This trip was originally planned as a one and some change week holiday back home and booked during the BA
sale back in November (I think). The original itinerary was YUL
and also included a weekend in Bristol. About 2 weeks before departure day, I was asked to spend a few days in Belfast for work. I was able to change the date of the return LHR
leg and then booked the flight to Belfast, from London. I also got an extra day to spend in Europe and decided to do a quick one day trip to Toulouse to visit some more friends. The final itinerary was:
Week in Greece
3 days in Belfast
Day in Toulouse
British Airways flight 94
For those who are not aware with BA
’s Montreal operations, the flights to London between April and November are operated by a 777 departing at 10pm while during the winter months, it switches to a 767 departing around 8pm. Personally I prefer the 777 flights as the departure time means that sleeping during the time is easier and also arrival in London is not too early in the morning. It also means that I can leave home at around 8.45pm and be at the airport at 9 since there really is no traffic on the A20 at that time.
This time I had to leave just a little bit earlier as a friend of my girlfriend was arriving on the inbound BA
flight and we were going to meet her at the airport at 8.45 which meant leaving home at 8.30.
As predicted, there was no one on the road and we were at Montreal airport by 8.45 where the friend was waiting at the arrivals area. I headed upstairs to departures to check in at the almost deserted BA
As the check-in agent was printing my boarding pass, I was rather surprised when she asked me if I was interested in the “very special offer” to upgrade to Club World for “only” $900. I replied that I was already booked in CW
which seemed to surprise her. Strange…
I headed back down to arrivals to say goodbye to my girlfriend and her friend and then headed back up to go through security. Security at YUL
can be a bit of a nightmare sometimes but it’s always a breeze at 9pm.
This time was no different and I was on my way to the lounge soon after.
I hadn’t even drunk half my tomato juice before boarding for my flight was called. I quickly took a couple of pictures of the lounge and headed to the gate, making a quick stop to take a picture of this beautiful RAM 767.
By the time I got to the gate, the furthest one at the International jetty, boarding was already in progress. I joined the fast-track line and was soon inside the jet-bridge.
The CSD greeted me at the door and pointed towards my seat, to the right of the door in the second and smallest Club World cabin of this 3-class 777. Seat 11A was selected at the time of booking as it’s a window seat with direct isle access and also has a few more inches of legroom (if you can call it that). Since the normal CW
bed is 6’1 and I’m 6’3, this extra space is very appreciated.
As I was storing my backpack, a member of the cabin crew came with a selection of pre-departure drinks. I went for the champagne and soon after another cabin crew member came with the food and wine menus and an offer for another glass of champagne. I accepted his menu offer but declined the champagne.
After everyone was on board the door was closed and we were on our way to runway 6R for an on time departure. Unfortunately just as the engines spooled up for takeoff, a horrible noise, like a loud vacuum cleaner started coming from the vent under the window, right next to my seat. But more on this in a minute…
In typical BA
fashion the seat belt signs were off about 5 minutes after takeoff and as we leveled off, at about TO
+20 minutes, and an announcement was made that drinks will be served soon followed by dinner.
I don’t know who the drinks service was for, but I never got anything offered. 20 minutes after the announcement the CSD appeared with a dinner tray containing a salad and the dessert and placed it on my table. After about 10 minutes a member of the cabin crew came to take the order for the main. I went for the express option (as I always do) since it is always very tasty and also gets served and cleared away asap.
A few minutes later, and just after I had finished my salad, the CDS re-appeared with my grilled veal Panini. He cleared away the salad plate and I asked for the dessert to be taken away as well as I wasn’t planning on eating it. Instead, I asked for the hot chocolate and cookies. A few minutes later the very nice warm cookies were produced. Once I had finished with these, the hot chocolate arrived.
During the meal I selected MI4 to watch but even during the film with the earphones on, I could still hear the noise from the vent and it was getting rather annoying. I notified a member of the crew and she told the CSD. He came over to me, apologized but all the help he could offer was along the lines of: “Nothing he could do, just use the earplugs provided”.
My reply to that was:
“In the washbag”
“I didn’t get a washbag”
“Apologies, I will get one for you”
Although he was very helpful, I didn’t like the fact that there was no other option offered (I think there were a couple of other empty seats) and also the fact that the BA
service inconsistency was making an appearance again.
I managed to finish with the movie and by that time it was almost 1am Montreal time. I put the seat in the flat position, earplugs on and tried to go to sleep. Although I could still hear the noise from the vent, I was too tired to stay awake for much longer.
Next thing I remember is the captain making the 40 minutes to landing call. I snoozed for 10 more minutes and then turned the moving map on to see we were almost over England.
I did not ask for breakfast as I was still too full from dinner and I was also planning on grabbing a bite a little later in the arrivals lounge.
The 20 minutes to landing call was made, the seat belt signs turned on and soon after we were descending.
We flew to the south of LHR
on our downwind leg then did a 180 turn over the City and we were on our final approach to Heathrow. Weather was great that morning and it allowed for some nice photos to be taken.
We touched down on 27L and taxied to Terminal 5C. Disembarkation and immigration was quick and soon I was enjoying a nice breakfast, a shower and a massage in the T5
Finally I headed back down to ground level and out of the terminal, to catch my bus to Bristol.
The weekend in Bristol was amazing as always, catching up with old friends and visiting all the bars, pubs and restaurants that I love.
Aegean Airlines flight 605
After a great weekend in Bristol it was time to head back to Heathrow for my flight to Athens. But before, I had to do a 2 hour bus trip to Heathrow. I opted for the earlier bus as I wanted to leave some time just in case the M4
was jammed. But it wasn’t and I arrived at Heathrow a good 3 hours before my flight. I went through the long corridor to T1 and took the lift up to departures.
There was no information regarding Aegean flight 605 displayed so I went over to the BMI
area (since BMI
do the handling for Aegean) and asked a ticket sales agent where I could check in. He said that Aegean are now at zone K which used to be the premium check-in area for BA
, when BA
had flights operating from T1, a few years ago.
I walked over to zone K which was significantly quitter that the main check-in hall. In fact at that time, there was only one Asiana flight checking in from zone K as my flight hadn’t opened yet.
I waited around for a while until check-in opened for my flight and people started queuing up in front of the empty desks…
Eventually a few people in BMI
uniforms showed up and that got people moving. Went through security directly through zone K and very soon I was at the departures area.
I headed up to the Servisair lounge where I had almost 2 hours to kill. Entry to the lounge is courtesy of my company issued Diners club card and this would be the first out of 2 times that I would be in that lounge during the two weeks. I completely forgot to take any pictures (both times) but this lounge is a nice quiet area, away from the noise and people at departures. It doesn’t offer much in terms of food, some nuts, crackers, chips, muffins and soup… there is also a selection of hot and cold drinks a couple of wines and some spirits on offer.
The most important thing in this lounge is the free wi-fi and the relatively comfortable seating area and quietness.
I checked my email and the message I was waiting for was finally there. My friend, who is a pilot for Aegean, confirming that he would be flying me back to Athens! Be last to board and turn left after boarding were his instructions.
After writing some emails and having some nuts with a glass of tomato juice the gate for my flight appeared on the flight information screens.
I made my way to the gate, gate 39, one of the furthest gates in T1. On the way, I was able to spot my ride to Athens, parked next to an Asiana 777.
They say that Heathrow is the only construction site in the world, with its own airport. Here’s some proof:
I got to the gate area and there were a lot of people waiting. I sat a little further away and was able to get a couple of pictures of the Asiana 777 being prepared for its flight, presumingly to Seoul.
After everybody had boarded a took one last look around the gate, just to make sure there were no other passengers were behind me and proceeded to the jetbridge.
A friendly flight attendant greeted me at the door and I told her that they were expecting me “up front”. She smiled and said “of course, go ahead.”
I walked in the cockpit as both my friend and the first officer were inputting the final data in the MCDU. I greeted both of them and pulled the centre jumpseat out, trying not to hit anything on the overhead panel with my head. My friend gave me a quick safety briefing to refresh my memory (not the first time in an A320 cockpit) on operating the windows, escape ropes and oxygen masks.
After some final preparations were made the doors were closed and we were ready to push back and start engines.
We did without delay and we were on our way to runway 27L. Although it’s always busy at Heathrow in the evening, it didn’t take that long to get to the threshold of the runway. After a couple of narrowbodies and a Kingfisher A330 it was our turn to go.
We took off and maintained runway heading until ATC instructed us to turn left towards the southeast. Initial climb was to 6000 and then instructed to gradually climb to FL140, FL270 and finally to FL350. It was somewhat turbulent during most of the climb so the flightcrew decided to keep the seatbelts on for a while, even after we had reached our cruising altitude.
The air finally calmed outside and the seatbelt sign was finally switched off and the cabin crew sprung to action. First stop was the flightdeck to ask the pilots (and guest) if they wanted anything for dinner. Captain went for the economy class meal, FO for the business class salad and although I didn’t expect anything more than the standard economy meal, I was offered a crew meal, after the insistence of the captain.
It was beef chunks in tomato sauce with rice and came in a small tray with some bread. I also asked for some water to drink. Since there are no tray tables for the cockpit jumpseats, I was offered the MEL
as a tray table. It worked like a dream although I was a bit concerned of what would happen if it was suddenly required or, even worse, I spilled tomato sauce on it…
Thankfully none of this happened and I finished my meal without any incidents. It was cleared away soon after and the MEL
was stored back safely.
By that time we were already flying over Italy with the lights of Venice visible in the distance.
Treviso and Venice airports shown in the ND.
We entered Greek airspace and overflew Corfu and headed toward Araxos with our approach and top of descend now visible in the ND.
We started our initial descend to FL170 although we never stopped there as ATC kept clearing us to lower altitudes pretty much until we were on final approach. The runway we would be landing was 21R and the plan was to execute a NEMES standard arrival which involves flying to the south of the airport while heading east, turn north at KEA VOR, turn west at KRO VOR and then intercept the 21L or 21R ILS.
At some point, we got vectors from ATC to head northeast for a more direct approach compared to the NEMES STAR.
It was quite a windy night in Athens and the lower we got the bumpier it got. Soon the city of Athens came to view on our right hand side as we flew over Marathon and Rafina. We got the airport in sight and the captain asked to switch to a visual approach. At around 10 DME
and 5000 feet we performed a left hand 360 turn to lose some height and soon we were on final approach to runway 21R.
During final approach winds were from 180 degrees and we were being bounced around quite a bit and around 500 feet the wind changed to 270 degrees. This was no problem for my friend who gently put the aircraft on the runway.
We slowed down and exited the runway and taxied towards the north apron where we were assigned a remote stand. We pulled next to a special colors Iberia A319 and shut down.
Once again, I had to wait for everyone to exit the aircraft before thanking the crew, saying goodbye and then making my way out and into the bus. The bus ride to the terminal was quite entertaining as the driver and someone working for the airport sitting next to him, were having a very animated discussion about football, with many passengers laughing at them with all the screaming and gesturing…
We got to the terminal and passport control and baggage collection was a breeze as at that time there wasn’t much going on at the airport. After picking up my bag I headed out of the baggage claim area to the arrivals area where I had to wait for my ride home.
This happened to be the same person who had just flown me from London as he lives very close to my parents’ home. Not a bad way to get from London all the way home…
Overall, another great flight with Aegean, nothing beats flying with friends, especially when they happen to fly the airplane!
Part 2. ATH
Part 3: TLS
I'd rather die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not terrified and screaming, like his passengers