Date: Tuesday, July 2015
Departure time: 4:50 PM
Flight duration: 1h
I don’t recall the last time I flew an ATR-42. I certainly fly many short segments on small aircraft, still most of those are on jets. These days, propeller airplanes just aren’t that common any more.
I arrived early enough for this short flight, since I wanted to try the new ANA Lounge at Portela airport. I had checked in online, but I still wanted to take the opportunity at the check in counter to confirm how full the flight was since I make sure I improve my chances of a more comfortable flight every time. In this case, my planning was right (I had booked seat 2C on this All Economy 2-2 configuration flight, the first usable row, an Exit row) since 42 of the 48 seats were taken, yet the seat next to me was free, and all other passengers had checked in already. So with the exception of any additional tickets sold in the last 30 minutes before check in closed, I was sure to have the front 2 seats just for me, which I always appreciate, especially when I am not paying extra for the privilege.
It was about 4:10 PM (expected boarding time) when I made my way from the lounge to gate 41A. I like to get to the gate at the expected boarding time most of the times. On the one hand, because I never check in any luggage when travelling for work (and I want to make sure there is enough room on the overhead bin for my bag); on the other, because one of the few flights I ever missed was because I was calmly enjoying my time at the Business Lounge at Munich airport awaiting for a connecting flight and though I kept looking at the monitor, it never showed my flight as boarding, let alone on Final Call at any time… When I finally decided to go to the gate to check for myself, it had closed and I had a big argument with the Lufthansa ground attendant, who ended the conversation telling me in should check my ticket, which inevitably said “it’s your responsibility to be at the gate at the stated boarding time”. They did get me on the next flight out but I had to sleep over at the airport and learned a valuable lesson along the way!
But I digress. As I was saying, I got to the gate in due time, though I knew that with such a small aircraft there was a 100% chance we would have a remote boarding (ie no jet bridge) – which defeats the purpose of “boarding first” I know, since you’re boarding really just the bus that gets you to the aircraft. But I have my own tactics for ensuring I board first even when I take the bus (although not effective 100% of the time), and I am just used to it so there I was, one of the first people boarding the bus once boarding started, at about 4:20.
One bus was enough to take all passengers to the plane, which was parked 5 minutes out and after another 5 minutes waiting inside the bus, boarding finally started. Boarding was made fairly quickly and it then took us about 20 minutes before doors were closed and we were on our way to the take off position.
Once we got there we were number 2 position behind an Easyjet plane, and we were airborne in no time. We took off in the northern direction, then circling east and south on our way to Morocco, which gave us a unique opportunity for the most beautiful view of Lisbon, consistently considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
As soon as we reached altitude, the flight attendant came around offering water and that was about it. I did not expect much more anyway, on a one-hour flight in an all-economy flight, so this was ok. At the end of the day, keeping hydrated is one of the most important things on flights anyway.
With such a short flight as this, no sooner are we taking off than before you know it (or you finish a quick newspaper read) the seatbelt sign is on again and we are descending. The actual flight time was a bit over the announced 1 hour, which got me fairly nervous as I was using this flight to position myself for another great experience with Qatar Airways, and with just one and half hours transit time, and the need to still check in (which meant going through passport control and security checks, exiting the terminal and coming back in).
The landing itself was very smooth and I found this to be an enjoyable flight on the ATR-42, much to my surprise, so I’d be happy to use it again to position for any future opportunities at CMN, the only caveat is how unreliable TAP is with their arrival times, and that can come at a great cost when booking flights on separate tickets!