The meeting point was at school for everyone on the trip so that one coach could take us on our 40 minute (1 hour 10 by coach) journey to Manchester Airport on a really nice, cloud-less day!
Once everyone was on board the coach with suitcases underneath we set off for the airport arriving ontime. Once we got there, we made our way into my absolute favourite terminal at Manchester (sarcasm) - aka the Windowless Hell Hole of Terminal 1. Icelandair's check-in is round the back of the main area where Lufthansa, Swiss and Aer Arann are. That was when we discovered that 2 schools were already there waiting to be checked in! So, we were told to wait (well, block the entire area) while they sorted them out and directed regular travellers with Icelandair (e.g. the ones not on a school trip) to the Saga Business class desk to check-in. After about half an hour, we were assigned 3 counters for just our group and were soon checked in. Those that had the soft sports bags were told to go to the other baggage drop after getting them tagged, however my suitcase (a normal one) was fine to go normally. After this, we headed through security where they have the same setup as Terminal 3 (and I presume Terminal 2) with the doors that swing open to either freedom or a full body scanner. Luckily, I was able to proceed straight out to the open and get my bag ready to go through into the shopping centre that Terminal 1 has become. It was then that I noticed I had seat 20E! Oh gawd, not a window... more on that in a minute
I headed through to WHSmiths to get a copy of Airliner World (ha! they didn't have any there...) so bought a Jeremy Clarkson book instead and had a chicken thing from Burger King. After about 40 minutes, it was time to go to Gate 23 where boarding had just commenced.
Flight Number: FI441
Aircraft Type: Boeing 757-200
Aircraft Reg: TF-LLX
Departure Gate: 23
Arrival Gate: Stand 10 / Gate 30?
Seat: 20E, changed to 21A
Flight Duration: reported as 2 Hours, 10 Minutes
Date: 22nd October 2011
Photo © Leor
Photo © Serge Dejonckheere
I glanced out of the window at the gate whilst boarding (not a great window to be honest, I could only see a wing!) and noticed: No Winglet! It was then that I thought "this could be interesting...". Once on board, I noticed cloth seats and the typical old cabins the 757-200s have (the classic Boeing narrow body sort with the old overhead bins). I turned right (we boarded through 2L) and made my way to Row 20. When I got there, someone from my school said "Is it alright if I swap to sit next to my mate?" - I said "which seat is yours?" - "21A" - "Sure, no problem " - I couldn't imagine anyone giving up a Window for a Middle!
As I sat down, I noticed something: No AVOD! I thought this was standard on Icelandair... This is because TF-LLX has been returned to Icelandair from another carrier and as a result is in a semi-icelandair livery
However, we all got a free packet of Crisps in the seat pocket, free headphones (for the drop down LCDs) and free PSP hire if we wanted to.
bmi A320 G-MIDY next to us, operating for LH I presume
The safety video was played on the drop down screens as we pushed back. Here's where it gets interesting too: the crew just sat down after arming the doors - no seatbelt checks etc! Therefore, I was able to shoot the following video (trimmed down a bit):
Soon enough, we began our taxi out to 23R (I presume due to lunchtime noise restrictions) past the airport pub. After a short wait, we were cleared to take off and up into the hazy Manchester sky:
After a while, the service began with handing out forms for PSPs and then complimentary soft drinks, then eventually Buy on Board. There was a movie shown (no airshow by the way) on the overhead screens but I can't remember the name of it. I do remember that it was "quite new" (remark from a friend). I spent most of the flight reading and listening to music, which brings me to my tune of the week (people who follow me on twitter should know these are regular by now): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wxu02vp_Vm0
About 25 minutes to landing, the captain came on saying we had started the decent into KEF and announced "Cabin Crew 25 minutes to landing, secure cabin and report" - different to what I've heard before, however I'm sure this varies between airlines. With that, the seatbelt sign was switched on and down we went.
The approach into KEF was for runway 02 and what an approach! It was just like totally flat with little civilization until we saw a road (see the video in a second). I feel a bit stupid saying Iceland isn't as big as England and "about the same size as Wales" - I stand corrected... After landing I got asked about 3 different questions "What are those" (referring to the spoilers) "Could you land better than that?" and "Why would people not stop in Iceland?". After that (trying to explain this in the easiest way possible as the people asking aren't aviation geeks like me) I stopped the video to spare another friend the embarrassment of us all singing Happy Birthday to him (lucky him, flying FI and a 757 to Iceland on his 17th Birthday!)
We soon came to rest on a remote stand at the end of the Non-Schengen pier and deplaned via 1 set of stairs located at Door 2L. This meant it took a little while and unfortunately, I would have loved to stop and take a picture but the ground staff were getting us to hurry up a bit so I went straight into the arrivals level of KEF.
After entering the arrivals area, we then went up to passport control (which was only about 10 minutes). I was surprised by the security scanners not being on or manned or anything as after passport control we were airside again! Another set of stairs from Departures takes you down to baggage claim (one-way doors and a security man guards these) and the bags were just coming out as we got down.
After this, we went straight out and boarded the coach that would take us to the Blue Lagoon and around Iceland for the 3/4 days we were there. Here are a few pictures from Iceland:
Blue Lagoon - Loved the changing rooms
One of many waterfalls
Sunset near Vik
Sunset and Sea Fog near Vik
In the Rift Valley & River (where North America meets Europe)
That Bastard (excuse language, I said worse on the trip) Volcano (I think it was...)
Being woken up in the Hotel Cabin at 4.30am is not a fun experience... however, I was flying! So, I got ready and headed out to board the coach for the last time to the airport. Once we arrived at KEF, we noticed that another school party (different to the other two with us on the flight out) was already in the queue for check-in however after 20 minutes, I was up (very efficient process, all the desks were open and staff friendly). I said "good morning" and asked if they have any window seats left, the reply was "sorry, I don't - the seats are all preassigned" and with that, my bag tagged and sent off and I was handed a boarding pass with "Have a nice flight!" - looked at it: 20E (oh gawd!). However, everyone on our trip (except my mate who your hear in the videos, but more on that in a minute) got the exact same seats (I think it was alphabetical order or something). So, the same guy who I swapped with last time asked me "do you mind swapping again?" - "not at all " and I ended up with a free middle seat as well as a window seat!
Went through KEF security - quite quick, in fact hardly a queue, but a stringent pain! They made everyone remove their shoes (which when you're wearing converse high tops, an inconvenience is an understatement) however, I was through without a problem and they do provide a nice seating area just ahead to allow people to move out of the way and sort themselves out (plus the staff were friendly, one picked up a child's toy bear and waved it through the metal detector to get the child to walk through with a smile). Duty Free offered a nice range of shops and eateries and ways to buy gifts/blow your last remaining Krona (most things priced *99 just so you end up with many worthless 1 Krona coins... - there was a charity box though). Things were reasonably priced too and even had a nice Blue Lagoon shop there!
Another nice thing with KEF is your flight shows a gate from very early on. Overall, KEF is a great experience! At about 25 minutes to the scheduled departure time, I made my way towards Gate 9 for the flight to MAN. Once through passport control, you are in a holding area, through the window I could see my 757-200 WITH WINGLETS! Once on board, I noticed newer leather seats (I preferred the cloth ones, these gave you a numb arse after a while) and AVOD.
Flight Number: FI440
Aircraft Type: Boeing 757-200WL
Aircraft Reg: TF-FIO
Departure Gate 9
Arrival Gate: Gate 23
Seat: 20E, changed to 21A
Flight Duration:2 Hours, 10 Minutes
Date: 26th October 2011
Photo © Gary Claridge-king
Photo © Trevor Thornton
I would be interested to see which system FI use (I think it's the THALES i5000 one) but the main cooling/unit was mounted in an overhead bin near door 2L... the system was sluggish and many didn't work properly. E.g. mine wouldn't play some things that others would, but Airshow worked (so I watched that and listened to my music). My teacher's PTV wasn't working at all (was stuck on the Icelandic/English language page, he kept tapping English very hard and even Icelandic and it didn't work). He came and sat in the free middle seat near me (his original seat was a window seat). The AVOD system was running from after the safety video (played on the PTVs) until we were near the gate at the other end (so essentially gate to gate).
We began taxing out and I noticed the crew were a bit more stringent with checking for seatbelts, iPods, tray tables, phones, bags etc... I also tried to do another video, but have only got the taxi part of it as my camera ran out of memory right at the take-off roll! ARRGH! Well, you've got a HD taxi video! Haha - listen towards the end (it went out of focus due to the low light and rain) you can hear one of the teachers ask to sit next to me & the other boy on my trip (who you hear get told not to use colourful language):
On this flight there was no free crisps or headphones, but it works with your normal headphones (yes! no two-pronged things). Soft drinks were complimentary again.
We cruised at 39 000ft and made an on-time landing on 23R at Manchester using THE ENTIRE RUNWAY! I shit you not, we exited on almost the last taxiway! I think there was a strong crosswind but we didn't half slam the brakes on (I heard the thrust reversers too) - I was pushed forward it was that hard!
We taxied back to Gate 23 and deplaned there.
And we deplaned (via 2L) into the windowless hell of Terminal 1 again and went down to baggage claim. I didn't think they fitted so much into Terminal 1! It felt like we walked a long way to get to passport control from a gate so close to the main building! Passport control was quick (and friendly too! The bloke asked me "what was the weather like over there?" and with a smile said "thank-you") however bags took half an hour at least... I was about to press "tweet" on my phone to Manchester airport to say "I'm waiting" when the first bag appeared. Still took another 10 for mine!
Out we went and into the open boarded the coach back, avoiding a crowded M6... and I was back at school at about 1.45pm.
So, that sadly ends my adventure into the land of fire and ice. Iceland is a fantastic country, only 300 000 people live there and the country itself is bigger then England (not smaller than Wales as I first thought...). I only really skimmed the surface of it and I will go back there in the future for longer. FI was as they advertise, on time, decent seat legroom, very helpful and friendly staff, the only thing letting them down is the cabin crew. They wern't overly friendly nor were they that safety concious on the flight from MAN. The return cabin crew from KEF were no problem. Overall, I'm very pleased with them and will fly with them again!