Southend Airport – Channel Air Bridge to Ostend

Here are three more photographs from my father’s collection of slides, taken in 1961.

The first shows the departure area for Channel Air Bridge, which specialised in flying cars and their passengers from Southend airport to Rotterdam, Calais or as in my father’s case, Ostend.

Southend Airport, late 1950s. Channel Air Bridge DeparturesThe second is a photograph of the Bristol 170 Superfreighter 32, G-AOUV, that flew the Southend to Ostend route at this time. The cars were loaded on and off through the nose of the aircraft.

Aircraft G-AOUVThe final photograph is of my father’s Triumph TR2 being unloaded from the aircraft in Ostend, en-route to Italy.

Aircraft G-AOUV and TR2Flying in 1961 seems to have been rather more civilised than it is today!


East Midlands Airport – do they care?

A couple of people have asked me recently if I ever had a proper response to the comment card I completed while waiting for a flight at East Midlands Airport on December 4th last year. Apart from their holding repsonse received on 17th December, the answer is no, I haven’t heard anything from them so far.

So, on the basis that if they can’t be bothered to respond I won’t bother to use them again, my next flight in early February will be from Birmingham International instead.

If EMA ignore customers who take time to give them their honest feedback, then perhaps it goes some way to explaining news items like this one.

A letter from East Midlands Airport

While I was suffering from man-flu, this letter arrived from the “Customer Experience Team” of East Midlands Airport. Dated 9th December, it arrived on the 17th.

A letter from East Midlands Airport

It’s just a holding response that thanks me twice in four sentences (cunningly disguised as three paragraphs) for writing to them. Apparently the manager of car parking and retail will reply to my points, recalled here, soon.

East Midlands Airport – revisited

Earlier on in the year, I had to travel from East Midlands Airport on business. It wasn’t the greatest experience and I recorded my observations on that journey here. Reading back through that post, I’m amazed I decided to fly from there again, but last Friday I did as I needed to get to Edinburgh. On reflection, the train would have been a better choice for the trip, but it would have meant an overnight stay. I’m not sure why I decided that was a bad thing, given that Edinburgh is truly lovely at this time of year. In fact, it’s lovely at most times of the year, especially if you avoid driving there!

Well, East Midlands Airport hasn’t improved. It’s got far, far worse than even a few months ago, so much so that I even motivated myself to track down a customer comment card and fill it in before my flight. I’m looking forward to the response of Penny Coates, the airport MD.

I complained about four specific things. Firstly, the price of car parking. Booked a few days in advance in car park 1 (a ‘mid stay’ car park), the cost was £17.99 plus a £1.50 credit card fee. A total of £19.49 for around 15 hours of parking time and a wet and wild walk of a few minutes to the terminal as there are no longer any buses from that car park to the terminal to ‘help reduce their carbon footprint’. You would have therefore thought with the money they’ve saved on buses and fuel they would have reduced the price. But no. And if I’d been unwise enough to just turn up, it would have been an eye watering £24.70 for the same service. Readers of a nervous disposition should stop reading now. The short stay car park in front of the terminal would have been £37.50 (including the credit card charge) for a stay of between 12 and 24 hours. The same carpark that was somewhere between £5 and £7 for a day just a decade or so ago. That’s some rate of inflation.

Just by way of comparison, Derby Station car park is £11 for the day (but free for me as the office is next to the station anyway); Edinburgh airport is £7.10 in the equivalent car park booked in advance and a bargain £19 for the short stay next to the terminal (with covered walkways and a free pass for two people to go through the priority queue at security) and Birmingham (their nearest airport competitor) is £10.50 in long stay and £18 in the short stay car park. Neither Edinburgh or Birmingham feel it necessary to further penalise their customers with an additional credit card charge. At these prices EMA might as well have attempted to rename the airport London East Midlands – which would have been about as sensible as their attempt to rename it Nottingham East Midlands a few years ago. (The airport is in Leicestershire and the nearest city is Derby. Grrrr.)

Then there’s airport security. If I’d needed a plastic bag to put hand-baggage liquids into, it would have cost £1 from a vending machine for two bags. Not 50p for one (which would have been bad enough.) I wonder how running superfluous electrically powered vending machines impacts their carbon footprint. At Edinburgh airport, needless to say, they’re still freely available.

Then there’s the price of food. Just under £5.60 for a mediocre bacon roll and a lukewarm cup of coffee from the Soho Coffee Company before my flight. And worst of all, they believe that the £3.49 they charge for the roll is such exceptional value, they boast about it on advertising boards inside the terminal. I guess compared to the Great British Breakfast it is – but then, that was amazingly poor value too.

Finally, they’ve built the duty free shop over the walkway between gates 1-5 and all the other gates. It makes it almost impossible to get through at anything like a decent pace and means you are constantly bombarded by well meaning sales assistants trying to get you to try a splash of man-perfume while you’re concentrating on finding your aeroplane. And please, please don’t get me started again on the exhortations of the departure boards to ‘relax and shop‘.

I thought that was it – but then I noticed that on their feedback form that you have to tick the box to *stop* them from sending you junk mail. Any organisation that asks you to opt out of such nonsense (rather than opting in) is just asking for a kicking in my book.

When I get a formal response from EMA, I’ll publish it here. After all, I feel that they should have the right of reply to these points. And if Penny Coates, MD of East Midlands Airport  happens to read this blog entry, then I’d be happy to publish her response on here directly.

East Midlands Airport

I used to love flying from East Midlands Airport around 10 or so years ago. I’m here this morning, but the experience is rather like being in the waiting room for hell these days. Apart from the fact that it’s noisy and crowded, even at 5.45 am (which I can just about cope with), Manchester Airports Group who own it these days have simply turned it into one big method of extracting money from the passengers.

I’ve paid the best part of £20, pre-booked, for around 14 hours in the long stay car park (a decade ago it was around £5 for the day in the short stay in front of the terminal – I think it’s nearer £30 now) and the decidedly average breakfast I’ve just eaten had an extra 8 pence charged on top of the £6.45 for a “Great British Breakfast” (without a drink), for a meager sachet of ketchup.

Then there’s the way you’re forced to wind your way through ‘duty free’ once you get past the security checks and the way the departure boards exhort you to ‘relax and shop’ – not two words that really go together in my experience.

But at least they’ve dropped all that ‘Nottingham East Midlands Airport’ nonsense they went in for when they bought it. Recognising Derby and Leicester in the airport logo is a much smarter idea, as Derby is the closest city and the airport is in Leicestershire.

I even prefer Heathrow and Stansted these days to this truly awful place. At least there is some semblance of competition for services at those airports and for about the same price as a not so great British breakfast at East Midlands Airport, you can get a really nice one with a drink at Chez Gerard’s, Stansted.

Still, today can only get better. And I am flying to Glasgow, which had a civilised airport the last time I went there.

6.30am – Someone else has just walked past me grumbling about the ‘relax and shop’ messages on the departure boards. See, it’s not just me …

Sleepless in Madrid

I’ve had an enjoyable couple of days in Madrid with work and hopefully, a productive one too. My flight back is at 0630, which means I need to leave the hotel in Tres Cantos at about 0430 to be sure of catching it. Guess what – I can’t get to sleep! Too worried about missing it I think.

Update: 6 February, 4.10pm

I didn’t miss the flight – but it didn’t land at Stansted! We were on final approach with about 5 minutes to go before landing and the runway was shut due to snow and ice. It’s been a frustrating day travelling back from Gatwick instead. Full credit to Ryanair – they managed to get everyone onto buses and away from Gatwick back to Stansted within an hour of landing. Shame about the A14 once I’d picked my car up though – but the snowmen along the side of the dual carriageway were a sign that I could have been stuck there a lot longer.