Flybe Dash-8 Flight Review

Introduction: A new feel for Flybe

Having tried Stobart Air’s regional product, I was keen to sample Flybe’s UK domestic service, under their new philosophy of “Close To You”.  The strapline has several interesting facets. Principally, it revolves around connecting people across Britain, reflecting the extent of Flybe’s strong presence in airports across the regions – meaning they are quite literally ‘close to you’ wherever you are in the UK. However, the new brand is also designed to reflect Flybe’s personable and friendly service and reinforcing previous campaigns such as “One Stop to the World” – connecting seamlessly through metropolitan air hubs such as London or Manchester, from your local airport. So, are Flybe’s plethora of domestic air-links the most convenient, friendly and seamless way to traverse the British Isles?

The Journey: Manchester-Southampton

Transiting from ‘The Station’ at Manchester couldn’t be easier – it was my first time using the train to get to the airport – and it really couldn’t be beaten. With train services from Crewe, Wilmslow, Manchester, Newcastle, Blackpool, Edinburgh, Leeds, York and more – it is also quite convenient. From the main station complex, it takes about 8 minutes to walk through the Skyline to Terminal 3 – even quicker to the other two terminals Although Terminal 3 is often claustrophobic, at less peak times, it’s compact nature makes it pleasant. Unfortunately, for an airport the size of Manchester, the facilities in what was once the domestic terminal, aren’t up to scratch but its encouraging to see that – even in the midst of the redevelopment programme at Terminal 2 – MAG is still making changes for the better at the opposite end from the airport.  My flight was to be operated by G-JECZ; a 10 year-old Bombardier Dash-8 Q400, which had been painted in the revised purple livery just days before.

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All UK domestic flights board from a ground-floor area, and was done in an organised manner. It is astounding how quickly boarding and disembarkation can be carried out with smaller turboprop aircraft, compared to a Boeing 737, for example.

Flybe’s fleet mainly comprises of Dash-8 aircraft, with 56 forming the backbone of their operations. They are configured with one-class, in a 2-2 setup, with the capacity to seat 78 passengers. The cockpit is positioned on a raised-level, with all the modern digital systems you’d expect.

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One immediate difference I noticed between the ATR flights I’d flown on in 2017, and the Bombardier Dash-8, was the width of the cabin. The ATR has a cabin-width of 2.57m, with a minimum seat width of an extremely comfortable 18.6″. On the contrary, the Dash-8 was 0.8m narrower and had a seat width of only 17.3″. Thankfully, Flybe opted for a generous configuration with only 78 seats, meaning what the seats lacked in width, was made up for in legroom. We departed from Manchester’s 23R at around 12:15 and set course for Southampton.

Emma – one of the cabin crew members – was extremely friendly. She personifies Flybe’s campaign to “establish a warm, friendly presence in the faceless hustle and bustle of the aviation industry”. The crew can make a massive difference to how you perceive a flight – especially one as short as this one. She couldn’t have been more accommodating to any of the passengers and I was really lucky to have had such engaging and warm crew on my flight.

The onboard service centres around Flybe’s Café Air onboard bistro service. For a domestic flight, there was a range of snacks and beverages available and its clear to see that Flybe have been more adventurous rather than the stereotypical low-cost airline offering – and that’s something I can really appreciate. At just before 1pm, we touched down in Southampton, 5 minutes ahead of schedule. In January 2017, Flybe topped an OAG punctuality league table – being named the most punctual airline in the UK and coming 6th on a worldwide basis. At least anecdotally, I can clearly see why – both of my flights arrived ahead of schedule and my return journey even departed before our slot!

At the heart of Flybe’s new strapline is people’s desire to fly from their local airport – which offers ease and relaxation. Having travelled through London Southend last year, Southampton Airport drew many similarities. It is clear that they are designed with the passenger in mind from the outset. Landside, the airport felt airy and modern, yet compact – offering a small seating area, check-in desks and a Costa Coffee, centred around the entrance to security. When I passed through the security checks, I was the only passenger doing so and I found myself moving from landside to airside in around 2 minutes – an experience major airports could only dream of offering their customers. Despite its size, all the facilities are readily available to passengers; duty free shopping, WHSmith, an ‘Olive Tree’ Restaurant and yet another Costa Coffee, around which six gates are positioned in a right-angle.

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The experience was infinitely more relaxing, quiet and seamless than many other airports – giving you the sense that flying can be done without the hustle and bustle of our major hubs, which are bursting at the seams in an in-escapable capacity crisis. Its very easy to see why more and more passengers are choosing to make use of their local airport, contributing to the local economy and making flights like Flybe’s (that connect every corner of the UK) more viable every day. Therefore, I applaud Flybe for recognising this in their new campaign.

The Conclusion: Flybe is the way forward

In conclusion, Flybe lives up to all its straplines. It is faster, better value and more relaxing than road or rail and it is ‘closer to you’ in almost every aspect. For most people, Flybe may simply be a means of getting around the nation but many of the benefits of flying go unnoticed. From the warm crew, to the fast journey times and local airports – Flybe is definitely the way forward.

Train VS Plane: Manchester-Southampton

Manchester Piccadilly-Southampton Central by Train – 4hr14mins

Manchester Piccadilly-Southampton Central by Plane – 1hr52mins (approx. 2hrs)

Piccadilly-Manchester Airport-Southampton Airport-Southampton

15mins               45mins               45mins                           7mins

Minimalistic and Marimekko: Finnair revamps Business Class

Finnair is well known for its minimalistic Scandinavian aura – both on the exterior and interior of its aircraft. Finnair is also proud and renowned for supporting Finnish products; some of its aircraft are even adorned with prints from the iconic Finnish design house Marimekko.

Finnair’s aircraft and cabins have a minimalistic feel. 

Finnair already has an industry-leading reverse herringbone Business Class product on its Airbus A350 aircraft, but this will be redesigned with new cabin textiles and amenities, including new seat covers, and pillows, blankets and chinaware with prints, to be introduced from February 2018.

Finnair will keep its Reverse Herringbone seat in Business Class.

My first impression is that the new cabins are uniquely stunning – replicating the simplistic nature of Scandinavian interior design and landscapes. However, what’s interesting is reading into what Finnair’s Head of Cabin Design – David Kondo – had to say. The cabins draw on two major themes:

  • Nordic Interior Design, aiming to show a ‘fresh and modern aesthetic that is inspired by Nordic homes’
  • Nordic Landscapes, conveying ‘snow and birch trees’ and also the changing face of seasons and light.

    The grey and white colouring is intended to reflect Nordic landscapes.

David Kondo continues, saying ‘Our lives are busy and our time is limited, and the time flying is time just for you, so the aim is for the cabin to be very calm and understated’. The green patterned Marimekko print will also be replaced with a deep blue print, called Kaivo or ‘well’.

I find this concept an interesting one; I love the clean aesthetics of the design and the philosophy behind it is understandable. However, some passengers may find this sterile and unwelcoming – which is the exact feeling airlines want to avoid.

In addition to this, Finnair will be reforming its onboard dining – creating a more flexible on-demand system – with a wider range of options. A seasonal menu will be introduced for both cabins, with Swedish chef Tommy Myllymäki creating the menus for Business Class and top Finnish Culinary Team will create meal options for Economy class. The winter menu, introduced with the product’s rollout, will be followed by seasonal menus for summer and autumn. Drawing on Finnair’s commitment to local cuisine and customs I alluded to earlier, they will also introduce Finnish tradition of “Kahvikutsut”  – a coffee serving with seven different treats – for long-haul flights departing Asia in the morning.

The product will be rolled out from February – intially on flights to Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai.

Overall, I really love Finnair’s approach to branding and customer experience and this redesign reaffirms that unique, but likeable brand profile.

Featured photo courtesy of Joona, @planespotter_hel.

Joon: Air France’s Path to Success?

For a while, we’ve known about Joon – Air France’s future-proofing airline, allowing them to appeal to millennials and the leisure market. It’s basically IAG’s Level, or Lufthansa’s Eurowings. On 25th September, however, we learnt a lot more about the fledgling airline and how Air France plans to run it.

joon’s identity

Joon is aiming to attract ‘young, working clientele’. Air France also market it as a ‘lifestyle’ whereas in reality it’s just a low cost airline! However, the name ‘Joon’ does ooze modernity and is easily recognisable around the world. The electric blue is supposed to represent the dynamism of the airlines and the uniform ‘basic and chic’. Here’s a video showcasing the airline’s branding:

Take from that video what you will, but Joon certainly is an ‘out there’ brand.

what routes will joon offer?

Something I am impressed by is the routes Joon will be offering. Air France has quite a conservative route development strategy, however they’ve really excelled with Joon. Whilst their short-haul offering is predictable, the inaugural long-haul routes are exciting.

Short Haul (begins December 2017):

  • Paris Charles de Gaulle to Porto, Lisbon, Berlin & Barcelona, presumably with A320/A321 aircraft on a range of frequencies.

To me, it seems that Joon will be taking over all of AF’s flights on this route and I think that that’s a mistake. Markets such as Berlin and Barcelona are extremely important and ceding them to a ‘low cost’ alternative is counter productive in my opinion.

Long Haul (begins May 2018):

  • Paris Charles de Gaulle to Mahe, Seychelles (3 weekly, A340-300)
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle to Fortaleza, Brazil (2 weekly, A340-300)

The prices look good too (this fits in with Air France’s promise to appeal to working clientele). Fares to Fortaleza start at £219, for example.

Air France Joon introductory fares.
what aircraft will joon fly?

At its launch, Joon will have A320 and A321 aircraft for short haul operations and A340-300 aircraft for its long-haul services. By 2020 they hope to have 18 A320/A321 aircraft, and 10 long haul aircraft (including A350s) so Air France is certainly confident that Joon will succeed.

JOON’s Fleet. Photo from Air France.
onboard experience

Joon is offering the same cabin as Air France on short haul. The seating will be exactly the same, but with a blue headrest cover. It certainly reminds of me of the comedy Come Fly With Me. They will offer USB ports at every seat and reclinable comfort. In addition, Joon will offer complimentary beverages and a streaming service of entertainment on your own device.

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On their long-haul services, Joon will offer a refurbished A340-300 Air France cabin. There’s not much detail on that at present, however Joon say they are working on a meal menu for intercontinental services.

Here is a sneak peek of the Joon Business Class long-haul cabin, which looks like the current Air France A330/A340 seat, reupholstered:

Joon’s Long Haul Business Class offering.

Overall, Joon is an interesting concept. Although I find it slightly demeaning to millennials, I understand what Air France are trying to do here. I do think it could be carried out better though – for example I would operate Joon out of Orly, rather than Charles de Gaulle so it doesn’t interfere with Air France’s full service operations.

Good luck to Joon!