Mentally recovering from a very tragic occurrence (at the time) I thought about giving myself a quick breather in fall, just a month before a major trip overseas. Believe it or not, despite having been to places as far and wide as the US or Japan I had yet to travel down south in my very own country - guess it was the time to fix that!
I'd also wanted to fly at least one plane that year that was on the brink of disappearance - and lucky me, Volotea had (and as of the writing of this report, still has) a 717 based at BIO. Now, I had been on Mad Dogs before, as up until the mid 00's they were a common sight at EAS for the Madrid route, and many a fond memory of returning back to Madrid (and then hopping on a 747-200 back to JFK) on one of these had been had. But I'd never been on their Boeing cousin, and the time was ticking to ride one of McDonnell's finest (granted, not a Mad Dog per se, but…) for the final time, so… why not?
Checking which routes Volotea served with the 717 out of BIO, I noticed AGP was on that list - great. Halfway through September I booked my flight via V7's website, which was easy to navigate and slightly less annoying with ancillaries than some other airlines… (coughafcough). After booking my room at the Ibis Budget in central(-ish) Malaga, it was time to choose the flight back. While Volotea did have a flight back to BIO on the 20th, it arrived way too late for me (around midnight, 5 minutes after the last bus back to San Sebastian had left), so that particular flight would be with the V7's biggest competitor on the same route, Vueling (unknowingly on one of their brand-new A320NEOs - I'm covering that on the next trip report).
Arrival at BIO
We begin on a drizzly, gray Friday morning at Irun's main station on the regional narrow-gauge network, waiting to catch a train to San Sebastian:
From there it's a 7 minute walk to the city's bus station…
…where we'll take a slightly (OK, very) expensive bus to BIO:
Having already checked in back home there wasn't much reason to stay landside, so I headed in (but not before looking up my flight on the big LED board, of course…)
Despite being a comparatively small low-cost carrier Volotea has quite the presence in BIO (and indeed all around the city):
Alright, made it past security…
…guess it's time for lunch (caesar salad from BK, the only restaurant that wasn't swarming with people at that time):
After the salad I took refuge in one of those business-y tables they had airside at one end of the terminal and caught up with some YT videos:
I also took the time to check where my plane was. It had just departed Seville, on it's way to BIlbao:
Something I've always loved about this part of the terminal (yet never have shown in previous trip-reports… as far as I know) is this model diorama of the terminal, made around the time it was built.
The diorama presents the terminal in exquisite detail… the same, however, cannot be said for the planes on display. I don't particularly remember neither Lufthansa nor Iberia bringing in DC-10s into BIO…
And could you imagine the excruciating pain Western Pacific passengers would have had to suffer on a more than 10h flight from Las Vegas to BIO?
Perhaps it's time to take a look at the airlines that do fly to BIO by doing some planespotting. Here's Eurowings for Stuttgart:
And a Madrid-bound Air Europa Express Embraer E195:
Some more Air Europa action - this Star Alliance 737's headed to Lanzarote:
An Easyjet for MXP:
And finally some Irish magic with this Aer Lingus in the new Eurowhite livery, having just arrived from DUB:
While all of this was happening, my flight was already over La Rioja and was just about to land in BIO. It was time to head to the gate.
Bet you won't see airports this crowded in a while!
And at around 5:15 pm, our plane for today, EI-FCU, landed into BIO. FCU is a relatively young 717 - first delivered to Midwest in 2005, she was then passed over to Mexicana's low cost carrier, Click, in 2009. However, when Mexicana went under in 2011, she'd stay for a little while under Boeing's ownership in VCV before getting swooped up by Volotea in 2013. She's the only V7 plane based in BIO and as of the writing of this tripreport (September 2020), still soars the skies pending retirement.
Taxiing to gate 1:
15 minutes later, it was time for boarding:
Today seat would be 4A, two rows behind the front row seats with extra leg room:
Despite supposedly having 5% more leg room than other low cost carriers, it was still quite tight. The interior was also starting to show signs of age:
Sadly no planes parked next to us today.
Flying the Baby Doggy
Pushback began with some slight delay 17 minutes later:
…which was soon followed by a quick and quite steep takeoff:
And we were soon on our way off, over the port of Bilbao…
…followed by the entirety of Bilbao:
A very quiet cabin, as it would remain for the whole flight.
Heading into Central Spain:
Time to check out the toilets. Believe it or not, the toilets were plastered in what might as well now be 10-year-old decals from its former operator, Mexicana Click, that Volotea simply decided not to even bother in removing. (Although I guess it does help that the signage is in Spanish and English anyways… even if it is a slightly different Spanish that what we're used to across the pond!)
Heading back to my seat, it was time for the meal service… that I didn't make use of because of the salad I had had earlier.
Not like I would've known what to choose either because seats onboard V7's 717s have a… Ryanair-esque feeling to them, and as such have no back seat pouch to store pointless mags or BoB menus into.
The tray table wasn't particularly clean, and while I did give it a quick wipe I avoided using it as much as possible.
I'd spend the rest of the flight listening to a podcast, whilst the plane soon ventured into Andalusia (and passed over towns whose names I wish to forget… or rather, end up forgetting over the course of a year):
Descending into AGP
At around 7:10pm, our plane began its descent into Malaga after an hour long journey - and we did so over some absolutely stunning scenery:
Campanillas and the Tomillar reservoir:
Approach and landing:
Welcome to Malaga!
Taxiing to our gate, it's very easy to see which airlines run the show here:
Coming to a stop at gate D60.
And just like that, the flight's over…
So long, FCU! Here's hoping we meet again (although that's looking increasingly unlikely… :( )
And after making my way through a busy Terminal 3…
…I hop onboard a cercanias train bound for the city centre…
…and end up crashing out at the local Ibis Budget.
Thanks for reading!
Bonus : Click here display hide
Despite perhaps being a bit of a tourist swamp by this point (although nowhere near as bad as Barcelona, mind) Malaga is a wonderful city to visit nevertheless and a great point to start if you've never visited Andalusia before (like I had!), chock full of historical artifacts such as it's own mini-Alhambra, the Alcazaba - the very first thing I visited on my arrival:
The former Moorish palace also offers stunning views of the city and its coastline:
I then went for a short walk in the old town, quirky in a way:
And, just to satisfy the transport geek side of me, I also rode a short section of the city's "metro":
To top off day 1, I went and checked one of two Contemporary Art museums - the CAC Malaga. Definitely worth a visit (and very cheap too!):
This was later followed the second and last day by Centre Pompidou's outpost in the port of Malaga - a admittedly much more refined experience than the CAC (doens't mean you shouldn't visit both though). Entry is 100% free if you have a European Youth Card.
I then went up the entirety of Malagueta beach…
…rode it back down with one of those annoying app-powered electric scooters into the old town (left it much earlier, of course!)
and ended the night with a pint and some DOOM at a gaming bar - the (sadly now closed) Level Up Soho
Bilbao - BIO
Malaga - AGP
Even with their old age and slightly dilapidated interior the V7 717s never fail to provide an excellent ride, and it'll be a crying shame the day they all get retired. V7, too, provided an excellent service despite its Low-Cost badge, for prices that are almost a steal! Shame they don't fly to more destinations...
BIO hasn't changed much from my last visit, cleanliness is excellent but prices are ridiculous (as is usual with Aena airports). Otherwise it's a great small airport to have nearby.
My first impressions of AGP when I arrived were decent, but it does feel a bit chaotic at times (granted, some of it was under refurbishment) and restaurants leave a LOT to be desired (why so many sandwiches?). Here's hoping the refurbishment (and new restaurants) give its customers a slightly better experience of Spain's 4th biggest airport.
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