EasyJet, Economy Class – Airbus A 319: Prague to Basel

Airline: easyJet Switzerland
Aircraft: Airbus A 319
From: Prague Ruzyne Airport
To: Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse Freibourg
Departure: 16:15
Arrival:
17:20
Flight time:
one hour and five minutes
Seat:
1F

Getting to the Airport

The journey from the Czech air navigation service provider’s offices to the airport takes about ten minutes by car. The driver drops me off right outside Terminal 1, because that’s where the short term parking is located.

Terminals 1 and 2 are connected with each other, both landside and airside. EasyJet checks in at Terminal 2.

Check-in

The check-in hall is a big, cavernous space. EasyJet’s counters are at the far end of the terminal, on the row closest to the security check point.

For my trip today I have speedy boarding as well as fast track access for security.

Airside

I like that Prague is probably one of the few airports I know of, where you are not ejected directly into the duty free shop once you pass through security. In fact, the duty free shops are all rather low key and small.

My flight will be departing from the D pier. But seeing as I still have a while to go before my flight even leaves from Basel, I figure I might as well walk to the very end of the C pier, where there is a long row of seats along the window front with a great view of the apron. At least, there would be if the weather weren’t so bad…

Boarding

I really don’t know how easyJet does it. I mean, I watch my plane land and then taxi in. When the aircraft enters the ramp, I stand up and make my way back to the departure gate. I do make a brief stop at the gents on my way, but I’m quite sure even with that it can’t take me more than six or seven minutes to reach gate D5, from where the flight will be leaving. Even so, when I get there, boarding is already in full swing and there is a long queue to enter the airbridge. Surely, did it really only take so little time for the aircraft to park, the passengers of the incoming flight to disembark and them to start boarding again?

Of course, with the speedy boarding I am entitled to jump the queue and just waltz on the plane when I want. But honestly, I always find that’s a bit of a dick move when I see others doing it, and I figure it makes no difference anyway.

The Cabin

I am seated on 1D, the aisle seat. At the time I booked the flight, that was the only seat on row 1 that was still available. On 1A there is a middle-aged gentleman. Very late, 1B nd 1C are taken up by an elderly couple. The husband is not exactly a lightweight, to put is nicely…

Boarding is completed and 1E and 1F next to me both stay empty. So I figure I might as well move over to the window seat, which is where I usually sit. Only, as soon as I move, Mr 1B and his spouse move too. Apparently, he doesn’t like that there’s no bulkhead on the other side of the aisle.

I mean, how dumb can some people possibly be? If you already have the luxury of having a few empty seats on your row, you could spread out, for example by taking an aisle seat each. Like that, the middle seat would stay empty and we would all have so much more space and comfort. But no, of course not. Because the selfish, self-centred git don’t fancy not having a bulkhead.

Okay, rant over. Deep breaths, in and out. Thinking of happy little puppies, calm down. Oh yeah, great leg room on row 1, by the way!

The Meal

Once we’re airborne, the onboard sales begin and I order a mint tea and the new chocolate brownie. Together, the two items set me back by EUR4.50, which I think is reasonable for what you get and cheaper than the M&S products you find on BA.

Arrival

Other than that, the flight is uneventful and short. We start our descent into Basel and eventually land at 17h20, 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

There are quite a few easJet aircraft on the ground when we arrive.

Apparently, the Czech Republic is considered ‘clean’ by the prefecture of Haut-Rhin, because we pull up to a stand on the Schengen ramp upon arrival. Which also means that it’s a long walk outside to get from the aircraft to the terminal. On the up side, that means great photo opportunities for people like me. On the down side, it also means that if it’s raining you’ll probably get soaked by the time you enter the building…

Conclusion

Flying with easyJet is a lot like taking a bus. There‘s really none of the magic or romance I associated with air travel when I was young. Even so, I think the easyJet product is solid and consistent, to the point that I think I would prefer easyJet to British Airways, given the choice. But probably that says a lot more about the current sad state of British Airways than it does about easyJet.

EasyJet – Airbus A 320: London Gatwick to Basel

Airline: easyJet
Aircraft: Airbus A 320
From: London Gatwick
To: Euroairport Basel-Muhlouse Freibourg
Departure: 18:28
Arrival:
20:42
Flight time:
one hour and fourteen minutes
Seat:
1F, window seat on the starboard bulkhead row

Self-hubbing in Gatwick

By the time I collect my suitcase from the luggage belt at Gatwick’s South Terminal, it’s already coming up to 16h30. I now have ninety minutes to make my connection to Basel with easyJet from the North Terminal.

Signposting is very good, and the shuttle that takes you to the North Terminal is on the same level as the landside arrivals area. The journey by shuttle only takes a few minutes.

Check-in

Once I arrive at the other end, the easyJet check-in area is straight through the door, on the same level as the shuttle from the South Terminal.

I don’t know how many automatic check-in counters there are, but the row seems endless for sure. Which also means that I can just walk up to check in my suitcase without having to queue. This is my first time using one of these self-service machines, because I normally travel without checked luggage.

The process is easy to follow, if not perhaps a bit painful in my case… You see, at the time I made the booking, I remember paying extra to be able to check in a suitcase. Only, what I had purchased at the time was one checked bag weighing no more than 15 kilos. But two weeks in Malta is a long time, during which it’s only too easy to buy a few things here or there to take back with you.

So when I check in my suitcase at Gatwick, the scales indicate that it weighs in excess of 20 kilos, and the price for that is a whopping GBP60. And rather conveniently, you can pay the amount due right there at the check-in counter with your credit card.

Airside

Security is quick and efficient. That’s one of the few things I think the British really do very well. Once I’m through security, I just have enough time for a quick meal at Wagamama before it’s time to head for the gate. And for a changes there’s even no queue for a table.

My flight is departing from gate 102, which is located in the satellite that is connected to the main terminal by a bridge that aircraft can taxi under. It’s already dark though, so there’s not much to see.

The Cabin

I’m seated on 1F. I was hoping to take a picture of the seat as I boarded, but alas Ms 1D is already there and it’s impossible for me to take a photo without her in it. Still, she’s a very nice woman and very helpful with getting my backpack stowed away properly.

The seat pitch on row 1 is good and certainly comfortable enough for the short flight to Basel. Moreoever, the one thing I appreciate about easyJet is that their aircraft always appear to be in mint condition.

We start up and push back on time. but we don’t get very far. We make one right turn and then stop. The cockpit crew shut down one of the engines again and inform us that there will be a slight delay, with our slot time not coming up for another twenty minutes. Other aircraft are also having to wait.

The Crew

There’s nothing much to say about the crew, seeing as I don’t make any inflight purchases with them. The only thing I can say is that the purser is a young Italian man who’d make an interesting linguistic study. From his accent he’s unmistakably Italian. Other than that though, he’s highly proficient and uses many idiomatic expressions that you normally wouldnt’t expect from a speaker with such a heavy accent. Sorry, end of geek-out…

Arrival

After sixteen days away from home, I’m finally back in Basel. And it’s good to be back. But god it’s cold here…

EasyJet – Airbus A 320: Friedrichshafen to London Gatwick

Introduction

Schaffhausen is probably best known for its proximity to the spectacular Rhine falls in Neuhausen. But it’s definitely also worth a visit in its own right.

In Schaffhausen I spend the night at the lovely Hotel Rüden, which is located close to the railway station, on the fringe of the old town.

Getting to the Airport

There are two ways to get from Schaffhausen to Friedrichshafen airport. The boring way is to take the train and change in Friedrichshafen. The journey will take 1 hour and 27 minutes. The alternative is quite a bit longer at 2 hours and thirty minutes, but definitely more fun!

First, I take the 09h49 train from Schaffhausen to Kreuzlingen, which is a journey of about fifty minutes, part of which run along a very scenic route next to the river and then the lake.

In Kreuzlingen I have three minutes to make the connection to Konstanz, which is only another four minutes by train.

And then in Konstanz, I have twelve minutes to connect to the catamaran that goes across the Bodensee to Friedrichshafen.

Only, it turns out that because of the wind, the catamaran will not be operating. So I’m just going to have to take the train.

But that’s not quite so straightforward. First, I take the 11h40 train to Radolfzell, which is a ride of fifteen minutes.

And then in Radolfzell I have ten minutes before my train to Friedrichshafen arrives. This being Germany, it’s late of course. But it’s a diesel train, which we don’t have in passenger service in Switzerland. I think it’s kind of cool, and sounds like a bus more than a train.

In Friedrichshafen I just have enough time to walk down to the lake to take a look at the water, which is starting to look a bit rough.

And then from Friedrichshafen Stadt I take yet another diesel train at 13h09, which takes five minutes to get to the airport.

From the airport station it’s just a short walk across the road to the terminal, which is a nondescript, flat building. But there is an Ibis hotel.

Check-in

Departures are to the left of the building. Despite its limited size, inside every carrier has its own dedicated check-in counters. Although having said that, I hardly think there are all that many operators out of FDH.

Airside

Security for all gates is off the the left of the check-in hall. And of course, once you’re through security, you’re immediately ejected in the duty free shop.

All in all, there are seven gates, of which the five A gates are for Schengen departures and the two B gates for non-Schengen flights.

About 45 minutes before departure, the immigration officers appear to open up shop. The guy at my counter looks at my Maltese passport and just says ‘cool’ with this gleeful tone in his voice. ‘I’ve been there, you have great weather down there…’. And then he just lets me through.

At 14h20 the inbound from Gatwick glides down on runway 24. The A 320 looks slightly out of place and a but oversized compared to the terminal.

Boarding

Boarding starts at 14h45 for a 15h05 departure. But that’s okay, because it turns out there’s only 49 passengers on the flight anyway…

The Cabin

Originally, I’m seated on 1C. But once boarding is completed two minutes later, I switch to the window on 1F and have the whole row to myself!

On the first row the pitch is comfortable enough. I don’t think it’s much less than on the first row of SWISS’ A 320s. The only complaint I have though, is that there’s cold air coming in through the R1 door inflight. Obviously it’s not enough to depressurise the cabin, but it certainly gives you cold feet!

On the climb out of Friedrichshafen we’re treated to some excellent views of the lake.

The Meal

Once the buy on board service starts, I purchase a large cup of hot chocolate with two shortbread finger biscuits for GBP4.-, which I think is quite fair.

The Crew

The crew are a friendly bunch and they’re obviously enjoying not having a full load of passengers for a change.

Arrival

The flight passes quickly, and eventually we land after a flight time of 90 minutes and taxi to our stand at the satellite of the North Terminal.

Getting into Town

The airport is surprisingly quiet and I’m through immigration in no time. From arrivals I head one floor up to catch the shuttle train to the South Terminal, from where the Gatwick Express into London’s Victoria station will be leaving.

The journey into London takes 32 minutes if you’re lucky enough to catch the express and there are multiple trains per hour.

For a change, this time I won’t be staying in the West End. Instead, I’m off to Brixton…

I won’t be writing a post about the return flight to Basel with easyJet, so this is going to be my last post of 2019. I want to thank all those of you who have visited my blog throughout the year and read the posts or just looked at the pictures, but especially all those of you who also were kind enough to leave a comment – be it a question, criticism, explanation or correction. Thank you!

I wish you all a happy holiday and a spectacular festive season!

– William

Easyjet, Airbus A 320: Madrid to Basel

I spend a lovely day at the Campo Juan Carlos, a large park close to the exposition area of Madrid and easily accessible by metro.

Just after 14h I return to the metro station and make my way back to the airport. The stop for terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5 is the next one from Feria de Madrid.
My flight to Basel will be checking in and boarding from Terminal 1, which is the longest distance away from the metro station and probably explains why it is home to all the low cost carriers and Turkish Airlines.
On my way there, I spot this old DC-9/32 which appears to have been turned into art. I‘m surprised to see the aircraft still has its engines mounted.
Easyjet seem to have their own operation here in Madrid. Apart from their own dedicated check-in counters, they also seem to have their own fleet of ramp vehicles. And the rampers are all dressed in Easyjet uniforms too.
I really don‘t mind flying Easyjet once I get on the plane. But the getting on the plane is unnecesarily tedious, because we‘re boarding in increments.
The inbound from Basel has only just touched down, and already the outbound is showing up as ‚last call‘…
When boarding eventually does start, they allow us to proceed to the entrance of the airbridge, but no further, because the arriving passengers are still deplaning. Meanwhile, the rest of us wait.
Once that‘s done, they let us proced to the entrance to the plane. And there we wait again while they clean up the cabin.
A pair of young girls come on and inform the purser that one of them has a ‚really, really, really acute‘ allergy against garlic, apples and mushrooms. And apparently even the smell could be lethal. So the cabin crew make an announcement asking passengers to refrain from eating any of those during the flight. Because even the smell ‚could be dangerous’. Quite frankly, I suspect the bimbo airhead had an unspectacular holiday in Spain and figured she’d try something different on the return flight to make herself a bit more interesting. All three allergies really do exist, but you actually have to eat the stuff to get a reaction…
The leg space on the first row is good. And it‘s kind of nice that they introduced a bulkhead. So at least you‘re not completely exposed to the elements if you‘re seated on the first row.
The flight is uneventful and calm. I order a drink from the on board bistro for EUR2.50 for a large can.
We reach Basel after a flight time of 1 hour and 55 minutes. The airport isn‘t busy at all, and 10 minutes after landing, I‘m already sitting on the bus on my way home.

Easyjet really is quite okay if you ignore the boarding experience, which I find unpleasant and unnecessarily so. I also think the limitations of the low cost model are beginning to show. The old legacy carriers have clearly done their homework, and you can purchase just about anything as an ancillary service nowadays. But on a low cost carrier, that is only possible up to a point. For example, if I purchase an upgrade on Swiss or KLM, that automatically comes with the priority check-in, fast track security, lounge access, better seat pitch and an empty middle seat.

Austrian Airlines, Business Class – Fokker 70: Vienna to Basel

Transfer in Vienna

I have one hour before my flight to Basel departs. Fortunately there are not that many people at the airport and so I manage to quickly clear immigration and security. Since my last visit to Vienna last summer, they appear to have improved the signage. Or maybe it is just me and I am getting used to the place. Even so, I really cannot help but wonder who on earth designed this facility? It does not even feel like an airport. Instead, the narrow aisles and long corridors give the impression of walking aimlessly in the Ministry of Truth. You turn the corner and expect to find yourself standing by the door to room 101. The worst thing in the world.

The Lounge

Location: Uhm, good question. Just follow the signs for the G gates and then you should find the lounge. There is a common entrance to the lounge. The Business Class area is to the left and the Star Gold section is to the right.
Type of Lounge:
Austrian Airlines Business Class lounge.
Facilities:
Business centre, toilets in the lounge, no showers, a small selection of hot and cold dishes and drinks, newspapers and magazine.
Internet:
Wifi is available throughout the terminal building. No password required.

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What with it being Easter Sunday, the lounge is fairly quiet. There are only a few people here and there. The food options are somewhat limited, not that I am hungry after all the food we were served on the plane.

Boarding

Priority Boarding: Boarding is from Gate F 13, which is the same gate at which my flight from Narita arrived. In fact the aircraft is still standing there. In any case, our aircraft for the short hop to Basel is parked at a remote stand, so we are having to take a bus to the aircraft.

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When eventually the bus pulls up on a remote stand, I am surprised to find there has been an aircraft change and instead of the scheduled Dash-8-400, the flight will now be operated by the larger Fokker 70. I take my time to get on board the aircraft – I am sitting at the very front anyway – which gives me the chance to take a few pictures of my aircraft and watch the other action on the ramp.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2
Seat: European style Economy Class seating, with the adjacent seat being kept empty in Business Class.
Pitch: 30’.
Width: 17’.
Facilities: Reading lamp, air vents.

There are two rows of Business Class on today’s flight and there are only two passengers. Seating on the Fokker 70 is 2 + 3, although on Austrian Airlines the adjacent seat is kept empty to provide more space. Thus, on the left hand side, the two-seater, the aisle seat is blocked, while on the right hand side, the middle seat in the row of three is blocked.

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Just a word of warning: on Austrian Airlines’ Fokker 70 you should try to avoid sitting on row 1 because while the pitch is the same as in the rest of the aircraft, not being able to stick your legs under the seat in front seriously limits leg space.

The Crew

There are two cabin crew on the flight. They seem friendly enough, but they are not exactly gushing. But I do not think it is a question of them just doing the job and nothing else, they just both seem very reserved.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: None.
Hot towel before the meal: None.
Pre-meal drink:
None.
Choice:
None.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Snack.

  1. Fish in a batter, on potato salad, corn salad and tomato.
  2. Selection from the breadbasket.
  3. Chocolate mousse with cherries.
  4. Milka Easter Bunny.
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The contrast in service between Austrian Airlines’ long- and short-haul operations never quite seizes to amaze me. While the meals on the flight from Tokyo to Vienna were opulent, on this short-haul flight to Basel service is kept to the absolute minimum.

One way or another, the meal is quite tasty. Especially the chocolate mousse is delicious and rich.

Arrival

Our routing takes us past lake Constance and north of Zürich airport to approach Basel airport from the east. You can see the airport below on the right hand side of the aircraft. Approaches are from the south this afternoon, which means we continue for a short distance past the airport heading west, before eventually doing a left turn and heading south, away from the airport. Two more left turns later and we are lined up for the approach pointing north. I like this approach because it means we will be coming in over the city of Basel. Fortunately the weather has cleared and it is a beautiful afternoon.

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Conclusion

That was fun. Admittedly, it was rather a short trip but I certainly enjoyed every minute of it. This was now my sixteenth visit to Japan and I still have not had enough yet. What I did notice about myself on this trip is that the idiosyncrasies of the Japanese and their culture no longer have the power to intimidate or confuse me. What I do not know, is whether this is due to the fact that the Japanese are becoming more relaxed in their dealings with foreigners or if perhaps I have simply become accustomed to their ways.

Easyjet, Economy – A 320: London Gatwick to Basel

Introduction

This one may surprise a few people. I know two of my assistants at work were stunned when I told them what I was planning. It’s frightening how well they know me. But yes, there you have it: I’m flying EasyJet. It’s been a few years since I last flew them and recently I had found myself contemplating taking another flight with them, simply to see how the intervening years had treated EasyJet. And then suddenly, out of the blue the opportunity arose.

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Gatwick Express Train
Departs from: Victoria Station
Frequency: Every 15 minutes
Journey time: 30 minutes on the nonstop trains
Fare: GBP19.90 for a single

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I take the Victoria Line tube from Oxford Circus to Victoria Stations, which is the second stop after Green Park. At Victoria the Gatwick Express is clearly signposted and there are dedicated ticket machines and counters on the platforms, so there’s no need to queue with all the other travellers.

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The journey on the Gatwick Express is a pleasant one. As it makes its way south, the train passes through the suburbs of London, until eventually the urban sprawl that makes up London gives way to rolling hills with juicy greens fields.

Check-in

Location: North Terminal
Facilities: Web App, web check-in, check-in counters
Counters: There is a dedicated check-in area for Easyjet at the south end of the North Terminal

Easyjet operates out of both the South Terminal and North Terminal. Flights operating with a flight number starting with 5 depart from the South Terminal, while flights starting with an 8 depart from the North Terminal.

I shall be departing from the North Terminal today. To access the facility, there is an automated train that leaves from a station adjacent to the railway station for the main line trains to and from London. The journey takes about two minutes. Once you’re inside the terminal, head one floor up for check-in and departures.

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Airside

There is none. Actually, I’m only starting to realise just now how incredibly boring and inconvenient travelling is when you haven’t got a lounge to use – no free wifi, uncomfortable seats and no peace and quiet. I wouldn’t mind just sitting in a corner at the gate reading my Kindle, but alas in Gatwick the departure gates are only announced about 20 minutes before departure.

Other than that, it’s really quite amazing really, airside the North Terminal looks and feels more like a shopping mall than an airport- quite a contrast to Sofia airport, which looks abandoned.

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Boarding

Our flight is departing from gate 111, which is in the satellite terminal. Access to the satellite is via a bridge over the taxiway, which gives you a bird’s eye view of the airfield – this is pretty cool me thinks. Sorry about the bad quality of the pictures from the bridge. The sun was working against me this morning, and so were the dirty windows…

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Gatwick uses closed gates, but at least you don’t have to go through security again to enter the holding pen. Boarding starts with a call for passengers with children, passengers in need of assistance and passengers who’ve booked speedy boarding. There’s a bit of a hold up in the airbridge because the crew isn’t quite ready yet. Apparently there was some last minute change and the aircraft now flying to Basel should originally have been going to Geneva instead.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 3 + 3
Seat: 1F, later moved to 1D
Facilities: NIL
Audio and Video: NIL

I’m sitting on the first row, on the right side of the aircraft, opposite the galley. Of course you have much more legroom on the left side, seeing as there is no bulkhead or cabin divider. Then again, if you’re sitting on 1A, the container with the evacuation slide can get in your way. The flight appears to be nearly full this morning. From what I can tell, the only seats left empty are in the first two rows. There is one person by the window on each side of row two and we’re two persons on the right side of row one. The left three seats are empty. The cabin is in excellent condition.

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The Crew

There are three cabin crew on the flight this morning. All of them are French, from what I gather. They’re not incredibly friendly I’d say, but they are very professional in the way they go about their duties. The safety on board demonstration is taken very seriously and the crew are conscientious in the way they conduct the pre-departure check.

The Meal

Catering on Easyjet is buy on board or bring your own. I have a blueberry muffin and a cappuccino for GBP3.60, which isn’t bad I think. Easyjet has quite a selection of food and drinks, including some hot items like a croque monsieur.

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Arrival

We land in Basel on time. And of course it’s raining, which is hardly surprising given my track record. It’s quite cool too. Our aircraft parks on the Schengen side of the terminal, so we are bussed the short distance to the other side, where the arrivals entrance for non-Schengen flights is located.

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Getting into Town

As I exit the building, a line 50 bus is already waiting and will be leaving in five minutes. Perfect!

It’s been quite a while since my last Easyjet experience. So how did they compare on this trip compared to back then? In the sum of all things, I think Easyjet has made a few minor adjustments to its model but with maximum impact. The fact that they assign seats now for everybody, and little perks like speedy boarding and advanced seat reservations make the experience with Easyjet a lot more pleasant than it used to be, at least for me.  I hope nobody at Easyjet who reads this will hold it against me, because I mean it as a compliment, but all in all I think that they’ve become just like all the other airlines in Economy Class in Europe these days, no better and no worse.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Avro RJ100: Basel to Copenhagen

Introduction

In the week between Christmas and New Year I normally visit Japan. In 2011 however, I decided to do something different for a change. It had also been quite a stressful year so I didn’t really want to stray too far from home anyway.

So where to go? Obviously, given that I probably do have a bit of an obsession – I like to call it a keen interest – with airplanes, apart from a new destination the routing would have to include a new type and preferably also a new airline.

Eventually, the solution came to me and I decided to head for Oulu in Finland. To get there, I would first fly with Swiss from Basel to Copenhagen and then from there on to Helsinki with Blue1 and then on to Oulu.

This trip review is about the first leg of my trip from Basel to Copenhagen. A route which has since been discontinued.

If you’re just interested in the pictures I took in Copenhagen, please scroll down to the bottom.

Date: 26 December 2011
From: Basel
To: Copenhagen
Airline: Swiss International Air Lines
Aircraft: Avro RJ100
Class: Business Class
Seat: 1D

Getting to the Airport

After celebrating Christmas with the family at my parents place, I leave Basel for Copenhagen in the afternoon of 26 December – Boxing Day. My first stop is the main railway station to get some Danish Krona and then catch the bus to the airport from just outside the main entrance of the station. It being the day after Christmas, I was not really expecting there to be any people. Much to my surprise though, the bus is full and the airport is also rather busy when I arrive.

The main entrance to the Swiss Railway Station in Basel
The airport bus from the inside. A few minutes later it was packed!
The departures level of terminal building, taken from the Swiss side of the airport. The boarder with France runs right through the middle of the building.

The Lounge

I’ve already done online check-in, so once I arrive at the airport, I head straight through security to the Swiss Business Class lounge, which is nearly deserted. This however, has nothing to do with the Christmas holiday and seems to be the usual state of affairs for this lovely lounge. As you can see, it looks wonderful with the warm light of the low winter sun seeping in through the windows in the roof.

My aircraft being prepared for the flight to Copenhagen. The Avros are getting a bit long in the tooth. Swiss International Air Lines intends to decommission the last one in 2016 as the Bombardier CSeries comes online. Quite frankly, I don’t see the Avro lasting that long.

Boarding

I looks as though the flight is going to be packed. and indeed, it turns out there is only one row of Business Class. There is another passenger in Business Class. He has the window seat 1F. The seat between us is empty and I am on 1D. I’m hoping to shift to 1A once boarding is completed, but no such luck.


The Cabin

In the row behind me there is a family with two young children sharing the row of three. The flight attendant informs them that they need to be reseated as there are no additional oxygen masks on the row of three, therefore one parent will have to sit on the other side of the aisle with one of the children. So the guy in the aisle seat on the row of two gets up to change seats with the dad, but instead of swapping seats, he just parks himself in the empty two-seater of the Business Class cabin. What’s more, the flight attendant lets him stay there for the entire flight.

It’s a lovely day for flying. The little Avro is obviously struggling with the heavy load, subsequently our climb is not exactly steep. We take off in a southerly direction, then do a 270 degree right hand turn and crossed the river Rhine into German airspace. We then fly a easterly track to lake Constance, on the German-Swiss boarder, and from there set course for Denmark.

Crossing the Rhine.

The Crew

The service on board this flight is nothing much to write home about either. The mini Business Class cabin is served by a German flight attendant who would obviously much rather be at home with her family or by the beach, or climbing a mountain – anywhere but just not on a flight to Copenhagen. Looks like the Avros are not the only ones that Swiss urgently need to decommission. She plonks down the tray with the meal before me, get the drinks and then disappears. No idea where to. She reappears to remove the tray about 15 minutes before we arrive in Copenhagen.

The Meal

The lunch that is served is rather strange and consists of shredded Zucchini with a slice of poached salmon and some Bündnerfleisch – dried meet. It also seems that since my previous trip in Business Class, Swiss has reverted back to using plastic dishes and cutlery. It’s so stylish…

Arrival

The rest of the flight is uneventful, which is rather obvious. The good thing about having a vanishing flight attendant is that it seriously reduces the risk of having red wine or something accidentally spilled over you.

Conclusion

What can I say? This flight was certainly not one of Swiss International Air Lines’ finest moments. First of all, the airline should make up its mind on whether or not to provide a Business Class product on flights from Basel or not. If the decision is to have such a service, then it should be executed properly, and not be treated as some kind of unnecessary burden for the staff.

And indeed, in the meantime this route has been discontinued, together with a number of other destinations from Basel. For an airline like Swiss there is no money to be made in Basel, given the strong presence of Easyjet, which now has something like eight Airbus A 319s stationed at the airport. First of all, the old little Avro – with its four engines and only 97 seats – can hardly compete, from an economic perspective at least, with Easyjet’s A 319s, which can seat up to 156 passengers.Furthermore, Easyjet’s dominance at Basel airport should be a clear enough indication that the market it serves has no use or interest in a premium product.

Obviously, Swiss’ plan for Basel was not to make money but simply to try and regain some of the market it had lost to Easyjet. But this is the kind of strategy you can only pursue if you have sufficient funds to keep it up over a longer period of time, which is evidently not the case for Swiss or any airline in Europe right now.

The Nimb, Copenhagen

In Copenhagen I stayed at the Hotel Nimb, the entrance of which is opposite the main railway station. The Nimb is actually on the premises of the Tivoli amusement park and access is for free for guests. The Tivoli itself is a really magical place to visit in winter.

Fireplace in my room.
The hotel bar.
The hotel from the outside, taken from my room overlooking the Tivoli.
The classic Copenhagen shot.
Water taxi.
The opera house.
She needs no introduction.
A shop that sells cupcakes only.
He was also staying at the Tivoli.

Air Malta, Economy Class – A 319: Zürich to Malta

Introduction

Air Malta is currently in the middle of a rebranding exercise, which includes new uniforms for the crew and also a new livery which made its debut in September 2012. Things have been rather tough for this little airline in recent years: it is in an awkward position in that it has many masters and is trying to serve all of them equally well. A futile endeavour! There is the government and the national Maltese tourism industry which relies heavily on the carrier to bring tourist to its shores. But with the increasing popularity of the Maltese islands as a holiday destination, the competition for Air Malta has also increased. And then there is the obligation to provide connections for Maltese nationals wishing to travel abroad, albeit a very small niche market. One way or another, with the likes of Easyjet and Ryanair eating away at Air Malta’s leisure traffic, and Lufthansa and Emirates taking whatever is left, Air Malta finds itself stuck in the middle. The future will tell what will become of Air Malta.

Date: 17. August 2012
From: Zürich
To: Malta
Airline: Air Malta
Aircraft: A319
Cabin: Economy
Seat: 10E, aisle on the emergency exit

My narrative begins as I make my way to the viewing gallery on the reconstruction of what used to be terminal B at Zürich airport. It’s a lovely day and quite warm. But at least there is a slight breeze going to make the temperature outside bearable. I put my rucksack in a locker and pay the CHF5 entrance for the viewing gallery. 

The airport is calm around this time of day and save for an Air France Embraer 190 all the stands are empty.

I really like the design of the building from the outside. From the inside it is a tad cramped. Anyway, there are steps leading down onto the roof of one of the airbridges, which allows you to get up pretty close to the aircraft.

Boarding

Much to my shame I must confess that I don’t really take the heat and sun very well, despite the fact that I was born in Malta, where temperatures in excess of 35 degrees Celsius are not uncommon from late May to early November.

Eventually the heat becomes too much for me and I decide to head airside.

I arrive at the gate and surreptitiously peek at the screen displaying the DCS information for this flight: two passengers in Business Class, 115 passengers in Economy. Not a bad load considering the holiday season is over. In actual fact, from what I can tell from the conversations I pick up and the passports I can see, most passengers would appear to be Maltese anyway.

Boarding

The Swissport agent announces that boarding will commence shortly. She also informs us that due to the incredible heat in the airbridge, boarding by seat rows will be strictly enforced to avoid people standing in the sweltering heat too long. And true to their word the two ladies proceed to do the most orderly boarding process I have every seen. No mean feat if a bunch of Maltese is involved.

The Cabin

I am greeted at the door by the purser, an elderly and very friendly looking gentleman. He looks like he could be your favourite granddad. The other crew member is a young lady with stunning features: black long hair and blue eyes. She’s quite a looker and she knows it. The entire crew is wearing the new uniform and I must say it is a vast improvement over what they had.

I grab a free copy of the Times of Malta, which is available to all passengers and laid out right by the entrance to the aircraft, and head for my seat.

Initially I am seated on 9F, but then a couple takes the seats next to me and starts snogging wildly. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing against a good snog, but the mere sound of others slobbering all over each other makes me want to throw up. I look behind me to find the aisle seat on the emergency row is still empty, so are the middle seats. So I quickly ask a crew member if I can change. He tells me that sure I can, proviso I pay the fee for the extra leg room. The slobbering continues on row 9 and so I consent. The fee is EUR25. The seats are marked with the word ‘RESERVED’ written on the head rest covers.

The legroom on the exit row is, of course, excellent.Departure is from runway 28. Shortly after take-off we to a left turn to point the aircraft southwards for the Alps, the Med and eventually Malta. Our routing takes us over mainland Italy to Rome, from where set out across the Thyrrenian sea to Palermo in Sicily and from there on to Malta.

The Crew

The crew is friendly and makes detailed announcements in Maltese and English, followed by a recorded message in German. Soft drinks, one beer or wine are for free. Any further alcoholic drink must be paid for.

The Meal

There are two options on the flight today. The vegetarian one is a tomato and mozzarella salad on iceberg lettuce. On the tray there is also a small tub of butter and a small container with salad dressing, a large bun and a cupcake. The non-vegetarian option is cheese with ham, boiled eggs and tomatoes on a bed of iceberg lettuce. The dessert is an almond filled biscuit type thing. It’s a small meal but it serves its purpose on a flight of one hour and 50 minutes.

Arrival

By the time we reach Palermo and we begin our initial descent, the sun has already started to set and the light outside turns a warm and balmy colour.

The approach into Malta is very atmospheric. As the aircraft dips its nose and the engines go increasingly silent to slow us down, a hush of anticipation spreads throughout the cabin as the tourists and Maltese alike peer out of the windows excitedly to catch a first glimpse of the islands rising out of the sea.

For most of the descent the aircraft flies head on towards Gozo, the northern island. Outside the passengers see only the vastness of the Mediterranean sea and the golden reflection of the sun dancing on the waves. But the then aircraft banks every so light to the left and suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Gozo appears – the island of Calypso. The aircraft flies along the north-eastern coast of the island, then past Comino and then along the island of Malta proper. It’s usually at this stage the tourists cannot be amazed at how dry the island is and how few trees there are. The Maltese, like myself, look out and glance down at this small rock in the sea and attempt to conceal that yes, they are moved.

Eventually the aircraft reaches the south end of Malta. The right wing dips and we round Delimara point, pass the natural harbour of Marsaxlokk and eventually line up with runway 31 as we cross over St. George’s bay. And then we land and I am home.

I wait until everybody has disembarked and then walk to the rear of the aircraft to exit through the back. This gives me an opportunity to take a few pictures from an unusual angle.

I get on the bus. I even manage to take a picture of the new uniform before the doors close and we are bussed to the Schengen arrivals.

That concludes the aviation part of this report. I leave you with a few shots from Malta taken the next day.

Republic Street aka King’s Way
After all it was once a British Dominion…
Typically Maltese: at 10:00 head for the Café Premier for a refreshing Kinnie and some Pastizzi
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
The Auberge de Castille
Looking across the Grand Harbour towards the cottonera: L-Isla, Birgu and Bormla
The water taxi connecting Birgu with Valletta