John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Thursday 18 May 2017

[Wednesday 17 May 2017]

Riga Airport–Helsinki-Vantaa Airport–Manchester Airport

Wellton Riga Hotel & Spa, Riga, Latvia
11:05 Riga Airport–Helsinki
12:20 Vantaa Airport
16:05 Vantaa Airport
17:00 Manchester Airport
After breakfast it’s time to bid a fond farewell to the beauty of the Baltics and take the transfer for the flight home.

Janet’s alarm clock sounded at ca.5.25am. She felt very tired because of last night’s disturbance, so lay there for 20 or more minutes before getting up. I shaved and showered after she vacated the bathroom, and packed away things like computer and adaptors. We went down to the basement for breakfast a little after 7am. The bacon was hard and over-cooked to the point of being burnt and inedible in parts. Janet didn’t attempt to find a softer-boiled egg today. We went back up to the room for our luggage, and then down to the lobby using the lift, where I handed the key-cards over at reception. Alexander was seated in the lobby. Although the departure was scheduled for 8.30am, because of the possibility of delays waiting for lifts he’d suggested aiming to be in the lobby at 8am; and that’s what we did. We were the first of the Riviera customers there. Janet asked me for €20, which she gave to Alexander as a tip. Towards 8.30am he seemed anxious and was pacing around somewhat; but we were all aboard the coach and away at 8.30am. Janet noted that there were “about 20 of us. Most of the others were leaving for a Riga-to-Gatwick (Air Baltic) direct flight around 1pm, but there were also people who had a direct flight on Ryanair to Manchester.” Riga airport was quite small. Despite my having printed boarding passes for both flights, when we checked in our hold-luggage, we were issued boarding cards. My hand-luggage, packed almost exactly the same as it had been at Manchester, went through the scanner here without any such problem as experienced there. However, I myself, attired exactly the same — without belt, watch, wallet, coat — set off the alarm and had to have a manual body-search. Janet also set off the personal alarm, and had to take her shoes off. There was no passport control, as we were flying from a Schengen- to a Schengen-area country. Airside, I had a “Kafija Americano medio” at the Costa coffee-bar for €3.70 (09:32 on the till receipt). I looked out when we got to the boarding gate, and saw a small turbo-prop aircraft on the apron. That it was to be ours was confirmed when two luggage carts pulled by a little “locomotive” drew up, and I saw our suitcases on the first cart.

Thursday 18 May 2017 — 10:37:14
Our aircraft, an ATR 72, on the apron of Riga airport

Thursday 18 May 2017 — 10:37:14 (detail)
Detail, showing the six-bladed propeller on the left engine, and with our suitcases visible on the left luggage-cart

We boarded the aircraft by its own integral steps-cum-rear door; our seats were “2A” and “2B”,[i] and these proved to be the front left seats by the tiny left emergency door, behind the luggage-compartment bulkhead. Opposite us to the right were similar seats, but ahead of these were two rear-facing seats, which remained unoccupied at take-off. During the flight, the air-hostess who gave the pre-flight safety demonstration had a rear-facing crew seat that pulled out into the aisle next to the other rear-facing seats.

[i] “2A” and “2B” — as shown on our boarding passes and above the seats, but “1A” and “1B” on the seat plan, below.

Seat plan, with our seats shown in red

The aeroplane took off at the scheduled time, 11.05am, and landed at 12.09pm (scheduled time, 12.20pm), a flight time of 1hr 4min.[ii] We boarded a shuttle bus to the terminal. We had a layover of something like four hours there. The shopping, bar/restaurant and boarding gates area at Helsinki airport was extensive, and we walked through it as far as the passport-control barrier separating gates for Schengen-area flights from non-EU and non-Schengen flights. We then went back to one of the cafeterias we’d passed, where I had a baguette containing chicken and sun-dried tomatoes and a Karhu A beer, and Janet had a smoked-salmon and fennel salad with a small additional bread bun. These cost ca.€38; Janet wrote, “I was gob-smacked until I remembered we were back in Helsinki!!” There were no diet soft drinks, so Janet went off in search of “Jaffa Appelsiini Light”; she didn’t find that, but did find “Jaffa Ananas Light” (diet pineapple soda) at the branch of W. H. Smith, which she quite enjoyed. I had difficulty getting through the automatic passport barrier: entry into the “trap” by scanning the passport was easy enough; but I had a rucksack on, and the “footprints” on which I was supposed to stand in the “trap” were right back against the wall; a “footprints” sign kept flashing on the screen, till I took the rucksack off and stepped backwards. I was getting very annoyed. What’s more, one was supposed to look at the screen; yet no indication was given there when the silent-as-a-whisper barrier had opened.

Seat plan, with our seats shown in red

The aeroplane took off 18 minutes later than the scheduled 4.05pm, at 4.23pm (Eastern European Time); and landing, scheduled for 5.00pm, actually happened at 5.07pm (UTC), a flight time of 2hr 44min.[iii] En route, I ate the contents of a tube of paprika-flavoured Pringles, bought at the Helsinki airport terminal, and when the drinks trolley came by I had a Karhu A beer. We didn’t pass into the terminal through a “tube” attached to the aircraft; we had to go down a mobile ladder positioned in front of the door, and thence across the tarmac to long corridors within the terminal, separated farther along by glass-panelled walls from similar long corridors in which were departing passengers walking in the opposite direction. As we passed them, I hoped they weren’t in fact arriving passengers ahead of us being diverted needlessly in a zigzag. However, just as last time we arrived at Manchester Airport, we did come to an apparently needless, interminable-seeming, zigzag procession around a “snake” of barriers to Passport Control; on that occasion, the barriers had been tapes stretched between stanchions, whereas this time they were permanent metal fences. The automatic scanner which I entered, and stepped on “footprints”, let me out straight away. (I’ve remembered, it didn’t let me in straight away, though: for it wasn’t obvious which way the passport should be inserted into the scanner, and the message came for me to try again; so I put it in, still face down but rotated 180°, and then I was let into the “trap” for face-scanning.) The “Helsinki” baggage-reclaim carousel had already started when we got down to its level, and two items of luggage had appeared on it (not ours); but I needed to pee, so I went to the loo situated between this baggage-reclaim hall and another one. When I got back, the carousel still had two items on it, and had stopped. It did start up again after some minutes, and I retrieved the cases separately with an interval of a minute or so between each one’s appearing. It was at that stage that we saw the last of, and farewelled, Alexander, after he picked up his bag. Janet used the ’tween-halls loo, before we proceeded to the exit. When she returned I rang the number Graham Buston had given me when we arrived last Thursday (17:52). A woman answered, which was unexpected, and put him on. His car had broken down, he told me, but Bill, the driver from our last holiday, would be picking us up instead. We went through the glass-doored “Nothing to declare” customs “trap”, and out of the “Exit” doors. Where to go from there? We followed the “Meet and greet” sign, but it didn’t take us anywhere where one might be expected to come to meet arrivers. I’d just dug the card out of my wallet with Bill’s number on it, when a call came from Graham (17:58): Bill would see us at the exit doors of the terminal. Did we remember what he looked like? So we hurried back, and Janet spotted him. He’d parked in the short-stay car park, and was just about to pay to get a token to use the exit barrier. After he’d done that, we followed him to the car and set out for home. On the way, my phone sounded, and it was a text message from Graham, sent at 16:02 but somehow undelivered till now, explaining about the breakdown of his car and the coming of Bill. Our route was the same as the outward one, along the M60, M62, M18, M180, etc. During the latter part of the journey, there was rain, some of it very heavy, which however stopped by about the time the M180 continued as the A180.… We arrived home ca.8.20pm. I took the cases upstairs, but we left them unopened until tomorrow.… Connected the Samsung computer to the rest of the home system.…

[ii] Information from Flightradar24
[iii] Information from Flightradar24


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