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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

SERVICE
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.

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THE MEAL
Meal:

  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).

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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.

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

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

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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.

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LOUNGE
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!

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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.

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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.

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SERVICE
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.

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THE MEAL
Meal:

  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…

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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.

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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.