TAP Portugal E190 Review

I decided to fly with TAP Portugal on the way back from Porto in October as they operate the E190 on the Porto – London Gatwick route which has a 2-2 configuration. I chose TAP over EasyJet, who operate this route a little cheaper, purely because of this. The question I wanted to answer was this:

Is it more comfortable to fly 2-2 on an E190 or 3-3 on an A320? And is it worth the extra cost?

I arrived at Porto Airport in good time and headed straight to the lounge. Interestingly, there is only one lounge at Porto and it is used by all airlines. You can read my full review in a few weeks. The airport only has one terminal so is pretty small.

Once I’d had enough to eat and drink in the lounge I headed to gate 13 where my flight was departing. Gate 12 and 13 are very close together at Porto and Ryanair had a flight departing to Stanstead at gate 12. For this reason, there was a huge queue which was blocking the sign to gate 13. Lots of passengers meant to depart for Gatwick were caught up in this due to poor communication from Porto staff.

I arrived at my gate with plenty of time to spare and was very briskly told I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the aircraft. I obeyed the very fierce looking lady and took a seat. Boarding began at around 6pm (half an hour late) and we departed at 6.30 from runway 37.

Taxiing at OPO

The TAP E190 flights are operated by Portugalia which is seen purely by a sticker on the aircraft body and the safety card in the seat pocket. Apart from this, everything else is labelled TAP Portugal. The aircraft is laid out in a 2-2 configuration with 2 rows of business class seating at the front (there was only one business class passenger) and the following 24 rows of economy seating. The aircraft feels very spacious because of this 2-2 layout and the seats were noticeably more comfortable than on the A320 family. The seat width is 18” and pitch is 30”. The aircraft may be 5 years old but felt very clean and well looked after. As far as I am aware everything looked good and worked well.

The 2-2 layout is a big bonus in my opinion

Once onboard I took my seat, 7A, which was nice and close to the front of the aircraft and had a lovely view. One perk of flying a 2-2 configuration is that you can have a window seat and only have to bother one person to stretch your legs or use the toilet.

We departed Porto to the south and banked right before heading up the west coast, over the border and into Spain. Those on the left of the plane (A seats) were treated to a beautiful sunset.

The sun setting over Northern Portugal

Service began at 7.05, around 35 minutes after takeoff, and consisted of a free meal! Yes, free meal. I know that’s pretty hard to believe these days. The crew offered a choice of drink, a ham sandwich and a choice of ‘sweet or salt’ which I learnt was a choice between crisps or a sweet biscuit. I went for the biscuit. I don’t think it matters too much how good the food is on short haul flights in Europe nowadays as being offered it seems to be a rare novelty altogether.

Not the best inflight meal but better than nothing!

Once I had eaten we were already half bay up the Bay of Biscay and soon to enter France.

TAP Portugal have a very impressive business model that I haven’t seen on lots of other airlines. By booking an economy fare, it doesn’t automatically limit you to anything. From the time of booking until check-in, you can change your fare by adding what they call ‘additional services’. What this means is that you can use the lounge for an extra £22.50, which I did, and didn’t regret. If you haven’t had dinner then you can easily make the lounge worth every penny of that. Other services include seat choice for £9 (perhaps a little pricey but good if you want to be sat near the front or with your family) and fast-track security for £10.50 (I really wish I had chosen this as it took me around 25 minutes to make it through airport security in Porto). I really like this model as I wasn’t prepared to pay 145 Euros to upgrade to business class, which has the same seat but a little more legroom as it is at the front of the aircraft, but quite fancied the lounge option. This ‘pick and choose’ approach is a really interesting one that I was really impressed by.

The E190 isn’t equipped with any sort of IFE or wifi so you’ll have to make do without the internet unfortunately.

My experience on the Embraer E190 was a very positive one. In comparison to the Airbus A319/20 the aircraft seemed quieter, more comfortable and in general, a much more civilized experience. The seat gave me sufficient room to work on my laptop but also enough comfort to take a nap during the flight. This was my first time flying TAP Portugal and I have to say I was very impressed, albeit this was largely down to the aircraft type. This flight has made me very inclined to choose Embraer aircraft on short-haul trips in the future.

Another wingview just in case you wanted one.

So, if you are flying to Portugal and can’t decide which airline to fly, I would recommend flying TAP Portugal and if you can, pick a flight on one of those Embraer 190s.

Seeing as TAP wouldn’t allow me onboard to take photos, the featured image is credited to thedesignair.net

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Alitalia Lounge Review – New York JFK

When you fly on a Norwegian Premium ticket, lounge access at selected airports is included in the fare. Norwegian used to make use of Korean Air’s lounge in JFK’s Terminal One but switched to Alitalia’s lounge quite recently.

 

 

The lounges layout is basic and when looked at through a critical eye – boring. The lounge is filled with lines of sofas and coffee tables with one small work area in the corner of the room. While the layout may be a little poor, the view onto the taxiways and runways is great, especially during sunset! The decoration inside the lounge was, however, quite disappointing. One of the largest annoyances was the television. For the duration of my visit, it was booming an Italian cartoon show. Even after about 10 minutes this became extremely annoying.

The food offering was very disappointing with no hot food on offer and only a small selection of salads and sandwiches to choose from in the fridge alongside a tray of small cheese.The sandwiches tasted very dry and I ended up going to buy some hot food from the Terminal shops to kill my hunger. The snack option was a little more appetizing and there was a wide range of bread sticks, crisps and biscuits to nibble on.

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While the food offering wasn’t very impressive, the drinks on offer almost made up for it. There was a range of beer, self-service spirits, sparkling wines and champagne. The soft drinks included Coke, Perrier and all of the other fizzy drinks you’d expect to find. Alongside this was a coffee machine.

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The WiFi in the lounge was terrible. I could barely load an Instagram story and struggled ti do any work as most of my writing was web-based. This was a massive shame as you had to purchase the airport’s WiFi which seemed to work a lot faster.

The toilets were clean and smart but there were no showers available.

 

Overall, the Alitalia lounge at JFK’s Terminal One is nothing they should be proud of. With a very boring design and lack of food to keep the passengers full, Alitalia look to have fallen pray to paying for a contract lounge. This is very disappointing seeing as New York is probably one of Alitalia’s biggest business routes.

British Airways A319 Business Class Review

In August, I traveled up to Edinburgh out of LHR on one of British Airways’ B767s in business class which was a great experience. I decided to compare the service offered by BA out of Heathrow and Gatwick on this short route in business class.

British Airways have 11 Airbus A319s based out of London Gatwick which are all ex-bmi aircraft. In addition to this they have 15 Airbus A320 aircraft. I flew on G-DBCG – an aircraft BA acquired in 2012. The aircraft is fitted with 144 standard economy seats. The front 8 rows are all able to be used as business class seats where the middle seat is blocked off for extra passenger comfort. For this short trip I was in seat 5A, the same as on the 767.

The Club seats are marked with white antimacassars

Club Europe passengers at London Gatwick can make use of the fast track security option at Gatwick’s South Terminal. The system takes you straight to the front of the queues. I would have been through security in less than 5 minutes had I not been stupid enough to bring a pot of hair gel with me. The obvious lack of staff at my security lane took about 25 minutes to finally get to my bag and throw away the gel.

Once I was through security I embarked on the roundabout trip to BA’s lounge area. I was really excited to see the lounge as I hadn’t been in it since the huge revamp it underwent. You can read all about how I found it in my upcoming review.

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Once I’d eaten enough in the lounge I went out into the terminal and went to find my gate. Boarding was slightly delayed because of a delayed inbound flight from Barcelona. Nevertheless, I boarded once the food was on and spent a nice time with the crew for the day. Once we had boarded, we were delayed even further and didn’t end up taking off until an hour after our initial slot. Despite the delays, Club passengers were kept happy with drinks and a hot towel service before we eventually left for Edinburgh.

Hot towel before departure. Yes, I am my own laptop background – pure vanity.

We took off on runway 26L at 20.10 and banked right towards Edinburgh. Meal service started almost as soon as we had hit our cruising altitude and was a choice of Salmon Salad or Croque Monsieur. I went for the Croque Monsieur and I have to say I regretted it almost straight away. The salmon salad looked like a much more comprehensive meal. For dessert we were given a ‘Wild Gourmet Passion Fruit Posset’ which was probably the best bit of the whole meal! Drinks were served with the meal and refills were offered before we began our descent. Before our approach I asked our crew if they had any crisps or nuts to give me and they went and found two bags of cashews which kept my stomach happy during my trip to the hotel!

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On reflection, I was very disappointed that I went for seat number 5A. Being at the back of the cabin, you are last to be served. My piece of advise for such a short trip would be to sit as close as possible to the front as you’ll be one of the first to be served.

We landed in Edinburgh at about 9pm and as is usual with domestic flights at EDI, I was out of the doors in five minutes.

Arrival on stand at EDI

Conclusion:

BA operate their short-haul business class product to Edinburgh out of both London Heathrow and London Gatwick. While flying on the B767 was an obvious novelty, I felt that the Gatwick route was a more peaceful way of flying up the country. With the airport being smaller, fast track security is faster and there are fewer people in the lounge, too.

With delays being a downside to my Gatwick trip, there is one other factor to bare in mind. The Gatwick based aircraft are pretty much all ex-bmi aircraft, these aircraft are notoriously known for having worse quality than the Heathrow based aircraft. I didn’t find this an issue and thoroughly enjoyed flying Club Europe to Edinburgh.

September Delivery Report – 737 MAX Steals the Show once Again

Both my last two Delivery Reports (July and August) have been headed by the delivery of a special Airbus A350 – The 100th to be rolled out of Toulouse and Delta’s first to be delivered respectively.

This month, however, bears similarity to the first delivery report of the summer season (June) where Norwegian received their first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Norwegian 737MAX on my recent trip to New York

This month it was American Airlines who stole the show. N324RA was delivered to the Fort-Worth based carrier on September 28th. The aircraft is equipped with 172 seats and is scheduled to begin operations on November 29th between La Guardia and Miami.

American’s first MAX after delivery to Fort-Worth.  Photo: FlightGlobal

But American weren’t the only airline to make headlines with the Boeing 737 MAX. WestJet also received their first MAX aircraft in September – C-FRAX- which ferried BGI-YYC on September 29th. In case Boeing hadn’t made enough of a splash with the 737 MAX, another airline received their first MAX on September 29th. The Singaporian carrier SilkAir received 9V-MBA which is the first of 31 737 MAX aircraft they will receive. The final airline to receive the MAX was SouthWest who introduced the aircraft on October 1st. They didn’t just receive their second MAX, but their 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th AND 9th! The new deliveries make them the largest operator of the aircraft.

Southwest 737 MAX. Photo: AirlineReporter

With 11 new 737 MAX aircraft delivered in September, it seems Boeing must have been working on overtime! How did Airbus compete with their NEO deliveries?

11 new A320NEOs were rolled out of Toulouse in September to put them on par with Boeing. Avianca Brasil headed the list with two (PR-OBJ and PR-OBL) and nine other airlines all added one to their fleet. The airlines were: Sichuan Airlines, who took delivery of B-8949, Frontier (N313FR), Tianjin Airlines (B-8952), Lufthansa (D-AING), AirAsia (9M-AGH), S7 (VQ-BCH), Indigo (VT-ITX) and finally Air India (VT-EXI)

So Airbus and Boeing finished head to head on MAX Vs NEO deliveries but how did the 787 fare against the A350?

 

 

 

 

Boeing delivered 11 787s and all of the deliveries were Boeing 787-9 models. No airline received more than one model and four airlines received their final Dreamliner on order. These were: Korean Air (HL8084), Thai (HS-TWA), Xiamen Airlines (B-7836) and Etihad (A6-BLQ). Other airlines to receive the aircraft were American Airlines (N830AN), ANA (JA890J), Air China (B-1467), Japan Airlines (JA870J), Air France (F-HRBC), British Airways (G-ZBJI) and finally Norwegian who painted their newest arrival (G-CKLZ) in UNICEF colours and flew on their #fillaplane trip to Djibouti and Yemen.

thelondonspotter.co.uk will be on one of these 787s on an inaugural flight this month. I will be taking the first ever Japan Airlines Flight 42 from London Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda on October 29th before flying back on Japan Airlines 41 to LHR. I will be making the most of all the cool features aranged for passengers on this flight including traditional Japanese spa access before the flight! Who’s excited?

Air France’s First Dreamliner when I flew it back in February

Airbus had a quieter month on the A350 where they delivered seven new planes to six airlines. Singapore Airlines received two (9V-SMQ and 9V-SMR) and have one still on order. China Airlines received one (B-18904), which they will be operating to London Gatwick in December and Finnair received their final XWB on order (OH-LWL). Thai and Asiana both also received their final planned A350s (HS-THH and HL7578 respectively) and finally Cathay Pacific took delivery of B-LRT.

Boeing delivered three Boeing 777s to Qatar (A7-BEK), EVA Air (B-19740) and KLM (PH-BVU) and Alitalia received an old B777 from AerCap which has been previously run by Air Austral and Garuda Indonesia.

Qatar Boeing 777 at London Heathrow

Airbus delivered only seven A330s in September which corresponds directly to August’s report! China Southern received two (B-8363 and B-8361) and Tianjin, Air China, Saudia, Shenzhen Airlines and Hawaiian all took delivery of one each.

At the beginning of September, we ran an article on the rumored purchase of 8 B747-8i aircraft from a well-known airline. This deal is yet to be confirmed but if it is, it would definitely re-ignite my 747 delivery report!

In September, Boeing delivered three B747-8 freighters to Qatar Airways (A7-BGB), AirBridge Cargo (VP-BBY) and UPS (N605UP).

Airbus kept quiet with the delivery of A380s as they, once again, rolled out one to Emirates at the end of the month.

Emirates has received the last three A380s

That’s all for this month! If you want to receive my monthly newsletter and know when new articles are published then sign up below!

Monarch – What Went Wrong?

Monarch – once a huge name in the aviation industry – gone.

At Midnight on October 1st, Monarch ceased to hold an ATOL license. With up to 110,000 passengers now stranded abroad, the CAA have put in emergency measures to bring these holiday makers back to the UK such as 10 Qatar A320s from Doha. Alongisde the UK Government, an emergency fleet has been organised.

A Monarch Airbus A320 at Birmingham International

So what went wrong?

The decline of Monarch has been going on for many years now and roots to the simple issue of having too many seats with not enough bums to fill them on shorthaul European flights. When Monarch begun back in 1968, they were exactly what Britain needed – a cheap way of getting some sun. They thrived thanks to good management and a huge market all through the nineties. What Monarch then failed to realise was what the future of European travel looked like. Monarch were still offering an upmarket service with frills such as free newspapers.

Once the budget boom began, Monarch found it hard to compete with the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet who had modern, efficient fleets that made travel that extra bit cheaper.

I flew Monarch in April this year

In recent times Monarch have been hit with a wave of bad luck, too. With increased terrorism in Tunisia and Egypt, Monarch have been unable to operate on some of their most popular summer and winter routes and have been thrown into competing on some of the busiest routes in the industry including London – Spain, Greece and Portugal. In September 2016, the CAA insisted that all flights be ATOL covered. Unlike other carriers, this meant that Monarch had to charge £2.50 and issue an ATOL certificate to all passengers – this only increased insecurity.

Monarch announced a bunch of reforms in December 2016 such as switching to an all Boeing fleet. They ordered 45 brand new 737MAX aircraft which have a list price of £5bn and announced changes to improve onboard service.

Bookings for September 2017 initially looked very promising and Monarch could be seen to be a little more confident heading into the summer season. But as July and August approached, bookings dropped and Monarch were once again looking stranded. Ryanair made the bold call to drop Leeds-Ibiza flights to £40 return – something Monarch couldn’t afford compete with. The market for 2017 summer travel became ruthless and Monarch’s new routes such as Manchester – Stockholm didn’t materialise. Reports state that planes were leaving half full even with a price tag of only £30 each way. Monarch’s losses for the year are currently around £100m, following a 20% fall in sales and increased costs of about £50million.

With talks going on deep into the night on October 1st, flights from Birmingham and Gatwick to Ibiza were both cancelled at last minute. Reports stated that Birmingham was cancelled during boarding. Monarch quadrupled their ticket prices so as not to get any more passengers mixed up in this mess and deter new customers. There was little known until the early hours of the 2nd of October when it was announced that Monarch were no more – they had ceased to trade.

 

What does the future hold for Monarch?

The immediate future will be challenging as the airline has thousands of passengers still abroad that need to be repatriated. The rescue airline created by the CAA and UK Government will ferry passengers, that are booked to fly with Monarch in the next two weeks to the UK, home. Unfortunately, if you are due to fly back to the UK after this two week period, the Government will not ferry you back for free – you must seek alternative travel as soon as possible.

If you have a flight with Monarch out of the UK, do not go to the airport as all future flights have been cancelled and look into rebooking as soon as possible.

With Monarch gone, competitor airlines will be quick to swoop on those valuable planes and spots that Monarch hold but with the company in administration, it looks like the end of the road for the once big name of aviation – Monarch Airlines.

 

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British Airways B767 Club Europe Review

On May 30th I attempted to fly to Edinburgh onboard the BA B767 in their Club cabin in order to write a review for you all. I missed the flight.

The old cockpit of the B767

Thanks to a friendly flyertalker who read my blog post on the missed flight – I went back to have another go. This time, I made the flight! British Airways have seven B767s left in their fleet which once boasted 31. With all the long-haul configured aircraft now retired, the seven remaining aircraft are set up in a domestic configuration with 259 seats. The aircraft is, however, available to configure is several different ways. The first 17 rows are available to sell as ‘Club Europe’ seats (BA’s short haul business class product) but in practice it is very rare that all of these rows are used in CE (Club Europe) configuration. For my flight, the first five rows were configured for Club use. What this means is that the middle seat in the middle rows aren’t available to sell which gives the club passengers some extra comfort. To clearly show which seats are used for Club seating, white antimacassars are used. I flew onboard G-BZHB which is due to be retired in November 2018. I sat in seat 5A and had the only free seat in the whole of the club cabin next to me thanks to it being blocked for sale. The cabin may look tired but I found the old seats very comfortable for the 55 minute flight.

Cruising up north

The aircraft is powered by 2 Rolls Royce RB211-524H engines, has 3 galleys and 8 toilets onboard.

British Airways’ Club passengers are allowed to use Terminal Five’s ‘FastTrack’ facility located to the left of BA’s A desks. Having slept very badly the night before, I decided to make my way to T5 bright and early to spend my time in the lounge instead of rolling around in bed and not sleeping. Arriving at T5 is very easy no matter what transport you take. I arrived on the 490 bus from Twickenham and was up in the departures hall 5 minutes later. If you have an early flight out of LHR then you should take note of my following mistake. To my surprise, T5 doesn’t actually open its check in desks until around 4.45 for the Edinburgh shuttle so I couldn’t check my bags before then. This resulted in a 30 minute wait in T5 for the bag check facility to open for my flight. Even if I had been able to drop my bags, however, the Galleries North lounge at T5 wouldn’t have let me in until 5am anyway. Once through security, I went to the South lounge for some breakfast and then positioned myself in the North lounge to watch the sunrise and landings on runway 27R.  BA’s lounges are laid out nicely with a choice of pastries and rolls for breakfast and a wide selection of drinks.

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I headed down to my A gate before the gates were announced to meet the crew as they arrived. I was met by cabin manager Elaine and her crew for the day who were more than happy to let me on early to get some shots of the aircraft. My passport and boarding pass were checked and I came down to the aircraft to have a look around.

The empty Club cabin

I only had a few minutes before boarding began but it was really nice to check the cabin out and chat to the crew before the 767s get retired next year. Boarding was handled seamlessly and we pushed back and began our long taxi from T5 to 27L for takeoff. Service began while we were still on the ground as the crew brought hot towels round to the Club passengers. We banked right out of Heathrow and began our scenic cruise towards EDI. Breakfast (yes, my third of the day) was served very soon after takeoff and consisted of a full English and selection of bread roll of croissant. The basket of bread came around a few times during the flight, as did the offer of more drinks. I was very well looked after by the crew and (as always) ate far too much.

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The crew that operate the 767s are known as ‘Eurofleet’ crew. They operate on the smaller jets (319,320,321) and the 767. I found the crew very welcoming and I could sense they were a lot more relaxed than many mixed fleet crew I have encountered on my BA travels. The 767s are fitted with overhead screens in the aisle but these were not used during our short trip. Newspapers and magazines are provided on boarding to all passengers, however. Seeing as the majority of the passengers were commuters, there was just about time to have a read of the morning papers before coming in to land.

The scenic route got even better as we began to descend into Scotland. As we hit water to the east of Edinburgh, we began to bank onto our final approach which offered a fantastic view of Edinburgh for those on the left of the aircraft. But as pictures speak a thousand words I’ll let you look at the slideshow below.

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We landed at around 9am in Edinburgh and, as Club passengers, left the aircraft first. As a domestic arrival, no checks were needed and I was out the door 10 minutes later.

I had a really enjoyable flight with BA on their old girl the 767. I’ve on an A319/20 a handful of times but flying shorthaul on the 767 felt quite different. Firstly, I found the crew very relaxed and well organized. They stopped to chat with most of the club passengers onboard and seemed genuinely happy to be operating the flight. The space on the 767 also seemed a lot nicer than that in the Airbus fleet. Being a jet with two aisles makes it feel a lot more spacious and I liked that.

Conclusion

Flying on the 767 was a great experience to have before they become a thing of the past next year. I had a really enjoyable flight with British Airways and think the morning 767 shuttle is a great option for those wanting a stress-free ride to Edinburgh

Norwegian B787-9 Premium Economy Review

If you’ve been reading my delivery reports recently, you’ll know that Norwegian are receiving B787s at a rapid rate. They currently have 32 on order but that will most likely be rising in the future. I flew one of their 787s on DY7016 – New York JFK to London Gatwick – in Norwegian’s ‘Premium’ cabin to see what they were offering.

Norwegian have both B787-8 and B787-9 Dreamliners in their fleet. The -8 variant has 32 premium seats and the -9 has 35. I flew on G-CJUI, a 787-9 model that was delivered to Norwegian in April 2017. The aircraft is setup with 42 rows – the first 5 rows are fitted with ‘Haeco model 3050’ premium seats in a 2-3-2 configuration and the following 37 with economy seats in a 3-3-3 configuration.

The comfort of the premium cabin really impressed me

The Premium seats offer a generous 46” of pitch and 19” of width. The legroom offered is actually the most you will find on any premium economy product on any airline behind Open Skies who offer an inch more. This gives you an idea of the generosity of the product. This compares to the economy seats which offer only 31” of pitch and 17” of width. My seat for the transatlantic flight was 3J.

The 787 Dreamliners boast a complete overhaul in onboard product from the old aircraft people are used to flying. Ranging from windows with automatic dimming to a state of the art cockpit, the 787 really is how the next generation of flying will look. The flight deck is similar to that of the B737MAX which I flew a few days earlier in terms of automation.

The flightdeck during ground preperation

The aircraft is powered by two Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines which generate a whopping 74,000lbs of thrust each. With that said, they are some of the quietest engines in the industry, thanks to noise reducing chevrons fitted to the rear. The aircraft has 3 galleys and nine toilets. The toilets are also fitted with mood lighting which automatically changes when the doors are locked and unlocked. The crew rest is fitted at the rear of the cabin above the rear galley.

The Trent 1000 engines that power the aircraft are one of the most silent in the industry

Premium passengers are treated to complimentary lounge access at available airports. One of those airports is New York JFK. Norwegian used to use the Korean Air lounge but have recently moved to the Alitalia Lounge at gate 3. I’d heard mixed reviews of Korean Air’s lounge but was eager to find out what the Alitalia lounge offered. The lounge offers complimentary WiFi which I found a little slow at times. There is no hot food available, just sandwiches and salads from the fridge, crisps and other light snacks and quite a wide range of soft drinks and alcoholic beverage. The lounge windows offered a view of a few gates and it was nice to watch the sun go down and some evening departures.

The view from the lounge

I sat down with a light dinner and did some work. While the lounge is a nice way of relaxing before a flight, it is nothing special.

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Once the cleaners were finished I was allowed free access onto the aircraft to photograph the cabin and meet the crew.

 

 

Our scheduled departure time was 23.00 but we were delayed during boarding and finally pushed back 20 minutes late at 23.20 – nothing major and handled very well by the cabin crew. After boarding, I was offered a drink and given a set of headphones by Louise who was operating as one of the two premium crew for the day. We took off from runway 22R at 23.50 and were offered another drink shortly after.

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We began our cruise at 39,000ft before ascending to 41,000ft until we hit the western point on Wales where we began to descend for arrival into LGW. The cruise was smooth apart from some very heavy turbulence over the eastern point of Canada. Dinner was served 50 minutes after takeoff at 12.40 New York time. For dinner, I was given a choice of ‘Savory Grilled Chicken Breast’, ‘Rich and Tender Grilled Beef Filet’ and ‘Seared Shrimp Basted in Creamy Lemon Beuree Sauce’. The meals in Premium are still served in Norwegian’s standard boxes. I would love to see a plated meal introduced to Norwegian’s menu. I went for the beef, seeing as I had chicken on the MAX trip up to New York.

Dinner is served

The meal was well presented and tasted good. I was, without a doubt, full for the rest of the trip. After the meal service, the whole cabin was offered tea or coffee and a choice of either Cognac or Bailey’s. This was a really nice touch.

Premium seats are fitted with flip-out IFE screens which come out of the middle arm rest. The screens are bigger than those in economy class and have a good selection of films and TV programs available. I really enjoyed the different maps that were available to use during the crossing and had these up for most of the flight. The IFE also has a nice feature which allows you to order drinks (complimentary for premium passengers) and snacks.

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Charging points are included in the premium seat which allows to work on the go. This compares to the economy product where there are two plugs per three seats.  The 787s haven’t, yet, been fitted with wifi which is a shame. I’d love to see this coming in the future.

Around an hour before landing  we were offered breakfast. I have to say I thought the breakfast was superb. I wasn’t expecting anything major for breakfast but was greeted with a really nice mix of food. My breakfast included a bread roll, slice of parma ham, ball of cream cheese, two slices of cheddar cheese and a selection of fruit pieces accompanied by a coffee. I was really impressed with the breakfast.

Breakfast was the best meal of the flight I thought

Perks of flying premium include a complimentary blanket, headphones, unlimited complimentary drinks, dinner, breakfast, pre-boarding and access out of the aircraft before economy passengers. Thanks to a good flight time we landed at 11.09am on runway 26L at London Gatwick, thus making up for the delays at JFK. Disembarkation was handled professionally and premium passengers were speedily whisked off the aircraft.

The premium seat offered by Norwegian is a cheaper option than most premium economies. I selected a random date in summer 2018 to compare prices. A premium economy fare with British Airways from LHR-JFK on July 17th will set you back £1707. On the same date, a Premium fare with Norwegian will cost you £502. Being a lot cheaper, you would expect Norwegian’s premium service to be a lot worse than that of its competitors but I didn’t find that. I found that I had a surplus of legroom (46” – more than any of its competitors in London) and enjoyed complimentary drinks throughout the flight. A premium fare also gives you the flexibility of taking two checked bags onboard, seat reservation and fast track access at selected airports. Upgrading to Norwegian’s premium fare from a basic economy fare, on my selected day in summer 2018, will cost you £140.

The comfort and value of the Premium cabin really impressed me

Norwegian’s premium seat offers better levels of comfort at a very competitive price and that should be taken advantage of by all you keen travelers.

Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Norwegian Air.

More Boeing 787 Reviews on LondonSpotter:

Stewart Airport – The Airport that Could Change how we Travel

When you think about New York’s airports, New York/ Newburgh Stewart International probably doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Located 60 miles to the north of NYC in Orange County, Stewart Airport is small and remarkably quiet. With only 9 gates, its size, in terms of passenger count, is incomparable to that of JFK and EWR. The small airport could, however, be about to boom.

Before Norwegian’s arrival to the airport, Stewart Airport (SWF) handled only a dozen or so domestic flights everyday. With the arrival of Norwegian in mid-June, SWF has been connected to the world through flights to the UK and Scandinavia.

Stewarts only terminal is so small that it is is unidentifiable as an international airport

Why have Norwegian chosen Stewart?

For starters, Stewart’s landing fees are a lot less than that of New York’s major airports. Flying here costs Norwegian far less than flying into JFK (which has some of the highest fees in the world, I was told). The second reason is that being such a small airport, SWF can offer Norwegian a whole host of slots. With turnaround running smoothly, the plan is to unload passengers and cargo then load back up and depart 90 minutes later, thus reducing ground fees even more. These cheap fees that Norwegian are receiving don’t just mean that they make more of a profit at the end of the day, however. What it means is that transatlantic travel is now readily available to more people than ever before.

With only a small terminal, Stewart Airport isn’t your average international airport

Being so small, queues are almost non-existent and it is only a short walk before you’re out of the door and on your way into New York. After landing from Edinburgh, visiting the flight deck and being last off the aircraft, it only took me 30 minutes to be out the door and on my way. This is something New York’s major airports can’t beat.

Whilst visiting the airport last month, I was really impressed with the enthusiasm from Stewart’s staff to make a success out of Norwegian’s arrival. I met with General Manager Ed Harrison and COO Oscar Hollenbeck who told me all about the history of the airport and how they plan to build on what they now have to make Stewart a highly regarded airport with a large network of flights. I was told about expansion plans to accommodate more aircraft and ways in which they were working with new airlines to start flights from the airport. New initiatives are starting to support the increase in traffic such as the startup of the Stewart Airport Express Bus into the city. The bus is the only direct link Stewart has to the city but has been designed so that passengers never miss it. With a flexible schedule, the bus waits until the Norwegian flights have landed (even if delayed) and passengers are out of the airport until leaving. Tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for children. Initiatives like these are what Stewart Airport are working so hard to develop as it is necessary in supporting the large increase in traffic.

Stewart Airport has a fascinating history, too. SWF was developed in the 1930s as a military base for the US army and is, still, home to some military operations. The airport was redeveloped in 2000 when it became the first US airport to be privatized. UK based National Express Group won a 99 year lease of the airport but sold it off to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who acquired the final 93 years of lease in 2007. In 2016 it was announced that Norwegian would be linking Stewart airport to Europe via UK bases in Scotland and Ireland and Bergen in Norway. In doing this, SWF has been linked to a vast network of locations on a global scale.

The military base at Stewart is home to a fleet of C-17s

Those who travel into SWF often overlook the surrounding areas of the airport and travel directly into New York. The Hudson Valley is home to the US Military Academy at West Point, the world famous shopping outlet at Woodbury Commons, which attracts a whopping 16 million visitors every year, the Culinary Institute of America and the home of President Franklin Roosevelt. While Stewart may be growing on the basis of being a New York airport, its surrounding areas have some hidden gems which will surely begin attracting more travelers through SWF.

Stewart is bigger, in size, than New York’s Newark Airport yet has a tiny amount of operations in comparison. For this reason, Stewart is a perfect airport for expansion. The plans that are in place include new international arrivals halls and, in the longer term, a new terminal. These moves will help attract the investment needed to become a world-leading airport. Alongside physical expansion, Stewart needs to be looking online to see how they can expand and market themselves in cities around the world. Social media is beginning to be utilised in order to begin spreading the word that Stewart is growing and could be becoming a big name in the aviation industry.

The huge runway at Stewart could once be used by the space shuttle in an emergency

Stewart Airport may not be right in the middle of New York but that might just be its best selling point. With acres of space to expand, SWF has huge potential to become a prominent airport of the future. With flights already to Scotland, Norway and Ireland, it can’t be long before Stewart attracts more airlines and more passengers and becomes the cheaper option for transatlantic travel.

Norwegian 737 MAX Flight Review

Norwegian B787 Premium Class Review

 

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August Delivery Report

In August, there was one delivery that stuck out for everyone. Yes, the delivery of Delta’s first Airbus A350 (N501DN). The aircraft is expected to enter service on October when it will begin to serve Delta’s Detroit-Narita route. The new delivery will be fitted with the new ‘One Suite’ and ‘Premium Seat’ cabins. The new ‘One Suite’ is a business class product that offers a sliding door to a private area with a lie flat bed. The new premium seat features 38 inches of pitch and a width of 17 inches. Only four other A350s were delivered in August. Lufthansa received their 4th on August 15th (D-AIXD), four days later Vietnam Airlines took delivery of their 8th and final A350 (VN-A893). The two other deliveries went to Hong Kong Airlines (B-LGA), a new airline on the list of A350 operators, and Cathay Pacific (B-LRS)

Delta’s new Premium cabin (photo: delta)

While Airbus only delivered 5 A350s, Boeing had a much more productive month with the 787. 11 787s were delivered in August. Saudia (HZ-ARH), Scoot (9V-OFJ) and United (N26970) all received their final 787s and El Al Israel received their first (4X-EDA) The new product comes fitted with a complete overhaul in onboard product which you can read all about here. Other airlines to receive Dreamliners were KLM (PH-BHM), who have one more on order, Air India (VT-ANZ and VT-NAA), who have two yet to be delivered, Air China (B-1466) who, also, have two more on order, Norwegian (G-CKNA and G-CKKL), who I flew with from JFK-LGW, and finally American (N829AN)

Norwegian received 2 787s to add to their rapidly growing fleet

Airbus may have had a disappointing month in terms of A350 deliveries but they made up for it in A320neos. Seven new Neos were delivered to six airlines. Air Asia received the most with 2 (9M-AGE and 9M-AGG) and have four more on order. Other airlines to receive the A320neo were Indigo (VT-ITW), SAS (SE-ROA), Vistara (VT-TNE) and Pegasus (TC-NBK), who will receive only one more. Novair were the only airline to take delivery of a 321neo (SE-RKB)

The MAX had quite an impressive month in August. A new airline was added to the list of operators – Southwest, who received N8710N. Norwegian received their final 737MAX on order (EI-FYF) and Lion Air received two more (PK-LQG and PK-LQH). FlyDubai took delivery of their second MAX (A6-FMA).

The state-of-the-art MAX

Five new B777s were rolled out of Seattle this month and delivered to four airlines. Emirates added two to their ever growing fleet (A6-EQE and A6-EQF). The other airlines were EVA Air (B-16739), Kuwait (9K-AOM) and Air China (B-1430).

The A330 also had quite a big month with six airlines receiving seven new aircraft. Wamos started the month off with delivery of EC-LNH, Saudi took delivery of TC-OCF, Hong Kong Airlines began operations with B-LHD, Tap Portugal received (CS-TOX) and Air China ferried B-8385 back to China. China Eastern received two (B-8972 and B-8962)

And to finish… An A380 was delivered in August. Emirates brought A6-EUY home to Dubai.

Airbus rolled an A380 out to Emirates towards the end of the month

Next month I’ll be back with an overview of what’s happened in the delivery world of September!

featured image by Airbus

 

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Norwegian Boeing 737MAX Flight Review

On June 29th, Norwegian became the first European airline to receive the new, state of the art, Boeing 737MAX. The new 737 variant boasts a reduced fuel consumption of 14% from the B737NG. While Norwegian made the headlines by becoming the first European airline to receive the aircraft, they also made the noteworthy decision to operate it on transatlantic flights during the high season. I flew onboard EI-FYA, the first of the MAX aircraft to be received, on flight D81600 on August 25th from Edinburgh to New York Stewart Airport to see what all the fuss was about.

The view from the jetbridge

The Aircraft

The aircraft is set up with 189 standard economy seats in 32 rows of a 3-3 configuration. The seat chosen by Norwegian is the ultra-thin Recaro Leather seat, the same as that on their -800 models. This is a seat Jet2 also use. The effect of using this slim, leather seat is more legroom and a lighter aircraft.

Exit row 16

LED mood lighting is also in use on this aircraft which is used to improve passenger ‘comfort and ambience’. The aircraft offers three extra seats on the front port side compared to some of the 737-800 models. Each seat offers 29-31” of pitch and 17.2” of width. These measurements are nothing major to brag about for Norwegian as they are up to 2 inches smaller than the measurements on the 787. The exit row seats have a much more generous 38” of pitch and are located in rows 15 and 16. I was sat in seat 16A.

Exit row 15

The aircraft is fitted with 2 CFM International LEAP-1B engines. These engines are designed to increase efficiency and reduce fuel consumption. They are fitted with chevrons, similar to those on the 787, to reduce engine noise.

CFM International LEAP-1B engine

The MAX has two galleys, one at the front and one at the rear and includes three lavatories.

One of the most modern elements of the B737MAX is the cockpit. The flight deck boasts huge screens with higher levels of automation than any other 737 before it.

The flightdeck of EI-FYA

The Flight

After arrival in Edinburgh I was taken on a ramp tour by Norwegian’s ground staff, Swissport. The tour was an amazing way of viewing the new MAX up close and I was really impressed with the way Norwegian have kept the aircraft looking so brand new. The tour took me inside the aircraft, too. I was able to get cabin shots and cockpit shots before heading back to the gate and boarding as a normal passenger.

Still looks brand new

Boarding began once the aircraft had been turned around from its short hop to Oslo during the day. My seat for the flight was 16A, an exit row seat, and I was really impressed with the comfort and legroom offered. Doors shut 15 minutes later and we pushed back, on time, at 17.15. We took off on runway 24R from Edinburgh and I was amazed at the small amount of noise the aircraft produced on the takeoff run. After takeoff from EDI we banked right and began our initial cruise at 33,000ft over the north of Scotland to the Southern tip of Greenland before ascending to 38,000ft for approach into the US and Canada.

Departure from Edinburgh’s 24R

Only after landing could I look at our flightpath for the day. I would have liked to see Norwegian introduce a flight map on the overhead screens.

We were looked after fantastically by the four cabin crew members who went above and beyond to meet our needs throughout the flight. I am really happy I had the opportunity to meet them. A special thank you to Eilidh and Kevin who went above and beyond to make sure we were happy during the flight.

My ticket included a ‘Nice and Tasty Meal’ which was served at 18.30 and consisted of a choice between chicken or beef. I chose the chicken. The meal consisted of a piece of chicken on rice with a peas and sweetcorn side, a small pot of pasta and for dessert, a Belgian chocolate square. I was really impressed with the food I was served and would definitely recommend it. The meal comes with one drink of your choice, too. It will cost you £25 to add this meal to your ticket. Other buy on board meals include sandwiches at $7 and salads at $9.

We landed at Stewart International at 19.40 local time to conclude a flight of 7 hours and 10 minutes.

On final approach into Stewart

So, what exactly does a passenger do for 7 hours? Norwegian aim to provide complimentary wifi on their 737MAX aircraft within a year, but for now, it is non-existent. While the framework for internet connectivity is in place, final preparation needs to be completed. The aircraft provides no IFE apart from a few screens above the seats. On the 737-800 product, seats are fitted with headphone jacks to tune into the audio on the screens but the MAX isn’t equipped with this. This raises the question of the necessity of them. Without Wifi, passengers should download their own entertainment before flying and maybe load up a portable charger, too. The seats aren’t equipped with any AC or USB power ports so a full battery is needed to take you across the Atlantic. Passengers are, also, not given any blankets or pillows for the flight. I, however, didn’t find this a problem as temperature and comfort didn’t were not an issue.

My choice of entertainment was editing, of course.

If you’re looking for a comfortable ride across the Atlantic, then choosing the exit row seat is very important. The extra legroom under the seat in front results in quite a comfortable ride and space to stretch your legs. The legroom offered on a normal seat is, as you might expect, on the small side. With less legroom than the larger 787 models, you are likely to feel the limited space over the 7 hour flight. You can choose your own seat for a price of £25 on the cheapest ‘lowfare’ ticket and I would definitely suggest that. At no extra cost than a normal seat, you can sit in the exit row or front of the aircraft and enjoy much more comfort.

The exit row offers 38″ of pitch. A comfortable option.

We landed at SWF’s gate number 1 and were led through into the first ever airport I have witnessed where you reclaim your baggage before getting through security. Being last off the aircraft meant that we had a slight queue getting out of the airport but nonetheless, were outside 40 minutes after touchdown at 20.40. This is a huge selling point for both Norwegian and Stewart. With so few flights it is almost unlikely you’ll be held up for anymore than 30 minutes after arriving on stand. Until the arrival of Norwegian, Stewart handled only domestic traffic. For this reason, measures have had to be taken to establish a sterile area where international arrivals can be cleared. This requires the erecting of a screen to block access into the landside departures area. You can read more about this in my upcoming article on Stewart Airport.

Baggage reclaim

Norwegian have to be praised for the product they are offering. They have opened up transatlantic travel to people that, before, could never afford it.

How have they done it?

By using modern, efficient, aircraft, they are cutting the fuel costs by up to 14% from the older 737NGs. They mix this with flying into smaller airports where landing fees are a fraction of that of bigger, more popular airports (ie: JFK and EWR). The final money saver is a model that lets passengers choose the products they want to add to their ticket. By not offering complimentary food and drinks, seat selection or hold luggage, passengers have to pay for what they need.

This model means that getting to the East Coast can be as affordable as a train journey from London to Manchester and is opening up the market to people that could, previously, never afford the privilege.

The state of the art B737MAX uses up to 14% less fuel than the older 737NGs

CONCLUSION

By flying on Norwegian’s 737max to the East Coast, you aren’t going to receive a service comparable to other airlines in regards to complimentary amenities. But you also aren’t going to pay anywhere near what you’d pay other airlines. Norwegian offers a no-frills service that is cheap – very cheap, and for this reason they have to be congratulated

I had a very enjoyable flight with Norwegian on the MAX and I am really impressed with the business model they have created, that lets more people than ever before fly transatlantic, and hope to see a lot of you do it in the future.

disclaimer: this trip was provided by Norwegian Air

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