Hello ladies and gents, i'm back again with another report.
In December, my family and I decided to go skiing for a week, in the lovely Val D'Isere, near Grenoble in France.
We decided against booking a package, as having been here a few times in the past, we have a favourite resort to stay in, and the best way of getting ourselves there from GNB. Previously, when we travelled here 2 years ago we had flown on Jet2 and had an absolute nightmare of a time, mostly to the fact that there was a 757 load of passengers hoping to board a 737-300 which Jet2 had so generously provided for the flight that day.
So instead, I looked for flights which were convenient for us, and I therefore booked separate flights, flying Thomas Cook outbound, and Monarch inbound, both departing from the exotic city of Manchester.
Travelling a week before christmas, this was literally the highest peak (there's a pun in there somewhere?) of the winter skiing season, and the flights were incredibly crowded.
To prove this point, I received an email from Thomas Cook 2 weeks prior to departure, stating that my flight MT1740 was overbooked, and there was so much demand there was now an "overflow" aircraft, MT1740C departing and arriving 5 minutes later, and operated by the rather strangely by Spanish charter airline, Privilege Style. Unlike most other people reading this, who were most likely furious, I was excited to fly on a new airline.
Like a kid at christmas, I didn't sleep much the night before, that might have however been with the fact I had to be up at half 2 in the morning, 3 hours earlier than necessary.
Reasons beyond my control, anybody with women in the family might agree, I may be a pushover, but id like to see any of you argue with 6 females while trying not to be blinded by the bedroom light being turned on at 2am.
Nevertheless, at just after 5:30am, we parked ourselves at the Terminal 1 Car park, conveniently placed directly between T1 (Where we will depart from), and T2 (Where Monarch will fly us into). Check-in was an absolute mess. Queues and Queues and Queues of people zigzagging around the concourse, passengers yet to check-in aswell as passengers at the "Bag drop" desks. Unfortunately for us, as we are not flying on an actual TCX aircraft, the OCI facility was not available. So for nearly 35 minutes, we queued, for a very tired looking girl who I felt extremely sorry for, to check us in. The flight was only half full she told us, so we didn't have to stick to the allocated seats once the aircraft was airborne.
After what was actually a quick check-in process once we reached the desk, we rushed round to security, where we were met with another scene of chaos. People queueing everywhere, people arguing, people pushing in, staff members shouting "Make sure there are no liquids in your bags, as there is a 45 minute wait to have your bag searched on the other side".
Brilliant, one of the numptys in my family will DEFINITELY leave something in their bag, we will wait 45 minutes, the flight will depart and we will have a better chance of winning olympic gold in the 100m sprint than we will of catching a flight to Grenoble at this short notice at this time of year.
However, luck was on our side, and within 20 minutes we were through. TCX1740 was already boarding, with TCX1740C showing a "Proceed to Gate".
So that we did, and a short while later, in the pitch black, we walked down some stairs, and boarded buses. It was absolutely freezing, and we stood inside the bus which had all 3 doors open on both sides, it was like a wind tunnel.
I imagined alot of people would end up trying to board the wrong flight, but as we stood there in that freezing cold bus, G-JMAA, operating as flight MT1740 pushed back off stand 10 minutes late.
After standing there for what seemed an eternity, the doors shut, and we sped off across the tarmac, to the remote stand opposite Terminal 2, where EC-HDS, a very shiny 757-200 stood, it almost looked like a private jet due to the markings. 2 buses worth of people, 1 bus seemed only half full while the other bus, the one which I was on, people were crammed in like sardines. Doors 1 and 2 were open, and the buses stopped in front of respective stairs, the doors opened and a crowd of people rushed to get out of the bitter cold, fighting to get onboard the aircraft first.
Some of my family we the first to board via Door 2, while some were stuck waiting to get on at Door 1. Somehow I was by myself at the bottom of Door 2, freezing my absolute b*llocks off as people took their sweet bloody time climbing these stairs.
Eventually, after climbing everest, I made it, and I was greeted onboard by 2 very well dressed, very polite and well spoken Spanish flight attendants, both were quite old, and I imagine would have been serving the Iberia premium cabins in their day. The cabin seemed very different to what I expected, the aircraft had a very nice smell, not like most aircraft have that standard "Plane smell", the seats seemed bigger, and the cabin itself just seemed cleaner and more well lit compared to what I've seen in the past. Maybe it was just me, being excited to try something new.
Anyway, I too, my seat next to my family at 22A.
The flight from here on was nothing special, boarding did not take very long at all, the crew spoke fluent English, and the engines blasted into life as we pushed back.
The safety demo was in both Spanish and English. The seats were actually very comfortable and the legroom was ample, I think its probably easy to say we are on the better of the 2 aircraft available today.
Scheduled departure was 07:45, and at 08:10 we rocketed from the runway, making an incredible noise! We burst straight into the clouds, and made a right turn taking us south-east.
In the seat pockets, there was nothing to be found, other than a plain white sick bag, and a Thomas Cook "Cafe Cloud" menu. Unfortunately for us, as this was not a TCX aircraft, we were unable to pre-order meals. Personally, I was absolutely starving, as were most of the family, so it seems the crew would make some good commission from us today.
The cafe cloud menu, is pretty poor, serving mostly those awful snack boxes, and chocolate.
Most of the family got themselves a hot drink, and something sweet from the menu, so I thought i'd follow suit, and got a Coffee and a Blueberry muffin, in total costing a whopping £4.60. So you can imagine the total price after the rest of my 11 family members had ordered. The wallet had taken a good kicking already, and we hadn't even passed over the channel yet.
The coffee was to be perfectly honest, disgusting, but the blueberry muffin was as good as it could be.
In-flight entertainment was non-existent on this flight, with 99% of the pax onboard resorting to their phones or just sleeping. Me however, being the sado that I am, stayed perfectly glued to the window, as we passed over Calais, Lille, over the Belgium/France/Luxembourg border, before making a right turn, over Geneva before starting our descent down towards Grenoble.
For the majority of the flight, the flight deck were relatively quiet, and the cabin crew were not seen after finishing the B-o-B service apart from to collect rubbish.
We started our descent, the FD came onto the PA announcing some traffic congestion for arrivals into GNB so we would be circling for around 25 minutes over Lyon and Chambery before we commence our approach.
And that we did, we literally flew in a perfect circle, around the exact same Mountain, with a single house on it, for 25 minutes. At first it was quite amazing to see, but after 3 minutes, it became boring.
Eventually we started our approach, which for those of you who have had the pleasure of doing it before, will know is quite spectacular.
Beautiful mountains fill your window, until you enter a small valley with houses on each side, you then leave the valley and see quite literally, flat ground for miles and miles, before eventually, slamming onto the runway in GNB, hitting the brakes as hard as humanly possible, before leaving the runway. 50 minutes behind schedule, we were welcomed to Grenoble.
There was quite a line-up at GNB, many many many aircraft dotted across the small ramp, Jet2, EasyJet, BA, G-JMAA was there, Aer lingus, SAS to name just a few.
We parked up, unsurprisingly in the second of 2 parking bays big enough to hold a 757, next to G-JMAA, which had already finished disembarking and was awaiting a new load of pax to take back to Manchester.
We disembarked by the front 2 doors again, I thanked the crew, and walked down the stairs expecting to see buses taking us to the terminal.
Oh no, there are people in high vis jackets pointing us the directions to the terminal, which is a good few hundred yards away.
Ah yes, Grenobles famous customs, a small tent, held up with metal poles, with 2 customs booths, catering for what I could count as nearly 14 flights.
So we joined the back of the queue, and we waited, and waited, and waited some more before finally, we were inside the tent, then we waited, and waited, and waited even more, before finally, the customs bloke took my passport, opened it, closed it immediately and handed it back to me, and that was me now officially in Grenoble.
Our bags were yet to arrive, despite nearly 40 minutes of waiting at customs.
After another wait of 15 minutes, the first bags started to filter through, we grabbed ours and found our minibus driver which took us to our resort. For those of you who have been to the Val D'Isere ski resort, it really is amazing, its a small village, filled with eateries, shops, hotel resorts and much more, and the atmosphere is fantastic, any readers from the UK or Europe who are looking for a good ski destination, please please give some thought to this place, it really is spectacular.
After a fantastic week of eating lots, drinking lots, and most of all hitting the amazing slopes of Val D'Isere, it was unfortunately time to head home.
Our minibus dropped us off at the terminal at around 0900, in plenty of time for our 1150 departure on Monarch flight ZB1361. However, 0900 on a Saturday, is the busiest time of the week for Grenoble, with all the morning UK flights turning around and flying back around this part of the day, the terminal was in pure chaos.
Each flights has a separate check-in desk and with space limited, most flights are only allocated a single desk.
The end of each queue is indistinguishable from one another, we found out our flight was not to be allocated a desk for another 45 minutes.
We headed outside to the small cafe and got some breakfast. At 0950 on the dot, desk 14, opened up with bright yellow and purple lights for "MONARCH ZB1361 MANCHESTER".
We made it to the front of the queue, and were able to successfully drop our bags off at the desk. Our seats which we picked online have thankfully remained unchanged and as the flight is completely 100%, this is a blessing.
Seats 35 ABCDEF, 36ABC and 37ABC. Myself being in 37A. We headed through the absolute chaos of security, with just 3 security lanes serving what I can only assume was over several hundred people.
Security staff were calling out flight numbers, and people would come rushing forward in a panic with only a few minutes left before departure. After about 40 minutes going through the process, we eventually found ourselves through. After security, you're lead from one building to another via a small glass tunnel, with 2 double emergency doors, one of which was open and allowed access to the tarmac aswell as blowing a horrific freezing cold breeze in. This is where the airport designated the "Smoking area".
The departure lounge is small, with 1 small kiosk shop, a duty free shop and 2 cafes, No spare seats, with people sitting on the floor. The front of the building has 10 doors right next to each other and each door consist of, obviously, gates 1-10. From each door the passengers will criss-cross paths walking to their respective aircraft, unless you are lucky enough to be directly opposite it. At 1115, there was still no sign of any new Monarch aircraft, apart from G-MARA which had finished boarding and was pushing back for its home leg to Gatwick.
Finally at 1125, 35 minutes late, G-ZBAD, a very shiny new A321-200S came bouncing down the runway at high speed, taxied in and parked at the most difficult, furthest away stand possible. Cheers.
At 1155, boarding was called, and we walked the marathon down past 6 parked aircraft, to our A321 at the very end of the apron. Front and rear doors for boarding, and I immediately went for the rear stairs. I was welcomed onboard by 2 very friendly girls at the back, one small girl who I question could reach the overhead lockers, and another who was your typical, too much make-up big hair overly happy kind of cabin crew. It was reassuring to see.
I placed my small bag in the overhead locker and took my seat at 37A.
The crew repeatedly made PA's saying the flight is full so make sure you stow your luggage accordingly, if its small, under the seat, however, people were quite blatantly ignoring this, and storing coats, duty free bags, small handbags etc up the top, to the obvious and understandable irritation of the crew who repeatedly had to make their way from either Door 3R or from the rear galley to correct it. This happened several times, before they seemed to give up. I saw people having their bags taken from them at the bottom of the steps, obviously there wasnt much room for larger bags any longer, and people were having to check them in, although no announcements were made regarding this.
The flight truly was 100% full, and due to the long delayed boarding process, the doors didn't close until 1235, way past our scheduled 1150 departure time.
The crew were evidently rushing in order to get the cabin sorted for departure, and we were soon pushing back in time to a safety demo from the crew. Was it her first day? Because the poor girl reading it kept tripping her words, and for the unfortunately fella who hasn't flown before, he probably won't know how to use his oxygen mask now.
We were quickly on the runway and made a rolling take off, turning left immediately after departure.
Departure was turbulent but the sun was shining and there was no clouds, it was perfect weather. It took some time before the crew were released, and they quickly started their buy on board service.
For those of you yet to fly Monarch, if you're feeling hungry, I recommend the ham & cheese toasties, they are perfection defined.
As the lovely girl got to me and asked what I wanted, I found out I was lucky enough to get my hands on the last available toastie. Happy with the result, I scoffed it pretty quicky, along with a Pepsi.
The flight passed quickly, so quickly in fact that the crew had not finished the trolley service by the time we reached London. This probably wasn't helped by the turbulence we hit on the way.
Soon enough, the trolleys were away, and everybody was strapped in for our arrival into a very rainy Manchester.
We made a left turn, followed shortly by a right turn, and we landed in a North-Easterly direction into Manchester, a merry christmas from the crew announcing we arrived just 30 minutes behind schedule and where the temperature was a measly 4 degrees, warm compared to the minus temperatures we had just left, but I know where i'd rather be!
The taxi was quick, and we soon docked ourselves onto stand 213, between two company A321's, G-ZBAK. and G-OZBZ.
Disembarkation took a while, as the jetway didn't connect very quickly. However, once we disembarked, the process was quick, customs was quick and our bags arrived shortly after we did.
Soon enough, we were in the car (s), heading back towards home.
Overall, the experience was great, and it was a fantastic holiday, and I would highly recommend it to any of you!
Hope you enjoyed reading! All comments are welcome!