Not long after I booked my trip to Frankfurt, I was already thinking of somewhere else to go.
I had been to Brussels many years ago but didn’t really do much sightseeing. I remember it being a nice city though so I made some investigations. Brussels Airways seemed like an interesting option considering I’d already booked to fly with British Airways to Frankfurt. I saw there was an option to return on one of their Avro85’s and as it was at a good time and I’d not flown on this type before this appealed the most to me. The price was a very reasonable £96 return.
As is always the case though, when I came to book a week or so later, the price of my preferred return had gone up and made the total price of the trip £130.
I decided to explore other options. I looked on Expedia and noticed that there was a 1-stop flight for £112. This immediately grabbed my attention – further investigation told me it would be on LH from Gatwick to Frankfurt on a 737-500, a flight I had wanted to try, LH regional E190, a new type for me from Frankfurt to Brussels and the return trip direct from Brussels to LHR with SN on the later A319 flight, a new airline for me. I booked almost straight away, but even in that short time the price rose to £120! Maybe just for once it would be nice if the price could go down?! Still, it worked out cheaper than SN direct and took in 2 new airlines and a new type so I was pleased.
The Lufthansa check in app was much more successful than the BA one I had tried 2 weeks previously. There were a range of options to identify yourself and once you had selected your seats etc. there was an email confirmation. Plus the fact I managed to do it over 26 hours in advance rather than the standard 24 gave it extra brownie points from me, as for the first, and second, time I’d managed to secure seq.1.
The Day Of Departure
The day starts out in a similar place to where my last trip did. Although earlier. I caught the first train of the day to Guildford where I would change for a train to LGW. As expected it was pretty quiet at this time of the morning.
At 6:50 the train arrived at Gatwick and I headed off to collect my boarding passes.
Then I headed straight off through security. I hadn’t travelled through Gatwick since they had re vamped their departures area. I was impressed! The last time I had gone through the regular security channel it was a nightmare – it must have taken a good 30 minutes. But not this morning. There was no queue at all. In fact for the first time ever I had actually made it through before my bag did!
Soon after, it was over to one of my favorite spots at LGW South. The Bridge Bar. The views from here are excellent and there’s a quiet corner you can ‘hide’ in so you can get some photography without fear of being hassled. Shame there didn’t seem to be too much going on this morning:
The breakfast had a very microwaved taste to it… And it cost how much??!
While taking photos, I looked on flightradar24 too see if I could track my incoming plane:
Seems like the flight has been upgraded from the scheduled 735 to a 733, which was good for me as it was a new sub-type.
About an hour after I’d finished breakfast, I was starting to feel like I’d outstayed my welcome at the Bridge Bar, so I went for a wonder.
At 9:05 boarding was called at gate 12. Seems like Gatwick had gone through quite a bit more of a refurb than I though. I remember these passageways being very brown looking before. The new owners seem to be trying very hard at this and although it’s further away than Heathrow, it’s now my airport of choice.
I was surprised I managed to get a reasonably good shot of my lift this morning, with there being a lack of windows at the holding pen.
24th March 2012
Off 09:41 Local
On 12:08 Local
After taking my seat at row 14, I was immediately very impressed with LH. There was so much room on this 737 classic compared to BA’s A319 I flew on the other week.
Boarding was completed pretty quickly and we made our way down to 08R. That’s now the 5th time in 5 flights I’ve made from LGW where I’ve departed off the lesser used runway. Seemed odd though, as according to flightradar24 earlier, LHR was landing and departing to the West.
After pushback all the cabin lights were dimmed, which I thought was unusual for a daytime flight. They didn’t come back on for the duration of the flight either. There was a reasonable load. I’d say about 70%. I did have a seatmate but the middle seat was free so in theory there was plenty of room. Although he decided that the spare seat was his. Not too worried though as there was enough room.
On our way I managed to snap these.
I was on the lookout for ‘Super Turismo’. It had returned from its 18 month secondment from Bolivia just last week and was back at VS maintenance before heading off for a refurb in HKG. It will be the first LGW based VS 747 to get the new cabins. Shame the pic didn’t come out that well.
Once airborne the service started pretty quickly. The captain had previously announced a flight time if an hour so this was to be a shorter journey over to FRA than it was the other week. Nothing significant happened during the quick crossing. Although I will comment on how attentive the cabin crew were. I am very impressed with LH so far!
Chocolate Danish pastry – not bad for a 2nd breakfast!
After about 30 mins we started our descent. Due to there being less cloud around than before I could see a little bit more scenery but not a huge amount. There was quite a bit of turbulence on approach but nothing too major. One thing I did notice on final approach was a bird fly past very close to the wingtip – could of caused a few problems if it was any closer. It was picked up on the landing video at about 3:14 minutes in.
Landing was made on the new runway and we made a very long and slow taxi to a remote stand opposite T2
A good 15 to 20 mins later we pulled up on stand.
I was off on my 3rd bus trip of FRA in less than 2 weeks.
Connecting At Frankfurt
The connection at FRA was pretty simple. I knew that my next flight would be departing from gate A2 so it was simply a case of following the signs to concourse A. It was quite a walk, but having felt quite under the weather earlier in the week, there’s nothing like a long walk and a run up and down 3 flights of stairs to blow the cobwebs out.
Once at cafe, I mean, gate A2 I was treated to a pretty good view. The weather seems to have improved in the last couple of weeks too! Lufthansa were continuing to impress me with their free coffee at the gate. Although I didn’t have one. I just enjoyed the views instead.
Off to Brussels
24th March 2012
At approx. 13:30 boarding started. I scanned my boarding card at the train station style gate and headed downstairs to the waiting bus. I could tell this would be a fairly empty flight as we waited around on the bus for about 10 or 15 minutes but nobody else showed up after the initial rush. If the bus wasn’t even full then the plane wouldn’t be either. And I was correct, as I had the whole of row 18 to myself.
Once again the legroom was impressive – much better than on the E170 of BA I was on last time round.
Once on board, the captain came on and told us that we we’re running well ahead of schedule and that we would have a flight time of 45 minutes. Shortly after we taxied away from our stand and made our way down to runway 18 for a short and powerful takeoff.
Shortly after take off the inflight service started
Relatively empty cabin on this short hop.
And not too long after that we were making our way back to solid ground again. Gotta love the efficiency of the cabin crew on these short hops! To be honest I didn’t really notice descent had started. There was no change in engine tone at all and it was almost like we had just cruised our way down to the runway. Again there was quite a bit of turbulence but not enough to cause any major problems. I was surprised at how green it was around BRU. Does anybody actually live here?! It’s all fields!
After a long but pleasant walk through Zaventem, I was at a new looking train station. I must admit I was impressed with BRU. Out of the 3 airports I have visited today, it had made the biggest impression on me. It’s almost like it was brand new and very airy and spacious.
A quick train ride later and I was at Gare du Nord. My hotel was a short walk away.
I read a report on here last week, saying that the area around Gare du Nord wasn’t that great. To be honest I found it no problem whatsoever. Even wondering around after dark was no issue – apart from the fact everything was shut.
I used the hotel Wi-Fi to check in for my flight back to LHR. Again, using the Lufthansa app was no problem. I had a pick of every seat on the plane too – what a choice. I was hoping being a quite late departure, it would be relatively empty.
A few pics from a sticky afternoon and sunny morning in Brussels:
After seeing what the city had to offer I ventured out to the atomium. Wow what a structure! For some reason I’d thought it was just a statue. When I got there I was blown away with the size of it.
Back To The Airport
At around 4:30 I decided to make a slow trip back to the airport. My flight wasn’t until 21:20 but after what I’d seen of BRU yesterday, I wanted to explore some more. I thought it would be more interesting to take the tram rather than the metro back, as it get to see a bit more!
Outside Gare du Nord
Only a 10-minute journey to BRU station.
Arrival At BRU
Once I arrived a BRU I went to a self-serve check in machine to get my boarding pass. Although a message came up saying there had been an error and that I needed to go to a manned check in counter. I’d been having problems since I booked this trip – the SN website was saying all along that it didn’t recognize my booking locator number. However, I went along to a check in counter and got my boarding pass issued with no problems.
After that I went for a wonder outside, as it was such a nice evening. I saw some spotters on the top of one of the car parks and made some investigations on how to get up there. Once I made my way up, I was able to get some good pics.
On loan from Fly.Be
After about 20 minutes, my stomach was telling me it was time to eat, so I headed off indoors again.
I went to investigate the Wingtips restauraunt but I wasn’t impressed with the selection landside. I headed through security. And this is where my impression of BRU dropped. I remembered afterwards that I had come in to the Schengen area yesterday, and as I was heading direct back to LHR I was now in the non-Schengen area. This area didn’t seem as impressive as the one I had been to yesterday. The food wasn’t up to much either. Still, at least there was a decent view.
After dinner I went for a wonder and noticed the Star Alliance logo jet pull in. Could this be my ride this evening?
I headed through security. It was a painless affair and I was through without any issue – must be getting good at this now!
It turned out I was on the Star Alliance A319. I was quite pleased about that. Only once before had I been on a plane wearing a special livery – Virgin Atlantic’s G-VFAB in the 21st birthday livery.
25th March 2012
Off 2122 local
On 2138 local
Boarding started at 21:00…
… Or so we thought.
After about 5 minutes of waiting, a ground worker walked up, rolled his eyes and removed the tape. Once on board, my first impressions were that SN is pretty similar to LH although it didn’t seem the legroom was as generous.
Shortly after the boarding complete announcement was given, and once again I had a row of 3 to myself. Of the 5 flights in Europe I’ve made this year, only once did I have somebody next to me. I guess this proves that air travel in Europe isn’t as popular as it once was.
We pushed back at just after 21:20 local and made quite a slow taxi out to runway 02. Just before we lined up, the very jolly sounding captain came on for the first time saying we we’re number 2 for departure and that our flight would take 45 minutes. A couple of minutes later, at 21:35 local we were off.
The flight went by without any issues. The cabin crew went to work shortly after departure. 10 minutes after takeoff we had reached our cruising altitude and 10 minutes after that we had started our descent.
We were making a few left turns on approach and I suspected we were probably in a hold. After seeing the O2 arena and the new Olympic stadium 3 times my suspicions were confirmed. It was now 21:15 and we were nowhere near landing. Not long after the captain came on again and said we were in a hold above Heathrow and that we would no be landing at 21:35. By my calculations that was a 15-minute delay.
We approached LHR from towards the East and at 21:35 made a smooth touchdown on 09L. LHR was very busy tonight. As we left the runway the following aircraft was almost touching down and there was a long line on approach behind. That would explain the long hold. As we were arriving at T1 the taxi in was very short. We pulled up alongside a Swiss A320.
Then it was down into the endless corridors of LHR T1:
Then I was in a long queue at immigration. Only in the UK have I spent more than 5 minutes waiting at immigration! Some 20 minutes later I was officially back in the country and in a bit of a rush to catch the coach back home. I made my way through the underground tunnels to the central bus station to get the National Express coach I’d had a few issues with on my last trip.
I got to the bus stop to find a coach with no driver – so I needn’t had bothered rushing after all.
A few minutes later a driver appeared and we were off. We stopped at T5 but not T4 – seems like the drivers just seem to pick and choose where they go on this service. Last time round they didn’t want to go to T5 and now the people wanting to get on at T4 had to go without. Oh dear! After we got off the M25 we made a trip around the local hospital – how random! We pulled into the station at 23:00 and I was off for the short walk home. And that brings this trip to an end.
Overall I thought Lufthansa were very good for a short flights. I’ll definitely be using them again. Brussels Airways were good, although I’m not a fan of the whole buy on board system. I guess that’s just the way things are though. I enjoyed Brussels very much and glad I made another trip there to see more.
Next stop, Dublin!