Part 1 of this report can be found here: 8 Flights In 2 Weeks. Part 1: YUL-LHR & LHR-ATH (by kaneporta1 Apr 23 2012 in Trip Reports)
British Airways flight 641
After a week in change in Greece, mainly Athens, spending time with family and friends, it was time to head to Belfast for the business part of this trip. This flight was the first leg of the trip to Belfast and part of the original Montreal to Athens itinerary.
My best friend offered to give me a ride to the airport and I’ve asked him to pick me up from my parent’s place around 90 minutes before the flight. The drive to the airport was uneventful and we were there in under 30 minutes. Check-in area was empty as pretty much everyone had checked in before me. My assigned seat that was pre-selected at the time of booking was 12A, the window seat right behind the second overwing exit which was also the first row of euro traveler for this flight. I was hoping that the couple of days before the flight, the business class divider would move so I’d get the overwing exit but this never happened.
After checking in I made my way past passport control and straight to the lounge which is located close to gate 13, at the far end of the terminal building.
The lounge was quite full but then it was no surprise when the flight had 11 rows of Club Europe. I initially sat at one of the 2 computer desks provided to check out the latest hockey results but the internet on these rather old computers was slow. I mean 28.8kbps modem slow. So after trying to load the NHL page for a couple of minutes with nothing happening, I gave up…
Nonetheless I took a couple of pictures of the lounge and then headed over to the food and drinks area to grab a tomato juice and some chips. I also packed a couple of little sandwiches just in case I didn’t have time for dinner when I got to Belfast.There was a very good selection of hot and cold drinks in the lounge, as well as a rather big variety of snacks, including some shiny red Easter eggs. Not sure how appealing these were to people but they were a nice touch.
Since I arrived at the airport an hour before the flight and in the lounge 45 minutes before the flight, I knew I wasn’t going to spend much time in there. Sure enough, boarding was called about 30 minutes before the scheduled departure so I left the lounge and made my way to gate A5. Boarding had already begun when I got there but I joined the fast track and was soon waiting by the aircraft door. I still managed to snap a picture of our A320 sitting out in the sunshine.
Just before the aircraft door we were greeted by a very nice message left on the jetbridge by someone. It has to do with Greek sports teams. If you wonder why Greece is in the crapper at the moment, lack of respect for anything or anyone, as demonstrated here, must be a big part of the reason…
Anyway, I took my seat and I was immediately relieved to see that the legroom was very decent. BA A320s come in 2 configurations, space saver and converter. The converter version has rather tight legroom in the rows aft of the overwing exit. And it was the first time I would be sitting there. Fortunately, that day we got the space saver version and the legroom was very good.
As I was looking out of the window the aircraft slowly filled up with both Euro Traveler and Club Europe being 100% full.
We pushed back as the Special colors Etihad A320 was pushing back, started the engines and made our way to runway 21L.
Takeoff was surprisingly fast, considering the full passenger load, and soon we turned right towards the northwest and climbed to our cruising altitude of 380000. Not long after we reached FL380, the bar service started and I had another tomato juice. When the bar service was completed the crew started with the lunch service.
This time, on offer was some stewed meatballs with potatoes and veggies, a mixed salad and some Greek walnut pie for desert. Everything on the tray tasted rather delicious and it went down nicely with a glass of coke.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and very smooth. I even caught a few minutes of sleep and the rest of the time was spent enjoying the IFE. Although BA has a few A320s equipped with proper IFE and there’s a movie to and from ATH, this example only had the moving map.
Soon it was time to descend towards LHR and as always the skies over London were cloudy. For a change there was no holding this time and after a sharp left turn just south of LCY we were on a long final approach.
Touchdown was smooth and we exited the runway at around the halfway point and got a nice view of the parked QF A380s before heading to terminal 5A to dock.
As was the case these days, immigration at T5 was chaotic especially for non EU passport holders. The EU line was also busy but thanks to the e-passport gates I was at the baggage claim hall in no time.
My bag was one of the first on the belt and I made my way to the Heathrow Express station to catch the train to terminal 1.
BMI flight 92
The trip by Heathrow Express was short and quiet and soon I was navigating the long underground corridors leading to T1. In the elevator up to departures was an American woman describing how she spent almost 2 hours at the immigration line at T5, had missed her connection and was hoping she’d be able to be re-booked on a later flight. Once again I was thankful of my EU passport and the e-passport gates.
I got up to the check-in hall and it was quite busy. Thankfully, the BMI check-in desks are located in zone A just to the left of the elevators. The line for the bag drop wasn’t very long and I headed to security via the entrance adjacent to the BMI check-in desks.
The line in security was long but nothing too bad for LHR T1 standards. One of the lanes is designated a family zone with some cool pictures of the LHR tower and a sign on a cartoon plane reading “To the planes”. I took a picture of that and then one of the staff came running to me demanding to show him the photos I took. Although it was a zoomed picture of that cartoon airplane, he asked me, very politely and constantly apologizing, to delete it. I complied with his request as I wasn’t in the mood to argue and proceeded through security without any other issues and into the busy departures hall.
I headed to the Servisair lounge for the second time in a week, and spent about an hour there catching up on hockey results and having another glass of tomato juice. Eventually the gate number appeared on the information screen and since it was gate 8, at the other end of the airport I decided to make my way to the gate.
It took a good 10 minutes to get to gate 8 which is in the domestic departures side of T1 and it was rather quiet. The departure gate was 8b on the “dark” side of the gate 8 area so I decided to wait around gate 8d (I think) with great views of the northern runway and arriving and taxiing aircraft.
Eventually boarding was called and I made my way to gate 8b. The flight didn’t seem that busy and once again I was in a jetbridge about to board an Airbus narrowbody.
The flight was indeed not busy at all probably about half full. I took my seat at the exit row and by the time the doors closed the 2 seats next to me were empty. Not for long though as for some reason the people sitting in the seats in front, got up and sat next to me. Nevertheless, legroom was ample, seat was comfortable and the flight time to Belfast City Airport was going to be only 50 minutes.
We pushed back with a delay of a 10 or so minutes, started the engines and set off for the long taxi to runway 27L. Heathrow was quite busy this time in the evening so it took around 20 minutes before we lined up on the runway.
Takeoff was short, probably due to the light passenger and fuel load for this flight and not more than a few seconds later we were over the clouds and heading north. We climbed to our cruising altitude and the rest of the flight went on uneventfully with everything underneath us covered by cloud along the way.
As the daylight faded, we started our descend towards Belfast with the seatbelt sign coming on almost immediately due to the cloud being not far below us. As we got inside the cloud it got a little bumpy but nothing out of the ordinary. We broke under the cloud over the Belfast Lough with the lights of Bangor to our left.
As it’s typical for Belfast, the approach was quite bumpy with the pilots doing a good job keeping the aircraft aligned with the runway despite the gusty winds and heavy rain.
Touchdown was very smooth, considering the conditions, followed immediately by hard braking and full reverse thrust, required to stop us within the limits of this short runway. We came to a stop pretty much at the end of runway with my workplace for the next 3 days directly outside my window, to our right.
We turned off the runway and after a very short taxi we docked at the only gate equipped with a jetbridge at BHD.
Disembarkation was quick due to the light load and soon I was at the baggage claim area waiting for my bag.
There are just 2 small baggage belts at BHD but considering the traffic this airport gets, they’re more than enough. I picked up my bag and exited the baggage hall to a very empty airport. I think we were the last flight of the day. Went outside and across to the taxi rank and after about a 10 minute wait I was in a taxi on my way to the Radisson Blue hotel.
easyJet flight 444
After a few days working just a stone’s throw from BHD in a very interesting project, as well as enjoying a couple of good evenings in Belfast, it was time to say goodbye to the city once again.
Unlike all my previous times in Belfast when BHD has been my departure airport, due to its convenient location close to the city and hotel, this time I was using Belfast International Airport, located around 15 miles / 20km away from the city.
I had an early wake-up at 6am (well, it’s early for me) got ready and headed down to the hotel lobby for a quick breakfast. At 7am, I got picked up by Andy, my personal taxi driver for that week and after a 30 minute ride and a rather pleasant conversation, we were at the drop-off area of BFS.
I walked inside the terminal building and it was immediately obvious which was the dominant airline at BFS. Let’s just say that orange was the most prominent color in there.
The line at check-in wasn’t very long but there was only one check-in agent so it was moving rather slowly. Eventually 2 more agents showed up and everything started moving along a lot faster.
After checking in I went through security where no real queues were encountered and then headed to the Business Lounge, more to check it out rather than have any food or drinks. Actually, I was looking for some still water but they had run out apparently…
The lounge was completely empty and it provided some good views of the apron but I only spent about 10 minutes in the before heading to gate 14 where out flight to Bristol would depart from.
Soon enough, boarding was called and an orderly line formed in front of the gate. Once again, the load looked pretty light so I was confident that I’d be able to snatch one of the extra legroom seats by the overwing exits.
I really liked the way easyJet does boarding. Walk out to the tarmac, form a line, wait for a couple of minutes for the thumbs up from the crew and then board via airstairs through the forward and aft passenger doors. Not sure if I’d have the same opinion if it was cold and rainy, like it usually is in Belfast, but this time we were lucky.
I was one of the first few people inside the aircraft and headed straight to the overwing exits. The whole row was empty so I took my seat at 10F, after storing my bag in the overhead bin.
Soon all passengers were aboard and the doors were closed, with the aircraft being about half full. Engines started without delay and we taxied towards runway 25 for an on time departure blasting into the unusually cloudless and blue Belfast sky.
There isn’t much to write about the flight itself. It took about 50 minutes to get to Bristol and it was smooth and quiet, as one would expect from an early morning departure. Crew came around with food and drink for purchase, shopping items from their catalogue as well as scratch cards.
We didn’t stay in our cruising altitude for too long, and soon we were descending into the cloud that was covering Bristol and most of England and Wales as it seemed.
Landing in Bristol is always exciting due to the length of the runway but also its position on top of a hill. This time was no different, and after being bounced around nicely on approach, we touched down firmly and hit the brakes and thrust reversers hard.
I'd rather die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not terrified and screaming, like his passengers