Sunday, 9 August 2015

S.America 6: Home on an Air Nostrum CRJ/BA A321

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

Thanks for taking a look at my latest report, which will feature the final two sectors home from South America in April 2015.

After arrival into Madrid, somewhat of a disaster struck. I developed a bit of a stomach ache, but I figured I was just feeling the effects of the long overnight flight from Colombia. I took a walk around the block but wasn't feeling any better so I surrendered to my room for the evening. Luckily the weather wasn't great, so I didn't miss too much.

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I’ll spare you the gory details, but lets just say I didn't get much sleep that evening and I was having serious doubts as to whether I’d be fit enough to fly the following afternoon. Luckily, after waking up reasonably late I was feeling a bit better, although still not 100%. Again, a walk around the block to blow the cobwebs out and to pop to the shop to rehydrate seemed to do the trick.

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I left it until the last possible moment to check out of my hotel and to make my way back to the airport, once more on the train.

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I ventured over to the check in desk to dump my bag but was told that I could only get one boarding pass for some reason - despite being able to check my bag through to London.

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It was then the fast track security, which unlike at LHR was actually fast - despite a rather rude agent barking orders at me and snatching my liquids/iPad etc off me and throwing them in a tray.

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After this, it was pretty much straight into the lounge. Unfortunately, due to my flight leaving from T4 rather than T4S, I was only able to use the more basic lounge - but it's still pretty good.

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Only the basics for me today.

Feeling like I could do with a walk, I headed over to the gate a little earlier than needed. I was hoping the aircraft change was just an aircraft change - and not a change of type, having only logged one CRJ previously.

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Unfortunately though, I was out of luck as an A320 arrived on to stand around fifteen minutes later.

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Although my disappointment was short lived however, as no sooner had the A320's doors opened, boarding was called - although it was a bit if a free for all, despite there being a separate fast track. I made my way along the jet bridge, down the stairs and was glad to see a CRJ hiding around the corner.

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April 2015
Bombardier CRJ900/ EC-JTT
Seat: 22A / Economy
Scheduled: 14:55/16:20
Off Stand: 15:23
On Stand: 16:41

I was welcomed at the door, and then again half way along the aisle, where I was shown to my seat by the crew member.

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I found the legroom on this one pretty good.

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Boarding was completed, and the flight appeared to be completely full.

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A few moments later, the crew announced in very broken English that due to heavy ground traffic, we would have a twenty minute delay. But didn't mention whether it was twenty minutes after our original departure time, or on top of the delay we already had. The captain elaborated a bit further and said we would be another ten minutes due to MAD being down to single runway ops. He also gave a flight time of 50 minutes. We finally pushed back and made the long taxi over to the runway.

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Something familiar

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Once there, we ended up in a bit of a queue.

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We finally lifted off into some initially clear skies, which then turned quite bumpy. Bizarrely, it was at this moment when the captain decided to turn the seat belt sign off.

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Once we had reached cruising altitude the crew came around and offered the buy on board service- although I didn't see any takers. After that, the crew were nowhere to be seen.

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I spent the remainder of the flight snoozing until I felt the nose drop and the engines spooled back.

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There was a good view of the Airbus factory as we landed.

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Then made our way over to the stand.

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Annoyingly, the guy next to me was more interested in sending a text than leaving so I was held up somewhat - to the point that by the time I'd put my bits away,I'm was the last off.

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As it turns out, there isn't an airside connection in TLS - so it was out into the open, off to a check in desk to grab a boarding pass and then back through security.

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There was a fast track, but it was the type where you got to jump the queue rather than a separate lane. I was still through in a few minutes though.

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In the duty free shop, there was a pretty good selection of Airbus merchandise.

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I then headed up to the lounge. It was small, very crowded and not very well stocked.

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I literally grabbed a hand full of chocolates, a couple of bottles of water and then went to the gate, as the FID's were showing last call anyway - despite the fact is just seen tonight's ride land.

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Upon reaching the gate, the "me first" brigade were already forming a massive queue. Boarding began, and despite there being an announcement that fast track would be enforced, it wasn't. This led to a stroppy guy behind me saying that I've got 35A on my boarding pass, therefore I'm in the wrong queue. I simply replied "It also says gold, so I AM in the correct queue".

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As it turns out, the plane wasn't quite ready so it was then a case of waiting around for ten minutes or so on the jet bridge.

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April 2015
Airbus A321 / G-EUXI
Seat: 35A / Euro Traveller
Scheduled: 17:50/18:40
Off Stand: 18:16
On Stand: 18:58

Once on board, I headed to the last row. The reduced legroom of these newly configured jets is very noticeable back here.

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The Dutch first officer announced a flying time of 1h23, apologised for the delay and thanked everybody for turning up on time. The flight didn't seem all that full - in fact I was the only person in the last five rows. Meaning the last row trick worked once more.

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A few moments later, one of the crew members appeared and welcomed me by name - and asked if there was anything I needed. I said I was fine as I had plenty of room to spread out. Much better delivery than experienced in part 1 of this series. After being sat with seemingly nothing going on for a good fifteen minutes, the captain came over the PA and apologised for the hold up. He said that the ground crew had opened up three different holds now, but wouldn't say what they were doing or why. That would explain all the banging around I could feel underneath me then. We finally did push back around 25 minutes behind schedule, and made a slow taxi out.

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Upon arrival, we had to wait for an A350 to depart before we made our way into some very bumpy skies.

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A few moments later the on board service started. The same crew member that welcomed me earlier, again addressed me by name and brought me a double sprite and a wrap - which also seems to have been enhanced - there used to be twice as much.

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My entertainment for this sector was Family Guy on the iPad.

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Around halfway through the flight, I noticed the captain appear in the cabin. No idea why, but a fairly major point to note was that (as far as I could see from right at the back) when he re entered the flight deck, I didn't notice any other crew members come out. So I'm guessing BA haven't implemented any policy regarding two people on the flight deck at all times.

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Soon after, descent was upon us.

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It was pretty cloudy in the London area, so not too much to be seen until we were quite low.

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We then spun around on to finals for 27R.

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We made a very smooth touchdown and then made quite a long rollout before hitting the brakes reasonably hard and exiting to the left.

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Almost immediately we turned off the runway and on to a remote stand. I've noticed this with quite a few BA arrivals into LHR now - where they slow the plane down initially before rolling down the length of the runway and taking one of the last exits next to T5.

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As we ended up being shoved on to a remote stand next to the fuel farm, this meant everybody had to be bussed over to T5A. And there was just the one bus waiting. As I was at the back, this meant a good twenty minute wait. The ever attentive crew member and I had a chat about where he was off to next and how far I had to go home. Once it was finally time to leave I bid him farewell and and made my way on to the Tarmac - along side an A380 that was just starting up.

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Upon arriving at T5A, I was amazed to see nobody at passport control at all - so I was able to walk straight up to an E gate and pass through pretty much with no wait.

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I made a brief stop to change up my remaining South American currency into GBP before heading down to baggage claim.

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Again, there was no wait at all there, as it had taken such a long time for me to make my way over to the main terminal, all the bags from the flight had been delivered and my bag had been taken off the carousel and was sat waiting for me.

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It was then outside for the coach home - where luckily I didn't have to buy a ticket, as I still had an unused return portion from a few weeks previously due to a flight from BIO being delayed and missing the last coach home.

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And so brings an end to this series.

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Iberia/Air Nostrom were pretty forgettable really. I can't really think of too much to say about them at all. The flight was a little delayed, the crew did what they had to and no more and that's that really.

British Airways on the other hand continued to prove that on a good day they can be really excellent. And it's all down to the crew. The crew member couldn't do enough for me and really made me feel like a valued customer. I made a point of sending one of my golden tickets his way after the flight.

What's next from me?

May will see me head around Germany, again on British Airways with some flights with AB and linked together with the ICE train.

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Following on in June with a trip to Poland with a fellow a.netter

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Then in July, a tour of the UK.

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And finally in September I'll be heading to the Far East with Emirates.

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