About two minutes before I board my flight to Amsterdam on Saturday, I receive a text message from Skywork Airlines informing me that they have not managed to secure an operating licence from the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation due to lack of funding. I am also advised that therefore all flights for the next day, including mine from Amsterdam to Berne, have been cancelled.
Perhaps not quite suite so surprising, I receive another text message just after I arrive in Amsterdam from them, informing me that the lines are busy and that so, should I have any queries, I had better send an email.
Personally, I can’t really say I incurred any serious damages from these recent developments at Skywork – except perhaps for the fact that at 43 years of age I have still never managed to fly into the airport of Switzerland’s capital city – which I had hoped to remedy with the cancelled flight.
I think that right now the industry is more surprised that SkyWork managed to survive for as long as it has. I suspect that for a long time the small carrier had hoped to be able to come to some sort of arrangement with SWISS, similar to the one between the larger carrier and Helvetic Airways. But if that were truly the case, then I think SkyWork’s management must be really naïve.
Apparently, the airline’s management is still working hard to secure the necessary funds. But to he honest, I won’t hold my breath, which is a shame really, because I rather liked SkyWork.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Date: 15 May 2016 From: London City Airport To: Basel Airport Departure: 20:10 Arrival: 22:35 Flight time: 1 hour and 25 minutes Seat: 5F, window on the twin seat, right side of the aircraft
I spend the Sunday afternoon in the West End shopping. Eventually though, I run out of steam. So I settle down for some tea and scones with clotted cream at the Revive Café (I mean, it’s been like two hours at least since I had the grand thali…) and then at 17h00 I capitulate and head back to the airport. I am so exhausted!
Getting to the Airport
Transport: London Underground and DLR. Journey time: Roughly one hour. Departs from: Marble Arch. Arrives: London City Airport. Cost: GBP3.10 for a one way ticket.
From Marble Arch I catch a Central Line train heading east. At Bank I alight and then I go up a few stairs, down a lot of stairs, turn right then left then right again until eventually I am on the platform for the DLR to the airport. For London City Airport you need to hop on a train bound for Woolwich (which, incidentally, is where my grandad was from).
Location: Ground floor. Facilities: Only check-in at the counter is possible. Counters: Multipurpose counters for a variety of different airlines.
Skywork does not have an app and does not provide web check-in either. The self-service machines at London City Airport display a note at the bottom of the screen explicitly informing Skywork passengers that they need to check-in at the desk. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are huge screens running the full length of the wall behind the check-in counters. On them, you can see a film of aircraft movements at London City. It is not live or anything like that, but it is still very cool.
As we already found out day before yesterday, boys and girls, there is no lounge in London City. Fortunately though, there do not appear to be any technical glitches today either so the crowds are manageable. There still are a lot of people around, but at least I easily find a place to sit. Eventually though, I get bored. So I find myself a spot by the window for my favourite pastime – watching planes moving about.
Boarding starts with a delay of thirty minutes. Apparently, the inbound flight was late due to a technical problem the aircraft experienced before it left Bern to come to London. In total, there are fourteen passengers on the flight, so boarding is quickly completed.
Configuration: 1 + 2. Facilities: Reading lamp and air vent.
The cabin of the Dornier Do 328 is very attractive and comfortable. There are 31 seats in total, which means that the flight is not quite half full this evening with only 14 passengers. The overhead bins seem more spacious than those on the Saab 2000 for example, if I had to guess, and the cabin height is also slightly better and allows me to stand more or less fully upright at 184 cm. The single seats on the left are slightly misaligned with the twin seats on the opposite of the cabin, which somehow gives the impression of more privacy and room. Legroom is good, both for slouching down to have a nap or to stretch your legs.
Service is by one Swiss-German speaking flight attendant in her late forties, if I had to guess. She is not necessarily overly friendly, a bit frumpy but she gives a very professional impression. Announcements are made in German and in English.
Linzertorte (right in the picture) or Biberli (left in the picture).
Skywork has a limited selection of complimentary soft drinks, tea and coffee. In addition, there is also a small snack – either a Linzertorte or a Biberli – on offer. Especially the Biberli is a typically Swiss specialty made from Lebkuchen and filled with marzipan.
The flight’s routing is normally London City – Basel – Bern. However, tonight the journey will be ending in Basel for all passengers. Due to our delay leaving London, it is gone 22h30 by the time we touch down. As a result, the aircraft will not be able to continue to the Swiss capital before the night curfew comes into effect at 23h00. I have to say, in Switzerland the Bernese have a reputation of being totally laid back and never in a hurry. And this evening they really do their reputation justice. All of them are very calm and stoic as they disembark. If that had happened to me, I think I would have gone ballistic!
It is coming up to 22h45 so most of the evening’s flights have already landed. So finding a seat on the bus line 50 to the main railway stations is easy for a change! It is nice to be back come.