Project Konigsberg #1 A detour to Bergen

Look, before you judge me, just bear in mind there's a guy on the Flyertalk forums who rented 37 cars in 2 days just to earn miles. So, y'know, I'm a bloody amateur here.

Oh, and anyway, those of you who followed my lightning trip around the world last August might recall I went to Jersey for about 90 minutes at the start of a 3 flight day then, so this is hardly out of character... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

It's Wednesday, about 1115 in the UK as I type this, and I have a Tiger beer to refresh me despite having asked for a Heineken. I'm on my way to Heathrow. From Norway. Having been to Norway this morning. Sort of.

Finished work at 1745 or so yesterday and went to the pub in Surbiton with a very tired Helen. After two pints of stout and a snog goodbye, I went home and watched wrestling and took miraculously dry clothes out of my shiny new washer dryer (seriously, I'm 41 and have never had a dryer before) and had a very very large gin and started packing at about 2300. A few t-shirts, couple of pair of shorts, a bunch of plugs and cables and USB bricks, and alarms set for 5am.

Perhaps not everyone sets a 5am alarm for a 4pm flight to New York, but I don't like making things easy. This is a trip long in the making, over 2 years planning by Mr Lester of Great Circular European Railway Challenge fame of summer 2013. I booked my flights in February, because a) I knew I was going b) BA announced a brutal devaluation of their miles scheme and "prices" were about to sky rocket, so I cashed in what I got back from having to cancel a North Korea trip (curse you, ebola) on a last hurrah return trip in first bastard class, London to New York. That cost me £640 and 120k Avios (aka miles).

Fast forward to August, just under a month before departure, and someone makes a bit of a data entry mistake. My obsessive Flyertalk obsession pays off as I spot, very early into the saga, a thread saying "erm, seems you can fly from Norway to the USA for between £300 and £400 return in business class...". A mistake fare, surely, I mean this is a crazy price. I'd paid £640 just in taxes, fees and surcharges from the UK and though our Airline Passenger Duty sucks up a lot of that, this was still an outrageous deal and I firmly believed it was a mistake, and what's more, that it wouldn't be honoured.

Nevertheless I dove in and booked a return from Bergen to New York via London, with seats on the exact same transatlantic services as already booked. £342 in business class. Yes, £300 less than I'd paid to spend miles. And then I waited for the airlines involved to say, oh fuck off, you bunch of chancers, it's a mistake and there's no way you can fly that. Have your refund and get to fuck.

Turns out BA said "you bunch of chancers, it's a mistake, and we'll honour it this time". Holy smokes! Not that I booked with BA; I booked with American Airlines because I prefer their site, but they are in a joint venture and all my flights are actually on BA planes. Also there's some vague hint that USA-based airlines have to suck up honouring mistakes a bit more than BA do. But anyway, holy smokes!

I booked a trip with Avios to Bergen and back to top and tail the new itinerary, but didn't cancel my original booking until a couple of days before flying, still a bit worried they wouldn't hold. Yes, there was a genuine risk I wouldn't make it to NYC, but in for a penny in for a pound. Mistake fares are not for the faint hearted.

Er so anyway, enough detail. Yesterday arrived and I checked in for all 3 flights. There were already plenty of reports of people flying on this fare with no fanfare at all. And back to the 5am alarm: my 1600 flight to JFK now necessitated the 0755 London to Bergen service to kick things off.

Up at 5 cab at 6 lounge at 7 plane at 8. That was my plan. Gett Taxi, the app for booking black cabs in an uber-esque way, but also in advance, wanted £77 to take me to T5 from my flat but only £44 for T1-4, or to T5 from a 2 minute walk away. They can fuck off. I used the trust local minicabs of Mogul who I am happy to endorse for all Surbiton and surrounds readers. £35 to T5 including a ludicrously generous £7 tip. He arrived promptly at 6 and we nattered the whole way - which is not my norm in a cab - about flying (he finds planes boring) and boats: he was in the merchant navy for years and had numerous stories to tell about shagging his way around the world and getting into fights in Melbourne, Greece, and wherever. He also hates the Great South Run because he lives on the route and I told him, well mate, it's great to run so whatever.

As seems to be usual, the how-busy-is-it ratio of Heathrow T5 north to south was about 2:5, so I walked to north and joined the fast track queue. Fast track! Because fuck yeah I earnt that silver card on the Australia madness. It was about 0640 and I was far and away the scruffiest bastard in the whole queue, with pretty much 95% of the rest of the folk being middle aged white men (yes, so far so me) in suits or with smart shirts tucked into their jeans because what the fuck.

Through with no grief and past the million pound door (see: Moscow trip) I strode the length of the terminal to the south lounge and was surprised that it wasn't that busy. Maybe the north lounge was? But anyway, I got my favourite seat (look at me, I have a favourite seat in an airline lounge... prick) and proceeded to fetch bacon. A couple of rolls and some fruit salad I left pretty early, as soon as the gate was announced. Long day, the sauce can wait.

Gate A12 is in the middle of T5a and only a couple of minutes walk. I got there and it was the most empty gate I've flown from in a long long time, maybe even ever. I know it had only just been announced but even so, this was something else, and very few people seemed to be arriving after me. Conformance - the time after which you cannot come through security, i.e. you've missed your flight - is 35 minutes at Heathrow and it was about that long until take off.

Boarding was announced very shortly and the mics didn't work, so one guy just had to shout at everyone. Fast track started and there were about 3 of us, but in reality it wasn't fast because a very old and frail couple had rightfully been let onto the airbridge way before us and they were still making their way down, full of sticks and unsteadiness. I cheerfully held back rather than trying to overtake, and delighted in the man behind me tutting a bit. Just a bit. Maybe. Maybe I imagined that. Sometimes I like to think the worst of people.

Onboard and in 11A and general boarding has caught up and, wow, it really is empty. There are clumps of people in rows 6-9 but no-one in row 10, the exit row, so they ask for volunteers. Because the plane is so empty I had had a bit of a grouse about having someone in 11C, but that was premature because he went to sit in 10A and immediately reclined onto my knees. Gah.

So long, Heathrow. See you in 4.5 hours.

Nonetheless, this did mean I had row 11 to myself, for what that's worth. We pushed back a little late and took off and flew. I got through all the interesting bits of Highlife magazine fairly promptly and nearly spat on the business magazine, finding an advert that made me very very very very very very very very glad Helen wasn't with me as I fear an incident may have occurred. Seriously. It's an in joke but, well, actually not much of a joke, and I'm going to clumsily leave the reference here and then self-refer to it rather than delete the second half of this paragraph. So there.

I also wanted to kill the author of an article who without irony used the words "solopreneur" and "culturepreneur". I've got an idea: get fucked. I reached for my pen to note this down and instead grasped the sick bag, which was a physical Freudian slip if ever there was one.

The moving map centred on Africa and cut Norway off despite that being our destination, and a very nice cold ham and cheese croissant came along. We were running late and I was nervous about what was going to happen in Bergen. Then suddenly they said it was 10 minutes to landing and we'd found an extra 10 minutes from somewhere. Apparently the best views were out of the right hand side, and I was sat on the left. Never mind.

We touched down at 1053 local time. After taxiing to the gate the signs went off and i stood up at 1100. By 1101 I was off the plane (seriously, it wasn't busy) and by 1104 I was in the loo. Everyone else went through the passport gates which are about 15 paces from the end of the airbridge. I chose to hang around with the departing passengers, and about 2 minutes later they announced boarding for the infirm and passengers with infants and that. Then a couple more minutes and fast track boarding was announced, so I joined the queue and gave them my boarding pass and passport (apparently I was the only person in the queue who realised passports were required; the guy 2 in front of me had put his in his luggage).

We waited a bit for the cleaners to get off the plane and then boarded. I said "hello again" to the man with the raised eyebrow, who said "Ah! We were trying to work that out!" to me, what with my name being the same name as a man who had just flown the outbound sector in economy. Me.

This time I'm in seat 3A, in business, sitting down 19 minutes after I stood up from seat 11A. The plane is a lot busier but there are only 2 of us fatcats, in the first 4 rows. The same crew member comes up to me and stage whispers "so, are you off to New York as well? not bad, is it?". I believe it's a sly reference to his knowledge of the fare and his expectation of a fair few of us Bergen back to back mongers over the coming months. He congratulates me on travelling only with hand luggage, especially because none of the luggage made it on the outbound sector because apparently T5's system has gone haywire this morning. Oops! We chat for a bit about the "perils" of flying long-haul. Apparently Sydney is a 9 day trip for the crew, with a nice stop in Singapore, but he doesn't like doing anything over 4 days really.

Despite arriving late we push back a couple of minutes early and are on our way. Since it's the reverse direction, I'm totally on the correct side of the plane for amazing views of the Norse coastline and it is staggering. There are also excellently low clouds making the sea look pretty in the bits where it isn't shimmering like ice in the sun. There, Norse tourism, happy now?

We had to wait for a helicopter to land.

Bergen airport is so ickle. How on earth was I at gate 22?

OH MY GOD the Norwegian coast is just gorgeous.

Don't you think?

I take a bunch of photos and, when in standby mode, note Passbook on my phone is horribly confused about which boarding pass it should be showing me right now. A cold towel arrives and then a brunch of meats and cheese and olives and bread and fruit and "Can I get you a drink sir? Tea, coffee, wiiiiiiiine....?" "Champagne please!" "Certainly!"

The olives are magnificent and I'm disappointed there are only 2. The champagne is rank and shut up, I know how that sounds, OK? Before I've even finished it he offers me more and I say no, then request a Heineken when he comes to clear the table and am delivered a Tiger. And that, pretty much, is where I started this post. During the last paragraph they have announced that we are descending and are 25 minutes from landing, so I might see if I can grab another can. To do: ensure someone checks my passport and visa status for the USA, and buy 200 fags.

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