Time for a trip North! I was actually flying all the way from London to the Orkney Islands - but with two different airlines and two different bookings. And therefore two different reports.
Inverness is the perfect distance from London for UK airlines - the train service which is very competitive to Glasgow and Edinburgh slows down for the last 140 miles and adds hours to the journey. So flying is still an attractive option.
The history of flights between Inverness and London is quite interesting. Many years ago, Dan Air flew three times daily to Heathrow and this transferred to British Airways when they bought Dan Air for £1. BA then moved the service to Gatwick to great local annoyance; before transferring it again to smaller aircraft operating BA Connect, which was then purchased by FlyBe. In the meantime, KLMuk tried a daily service from Inverness to Stansted (which was not a success.) easyJet however have had success with a daily (sometimes twice daily) service to Gatwick and a daily service to Luton. They have had more success since March when FlyBe sold their Gatwick slots to easyJet; meaning that the 'upstart' is now the only airline to ply the route. So for now there are three easyJet departures daily - two to Gatwick and one to Luton that are often fully booked. That will change in October when Flybe return to Inverness with a London City service, but for now, it's a very very busy route. That said, I paid about £80 return for my flight - including prebooked luggage and seat selection.
But enough history, here is my journey.
My local station has a twice hourly service to East Croydon, where you can catch a plethera of trains to Gatwick, which call every ten minutes or so. There are two rail companies: Southern and First Capital Connect - with First Capital Connect charging only £4.50 : however they operate some of the oldest trains and can often be dirty.
However, getting to Croydon was a hassle from the start! With this message:
This was not what I wanted to see! I tend to leave ample time to get to the airport - but what if this delay was on the mainline to Gatwick? Stress level - calm.
My option two was a connecting train just to get to Croydon, and as I changed trains a Gatwick Airport train arrived. However my ticket was First Capital Connect ONLY so I couldn't use it. Stress level - calm.
I got to East Croydon where I saw that the next train I could use was seven minutes away, so that gave me time for a relaxing connection.
First Capital Connect Trains are generally dirty, however this one was old, but clean. And empty!
The train is non stop to Gatwick, and arrives at the South Terminal.
So the signage is really clear - just follow signs for the North Terminal!
After the travelator, there's a driverless shuttle to the North Terminal.
This operates every few minutes and today two shuttles were in operation.
I have a video of the whole journey - it takes about two minutes. I will add this shortly. Once YouTube is behaving!
The North Terminal certainly feels smart these days.
No danger of ice today.
First of all, time to drop off my bag at the bag drop area. I cannot imagine how awful this would be in the peak season! There was a queue which moved quickly. I noticed that easyJet now have a priority bag drop for speedy boarding passengers. I didn't have to wait long though. There are rumours that easyJet will take over the entire North Terminal - I can easily see this happening. I didn't feel comfortable taking a pic of the 'live' bag drop area, so this is the opposite side which wasn't in use today - however it does give you a sense of the size of easyJet's Gatwick operations.
Security was a breeze, taking about two minutes - now that I now to wear soft trainers, no belts and put everything in the tray!
Then it was off to try the No. 1 Traveller Lounge - I had been to South Terminal one several times but this would be a first for me.
I like the 'oversize' signage at Gatwick - it certainly made things clear!
The Emirates, BA, Servisair and No. 1 Traveller lounges are in the same part of the airport - one on each floor.
The No. 1 Traveller lounge is a nice place to spend time.
I had a wander around…
It was busy, however I found a place to sit and have some refreshments.
I decided to try and visit the Aspire lounge on the lower floor, as my Priority Pass provides access here too. Aspire lounges are operated by Servisair whose lounges can be very hit and miss affairs. This one was new.
However I was not to get in… as they were full. I actually could see several empty seats / tables so not sure why they had an A4 sheet saying 'full' on the door. But I will have to wait for another time to sample this lounge!
Now that I was out of the lounges I wanted to go to the gate, however there was a delay.
This was not managed well - a small delay became a major irritation. easyJet warn you that gates close 30 minutes before the flight departs, and the screens simply displayed 'Gate announced at 11:25. 11:25 came and went and at 11:35 was updated to say Gate announced at 11:45. Quite annoying. The reason (from the easyJet app) was a delay on the aircraft's previous flights but there was now a large number of passengers anxiously waiting. And I had booked a further flight from Inverness to Kirkwall! Stress level: irritated.
The gate was then announced and there were about 120 passengers trying to get to their flight. Remember easyJet have harsh warnings about gates closing.
We then went to a stifingly hot gate, where we waited for a bit longer. Boarding was announced (easyJet card holders and Speedy Boarders are permitted to board first.) There was scramble for the boarding queue, which, as expected simply ended up in a backlog of passengers on the jetway.
People get very anxious about boarding, but with easyJet's pre-allocated seating and there is no need to panic, really. I think reserving you space in the overhead locker could be the next ancilliary service that low cost airlines will charge for!
The flight was nice. I fell asleep almost instantly after struggling to put my seat belt on. I am sure that they have made the straps shorter. ;-)
A gorgeous day as we left Gatwick.
I was planning to have a drink on board, but with no pricelist in my seat pocket I decided not to - also I was super tired for some reason. So I dozed off a few times, and I think I may have snored. Sorry fellow passengers.
Inverness was reached in what felt like no time at all, passing the Norbord woodmill which is constantly pumping out steam.
It was a grey day in Inverness… but as an added bonus there was a Loganair plane (I haven't seen their logo on the tail of a plane for about 15 years! They became a British Airways franchise in the mid 90s, and then a FlyBe franchise in the mid naughties.) The plane you see is a operating a Royal Mail contract.
Next up: Inverness to Kirkwall!
No.1 Traveller No.1 Gatwick
London - LGW
Inverness - INV
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