I had booked my original trip about a year ago, so it is not an understatement to say that I was looking forward to starting. In true toddler fashion, The Poppet decided that she would wake at midnight the night before travel. After an hour of cuddling and settling in my bed, I was able to move her into her own bed but couldn’t get to sleep, drifting off around 3am.
When 5am wake up came, I was tired! Dad was on hand to chauffeur me to the airport, leaving home at 0530 and arriving at 0555. Inverness has a fast-track lane, but it hasn’t been open for years. I saw the queue and was glad I had enough time to get through as things don’t always move quickly. I was surprised when my boarding pass was scanned, and I was directed to the fast track doors and the front of the queue – so much so that I didn’t even take a photo as I didn’t think it would be noteworthy.
I was through just after 6am and headed to the lounge. Describing it as small would be generous! Mick is the jovial host, and he does an incredible job at getting people sat down and a warm drink in their hands with cheer and good humour. At 0630, we boarded, and I was delighted to see that I would be flying on G-EUPJ, an A319 painted in the retro BEA livery. With the retirement of the 747s, this is the only retro aircraft flying.
We pushed off at precisely 0700 and were soon airborne with fantastic views of the Black Isle and Inverness.
The crew was a 6/10 – better than average but not outstanding. Breakfast was offered, and I was glad to be in the front row as only 4 vegetarian frittatas were loaded for a cabin of 20. I ate the egg, left the rest, and enjoyed Buck’s Fizz to toast the trip’s start.
I watched a film on my iPad during the flight and spent the rest of the time gazing out the window. I spotted an American Airlines plane flying underneath us.
The views over London were spectacular- I’ve done this countless times, but I guess the visibility and light just worked to give some stunning views.
We landed ahead of schedule, and we’re on the stand at A2 by 0830. Whilst I was connecting, I decided to go landside and use The First Wing so I could spend some time outside as it was going to be a long time until I would be landslide again. It also allowed me to get my boarding passes for LHR-JFK-LAX the next day, but for whatever reason, the check-in lady couldn’t get my Finnair boarding passes for AGP-HEL-LHR. This wasn’t an issue, as I did have them on the app.
I did a couple of hours work in the lounge, before trying out the snooze pods in the area where the Business Centre used to be.
It was relaxing, and I almost dozed off, but it’s not the same as the old Cabanas in the Concorde Room. I took a shower as another way to keep myself awake and then decided I would walk the tunnels over to C gates, go to the lounge at T5B then come back. It was only when I got to Level -4 that it became apparent my flight to Malaga would be leaving from C Gates, so I went straight to the Galleries Club lounge in T5B.
This was much quieter than the lounges in the main terminal and more comfortable. It’s a tricky one for the airline because it is nominally a Business lounge but will have some people who are Gold and some who are flying. First, they often put out some premium drinks from time to time and today was no exception. I found this St Emilion Grand Cru selling for £55 – better than anything in Galleries First earlier.
I use the app Vivino to tell me about the wines. It’s straightforward to use as you can just take a photo of the label, and it tells you all about the wine.
I saw that the gate was showing as C61, so I made my way to the furthest part of T5 about 50 minutes before departure to see that they were calling general boarding on the signs. Except they weren’t and we queued and queued. Eventually, we got on board, about 10 minutes to departure, so we could hurry up and wait. Turns out that the equipment needed for an ‘air start’ of the engines wasn’t available as the guy who was meant to be booting us up finished his shift and went home, so we had to wait for someone else to come. The catering had also not been loaded, so there was a delay on that too. The vents blow air without the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), but the air conditioning doesn’t work. The temperature increased to an uncomfortable crescendo before the engines started an hour after the scheduled take-off. There were several complaints, including from some who demanded complaint cards from the IFM. Apparently, they had been moved seats to accommodate families who’d paid to be together but were not happy as they were Silver Card holders and fly at least ten times a year. It would have been churlish to point out to them that this trip alone was 17 sectors…!
Eventually, we pushed back and taxied out to the runway, past G-BOAB, the Concorde at the end of the runway.
Take-off was smooth, and we set off. I’d rate the crew 5/10. We had no menus and no hot towels. The drinks service was slow, and they insisted on mixing the drinks on the trolley before handing over the half-used can and bottle. I like a crew who, when asked for a G&T, ask for your preference of gin and tonic, then hand over a large glass of ice, two bottles and two cans with a wink. A refill had to be drawn out of this crew.
Dinner was a choice of chicken breast, vegetarian linguine or salmon poke plate, of which I chose the latter. It came with a strawberry dessert (which I left), a little cheese plate and a cous cous starter with a Harissa hummus – I think! A menu would have been helpful. The salmon was delicious, with a beautiful soy and wasabi dressing. I finished the meal with an Irish coffee – coffee and baileys is a treat reserved only for planes. It’s only a shame that we had paper cups rather than plastic mugs.
I spent some of the flight writing this, and the rest watched films. One frustrating thing was the crew’s lack of proactivity in engaging with the passengers. I tried to get some water but was unsuccessful at catching the eye of the cabin crew, so I resorted to the call bell. I waited and waited before giving up and going to the galley. I didn’t really feel bad about interrupting the chat that was going on.
Arrival in Malaga was smooth, although there was a long walk to passport control. We had to show covid certificates after, but this was a cursory glance and was over in a matter of seconds. I entered Spain and was ready to start my trip proper.