Spain’s worst Business Class? | Air Europa Review

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

UX5049 Malaga – Madrid:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?!

Flybe ATR-72 Economy Review

100 new routes are launched with the ATR every year. Flybe’s foray into the UK domestic market from London Southend is a prime example of how marginal routes can be made viable by the ATR – with new routes to Glasgow, Manchester and also across the channel to Continental Europe, promoting and increasing connectivity to secondary and tertiary markets, boosting local economies. Due to its versatility, these efficient turboprops are operated by over 200 airlines and depart every 8 seconds! Stobart Air has taken advantage of the ATR’s positives, whose fleet comprises mainly of turboprop aircraft, three of which are operated by Flybe. Whilst I’d experienced the aircraft back in August with Aer Lingus’ Regional division, I was intrigued to see how Flybe was changing the dynamic of the UK domestic market with their new flights from Manchester to London Southend. Since Flybe’s rebrand in 2014, when the now iconic purple livery was introduced, they have used the ‘faster than road or rail’ slogan for their domestic services, so is Flybe actually the best way to travel across Britain?

As most of Flybe’s flights don’t use jet bridges, boarding began from the ground floor gates at Manchester Terminal 3 approximately half an hour before departure. After a warm welcome from Patrick, Elizabeth helped the passengers find their allocated seats and I settled in. EI-FMJ, my ride for the day, surprised me with the modernity of the cabin. At just two years old, it again proved the stereotype that all turboprop aircraft are old and uncomfortable completely wrong.

The ATR offers a modern, airy cabin, in a 2-2 configuration.

The seats were slim line, and upholstered with black leather. Every row had ample legroom – I was able to stretch my legs out straight in front of me – which offered unparalleled comfort for such a short journey, compared to a train or coach.  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.

Flybe’s ATR seats 70 passengers comfortably.

We departed just after our schedule departure time of 08:25am, breaking through the thick layer of cloud to reveal a beautiful sunrise view. This reminded me how much I love flying.

Departing Manchester, passengers were treated to a fabulous view – something you don’t find on a train.

Shortly after departure, Patrick and Elizabeth began the onboard service. This is provided by Flybe’s ‘Café Air’ buy on board scheme, and offers a wide range of refreshments. Tapas, sweet treats, porridge and meal deals were all available – in addition to the usual tea and coffee options. Prices were reasonable, but much better value than food from motorway services for example. The flight from then on was extremely relaxing and I engaged in some conversation with the cabin crew, who shared my excitement about taking the new E-Jet flight from Southend-Dublin later that day, and said they’d be working the flight to Rennes in France next before travelling back to cloudy Manchester.

CONCLUSION: Is Flybe the best option for travelling domestically?

It may not surprise you that I’m a huge fan of flying, but when travelling domestically in the UK, Flybe really is convenient.

Flying is both more convenient, relaxing and enjoyable – especially with Stobart Air.

They offer a relaxing but fast experience, always with a friendly face – with the added benefit of a swift airport process in London Southend – 5 minutes from plane to train – and a transit of only 53 minutes directly into Liverpool Street. What’s more, Flybe offers much better value than their larger competitors such as British Airways on many domestic sectors with fares from just £29.99 one way (incl taxes and charges) and numerous frequencies, with three flights every weekday.


Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Flybe, on behalf of Stobart Air.


  • Flybe ATR-72 Manchester-London
  • Southend Airport ‘SkyLife’ Lounge Review
  • Flybe Embraer E195 London-Dublin
  • Southend Airport: Simply Easier
  • Aer Lingus Flagship Dublin Lounge Review
  • Aer Lingus Airbus A320 Dublin-Manchester

Aer Lingus Regional ATR-72 Review

The ATR aircraft family is the fastest selling turboprop worldwide since 2005. With over 200 airline operators, these efficient turboprops impressively land and depart every 8 seconds! Stobart Air’s fleet comprises wholly of ATR aircraft, two smaller ATR-42 aircraft and 15 larger ATR-72 aircraft, operated on behalf of Aer Lingus Regional in Ireland, and, in the UK, Flybe. On 30th August, I had the pleasure of experiencing first hand, the comfort, efficiency and modernity of this aircraft and the close-knit Aer Lingus Regional family.

The Aircraft

Stobart Air’s ATR72-600 aircraft are some of the most modern in the skies. EI-FAW operated my first flight of the day, an aircraft just three years old. Contrary to the obsolete stigma that turboprop aircraft carried, they are – in reality – quiet, comfortable & efficient, helping the viability of ‘thin’ but vital connections between the UK and Ireland and developing secondary and tertiary airports. For example, 100 new routes are launched every year with ATR aircraft.

In addition, the aircraft helps Stobart Air operate profitably, with unbeatable economics for regional routes. Operating costs on the competing turboprop aircraft are 20% higher than then ATR while regional jets are at least 40% higher and, as my Captain, Shane, pointed out, an A320 aircraft simply taking off and banking used nearly as much fuel as our ATR aircraft would need for the whole flight from Dublin to Leeds Bradford.

Wingview approaching Dublin

The cabin was impressive and extremely spacious. The seats used were lightweight, but very comfortable and the legroom offered was adequate enough to stretch your legs straight out, thanks to the generous 31” seat pitch and slimline seats. The cabin also boasted the widest seats and aisles of any other regional aircraft, allowing the seats to have 18.6” of width. In terms of short haul travel, it was definitely one of the best cabins I have experienced, and enjoyed my journey in great comfort. It is configured in a 2-2 layout, accommodating 70 people and, like Aer Lingus Mainline, there is no business class cabin.

The comfortable and modern cabin of the ATR.

The cockpit is also one of the most technologically advanced I have seen, bringing the latest technology to regional aviation, the ATR -600 features a glass cockpit by Thales. In addition, being made in Toulouse, it inherits lots of similarities from the Airbus family cockpits.

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 Outbound – LBA-DUB

My outbound flight was scheduled to leave at 0855, however, due to highly efficient boarding, we departed 10 minutes earlier. Juan and Jakub did a great job of preparing the cabin for departure and issued a warm welcome to everyone on board. Then came the beautiful buzz of the propellers. Sat in seat 4F, I had an exceptional view of the wing, and as this was my first flight on a turboprop aircraft, I was very over-excited! The only thing to bear in mind when flying with Stobart Air is the food and refreshment selection is very limited – don’t expect hot food as the aircraft simply does not have the equipment or, for that matter, the time on such a short hop. Around 20 minutes ahead of schedule, we touched down in Dublin. Once on stand, I made my way up to the cockpit. Because of the ATR’s design, you must walk through a small corridor where cargo and hold luggage is held to get to the flight deck. The Captain and First Officer gave me a great explanation as to how everything works, and said they’d be heading to Bristol in 50mins. Sure enough, whilst walking through St. Stephen’s Green in the centre of Dublin, EI-FAW soared above me, with the crew I’d just met at the helm.

“Under the Wing!”

If I thought my outbound flight was good, I was in for a treat on the inbound sector!

 Inbound – DUB-LBA

1 hour prior to boarding, I was met by John Dillon – the Duty Manager for Stobart Air’s flights out of Dublin – who informed me that he would be able to get me out to the aircraft for a tour as soon as it arrived from Edinburgh. Whilst EI-FAS (my ride home) was on final approach, we made our way out to the remote stands, where the regional aircraft boarded. As this was my first experience of an airside tour, I was overwhelmed as I watched my aircraft arrive on stand. I boarded the aircraft to be met by Shane – the Captain for our flight home, who offered a full tour of the aircraft, and explained everything inside and out, in such a friendly and enthusiastic manner. I consider myself to be knowledgeable about aviation, but I learned so much from this tour. To be up close and personal with all aspects of the aircraft and the cockpit was amazing. As the other passengers boarded, I met Calvin and Catherine, the endearing cabin crew operating my flight, who went above and beyond to help their guests, clearly taking great pride in their work. They made every effort to ensure their passengers had a great flight; going to great lengths to make sure everyone was sitting with their travel companion – something you wouldn’t find any other airline doing! Thanks to their warm and helpful attitudes, and the overwhelming experience I had beforehand, this flight will go down as one of the best.

Conclusion

In conclusion, flying Aer Lingus Regional was a great experience. From the friendly faces of the crew, to the punctuality of the flights, it really accumulates to become an effective way to fly between Ireland and the UK, in addition to being able to connect to the US, from UK regional airports such as Leeds, Southampton and Newquay, utilising Dublin’s US Border Pre-Clearance facility. Stobart Air is ambitious about its future, welcoming Embraer 195s into its fleet from October this year which I will also be reviewing, and I am confident that this small, but charming airline will continue to prosper as it grows.

Aer Lingus Regional flies thirteen times per week between Leeds/Bradford and Dublin, with prices starting from £25 one way. For more information on fares and schedules and to book log on to www.aerlingus.com.

disclaimer: this trip was provided by Stobart Air