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    As some of you may remember from my previous report, I had cause to visit Brest, France to undertake a training course for my company. Cue three years later, and in January 2012 I was asked to go to another course, this time being held in Bratislava, Slovakia. Naturally, my first thoughts turned to what routing I could take to get there, and I was disappointed to note that the only flights directly to Bratislava these days are on Ryanair, running once or twice a week. Since this course was due to last two weeks, this would really not work out, so I turned my thoughts to planning some flights on proper airlines. Work agreed I could return home for the weekend, meaning my four flights would turn into eight, and I could set about finding a medley of interesting flights.
    I had a choice between SkyTeam and flights with KL/AF, or Star Alliance and a much wider choice of flights. SkyTeam would mean a KLM F70 and ERJ195, and a second flight on an A318, but it would also mean at least one way flying through Paris due to the flight timings, and after my last experience of connecting at CDG I decided I’d rather not go through this experience again!

    Expedia offered a good choice of flights on Star Alliance, and thanks to the summer season beginning in the middle of my two weeks, this meant more choice for a variation of flights and equipment. My flights were scheduled as follows:

    18MAR 13:45-16:30 BHX-ZRH LX423 Helvetic F100
    18MAR 17:10-18:35 ZRH-VIE LX1582 Swiss A320
    23MAR 18:20-20:15 VIE-BRU SN2906 Brussels Airlines A319
    23MAR 21:25-21:35 BRU-BHX SN2049 Brussels Airlines RJ100
    25MAR 15:20-17:35 BHX-DUS LH3447 Lufthansa CRJ900
    25MAR 20:05-21:45 DUS-VIE OS156 Austrian A319
    28MAR 18:20-20:15 VIE-BRU SN2906 Brussels Airlines A319
    28MAR 21:25-21:50 BRU-BHX SN2049 Brussels Airlines RJ85

    As the day drew closer, I had a notification from Expedia of a couple of equipment changes. The Swiss A320 was swapped for an A319, the CRJ900 for a CRJ700 (to make a new type for me), the Austrian A319 for an A320, and the biggest change of all, the RJ85 was swapped for a FlyBE DHC8-400! I hadn’t realised that BE were operating some flights for SN, so although I already have two sectors on the Q400, it would be nice to get an extra one in the logbook.

    Altogether, my final flights looked like this:
    18MAR 13:45-16:30 BHX-ZRH LX423 Helvetic F100
    18MAR 17:10-18:35 ZRH-VIE LX1582 Swiss A319
    23MAR 18:20-20:15 VIE-BRU SN2906 Brussels Airlines A319
    23MAR 21:25-21:35 BRU-BHX SN2049 Brussels Airlines RJ100
    25MAR 15:20-17:35 BHX-DUS LH3447 Lufthansa CRJ700
    25MAR 20:05-21:45 DUS-VIE OS156 Austrian A320
    28MAR 18:20-20:15 VIE-BRU SN2906 Brussels Airlines A319
    28MAR 21:25-21:50 BRU-BHX SN2049 FlyBE DHC8-Q400

    All in all, it would be 8 flights, 7 airlines (6 new), 6 types (1 new), and 2 new airports (VIE and DUS).

    The day before departure I checked in online, bagging seat 13A on the Fokker 100 (lucky for some – but not for me as I found out later), and a window seat on the ZRH-VIE sector.

    The day of departure wound around fairly quickly, and at 11am on 18 March I found myself saying goodbye to my family for my first flight. Being Sunday lunchtime, the roads were fairly quiet, and I arrived at Birmingham Airport at 12:05. I parked in the multi-storey car park opposite the terminal, and made my way across to the terminal.

    The terminal was very busy today, with many holiday flights leaving, as well as an Emirates flight to Dubai. As is normal for this flight, the airport was full of passengers heading for Asia, laden with boxes, TVs, and all manner of other electrical goods. I’m sure if they could take a washing machine onboard they would do!

    First stop was to the Swiss bag drop to drop off my suitcase. ‘Are you just heading to Zurich?’ the lady enquired. ‘No, Vienna’, I responded. ‘Hmmm’ she said. ‘Bear with me a moment please’. She shouted to the chap on the next desk. ‘I’ve got one here for Vienna’ she said. ‘You’ll have to ring them to see if we can take him’ came the response. My heart sank. What was happening?

    ‘Oh hello there, it’s Birmingham checkin here. I have a chap here on the 423 that is heading to Vienna – what are we doing with this one? Ok, I’ll hold’. I asked if everything was OK. ‘Well with the delay on your flight, it means you won’t make your connection in time in Zurich.’ ‘What delay’ I asked, as nothing was showing on the screens. ‘There’s a 30 minute delay, and your connection is only 40 minutes, so there isn’t time for you to change planes’. Great, this was all I needed – not even dropped my bag off for my first flight and I have already missed a connection!

    ‘The 19:50? Great thank you’ the lady responded on the phone. ‘Right, well the good news is we have managed to book you on the flight leaving Zurich at 19:50, so you will now arrive into Zurich at 21:15’. This may have been good news for her, but it could hardly have been worse for me. I would miss my pre-booked taxi in Vienna with no way to let them know, and my first evening relaxing in my hotel would be substituted with hanging around Zurich airport for a few hours, arriving in my hotel at gone 10.30pm instead of the 7.30 I had planned.

    ‘You’re very lucky really’ she said, ‘most airlines wouldn’t have arranged this for you at this stage, they would have let you arrive in Zurich and then you’d have had to pay for another flight’. Considering this was the main reason I booked a full service carrier such as Swiss, it wasn’t a particular bonus for me. But there was nothing I could do, the aviation gods had done their magic and I had to accept it.

    I headed up to security, to be confronted with a massive queue. In front of me were a family heading to the Mediterranean for a holiday. After a 20 minute queue, it was my turn. I went through and didn’t set the beeper off. My bag however wasn’t so lucky. It came out of the machine and took the diversion route to the ‘further scan needed’ queue. There were around 6 people in front of me, their offences mostly being of the ‘chocolate in bag’ variety. One lady had the nerve to try and carry some E45 in her bag! Finally it was my turn, and the kind lady apologised for the wait. ‘Lets see’ she said, whilst looking at her screen. ‘Oh dear. This isn’t good’. Great, I thought, what now. ‘It’s a complete empty and re-pack I’m afraid’. ‘You have quite a lot of metal in your bag, and it needs completely emptying and everything within it swabbing. You’re welcome to help me if you want, or if there’s anything you’d rather I didn’t handle’. So out came everything – camera, lenses, hard drive, cables, CDs, camcorder (x2) – yes I could see why this might look a little suspicious on the screen. She took a swab of everything and went to place it in the machine. It came back clean, much to my relief. As much as I’m the last person to carry anything dodgy, I just worry that it’ll do what the machines do on ‘Nothing to Declare’ and start beeping. ‘There you go’ she said, ‘Sorry about the hassle, are you OK repacking it yourself?’. ‘Yes that’s fine thank you, I’ll let you get on with helping these patient people behind me’. ‘Right answer’ she said, ‘Have a great flight’. At least she was civil about it.

    Once everything had been repacked in my bag, I was spat out into duty free, and after dodging tables full of overpriced booze I emerged into the departure lounge. First stop – ring the other half and explain why it had taken an hour to call her after arriving at the airport! I gave her my new flight details before heading over to Burger King for a bite to eat. Once that was done, I sat down to see what aircraft I had been swapped to for my next flight. ‘A320’ according to Flight24 – but sometimes downgraded to an F100. As I had seat 25F, I doubted it would be the Fokker (unless they are towing a caravan behind them!). I went through to airside, and was surprised to see my F100 already sitting on stand! How strange I thought, we were still an hour before scheduled departure time and it was already here. Perhaps it had gone tech and we had a replacement?

    I took a few photos of the aircraft on the ramp.

    Not around for much longer…

    Captain shouting to the ground crew – perhaps he should get a haircut!

    My aircraft sitting in the sunshine

    I headed back to take a look at the departure screens to see if my gate had opened yet. ‘Final call’ said the screen. Crap I thought, legging it through to the gate where my F100 was awaiting. I was welcomed by the check in agent who served me earlier. ‘Hello again’ she said, ‘Please take a seat and we’ll be boarding shortly’.

    I went to the window to watch for a while, and soon with no announcement the doors were opened and after a quick boarding card check, we were walking down the airbridge to our aircraft.

    Date: 18 March 2012
    Airline: Swiss Airlines (op by Helvetic Airlines)
    Flight Number: LX423
    From: Birmingham Intl (BHX)
    To: Zürich (Kloten) (ZRH)
    Aircraft: Fokker 100
    Registration: HB-JVG
    STD/ATD: 13:45 / 14:23
    STA/ATA: 16:35 / 16:50
    Flight Time: 1:27

    This aircraft was delivered to American Airlines as N1458H almost 20 years ago in 1993, and was delivered to Helvetic in September 2004.

    This is my 108th flight. It is my third Fokker 100 flight, and my first with Helvetic.

    A female flight attendant welcomed me aboard. ‘Grüezi’ she said. ‘Guten tag’ I replied, getting a confused look. I hadn’t been expecting that word – I must check it later. (sidenote – I did, and it means Hello in Swiss German). I made my way down the aircraft to seat 13A.

    In common with my Brit Air flight a few years ago, the aircraft has that ‘old aircraft’ smell often associated with aircraft in museums. The fittings are yellowing and showing their age a little, but the seats and furnishings are in very clean condition. The aircraft is fitted with nice grey leather seats, with a red carpet throughout. There is ample legroom at 33” on most seats, but arriving at 13A I was very pleased to discover it was an exit row seat. At 6’4” I could stretch out fully with my feet not touching the seat in front. Once again I had snagged a comfy seat for my ride!

    My window view on the ramp

    In no time at all, ‘Boarding complete’ was announced. The aircraft was only around half full, and nicely I didn’t have a seat companion for this flight.

    A Swiss flight attendant came to my row. ‘Good afternoon sir’ he said. ‘Just to let you know you are seated in an exit row – and as such, in the event of an emergency you’d have to operate this door. Are you happy to do this’ he said. ‘Of course’ I responded. ‘So to open the door in an emergency, you put your left hand on the bottom handle, break the panel up here with your right hand, pull the door in then put it outside the aircraft. You will have to be the first person off the aircraft’. That sounded fine by me!

    The captain came on shortly after. ‘Welcome onboard this Helvetic Airlines Fokker 100 to Zurich. Due to heavy congestion at Zurich we have to wait on the ground for another ten minutes before we can start our engines and get on our way.”. Aha, I guess that would explain the delay with the aircraft already being here then.

    We sat and waited. And waited. The cabin crew came around and handed out chocolates.

    After a while, but bang on the 10 minutes announced by the captain, we started to push back and the safety briefing commenced.
    Our engines were started and the cabin was filled with the beautiful noise of two Tays starting up just behind us. We began our taxi at 14:15, exactly 30 minutes behind schedule.

    We taxied out to runway 33, before lining up and commencing our take off run.


    Takeoff was steady, the noise from the engines excellent as always on the Fokker jets. We rotated just before the golf course with a loud bang emanating from the undercarriage, but there were no photographers there today. The gear came up and was very loud from this position. We climbed ahead before turning onto a right downwind leg, heading towards Coventry.

    We entered the cloud and a few bumps later we emerged the other side.

    My legroom!

    Distinctive Fokker window

    The overhead panels showing their age a little

    Before long we had reached our cruising altitude of FL350, and we were heading towards London. We passed to the west of London, observing Gatwick Airport through a brief gap in the clouds below:

    We continued to the south passing the south coast overhead Brighton.

    At this point came that unique moment when you can see both the UK and France at the same time – the French coast from Boulogne to Dieppe is in the distance here.

    Overhead the English Channel, the cabin crew began their service. Drinks were served first, with a range of alcoholic and soft drinks. Since it was lunchtime I just took a Pepsi.

    Next up was the food trolley. ‘Would you like chicken sandvich’ the flight attendant enquired. ‘Certainly’ I replied, and received my chicken sandwich.

    I munched away as the French coast got closer, and we entered France overhead Dieppe.

    Mouth of the Somme, just north of Dieppe

    I noticed at this point our shadow on the wing. As we cruised along, the aircraft gently oscillated from left to right, left to right, very gently, but constantly, all the way through the flight. I’d never noticed this before – perhaps a feature of the F100?

    As we entered France, more heavy cloud rolled in below, blocking any view of the ground for much of the remainder of our flight. We continued south towards Paris, before taking a left turn towards Basel/Mulhouse. This was a very convoluted routing as normally this flight heads down to Dover and follows the Belgian border down to Strasbourg.

    View of the cabin from my seat

    Brief break in the cloud overhead eastern France

    Our route:

    As we approached Basel we began our descent towards Zurich the cabin crew came on to announce gates for onward connections in Zurich. It seemed that this flight connected onto quite a lot more across Switzerland and Germany.

    Lake near the Swiss border

    The clouds soon came very overcast again just as we began our descent.

    We entered the cloud at around FL200 and this continued all the way until final approach. The approach was extremely bumpy. The aircraft rolled and bounced, dropped and bounced a bit more, feeling very much like a rollercoaster. I tried all I could not to harness a massive grin on my face, but to no avail. After all, this was great fun!

    Our view from FL200 right down to final approach

    The fasten seatbelt sign came on early due to the turbulence, and the cabin crew took this chance to finish their pre-landing checks early. At this point we entered a holding pattern in the cloud, before commencing our approach after one lap.

    After a while, we emerged at around 5000ft, the landing gear coming down soon after. ‘Cabin crew, please prepare for landing came the announcement from the flight deck, only the second time we’d heard from them since boarding.

    We came down the approach for runway 14, beginning overhead Germany and crossing into Switzerland, getting a good view of the town of Bulach.


    We touched down firmly onto the tarmac, on what was a very rainy day in Zurich. Our landing roll was very long, with no reverse thrust and hardly any brakes used. I began to wonder whether we would use all of the runway to stop, but the taxiways to exit are right at the other end of the runway so no need to slow down too early.

    We were welcomed to Zurich and we made our way to a remote stand, getting a glimpse of activity on all of the other runways as we taxied in. We held short of runway 28 whilst a Swiss RJ85 departed, before we quickly crossed towards the terminal.

    Once on stand, our engines shut down, and steps were wheeled to the aircraft. The passengers began the mad rush to get up and obtain their baggage, but anticipating my long wait at the airport I decided to hang fire for a few moments. I eventually made my way forward, and was bid farewell by the captain and one of the flight attendants.

    I made my way down the covered steps into the rain, almost slipping as it was very wet, onto the waiting bus, where I grabbed a quick snap of my ride.

    What a contrast in the weather since Birmingham!

    The bus made the short journey to the transfer doors where it dropped us off. I looked at the large screen and noted my gate would be A72. However, I also noticed there was an Austrian flight to Vienna departing in 30 minutes from A74. Perhaps I could play a blinder and catch this one? I headed to the transfer desk, explained my predicament, and asked if there was any chance to be moved to the earlier flight. The lady tapped on her computer, looked at a few sheets of paper, before writing ‘A72’ on my boarding card, and handed it back to me. ‘You are going from A72, but you have a couple of hours until departure yet’. I take it that was a negative to me changing flights then!

    I decided I’d try to head to gate A74 anyway, and ask them if I could change there. I went through security again (which I wasn’t expecting), before passport control to enter the Schengen area of the terminal.

    With some haste I negotiated the terminal, arriving at gate A74 where an Austrian 737-600 was waiting.

    It would be excellent if I could get on this one I thought. I explained my predicament to the gate agent. ‘There are seats available’ she said, my heart missing a beat for a moment, ‘but I cannot change this here. You would need to go back to the transfer desk, and this flight leaves in five minutes and you wouldn’t have time’. Damn, I thought, as boarding commenced for this flight.

    I stood and watched the flight go without me, before deciding to head back to the shopping area to try and grab a bite to eat. I wasn’t really hungry, just thirsty, but couldn’t find anywhere in the airport where I could grab a cheap bottle of water or something. The only shops around were the likes of Breitling, Swarovski and Ducati shops, and I couldn’t afford any of those today. I walked up and down taking a few photos as I went, pondering my fate. I couldn’t get to the viewing deck as I was still airside. The weather was foul, and worst of all there was hardly anywhere to sit. This really was not a relaxing airport to transfer in.

    I took a few more photos.

    I decided to head for the Sports Bar in the terminal and pay for an over-inflated beer. Over 6 Euro for a 500ml beer!

    I then thought it was probably for the best that I hadn’t got the -600, as my luggage would not have gone until the later flight, which would have caused problems in Vienna.

    More wandering up and down the terminal – Ducati had an exhibition of motorbikes around the terminal.

    Probably quicker than waiting for my flight….

    As it got dark I eventually conceded defeat to finding something interesting to do, and headed to the gate, where I pondered further.

    Artistic shot of me pondering. I don’t think I’ll be the next top model.

    I decided to try for a bit of excitement and check my phone to see what Austrian were sending in for my flight. Would it be an F100? Could it even be the earlier 737-600, feeling guilty after leaving me upset standing at the window, coming to reclaim her lost passenger?
    Nope. It was an A320.

    Damn. Might as well look at the photo of it in all its boring, French glory, now I’m already disappointed.

    Why hello – what is this? My heart skipped a beat and I may have inadvertently let out a little shriek of delight. It was the Austrian Airlines retrojet! Coming especially for me! I hadn’t even seen this aircraft before, let alone fly on it. Come to mention it, I have never flown on a special liveried aircraft before. Perhaps some good had come out of my delay!

    Now I was all excited about my next flight, and I sat watching the flight approach on FlightRadar24. It soon disappeared from my map, meaning it had touched down. I went to the window to eagerly await Neusiedlersee’s arrival onto the gate.

    Here she is – what a beauty!

    Unfortunately I seemed to be the only person excited about the prospect on flying on this wonderful aircraft, nobody else seemed to even notice the beautiful colours. I guess this is the age we live in.

    Flight deck preparations for our flight.

    Pretty soon, the cordon was removed from across the gate and we were beckoned forward, me third in the queue. I made my way down the airbridge to the door of the aircraft, where a flight attendant was standing. ‘Guten abend’ I said to the flight attendant, my greeting returned with a stern nod.

    Date: 18 March 2012
    Airline: Austrian Airlines
    Flight Number: OS566
    From: Zürich (Kloten) (ZRH)
    To: Vienna (Schwechat) (VIE)
    Aircraft: Airbus A320
    Registration: OE-LBP
    STD/ATD: 19:50 / 20:06
    STA/ATA: 21:15 / 21:00
    Flight Time: 0:54

    This is my 109th flight, my 19th Airbus flight and 4th A320 flight, and my first on Austrian Airlines.

    This aircraft was delivered new to Austrian in March 1998 where it has worn every livery since, including this very special one to commemorate Austrian’s 50th Anniversary.

    My first impressions of this aircraft were wonderful, the aircraft has the new slimline Recaro seats, which are much thinner than I had imagined, less than 2cm deep. I said good evening to the flight attendant near to the emergency exit, again receiving a stern nod, with no smile. I took my seat in 25F.

    View of the seats from my seat

    The atmosphere was calm. Classical music played quietly over the PA system, the overhead monitors showing Alpine landscapes. An air of tranquillity filled the cabin, and I sat back and closed my eyes as my fellow passengers boarded.

    I was just starting to think that this was not so bad after all, and perhaps this would be a wonderful flight, when the air of tranquillity was shattered by a screaming baby coming down the cabin in his mother’s arms. His screams were piercing. I have a 2 year old and I have never heard noises like this before. The screaming continued as they got closer and closer. Please not this row I thought. I felt like somebody hiding from capture, trying not to raise attention to myself. She got to my row, and stood for a moment reading the row number. That moment lasted an eternity. My heart raced, suddenly filled with the prospect of having this for over an hour. She finally took a seat right in front of me. Great.

    The screams continued once she had sat down. A flight attendant came to see what the fuss was all about, no doubt convinced that the poor kid was being viciously attacked in front of me with the amount of screaming there was. She gave the mother a lap extender belt and gave her instructions on its use. The mother then sat trying to calm the little monster down. After a few minutes the baby was asleep, and I could relax again, albeit now concerned about how it would react once we took off.

    The captain came on to announce our flight time would be 1h05m, and the weather in Vienna was 14C under a clear sky.

    I felt the tug being attached, before feeling the aircraft start to tip backwards as the nosewheel was lifted up by the tug – very strange.

    The safety video started on the overhead monitors, quite possibly one of the worse I’ve ever seen. Cheesy doesn’t begin to cut it, it really is terrible. It is an awful cartoon seemingly narrated by Stephen Hawking, with the cartoon guy sporting some horrible massive smile like you’d see in a horror film. It truly is the stuff of nightmares, and went on for an eternity as we pushed back.

    This was then repeated in German, all the cheesiness in the same places, and finally in French as well. By the time it had finished we had pushed back, both engines started and we had began our taxi. Up until yet we had no communication from anybody over the PA.

    As we pushed back, I noticed two stands down was the SAS MD87 I’d flown on my last set of flights to Copenhagen and back, SE-DMK - why hello again!

    We taxied in the rain to runway 32, and began our take-off roll into the rainy night.


    As we lifted off the wind caught our aircraft and made for a pretty bumpy climb out through the cloud again.

    As soon as the fasten seatbelt sign went off, and with the baby not long asleep in front of me, the mother decided now was the perfect time to go to the bathroom. She stood up and carried the baby to the bathroom, naturally waking the poor little mite up, when the screaming began once more. For crying out loud.

    The cabin crew began the food and drink service, led by the stern lady who greeted me at the door. Down the cabin she walked, thrusting a Panini into every seat. Whether you wanted one or not, you got one, she strolled down the cabin like a paperboy delivering the morning news, thrusting food onto every passenger. If she cracked a smile it would probably have killed her. Mine was delivered, ‘Thank you’ I said. No acknowledgement, she simply continued on to the row behind me.

    Shortly afterward the drinks trolley followed, at least some conversation could be had here. ‘Vat vud you laak to drink’ she snapped. ‘A beer please’ I responded. ‘There you go’ came the response, handing me a can of ‘Gosser’ Austrian beer. ‘Thank you’ I said, again no acknowledgement as she continued onto the next seat. Today’s crew must surely have missed out on going to the charm school.

    My food was a ham and cheese Panini melt, which was actually quite nice. The beer was also good, I made a note to try this again next time I come out in a week’s time.

    I sat back and watched our progress on the overhead screen, as we headed towards Innsbruck, the onto Salzburg, before passing to the south of Linz.
    Our route:

    Before too long I heard the engines throttle back, and we began our descent. The flight attendant announced that we had ‘already’ begun our descent into Vienna, and we would be landing soon. The captain announced ‘Cabin crew 10 minutes to landing’ and the lights of Vienna appeared on the horizon. We approached the city from the northwest, getting a fabulous view of the entire city lit up. Many other passengers were mesmerised by this view, one of the few times I’ve seen other passengers fully take in the views as we approach our destination.


    We curved around the city, forever getting closer to touchdown. Soon, the lights of the airport appeared and we touched down with a gently bounce on runway 16. We vacated to the right and the classical music began again, much louder this time than on boarding. We were welcomed to Vienna as we made our way in. The overhead screens showed details for connecting flights, of which there were quite a few for this time of night, mainly to Eastern Europe and Russia. We eventually pulled on stand next to a company A321 and the engines were shut down.

    Even though we were at a gate, the airbridge was not used and steps were bought to the aircraft. We were ushered to the rear of the aircraft where we deplaned, onto the waiting bus.

    I took this opportunity to grab a couple more shots of our bird:

    The bus waited for the entire plane to board before driving the short distance to the terminal, where we entered the arrivals hall. I headed to the baggage belt where I had to wait around 20 minutes for the bags to start coming through.

    Finally my bag came through and I made my way straight out into arrivals, no passport control of course as we are firmly within the Schengen area now.

    The arrivals hall was a little dated, very low ceilings and lots of corridors and shops, it reminded me of a 1980s shopping mall. I found my way to a taxi company who said they’d take me to Bratislava for 86 Euros. My originally booked one was only 66! But what other choice did I have, I didn’t want to take the bus. The driver led me out into the parking lot to a waiting minivan, which sped me towards the border at 180kph! We stopped at the border so the driver could buy some cigarettes, but the shop was closed so he stopped further along at a service station. We eventually rolled into Bratislava at after 10pm, and I was surprised at how busy the city was for this time on a Sunday night. Buses were packed solid, streets bustling, and traffic busy. The driver dropped me off at my hotel, the Mamaison Residence Sulekova, hands down the best hotel I’ve stayed at by the way.

    Some photos from my week in Bratislava:

    Soon it was time to check in online for my return flight to the UK, if only for the weekend! I checked in online with Brussels Airlines and managed to get seats 14A on the A319, and 6A on the RJ100.

    Friday rolled around and my colleague from the training course took me on a tour of Vienna, on the way to the airport. We had a drive around the ring road, as well as stopping at a coffee shop in Vienna, where I sampled perhaps the strongest coffee I’d ever tasted, and of course Strudel!

    We drove back to the airport via the town of Schwechat, after which the airport is named, before he dropped me off at departures in terminal 1.

    I bid farewell until Monday, and headed into the terminal which was absolutely packed on this Friday afternoon. There were no signs advising on where to go, only that all Star Alliance flights should head to the Austrian counters for baggage drop off. I went to the Austrian line and showed the agent my boarding pass. She studied it carefully, before saying ‘You are flying with Brussels Airlines – you have to go to terminal 2’. ‘But it says all Star Alliance carriers are at terminal 1’ I responded. ‘Terminal 2!’ she said.

    That told me! So I plodded through to terminal 2, where a desk had a sign indicating that check in would open in 20 minutes. I headed to the Brussels Airlines desk to ask if there was any chance of an earlier flight. ‘There is an earlier flight sir, but sorry all flights are almost full so it would cost you 300 Euro to change flights. Maybe it would be cheaper to get a coffee or a beer for the sake of one hour!” . He had a point, the entire itinerary had only cost £257!

    I went across to the check in desk and waited. Before long a couple of gate agents came over and opened the check in counter. I dropped my bag off which had mysteriously gained 5kg since leaving Birmingham, but was still only 18kg and well under the 23kg allowed. Must be the excessive Borovicka and Vodka packed tightly within!

    Once I’d dropped my bag I headed straight back outside, to parking house P4 to be precise, in order to catch some nice photographs of arrivals into Vienna. Level 8 was closed, but level 5 was open and I got some nice photographs across the apron and of some arriving aircraft.

    When I saw the Brussels Airlines A319 I knew it was my time to head back inside – after all I would be leaving on this very aircraft soon!

  • #2
    I headed into the terminal towards departures. It surprised me that there was no security to get airside, I only had to scan my boarding pass to get through. I walked through the shops, and saw my aircraft still taxying to the gate! I made my way to the gate where there was a security point just before entering the gate area. My aircraft was just pulling onto the stand as I went through security – not bad timing! I removed my belt and went through the scanner, this time with no trauma.

    Once airside, the gate area was full with mostly businessmen returning home after conducting business in Vienna.

    After a while, we were called for boarding. I made my way to the gate, before walking down the airbridge to my waiting aircraft.

    Date: 23 March 2012
    Airline: Brussels Airlines
    Flight Number: SN2906
    From: Vienna (Swechat) (VIE)
    To: Brussels (National) (BRU)
    Aircraft: Airbus A319
    Registration: OO-SSV
    STD/ATD: 18:20 / 18:30
    STA/ATA: 20:05 / 19:46
    Flight Time: 1:16

    I boarded the aircraft and was greeted in English, French and German by the flight attendant at the door. I made my way down the aircraft to row 14 where I took my seat.

    This is my 109th flight, my 5th on an A319 and my first with Brussels Airlines. This aircraft was delivered new to easyJet in April 2004 as G-EZEI, before moving to easyJet Switzerland later that year as HB-JZG. It went back to the UK as G-EZEI again in 2011, before being sold to Brussels Airlines in September 2011 as OO-SSV.

    Like the Austrian A320 I was on before, this aircraft featured the new Recaro seats which were very comfortable, giving you plenty of room in your seat. At least it was plenty for a flight lasting a little over one hour.

    The aircraft was full today, mostly with businessmen heading home after working in Vienna, however my seatmates were travelling to Brussels for a weekend of sightseeing.

    The captain welcomed us onboard for today’s flight, advising that the flight time would be around 1 hour 20 minutes, and we were expecting good weather for the duration of the flight.

    We pushed back from the stand, the aircraft engines powering up as we did so. Once pushed back, the cabin crew carried out the safety demonstration in French and English.

    We taxied out to runway 29, passing a few inbound aircraft on our way, before lining up for an immediate takeoff.


    We rotated around halfway along the runway, before making a few sharp turns to place us on course. The pilot was certainly very firm with the manoeuvres, each banking turn being a very fast swing left or right. It was a lovely evening to be flying in Austria, the sun setting and a clear sky making for a very clear departure.

    The fasten seatbelt sign was soon turned off and the crew were released to begin their duties. Lucky passengers flying in ‘B-Flex’ or Business Class were treated to free food and drink, however us in the back had to pay for the privilege of a drink or food. This is one area I felt a little let down on by Brussels Airlines – the flight cost the same as my other flights on Swiss and Austrian, however on those flights I at least got a snack and a free drink, on Brussels Airlines there was nothing.

    Nevertheless I was very thirsty so paid the extortionate 2.50 Euros for a standard sized can of Coke.

    We flew out of Austria towards Germany, flying to the south of the Czech border, just north of the city of Linz, Austria. From here it was straight on to Nuremburg, Germany.

    Today’s route:

    The sunset this evening was beautiful, and I took lots of photos.

    The seats on these aircraft are very comfortable, with plenty of leg room, even for somebody 6’4” like myself.

    We headed from Nuremburg across Germany to Frankfurt, where we took a left turn and began our continuous descent towards Brussels.

    Frankfurt Airport by night.

    The Frankfurt area

    Our approach took us towards Liege, Belgium, before beginning an approach to runway 25L.


    We touched down on runway 25L, before vacating to the right. The crew welcomed us to Brussels, and were proud to announce that we had arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

    We made our way to a stand on concourse B, next to the aircraft that would be operating our next flight on one side, and an Ethiopian 757 that was just pushing back to the other.

    We waited for the airbridge to be connected, before deboarding. I bid farewell to the purser and made my way up the airbridge, however we were redirected off of the airbridge, down some steps and to a waiting bus. We boarded the bus and I took a photo of the aircraft.

    The doors closed once everybody was on board, and we made our way around the concourse, and across the apron between the two concourses. After a 10 minute drive we pulled alongside a set of doors where we disembarked into terminal A.

    From here I followed the signs which took me down to the moving walkways below the airport, with multiple escalators and corridors to traverse before I eventually arrived back in terminal A after around 15-20 minutes.

    I made my way up to the restaurant area where I was determined to grab a bite to eat. I had Burger King planned, but I was surprised to see no Burger King here. There was a Pizza Hut, so I thought I’d try for a slice of pizza. I went to the counter, and a guy shouted ‘Is closed’. Ah I said. He pointed out the various restaurants. ‘There, is closed. There, is closed. There, is closed’. ‘Here, is open’. Great, I said, what do you have? ‘I have meatballs, frites and this is Flemish Beef’. ‘I’ll take the meatballs with frites please’. ‘I will put you some fresh frites on then’. I went to the machine to grab a drink, which promptly spat water at me. ‘Ah – it is out of order. You need to get a drink from the fridge’. I grabbed a bottle of Diet Coke from the fridge, before grabbing my dinner, with the traditional mayo to dunk my chips, and paid the €16 for my meal.

    I took a seat in front of a TV which had Nickelodeon on and was playing some American show. The meatballs were delicious, the chips too, but all too soon the departure board changed to show my flight as ‘Go to gate B7’. Fully aware that I would be going through security soon, I drank my Coke quickly making myself feel ill, before grabbing a quick shot from the restaurant.

    Belle Air? I hadn’t heard of this airline before.

    Straight to security, where I removed my belt and deposited all of my worldly belongings into a plastic tray to go through the machine. Once the other side I got dressed again, and replaced everything into my pockets.

    I continued into the concourse, and checked the departure screen.

    Ah crap. 23:05 – that is a 2.5 hour delay!

    I went to the gate to speak to the agent. “We are delayed?” I asked. ‘Yes sir, let me explain the problem. We have an aircraft, sitting out there on the ramp’ she said, pointing to an RJ100 sat lonely on the ramp. ‘However, our problem is we do not have a crew to take you there. You see they are in Copenhagen, with an aircraft that has broken down, and they are on their way here now. I can only apologise for the inconcenience, if you’d like to head down to the Brussels Airlines desk, they will give you a voucher for a drink.’ To be honest a drink was the last thing I wanted after just downing half a litre of fizzy Coke, but nonetheless I went down to the desk where I was given the same story, as well as a €4 voucher for refreshments.

    My voucher

    I rang my wife to advise her of my delay, and promised that I would let her know when I had more news.

    I went and took a seat at around 20:50, and waited. Almost an hour later, at 21:45, a PA announcement was made. ‘We are pleased to announce that the crew have just 2 minutes ago taken off from Copenhagen, and will be landing just after 23:00. We hope to board at around 23:10-23:15’. Great, I thought – they were supposed to be on their way an hour ago! The most frustrating thing was – I was flying Brussels Airlines and sitting in Brussels Airport – their HQ. Why on earth could they not draft a crew in from standby? This was presuming we actually got there tonight – what if the crew went out of hours, always a possibility at 23:00. I only had 24 hours at home anyway, and didn’t need to be put in a hotel overnight.

    I went to try and use my drinks voucher – but everywhere was closed.

    The aircraft that bought me here from Vienna

    The aircraft that would be taking us to Birmingham, or at least it would when the crew got here.

    My view for the next couple of hours.

    I got chatting to a couple of guys who were due to be on the Flybe flight to Manchester. They had taxied out twice, before returning to the terminal again with technical problems. They had an indefinite delay, and hadn’t even been given a drinks voucher. As we were talking, a PA announcement was made advising that the Flybe flight had been cancelled as the crew were now out of hours, and that the passengers were to go to the service desk to get a hotel voucher and a meal voucher.

    One of the passengers called home to let her family know. She ended up in tears on the phone. ‘I know sweetheart I’m sorry, but Mummy can’t come home tonight because the aeroplane is broken. I know I promised, but I’m really sorry and I will be home in the morning’.

    Once the Flybe passengers cleared, we were the last lot of passengers left in the concourse, as we were the last flight of the day, if we ever got out of here. The screen had changed to say we would now be going at 23:30.

    At 23:00, I noticed a set of lights landing in the distance. I wondered if this may be the Copenhagen flight arriving? After all there was nothing else happening at Brussels at this time of night. One of the gate agents donned a hi-vis jacket, and disappeared. This looked promising. A few minutes later, a baggage cart made its way to the aircraft on the stand and started loading bags.

    Sure enough, after a few minutes, an announcement was made that the crew had arrived, and were at present making their way across the airport. We would be boarding as soon as they got here. Fantastic.

    Sure enough, at 23:30 we were called for boarding. We made our way down the airbridge to the waiting aircraft.

    Date: 23 March 2012
    Airline: Brussels Airlines
    Flight Number: SN2049
    From: Brussels (National) (BRU)
    To: Birmingham (BHX)
    Aircraft: Avro RJ100
    Registration: OO-DWH
    STD/ATD: 21:25 / 00:01
    STA/ATA: 21:35 / 23:48
    Flight Time: 0:47

    We were welcomed aboard, and I made my way to seat 6A.

    This is my 110th flight, my 7th 146/Avro RJ flight, and my 3rd RJ100, the last two being with British Airways back in 2004. It is my second flight with Brussels Airlines.

    This aircraft was delivered new to DAT in 1998, before being acquired by SN Brussels Airlines in 2002 which formed Brussels Airlines in 2007.

    Inside the aircraft was showing its age a little, the once-white plastic now yellowing, and the seats having the involuntary ‘recline’ function whenever you sit back in them.

    The crew welcomed us aboard making no apology for the delay, and we pushed back at 23:50.

    As we taxied out, the captain came on to announce we were number one for departure (surprise surprise at this time of night), and we would be taking off imminently.

    We lined up for an immediate departure on runway 25R, before making a leisurely departure. We made a right turn just after departure, giving us an excellent view of the Atomium which was beautifully lit up – I just wished I was more awake to appreciate it.


    We climbed to FL300, heading initially for Gent, and then to Brugge, as the crew began their inflight service. I asked if I could use my voucher for a drink. ‘Sorry sir, you need to use in the terminal’. ‘I would have done had they been open’ I replied. ‘Well sir it is free drinks this evening to apologise for the delay’. Excellent – I grabbed a Coke Zero and tried to get some rest before we arrived back in the UK.

    Our route this evening

    20 minutes into the flight, we had crossed the English Channel and were coasting just to the north of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, on a direct path to Birmingham from Brussels.

    I glimpsed Stansted Airport out of my window, with an aircraft lining up for departure as we flew overhead.

    At this point the engines throttled back and we began our descent towards Birmingham. The captain came on to announce we would be landing in 10 minutes, and the weather was clear and 7 celsius, although there were some fog patches lingering. I looked out of the window and observed Milton Keynes below, its grid-like streets distinctive in the night.

    In no time at all the crew had secured the cabin and we found ourselves on a final approach for runway 33.


    It was certainly a clear night out there, and we crossed the M42 and the A45 before making a smooth touchdown. As we got halfway along the runway, we hit a patch of fog, which illuminated in the aircraft’s landing light as a whispy effect, offering a surreal and mesmerising end to this very delayed flight. The taxi lights were switched on as we made our way to the stand.

    We pulled onto the stand at 23:52 local time, meaning we had gone back in time by almost 10 minutes since taking off at 00:01 the next day.

    I made my way off the aircraft, and towards the UK border where I showed my passport and went straight through to baggage reclaim.

    I was expecting a hefty delay here, being so late at night, but in reality the belt started moving almost instantaneously and my bag was first off – result!

    I walked straight out through arrivals to the car park and got on my way home, where I arrived a little over an hour later at 01:30.


    • #3
      The weekend went all too fast, and within 36 hours it was time to head back to the airport for my return flight. I bid farewell once more and made my way along the trusty M1 and A42 to Birmingham, where I arrived just over an hour later at 13:45.

      It was a beautiful day as I walked across the airport to the terminal, to drop off my bag. I had checked in online already but I was given a proper boarding pass as the lady advised that the home printed ones sometimes don’t work.

      After dropping my bag I headed for security where there was quite a queue. This time I hadn’t loaded my bag up, I’d put most of my stuff in my suitcase I had checked in.

      I went straight through to departures, and full from my Sunday lunch I’d had before setting off, I headed for the gate area to take some photos and await my incoming flight. Boarding was at 14:50, and it was now 14:20 so I had a little time to wander around and take some shots.

      There wasn’t a lot in today apart from the Emirates 777, and soon after I saw a Lufthansa CRJ taxi in. I followed it to the stand where a couple of gate agents were waiting. Soon after, I was joined by the rest of the passengers as the screen had now sent them to the gate, and we were called for boarding at 15:00.

      We were led down the stairs and out to the ramp, to our waiting CRJ700.

      Date: 25 March 2012
      Airline: Lufthansa Cityline
      Flight Number: LH3447
      From: Birmingham (BHX)
      To: Dusseldorf (DUS)
      Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ700
      Registration: D-ACPE
      STD/ATD: 15:20 / 15:47
      STA/ATA: 17:35 / 17:41
      Flight Time: 0:54

      I was met at the door with a ‘Guten Tag’ from the flight attendant, and made my way towards the rear, and seat 16F, my home for the next 90 minutes.

      This is my 111th flight, my second CRJ and my first time on a CRJ700. It is also my first flight with Lufthansa.

      This aircraft was delivered new to Lufthansa in 2001, making it 10.5 years old now, but inside was still as fresh as the day it was delivered.

      Boarding was soon completed, and the doors closed. We sat on the stand for a while, before the captain came on the PA. He advised that there was currently a ground stop on all southbound departures due to ‘a traffic jam on southbound flights’. However we expected to be on our way soon, and he apologised for the delay.

      The Air Berlin and Air France next to us were also sitting on their respective stands, awaiting departure, but soon the Air France pushed and we followed. The safety demonstration was carried out by the crew, and we began our taxi out once more to runway 33.

      The engines were started and I was treated to the wonderful noise of the GE CF34s firing up, always nice to hear.

      We made our way out to the active runway behind the Air France A320, and it seemed that everybody had the same idea – we were joined by a Monarch A320 as well as a private Global Express that jumped the queue and took off ahead of us. We waited for a Do328 to land, the Air France went, and we lined up soon after, before holding for a minute or so.

      Finally, it was our turn, and the engines powered up rocketing us down runway 33 before we rotated about halfway along the runway.


      It really was a beautiful clear day today, and we were treated to a beautiful view of Birmingham, before turning away from the airport and getting a nice view of the airport behind us. We headed towards Coventry, and we climbed higher, at which point it became quite hazy down below.

      We passed an airport that I didn’t recognise:

      Before climbing into a layer of high cloud over East Anglia somewhere:

      The crew came around with cakes for everyone, today’s was a ‘Macadamia-Birnen-Schnitten’ which didn’t look too appetising, but was extremely delicious and moist.

      Next was the important trolley – the booze round! I took a beer, and was given a bottle of Warsteiner.

      The beer was delicious, and I kicked back to enjoy the plentiful legroom and great views from this wonderful little jet.

      It was a beautiful day up here, the sun was shining and life was good. Truth be told, I never wanted this flight to end. It was simply amazing.

      More aircraft joining us in this wonderful place

      Crossing the Dutch coast near Hoek van Holland

      We continued to fly over The Netherlands, the wonderful views remaining with us until touchdown.

      The interior of this 10.5 year old jet, still in mint condition.

      All too soon, it became time to once again leave this land of the gods, and make our way back down to terra firma.

      The crew collected outstanding rubbish, and we began our approach towards Dusseldorf. The captain came on to announce our descent, and advised us that the weather in Dusseldorf was a very pleasant 23 Celsius, with a light northerly breeze. He thanked us for flying with Lufthansa and hoped to see us onboard again very soon.

      The town of Venlo, on the Dutch/German border, the river is the Meuse.

      The approach was beautiful this afternoon, not a cloud in the sky, affording us a fantastic view of Dusseldorf and the Rhine.


      We touched down smoothly on runway 05R, before taxying to a remote stand where we were greeted by a bus.

      The crew bid us farewell as I made my way off of this aircraft – with a new favourite airline.

      Once onboard the bus, the doors closed and inadvertently pushed me into a guy who was sitting down.

      As I turned to apologise, I was cut off by the start of a tirade of swearing. ‘Watch what you’re doing you f*****g c**t.” “Sorry” I said, but with nowhere really to move. As we drove to the terminal he kicked me. ‘Oh, sorry’ he said. It was obvious that this guy had had a little too much to drink.

      I tried to ignore him, but as we waited outside the terminal before the doors opened, the abuse began again. ‘Don’t you f****g krauts understand f****g English?’ he shouted, becoming more agitated. At this point some other passengers had had enough. ‘Please’, a German lady asked. He carried on, this time directing the abuse at her. ‘Please, please stop’ asked another guy, but he carried on. As soon as the doors opened the guy pushed me from the bus, before barging me out of the way and walking into the terminal. The German lady spoke to me at this point. ‘What is the problem with some people’ she asked. ‘I think probably a little too much of the free beer’ I replied, to which she shook her head in acknowledgement.

      Once inside the terminal, and a little shaken, I decided to ask at the Lufthansa counter if I could leave the terminal to go to the observation deck. ‘Of course’ she said, giving me directions to go out into the terminal and up the escalator. ‘You will need to go through security again on your way back though’ she said, which I said was fine.

      I showed my passport at immigration and made my way out into the terminal. As I looked around for where to go, an English guy came up to me. ‘Are you alright mate’ he asked. ‘I’m fine thank you, just a little shaken’ was my reply. ‘I tried to come down the bus to have a word with him, but it was too full and I couldn’t get through’ he said. ‘I thought I’d wait out here for you to come through to make sure you were OK’. I thanked him but said it really wasn’t necessary, adding that it is difficult to reason with somebody so clearly intoxicated. ‘That’s not the point’ he said. ‘People like him give us British a bad name, and its not on.’ I agreed, and again thanked him and shook his hand. ‘No need to’ he said, ‘I’m just annoyed at the way some people are’. I thanked him once again for his kindness and off he went. I was very pleasantly surprised that somebody was bothered enough to wait for me to come through, and decided to take a wander up to the viewing deck to try and relax a little before my next flight.

      I had two hours to spare on the ground here, so I went and paid my €2.50 to access the viewing deck. I emerged into a beautifully warm spring day, and a great view over the aprons and the runways here at Dusseldorf.

      I took a few photos.

      As I watched the arrivals in front of me, I noticed a familiar sight touching down. Surely, it couldn’t be the case again? Twice in as many weeks?

      Yup, here she was, fresh from Vienna, and ready to fly me once more to Vienna in her resplendent glory.

      At this point a German lad came up to me. ‘She is very beautiful, ja?’ he said. ‘Very’ I replied. ‘Can I see your photos?’ he asked. ‘Sure’ I said, showing him my camera. ‘I flew on her last week from Zurich to Vienna’ I said. ‘Wow, you are very lucky indeed’ he replied. ‘And now I fly with her again to Vienna today’. The look on the guy’s face was priceless. ‘You are a very lucky guy’ he said.

      We stood and took a few more photos.

      ‘I must go home now’ the guy said. ‘Nice to meet you’ I replied, before heading back inside to catch my flight.

      I went through security which was, as expected, very efficient here in Germany. There, my aircraft stood on the very first gate, with the sun setting behind and ready to take me up into the sky again.

      Well hello again, very nice to see you again, like an old friend coming to meet me again.

      It wasn’t long before boarding was announced, and after a quick boarding card check I made my way down the airbridge to the waiting aircraft.

      Date: 25 March 2012
      Airline: Austrian Airlines
      Flight Number: OS156
      From: Dusseldorf (DUS)
      To: Vienna (Schwechat) (VIE)
      Aircraft: Airbus A320
      Registration: OE-LBP
      STD/ATD: 20:05 / 19:46
      STA/ATA: 21:45 / 21:41
      Flight Time: 1:55

      I bid ‘Guten Abend’ to the flight attendant on the door, before taking my seat a few rows back in seat 6F.

      This is my 112th flight, my 5th on an A320, my 2nd on Austrian Airlines and of course, my second on this beautiful retrojet OE-LBP!

      It wasn’t long before the safety demonstration began once more in its cheesy format, but to be honest this time I wasn’t as stressed as last time so could appreciate it a little more. The cabin crew were very friendly too, which made a big difference.

      The captain came on to announce we would soon be on our way, and thanks to clear traffic were hoping to arrive a little early into Vienna this evening. Our route would take us down across Germany, before crossing the Czech Republic into Austria, and down to Vienna.

      It wasn’t long until we pushed back from the gate and began our taxi out to the active runway. There was quite a queue for departure this evening, but after a wait of several minutes we lined up and were on our way.


      We rotated and climbed out into the beautiful evening sky. Once again we were treated to an excellent view of Dusseldorf and its surroundings, as we climbed out to the east of the city.

      The sunset was absolutely stunning this evening, and I made sure to capture plenty of shots to preserve this moment forever.

      The light eventually faded to darkness as we continued towards Frankfurt, on our way to FL350.

      Frankfurt Airport once more!

      Reaching our cruising altitude of FL350 with Frankfurt and its airport below

      The cabin crew began their service, which consisted of a choice between savoury bread sticks and a sort of cake. As I’d had cake on my Lufthansa flight I opted for the savoury choice. I also indulged in another beer, this time getting Ottakringer.

      The TVs overhead were playing ‘Just for Laughs’, which initially provided some light entertainment for the journey, but once you’ve seen one person being tricked into smelling some foul odour instead of the perfume they were expecting, you’ve seen them all.

      The first officer then came on to announce our progress. We currently had Nuremberg off to the right of the aircraft, and would soon be crossing into the Czech Republic. We would then begin our descent shortly before crossing into Austria.

      Our route this evening:

      The flight continued in the night, and as predicted our descent began a while later.

      The cabin crew came around to collect the last of the rubbish and secure the cabin, as I spotted the city of Vienna off to the right once more.

      Vienna in the night:

      I could see Vienna Airport lit up in the distance, and a number of aircraft were on final approach. We flew a very long downwind leg, passing at least half a dozen aircraft going the other way on final approach. We then did a U-turn just past Bratislava, before commencing an ILS approach to runway 29. We got an excellent view of the city and the castle beautifully lit up (a shame they couldn’t drop me off here!) before flying past the many wind turbines between Bratislava and Vienna, their red strobe lights flashing in perfect synchronisation in the darkness.


      We made our way down the approach, before touching down smoothly on runway 29 and vacating to the right. The cabin crew welcomed us to Vienna, and thanks to a very close gate to the runway we pulled on stand just as the welcome announcement was finishing.

      We deplaned through the front door into the terminal, bidding farewell to the flight attendant on the door, before heading up the airbridge.

      Unfortunately, the downside of a gate next to the runway, was that there was a very long walk once inside. I finally made it to the baggage reclaim, where the belt was already running with some bags from the Stuttgart flight. However, our bags soon followed, and I grabbed my case and went landside.

      There, as planned, was a guy bearing my name on a sign. I felt like royalty as I was ushered through the terminal to car park P4, where I had stood spotting just 2 days previously.

      There, a black Mercedes was waiting, and I was whisked off down the Autobahn towards Slovakia again.

      This time we sailed straight through the border, arriving at the hotel around an hour later.

      This week I had been upgraded to the penthouse suite at the hotel, a beautiful room on the top floor with a large private terrace overlooking the city.

      I went about my training for the second week, and went online to try to check in for my return flight on the Tuesday evening, however the website was having none of it.

      I called Brussels Airlines to find out what was happening, and the guy advised me that somebody had ‘forgotten to open the flight for online check in, and it would happen in the next half hour’. And there was me thinking that this was an automated process!

      Sure enough, an hour later I tried again and this time was successful.


      • #4
        The following day, we set off from Bratislava at 13:30 and my fellow delegate dropped me off at Vienna airport just after 14:30.

        Check in didn’t open until 16:30, so I headed back to P4 again for some more photographs, however this time unfortunately the wind was in the wrong direction, so nothing was visible on approach. A couple of movements happened and I took some photographs, but nowhere near as many as on Friday.

        Asiana Cargo on the ramp

        I checked my watch and had whiled away more than an hour, so went to check in my bag. There was no queue, and I was once again handed printed boarding passes to replace my home printed ones.

        I now decided to head to P3 to see what the views were like here. It was into sun, but at least there was some activity at this end of the airport.

        Iran Air!

        Very distinctive Challenger!

        Iran Air off to Tehran

        Alas, it was now 17:30 and with my flight boarding in 20 minutes I decided to head into the terminal.

        Like Friday, it was a case of going airside based on my boarding pass, with no security. I then walked through the large dingy shopping mall again that is Vienna’s departure lounge, heading to the opposite end of the terminal for my flight.

        Austrian sitting on the ramp

        The dark, dingy airside of Vienna

        I got to the gate, which was the same as the one I’d flown from on Friday. I headed through security into the gate area.

        Gate area

        My boarding passes

        We were soon called for boarding, and after scanning my boarding pass at the gate I made my way down the airbridge to the waiting aircraft.

        Date: 28 March 2012
        Airline: Brussels Airlines
        Flight Number: SN2906
        From: Vienna (Swechat) (VIE)
        To: Brussels (National) (BRU)
        Aircraft: Airbus A319
        Registration: OO-SSQ
        STD/ATD: 18:20 / 18:15
        STA/ATA: 20:05 / 19:40
        Flight Time: 1:25

        This is my 113th flight, my 7th A319 and my 3rd flight with Brussels Airlines.

        This aircraft was delivered new to Mexicana as N790MX in February 2009. It was then stored in the desert in August 2010, before Brussels Airlines took her on as OO-SSQ in February 2011.

        I said ‘Bonne soir’ to the flight attendant on the door, and was bid the same in response. I headed down to my seat, 11A.

        Once again, this flight was fitted with the Recaro leather seats like her sister ship SSV, and was extremely comfortable. The leg room was very spacious, the seat very comfortable. The cabin crew secured the cabin, and we were welcomed aboard by the captain for today’s flight which would take around 1:30. We pushed back from the gate 10 minutes early at 18:10, with the aircraft only around half full, compared to last week’s full flight, which made a big difference to the comfort of this A319.

        The safety briefing was conducted as we pushed back, before we began our taxi out to runway 29.

        After a short taxi, we lined up and waited before powering up and were on our way to Brussels.


        We rotated and began our rather steep climb out of runway 29, on a straight out departure towards Linz.

        Once again it was a beautiful clear evening, and we were treated to a great view of the Böhmerwald mountain range to the south of Linz.

        The mountains were looking beautiful this evening.

        The terrain soon flattened out a little as we crossed into Germany, reaching a cruising altitude of FL380, heading towards the town of Regensburg.
        The cabin crew began their drinks round, and I once again ordered a €2.50 Coke Zero.

        I sat drinking my coke enjoying the view on this quiet evening flight. Looking at the wing it was clear who this aircraft’s former operator was (Mexicana), however I’m surprised that Brussels Airlines have only done a bodge job of removing the logo from the wing.

        Leg room on this very spacious aircraft

        Ahh, we have a joker

        Interior of this 3 year old aircraft

        The cloud rolled in below, but up here it was still a sunny evening. The sun shining in through the window was warm, and with plenty of room to stretch out it was lovely to sit and read through the inflight magazine to pass the time.

        After reading through the magazine, we found ourselves approaching Frankfurt.

        Other traffic in the form of a Turkish A320 heading BRU-IST, 1,000ft below

        Left turn shortly before Frankfurt, putting us on a direct path to Brussels.

        The engines throttled back and we began our continuous descent into Brussels.

        This time, we passed Frankfurt in daylight.

        Frankfurt/Main – easier to see in the daylight!

        It was a little hazy below as we descended across western Germany.

        Reflection of our aircraft in the engine

        Soon, the captain came on to announce we had began our descent, and were hoping to be on the ground on time this evening. The weather in Brussels was pleasant with a light northerly breeze.

        Before long the ground got closer and closer, becoming clearer as we descended through the haze.

        We commenced our approach passing to the south of Maastricht. The cabin crew came on to announce the gates for onward connections, of which my Birmingham flight was B91. I was surprised that there were also passengers connecting on to Geneva, I thought this was quite a strange routing to go VIE-BRU-GVA.


        We had a beautiful approach into runway 25L. shortly before landing I heard the autopilot disconnect (even from this far back!), before the crew took manual command of the aircraft to complete our approach, touching down smoothly 25 minutes early.

        We taxied to our gate on the B pier, but due to our early arrival the docking system was not yet turned on, leading to several minutes waiting on the stand before we could pull up to the gate. We soon began moving however, and our engines were shut down and the airbridge attached.

        Once again, we deplaned onto the airbridge and straight through a door and down some steps to a waiting bus again, to take us to A pier.

        As we waited on the bus, a FlyBE DHC8 pulled on stand next to us, causing lots of noise!

        Once the bus was full the doors closed and we pulled off for our trek to the other terminal. We waited for an Air Baltic 737 to push back and taxi in front of us, with the sun setting behind the terminal.

        Eventually we arrived and disembarked the bus into A pier, where I followed the signs for transfers to B, taking me once again underground and along the travelators underneath the apron back to B pier. I showed my passport and was waved through, and decided to wait in the restaurant area and grab some food again. Like Friday, I took the meatballs and frites from the Brasserie, and took a seat near to the window to get a good view of happenings on the ramp.

        Nice Saudi MD11

        Couple of charter flights sitting across the airport

        Some firefighters up to something across the airport

        Once I’d finished my dinner I headed through security to go airside on the pier. We were still showing as departing on time, which was a bonus in my book. The signs for B90-B96 appeared to take us the length of this pier, I had a very long walk along several travelators before arriving at a sign directing me off away from the pier.

        I went down some stairs, into a dingy corridor with whitewashed brick walls, that looked more like a railway station than an airport. I finally emerged into what resembled a marquee, with doors around the outside. Thankfully, B91 was just opening for boarding up so I didn’t have to hang around for long in here. My boarding pass was checked and I walked straight out to the waiting bus.

        Here we waited and waited, unfortunately for every last passenger on our flight. Many didn’t turn up until around 10 minutes prior to departure, so we had a lengthy wait.

        Soon the dispatcher came on board and told the bus driver we were only one short and we could go now. The doors closed, and off we went.

        We went back around B pier again, and out across the apron to a remote stand, where our aircraft, G-ECOH, was waiting.

        I had only seen photographs of this aircraft until now, the first DHC8 to be painted in Brussels Airlines full livery just last week. The aircraft is being wetleased to Brussels Airlines from Flybe along wish sister aircraft G-ECOI.

        The doors opened and I savoured every moment looking at this aircraft’s beautiful new coat.

        Time to board!

        Date: 28 March 2012
        Airline: Brussels Airlines (op by Flybe)
        Flight Number: SN2049
        From: Brussels (National) (BRU)
        To: Birmingham (BHX)
        Aircraft: Bombardier DHC8-Q400
        Registration: G-ECOH
        STD/ATD: 21:25 / 21:37
        STA/ATA: 21:50 / 21:31
        Flight Time: 0:54

        I was welcomed aboard by purser Rommelyn and made my way to my seat, 11D.

        This is my 114th flight. It is my third on the DHC8-Q400, and my fourth with Brussels Airlines (my third with Flybe if that counts!).

        This aircraft was delivered new to Flybe in October 2008. 3 days prior to my flight, she began operations for Brussels Airlines in their full livery, operated by Flybe.

        Unfortunately my row did not have a window. I caught Rommelyn as she walked through the cabin counting the passengers and asked if I could move forward a row into 10D. ‘Of course you can’ she replied, even though forward a row was into the ‘B Flex’ cabin.

        The crew announced ‘boarding complete’, with the cabin only around half full, and the Australian captain came on to ‘‘welcome us aboard this Flybe Q400, operating for Brussels Airlines’. He said the flight would take around an hour, and we were expecting to be at the latest on time, probably arriving around 10 minutes early. This was good news to me after Friday’s fiasco.

        Every announcement that was made referenced Flybe as many times as possible, for example ‘Your Flybe crew welcomes you aboard this Brussels Airlines service, operated by Flybe’. This was a theme that continued through the flight.

        A few minutes later, we were still waiting, and the captain came on again to apologise for the short delay, and explained that we were still waiting for the final paperwork to come across from the terminal. We should be on our way in a couple of minutes however. Sure enough, within a few minutes, a Brussels Airlines car came bombing across the apron, and a guy I a high vis jacket came onboard and entered the flight deck with the paperwork. Another guy stood talking to the purser. A few minutes later, they left the aircraft and the purser closed the door so we could get on our way.

        The flight attendants carried out the safety briefing, before checking everyone’s seatbelts taking their own seats.

        Our engines started, first number 2 on my side and then the left side, and we were soon on our way.

        It was a lengthy taxi out to runway 25R this evening, but we soon reached the runway and lined up.


        In a typical DHC8 departure, we were pushed right back in our seats, and were airborne within 15 seconds of power being applied. The view was excellent from my seat, and as we climbed out I got a great view of the streets lit up below.

        We climbed out towards Gent and Brugge, to our cruising altitude of FL200 for this evening’s flight.

        The cabin crew commenced the inflight service. We were first offered a choice of newspapers or magazines to read, which I declined. These were offered to every passenger, including those in B Light. After this was completed the food service started. Again this extended to every passenger in the cabin. I was offered a choice of sweet or savoury. The sweet looked like some form of cake, I opted for the savoury and received the following:

        The crew then came around offering drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. I just took a Diet Coke as I was driving home from the airport. ‘Would you like anything else’ she asked? No that’s all thanks, I replied. ‘Are you sure’? ‘Yes thanks’ I replied.

        I took a couple of shots of the cabin.

        The crew came back down the cabin offering more drinks if anybody wanted them. I must admit the service on this flight was exemplary, especially when we should have been paying for food and drinks.

        Before long the lights of Essex came into view, and once again we were approaching the UK. The captain came on to announce we were approaching Southend, and would soon be beginning our descent. We were expecting an early arrival at Birmingham, where we had a clear night but some fog working its way in overnight.

        All through my flight I’d been thinking I recognised the purser from somewhere before, and at this point I realised from where. She had also been the purser on the ‘flight in the cabin’ section of the ‘World Air Routes’ Flybe DVD. I was flying in the company of a celebrity!

        We began our descent shortly after, once again I viewed Stansted out of my window, but on the right of the aircraft this time, as we hadn’t taken such a direct routing. We headed for the ‘WELIN’ waypoint, before passing Milton Keynes, again distinctively lit up with its street in the distinctive grid pattern.

        Our descent continued towards Rugby, before passing to the south of Coventry, the airport clearly visible.

        We followed the standard Daventry arrival procedure into runway 33, one I have done many times now, but it never gets less boring.


        We crossed the M42 motorway before continuing to cross the A45, before touching down firmly onto runway 33. We vacated to the right, and taxied in to the terminal, rather than a remote stand.

        The engines were shut down, and an announcement was made that anybody needing baggage at the aircraft door, who had it put into the hold on boarding, would have a delay due to a systems issue. This didn’t sound good for me who had a bag checked in anyway. I hoped there wouldn’t be a delay getting the baggage.

        I bid farewell to the crew and made my way into the terminal, and through to passport control. There were several staff on for this time of night, however they were taking a very long time to deal with our flight. It transpired that shortly before our arrival, every computer system in the airport had gone down. A supervisor was on the radio to somebody trying to get all inbound flights to go through terminal 1, as they had another four flights that had just landed and were struggling to deal with just our half full DHC8. I was finally called forward, and discovered the reason for the delay. Rather than scanning our passports, they were having to manually write down everybody’s passport details in a book. ‘Looks like you’re having fun this evening’ I said to the lady. ‘You could say that’ she replied, before handing me my passport and saying thanks.

        Next stop was the baggage hall. There were problems here too, with the computers all off. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long for my bag, which came through within a couple of minutes of my arrival.

        Bag collected, it was straight through the EU Customs channel, and out to the multi-storey again, where I got in my car and headed home, arriving just over an hour later.

        All in all I had a mostly pleasant set of flights. I was not at all impressed with Brussels Airlines on my first flights, after all, how could an airline based in BRU not have any standby crew in BRU? However, they did redeem themselves somewhat by providing an excellent service on the second set of flights. Lufthansa and Austrian were both amazing, with Lufthansa my new favourite airline. Helvetic were great, I’d love to sample Swiss’s mainline product after getting a good teaser on the F100.


        • #5
          Great set of reviews, I like your sense of humour too. . Too bad you had a run-in with an irate passenger, but there's the occasional one I guess. Nice photos by the way.


          • #6
            Very nice and detailed report! Thanks a lot!
            Air crashes don't just happen...