Trip Report: Charter flight to Crete Part I

Charter. The Russian way. Ural Airlines. DME-HER

Dear readers,

welcome to another report of mine.

This time a flight I haven’t directly chosen myself, but more on that below.

 

I spend a considerable amount of time in Moscow, next to my home in Germany, so we usually check the fares from Germany and Moscow, when investigating flights, destinations, potential holidays and so on.

This time we wanted to go to Greece, as so far I only visited Athens some years ago, but did not see more of Greece. Quickly we decided on Crete, because it is a rather big island with a lot of things to see and do. I simply can’t lay on the beach doing nothing for 2 weeks. Some people can, I can’t. But I like a combination of sightseeing and relaxing, so Crete seems perfect.

For city trips I usually choose Radissons, because I like their style and whole concept, especially when travelling in Northern Europe. But for a two week holiday, it is simply out of my price range.

After a quick check for flights, it quickly looked like it is either going to be a rather expensive holidays or there is another way.

And indeed there was! A quick email to our Moscow travel agent of choice and prices looked immediatly different.

She sent us some options, which I checked in the internet and we settled on what we found the best of the offers. The hotel, by no means a luxury resort, has a decent review and the location is rather good, so we went for that and told our agent to book that one as part of a package holiday. Yes you hear right, a package holiday, that seems under aviation enthousiasts as popular as a french eating cheese with butter on the bread, but well…..a package holiday, thats the nasty thing where you usually have no influence on the flights.

Of course I immediatly checked which airlines operate from Moscow to Crete and there were daily flights on Aeroflot and Aegean on the scheduled side and numerous Russian carriers like Nordwind, Ural Airlines, Yamal Airlines etc. on the charter side.

Some days later the relieving email came: flight details! And it seems we were booked on Ural Airlines according to the flight receipt.

Sounds good to me, as I always like to try out new airlines.

The only awful fact was the departure time of 04:00 AM, which was later even shifted to 03:40 AM. But oh well you cant have everything.

So with this settled let us fast forward for some three months and the day of travel arrived luckily quicker than thought.

Amazingly before the flight I could check in online with the ticket number (which had 9 people on it no less), so I chose a a window and middle seat in the back of the bus.

After sleeping for an hour or two the alarm clock already screemed us out of bed at 00:30 AM, which after a huge cup of coffee even didn’t feel so awful as thought before.

There is always an excitement in me when we head on holidays, so I was looking now a lot forward to it.

We ordered a taxi for 01:00 AM and 5 mins before the driver was already there. For 850RUB he brought us in 25mins to Domodedovo airport, as streets were mostly deserted.

At the airport we quickly located the Ural Airlines check in desks, which luckily had a Drop Off desk for OLCId passengers, or so we thought.

A clear Njet! Made clear that this works only on scheduled flights.

So we joined a queue of holiday makers and beach goers. You know, the kind of people, which travel once a year. After some 15mins it was our turn and we were quickly checked in and our boarding passes were issued.

The flight by now was also delayed until 04:20AM. No problem.

Immigration was very quiet this morning as expect, as well as security, so 5 minutes later we were airside.

After wandering around the duty free stores we simply waited until boarding was announced. Of course a bus gate after a gate change.

Luckily passengers were slow to board, so I had a bit of time to take some picutres outside from the tarmac.

Onboard of this all economy A321 I immediatly saw the rather worn out cabin with old blue cloth seats.

Boarding was surprising quickly finished and the captain announced a flight time of a bit under 4 hours. The route was roughly Moscow-Krasnodar-Turkey-Heraklion.

The flight attendants were less than business friendly and clearly didn’t want to be onboard this morning. No smile, no greeting.

After a quick taxi our pilot quickly pulled the 321 like a rocket into the sky and after a steep ascent with some rollercoaster – like left and right turns we were quickly at cruising altitude.

About an hour into the flight „breakfast“ was served, although I am sure the snack box is served all day. But I don’t complain – something is better than nothing.

The box consisted of a hand and cheese sandwich, which tasted better than it looks and a small packed cake which was nothing special.

Coffee and juice went well with it.

 

 

After the meal we mostly relaxed in a half sleeping zombie mode until reaching the shores of Crete, where we were glued to the window, as the views in the morning were pretty.

 

Soon enough the airplane touched the ground and the people started to clap.

After flying numerous times on Aeroflot I got used to that again, as it still seems very common in Russia to show the cockpit crew the appreciation. And on holiday flight that is even more the case.

Of course as usually during taxi to the parking position, some people got up, but our friendly F/A Olga quickly made the clear in an very understandable way that nobody will get up until engines are shut down.

 

After deboarding and a quick bus ride to the terminal we were at immigration. After knowing how immigration is in Frankfurt with always a lot of questions for non-EU citizens, here it was very lax. No questions asked and everyone was stamped into Greece within seconds.

I was the only non-russian citizen onboard and the agent didn’t even really check my German passport.

About 5 mins after our luggage came already and we were outside the terminal where our bus to the hotel was already waiting. How I could only forget that on package holidays there is a travel guide even leading your way to the bus, but more on that in the next part of this trip report series.

Conclusion:

Ural Airlines did the job here, they brought as safe and more or less on time to HER, but that is about it. Service was very basic and not particular friendly and the airplane was in a desperate need of an overhaul, at least the cabin.

I hope you enjoyed reading and stay tuned for the second part of the report featuring a lot of destination pictures and tips as well as the return flight.

Thanks a lot and cheers,

Johannes

 

 

 

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