EasyJet A320NEO Flight Review Gatwick – Lanzarote



I have had the EasyJet A320NEO on my radar for some time and now a whopping 5 aircraft are based around the UK and luckily for me 3 of those found themselves flying out of London Gatwick. I happen to have a few inside contacts at EasyJet and on a late Friday night, UZHA (EasyJet’s first NEO) was scheduled to flight to Lanzarote the following morning. The temptation to fly this beautiful bird was too overwhelming and I found myself booking seats for the early Lanzarote flight. Unfortunately, the flight was oversold so I used my connections to get on standby, although my chances were already not looking too great.

Although I was travelling on a standby staff ticket today, as a frequent flyer i suggest booking my tickets through SkyScanner (low fares) or Momondo (great business class fares)

Descending into ACE

EasyJet bought into the A320NEO back in 2013 in order to maintain a modern and efficient fleet with improved levels of passenger comfort. The new EastJet cabin was fitted to aircraft delivered from May 2016 and all existing A320s will be retrofitted by the end of Spring 2018.

“In 2013 easyJet confirmed an order for 100 new generation Airbus A320neo aircraft for delivery from 2017 to 2022 and has taken purchase rights on a further 100 aircraft. These aircraft, equipped with CFM LEAP-1A engines and wing ‘Sharklets’, will be 13% to 15% more fuel efficient than existing aircraft types.” – Easyjet

Back to the Flight

I had to arrive at Gatwick the following morning with plenty of time. First I got my security pass to get to the gate where I had to patiently and nervously wait while all the passengers boarded the aircraft as it is only after all the passengers have boarded that you find out if you have been successful or not.

In this case, I got on! I was going to be flying on the orange NEO! The huge downside of flying standby is that you don’t get a seat choice, you fit in where there is space and in this case, it was arguably the worst seat on the plane: an aisle seat right at the very back directly next to the toilet. The charming EasyJet crew came to the rescue, however and after a great chat with the flight crew during pre-flight checks, the lead cabin manager sourced me a free window seat right at the front, offering the best engine view around!

View from seat 4F

Push back from our remote stand was on-time and we were lining up perfectly on our STD. Gatwick was using 26 operations today and after a powerful and sporty take-off by the brand new CFM Leap 1A engines we banked left, heading south towards France.  The inflight service began soon after take-off, I had not yet had anything to eat today so I ordered the EasyJet meal deal, opting for the feta and rocket sandwich as the main.  The meal deal at EasyJet is reasonably priced at 7€/9£. This ended up satisfying me quite well, the sandwich is of reasonable size and quality and I couldn’t fault it!

Meal deal section of inflight Bistro magazine

For most of the flight my eyes were fixed on the gorgeous wing view, those huge engines really added something to the flight experience, not to mention the fact that the flight was super quiet, I could actually listen in on conversations seats in front of me, unheard of on CEO A320s. I recently flew to Gibraltar on the CEO A320 and any form of conversation is drowned out by the noise of the old CFM56 engines. I couldn’t talk to my neighbour without raising my voice, but on the NEO such conversation was now possible! After nearly 3 hours in the air we were staring our descent into sunny Lanzarote, it was gusting quite heavily on short final but the fantastic flight crew pulled off a greaser despite of the wind conditions.

Once again another successful and enjoyable flight on EasyJet and I still believe that they are up there as one of the best low cost airlines, with friendly crew willing to engage in conversation and inviting, chatty pilots.

While EasyJet may not be part of any alliances or have a points system, they truly are a great low-cost airline. While the old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ may be true to some extent, the cheap prices make up for that.

 

SAS order 50 new Airbus A320NEOs with Options for Five More

It was announced a couple of days ago the SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) has placed an order for a further 50 A320NEO aircraft to complement their standing order of 30. This order will allow SAS to operate a single type fleet by 2023, operating the most efficient aircraft which is flown on many short and medium haul routes from Scandinavia to the rest of Europe.

Credit Mark Djupenstrom

I was lucky enough to fly on-board one of SAS’ NEOs late last year, and here is a snippet from the article:

“NEO is short for New Engine Option, and the new engines are the CFM Leap 1A, the NEO also comes equipped with 2.4 meter-long Sharklets rising up from the wingtips, giving the NEO lower fuel consumption, and an almost 1000 kilometre longer range. Inside the cabin, SAS have chosen overhead compartments that are significantly larger than the CEO A320s. Another new feature is the placement of the AFT toilets. ‘Two toilets are placed next to each other towards the aft bulkhead, the lateral one is designed to be more accessible for people with reduced mobility. ’SAS currently have 12 NEOs out of the 30 they had on order alongside 12 CEO A320s. SAS are the largest operator of the A320NEO in Europe and it was about time I got on-board to see what it offered.”

Read the full review here.

Overall I found the NEO a very pleasant experience, the updated cabin added to the already positive user experience which combined with SAS’ exemplary on-time performance. The quiet NEO made for a very pleasant and relaxing flight.



Today, the Scandinavian airline is investing heavily in biofuels and has also been working for several years on increased production of biofuels to use for their operations. This upgrade in passenger experience and lower fuel consumption has contributed heavily towards SAS’ growth, enabling the Scandinavian airline to purchase these new aircraft, further pushing for a single-type fleet.

Back in 2012, SAS were operating six different aircraft types on short-haul but currently operate only two – the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 – however, SAS hope to phase out all remaining 737s by 2023 to pave way for one single aircraft type for their intra-Europe operations, thus leading to standardization and increased efficiency, as well as lower maintenance costs.

Over central London descending into Heathrow

The new order of NEOs are expected to be delivered from Spring 2019 through to 2021 (15 will be leased) and a further 35 direct from Airbus being delivered up untill 2023. It is said that this order includes an option for up to a further 5 A320NEOs and through leasing agents, SAS can tailor their growth based on their current circumstances. All the new A320NEOs will be equipped with SAS’ new high speed Wi-Fi.

“We are proud with this repeat commitment by SAS. The A320neo will complement SAS’s existing Airbus fleet, with unbeatable fuel efficiency and the lowest operating costs and environmental footprint. It is the perfect choice for SAS, for replacing its older generation aircraft. This means more of SAS’s passengers will keep enjoying the best comfort in the skies,” said Eric Schulz, Chief Commercial Officer, Airbus Commercial Aircraft.

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Economy to First! My 5* Experience with British Airways on the B777



Many of you have probably read my last flight review where I ended up in a pickle at Madrid Barajas Airport. My inbound flight from Lanzarote had been delayed due to a tech aircraft on the outbound Lanzarote flight. I was, therefore, stuck in the domestic terminal at Madrid and needed to somehow get across Barajas to the Satellite terminal in under 10minutes as my flight to London was already closing. You can see the awkwardness of my situation.

The problem I was faced with was to run for my life clinging onto the slim chance I may actually make it in time, or keep my dignity and walk, moving my flight to the later one. My current flight was scheduled on a Boeing 777-200, so the inner avgeek kicked in, I took the first option and ran for my life, although even that was trickier that I first thought. We were being taken by bus from my inbound aircraft to the terminal and after a painful 10minutes of sitting on the bus, I was let loose and proceeded straight to connections, through passport control and onto the train in seconds. To my annoyance the train moved along at a measly 10mph on the satellite terminal. Lots of painful waiting and fidgeting  followed but we did finally arrive at the Satellite terminal. A small handful of passengers were also running in the same direction as I was headed, so knew I was not alone.

FLIGHT CLOSED read the screen in front of my aircraft, however I was ushered forward and escorted onto the aircraft, they had obviously realised several passengers on my inbound Lanzarote flight were booked onto this 777 and had made the effort to hold the doors. The first of many great surprises I experienced with British Airways on this flight. While many would have been surprised that a large aircraft was on this route, I was not because I had checked Kayak before booking. Kayak is great as it shows you which aircraft will operate every flight! I then booked with the cheapest deal I could find.

I managed to sneak this shot in all the havoc

After my sweaty sticky body made it onto seat 35K we were already pushing back for our departure to London. One thing I noticed when I was going to sit down was the first officer talking to a little boy further up economy about flying, just the little things that make a young boys dream become more of a reality, not something you see nowadays anymore. The captain himself also made a friendly warm welcome brief to the passengers and a few minutes later we were in the air bound for London!

Taxiing onto the runway I only just landed on!

I have been on many wide body flights and the best spot on any large aircraft for wing view shots is by the 2nd main door in front of the engine. While snapping away on my camera I got talking to the cabin manager about why I was flying today, my Instagram page and the website! I then asked if I could sit in the first class cabin for the flight as it remains empty on these short haul flights. She thought the idea was great as I could take pictures of an empty first cabin and chat to the crew all the way to London but she just had to check with the Captain. I returned to my seat in Y class while awaiting the verdict. Funnily enough, 5 minutes later I was called to the front of the plane to await my first class seat. This was my first time in first and even though there was no first class dining, it was still a pretty awesome experience. I got some fantastic British Airways hospitality and was offered a free drink and some nuts.

The old first class cabin on the B777

The next great surprise on this flight to London was that the first officer came out and had a chat with me mid-flight! We sat in my little first class ‘suite’ and got talking about flight training, school and the next part of my journey to the flight deck which, again, is not something you get on many flights. The crew were happy to take pictures of me in the seat and generally chat about the flights I have taken, favourite aircraft and all the general avgeeky stuff. Flights are always more enjoyable when the crew actually try to engage with the customer and drum up a conversation rather than smile from a distance. To end a great flight with British Airways we descended into the most beautiful sunset, to an even more beautiful on-time arrival.

What a sunset we had on final approach

To wrap things up I will say that i had a very comfortable and enjoyable flight with British Airways on this occasion, the use of wide-bodies on their London-Madrid route does give that extra special feel to short haul travel. If you want to read our review on the inaugural London to Madrid flight on the larger 777-300ER click here.

Gulf Air Reveal New Livery on Their Boeing 787

Gulf Air have announced that they will be introducing a new livery as part of their ‘brand refresh’ program. The livery will debut on a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner pictured below in Everett. Gulf Air is the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain and has been in operation since 1950, making it one of the first commercial airlines established in the Middle East region.  In a bid to make Bahrain a key international gateway to the world, Gulf Air are modernising their fleet with the delivery of 39 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft from 2018, 39 of which being the above Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The airline is scheduled to take delivery of five B787s this year, with a further five arriving by the end of 2020.

‘The aircraft will feature 256 economy seats and 26 of Gulf Air’s latest Falcon Gold business class seats. The Dreamliners will gradually replace the carrier’s A330 aircraft serving long-haul routes’ – Business Traveller.

Via @mattcawby (Twitter)

Gulf Air, in last week’s schedule update, opened bookings for its Boeing 787-9 aircraft, set to enter service in the first-half of 2018. The airline’s dreamliner is currently scheduled to serve the Bahrain – London Heathrow route on 15JUN18, operating twice daily. This route is currently operated by an A330 (A320 operating during off-peak season).

GF007 BAH0115 – 0625LHR 789 D
GF003 BAH1010 – 1520LHR 789 D

GF002 LHR1000 – 1835BAH 789 D
GF006 LHR2205 – 0640+1BAH 789 D

Currently, the Bahrain to London route is also served by British Airways operating with Boeing 777 variants. It is said that on these new 787s, Gulf Air will opt for Apex Suites which are currently in service with Japan Airlines and Oman Air.

Apex Suite on Oman Air 787

What’s your opinion on the new livery? Get involved by using the hashtag #londonspotter on your social media posts.

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Worse than Ryanair? Iberia Express A320 Lanzarote – Madrid

Last week, I needed to connect from Lanzarote to Madrid for an evening flight back to London. I decided to try the low-cost subsidiary of Iberia, Iberia Express.

‘Iberia Express is a Spanish low-cost airline owned by Iberia, which operates short- and medium-haul routes from its parent airline’s hub at Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, providing feeder flights onto Iberia’s long-haul network’ – Pretty self-explanatory right? I assumed being a subsidiary owned by Iberia it would rate pretty well and perhaps even trump some of the other alternative low cost carries based in Europe, but boy was I wrong!

I was already at Lanzarote Airport and after managing to swap my middle seat to a window seat, I made my way through to departures to find, to my horror, that I have messed up my timings. It turns out that due to time zone changes my 2-hour connection in Madrid had now become 1 hour and to add my worries, the inbound flight from Madrid was 40 minutes behind schedule, presumably delayed after an aircraft swap as it was not the aircraft that was confirmed on flight radar the night before. After a tense period of procrastination as I awaited the arrival of the inbound flight  at ACE, the departure boards read boarding. I made my way over to the gates where I found myself slightly confused. As the jet-bridge was still being attached to the aircraft, passengers were already walking down the jetty way to the plane! It turns out the staff had been premature and so we ended up waiting for around 25minutes in the queue with half of the passenger only meters away from the aircraft.

When we finally made it on-board I could only have assumed due to the delay inbound they had decided not to clean the aircraft. With bottles of water on the floor and crumbs on my seat it was obvious they were trying to claw back time for an on-time departure. I should be complaining here but I wouldn’t have made my connection in Madrid if they had decided to clean the aircraft. It  also turned out that we had left the cool air-conditioned terminal for a hot and sweaty metal tube, operating a full flight to Madrid today. However, surprisingly my neighbours were super interested in my photography and my camera equipment so the tedious delay was made slightly more tolerable. At this point I was sure I was going to miss my connection back to London.

We took off from runway 03 bound for Madrid, 30minutes behind schedule. Once airborne I tried, several times, to connect to the inflight entertainment offered via Wi-Fi. It appeared you had to log into your Iberia Express account which I tried many times, but with no luck. As the flight progressed it seemed encounters with crew were rare, some were polite some not so much. I did end up paying for a bottle of sparkling water during the on-board meal service, for some reason €3 did not seem fair for small bottle of water, but at this point I was roasting alive and willing to make the small sacrifice.

The cabin itself was very old, seats had small bits missing, the leather had seen brighter days and the overall atmosphere was second-rate. The legroom was on par with EasyJet – enough for this 2hour flight to Spain’s capital. Thankfully, the incredible views en-route to Madrid helped me enjoy the flight a little more. Apart from the view there was really nothing else to report.

As we began our descent into Madrid I was becoming increasingly worried about my connection, as it stood I had 30 minutes until my flight back to London actually took off. Once on the ground in Madrid and surviving the painful taxi across the entire airport we arrived on stand at Terminal M. Jubilant at the sight of the jetty bridge I tried to muscle my way through the cabin as everyone unbuckled their seat belt, however the doors did not open for a further 10 minutes, adding to my long list of problems. After finally disembarking, we were led downstairs at the end of the jetty bridge, not across into the terminal. Oh god, yes… Bus connection to the terminal. My chances of making my connection were at this point close to nothing and after another painful wait for the bus to fill up, I was able to peg it through to the transit train to the Satellite terminal in Madrid, thus making my connection with seconds to spare. British Airways were aware of a couple of passengers on my flight and had kindly decided to hold the aircraft for a couple of minutes.

After slating Iberia Express heavily in this review, I need to fly flagship Iberia to weigh up how they compare against each other, as, in regards to Iberia, all the feedback i have heard has been positive. Hopefully later in the year i will get the chance to fly their new A350 from London to Madrid!

Titan Airways Boeing 737-400 Review



Booking

As with most of my other flight reviews, this trip began late on a Friday night searching Kayak for a flight for the next day. This time I chose to fly with British Airways to Faro from London Gatwick. Seems quite boring right? Well, there is a plot twist this flight was to be operated by Titan Airways. This was to be no ordinary flight, the aircraft taking me to  Faro was a “new” Boeing 737-400 classic (G-POWS) that was just brought out of retirement from Victorville. As it occurs, she happens to be ex-BA as well (G-DOCT). It is indeed ironic that she is now flying for her old airline and from her old base!

Titan Airways

Now, many of you are probably wondering, “Who the heck are Titan Airways? I have never heard of them before.” According to their Wiki page and website, “Titan Airways is a British charter airline founded in 1988 and based at London Stansted Airport. The carrier specialises in short notice ACMI and wet lease operations as well as ad-hoc passenger and cargo charter services to tour operators, corporations, governments and the sports and entertainment sectors.” In this case, British Airways lack the aircraft and crew to be able to cover the Monarch slots they took on after its demise, and they turned to fully crewed Titan aircraft to fill these holes in their schedule.

The Flight

It was the morning of the flight and I had checked in at the British Airways desks at south terminal to discover, to my horror, that the flight was FULL and I had been assigned a middle seat in the back. After some shameful begging at the check in desk they let me have an exit row seat for free…result! As customary to my flights departing from South Terminal, I visited Nando’s in the departure lounge however, during my lunch it appeared that my 737 was now operating the Lanzarote flight! Scary! I went to the BA assistance desk who reassured me that the 737 was operating on my flight and the Lanzarote flight was being flown by British Airways themselves. Why was I so worried about what aircraft I was flying on? Well the reason I booked this sector was because Titan uses old aircraft such as the 737-300/400 for their short haul operations, these aircraft have been retired all around Europe at this point and it is near impossible to find flights on them. With Titan operating for BA on select flights I jumped at the chance to fly on-board one of these classics!

It was now approaching boarding time and I made my way to the gate to find G-POWS awaiting me! Boarding was somewhat organised but still pretty chaotic. Once on-board I was pleasantly surprised by the retrofitted cabin, it was very similar to the cabin on the 757-200 I flew with Titan to Zadar last year. My seat, 13A had fantastic legroom, being an exit row seat and had a fantastic view of the wing. The cabin was not representative of the aircraft’s old age of 25 and I could hardly tell it apart from a Next Generation 737. While on the ground at Gatwick we were reminded repeatedly that this was a Titan Airways flight operating for BA, I found it odd that they needed to remind us so many times. The seatback contained the latest inflight magazine from British Airways but no menu, food on-board today was complimentary.

With a small ATC delay of 20minutes, we pushed back and joined the queue for take-off, Gatwick was on its usual westerly operations today which meant a 26L departure. The classic 737 screamed as we took off for Portugal! Flying conditions were perfect and the cruise was for the most part smooth and uneventful. Shortly after the cabin crew were released the complimentary meal service began and I was handed a small sandwich, flapjack and a drink. All of which were very welcome and surprisingly tasty. Good on BA for opting for complimentary snacks on these Titan operated flights. This was only a 2hour50minute flight so there wasn’t too much to report on, the crew on-board were friendly, on par with the level of service with BA but they were no EasyJet crew.

As we started our descent into Faro, things got a little more exciting, as we hit the cloud layer we hit some pretty hard turbulence and our little 737 sure got thrown around a bit. Wind speed on the ground at Faro was around 30knots but as we touched down it had seemed to have all died down and the landing itself was relatively smooth. The friendly crew allowed me a small flight deck visit even though this flight was actually a training flight. Overall this has been another positive flight with Titan Airways and I wonder at which point we will meet again.

Tailstrike

Just an additional bit of information, G-POWS, the 737-400 I had just flown on, had a tail strike on take-off out of Gatwick just one day after my flight and the airport was closed while the runway was inspected. She is now back in service, still operating for BA out of Gatwick and you can book flights on-board her using Kayak. BA have no pattern to where the 737 is scheduled, if you join the London Area Aviation Spotting Facebook group you can find a document containing the month’s aircraft swaps and changes and in there are the details of the Titan Operating flights.



British Airways Gatwick Based 777 Fleet Getting the Facelift it Deserves

Just last week British Airways released images of brand new ten-across world traveler seating to be retrofitted onto Gatwick’s ageing 777 fleet, a programme said to be completed by summer 2019. Select 777s at Heathrow will also be fitted with the new world traveler seats from 2019. In late 2016 IAG stated that “25 777s will be converted to ten-across”. As we know 10 of these are based in Gatwick and it would be safe to assume that a further 10 from Heathrow will be fitted in the near future with ten-across seating.

The brand new world traveler seats will feature 10” IFE touch screens with gesture control based similar to a tablet. The seat also features six way headrests and moveable middle armrests, which the carrier states is good for families traveling with small children. Lucky passengers sitting in World Traveler Plus will also see an upgrade in IFE screen size but this time to 12”.  All seats will feature USB sockets with World Traveler Plus seats also gaining UK, US and EU plug sockets. BA also mentioned that there will be new ‘bespoke’ lighting fitted throughout the aircraft to reflect the time of day to lesser the effects of jet lag and ensure a smoother transition from day to night and vice versa.

6 Gatwick based aircraft’s are set to be fitted with the new seats in 2018 and four by Summer 2019. Note that on 3 class aircraft the WTP cabin will be doubled from 24 to 52 while the Club World cabin sees a decrease from 40 to 32 seats. On the 4 class 777s the World Traveler plus cabins will increase by 12 seats. World Traveler seats will increase on the 3 class 777s from 216 to 252 and on the 4 class 777s from 124-136. (Source Business Insider)

British Airways have confirmed the first routes to be served using the new cabins to be Punta Cana, Cancun and Kingston (from Gatwick).

 

Worst A380 Economy? Qantas Flight Review

Our keen readers will remember that in my last flight review, I flew to Dublin and back for near to nothing with Ryanair. Last week I decided to step it up a notch and booked last minute on a super cheap return fare to Dubai with Qantas on the A380 superjumbo! With Qantas changing their base to Singapore in the coming months I jumped at the chance of getting on the A380 for such a bargain! The stage was set, I was to depart London Heathrow at midday on the Saturday, on QF10 to Melbourne, hop off at Dubai, and return to London 3 hours later on QF1!

It was the big day and I arrived at Heathrow a few hours early so decided to use the pay to enter lounge at Terminal 3, the No.1 lounge, of which I have visited before on my flight to Los Angeles. As it was before, the lounge was quite packed although I managed to grab a nice window view overlooking Runway 27L/09R. No.1 lets you have a free snack, ordered at the bar using your menu (of which you get the complimentary meal/snack). Usually you can pick from the likes of, Beans on Toast, Fish finger Sandwich etc. There are also other cold items on offer, of which you can help yourself. My service was of poor standard today and after a 30minute wait for my beans on toast it was apparent that they had been sent to the wrong table. After explaining this to the barman another one was ordered and after another 20minute wait I had my food. It had seemed they have significantly downsized the portions since my last visit, if I was only paying for entrance for the food, I do not think that at the price of £40 (for 3 hours) this is justifiable.

With 1-hour till boarding, I parted ways with the No.1 lounge and headed to gate 1, where my red A380 awaited me! When I arrived at the gate I still couldn’t believe I was soon to fly on this beast. I have never had the chance to fly the A380 before as most of the long-haul sector is dominated by the 777 and 787, but today was to be different! As I arrived at the gate, I got talking to the lead cabin manager for today’s flight and he sorted me pre-boarding so I could get shots of the empty cabin. Economy passengers are seated in the lower deck (in a 3-4-3 configuration), with a few rows at the back of the upper deck (in a 2-4-2 configuration). The economy product on Qantas is very poor in my opinion, it was designed during a time Qantas was in some tricky water, the seat pitch offered is 31’ and width 17.8’, the seat itself feels very old and the IFE was, well there is no other way of putting this, the worst I had ever used, but I’ll come back to that later.

But one thing I couldn’t fault was the crew – great hostesses made every passenger feel welcomed as they stepped on-board. Furthermore the cabin itself felt very roomy, signature to the A380. Awaiting me on my seat was a blanket, a pillow, and the worst headphones ever. There were some small cracks in the overhead panels above me, of which I could peep through and see the installation. These A380s are starting to show their age. All this was forgiven when I looked out of the window, just WOW! My view from seat 49A was incredible and I had a fantastic view of the 2 left Trent 900 engines! Totally worth the £25 seat reservation.

After a small but concise welcome brief from the captain, we pushed back on-time from our stand at Terminal 3 bound for Dubai. Kudos to the A380, I heard nothing during engine start.  Heathrow was using westerly ops for today so it was a 27R departure for us. This was what I paid for, the take-off was spectacular and I was in awe of this huge jet, and the simple fact that it can lift off of the ground at all. Conditions today were not the greatest but after piecing the cloud layer we had crystal blue sky.

It wasn’t long after departure until the crew came round handing out water and a menu for today’s flight. I opted for the beef and it was one of the tastiest meals I have had in the sky however, I was a very disappointed at the amount of food offered, especially when compared to airlines such as Turkish. To eat using this awful seat requires the capability to keep yourself in such an awkward narrow position while attempting to use the fork and knife so you don’t knock your co-passenger unconscious. The petite tray table barely fits the  food tray which as mentioned is significantly smaller than most airlines anyway.

As the hours began to tick by I made my peace with the IFE and tried to watch a film, but the process was tedious and the IFE was horribly slow, the selection of films were poor and the remote was very dirty. Considering that Wi-Fi isn’t offered the IFE will be most passengers form of entertainment, Qantas is servery let down by the IFE and that would be a key decision maker in choosing Emirates over Qantas, who are the current leaders in in-flight entertainment (also a direct competitor to QF on this route). After an hour of raging with the IFE I decided to try and get a few hours’ sleep. The blanket provided was larger than I expected and far better quality than ones I have seen before. I was able to get a somewhat decent sleep, despite being in economy. The worst part however is when the person infront reclines their seat. I am quite small at about 167cm but when the seat is reclined, I had close to negative legroom. A very poorly designed seat that induced several backaches throughout the flight.

I awoke 1 hour before landing for the last snack to be offered to us economy passengers. Today it was some kind of weird sausage roll, I didn’t take to it and just left mine in its box. Passing Iran and Kuwait on our way into Dubai we had the most insane view of the blood orange moon. Cruising at 39,000ft also gave us an incredible view of all the bright Arab cities on approach to Dubai, note there was not a cloud in the sky on this night.

We started our descent very close to Dubai itself and I could certainly feel it. The time was now approaching midnight and it was pitch black outside. After making a right turn over the Persian Gulf near Dubai we touched down smoothly onto Runway 30L, and it was a short taxi to our Gate at Terminal 1A. As per all my flights I made my way to the flight deck for a small tour from the captain and then unfortunately disembarked the whale. It was not long, however, until I would be back on-board OQB for the return flight to London!

Dubai airport itself was not as large as I was expecting, there were A LOT of duty free shops in my concourse of which I was expecting. Being a homesick brit abroad I made my way to McDonalds for a snack before my flight back to the UK. However, when about to check out I find out my debit card had been blocked, fantastic news to hear while in different continent thousands of miles from home in the middle of the night. I remained cool and unpassed and just decided to wait at the gate for the next flight and just wait for some food on-board. Before I knew it we were boarding QF1 back to London.

I’m going to spare your time as this flight was near identical to the first but it was dark the entire flight and I was asleep so nothing to really talk about there. I also somehow managed to miss the meal service, leaving me weak and hungry while waiting at immigration back in the UK.

Overall I would call my last minute trip a success considering my primary aim was to experience the A380 which was extremely pleasant, but if I was to fly to Australia and had the choice of Emirates or Qantas, there would be no hope of me ever picking Qantas over such a passenger focused airline like Emirates. The economy product on Qantas’ A380 was very uncomfortable for me, and as I mentioned previously am quite small at 167cm weighing around 50kgs. Now imagine what this will be like for an average sized person. I would fly Qantas again as I could not fault the crew, my flight deck tour on the ground at Dubai was ace and the crew were super engaging and happy to chat, but I will never be booked onto their A380 again unless I can go first class.

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As Bad as it Looks? Ryanair Flight Review

Being the avgeek I was, I was sitting at home on a cold Tuesday night, laptop on, browsing cheap deals on Kayak when I noticed that I had never actually flown Ryanair. I was stumped, this incredibly successful and influential low cost European giant and I had never had the full O’Leary experience. I only had 1 lesson at college for the next day and so I plugged in tomorrow’s date and BAM! London Gatwick – Dublin – London Gatwick for only £35! Result! By far the cheapest return airfare I have ever bought. By this time, it was nearly 11pm at night so I decided to get an early night for the flight to Dublin the next day.

An early morning lesson at college surpassed and I was on the Gatwick Express to the Airport, to embark on my low cost adventure! Ryanair uses south terminal at Gatwick, personally my favourite out of the 2. Check in was done the night before to avoid the dreaded £50 airport check in fee. By this point it was late morning and the security lines were tiny, I was through in a few minutes and inside Nandos for an early lunch. After some inside information from friends that work on the ramp at Gatwick, I headed to gate 14M, to await the arrival of my 7-year-old Boeing 737-800 EI-EMH, sadly no sky interior on this one. Only registration FXX are fitted with the new sky interior. I arrived at the gate, but there was no yellow and blue 737 to greet me, the aircraft was in fact holding due to worsening weather conditions down here on the ground. The winds today were incredibly strong and as I awaited the arrival of EI-EMH I saw several go-arounds and missed approaches. Then, 30 minutes late, the aircraft pulled onto stand, and within minutes’ priority boarding had begun. Now I was curious to see if Ryanair would enforce the proriety boarding and to some extent they did, but by the end it was just chaos and it didn’t matter what priority you had.

Ryanair do not use jetways, as a cost cutting measure, so it was a short walk out onto the apron and over to the aircraft in the pouring rain. As I walked up the steps into the aircraft, I received somewhat of a cold welcome from the most senior cabin crew member, and made my way to my pre-reserved seat, 6A. The most expensive seats at the front seem to be the emptiest, as a lot of passengers avoided reserving seats and were all pre-assigned seats in the rear. Ryanair’s 737s are configured with 189 seats in an all economy configuration with a width of 17” and pitch of 29.9” (no recline). I was quickly becoming un-attracted to the cabin, the seats were sticky and the cabin felt tacky and stuffy.  The blight yellow branding tainted my vision, quite literally. However, a welcoming briefing from the captain was a nice surprise.

We were due to push back with a delay of 20minutes, followed by a short taxi out to 27L for departure towards Dublin. We were warned of a ‘Sporty” take-off, and it sure lived up to its description. After 5 minutes of what I can only describe as being in a washing machine, we broke through the cloud layer to the relief of my neighbor.

Ryanair’s vast route network

The flight itself was mostly uneventful, using the magazines handed out on the ground I could order from the on-board food and drinks menu. Prices were not ridiculously high and somewhat reasonable. However, I voted against buying on-board today and decided to wait for some hot food in Dublin. After another short briefing from the captain, we began our descent into Dublin, conditions similar to London, so we knew it was going to get interesting to say the least. After a spectacular landing by the Captain in blustery conditions, we pulled up on stand with only 10 minutes of delay. I managed to bag myself a small flight deck visit and the captain left me grab a few shots before I de-boarded.

Small flight-deck visit on the ground at Dublin

Now, on the ground at Dublin, I had to make my way through to flight connections to catch my flight back to London Gatwick. Passport control in Dublin was smooth and efficient, and security near enough the same. Dublin has quite a variety of restaurants on offer and I selected Burger King as my restaurant of choice as all I wanted was some tasty comfort food. Dublin Airport also has small stands dotted around the airport where you can pick up a water for only €1, a great way hydrate without spending loads in WHSMITHS or on-board the aircraft.

FR126 to London Gatwick, that’s me.

I checked flight radar to see what registration my flight home was going to be and I was pleasantly surprised to see I was going to be flying on EI-FTC! A 1year old 737-800 equipped with the brand new sky interior and new cabin. My flight was also on time and priority boarding was enforced to a T! As I made my way across the apron to the 737 and up the stairs, I was greeted by one of the nicest crew members, I was directed to my seat and boy was I surprised. The new cabin and sky interior eclipsed my impression of Ryanair when I boarded this morning’s aircraft. It felt spacious and the yellow had been turned down considerably. The new thin seats offered more legroom than the old interior.

Boarding EI-FTC

 

After a short taxi to Runway 28 we took off in the evening sun back towards London. After the crew were released and came down asking for hot food orders, I asked for the pancakes but they had none on-board, shame! Instead I ordered from the cold trolley, some pretzels and some lemon drink. Total €6.50 which is quite expensive for what it is, I really should have stocked up in Dublin.

Again, like the last, most of the cruise was uneventful and surprisingly relaxing. I had a full 2 rows to myself! (not that I needed that many seats). As we began our descent into Gatwick we hit some pretty nasty weather and some heavy rain, although the conditions had drastically improved since take-off they were still not ideal. We landed on time at Gatwick and took the bus back to the terminal.

This 2nd flight had been a real game changer, the new cabin, sky interior and welcoming crew had left me with no impression that Ryanair was a low cost carrier. I had very much enjoyed this flight and would jump at a similar opportunity again. However, if I was basing my review solely on the first flight I would not fly Ryanair again! Therefore, I finish this review with mixed feelings, its luck of the draw really with the interior and the crew, but hopefully soon in the future the old interior will begin to be phased out of the fleet, and as for the crew that is down to pure luck.

El AL Up: The Israeli Budget Carrier That Never Took Off

Back in 2013 El Al Israel launched a low cost carrier which initially started flying from its base in Ben-Gurion International Airport to Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Kiev and the Cyrpiot city of Larnaca. They began service with fares as low as $69 to compete with other low cost carriers, Wizz, Easyjet and RyanAir. The narrow-body Boeing 737-800 jet was selected to serve the new routes with ‘Up’ borrowing five of the variant from El Al’s mainline fleet. The aircraft were configured with 144 regular economy seats and an upgraded Tourist Plus class with 36 seats. Tourist Plus travelers have more spacious seating and food and beverages at no extra charge, while passengers flying in the lowest fare class will pay extra for food and beverages.

Up by El Al at Berlin (Credit to @ber.spotter on Instagram)

Up followed the trend of other low cost carriers in forcing passengers to pay extra for checked baggage, pre-assigned seats and changes to reservations in their ‘Up Basic’ fare. Passengers also had the option of upgrading their seats on a space-available basis. The Up ‘Smart fare’ class included a range of services such as checked luggage at no charge, seating in the Tourist Plus cabin, use of El Als King David Lounge at Ben-Gurion airport and more flexible ticketing terms.

But what went wrong?

Just this month it was announced that El Al are to discontinue the Up brand. Up will cease operations by mid-October 2018 and all flights and aircraft will return to the El Al mainline fleet. El Al will, therefore, introduce a new fare structure to replace Up.

Up was designed to compete with other low cost carriers and therefore had to keep fares low. They, therefore, lost passengers to the competitors and made Up a loss-making project for El Al.

Credit to @ber.spotter on Instagram)

What now?

El Al has stated that in the next few years it plans to renovate the interiors of its European aircraft, including a gradual replacement of the tourist and business class seats on part of its mainline narrow-bodied fleet.

Instead of a dedicated low cost daughter company, El Al says that tourist class passengers will be given a choice of three types of flight package: a basic package that will allow hand luggage only plus a meal with no possibility of cancelling or changing the flight, a package with choice of seat, checked-in luggage, and the possibility of change and cancellation for a fee, and an all-inclusive package that in addition to the above will allow a second piece of hand luggage, and flexibility over changes and cancellations. All of these terms will be subject to the criteria set by the airline for each ticket and the provisions of the law. Ticket sales in the new format will start during the second quarter of 2018, for flights in the fourth quarter of the year. (globes.co.il)

Enjoyed this post? Why not read our review of the El Al 787 new business class cabin!