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London-Baghdad and back

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  • London-Baghdad and back

    Airline : Al-Naser Airlines
    Departure Airport : London Gatwick
    Scheduled Departure Time : 00:00
    Actual Departure Time : 00:10
    Arrival Airport : Baghdad (With Scheduled stop in Malmo, Sweden)
    Scheduled Arrival Time : 10:30
    Actual Arrival Time : 11:15
    Flight Number : MHK 580
    Aircraft : Boeing 737-400 (YI-AQS)
    Seat : 14A

    I got to Gatwick south terminal at about 10pm, in plenty of time for the flight.
    On the Departure boards there was no information about my flight, only that it departed at midnight.
    I asked somebody at the Gatwick information desk, and he directed me to the correct check-in desks. 2 small desks with nobody checking in there, i approached the desk, and the kind girl behind the desk (who actually worked for Thomas Cook) was helpful, and asked where i would like to sit, and gave me a window seat. She also added the flight was nearly completely empty.
    I continued through security, and headed to gate 22 where our flight was scheduled to depart. At about 23:00, a small 737 pulled up. At 23:30 boarding was called, and everyone queued, about 30 people. Boarding was quick, and we were welcomed onboard by a kind crew. I took my seat, which was moderately comfortable, but the legroom was not adequate for a flight of this duration. We pushed back ontime and blasted into the air 10 minutes late.
    About an hour into the flight, the crew served a drink, and said no hot or alcoholic drinks were available for this leg of the flight. The captain came on the PA and explained whats going to happen and what to do when we land in Malmo. I want to add, that both pilots were Canadian, but the crew were Iraqi. After an uneventful and boring flight, we hit hard into Malmo at 1am local time. We taxied to the gate, and we deboarded via the front and back down the stairs and into the terminal. As we entered, we were directed back, and we had to repeat the security screening process again. Once we passed that, 2 ground staff, along side 2 swedish police, checked that all documentation was legit, and was OK to travel to Iraq. They then split the Iraqi travelers from the rest, me and one other being the only un-iraqi passengers.
    They then let us board the plane, but we needed all of our documents out for us to pass through onto the plane, and they let the Iraqi's through on without the need for passports etc. Once on-board, the plane was delayed for "Operational" reasons, for about 20 minutes. Then we shut the doors and we continued en-route to Baghdad. Take-off was turbulent, and the plane rattled and shook and made some strange noises
    Once we got through, the crew then served dinner and drinks. No alcoholic drinks were permitted on-board. Dinner was chicken with ALOT of rice, bread roll. For a drink i got another coke, and water. It was actually very tasty, and i would happily eat another one if offered to me, maybe one of the best in flight meals i have eaten!
    After this i watched a few Family Guys and American Dads on my iPad. During the flight, the crew came through every 15/20 minutes with trays of water and orange juice. About an hour before landing, the crew served breakfast. It was a powdered scrambled eggs, tomatoes, and hash browns. It came with a croissant and a chocolate muffin. One of the best breakfasts ive had on an airline, and one of the biggest! I must say i think this carrier could be big, its service is better than that of any TRATL carrier!
    The crew cleared up, and then prepared for landing. We came low over the various (unknown to me) areas of Iraq, on final, i saw many tanks all driving past the runway.Dont know which type, i know nothing about military vehicles. Touchdown was HARD and we slammed into the runway, and then taxied into the terminal. Deboarding was quick, and customs was empty.
    The airport at Baghdad is very modern, open and is a nice airport.
    I got a bottle of water (paid in US $$$) and went outside and waited for my ride to the US Embassy. While outside i was approached by a group of Iraqi army soldiers, all of whom spoke perfect English, and they told me to move on as nobody is aloud to wait outside the terminal building. I told them i was waiting to be picked up, and they refused to let me stay so i moved back inside the terminal. Eventually i was picked up, got to the embassy, and then went to my meeting.

    After an interesting 2 days in an ex-warzone, which not long ago would have been crawling (and maybe still is) with mines and insurgents, is quite scary.
    It was time for my return flight.

    Airline : Al-Naser Airlines (Operated by FlyHellas)
    Departure Airport : Baghdad
    Scheduled Departure Time : 21:20
    Actual Departure Time : 22:15
    Arrival Airport : Stockholm-Arlanda
    Scheduled Arrival Time : 00:45 +1
    Actual Arrival Time : 01:35
    Flight Number : VQ 634
    Aircraft : Airbus A320 (SX-SMV)
    Seat : 18F

    So i got to Baghdad at 8pm in plenty of time for departure. Check-in was quick, and the helpful man behind the desk gave me 18F. I proceeded to security. Security was normal, for the exception of 4 US Soldiers eyeing everyone as they passed through. In departures, most of the shops were not open, and so i waited for more information on my flight to come. There were no Al-Naser or Flyhellas ground staff around, only Iraqi Airways staff, and they were unfriendly and unhelpful to say the least.
    Our flight showed up as "Delayed to 21:50". The aircraft was at the gate, but nobody was around. As the airport emptied, we started boarding at about 10 to 10. We boarded alongside an Iraqi Airways flight to Erbil, which actually had more people on board than us. The jetway was clean, and we boarded easily. On board, the crew were actually from "Viking", although i thought this airline has gone bust a few weeks previous Anyway i proceeded back to my seat and we pushed back and blasted into the air 55 minutes late.
    The crew rushed the in-flight service, one drink service, and one meal service. Dinner consisted of some sort of casserole, which was ok, and i got a coffee which was decent. It was clear the crew were uninterested in the pax, and i would like to point out, the crew did not speak arabic, and only spoke very basic(bad) english, all announcements were made in Swedish and Greek.
    The flight continued uneventfully, and we passed over the cities of Kiev and Riga which were greatly illuminated. The airbus had drop down screens with a moving map.
    We started descent and the first officer explained that we were one of the very last planes into Stockholm and that the airport would most likely be shut (his english was bad), and that we should continue immediately from the plane to outside of the terminal, unless we were connecting to Gatwick then we should stay on until last. We made various turns before we dropped and smashed into the runway at ARN. We taxied through the dead,dark airport and parked up the gate. I waited in my seat until last, and a flight attendant told me to follow her. I followed her and i was put on a bus, which took me across the airport to another plane. Heres the second leg

    Airline : Tor Air (Operated by Balkan Holidays)
    Departure Airport : Stockholm-Arlanda
    Scheduled Departure Time : 01:15
    Actual Departure Time : 02:00
    Arrival Airport : London Gatwick
    Scheduled Arrival Time : 03:30
    Actual Arrival Time : 05:50
    Flight Number : OD 114
    Aircraft : Airbus A320 (LZ-BHB)
    Seat : 16A

    So i jumped off the bus and ran onto up the steps onto the plane. I took my seat, and then it was announced that we were delayed to a fault in the cockpit. The crew shut the door, but we remained stationary until about 10 to 2, when we pushed back and taxied to the runway, then took off.
    The plane was mostly empty again, only about 50 pax onboard. The crew threw an empty cup down, asked what we wanted, spilt a drink into the cup then continued. I got a coke, which "accidently" ended up all over the tray table and me instead of actually in the cup. Oh well, no apology but i didnt expect one. The plane was silent apart from the vibrations of the engines, and the chatter of the f/a's. Other than that, the crew were unseen. Then, the captain announced that we would be making a stop in Malmo. He did not give a reason, but the plane then went into a steep descent and we landed quickly into Malmo. Nobody knew what was happening, we thought there was something wrong with the plane. Yeah, the "fault" in the cockpit had caused us to land temporarily in Malmo. We were given the option to stay onboard or go into the terminal, although the shops were all shut. I went into the terminal. There were people already in the terminal, waiting for a delayed flight to Palma by "Malmo Aviation". Half of the departure lounge was lit up and full of people, another half seemed to half been "turned off" as it was dark and nobody was there. About an hour later, we were boarded again, and the door shut, but we remained on the ground for another 30 minutes before we pushed back and took off. We taxied to the runway, and we waited for the Malmo Aviation aircraft to land, a Bae 146 i believe.
    We then continued en-route to Gatwick. I fell asleep during the flight. I awoke when the seatbelt sign was turned on as we hit some harsh turbulence as we descended over South London. The turbulence was violent, and was something that i was not expecting at all. We eventually cleared the turbulence and landed straight into Gatwick in time for sunrise. The captain apologized for our late arrival. We taxied to the south terminal and parked in between a company Airbus from Bourgas and a Thomson 757.
    Customs was a nightmare, it was packed, and i queued for 40 minutes before being seen to. I proceeded to arrivals, and then i got on the Gatwick express up to london.

    Overall i think Al-Naser itself is a great airline and could really get far, but the companies that operate its flight (Tor air & Flyhellas) really let them down.

    An interesting experience.