Vueling A320 ‘Space Plus’ Manchester-Barcelona Flight Review

Throughout this year, I have embarked on a quest to sample every major low-cost airline in Europe. Previously, I have flown with Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air & Norwegian – though there was one notable exception: Vueling. I reviewed Vueling’s new ‘Space Plus’ seats  on the airline’s Manchester-Barcelona route to find out how Spain’s largest budget airline compared with the competition.


Flight Profile:

Vueling 8749: Manchester (MAN)-Barcelona El-Prat (BCN)

Aircraft: Airbus A320SL, EC-LVS

Seat: 2A (Space Plus)


EC-LVS would take me from Manchester to Barcelona that day; an Airbus A320, fitted with emission-reducing sharklets, that has flown with Vueling for 5 ½ years (barring a brief stint with Jetstar Pacific in 2016).

EC-LVS awaiting boarding in Barcelona.

My aircraft was one of 114 in Vueling’s fleet – comprised of Airbus A319s, A320s, A321s and A320neos. Currently, Vueling operates just three Airbus A320neo aircraft, with 44 further examples on order. My Airbus A320 was configured with 180 seats in a single-class configuration, with Vueling’s more spacious seats in a sub-section at the front of the cabin, marked by a ‘Priority’ divider behind the seats in row 4.

Vueling’s aircraft feature a divider after row 4, distinguishing the ‘Space Plus’ seats from the rest of the cabin.

After arriving at Gate 44 in Manchester 15 minutes behind schedule, getting the flight pushed back on-time would be a challenge. This was not helped by the fact that the boarding pass scanners at Manchester were dysfunctional, meaning that all passengers had to wait for traditional boarding cards to be printed. Additionally, minutes prior to boarding, it became apparent that the doors to the front hold of the aircraft were broken – all checked luggage would have to be stored in the rear holds of the aircraft. This meant that all passengers seated in rows 28-31 had to have their seats reallocated at the gate, causing further confusion and chaos. However, all of this was handled professionally, and the flight pushed back just 20 minutes behind schedule – an impressive fact given the challenging circumstances.

Once onboard, I settled into my allocated seat: 2A. Rows 1-4 are marketed as ‘Space’ seats.

Vueling’s ‘Space Plus’ seats offer 10% more legroom, with ample recline.

Rows 2-4, specifically, offer 10% more legroom than other rows on the aircraft and can be paid for onboard for just €15. If purchased prior to departure, these seats include priority boarding in addition to more space – allowing me to comfortable work throughout the flight with a large laptop. This new concept replaced Vueling’s previous answer to Business Class – ‘Excellence’ where the middle seat in the first row was blocked, allowing for a 2-2 configuration.

Row 1 is branded as ‘Space One’. Seats in this row have 20% more legroom and can be reserved for an additional fee.

The new ‘Space Plus’ offering is more affordable and accessible to Economy Class travellers and still offers significantly more comfort. For a low-cost carrier, it is refreshing to see an airline allocate more real estate to comfort rather than profit, available at a reasonable additional fee.

I would certainly recommend Vueling’s ‘Space Plus’ seats, which offer more legroom than many intra-European Business Class products.

The option of selecting roomier seats, including priority boarding, is a fantastic initiative, and I would recommend them to anybody considering flying with Vueling.

If these seats are not available, the exit rows (12 and 14) can be reserved for the same price and offer 20% more legroom.

Rows 12-14 also offer extra space.

In terms of pricing, Vueling follows the ‘pay for what you need’ model. This allows customers to fly for less and only pay for the amenities they want.  If a passenger, chose a ‘TimeFlex’ fare with an extra-legroom seat, the Vueling experience is akin to or better than that of almost any legacy airline across Europe. When comparing Vueling with other low-cost airlines across Europe, it is important to note that extra fees for luxuries like selecting your own seat or checking in luggage were inexpensive and the baggage allowance of 23kg was very generous.

The slimline Recaro seats were sufficiently comfortable, and were well padded, offering a good amount of recline. To provide more legroom for passengers, the lower seatback pocket has been removed and replaced with a literature pocket behind the tray table at eye level. Also provided was a coat-hook at each seat. It would be good to see Vueling take steps to install power-ports at each seat in the future allowing every customer to stay powered-up on the go. As our lives our increasingly conducted online too, Vueling could install Wi-Fi on newly delivered aircraft – catching up with competitors like Norwegian who are already rolling out the technology.

Vueling’s newest Airbus A320s feature Airbus’ SpaceFlex technology – meaning they are configured with 186 seats, rather than 180.

As part of this change, Vueling also introduced two new fares designed to meet the needs of the modern traveller: ‘Timeflex’ and ‘Family’. The airline’s new Timeflex fare offers priority check-in, fast-track security, priority boarding and free seat selection in standard seats, all in addition to flight time and date flexibility.

The Family fare type includes a dedicated check-in area at Barcelona, 1 checked luggage bag free of charge (with an allowance of 23kg), priority boarding with children under 2 and guaranteed seats together onboard.

This sort of innovation in air travel is something to be commended – making the entire experience easier for families travelling together and business people who frequent airports.

Vueling’s onboard menu was equally impressive. In addition to the conventional buy-on-board options, Vueling offered an ‘Iberic Box’ containing Gourmet Iberian Ham and Breadsticks – a nice touch that alludes to Vueling’s Spanish roots, proving that any trip starts onboard the aircraft.

Vueling’s branding is youthful and is designed to appeal to the trendy traveller, who wants new travel experiences at low prices.

The Gourmet Snack Box contained dark chocolate, rosemary crackers, chickpea hummus, olives, dried fruit and nuts for €7,50, with the option of adding wine for €12,50.

On my flight, I chose Vueling’s Nachos which come complete with Tomato Salsa in a handy travel box. As with almost all low-cost airlines, no beverages or snacks were complementary – if you don’t want to break the bank onboard, you may want to buy ahead of your flight at the airport. My seat neighbour did exactly that and when the cabin manager, Lela, observed my neighbour about to eat an airport-bought meal deal, she offered a napkin. This was a pleasant touch, showing that personable service doesn’t cost anything.

A snapshot of Vueling’s onboard gourmet options

The crew on both of my flights with Vueling were amiable and warm. Throughout the flight, they made very little interaction with the passengers, closing the curtains frequently at the front of the aircraft – creating a sense that they were unapproachable. When they did interact with passengers, however, they offered a smile, with quick and efficient service. This said, the entire Vueling experience, including comfort and crew, was clearly more polished than many of Vueling’s no-frills competitors.

The Bottom Line:

When looking at Vueling through a low-cost airline lens, it is clear that the airline is innovative, polished and convenient. Vueling’s ‘Space Plus’ seats mean that enjoying extra comfort onboard is easy and affordable and their ‘Family’ fare type is something I would like to see more airlines replicate. Additionally, Vueling offers an unprecedented network across the length and breadth of Spain, easily accessible from its UK gateways in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester & Edinburgh. Whilst there is some way to go before Vueling achieves a ‘Best Low-Cost Airline’ award, I would recommend Spain’s largest budget airline without hesitation.


Disclaimer: This flight was provided by Vueling. All opinions expressed are my own. 

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.

China Southern A380 Economy Class Review

I love the A380. It is as simple as that. So when I saw that China Southern operated the Airbus A380 between the two Chinese cities of Beijing and Guangzhou, i decided to jump on the opportunity immediately. Below is my video review on YouTube which you can watch instead of reading the review.

Having flown the Airbus A380 with Qatar Airways and Emirates before, I was eager to see what China Southern had done with the aircraft and how it compared to the 5* offerings onboard the Middle Eastern carriers. I was also keen to see how it compared to Qantas and Etihad who have been reviewed on LondonSpotter by an ex-contributor, James, and as a guest review respectively.

Booking

Seeing as China Southern are based in Guangzhou, I decided to use this trip as a way of getting to Vietnam, my next stop on my Asia trip. I booked Beijing – Guangzhou – Hanoi as well as Guangzhou – Shanghai all in one booking for a total cost of £330 in economy.

This is a pretty good price for the three flights and I was lucky to find it. My go-to website for cheaper airfares is SkyScanner – have a go yourself and see just how low you can get the fares of your next trip. Remember to click all the way through to the booking agent as prices often go down from what is advertised on SkyScanner’s site.

The Flight

I arrived at Beijing Capital Airport with around 2 hours until takeoff and was pleasantly surprised at the small queues and relative ease of getting through the airport. I checked my bag all the way through to Hanoi and walked through security which was right next to the bag drop desks.

To my annoyance, I had packed my bags in a bit of a hurry that morning and put my toiletries in my carry-on case. This resulted in me losing my shampoo and other bottles over 100ml – stupid mistake.

The gate was a two minute walk from the security exit and as soon as I was through, I noticed the huge A380 being loaded up at the gate.

Our A380 loading up in Beijing

The gate was directly infront of the China Southern lounge so business class passengers could simply walk from the lounge onto the aircraft in a matter of minutes.

People were seated but seeing as i wanted to get on the aircraft early, I started the queue for economy passengers. As is normal on Chinese flights, as soon as one person queued, everyone followed the herd and suddenly I was at the front of a 100 strong line!

Boarding began on-time and I boarded the aircraft as the first economy passenger.

The lower deck economy cabin

I arrived at what I thought was my seat and sat down until a passenger came and showed me his boarding pass and it turned out I was sitting in 53A when in fact my seat was 53K. I politely moved to the other side of the aircraft.

As I was sitting in 53A, I noticed something very surprising. In the seat pocket was a safety card for a Boeing 787-9 aircraft. The A380 bares absolutely NO resemblance to a 787 so this posed a serious safety threat if the aircraft were to be evacuated in an emergency.

Our safety card… hang on…. this is no 787!

China Southern’s A380 is set up in a three-cabin configuration with economy taking up the majority of the bottom deck and backward eight rows of the upper deck. The lower deck is configured in a 3-4-3 setup which is an immediate setback from their A330 product which sits in a 2-4-2 configuration.

The seats were comfy yet small

The upper deck, however, sports the 2-4-2 setup so if you get an opportunity to sit there, take it. The A380 can seat 428 passengers and by walking through the cabin I could estimate that it was around 75-80% full.

The upper deck in a nicer 2-4-2 configuration

The seat is relatively large and comfortable although my legs were pushed up against the seat infront of me for the majority of the flight which was very uncomfortable.

Legroom…poor

The seats pitch is 32″ and the width is 17.2″. This compares to airlines like Qatar Airways who offer 18.5″ of width in economy – a much comfier option.

Boarding was completed about 25 minutes before departure and the jetbridge was removed from the aircraft giving me the impression that we were heading for an on-time departure.

How wrong I was…

After around 30 minutes of sitting on the ground, the cabin manager came over the loudspeaker to announce that we were delayed because of ATC restrictions but gave no time estimation on how long we would be stranded for. As this was only 30 minutes, I wasn’t massively fussed.

After about 40 minutes on the ground, the crew came around with the drinks trolley and began to serve drinks. I went for coffee which came in a plastic cup but tasted pretty good.

Coffee in a plastic cup? Why not. It tasted good nonetheless

After this drinks service I pulled out my laptop to crack on with some work when I noticed the next serious failure of this aircraft. Above my head, towels had been stuffed into the ceiling to stop a leaking air-conditioner. While the towels were doing an ok job, drips were still coming through and the seat next to me began getting pretty damp – maybe this explains why it was empty.

The towel above still let the aircon drip on me

I considered telling the cabin crew but I thought they had enough to worry about with the delays so put my headphones on and continued to work.

After around 2 hours on the ground, the crew emerged once again from hiding with breakfast. The option was chicken or pork and I went for the chicken.

My celery infused meal

The meal came with a side salad or celery, vanilla yogurt, a bread roll and some pickled vegetable in a packet.

The meal was piping hot when I opened it up but to my surprise the chicken dish was packed with celery… I’m not a huge fan of celery so the dish really wasn’t that pleasant for me. The yogurt and bread roll, however, were fine. Although I didn’t like it all that much, it was nice to have a hot meal unlike on Vietnam Airlines.

Our meals were cleared away and around 10 minutes later, we were on the move and finally ready to depart for Guangzhou.

Finally on the move

We taxied out and departed out of Beijing for the 2 hour 40 minute flight south.

Takeoff!

Having already eaten on the ground, I wasn’t expecting too much from this flight and in fact all we had in the way of service was another drinks service.

Each seat on the A380 is fitted with a personal monitor and remote control. There are also headphones waiting in the seat pocket. While the headphones are better than those given on China Southern’s A330, they were still poor quality and only worked when half way in and halfway out of the plug. This meant that I couldn’t watch the IFE and to be honest, after looking at the film options, I wasn’t fussed. I took my own headphones out and listened to music for the rest of the flight.

The screen was small and not very responsive

Something I found very annoying was the lack of power on this aircraft. I had heard that the A380s had power ports but I couldn’t find a USB or AC port at all.

Lastly, I found the crew on this flight to be very unwelcoming and borderline rude. Apart from one lovely crew member who served the food and drink, I found the others to be quite stand-offish. For the majority of the flight they all stood in the galley chatting with each other as the services had already been carried out on the ground.

We came into land in Guangzhou 2 hours late and the aircraft was empty soon after as everyone finally remembered how it felt to stretch their legs!

Deboarding the huge A380

Conclusion

While I totally understand that China Southern had nothing to do with the delays, I think the way in which it was handled wasn’t great. We were given very little information and the crew seemed rude throughout the flight. The food may have been nice if you LOVE celery but to me it wasn’t very nice at all.

Having a leaking air conditioning system above a seat is VERY BAD. During the flight I had bits of ice falling down on me from above which was definitely not included in my ticket.

A bit of ice that fell from the ceiling – it had almost melted away before I got this picture.

Finally, having a 787 safety card in the seat pocket posed a serious security threat and should not be tolerated on any airline.

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Vietnam Airlines A350-900 Economy Review

I have reviewed this flight both in writing and video format! Be sure to see my video review below.

Vietnam Airlines fly more than five times a day between the two major Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (yes, I refer to it as Saigon too!). They are in direct competition with Vietnamese budget carrier VietJet who operate a fleet of modern A321neo aircraft. I originally booked a ticket with VietJet for August 5th, but once I got to Hanoi I decided I really wanted to stay an extra night so I phoned up VietJet and they said I would have to cancel and rebook if I wanted to change my date of travel.

Not wanting to book another full revenue ticket, I looked into other options. I could see that Vietnam Airlines operated the route with widebody aircraft such as the B787, A350 and A330 so checked out prices. Being so late in advance, however, I decided to skip this option due to it being too expensive. Just as I was about to give up, I remembered that Vietnam Airlines are, of course, partners with Air France! I fired up my Flying Blue account and searched for availability and right there was a stack of award flights for 11,500 Flying Blue miles and £8.

I originally wanted to book the flight in business class but Air France had no availability so seeing as I didn’t would have had to cancel and rebook on VietJet anyway, I decided to choose Vietnam’s A350.

The A350 during boarding

The Flight

I arrived at Hanoi International Airport two days after arriving on my China Southern flight. The Vietnam Airlines’ domestic departures level at Hanoi is relatively small but was split between destinations instead of just having one big set of queues for everyone. Seeing as their were so many flights to Ho Chi Minh that day, I ended up in a long queue and after 20 minutes of waiting, I was finally able to check-in and drop my bag.

Hanoi’s domestic terminal

I asked the woman at check in for a window seat which she was happy to give but the only seat she said was available was 36A. I checked the seat map online and saw that the aircraft had a premium economy cabin. Knowing that no premium economy product was sold on this route, I asked if I could sit there but I was told that the cabin was reserved for SkyTeam elites.

A little disappointed that I was SO far back, I headed through security to find that FlightRadar24 was showing my flight as a B787 instead of an A350 – another setback. I had already missed Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 product on my flight to Taipei because of an aircraft change to a Cathay Dragon A330 so was eager to make this one.

After walking around the small domestic area after security I ended up taking a seat and booking some more award flights!

Boarding started on time and still not knowing which aircraft I was on, I headed down to gate 10 where we boarded a bus which took us to the international stands to board our aircraft.

Bus boarding

By the name of this review I’m sure you have guessed what’s coming next: I stepped out of the bus to see the stunning Airbus A350 boarding for my flight to Saigon.

I walked around the aircraft for a while seeing as I would have had to wait on the stairs anyway. It was fun being able to freely take pictures of the aircraft from the tarmac!

I was very happy being able to take pictures freely

I boarded as one of the last passengers through the front door and walked all the way through the aircraft to find my seat.

Is that huge or HUGE?

Unfortunately, the aviation gods dealt me a bad hand and the seats 36 B and C were both nabbed. We pushed back soon after I got onboard and took off straight away to an amazing rainbow which appeared soon after we hit the skies.

A beautiful takeoff from Hanoi

Vietnam Airlines’ A350 economy class is set up in a 3-3-3 configuration.

The 3-3-3 configuration with noticeably large IFE screens

Economy class is set up in two cabins from rows 16-43.

Seat width was good – 18 inches

Each seat offers 32 inches of pitch and 18 inches of width.

Legroom ok but note that I am 6″2

The aircraft feels super modern and you can definitely tell the plane is new. Each seat is equipped with a personal IFE screen which was overwhelmingly large.

Loved the screens

Below the screen is a USB plug which was great as I love to see USB plugs on long-haul aircraft.

USB plug…tick

The IFE system has a selection of films, TV shows, games, maps and music. I wasn’t able to try any of the video or audio out because headphones aren’t given out on this short flight.

Film selection was ok

I ended up put the map on the screen and watched as we made our way to Saigon.

Map feature is always my favourite

Around 30 minutes after departure, the cabin crew made their way through the cabin offering out breakfast. I was expecting a hot breakfast option but the crew simply gave out boxes of crackers.

The breakfast box was terrible

The drinks trolley followed and I asked for a coffee which they said they didn’t have. I then asked for some orange juice and was told that all they had was coke and water. This was a weird choice seeing as it was very early in the morning and I ended the breakfast still feeling very hungry.

For the rest of the flight I sat back and watched the views as we approached Saigon. The approach is simply stunning as you go over an enormous area of densely packed housing! You can watch the whole takeoff and landing below.

We landed in Saigon on-time and taxied to stand to complete my first flight with Vietnam Airlines.

Overall, I thought the flight’s service offering was poor. For such a busy route, I would have hoped Vietnam Airlines could offer more in the way of food and drink. In terms of the aircraft, I was super impressed. The A350 is super modern and the cabin is more spacious than on other Asian carriers. I hope to try out the business class product next!

Aer Lingus A330 Economy 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 Economy 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

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?!