Flybe Dash-8 Flight Review Manchester-Southampton

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

Airbus & Bombardier Turn up the Heat on Boeing

Politics and aviation often cross wires. With a protectionist President in the Oval Office, and an increasingly competitive world, this situation will likely become all the more frequent in the future. Read on to inform yourself of exactly what’s happening with Bombardier & Boeing.

background: who is bombardier? why is Boeing imposing tariffs?

Bombardier is a Canadian-British aerospace company, specialising in regional turboprop aircraft – such as the Dash 8 series. Recently, they branched out to the regional jet sector and the 100-150 Seater market with the introduction of the popular C-Series range. In 2016, Delta placed a firm order for 75 Bombardier CS-100 regional aircraft, representing one of the largest single airline orders for the aircraft type. However, in September 2017, the drama began. Boeing accused Canada and Britain of supplying Bombardier with ‘unfair state subsidies’ which helped them achieve the major order with US client, Delta. They proposed a 300% tariff on imports of the C-Series jets to the US, in an effort to dissuade Delta from taking delivery of the aircraft.

criticism for Boeing

Boeing and the US International Trade commission have widely been criticised by rival companies and the governments of the UK and Canada. Prime Minister Theresa May has said the UK’s long-term partnership with Boeing was being undermined by its behaviour towards Bombardier, adding she was ‘bitterly disappointed’ and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said that if the tariffs went ahead, it could ‘jeopardise’ UK Defence contracts with Boeing. Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada – said in a meeting with Donald Trump that he ‘disagreed vehemently’ with the decision and threatened cancellation of Canada’s Defence contracts also.

Bombardier said the proposed import tariffs were ‘absurd’ and insisted they had manufactured a ‘superior aircraft’ and that the US/Boeing was just trying to ‘stifle competition’.

Conversely, Boeing, retorted in a statement saying that ‘it was about maintaining a level playing field’.

implications if the tariffs go ahead

Many fear that the import tariffs may drive the Canadian company to relocate its manufacturing centre in Northern Ireland, where it employs 4,100 workers and contributes to 18% of Northern Ireland’s Economy. About 1,000 of these jobs are linked to the C-Series, the wings of which are made at a purpose-built £520m factory at Queen’s Island in Belfast.

In addition, it could spark a trade war between the US and Britain, especially significant as the two nations share a ‘special relationship’ and want to sign a free trade deal as the UK leaves the European Union.

the deal with airbus

Ask anyone interested in aviation to name the biggest rivalry they can think of and they will most likely tell you “Boeing V Airbus”. And thus, its no surprise Airbus are helping Bombardier out here. Under the deal, which both companies aim to be finalised in 2018, Airbus would buy 50.01% of the C-Series programme, leaving 31% to Bombardier and 19% to Investissement Québec. This is a game-changing move and changes the dynamic of the spat with Boeing.

Airbus summarises the deal in their press release, with these main points:

Airbus to acquire majority stake in the C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership

  • Partnership brings together two complementary product lines, with 100-150 seat market segment expected to represent more than 6,000 new aircraft over the next 20 years
  • Combination of Airbus’ global reach and scale with Bombardier’s newest aircraft family to create significant value for customers, suppliers, employees and shareholders
  • Significant C Series production costs savings anticipated by leveraging Airbus’ supply chain expertise
  • Commitment to Québec: C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership headquarters and primary assembly to remain in Québec, with the support of both companies’ global supply chains
  • Airbus’ global industrial footprint expands with the C Series Final Assembly Line in Canada, resulting in a positive impact on operations in Québec and across the country
  • Growing market for C Series results in second Final Assembly Line in Mobile, Alabama, serving U.S. customers

The last point, perhaps being the most crucial. Airbus will allow C-Series aircraft delivered to the US to undergo final assembly in their factory in Alabama. This is in the view that it will allow the company to dodge the current import tariffs. Ceding the majority of a flagship project to another manufacturer is a risk for Bombardier, but they clearly believe its the best way forward. It will also give Europe a huge advantage in the regional jet market and, as Airbus doesn’t have a mainstream competitor in that market, it refrains from compromising their own aircraft sales.

What will Boeing’s retaliation be? Comment or contact me with your thoughts.

 

Featured Photo: Brian Griffin carlowspotter