BLOC Hotel Gatwick – Spotting Hotel Review

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 27-07-2014

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I recently had the pleasure of staying in the newly opened BLOC Hotel at London Gatwick Airport.

The hotel occupies part of the South Terminal at the airport, and is accessible pre-departures, making it an excellent place to stay before or after your flight without having to worry about transport to or from a hotel away from the airport itself.

But for enthusiasts the BLOC Hotel offers an even greater draw, and that’s fantastic views of the action at Gatwick itself.

Gatwick Airport has been notoriously difficult to spot from since the viewing terraces closed down in 2002. But for those who remember these terraces, the BLOC Hotel actually offers a similar view from many of its rooms, albeit with a further elevated perspective, meaning even more can be seen.

I was offered room 748 at the hotel, which is one of the best for spotting. It occupies a corner of the top floor of the hotel, with panoramic views from the runway to the left, round to the North Terminal and the South Terminal’s satellite to the right.

BLOC Hotel

The view from the BLOC hotel is similar to that of the old viewing terraces at Gatwick.

No movements can be missed from this room, as everything using the runway is visible, as are most stands. Some South Terminal stands are not visible, however. The maintenance area is also not visible.

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The old viewing terraces still exist, but will not be reopened.

BLOC’s concept is modern design, and the furniture and fittings in the room are really unique. In this particular room there was a large bed, TV, bathroom (with equally good views),  and a touch-screen control panel to handle the lights, blinds, temperature etc.

One feature that always goes down well with spotters is Wi-Fi, and at the BLOC hotel it’s free for all guests, regardless of which room you stay in. This is ideal for running Flightradar24 or similar flight tracking websites to tie up distant or night time movements. On my stay I also noticed some Heathrow departures flying overhead, which could be identified on the internet.

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Be careful when booking at this hotel as some rooms have no windows. These are clearly labelled on the website, and naturally will not offer any views of movements. It is best to try and get a higher room facing the airport (west or south) to ensure you can see movements easily; the benefit of Gatwick only having one runway is that all aircraft will be in the same place at some point.

BLOC Hotel Gatwick

An example of the photographs possible from the BLOC Hotel at Gatwick

Photography through the windows was easy on my stay. The windows were clean, and with a 200mm lens I could photograph any aircraft within a reasonable distance. I found, however, that as the light started to fade the windows took on a slight tint which stopped the ability to take good photographs.

The room rates at the BLOC Hotel are pretty good, and in most cases less than £100 per night for all but the VIP rooms. The website handily lists the full standard rate, and the actual rate they are charging over a range of dates. So you can plan your trip well.

This is easily one of the best spotting hotels I’ve ever experienced. I had the benefit of probably the best room for views, but many others at the hotel offer a similar panorama of this notoriously difficult-to-spot-at airport where nothing will be missed. Add to that easy access, comfortable facilities, friendly staff, and good prices.

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To find out more or book a room, visit the BLOC Hotel Gatwick website.

Monarch close to 737 MAX order

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, North America, Spotting News, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 14-07-2014

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Monarch 737 MAX

Monarch Airlines is close to finalising a deal with Boeing to order 30 737 MAX 8 aircraft as part of its fleet upgrade.

Although it operates a couple of 757-200s, and in the past operated 737-300s, Monarch has been primarily an Airbus operator over recent years. It has a fleet of A320s and A321s, and recently retired its A300-600s. So this move is an interesting development for the UK holiday carrier.

The order is valued at $3.1 billion at current list prices.

“Today’s announcement is an important milestone in an exhaustive three year evaluation process, and a key part of The Monarch Group’s transformation and renewal,” said Iain Rawlinson, Executive Chairman, The Monarch Group. “Boeing truly understood our business and put together a complete package that fits extremely well with our ambitions for the Group.”

“We are delighted that Monarch intends to structure its future fleet around the 737 MAX,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner. “We look forward to finalizing the order and can’t wait to see the Monarch livery on 737s once again. Today is a proud moment for everyone at Boeing, as we welcome back a prestigious U.K. operator. We are confident that the 737 MAX will play a significant role in Monarch’s continued success.”

3 Cheap Airport View Hotels – 10% off code!

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, Heathrow, Japan, North America, Spotting Hotels, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 10-07-2014

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If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ve probably visited so many airport hotels that they’ve become something of a blur to you — difficult to distinguish from one another. In most cases, their most notable amenity — proximity to the airport and your next flight — is the only reason you’ve selected them.

However, among the world’s thousands of airport hotels, some offer spectacular views of flights arriving and departing from the airport, a welcome change from watching the TV to pass your time. And among these hotels with striking airport views, a select few are affordably priced, making them all the more desirable.

Here are three such properties. All combine memorable airport views with reasonable room rates ($200 per night or less), which sets them apart from run-of-the-mill airport hotels the world over.

As an added incentive for readers of this website, you can get an additional 10 percent discount on any reservations — for these or other hotels — booked through HotelsCheap.org on or before July 31, 2014. More about this later.

Narita Tobu Hotel Airport

Many rooms at Narita Tobu Hotel Airport offer excellent views of arriving and departing flights at Tokyo's Narita International Airport.

Many rooms at Narita Tobu Hotel Airport offer excellent views of arriving and departing flights at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.

In 2013, Narita International Airport, which serves Tokyo, ranked 13th among the world’s busiest airports in terms of passenger traffic, serving more than 30.5 million passengers. Located nearby, the 12-story Narita Tobu Hotel Airport offers excellent views of airport action from most guestrooms on its upper floors.

If watching the comings and goings at Narita is important to you, be sure to request a room with a good airport view when booking your reservations. If the view from your room is less than perfect, relax with a drink in the hotel’s top-floor cocktail lounge, where you can be sure to catch all the action.

With rates as low as $116 per night, the hotel is a real bargain. Each of its 484 units features a mini-refrigerator, coffee/tea maker, complimentary wired Internet connection, desk/work area, and an en-suite bathroom with combination shower/tub and complimentary toiletries.

Other hotel amenities include an indoor swimming pool, health club, sauna, conference/meeting rooms, airport shuttle (complimentary during limited hours), free parking, gift shop/newsstand, game room, and restaurant.

Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel

From your room in Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel, you can watch flights come and go at the busiest airport in the United States.

From your room in Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel, you can watch flights come and go at the busiest airport in the United States.

For a front-row seat to all the runway action at America’s busiest airport, book a room at Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel, where room rates start at less than $100 a night. Many of the guestrooms and suites at the 11-story hotel directly overlook the runways at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which in 2012 handled nearly 46 million passengers.

The hotel’s 380 air-conditioned units have plenty of amenities, including cable/satellite TV with premium movie channels, room service, mini-refrigerators, Internet access (for surcharge), and en-suite bathrooms with shower/tub combinations, hair dryers, and designer toiletries.

Other hotel facilities and services include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a sauna, business center, health club, meeting rooms, a gift shop, porter/bellhop service, safe deposit boxes, and complimentary airport shuttle service.

ibis London Heathrow Airport

The sleekly contemporary front desk at the ibis London Heathrow Airport belies the hotel's cut-rate accommodations.

The sleekly contemporary front desk at the ibis London Heathrow Airport belies the hotel’s cut-rate accommodations.

Part of an international chain of economy hotels, ibis London Heathrow Airport sits near the heart of the action at London’s Heathrow Airport, which in 2013 was the world’s busiest airport according to Airports Council International. From the hotel’s rooms you can see plenty of airport action. What makes a stay at ibis even more attractive are its affordable rates, which start as low as $80.

Each of the air-conditioned guestrooms in the six-story hotel offers cable TV with premium channels, coffee/tea maker, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Some handicap-accessible rooms are available.

Other amenities at ibis include a 24-hour snack bar, business services, 24-hour front desk, parking, and shuttle service to all terminals (added fee). The on-site Foggs restaurant and bar serves breakfast and dinner daily.

To take advantage of HotelsCheap.org’s limited-time discount coupon for followers of Airport Spotting, visit the Loyalty Coupon gateway of HotelsCheap.org. Enter discount code AIRPORTSPOTTING10 in the appropriate field to get 10 percent off the site’s already very-affordable rates on any reservations booked on or before July 31, 2014.

Don Amerman is a travel expert based in Florida and Pennsylvania. He has traveled widely across the United States and overseas as well.

Virgin Atlantic reaches 30. Announces first 787 route

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Heathrow, North America, Spotting News, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 24-06-2014

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The first Virgin Atlantic service to New York (c) Steve Fitzgerald

The first Virgin Atlantic service to New York (c) Steve Fitzgerald

Richard Branson’s revolutionary airline, Virgin Atlantic, which was first conceived after he chartered an aircraft in the Caribbean to rescue the travel plans of himself and fellow passengers following a flight cancellation, is now 30 years old.

Richard was caught up in the idea of setting up a new airline arm to his Virgin empire, and soon took delivery of a Boeing 747 to start low fare flights from London Gatwick to New York on 22 June 1984. Passengers would experience staff hired for their fresh outlook on service, and flights with better entertainment and food options.

Virgin Atlantic launch press conference

It would grow to become a major player in long haul travel, both from Gatwick and Heathrow airports. It also opened Virgin Atlantic Little Red, a low-cost domestic airline, in 2013.

Fleet Upgrades

Virgin Atlantic VAA 787-9 Artwork K64012-01

Virgin operates a fleet of Airbus A340 and Boeing 747-400 aircraft, but it has been looking to upgrade with more fuel efficient aircraft.

The airline has been considering what to do about its Airbus A380 order since it deferred delivery, and will make a decision soon.

However, Virgin is due to take delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 aircraft later this year and, to coincide with its 30th anniversary, has announced that the first route of the type will be from London Heathrow to Boston Logan, starting on 28th October.

It is likely the aircraft will be used on crew familiarisation sectors before then, possibly on the Little Red network. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear.

Heathrow Terminal 2 Opens

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, Heathrow, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 04-06-2014

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The first flight arrives at Heathrow's new Terminal 2

The first flight arrives at Heathrow’s new Terminal 2

London Heathrow Airport‘s Terminal 2 has opened to passengers this morning.

The first flight, arriving from Chicago O’Hare at 6am, was operated by United Airlines, who will be the only airline to use the terminal initially. Shortly, however, other Star Alliance carriers will also transfer their operations from other Heathrow terminals, along with Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic Little Red.

The £2.5 billion terminal replaces the original Terminal 2 and Queens Building, which was the first of the central terminals at Heathrow. The new one is much more spacious and has a greater capacity for passengers and aircraft. It features a huge sculpture.

It also has 28 gates, eight A380 piers, 33 shops and 17 restaurants.

What Terminal 2 is like for enthusiasts is not known yet, but we’d love to hear from you if you’re passing through or visiting in the coming days. Are there any views before security? Do the departure lounges have large windows?

You can find out more about spotting at Heathrow here.

Air Canada’s first Boeing 787 delivered

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Canada, France, Heathrow, Israel, Middle East, North America, Spotting News, Switzerland, UK | Posted on 19-05-2014

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787-8 ACN #160-ZA610

Air Canada has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, registered C-GHPQ.

The aircraft, the first of Air Canada’s 37 787s on order for delivery through 2019, departed Paine Field in Everett, Wash. on its delivery flight to Toronto on 18th May.

Air Canada has announced it will use the 787 on its Toronto-Tel Aviv routes, as well as launch a new destination – Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. The 787 is 20 percent more fuel efficient than similar-sized airplanes it will replace in Air Canada’s fleet.

Other routes scheduled to see Air Canada 787s include London Heathrow, Paris CDG and Zurich. See more on our Boeing 787 Routes page.

Whilst crews familiarise themselves with the aircraft, it will begin operating on the Toronto – Montreal domestic service at certain times over the next couple of months.

5 Airports for Crosswind Landing Videos

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Germany, Japan, Miscellaneous Spotting, Portugal, Spotting Videos, Switzerland, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 11-05-2014

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If you want to get out there and capture some stunning videos or pictures of crosswind landings, here is some inspiration from five different airports.

The key to emphasising the crosswind is to be positioned looking down the runway, either in front of or behind arriving traffic.

Birmingham, UK

Dusseldorf, Germany

Funchal, Madeira

Tokyo Narita, Japan

Zurich, Switzerland

 

Airport Spotting Guides Europe book

Airport Spotting Guides Europe

Comprehensive guide book to Europe’s best airports for spotting aircraft. Includes:

  • Maps with spotting locations marked
  • Spotting hotels
  • Airlines, runway details, radio frequencies
  • Nearby aviation attractions – museums, airfields, preserved aircraft.

Perfect for your spotting trips. Buy your copy here!

Manston Airport to close

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 07-05-2014

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. (c) James Stuart

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. (c) James Stuart

The UK’s historic Manston Airport – famed for its role in the Battle of Britain, and popular with enthusiasts largely because of its collection of stored and abandoned airliners – has announced it is to close on 15th May.

The airport was bought for £1 last year by an investor who hoped to find a future for the airport. But recently, the only passenger operator at Manston, KLM Cityhopper, withdrew its flights to Amsterdam and the future looked bleak.

Since the airport is losing £10,000 per day, it entered a consultation period about closing and has now announced this date, despite offers from investors and business proposals by staff.

It’s a sad end to Manston, which interestingly has one of the widest runways in the world.

Heathrow Terminal 2 opening soon. Check out the sculpture!

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Heathrow, Miscellaneous Spotting, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 29-04-2014

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Slipstream Terminal 2

London Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 will open on 4th June after a number of years under construction, which started with the demolition of the 1950s Queens Building and original terminal structure.

The new building much resembles Terminal 5 and offers  the latest in layout and construction design, and will help Heathrow handle passengers more efficiently. Terminal 2 will be home to Star Alliance carriers once opened.

It features one of Europe’s longest permanent sculptures, the 78 m Slipstream, by Royal Academician, Richard Wilson. It was made using the same Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE Technology that is instrumental to the design, development and production of the Boeing and Airbus aircraft that will carry many of the 20m passengers per year served by Heathrow’s new Terminal 2.

Supported between 2 passenger walkways on 4 slim columns 18 m apart, the sculpture weighing around 77 tonnes represents flight.

Flybe launching London City routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Ireland, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 23-04-2014

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Flybe Q400

Flybe has announced a number of new routes from London City Airport starting in October.

New routes include Belfast City, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter and Inverness.

Flybe chief executive Saad Hammad said: “Today’s announcement is a significant landmark in the re-birth of Flybe. We are delighted to re-enter the London market at London’s most convenient airport following a rigorous profitability analysis utilising our strict route assessment model.”

 

Read about my behind the scenes tour of London City Airport here.