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LCY-RTM on VLM, GRZ-STN on Ryanair

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  • LCY-RTM on VLM, GRZ-STN on Ryanair

    Hi everyone, I'm Nick from the UK and I thought I'd start sharing some of my flights with you all. One of my passions is exploring mainland Europe, which ties in nicely with my avaiation hobby as a means of getting to/from such trips. The most recent of these being just last week.

    I had worked out a land-based route from Holland to Austria (taking just over a week) back in November 2004 and flights were duly booked. A friend had mentioned VLM Airlines to me, so I thought I'd give them a try for the outward leg. Ryanair provided a convenient method of return, along with the chance to fly a 737 Series 800 for the first time. This made a nice change from working through the Easyjet fleet!

    Saturday 29th January 2005
    VLM Airlines LCY-RTM
    Flight no VG274
    Fokker 50

    I awoke with excitement to catch my train down to London for the outward flight. It was to be my first flight in a "new generation" prop, and on a route I had not previously tried too. Dawn was just breaking as we arrived, revealing a grim and cloudy morning. I arrived at London City's terminal with more than an hour to spare before the flight, and found my tickets waiting for me. For those who aren't familiar with London, this is principally a commuter airport and is situated just a few miles from the centre of town. Although small, the atmosphere is very warm and friendly - a pleasant change from the queues and chaos of London Stansted! Check-in was completed and I was allocated seat 4A, a window seat towards the front of the cabin. With plenty of time still to spare, I went upstairs for a coffee in the little bar which offers a good view of one end of the runway. One of several Portuguese registered Citations which had been parked on the apron took off in this time. Then it was downstairs to the boarding gate, where several VLM Fokkers were being made ready for their first flights of the day.

    Our bird was OO-VLL, unusual in being painted in an allover white scheme. After being used to so many 737s, the smaller cabin was the first thing to strike me. 2+2 seating with blue leather seats, very smartly turned out. The safety demonstration was completed, as our two engines slowly warmed up. There was a fair amount of noise and vibration apparent, but not as much as I had expected. Just a few minutes later we had taxied to the end of the runway and, after waiting for another F50 to land, we were ready to roll!

    As we had a full load on board, almost the full length of the runway was used. You could feel the fuselage shake as we commenced our run, yeah these babys rock!!! Just a few minutes later we were climbing out over East London and Essex as the sun finally broke through.

    As we continued out over the English Channel, the cabin crew served us a light breakfast. I chose a ham roll to go with the fresh orange segments and cup of tea also provided, fresh and tasty. The crew's attitude throughout the flight was very professional, as you would expect from a commuter airline.

    We were soon approaching the Dutch coast, and it was turning into a lovely bright morning - albeit with a slight winter haze.

    It was not long before we descended and touched down very smoothly at RTM exactly on time. It had been a short but extremely pleasant flight, and the swift and easy boarding/alighting was particularly noticeable.

    Before leaving for the city, I spent an hour on the excellent viewing terrace. A couple of Transavia 737s came and went, along with several light aircraft and a helicopter. Also parked up were another VLM F50 and a KLM example.

    Saturday 5th February 2005
    Flight no FR5733
    Boeing 737-8AS

    One week later and, after a trip which had taken me via Hannover, Leipzig and Munich, I finally arrived at Graz. The sun was again shining, but the dry conditions had turned to deep snow which had resulted in a wonderful scenic ride up from Vienna. Graz is once again a small regional airport a few miles out from the city centre, and accessible in around 10 minutes by local train. The terminal is compact but functional, with check-in desks for each of the regular operators (Lufthansa, Austrian, Ryanair etc), a shop selling snacks and magazines, and arrivals/departures each occupying one end. There is also a very small viewing terrace which offers a great view of the runway and main apron area, although the right hand end of the apron is obscured by buildings.

    Check-in was again swiftly completed, although the lack of security questions was a little alarming. I made my way up to the terrace to watch my transport home arrive.

    As I went through to the gate, I was greeted with a huge queue for the flight. It was back to the world of unallocated seats again, although the departure staff did a creditable job of keeping things orderly. With few window seats left as I boarded, I opted for seat 1A right at the front. As it happened, I ended up with the whole row of three seats all to myself! The safety announcements were made, followed by a short wait while Graz's mobile de-icing crew came out in their wagon to give both wings a good spraying of fluid - yes, it was REALLY cold!

    Nothing to wait for, so without holding it was straight onto the runway and rolling....for one of the steepest climbs I have ever had! Although the airport is situated on a wide area of flat ground, those Alpine mountains are not far away! As we banked a little to the left, the captain came on the intercom to advise us that our route home would take us over Salzburg, Munich, the Ruhr area of northern Germany and finally Brussels and crossing back into UK airspace in the Clacton area. Our cruising height was to be 38,000ft. With the sun still shining from a clear blue sky, excellent views of the mountains covered with thick snow were available

    Unlike VLM, food/drink and so on are extras - and having just had lunch I opted just to enjoy the view. A new feature of Ryanair flights was the option to hire a hand held console with a choice of television and music programmes for 5/7 euro.

    As we flew across the mainland, it was possible to view various other air traffic at various heights such was the clarity of the sky. At least two 737s, an A321 and a Fokker 100 passed fairly close on their way to various European destinations. The captain meanwhile announced that we had reached our cruising altitude and were travelling at an equivalent ground speed of approximately 500 m.p.h. our arrival in Stansted expected to be 15 minutes early at 16.05 local time. Weather back home was cloudy with a risk of fine drizzle.

    As we crossed over Belgium, that cloud started to appear and we started our descent. We were well inland as we dipped below the clouds and made a straight in approach, with quite a rough bounced landing - 15 minutes early just as we had been promised. All the usual suspects occupied the apron at STN - Easyjet, Ryanair, Thomson with a GPS 747 and a FedEx MD11 unloading in the cargo area.

    So that was it, two very different flights on two rather different airlines and all on a very low budget! As I left Stansted to go home, that difference became apparent: VLM have their own little niche in the market, whereas the main budget operators are still fiercely competitve - reinforced by the message on the fuselage of an arriving Ryanair 737 "Auf Wiedersehn Lufthansa", and Easyjet's message on the airport doors "Fly to an airport, not an airfield", clearly a dig at their main rivals!

    So, where to next??!!

  • #2
    Nice Report and pics. We dont hear about VLM too much.
    - The baby will be back -


    • #3

      A great report with great photos. I enjoyed reading it.



      • #4
        Thanks for your comments! VLM came across as one of those increasingly rare airlines who quietly concentrate on providing an excellent service at a reasonable price, as opposed to trying to expand as fast as possible. A refreshing change indeed.