The OAE had a fantastic experience earlier this week travelling on our very own charter plane to Germany for a performance in Baden-Baden.  Baden-Baden’s closest airport is Karlsruhe (about 20 mins away), which is served by Ryanair from Stansted twice a day – which would mean either leaving Stansted at 7am (eeek – a 5am check-in) or 7pm (whoops, we’ll miss the concert), also we all know what orchestras feel about travelling on Ryanair with their notorious baggage rules and restrictions… So, erm not a practical option.  Other options would have been to fly to Frankfurt then endure a 2 hour drive, or perhaps Stuttgart or Strasbourg (both at least 1 hourr away) and not necessarily with the right place sizes or flight times to suit out schedule. How different and exhausting the journey would have been had we not had the privilege of our own plane!

Anyway, charter it was, so we happily checked in at Luton Airport at 9.30AM.  A total luxury (especially for the contingent from St Albans and Hertfordshire!) then just about had enough time to get through security with our plastic wash bags (an overnighter meant most people didn’t have any checked-in luggage).  Sadly for those without a supply of plastic security bags at home from previous trips it was a £1 charge for a bag – SHOCKING! (Donagh, one of our Tour Managers from our agents Askonas Holt was not best amused)  We then boarded the plane at 10.40 ready for take off as planned at 11am.

The plane, pilot and air cabin crew belonged to the FlyBe Fleet, and they cheerily welcomed us onto the plane.  A teeny little plane, just 2 seats on either side of the aisle but with plenty of space for all 80-something of us on board and all of the instruments and Mr A Cello’s (sorry – insider joke).   We had a birthday on board on both days: Martin Lawrence, horn, on the way out and Neil Mclaren, flute, on the way back – and the pilot even made a special birthday announcement.

More of the same cheery and breezy journey on the way back – except as all 80-something of us were bussed together to the airport from the hotels that morning (instead of arriving in dribs and drabs as we did the previous day) it meant a very very long and impatient wait for everyone to check in, not least because one of the check-in computers crashed for the first time in 2 years.  A classic case of ‘Computer says no’. Then, when we pulled the cellos to the front of the queue as their seats had to be reassigned next to their owners, the whole orchestra booed them!!!  No matter that there was no time after passport control – Karlsruhe is a typical  ‘Ryanair airport’ with absolutely nothing in the way of interesting shops! (I didn’t even get a chance to squirt some Chanel 5 and they had run out of cappuccino.)

Anyway…So let’s have our own plane more often please (only when the greener option of train travel isn’t possible of course!).  Any OAE supporter with a spare 100-seater plan kicking around, pilot and cabin crew included please come our way!

Oh and the concert in the Festspielhaus was amazing, but if you were all good OAE fans, you would have listened into Radio 3 or been at the Royal Albert Hall last Sunday and would have known that already!

Ceri Jones, Projects Director

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