SkyWork, Economy Class – Saab 2000: London City to Basel

Sky_Work_Airlines_logo

Date: 14. May 2017
Departure: 19:40
Arrival: 22:00
Flight time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Seat: 1F, window

Introduction

I just landed in Heathrow on a Boeing B 747-400 of British Airways, coming from Mexico City. I have to say, Europe is still my favourite continent. Although of course one might argue whether or not Britain should be counted to Europe.

In any case, from Heathrow I take a Heathrow Express train into Paddington station and from there the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus. You see, I figured if I’m passing through London on my way home anyway, I might as well take the opportunity to have a grand thali at the Masala Zone behind Carnaby Street.

The one way ticket on the Heathrow Express will cost you GBP16.60 for a journey of fifteen minutes in second class. The Oyster Card is not valid on the Heathrow Express.

Getting to the Airport

By the time I finish my dessert of Gulab Jamun with ginger ice cream it’s time for me to get a move on and make my way to London’s City Airport. From Oxford Circus I take the Central line to Bank and from there I change onto the DLR for London City. Being a nice and sunny Sunday afternoon, there are not too many people on the tube. I arrive at the airport just after 18h00.

Check-in

Check-in is a bit of a pain to be honest. Web check-in is possible on SkyWorks Airlines, but I still need to check-in the suitcase I’ve been carting around since I left for Mexico. I don’t quite know what the hold up is, but eventuality it takes me 25 minutes to reach the head of the queue.

IMG_0001.JPG

Airside

Security is well organised and fairly swift. As far as I know there are no airline lounges at London City airport. There is a large waiting area just behind security and passengers are expected to wait there until the boarding gate for their flight is announced. I find this rather irritating, because seating is fairly limited in the waiting area, whereas the gate area has recently been renovated and expanded and offers ample and comfortable seating (including some great ramp views).

IMG_0002.JPG
IMG_0004.JPG

Boarding

Boarding for the flight starts with a bit of a delay. Apparently we have to wait for the BA Embraer parked to the left of our aircraft to move off stand before they can let us walk the short distance across the apron.

IMG_0003.JPG
IMG_0005.JPG
IMG_0007.JPG
IMG_0008.JPG

The Cabin

Today’s flight is operated by a Saab 2000, which looks as though it were in pretty decent condition. Of course, some of the illuminated signs are starting to look a bit dated, but generally speaking the impression is good. The seats are comfortable and look and feel as though they were only recently upholstered.

Admittedly, the Saab 2000 does feel rather cramped as long as you’re standing or moving around the cabin. But once you’re seated there is lots of personal space and the seat pitch is very good.

IMG_0012.JPG
IMG_0010.JPG
IMG_0011.JPG

The Crew

There is one cabin crew on today’s flight. She is rather friendly and there is something ever so Swiss about her, although I don’t think I could put my finger on it and say what exactly it is that gives me the impression.

The other thing I notice about here is that the uniform is way too big for her. The collar of her blouse looks wide enough for two people and the sleeves of her jacket are so long they even cover her hands.

IMG_0013.JPG
IMG_0014.JPG

The Meal

Catering consists of a choice of a complimentary chocolate muffin or a Dutch apple pie, with either water, juice, coffee or tea. Other drinks and a few more snacks are also available. However, these have to be purchased.

IMG_0015.JPG
IMG_0016.JPG
IMG_0017.JPG

Arrival

Inevitably, by this time I’m really exhausted. Despite the fact that I managed to sleep on the plane from Mexico, it’s still been a long journey and eventually I pass out in my seat. I am awoken in Basel by the thump of the main lading gear hitting the runway.

Immigration is a very tedious affair in Basel these days. The state of emergency imposed by the prefecture of Haute-Alsace is still in place, which de facto means the Schengen treaty has been suspended for all flights arriving and departing in Basel from outside France. As a result, the queues for immigration at arrival are ridiculous and I spend a good thirty minutes waiting to have my passport checked. At least by the time I finally manage to get through my suitcase has already been delivered on the carousel.

Logan Air on behlaf of FlyBe, Economy Class – Saab 2000: Manchester to Inverness

logo-8

Date: 01 October 2016
Departure: 09h18, scheduled 08h45
Arrival: 10h20, scheduled 10h15
Flight time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Seat: 11A, single seat on the port side

map

Introduction

I spend four days at the University of Lancaster attending the first module of a new degree I have just started. On Friday evening I take the Transpennine Express at 17h29 from Lancaster, which runs from Lancaster to Manchester airport in about one hour and fifteen minutes.

I am staying at the Manchester Airport Hilton, mainly because the flight to Inverness will already be departing at 08h45 on Saturday morning.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Hotel shuttle.
Journey time:
5 minutes.
Departs from:
Just outside the hotel lobby.
Arrives:
Drop-off zone between terminals 1 and 3.
Cost:
Complimentary for hotel guests.

On Saturday morning I am booked on the shuttle at 07h20. Fortunately, breakfast at the Hilton already starts at 04h30 in the morning, so there is plenty of time. The distance from the hotel to the terminal complex is not really very far, in fact it is in walking distance. But you have to take a circuitous route, which also requires you to cross a wide, busy road with no pedestrian crossing. So the shuttle is just easier and safer.

Check-in

Location: Terminal 3, first floor.
Facilities:
Self-service check-in machines and drop-off counters. No web check-in is possible.

The check-in process is a bit cumbersome, because you first have to obtain your boarding pass from one machine, before you can proceed to the drop-off area, where you need to scan your boarding pass at different machine. And only then is your baggage tag for your suitcase printed.

Goodness, Manchester Airport is an exceptionally ugly place, yet another one of the many architectural atrocities that were committed in the United Kingdom in the late seventies and early eighties. In fact, the airport is so ugly it lends the place a certain distinction. But apart form being ugly, the facility is also very inconvenient and all the check-in areas appear to be located in places where there simply is not enough space for passengers with baggage to manoeuvre.

Airside

There are machines at the airport which should, in theory, allow you to purchase a ticket for the fast track to security for GBP4 per person. But one of the machines is out of service and the other, which only accepts credit cards, is having issues with the credit card reader… Fortunately, being Saturday morning the queue for security is manageable.

Once you are airside, the apparent lack of consideration for the passenger continues. Everything feels tight and cramped and there is not enough space to sit because most of the area is covered by retail space. Gates are only announced shortly before boarding, probably based on the assumption that if passengers are bored and have no place to sit, then obviously they are going to go on a shopping marathon before they even leave Manchester…

IMG_3268.jpg

Boarding

The flight is not full, I would say there are about thirty passengers in total. So we all board in one go. Fortunately for me, it is a lovely day as we make our way across the apron and the rampers do not seem too bothered with me taking pictures either.

IMG_3269.jpg
IMG_3275.jpg
IMG_3276.jpg
IMG_3277.jpg

The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2.
Seat:
The aircraft is quite obviously an ex-Etihad Regional bird and still retains the Swiss carrier’s cabin branding with the light brown leather seats and the dark brown colour on the bulkheads. During the flight I inquire with the flight attendant and she informs me that the aircraft previously operated for Etihad and for Crossair too. She makes me laugh because she says the cabin crew all like working on the Saab 2000 because it feels more like a real plane than the Saab 340.

The Crew

There is one cabin crew working the flight today. Her name is Heidi and she is very friendly and chatty. There is an elderly couple sitting up front and Heidi obviously goes out of her way to put them at ease, reassuring them that no matter what they might need during the flight, it is not a hassle.

The Snack

Choice: A selection of different types of biscuits.
Type of meal:
Light morning snack.

IMG_3287.jpg
IMG_3291.jpg
IMG_3292.jpg
img_3293

Given my recent experience with FlyBe operating for Brussels Airlines, I was not expecting anything at all in terms of service, which is why I made sure to get myself a bottle of Diet Coke before the flight. Much to my surprise though, as soon as we settle into the cruise, Heidi brings out a trolley and starts with the complimentary service. There is a selection of hot and cold beverages and a choice of different biscuits which are really quite tasty.

Stranger still, the further north we fly, the better the weather becomes. The clouds give way to some spectacular views of the Highlands below us.

Arrival

Inverness airport is a cute little affair. The terminal only has one floor with arrivals at one end of the facility and departures at the other. And the place is quite busy too. KLM recently started operating a daily flight to Amsterdam, which must have arrived shortly before us, and there is also an Easyjet A 319 on the ground, obviously waiting to board the passengers for its return flight.

IMG_3297.jpg
IMG_3298.jpg
IMG_3299.jpg
img_3300
IMG_3302.jpg

Etihad Regional, Economy Class – Saab 2000: Lugano to Sion

Logo_Etihad_Regional

Date: 31 August 2016
Departure:
12:35
Arrival: 13:32
Flight time: 45 minutes
Seat: 16A

map

Introduciton

The terminal at Lugano airport is so small that it will only take you about two minutes to walk from the exit of the aircraft, through the terminal to the taxi rink on the other side.

IMG_2358.jpg

Check-in

Location: Ground floor, exactly opposite the exit from customs.
Facilities: No web check-in or app check-in available.
Counters: There is one Business Class counter and three Economy Class counters, which are used by all airlines operating into Lugano (SWISS and Etihad).

IMG_2356.jpg

I still have a bit more than an hour before my flight starts boarding, so I decide to head outside and take a walk along the airport’s perimeter fence. Eventually I find myself a nice bench surrounded by lush greenery and start writing the trip report for my previous flight.

IMG_2359
IMG_2361

Boarding

Lugano airport has all of two departure gates. The flight is going to be delayed. At 12h00, the actual departure time, we are still sitting in the terminal. The gate agent makes an announcement to inform us that the weather in Sion is really bad. So the flight is running late. He also informs us that there is a chance the flight will be diverted to Geneva instead, in which case we will be taken to Sion by coach. Eventually, the flight starts boarding at 12h20.

IMG_2365.jpg
IMG_2366.jpg

The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2.
Seat: I suspect these are still the same seats that were originally delivered to the aircraft. However, beige leather seat covers have replaced the traditional dark blue leather seat covers. The cabin looks rather nice actually. Only twenty of fifty seats are occupied on this short hop to Sion.
Pitch: No information available.
Width: No information available.

The Crew

The cabin crew if made up of the one regulation flight attendant. It is a young lady in her late twenties I would say. She seems somewhat irritable. What surprises me about Etihad Regional is that they only seem to make the on board announcements in Italian.

The Snack

Type of meal: Snack.

  1. Sweet or savoury biscuits.
  2. Still water (San Benedetto)

By the time the service begins I am really starving. And so I decide to go with the savoury snack, which consists of a packet of stale crackers and pretzels.

Diversion to Geneva

Just after the meal, the captain comes on to inform us that we will indeed be diverting to Geneva due to the bad weather in Sion. I suppose one might argue that this is a somewhat unusual situation. Even so, I cannot help thinking that Etihad Regional’s handling of this irregularity is rather poor. The crew obviously has not got the faintest idea about what is going on either. According to the captain, a bus will be organised to bring passengers to Sion. However, as we enter the terminal building there is nobody there expecting us. I am not even sure who the handling agent for this flight is. So I check my watch: it is now 13h34. According to the app of the Swiss Federal Railways there is a train to Sion at 13h51, which should get me there just before 16h00.

IMG_2388.jpg
IMG_2391.jpg

Eastern Airways, Economy Class – Saab 2000: Isle of Man to London City

Folie1

Date: 15 May 2016.
From: Isle of Man.
To: London City Airport.
Departure:
11:25.
Arrival: 12:30.
Flight time: 1 hour and 5 minutes.
Seat: 10A, emergency exit seat on the left side of the aircraft.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Bus line 12.
Journey time: 29 minutes.
Departs from: Regent Street stop, on the promenade opposite The Claremont Hotel.
Arrives: Terminal building, Ronaldsway airport.
Cost: GBP2.70.

My flight to London will be leaving at 11h25 this morning. I take the bus from the promenade at 09h25, which gets me to the airport at 09h54. The bus is fairly empty and I am the only passenger to alight at the airport. From here the bus continues to Port Erin.

IMG_0934.jpg
IMG_0935
IMG_0936.jpg
IMG_0937.jpg

Check-in

Location: Ground floor. Turn right as you enter the terminal building.
Facilities: Check-in available only at the counters. There are no self-service check-in machines and according to the app, you cannot use an electronic boarding pass either.
Counters: There are dedicated counters for all carriers currently operating into the airport. British Airways has two counters. Both counters are staffed, which seems a bit OTT, especially given that the flight is operated by a Saab 2000 with only 50 seat and, according to the check-in agent, the flight is only half full anyway.

IMG_0938.jpg
IMG_0939

The Lounge

Location: First floor, right behind security.
Type of Lounge:
Contractor lounge.

There is a lounge here that is available to British Airways Executive Club card holders, but the lounge does not open on Sunday mornings. So instead, I grab myself a cappuccino from Costas and settle down by the window to look at the activity – or lack thereof – on the ramp.

IMG_0943
IMG_0945
IMG_0940.jpg
IMG_0946

The building is deserted when I arrive. It is just me and two very bored Costas barristas. Gradually though, the remaining passengers start trickling in.

Boarding

Boarding is rather a peculiar affair. There is a seating area by gate 4, from where our flight will apparently be boarding. The gate attendant checks my documents and I am good to go – one floor down into a big room. Once all passengers for the flight arrive, all 28 of us, the door through which we entered is closed and the outside door is opened.

IMG_0947
IMG_0948.jpg
IMG_0949.jpg
IMG_0950

The Cabin

I am sitting on 10A this morning, which is the emergency exit single seat on the left-hand side of the aircraft.

The guy seated in front of me obviously thinks he is hot stuff, and keeps trying to chat up the young eastern European flight attendant. He is putting on some cockney geezer show to impress right now. But to be honest, I just think he is an idiot and I doubt if the young lady knows what a cockney geezer is anyway… She is definitely not buying it.

The Crew

The young lady is friendly enough I guess, but she is not exactly what I would describe as exuberant and seems somewhat robotic. However, in her favour I must say that she is very conscientious in the way she goes about the security briefing and prepares the cabin for departure.

It is certainly a lovely day for flying today. The wind has calmed down and the clouds are gradually breaking up. After take-off we do a very wide left-hand turn to point us in the general direction of Old Blighty.

IMG_0954.jpg
IMG_0955.jpg
IMG_0957.jpg
IMG_0958

The Snack

  1. Salty crisps, sweet biscuits or popcorn.
  2. Still water.

Once again, service on board is just a small snack. Even so, I think it is quite impressive that you should have three choices in Economy Class (okay, yes I know it’s only popcorn).

IMG_0960

Arrival

London’s City airport is located in the middle of the city, hence the name. To give the people living around the airport at least some respite from the noise, the airport closes on Saturday lunchtime and remains closed until noon on Sunday. Today we are running slightly ahead of schedule and as a result, the airport has not even opened for business again by the time we reach London. So we head out over the North Sea and do one holding circle before eventually coming back to approach the airport in a westerly direction.

IMG_0964.jpg

And then from there I am off to London for a Grand Thali and a bit of retail therapy.

IMG_0965.jpg
IMG_0968

Eastern Airways, Economy Class – Saab 2000: London City to Isle of Man

Eastern_airways_logo.svg

Date: 13 May 2016.
From: London City Airport.
To: Ronaldsway Airport, Isle of Man.
Departure: 21:05.
Arrival: 22:00.
Flight time: 55 minutes
Seat: 11A, single window seat on the left side of the aircraft.

Introduction

I just arrived in London from Zürich. It is good to have my full range of motion back after spending ninety minutes cooped up in a horribly cramped Avro RJ85. I rotate both shoulders quickly, just to check they are both still working and step inside the terminal.

I am already holding my boarding pass for the onward connection to the Isle of Man. London City airport has no facilities for transfer passengers. So upon arriving from Zürich I have to head for immigration first. At least they have installed scanners for biometric passports, which certainly speeds up the process.

Once you exit through customs, you will find yourself in the departure hall on the ground floor. The check-in counters are on your left. For departures and security, head one floor up.

IMG_0853.jpg
IMG_0854

Airside

London City airport does not have a premium lounge, which sounds like a really good idea on paper. The whole raison d’être of this airport is its proximity to the business district, which allows business people to arrive only shortly before departure.

But unfortunately, things do not always work out the way we want them to. The departure lounge is already crawling with people when I arrive. I do not think I have ever seen anything like it. There is literally standing room only and when I try to get myself something to eat, I realise that none of the places selling food actually have anything left. They have actually run out of food. Of course there are a couple of sit down restaurants, but they are all packed too. And then all of a sudden all flights show up as delayed, including my flight to Douglas, which is now scheduled to leave at 20h35 instead of 19h55. And still more people arrive!

IMG_0855
IMG_0856

Eventually, the departures resume and the crowds begin to clear. That is when Boots finally manages to get a fresh batch of sandwiches on the shelves. Food, at last!

Boarding

Boarding is from gate 24, which is the gate the Speedbird flights to New York operate from too. At around 20h30, one of the gate agents informs us that the flight is overbooked and that they are going to have to offload passengers. Unfortunately, nobody volunteers and two poor souls are forced to spend the night at a dreary airport hotel courtesy of British Airways. And then, finally, boarding begins.

IMG_0858
IMG_0859
IMG_0860.jpg
IMG_0861
IMG_0862.jpg
IMG_0863

The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2.
Seat: The cabin is in mint condition and still looks very new. There are fifty seats in total. The seat pitch is good and certainly better than what you get on many of the larger aircraft these days. Without any problem at all I am able to park my legs under the seat in front of me and I do not even need to sit up fully to be able to do so.

IMG_0867
IMG_0864
IMG_0866
IMG_0868.jpg

The Crew

There is one cabin crew on this aircraft and she is in full British Airways uniform. She does a really excellent job throughout the flight and manages to serve all passengers and clear up again within the 55 minutes the flight takes.

IMG_0871

The Snack

  1. Sparkling water.
  2. A choice of savoury or sweet biscuit.

This service really is just a snack. It is already gone 21h so most passengers will have eaten anyway. Or, like me, they simply could not resist a piece of sweet carrot cake that they are convinced was calling their name…

IMG_0872

It is a nice flight. I roll up with my Kindle and feel all nice and cosy until eventually it is time for us to start our descent into the Isle of Man.

Arrival

By the time we eventually land in Douglas we are one hour behind schedule, it is hardly surprising that we are the evening’s last arrival. As the engines are turned off, I look outside to see that the runway and taxi lights are all gradually be turned off as the airport prepares to shut down for the night.

I disembark the aircraft and take the opportunity to snap a few more pictures of the aircraft from the front. The co-pilot sees me, waves me a big smile before posing for me with a thumbs up.

IMG_0875
IMG_0876

Getting into Town

Departs from: As you exit the terminal, turn right.
Journey time:
20 minutes.
Price:
GBP23.
Mode of transport:
Taxi.

The last bus into town has already left, and so I take a taxi into town. In Douglas I will be staying at the Claremont Hotel. I am rather looking forward to this stay.

Darwin Airlines, Econonmy Class – Saab 2000: Zürich to Genova to Zürich

Introduction

It’s the Wednesday before Ascension, and I’ve decided to travel to Genoa in Northern Italy on the new Darwin Airlines service from Zürich. I leave the office at 14h40 and head for the airport by train.

Date: 16 May 2012
From: Zürich
To: Genova
Aircraft: Saab 2000
Airlines: Darwin
Class: Economy Class
Seat: originally 6A, then moved to 7F

Check-in

The airport is quite busy when I arrive.

Let’s just see if I can trick the DCS check-in system. I select ‘Swiss’ on the self-service machine, knowing very well that my ticket has the F7 flight number and was issued by Darwin Airlines. But there is a code-share in place. And perhaps if I check-in as a Swiss passenger, that may give me access to the lounge. It works like a charm with Air Malta every time.

I manage to have a boarding pass printed with the Swiss logo on it, but no matter how hard I try, the Senator number cannot be inserted in the booking. They seem to be learning…I might as well make my way to security.

Later on I inquire at the lounge and it transpires that indeed, only passengers booked on a Swiss 724 ticket for the Genoa flight have access to the lounge. Not that the system Swissport uses is very sophisticated. Quite the contrary in fact. The staff manning the reception desk at the lounge have a print out of all passengers for the flight, with the names of those passengers entitled to use the lounge.

It’s not important, so I take a seat by the window, close to gate A63. The weather is indeed awful, I think it’s actually hailing. The positive effect of this, of course, is that it means aircraft are coming in on runway 28, which runs parallel to the terminal. I take a seat, unpack my Mac and in short sequence I have the pleasure of watching three Swiss Airbus A 340-300s battling the elements as they touch down right before my eyes. Welcome home!

Boarding

At the announced boarding time of 16h25, I head down to gate A56, a bus gate, which is in a provisional building that was erected about ten years ago and then decided to become a permanent fixture.

We pull up by the side of our aircraft. I haven’t been on one of these for ages. Despite its age, the Saab still looks very modern and streamlined.

The Cabin

The flight is not entirely full, with only a few empty seats here and there. Talk about a trip down memory lane. From the inside you might easily think you’re sitting in a Crossair plane, you can see it in the seats and the fonts used to indicate the seat numbers. And even the service is reminiscent of the old Crossair.

Once the door closes, I observe the very young flight attendant as she walks through the cabin slowly. From the way she is moving I guess she is passing through the cabin holding something in her hands, which is concealed from my view by the passenger seats. I assume it’s a tray or basket of sweets, but I find it somewhat strange that so many people decline. It’s only when she reaches my row that I realise she is holding a basket in her hands but that it contains application forms for a Corner Card Visa or Mastercard. So no sweeties then.

We take off from runway 32. On our way there we stop before crossing runway 28 to allow an A 321 to land.

Take-off is powerful but not very steep.

The Meal

As soon at the fasten seat belt sign is turned off, the sole flight attendant working the flight springs into action. Quite surprisingly, service consists of some rather tasty sandwiches. There are Silserli buns with Salami and salad, or otherwise a bun with cheese and tomato. I opt for the Salami and I have to say it really is very tasty. What’s more, even in Economy drinks are served in proper glass, not plastic. Now how quaint is that? Shortly after the flight attendant moves on to serve the row behind me, the pilot comes on the blower to inform us that we will already be landing in approximately 20 minutes. That was quick!

Arrival

The approach into Genoa is truly magnificent and fortunately the weather here has decided to play along. Genoa is located on a thin strip of land between the mountains and the sea. Space is so limited that in fact the airport had to be built on reclaimed land. The approach takes you along the coast and offers excellent views of the city, the shore and the mountains behind.

I disembark and emerge into the beautiful sunshine. It’s quite amazing really that one hour ago I was watching the aircraft at Zurich being pelted with hail stones!

Getting into Town

I exit the airport building and catch the bus into town. The return ticket costs EUR12. The journey takes about 30 minutes to the railway station.

Conclusion

Darwin Airlines really was an eye opener. To be honest, I was not expecting anything at all. In hindsight though, I have to say that they were great. With their little airplanes they really celebrate an art of customer service and hospitality in air travel that has long gone in many other parts of the world. The Saab 2000 are kept in mint condition. But alas, it is of no avail and sadly, the route has since been discontinued.

As for Genoa, simply enchanting!