As with most of my other flight reviews, this trip began late on a Friday night searching Kayak for a flight for the next day. This time I chose to fly with British Airways to Faro from London Gatwick. Seems quite boring right? Well, there is a plot twist this flight was to be operated by Titan Airways. This was to be no ordinary flight, the aircraft taking me to Faro was a “new” Boeing 737-400 classic (G-POWS) that was just brought out of retirement from Victorville. As it occurs, she happens to be ex-BA as well (G-DOCT). It is indeed ironic that she is now flying for her old airline and from her old base!
Now, many of you are probably wondering, “Who the heck are Titan Airways? I have never heard of them before.” According to their Wiki page and website, “Titan Airways is a British charter airline founded in 1988 and based at London Stansted Airport. The carrier specialises in short notice ACMI and wet lease operations as well as ad-hoc passenger and cargo charter services to tour operators, corporations, governments and the sports and entertainment sectors.” In this case, British Airways lack the aircraft and crew to be able to cover the Monarch slots they took on after its demise, and they turned to fully crewed Titan aircraft to fill these holes in their schedule.
It was the morning of the flight and I had checked in at the British Airways desks at south terminal to discover, to my horror, that the flight was FULL and I had been assigned a middle seat in the back. After some shameful begging at the check in desk they let me have an exit row seat for free…result! As customary to my flights departing from South Terminal, I visited Nando’s in the departure lounge however, during my lunch it appeared that my 737 was now operating the Lanzarote flight! Scary! I went to the BA assistance desk who reassured me that the 737 was operating on my flight and the Lanzarote flight was being flown by British Airways themselves. Why was I so worried about what aircraft I was flying on? Well the reason I booked this sector was because Titan uses old aircraft such as the 737-300/400 for their short haul operations, these aircraft have been retired all around Europe at this point and it is near impossible to find flights on them. With Titan operating for BA on select flights I jumped at the chance to fly on-board one of these classics!
It was now approaching boarding time and I made my way to the gate to find G-POWS awaiting me! Boarding was somewhat organised but still pretty chaotic. Once on-board I was pleasantly surprised by the retrofitted cabin, it was very similar to the cabin on the 757-200 I flew with Titan to Zadar last year. My seat, 13A had fantastic legroom, being an exit row seat and had a fantastic view of the wing. The cabin was not representative of the aircraft’s old age of 25 and I could hardly tell it apart from a Next Generation 737. While on the ground at Gatwick we were reminded repeatedly that this was a Titan Airways flight operating for BA, I found it odd that they needed to remind us so many times. The seatback contained the latest inflight magazine from British Airways but no menu, food on-board today was complimentary.
With a small ATC delay of 20minutes, we pushed back and joined the queue for take-off, Gatwick was on its usual westerly operations today which meant a 26L departure. The classic 737 screamed as we took off for Portugal! Flying conditions were perfect and the cruise was for the most part smooth and uneventful. Shortly after the cabin crew were released the complimentary meal service began and I was handed a small sandwich, flapjack and a drink. All of which were very welcome and surprisingly tasty. Good on BA for opting for complimentary snacks on these Titan operated flights. This was only a 2hour50minute flight so there wasn’t too much to report on, the crew on-board were friendly, on par with the level of service with BA but they were no EasyJet crew.
As we started our descent into Faro, things got a little more exciting, as we hit the cloud layer we hit some pretty hard turbulence and our little 737 sure got thrown around a bit. Wind speed on the ground at Faro was around 30knots but as we touched down it had seemed to have all died down and the landing itself was relatively smooth. The friendly crew allowed me a small flight deck visit even though this flight was actually a training flight. Overall this has been another positive flight with Titan Airways and I wonder at which point we will meet again.
Just an additional bit of information, G-POWS, the 737-400 I had just flown on, had a tail strike on take-off out of Gatwick just one day after my flight and the airport was closed while the runway was inspected. She is now back in service, still operating for BA out of Gatwick and you can book flights on-board her using Kayak. BA have no pattern to where the 737 is scheduled, if you join the London Area Aviation Spotting Facebook group you can find a document containing the month’s aircraft swaps and changes and in there are the details of the Titan Operating flights.