Saturday, October 27, 2012

Leaving on a Jetplane

13 October, 2:30pm
As I write this, I am sitting at Gate 3 of the London Luton Airport, waiting for a plane that may never come.


They just announced that RyanAir fight FR338 to Dublin has been delayed indefinitely due to a technical fault to the aircraft. Our trip is obviously off to a great start.

I'll say it again: train travel is much better than plane travel. But I promise that this won't be another 1500 word praise of trains (read my post on our train trip to Scotland here). To explain how inconvenient flying can be though, let me take you back to this morning.

For starters, we're flying out of London Luton Airport, which is not especially convenient from Oxford. Our flight takes off at 3:15, gates closing at 2:45 and we've never been to the Luton airport before, so we weren't entirely sure what the process of checking in and going through security would be. There were two busses going from Oxford to Luton through National Express this morning. One leaving at 9:30 and getting in at 11:15 and one leaving at 11:30 and getting in at 1:45. We were afraid of missing our flight if we risked it with the 11:30 bus so, you guessed it, we arrived super early for our flight.

So, we found ourselves at an airport four hours before our flight, with two hours until we were able to check in. We were able to investigate where and how we needed to get our Passports checked and exactly what time we could check in. Even though we probably didn't need to get here this early (especially given our delayed flight) it did afford us the opportunity to be relaxed and not stress out about getting to the gate on time which knowing me, would have happened).

In the two hours we had to wait before checking in and going through security, we sat in the food court area (there was actually a lot of shopping and food locations before the departures area, which was quite unusual to me) and talking about our trip.

When it was time for us to check in, we walked to the RyanAir desk to find quite a long line. This was because only one desk was in operation for the Dublin flight, even though there were other people at the RyanAir desk who were assigned to other flights. In the fifteen minutes we stood in line I saw two people check in for one these other flights. Even when the guy running the Dublin check in was late and the other two ladies weren't doing anything they didn't help or fill in. I guess this a little bit of getting what you paid for when flying on cheap airlines like RyanAir.

The trip through security was uneventful. The queue moved quickly and the process was efficient. I got my 18mL over limit contact solution through which I was pleased with and I didn't have to take off my Sperrys (though Libby and Austy had to take off their boots). Getting through security was easy, which was a little bit disconcerting given how lenient/unconcerned they seemed to be--Austy got through with nail clippers and tweezers. But that might just be because US security is so intense and that's what I'm used to.

The first area we saw after we got through security looked like a mall--there were snack stores, restaurants, fashion shops, casinos and more. It was kinda crazy. However, we didn't want to linger so we decided to head to our gate, Gate 1.

We walked and walked and walk, further and further into the airport. Shops were few and there weren't many people around. We quickly discovered that Gate 1 is the farthest gate (another way RyanAir cuts prices, I'm sure. When we went down the stairs marked Gates 1-6 it was actually quite eerie. There was literally no one around as we walked. It was so quiet I could hear by footsteps. I've never experienced that in an airport before.

We got to the gate early, only to learn in 15 or so minutes that our flight was delayed indefinitely  (During this time, it also started pouring outside.) Question though: once our plane is ready, do I really want to get on a plane that was experiencing technical difficulties?

13 October, 4pm
Well, good news: our flight wasn't delayed long. At about 3pm (10 minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave) they announced that they were ready to start boarding. People (including myself) literally ran to get in line because there was no assigned seating.

We were actually able to board the plane very quickly by walking outside where, luckily, the rain had stopped. (My theory is that there wasn't actually any technical difficulties, they just didn't want us geting their plane soaked. But I digress.) I guess a covered walkaway is another thing surrendered in our cheap ticket.

Oh, another interesting thing I've noticed. On our ticket it says we're only allowed one piece of hand baggage including your handbag. I'm used to being allowed a handbag and another carry-on, but I thought this was just RyanAir being stingy. Nope, apparently that is actually Luton's policy. I found it to be a strange difference between US and British airports.

Anyway, our flight ended up beginning the taxiing process at 3:25 (and lift off was very speedy) so we were in air by 3:31, only 20 minute behind schedule. The flight is only 55 minutes long so we should be landing soon.

One other strange thing I've noticed about this flight is that even though it's less than an hour long, they are selling drinks, hot foot you can order and other snacks. This is similar to what they do on trains, so maybe that is what people expect when travelling Europe.

We just landed and I find it hard to believe we just flew to an other country in under an hour--less than it takes to fly from North Carolina to Maryland. It's amazing. Anyway, once we had landed a victorious hunting bugel played and we were welcomed into Ireland told we had arrived on time. How this is possible since we left 20 minutes late I'm not entirely sure, but apparently we did. Anyway, we touched down at 4:20 and it's now time to deplane.

13 October, 5pm
As I write this I am on the bus from the airport to the Dublin City Centre. Another annoying thing about plane travel--the airpots are frequently located outside of the actual city. We had to board a bus for a € 10return fare for our 30 minute ride into the city. If we were travelling by train we would've gotten off right in the city. Just saying.

Backtracking--we were once more let off the plane directly onto the tarmac. Embarrassingly enough, every time I enter/exit the plane via a staircase onto the tarmac I always feel like I'm either about to get on the Titanic. Or that I'm the President. This time was no different.

We got to customs, where the Non-EU line was super short, so we were pretty pleased with that. We got through customs and visited an ATM (at which I was given 2 €50 notes, which was pretty annoying because I don't always like paying for things with 50s. But, oh well.

We're getting into the City Centre, so I'll leave you now. I'm excited to see what Dublin has in store for me.

15 October, 5pm
The Dublin Airport experience was much easier than our Luton experience. For starters, it was so easy to get to the airport with continuous buses running between the city and the airport. We arrived a little over 2 hrs before our flight and got our passports checked. Security didn't move quite as wuickly as at Luton but it still didn't take too long. Although seriously, how are people so unprepared when going through security. The whole time you wait in line you read all the signs that tell you what you can and cannot take through, that you should take your coat and boots of, that you need to take your laptop out of your bag and that you should remove anything from your person that might set off the metal detectors. It's not that difficult. But still, people walk up to the conveyor with their coats on, change in their pockets and confused as all else. The lady in front of me set off the metal detector and was confused as to why. I'll tell you: because she was wearing 2 inch thick gold bangles on her wrist. I mean, come on!

The real annoyance came when we looked at the Departures board to see that our gate wouldn't be posted until 3:45, half an hour before boarding begins. o we had to hang around the shopping area for a while before we could even figure out where we should go.

At 3:45 we saw that we had to be at Gate 105 (approximately 15 minutes away, the board said ) in 30 minutes for boarding. I just don't understand why they had to wait to tell us the gate. Don't they want us early or at least on time? When we got to the gate, there were a lot of people already there, so they must have known where to go--perhaps RyanAir's gates are always in teh same area and they already knew where that was.

Another nice thing was that Dublin Airpot had free, no-strings-attached, easily accessible WiFi which I appreciated so that I could catch up on my email. usually is seems like airport WiFi comes with many catches so I was glad that Dublin was feeling WiFi generous.

We're on the plane, getting ready for take off and I snagged a window seat, so I've gotta go...

October 15, 6:30pm
We are now siting once more in the Luton airport, ending our trip as it began--having to wait 2 hrs because the bus has an annoying schedule that does not coincide with our flight. We actually got here just in time for the earlier coach, but we didn't want to risk it, especially if our flight was late, so we booked the later coach. The reason we could have actually made the first coach is because we didn't actually have to go through customs. I'm not sure way--we had to when we arrived at Dublin Airport, but for some reason we didn't to here. And I had accounted for customs when determining what coach we should take. I feel bad, since I'm the one who decided which coach totake, that everyone had to wait 2 hrs, but I tend to be over cautions when booking things.

The good news is that I got to have Yam Yam, the Asian Noodle restaurant I was eyeing on Saturday when we were here, so I'm pretty happy about that.  I did have an interesting conversation with the woman at the counter:
Woman: Did you have a nice weekend?
Me: Yeah, I just got off a flight from Dublin.
Woman: Oh okay. Are you just in England for a trip, or...
Me: I'm actually studying in Oxford. I was just in Ireland for the weekend.
Woman: Oh, well it must have been nice to be home for a few days. 
Wait what? She thought I was Irish? Didn't see that one coming.

October 15, 10pm 

Just got back to Flat K1, happy to to be home but glad that we were able to spend the weekend in Dublin. 

Check back in a few days for a post about what I actually did in Ireland!

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait to hear about your adventures in Ireland! Glad you made it there ok with all the plane drama! :)