May 2018: Delivery Report – Royal Brunei Airlines’ First A320NEO!

May 2018 Delivery Report

Royal Brunei’s First Airbus A320NEO

Following on from the previous couple of delivery reports, our delivery of the month goes to Royal Brunei Airlines.  A couple of weeks ago, on the 24th May,  Royal Brunei Airlines took delivery of their first A320NEO during a delivery ceremony at the delivery center in Toulouse. The Brunei Airline has placed an order for 7 aircraft with options for more, with their first A320Neo expected to enter commercial service on the 7th June to Singapore.

“Airbus A320neo aircraft come equipped with Leap-1A26 CFM engines featuring some of the best fuel, noise, emission and operating efficiency in its class and will allow Royal Brunei Airlines to achieve significant cost savings and reduce its emissions footprint. We are based in Brunei on the island of Borneo which has one of the most pristine environments on earth and we are pleased to be playing a part in preserving this.” CEO Karam Chand

Royal Brunei’s Airbus A320neo is also the world’s first narrow body aircraft fitted with Thales Avant (Gen5) in-flight entertainment. They will also have business, economy plus and economy seats with leather covering, USB power outlets and audio/video on demand at every seat.

Photo Credit Dn280 (Airliners.net)

Throughout May, A320NEOs were also delivered to GoAir (x3), S7, Volaris, Iberia, Jazeera Airways and IndiGo. There was also a small handful of CEO A320 deliveries to IAG member Vueling, Flyadeal, Air Guilin and Aeroflot.

Photo Credit Eurospot (Instagram)

Corendon Airlines takes delivery of BOC Aviation’s first Boeing 737MAX

The Singapore based aircraft lessor delivered its first 737MAX to Turkish leisure airline Corendon. The lessor has placed a sizeable order for 83 737MAX aircraft which will be distributed to various airline customers around the globe. Corendon is scheduling the 737MAX on their Antalya to Eindhoven route. The 737MAX compliments the Turkish Carriers existing fleet of 14 Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Photo Credit Cpthuy (JP)

Air Italy’s First 737MAX

On the 12th May, Air Italy took delivery of its first 737MAX8 aircraft during a ceremony at the Boeing Everett delivery centre wearing its dashing new livery. This is the first of 50 new aircraft to join their fleet and the first of 20 737MAXs.

“I am delighted to be at the Boeing Everett Delivery Centre today in Seattle to mark yet another landmark event, the delivery of Air Italy’s first new Boeing 737 Max aircraft in striking new livery, first presented in Milan in February this year. To see the aircraft here for the first time, it truly brings to life the next exciting chapter for Italy’s future carrier of choice.” CEO of Qatar Airways (which holds a minority stake of 49%), Akbar Al Baker

Credit AirItaly

Lufthansa’s First A350-900s in the new “Lufthansa Blue” livery

This month also saw the delivery of Lufthansa’s ninth A350-900, and the first A350 to sport their new “Lufthansa Blue” livery. This aircraft goes by the registration D-AIXI. Lufthansa’s management was unhappy with elements of the colors and especially with the blue tone. A revised version of the livery has now been introduced which is a closer representation of the colour expressed in the test conditions.

Photo credit Martin Tietz

Bombardier C-Series program running at full speed!

This month Swiss Global Airline took delivery of their 11th and 12th CS300 HB-JCK and HB-JCL on behalf of the Lufthansa Group. This month also saw the delivery of Korean Air’s 5th CS300 with the registration HL8313.  With Delta CS100s also on the final assembly line we could potentially see the delivery of these aircraft in the next couple of months.

Photo Credit: Kevin Sung (Airliners.net)
Photo Credit: Christoph Nobs (Airliners.net)

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Air Baltic 737 Business Class Review

As you will read in this flight review, my trip on Air Baltic was two things: a massive success and a massive failure.

Air Baltic had initially invited me to fly out on their 737-300 and fly back into London, the very next day, on their flagship Bombardier CS300, both in business class. However, due to an unforeseen operational mishap, my CS300 was swapped at the last minute for another 737Classic, thus leaving me without a trip on the new Bomabrdier jet. However, as you will later find out, my return flight inherently became the best flights of my life, knocking the incredible A350-1000 flight with Raj off the top spot.

My outbound flight was the evening departure from London Gatwick to Riga (one of 2 daily services). This flight is supposed to be operated by the CS300 so it was horrible luck that I ended up on the 737Classic twice (this first flight was a known equipment swap). However, I was yet to fly on the -300 variant of the 737 so I was not fussed. Air Baltic has a total of 6 737-300 and 5 737-500 ageing classics in their fleet and currently operate the largest CS300 fleet in the world with a total of 20 aircraft ordered and eight currently flying. They have recently placed an order for 30 more CS300s and acquired options for a further 30 aircraft. The total value of this order is being placed at about $2.9 billion, based on list prices.

“I am excited to grow our fleet up to 80 CS300 aircraft while phasing out our other aircraft types in the next three years.” Air Baltic’s Chief executive, Martin Gauss.

Photo Credit: Air-Baltic

Flight Number 1 | Air Baltic B737-300 Business Class

Business class passengers departing from London Gatwick can enjoy the No.1 lounge at South Terminal, with access via passes handed out during the check in process. This lounge is perfect for a quick drink and a snack and has hot food on order. The fact it is also a ‘pay to enter’ lounge means it is unsurprisingly busy most of the time. However, it does offer an amazing view over the apron of which you can gaze at for hours watching the busy airport life pass by.

Priority boarding at the gate was strictly enforced and the handling agent made sure business class passengers boarded first. Once on-board the crew distributed pre-departure drinks, with a choice of orange or still water. Menu cards were handed out while still on the ground.

Once boarding was complete we had to incur a small delay while waiting for a take-off slot.

Taxiing out towards 08R

The Business class configuration on-board Air Baltic is very similar to the product of most other European carriers whereby the middle seat is blocked off. The Recaro seats show their age but the seat itself was pleasant enough for the near 3 hour flight, the tray tables were adequately large and do slide towards the user.

After the long taxi out to Runway 08R, we took to the skies bound for Latvia and after reaching a safe altitude, the cabin crew were released and more beverages were served. One thing I noticed throughout the entire flight was how diligent the crew were, as I was constantly asked if I would like a refill or another drink.

After a short while orders were taken for the hot meals. I opted for the sweet and sour chicken with rice. As I was flying on standby, however, this wasn’t the normal meal of a business class passenger but you can see the business class meal in my second flight below. As the flight progressed the sun continued to set over Europe, a sight best seen from 39,000ft.

Sunset from 39,000ft

The flight itself had been for the most part, smooth and this was no exception for the stunning approach into Riga, where we touched down safely on Runway 36 with only 15minutes of delay. Riga airport is home to only a small handful of jet bridges, so it is no surprise that we were parked on a remote stand with buses back to the terminal. After a small flight deck visit and photo opportunity with the crew I boarded the bus back to the terminal where border control took an easy five minutes. I  was soon off to my hotel where I enjoyed a pleasant night in Riga city center.

Touching down on Runway 36

View from St Peters Church

Flight Number 2 | Air Baltic 737-300 – With a Twist

My flight back home was scheduled to be operated by the Bombardier CS300, hence the trip out to Riga to review their flagship product. However it seems the aviation gods were messing around today and flight radar had my flight down as being operated by a 73C (The same aircraft type I had previously flown only a few hours ago). I was evidently frustrated at the time, in essence rendering my trip a failure.

I had obtained special permission to film onboard this flight as I was supposed to be making a small video about the CS300 and thankfully I still had the permission to film as it was granted for flight BT653 from RIX-LGW, no matter which aircraft.

Once onboard, I greeted the crew and showed them the letter of approval. The flight crew were very accommodating and let me mount my GoPro in the flight-deck to get some footage for the video. As you will see from the pictures below, I was also invited into the flight-deck for landing after securing special permission from Air Baltic HQ. This really did make it one of the most incredible experiences! Being able to sit on a jump-seat is the pinnacle of any av-geeks dream and is the closest you can get to flying the real thing!

View from the jump seat

I will not go into any significant detail of this flight, as it was operated by the same aircraft type, and I was sitting in the same class cabin. My experience in Business class was still faultless and the crew were still great. This time round I was able to try out their proper Business class meal, on this particular flight it was Salmon with Sweet Potato. The meal was served piping hot and was excellent. Due to huge electrical storms over England the flight back to London was unsurprisingly bumpy and we had to route around the weather, but the crew still managed to land safely and on-time.

Salmon with Sweet Potato

My Conclusion

Both my Air Baltic flights had consisted of exceptional service and professionalism. The crew on both flights were attentive in their service, constantly making sure you were well fed and hydrated. The aircraft them-self, although old in their age, were well maintained but lacked what I would call ‘modern day necessities’ like universal power sockets or USB charging ports. I would never hesitate to fly Air Baltic again and i would love to properly test out their CS300 product.

The only negative that stood out was the Business Class ticket price and indeed the economy ticket price. You are paying a hefty premium to fly Air Baltic over the likes of the low-cost carriers operating in this region, such as WizzAir or Ryanair, and for some this premium may not simply be worth it for the 2hr30minute flight. For example on the 13th June a one way ticket from London to Riga would cost £65 with WizzAir from Luton, whereas Air Baltic from Gatwick would set you back a hefty £282 (Economy class Ticket). Worth the price? That’s up to you.

diclaimer: This trip was fully provided by Air Baltic. I was under no pressure to express any specific point of view and all opinions are my own.

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WestJet B737MAX Review

Buckle up ladies and gentlemen because this flight review is certainly extra ordinary. It all began while curiously searching Kayak, my favourite search engine, a week or so ago, I had noticed that the seasonal WestJet service to Halifax Nova Scotia from Glasgow, Scotland had just restarted. This WestJet operated flight from Glasgow to Halifax does not, however, finish up in Halifax, the final destination is Toronto Pearson. Prices from Glasgow to Toronto were seemingly cheap and – with some further price hunting – I managed to score a fantastic deal from Glasgow to Toronto via Halifax, and then from Toronto back to London Gatwick, also via Halifax. Flying back into London Gatwick was not only more convenient for me as I am based in Brighton, but it allowed me to compare Westjet’s brand new 737MAX8 to their ageing 737-700 product. I have always been intrigued about how these narrow body 737s fly transatlantic, and how this impacts the passenger experience, and now I had the chance to put this theory to the test and try them both for myself!

Photo Credit: AirwaysMag

It was only a few days later when I found myself eagerly awaiting my flight to Canada at Glasgow Airport. I had pre-booked my priority security which was only £4.99, and unlike the priority security at most other UK airports, it was super-efficient, and did not merge with the other security traffic. I was through security in 3 minutes, saving me upwards of 15-20 minutes.

Glasgow Airport has certainly seen better days, the facilities airside were not too bad, but the overall architecture was ancient and the airport will need renovation in the near future. When it was eventually time to board the aircraft, the ‘zone’ boarding system WestJet has in place was properly enforced, however once in the jetty way we found ourselves waiting for nearly 15 minutes for the ground crew and flight attendants to finish prepping the cabin and aircraft. Once on-board I took my seat 6A, which had a fantastic view on the 737-700 and I started setting up my GoPro and other camera equipment.

Wingview from seat 6F

 

After sitting on the ground for upwards of  30 minutes with no update from the flight crew, it was evident something was wrong. The captain finally informed us that due to a discrepancy between the aircrafts log book and the Thomas Cook engineers at Glasgow, we could not take off immediately, and had to await information from WestJet’s maitainance team. In the meantime, the crew offered water to all passengers. Then finally, with a delay of 1 hour, we pushed back from our stand at Glasgow Airport, still unaware of the actual technical problem that we faced earlier. Nevertheless we took off from runway 23,  1 hour late, bound for Nova Scotia!

Takeoff out of Glasgow

Once airborne the fantastic WestJet connect became available to use. Most of WestJet’s fleet are equipped with this ‘SATCOM’ antenna which provides services like entertainment, flight map, and for an added fee, Wi-Fi to your tablet device. You must have the official WestJet app downloaded to be able to take advantage of this. I personally found the service flawless and I ended up purchasing a small amount of inflight Wi-Fi although sadly that was not as fast as I had hoped. I started my own inflight meal service about 20minutes in and I tucked into my WHSmiths meal deal; I knew that there was only a snack and small drink offered so I needed to bring my own refreshments. When the free service was finally offered by the flight attendants, I chose a coke and a small bag of pretzels. I will emphasise that you must buy food beforehand, as coping 6hours on a small bag of pretzels and a coke is certainly not do-able! As the flight progressed I was surprisingly relaxed, the legroom on the 737-700 was great and well above my expectations.

There was a universal power adapter on each seat to charge your electronic devices as well as a USB charge port. The 737-700 Next Generation CFM56 engines were quite loud but with headphones in it was much less noticeable and compared to the option of a WestJet Boeing 767 from London, it was most likely similar.  It also felt certainly more personal on the narrow aisle 737 and your interaction with the crew is more intimate too.

Due to the cramped flight deck of the 737,  and the longer flight time transatlantic, the flight crew kept switching giving them some time to stretch their legs. I got talking to the first officer while he was on his break and this was when I found out that the technical problem we encountered back in Glasgow was that this aircraft was no longer ETOPS. An ETOPS certified aircraft can fly more than 60 minutes from a diversion airport, in essence allowing the 737 to fly transatlantic, but due to a discrepancy on the ground the aircraft was no longer flying ETOPS. Therefore, the flight crew had to plan an alternative route to Canada overflying central Greenland, maintaining close proximity to land, hence our delay in Glasgow.  From a photographer’s perspective this was phenomenal, overflying central Greenland provided some incredible views and with crystal clear skies it was a truly magical experience.

Overflying Greenland

The 6 hour flight time had seemingly flown by, after watching a couple of films we were practically already in Canada! Flying on-board the smallest 737 had been impressively comfortable, not what I would have expected from a narrow aisle jet. We started our descent into Nova Scotia where the weather was also stunning with now only 30minutes of delay. After the “WestJet Stretch” on the ground at Halifax I had a quick flight deck visit and chat with the jolly flight crew from today’s flight. At Halifax all passengers have to de-plane, even those carrying on to Toronto and pass through the Canadian Border Control. I unfortunately then had to pass through immigration as well which ate into my connection time. At this point Passengers with checked luggage have to pick up their hold luggage from a carousel and then like all other connecting passengers then pass through security for domestic departures, the same process as the security in Glasgow. A handy tip I found out when talking to a security agent is that any duty free purchased in Glasgow over 100ml will not be allowed through and so they recommend after picking up your luggage from the carousel putting it in there.

A fellow 737MAX pushing back next to us for a flight to Ottawa

Once back airside at Halifax there was just enough time to grab a smoothie before boarding my onward flight to Toronto. This leg of the flight was being operated by WestJet’s brand new Boeing 737MAX8. I would recommend waiting until you are airside in Halifax or even waiting until you have landed in Toronto for buying a coffee, as my connection time was 2hours and I only just made it through security in time. The plus side is that you arrive in Toronto as a domestic arrival so you do not have to go through border control.

Wingview from seat 20F

Once on-board you could immediately tell that this aircraft was brand spanking new, the cabin was absolutely spotless. The MAX sure does set itself apart from the Next Generation 737s, as I mentioned in my LOT MAX review, it feels like mini Dreamliner! WestJet have ordered a whopping 65 Boeing 737MAXs to replace their ageing fleet of -600s/700s. Their older aircraft will no doubt ably swap hands into their new low-cost subsidiary, “Swoop” which will begin flying in June 2018. After taking my seat, I went to attach my GoPro to my window, as I would normally do. As soon as it made contact with the window an angry flight attendant descended on me and swiftly told me to remove the device as it may “shoot off the window due to the pressure changes”. I was in no place to argue as I was already super tired and I did not want to cause a scene but I have never been asked before to remove my GoPro. The pressure change would never cause the gopro to fly of as the suction cup is attached to the window, and the cabin pressure is maintained throughout the flight so there would not be any dangerous pressure build up that would cause the camera to fly off. Instead I had to resort to manual iPhone filming for the YouTube review, this was in no way as stable footage but it would do for this flight.

WestJet 737MAX cabin (Photo by WestJet)
Takeoff out of Halifax, NS

We experienced some “light chop” for most part of this short hop to Toronto. The snack service was identical to the one on my previous flight. I must say, I was getting annoyed of the WestJet pretzels by the 4th bag!

The MAX itself was remarkably quiet, just as I had remembered it from my flight with LOT Polish late last year. The legroom was fantastic, and not only due to the generous 33”, but the considerably larger overhead storage (the new ‘Space Bins’) allows travelers to store all their carry-on luggage above them, eliminating the need to place bags under the seat in front of you. Another noticeable feature of the MAX is the redesigned light switches that helps to avoid calling flight attendants by mistake. The flight itself was largely uneventful, and after the scenic descent into Toronto, we touched down on runway 23, 10 minutes ahead of schedule! But a long taxi made that 10 minutes a more realistic five. At Toronto, as mentioned previously, you simply exit into the departure lounge where I was 10 paces away from my flight back to Halifax. Any passengers that have their travels terminate at Toronto can simply exit the terminal as a domestic passenger, as you cleared border control back in Nova Scotia.

Westjet 737MAX pushing back at Toronto

I am not going to bore you with the details of the 2 flights I took after deboarding in Toronto, as they were quite simply the reverse of what I had just done, landing in Gatwick rather than Glasgow. These flights were also on the 737-700 and 737MAX, so my passenger experience was near identical. The flight crew upheld the high standards set by the crews on my earlier two flights and I arrived back into Halifax and Gatwick on time!

Landing on Runway 26L at Gatwick

Overall, my personal WestJet experience had been flawless. The cabin crew were great fun yet professional and the seat pitch and width were great. The entertainment worked really well on the WestJet connect app.

Don’t be put off by the thought of a narrow body plane to cross the Atlantic; it’s probably one of the most pleasant flights I have had in economy!

I always check my flights through Kayak, this way I can found out what aircraft type I am flying pre-booking, and therefore tailor my sectors based on the aircraft type. I then proceed to SkyScanner to book.

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April 2018: Delivery Report – E2 to Wideroe and More!

For the last couple of delivery reports, we have introduced a new feature to the article, Delivery of the Month; in essence it highlights our favourite commercial aircraft delivery that took place in April 2018. This month it is being awarded to Primera Air who took delivery of their brand new A321NEO.

Primera A321NEO

Out of the 17 Airbus A320NEO deliveries that took place in April, 1 special A321Neo was destined for Primera Air. On April 16th 2018 Primera Air, a low-fare Nordic airline subsidiary of Primera Travel Group, took delivery of this special airplane, which will eventually allow them to operate a longhual – low cost business model with service transatlantic to North American destinations.  Currently, the carrier’s fleet consists of seven Boeing 737-800, two B737-700 and has an ongoing order of ten B737 MAX 9

Photo Credit Primera

16 NEOS were also delivered to their respective airlines, Volaris, Air India, British Airways, Air Asia, Frontier, SAS Ireland, Vistara and TAP. This is the first delivery of the A320Neo to airlines TAP Portugal and British Airways, both airlines have placed sizeable orders for the narrow isle jet.

First A320NEO for TAP

Delivery of the first  Embraer E2 to Scandinavian regional airline – Wideroe

Another notable delivery was the first Embraer E2 which was delivered to Wideroe. The Norwegian airline chose the E190-E2, the first variant of the modified and upgraded E-Jet following on from the E170 to E195 family. The Scandinavian regional airline operates 450 daily flights using only turboprop aircraft so the delivery of the E2 marks a focus on adding capacity to their growing fleet.

Photo Credit Wideroe

Lion Air take delivery of the first Boeing 737MAX9

Indonesian carrier Lion Air were the first airline to put the 737MAX8 into service, and are now the first airline to take delivery of the larger variant of the successful narrow body, the 737MAX9. They are also the first Indonesian carrier to place a firm order for the even larger 737MAX10 to complement their ever growing fleet of 737s.

Photo Credit Boeing

The 737 families made up 70% of all Boeing deliveries for the first quarter of 2018, with this month seeing the delivery of aircraft to, Southwest, Air Canada, Thai Lion Air, United, Shanghai Airlines and Silk Air.

Belavia takes delivery of their latest E-Jet 

Belavia of Belarus has taken delivery of a new E175, the first of 3 E-Jets to join the fleet in 2018. By the end of the year, the carrier will be flying 7 E-Jets, 3 E175s and 4 E195s. This is all part of a fleet modernisation programme with another five E175s and E195s leased from Nordic Aviation Capital being added to their E-Jet fleet, bringing the total up to 12 aircraft.

Photo Credit Artemairplane (instagram)

Qatar Airways and Vietnam Airlines both take delivery of special livery A350-900 aircrafts

Qatar Airways took delivery of A7-ALZ, an A350-900 in the One World livery and Vietnam received their 12th A350-900 in the Sky Team livery (registration VN-A897) This is the second one world A350 (the first being Finnair OH-LWB) and the first SkyTeam A350.

Photo Credit Irish_Spotter (instagram)
Photo Credit French Painter (twitter)

A350s were also delivered to Latam, Ethiopian, Delta, Asiana and Malaysia Airlines.

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Airbus to Rename C-Series Jet to the A200 Family

Many of our keen readers will know that earlier this year, Bombardier, the Canadian-British Aerospace company, and Airbus, joined forces to compete against Boeing in the 100-150 seater market. Airbus acquired a 50.01% majority stake in the C-Series Aircraft Limited Partnership. This brought together, the combination of Airbus’ global reach, with the efficiency and modern design of the C-series to generate significant value to the C Series programme. With huge cost savings leveraging on Airbus’ supply chain, and a potential demand of nearly 6000 aircraft in the next 20years, the time was perfect for Airbus to step in and take a majority stake in the C-Series programme.



This allowed C-Series aircraft to be delivered to the US, to undergo final assembly in Alabama. In essence the company is able to dodge the current import tariffs. Handing over a majority of their flagship aircraft was a huge risk for bombardier, but they felt it was the best way forward, but this was more important for Airbus as they do not have a mainstream competitor in said market, it refrains from compromising their own aircraft sales.

A320NEO and CS100 side by side

The current C Series Family consists of 2 aircraft, the first being the smaller CS100 (officially BD-500-1A10) which holds 108-133 passengers. This is followed by the larger CS300 (officially BD-500-1A11) which can seat 130-160 passengers. Service entry of the CS300 with Air Baltic saw a 21% lower fuel burn replacing their ageing 737Classics.

Air Baltic – The first CS300 operator

This all took place last October, but it seems now Airbus are thinking of renaming the C series. The C-Series may soon be renamed the A200-family, sources told Bloomerang. The CS100 and CS300 would be renamed the A210 and A230, however the source also made note that a final decision on the name change has not yet been made and also other names are still under consideration.

The CS300 would now become the A230

This follows the “A3XX’ model that is currently implemented across Airbus’ entire commercial aircraft fleet from the A300 to the A380. The name change is an easy way of viewing the C series as an extension of Airbus’ current fleet, with Airbus’ much larger global reach this may appease customers and result in those crucial orders. It is clear that the C Series had a rough start to its life, two years behind schedule added an element of uncertainty to the programme which tested the patience of potential customers, but now with the presence of Airbus it may be the right time for the C Series programme, or should I now say the A200 programme to flourish.

It is still uncertain if a name change will ensue, but the deal is said to formally close in July which is when any changed will come to light. Personally I think that this would easily get mistaken for the A310 and A330 and that this would actually hinder sales of the C-Series, the A210 and A230 seem out of character, considering the entire airbus fleet currently starts with “A3”.

Swiss Global Airlines are the current largest C-Series operator (Photo Credit AirlineSpotting)

I have personally flown the Swiss Global Airlines CS100 and from a passenger point of view it is a joy to fly on with Delta’s CEO Ed Bastain even going as far to say “It is an absolute wide-body feel on a narrow-body,”.

Swiss Global Airlines is currently the largest C-Series operator with 17 in their fleet and Bombardier and Airbus still have a backlog of 343 aircraft to be delivered to their respective customers. For now, only time will tell if the C Series programme will turn out a success.

EuroWings A340-300 Review

The Airbus A340-300 is becoming increasingly elusive within Europe and throughout the world as airlines opt for more efficient twin-engine wide body aircraft over the 4 engine A340. The same can also be said for fellow 4 engine aircraft such as the Boeing 747, Airbus A380 and Avro Rj85/100.

As a frequent flyer, I’m always searching for the best deals on long-haul planes. You can read how we fly long-haul aircraft on short-haul routes here!

Madrid-London Heathrow Daily A340-600

I have set out on a personal mission to fly as many 4 engine aircraft before they eventually become obsolete in the near future. I have already flown the Swiss RJ100 and the Qatar and Qantas Airbus A380 but I still needed to fly at least one of the variants of the Airbus A340.

The larger -600 variant is regularly used on the Madrid to Heathrow route so that is easy enough to come by and I will still fly that sector in the near future, however for a limited period, Eurowings are using their leased A430-300s (from Brussels Airlines) on the morning Dusseldorf to Palma route and also in the evenings to Vienna (as crew training for their JFK service later this year). This was the perfect opportunity to catch the more elusive A340-300, tainted for being under powered and subsequently nicknamed the hairdryer.

Picture by Eurowings

Being an avgeek, I looked deeper into the roots of the aircraft and I noticed it was ex-Lufthansa. I googled the registration of the aircraft (OO-SCW) and I noticed through pictures and online reviews that it had not been retrofitted. This meant it was still spotting the Lufthansa mainline long-haul configuration for the A340-300. Using seatguru.com and various other websites I noticed that the extra legroom seats bookable on the ‘SMART’ fare were actually Lufthansa Premium Economy seats which was worth the extra £15 in my opinion.

Just a small note if you book ‘best class seats’ you will actually fly in Lufthansa business class, as shown below. I booked my flights through Kayak it is one of the few sites that shows aircraft type.

So far, I had the DUS-VIE leg booked and my VIE-LGW leg booked through EasyJet however, I still needed to get to DUS. It surprisingly turned out that the cheapest way was via Alicante with TUI UK then Eurowings. This was quickly turning into a very long 4 sector day.

Lufthansa Business Class on the Eurowings A340

After 2 of my flights already completed, I arrived in Dussledorf ready for some planespotting! If you head upstairs from the departure lounge, DUS offers a really nice place to sit and watch the action on a stopover with a small vending for snacks and drinks. Admission is only a couple of Euros, too, so make sure you visit when you’re there!

My A340 (OO-SCW) was patiently awaiting outside as everyone started to board, which was chaotic, unorganized and tiresome, actually delaying our departure time by 20minutes.

We were prematurely boarded and consequently the traffic piled up into the jetty way which was extremely hot and quickly became sticky and sweaty. I made it on-board eventually and was ushered to my seat, 6K, Lufthansa’s premium economy seat. This small section of the cabin was fitted in a 2-3-2 configuration was full, but I later discovered that only a third of economy was booked out and only a couple of passengers were in ‘BEST’ class (aka Business Class). My seat had a perfect view of engine 3 and 4, worth the surplus of £15 on my ticket.

We took off from Runway 05R, the more unusual configuration for Düsseldorf, bound for Vienna.

Once at our cruising altitude the on-board service began. This was where things got interesting. The flight attendants went around distributing the free snacks and drinks for those booked on the SMART fair bracket, when she arrived at my seat the lady beside me received her small food box but I was handed nothing, when I made my presence known she looked at me, looked at her sheet and shook her head. I assumed at this point that maybe I did not book the SMART fare bracket as I did pay extra for my extra legroom seat but after my flight I had realised that booking extra leg-room seats does not put you in the SMART bracket – oops.

I was starving at this point so I did purchase a small yogurt from the paid service.

It was not long until we were starting our descent into Vienna, the sun was starting to set and this short flight was sadly coming to an end. From an aviation geek point of view this flight had been a total success.

Starting our descent into Vienna

We touched down on Runway 16, only running 10minutes behind schedule. During de-boarding I asked the Cabin Manager if there was any chance if I could visit the flight deck, and unsurprisingly they said no, they didn’t even ask the flight deck crew which disappointed me more.

Conclusion

I finally made it onto an A340! Flying Eurowings was a real experience, while I didn’t find the crew overly friendly, it was a great surprise being able to fly on an old Lufthansa cabin. By purchasing a ‘BEST’ ticket I would have been overjoyed by the Lufthansa business seats.

EasyJet A320NEO Flight Review LGW-ACE



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.

More A320 Family Reviews on LondonSpotter:

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



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.

More Boeing 777 Reviews on LondonSpotter:

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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