Hello again, welcome and thank you for clicking on my latest report, the third and final part about my adventures in South-East-Asia.
Part 1: Vietnam Airlines To Crazy Bangkok: FRA-SGN-BKK
Part 2: Low-Cost And Boutique In Asia: DMK-PEN-HKT-BKK
Part 3: Norwegian Inaugural Operated By HiFly: BKK-OSL
After I have heard that Norwegian Air Shuttle would start long-haul service to Bangkok and New York with the new Boeing 787, I didn't hesitate very long and booked myself on their inaugural flight from Bangkok to Oslo. A good opportunity to fly the Dreamliner, a new plane type for me, on a long flight. Then to get home from Oslo I booked a connection to Cologne, the price for this route from Bangkok to Cologne was around 300 Euro in total, including seat reservation and credit card fee, so not bad at all.
Well, we all know what happened then, the 787 got grounded because of battery problems. And as it took a good while to get these problems sorted out it was soon clear that my Norwegian flight would not happen as planned. At least DY was quick to ensure that it would not be canceled. And indeed, a few weeks before my departure I got an email that my flight would be operated by HiFly, a Portuguese company that operates a couple of A330s and A340s on charter and wet lease basis. Actually the mail was pretty nice, with a big apology and an offer to rebook to another date or even to get a full refund.
But of course since I had already booked a couple of other flights around this trip rebooking was not an option for me. Departure time from Bangkok was also changed from a way too early 7:30 to a much more convenient time of 9 o'clock. That would also reduce my very long layover in Oslo to about 3.5 hours, still enough time (at least that's what I thought). Of course I was a bit disappointed to miss the 787, but on the other hand I would be able to fly on a rather rare airline, and it would still be an inaugural, so I was happy nevertheless and looking forward to the flight.
So this was the route to return from Bangkok as planned:
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport
After a quiet but short night in the lovely Lilac Residence hotel I took their complimentary shuttle back to the airport. Streets were still pretty empty on this Sunday morning:
The driver asked me which airline I was with. Of course he had never heard of Norwegian so he just dropped me off in the middle of the terminal:
The entrance into the terminal, with a view to the lower arrival area:
Inside the terminal the first view of course goes to the FIDS, and what did I see, my flight already shows a 90 minute delay, oh great, what a good start to the day:
Anyway, online check-in wasn't possible, so I headed to the check-in counter next. On the way there I saw a very very long queue. I already thought to myself, these poor people, having to stand in such a long queue. But as I got closer to the check-in counter I suddenly realized that all these people are standing in line for the Norwegian counters . Oh well, no choice now but to join the party:
And the line was moving agonizingly slow. They had all seven counters open, but I still stood in that line for 90 minutes (yes, ninety, I am not exaggerating). I have no idea what there were doing, but I watched some people standing at the counter for more than 10 minutes. At least there was a lot of Norwegian staff around and talking to the people, telling that they do all they can and that they will arrange for eventually missed connections in Oslo. Well, at that moment I wasn't really worried about my connection yet with a more than 3 hour layover.
I eventually arrived at the front of the line and was handed my boarding passes quickly, even the one for the flight to CGN. But now the lady told me of a estimated departure time of 10:50, so another 20 minutes added to the delay.
On the way to passport control:
Almost no wait than at passport control and at security, but an officer wanted to have a look into my bag there. I really felt sorry for that guy that he had to rummage through all my sweaty and dirty clothes. Then I was airside and with the delay still a lot of time to walk around the terminal and some last-minute shopping of a few gifts for the family.
Finally also time for a breakfast with a big cappuccino, warmly welcomed now:
Flight 6 (02.06.2013)
BKK-OSL (Norwegian DY7202, operated by HiFly)
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi – Oslo
Distance: 8678 km / 4686 nm
Airbus A340-300 (CS-TQY)
scheduled 09:00 – 15:45
actual 11:45 – 19:30
flight-time: 12:00 – 19:22 (12 hours 22 minutes)
Let's head to the gate next, D4, right in the middle of the terminal, so not a very long walk:
And there it was parked, the almost all white Airbus 340-300 that would take me to Oslo today:
It was CS-TQY, the plane was built in 1997 and in service first for Singapore Airlines, than for Emirates, before HiFly took it only in April 2013. They had put a Norwegian sticker on it to show for what airline it is now operating:
Once again, close up:
Pretty crowded in the boarding area already, almost all the seats were taken. As the newly estimated departure time came closer our crew was still seated near the exits. So it was quite clear now that there would be even more delay. And indeed an announcement was made soon thereafter that boarding would not start for another 20 minutes. At least the crew went on board now, but not before they all posed for a quick photo shooting at the doors. That was actually the only sign that this was a inaugural flight.
Of course it took much longer than the announced 20 minutes before boarding finally started. They boarded by row numbers, the gate agents held up hand-written signs with the row numbers on it. Never seen anything like this, the whole boarding process seemed quite disorganized. And with a full load it took a while before I could finally enter the plane and settle down on my seat.
The seat was comfortable and seat pitch pretty good as well:
The big IFE box did however reduce the legroom quite a bit:
Boarding well under way, note the red Norwegian stickers on the bulkhead walls:
Next to us an Oman Air Airbus with its pretty livery was parked:
Now let's have a look into the seat pocket. As this was a 12-hour-flight with only buy-on-board a very important item was the Snackbar menu:
A nice welcome on the first page:
What do they have on offer, the drinks page:
Woohoo, 7 USD for a can of Heineken, guess I won't get too drunk on this flight today . But then, the airline is from Norway, so you could have expected prices like that. Let's turn the page to see what kind of food there is, again not really any bargains here:
There was also a safety instructions card:
And of course the Norwegian inflight magazine:
The Captain was on the speakers then with a welcome on board and a big apology about the delay. He explained it with the late arrival of the plane (well, that would explain maybe only one hour of the delay). Estimated flight time today would be 12 hours and 5 minutes. Even longer than the scheduled block time, so by now I really started to worry about my connection.
At around 11:45 we were finally being pushed back and the engines were started. On the way to the active runway I saw this TG 747:
A cute little ATR by Lao Airlines:
And another 747, this time from Orient Thai. It is hard to see on the picture, but on the tail one can still see the logo of Saudia:
After quite a few minutes of taxiing around the airport we reached runway 19R and the pilot moved the throttles forward to begin the long and slow take-off roll, just as you would expect from a classic 340. Finally airborne:
Again the visibility wasn't too good at this day with a lot of haze in the air, still a few nice views over Bangkok and the surroundings. Another big temple area:
And crossing the Chayo Phraya River with a lot of traffic:
The western coastline of Myanmar:
And more tropical islands:
In the meantime the crew showed some action, first they started to sell headphones for the IFE. But that was suspended almost immediately with an announcement and an apology that for technical reasons there would be no inflight entertainment on this flight. OK, who needs IFE anyway for a 12 hour flight? I tried to switch the monitor on and it only showed the text 'Emirates World', so obviously they just didn't load their own IFE into the system yet.
A moment later the crew began to distribute the preordered meals:
I was a bit surprised at how many people actually have ordered a meal. As they came to my row they handed me over a tray as well, even though I hadn't ordered anything. It actually looked quite appetizing, but the crew realized their error quite fast and they took the food away from me again, before I even had a chance to take a picture.
After the other people were well fed and the trash was cleared I asked one the crew if I can now order something from their menu. She told me that they would come around soon and take orders. Well, that “soon” was taking way more than one hour . A lot of time to enjoy the views of the clouds outside:
Finally I was allowed to get something to eat as well, I took a chicken sandwich with a water. Nice to see that I got two sandwiches. They were fresh, tasty and quite substantial:
The route of flight took us over India, then along the coast of Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, the Ukraine, Poland and up to Norway, first on flight level 320, later during the flight we climbed up to 370. A few views from the way, this must be Pakistan:
Somewhere over Iran:
If I am not mistaken this must be Mount Ararat on the border between Turkey and Armenia:
And the coast of Ukraine on the Black Sea:
With no IFE I spent most of the flight relaxing, looking outside and reading in my book. At least I had a nice seatmate this time, a girl from Norway who returned home after a 3-month-backpacking trip through Asia. And she had quite a few interesting stories to tell.
At one point I needed to stretch my legs and wandered around a little, I also stopped in the galley to order another sandwich and decided to bail out the money for a beer. This time they only wanted to give me half of a sandwich, I complained of course and with an apology they gave me the other half. All in all the crew, all of Asian origin, were quite nice and friendly, but it really showed that this was their first flight and they all had little experience. Everything seemed very disorganized, but at least they tried hard.
About two hours before the landing they started another service run, and this time they actually distributed something for free for everyone. It wasn't much, a small sandwich with an OJ and a yogurt, followed by a coffee run later. But I never expected that so it came as a nice surprise:
Shortly before descent started the Captain was on the speakers once more, telling about the weather in Oslo (16 degrees, rain showers, what a contrast after Thailand). The crew then gave another short safety demo, very interesting, never saw a safety demo before landing, but I guess it makes senses after such a long flight.
Indeed the weather wasn't the best during approach:
But it cleared up once we got closer to Oslo:
Back on the solid ground of runway 19L after more than 12 hours in the air:
Only a short taxi to the gate, where we arrived around 15 minutes after my flight to Cologne was scheduled to depart. Once parked at the gate at first nothing happened. Another announcement then, they had problems with attaching the airbridge to the plane and it would take a few more minutes. Oh dear, there goes my last hope of still catching my connection .
Odysee at Oslo Gardermoen Airport
Eventually I was also able to leave the plane then, now around 35 minutes after the scheduled departure of my next flight. No Norwegian staff at the gate and no info from the crew about connections, so these were my next steps (I was quite tired after the long flight, so no more pictures from that point):
Flight 7 (03.06.2013)
OSL-TXL (Air Berlin AB8245)
Oslo – Berlin Tegel
Distance: 861 km / 535 nm
scheduled 06:30 – 08:05
actual 06:46 – 08:14
flight-time: 06:53 – 08:09 (1 hour 16 minutes)
Two solid Air Berlin flights from Oslo to Cologne via Berlin now, nothing special compared to the flight I have done just the day before, so I won't go into too much details. Just a few pictures, like this one of the tower in beautiful early morning light:
The FIDS this morning, everything ok for my flight:
Check-in was also done very quickly, despite a short queue, window seats were still available for me for both flights, yes:
Oslo airport actually looks quite pleasant airside, something I wasn't really able to appreciate the day before:
On the way to my gate, a nice bunch of colorful tails:
Bus boarding from gate 37B, as I arrived there boarding has already started, so quickly into the bus and to the plane. D-ABLA looked good in the morning sunshine with its red engines and red tail:
Norwegian next to us:
The Captain was on the speakers then with a very nice welcome and a quite detailed explanation about the flight and weather in Berlin (11 degrees, cloudy and windy). He also told about a little delay, because technicians still had to “tighten some screws”.
The delay wasn't long however and after engine startup and a short taxi we took off from runway 01R:
Climbing out over the Norwegian countryside, all the way up to FL410:
Service on this flight was a warm “Laugenstange”, together with coffee or tea:
During the rest of the flight I tried to catch up on sleep. This picture was already taken on final to Tegel, indeed cloudy and dull weather here:
Landing on runway 26R, and I was pleased to see that we got a parking position at a gate at the main terminal and not at the ugly terminal C building.
My next flight was scheduled to depart at 11 o'clock, so almost three hours from now. However I saw that there was an earlier AB flight to Cologne which would have been much better for me. Well, it doesn't hurt to ask I thought and went to an AB desk to inquire about the possibility to get on this earlier flight. I wasn't lucky this time however, the agent told me that the flight was completely full.
Tegel was completely crowded this morning and since I didn't have a proper breakfast yet I decided to treat myself to the buffet at the Red Baron restaurant upstairs from the main hall:
A nice breakfast with a fresh cappucino and, even more important, a quiet place to sit and rest and wait for my next flight.
Oh, 8599 km from Berlin to Bangkok as the crow flies, but I had done a few more with the stop in Oslo: