My first holiday with my fiance, we decided to change plans to go to Gran Canaria as opposed to Orlando as previously planned following September 11th…
Hastily booked 3 weeks before departure, we opted to get some sunshine in Gran Canaria to at least escape the English winter!
We had been booked on a Britannia 757, but were told just before the holiday the aircraft was based in the Canaries, not the UK, so tried to find out what it was. Initially we were told it would be an Air Atlanta Icelandic 747-200 but arrived at the airport to find no 747s at all 🙁
Even though it was after 9-11 there was not much additional security to before, with only 2 people before us in the security queue!
Having checked in 2 hours early, we could see a couple of Britannia 757s on the apron, so thought we would be in for a flight on one of those. However when we got to the gate, we discovered it was actually a Britannia Sweden 737-800, much to our pleasant surprise!
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Photo © Robert Sjödell
STD was 15.30, but due to Britannia having to offload a couple of bags for some reason, we pushed back at 16.45.
My first flight on a 737-800 was underway. As this was my first flight on Britannia, I found the seats were surprisingly roomy for a charter airline and I had no problems with comfort even though I’m 6’3″ tall! The flight was absolutely packed with no spare seats, so we were seperated across the aisle, unfortunately on an angle as the seats are offset! Also the seats had very thin cusions that were a bit hard after a while, but still wasn’t as bad as I’d expected!
The crew were Swedish, and the safety video was presented in Swedish with the crew talking in English. Take-off was relatively smooth, and we climbed like a rocket, reaching cruising altitude of FL350 before we reached the south coast of the UK!
Our route took us over the Isle of Wight, Northern France, the Channel Islands, Spain and Portugal, with a direct routing over Lisbon, which at night was a spectacular sight!
We began our descent over the sea, and got a fantastic view of Las Palmas City on approach. I was surprised how high we were still at this point, but there was another 10 minutes until landing! I didn’t realise Gran Canaria was so big!
We flew south with the red beacons on the mountains above us, and doubled back to land on the northerly runway. As we taxyed in, there were numerous Futura 737s, Iberia A320s/MD88s, an LTE 757 and the star plane – an Antonov AN-12, ER-ACI. Unfortunately it was too dark to take a photo, and it was 21.30 and we were very tired!
We got through the terminal very quickly and were in our hotel by 22.30!
After a lovely holiday with nice weather, sunshine and a good time, it was time to head back to the airport. We left the hotel at 5am and checked in at 7.30. The flight was to leave at around 10.00am.
On the ground were numerous Futura 737s again, Binter Canarias ATRs, Spanair 767s, LTE 757s, stored Seven Air Fokker 27s and Iberia A320s/MD80s. We were to fly back on a Britannia Sweden aircraft, again SE-DZK which was already parked on a remote stand, next to sister SE-DZI which was operating the Manchester flight. Just as I Was thinking I’d never get a photo of the AN-12 ER-ACI, the aircraft landed and taxyed onto a remote stand! Still too far to get a photo, I sat and watched a couple of Spanish Air Force Casa 212s and F16s take off in formation, and then it was time to board.
The flight was only about half full for the return leg and we had the same row as on the way out but we were next to each other!
We pushed back soon after boarding, and was pleased that we got to taxi right past the AN-32 with it on my side! I got a couple of photos, and we were on our way, number 2 to a Binter ATR.
Take-off was again smooth, and we climbed into clear skies and headed northbound to the rain of the UK.
The crew was again Swedish and took forever to serve drinks as they had to convert manually all the prices into Pounds Sterling rather than Swedish money!
We flew past Lanzarote, over the coast of Portugal overhead Faro and across Portugal and Spain. I saw a TAP Air Portugal A320 in the opposite direction, a bit lower than us!
We flew over the Bay of Biscay, Channel Islands and Northern France, where the cloud started to build. We then flew over the Isle of Wight, and up the UK overflying Silverstone race circuit, before entering finals for runway 33 at Birmingham and landing smoothly, on time!
Overall, I was most impressed by Britannia’s service and comfort for a charter airline, and will be flying with them again in July when we go from Luton – Zakynthos on our honeymoon! Big grin