Jet2 celebrate 15 years of flying

Yesterday Jet2.com celebrated 15 years since the airlines very first flight departed Leeds Bradford Airport bound for Amsterdam. With a fleet of just two Boeing 737-300 aircraft, the airline carried 360,000 passengers in it’s very first year. Fast forward 15 years and the airline are expecting to carry over 12 million paying customers in 2018.

Operating from 9 UK bases Jet2 have grown to become the United Kingdom’s third largest airline whilst sister company Jet2holidays have become the UK’s 2nd largest Tour Operator.

G-JZHN wearing the Jet2holidays livery

Passengers travelling from Leeds Bradford yesterday were greeted by a morning filled with celebrations as airline executives, current and former employees and even Peter Andre were present to mark this momentous occasion. The Australian born singer surprised guests checking in to their flights, and boarded a Jet2 flight before it’s departure to give crew and passengers a private concert by singing ‘Happy Birthday’.

The airline has grown rapidly over the past few years, with 2017 seeing the airline expand it’s operations south by opening new bases at Birmingham Airport and London Stansted. These saw brand new Boeing 737-800 aircraft located at the respective airports, just some of the 34 Jet2 has on order with Boeing. These aircraft will replace the ageing 737-300  aircraft in the fleet, and come equipped with the modern ‘Sky Interior’ cabins.

G-GDFO seen here in Malaga, Is just one of the 737-300’s soon to be replaced by the new Boeing 737-800’s

More recently Jet2 have announced they will be upping their Transatlantic schedule with more flights than ever departing the UK destined for New York/Newark. Jet2holidays have marketed the flights as “affordable shopping breaks to the Big Apple from your local airport”. In a recent Interview, Commercial Director Steve Lee ruled out the airline launching a full long haul service, stating that they would “focus on growing capacity where it’s needed in the western and eastern Mediterranean”.

Airbus A330 G-VYGL was leased by Jet2 for the summer flying season in 2017

The low cost carrier’s roots can be traced back to former scheduled service and freight airline Channel Express. This is still evident today as Jet2 still carry the Air Traffic Control call sign “Channex”. With 15 years having flown by, everyone at TripAdvisor’s favourite UK airline will no doubt be looking forward to the next 15!

 

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Fare Finder: February 2018

YOUR GUIDE TO THE BEST VALUE AIRFARES FOR THE MONTH AHEAD!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. February 14th as we all know is Valentine’s Day, so this months Fare Finder is dedicated to flights for short romantic getaways. (Excellent for those of you out there who haven’t found the perfect gift for your partner yet!)

PARIS, FRANCE:

We couldn’t start off a Valentine’s themed Fare Finder without including Paris at the top of our list, could we? With the picture perfect Eiffel Tower setting the back drop for the French Capital, what could be more romantic than a stroll down the Champs-Élysées whilst watching the sun set?

This one is for our Irish readers, with direct flights from Dublin provided by Dutch owned low cost airline, Transavia. Understandably Paris is very popular at this time of year, and the flight prices reflect this. Nevertheless for just £113 per person return, you could be enjoying a 3 night break in this wonderful city. The link to Transavia’s website can be found here.

Paris’ most recognisable land mark, the Eiffel Tower dominates the city’s skyline!
Edinburgh, SCOTLAND:

Perhaps a surprising inclusion on this list, but Edinburgh has a lot to offer that may not always be obvious at first glance. With everything from candle lit dinners to stargazing at the cities observatory, there is no shortage of activities to keep you entertained during your time here. Lovers of the great outdoors will feel right at home here, with Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat offering superb views of the city for those who reach the top.

Flying from Bristol, easyJet are willing to whisk you away on a 2 night stay in Scotland for just £65 per person return.  Readers living in the South East of the country who prefer a London airport as their departure point, the easyJet stronghold of Luton is offering a return ticket for £66 per person. As usual, easyJet can be reached at their website www.easyjet.com.

Edinburgh as seen from the top of Calton Hill
london, england:

Most will think that the River Thames would be a no go in February, but they’d be wrong to think that. A Thames Dinner Cruise would be a fantastic way to end your 2 night stay in the city, taking in world famous landmarks such as Big Ben and The London Eye whilst enjoying a live band playing in the background. If the thought of sailing doesn’t float your boat, then evenings can be spent enjoying a West End show following a day of Oxford Street shopping!

Yet again easyJet are offering cheap flights into London. This time anyone fancying a last minute trip to London from Edinburgh can reach the capital for just £71 per person return. These flights are based on flying into Luton, so who knows, you may even see some of your fellow Fare Finder readers heading up to Scotland when your flight arrives. For easyJet’s website click here.

 

Reykjavik, iceland:

Our last offering is most definitely a wildcard. Perhaps not necessarily a destination that most would assume is a romantic destination, but instead one that is filled with activity and exploration. Much like Edinburgh, couples who feel at home whilst experiencing what Mother Nature has to offer, will certainly not be disappointed with Iceland‘s offerings. With lava tunnels of extinct volcanoes waiting to be experienced and tours of the Game of Thrones filming locations allowing you to see where the action happened, travelers heading north and braving the cold will not leave feel unsatisfied.

Another reason to feel satisfied is the price of the flights. Departing with TUI from London Gatwick, you will almost certainly have a smile on your face after having paid just £49 per person return for your flights. What’s even better is that this fare is based on a 7 night stay in the land of Ice and Fire, giving you ample opportunity to discover one of the worlds most scenic countries! Flights are bookable through the TUI website.

The Northern Lights draws thousands of tourists to Iceland each year
in next months fare finder:

We will be  looking to find you affordable flights to jet you off during the Easter school holidays.

 

Please note that all pricing and availability is correct at the time of publish and is subject to change. This is an independent article and is no way endorsed by any airline or tourist board.

 

 

 

Leaked: United to Launch Premium Economy

A company memo that was leaked this week has revealed that United Airlines has plans to launch it’s very own Premium Economy cabin. Although the details have not been finalised yet, we do know that United’s Premium Plus cabins will be rolled out across selected International routes by the end of 2018.

Premium Plus will launch on selected International routes

When these seats come out on general sale within the next few months, travelers will find themselves travelling in more spacious seating as opposed to the airlines international economy seating which offers a legroom of 31-32″. On-board services will also be upgraded with a redesigned menu being served on china dinnerware. Luxury US department store Saks Fifth Avenue will be supplying blankets and pillows for use during the flight.

A spokesperson for United has confirmed that Premium Plus is coming but has not revealed any details other than those leaked in the memo. The move comes after rival airlines Delta and American Airlines both successfully integrated Premium Economy into their own business models over recent years. The upgraded economy cabin has been operated by various European airlines such as British Airways for a number of years, but it seems that only now the US carriers are playing catch up.

A concept image of how the cabin will look

United will certainly be hoping that their Premium Plus cabins are a huge success, especially after the pretty disastrous year that they had in 2017. April saw a passenger forcibly removed from an overbooked Chicago to Louisville flight. Just one month before this incident, United refused to fly two female passengers to their destination as they were “not properly clothed via the Contract of Carriage”. The two passengers in question were not ‘properly clothed’ because they were wearing leggings.

Despite the negative press in recent times, the airline has just launched a new advertising campaign in association with Team USA to celebrate their participation at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. The advert features US athletes such as Jamie Anderson, Gus Kenworthy and Erin Hamlin alongside airline employees with a variety of different job roles. It details their superhero powers necessary for winning medals at the games, and more importantly those needed by United staff to get them and fare paying customers there destination.

The United States Olympic Committee and United Airlines have a long standing history of transporting athletes to and from the games, and this isn’t the first time Olympians have featured alongside airline staff on video. In 2016, Team USA participated in a safety video that was broadcast on the majority of United’s aircraft. As the official airline of Team USA, United flies everything and everyone from athletes to equipment to wherever it is needed.

Video Credit: United Airlines.

 

If you liked this article, why not check out the brand new our review of Emirates’ new cabin or any other of our new cabin reviews including Finnair, Lufthansa and Singapore.

 

Fare Finder: January 2018

YOUR GUIDE TO THE BEST VALUE FARES FOR THE MONTH AHEAD!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. This month our top picks focus on flights that will see you jetting off to grab some winter sun!

 

TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS:

The largest island in the Canaries is popular all year round with holidaymakers looking to get some sunshine. The popular resorts of Costa Adeje and Playa de las Americas offer beaches during the day, and vibrant night life when the sun goes down. Tenerife is also home to Siam Park an it’s infamous Tower of Power! Recently voted the worlds best water park on TripAdvisor, it is a must visit for any adrenaline junkie out there! Temperatures this time of year normally hover around the 21C mark, so be sure to pack a light fleece for the evenings.

London Gatwick offer some of the cheapest flights flying with Thomson, TUI as they are now known. Anyone considering spending a fortnight on the island can get there for £69 return. This fare does not include baggage, but with a 20kg case priced at just £46, it won’t break the bank. Visit the TUI site here to book.

dubai, united arab emirates:

There is very little that needs to be said about this destination. With it’s golden sandy beaches, lavish shopping malls and luxurious hotels; this city really is a must visit. If you have a head for heights, be sure to visit the Burj Khalifa which stands at some 830 metres tall. Offering stunning views of Dubai from it’s observation deck, on a clear day it is even possible to see Iran which lies on the other side of the Persian Gulf. Dubai at this time of the year will not see temperatures hit the blistering heights of the summer, but anyone travelling can expect the mercury to be in the high 20s.

London Heathrow is the departure point for the these flights. Flying economy with Emirates on their Airbus A380 aircraft, passengers will be able to experience the world class service offered on board by the Dubai based airline. Return tickets start from just £323pp which includes a very generous 30kgs baggage allowance. You can be taken to the Emirates website by following this link.

Emirates could be jetting you away to Dubai
marsa alam, egypt:

Marsa Alam is on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. It is renowned world over for it’s diving locations. The resort is quieter than its neighbours Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh, meaning a week of pure relaxation in the sun (If diving isn’t your cup of tea) is just a 5 and a half hour flight away. Diving in these waters can be arranged through one of the many instructors that work in the resort, they will give you the opportunity to see Dolphins, schools of Hammerhead Sharks and even the peculiar looking Dugong! Much like Dubai, temperatures will be on average above 24C.

 

Flights to Marsa Alam can be found via Thomas Cook Airlines as can package holidays to the resort. Birmingham Airport offers the cheapest flights to the Egyptian resort with return tickets starting at £136 per person. Your journey to Marsa Alam starts by booking your flights here.

Marsa Alam has some of the worlds best waters for diving
CANCUN, MEXICO:

As holiday destinations go, Cancun is one of the best. Whether it’s relaxing by the pool with a novel, topping up your tan on your hotel’s private beach or visiting the world famous Chichen Itza, there is something for everyone to do. You can rest assured that the words “I’m bored” won’t be spoken during your time here. At night be sure to tuck into some delicious local delicacies before heading to party the night away in the Coco Bongo nightclub. Only if you’re over the age of 18 though, because going to night clubs under the age of 18 is illegal and wrong and I totally have never done it before, like ever. (Not fooling anyone am I?).

TUI once again are offering fantastic value for this flight. Manchester to Cancun return is £229 per person, this price does not include luggage but TUI currently have some promotions regarding baggage so it’s definitely worth checking them out. If the sound of Cancun wasn’t selling it to you enough, how does flying on their Dreamliner? On board you’ll find complimentary drinks and an in flight meal waiting for you. Love the sound of Mexico? Follow the link to book your getaway.

The ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
in next months fare finder:

In the Fare Finder: February 2018, we will be looking at exceptional value flights to help get you in the Valentines Day mood!

 

Please note that all pricing and availability is correct at the time of publish and is subject to change. This is an independent article and is no way endorsed by any airline or tourist board.

Norwegian: Transatlantic Game Changers?

Gone are the days where your only options to fly from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada were dominated by the likes of British Airways and American Airlines.  Despite the fantastic service and benefits that these airlines offer throughout your flight, not everyone wants to or can afford to pay the price this comes at. The good news is they no longer have to. Why? The low cost carriers are coming…

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve given our opinion on Primera Air and WOW Air’s chances of cracking the transatlantic air travel market. This week we look at the already established Norwegian and their hopes of making themselves known as the go to airline for flying across the pond. If you haven’t already checked out the articles on WOW Air and Primera Air, be sure to do so before reading the conclusion!

Norwegian Dreamliner LN-LNB seen here taxiing after maintenance in Birmingham

NORWEGIAN.

uk and ireland departures from: london (lgw), edinburgh (edi), belfast (bfs), dublin (dub), shannon (snn) & cork (ork).
CONNECTING VIA: NONE, ALL FLIGHTS DIRECT!
FLYING TO: AUSTIN (AUS), BOSTON (BOS/PVD), CHICAGO (ORD), DENVER (DEN), FORT LAUDERDALE (FLL), ORLANDO (MCO), LAS VEGAS (LAS), LOS ANGELES (LAX), NEW YORK (JFK/SWF), OAKLAND (OAK), SEATTLE (SEA) & CONNECTICUT (BDL).

 

Norwegian really have set the standard for budget transatlantic air travel. Operating the brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 from Irish and Scottish regional airports; whilst also operating the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Gatwick to a combined total of 14 US airports, I guess you could say they have claimed this sector of the market for their own. Operating the state of the art Dreamliner, an aircraft that is quite frankly something out of your wildest dreams (Get the pun? Too cringey? Okay, I’ll stop, I promise…), this already puts them ahead of their would be competitors WOW and Primera.

The Lowfare option is Norwegian’s basic fare that can be booked. It includes 10kgs of cabin baggage and includes a standard economy seat with 31″ of legroom on both Boeing 737 and 787 aircraft. Optional extras such as seat selection or In flight meals are charged at a premium.

Premium seating on board one of Norwegian’s Dreamliners

Lowfare+ is the next available ticket option to purchase with Norwegian. This fare will see travelers able to check in one 20kg piece of baggage free of charge and the on board meal service from the Nice&Tasty Menu is also free of charge. Seat selection is offered complimentary, this will see passengers allowed to pick any seat on the aircraft, including exit row seats!

Norwegian’s Premium cabin has won some raving reviews including that of LondonSpotter’s very own Raj Stevenson! (You can read his in depth review of this cabin here!). Premium passengers have a whole range of extras made available to them for free when purchasing their tickets. This includes Fast Track Security and Lounge access in the departure airport. When on board a fantastic 55″ of legroom will greet travelers, as will the complimentary food and drink offered by the airlines friendly cabin crew.  Two bags both weighing 20kgs can be checked in on this ticket type.

The airline understands that sometimes travel plans have to change last minute. This is why they offer their Flex and PremiumFlex fares at the time of booking. Both of these come with the benefits of their respective travel classes, but allow the ticket holder to change their booking or request a refund for the cost of the ticket free of charge. All other passengers must pay amendment fees if wanting to change their itinerary and refunds are not available to them.

FLYING DIRECT?

The fantastic versatility of the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 787 Dreamliner allow Norwegian to fly direct to all of their Transatlantic destinations. This already puts them ahead of market competitor WOW Air as passengers flying with WOW have to transit in Keflavik before reaching the USA and Canada. Flying direct on the Max 8 will offer passengers an experience that most likely they will have not had before. Equipped with engines specially designed to reduce fuel consumption making the aircraft more efficient to fly, they also feature chevrons that reduce the noise emitted from the engine. Single aisle aircraft making the flight across the Atlantic is becoming more and more common and it opens up the USA to smaller regional airports that simply do not have the capacity to handle a wide body aircraft.

Norwegian offer direct Transatlantic flights on the Boeing 737 Max 8

WHY FLY NORWEGIAN?

Much like Primera, flying direct is a key selling point. Flying direct and all year round from smaller regional airports such as Shannon and Cork has opened up the USA to people who before were having to travel to Dublin or wait for airlines to start their seasonal schedules. The airline does also fly from UK bases that have existing Transatlantic routes, so what makes them stand out against the crowd? The flexibility to pick and choose what you want included in the price you pay is a key selling point. Not everyone wants to travel with checked baggage or lounge access or quite simply, not everyone wants to pay the sometimes extremely high ticket prices that carriers charge.

In terms of the on board experience, it is surprisingly luxurious for a low cost airline. Norwegian are beginning to role out WiFi on their 737MAX fleet to join the -800 fleet. On the Dreamliner, seat back entertainment systems are offered, this allows passengers to access the latest in film, TV shows and even allows passengers to order drinks to be delivered to them from the comfort of their own seat (something which I am a massive fan of personally!). Mobile devices and other similar gadgets can be charged through the USB port offered in the seat back IFE screen.

An example of the economy meal service on board

The on board meal choices a full meal service is offered if your ticket includes it in the price. The airline caters for all taste buds including the fussiest of eaters – kids! A cold starter is offered along with a meat or fish main option served with a range of accompaniments. To finish a sweet treat is offered along with a hot drink. For children a special meal that guarantees to satisfy the pickiest of eaters if offered and if they finish it all, a chocolate cake may be waiting for them! Between meal services a snack bar is open, these options must be paid for by card as the airline is cashless.

The benefits of flying Norwegian seem appealing, but the most important factor of them all that impacts anyone’s decision of who to fly with is the price. The airline offers some fantastic fares such as Shannon to Providence (for Boston) starts from just £97.40 one way. For any Scottish readers planning on taking a trip to the Big Apple, Edinburgh to Stewart (for New York) can be reached from just £136.60 one way. To see how these fares compare against a competitor such as British Airways, we will compare how both airlines shape up when tasked with flying to Las Vegas. The British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Las Vegas will set travelers back £685.61 when travelling in the World Traveler cabin. This gives passengers 23kgs of checked baggage and free seat selection 24 hours prior to departure. Norwegian from London Gatwick to Las Vegas will cost £420.30, a total saving of £265.31! This is travelling economy on the Lowfare+ ticket, giving passengers 20kgs of checked  baggage and free seat selection at the time of booking. Unless you’re a British Airways super fan, I think it will be Norwegian flying you to the Sin City!

Could carriers such as British Airways be forced to change their pricing strategies due to airlines such as Norwegian?

SUMMARY

Having been around for sometime now, Norwegian have made a name for themselves as the airline that offers cheap air fares but cuts no corners on what they offer. The ability to select individually what you want to pay for when booking is fantastic in my opinion, as people can often end up paying for things that they just don’t want or need. Operating the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a key selling point for the airline, especially when compared to the Airbus aircraft that Primera and WOW are flying. One failure that I have picked out is the fact that they do not offer any routes to Canada. I believe that this would be very popular, especially from airports served by the Max 8 such as Cork and Belfast.

The modern flight deck of the Boeing 737 Max 8

CONCLUSION.

Over the past three weeks WOW Air, Primera Air and Norwegian have been reviewed on the way that they are looking to or changing the way we look at flying Transatlantic. For me writing this, It has been difficult to decide who I think will crack the market and establish themselves as the go to budget carrier. I was torn between two airlines but ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that Norwegian are the Transatlantic game changers! Already being established as a long haul carrier has shown that what they do, they do well. Opening up the United States to Cork and Belfast has saved travelers both time and money when it comes to flying across the pond. As I mentioned earlier, the absence of Canadian destinations disappointed me but hopefully the decision makers at Norwegian reading this will add a Toronto or Vancouver to the schedule soon!

Primera Air were a close second, flying direct from Birmingham and Stansted appealed to me as they are airports that currently lack a direct service to the USA. Much like Norwegian the ability to be flexible with what you choose to include on your ticket is a great help to anyone looking for a cheap getaway to New York or Boston. However, with the airline not yet flying from the UK, it’s very hard to predict if they can deliver the high expectations that I have for them. WOW Air come third as unfortunately the services on offer from the two direct carriers just don’t justify adding the extra time onto your journey when travelling via Keflavik. The sometimes lengthy connection times between services could be a hindrance to travelers.

Be sure to visit Norwegian’s website to take advantage of some amazing low fares.

 

Want more like this? Be sure to check out our Most Read Moments of 2017!

Primera: Transatlantic Game Changers?

Gone are the days where your only options to fly from the United Kingdom to the United States were dominated by the likes of British Airways and American Airlines.  Despite the fantastic service and benefits that these airlines offer throughout your flight, not everyone wants to or can afford to pay the price this comes at. The good news is they no longer have to. Why? The low cost carriers are coming…

Last week we brought you our take on WOW Air’s chances of establishing themselves as the UK’s number one low cost carrier across the Atlantic. If you haven’t already read it, you need to stop what you’re doing and click here to do so!  Now that’s sorted, this week it’s the turn of Scandinavian based Primera Air, let’s see what they’ve got to offer…

OY-PSA of Primera which has been operating for Jet2.com over Summer 2017

PRIMERA AIR.

UK DEPARTURES FROM: BIRMINGHAM (BHX) & LONDON (STN).
CONNECTING VIA: NONE, ALL FLIGHTS DIRECT!
FLYING TO: NEW YORK (EWR), BOSTON (BOS) & TORONTO (YYZ).

 

I’m sure the vast majority of you reading  this will be clueless as to who Primera are, some may have not even heard of them until this very moment. With a fleet of only 9 Boeing aircraft and around 300 employees on the payroll, you’d be forgiven for not knowing about them.  Primera primarily operate charter flights for travel companies, mainly across Europe and Asia. With the opening of bases in Birmingham, London Stansted and Paris, it’s clear that the owners are looking to expand and make the airline a house hold name in the market.

Tickets across all three routes start from under £200 on the carrier’s Light package. Travelers will find themselves with 10kgs cabin baggage and a randomly assigned seat in the economy cabin. Seating in this cabin offers a guaranteed 30″ of legroom.

The Comfort package offers 10kgs cabin baggage and 23kgs checked baggage. Seat selection and an in-flight meal are both complimentary to passengers travelling on this fare basis. Seating upgrades to XL seats with a legroom of 32″ legroom are charged at £34.99 per seat and exit row seats are available for £44.99 offering a whopping 49″ of legroom. (Well worth the price in my opinion).

For anyone who may have to alter their travel plans at the last minute, Primera offer a Flex package across both their Economy and Premium cabins. Name changes are free of charge, the tickets are fully refundable and travel dates can be amended with travelers only having to pay the difference in fare cost (If there is one). Economy passengers will find it includes all the benefits of Comfort and also find themselves being able to choose standard, extra legroom or exit row seats for free.

Seating Comparison (Credit: primerair.co.uk)

Premium seating is located in the first 4 rows of the aircraft and offer extra wide seats with a legroom of 39″. Premium cabin passengers will find themselves guaranteed a window or aisle seat as this exclusive cabin is in a 2-2 configuration. Premium meals are available to be selected at the time of booking, as well as all other meal options available to customers. Priority boarding of the aircraft is included.

 

FLYING DIRECT?

Unlike rival carrier WOW Air, Primera will be offering direct Transatlantic flights from their UK bases of London Stansted and Birmingham. These routes will be served by Airbus A321neo aircraft. Equipped with drag reducing Sharklets, industry leading fuel efficiency and an enhanced new engine option (hence neo), these aircraft are going to be some of the newest and most modern flying across the Atlantic. The airline will be taking delivery of 8 Airbus A321neo’s in 2018, as well as leasing 2 Airbus A321neo Long Range aircraft from leasing company AerCap. Primera also have an order with Boeing to take delivery of up to 20 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft which will compliment the airlines long haul fleet.

 

WHY FLY PRIMERA?

First and foremost, the non-stop services that Primera offer from their regional UK bases are undoubtedly the primary reason that people will book with them. London Stansted already has WOW Air offering Transatlantic connections but being able to reach New York without having to transfer in Keflavik already puts Primera ahead of their Icelandic competitors. Being able to fly direct from Birmingham is a massive selling point for the airline as well. Earlier in the year, United and American Airlines pulled out of Birmingham leaving them without a direct Transatlantic route for the first time in almost 30 years. More recently, Icelandair announced they were axing the Keflavik-Birmingham route leaving passengers unable to connect to Icelandair services to the USA and Canada. In my opinion, it’s a smart move from Primera taking advantage of a significant gap in the Midlands air travel market.

The on-board experience with Primera will feature USB ports in every row of seating allowing travelers to charge their gadgets whilst enjoying their favourite movie or album. This is very important as Primera doesn’t not offer an entertainment system that passengers can use to view the latest movies or television box sets. In the place of In flight Entertainment, the airline will offer Wi-Fi across it’s fleet of Airbus A321neo aircraft, so that both business and leisure passengers can stay connected to social media or their emails, even at 38,000 feet.

Just one of the tasty meals available to enjoy on-board!

Catering on-board will feature a meal service that will either be complimentary or paid for, depending on the ticket type purchased. This will give the option of either a chicken or beef dish, or a suitable alternative for anyone with special dietary requirements. A high quality range of snacks and drinks will be available to purchase throughout the flight , all of which are described as “great items at great prices”  by the airline.

Ticket prices for most people are the major factor in deciding who to fly with. Primera offer fantastic value across their routes to the USA and Canada. Boston starts from just £149 one way when travelling on the Light package, and both New York and Toronto start from just £169 one way when travelling Light. A return trip from Birmingham to New York will cost £278 on the Light package, this can be compared to the £339.98 that Thomas Cook Airlines will charge on the same dates when travelling from Manchester to New York. The £61.98 saving could be put towards seeing a show on Broadway or admission to the Rockefeller Centre!

 

SUMMARY!

To summarize, I believe that Primera have a strong product to offer on the most modern single aisle aircraft out there. Understandably the companies low cost business model may not appeal to everyone as people come to expect IFE and meal services to be complimentary on long haul flights. However, the option to pre-purchase your tasty meal and the availability of Wi-Fi on-board will be acceptable by most as the airline is low cost after all. Being able to fly direct from two regional UK airports will be a key selling point, especially with both having no direct Transatlantic services.

Just one of Primera’s Airbus A321neo’s which will be in the skies in 2018

To put Primera Air’s chances into one sentence; I believe that they have a strong chance to crack into the market and with a few adjustments made to features such as Wi-Fi (perhaps offer an IFE system that is streamed to the users device), Primera could be here to stay.

 

Visit Primera Air’s website to book your next Transatlantic trip and to take advantage of their low cost fares to Barcelona, Malaga and Majorca!

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WOW Air: Transatlantic Game Changers?

THE TRANSATLANTIC MARKET IS CHANGING.

Gone are the days where your only options to fly from the United Kingdom to the United States were dominated by the likes of British Airways and American Airlines.  Despite the fantastic service and benefits that these airlines offer throughout your flight, not everyone wants to or can afford to pay the price this comes at. The good news is they no longer have to. Why? The low cost carriers are coming…

2018 is set to be a big year for Transatlantic air travel, new entrants into the UK market Primera Air and WOW Air will look to assert their authority as the ‘go to’ budget carrier. They will face some tough competition though, with Norwegian successfully establishing themselves as the airline of choice for reaching the US East Coast on the cheap. It won’t be easy.

Over the next three weeks, we will review WOW, Norwegian and Primera and look at their chances of changing the way we look at flying across the Atlantic.

EC-MIN of WOW Air which is now registered as TF-LUV

WOW AIR.

UK DepartURES from: EDINBURGH (EDI), dUBLIN (DUB) & LONDON (LGW/STN).
Connecting in: keflavik (kef).
FLYING TO: BOSTON (BOS), CHICAGO (ORD), CINCINNATI (CVG), CLEVELAND (CLe), DALLAS (DFW), DETROIT (DTW), LOS ANGELES (LAx), NEW YORK (JFK/EWR), PITTSBURGH (PIT), ST. LOUIS (STL),  WASHINGTON D.C. (BWI), TORONTO (YYZ) & MONTREAL (YUL).

 

WOW have long been living in the shadow of Icelandair as Iceland’s second choice airline for both flying to Europe and across the pond. However, with the opening of their second London base (London Stansted) in April 2018, WOW will be offering daily flights to their home of Keflavik International Airport where passengers will be able to connect to a number of flights departing to destinations listed above and more!

With WOW Basic fares starting as little as £99 one way, the price alone could be reason enough to book. The WOW Basic fare only permits passengers to carry on one personal item of hand baggage, and will find them seated in WOW Air’s standard economy seating with a seat pitch of between 29″ – 31″ depending on aircraft type. All catering options on board must be payed for.

For anyone wanting optional extras such as checked baggage and seat selection to be included then the WOW Plus fare offers exactly that. All baggage options are included: Personal Item, Carry On Item and Checked baggage. The option to pre-select your seat is also included, however this is only the airlines standard economy seating, any XL or XXL seats carry a further surcharge to purchase. As with WOW Basic, all catering options must be payed for.

WOW Biz seating offers 35″ + legroom

The airline does offer their take on business class, marketed as WOW Biz it includes all of the extras marketed in the WOW Plus fare and more.  Cancellation Protection is included meaning that if passengers have to cancel their ticket due to unforeseen circumstances, they will be able to reclaim the cost of it through the airline. As apposed to the standard economy seating, Biz passengers will be able to pre-select their very own XXL seat which features a legroom of 35″ + or The Big Seat with a legroom of 37″ + if traveling on Airbus A330 aircraft.

CONNECTING IN KEFLAVIK

Transiting through any airport can be either a joyful experience, or total chaos. Luckily for passengers in transit, Keflavik international Airport was named the BEST airport in Europe (In the under 5 million passengers per year category). This was awarded by the Airports Council International Europe in 2016. It was awarded due to the airports ability to perform exceptionally during their peak times of the year. This isn’t the first time the airport has been commended for it’s performance, it has previously won the award no fewer than 3 times (2009, 2011, 2014) and in 2015 came third in the category. The terminal building is host to a wide range of duty free shops, bars and restaurants so boredom certainly isn’t an option!

WHY FLY WOW?

When flying with WOW an indirect routing from the UK is the only option. This coupled with some undesirable connection times could result in an instant no from passengers. For example, passengers flying from London Stansted to Los Angeles via Keflavik will look forward to an unenviable connection time of 19 hours. However this shouldn’t put you off flying with them as to compensate for this, WOW offer travelers the option to add a lay over in Iceland before their connecting flight to the USA or Canada. They do this by not charging any additional fees for the difference in dates between the flights. Any accommodation costs will have to be paid for by the traveler, but even just one night in Iceland is worth the cost of a cheap city motel.

Skytrax rate the airline 3 stars out of a possible 5. They score highly in the Staff Service category, meaning that the airlines friendly staff will be on hand to assist in any way they possibly can. A down side to this is the lack of In flight Entertainment, only 1 star was awarded for this. Why? Well, WOW doesn’t offer any. Anyone traveling had best bring along their laptop or tablet to keep them entertained throughout the flight. In an effort to compensate for the lack of IFE, they offer charging ports under every seat so that devices never run out of juice just as the movie is reaching the best bit!

One of WOW’s tasty meal options

The on board meal services are offered with the option to pre-book your meal 48 hours prior to departure, or to pay on-board. The airline does offer a wide range of tasty options with sandwiches to pizza and everything in between included. The options do vary depending on availability and the destination that the airline is flying to. Much like British Airways’ meal services, cash is not accepted on board. Transactions are processed in US Dollars and all major credit and debit cards are accepted.

Ticket prices play a major part in anyone’s decision to commit to booking the journey. A WOW Basic fare from London Stansted to Chicago’s O’Hare will cost £299 return plus any additional fees for extras added onto the booking. An American Airlines flight from London Heathrow to O’Hare direct will cost £440 return when compared to the same dates. With a potential saving of almost £141 and a wait of only 90 minutes in Keflavik, the Windy City could be your first destination with WOW Air.

SUMMARY

In summary, I think WOW are offering a good product at some very reasonable prices. Understandably travelers may not rush to purchase tickets due to the lack of IFE and complimentary dining, but as is the case with most budget airlines, you pay for what you get. The low fares will undoubtedly play a major part in anyone’s decision of who to fly WOW, but when compared against a product such as American’s flight to Chicago, the potential saving makes that 90 minute wait worth it. With WOW operating an all Airbus fleet that is one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world, traveling in 5 star luxury will not be the case but modern style definitely is.

WOW Air operate one of the world’s youngest aircraft fleets (Image Credit: wowair.co.uk)

I personally feel that they have the potential to expand their presence within the UK and show that direct isn’t always the best option. Whether they will or not is something that only time will tell.

 

Visit WOW Air’s website to book your next trip and experience them for yourself, click here. Be sure to check out next weeks article on Primera Air’s chances of cracking into the Transatlantic market.

 

Like this article? Read our article on how New York Stewart Airport is changing the way we travel.

Icelandair axe Birmingham route

Icelandair currently offer Birmingham’s only direct service to the land of ice and fire, but almost 3 years after the route was opened in February 2015, the airline are axing it.

Icelandair’s most recognisable aircraft, TF-FIU/Hekla Aurora, flew the Inaugural KEF-BHX route on February 5th 2015.

The route which is currently served twice weekly by Boeing 757-200 aircraft, carrying 183 passengers over the airlines three travel classes: Economy, Economy Comfort and Saga Class. The airline announced plans only a few months ago that they would stop operating the  Boeing 757-200 aircraft to Birmingham and would be replacing it with the most cost-efficient single-aisle aircraft produced, the Boeing 737-Max8.

This news is a big blow for the airport which saw 11.6 million passengers pass through it’s doors in 2016. Earlier in the year American Airlines and United Airlines pulled out of Birmingham, leaving the airport without a direct service to the United States for the first time since the 1990’s. Both airlines stated that “poor financial performance” was a key factor behind the decision to end the airports association with flying direct to New York.

American Airlines had only flew from Birmingham to John F. Kennedy for just 20 months before chopping the route in January 2017.
WHY?

With no official statement from the airline, we can only speculate what the reasoning behind this decision is, however crucial factors such as the Pound Sterling’s poor performance against other currencies and the uncertain issue of air travel to and from the UK post-Brexit must have been taken into consideration by the airline’s officials.

Icelandair also recently announced the closure of its routes from Keflavik to Barcelona, Stavanger and Trondheim. It is widely believed that these simply did not have the passenger demand to sustain the scheduled weekly services that the airline currently operates.

WHAT NOW?

Any passengers who have reservations and have not yet been contacted by the airline should click here to be taken to the airline’s customer support page. If your booking was made via a travel agent, please contact them.

Icelandair continue to fly direct to other airports in the United Kingdom, the closest to Birmingham being Manchester and London Heathrow. If you would like to take advantage of some amazing offers including London Gatwick to Reykjavik from just £153pp return, then follow this link to their website.

The last Icelandair service to Keflavik will depart Birmingham on January 18th 2018.

Fare Finder: December 2017

Your guide to the best value fares for the month ahead!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. This month our top picks focus on flights to cities that offer the best Christmas markets!

krAKOW, POLAND:

Poland’s second largest city is the first on the list. Krakow is immersed in culture, whether it’s exploring the snowy streets of the old town and Jewish quarter or making the trip to experience the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, there is something for everyone to do.  At night Rynek Glowny, the old town’s 13th century market square comes to life with market stalls selling local delicacies such as Oscypek cheese and bowls of piping hot hunters stew.

Flying to Krakow from the UK is very easy, with low cost carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet operating the route from many regional airports.  Fares with EasyJet from London Gatwick start at just £69pp one way, with a return ticket costing only £90pp. To book your flights to Krakow, click here.

Ryanair and EasyJet both fly daily from the United Kingdom to Krakow.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM:

The Winter Wonders in Brussels is 2 kilometres of festive fun located throughout this historic city centre. Home to a unique festive atmosphere and delicious local cuisine, the Belgian capital at Christmas is definitely not to be missed. After spending time enjoying yourself on the fun fair style Merry-go-rounds and Ice rink located at the Marche aux Poissons, why not take a relaxing ride on the Ferris Wheel and enjoy breath taking views of the city?

Flights with Aer Lingus from Dublin start from just £27pp one way. Whilst departing with fellow Irish carrier, Ryanair, from Manchester can see you arrive into Brussels from as little as £36pp for a return ticket. Click here to take you the Aer Lingus website, and here to take you to the Ryanair website.

munich, germany:

The Bavarian capital located in Germany’s south is shadowed by the snow capped Alps. This vibrant city is famously known for it’s Oktoberfest celebration, but when December comes, the Marienplatz (the cities main square) comes to life filled with wooden huts selling mouthwatering Bratwurst and tankards filled with any one of Bavaria’s 4000 beer brands!

The centre of the city is easily accessible via S-Bahn from Munich International Airport. Just be sure not to miss your train when exploring the airports own Christmas market and ice skating ring!

Munich is  very popular destination from the United Kingdom, being traveled to by business people and tourists alike. Yet again, EasyJet are offering the lowest airfares from London Gatwick, starting from just £61pp return, this is exceptional value when compare to Lufthansa’s cheapest economy ticket price of £76pp one way! To take advantage of this deal, click here.

Munich is home to stunning architecture and a relaxed atmosphere,
bUDAPEST, HUNGARY:

Last but by no means least is Budapest. Lying on the banks of the Danube River, Hungary’s capital city is one of Europe’s fastest growing cities in terms of it’s popularity with tourists. Every December the streets are transformed into a winter wonderland with rows of traditional market stalls lining the city squares. The many historical buildings and bridges are beautifully presented in eye catching festive decorations.

If the cold winter nights get too  much for you, why not take a trip to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths where you can bathe in any one of the 17 hot spring pools.

Hungarian low cost airline Wizz Air are offering brilliantly priced tickets to their main operating base of Budapest Ferihegy International Airport. Their travel light package includes a generous 10 kilograms of hand luggage and the option to check in online 48 hours prior to your departure. If you have never flown with them before, check out this superb product review by co-author Ethan Chandler. Flights from Birmingham to Budapest start from just £32pp one way or if a London airport is your preferred departure point, London Luton to Budapest starts at £42pp one way. Visit Wizz Air’s website  to book your flights.

Buda Castle is just one of the must see buildings on your trip to Budapest!
IN NEXT MONTHS FARE FINDER:

In the Fare Finder: January 2018 edition, we will be looking to find the best value fares to jet you away for some winter sun!

 

Please note that all pricing and availability is correct at the time of publish and is subject to change. This is an independent article and is no way endorsed by any airline or tourist board.

Monarch: My View

A cabin crew member’s insight into the final days of Monarch Airlines.

10am, alarm goes off, just as it does everyday when I’m on afternoons. I get ready, then run through a mental checklist ensuring I have everything I will need for the day ahead. After a quick debate as to whether I should bring my rain coat or not, I start up the car and make my way to the airport. On my way into work, my phone notifies me that Andrew Swaffield has sent an e-mail to all Monarch staff. The contents advising us to ignore the ongoing press speculation, and congratulating us for getting 67% of the previous days flights away on time. Only 20 minutes after leaving the house, I find myself a parking space and head towards the crew room. All too soon it’s time for the pre-flight brief and the dreaded SEP (Safety and Emergency Procedures) and immediate medical care questions. We were asked these before reporting for every duty, they were designed to ensure that our knowledge of everything we are trained to know and carry out during an emergency situation is up to date.

The day goes without a hitch… well almost. We have to wait for our Airbus A320 to land from Dalaman, so we can prep it to head down to Gibraltar and back. This did give me an opportunity to get up close and personal to G-ZBAV, our sole Boeing 737-800 aircraft which was brought in to assist crew being converted from Airbus to the brand new fleet of Boeing 737-Max8s arriving from March 2018.

G-ZBAV awaiting steps to be put up beside her at Birmingham.

Apart from the delay, the day goes by as normal. Take off, complete all in-flight services, grab a bite to eat, prepare for landing and repeat. As with any trip to Gibraltar, the obligatory photo of the Rock is taken.

After landing back into Birmingham I sense something is not right. All of our aircraft are parked on remote stands. Thinking nothing of it, I wait for the double knock on the R4 door, signalling it is safe for me to open it and disembark the passengers. It was only on the minibus back to the terminal building the dispatcher broke the news that the night Ibiza flights from both Birmingham and London Gatwick had been cancelled.

G-ZBAH sitting in the Mediterranean sun after arriving as ZB446.

I ask my self “Why?”, at 3.26am, I got my answer…

“This is the update I hoped I would never have to write. Despite our best efforts, today Monarch Airlines Limited and Monarch Travel Group (Monarch Holidays) are ceasing operations and going into administration.” – Andrew Swaffield, Monarch Airlines Chief Executive Officer, in an email sent to staff during the early hours of 2nd October 2017.

Wow. How do you process news like that? It was only two hours prior that I was leaving the crew room after having operated the Gibraltar. How had such a brilliant day turned into a nightmare almost instantaneously? It couldn’t be true, could it?

Unfortunately for myself, my 2,500 former colleagues and the 110,000 passengers now stranded abroad, it was true. With a whirlwind of emotions swirling around inside, I pick up the phone and dial the number for one of my friends. The response, a deafening silence broken intermittently by the sobbing of my friend at the end of the phone. Damn… this is real. This is happening.

Being called to an airport hotel function room to be formally made redundant isn’t a nice feeling. I could see this on the hundreds of faces around the room, each and every one of them must have dozens of thoughts whirling around their heads at supersonic speeds. Tears were shed, but there was always a shoulder to cry on. For me that reinforced something that I was told right at the very start of my Monarch journey. “Monarch isn’t like any other airline, it has that real family feel to it.” Right from my very first day up until my last, those words stayed with me (they still do, even now), but it was only at that moment it hit me like a tonne of bricks. This is what they meant. Even in the face of adversity, we still had each other and no one or nothing was going to change that.

Three Monarch aircraft parked up waiting to be returned to their leasing companies.

Suddenly having an abundance of free time on my hands meant there was only one thing I could do to fill the giant aviation shaped hole left In my life. I grabbed my trusty camera and my radio scanner and headed to Birmingham Airport to try and spot the various different aircraft being operated on behalf of the CAA. Alternating between different spotting points, I managed to speak to other spotters who had the same Idea as me, all of which asked the one same question, “How does this happen overnight?”. The truth is this doesn’t just happen overnight, as we later found out the company had tried to pivot from our substantial loss making short haul routes to a long haul network serviced by our soon to be delivered Boeing 737-Max8 fleet and leased wide body aircraft (As many staff will tell you, JFK was supposed to be served from Birmingham as of 15th May 2018). However, despite all attempts, Monarch Airlines Limited was predicted to make a loss of £100million pounds during the next financial year, thus making it unfeasible for the airline to continue operations.

I have seen many people take to social media with their views on the situation, some of them I agree with, some of them I don’t. What I haven’t seen a great deal of though is thanks. Thanks to the Civil Aviation Authority and the staff and the airlines that have stepped in to fill the void that has been left by Monarch’s collapse. In the days that followed, at the request of the CAA, many airlines were repositioning aircraft to former Monarch bases and destinations. One of these was Qatar Airways, within hours of the news breaking Qatar Airways Airbus A320 jets were on their way from Doha to the United Kingdom, with only one mission, get as many people as possible home. Operating under British Airways callsigns, the crews of these Airbus aircraft worked tirelessly, completing multiple sectors per day to bring home stranded holiday makers. So to all of the crews, who helped repatriate our passengers when we couldn’t, I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone reading this article when I say this, Thank You.

A7-LAF was just one of the many Qatar Airways aircraft tasked with repatriating stranded holiday makers.

I will always have many happy memories whenever I think of the Spotty M, as I’m sure you reading this will too. Next year would have been the airlines 50th anniversary. To look back and think of how far we have come and what we have achieved is fantastic. Ever since the airlines first flight from London Luton to Madrid using a sole turboprop Bristol Britannia, Monarch has been a household name in the British aviation Industry. To think that an airline of our stature can just disappear overnight is a scary thought indeed.

The Monarch name does live on though, through the many happy memories of the millions of passengers we have flown over the years. Through the men and women who work for Monarch Aircraft Engineering Limited. I’m sure that they will continue to do us proud, as they always have done.

Want to know more about the history of Monarch’s collapse? Click here.