After a good three weeks in Europe, it was time to head home to let my fiancée have some peace and quiet to study for her upcoming examinations. I would, however, be back in 3 weeks' time! As usual, I went ahead with an ex-EU ticket on BA to save some €€. As we all may or may not know, BA had a major devaluation to their Executive Club programme which kicked into effect on 28th April. Previously, using Avios (miles) to upgrade from Y+ to J was possibly the best value you could ever get. I had never flown BA in Club World before, and figured this might be my only chance to put those Avios to good use.
Interestingly on the date I wanted to fly, BA scheduled a third flight into Singapore. BA 1011 would depart at 14:15hrs and arrive in SIN the next morning. Some digging revealed that it was a positioning flight for G-XLEA to SIN for maintenance. At the same time, reward availably was wide open! Knowing that I could secure a J seat, I went in search for a Y+ fare. Interestingly, expedia.sg was pricing out my itinerary for much less than BA's own website. Despite the risk that an agent booking might be troublesome to upgrade, I went ahead and booked it! Immediately after booking, I called BA up and was able to upgrade successfully (sort of)! There were some complications that I won't go into, but suffice to say it was more or less ok in the end.
My trip would begin in AMS and to get myself there, I had a couple of options. An immediate turnaround? Or to fly in the night before with a hotel stay? In the end I went with the latter because I could try out LGW (first time departing from there), and bag the 737-400 in the process. Amusingly I again bought my ticket on expedia.sg for S$96.70 = £46 which I thought was quite a bargain. BA.com was charging more than twice that! Go figure...
On the day of departure, my fiancée and I drove from Oxford to Gatwick. While passing Heathrow we debated whether it was worth the extra time, fuel, and annoyance of traffic jam for the cheaper ex-LGW ticket... I think next time I might stick with Heathrow! Anyway we soon arrived. We had to return our car at the South terminal as the North carpark was full, so it was a bit of a journey to get to the North Terminal. Thankfully we had ample time to spare.
Emerging from the transit train.
Large clear signs indicated we should go to the left for BA counters.
BA counters were at the furthest left hand side.
It was about 4pm now and I found check-in very very quiet. Presumably all the wide body flights had departed already. I was pleased to find a nice little F facility at the end for First Class and/or Gold members.
The grey walls were instantly recognisable, and similar to the F check-in section at Heathrow, albeit not so big and less glamorous (if the one at LHR could be called glamorous...)
First Class check-in counter.
Only one counter was open today, but following a 1 minute wait, it was our turn. The check-in lady was extremely nice and she and my fiancée shared a good laugh about how I was traveling alone and that my fiancée was there to make sure I wasn't going off to Hawaii to have a beach holiday or something (I hate beaches by the way)
Adjacent to the check in counter, there was a nice small waiting area.
We actually sat here for a few minutes after checking in to say our goodbyes. If she ran, my fiancée could catch the next train out. So we said a hasty goodbye, and she left. As I write this, it's just 5 more days till I see her again!
With nothing much else to do here, I headed towards:
But the kind check-in agent, upon hearing that it was my first time here, had pointed out the Gatwick Premium security facility. In fact the entrance to that was just a few metres away from the First check-in.
Compare that to the ugly plastic wall of LHR's fast track security! Anyway. Beyond the entrance, there was a lady checking eligibility. Upon confirming my worthiness, a gentleman further in came forward and walked me through to the end of the line for the security check! Impressive....
Security took a couple of minutes due to the fact that only one lane was open. After security, I was faced with a very helpful sign:
And upon emerging from that gateway, I entered the airside departures area. My first impression of it was that it was huge!! I don't really know what I was expecting but somehow I had formed the impression that Gatwick was a small airport hmm. Clearly I had the wrong impression.
Customary duty free.
Overall I actually quite liked the terminal; it had its own uniqueness.
I headed over to the lounge via the lifts.
BA on the 4th floor.
And upon emerging from the lifts -
So BA has in the past few months decided to close their F lounge at 3.30pm, in line with the last flight departing with an F cabin. Any leftover Gold members in the lounge will be shuffled over to the J lounge. There's a rumour that this is for 'cleaning' but obviously it's just to cut costs! Well so instead of turning right, I turned left into the J lounge.
The lounge was crowded but not heaving. I could find a place to sit, but certainly felt self conscious snapping those photos lol! This lounge is the old Terraces Lounge, which explains the dated furniture and design. I much prefer the newer Galleries concept but definitely still enjoyed my time here.
Food selection at this hour was limited to just some sandwiches.
Sandwich and water.
Oh yes prior to entering the lounge I had visited Boots to purchase a Meal Deal, to act as my dinner in AMS. The sandwiches were not bad, so I went for seconds, grabbed some orange juice, and managed to catch the attention of a waitress for some champagne!!
About 40 minutes before departure, the gate was announced.
570?? Sounds far away.
As my first time in Gatwick and being unfamiliar with the layout (what if I had to cross the bridge!!), I decided to leave immediately and head for my gate.
Crowded Friday evening.
The whole stairs and bright lights thing felt very 80s to me..
It turns out I didn't need to cross the bridge, and the gate wasn't that far. Merely on the other side of the terminal from the lounge.
A 734 resting in the distance.
I soon reached my gate and went down the escalators. Surprisingly, boarding had already begun and the waiting area was completely empty.
And here's the old bird that would take me to Amsterdam today
I always thought the squashed 737 engines were so cute. In Singaporean terms I would describe them as shaped like a 'pau' :
There was no evidence of a fast track queue but it didn't matter this time I suppose. After a nice hello and a beep of the machine, I was through and down the jet bridge!
On board the aircraft I immediately noticed a problem. The curtain was behind row 4. I decided out of curiosity to just inform the purser.
"Nahh it's fine..." is what he replied to me.
The 734 is still in the old configuration. Not only that, they still keep the B seat squashed in the first couple of rows of seats, so I was guaranteed not to have a seat mate.
You can see how close the armrests are due to the reduced width.
On the other side, the DEF seats are expanded. Furthermore, they of course boasted the old 34 inch seat pitch up front.
I looked up, and was met with an ancient overhead panel.
That call button was huge!!!
Square windows on the 737.
Towards the end of boarding, a pair of guys came on board who were seated in row 4. Interestingly, there was a passenger in 4E. I remember seats 4D and F being occupied during online check in, which probably meant that these 2 guys were hoping for nobody to choose the middle seat. Oops! I observed them speaking to the purser, and eventually they took seats in Row 1. This, and the curtain situation, led me to believe that perhaps there wasn't a single J pax on board today.
Soon, boarding was complete, the doors were closed, and the captain welcomed us on board. He mentioned that we were originally going to be delayed by an hour due to weather at AMS, but that it had cleared and so we were able to take-off on time. Later at AMS, I noticed that many flights earlier in the day had indeed been heavily delayed.
Surprisingly, an FA came around and dished out hot towels to a couple sitting in row 3! So there were J pax on board this flight. Yet the curtain was in the wrong position, and Y pax were allowed to sit in the J cabin, even ahead of the J pax. To me, that was totally unacceptable... but who was I to say anything right?
I think if I were a J pax and this happened to be me I'd be rightfully annoyed, especially when it's written clearly on BA's website that they're meant to get their own private cabin...
Heads of the passengers in question.
Anyway we began our taxi to the runway, passing by the Gatwick bridge along the way.
Sharklet EZY with new colours
Air Baltic patiently waiting for BA to land, under an overcast sky.
Even though Air Baltic had been there before us, we turned onto the runway first.
The old CFMs let out an incredibly high-pitched whine, backed by a loud drone, as we catapulted down the runway. Now that's a sound you don't hear anymore!! Surprisingly we had quite a long takeoff roll. Maybe those stubby wings need more speed for lift?
And here we go!
Can I just say that the takeoff was actually fun with such a steep climb angle and raw sound from the engines!
Anyone got a protractor?
We soon began to make a series of turns, and suddenly -
Woah!!! Cloud of doom!
And then we turned again..
And it was sunshine..
For such a short flight, we wouldn't be climbing very high today. The crew were soon released once the seat belt signs were switched off. The purser immediately began serving the couple in Row 3 first, before the trolley rolled down the aisle to serve the Y pax.
All we would get on this short flight were some crisps and a drink. I went for Ginger Ale.
Out of my window, I spied this rare tri-jet.
There was no doubt that it was probably headed for AMS as well! After finishing my pack of crisps, I paid a visit to the toilet.
The toilet was retro! Ok no it wasn't. It was legit old.
A lever for flushing, as opposite to a push-button.
And check out the water spinning!
I returned back to my seat to enjoy the rest of the short flight. It was a nice sunny day outside.
I think seeing that means we are nearing AMS
True enough, the pilot announced that we were about to descend into AMS and landing from the North.
Doing some turns..
And finally there was land ahead!
And also a thick cloud cover.
Aw look a rainbow!
As we got lower and lower, it got bumpier and bumpier and we were jostled around quite a bit. However the old bird was steadfast through all of this, and soon the runway appeared in sight.
Here we are!
With a soft bump, we touched down, thrust reversers going into full action to slow us down on the wet runway.
The runway looks so wide compared to us!
As expected/suspected, we had landed on the Polderbaan, which necessitated an immensely long taxi to the terminal. Up ahead, I had a glimpse of the Martinair MD-11 that had landed just in front of us. Some ten minutes later, we finally arrived on stand.
Our flight had come to an end. A couple of minutes later, the doors opened, and we disembarked the aircraft.
Spotting a reminder of Ireland along the way.
From here, it was a very very long walk to the arrivals hall. Immigration was quick; the officer wanted to see my ticket for the next day before stamping me in but no questions asked. Luggage actually came out rather fast. I've heard horror stories of Amsterdam. But I think it was at most a 5 minute wait before my luggage spewed out onto the belt.
With that, I exited the hall, and proceeded out of the terminal in search for the free hotel shuttle buses. Tonight, I would be staying at the Hotel Schiphol, under the Van Der Valk Hotels I think? After a 20 min wait, the shuttle appeared, I lugged my heavy bags on. A 15 minute ride later, we arrived, I quickly checked in, and headed to my room for the evening.
Well today's journey had come to an end. The 734 certainly was a delightful little aircraft. I was glad to have a go on it before BA retires all of them. Although, I do actually have another flight on LOT's 734 coming up so I suppose that’s not the end of my 734 travels! For an oldie, she sure was kept in good shape and everything was functioning well, and the ride was as comfortable as any other modern airliner. Gatwick is a nice airport. I wouldn't hesitate to fly out of there again. The BA lounge is old and certainly needs some refurbishing, but I hear that they'll soon to move to the South Terminal where a new lounge will be built.
Anyway, it was now time to have a bath, eat some dinner.. then turn in for the night before tomorrow's long journey home!
Oh yes, I might have slipped a couple cans of coke into my bag from the lounge..
That's it from me for now. I wanted to make the whole trip as 1 report, but realised it might make it waaay too long. So this is Part I. Stayed tuned for Part II which will be done... sometime…
Previous (readable) Trip Reports:
Dirty Dirty BA To Croatia And Explosive EZY Back! (by pokfur Jun 10 2015 in Trip Reports)
An Unexpected TR Featuring BA's LHR Arrival Lounge (by pokfur Jun 4 2015 in Trip Reports)
CX Adventures Part II: Ok Not Just CX... (by pokfur May 1 2015 in Trip Reports)
A Suite Escape: SIN-LHR With SQ (by pokfur Mar 27 2015 in Trip Reports)
CX Adventures Part I: The Old And New J To JFK (by pokfur Mar 20 2015 in Trip Reports)
BA/IB A380/77W/CRJ: Exit Row Or IFE Box? (by pokfur Mar 14 2015 in Trip Reports)
Qatar Widebodies Part 2: The A350! (by pokfur Feb 14 2015 in Trip Reports)
Qatar Widebodies Part 1: 787, A346, And A350? (by pokfur Feb 6 2015 in Trip Reports)
The Qantas Singapore Lounge + BA To Paris! (by pokfur Jan 9 2015 in Trip Reports)
A Roundabout Way Home: IB/BA LCY-MAD-LHR-SIN! (by pokfur Jan 3 2015 in Trip Reports)
[Edited 2015-06-18 09:37:01]