Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
After failing pretty convincingly to bag myself a bargain trip a couple of weeks previously, I thought I’d have another shot at it. Aberdeen has been on the radar for a while actually. Mainly because around eighteen months ago, I was looking at somewhere to go with my VS miles and as BMI were one of their partners they offered the opportunity to go up there for 12,500 miles. I came close to booking however once on the phone to the VS Flying Club, it turned out that BD had only given them their fully flexible fares, therefore wanting well over £100 in taxes – not worth it in my opinion and the city fell off the radar.
In April of 2013, VS themselves started serving the city from London and during the summer I looked at flying to Aberdeen once more – things were much easier (and cheaper) this time. Just 3750 miles and £15 to cover the taxes for a one way ticket. Unsurprisingly there was plenty of availability too:
So I selected the afternoon departure.
Seat selection was up next, of which there were plenty.
As I wanted to try out the BA lounge in ABZ, I elected to fly BA back, again for a few Avios and £15 to cover the taxes. Once more, there was quite a few reward seats available. I selected the late afternoon departure as it would be operated by the A321 – a type I had only logged twice previously.
I was automatically given the next available seat, however as I was flying on the long version of the A321, I chose something towards the back – as if I had sat at the front, I could have been on an A319! Yeah the seats get better the further forwards you get, but on an hours flight it wasn’t an issue.
I then booked a room at the Hilton Garden Inn for £59. The whole weekend came in at a few pence under £90 – that’s more like it!
The afternoon before departure it was time to check in for the VS flight via their website:
My boarding pass was then issued.
I then checked v-flyer.com to see which aircraft would likely be taking me up North.
Seemed as though EI-DEI was the most likely candidate.
The morning, much like my last trip, started out like a typical Saturday. Over the road to get the weeks food in, listening to a couple of CD’s and watching the pre show for the Italian GP qualifying over lunch, although this Saturday I set out for the station at 12:45 in order to catch the now customary National Express coach to Heathrow Central. I was welcomed on board by a pretty friendly driver, which was a first!
Arrival was at 13:45, and I made my way through the tunnels to terminal 1.
First signs of the VS/DL link up
VS now occupy the area formerly taken up by BD,BA,LH and so on. And with T1 due to close pretty soon, they will no doubt be the last.
I then made my way through security and in true Heathrow fashion, it wasn’t overly busy but still slow.
I did seem to uncover a potential issue though. As I made my way through, I was fine. The guy behind went through and the metal detector beeped. However I was the one that was searched? I queried this, and the officer’s answer to that was the detector is slow at going off. Hmmm ok then.
Once through, I had seen that the all blacks NZ 77W was in from the coach, so I made my round to the new gates to take a look at that.
It was at the complete opposite end of the terminal from where my flight was due to depart from but as I had around 45 minutes before boarding, I thought why not.
Unusual to see a BA 767 at T1 these days.
The one I came to this area for!
After this I thought it would be a good idea to head down to gate 8 where my flight was due to depart from.
It was then through another security check and a pretty long line to where the UK and Ireland flights depart from. Long gone are the days when there was a separate area for these departures.
Another ex BD area.
Once at the gate area, a took a seat next to the window, where you can get pretty close to the action.
Boarding was called on time at 14:55 and I made my way onboard.
7th September 2013
A320-21 / EI-DEI Maggie May
Seat: 9A/12F / Economy
Off Stand: 15:19
On Stand: 16:41
No sooner as I’d sat down it seemed, the boarding complete announcement was given – by my estimation, this flight was around 25% full. Although the EDI flight that was about to depart from one of the adjacent gates looked pretty full.
Legroom number one.
I took my assigned seat, but was quickly offered an emergency exit seat. Suited me – other than my camera ended up in the overhead, and that’s pretty much where it stayed. Luckily I have a decent camera on my phone. Not quite SLR quality but you get the idea. The crew member drew attention to the safety instructions regarding the opening of the emergency exit stuck to the seat in front but that was about it. No additional speech like on AA earlier this year or Flybe on my last trip.
Legroom number two.
I now had a seat mate, a slightly older Scottish guy who seemed pretty keen to chat. Seemed he wasn’t a huge fan of Heathrow – too outdated. Or window seats – ‘if that thing pops, you’re the first out of it…’ Well yeah, he had a point I guess. He seemed to be a fan of exit rows though and was full of praise for Virgin Atlantics new service.
The captain came over the PA giving the usual welcome speech and a flying time of an hour. He also mentioned that as we were ready well ahead of schedule he would ask ATC for clearance to depart early, although a couple of minutes later he was back on again saying this request had been denied. The crew then gave the safety briefing whilst still on stand and took their seats for departure before we had even pushed back – which was a first. Despite the captain asking for an earlier slot, we pushed back just five minutes ahead of schedule and made a slow taxi over to 27L – mainly due to the fact it was so busy.
We pushed ahead of a larger step/half brother (VS A343) and finally made an intersection departure at 15:40, behind another step/half brother (an EI A320). Somewhat of a strange relationship going on with Little Red… Much like a troublesome child that VS have fostered from EI whilst still trying to decide if they want children of their own.
Some ten minutes after departure, the in flight service began. I wasn’t given a choice of snack – it seemed as though the crew distributed the crisps to whoever had soft drinks and cookies to those who had hot drinks.
Interesting to note that there was one service from the front and another from the back on this flight – presumably to avoid the issues encountered on the inaugural flight where there was just the single service from the front, therefore half the plane not getting served. After this, the crew distributed flying club enrolment forms to everybody. But I’m already a member, and have been for the last sixteen years? My miles paid for this flight…
Followed by love heart sweets, distributed from the same style trays the ice creams are dished out from on the long haul flights.
The captiain updated us in our progress shortly after, saying we were cruising at 33,000 ft and had around 30 mins left to run.I got up and went for a walk to the rear galley once the seat belt sign was finally turned off – grabbing my camera whilst I was up.
Low load today.
I managed to have a chat with one of the four crew members and she mentioned that there were 31 passengers on board – ouch. I said that was the reason as to why I was taking so many pictures, still feeling like I had to justify myself after the issues encountered on my last trip. Luckily, she didn’t seem bothered in the slightest about it. She also mentioned however that there were 135 onboard on the previous ABZ-LHR service. She offered me another drink and a cookie, but as descent was fast approaching, I declined. There was then a bit of turbulence and I had to take my seat as the seat belt signs were then turned on.
The captain was then on again, saying that there was a bit of a tail wind, which is why the flight time was so short, and we were now descending into the worst of it. Much of the descent was made over the sea before making a left hand turn over land and on to a bit of a bumpy approach.
Landing was made at just before 16:40 and we made the brief taxi over to the stand.
Wouldn’t mind a go on one of these.
Hmm sure I’ve seen this one already today… and on a certain CDG-LHR hop in April.
As there aren’t any jetways in ABZ, it was down the steps and across the tarmac into the terminal.
Once disembarked, it was a quick arrival procedure – pretty much through a set of revolving doors and I was landside, taking the grand total of about two minutes from plane to bus stop.
Once at the bus stop, I received an email reminder to check in for tomorrow’s flight.
As I’d just missed a bus to the city, I figured it would be less hassle to check in at the BA check in desks about ten feet away, considering there wasn’t a queue and the fact that the mobile website was down for maintenance. I was handed my boarding pass with a bit of a confused look – the check in agent asked the girl sat next to her what todays date was and then handed it over to me. Interesting how despite being a reward flight, therefore being cheapest of the cheap, I was still considered C class. I’m assuming this is automatically given to all passengers who are transferring to a Club Europe/World flight and status passengers. Fair enough for the transferring passengers, but the only benefit of the Business UK class is lounge access which eligible status pax have anyway and is reflected on the boarding pass. Oh well, who am I to complain.
I then sat and waited for a bus – luckily it turned up at 17:00, although wasn’t due to leave until 17:15. Not as fancy or regular as the one in Edinburgh the other week, but nowhere near as expensive either so cant complain.
I arrived in the city around 30 minutes later and made the walk to my hotel, stopping for some fast food along the way – keeping with the cheap as possible theme of this trip!
I checked into my hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn at around 18:30. As I recently gained silver status with HHonors, I was given two free drinks coupons, which were used on a couple of pints of Tenants.
My Saturday night sorted…
The rest of the evening was spent watching Top Gear replays on Dave.
The following morning started a little late, due to a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night – the second time that’s happened this year, and on both occasions happening in Hilton Garden Inn’s. I took a walk to try and find some breakfast before returning to my room and reading the complimentary newspaper.
I checked out at just before 11AM and took a walk down to the beach.
After around an hour or so, I took a slow walk back into the city.
First time I’d seen one of these golden Olympic post boxes.
My final destination in the city was the shopping centre next to the bus station.
At 2PM, I caught the bus back to the airport, arriving half an hour later.
After taking a look around the landside area, I headed through security, emerging into the duty free shop moments later.
Looks like I’ll have to use my mobile BP in order to keep the souvenir I got yesterday.
I headed through the fast track security – although there wasn’t anybody in the normal lane either so made no difference really. I was then spat out into a corridor between Boots, WHSmith and a pub. I guess that’s a little different to a duty free shop. Mainly because there weren’t any here.
I then had a look airside before heading for the lounge.
I was welcomed back into an empty lounge – nice. It was your pretty standard BA lounge really – although one complaint was that there weren’t any toilets. I would have thought that this would be a standard thing.
Basic food offerings.
Mag with a ‘don’t steal’ sticker on the front. The magazines in the London lounges don’t have this…
And finally a coffee to finish off.
Slowly but surely, the lounge started to fill up. I was able to track the incoming flight, and it confirmed that I would be on G-EUXJ delivered new to BA in April 2007 and in service withe them since. This would be just my third sector on the A321 – the previous two being a BMI example between MAN and LHR way back in 2003 and the Iberia example I ended up on by pure chance to Madrid last October.
Pretty precise timing for the gate to be announced
A few moments later I saw the familiar blue belly flash past on the runways and at 16:05 pull on to stand. Feeling a little sleepy, and needing to use the toilet I left the lounge and went for a walk.
I made my way down to the gate to watch the goings on.
Shortly heading for LCY. I would have picked this flight if there was availability.
My ride down to London
Boarding was called at 16:20, and as usual everybody had status, where as only two people didn’t.
8th September 2013
A321-200 / G-EUXJ
Seat: 28F / Business UK
Off Stand: 16:47
On Stand: 18:24
It was out on to the tarmac towards G-EUXJ as expected.
I think we all know the quote here…
I made my way to the rear stairs, was welcomed back and took my assigned seat of 28F.
Better than the standard VS legroom
Three more to try
The flight was pretty full, however the middle seat stayed free. In the aisle was a teenager who seemed like he was on his first flight – he fastened his seatbelt when I did, adjusted the headrest when I did and generally looked like he was new to it all. The captain came over the PA and announced a flying time of an hour and ten minutes. We pushed back a moment or two behind schedule and made the quick taxi out to the runway, during which, the safety video was played.
Once at the threshold, there was a long ish hold for a VS A320 to land. We took to the sky at 17:00.
The crew started the drink run around fifteen minutes after departure, with two trolleys serving the front section and one for the rear.
I ordered a tea and a water, but only ended up with the tea in the end – oh well.
We eventually leveled out at 35,000ft.
It was pretty cloudy for most of the flight, so nothing much to be seen. The engines spooled back at just before 17:40 as we passed Sheffield.
On approach, it appeared we were dodging a few of the nasty looking clouds that were around.
As promised, the captain updated us saying that the bad weather had created quite a few delays, therefore we were likely to be in a hold for around 25 minutes. Probably the longest I’ve ever held for.
We were held at 10,000ft above Watford before passing LHR.
We then made a U turn on to finals, getting a good view of Central London on finals.
A very smooth touchdown was made at 18:15 – so smooth in fact, that it just felt like a bit if turbulence until I saw the spoilers deploy. Interesting how the ailerons lift on this A321 once the spoilers are deployed much like the A346 and A380, yet the A330 I was on last year didn’t do this or the A319 and A320 either. Same for the LH A321 I was on a few weeks after this trip, which was actually a lot newer than this example. Guess it’s a BA thing?
It was then a slow taxi over to T5 – due to being held up by a 744 on tow and the other taxiway being closed for roadworks.
We arrived on stand alongside an company A319 and as soon as the brakes were applied, everybody was up – only to stand and wait for ten minutes.
Guess there is a difference between Club Europe and Euro traveller seats
As I disembarked, I asked the first officer if it was him or the plane that landed that – he replied it was him and I complimented him on it, to which he seemed very grateful.
It was then through the pretty small UK arrivals area and on to the coach home, getting held up in the typical M25 traffic along the way.
Much like my trip with BA and VS earlier in the year, it was pretty hard to separate the two airlines. Both were good but for different reasons. The VS crew seem to be very enthusiastic and friendly, but BA seem to be more polished, which I guess is to be expected due to them doing these short routes for a lot longer.
Aberdeen is a good enough city, but I’m not sure I could find enough there to keep myself entertained for an extended period. Although the beach was pretty good and not a million miles from the city. There were also some pretty interesting looking buildings.
Next up will be a four part series covering my trip to Asia in September 2013, featuring a trio of MH A380’s a CX 744 and a JL 763, plus all the usual destination pics.