Premium Without The Price Tag | Aer Lingus A330 Review

Every summer airlines tend to assign wide-body aircraft to short-haul routes to cope with the demand for seats. Aer Lingus are one such airline that does this, at peak times the Irish carrier’s Airbus A330 fleet operates to popular holiday destinations such as Malaga and Faro.

All through August, Aer Lingus are operating Dublin – Malaga – Dublin as flights EI582 and EI583 on the A330. Departing at 0700 and scheduled to arrive at 1110, this allows holiday makers to enjoy a full first day on their well-earned vacation. The return flight departs at 1220 to arrive at 1430.

Having never flown Aer Lingus before, I hopped on-board flight EI582 from Dublin to Malaga to try them for myself.

EI582 Dublin – Malaga:

Travelling with hand baggage only allowed me to check in to my flight 2 days prior to departure using the mobile app. After arriving at Dublin’s Terminal 2, I made my way through security and to the Aer Lingus lounge; access to which was included in my fare. You can read my review on the lounge here.

EI-FNH sat at the gate

As 6am approached, I took a short walk to gate 422, where my aircraft EI-FNH was waiting for me. When the gate staff announced that boarding would be commencing shortly, I joined the Priority Boarding lane which is reserved for Aer Club members and those sat in premium seats.

Making my way down the air bridge to the aircraft, I was greeted with a friendly warm welcome from Louise, one of the Senior Cabin Crew on-board today. She directed me to my seat, 3K. As soon as I stepped into the A330’s Business Class cabin, I was immediately impressed with the modern feel to the cabin; the black and silver colour scheme of the cabin is really easy on the eye.

Business Class Cabin (Image Credit: independent.ie)

Settling into my seat, I couldn’t believe how much space was available to me. The seating configuration varies depending on which row you sit in. Some are set out in a 2-2-2 style, whereas my row was configured in a 1-2-1 layout. For anyone travelling on the Aer Lingus A330 and you are unsure which business class seat to choose, I highly recommend seat 3K. This is mainly for the fact that you get two windows all to yourself!

Now, it’s at this moment that I should point out that for this whole flight I was actually an economy passenger. When operating the A330 on these sectors, the airline cannot simply remove the upper class cabins; so instead they sell the business class seats off as premium seats. I purchased mine for €79.99, which to some may seem expensive, but believe me, it’s worth it.

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All of the seats in this cabin convert from traditional upright seats into fully lie-flat 6.5ft long beds. Providing a seat width of 22″, these are almost certainly one of the most comfortable airline seats I have sat in for quite sometime! Not only do you get tonnes of space, but there are storage compartments everywhere. There’s even your own magazine rack to keep your literature and laptop in whenever you’re not using it. Whilst the layout of the cabin and the spacing may not be as luxurious as other A330 operators such as Virgin Atlantic, it does provide ample amounts of comfort to get you through a long-haul flight.

We made an on-time departure from Dublin and began our journey to the south of Spain. The bar service passed through the cabin when we had reached our cruising altitude of 39,000 feet. I treated myself to a warm breakfast option of a Sausage and Bacon baguette. At €5 this was hardly breaking the bank, and surprisingly actually tasted really good! A can of Fanta cost just €2.50; it must be noted that all options offered in Aer Lingus’ bar service were really well priced.

For once an airline breakfast that was great value & tasty!

The combination of a very early start and a hearty meal had me feeling a little on the tired side. I reclined my seat into the full lie-flat position and stuck on the latest Star Wars film to entertain myself. Had I wanted too, I could have chosen from any number of Hollywood hits, complete box sets of TV shows such as The Walking Dead or even updated my Facebook using the chargeable on-board Wi-Fi. The IFE remote is located within the armrest of the chair, luckily for me it was behind a flap that doesn’t dig into your thigh leaving you feeling uncomfortable.

Despite today’s flight being full in both cabins, I didn’t get that same feeling. Aer Lingus feature 30 lie flat beds in the front cabin and 287 economy seats in the main cabin. When stretching my legs, I didn’t find myself having to worry about knocking into someone when walking down the aisle. If you’re travelling with a partner in the near future on this aircraft in economy, I would highly recommend booking seats A & C or H & K. This A330’s economy is set in the traditional Airbus 2-4-2 configuration, meaning that you get a window seat and a row all to yourselves!

Shamrock 582 Heavy fully established in the cruise!

As the Interactive map flicked onto the screen, we started to decrease our altitude and the Costa del Sol came into view on my right hand side. Making our way out parallel to the airport and then turning to make our final approach over the Mediterranean Sea, I realised that I had grown fondly attached to this Airbus A330-300. Two years ago I flew from Sydney to Melbourne on Qantas’ Airbus A330-200 and I had thoroughly enjoyed my first 330 experience with them. This flight however has certainly lived up to my previous experience, and certainly surpassed all expectations I had.

Aer Lingus’ fabulous crew and unique Irish charm has clearly won me over. My experience with the airline has left me with no doubts that they are one of the best airlines that I have flown with. I personally, cannot wait until I am flying on an aircraft that carries the “Shamrock” call sign again. Hopefully It will be a transatlantic flight with them so that I can test out their Business Class product properly.

I guess it’s true what they say, “Smart flies Aer Lingus”.

Note: At the request of the crew on-board, I was asked to respect my fellow passengers privacy and not photograph the cabin whilst in-flight.

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.

Want more 787 dreamliner reviews?

BA CityFlyer Manchester-Dublin Euro Traveller E190 Flight Review

In 2017, British Airways returned to the UK regions, with the announcement of new flights to a range of holiday destinations from Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol – to be operated by BA’s wholly owned subsidiary, CityFlyer. Initially, I was sceptical: BA has long treated the English regions with contempt whilst airlines like Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic have thrived “up North”. However, last December, British Airways yet again increased its presence with new flights from Manchester to Dublin (adding to Aer Lingus’ frequent services) and Florence and expansion of existing connections to Ibiza, Malaga and Palma. Naturally, I was keen to try out the new flights and sample the “Jungle Jets” that solely make up BA CityFlyer’s fleet. I was not disappointed…


Flight Profile:

British Airways 4474: Manchester (MAN)-Dublin (DUB)

Aircraft: Embraer 190, G-LCYY

Seat: 15D (Euro Traveller)


Manchester Airport – Check-in/Lounge/Boarding

Manchester Airport is in the midst of a much-needed £1 billion investment, with the transformation project already under way in Terminal 2. Whilst Terminal 3 (host to most OneWorld partner airlines at Manchester, including BA, AA and Iberia) will be improved in the coming years, for now the terminal remains overcrowded and small. Despite this, Manchester Airport is making great strides to improve the experience with a string of new cafés and bars and a new ‘adults only’ Lounge.

‘The Nook’ is a swanky bar located in Terminal 3, providing a good example of MAG’s improvements in the terminal.

British Airways’ Lounge is located on a mezzanine level, looking down into the main terminal. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to be treated with the lounge experience on this trip, although I hope to try it out soon. Boarding began promptly, at 09:25 – as my aircraft, G-LCYY, was towed onto stand and was carried out according to group numbers.

The Aircraft: Where should I sit?

The cabin is upholstered with blue leather, and grey armrests. Every seat looked extremely comfortable and well-padded – a nice change from the modern ‘slim-line’ alternatives more widely used by airlines in this day and age.

This Embraer 190 can seat up to 98 passengers, in a 2-2 configuration.

Initially, I was struck by the sheer amount of legroom that this aircraft boasted – with a 34″ seat pitch! The comfort was truly unrivalled for a short flight across the Irish sea and the amount of legroom was unwavering throughout the entire plane. I was seated in row 15 – in the rear portion of the aircraft – and I was able to stretch my legs out straight in front of me with ease. Every seat also had a recline of 6″, and an abundance of seat width (specifically, 18.5″) and a large tray table, that would easily accommodate any laptop to work on the go. I simply can’t emphasise the comfort of this regional aircraft enough and would recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone choosing between BA CityFlyer and a rival airline.

34″ of pitch on an intra-Europe flight? Yes, please.

With this generous layout, CityFlyer’s Embraer 190 has a capacity of 98 passengers, in a 2-2 ‘double-bubble’ configuration. The “Double-Bubble” fuselage concept is a shape derived from overlapping two ovals to form a four-abreast cross section. The widest point of the upper oval is at the passenger’s elbow level, maximising space and allowing for wider seats and aisles than larger aircraft. This makes the E-Jet family a winner with passengers and with airline companies. 

The ‘Double-Bubble’ fuselage concept maximises passenger comfort. A big plus!

Business Class was broadly similar to the rest of the aircraft and, for a short intra-European flight, I would highly dissuade anyone from upgrading to Club Europe; Economy Class seats were equally as comfortable. It is still beneficial, however, to sit at the front of the cabin, for swift disembarkation and quick refreshments service (especially on a 40 minute flight).

The Flight

Unfortunately we incurred a delay on departure from Manchester Airport. Single runway operations meant that congestion blocked our pushback from Terminal 3. However, communication from the pilot was prompt and informative. Soon enough, we had broke through the typically thick blanket of British cloud and set course for Dublin.

Wingview: G-LCYY soaring over the Irish sea.

The flight itself was rather uneventful and only took around 25 minutes in total – meaning the crew had no choice but to carry out the onboard service efficiently and quickly. A task which they fulfilled with ease.

Onboard Service

When travelling on British Airways mainline, the onboard service consists of a buy-on-board M&S menu. With CityFlyer, this isn’t the case. Even on a flight as short as mine, the cabin crew immediately got to work and served every passenger with a complementary drink and snack – choosing from biscuits, popcorn, crisps, Diet Coke, Tonic Water and many more.

A small, but welcome touch – all guests still receive complementary drinks and snacks on BA CityFlyer.

Granted, this is a small touch but adds to the experience and makes short-haul flying feel that little bit more luxurious.

The Verdict – A Fantastic Way to Fly

British Airways CityFlyer offers one of the most comfortable and convenient short-haul products in Northern Europe, with 34″ of seat pitch and many of its radiating from London City Airport. Barring a small delay due to congestion at Manchester, the flight, aircraft and crew were faultless and, if flying from the UK Regions to a holiday destination such as Palma or Ibiza, there certainly is no other rival that comes close to matching the comfort of BA CityFlyer.


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NEW London-Antwerp Route Flight Review (+ the world’s largest Belgian Buns!)

Belgium is one of the most important countries in the European Union. Whether your reasoning is because of the beer, chocolate and waffles or the political epicentre of Brussels, there is no doubt that Belgium is a premier destination for business and tourism. The U.K. is Belgium’s fourth largest import and export partner and up to 1.8m British nationals visit the nation every year.

Yet surprisingly, barring Brussels, the nation offers poor connections to Britain, by plane. There is no low-cost connection between Brussels’ main airport and London and it is notoriously difficult to reach the tourist hotspot of Bruges by air. However, this year, that has all changed. Flybe triggered the raft of new air connections to the Flanders region of Belgium, announcing even more expansion from its highly successful London Southend base.

Flybe’s inaugural flight to Antwerp recieved a water cannon salute.

In March, Flybe inaugurated the new four-weekly service connecting the British capital with Antwerp – the only British airline to do so. Its not just London that is now connected either, as Flybe offers convenient connections via the seamless Southend Airport to Manchester, Dublin and Glasgow.

The route was launched with great fanfare, encouraging all customers to #BeMoreBelgian. London Southend’s CEO, Glyn Jones, posed with the airport’s attempt at baking the world’s largest Belgian Bun!

The world’s largest Belgian bun was a novel idea for an inaugural ceremony, but went down well with the passengers nevertheless.

I decided to try out the new connection for myself and see how simple and easy it was to fly from Antwerp to London’s Best Airport.

THE FLIGHT: ANTWERP TO LONDON SOUTHEND

Antwerp Airport is like stepping back in time (in a good way). The miniscule check-in area and landside bar with terrace all make for an enchanting experience – overlooking the apron. Being a small airport (serving just over 273,000 passengers in 2017), it was quick and easy to traverse.

There are very few facilities once airside, apart from a café and a small lounge – so don’t plan on spending extensive amounts of time duty-free shopping. I was able to try out the “lounge” for myself, which consisted of a room with blacked-out glass doors, adjoining the main departure lounge. It had all the amenities you would expect: a range of beverages (including a coffee machine and alcoholic options), comfy seating, charging points and modern, slick furnishings. Additionally, any lounge guests could ask for complementary sandwiches or snacks from the café in the main airside area. Whilst undoubtedly small, the VIP Lounge offered a weirdly luxurious experience – like waiting for your flight in the sanctuary of your own private room. It was probably as close as I was ever going to get to the luxury of LAX’s Private VIP Terminal!

As you’ll know from my previous articles, I love turboprops and the experience of flying in a small aircraft. The stereotype that propeller aircraft are old-fashioned, slow and loud couldn’t be further from the truth.

EI-FSL was just over 1 year old, and offered a modern and airy cabin, with comfort comparable, if not superior to any other mainline aircraft you’d find across Europe.

EI-FSL is just 1.9 years old – as a result, the cabin is sleek and modern.

The ATR also boasts the widest seats and aisles of any other regional aircraft, allowing all passengers to enjoy 18.6” of seat width. Personal overhead panels were also available, with reading lights, fresh air nozzles and a call button, which were surrounded by ambient blue mood lighting. The cabin was configured in a one-class configuration, in a 2-2 setup, seating 70 people. 

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The flight summed up all the qualities I love about flying on a small aircraft, with Flybe – efficient boarding, on-time departure, friendly crew and a comfortable cabin. You simply don’t get a similar relaxed and straight-forward experience when flying with a low-cost carrier, in my experience.

Landing in Southend Airport is a pleasure, as usual, with unparalleled levels of efficiency and a modern terminal building – you can be out of the airport and onboard the 53-minute train into central London in minutes.

London Southend Airport is small, but modern and full of all the amenities you’d expect. I wrote a full article on the airport’s history and growth last year.

The best way to get to and from Antwerp? Certainly easier, quicker and more relaxing than driving to Brussels Airport, catching a ferry from Ostend or getting the train.

THE DESTINATION: ANTWERP

A place where the Belgian stereotypes ring true: Chocolate, Waffles & Beer. A fantastic combination!

The new Flybe connection from London Southend makes it easier than ever to get to Antwerp and what could be a better excuse to explore the typically Belgian city? Modern architecture in the relaxing waterside Eilandje neighbourhood harmonises with the beautiful old town, where the scent of Belgian waffles drifts through the cobbled streets. The city is just waiting to be explored and I hope that the new flights will allow more people to discover the best-kept secret of Belgium.

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Disclaimer: I was invited onboard one of the first flights from London to Antwerp; the trip was provided by Flybe on behalf of Stobart Air. Views expressed are entirely my own.

Thomas Cook Economy Plus A321 Review

Towards the end of 2017, Thomas Cook Airlines announced that they would be launching an Economy Plus service on their short and medium haul services. Traditionally, Premium Economy services are only found on short-haul routes when operated by wide-bodied aircraft; intrigued to see how this would fare on a much smaller Airbus A321, I hopped on board with Thomas Cook from Palma to Birmingham.

When booking my flight, I could have travelled in the main economy cabin for as little as £10.99! The Economy Plus ticket cost £65.99, which I feel was great value for everything that was Included. Any passenger travelling on this fare can check one piece of luggage weighing up to 25kgs, one piece of hand luggage up to 10kgs, a whole host of other extras, including a tasty James Martin Inflight meal and complimentary drinks are packaged together into this exceptional money-saving fare.

The Plus fare includes a wide range of extras for one low price! Credit: Thomas Cook Airlines
MT1249 PALMA DE MALLORCA – BIRMINGHAM:

Having checked in online for my flight, I was able to head straight to security when arriving at the terminal. Access to the Priority Security Lane was included in my ticket and allowed me to quickly head through into the departures hall. After a spot of duty free shopping and a quick bite to eat, I made my way down to the gate and waited for my flight to begin boarding.

When arriving at the gate, myself and my fellow passengers arrived to find that It was still occupied by an easyJet flight to Gatwick. They were awaiting the final passengers to come forward for boarding, but with no sign of them rushing to the gate, it was clear that a delay may be in store. 15 minutes after boarding should of commenced, the screen changed over to a Thomas Cook logo with Birmingham labelled across it.

The gate agent apologised for the delay, and invited priority passengers and families to come forward for boarding. After making my way on board the bus, a short ride took us to a remote stand where our Airbus A321 was waiting. G-TCDE would be flying me back to Brum and after a quick photo, I made my way up the stairs to board. Before reaching my seat, I was greeted by the familiar face of one of my former Monarch colleagues.  Following a brief catch up, I settled into my bulkhead seat, 1A. Before my flight I had used Thomas Cook’s Airshoppen service which allows you to pre order your duty free to be delivered on the flight. This was bought to me at my seat before the doors had even closed.

Boarding G-TCDE

After another short slot delay, we eventually pushed back and departed from Runway 06R. A bumpy climb through the clouds over the Mediterranean kept us seated for slightly longer than usual but eventually the seat belt signs were switched off and Inflight services begun. It was at this point that I encountered my only issue in an otherwise great flight experience. As the meal service began, I found myself not served. As the bar service came through, I ordered myself a Pepsi Max and found myself being asked to pay. I asked the crew member serving me if drinks were complimentary to economy plus passengers, she replied that they were, but that I was a normal economy passenger!

After taking away my boarding pass and booking confirmation email to show the cabin manager. I received a swift apology, my drink and my meal. All Inflight meals served on board Thomas Cook Airlines are designed in co-operation with celebrity chef James Martin. Today’s offering was a Chicken Tikka Masala and coconut rice, accompanied by a Treacle Sponge Pudding with crackers and cheese. The food served was delicious! It’s clear to see why Thomas Cook take pride in working with James Martin and want to push their Inflight Meals as much as possible. For anyone travelling with them in the future, I highly recommend pre purchasing a meal as they are very tasty and great value for money. For anyone that doesn’t, Thomas Cook don’t offer any sandwiches on their bar services so you will be going hungry for the duration of the flight!

The Tikka Masala was a lot tastier than it looked!

After my meal was cleared away, I caught up on some sleep before my arrival back home. Economy Plus doesn’t have a separate cabin on board the Airbus A321, but passengers will find themselves seated in rows 1-4. The seats on board aren’t big and bulky, unlike those that can be found on other airlines flying the A321. I personally found the ones on board very comfortable, lightweight and quite spacious. Being 6” 0’  tall, legroom is normally something I have to struggle with, but not on this flight thanks to my bulkhead seat. With seat selection being complimentary, I made sure that I had the best seat available to me. The overall cabin appearance is well presented, however seeing the drop down IFE screens on an aircraft that is just 4 years old did surprise me.

Old school IFE screens on a 4 year old aircraft!

Our descent into Birmingham began soon after the crew passed through the cabin collecting donations for their partner charity. After arriving onto stand, the worlds best ground handling agency (If you’ve ever flown into Birmingham, you will know that this is me being sarcastic!), Swissport, managed to encounter a problem operating the air bridge. Rather than wait for it to be fixed, disembarkation began at the rear of the aircraft. After a while, the air bridge was reattached to the aircraft, and I was free to make my way home.

summary:

As mentioned before in the article, my experience with Thomas Cook was exceptional. All of the crew on board took genuine pride in being able to deliver a nice experience on board my flight and being able to catch up with an old friend was an unexpected privilege. To find a fare that includes everything you can possible need when flying on a budget carrier for a very low price is quite frankly brilliant. Should I ever be flying out to a leisure destination again and be faced with a choice of flying with the likes of TUI, Jet2 and Thomas Cook, I certainly know who I will be choosing!

 

Want More Airbus A320 Family Reviews? Check Them Out Below!

 

Air Nostrum: Island Hopping

Air Nostrum are a regular sight when flying into or out of the Balearic Islands. Their mixed fleet of Turbo Prop and Jet engine aircraft fly in the colours of Iberia Regional and connect both passengers and cargo to destinations that aren’t always on the beaten track. On my recent trip to Spain, I flew with Air Nostrum between Ibiza and Palma, to experience what life is like on these sometimes essential services.

Always wanting to get the best possible deal, I used Momondo to find the cheapest flight price!

Despite lying only a 40 minute flight away, the islands of Ibiza and Mallorca are a 2 hours away from each other by ferry. With locals having to travel between the two Islands often to see family, for work or to collect essential supplies for everyday life; the air services that are provided are vital to some Island residents.

The ‘retro’ style information boards in Ibiza
ib8111 ibiza – palma de mallorca:

When booking my flight I was supposed to be flying on the Bombardier CRJ1000. Just a few days before my departure however, I received an email from Iberia notifying me of a change to my itinerary. My flight would now be on a ATR 72-500, Operated by Canaryfly for Air Nostrum on behalf of Iberia!

The day of the flight came and I arrived at Ibiza Airport one hour before my departure. With the peak holiday season not yet underway across Europe, I was expecting the airport to be quiet but getting air side in 5 minutes was a surprise to me. With some sections of security closed for refurbishment, I can imagine that there are some delays when the airport is operating at full capacity.

Large sections of Security and the Departures Hall are sectioned off.

With some gift shops and food outlets, I had soon explored all of the departures lounge and was glad to hear that Iberia Flight 8111 was now ready for boarding at Gate 5. The gate agents invited families, passengers requiring special assistance and priority passengers to board first. Then came the turn of any passengers sat in rows 20 – 10, the finally my self and my fellow passengers sat in rows 10 – 1.

As I approached the desk, my mobile boarding pass was scanned and my cabin baggage was tagged to go into the hold as it was too large to be placed into the overhead locker. That’s when the problem started…

The doors to the tarmac are controlled by magnetised locks and a key card access panel. As passengers were boarding the doors were naturally open but they returned to the closed position as the last group of passengers arrived. With her card not working on the panel, the gate agent rang a colleague and explained the situation to them. After a five minute wait, an engineer arrived and after a few seconds pressing buttons on the panel, I got the impression that he had come to the conclusion that the door was broken. After another phone call and wait, the door on the adjoining gate was opened so that we could make our way to the aircraft.

Boarding EC-KRY from the rear steps

As I boarded the 10 year old ATR, I took to seat 3A that I had pre-booked for free when checking in on the Iberia App. Immediately after sitting down, I began the struggle of getting comfortable is this rather cramped seat with very little legroom. The interior for this whole aircraft was dated and certainly showed it’s age. Luckily for me, this flight has an average flying time of just 25 minutes. I wouldn’t have to be uncomfortable for very long.

As we pushed back from the stand just a few minutes behind schedule, the Captain made his introduction in both Spanish and English, and the following safety demonstration was again broadcast in both languages. The short taxi to Runway 24 came to an end, the crew secured the cabin and we began our hop over to Majorca.

These seats have an advertised legroom of 30″. It feels a lot smaller!

Not particularly looking forward to fighting the passenger next to me for the middle arm rest, I moved into row 2 as soon as the seat belt signs were switched off. With both seats being free, I was able to stretch out and settle into the flight. Understandably, no Inflight services are carried out on this flight, although items from the bar are available upon request. Interested in exploring my Inflight entertainment options, I pulled out a fairly worn copy of ‘Ronda‘, the Inflight magazine, after a quick flick through and coming to the conclusion that there were no Hollywood blockbusters to be watched, my headphones went on and I sat looking out the window.

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The approach into Palma was turbulent but soon we were taxiing off of the runway and towards our gate. Coming into this flight I hadn’t expected much, I certainly knew It wouldn’t be comparable to my recent Business Class flight with Qatar. However, as I sat and looked around this dated cabin, I knew that this flight Isn’t operated to make large amounts of money. It is operated almost as a public obligation so that residents of the Balearic Islands can carry on with their day to day lives.

 

Want More Like This?  Check out our Iberia Express review, are they worse than Ryanair?!

EasyJet A320NEO Flight Review LGW-ACE



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

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

Descending into ACE

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

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

Back to the Flight

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

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

View from seat 4F

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

Meal deal section of inflight Bistro magazine

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

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

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

More A320 Family Reviews on LondonSpotter:

Worse than Ryanair? Iberia Express A320

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More A320 Family Reviews on LondonSpotter:

Titan Airways Boeing 737-400 Review



Booking

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

Titan Airways

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

The Flight

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

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

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

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

Tailstrike

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

More Boeing 737 Reviews on LondonSpotter:

Cobalt Air Business & Economy Airbus A320 Flight Review

Featuring Cobalt Air’s New Airbus A320 Business Class & Economy Cabins




At 0920am, the gate was announced, and I made my way to the boarding area. After already completing one five-hour rotation from Larnaca, my aircraft was enjoying some well-earned rest on the tarmac. Cobalt Air flies to Manchester year-round and has done since 2016. In the winter season the route operates twice a week and, in summer, increases to three-weekly. Having been met by the dispatcher at check-in, I was able to take some photos of the empty cabin before the rest of the guests boarded and have a chat with the cabin crew.

5B-DCY sitting on Manchester’s apron at Terminal 1.

As I stepped onto the aircraft, my initial impression was that the cabin looked airy, comfortable and welcoming. It was also modern, fitted with Recaro seats which offer adjustable headrests and a substantial recline. Although a minor detail, the boarding music enhanced the relaxing and tranquil atmosphere onboard; as the flight was not full – boarding was done in an orderly and efficient manner, without being chaotic.

the cabins:

My Cypriot chariot for the outbound flight – 5B-DCY – is one of 6 aircraft in Cobalt’s fleet and is fitted with 12 Business Class seats in a 2-2 configuration and, as with all Airbus A320 aircraft, economy class was fitted in a 3-3 configuration and began in Row 4, with 144 seats. Obviously, the bulkhead seats were very comfortable; the rest of the Economy seats offered 30” of seat pitch, adjustable headrests and substantial recline. All of the Business Class seats offer a 40” seat pitch and lots of width – with a foot rest and several seat controls, allowing you to find a comfortable position. On my inbound flight, I flew on one of the airline’s Airbus A319 aircraft which are configured in an all-economy class setup with 144 seats. Cobalt received this A319 (5B-DCU) in November 2016 and had a much more dated cabin, but equally comfortable.

The Economy Class cabin. All economy class seats offer adjustable headrests and substantial recline.
business class: cobalt shines above its competitors

The new Business Class – introduced in December 2017 – is where Cobalt really shines above its competitors. British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and others offer an Economy Class setup, with a blocked middle seat. Whilst this is convenient for the airline and easy to amend depending on the load of a flight, for passengers, it offers little to no more comfort than those sitting at the back of the plane. Contrastingly, Cobalt’s Business Class looks more like a short-haul premium product you’d find in Asia or a US airline’s domestic ‘First Class’.

Cobalt Air’s fantastic Business Class in a 2-2 configuration.

For longer flights, this really does offer all of the comfort you would need. When flying in Business Class, guests will experience several amenities offered by the airline which make the experience more seamless and tailored around you:

• Express Check-In Lanes & Priority Boarding
• 2x 20kg Baggage Allowance
• Dine On-Demand Menu (just ask a crew member when you are ready to eat!). Of course, when flying on a Business Class ticket, you receive a full complementary meal service. If you are on a flight when you can simply upgrade to the seat, you will have the same food choices as economy passengers.

Cobalt’s Business Class offers 40″ of seat pitch onboard.

The full Business Class service is currently only available on routes to Gatwick, Heathrow, Athens, Abu Dhabi & Moscow – but I found you can upgrade to the cabin on other flights for just €75, without the additional benefits. This offers an attractive proposition for business travellers and, if I were to travel regularly between Europe and Cyprus/Middle East on business, I would undoubtedly choose this Business Class product over Cobalt’s other competitors. I simply cannot credit Cobalt enough for the introduction of this “proper” Business Class and its introduction reveals the pioneering and innovative attitude at the heart of the airline.

The comfy recliner seats also had all the amenities you’d expect for Business travellers; large tray tables, a power port and lots of space.

It’s also interesting to note that Cobalt is also now offering connections through their Larnaca hub. For example, you can now book flights from Manchester through to Tel Aviv & Beirut – providing a more comfortable, seamless and relaxing alternative connecting through the modern and simplistic airport of Larnaca, in comparison to other major European airlines with often chaotic and confusing hubs.

onboard service: reflecting cyprus

The Out of the Blue menu included Grilled Chicken, honey and mustard wraps, halloumi and lountza (a Cypriot meat), baguettes and a variety of Primo Gusto Pizzas. There was also a range of alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, hot drinks and the obligatory Pot Noodle selection. The prices were quite reasonable – in line with most other airlines – and the airline accepts both British Pounds & Euros onboard. Although I was impressed by the menu, as the airline makes the transition from a low-cost carrier to a full-service operator with the introduction of a designated Business Class cabin, I would like to see complementary beverages and snacks available, or at least at a lower price – especially on longer flights such as mine from Manchester & London to Cyprus.

I liked the fact that the airline was inventive with its menu choices – reflecting aspects of the country it represents. The crew also oozed typical Cypriot hospitality and were very personable, genuine and polite. Celine (the cabin manager) and indeed the rest of the crew were jovial and welcoming – especially so to the children onboard. Also, Cobalt being a Cypriot airline, I was able to use some of my Greek language skills with the cabin crew. Celine even commented that my Greek was ‘amazing’ – but I shrugged off the comment, being the modest person that I am!!

Cobalt claims to be ‘the favourite airline of the Cypriot people’ and, speaking to the locals, it seems to be so. Many believe Cobalt harvested the best of the now defunct national carrier – Cyprus Airways – then modernised it and instilled ambition. The airline is also growing rapidly, adding routes to London Heathrow, Dusseldorf, Copenhagen, Mykonos, Geneva and Abu Dhabi from its Larnaca hub this year. It appears that Cobalt Air is also committed to improving the medium-haul travel experience more generally. The airline has recently signed an agreement with Bluebox Aviation Systems to offer wireless streaming of in-flight entertainment to passengers onboard. Bluebox provides wireless content streamed to passenger devices in any aircraft cabin, including film, TV, audio, games and other digital content accessed through any web browser. The device can be stored in overhead lockers and each box’s single swappable and rechargeable battery offers the equivalent of delivering 15 hours of streamed video content to 50 passengers simultaneously. Yet again, this is an example of another area where Cobalt have distinguished themselves from their competitors.

my conclusion: cobalt are unique

Overall, Cobalt are a unique airline; in the words of the CEO Andrew Madar, “not LCC, not legacy, just Cobalt”.

Cobalt is certainly a hybrid carrier. With a business class of this calibre, it is clear that the airline is making a transition from low cost to full service carrier.

Medium-haul flying is often argued to be the most uncomfortable and tiring; 4-5 hours on a narrowbody aircraft, with no entertainment, poor legroom and lacklustre food. However, Cobalt seem to be committed to improving medium haul flying – whether that’s from the introduction of a spacious new Business cabin, to the friendliness of the crew. As they grow, with big ambitions for the future (including working intensively on a business plan so as to connect China, Africa and the US with Cyprus), I am certain that their ‘small airline, one big family’ feel won’t wear away. Despite big ambitions, Cobalt continues to put Larnaca back on the map as a regional air hub and contributes massively to the Cypriot economy.

With massive growth and big ambitions for the future, Cobalt is putting Larnaca on the map as an aviation hub of the future.

I hope that more people across Europe can turn their back on traditional holiday airlines and business carriers and sample a little slice of Cyprus in the sky. Flight bookings can be made on Cobalt’s website or here!


Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Cobalt Air, but I was not pressured to express specific opinions in any way. All the views expressed are fully my own and if you would like to ask me any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!