It’s a strange feeling being stuck; knowing you can’t leave and there are so many other things you should or could be doing but there’s nothing you can do about it. Having no control over the situation is frustrating.
I accompanied a group of our favourite travel writers on a trip to Switzerland last month, so that they could experience flying through London City Airport first hand, to promote the route to Geneva operated by SWISS and to demonstrate the ease of flying from LCY for a skiing break. You can leave your desk at 4pm on Friday, be on a plane by 5.30pm, in the resort in time for a late dinner and drinks, have two days skiing, fly back first thing Monday morning and go straight back to the office. That’s the idea anyway.
The outbound leg of the trip worked like clockwork; through security at LCY in minutes and time for a leisurely breakfast before boarding to get acquainted. A transfer from Geneva by train and bus took us to the Alpine resort of Villars where we enjoyed beautiful scenery, skiing, après-ski, traditional raclette dinner and an all-round magical weekend. That is until we got back to Geneva airport to return home. Of course we knew there was snow in the UK but were hoping that we’d be the lucky ones whose flight was unaffected. Alas no. The flight was cancelled and it dawned on us why there were so many people sitting around going nowhere.
All remaining direct flights to London airports that day were full so we were booked onto the first flight the following morning. The next task was to find somewhere to stay for the night, so we paid a visit to the tourism desk at the airport. The clerk told us that Geneva was full as so many people were stranded so our group of five, who had met for the first time this weekend, would have to share three rooms. Of course we questioned this but were told in no uncertain terms that every hotel was full so off we went with our reservation to the hotel he had selected for us.
On arrival at the hotel I asked again about additional rooms. Turns out the hotel wasn’t full at all. Around an hour and a half later, when the receptionist had finished arguing with the airport tourism office we finally got our original reservation cancelled and rebooked five individual rooms. Exhausted and irritated we had dinner and got an early night ready for a 5.00am start to make our flight.
Back at Geneva airport we checked in, went through security, arrived at the gate and every information screen said the flight was on time. Phew. Time ticked on and 15 minutes after our scheduled take off time, the flight was cancelled. None of us could quite believe it. “What if we never leave here and I have to wear these clothes for the rest of my life?” said one of the group. “If I’d have known this would be the last outfit I ever got to choose I’d have chosen it differently.” Humour kept us going. Kept us going back out of security, down to arrivals to reclaim our bags for the second time. Back to the check in desk to get our third boarding pass in two days; maybe this one would be third time lucky. To our new in-direct route of Zurich for a five hour layover and then onward to an alternative London airport. In total a 31 hour delay and a challenging experience, but a great ‘travel chaos’ story to share and a bunch of new friends.
Of course heavy snow is not a problem we face every day in the UK and it’s rare for it to cause major travel disruption. Our trip took us to a country where snow is the norm and enabled us to experience life on the piste, and the whole group fell in love with it.
You can fly direct from LCY to Switzerland, France and Italy, from where a whole host of ski resorts are within easy reach. Or if you prefer to keep a firm grip on the ground beneath your feet you can choose another of our 44 destinations for a well-deserved break. We offer some of the quickest times through departures and arrivals of any airport and free wifi for all passengers, so it really is the most efficient way to travel to and from London. Snow permitting…
Irish Dancing Flashmob Welcomes Passengers on CityJet AF5118 From Dublin
London City Airport, the only London airport actually in London, has seen the total number of flights (arrivals and departures) handled by the airport since it opened in 1987 reach the one million mark. The millionth movement, which arrived at LCY at 0850 on Wednesday July 11 2012, was CityJet flight AF5118 from Dublin.
As the unsuspecting passengers walked through the arrivals doors into the main terminal concourse, they were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine and an impromptu Irish dance performance from professional dancers who had been mingling with the normal Wednesday morning crowds. As soon as the performance was over, the dancers disappeared leaving the passengers to continue with their journey, having been part of something brief, but momentous.
If you are someone who is always looking for new places to visit for weekend getaways, appreciate fine wine, traditional French food and a charming historic setting to enjoy it in, then we may have found your next mini-break destination.
Last week, to highlight the possibilities that have been opened up by the new British Airways flight to Angers, London City Airport hosted its first blogger trip by whisking away six food and wine lovers to France’s beautiful Loire Valley. We enlisted the help of tourist board Pays de Loire to create a jam-packed schedule of decadent activities that showed off the region’s highlights, and certainly left no one hungry or thirsty.
To help you discover what the region has to offer, here are a few of the mouth-watering, tongue- tingling activities that we fitted into our short stay.
After checking in at London City Airport, we set the mood for the trip with a visit to the airport’s City Bar and Grill. The bar’s knowledgeable manager Antony Stanley talked us through the unique wine list and hand-picked two refreshing wines, the ‘Couteaux Du Layon, 2008’ and ‘Chateau Pierre-Bise Savennieres Clos de Coulaine 2010’, to accompany a delicious plate of cured meats and pâté.
After a short flight that took little more than an hour, we checked into the Hotel Mercure Centre, which overlooks the lush Jardin des Plantes in the heart of Angers, and got ready for an afternoon of sightseeing, wine and food.
We strolled through the cobbled streets of the city and stopped at the Chateau D’Angers to see one of the area’s historical gems, the 'Apocalypse De Angers'. Four metres high and one hundred metres in length, this is the world’s largest medieval tapestry and was woven for Louis I, Duke of Anjou (1373-87). It took seven years to make and illustrates the 'Book of Revelation' or the 'Apocalypse'.
Next stop was La Maison des Vins de Loire at Hotel de la Godeline, where host Laetitia Proux gave us a fascinating introduction to the Loire Valley wines. We tasted six different wines: Crement de Loire ‘Cuvee Flame’; Chateau Pierre-Bise Anjou Blanc 2009; Chateau Yvonne ‘La Folie’ Saumur Champigny 2010; Chateau des Rochettes’ Pieces du Moulin’ Ajou Villages 2010; Domaine de Bois Moze Rose d’Anjou 2011; Domaine des Petits Quarts Bonnezeaux 2010.
Wine tasting in La Maison des Vins de Loire
For dinner we ate at Mets et Vins Plaisirs, which had, of course, an extensive wine list of over 300 wines, many from local producers. Hidden away from the road, this restaurant proved to be another gem in the city of Angers. I drank Crement de Loire, a wonderful dry, fresh wine with my meal of Carre de d’angeau au romarin & petits pois carottes (rack of lamb with rosemary, peas and carrots). Desert was quite a treat too, a Bavarian mango and strawberry soup with crushed pistachios, which was written on the menu as ‘ Bavarois mangues, soupe de fraises et pistaches concassees’.
A short 30 minute journey from the hotel in Angers brought us to the glorious hillside vineyards of the Closel Chateau des Vaults. We were given a guided tour by the estate’s owner Evelyne de Jessey, the Vicomtesse de Pontbriand, who is of the fourth generation of female vintners to oversee the production of the vineyard’s award winning Savennieres white wine. Evelyne really brought to life the unique elements and intricate processes that create the variety of fine wines from the Chenim Blanc grape.
Vines of Chateau des Vaults
|Back in the chateau, which nestles among 15 acres of garden, we sampled 13 different wines from the family label ‘Domaine de Closel – Chateau des Vaults’. For a wine-tasting newcomer like me, the visit to Chateau Des Vaults had provided a brilliant insight into the geography, history and passion that goes into winemaking.|
Inside Chateau des Vaults
We visited La Coisette, a traditional ‘guinguettes’ in Behuard for lunch to enjoy some of the region’s traditional dishes. For dinner I had a light fish starter of ‘rillettes de poisons’, followed by fricassee d’andouillette aux, petits oignons’ (sausage with onions and chips) and a desert of crème aux griottes (cream with cherries).
Afternoon tasting began at Domaine de Bablut where we were met by Christophe Daviau. The Daviau family of wine makers owned windmills and vineyards on the hills of the Aubance in the Loire region as early as 1546. Our wine education continued with a visit to the cellars, where among the great barrels and cylinders we learnt more about the drink’s journey from vine to bottle. We tasted Anjou Villages Brissac red wine, Rose d’Anjou and the sweet wine of Coteaux de l’Aubance.
Wine tasting session at Domain de Bablut
Chateau de Brissac wine cellar
We walked off our lunch and tasting escapades with a tour of the Chateau de Brissac. Home to the Duke of Brissac since 1502, the castle has 204 rooms, 7 levels and is known as the tallest in France.
Our last dinner of the trip was at a beautiful little restaurant called ‘La Table de la Bergerie’. The establishment is well known for its own wines, which are produced on the vines located opposite the restaurant. For dinner I had the Poisson du jour, which was turbot, followed by the delicious ‘Nage de fraise au cabernet, mascarpone vanillée, sorbet fraise’ (Strawberry cabernet, vanilla mascarpone and strawberry sorbet).
We spent the morning exploring the vineyard and wine caves of the Domaine de la Tuffiere in the Beaugeois area of the Loire Valley, between Angers and Saumur. Local monks choose the south facing slopes to establish the vineyard in the 14th century. It was the perfect spot to enjoy a traditional French picnic of salad, baguette, pork and cheese and one of the vineyard’s delicious Rose Cabernet D’Anjous before making our way to the airport for a journey home. We arrived at London City Airport at 14.30 and it only took us 10 minutes from wheels down to the DLR – it just doesn’t get any better than this!
So, what are you doing for the Olympics? That’s the question we’re being asked at LCY all the time. People naturally assume that as we’re an airport and as we’re just three miles from the Olympic site that we’re probably part of the opening ceremony – preferred supplier of fly-pasts to the Games of the 30th Olympiad (or similar).
It’s also assumed that we’ll have the jets of the rich and famous lined up in descending order of size at the western end of the runway, our baggage handlers will be overwhelmed with strange and unusual carrying cases (for the hammers, and discii, and javelins and shot), and the floor of the terminal will be temporarily covered in sand to make the beach volleyballers feel at home.
Well, fans of London City Airport - of our friendly staff, our 20 minute check-in time, our 10 minute arrival and our convenient location – nothing could be further from the truth. With 67 days to go until the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games, it’s business as usual at the only London airport actually in London.
Business as usual means exactly that – the 250-odd flights handled by LCY every day will continue to arrive and depart. We do have capacity outside of peak hours, but we don’t do charter flights and – in any case - it requires a special type of aircraft to fly in and out of LCY (fixed wing, since you ask, certified to fly 5.5 degree angle approaches – is that too much information?).
So, while we do expect some extra flights and some extra passengers, and perhaps some Games Family and athletes, what we will be doing during the Olympic and Paralympic Games is mostly serving the business and leisure travel needs of you, the discerning LCY customer (of whom there are three million every year) and working closely with our airline partners (and LOCOG) to meet any changes to expected demand.
Yes, we’re three miles away from the Olympic Park – which is very convenient if that’s where you’d like to go. But we’re also three miles away from Canary Wharf, seven miles away from the City of London and 13 miles away from London’s West End – which provides unrivalled access to everything else that’s on offer in London.
So while Heathrow is full to bursting, and they’re dealing with quantities of baggage like they’ve never seen before, while Gatwick is coping with its normal tourist charter flight business and dealing with extra Olympic traffic, while Stansted is star-stuck with the private planes of the rich and the famous – London City Airport will be getting you where you want to go, reasonably quickly and reasonably easily.
Reasonably quickly and reasonably easily? Well, the one thing we can guarantee we’ll all be doing for the London 2012 Olympics is allowing extra time for our journeys. Keep an eye on traffic and transport reports, because it will definitely take longer. Follow us on Twitter @londoncityair for up-to-date airport information or visit our website www.londoncityairport.com - oh, you already have.