RE3600: Shannon Airport (SNN) – Manchester Airport (MAN)
U21899: Manchester Airport (MAN) – Schönefeld Airport (SXF)
EI335: Schönefeld Airport (SXF) – Dublin Airport (DUB)
RE257: Dublin Airport (DUB) – Kerry Airport (KIR)
With only two months to go before my Aer Lingus voucher expired (with €125 left on it), it was time to decide how to use the remainder. With all of my college counterparts on co-op and teaching practice placements for the semester (myself included), the October mid-term break – running last year from Monday, 31st October to Friday, 4th November – proved the perfect time for a getaway with a few friends. We decided to visit Germany where a friend of ours was on Erasmus (study abroad within the Europe) in the city of Jena. In keeping with my embargo of taking O&D flights out of Dublin or Cork, this routing suited me best. Of course, it proved uneconomical for my travelling party to take my route, SNN-MAN-SXF and SXF-DUB-KIR due to expense and what they perceive as time-wasting. Also, they did not have an Aer Lingus voucher to burn. So we went our separate ways and hoped for the best. They booked return tickets with Ryanair from Kerry to Frankfurt-Hahn and would make their way to Jena from there.
I was up bright and early Monday morning, the 31st of October, Halloween. My flight to Manchester would leave Shannon at 07:00. I was up at 04:30 and my mother was dropping off at the airport an hour later. I checked in the day before on aerlingus.com but didn’t print my boarding pass because I wanted a “real” one for a change!
I tried using the Fastpass kiosk but it instructed me to go to the desk. There were only five people in line and two desks were open so it moved fast.
Also checking-in was the CO25 service to New York-Newark and the EI380 to London-Heathrow. I went straight through security with no one in front of me and into the Loop shop which was severely downsized from my last visit. This was due to a €1m overhaul and renovation of the existing facility – the first Duty Free shop in the world. It was to be completed in mid-December.
On to WHSmith then for a quick browse around.
Aer Lingus Regional uses Gates 1 and 2 at Shannon. This morning’s flight to Manchester would be through Gate 1. I’m fascinated with gates and the whole boarding process.
Aer Lingus A320 “St Brendan” parked at Gate 4
Boarding was announced at 06:35 for all passengers and I was onboard at 06:45.
Date Monday, 31st October 2011
Airline Aer Lingus Regional
Aircraft ATR 72-200
Tail No. EI-SLN
Aircraft Name St Cormac/Cormac
Scheduled Departure 07:00 WET
Actual Departure 06:52 WET
Departure Terminal & Gate Gate 1
Departure Taxi Route D1, D2, RWY24
Weather at Departure Overcast, mild, winds SSW
Scheduled Arrival 08:20 WET
Actual Arrival 08:17 WET
Arrival Terminal & Gate Terminal 1, Gate 7
Arrival Taxi Route RWY23R, AE, AF, A, A4, B3, B4, D4, J8, JE
Weather at Arrival Mostly cloudy, winds SW
Seat No. 7A
Captain Siobhán Ahern
First Officer Agnes Downer
Cabin Manager Sharon
Actual Flight Time 1 hour, 25 minutes
This particular aircraft has been painted twice within the last 12 months. It was painted in the latest Aer Arann Regional green livery but then changed into the Aer Lingus Regional one. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the incident involving a fellow ATR 72-200, EI-SLM in July.
Anyway, once onboard we were greeted by the all-female crew. Captain Ahern gave her welcoming announcement and anticipated an ontime arrival in Manchester with weather conditions similar to those at Shannon. The flight was quite full. I later counted 64 passengers in total when we disembarked which would have made for an 89% load factor.
We pushed back at 06:52 and both engines were started soon after. The cabin lights flickered on startup. We started taxiing at 06:56 after the crew safety demo and we were off Runway 24 at 07:02.
The sun came up soon after takeoff. This was taken on our descent into Manchester
The flight was uneventful and very smooth. Ten minutes after takeoff the crew offered the SkyCafé and SkyShopping services with very few takers.
We were put in a holding pattern before our approach but only lasted five minutes. We were cleared for final approach at 08:09 and we touched down on 23R at 08:13.
After exiting the runway the left engine was turned off. We were on-stand at Terminal 1, Gate 7 at 08:17.
A bus was waiting to take us from the aircraft to the arrivals hall and baggage claim even though we were at a contact stand. I found this odd.
I got something to eat and wasted no time in finding “The Station” for a bus to take me to The Runway viewing park. The bus runs every hour and there were five others waiting for the bus also. The fare was £2.60 return. This service is run by Cheshire East Council – bus #200, the Styal Shuttle.
The very first movement I saw when I got to the park! EK17 arriving from Dubai
Lufthansa Regional flight CL3427 departing for Stuttgart
Aer Lingus flight EI206 arriving from Dublin
Turkish Airlines flight TK1994 rotating for Istanbul-Atatürk
Blue Islands flight SI502 after arriving from Jersey
BMI Regional flight BD1370 from Aberdeen
Swiss European Air Lines flight LX379 heading to Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight KL1083 taxiing in after landing from Amsterdam
This was as close as I could get to the Concorde unfortunately…
Taken from Ringways Café; Qatar Airways flight QR45 from Doha
Aer Arann flight RE568 heading to Waterford
Ryanair flight FR556 arriving from Dublin
Aer Arann flight RE516 in Aer Lingus Regional colours departing for Galway
Ireland seems well represented here!
Etihad Airways flight EY21 from Abu Dhabi
EK18 going back to Dubai after only 1 hour, 45 minutes at the gate!
It was getting a bit nippy so I decided to head back to the terminals on the next bus which leaves the park every hour on the 25s. There was just myself and an elderly man that got on the bus and he asked me where I was from. We got chatting about Ireland and how it had changed since the 50s when he last visited.
It was approaching 15:00 and my connection to Berlin was not due to depart until 18:05. I had planned on going into Manchester but had stayed longer than planned at The Runway and would be short on time if I went into town now – especially since I was not checked-in for my onward flight. The check-in for U21899 would not open until 16:05. I got something to eat and looked around the landside part of Terminal 3. There’s not too much to see here though.
I checked-in at 16:05 and went straight to security. There was quite a queue but I wasn’t waiting more than five minutes. I went through the metal detector and it beeped. It doesn’t usually beep for me but this time it did, even though I was quite sure I had no metal on me. I was asked to step onto the two “footprints” of the full body scanner and hold my hands up. This was my first time doing so and only took a few seconds. I was then asked to remove my shoes and put them through a little shoe scanner. I must say, it’s been a while since I came across a security procedure as rigorous as this.
To be honest, I was not impressed with Terminal 3. It was dark and dreary and there were so many people crammed into the departure lounge there were no seats to be found. There’s a solution to this and it is to display all gates on the monitors like in Ireland and the US but alas, they may lose out on precious retail revenue in the overpriced shops. Also, windows for viewing the ramp operations were quite limited I found but how’s ever…
It wasn’t long before the gate for flight U21899 was displayed and everyone made a mad dash to Gate 54. The same lad who checked me in was at the podium with a female colleague of his. They were giggling away like schoolgirls and I found it amusing to watch him attempt to maintain a straight face as he announced the phased boarding process while yer wan was still laughing away to herself! A hefty queue had built up by the time boarding was underway and I knew it would be a fairly full flight. EasyJet doesn’t assign seats.
MAN-SXF was a new route for EasyJet, only a few weeks old as a matter of fact. The unofficial load factor (calculated by yours truly) was between 90% and 95%. The aircraft was a newer Airbus A319, G-EZFJ. It would by my first time flying on this model of the A320 family. I was onboard shortly after 17:30 and all passengers were boarded via the airbridge.
Date Monday, 31st October 2011
Aircraft Airbus A319
Tail No. G-EZFJ
Aircraft Name –
Scheduled Departure 18:05 WET
Actual Departure 17:58 WET
Departure Terminal & Gate Terminal 3, Gate 54
Departure Taxi Route (N/A)
Weather at Departure Overcast, winds W
Scheduled Arrival 21:05 CET
Actual Arrival 20:48 CET
Arrival Terminal & Gate Terminal B, Gate 1
Arrival Taxi Route (N/A)
Weather at Arrival Poor visibility, winds E
Seat No. 22F
First Officer Paul Timmins
Cabin Manager Shelly
Actual Flight Time 1 hour, 50 minutes
The middle seat stayed empty but an older gentleman with poor English sat in the aisle seat. At 17:50 the front and rear doors were closed and we heard from the flight deck. Captain Hooksley (sp?) projected a flying time of 1 hour and 35 minutes. He wasn’t too far off. Recorded announcements were played in German about not blocking the aisle while stowing luggage. We pushed back from the gate at 17:58 and the engines were started. We began taxiing towards Runway 23R at 18:03 – I presume RWY23L was taken out of service for the quieter night time hours – or maybe they had just switched them between takeoffs and landings.
The cabin lights were turned off for takeoff and we were off the pavement at 18:08. The fasten-seatbelts signs were turned off just four minutes later and the lights were turned on full-whack. The cabin crew wasted no time in starting the snacks/shopping/general selling process. I didn’t buy anything.
Our cruising altitude was 39,000 feet, as informed by the captain at 18:34 WET. We had just left the UK coastline. The flight itself was uneventful; very smooth flying throughout and the crew were always up and down the aisle offering something or another to buy.
At 20:25 CET we began our descent into Berlin. We touched down on Runway 07 at 20:43 with very light braking action and absolutely no use of the reverse thrust. I found this unusual especially for the heavy load we had. I had good views of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport terminal to my right however the pictures didn’t come out great. We were onstand at Terminal A (Gate 1) at 20:48.
We walked up the stairs of Stand 64 and into a room where there were two immigration booths. It took about five minutes to get through. It turns out each gate has one of these immigration “rooms” instead of just one communal area. I walked out through baggage claim and straight to the Information Desk where I needed to call my hotel for my shuttle. “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” I asked in my best German accent and the lady smiled and said she did. She directed me to the phone kiosk which had the Freephone numbers for all the airport hotels. I would be staying in the Leonardo. I was asked to wait outside Terminal B and the shuttle would be over in five minutes. It cost €5 which I later found out to be a rip off as I could have taken the S-Bahn from Schönefeld to Grünbergallee (right next to the hotel) for around €2.70.
The hotel was nothing out of the ordinary, cheap enough which was fine. I went straight to bed after a long day of travelling when I arrived.
The next morning I was up early and it was straight to the centre of Berlin to catch my train to Frankfurt am Main to meet “the lads” (we were not now meeting up in Jena as previously planned – long story). I was nervous as I had to change S-Bahn lines to get to the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station). I didn’t have a word of German except for “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” and was my first real test of the “big bad world”. I am happy to report, after ten minutes of trying to work out the S-Bahn ticket machine and frantically looking at my map at every station, I passed with flying colours and got to the Hauptbahnhof about an hour later.
The entrance to my hotel
On arrival at Hbf., I purchased my return high-speed ticket. I couldn’t buy it online at the savings price as I didn’t have the right form of ID (I needed a credit card to show on the train with my own name but I don’t have my own one). €226 return…well worth it
The ICE train departed at 12:31 and I arrived in Frankfurt at 16:46. My friends were waiting for me at the end of the platform and we went for dinner. From then on the rest of the night is a blur. Glad I have these pictures to piece it together!
Needless to say, we ended up at a German strip club! I’ll leave out some of the more explicit pictures!
The next morning we were to be out of the hostel at 10:00. After not getting back until close to 06:00, it was painful, but had to be done. We walked to the train station where most of the group would get the shuttle bus to Hahn and from there, fly back to Kerry on the FR5705. Myself and one female companion would board trains back to Berlin and Jena respectively around the 13:00 mark. We had time to kill so we walked around Frankfurt. I like this city very much. It never really jumps out as a great tourist city-break spot but I found it to be very clean and with lots to see.
The shuttle bus to HHN
The European Central Bank
We got something to eat, walked back to the station, said our goodbyes and after a few hours I was back in Berlin.
The main Hbf. in Berlin is like a shopping centre so I spent a good bit of time looking around and buying souvenirs and the like. There was a Dunkin’ Donuts here too which I had to visit and load up on. I went for a walk outside too but didn’t get far for fear of getting lost. It was dark too so I couldn’t navigate properly.
I then bought my tickets for the S-Bahn back to the airport hotel. To be honest, I was disappointed I didn’t see more of Berlin. The whole thing was very poorly co-ordinated and organised as a group – we had originally intended on meeting up and staying in Jena and and sightseeing in Berlin but then minds were changed after I had my flights booked…I’m sure I’ll be back again someday though.
After a well-deserved good night’s sleep, I was up late the next morning to head to SXF for my trip home. I was offered the airport shuttle bus provided by the hotel for €5, but I had learned my lesson now that taking the S-Bahn from down the road was about €2 cheaper.
The train journey took about five minutes.
There are four “terminals” (check-in halls) at SXF. EI uses Terminal D.
Germany appears to follow the same policy of the UK where gate information is withheld.
Aeroflot flight SU114 bound for Moscow-Sheremetyevo
Aeroflot has four daily flights between SXF and SVO.
The gate for EI335 soon appeared and a group of us headed up the stairs and into a different concourse towards Gate 10. It became apparent that this would be a very full flight. All passengers had to go through a passport check before entering the gate holding area.
Boarding was called slightly late at 15:40 – the scheduled departure time was 15:55 and this flight was going to be jam packed by the looks of it. I was onboard at 15:58.
There are three airbridges at SXF
Date Thursday, 3rd November 2011
Airline Aer Lingus
Aircraft Airbus A320-214
Tail No. EI-DVF
Aircraft Name St Jarlath/Jarlath
Scheduled Departure 15:55 CET
Actual Departure 16:13 CET
Departure Terminal & Gate Terminal D, Gate 10
Departure Taxi Route (N/A)
Weather at Departure Slight fog, partly sunny
Scheduled Arrival 17:20 WET
Actual Arrival 17:44 WET
Arrival Terminal & Gate Terminal 2, Gate 417
Arrival Taxi Route RWY10, E3, B3, B2, Link 1, Stand 407
Weather at Arrival Mostly clear, winds SW
Seat No. 27A
Captain Stephen O’Reilly
First Officer Shane Egan
Cabin Manager Pamela Martin
Actual Flight Time 2 hours, 31 minutes
I was onboard at 15:58 and took my seat at 27A. There was a broken plastic cup in the seat pocket in front of me from a previous flight but sure you’ll have that. The cabin crew were bombarding us with announcements about the “extremely” full flight, how they were aiming for as close a departure to schedule as possible and to stow smaller carry-on baggage under the seat in front as all overhead bins were now full. Eventually, people were asked to bring some items up front so they could be placed in the hold.
All passengers were asked to be seated while the crew undertook a mandatory head count. I notice other airlines don’t do this so how mandatory must it be? The door was closed at 16:05. Captain O’Reilly had already introduced himself at this stage and gave the usual information about routing, altitude, weather at DUB etc. All 174 seats on this flight were taken – if not, very close to it. The safety demo was carried out at 16:11 and we were pushed back at 16:13. The demo was played in German afterwards but the crew did not go through the motions again.
The new BER in the distance
There was a nut-allergy sufferer on board so passengers were asked to leave all nut products in their baggage during the course of the flight. We taxiied towards Runway 07 at 16:17. We stopped short of the runway on the parallel taxiway for some time to let an incoming private aircraft land, a Norwegian 737 takeoff and an EasyJet A319 to land. I was conscious at this point of my short connection time at DUB and how my delayed flight from Berlin would impact it.
We were airborne at 16:32 CET
It stayed overcast outside for most of the flight. There were lots of purchases made in the SkyCafé which was offered. I chose not to have anything; I find this buy-on-board stuff very overpriced. During the SkyShopping service, as the crew passed with the cart, one remarked to the other “doesn’t it feel like nine o’clock or something, it’s very late!”. Of course by this time, darkness had set in. Our cruising altitude for the most part of the flight was 39,000 feet the first officer indicated.
Descent began at 17:15 WET shortly after leaving the British coastline. We approached to the north of DUB making an anticlockwise turn to line up for a Runway 10 approach. We were on the ground at 17:39 and on-stand at Terminal 2, Gate 417 at 17:44; 24 minutes behind schedule. I now had 76 minutes until my flight to KIR was scheduled to leave the gate.
Disembarking could be done through door 1L which was connected to an airbridge or 4L via airstairs. I chose the latter as I was closer to that exit.
There was a huge queue for GNIB (immigration) but luckily it was fairly fast-moving and I was in the arrivals hall within about 15 minutes. I was kicking myself that I hadn’t checked in online for my Aer Arann flight so I could fast-track to Terminal 1 via the airside connections channel. I now just had one hour with the RE check-in desk closing in 15 minutes.
I walked briskly to T1 via the landside bridge:
When I got to the RE desk there was nobody in line so I had no hassle getting my boarding pass. This would be my first ever mainline Aer Arann flight. The boarding pass still had the “Celtic triskeles” design against the blue background. It did not display a gate number which I thought was unusual. I never thought to ask for a window seat and was just relieved I made it in time. I was assigned to 7C.
I went to the domestic/business class security fast-track and I was through in no time at all as once again, this queue was completely deserted. I suppose it may have been a quiet time of the evening too. I grabbed a sandwich from one of the little shops near T1X and went straight through to Pier A where my fligh