Air Baltic A220-300 Economy ATH-RIX-LGW Review

This is a guest review, written by George Delfas, detailing his experience onboard Air Baltic’s new Airbus A220-300 aircraft. 


In early September, I flew with Air Baltic on their new A220-300 aircraft
to return to the UK, following my holiday in Greece. Air Baltic operate a wide
network of flights to major cities across Europe, as well as many seasonal
holiday destinations utilising their fleet of modern A220-300s and
Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s – in addition to ageing B737-300 and 737-500 aircraft which are slowly being phased out and replaced.

My flight was from Athens to Riga, and then onwards from Riga to London
Gatwick. Both flights were operated by the A220-300, making for a very
pleasant experience – thanks in part to their modern cabin product and low noise emissions.

I arrived at Athens Eleftherios Venizelos Airport at 22.00, with five hours to wait as my flight wasn’t until 03.15am.

Landside at Athens airport was very noisy, with many people coming and going and cleaning taking place, so I went through security after 45 minutes. Athens airport security was a pleasant contrast to the chaos of the check-in area – there was no queue whatsoever – and I was airside in just over 1 minute,
although this may have been due to the time of night. The gate
area was almost completely empty given the time of day, but an
impressive array of cafes remained open for an airport with only 2-3
flights departing from the ‘B’ gates between 00.00 and 05.00, with a wide
range of food available for purchase. There was a large quantity of
seating at the gates, however loud music was played preventing me from
getting any proper sleep. Thankfully, this was switched off at 1am.

At 02.50 we began boarding from a gate with a bus to take us to the
remote stand where YL-CSA (Air Baltic’s first ever A220-300, delivered
in November 2016) was waiting to take us to Riga. I boarded the plane
through the front door, was met by a friendly crew member and entered the
aircraft to find it lit with cool, pale coloured lighting with soft, relaxing
boarding music.

Boarding YL-CSA in Athens

We departed from Athens at 03.33, 18 minutes behind schedule, with an
estimated flight time of 2hours and 50minutes. After the seatbelt signs
had been switched off, the crew came around with the passengers’ pre-
ordered meals. They then brought the trolley service through. This sold a
range of snacks which could be bought on board at fairly reasonable
prices comparable to other airlines offering a similar service. The service
was fast, but I imagine that on busier flights during the day the service
could take a long time, with only one galley at the rear of the aircraft to
serve the entire economy cabin (the other galley at the front was
exclusively for business class passengers).

The cabin was very spacious, with each seat having a fantastic width of
18.5″and 32″of pitch making for a very comfortable flight.

The Economy Class product on the Airbus A220

The seats reclined sufficiently, with the seat base moving forward as well as the back reclining so as not to squash the legs of the person behind you. I thought this was a clever solution to this all-to-common issue. It is worth bearing in mind, that even the back row had room behind it to allow the seats to recline. The overhead bins were also enormous, and dropped down from the ceiling allowing easier access for shorter passengers. The tray tables had a sleek design which fitted neatly into the back of the seat in front of you, but were released by a slightly fiddly metal catch which you had to slide rather
than turn to release the table. This was, however, not a major issue.

The only major downside to the economy cabin was that out of the two toilets
on board, one was exclusively for the business class passengers, which
left just one lavatory for the entire economy class cabin of around 135 people,
leading to queues. There was at least one large window in each row,
allowing all passengers to see out even if seated on the aisle and allowing
a huge amount of natural light into the cabin.

Above each row is a small screen which displays the safety briefing and a
map during the flight. There is no other IFE, and no WiFi on board.
Adverts were played on the screens during the taxi, despite it being 03.30,
which was incredibly annoying, especially as the sound was played
loudly throughout the aircraft.

The A220’s signature overhead panel screen – showing onward connections from Riga.

30 minutes before landing in Riga, information on connecting flights was displayed on the screens, allowing you to see whether your next flight was on time, and which gate and concourse in the airport it was departing from saving you time once you had disembarked. This struck me as a nice touch.

Despite a horrible whining noise when the engines were started in
Athens, the rest of the flight was very quiet once cruising at 38,000 feet,
and noticeably quieter than an A320.

We landed in Riga at 06.19, 16 minutes ahead of schedule, following a
beautiful approach over foggy pine forests into a very, very foggy airport.
Disembarkation was through an airbridge on to concourse C.

Boarding YL-CSJ in an extremely foggy Riga.

Riga Airport is very small and easy to navigate, so it should have been a couple of minutes to reach Gate C9 for my onward flight to Gatwick. However,
there were huge queues for passport control to reach the boarding gates
for extra Schengen flights, meaning that I arrived at the gate after
boarding had started. The queue to board moved fast, and I was soon
walking out across the tarmac to my aircraft for this flight, another A220-
300 (YL-CSJ, Air Baltic’s second newest A220 delivered in July 2018).

The flight departed at 07.52, with an estimated flight time of 2hours
20minutes.

Departing over Lativa’s misty pine forests

Once we reached our cruising altitude of 40,000 feet, the
meals for those who had pre-ordered them were brought around. I had
ordered pancakes with fruit juice for breakfast, which arrived in a box,
and was warm.

The meal was nicely and neatly presented, in a compact box

The pancakes were very tasty, and came with fresh fruit
and a croissant and jam. Many options were available to choose from
when booking your flight online, including many traditional Latvian
dishes, ranging in price from €9 to €29, with options for specific dietary
requirements.

The breakfast meal, served onboard my RIX-LGW flight.

The crew were efficient and friendly, but were quite
reserved and didn’t make too many announcements, which was – at least in my opinion –  a good thing.

I won’t describe the cabin again, as the aircraft was the same type as
before, but Air Baltic have made some small changes to the cabin from
the earlier A220-300 models, with small improvements such as the seats
having a plastic back with a pocket that doesn’t bulge into your knees as
much when items are placed into it all helping to make the flight more
enjoyable.

We landed at Gatwick at 08.22, 18 minutes ahead of schedule, after
enduring possibly the most bumpy landing I have experienced which
even drew a sarcastic round of applause from many of the passengers,
and disembarked through an airbridge into the South Terminal.

Leaving YL-CSJ behind at London-Gatwick.

Bottom Line: 
Overall, my experience with Air Baltic was fantastic and I would
definitely fly with them again. They have the prices and service of a
budget carrier, but their cabin product, meal choices and noise levels on
the A220-300 is way above their rivals such as easyJet or British Airways
and provides fantastic comfort even for overnight flights.

Spain’s worst Business Class? | Air Europa Review

After my arrival into Malaga with Aer Lingus, I found myself with just 50 minutes to connect from one side of the terminal to another. Luckily for me, when I arrived at my gate there was a Primera Air Boeing 737 still waiting for the final few passengers to arrive, meaning my flight to Madrid would be delayed.

UX5049 Malaga – Madrid:

Finally the 737 pushed back and departed for Billund. The gate staff changed the signage over to Air Europa, and invited all Sky Priority + VIP passengers to come forward for boarding, so I did. I had my mobile boarding pass scanned and I was told to walk down the corridor and wait for a member of staff to direct me. It was only when the whole flight was waiting in the corridor that a member of staff came and lead us to a bus that would take us to the aircraft. So much for my priority boarding…

As we drove across the airfield, the plain white ATR 72 came into view. Today’s flight was being operated by Swiftair and not Air Europa themselves. Much like my Iberia flight from Ibiza to Mallorca. As the doors to the bus opened, the rush of passengers to the aircraft steps began, but not before larger cabin bags were tagged and placed into the aircraft hold.

Whether sitting in Business Class or Economy, the legroom on this aircraft was extremely disappointing…

After boarding I settled into “Business Class” seat 17A; I noticed that for other than an inch or two of extra legroom, this seat was no different to the others on-board. Even without my hand luggage underneath the seat, it was a very tight squeeze to attempt to stretch out. The seat width was the same as the Canaryfly ATR, because of this, I knew I was in for a rough ride. I fully understand that unlike their jet engined counterparts, regional propellor aircraft aren’t as gifted with vast amounts of space. However, despite this I have seen many airlines create a dedicated Business Class cabin on aircraft Including the ATR family.

One of the two crew on-board, who’s names I forget, offered myself and the other three passengers in Business a glass of Orange Juice or Water to drink prior to our departure. I chose the Orange Juice and also accepted the anti-bacterial face wipe offered that I believe substituted for a hot towel. Once boarding had been completed the crew introduced themselves by making several announcements in both Spanish and English. The engines of the turbo prop started up and we began our taxi to the runway.

Welcome drinks, not quite as extravagant as a certain other Spanish airline…

Upon take off from Malaga, we climbed out over the Mediterranean Sea then turned towards the mainland. Once the seatbelt signs had been deactivated, the crew came around to clear the rubbish from the welcome drinks. Offering another selection of drinks, I chose a Coca-Cola and folded down the tray table to begin writing up the Aer Lingus review on my laptop. Only, when it was all of the way down, It rested on my lap and left me with no space whatsoever. After resting my drink on my laptop (being very careful not to spill it), they offered a selection of newspapers that had become very creased from sitting in one of the overhead lockers. Declining this, I was offered my in-flight meal.

A tray of peculiar looking sandwiches was presented to me, two choices, Chicken or Ham. Choosing the latter, I opened it to find it was quite simply ham on a tomato bread. Talk about fine dining! I was also given a small packet of salted nuts and later offered a bag of ready salted potato chips. It certainly wasn’t the most exciting selection in the world, that’s for sure.

Attempting to take a working lunch didn’t go as planned…

No In-flight Entertainment is offered, so anyone planning to travel with on the ATR best pack a book otherwise you could be in for a very boring and uncomfortable flight. To pass the time, I cursed myself for not choosing to take the Renfe First Class service from Malaga to Madrid’s central train station. At least I would have had a large reclining leather seat, warm meal and most importantly, a cool air conditioned cabin. 

Much to the relief of I imagine most people that had booked into this ‘Business Class’ service, the city of Madrid came into view and we began to make our approach. The crew passed through the cabin to collect any rubbish that was lying around and then took their seats for landing.

I have to be completely honest, this isn’t at all what I had expected when booking onto a Business Class flight with Air Europa. The quite frankly disappointing seat space available and very basic food options that were offered, really leave me wondering if the nearly £200 I paid for this 1 hour 30 minute flight was worth it. The only saving grace for my experience was the crew. They were fantastic from take off to touch down, and honestly couldn’t do enough for you.

EC-MIY, the aircraft that flew me from Malaga to Madrid

Many reading this may be quick to point out that, as I mentioned, it was not Air Europa that operated this flight. It is however, the airlines choice to allow fare paying passengers to fly in a Business Class that is no different than the economy product offered.

My advice to anyone thinking of flying Business on a Air Europa service operated by Swiftair would be this; don’t do it. Save yourself the disappointment and discomfort and fly with Iberia instead.

Low-Cost Indian Airline IndiGo launching flights to London

In January 2018, IndiGo  – India’s largest passenger airline – began to seek regulatory approval to operate flights from New Delhi to London, Paris, Madrid and Hong Kong. Now, it looks like IndiGo’s aspirations may be one step closer to reality.

The budget carrier, whose operations revolve primarily around short haul flights within the Indian subcontinent, has reportedly secured a slot at London Gatwick airport from the beginning of 2018’s winter season.

IndiGo has secured slots at London Gatwick – one of the world’s busiest single runway airports.

IndiGo is planning to launch the new route with its Airbus A321neo aircraft, scheduled for delivery this November, which will be configured with over 200 seats, sources say.

However, there is  an added complication. IndiGo does not have any Airbus A321neoLR aircraft on order – the variant other airlines such as Primera have used to facilitate their foray into long-haul flying. Instead, the budget carrier has only ordered the standard A321neo, which offers significantly diminished range. This, coupled with a dense seating configuration, means it is clear that IndiGo will not be able to operate its new Delhi-London service non-stop.

Istanbul has been proposed as a potential refuelling stop for IndiGo’s new route to London. Under this scenario, the airline would be able to carry passengers between Delhi and Istanbul –  in addition to passengers bound for Gatwick.

Due to the range of the Airbus A321neo, IndiGo would have to select a refuelling stop en route from Delhi to London – Istanbul is the favourite.

However, routing via Istanbul would add around 200 miles and inconvenient extra travel time, when compared to rival’s Delhi-London flights. It is also uncertain as to whether the airline would have fifth-freedom rights to carry passengers solely between Turkey and the British capital, removing an opportunity to top up revenue.

Regardless of whether IndiGo launches flights this winter, a new trend of low-cost Indian airlines setting their sights on Europe is evident. Rival to IndiGo, SpiceJet, has previously voiced its ambition to launch long-haul budget flights to Europe and has preemptively secured slots for Delhi-Manchester flights on numerous occasions.

Other low-cost airlines – both from India and elsewhere – are voicing their ambitions to launch low-cost, long-haul flights from India.

Additionally, Singapore Airlines subsidiary – Scoot – wants to operate its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners on Singapore-India-Europe routes, utilising fifth-freedom rights (the freedom that allows airlines to fly from their home country to a second nation and then carry passengers from there to a third nation).

“We can look at Singapore-Delhi/Mumbai/Chennai/Kolkata-Europe/Gulf flights. We can fly to places like Zurich, Paris, Manchester (not London), Abu Dhabi and Bahrain”

-indian manager of scoot, Bharath Mahadevan

 

Of course, Air India and Jet Airways would be badly affected by the advent of low-cost, long-haul flights. The cost structure of both airlines is simply too high to compete with fares offered by the likes of IndiGo and their profit margins would likely be slashed. For low-cost airlines, the road to long-haul flying could be fraught with challenges too – Primera’s disastrous transatlantic launch proved this. However, with LCCs controlling more than 65% of India’s domestic market, the trend towards budget flights to Europe is unstoppable.

Featured image: Devendra Kulkarni

EXCLUSIVE Interview – Can Britain’s Worst Airport Improve?

Last week, London’s Luton Airport was named as the worst UK airport for the third year running. In an annual passenger satisfaction survey by Which?, just 35% of passengers said they were satisfied with the experience of travelling through London Luton. It is understood that some 521 passengers were asked about their experience at London Luton, between April and May of this year. Passengers were asked to rank aspects of the airport experience such as toilets, bag drop queues, staff, shops and seating. Luton Airport scored one star in all of these categories.

can Luton’s fortunes be turned around?

However, Luton is embarking on am ambitious redevelopment project (work which may have negatively impacted on this year’s survey results), designed to enhance accessibility and modernise the airport. Therefore, on the 80th Anniversary of London Luton Airport, our Editor – Ethan Chandler –  had the chance to interview Kimberly Kennedy, Head of Terminal Operations at Luton to find out whether Britain’s worst airport can turn around its fortunes, with its upcoming redevelopment plan.


Ethan Chandler: You are investing £160m into improving the London Luton Airport experience for your travellers. Can you briefly outline what changes you are implementing within this programme?

Kimberly Kennedy: London Luton Airport’s £160m redevelopment is nearing completion. This is the single largest investment in our history, and will increase annual capacity to 18 million passengers. As part of the
transformation, LLA has more than doubled the retail and dining space in the terminal to offer passengers a greater variety of choice.

An overview of the changes LLA are making to the airport, due for completion in 2026.

Since the start of 2018, more than 30 new stores have opened at the airport, including Chanel, Hugo Boss and Oliver Bonas. A new boarding pier containing eight new boarding gates. In addition the redevelopment has delivered a new dual carriageway access road, a multi-storey car park, re-modelled coach and bus interchange, new taxiway extension, additional aircraft stands and a
larger security hall.

30 new stores have opened at LLA just this year, including Hugo Boss and Chanel.

Work has also start on the DART (Direct Air Rail Transit) that will replace the current shuttle bus between Luton Airport Parkway station and the terminal, with a journey time of less than four minutes. This is expected to be in service by 2021.

EC: Luton Airport is 34 miles from Westminster and the centre of London. How will you work with Govia Thameslink and the Government to deliver faster services to the capital and what are you doing to improve the passenger experience when travelling between Luton Airport
Parkway and the airport terminal?

KK: LLA is already really well served by rail, but is the only London airport without an express-style rail service. This is why we are calling for four fast trains per hour to call at Luton Airport Parkway (LAP) station under the new East Midlands rail franchise. The change could be made through a simple
timetable change which requires no capital expenditure. A more frequent train service would reduce the journey to central London to under 30 minutes and
would encourage more passengers to travel to the airport by rail, cutting congestion and emissions on local roads.

EC: This year Luton Airport has seen more expansion with new flights with Wizz Air to Athens, Bari, Larnaca and more, with direct services to Tallinn, Eliat, Verona, Grenoble and Tromsø yet to launch​. What steps is the airport taking to cope with additional passengers in key areas like the security hall and how will Luton Airport ensure ample seating capacity and dining options for all customers?

KK: As part of the current transformation, we have expanded the terminal building, which includes increasing the number of seats available for passengers and providing a greater variety of shops and restaurants. More seats will be added in the main departure lounge this year. Across the airport we now have 18 food outlets (the same number as Stansted) these include, Bella Italia, Oriel Grande Brasserie and The Smithfield pub and kitchen.

LLA’s newest eatery – the Smithfield Pub.

We have also changed the layout of the terminal to make it simpler to navigate for passengers. The security area has been relocated downstairs and the number of security lanes has increased, while new equipment has sped up security checks.

EC: In recent months, London Stansted has gained new long-haul flights to Dubai and to key cities in North America. Does Luton Airport have ambitions to gain long-haul flights in the near future and, if so, which destinations and airlines are being targeted?

KK: We are always considering new ways to improve our passengers’ experience, which includes planning new routes and offering a greater choice of destinations. However, there are no immediate plans to introduce new long-haul flights from the airport and our core business will always be low-cost flights to Europe.

LLA’s focus will remain on low-cost flights to Europe, rather than branching out into long-haul services.

EC: So do you view low-cost flights to the US as a concept that could work from London Luton, given the tide of low-cost transatlantic flights we have seen launched from the UK in recent years?​

KK: There are no immediate plans to introduce this service. However, we are always listening to what our passengers want and this may be something we consider in the future.

EC: In a Which? survey in 2018, London Luton scored just 35% for customer satisfaction and was named the worst airport in the UK. Luton scored low in categories for range of shops and food outlets and toilets; some called it ‘chaotic’ and ‘crowded’. Going forward, how will the redevelopment programme address these issues and transform Luton into one of the UK’s leading airports, rather than one of its worst?

Which? polled 521 of its subscribers who had travelled through the airport between May 2017 and May 2018, just 0.003% of all passengers in that period. During this time we’ve undergone a period of significant change, investing £160 million redeveloping the airport to increase capacity and
transform the passenger experience. In the first six months of 2018 alone, 1.2 million passengers responded to our customer service tracking, 70 per cent of whom told us they were happy with their experience. As we near the end of our transformation we’re proud to have recently opened 30 new shops,
restaurants and additional toilet facilities. We’ve added close to a thousand new seats throughout the terminal and doubled the size of our security search area.

The airport has made a priority of ensuring security is a smooth and efficient process.

Evidence of our focus on improving the passenger experience is paying off, as we were recently voted the best airport in London in survey comparing objective data.

Our advice is people should come and experience LLA for themselves.

EC: Thank you. I’m pleased to say I’ll be taking you advice and travelling on Wizz Air’s inaugural flight to Tallinn in September! I look forward to seeing the positive changes Luton is making.


Thank you to the team at LLA, who granted me this Q&A with Kimberly Kennedy. Photos courtesy of London Luton Airport. 

Aviation Round-Up: 23rd August 2018 – New Routes, Deliveries and More


Routes News

British Airways – Bound for Pittsburgh 

Britain’s Flag Carrier continues its rapid expansion in the US this month, with the announcement of a new connection between London-Heathrow and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. British Airways will operate 4x weekly services on a year-round basis, from 2nd April 2019. Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner equipment will operate the new service, with 35 Business Class seats, 25 Premium Economy seats and 154 Economy Class seats.

British Airways has expanded rapidly in the US in recent years – to New Orleans, Austin, Nashville and Fort Lauderdale, just to name a few.

BA will face competition from WOW Air, Condor and Delta (whom all operate seasonal flights across the Atlantic) to Reykjavik, Frankfurt and Paris-CDG respectively. However, British Airways will provide Pittsburgh’s only nonstop connection to Europe throughout the year.

Qantas – A fifth International destination for the 787 Dreamliner

Qantas launched the first ever Aus-UK non-stop flight back in March.

Qantas’ 787-9 Dreamliner is set to be deployed on selected rotations from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to Hong Kong. This marks the fifth international destination for the Dreamliner, which currently operates the non-stop Perth to London flight. The Dreamliner will represent a significant upgrade for passengers on Australia-HK routings, as they will have access to the Australian carrier’s newest products in all cabin classes.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – Resumes flights to Boston

The Dutch national carrier has announced that it will be resuming flights to the US city of Boston, beginning in Spring 2019, from its Amsterdam-Schipol hub.

KLM’s new Amsterdam-Boston flight will be operated by a 292-seater Airbus A330-300.

The three-weekly services (KL617/618) will be operated by Airbus A330-300 aircraft, and will add to existing frequencies operated by KLM’s joint-venture partner, Delta. From July 2019, the service is planned to increase to four-weekly – with an additional frequency on Mondays.

Cathay Pacific – Opening a NEW U.S. Gateway

Cathay Pacific’s newest Business Class product, onboard the Airbus A350, in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Cathay Pacific will launch a new service to Seattle, beginning next Spring, from its Hong Kong hub. The flight will represent Seattle’s only connection to Hong Kong, as Delta recently withdrew its flight between the two cities and will be operated by the Airbus A350-900, featuring three cabin classes. The expansion means Cathay Pacific will now serve 10 destinations in North America.

Thomas Cook Airlines – Manchester Transatlantic Flights Tweaked

Thomas Cook Airlines has amended its summer 2019 schedules for its transatlantic flights from Manchester.

Thomas Cook will operate to 6 US destinations nonstop from Manchester in 2019.

The headline changes include an increase from 2 to 3-weekly flights on the recently inaugurated Manchester-Seattle route, and increases in flights to New York JFK and Orlando International. The airline will also resume a once-weekly flight from Manchester to Jamaica, choosing Montego Bay as its Jamaican gateway.

Wizz Air – A raft of new U.K. expansion

Following year of rapid expansion in the U.K. market, low-cost carrier Wizz Air has announced an additional five new routes.

Wizz Air has expanded rapidly from London Luton this year, with the launch of a new UK AOC.

The airline will operate daily services from London Luton to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon and thrice weekly flights to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. From Liverpool, the airline is also initiating expansion – to the Romanian cities of Bucharest, Iasi and Cluj.

Jet Airways – Increases Manchester operation

Jet Airways has taken the decision to increase the frequency of its upcoming Mumbai-Manchester link – 3 months prior to its launch. One additional weekly frequency will be added, meaning the flight will operate five times per week. The Indian airline will operate an Airbus A330-200 on the route, in a two-class configuration.

Jet Airways’ new route will offer an economic boost to the North of England and will stimulate new business and leisure travel demand.

China Eastern – Gatwick gains Shanghai link

China Eastern will launch a new nonstop route to Shanghai Pudong to London’s second busiest airport – beginning December 7th. The new flight will operate on a thrice weekly basis, with Airbus A330-200 equipment. Gatwick’s CEO – Stewart Wingate – said the following:

”I’m delighted to welcome China Eastern to Gatwick and look forward to the start of this vital new link to Shanghai which, like London, is undoubtedly one of the world’s most important cities and business hubs”

-STEWART WINGATE, GATWICK CEO

Qatar Airways – Heads to Gothenburg, Sweden

LondonSpotter Author – Callum Johnson – reviewed Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787-8 Business Class earlier this year.

Qatar Airways has operated flights to the Swedish capital, Stockholm, for over 10 years and operates nonstop connections from Doha to Copenhagen, Oslo and Helsinki. However, this year, Qatar Airways will expand further in Scandinavia, with the launch of a new nonstop flight to Gothenburg. The 5x weekly operation will inaugurate on 12th December, operated by Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner equipment. It is thought that the new route will provide easier connections from Gothenburg to the Middle East, Africa and Asia – with no competition from Qatar Airways’ Gulf rivals at present.


Deliveries

The last few weeks saw more Airbus A320neo aircraft emerge from factories in Hamburg and Toulouse, including Lufthansa’s first example adorned with the airline’s new livery. 

Lufthansa

German flag-carrier Lufthansa has recieved its first Airbus A320neo, featuring the airline’s reimagined livery in the past month.

The aircraft is registered D-AINK and becomes Lufthansa’s 11th example of an A320neo, marking the first new delivery of a short haul aircraft for the airline since November 2017.


Other Aviation Stories

American Airlines Makes Changes to ‘Basic Economy’

American Airlines will make its ‘Basic Economy’ product a little more bearable, with a new change coming into effect as of 5th September. Basic Economy fares will once again include the ability to take one carry-on bag onboard, free of charge.

American even offers basic economy, when flying Transatlantic.

American’s President claims this is about making basic economy more ‘competitive’, although this is clearly a climb down from the initial proposals for Basic Economy.

“Basic Economy is working well in the markets where we offer it, and we continue to see more than 60 percent of customers buy up to Main Cabin when offered a choice. Removing the bag restriction will make Basic Economy more competitive, allowing us to offer this low-fare product to more customers.”

-Robert isom, American airlines president

Sea-Tac Incident: Stolen Q400 Closes Airport Before Crashing

At 20:00 local time in Seattle yesterday, an empty passenger aircraft (operated by Horizon Air) was stolen and crashed by an airline employee.

Authorities said the man had made “an unauthorised take-off” late on Friday local time, forcing Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to close.

Seattle airport was forced to temporarily close; delays can be seen on numerous late-night departures from Sea-Tac.

Although unnerving, the local Sheriff’s Office said that the incident was “not a terrorist incident” and identified the airline employee responsible as a 29 year old man, local to the area.

Alaska Airlines – sister carrier of Horizon Air – has acknowledge the ‘unauthorised take-off’, as has Seattle-Tacoma Airport itself.

Two F-15 Fighter Jets were scrambled from Portland Airport to pursue the Bombardier Q400 aircraft. However, officials have confirmed that neither of the fighter jets were involved or had any role in the crash when the plane came down about an hour later in the south of Ketron Island – 30 miles south of Sea-Tac airport.

Why did the employee do what he did?

A conversation could be heard on a live-stream of ATC, between the air traffic controller and the employee – referred to as ‘Rich’ or ‘Richard’. Prior to the crashing of the 76-seater aircraft, Rich could be heard saying:

“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it, until now.”

The air traffic controllers remained remarkably calm throughout, despite the deeply saddening situation unfolding in front of them. My thoughts go out to Richard’s family and friends affected by this.

What happens now?

The FBI have taken over the investigation of the distressing incident, according to a local police department. There is no doubt that tricky questions will be raised about how the employee was able to ‘steal’ this aircraft – the notion that, at one of the USA’s largest airports, a man can simply take-off with an empty aircraft is incomprehensible. Had this incident unfolded in a different way, it had the potential to cause mass loss of life.

Horizon Air’s COO Constance Van Muehlen made the below statement, late last night:

Flights from Seattle resumed around 90 minutes later, despite being temporarily grounded.

A321LRs will allow Aer Lingus to add TWO NEW Transatlantic Routes

Aer Lingus’ Chief Executive Stephen Kavanagh has, this week, confirmed that the airline will be deciding on two new North American destinations, from a shortlist of three possibilities. The Irish Times reports that two likely destinations are Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Montréal – in addition to a possible destination in the Midwest.

Aer Lingus already offers connections from Europe to 13 US destinations, via its Dublin hub.

These latest plans for transatlantic expansion come after years of steady, yet sustained growth in the market. The carrier has expanded even more rapidly since IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia and others) bought it – with new routes being added to Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Hartford, New York Newark, Philadelphia, Seattle and Miami since 2015. Today, the airline serves 13 destinations in North America – but with a limited fleet of just 13 Airbus A330s and 5 leased Boeing 757s – the airline simply cannot expand any further with its current fleet.

Aer Lingus offers a competitive long-haul Business Class cabin.

However, next year, Aer Lingus will begin receiving its order of 12 Airbus A321LR aircraft, meaning the airline will be able to initiate a new raft of expansion – the first of which will be the two destinations shortlisted this year, beginning in July 2019, with seats on sale shortly after announcement.

The new Airbus A321LR aircraft open up a range of new possibilities for Aer Lingus. Initially, they will likely be used for Aer Lingus’ transatlantic flights from Shannon – replacing leased Boeing 757s – but the airline is clearly also ambitious in adding new “long and thin” flights to smaller North American markets which previously weren’t feasible with larger aircraft. Additionally, the airline may choose to replace Airbus A330s with multiple A321LR frequencies on shorter transatlantic jaunts, freeing up longer-range aircraft to operate to new destinations such as Denver, Dallas or Las Vegas, for example.

Both Pittsburgh and Montréal are within the published range of the Airbus A321LR.

With this logic, it would make sense for Aer Lingus to launch flights to Montréal – taking the number of destinations they serve in Canada to 2, following the successful growth of their Toronto operation since 2014. Pittsburgh is also a destination seeing growth from IAG at present, with British Airways recently announcing service to London. In the Midwest, many have speculated that Aer Lingus could be eyeing service to Minneapolis or Detroit – both of which are within the theoretical range of the Airbus A321LR.

Going forward, it is clear that Aer Lingus will have many new opportunities for growth with the forthcoming arrival of new Airbus A321LR equipment. Although the two shortlisted destinations will be the start of that new wave of expansion, they certainly will not mark the end.

Aer Lingus Dublin Lounge Review (again)

Split over two terminals, Dublin Airport is rapidly growing into one of Europe’s major hubs. The sleek, modern Terminal 2 is the home of Aer Lingus as well as other major transatlantic carriers.

Before my Dublin – Malaga flight, where I reviewed Aer Lingus’ Airbus A330, you can read that review here, I decided to head on down to the lounge to experience some award winning Irish hospitality for myself.

Entrance to the lounge in T2

Once you have cleared security and get airside, getting to the lounge is a simple case of following the clearly displayed signage, heading down a level in an elevator, turning a corner and hey presto you’ve arrived!

As soon as I stepped through the door, I was immediately greeted by Gloria, who was manning the welcome desk this morning. After a quick check of my boarding pass, I was given a card with the Wi-Fi details printed on it, and I was wished a very pleasant stay.

The firs thing I noticed when I walked through into the seating area was an unmistakable sense of peace and tranquillity. The lounge has TV sets mounted on the walls at various points throughout the lounge, all of which are set to mute to allow guests the opportunity to relax before their flight and to let them catch up on work. Giant floor to ceiling windows allow lots of natural light to flood into the lounge; they also give guests inside the lounge a view of the distinctive shamrock that is on the tail of every Aer Lingus aircraft.

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This mornings buffet consisted of a cold selection of cereals, pastries, yoghurt and fruit salad. There was some snacks such as biscuits and every airline’s favourite sour cream and chive pretzels. I had previously read about the disappointing array of food options available here at the lounge, and Its very clear that nothing has changed. All food is accompanied by fresh fruit juices, hot drinks and a selection of sodas from the fridge.

Split over two levels, the lounge offers an upstairs seating area that is designated as the quiet zone. Also on the top level are complimentary shower rooms that guests transiting through Dublin can use. My experience with airport lounge shower rooms is that they can become quite hot and humid very quickly, however without using Aer Lingus’, I can’t comment on them.

The upstairs seating area is designated as the quiet zone. There is also a giant Airbus A350 model that I really wanted to take home with me!

As the flight information display screens indicated that it was time for me to head to the gate so that I could board my flight to Malaga, I got the sense that the Aer Lingus lounge is ideal for an hour or so whilst you wait for your flight. In my honest opinion, If the access had not have been included in my fare, I wouldn’t have lost any sleep over it. The lounge is practical and modern, but not quite what I expected from a Skytrax 4* rated airline.

Hainan Boeing 787 Economy Review

Those of you that follow the @londonspotter Instagram page will know that Raj is currently jetting around China reviewing brand new airlines and aircraft types exclusively for us. Earlier in July he flew from London to Changsha in Hainan’s 787 business class. Wanting to give you guys, our dedicated readers, the best possible coverage of a new airline to the website, I decided to jump on-board with them to check out their Boeing 787 Dreamliner economy class.

B-2729 lining up for it’s departure from Dublin

With Chinese tourism having contributed a whopping £26.5 million to Edinburgh’s economy, It makes perfect business sense for an airline to launch a direct air link between Scotland and China. When Hainan Airlines entered the Scottish aviation market, they initially flew the route on Airbus A330-300 aircraft. However, demand has proven so popular that the airline took the decision to upgrade the service to a 787 Dreamliner.

Hainan fly from Beijing to Edinburgh then onto Dublin every Tuesday and Saturday under flight number HU749, and from Beijing to Dublin then Edinburgh every Thursday and Sunday as flight HU751. With each sector bookable individually, I hopped on from Edinburgh to the Irish capital to try them for myself.

Having never flown from Edinburgh before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. After boarding the airport shuttle from the hotel to the terminal, I immediately noticed the array of carriers that stood parked waiting for the mornings first passengers. Regionals such as Loganair and Flybe had a presence, but the most noticeable tails were that of the British Airways jets waiting to make the short flights back to London’s airports. All were dwarfed however by the distinctive red and yellow tail of the Hainan 787.

Hainan’s 787 sitting at the gate in Edinburgh

Inside the terminal, check in desks 41-45 were allocated for flight HU749. With only a handful of passengers checking in for the Edinburgh to Dublin sector, and even fewer staying on until Beijing, the airline could of easily coped with just two desks open. Security on the other hand wasn’t as quiet. I had expected it to be fairly busy but with an expected queueing time of 20 minutes, I decided that spending just £5 for the fast track security was worth it. After passing through security I made my way to the departure gate which was just a short walk away.

HU749 Edinburgh – Dublin:

I have flown my fair share of Dreamliners in past, but none of them in economy; for this simple reason, I was intrigued to see how it compares to my previous economy long haul flights on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777.

Seat selection came free of charge when booking my flight, so I knew that I need not worry about getting seat 37K, a window seat with a superb view! Luckily for me when boarding only the aisle seat was occupied on my row, leaving both myself and my fellow passenger relieved that we wouldn’t have to do any fighting for the middle arm rests. After a quick photo shoot of the cabin, the Captain of the flight made his introductions in both Chinese and English and shortly afterwards we pushed back. He explained that he had 37 years of flying experience and that we would be climbing to a cruising altitude of 34,000 feet on our short 46 minute flight to the Irish east coast.

The view from seat 37K!

Upon take off from Edinburgh’s runway 24, I opened my hearty In-flight meal which consisted of a sole Ham & Cheese sandwich and a bottle of water that was handed out by the crew upon boarding. It was a rather odd meal choice I thought, especially considering the listed meal service for this flight was ‘Breakfast’. With the flight being so short I wasn’t expecting a full hot meal service to be offered, but the food choice could have been tailored to the flight timing better in my opinion.

Not quite what I expected as my In-flight meal…

As most of the passengers from the Beijing – Edinburgh sector had disembarked in Scotland, It gave me chance to have a wonder and grab some photo’s. To my surprise the business class cabin directly in front of economy was completely empty! The 2-2-2 configuration gave it a really spacious feel; but I won’t go into too much detail, you can read all about Hainan Business Class in Raj’s review here. Heading back to economy, the cabin is set in a 3-3-3 layout. This for me works a lot better on long haul aircraft, it gives the cabins a smaller more intimate vibe but doesn’t leave passengers feeling as if their personal space is being invaded by the person next to you. With 177 sitting in economy when fully loaded, this Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner offers a generous 31-32” of legroom per seat. This was more than ample for me to get comfortable and have my giant pink rucksack underneath the seat. Quite simply, It’s a seat that I would be more than happy to spend a long haul flight sat in.

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Between grabbing some photo’s and beginning to type up this review, I didn’t have much time to check out the In-flight Entertainment options offered. A quick flick through gave me many films suited to both Asian and European travellers. In terms of the latest Hollywood releases I was struggling to find them. The seat back screen is some 15” which gives a clear picture to anyone watching. In the seat pocket was the In-flight magazine and, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t read or understand any of it as It was all printed in Chinese!

Other than pointing out the emergency exits on the aircraft, myself nor many other passengers had any interaction with the flight crew. They were however, proudly showing off their brand new uniform which looked immaculate.

Almost as quickly as we had taken off, the Captain began our descent into a rather gloomy looking Dublin and before long we had touched down. We taxied then waited for a Qatar 787 to vacate from our gate so we could pull onto stand.

On final approach into Dublin

As I disembarked, I left feeling satisfied with my Hainan experience. For a mere £70 I had flown from Edinburgh to Dublin with a 5* Skytrax rated airline, and not with a certain low cost Irish carrier that need not be named. I would certainly love to fly with them again to experience their economy product In full swing on a much longer flight to more exotic destination than Dublin!

Note: This review is independent and not endorsed by Hainan Airlines In an way.

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Ryanair Strikes: 600 Flights Cancelled, 300 Staff ‘Threatened’ With Sack

600 Ryanair flights are cancelled today, after a planned strike by cabin crew over pay and conditions is carried out. Employees have long expressed anger at their working conditions, and Ryanair has been hit by several separate strikes this year.

Ryanair’s Dublin Headquarters

Five unions said they would support a call to strike for Ryanair cabin staff in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy for two days this week, forcing the Dublin-based airline to cancel approximately 600 flights. The Spanish USO and Sitcpla have led the charge against Ryanair and, after holding meetings with representatives from the airline on Tuesday, said the strike was ‘unavoidable’. Unions want Ryanair to give workers the same conditions as their own employees and want staff to be employed according to the laws of the country they work in, rather than the Republic of Ireland. The strikes are causing unprecedented disruption for passengers, as Unions walk-out in the midst of the busiest summer holiday period.

What has been Ryanair’s response?

Ryanair have hit back fiercely, following the strikes. The airline has threatened to sack 100 pilots and up to 200 cabin crew over the issue. These potential job cuts come as Ryanair plans to cut its winter Dublin-based fleet from 30 aircraft, to just 24.

Ryanair has threatened to reduce its Dublin-based fleet from 30 to 24 aircraft.

Despite these threats, the airline has had to concede that there will be more strikes this summer, as the airline is not prepared to give into ‘unreasonable demands’. The President of Spain’s Sitcpla union remained undeterred saying that the ‘threat’, in ‘Ryanair’s style’ didn’t frighten the workers at all.

What disruption is it causing to passengers?

Unsurprisingly, the unions have coordinated the strike in the interest of causing as much disruption as possible.

Passengers who are affected will be notified by email or by text regarding their flight and full refunds or alternative flights will be offered to those caught up in the shambles. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have urged all passengers to seek compensation under European air passenger rights regulations. Ryanair say that strikes are ”extreme circumstances’ and therefore they will be rejecting any EU261 compensation claims.