A long long time ago, back in the year of 2011 a group of people known as the trip reporters of airliners.net gathered their bright minds and began laying the foundations for a little something we call a ”meet”. Following the success of the previous meet held in Frankfurt that very same year, the group of trip reporters drew their attention towards the north, this time.
Being the gateway from continental Europe to the arctic north, Arlanda offers some spectacular traffic including an array of regional carriers operating all kinds of exotic types few people even knew existed, a wet dream indeed for any well dedicated aviation enthusiast which is why Arlanda was chosen as the location for the meet.
Flying all the way to the arctic Sweden on a mundane 737 or Airbus, only to socialise with the faces behind the usernames was not enough for one certain a.netter. Trip reports legend, fedora spokesman, subculture icon, fellow author and friend P, also known as FlyingFinn76 (or more commonly FlyingFinn, since some bastard already stole that name before him), or PetteriFinn as I refer to call him, had another trick up his sleeve. He suggested that we as the esteemed men of the trip reporter’s society would embark on a little side-trip to Tallinn, and as a treat a one hour hop on the Saab 340 was thrown in to sweeten the deal, supposedly as a way for our European friends to take part of the Arlanda magic.
Tickets on the Estonian Saab sold for €59, which to me is a ripoff considering the flight is only one hours long. However at the very same time the very same Finn informed me about the Air Baltic Cherry Tuesday sale, where tickets to Tallinn via Riga could be found for as low as €59 rt for all 4 legs. To me this was a no-brainer, and the tickets were booked in an instance. With pride, I later on announced my presence at the meet’s Facebook page, before running off for school.
– The Big Meet at Arlanda
The weekend we had all been waiting for had finally come. Following my über climax trip on SWISS to Shanghai, a spontaneous getaway to Visby, an unsuccessful ”lounge&studies” trip to Gothenburg, and a failed accounting exam, I woke up feeling strangely relaxed after a good night’s sleep. Something highly unusual the night prior to traveling on an aeroplane, I gently got up from my bed at 7.30am. With all the morning formalities done, I picked up my trustworthy camera backpack and headed out for the train station to catch the 8.14am train to Arlanda Airport via Sala.
Following the swift connection in Sala, I was onboard the SJ InterCity train headed for Arlanda. For a saturday morning departure, the train was fairly crowded. Having pre-ordered a breakfast baggie for the reasonable cost of €2,30, I made my way over to the Bistro car to pick it up.
The breakfast baggie consisted of the standard items, a wholegrain sandwich with cucumber, Wästgöta cheese, and red bell peppers. A tub of Finnish Valio yoghurt, a bottle of artificial off-brand orange juice, and an apple. Coffee was provided as well. While the taste was seemingly mediocre, the contents were filling and provided me with some well needed energy for the day. Shortly after finishing my bag of Scandinavian breakfast delights, the train pulled in at the Arlanda SkyCity railway station bang on time at 9.53am.
I quickly made my way up the escalators and into bright and airy halls of SkyCity. While wandering around like a duckling lost from its pack, I turned my head up towards the lounge chair floor where I noticed a distinct shape of a fedora, indicating that the party was indeed in full swing. After making my way up the spiral staircase, I was instantly greeted welcome by Eric who at glance appeared to have gotten quite in good shape and lost a few years of age since the last time I saw him. Following that I quickly met up with the rest, and conducted the expected greet and meet.
Following some chit-chatting while awaiting for the rest to show up, the group later on split in half. One half headed out in the cold for the guided tour of the Caravelle, parked somewhere far away in the vicinity of the SAS Maintenance Hangar, while the rest remained inside. I as expected chose not to expose myself to the arctic cold, and remained inside. Soon Eric suggested that we all should head off for some early lunch at his favourite pizza joint, Sbarro.
Having just eaten breakfast on the train, I was not in the mood for splurging out some of my well needed cash on some overpriced airport pizza. So with a little bit of my boyish charm, I managed to come over some garlic bread courtesy of the house. As we gathered up around the rectangular table, resembling a medieval feast we were later joined by our two British friends Palmjet and Lee, who after a very expensive beer in London arrived in Stockholm one day late. Mark and Brewox, who apparently were on the same flight came to join us as well. Following the words ”It’s beer o’clock isn’t it?” from Mark, came a steady stream of Falcon Lager. I on the other hand settled for a café latte, and thanks to my boyish charm I was served a large one, despite paying for the smallest one.
My thriftiness experienced by my fellow reporters in real life, along with my controversial terminology of faux crapola came to be a major topic during the meet. Of course, the only thing at my expense were the jokes which quite frankly I could live with (as long as not having to splurge on overpriced airport stuff). We later continued to the restaurant above the departures floor at T5, where more beer was consumed. And time surely flies when you’re having fun, as it was soon time for Petteri, Eric and the rest of the gang to catch their cherished Saab to Tallinn. Since my notorious Fokker, aka Baltic Phoenix was departing one hour later, I stayed at the restaurant for a little while longer with Marc, Lee and Palmjet (who would be spending the evening in Stockholm) + Mark and Brewox (Who would soon be off back to London).
The time was spent gossiping and catching up, only to be interrupted by the historic blue little Saab, carrying a record breaking amount of trip reporters. With drizzling jaws we watched the plane taxi by, and take off before re-engaging into our conversations. Mark and Brewox later on bid us goodbye as it was time for them to catch the London flight on BA, and soon it was time for me also to hop on the Fokker to Riga. I bid the men goodbye, wishing them a pleasant evening in Stockholm, before heading off to security.
Having already picked up my boarding passes from the manual check-in counter, I headed off towards the security area located at the far end of the SAS concourse. The screening process was seemingly slow due to a pair of holiday makers carrying an excessive amount of gizmos in their hand luggage. I seriously don’t see a point for bringing a plethora of Apple products when going away for a week in the sun. Fine the iPhone is can be brought for some sweet tunes on the plane, but do you also have to bring the Macbook and two both your iPads? Nevertheless it’s none of my business, and they were kind enough to let me pass ahead while re-arranging their items. The screening was passed in a jiffy, and soon I was released into the vastness of the T5 taxfree shopping mall.
With some 25 minutes to kill prior to my flight boarding, I was planning to spend them wandering around the shops since. However as I passed Café Ritazza I noticed them offering a cup of Espresso for the very reasonable price of 10 SEK. So with no further ado, the place got to act as a stand-in lounge for me, that afternoon
The espresso tasted nice and strong, as proper espresso should. And after zipping it for a prolonged while, the time for boarding had finally come. I gathered up my stuff and headed towards Gate 4, where my flight was leaving from.
Flight: BT103 ARN-RIX
Duration: 1h 15m
Date: January 14th 2012
Seat & Class: 2A Economy Class
Aircraft & Reg: Fokker 50 YL-BAR
The gate area was strangely empty, which isn’t really surprising considering the poor financial state of the airline. Very soon boarding was called over the speakers, and after having had our BP’s promptly scanned by the grumpy agent, we were led down a staircase taking us to the apron.
At the door, I was met by a seemingly scrumptious flight attendant asking me whether I took a picture of her. After assuring her that I was only photographing the plane, she welcomed me onboard. She was the sole cabin crew member of this flight which made sense, since barely half of the seats were taken. I quickly made my way to my seat on the A side of the 2nd row. Stowing the backpack in the overhead turned out to be a bit of a challenge due to the small size of the bins. In the end I managed to fit it in the bin, and the Doc Martens were thrown up there as well.
The cabin was fitted with blue fabric seats, looking very to the ones found on SAS. I’m guessing the colour scheme must’ve been a leftover from the days when SAS owned their stake in Air Baltic. The seats however were very uncomfortable, the lumbar support was f*cked up and the cushion was worn to the extent of needing replacement, which resulted in some numb buttocks midway through the flight. Legroom was acceptable, although not compensating for the poor ergonomics of the seat. To make matters worse, the windows had a very low placing resulting in some neck pain while trying to take pictures. The cabin smell was not a big issue however, but still the Fokker was by far the most uncomfortable airplane I have ever flown.
Soon the door was closed, propellers fired up and pushback began. A quick taxi to runway 19L/01R soon followed, before slowly propping our way up in the sky.
Climb out was very slow, but eventually we reached altitude after some 20 minutes. Apart from the horribly uncomfortable seats, undersized overhead compartments, windows placed for midgets, and low cabin ceiling, the Fokker was also inhumanely noisy. Normally I don’t bother much about the cabin noise, even these days when I no longer have my Bose QuietComfort headphones, but this time it simply felt excruciating.
Soon the sole flight attendant rolled out the trolley, and conducted the Buy On Board service. At the time I started to feel a bit hungry, so I decided to try something from the menu. The offerings were rather poor, and the menu combos were simply horrible. Prices mediocre, but overall the items appeared to be of very low quality. I settled for the most reasonable menu combo I could find, which was the Soup&Croissant costing me a nifty €5. My worn out VISA card was swiped, before the items were promptly placed on my tray table.
The Croissant was a filled with ham and cheese. It tasted rather dry, and the fillings seemed very artificial. Apart from that it was very unsubstantial and not filling at all + it crumbled like h*ll leaving a huge mess on my pants and floor. Vegetable soup was also disappointment, basically your usual Knorr cooking stock mixed with hot water and served in a styrofoam cup. Soup was mostly watery, until finishing it when I discovered there was a big lump of unmixed powder in the bottom.
I would recall the €5 for this combo as a complete ripoff however, due to the airline’s dire financial straits providing them with some additional cash flow was the least thing I could do, considering the fact that my ticket was already shamelessly cheap. Following the snack, I took my usual walk down the cabin.
Upon returning to my seat, the propellers had already revved down indicating that descent was in progress. Minutes later, the Fokker plunged into the thick layer of clouds while at the same time being thrown to the sides by the strong turbulence. Soon land became visible from down below, and the plane made a smooth touchdown. After a quick taxi, the plane parked on a remote stand where a bus would later take us on the 50 meter drive to the terminal.
My first impressions of Riga Airport were very positive. The terminal was nice, bright (during daytime i.e) and airy, it offered some comfortable seating and a good selection of food outlets. The terminal architecture reminded a lot of Gardemoen Airport, and overall RIX felt like a miniaturised version of it. Still feeling a bit hungry, I went over to one of the cafés and purchased a greasy salmon wrap for €2,50. Not a bad price at all considering it was an airport + the generous size of the wrap. I was left rather stuffed after finishing it. The one hour layover passed in a blur, and it was soon time for me to catch my Tallinn flight.
Flight: BT363 RIX-TLL
Duration: 0h 55m
Date: January 14th 2012
Seat & Class: 21F Economy Class
Aircraft & Reg: Boeing 737-500 YL-BBE
The gate area was fairly empty, just like on the previous flight, and due to a last minute aircraft change (which Air Baltic are famous for) the boarding was delayed a few minutes. The scheduled B733 had been replaced by a B735, which was quite good for me since I hate the B733 (and B734 for that matter, and don’t ask me why!). As my boarding pass was scanned by the agent, I received the infamous red light. I was hoping for an upgrade, but sadly it turned out to just be a seat change. My pre-selected seat 16A had been switched to 21F due to the equipment change. I thanked the agent and headed down the jetway.
At the door, I received a ”hello” from the crew as I made my way down the cabin to row 21.
All Air Baltic B737’s are fitted with the new’ish slimline Recaro seats. Comfort was by far superior compared to the Fokker 50. As the flight was only a quarter full, I got the entire row to myself. Backpack and docs went up in the overhead as usual.
Seat pitch was the standard 32” which is more than enough for my 6ft and skinny’ish build. I could easily manage a 5+ hour flight in these seats. Soon the doors were closed, and the plane pushed back. Towards the end of the pushback, the CFM56 power plants were up and running and the aircraft began its taxi towards the runway. A powerful takeoff was later conducted, and we quickly rocketed up towards cruising altitude.
I chose not to take any pictures during this flight, mainly due to the dark and the fact that I was very tired. I spent the whole flight listening to music on my iPhone while getting some shuteye. I was woken up by one of the flight attendants during descent, telling me to turn off the music and put the seat upright. A very rough landing was later made, before taxiing to the terminal and docking to the gate. I was curbside in minutes, and soon on the bus into the city to join the rest of the party.
After having missed the bus stop in the city centre, the bus dropped me off at the ferry terminal. Luckily my hotel was right next to the bus stop, so I decided to simply dump my stuff at the room before heading back into town. PetteriFinn informed me about a restaurant in the old town, where the rest of the gang were already enjoying their dinner. I was too lazy and tired to try and find the place myself, so I hailed a cab who brought me there. Taxi ride was priced very reasonable at €5, and after making my way down the stairs leading to the underground restaurant I was met by Petteri and the rest of the gang already gathered up around the table, like one big happy family. Gabriel Chew and Tom had also joined in Tallinn. A random dish was ordered off the menu, and was delivered very quickly to me at the table.
Food was chugged before heading off to some russian-style bar where we grabbed a few drinks, and got tipsy... Apart from PetteriFinn who nearly fell asleep. At midnight, we headed back to our respective hotels located near the ferry terminal, and of course no a.net meet is complete without a snowball fight. Luckily I managed to escape fairly dry, with only a few hits on the back. Felt quite sorry for Matt & Tom who were smacked quite badly by Eric (the man who started it, hehehe). All in all, it was a great night out and I hope we’ll do it again some time soon!
I won’t go into much details about the following day, but the flights were rather boring and uneventful. Another painful Fokker flight with a Finn who I hardly even recall seeing awake that day, suppose the previous night must’ve taken quite a toll on the man. The second day at Arlanda more like an anticlimax, but still enjoyable.
What concludes the Arlanda trip reporters meet, and the Tallinn side trip is one heck of a weekend! I had a great time meeting you all, and I hope the Berlin meet will be just as fun. When it comes to the flights, I must say that Air Baltic was perhaps one of the most dull carriers I have ever flown. While my low expectations on the crew and service came to be met, the Fokker however was the plane that put me off the most. Never have I ever imagined an airplane to be so boring and painful to fly, and in the future I will to my best in avoiding this Mother Fokker at any cost.
Thanks for reading!
Feel free to have a look at my previous reports. The reports are categorised chronologically based on their year/date of publication.
SAS, Lounges, MD-87 & The Brussels Disaster (pics) (by LH4116 Mar 15 2012 in Trip Reports)
Ich Bin Ein Berliner & SAS: B736/MD-82, Y (pics) (by LH4116 Feb 24 2012 in Trip Reports)
Proper Short Haul – Lufthansa CPH-FRA-CPH Y (pics) (by LH4116 Feb 13 2012 in Trip Reports)
SAS At Their Very Finest! ZRH-ARN, Business (pics) (by lh4116 Feb 2 2012 in Trip Reports)
Swiss Flatbed Business Class: PVG-ZRH +More (pics) (by LH4116 Jan 23 2012 in Trip Reports)
Proper Long Haul – Swiss Made: ARN-PVG Y (pics) (by LH4116 Jan 10 2012 in Trip Reports)
LH Italia, You Won’t Be Missed! ARN-MXP C (pics) (by LH4116 Oct 31 2011 in Trip Reports)
Parisian City Break à La Air France. ARN-CDG Y Rt (by LH4116 Aug 27 2011 in Trip Reports)
Long, Sleek And Still Blue. Finnair B757! (pics) (by LH4116 Aug 5 2011 in Trip Reports)
Off To Norway, On A Classic. ARN-BGO SAS Y (pics) (by LH4116 Jul 30 2011 in Trip Reports)
”Flying It Fake” On SAS, ARN-DLM Rt In ”C” (pics) (by LH4116 Jul 5 2011 in Trip Reports)
Norwegian ARN-GOT Inaugural Flights, Feb 17 (pics) (by LH4116 Feb 25 2011 in Trip Reports)
TAP Portugal, And The Moroccan Travesty (pics) (by LH4116 Jul 15 2010 in Trip Reports)
Off To The Northern Skies, On SAS And X2000 (pics) (by LH4116 May 9 2010 in Trip Reports)
KLM Y, ARN-AMS R/t + Wonderful Holland (pics) (by LH4116 Oct 30 2009 in Trip Reports)
Trip Report: Train to Gothenburg, 1st Class (pics) (by LH4116 Jul 10 2009 in Non Aviation)
I Give You, SAS At Its Very Best! (pics) (by LH4116 Apr 17 2009 in Trip Reports)
Comments are much appreciated!