QANTAS, Economy Class – Bombardier Q400: Sydney to Canberra

Getting to the airport

I just love Sydney and its harbour. And I really like the idea of commuting by boat. I mean, how cool is that! As usual, to get to the airport I first take the Manly ferry and then the train from Circular Quay. In the sun it’s pleasantly warm. But in the shade it’s still fresh. And the breeze on deck is not for the faint of heart. But the view…!

At Sydney airport there is one station that serves all domestic terminals. QANTAS operates out of Terminal 3

Check-in

From the station you need to go three floors up to the departure level. I’ve already checked in on the app and I have no luggage, so I can just go straight through security. In the domestic terminal they use body scanners, and you don’t have to take anything out of your bag either, which is really very convenient.

The QANTAS Business Class lounge

After I exit from security, the entrance to the lounge is to my left just a few steps down the hall.

No beach or sleep wear is permitted in the lounge. Although I wasn’t actually aware that UGGs were sleep wear…

The lounge is a lot less busy than when I was here last when I first arrived in Australia. I’m also a lot more awake. So, I grab myself a seat by the window, get myself a flat white (I’m picking up the local lingo…) and a cheese sandwich (yeah, okay… and a plate full of Arnott’s biscuits) and read until it’s time to leave the lounge.

Boarding

Boarding starts with a delay of twenty minutes from gate 17. More importantly, what I’m looking forward to is that boarding is via stairs and not an airbridge.

The cabin

On the outside, the aircraft is already wearing QANTAS’ new livery and looks rather… Dashing. Inside though, it looks like the cabin has seen some pretty heavy usage. It’s not that the cabin is in bad condition, just that the seats look rather worn.

The seat pitch is good. The only problem on the window seat it that the narrow width of the Q400’s fuselage cuts into your leg space.

Once we’re seated, there’s a further delay. Apparently, there’s a lot of luggage and it’s taking them a long time to load the bags in such a way that everything will fit.

The service

There are two female cabin crew. The purser seems quite reserved, but her colleague is great and interacts well with the passengers, and especially with the many kids on the plane.

While we wait for the handlers to finish with the bags, the crew pass through the cabin handing out small bottles of still water.

The flight time to Canberra is announced as 35 minutes.

The snack service

To be honest, I thought the bottle of water was all we were going to get, considering the short flight time. Much to my surprise though, once the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the crew start their service, which includes a packet of buttery passion fruit biscuits and a full drinks service, including tea or coffee.

Arrival

Eventually we land at 13h45 with a delay of eleven minutes, which is not all that bad. Here in Canberra they have these very funky mobile, wheelchair friendly ramps that they use to disembark. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great idea if there are passengers with mobility issues on board. But seeing as we boarded in Sydney without having to use one of these, I’m kind of wondering if it would not have been faster to just disembark via the stairs.

I step off the aircraft and make my way across the ramp to arrivals. There’s a bus into town every thirty minutes and I’ve just missed the one at 13h46. So I’m going to have to take a taxi to make it to my 14h30 appointment for afternoon tea at the Hyatt. The journey by taxi takes 12 minutes and costs AUD25. By bus it would be about 35 minutes.

Conclusion

I’m assuming that this will be my last domestic QANTAS flight for the time being. As I already mentioned in my post on the A 380 flight from Singapore to Sydney, I’m really not a fan of the QANTAS First Class product. Their domestic Business and Economy Class products are something else though. I find it quite amazing that they will serve you a hot meal on a leg of only ninety minutes between Melbourne and Sydney, or that they offer you bikkies in Economy Class on a flight of thirty minutes. It makes you wonder what the poor Aussies must think when they visit Europe and have to count their lucky stars if they get anything at all on a plane.

Luxair, Business Class – Bombardier Dash-8/400: Luxembourg to Genève

Introduction

I’ve just finished the week working in Luxembourg. It’s Maundy Thursday before the long weekend. Originally, I would have just returned to Zürich in the late afternoon. But then within two weeks of booking my flight, SWISS had already cancelled it again, which seems to be a recurring theme with them these days. In May I should have travelled to Brussels on SWISS, but that booking didn’t survive for very long either. So instead, I’ve decided to return from Luxembourg to Geneva and then to spend the long Easter weekend in the Bernese Oberland, which should be nice and relaxing.

Getting to the airport

I leave Eurocontrol just before 14h00 on Maundy Thursday to catch a number 6 or 16 bus to the airport. There’s a bus every ten minutes, and the journey only takes about 15 minutes.

Check-in & security

Luxair has its dedicated Business Class check-in area off to the far right of a long row of check-in counters.

This afternoon there is only one counter open, but it’s not looking very busy. From check-in, Business Class passengers have a direct access to the fast track for security. Which doesn’t get me very far today, mind you. There’s a young couple at the head of the queue and I’m wondering if perhaps this is the first time they’re travelling by air. They have multiple pieces of hand luggage with them and the poor security agent looks close to tears. She more or less has to ask them item by item to remove things from their bags, take off their jackets, etc.

Airside

By the time I’ve checked in, bought an Easter bunny and gone through security there’s only about ten minutes left before boarding starts at 14h55. So I figure I might as well go directly to the gate on the B concourse. The airport is really very quiet today, which is surprising given that it’s the long Easter weekend. I would have assumed people would be going off to make the best of the short break.

Boarding

My flight is departing from gate B07. Just as boarding is called, my bladder decides I need to visit the rest room. When I come back just a few minutes later, the gate is deserted and the gate agent is giving me her patented “you do know we’re only waiting for you” look. So I inquire about the load of the flight today, to which she answers that there’s a grand total of 13 passengers on the flight.

The cabin

I always like the Q400, although my colleague the Flying Dutchman tends to disagree. Of course it also helps that there are five rows of Business Class and there are only two of us sat in the forward cabin today. On the port side of the aircraft, the first row is row 1 and has very good legroom. On the starboard side, the first row is row 2 by the emergency exit. Legroom on row 2 is good too, although the location of the emergency exit means that my fellow aviation geeks do need to lean forward to look out the window. In Business Class the aisle seat on each row of two is kept empty.

The crew

There are three crew on this flight, and from what I gather one of them has her first training flight today. And it shows. She seems very nervous and when she brings me the tray, she’s holding it the wrong way, so that the food is on the far side of the tray from me. Other than that though, the crew are all very friendly.

The meal service

Before departure, one of the crew hands me a disinfectant towel and the menu for the flight, which is surprising given that the flight time is only 55 minutes.

The meal is nicely presented and I’m positively surprise by the presentation and quality of the dishes. It’s quite an unusual meal. Personally, I’m not a fan of duck, but I think Luxair certainly deserve Brownie points for effort and presentation.

To drink I have a Coke Zero. The cabin crew ask me if I’d like that with lemon and ice, which is also a nice touch you don’t get that often any more on short-haul.

Arrival

As we head south, the weather starts to improve. By the time we reach Geneva, there are only few scattered clouds and the pilot reports a ground temperature of 20 degrees Celsius. The approach into Geneva brings us in over a mountainous are to the south of the city. In this distance you can see the famous jet d’eau in action.

Eventually we pull up to our stand on one of the funky satellite gates at Geneva airport, which look as though they haven’t been upated since they were built sometime in the 1970s.

The terminal at Geneva airport is a strange set up. The main issue is that there’s hardly enough space for the terminal building, because there are public buildings and roads encroaching on the airport on all sides. As a result, there are many long, narrow corridors with little natural light that give the place a gloomy apprearance.

Eventually, my suitcase arrives and I make my way towards the railway station at the far end of the terminal.

Conclusion

I rather liked my flight with Luxair. Even though it wasn’t very long, I found there was something charmingly old fashioned in Luxair’s service delivery. I also thought the meal was a pleasant surprise and different to what you normally get on short-haul European Business Class.

SN Brussels Airlines, Economy Class – Dash 8-400: Brussels to Basel

This is a previously unpublished trip report from 2012

Transfer in Brussels

The flight from Stockholm ejects me straight onto the A concourse of the Europa pier in Brussels. All the Schengen lounges are located one floor up from the public airside area at the start of the pier.

The SAS Business Class Lounge

My Senator status entitles me to use any Star Gold lounge, so obviously I decide to go for the SAS lounge for the simple reason that I’m quite intrigued to see that they even have their own lounge in Brussels.

The facilities inside the lounge are nice, this could be a SAS lounge anywhere in Scandinavia. The only thing I’m not really so sure about though, are the orange Buddah figurines covered in velvet that have been nailed to the wall…

Boarding

Boarding is from gate A 35, which is a bus gate. And judging by how few passengers get on the bus before we eventually leave, I suspect the flight is going to be more or less empty.

The flight today is operated by a Bombardier Dash 8-400 of Austrian Airlines, which still retains it’s Austrian livery. Only the titles have been removed and replaced with those of SN Brussels Airlines.

Over the years, Basel has seen just about every narrowbody type ever operated either by SN Brussels Airlines or on their behalf operating the Brussels to Basel route.

The Cabin

It is somewhat unfortunate that the branding expert at Austrian Airlines is evidently colour blind. At least, I have no other explanation for the onslaught of colour that hits me as I enter the cabin. I mean, the red uniforms with those hideous red stockings are bad enough. But the way the red clashes with the various shades of snot-green colour of the upholstery and carpet is seriously making my eyeballs hurt. But at least one of the bulkheads is sky blue.

On the up side, the flight is nearly empty, so I can pick any seat I like!

The Meal

Given that the flight time to Basel is usually a little less than fifty minutes, there is no buy on board on this flight. Instead, each passenger is treated to any choice of drink from the bar trolley and a packet of Doritos, which I have no intention of eating and don’t even bother to open.

Arrival

And then we’re already descending into Basel and then I’m back in the sweltering heat.

Conclusion

SN Brussels is a strange airline. Okay, as a former Swissair employee there’s probably still some resentment in me for the airline formerly known as SABENA. But even so, I just find SN Brussels very boring and nondescript. I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid them, but I also don’t think I’d actively seek them out for my next trip.

Luxair, Economy Class – Bombardier Q400: Paris Roissy to Luxembourg

Airline: Luxair
Aircraft: Q400
From: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2G
To: Luxembourg Findel
Departure: 10h30
Arrival:
11h15
Flight time:
45 minutes
Seat:
14F, window

The Air France Lounge

As soon as I enter the terminal building coming off my flight from Basel, I head straight for the Air France lounge to get some breakfast. I don’t quite know what it is about this lounge, but I really like it. Even when it’s quite busy, it still feels very cosy, as though you’re sitting in somebody’s living room. The view of the aircraft approaching the southern runways is also nice.

My flight is scheduled to depart at 09h35, but there’s an initial delay of 35 minutes due to bad weather in Luxembourg. The new departure time is 10h10. The flight is operated by Luxair, with Air France as a code-share partner. As such, you can make use of your SkyPriority privileges, such as lounge access or priority boarding, just as long as the flight has been booked on the Air France flight number.

Boarding

The gate areas of Terminal 2G have the look and feel of a provisorium, as though the building is only there as a temporary installation. The gate area also tends to be quite cold.

The Cabin

The cabin of the Dash 8 is very tight and uncomfortable. There just isn’t really any room for anything much. Usually, on these small aircraft it’s a lot more comfortable once you’re seated.

But sadly, that isn’t the case for the Dash 8. I have to make a mental note to remember not to select a window seat ever again on these planes. Because the rail the seat is mounted on is in a rather awkward and uncomfortable position.

On row 14 I’m sitting pretty much under the wing, so the view of the outside is somewhat limited on the ground.

By the time we push back from the gate, it’s already past 10h10. And although Terminal 2G is located close to the threshold for runway 26R on the south side of the airfield, we’re still guided to runway 27L on the north side of the airfield, which only helps to add to our delay.

The Snack

In Economy Class the service consists of a small chocolate muffin that is served in a paper bag with a napkin. In addition, the crew pass through the cabin with the drinks trolley, which has a very limited selection. I mean, they don’t even have sparkling water.

The Crew

There are two cabin crew working the cabin this morning. And both of them are quite dreadful. It’s not that they’re rude or anything of the sort. They just come across as being somewhat lacking in interest for their job.

Arrival

Very soon we start our descent. The crew inform us that we’ll be doing an automatic landing due to the low visibility conditions at Luxembourg airport, and therefore we are all required to fully turn off our mobiles.

The landing is smooth enough, and indeed, the runway only comes into view a short moment before we touch down. Judging by the splash we’re making as we taxi in, it must have been raining fairly recently.

Conclusion

Luxair is a somewhat boring, nondescript little airline. There really isn’t anything remarkable about them, which is okay I guess, seeing as you’re only every going to be likely to really have to fly them if you’re intending to visit Luxembourg.

Luxair, Economy Class – Dash 8-400: Paris to Luxembourg

Transfer in Paris Roissy

My flight from Zagreb arrives at terminal 2E, which is used for non-Schengen flights. My flight to Luxembourg will be departing from terminal 2G, which is reserved for regional aircraft ops.

The security check is done in terminal 2E. From there, the way to the shuttle bus to 2G is clearly signposted.

The airport is fairly quiet, and in total there are only four of us making the trip to 2G. Sitting up front we have an elderly American lady with her daughter, who’s obviously decided now would be a good moment to have a hissy fit because her mum left her handbag with her to go to the loo…

Boarding

My timing couldn’t be better. In 2G I first have to go through passport control to enter Schengen. From there I head to my departure gate at G27, where boarding has just started. One hour connecting time between 2E and 2G is perfectly fine, but there’s probably not going to be any time left to raid the duty free shop.

The Cabin

Being such a little aircraft, there’s a baggage cart parked by the stairs of the plane and passengers with larger items have to place them there for them to be loaded into the hold. These items are retrieved directly at the aircraft upon arrival in Luxebourg.

The cabin of the Dash 8 really is tight. Although at least, the Luxair aircraft are configured in a much more comfortable configuration with greater pitch and a seat with better cushioning than on Croatia Airlines.

Sadly, the window seat is of no use, because it’s already dark outside and the guy next to me has his reading light on.

The Snack

The flight time is forty minutes. The service in Economy consists of a small paper bag containing a bottle of still water and a packet of Happy Snacks savoury crackers. The service is delivered by the crew without any attempt at being polite or civil or at least pretending to give a rat’s bum.

Arrival

We land just slightly behind schedule. Seeing as I only have hand luggage, I’m out through customs quickly and then head one floor up to catch the bus line 16 to Luxexpo. I try paying the EUR2.- for my ticket, but one machine is inop and the other just won’t take my money…

Conclusion

I have to say, I’m quite impressed by how painless and easy the transfer in Paris works. It seems to me that Charles de Gaulle is better than its reputation. Ai France were also great. The crew were attentive and the food choices were very good. As for Luxair, this is another one that nobody is likely to really miss should one day disappear.

Croatia Airlines, Economy Class – Dash 8-400: Zürich to Zagreb

This week has me combining two trips into one. First, today I shall travel to Zagreb to attend a meeting. And then from there, I shall travel to Luxembourg to give another course.

The nice thing about Croatia Airlines’ evening service from Zürich to Zagreb is that the flight departs at 20h05, which gives you more or less a full day in the office before having to head for the airport.

When I arrive at the airport just after 18h07, the airport is very quiet. I’m guessing the main bank of departures is already over.

Check-in

Croatia Airlines uses check-in 3 in Zürich, which is the check-in area right above the tracks of the railway station. I print my boarding pass and baggage tag at the self-service machine and then proceed to the counter to drop off my bag.

Another nice feature of a 20h05 departure time is that security is nearly deserted when I get there at around 18h30. Which is a good thing, because although there’s only one guy ahead of me in the queue, he’s exuding the rather pungent stink of young man. It ain’t pretty…

Airside

The airside area is eerily quiet too. Perhaps it’s because of Knabenschiessen, which is a half-day public holiday in the city of Zürich only. In case you’re wondering, Knabenschiessen is not quite as old a tradition as the Zürchers will have you believe. Besides, nowadays the event is more of an excuse for the hopelessly pretentious and nouveau rich to be seen rubbing shoulders with the ‘right’ crowd.

Boarding

Zagreb being a non-Schengen destination, the flight will be boarding from the D gates, on the ground floor level of the B pier, behind immigration.

Although there are hardly any people on the D concourse, the place is litered with garbage. You’d think they’d manage to clean up the place. None of this stuff in the picture is mine…

Boarding starts exactly on time, even though the bus taking us to the aircraft hasn’t even arrived yet. That’s when I realise that most passengers are travelling with fairly large pieces of hand luggage, which fit perfectly in the overhead bins of an A 320, but not in the shoe box size bins of the Dash 8. So it takes the gate agent a moment to label all the hold baggage and scan the boarding passes all by herself.

The Cabin

The Dash 8 is a sharp looking aircraft, but it really is rather small and cramped in the cabin. Standing room is okay. But once you’re seated, the pitch is fairly tight for an average sized caucasian male.

What’s more, there’s a rail on which the seats are mounted that runs along the side of the cabin. As a result, if like me you’re on the window seat, leg space is a bit more limited than on the aisle.

Also, on 8F you’re sitting right next to the engine. This means that window views are somewhat obstructed and the vibrations from the engines are really very strong and quite loud.

The Crew

The flight time is one hour and ten minutes. There are two cabin crew. The female is the purser, I think. She’s definitely got an attitude, but in a surprisingly good way. And she’s also very meticulous about safety.

The other crew is a male with a slighty grumpy demeanour. When the service begins, he stops at my row, shoves a packet of something under my nose unceremoniously and makes a sound that might be loosely interpreted as ‘would you care for a snack’ but is, in fact, little more than a grunt.

The Meal

To drink, there is a whole bar trolley for choice. The snack and drinks are complimentary.

However, I did also notice in their Sky Shop magazine that there are other food items and beverages available for purchase, although no information to that effect was given during the flight.

Arrival

All in all, the flight is pleasant and uneventful. Our landing in Zagreb is very smooth and quiet. We come to a stop on a stand right in front of the terminal. But once we disembark, we still have to take a bus to bring us to arrivals.

Getting into Town

From the airport I take an Uber into the city, which makes the journey in about twenty minutes.

Conclusion

Croatia Airlines is another one of those small European flag carriers that is struggling to stay afloat and compete against the likes of Easyjet and Ryanair. It’s hard to say if Croatian, like Air Malta or Tarom, would even be missed if they went out of business.

Having said that, Their product is certainly not bad and pretty much on a par with that of others. I’d fly with them again any time. But unless you want to go to Croatia, that may not even be quite so easy to achieve.

Luxair, Business Class – Bombardier Q400: Luxembourg to Paris CDG

Introduction

The Ibis at Luxembourg airport is currently in the process of being refurbished. And I think that’s probably a good thing. The room I’m in is nice enough, but the public areas are starting to look grubby. The carpets should probably be declared a bio hazard, and the smell of boiled cabbage is ‘interesting’…

The hotel’s redeeming feature though, is that it’s very close to the airport terminal, within walking distance.

Getting to the Airport

On foot, the airport is only about ten minutes away from the hotel. However, there’s also a shuttle that runs every thirty minutes and is available for guests. The service is complimentary, but advance reservations are mandatory. The drive takes about four minutes.

Check-in

I’m booked on the Air France flight from Luxembourg to Paris-Roissy, which is in fact a code-share operated by Luxair. There are two counters open for Business Class passengers and there is no queue when I arrive, given that it is, after all, the weekend.

The Lounge

From check-in I head straight for the security check. There is a checkpoint at either side of the terminal facility, and trying to figure out which one is currently in use is not always that clear when you’re standing in front of the check-in counters. Which means that it’s not uncommon at Luxembourg airport to see disoriented passengers moving back and forth between the two, with the look lemmings get when they’re trying to figure out if they’re really in the mood to go jumping off a cliff with their pals…

But anyway, the lounge is very quiet. All the bankers that normally populate the lounge have gone home to count their millions. I grab myself a coffee and a bottle of water, in the hope they will turn me into a functioning human being again.

Boarding

The flight is departing from gate B08, which is in the new part of the facility and specially designed to handle small regional aircraft. As in, regional aircraft that do not use a contact stand and thus require passengers to walk across the apron and, as a pleasant side-effect, give me cause to geek out on my obsession with airplanes.

I’m seated on 1A, so I figure I might as well wait until the very end to board, so as not to be in the way. The Dash 8 is a small aircraft. Besides, I have a back injury, so my movements are a bit slow right now. And every moment I do not have to stand in a queue is bliss right now!

The Cabin

There is literally half a row of a Business Class cabin on this aircraft. Because on row 1 there are only the A and C seats on the port side. And as it happens, I’m the only Business Class passenger on today’s flight. The seat is comfortable and nicely padded. It’s very pleasant on the bum and also on my damaged back.

Leg space is also good on the bulkhead row and the seat next to me is kept empty.

The Crew

There are two cabin crew on the flight today, one male and one female. Both of them are perhaps not the world’s most extrovert individuals, but their service is attentive, friendly and polite.

There is a trolley set up by the entry door of the aircraft, where passengers can pick up a magazine or newspaper before taking their seat. The selection is rather good. I go for Time magazine, mainly because their cover catches my interest.

Other than that though, there is no service at all on the ground. The flight time is indicated as 45 minutes.

The Meal

As soon as the crew are released after take-off, the male cabin attendant asks me what I’d like to drink with breakfast. He subsequently brings me a glass of orange juice, served in a real glass, and a cup of coffee with milk and sugar. The coffee is good, but I wonder if they really couldn’t have splurged on a proper cup instead of the cardboard one.

They put down a paper table cloth for the meal. Agreed, it won’t make the meal larger or better, but it’s still a nice touch.

The meal arrived in a cardboard box. It contains:

  1. a salami sandwich
  2. an yoghurt
  3. an apple pasty
  4. and a packaged refreshing towel

Transfer in Paris Roissy

Eventually, we land in Paris more or less on time. Luxair uses terminal 2G, which is exclusively for small regional aircraft. It’s also very far out in the sticks. The only way to access any of the other terminals from here is by bus. Depending on which terminal your onward connection is departing from, there is an airside or a landside transfer.

I shall be departing from the M concourse, which is basically the non-Schengen satellite of Terminal 2E. Transfer to 2E is airside, which means that I will not have to undergo security screening again here in Paris. On the downside, emigration is done in 2G and the queues are very long.

Luxair, Economy Class – Dash 8-400: Luxembourg to Paris

Luxair_Logo
map

Introduction

For my return trip back to Basel I normally take the KLM flight at 18h20, which gets me into Basel at 21h45. But today I’ve decided to travel via Paris, mainly due to the fact that my meeting already ended at 14h00 and I didn’t fancy hanging around the office until the evening.

Getting to the Airport

Fortunately, my meeting is with the Luxembourg Civil Aviation Authority, whose offices are also located near the airport. Very kindly, after the meeting they offer to drop me off at the terminal.

The roads aren’t very busy, mainly because the summer holidays have started across Europe, during which most the many expats living in Luxembourg abandon the city and head home.

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Check-in

Yeah, about that… You see, I’m travelling on an Air France ticket. The French airline has a code-share in place with Luxair on the Luxembourg to Paris CDG route. Check-in is not possible though, neither on the Luxair nor the Air France app. However, eventually I do manage to complete the process on the Luxair website. It’s a bit awkward though that the Air France site will not automatically redirect you to Luxair and the error message I keep getting on the Air France site is not particularly useful either.

Alternatively there are slef-service machines at the airport. But you’ll have to select Luxair on the main screen to start the process, even if you’re travelling on an Air France flight number.

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The Lounge

So now what? I’m a Platinum member with Air France. But although my flight is operated under an Air France flight number, Luxair is not a member of SkyTeam, so I’m not entirely sure I even have access to the lounge.

I enter the lounge with my boarding pass and Platinum card ready, but there’s nobody at reception. In fact, I can’t see a single employee anywhere. I wait a few minutes for somebody to arrive, figuring they’re probably just busy. While I’m waiting, an utterly fashionable Italian guy walks in, sunglasses donned, talking on his mobile phone in an irritatingly loud voice. He ignores me but immediately notices the absence of the lounge dragon from reception. Without batting an eyelid he puts away again his boarding pass and heads straight for the buffet, behaving quite as though he belongs here. I figure, when in Rome…and follow him in.

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I spend about forty minutes in the lounge, during which I don’t encounter a single lounge employee. Judging by the emptiness of the buffet, they’ve been gone quite a while. So I still don’t know if I’m actually entitled to lounge access.

The lounge in Luxembourg is quite nice, but it does tend to get fairly crowded in the evenings. Toilets are available inside the lounge and the food options, although basic, are not bad. Oh yes, and the views of the apron and runway are pretty decent.

Boarding

My flight is departing from pier B. The building that houses pier B used to be part of the original terminal facility at Luxembourg but was shut down in 2008 when the new, current terminal opened. Due to a significant increase in traffic in recent years, the pier was recently renovated and eventually reopened in June, once a walkway to the new terminal had been constructed.

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From what I understand, the new pier is intended for use by Luxair’s regional aircraft only. The building is nice and very bright, with lots of natural light. But keep in mind that there are really no facilities at all here – no shops or anywhere to buy a drink.

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The Cabin

The Bombardier Dash 8/400 forms the backbone of the Luxair fleet. What I like about Luxair’s aircraft is that the seats that are installed on these planes are very comfortable and have significantly better padding than the slim and flimsy seats many other carriers have installed on the Dash 8.

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One thing to be watchful of though, is that the ventilation system runs along the floor and takes up some leg space if you’re sitting by the window due to the curvature of the hull. Fortunately, the aircraft is only about half full this afternoon, which means the seat next to me stays empty and I have enough space to spread out.

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I’m seated on 8F, which is right under the wing. There is not really that much to see from this seat while you’re on the ground, because you have the engine right in front of your window. But obviously, with the Dash 8 having a shoulder-mounted wing, once you’re airborne you have an unobstructed view below.

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The Crew

There are two female cabin crew working the cabin. Both are middle aged and very friendly. Announcements are made in French, English and Luxembourgish. The latter is really hilarious to listen to because it sounds like a rather unfortunate and unsuccessful attempt to merge German and French. But Luxembourgish is actually a thing, in case you were wondering.

The Meal

The flight time to Paris is only 45 minutes. Immediately after take-off, the crew pass through the cabin distributing small paper bags containing a bottle of still water and a packet of those notorious Happy Snacks. Still, for 45 minutes it’ll do.

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Arrival

We land in Paris on time. Luxair operates out of Terminal 2G in Paris, which is the facility used for regional aircraft and Air France’s HOP fleet.

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Making a transfer from 2G is always a bit of a wild card. I now there is an airside shuttle transfer because I’ve previously taken it. But if you blindly follow the signs for flight connections to 2F, from where my flight to Zürich is departing, eventually you will be spat out in the arrivals hall, landside. This is not a particularly big deal as such, because there is a complimentary landside shuttle too. But it does mean that you will have to go through security again for your next flight.

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Conclusion

Luxair is a neat little airline that is tailored to the needs of its local market. Recently Easyjet and even Ryanair have started flights to Luxembourg, but so far the little carrier seems to be fairing pretty well against its much larger competitors. I wouldn’t go out of my way to travel with Luxair, but they’re definitely okay. Of course it helped that today’s flight was only about half full.

FlyBe on behalf of SN Brussels, Economy Class – Dash 8-400: Brussels to Basel

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Date: 11 September 2016
Departure: 17:05
Arrival: 17:50
Flight time: 45 minutes
Seat: 9C, aisle

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Introduction

I arrive in Brussels on a flight from London Heathrow. It is just gone 13h30 and my connecting flight to Basel will not be boarding before 16h40.

The path from the arrival gate to security is pretty straightforward. My boarding pass for the onward connection was already issued in London.

There is a bit of a queue at security, given that there is only one lane open. But the queue moves quickly. And soon enough I am through security and Schengen immigration and find myself airside again.

Schengen flights leave from the A dock, which used to be connected to the main terminal via an underground walkway. Since I was last here, the underground passage has been closed off, and instead a bridge has been built in its place to connect the dock. Generally speaking, Brussels airport is very generously laid out and the high ceilings somehow prevent the place from ever being loud.

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The Brussels Airlines Business Class Lounge

Location: At the beginning of the A dock, where it is connected to the bridge to the main building.
Type of Lounge:
The Loft – Brussels Airlines Business Class lounge.
Facilities:
Nap boxes, showers, toilets, video games, portable devices that can be borrowed from reception, newspapers and magazines.
Catering: Wow! There is a separate bar that is attended, where you can order drinks. The food options are excellent and very tasty. There is soup, a tray with different types of quiche, fresh bread and a buffet with salads and desserts. And, most importantly, they also have fresh Belgian waffles!
Internet:
Complimentary wifi is available.

Blimey, this is certainly one of the nicer Star Alliance lounges I have been to in a while. The design of the lounge is very elegant in an understated way that makes it feel very comfortable and cosy.

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Boarding

Half an hour before departure I exit the lounge and head for my departure gate. I really would like to know just how on earth they manage to get and keep the floor in the terminal looking so shiny with all the passengers stomping around on it all day?

Our aircraft is parked on a contact stand, but the airbridge has not been connected to the aircraft, which means better photo opportunities for me!

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat: No information could be obtained on the cabin layout and the seat’s dimensions. Basically, the aircraft is decked out in what seems to be the standard seat for the Q400, which is comfortable enough for such a short flight. In fact, the seat pitch is rather good. The only problem is that there does not seem to be any air conditioning on the ground and this aircraft must have been standing around all day, because it is stiflingly hot in the cabin. Other than that, the cabin lights are switched to mood lighting, which is kind of funky on such a little airplane.
Facilities: Reading lamp and air vent.

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Seatmap courtesy of seatguru.com

The Crew

There are two young men working the cabin. The purser working the forward cabin seems friendly and obviously takes safety very seriously, which is the way it should be. Other than that through, interaction with the crew is fairly limited.

The Non-Meal

This is perhaps the most surprising part of the flight. From what I could tell on the previous leg from London to Brussels, passengers in Economy were served a sandwich and a drink. On this flight however, absolutely everything is buy on board. Otherwise you do not get anything, not even a cup of water. Nada. I mean, it hardly makes a difference with a flight time of only 45 minutes, but it just seems odd to serve nothing at all.

It says in the buy on board menu that if you are connecting from a long-haul flight you will be served a soft drink free of charge upon presenting your boarding pass of that flight.

Arrival

Soon enough we land in Basel. The airport is on French territory. France is still in a state of emergency. As a result, the Schengen treaty appears to have been temporarily suspended and even intra-European flights now have to use the non-Schengen part of the terminal, which is bursting at the seems. It also means that you must go through passport control upon arrival.

Croatia Airlines, Business Class – Bombardier Q400: Zagreb to Zürich

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Date: 05. August 2016.
Departure: 09h20.
Arrival: 10h45.
Flight time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Seat: 2F, window on the starboard side.

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Introduction

The bus drops us off just outside the terminal on the arrivals side. The terminal building really is inappropriately small, especially given that the ramp is rather busy with arriving and departing aircraft. I enter the building and much to my surprise, only few passengers are heading for arrivals and immigration for Croatia. The vast majority are turning left to queue for transfer immigration and security.

And God, how slow the process is! It takes fifty minutes from the moment I enter the terminal building until I am finally through security and in the transfer area. All things considered, that is pretty fast though, seeing as there is only one check point for all the passengers.

The Lounge

Location: Behind the duty free shop.
Type of Lounge: Contractor lounge.
Facilities:
The view of the apron. There are no toilets.
Catering: A machine serving juice, another machine serving soft drinks and another for instant coffee and tea. Bad pastries.
Internet:
Wifi is available, the code is plastered on the walls all over the lounge.

The Business Class lounge is obviously a compromise, both in terms of location and size. If you are, like me, arriving in the terminal from another flight, once you clear security you have to walk all the way through the duty free shop and then up the stairs. Because the lounge is actually located in the hall leading passengers starting their journey in Zagreb from security to the airide area, you will have to fight your way through all the passengers heading the opposite direction. And once you arrive at the lounge you will no doubt be wondering why on earth you even bothered!

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The lounge is rather ugly, dingy and small. Its one redeeming feature is that it is not quite as crowded as the public area outside the lounge, which is way too small for all the passengers.

Boarding

My gate is located on the far right of the lounge area and I have a bit of a problem accessing the gate because the Vueling and Germanwings flight at the neighbouring gates are so crowded. But eventually, I sort myself out with a bit of pushing and shoving.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat: The seat is kept in the same colours as those on the Airbus fleet. According to the Croatia Airlines inflight magazine, the aircraft has a capacity of 76 passengers. There are two and a half rows in Business Class. On the port side there is a row 1 and 2. On the starboard side however, there is only a row 2, which is the bulkhead row. It is also the emergency exit row, so legroom is in fact rather good here. The flight is completely full and I suspect there are at least four commercial upgrades in Business Class. And incidentally, the seat next to you is not kept empty in Business Class.

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The Crew

The service on this flight is completely different to that on the previous flight. There are two ladies working the cabin and they are perfectly charming, very friendly and elegant. Of course it helps that their uniforms look pretty sharp.

While we are on the ground, the crew offer Croatian newspapers and pre-packed cold towels. The flight time is announced at one hour and twenty-five minutes.

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The Meal

Delivery: Tray service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.

  1. Fruit salad.
  2. Müsli with yoghurt and prunes.
  3. A plate with cheese, tomato and olives.
  4. A bun and a croissant with butter and this really tasty orange and fig jam.
  5. Tea or coffee.
  6. Apple juice.

Well this is much more like it. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy the meal. The Müsli is tasty and quite filling, especially with the large bottle of yoghurt. The fruit salad tastes fresh and the variety of cheese is good.

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I have a second coffee to keep me going (awake). But it is no use, it was just too early when I started on my way home and before I know it, my head is tilting forwards and I start dribbling into my polo shirt.

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Arrival

I am awakened by the cabin who pats me on the shoulder and asks me to replace my tray table. The weather in Zürich looks nice and cool. It is overcast and the pilot announces a temperature on the ground of 15 degrees, much cooler than Skopje.

Zürich airport really is quite impressive, I must say. Despite the fact that the place is very busy with arriving and departing aircraft, by the time I reach the luggage belt I only have to wait for another two minutes before the suitcases start arriving. Mine is the third off the belt.

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Conclusion

I have been meaning to try Croatia Airline for a long time now, so I am glad I finally got that off my chest. So what’s the verdict? The first flight really was nothing special, but the second one way rather enjoyable. It is a pity that the ground experience in Zagreb is so unappealing. That old terminal really is getting a bit long in the tooth and probably should have been replaced many years ago already. But there is hope! Apparently in March 2017 the new terminal with its funky design is set to open. Hopefully, the new facility will have a nicer lounge and a better transfer process.