Phoenix Run Part 9, Bucharest Back to Back

Heathrow T5

Moff and I are back on the terrace in the First lounge at T5, contemplating the connection in Bucharest.

Connecting back to back – arranging an itinerary where you get off a flight, and then immediately reboard the same aircraft – is a calculated risk. But it can be a very efficient way to start or end a trip on a cheap ex-EU ticket.

The risk is heavily airport dependent. Some airports such as Amsterdam, where departing and arriving passengers are not separated, make it trivially easy; you disembark, wait at the gate, then get back on the same plane. Other airports such as Heathrow T5, where their “conformance” system will automatically offload you if you don’t present your boarding pass at security 35 minutes before departure, make it virtually impossible. Between the two there’s a spectrum of difficulty for the those after a cheap ex-EU fare and who are prepared to take a chance.

This back to back at Bucharest is at the end of the trip, where the risk is lower. Fail to board a flight on an itinerary under a single ticket, and every subsequent flight on that ticket will be cancelled. That’s why I normally position for the start of an ex-EU trip the day before, as it adds a buffer. At the end of a trip, the worst that could normally happen is you buy a single ticket home for a later flight if you miss the connection. However it’s New Year’s Eve, there are no later flights today, and there’s a family to get home to.

From the research I’ve done, I’m hopeful about Bucharest. Yes you have to clear passport control, and yes you have to go through security, but there’s a special security channel for connecting passengers, expediting your transit into the departure hall; you don’t need to go landside.

Heathrow to Bucharest (80 TP)

When we board, Club Europe is virtually empty, just Moff and I and two people at the back of the cabin. The CSM and other cabin crew are extra attentive, and even offer a first class style “dine on demand”. We’re both exhausted though, and trouble them for multiple cups of tea but little else.

Again we arrive early, seemingly a theme on this trip and pull up to the jet bridge at Gate 1, Henri Coanda.

The Turnaround

Seats 1C and 1D, we are first off the plane, but that was inevitable with an almost empty cabin. Bucharest Airport separates departing and arriving passengers, but we follow the transit signs, head up the escalator to passport control, tell the border officer we are connecting and are directed back down the stairs to the expedited security. So far so good.

But suddenly there’s an instruction to stop, and we are intercepted by two officials metres from the stairs. They want to see our passports again, and our boarding passes. Where are we travelling to? Where did we come from? They are quizzical at us travelling from and then immediately back to London, but eventually allow us to proceed. Fortunately security is smooth, and we are back at the gate 5 minutes before boarding commences.

Bucharest to Heathrow (80 TP)

The final flight of the trip continues the trend and arrives early at T5. Moff and I share a piccadilly line tube to Earl’s Court before heading our separate ways. We’ve travelled 16500 miles in four days, and calculate our average speed for the trip since leaving London was 173.6 mph. Public transport, today at least, works as well as the BA planes, and I arrive back home in time for the New Year Party.

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