stuartfaz goes to Europe - a.k.a A Series Of Unfortunate Events

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stuartfaz

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Hey all,

Have just returned from my first trip to Europe. I went over for a month with family to spend Christmas with extended family we have over there.

Here was the original itinerary:

17DEC09 - MEL-AUH Etihad Airways EY461 Y
18DEC09 - AUH-LHR Etihad Airways EY19 Y
21DEC09 - St Pancras-Gare du Nord Eurostar 9006 Y
24DEC09 - Gare du Nord-St Pancras Eurostar 9087 Y
06JAN10 - STN-DUB Ryanair FR211 Y
06JAN10 - DUB-STN Ryanair FR294 Y
09JAN10 - LHR-AUH Etihad Airways EY12 Y
09JAN10 - AUH-MEL Etihad Airways EY460 Y

Didn't end up like this, as you will find out, but we shall start from the start:

Flight 1 of 6
MEL - AUH
Etihad Airways flight EY461
Thursday 17th December, 2009
Scheduled Dep - 11:15 Arr - 06:35
Actual Dep - 00:30 Arr - 08:30


I had checked in online earlier in the day in order to beat the queues, but when I rocked up to T2 I found that such a queue didn't exist. Perhaps I should stop showing up at T - 3.5hrs to takeoff. Ah well.

Went to a desk and handed over the print-offs expecting to just hand over my bag and be on my way, but check-in was pretty much identical to the process had I not done it online at all, to the extent where new BPs were issued. I'm not very familiar with international OLCI, but I didn't really get its benefit when there was no measurable time saving.

Went to the gate to find that the plane had been delayed to 00.00. We found out later that this was due to the incoming flight being diverted to Jakarta because of a medical emergency.

When boarding was announced, I was surprised to hear it was open slather as soon as they started boarding, as in there was no priority boarding for F/J/certain rows. I originally put this down to the fact they were trying to hurry the plane out to make up some time, but it caused a queue snaking around most of the gate area, and it took a long time to get everyone seated as people in rows further down were being held up by others putting their bags in lockers and so forth. To me it seemed very haphazard but we eventually pushed off around 00:30.

I had heard varying accounts about the quality of Etihad's inflight service, so I was surprised by just how good they were up in the air. They had a team of very attentive and courteous FA's, and the IFE system and food/beverage service were top-notch.

One gripe from this flight was that the flight crew took a while to notify passengers of the reason for the delay. On the ground the only reason we were given was 'operational issues' and the first account we got from the captain was a 'medical situation.' About 4 or 5 hours in, in another status update, did we get a full story.

We landed in AUH at 8.30, around 2 hours late.
 

stuartfaz

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Flight 2 of 6
AUH - LHR
Etihad Airways flight EY19
Friday 18th December, 2009
Scheduled Dep - 08:15 Arr - 12:25
Actual Dep - 09:45 Arr - 13:30


We landed at Etihad T3 and were told to rush to the gate because the plane to Heathrow was being held for us. As we arrived at gate 28 and EY19 was to leave from gate 26, I thought this would be quite simple.

I was wrong.

Transfers at AUH are quite strange. There is no specific transit section, so you need to walk all the way through to where departures passengers come in, past 20 or so gates, and have your cabin baggage x-rayed again, before walking all the way back to the gate to board. While I admit the exercise was useful, it just seemed like a whole set of unnecessary hurdles to jump.

The flight to Heathrow was good as well, although I swear the air-con was either off or ineffectual, because it felt the same temperature in the plane as it did in the terminal (a mid 20s Abu Dhabi morning.) While that kind of temperature isn't usually worth whinging about, walking off at LHR to 1 degree felt like hitting a brick wall.
 

stuartfaz

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Posts
526
Train 1 of 2
London St Pancras - Paris Gare du Nord
Eurostar 9006
Monday 21st December, 2009
Scheduled Dep - 07:27
POSTPONED - CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER

Train 2 of 2
Paris Gare du Nord - London St Pancras
Eurostar 9087
Thursday 24th December, 2009
Scheduled Dep - 21:13
POSTPONED - CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER


I thought London was always cold in winter, hence...the whole...winter thing. Apparently though this has been the coldest December in quite some time, and I woke on the 19th to hear that Eurostar had cancelled all their services because the trains couldn't handle the weather shift from northern Paris to the Channel Tunnel and were just stopping in the tunnel.

Services started back on the 21st to some extent but as we couldn't guarantee we would be back by Christmas we decided to put it back until January and spend a few days more in London.

Train 1 of 2
London St Pancras - Paris Gare du Nord
Eurostar 9006
Monday 4th January, 2010
Scheduled and Actual Dep - 07:27

Train 2 of 2
Paris Gare du Nord - London St Pancras
Eurostar 9087
Monday 4th January, 2010
Scheduled and Actual Dep - 21:13


We ended up picking a good day to go, it was the one clear day in Paris this week, and by the 7th trains were being cancelled again for the same problem.

The Eurostar is a pleasant journey, although one has to watch that you are at the platform with enough time to spare, as they do not tend to make announcements on the platform before departure, they just go.

Paris was clear and beautiful, but -4. Climbed the Eiffel Tower, which was magnificent, but at the summit it was so cold I couldn't feel my legs, which is handy when you pick the pillar that only allows ascents/descents via the stairs. I was assured that they were still there though and got a good bit of exercise and a great view of the city. As obvious a stop as it would be on anyone's tour of Paris, I still heartily recommend the climb.
 

stuartfaz

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Jan 9, 2007
Posts
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Flight 3 of 6
STN - DUB

... ominous music please ...
Ryanair flight FR211
Wednesday 6th January, 2009
Scheduled Dep - 11:15 Arr - 13:10
Actual Dep - 12:20 Arr - 14:00


Whilst talking with an old school mate at a pub in London on one of the first nights of the trip, I was convinced that a day trip to the Guinness storehouse in Dublin would be worth it.

That night, I decided to test the bottom of the barrel, and booked a return flight to Dublin on Ryanair for 50 quid.

The day came, and I switched on Sky to see 'WEATHER CHAOS: SNOW DELAYS AT HEATHROW; GATWICK, LUTON, MANCHESTER, BRISTOL AIRPORTS ALL CLOSED'.

[Hindsight] I decided that, although Stansted wasn't closed, the weather made the trip too risky, so I didn't go, and spent the day in my nice warm home [/hindsight]

I took the Stansted Express train to the airport, and, as the time passed, saw the clouds outside turn to rain, then to snow, then to sleet, then to God knows what.

I had checked in online, as one is forced to do with Ryanair, but as a non-EU resident I had to join the bag drop queue to have my passport checked and boarding pass stamped. Queues were huge, but Ryanair, in their...efficient...manner, took care of it quite quickly.

By the time I reached the gate the weather had calmed a tad. Easyjet had cancelled most of their outgoing flights just the same, and Ryanair had decided to do the same to a few longer-haul flights, but at around 11.30 the trucks came through to clear out the snow, and they began to board.

Ryanair don't allocate seats, and although I hadn't shelled out the however many pounds for 'priority' boarding, I managed to snag an exit row seat. Once you're in the plane you realise the lengths they've gone to to save a buck: The seats don't have pockets, nor do they recline. Safety cards are printed on the back of the seat (which is actually quite a good idea, it forces people to read them) and there are spaces on the overhead lockers for bus/tram-like advertisements to be placed, although on this flight they were all empty.

I hesitate to write this as I'm sure most will dismiss it as mere folly, but this flight was quite pleasant. The FA's were efficient, but still friendly, and in the end, for what it was, it was quite good. That, and my scratch card won a prize :) ... another scratch card :p

I don't know, maybe approaching it from a position of no expectations whatsoever helped.

We were greeted in Dublin, about an hour late, by a significant and ominous hailstorm.
 
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stuartfaz

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Joined
Jan 9, 2007
Posts
526
I don't know if you've kept up with the news, and with how a pittance of snow can completely and utterly bring London's transport to its knees.

If so, imagine that, and multiply it by...say...10. That's the extent to which a pittance of snow can completely and utterly bring Dublin to its knees.

Flight 4 of 6
DUB - STN
Ryanair flight FR294
Wednesday 6th January, 2009
Scheduled Dep - 20:10 Arr - 21:15
CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER - DUBLIN AIRPORT CLOSURE


At about 5pm I jumped in a cab to go to the airport. Little did I know that traffic in Dublin was at a standstill. Not a 'jeez traffic is a bit slow today' standstill, more like a 'did it really take us half an hour to get between those two sets of lights?' deal.

There were two major problems that caused the traffic, apart from the snow itself. It was clear that the majority of Dublin drivers didn't know how to drive on snow, which was evidenced by the amount of people willingly sliding down roads, which caused accident after accident. The second problem was that buses in Dublin, of which there are many, weren't designed to cope with that kind of weather, and were just stopping and being abandoned in the middle of roads.

In all, it took me 3 hours and 130 euro to get to the airport, to find that my flight, along with several other Ryanair flights, and ALL Aer Lingus flights, had been cancelled. I found a Ryanair rep who pointed me in the direction of the transfer desk, with the warning 'Good luck getting on anything before Friday, bud.'

With a mob around the Ryanair desk, and a line going out the terminal door, back in, then out again for the Aer Lingus desk, and with a -7 degree night in Dublin Airport ahead of me regardless, I found a internet terminal and began to sleuth. Ryanair was indeed booked through to Friday for every London airport, and Aer Lingus was offering a flight the next night for 250 euro. BMI could get me down to just over 200, but I remembered a little gem I found on Wikipedia once, and booked a cheaper and earlier flight.

Flight 4 of 6
DUB - LCY
Air France flight AF5116 operated by Cityjet
Thursday 7th January, 2009
Scheduled Dep - 06:45 Arr - 08:10
Actual Dep - 07:30 Arr - 09:00


Cityjet is an Air France subsiduary that specialises in flights to and from London City airport, for the business crowd. I was surprised to see it around 60-70 pounds cheaper than the next best alternative from BMI or Aer Lingus, so I snapped it up without hesitation.

When morning came, I checked in using the kiosk and went to the gate. Boarding went to time, with the BAe Avro RJ85 having a very private jet feel to it. Newspapers, towels and juice were handed out as everyone was sitting down, and we were just about to push off before a delay was announced due to problems at City airport. These were sorted out eventually and we departed at about half past 7. The service was excellent, and I managed to catch a few winks that I couldn't get on the airport floor the night before.

We landed at City airport, a place I have now decided to do all my flying in and out of. Walked off the plane, a few steps on the tarmac and you're in the terminal, a few steps more and you're at baggage collection, where your bags are already waiting for you. In and out, 10 minutes MAX. It was absolutely brilliant. I took the DLR and tube back to the house and went back to sleep.
 

stuartfaz

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Posts
526
Flight 5 of 6
LHR - AUH
Etihad Airways flight EY12
Saturday 10th January, 2009
Scheduled Dep - 09:20 Arr - 20:20
Actual Dep - 09:30 Arr - 20:30


Given the fun times had due to the last few flights, this one was thankfully uneventual. There had been a bomb threat on an Emirates flight the night before so we were expecting more of a reaction, but when we arrived it was business as usual, and we boarded without fuss. Service was again excellent, although they went again with open-slather boarding, except this time letting F/J/EY FF passengers go first, which I assume is their normal procedure. Personally, not a fan, as I would prefer boarding Y by row number, getting everyone organised and sitting down quicker. We landed in AUH about 10 minutes late, and prepared ourselves for the Abu Dhabi transfer hike.

Flight 6 of 6
AUH - MEL
Etihad Airways flight EY460
Saturday 10th January, 2009
Scheduled Dep - 22:35 Arr - 19:15
Actual Dep - 23:40 Arr - 20:20


We were greeted by the news that the flight to MEL was delayed by an hour, we found out later due to a delayed arrival from CDG. I got to have a look around Etihad's T3, which is quite impressive. It's amazing the airline is only 7 years old. Whilst waiting, I sampled some of the local cuisine (Burger King :p) and eventually boarded at around 23:00.

Again, no complaints about the service, I would gladly fly Etihad again. We arrived at 20 past 8, but were delayed a tad while Quarantine dealt with some sick passengers.

So there's my story, will try to find some pics eventually. Cheers :)
 

anat0l

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Nice report stuartfaz; great to see you made it back alive, well and not too worse for wear.
 

Alanslegal

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Jun 22, 2007
Posts
5,403
Thanks for the writeup stuartfaz, very short & sweet but waiting for the photos (whenever you have the time to put them up that would be awesome).

And so I've heard from mates who fly LON-SYD a handful of times each year that EY is a pretty good product, good enough to overtake QF and BA as a carrier of choice (well at least in Y).
 

Mal

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Dec 25, 2004
Posts
12,386
You really hit the weather and associated cancellations didn't you ! The Eurostar cancellations were a mess, and they bungled a lot of things during that issue.

Thanks for the TR.
 

samh004

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Whilst talking with an old school mate at a pub in London on one of the first nights of the trip, I was convinced that a day trip to the Guinness storehouse in Dublin would be worth it.

Did you get to St. James Gate, despite the fire and weather in the end? Was it worth it?
 

ellen10

Established Member
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Posts
2,549
Thanks for the trip report.
If the Ireland return flight was not delayed would you say the day trip to Dublin was worth it.
 
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