This weekends trip started out some months ago.
Originally I had planned to take a BMI regional flight to ABZ using my VS flying club miles so I could log an E145. I had looked up the taxes/fees on the BMI website and they came to a reasonable £57. So I called the VS flying club to book, and everything went to plan until it came to the payment. As BD had only given VS their fully flexible tickets, the taxes and fees were in the higher bracket. I can’t remember the exact amount of money, but I didn’t think it was very good value considering the amount of miles they wanted and I decided to leave it.
I still quite fancied a trip to Scotland though, as I had never been, and studied other options. As it turned out, Flybe came through with an interesting option. An E195 from LGW to BHD and a Q400 between BHD and GLA. Both types were new to me and I had never been on a prop before. Plus I’d very briefly get to visit Northern Ireland for the first time. Prices seemed similar to BA, but I got 2 extra flights thrown in, so in my mind this was better value! Without taking much time to think, my card was coming out of my wallet and the flights were being booked for a couple of quid under £150.
Next Up, A Hotel
The Ibis looked like a good location, got good reviews on trip advisor and for booking so far in advance I managed to secure a good advanced rate.
As the flight would be departing at 08:50, it meant taking the 05:53 train. I prebooked my tickets for £25.
And whilst I was in the mood for booking things online, I booked a return on the number 500 bus from Glasgow airport to the city for a pretty expensive £7.50. Although its still cheaper than the coach that goes from my local station to Heathrow.
Online Check In
36 hours before my first flight was due to leave, I reluctantly decided to check in online. I’d heard that you just get randomly assigned seats but thought I’d try my luck anyway as in my mind I could just cancel the operation if I wasn’t assigned a seat I wanted. As it turned out that wasn’t an option to do that. You’re greeted with a list of your flights and a check box to select each one you want to check in for. The next screen is your boarding pass with a print screen automatically coming up. No other options. Very simple, but for my other 3 flights I decided not to play ‘window seat roulette’, and checked in at the airport.
The Day Of Deaprture
At 05:30, I set off for the station.
As expected the train was virtually empty at this time of the morning
My second train of the morning had a few more people on it and considering most had suitcases it was fair to assume they were headed for Gatwick too.
I spent my time on the train catching up with the news on my ipad and also took a look at flight radar24 – and yet again I saw that LGW arrivals and departures were to the East – that’s now 8 trips in a row, dating back to 2002 where I’ve missed out on 26L!
After around 50 mins or so the train pulled up at Gatwick station and it was off to check in for my BHD-GLA sector. The self-serve kiosk seemed to have a few problems with this, so I headed over to see an actual person and they managed to sort it for me.
I then made my way round to security via the VS check in area and they seemed to have a bit of a celebration going on for their inaugural flight to Cancun. The flights had actually started a few weeks previously but today was the official launch.
After that it was through security. I spotted a free lane at the far end so I headed for that. Unfortunately the ‘I’ve never flown before and I don’t know the rules’ family spotted it a second quicker than I did and I got slightly held up. It still only took a couple of minutes though.
Airside At Gatwick
Once through I went off to get some breakfast. After the poor showing by my favorite spotting location airside on my previous visit, I decided to try out Franky and Bennys. Slightly better attempt than The Bridge Bar, but the view wasn’t as good where I was seated. That’s where the Bridge Bar has and advantage – being a pub you choose where you sit rather than relying on somebody to choose for you.
I still managed to get some decent shots though. And the service was quick. A bit too quick for my liking. It filled a hole though.
It was then off for a quick wonder as boarding was due to begin at 8:20. The FID showed that the gate would open at 08:10, however I knew that this probably wouldn’t be the case. In the end it opened at 08:15, so not bad by LGW’s standards!
Today’s flight would be departing from gate 6 – I hadn’t departed from this pier before so was interested to see what it was like.
I wasn’t left with the best impression. The ground staff wanted everybody to join one LONG queue to get through. There were quite a few people complaining about this but in the end it only took around 10 minutes or so to reach the holding pen.
7 July 2012
E-195 – G-FBEG
Off Stand: 08:53
Shortly afterwards, boarding was called by row number. Being initially seated in 8a I was among the last to board. It seemed like there was a load of around 80% or so.
I had a seatmate but noticed row 4 was free so I made the decision it wouldn’t be free after take off! The female captain came on the PA and announced a flying time of just under an hour.
We pushed back slightly behind schedule and made our way down to 08R for a damp take off. On the way down I spotted yet another new VS A330 – G-VNYC this time. As it was over the other side of the plane, no photo this time. Take off was just before 09:10 local. One thing I did notice was that we taxied out with just the one engine running. As we reached the end of the runway, the air conditioning went off and the other engine was started.
After take off, I made my move to row 4 just after the seat once the seatbelt sign had gone off. Just shame the lovely British summer we’ve been having prevented any decent photo opportunities. There were some good cloud formations though.
The crew then came through the cabin offering food or drink for sale. Not for me this time though.
After half an hours flying time the captain was on the PA again saying that we’re making good progress, giving a weather update for Belfast and that we would shortly be starting our descent. No sooner had she hung up the phone, the engines spooled back and we were indeed heading back towards solid ground.
Landing was a cloudy, wet and bumpy affair. We arrived on stand just ahead of schedule though.
The Belfast Layover
Then it was time to wait for my next flight. Upon checking the fids, I noticed here was a 25-minute delay. It seemed like most flights were delayed today – maybe due to the bad weather in the UK? My flight had one of the shortest delays – others were up to 2 hours.
That left me 3 hours to wait around at BHD, and the fact the weather was so bad, it meant I didn’t much feel like taking a walk outside either. I did manage to check in for my flight home tomorrow while I was waiting though.
Once the weather cleared up a bit, I took a brief walk outside I spotted the aircraft that brought me to BHD sat quietly in a corner all alone.
Back Through Security
At around 11:30 I headed through security. This took quite a while as there was only 1 lane open. I got some amusement though – 2 lads in front had either been living under a rock for the last few years or thought all the publications/signs/ whatever saying no liquids over 100ml didn’t apply to them. Either way they had to leave what seemed like the entire contents of Tesco’s styling aisle behind.
Then it was up to departures
After a brief look at what BHD had to offer airside (not a lot), I found somewhere to grab a cake and coffee and watch what was going on outside (not a lot).
And that’s where I remained. Yet another delay flashed up. Estimated departure time was now 13:30 – 45 minutes behind schedule. At 13:05 G-ECOG landed and pulled on to stand. I came to the conclusion that I would be on this one as the only other aircraft around was the BA/BMI A319.
On To The Next One
7 July 2012
Q400 – G-ECOG
Off Stand: 13:39
On Stand: 14:12
Boarding started at 13:25, although I just happened to notice this by chance as no announcement was made. Good thing too as I was pretty fed up with waiting around by then!
I took my seat onboard and the flight seemed reasonably full. I still had the seat next to me free though. The legroom seemed better than in the E195 from earlier.
Flight time was given as 30 minutes. We made a brisk taxi out to the runway and a pretty powerful takeoff to the West at 13:45.
Almost immediately after takeoff the crew started their service. I guess there wasn’t anytime to mess about on his short flight.
At 13:58 the 10 minutes to landing notification was given – this certainly was a quick hop! The only thing that made an appearance through the clouds was this small island.
Upon arrival at GLA it was a pretty quick taxi on to stand and I disembarked via the rear stairs.
Then it was a quick walk through to arrivals with a few pics along the way:
I headed outside and got straight on to a packed number 500 bus for the city.
Once in the city, I headed for the nearest subway station as I wanted to visit the riverside museum:
Seemed quite old fashioned to me, but I read that it was in the process of being upgraded. The museum was very interesting, although it wasn’t too big. Could of done with an aviation section though as they seemed to have every other form of transport covered.
Once finished I headed back into the city to have a look what was on offer.
After dinner I made my way to the hotel as I was feeling a bit tired. It was about a mile away so walked off dinner nicely.
The Following Day
Sunday started fairly early as I felt I hadn’t really seen all I had wanted to around the city, and I wanted to be back at the airport by around 9:30. I checked out of my hotel just before 7:30 and took a walk.
Heading Back To The Airport
At 9:00 I took the bus back to the airport. Shortly after I had arrived.
I headed off to check in and get my boarding passes, but according to the machine, I had already checked it – I wasn’t aware of that, but it said I had seat 2a so I was pleased.
There didn’t seem to be too much landside so I got in a long ish queue for security. It took around 10 minutes or so to get through, then it was straight into a duty free shop that I had no interest in
With over an hour or so to kill, I decided to treat myself to a full weatherspoons breakfast
Then it was off to check out the views
I was quite impressed with Glasgow airport – lots of natural light, and very spacious feel to it considering it’s not one of the bigger airports.
8 July 2012
Q400 – G-JECX
Off Stand: 11:40
On Stand: 12:14
At exactly 10:55 gate 14 was announced and I made my way down, through a last ditch effort to sell me stuff I don’t want, to find G-JECX waiting.
Boarding commenced at 11:28. There was a slight delay – I overheard the ground crew that they were still waiting for something. I’d seen Flybe claim that they were the most punctual low cost airline… Hmm I was having my doubts.
A very friendly flight attendant – addressing every passenger by name, greeted me onboard. There seemed to be a bit more legroom at the front of this dash8. During boarding I noticed that all the other passengers were being directed towards the back of the aircraft. As it turned out the only other person forward of row 10 other than myself (and sat in row 2d) was a young girl.
Boarding was completed at 11:36. We made a taxi out to the runway and during which I got spotted by the crew taking pictures/filming and asked to stop – doh! This made a bit of a mess of my takeoff video, but what I did manage to get can be seen below.
Take off was at 11:49 so all being well arrival should be at 12:19, as the crew had earlier mentioned that it would be a flight of 30 minutes. It was quite a bumpy crossing as it was entirely in the clouds.
At 12:03 the engines spooled back and the 10 minutes to landing call was given. So in reality it was less than 30 minutes. The cloud base seemed a bit higher than yesterday so that allowed some better views – due to my camera ban though, you’ll just have to take my word for it!
As we were pulling onto stand, the forward crew member started making the usual arrival talk. I thought to myself she couldn’t possibly tell me off again now we’ve landed…
Wrong. She stuttered in her speech before adding on “and may we remind you that all electronic devices must remain OFF until inside the terminal”.
Once inside the terminal, I figured I was probably safe so took a pic
Wrong again. A ground crew member said “you’re not allowed to take pictures chap”. Seriously… I’ve been taking pictures in and around airports for years with no problems and I’ve now been told off three times in about half an hour!
I made my way through arrivals and headed for the flybe customer service desk to try and bribe my way into the lounge… £12 poorer I was given a pass.
Before I headed through security, with my confidence in tatters, I snuck a pic of the new BA check in desk:
Then I headed through security. I did everything the same as I had done previously, had all the same things in my bag (apart from some butter tablet I’d brought) and yet for some reason, the alarm went off on the X-ray machine and my bag (and myself) was taken off into the naughty corner. The security agent unpacked a few bits then took my phone and charger out… My phone seemed to be getting me into a lot of trouble this morning.
The FlyBe Lounge
Without much more trouble I was let on my way and I headed up to the lounge.
The same young lady that I saw on the service desk yesterday greeted me. Finally a friendly face! The lounge was very quiet – infact apart from me, there were only 2 other people in the lounge.
The offerings were about as much as I’d expected. Still, with flybe being a low cost carrier the fact there’s a lounge at all is a bonus. I waited here until my flight was called. Whilst waiting I saw the plane that brought me in depart to Inverness
Back To London
8 July 2012
E-195 – G-FBEF
Off Stand: 14:37
Boarding was called at 14:15 on to a wet Belfast Tarmac.
The female captain welcomed everybody on board and gave a flight time of around an hour or so, and our routing.
Interestingly enough, this was the same captain from yesterday’s flight. The load was around 95% or so, however boarding was completed pretty quickly and we pushed back a minute early. Due to the heavy load I had a seatmate and there wasn’t any real opportunity to move either.
The cabin crew did the safety demonstration to a pre-recorded tape and we made a short taxi out to the runway. Luckily this time, due to being seated in the middle of the cabin I could film and take as many pictures as I liked!
Unfortunately the weather had deteriorated in the couple of hours or so id spend in Belfast so there wasn’t much of a view to be had. The runway had also switched direction. Takeoff was at 47 minutes past the hour.
The flight was quite bumpy on the way up and there was quite a bit of cloud around however once this had cleared it was a comfortable flight over to London – other than the fact the cabin was very hot.
One thing I did notice on both E195 flights was that the windows in all rows didn’t seem to line up all that well with the seats. I’m assuming this was down to the reduced seat pitch onboard the flybe jets.
At 15:11 the engines spooled back, the plane took a very definite nose down attitude, and things started to get very bumpy again. Infact I’d never been on a plane that had done such a nosedive before – Shame it didn’t really come out on camera all that well as it was quite something. I’m assuming descent was started a bit late – or even TCAS had taken over, although I’d imagine this scenario was unlikely at cruising altitude.
Shortly after the captain came over the pa to give us an update. She said that barring any inbound delays we should be on stand 10 minutes ahead of schedule at 15:50. And that there were a few rain bearing clouds around. Surprise surprise. Then the seatbelt sight came on as the captain was expecting some turbulence. And boy did show up just a few moments later!
The rest of the descent mostly involved dodging some aggressive looking clouds
Then during short finals I noticed that we were crossing the M23 – so that would mean that after a good few years I’d finally be using 26L! Touchdown was smooth enough but I think it might of been a bit late due to some very hard braking action and leaving the runway while still travelling at some speed.
After pulling up at the domestic pier there was a bit of a wait while somebody could be found to operate the jet bridge.
I was happy to let everybody else go before me, and when I reached the front I asked for a flight deck visit, which was granted.
I asked the captain if she was on my flight yesterday but she said it wouldn’t of been her as she was off, and therefore the flight wouldn’t of been as smooth – guess its good to have a captain confident in their capabilities.
I was also amazed at how small the e-series flight deck was. When I said it was a flight deck visit, it was more a case of them opening the door as there wasn’t enough room for 3 of us in there! I also noticed that they were now using iPads instead – they said flybe had been using the, for around 8 months now. The jet-powered aircraft have 2, the props have 1.
The first officer also mentioned that the E-series was planned to become the backbone of the fleet as the Dash-8’s were becoming unreliable. Apparently they will be phased out over then next few years? I did question him, but he seemed fairly confident. We shall see… I felt like I had a dispatcher breathing down my neck, so bid farewell and went on my way.
The reason for the queue was for a security check, and everybody had their picture taken and a card handed to them. The dispatcher who was waiting for me obviously had enough by this point and told me to let the people at the other end that I was the last passenger so they could shut the door. If only I could get the customer to do my job for me…
Then it was a case of following the signs to the exit.
The exit was in zone B of the departure hall. I had wondered what became of this area since Aer Lingus had moved out – turns out Air Transat had taken it over.
The final leg of my journey would be by train
At a reasonable 17:30 I arrived back where I started almost exactly 36 hours earlier.
In conclusion flybe wasn’t too bad. The online check in system could be better and considering they’re meant to be a low cost carrier they weren’t particularly low cost. Although I’m of the opinion that none of them are really. The E195 was a little cramped compared to some other airlines, but the dash 8 more than made up for it. My recommendation is to try and get row 2 on the a side – a lot more room than the rest of the plane, just don’t expect to be able to take any pictures on takeoff or landing! The lounge in BHD was worth the money I felt too if you have a long layover. Glasgow reminded me of Frankfurt in a way – plenty to do if you like shopping but didn’t seem to be a huge amount in the way of landmarks.