Friday, January 02, 2009

Flying to Funchal - 24 December 2008

Funchal Christmas lights
It was an eventful trip from Gatwick to Funchal. The fun started at Gatwick when we went through security with the usual “empty your pockets, remove your belt” and, as sometimes happens, “remove your shoes”. All checked out OK so put shoes and belts back on and re-fill pockets. About 10 paces further on we are stopped again for a shoe check - time to take the shoes off again. What is wrong with these people? If they want to randomly re-check shoes with the "special shoe x-ray machine" then move it closer to the other x-ray units and select the people while they already have their shoes off.

Funchal Christmas lightsThe next problem was also caused at Gatwick, but we were unaware of it at the time. We decided to purchase some Duty Free spirits for gifts and checked to make sure that we could take the two litres we purchased on to the plane. We were assured that we could and certainly there were no issues boarding the aircraft. We touched down in Lisbon and followed the transfer route to our connecting flight to Funchal in Madeira. As sometimes happens we had to be re-checked for security. We had arrived from the UK, one of the strictest regimes in the EU, stepped off a plane and somehow had managed to secret bombs and weapons about our persons and hand luggage as it all had to be checked again. (Shoes on, this time.) However we were told we could not take the two litres of spirits on with us as is was not 'sealed'.

Funchal Christmas lightsTwo unopened bottles, purchased air-side at Gatwick with receipts to prove it were now serious weapons of mass destruction. What is wrong with these people? There was no discussion, it was against "the rules", so I had to leave the transfer route, exit the airport and enter again like any normal passenger beginning their journey at Lisbon and check in again putting the bottles in the checked luggage.

Funchal Christmas lightsFortunately we had a carry on bag that was large enough to accommodate the bottles so that was duly checked and we set off for our island destination. A couple of hours later we were descending into Funchal Airport when the engine thrust was suddenly applied again and we began climbing instead of descending. Apparently the rain was so heavy that the landing was aborted and we circled for nearly 30 minutes until the pilot thought it was safe enough to land. We must be getting close to 100 flights since we left NZ and this is the first time that we have ever had a landing aborted. That said, having seen how the Funchal runway is perched on a platform over the sea we were quite glad the pilot was risk-averse
Funchal Christmas visitors
Although the pilot was able to land second time round, it was still raining solidly as we were taken in to the centre of Funchal so we were fairly damp by the time we had located our hotel and laid in a few supplies to get us through Christmas Day when everything is shut.

(Many Funchal houses sported climbing Santas so we collected a few.)

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