated to Palmjet)
Some company traffic:
I wanted to get the registration but due to the fuselage curvature at the back end I had to move quite a distance from the line in which everyone was queuing to board. I decided not to bother and look at it later. By now it was raining anyway…
I like this angle!
A modern aircraft according to the titles on the fuselage:
I plunged into my seat, window last row after a warm welcome from 1 of the 2 male f/a’s, this plane would also fill up to ‘all seats taken’ meaning a seat, err… a suitmate next to me. Flight time was announced as a lengthy 2h55 mins. Later on I found out why…
Leaving the gate after being pushed away:
And off we roll via rwy 18:
And liftoff into the rainy Latvian skies…
Yep, most definitely NOT sunny!
Halfway through the flight, the English captain came on the horn and shared some of the flightdata with us: we were cruising at (only) 500 km/h into a strong jetstream at about 7,5 km altitude. Now that explains the long flighttime. This morning the B717 was almost twice as fast with favourable winds.
How it looked from the inside:
Now as much as I like the Dash, 3h being seated in these narrow seats with a seatmate with broad shoulders was not exactly to my liking but I just glued my eyes to the window and watched the clouds flow by…
The f/a’s came round with snacks and drinks and since I had not eaten a decent meal since morning breakfast I decided to splurge myself into a hot chicken/cheese sandwich for € 3,5. It was huge and tasty!
It was a tight fit between seats, seatmate and backpack. Luckily I could recline the seat!
Getting nearer to destination BRU, the clouds lifted up and I was again able to enjoy some nice views.
Somewhere over The Netherlands:
I can’t exactly tell which airport this is…
Nor do I know where this is (at least somewhere in the south of The Netherlands):
After indeed some 2h40 mins, the engines throttled back and we started our final approach into BRU’s rwy 25L.
Original publicity stunt from radio station ‘Q-Music’, refering to their summer beachhouse located at the North Seaside:
After a smooth touchdown, followed by hard braking (I almost got projected into the seat in front), we made our way to the A terminal and docked in at gate 65.
While walking to the finger, I was able to spot the registration luckily:
And so another nice day of flying came sadly to an end. A quick walk and some 15 mins later I was back at my motorbike with all my gear still at the same place at which I left it in the morning, phew…
So all good experiences today on blue & green, with today’s highlight definitely being the Blue1 B717. I also would like to thank FlyingFinn for his company and advice, it was a pleasure meeting you! "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day" (© Vera Lynn).
Thanks for taking the time to read and feel free to post your comments,