137-138 France 2018

137-138 France 2018

137 Edinburgh-Paris CDG (Easyjet); Being an airport worker, it isn’t unusual for me to be on the bus to EDI at 4am in the morning, (although it’s much nicer when it’s for a flight). It’s also not unusual to see other airport workers on the bus. In fact, it’s not unusual to see some airline crew, particularly from certain low-cost carriers. I don’t know if Ryanair have this written down in a company handbook somewhere. But it would appear that, when travelling alone on public transport, their cabin crew have to listen to fucking awful music, very loudly, and on cheap, nasty, white in-ear headphones. It’s almost part of the uniform. In pairs, however, they must gossip loudly, much to the annoyance of any other tired and sleepy airport workers.

This is how I started my first travels of the year, trying to hear myself think over the conversation of two of Michael O’Leary’s minions. Despite the fact the upper deck of the bus was practically empty, (and silent), these two women sat directly behind me and started chatting in voices that could probably have been heard in Dublin. Obviously I didn’t wish to eavesdrop on what may have been a conversation including sensitive or private information about their work. However, I had little choice. It appeared one of them had recently had an interview for another airline, (which was probably no great surprise, if rumours of how the airline treated its pilots where anything to go by). Naturally enough, this involved a question inviting an example of how the candidate had gone out of her way to provide customer service. Smirking slightly to myself, I paused my mp3 for a moment; I couldn’t wait to hear what example a Ryanair employee was going to give of great customer service. However, as she freely admitted to her colleague, she was somewhat flummoxed for an answer, and ended up ‘winging it’ with some completely fabricated story about helping a young family with lots of baggage who arrived late at a gate. Unsurprised by this revelation, I started my music again, drowning the conversation marginally. Hopefully whoever was conducting the interview would see through such a load of shite, I thought to myself.

‘So when will you hear back from SAS then?’ asked her companion. I was appalled. SAS? That’s one of my airlines! I’m a frequent flyer with them, I have a card and everything. I don’t want to be attended by Ryanair cast-off’s on my next trip to Finland. I briefly considered calling the customer service line and explaining the situation; that there was a possibly Polish girl with really heavy make-up who worked for Ryanair and wanted to work for you, but she lied at her interview, and she listens to music on shitty white earphones, please don’t give her a job, and I promise I’ll actually buy something from the duty-free cart next time I’m onboard. But I decided it wouldn’t be necessary; surely you don’t keep an airline going for seventy-two years by being dumb enough to employ wasters…

As for my short Easyjet flight to CDG, it was routine as always. The Swissport chavs were unusually organised at boarding though, actually getting people onto the aircraft at the time it said on the boarding pass, and without standing in a queue on a stairwell too. The Easyjet cabin crew, (who are always much more pleasant to share a bus with), tried to sell me food and drink as always, and as always I already had Irn-Bru and Haribo from Superdrug. And the landing was spookily similar to last month at Amsterdam; descending in heavy fog, I though we were still a good height from the ground, when the runway suddenly appeared out of the ‘clouds’ about ten metres below us, Presumably the fog was even heavier than I realised…



138 Paris CDG-Edinburgh (Easyjet): History repeats itself. Or so people keep saying. As I’d spent a very agreeable Sunday afternoon exploring the neighbourhood of Montparnasee, sinking a few beers at Cafe Oz prior to catching the train from Denfert-Rochereau to CDG, I was inclined to agree. This was an almost identical last afternoon in Paris to my previous visit, although the flight home hadn’t been the smoothest on that occasion; hopefully history was going to cut me some slack this time. Sadly not, as this was to turn out to be probably the worst experience I had ever had departing any airport (that wasn’t called Ninoy Aquino International), in the world…

As always, I was at the airport a good two and a half hours before departure, so far so good. The first sign of trouble came when I reached the passport control in terminal 2D which represented the border of the Schengen area, beyond which flights were departing to destinations in th UK. The queue was considerable, to put it mildly, and I immediately regretted having spent even two minutes browsing a souvenir shop. Despite the glacier-like pace the line was moving at, I still had plenty of time. However, from the conversation around me, it seemed many of my fellow travellers were not so blessed, and a general feeling of angst and frustration was growing. There also seemed to be some confusion over which of the two lines people should be in; ‘All Passports’ or ‘EU Passports’. As it turned out, both queues led to the same desk, so I’m not sure why they were even there. And as for the desk themselves, once I was close enough to actually see them, I could immediately deduce the problem; only two of the four control points were actually staffed. That would explain why I had been in this queue for around fifteen minutes.

As fifteen minutes turned to twenty, and twenty became twenty-five, the frustration and anger grew steadily in the queue. Some passengers, who could hear their boarding calls being made beyond security, tried to push their way to the front, explaining their plight apologetically (to a mixed response of sympathy and scorn from their fellow passengers). As people began to realise both lines led to the same spot, the queues began to break down in a most un-British fashion, (surprisingly, as we were all queueing for Easyjet flights to the UK). The queue now began to resemble a free-for-all, at which point one of the border guards came from his booth and started haranguing everyone to keep behind the yellow line, otherwise he would stop (I’m fairly sure that option is not in his contract, but he looked like he meant it). After nearly forty-five minutes, I finally reached the ‘front row’, at which point a third border guard arrived and started helping out. Typical. She barely even looked at my passport and waved me through impatiently.

Having conquered security, I felt I could reward myself with some food and drink. Sadly, the lengthy queues that had been in front of me at the border were now in front of me at the newsagent and the cafe. So I opted for the delights of the vending machine, which at least got rid of some of my smaller euro coins. Hang on, didn’t I get a bag of Maltesers the last time I was here? History repeats itself.

Boarding was only slightly less organised. Although the gate agent made the announcements in English, it sounded like she was speaking underwater whilst rustling an empty packet of crisps, which led to considerable confusion and some people lining up for the flight at the adjacent gate. Whilst we stood in our loose group of queues, the tension finally got the better of some people at the newsagent; a shouting match erupted, seemingly caused by someone skipping the queue. Heads snapped around all across the terminal as the blazing row threatened to turn physical, and the staff vainly tried to intercede. Incredibly, there seemed to be no sign of any kind of security in the terminal rushing to defuse the situation, and the abuse and insults continued unabated for some minutes. How hilarious would it have been if those two had later found themselves seated next to each other on the same flight?

With the entertainment over, everyone managed to work out which queue was for which flight, though the boarding process still made Edinburgh’s Swissport employees seem competent. The last time I’d departed from here, we’d been checked through boarding so we could all stand in an air bridge without any air conditioning, and watch all the passengers from the inbound flight deplaning for twenty minutes. And this time, guess what? Boarding pass, beep, stand for twenty minutes watching everybody get off your aircraft. History repeats itself.

We finally boarded the aircraft about half an hour after, well, boarding. Mercifully there was no hen night seated around me on this occasion, and we were actually departing on time too. That was just typical; the one time I had remembered to ask for the day off after a late flight, and it was actually going to be on time. The flight home was uneventful. But as we taxied to our stand on arrival, I noted with dismay that there was a newly arrived KLM flight beside us, with its passengers disembarking. That would mean at least one full flight of passengers in front of us at Edinburgh’s notoriously slow border control. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find there was actually no queue, and all the arrivals in front of us had already been processed. I thought back to my seamless departure a few days earlier. Was Edinburgh finally getting its act together? Well, at least they couldn’t be any worse than Paris Charles De Gaulle…

post-script; it’s not often any of us bother taking the time to make a complaint. But on this occasion, CDG had just been too dreadful to go without saying anything. So the next day I emailed the customer service department, and received a very prompt reply, telling me my email would be forwarded to…the customer service department. Perhaps I had lost something in translation. Two weeks later, (perhaps the customer service department are pretty busy for some reason), I received another reply. They apologised for my unpleasant experience, which is not the impression they wish to give of the airport to customers. The staffing of passport control was the responsibility of the Border Control Police, who are under additional pressure in the current security environment, (that woman barely looked at my passport!). There was no mention of the almost-fight, or the regular practice of boarding people onto aircraft that are not nearly ready to be boarded. C’est la vie…

Continue reading “137-138 France 2018”


132-136 Finland 2017

132-136 Finland 2017

132 Edinburgh-Amsterdam (KLM): Normally when I travel to Finland, (which I do a lot), I fly with either SAS or Norwegian, with a stop in Stockholm or Copenhagen en route. But I’d been getting a little tired of flying the same airlines and stopping in the same airports, so I opted to go via Amsterdam with KLM, partly as a change, and partly as it was the cheapest fare when I booked it. I had a slightly sentimental attachment to the Dutch carrier, as they had been the first airline to whisk me away nearly thirteen years ago on that first trip to Australia. I’d never flown them since, so it would be interesting to see how well I remembered both them and Schipol, (if at all).

The Amsterdam flight is one of the first to depart Edinburgh each day at six am. Unfortunately for me, this meant getting up at the same time and being on the exact same bus as I normally would do if I was starting work at the airport at five, so it didn’t feel like much of a holiday to start with. And after boarding had been completed, we were told by the captain that our departure would be delayed by up to forty-five minutes due to heavy fog at Schipol, though obviously we would leave sooner if we got clearance.

So we taxied off to a quiet corner of the apron, to wait for permission to depart. Naturally, many of the passengers, (including myself), were worried about making onward connections from Amsterdam, and began quizzing the cabin crew about whether they would be able to make this or that flight. Eventually the purser made an announcement to the cabin, reassuring everyone that they knew who was connecting onto what flight, they would let them know as soon as they received the information from Amsterdam etc. For my part, I knew that, with KLM being part of a huge airline alliance, I would almost certainly be arriving in Helsinki one way or another today. My only concern was that it might be too late for that night’s hockey game which I had bought tickets for. But I also knew that the fog delaying our arrival would also likely be delaying the departure of my connecting flight, (and so it proved), so I was never particularly troubled by the hold-up.

Having sat by the runway and watched countless aircraft pass us by and take off, we finally departed around forty minutes behind schedule. And once we were in the air, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how relaxed, friendly and professional the cabin crew were. I had already seen how well they had dealt with all the relentless questioning over our delay, but they came across as being much more personable and ‘human’ than many cabin crew I’d seen over the years. Too often, it seems as if crew are so thoroughly trained to say and do the right things all the time, you suspect they’ve lost any personality or individuality as a result. Not so with KLM, with the famously laid-back Dutch attitude to life shining through as they served our simple but tasty cheese sandwiches and complimentary drinks. In fact, I’d flown with so many budget carriers in recent years, I’d forgotten that there were still airlines who fed and watered you, even on short legs like this. And as we descended into Amsterdam, the purser, just as he promised, gave everyone the information they needed about their onward journeys. Nobody was going to miss their connections, and I would be in Kaisiniemi Park for the hockey tonight after all. They weren’t kidding about the fog though; on descent, I thought we were still a few thousand feet up when the ‘clouds’ suddenly parted and we were about ten metres above the runway. Wish I’d filmed it.

133 Amsterdam-Helsinki (KLM): As I had suspected, my onward connection to Helsinki had been delayed by the same fog that had delayed my arrival, so there was plenty of time to re-acquaint myself with Schipol Airport after nearly thirteen years. To be honest, it was completely different to what I remembered; if anything, it seemed to be even bigger. Where was the little bar I’d had a beer in next to my gate before departing to Kuala Lumpur? Where was the electronics store that I’d bought that Star Wars soundtrack cd in? Delay or not, I didn’t have a great deal of time to explore, (that would come on my return leg).

Having found my gate, I sat and watched as our aircraft was fueled and catered on the tarmac below us, and I found that the friendly attitude of KLM staff was not confined to the cabin. The ground handling agent at the gate was also very personable and chatty, keeping us up to date on the status of the aircraft, when she expected us to be boarding etc (unlike those chavvy Swissport robots at Edinburgh, who preferred to completely ignore all the passengers as the delay in boarding dragged on and on). The flight itself was as enjoyable as the last, with a hot cheese omelette in a panini, a very tasty little cake and a couple of Heinekens to pass the time. I also thought I had a full row to myself, (on what seemed to be a full flight), but I was joined not long after take off by a very tall businessman who obviously needed to stretch out a little.

tasty inflight cakes!

134 Helsinki-Oulu (Norwegian): Second day of my trip, and up super early again for another flight, it didn’t feel like much of a holiday. Although this one was at seven-thirty, the two-hour time difference meant it was still pretty much getting up for work time for my body clock. The distinct lack of sleep the night before didn’t help; I’d stayed at the Forenom Vantaa, (as I always do when arriving late/departing early at Helsinki), but my stay had been ruined by a group of noisy Russians drinking and partying in the lobby.

Still, today was a minor milestone, as I was taking my first Finnish domestic flight. Normally I’m happy to take the train around and enjoy the views, but Oulu was a lot further north than I’d been before, and it would have wasted most of a day. I was still keen to enjoy the views though, and made sure I paid extra for my usual window seat. What exactly I expected to see out the window at seven-thirty on a December morning in Finland is a mystery. In fact, as I was flying north, it might actually be even darker when I arrived than when I departed. Actually, the views on arrival were tantalizingly good, with the glow of the sunrise just starting to appear on the horizon, and glimpses of the frozen Gulf of Bothnia below. A half hour or so later and I reckon it would have been spectacular.

As for the actual flight, it was fairly routine. I always enjoy flying Norwegian; the only blip on this occasion was that the inflight wi-fi wasn’t working. But what would I have done with it anyway, take a picture of the ‘view’ and post it on Instagram?

Oulu, another new aiport to add to the list

135 Helsinki-Amsterdam (KLM): No delays on this occasion, as the only thing waiting for us in Amsterdam was heavy rain. I’d spent most of the morning debating whether to take advantage of my lengthy stop over, (seven hours), to take a trip into the city, tick another country off the list. I could even go out to Haarlem on a pilgrimage to Hannie Schaft’s hometown, (everybody’s favourite ginger resistance fighter). But the miserable weather made up my mind for me; I would stay in Schipol and explore its delights.

There was definitely far more shops than the last time I had visited, though I soon discovered they were all selling the exact same things at the same prices. But there were plenty of other attractions beside. The famous Rijksmuseum has a small annexe at Schipol, with a collection by some of the Dutch masters displayed behind what is undoubtedly very heavy-duty glass. As I was still carrying a few Euros, I purchased a Van Gogh teatowel for my mother, carefully wrapped and bagged by the nice old man at the till, who also popped a wee postcard in there gratis. I don’t remember the library from last time, but this was another nice touch; a quiet seated area, with a few bookshelves of uncontroversial titles, (mostly Dutch history and travel based). Still, seven hours is a long time to kill in any airport, so I was happy to be at my gate, (laden with Speculoos and Stroopwaffels), ready for the last leg of my trip home.

136 Amsterdam-Helsinki (KLM): Since I started working at the airport eighteen months ago, (with all the five am starts that go with it), I seem determined to give myself as little sleep as possible when returning from my travels; Stuttgart (twice), Reykjavik (twice), and Paris had all been relatively late evening arrivals. And quite a few of them had been delayed too, (even though I’d seldom experienced any kind of flight delay on any of the previous hundred or so flights before working at LSG Alpha). Tonight was no exception, with a minor delay prompting all the usual concerns about getting into town quickly enough to catch a bus home, and getting at least four or five hours sleep. It wouldn’t be so bad if Edinburgh Airport wasn’t so legendarily bad at getting you off the aircraft and through the border. Tonight’s queue was as epic as ever, but at least I didn’t have to wait for a checked bag this time. I had regretted not being able to take home more Finnish groceries and goodies, but I soon forgot about that as I hurried out the door a mere thirty minutes after landing.

130-131 Iceland 2017

130-131 Iceland 2017

130 Edinburgh-Reykjavik (Easyjet): The annual Easyjet flight to Reykjavik for Iceland Airwaves is very much a fixture in the travel calendar by now. And every year, for some mysterious reason, this particular flight seems to have some kind of significant personal milestones attached to it. 2017 was no exception. This was the first time I’d travelled with two people. It was also the first time I’d ever, (and I do mean ever), sat in the wrong row, even though I was booked into the seat which this blog is named after. It was also the first time I’d checked a hold bag packed mainly full of pot noodles and sparkling wine, due to the cost of living in Iceland. It was also the first time I’ve left an airport in a hire car on arrival. Apart from all that, the flight was routine, though I was happy to provide my travel companions with some United snacks mid-flight, which must have accidentally fallen into my backpack at work.

131 Reykjavik-Edinburgh (Easyjet): The most notable thing about this flight was that it actually happened. Just twenty-four hours earlier, most of Iceland was being battered by a huge storm; ninety mile-per-hour winds had closed Keflavik for most of the day, as well as ending our Airwaves festival prematurely. In fact, we had been due to take a road trip along the Snaefellsnes peninsula that day. Luckily for us, our Airbnb host messaged us to warn us about the upcoming storm, otherwise we would likely have been caught out in the middle of nowhere during the worst of it. Instead, we had to settle for a movie marathon and Kirsty’s chilli, which was no bad thing.

The Easyjet flight to Edinburgh that evening had been cancelled, so I had followed the airline’s website and social media to see what would happen if the same happened to our flight the following day. From what I could see, Easyjet were very good at communicating with their stranded passengers on their rights, and what arrangements were being made to feed and accommodate them, as well as rescheduling their flight (the flight actually took place early the following morning, a delay of approximately ten hours). This was all reassuring to know, and our ever-thoughtful host had already told us an extra night wouldn’t be a problem under the circumstances, so there was never any real need to panic. And come the following day, all the flights had resumed as normal, with the storm having gone as quickly as it arrived (though it did create a logistical nightmare for Icelandair and Wow, with all their aircraft out of position as a result).

As for ourselves, this was another milestone flight, as for once I actually had money left at the end of a trip to Iceland. Sadly, I opted to spend it all on presents for other people, instead of buying lots of nice things for myself. The actual flight home found us all in surprisingly good cheer, with the ‘strobing’ reading light in the row in front of us providing no end of childish amusement.

127-129 Germany 2017

127-129 Germany 2017

127 Edinburgh-Cologne (Eurowings): I’d raved about my first experience of flying with Eurowings back in February, so I was happy when the excuse arose to fly back to Germany with them again in June. The prices for the basic fare were fairly reasonable. However, I paid a little extra in order to have a pre-booked seat, snack and checked bag, with the express intention of filling the hold bag with German beer and sausages on my return trip. And having downloaded the very nifty Eurowings app, checking in and getting my boarding pass on my phone was easy. But the extravagance of that checked luggage meant standing in a queue at Edinburgh Airport with other people to drop the bag, not something I’d done much in the last few years. As luck would have it, I ended up in the middle of a large bunch of German school kids, but their teacher noticed I had somehow been caught up in the midst of their group, and kindly offered to let me skip the line ahead of them all.

My usual caution had gotten me through bag drop and security with plenty of time to spare, so I had more than an hour to kill before heading to my gate. And whilst wandering around, I came across three pilots sitting at one of the gates having a coffee, clearly waiting to board their aircraft. Given the gate number, I realised these would be United pilots for flight UA109, one of the three daily United services I catered for personally at work. In fact, I knew I would have made these guys their lunch for today’s flight the day before. Since we never get to meet any of our customers, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to meet some now, and maybe ask why United’s pilots insisted on asking for so many damn special meals. So I introduced myself, and explained where I worked and that I had prepared their lunch today, successfully recounting who had asked for what (‘Oh, so it was you who wanted that chickpea salad eh?’), much to their delight and amusement. Sadly they didn’t have much time to chat longer, but I was able to revise my opinion of United’s pilots being bloody awkward bastards who just request any old special meal to be dicks. I wish I had thought to take a selfie though.

As for my own flight an hour later, there was a slight delay in boarding the aircraft, although not enough yet to upset the careful meeting arrangements I had in place with Derek at Cologne. But after sitting immobile on the tarmac for thirty minutes, apparently waiting on clearance from Eurocontrol in Brussels to depart, I was getting concerned enough to start sending a few texts. We finally left the gate about forty minutes after the scheduled departure, but then held for another ten minutes on a taxiway next to the runway, presumably waiting on final clearance to depart. Several other aircraft eased past us on their departure before it was finally our turn, leaving almost exactly an hour late. If there was any explanation for the delay, then I must have missed it.

Having had such a great experience with Eurowings before, I was aware that it might just have been a one-off, especially having subsequently read some of their Skytraxx reviews. I wasn’t going to take the delayed departure into account, as that could’ve been due to factors beyond their control. The on-board service was the same as last time, with the little snack box, soft drink, digital entertainment etc. The only difference this time was that the crew weren’t quite as friendly and attentive as they had been before. Maybe it was because this flight was operated by an Air Berlin crew, rather than a Germanwings crew (although my one experience of Air Berlin had been fine two years ago). I never did find out why we were delayed though.

this is what you pay extra for, a wee salami sandwich in a box!

128 Stuttgart-Brussels (Germanwings): When I’d flown home from Stuttgart in February, the ticket was bought through Brussels Airlines, mainly so that I could have a Quick burger at Brussels Airport whilst in transit, and maybe buy a few cans of Jupiler. Being a big fan of Bacon Deluxe’s and cheap lager, I was happy to book the same route again, and it meant that I could also add to my SAS Eurobonus points by flying with one of their codeshare partners. As before, the first leg from Stuttgart to Brussels was actually a Germanwings flight, which was operated on behalf of Eurowings, who themselves are a subsidiary of Lufthansa, one of Brussels Airlines’ Star Alliance partners. Clear? Sadly the Brussels Airlines app on my phone didn’t think so, as once more I wasn’t able to check in online with my booking reference. I’d had exactly the same problem in February, and hoped that somebody might have fixed it by now. So, for the second time on this trip, I had to go through the distress of having to speak to an actual person at a check-in desk, (although I would’ve been doing this anyway to check my bag full of beer and sausages, purchased at Lidl earlier that afternoon). Once more I had a paper boarding pass to carry around and worry about losing, so retro. Once I’d gotten through security, I treated myself to one last schnitzel with kartoffensalat, just as I’d done in February. However, unlike February, I actually had some money left, and was able to treat myself to a few boxes of Fazer. Quite why Finland’s finest chocolate should be on sale at Stuttgart’s airport was beyond me, but it was probably the only way I was going to get some before December.
Despite being full on this occasion, the flight (operated by Germanwings), was as enjoyable as before, elevating my opinion of Eurowings again after a slight dip on my flight out (operated by Air Berlin). Maybe this was why Eurowings seemed to get such polarizing reviews, because so many of their flights were operated for them by other airlines (Brie and Tyler’s flight’s to Cologne had been with Eurowings flights too, but operated by Sun Express Deutschland). This flight was also memorable for seeing my first rainbow from above, though sadly I wasn’t quite quick enough with the cameras to take full advantage.

My first Russian plane, not keen…

129 Brussels-Edinburgh (Cityjet): I’d had plenty of stops in Brussels in recent years, so there was pretty much a set routine to them by now; Bacon Deluxe from Quick, hideously expensive can of Jupiler from a bar, quick message to Simona to say hello whilst I was in town. But there were two unwelcome additions to the routine this time; a late change of gate, and my first flight on a Sukhoi aircraft. I must admit to holding the Russian aviation industry in fairly low esteem, and was only slightly calmed by reading the Wikipedia article on the new Superjet 100’s, which was licensed to fly in the EU to be fair. I was mildly annoyed by my aisle seat (that’s what happens when you can’t check in online), and even more annoyed by the forty-five minute wait for our pilot, who was apparently arriving on another flight at a different gate. This started bringing back dark thoughts about all those delays returning from Paris recently, and I was due to work at 5am the next day after this trip as well. But we got underway eventually, and at least I didn’t have a hen party for seatmates this time.
The flight crew did their best to make up a bit of time on the way home, however, any thoughts of reaching my bed before midnight were about to be dashed by Edinburgh Airport. After a week of sunshine in Germany, it was pretty depressing to descend below the clouds and see the miserable, pishing rain that awaited our arrival. Even more so when we realised that we would have to brave it to dash across the tarmac and reach the buses that would take us to the terminal. Well, when they turned up. When they did, I was fairly streetwise and headed for the first bus, climbing on at the door nearest the front to ensure I would be one of the first to exit when we reached customs. As it turned out, there was actually no queue at the border when we arrived, but better safe than sorry. I felt I was doing well for time so far, but I still had to get my bag, not something I’ve been doing much recently. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that I’d forgotten how appallingly slow the baggage handlers could be at Edinburgh. As the wait went from ten minutes, to fifteen, to twenty, myself and my fellow damp passengers stood and fidgeted with varying degrees of frustration and anger. Finally, the belt jerked to life, and our sodden suitcases started to bleed slowly through the little hatch, at a steady rate of possibly one or two a minute. Luckily, my bag was one of the first out, and I gleefully yanked it off the belt and made for the exit. Unfortunately, I could tell straight away that something was wrong, as there was a distinct beer smell emanating from my luggage, and it was lot wetter than I would expect from its brief journey across the tarmac. There was no time to worry about the implications right now though, as the clock was very much against me, and the need to catch the first available transport into town was very much the priority. Luckily for me, I chose the Airlink with possibly the slowest driver in the entire Lothian buses fleet. This led to a maddeningly slow crawl into the city, and a frantic dash along Princes Street in heavy rain to catch the last 23. Once home, I was able to assess the damage; a single can of Kolsch had burst open, soaking all my dirty laundry; could’ve been worse.
Generally speaking, as it is my hometown airport (and I technically work there), I will try to defend Edinburgh when people knock it for delays, customer service etc. But even I have to admit that sometimes, it is one of the most brutal airports around to be arriving at. I timed our progress from touchdown to leaving the terminal, and clocked it at around fifty minutes. Considering the fact that there had been no queue at customs, that’s effectively fifty minutes to get off the aircraft and collect a bag. Sorry, but for flying into a relatively small airport on a Tuesday night, that is absolutely shocking.


124-126 (France 2017)

124-126 (France 2017)

vagues s5 pix (19)

124 Edinburgh-Southampton (Flybe) 26/4/17: I’d only flown with Flybe once before, and had been fairly underwhelmed by the experience of their noisy, grubby and grimy little Dash-8’s. But you can’t judge an airline on one flight, and they were flying where and when I wanted to go, and at a reasonable price too, so I decided to give them another chance.
For most people, getting to the airport for a 6:40am flight would mean a miserable, bleary-eyed morning, but for me it just meant getting the bus to work at the same time I usually do. Security being a breeze at that time on a Thursday morning, it wasn’t long before I was being bussed across the tarmac to the aircraft for the first leg of my trip. Flybe’s little purple prop planes were exactly as I remembered; slightly worn and dirty-feeling, fairly noisy (as the booking computer had put me under the wing and right next to an engine), and with mildly shop-soiled and weary-looking cabin crew. The actual cabin itself was maybe only one-third full though, which gave everyone plenty of space, though the purple ‘mood’ lighting was a little nauseating. And the broken luggage bins that had been taped shut with a paper ‘Do not use’ sign sellotaped on were a bit embarrassing. It wasn’t the worst flight I’d ever been on, but it didn’t do anything to change my impressions from my first experience of flying with them.

vagues cube pix (7)
Southampton’s snug terminal

125 Southampton-La Rochelle (Flybe) 28/4/17: I’ve transited through some of the biggest, busiest and best airports in the world; Dubai, Singapore, Schipol, Heathrow etc. But I never thought I would add Southampton’s transit facilities to that list. Actually, there were no transit facilities, as transit passengers had to go through arrivals then come back through security to departures (well, after standing outside the terminal for ten minutes because the door through to arrivals wasn’t working, luckily it was a beautiful spring morning in Hampshire). That wasn’t such a big hassle given the size of the airport, but it did mean I couldn’t buy any drinks in Edinburgh or I would have to bin them before going through security again.

The departures area was all you would expect of an airport that size; Duty Free, bar, Costa and WH Smith’s. There were comfy couches and free wi-fi though. Flights didn’t seem to be departing with any great speed however, and I was mildly irritated (but not surprised), when our advertised boarding time came and went without anyone even manning the gate. We were finally boarded a short time later, and the flight deck made no mention or apology of any delay, so I guessed there was quite a bit of leeway built into the schedule.

Once again I endured a noisy flight from the same seat under the wing, but the cabin was in slightly better repair than the last one, and the crew were markedly more enthusiastic and personable, enough to make me think I might actually fly with these people again. The flight was short and pleasant, albeit with some heavy turbulence on approach; maybe that’s to be expected landing at the coast in a smaller aircraft. But there were some wonderful views to be had, with the harbour’s famous towers clearly visible in the distance. As for the airport itself, despite probably being one of the smallest I’ve ever arrived at, was modern, comfortable and welcoming. Admittedly there was a fair wait at the tiny border control point, but that was only to be expected with all that’s been happening in France recently. The airport was so nice that I actually regretted the fact I wouldn’t be departing from here; I would have been quite happy to have sat at one of those little cafe tables in the French sunshine on Sunday evening…

vagues cube pix (8)
La Rochelle’s small but perfecrtly formed terminal

126 Paris CDG-Edinburgh (Easyjet) 30/4/17: When planning this trip, I was surprised to find it was actually cheaper to get a train to Paris and fly home from there than it would be to fly back from La Rochelle itself. Happy to add a day in the French capital to the itinerary, I booked the late Easyjet service from Charles De Gaulle. Getting there was fairly straightforward, with a direct train from my base in Montparnasse. And despite all the various parts of terminal 2 attached to the train station, finding the right one wasn’t a big deal. And despite the constant terror alerts in France at the time, security was fairly painless. In fact, I had probably allowed too much time for getting to the airport and clearing security, as I found myself with over two hours to kill. So I was fairly relieved when we finally started the boarding process. However, the wait was only just beginning. After checking everyone through the gate, my fellow passengers and I were left in the corridor connecting to the air bridge for twenty minutes, with no explanation forthcoming form either airline or airport. With no aircon in the narrow corridor, older passengers started to struggle with the heat, whilst the younger ones wailed and complained at our inactivity, When we were finally allowed onboard the aircraft, we discovered the reason for the delay; the outbound aircraft had to return to Luton that night for its scheduled maintenance check, and the crew had had to wait for a replacement aircraft. By the time we were boarded, and had taxied to the runway, we were almost an hour behind schedule. I was acutely aware of the fact that I was working at 7am the next day, and being surrounded by a large hen group on the flight did nothing for my rapidly shortening patience.
We finally arrived in Edinburgh, still hopelessly behind schedule, to find that the E-passport gates were broken, and another two flights were already in the queue in front of us, leading to a lengthy delay at the border, Having finally cleared customs, I sprinted to the bus and only just managed to get onboard before a group of thirty French schoolchildren. It was well after midnight when we arrived in the city, meaning there were no more domestic bus services, so I had to make the final mile of my journey on foot. I eventually arrived home around two hours after I should have. Much as I loved my day in Montparnasse, I wish I had paid the extra money had a beer at one of those tables outside La Rochelle’s cosy little airport..

121-123 (Germany 2017)


121. Edinburgh-Stuttgart (Easyjet) 10/02/17: Like the flights with Easyjet to Reykjavik and Geneva, the trip to Stuttgart was also becoming a little bit routine. However, thanks to my work, it’s now no problem getting up early in the morning and out to the airport for an early flight. Also, I now have the added bonus of looking out the window on take off, and literally watching my work recede into the distance…

122. Stuttgart-Brussels (Germanwings) 13/02/17: My trip home had been booked with Brussels Airlines, who I’ve flown with a few times with no problem, and I knew I would earn points on my SAS Eurobonus account. But it involved a code-share flight to Brussels first with Germanwings, which they operated on Eurowings’ behalf, as Eurowings was a subsidiary of Lufthansa, a fellow member of Star Alliance along with Brussels Airlines. Clear? Not surprisingly, my newly-downloaded Brussels Airlines app got very confused and wouldn’t let me check-in online, meaning I actually had to do it at the airport by speaking to check-in staff, not something I’ve done for quite a while.

Having finally gotten checked-in, I was looking forward to flying with a new airline (whoever it was that would actually be flying me to Brussels), for the first time. It didn’t look like the flight was particularly busy, as all the passengers squeezed onto the bus quite comfortably, before being ferried out to the (Germanwings) aircraft. And I’d barely sat down before I heard the boarding complete announcement from the cabin crew. Looking around, I had an entire row to myself, and the rows in front and behind were empty. The aircraft was perhaps one-third full. The decor was nice with plain, grey leather seats, the cabin crew were friendly and the buy-on-board menu looked good, although I would have to give it a miss due to ‘budget restraints’. So I was quite surprised when, after take-off, the cabin crew came round and offered everyone a complimentary snack bag, containing a basic sandwich (salami with some mustard), a small packet of Haribo bears and a bottle of water, all tucked inside a neat little Eurowings bag. I was even more surprised when they came around again soon after, offering a choice of tea, coffee or fruit juice. I thought this was supposed to be a budget airline?

Munching on my sandwich, I decided to check out on board entertainment system ,which was offered via wifi to your mobile device; my device connected no problem, and there was loads of content to keep everyone happy; a lot of it was premium and offered at a small price, but there was plenty free stuff too, such as destination guides and moving map etc). This seemed to be a ridiculously good level of service for a budget airline to be offering; I hadn’t really checked any reviews or anything beforehand, so I had no expectations, but this was turning out to be one of the most pleasant short flights I’d ever had. Suitably impressed, I took a moment upon arrival to tell the cabin crew as much whilst I was leaving; they certainly seemed happy to hear it, and I know from experience how much a wee thank you from a happy customer can mean.


123. Brussels-Edinburgh (Brussels Airlines) 13/02/17: I always enjoy flying through Brussels. Message to Simona? Check! Bacon Deluxe meal at Quick? Check! Cans of Jupiler to take home? Check! The only thing that could ruin a connection through Brussels was knowing I had come off a great flight and the next one would be nowhere near as good sadly. This flight was full, and hand luggage was a real problem. Myself and the girl next to me both arrived at our seats to find the bins full on both sides of the aircraft already (fucking jackets and duty-free for the most part, a pet-hate!), and had to sit with our bags stuffed under our seats all the way back to Edinburgh. Actually, the same girl had been sitting next me at the gate, and also ended up on the Airlink too; I probably shoulda spoken to her as I noticed she was listening to LCD Soundsytem and Sleater-Kinney on the flight, oh well. Anyway, suffice to say there were no cute snack bags for the passengers on this leg sadly

#easyjet #eurowings #germanwings #brusselsairlines

119-120 (Iceland 2016)



119. Edinburgh-Reykjavik (Easyjet) 1/11/16: The Easyjet flight on the first Tuesday of November was becoming a bit of a routine, and it always seems to be notable for some kinda special event. Two years ago had marked the last trip on my passport, and last year had marked the occasion of my 100th flight. This was another special occasion as, for the first time, I actually had someone travelling with me, having convinced Derek that attending Iceland Airwaves with me was the best way to celebrate his upcoming 40th birthday (albeit seven months early). And I had plenty of fun watching him try to escape disaster on Prepare For Impact, easily the best passenger safety simulation game for mobile devices, (though in fairness, I once opened the wrong emergency exit on a water landing, flooding the aircraft and drowning everybody).

This was also the first time I’d flown since starting working in the aviation industry, but, as my company don’t cater for Easyjet, I wasn’t really bothered what they were serving.


120. Reykjavik-Edinburgh (Easyjet) 6/11/16: Another ‘sort-of’ first on this flight home, although not a particularly welcome one; I was introduced to the unwelcome feeling of walking down the steps upon arrival, and being literally able to see my work across the tarmac. Ah well…

#easyjet #icelandairwaves2016