Flight Review: Aurigny Trislander & ATR Economy Class from the UK to Guernsey and Back

Aurigny Trisland Hopping

(Flown on November 22, 2015)

Aurigny Air Services is an airline based in Guernsey Airport in the Channel Islands. It is one of the last remaining operators of Britten-Norman Trislanders in the world. As I had some time in London to spare, and since Aurigny started retiring its Trislanders starting with the legendary G-JOEY, I decided to do a little trip to fly on the Trislander.

Aurigny operates a wide network of flights from Alderney and Guernsey – the two main islands of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, however, the number of flights operated by the Trislanders is decreasing as Aurigny started receiving its Dornier 228s that are meant to replace all the Trislanders by 2016.

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Background & Booking

After booking a trip to fly on Etihad Airways A340-500, I was left with a day and a half in London. While I could have stayed in London the whole time, I remembered that Aurigny operated flights from the area to the Channel Islands using Britten-Norman Trislanders – a type still missing from my log.

Furthermore, it came to my attention that Aurigny retired it’s most famous Trislander – G-JOEY, and that it would be retiring the remaining three next year. The Trislanders are being replaced by Dornier 228s. Since some of the 228s are in operation already, I confirmed with Aurigny that the flights I was planning to take would indeed be operated (or at least were scheduled to be operated) by a Trislander.

After receiving a positive reply from Aurigny, I went ahead, and booked three flights with them through their website. Southampton to Alderney and Alderney to Guernsey on the Trislander as one booking, and Guernsey to London Gatwick on an ATR 72 as another booking. To “close the loop,” I booked a National Express bus from London Victoria to Southampton.

Off to Southampton

After staying at friends’ house the night before, I took Uber to Stratford Tube station from where I took the train to Victoria. The bus ride to Southampton took about 2 hours and was very uneventful. From the bus station, I took the local bus to the airport. While riding the bus, I realized we stopped by the university which was also a stop on the National Express bus.

Transferring at the university rather than the main station would have made the trip to the airport a bit shorter, but no big deal – still had plenty of time before my flight. I was amazed by the politeness of the local people – saying “thank you” to the driver every time when disembarking through the back door of the bus.

Shortly before 12:40 we arrived at the Southampton Airport bus stop which is a short walk away from the terminal.

Hello, Aurigny Trislander!

Right after arriving in the terminal, I headed to the single check-in desk Aurigny has at the airport. The very first thing after I handed my passport to the gentleman behind the desk was to confirm that the flight would be operated by a Trislander. Luckily, the answer to that question was “yes,” and so it was certain that I would be flying the Trislander for the first time.

Overview of the Southampton Airport terminal.
Overview of the Southampton Airport terminal.

Due to weight balancing, seats are not assigned during check-in, but rather assigned during boarding. Still, I asked the check-in agent if he could arrange me to be in the front seat, right behind the pilot. He said he could certainly try, and so, knowing that was the best possible answer, I contently left the check-in desk.

With about 1 hour left until departure, I cleared the security. Didn’t go as smooth as usual – had to stop for a while for an explosives test of my camera equipment. The nice lady at the security, asked me if I was doing this for living or as a hobby, and after answering “I wish I was doing it for living,” I was good to go.

Southampton Airport is a base for FlyBe and so, majority of the 9 gates available were occupied by FlyBe flights to destination throughout Europe. Generally, the aircraft park right in front of the gate allowing the passengers to board directly without having to take a bus to a remote stand.

Southampton Airport Departure Lounge
The departures area of Southampton Airport is very compact, but very nicely designed.

Our flight, however, was boarding by bus from gate 9 as the Trislander that arrived at 1:33PM parked at a remote stand. At 1:43PM, boarding for our flight was announced. As people gathered around the gate, the same agent that checked me in approached me, saying “I’ve got you in row 2, alright?” The request worked – row 2 is the first row that passengers can sit in. Row 1 is the seat next to the pilot which is, unfortunately, blocked on these flights.

Gate 9
Boarding at gate 9, but not before watching the safety demonstration video. Also note that there are 3 gate agents for a total of 9 passengers!

Unlike on traditional airliners, the safety demonstration is presented on a screen at the boarding gate before actual boarding. Once the video was over, we started getting on the bus that took us to G-BDTO – a Trislander built in 1976, almost 40 years ago! Getting off the bus, I was the first one called to board – the front door was open for me and the seat next to the pilot folded so that I could reach my seat in the second row.

G-BDTO Ready for the Flight to Alderney
G-BDTO waiting on the remote stand for the passengers of GR538 to Alderney to board.
Britten-Norman Trislander Cabin
The narrow, car-like cabin of the Trislander taken before our flight.

Besides me, there were 8 other human passengers on the flight plus a single black Labrador Retriever. With only 9 passengers onboard, boarding was completed quickly, and we were ready to go. The captain, and the sole pilot on this flight, proceeded with his welcome announcement mentioning a flight time of 45 minutes.

In no time, we were taxiing towards our departure runway – 02. Backtrack along runway 20, 180 degree turn at the end of the runway, and we were ready. The three engines started buzzing and within a few seconds, we were up in the skies.

It was a great experience going in and out of clouds in the small airplane, with nice views of the Channel and of clouds altering. We cruised at an altitude of 4,200 feet at a speed of 130 knots. Of course there was no onboard service on the flight, however, it was nice to find an Aurigny in-flight magazine in the seat pocket besides the safety card.

Flying into the Sun
Flying directly into the sun on our way to Alderney.
Propellor Working Hard
Flying over the Channel.
Flying into the Clouds
Bumpy moments – flying into the clouds over the Channel.
Flying into the Sun #2
The Captain being busy during our flight to Alderney.

After about 35 minutes of flying, we established visual contact with Alderney. We flew by the island, and commenced a 180 degree turn to align ourselves with the runway. At 2:43PM we landed on runway 08, and taxied to the tiny terminal, marking the end of my first Trislander flight.

Left Turn towards Alderney
Commencing our left turn towards Alderney with rain hitting our windshield.
Left Turn towards Alderney
…still turning left…
Aligned with ACI Runway
Aligned with runway at Alderney and ready to land.
Unloading
People, a dog and cargo getting off the Trislander after our flight from Southampton.
Luggage Room
People waiting for their luggage at the tiny luggage room of Alderney airport.
The small Aurigny check-in and sales area at Alderney Airport.
The small Aurigny check-in and sales area at Alderney Airport.
Alderney Airport Terminal
The terminal at Alderney Airport is very small, but it is more than enough for the couple of Aurigny flights it receives every day.

Horses of Alderney

As I had about an hour left before my flight to Guernsey was supposed to start boarding, I decided to leave the mini terminal, and take a little walk around the island. With my limited time, I decided to try to find the closest way to a place that would possibly offer some nice views of the Channel.

Welcome to Alderney
A sign welcoming visitors to Alderney situated in front of the airport terminal.

A short walk later I reached St. Anne – the town of about 2,000 people that is the capital of Alderney. While walking, an older lady said “Dear, be careful, there is a car behind you.” When I looked behind me, I saw a golf kart going barely faster than me – that is Alderney – a nice and small island where a golf kart is an ideal mean of transportation.

Horse in a Raincoat
One of the many horses I seen on the island.
Fence
There are some nice houses in Alderney – the place seems like a nice place to retire for people who want a calm place to live!
Golf Kart
One of the means of transportation in Alderney – a golf kart.

Couple more minutes of walking and I reached a point from where I could see the Channel as well as Fort Tourgis – a fort completed in 1855. It was great walking around the island – there were barely any cars on the streets, and the scenery was breathtaking – horses and other animals with the Channel in the background. As the time for boarding my flight was getting closer, I decided to start walking back to the airport.

Fort Tourgis
Fort Tourgis with the Channel.
An Alderney Road
Alderney with the Channel in the background.
Running Away
As I got closer to a fence, all the hens and roosters started approaching me. One even left the fenced off area. Luckily, he went back right after I started going away!
Trapped in Alderney
A horse with barely any space to move, “trapped in Alderney.”

Aircraft Change, for Better!

After arriving back at the airport, I took a look around the airport. There is a cafe, a check-in desk and a souvenir shop. Besides that, at the entrance there are some books and a knitting kit available. That is about it – the airport has all you need to serve the small amount of flights it receives every day.

Alderney Airport
Little “relaxation” corner at the entrance to Alderney airport, including a knitting kit (bottom right).
Alderney Airport
The small, yet more than sufficient duty free store and cafe at Alderney Airport.

While I was waiting for my flight to start boarding, another Trislander landed. Soon afterwards, at 3:45PM, boarding for our flight was announced. As the airport does not have an X-ray machine, bags are searched manually. A search as good as an X-ray machine later, I was having my full bottle of ice tea thrown away – no liquids allowed.

Behind the security, there is a little porch where people can wait for boarding, and there is also a waiting room in case it is raining. In the waiting room, they are also playing the security instructions video.

Alderney Airside
The “airside” of Alderney airport consisting of a small yard and a room (on the left) where passengers can watch the safety video and wait in case of rain.

Soon enough, we were let onto the apron and we started boarding the aircraft. To my surprise, we weren’t boarding the same G-BDTO which was originally supposed to fly our flight, but we were boarding G-BEVT – another one of the three Aurigny Trislanders.

Boarding G-BEVT
Boarding G-BEVT for our flight to Guernsey.

This time, unfortunately, I was not able to sit behind the pilot. Instead, I was seated in row 5. Well, you can’t win everytime. At 3:58PM we started our engine, the captain (same one as on my previous flight) apologized for the delay due to aircraft swap, and we were off to the runway, taking off at exactly 4:00PM.

The Channel
Climbing over the Channel with fading daylight.

With Guernsey being only about 40 kilometres away from Alderney, the flight was once again uneventful, although it offered some more nice views of the Channel. At 4:11PM, just 11 minutes after take off, we touched down at Guernsey, arriving at our remote stand at 4:13PM.

Cruising over the Channel
Cruising over the Channel during a beautiful sunset.
Guernsey Arrival
Almost on the ground – approaching Guernsey Airport.

Relative to Alderney, Guernsey is a fairly busy airport, and so there were quite a few aircraft on the apron besides our Trislander – there was the third active Aurigny Trislander – G-RLON, three Aurigny ATRs, 1 Blue Islands ATR, and a FlyBe DHC-8-400.

The Third Trislander
The third Aurigny Trislander – the one that I did not get to fly (G-RLON) – resting on the apron after our arrival at Guernsey airport.
Double Trislander
Our Trislander G-BEVT resting on the apron after arrival at Guernsey next to its sistership – G-RLON.

Transferring at Guernsey

Once I got off the bus, I went through the customs. For the first time in a while, I was picked for a bit of questioning.

What do you do? Where are you coming from? So, you came to London from Japan yesterday, you are coming from Southampton and Alderney today, and are going to Gatwick now, and then to Japan tomorrow morning, is that right? Yes. What did you do in Iran? Sightseeing and flew on classic planes. Civil or military? Civil. Do you have large amount of cash on you? I wish I did. Do you have your business cards with you?

Finally, after showing the customs agents my business cards, I was let through, and I headed straight to the Aurigny check-in desk to check my bag in and get the boarding pass for my flight to Gatwick.

Going Back to London

As I only had around an hour to transfer, I headed back airside right after getting my boarding pass. The Guernsey airport is very compact and similar in design to Southampton. Once airside, I got a bag of chips and a bottle of Dr. Pepper, and relaxed for a bit before the boarding was called.

GCI Departure Hall
Guernsey has a simple departure hall consisting of a couple of stores and couple of gates without jet bridges.

At 5:15PM, boarding was announced. Passengers were called to board through doors D and E which led to Gate 5. As we were walking down the corridor to Gate 5, we crossed our paths with people that just arrived from Gatwick onboard an Aurigny Embraer 190.

Boarding
The beautiful yellow tail of our aircraft during boarding.

Once onboard, I settled in my seat 8A. Boarding was completed soon, and with the flight about 75% full, we started our push back at 5:31PM. The passengers were reminded to remove their headphones for the safety demonstration – that’s a new announcement since electronics are allowed throughout the flight on some airlines.

At 5:35PM we started taxiing towards the departure runway as it was starting to rain slightly. Five minutes later, we were in the air, heading towards London Gatwick.

Unlike the previous two flights operated by Trislander, this flight was comparable to other European flights of similar length. The flight was about 55 minutes long, and about 5 minutes after take-off, the in-flight service started.

Cabin
Cabin view during our flight.

Free soft drinks were offered, and for passengers wanting more, there was a wide selction of buy-on-board drinks and snacks. I decided to get a glass of orange juice. The seat back pocket contained an in-flight magazine, and in-flight shopping menu, a safety card and a waste bag. Interestingly, duty free items were offered for sale during the flight.

Guernsey to Gatwick Service
Orange juice – more than enough service for the short hop from Guernsey to Gatwick.

At 6:15PM, the seat belt sign was switched on once again, and soon we begun our descend towards London Gatwick airport. About 15 minutes later, we touched down at Gatwick, and taxied towards our remote stand from where we were taken by bus to the arrivals hall of Gatwick South terminal. That marked the end of my little Aurigny trip. After collecting my luggage and clearing the customs once again, I headed off to find the local bus stop to meet my friend who is an Emirates cabin crew.

Approaching London Gatwick airport in darkness.
Approaching London Gatwick airport in darkness.

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