FCA393C Gatwick-Zakytnhos and FCA393D Zakynthos-Gatwick

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I arrived at Gatwick airport on Tuesday 3rd August 2004 with my family and headed for the First Choice Ticket Desk to collect our tickets as we booked reasonably late. That done easily, we joined the very well laid out check in system at North Terminal and joined the reasonably busy queue to check in. The FCA desks were busy with flights to Zakynthos, Alicante, Chania, Faro and Heraklion going. We checked in and were assigned boarding cards near the front which is good as it is quieter at the front and you can sometimes see in the flight deck. The flight left at 0710 and we had around an hour to kill in the departure lounge before i expected the flight to be called. At 0615 it was and the flight status board read FCA393C ZAKYNTHOS 0710 BOARD GATE 45. Upon seeing this i though to myself YES due to the fact that gate 45 is only 3 minutes walk, but then I realised that we had to get a bus. So at 0620 we arrived at Gate 45 door B and by 0640 there were around 100 people there, so boarding onto the coaches started. By this time I knew that there was little chance that we would leave on time. The first bus that I was on left at 0645 and passed other company traffic including G-OOBE, G-OOBD, G-OOBC before we came across our 757, G-OOOK - one of the oldest airframes in the fleet being manufactured in 1991. After a short delay on the coach while the cabin was finished for passengers, I boarded using the door infront of the engines and the lovely female flight attendant showed us where 8F was. The plane was in the new livery and was redecorated inside as well, with the leather effect seats but not the new 777 style cabin. By 0700 the second bus arrived and at that point the captain introduced himself to be Nigel Scott, who I had never had before. He also told us he hoped to be off shortly and that we would be departing from the easterly runway - 08R which was up the far end at Gatwick and needed a longish taxi. By 0715, departure time had already passed and the cabin crew were doing their initial safety instructions such as the no smoking stuff and mobile phones etc... The final coach arrived just after this, and as soon as the passengers were seated and seat belted the doors were shut and the stairs removed. The captain then announced that we were ready for an immediate pushback and to enjoy the flight. The taxi out to 08R was swift, I think probably as we had a tight slot to make. It didn't look good as there were plenty of aircraft ahead of us - 2 BA 737s, 1 Thomas Cook 757, 2 easyJet 319s and an Excel 757. The fact that we had a slot to make was emphasised by the fact that we taxied onto 08L/26R which is the emergency runway/taxiway and made our way directly to the holding point. At this point, the familiar music (i.e. Antia Ward with Ring My Bell) was on the PA as the Excel 757 departed, with our 757 lining up after it. A brief wait on the runway followed to allow Anita Ward to be in her prime, before the engines took over and powered us down the runway. I love this part - the engine sound, the occasional rudder movements to keep us straight, the vibration, and then the rotation. After that, we remained on a pretty much straight track for Dover, where soon after we reached our initial cruising altitude of Fl350. The flight was nice, and Shrek 2 was the feature film, but I didn't really get to see it due to me being by the window and the monitors (on the older 757s) being down the aisle. Take off time was 0752 - 42 minutes late. The flight went quickly and all to soon I felt the plane go slightly nose down as we began the descent. I'd been into Zakynthos before and then I came overhead the airport and turned over the sea before landing northwards. Today however, we came over Kefallinia and came basically straight in onto the southerly runway. The approach though was very steep and speedbrakes were used for pretty much the whole of the last 10 minutes of the flight, before a smooth landing on the very bumpy runway. We parked up on stand alongside G-OOBF from Manchester and disembarked and bussed it to the terminal. We landed only 5 minutes late, aided by moderate tailwinds. Zante airport I think has got to win the prize for the official worst airport in the world. There is 1 carousel for arriving passengers and the departures is a joke (more in a minute). After our 1240 arrival, the Manchester FCA flight was just clearing the baggage area, but in the space of around 30 minutes, a CSA 734, Lauda Air 737 and and SAS MD80 arrived, so in half hour there were around 450 passengers attempting to collect baggage. 1 and a half hours later we got our bags and set off for our holiday resort, Kalamaki which is 10 minutes from the airport and is right on the flight path. A week later we were picked up 3 hours before our 1335 flight at 1035 and set off directly for the airport. Check In at Zante is typical of many Greek airfields, with passengers needing to queue under a covered area outside before going into the small departures area 40 or so at a time. All hold baggage unusually is screened as you enter the building. After around a 20 minute wait inside check-in, we went through to departures and the mayhem that was there. The lounge was SO busy that you couldn’t have any space to yourself and the fact that many flights were delayed didn’t help. The bar quickly ran out of soft drinks! As the time neared 1230, there was no sign of either FCA plane and none of them had turned up by 1250, with now a 30 minute delay to the FCA402D to Manchester and a 15 minute delay to the 393D to LGW. Then, at 1255 a plane came over head the airport and a couple of minutes later the 757 slowed down the runway. We didn’t know what flight this was though, but it did not matter as another 757 came down the runway 5 minutes later. There was no chance of an on time departure now as there was only 15 minutes to go and we still hadn’t boarded, but we did soon after and made the short bus hop out to G-OOBD. After a slight delay at the foot of the aircraft front steps (during which time we were all deafened by a SAS MD80 landing) we boarded into the comparatively luxurious surroundings of the chilled cabin. I took my seat at 20F and took some pictures of a CSA 737-400 and the Manchester First Choice Plane operated by G-OOOZ I think. The captain came on at 1335 and said his name and to my surprise it was the same one as the outbound journey, which I had never come across before. He said we missed a slot and would only start the engines at 1400 local. The doors were shut shortly after and the engines were started at 2 pm, and we made our way to the northerly runway, backtracking the runway to the now all too familiar ‘Jackson 5 Blame It On The Boogie’ and ‘Anita Ward Ring My Bell’, and we waited there for around 3 minutes. The power then came on and after a brief photo of the Manchester flight holding at the runway entrance, we were airborne. The flight to Gatwick was very good and the entertainment was also very good, with The Day After Tomorrow being offered. I did manage to watch it this time, since this plane had the new 777 style interior and the screens now come down from the baggage stowage. Then we started the descent into Gatwick and we were told it’d be a westerly arrival onto 26L, and the moving map said we came over Dover and did a few turns, but pretty much straight in to land - 1 minute early (this maintained my 100% early record with First Choice) at 1504 local. We parked on stand 47 along side a company A320 from Chania and as we were getting off, the plane was already being prepared for its 1615 departure to Palma and the passengers were starting to make their way to the gate. I loved my trip to Zante and on First Choice, who as always made it a brilliant flight and holiday. :D Ratings PUNCTUALITY - 100% :D GATWICK AIRPORT - 90% :o ZANTE AIRPORT - 30% :( FLIGHT SERVICE - 90% :) FLIGHT IN TOTAL -100% :D Sorry for lateness of this article being published, but I only recently came across this great site! :o Tom Fellows
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15 years 8 months

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Fantastic report there! I'm encouraged that you had a good experience with them baring in mind I'm flying them to ALC in October.
Profile picture for user tomfellows

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14 years 6 months

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Thanks a lot. I'm sure you'll have a good flight wil them!

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15 years 8 months

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I have a holiday to Egypt leaving on Monday before that though!
Profile picture for user RIPConcorde

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Zante airport I think has got to win the prize for the official worst airport in the world
LOL! So true. :p Excellent report. I had a brilliant holiday in Kalamaki and Zante, it's my fav Greek island amongst the handful I've already visited.
Profile picture for user LBARULES

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16 years 5 months

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Wow, great report - almost a repeat of mine from last year! I flew with FCA from MAN to ZTH last year, also stayed in Kalamaki (What hotel did you stay in?), I also commented on the boarding music and the state of the airport!
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Thanks for that. We stayed in the Anagenessis Apartments in Kalamaki with First Choice. I haven't read your report yet - will have a look in a minute. I guess you like Zante then. I found it great. Have fun on your next holiday! Tom
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We debated whether to stay at the Amaryllis but we chose the Anagenessis Apartments as they were a bit cheaper. If you like planes like I do, I can't really think of a better place to go to. The amaryllis is right on the flight path isn't it as I remember walking past it one day whilst trying to get some photos. Our hotel enabled us to get fairly good shots, but the sun came round in the afternoon so it limited photos. Your flights seemed to do the opposite to mine i.e. take off to sea at Zante and land over sea at Zante. That's what I did when I went first time in 2003 with FCA - G-OOBC on outbound and G-OOOG (horrible at time) on way back. Really good report and photos as well! So are you going with Thomson next time you go or First Choice? Are thomsonfly the new name for Britannia or something? Tom
Profile picture for user LBARULES

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Hiya Tom, Yeah Thomsonfly is the name the Britannia a/c have on the side of them, though I think they are technically still Britannia. The Amaryllis was superb for watching the a/c, used to run out on the balcony when I heard one! The Amaryllis is a superb place to stay BTW, if you ever consider going back, we only chose the Roseland because it was from LBA and cheaper, though it does look very nice.
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very nice report, welcome to the forum! :D
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thanks bigjet