Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Amsterdam airliners.net meet with SI, BA and WX. May 2014


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Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Shortly after the previous a.net meet in Zurich, some of the Trip Report forum regulars started discussing where and when the next meet would take place. After a good few months, it was decided that the meet would take place in Amsterdam on the last weekend in May. This turned out to be somewhat of a blessing for me, as after losing out on 140 British Airways tier points on my flight between BCN-DOH the previous month I was in need of just a few more to retain my status. As it turns out, the Jersey - Amsterdam route, if flown in Club Europe, gives you the most tier points per pound. So that would be my flight into Amsterdam sorted.

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During booking the LGW-AMS sector showed an A319. So I was pleasantly surprised when the 734 seat map came up a few moments later when booking my seat.

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However, due to the fact I live just south of London I needed a way to get to Jersey. I had a few options. The first, easiest and most convenient was the British Airways flight. However, having two in the books already that day, it was at the bottom of the list. Second was EasyJet - from either Gatwick or Southend. Well, Southend would be new, but not really appealing enough. Third was Flybe. Being firmly on my no fly list, I didnt even bother to look at them. Next up were a pair of smaller airlines - Aurigny and Blue Islands. As Blue Islands was half the price of Aurigny, that was who I chose.

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Surprisingly, during OLCI for this flight, I could pre assign a seat:

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Although at £94 for the 120odd mile hop, it was still a little steep.

Next up was the return. I had my heart set on SAS - mainly because the Blue1 717 operates between AMS and ARN and also at the time I looked, SAS Plus was just a few pounds more than SAS Go and that would have been a great way to kick start my new Star Alliance FFP. Annoyingly though when I actually came to book the option with the Blue1 717 had shot right up - it was now over £300 for SAS Go. With a budget of around £200 for the return, this wouldn't work. I studied other options. I looked around a bit at connecting options, but they weren't in budget. I then remembered that CityJet fly from AMS-LCY - an airline that I'd wanted to try for quite a while now. They came in within budget, and I booked straight away.

On the day of departure, it was a 5:00AM alarm call. I made my way to the station for the hours train journey down to Southampton Airport.

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Upon arrival, there wasn't much of a queue for the Blue Islands check in - only a couple already at the desk who couldn't figure out why they weren't able to use the Blue Islands check in for an Aurigny flight - they all fly to the same place right?!

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When it was my turn, I was welcomed by name, handed a receipt style boarding pass and invited to use the fast track for security.

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I sat landside for a while and people watched before making my way through.

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To be honest the fast track wasn't any different to the standard line I used on my last visit. Once through, I was glad to see that it wasn't anywhere near as busy as the last time I flew out of here. In fact there were more staff around than passengers so I had to be a little discreet on the picture front... In fact, pretty much as soon as I pulled the SLR out, I noticed one of them glaring at me, so it went back in the bag, and I took a few sneaky phone pics instead.

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I could have accessed the lounge via my Airport Angel card, but after researching it online, it didn't look anything special so didn't bother.

As there wasn't much to see once a Flybe Dash8 departed, I sat and read the paper until gate 6 was announced around thirty minutes prior to departure.

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A few moments later, an ATR pulled on to stand... At first I thought there had been a last minute substitution, but then realised it was probably due to operate the flight to Guernsey from the gate next door.

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Boarding was announced and I was the first person on to the bus. I counted another 18 passengers so that meant a full flight.

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SI643
SOU-JER
May 2014
BAE Jetstream 31 / G-ISLD
Seat: 3A / Economy
Scheduled: 08:30/09:20
Off Stand: 08:43
On Stand: 09:28


There was a bit of a wait on the bus - the ground crew blaming weight issues. Eventually, we did set off in the direction of G-ISLD.

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I was greeted at the rear entrance by the captain, and I made my way up the steps. I knew this was a small plane, but I was more than a little surprised at just how small! The first officer was stood at the entrance to the flight deck and he seemed to know a few people by name, and they knew him too so in guessing there are a few regulars on this service.

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Tight legroom, considering I had my bag between my legs (no room under the seat in front)

One thing I did like though was the direct view into the flight deck.

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The captain did the safety demo, announced a flying time of 37 minutes, strapped himself in and the engines were started. We pulled off of stand and made our way down to the runway.

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There was a brief hold before we lifted off into the cloudy skies. Unfortunately there weren't too many views to be had. From what I could see, we cruised at 10,000ft, which was right in the cloud level.

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I amused myself on this short flight by flicking through the inflight mag and glancing up at the live moving map.

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London Waterloo, Isle of Wight, Hong Kong… just a few places you cant fly to on Blue Islands!

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1B is definitely the seat to be in on the J31!

The throttles were pulled back and we started our descent, although like much of the flight there wasn't much to be seen until on finals.

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We touched down, made a loud roll out and made a quick taxi over to the stand.

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It was a pretty quick walk through the dated looking terminal.

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As I had a good 4 hours or so until my next flight, I took the bus into town.

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First stop was Costa for breakfast:

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I am a fan of local markets

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All to quickly though, it was time to be heading back. The bus pulled up outside departures and I made my way over to the BA check in. I was handed two thermo paper boarding passes and given directions to the lounge.

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I then made my way to security, where it was belt off, shoes off and iPad out of the bag... Where as in SOU earlier I didn't have to do any of that - one thing that does annoy me is the inconsistency of the rules. Surely if I have to do all this here, I should have to do it everywhere?

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Anyway, once through I headed off to the lounge. It was actually pretty pleasant, as it wasn't too busy. A rarity for BA lounges I've found!

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I used flightradar24 to track my incoming flights progress, and it seemed to be running a little late. Due to a nicely padded schedule though, it didn't arrive too late. Once the scheduled boarding time was getting near, I went for a wander, and discovered a pretty good viewing deck - just as my plane was pulling on to stand.

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My ride over to Jersey, heading back to SOU once more.

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After watching a few movements, I made my way back downstairs and joined the long line for boarding. There wasn't any priority lane so I had no choice but to wait.

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BA2773
JER-LGW
May 2014
Airbus A319 / G-DBCC
Seat: 4F / Club Europe
Scheduled: 13:40/14:30
Off Stand: 13:59
On Stand: 14:47


Once I was on board, I took my seat on this former BMI machine. One thing of note was that there wasn't any divider between Club Europe and Economy - despite there being a curtain present back in the BD days.

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The one major difference between the BA and ex BD fleet in J

The first officer welcomed everybody, announced a flying time of 37 minutes and a cruising altitude of 17,000 ft.

We pushed back around twenty minutes behind schedule while a rather rushed safety demo took place. We then sped over to the active.

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Following this came a pretty quick take off roll. Maybe around 15 seconds or so from throttles up to wheels up. As the cloud layer had cleared from this morning, there were some pretty good views during our climb.

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Around two minutes after departure, the crew sprang into action distributing the meal trays to those of us in club.

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Clue to the previous identity of this one up front

No sooner had I finished eating, descent had started into a rainy London.

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The first officer said that we would be touching down at 14:30, although as the time was now 14:25, I felt that May be a little optimistic…

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In the end, we touched down at around 14:45.

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Just a few moments later we arrived on stand.

It was then a case of following the signs for flight connections - the second time I had connected at one of my home airports.

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When I reached passport control (despite coming off of a domestic flight?) it was pretty much a U turn to head back through security and upstairs into departures.

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The transfer security area wasn't too great though - mainly because it was pretty understaffed. The main entry was unmanned, so when I made my way forward the same person who gives you the liquids etc. speech had to run back, scan my boarding pass, then make her way back to the X-Ray to make sure I knew what I was doing. Despite this, I was still into the lounge within 15 minutes, which was pretty reasonable.

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Standard food options

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DY 787 as seen from the lounge

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G-DBCC off on yet another Jersey rotation

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More tarmac views

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I made myself at home here until gate 567 was announced. I made my way down, just before boarding started.

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BA2764
LGW-AMS
May 2014
737-400 / G-DOCO
Seat: 6F / Class
Scheduled: 18:00/20:10
Off Stand: 17:57
On Stand: 20:11


I took my seat, and was quickly joined by my (loud) seatmate - who was having a full blown conversation on her phone, which just happened to be on speakerphone.... So the whole cabin got an insight into how annoyed she was with the price of the train. Lovely.

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Another amusement during boarding was a 'less desirable' type appearing in the forward cabin and announcing that if her bag was flying 'first class', then she would be too. The purser dealt with that well enough, but then when the persons bag was far too big and heavy for them to lift, she decided to enlist the help of the crew. Quite rightly, the crew member said she was unable to help, at which point there was quite a bit of swearing and the mention that 'this wouldn't be an issue on Easyjet'. The crew member then points out that she's unable to help for insurance reasons. That was again met with a few more choice words before the guy sat in 4D decided to help out. They then thanked the guy before Ms Stroppy claimed 'at least some people are helpful', before giving the crew member a bit of a playful (but sarcastic) pat on the cheeks. This wound up the crew member quite a bit, as she then stormed off to the front galley and let off some steam to the other crew member. Personally I would have got her thrown off...

We pushed back, and made our way out to the runway, with the hot towels being distributed, and collected along the way.

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We had to wait for a while for an EasyJet A320 to depart.

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Before departing into some now clear skies.

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Passing over the Isle of Sheppey

Around fifteen minutes after departure, the meal service began. There wasn't a choice, apart from Thai beef salad. It didn't taste that great - the beef was pretty tough, and the noodles were bland.

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Whilst I was eating, descent started. The captain announced that we would be landing on the south runway and it would take quite a while to taxi over to the terminal - so the polderbaan.

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We arrived on to stand, and it was over to passport control - which was packed.

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Despite it being busy, it only took around ten minutes to get through. It was a short walk over to my hotel - once again, the CitizenM, via the Schiphol plaza.

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I was glad to get a room with a view, much like the last time I stayed here (unlike MIASpotter, who was stuck on the first floor…)

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My ride from LGW heading off again

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The following morning was spent on the panorama terrace, waiting for the others to arrive.

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Probably the first and last time seeing a DC3 in the air

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Seeing G-GBTA for the third time in two days

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Very happy to catch this one

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It was then time to off to the Luchtvaart hobby shop.

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Some €110 later, I figured it was time to leave…

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The group then headed off to the Polderbaan.

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And finally heading off into the city for some dinner and a bit of sightseeing.

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The next morning, I watched a few of the movements from my room (or more specifically, bed).

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The early morning LHR arrival

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I then met up with MIASpotter for some breakfast at Starbucks.

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Once we were done, he made his way back to the hotel to check out, while I headed up to the Panorama terrace once more.

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Bye now!
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Rush hour in AMS
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My lift back to London

After around an hour, it was time to leave so I bid farewell and headed downstairs. On the way I grabbed a souvenir boarding pass.

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Looks good enough to me

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Once I was through security, I went for a wander through the terminal.

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Before heading towards gate D6, which happened to be a bus gate. Boarding began, and everybody filed on to a bus.

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Interesting selection of destinations

The bus set off, but we were halted in our progress due to a DL 767 starting up and a KL 737 heading out.

When we made it over to EI-WXA, there was a bit of a wait for the front steps to be adjusted. When we were finally allowed to leave the bus, I took my time and grabbed a few shots on the ramp.

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WX192
AMS-LCY
May 2014
Avro RJ85 / EI-WXA
Seat: 14F / Economy
Scheduled: 13:35/13:55
Off Stand: 13:37
On Stand: 13:45


I made my way down to the rear and got comfortable.

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Somebody initially sat in 14E, but when it became apparent that the aisle seat would be free, he moved over. Odd as the seatmap showed the aisle taken and the middle free. I was glad though as theses RJ's in the 3x3 config seemed a little tight.

The captain announced a flying time of 45 minutes and a ten minute or so taxi - so I figured it would be the polderbaan. The crew of two performed the safety demo to a pre recorded script and we made the long journey over to the runway.

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Once there, we held for a while for a couple of departures - including the EasyJet that Flieger67 and Infodesk had arrived on an hour or so previously (I'd tracked their flight on FR24 to see if there was a chance to briefly say hello, but they were due to arrive just as I was boarding).

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We took to the sky around 20 minutes after leaving the gate.

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Almost immediately we were over the English Channel.

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During this time, the crew did a drinks and snack service.

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While they came and collected the rubbish, the offered seconds - normally you're lucky to get any service at all on a flight of this length let alone two!

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Both WX and AF inflight mags:

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By this time we were well into our descent. We flew along the coast before turning in land. I was hoping for an approach over the city, but it wasn't to be.

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We touched down, slowed down fairly rapidly and pulled almost immediately on to stand.

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There was quite a wait to disembark, but I was still at the DLR station within 15 minutes.

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Some 25 minutes later, I was at Waterloo station and rushing for a train home - which I made.

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Former London home of the Eurostar, now being rebuilt for local services

And with that brought an end to this trip.

It was a little hard to judge Blue Islands on a 40 minute or so sector with no service, but they seemed decent enough and I wont be against flying with them again.

British Airways were the same as usual, although the lack of the curtain on the JER-LGW sector gave a slightly less exclusive feel to the cabin.

CityJet were pretty good - they delivered a similar service to most of the other major players - and in certain cases they actually did a better job.