CockpitWell, it was going to be one of those days…..

The scheduled flight was a night flight from Gatwick to Palma de Mallorca and back again in a B737. A flight like that gives you plenty of opportunity to enjoy a day at home. Check-in was not until 9pm and the First Officer for this flight was a good friend of mine so, even though we would be flying throughout the night, it was going to be fun and easy.

The flight time was expected to be around 1:45hrs each way so short and sweet and the landing back at our homebase was scheduled to be around 3am. During our flight preparations in the crewroom we got a phonecall from our Operations, informing us of a French ATC strike and a SLOT of 01:45am!!!! That was not good news.
The decision was then made to fly from the UK to Spain without overflying France. Well, if you would look at a map you would soon realize that that is nearly impossible and the only way to fly all around France is to fly due West from Gatwick until you reach the end of the UK, you then turn South onto a Tango Route (this is a route over the Atlantic, far away from land and outside VHF range so HF is required), once you reach abeam the Bay of Biscay you turn due East and fly straight to Palma de Mallorca. Roughly a 600Nm detour and a flight time of 3:15!

But anything better than sitting around and waiting for that 4hr late SLOT to get worse and worse so off we went. The passengers understood what was going and settled down quickly as they were just looking forward to finally start their holiday.

I have never seen it so busy on a Tango Route as that night as literally every UK operator who was flying North- or Southbound was taking this route in order to stay away from France.

We arrived in PMI very late, the passengers disembarked, and we waited for the handling agent to give us the bad news for another “mega” SLOT back home. Luckily there was only going to be a 1hr delay which we could live with and preparations were made for the return flight.

This flight went uneventful and we landed back at our homebase at 7am.
That was a long night and very unexpected.

On the drive home I got stuck in early morning rush hour and I finally crawled into bed at 9am.
What a night!

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