Air Baltic 737 Business Class Review

As you will read in this flight review, my trip on Air Baltic was two things: a massive success and a massive failure.

Air Baltic had initially invited me to fly out on their 737-300 and fly back into London, the very next day, on their flagship Bombardier CS300, both in business class. However, due to an unforeseen operational mishap, my CS300 was swapped at the last minute for another 737Classic, thus leaving me without a trip on the new Bomabrdier jet. However, as you will later find out, my return flight inherently became the best flights of my life, knocking the incredible A350-1000 flight with Raj off the top spot.

My outbound flight was the evening departure from London Gatwick to Riga (one of 2 daily services). This flight is supposed to be operated by the CS300 so it was horrible luck that I ended up on the 737Classic twice (this first flight was a known equipment swap). However, I was yet to fly on the -300 variant of the 737 so I was not fussed. Air Baltic has a total of 6 737-300 and 5 737-500 ageing classics in their fleet and currently operate the largest CS300 fleet in the world with a total of 20 aircraft ordered and eight currently flying. They have recently placed an order for 30 more CS300s and acquired options for a further 30 aircraft. The total value of this order is being placed at about $2.9 billion, based on list prices.

“I am excited to grow our fleet up to 80 CS300 aircraft while phasing out our other aircraft types in the next three years.” Air Baltic’s Chief executive, Martin Gauss.

Photo Credit: Air-Baltic

Flight Number 1 | Air Baltic B737-300 Business Class

Business class passengers departing from London Gatwick can enjoy the No.1 lounge at South Terminal, with access via passes handed out during the check in process. This lounge is perfect for a quick drink and a snack and has hot food on order. The fact it is also a ‘pay to enter’ lounge means it is unsurprisingly busy most of the time. However, it does offer an amazing view over the apron of which you can gaze at for hours watching the busy airport life pass by.

Priority boarding at the gate was strictly enforced and the handling agent made sure business class passengers boarded first. Once on-board the crew distributed pre-departure drinks, with a choice of orange or still water. Menu cards were handed out while still on the ground.

Once boarding was complete we had to incur a small delay while waiting for a take-off slot.

Taxiing out towards 08R

The Business class configuration on-board Air Baltic is very similar to the product of most other European carriers whereby the middle seat is blocked off. The Recaro seats show their age but the seat itself was pleasant enough for the near 3 hour flight, the tray tables were adequately large and do slide towards the user.

After the long taxi out to Runway 08R, we took to the skies bound for Latvia and after reaching a safe altitude, the cabin crew were released and more beverages were served. One thing I noticed throughout the entire flight was how diligent the crew were, as I was constantly asked if I would like a refill or another drink.

After a short while orders were taken for the hot meals. I opted for the sweet and sour chicken with rice. As I was flying on standby, however, this wasn’t the normal meal of a business class passenger but you can see the business class meal in my second flight below. As the flight progressed the sun continued to set over Europe, a sight best seen from 39,000ft.

Sunset from 39,000ft

The flight itself had been for the most part, smooth and this was no exception for the stunning approach into Riga, where we touched down safely on Runway 36 with only 15minutes of delay. Riga airport is home to only a small handful of jet bridges, so it is no surprise that we were parked on a remote stand with buses back to the terminal. After a small flight deck visit and photo opportunity with the crew I boarded the bus back to the terminal where border control took an easy five minutes. I  was soon off to my hotel where I enjoyed a pleasant night in Riga city center.

Touching down on Runway 36

View from St Peters Church

Flight Number 2 | Air Baltic 737-300 – With a Twist

My flight back home was scheduled to be operated by the Bombardier CS300, hence the trip out to Riga to review their flagship product. However it seems the aviation gods were messing around today and flight radar had my flight down as being operated by a 73C (The same aircraft type I had previously flown only a few hours ago). I was evidently frustrated at the time, in essence rendering my trip a failure.

I had obtained special permission to film onboard this flight as I was supposed to be making a small video about the CS300 and thankfully I still had the permission to film as it was granted for flight BT653 from RIX-LGW, no matter which aircraft.

Once onboard, I greeted the crew and showed them the letter of approval. The flight crew were very accommodating and let me mount my GoPro in the flight-deck to get some footage for the video. As you will see from the pictures below, I was also invited into the flight-deck for landing after securing special permission from Air Baltic HQ. This really did make it one of the most incredible experiences! Being able to sit on a jump-seat is the pinnacle of any av-geeks dream and is the closest you can get to flying the real thing!

View from the jump seat

I will not go into any significant detail of this flight, as it was operated by the same aircraft type, and I was sitting in the same class cabin. My experience in Business class was still faultless and the crew were still great. This time round I was able to try out their proper Business class meal, on this particular flight it was Salmon with Sweet Potato. The meal was served piping hot and was excellent. Due to huge electrical storms over England the flight back to London was unsurprisingly bumpy and we had to route around the weather, but the crew still managed to land safely and on-time.

Salmon with Sweet Potato

My Conclusion

Both my Air Baltic flights had consisted of exceptional service and professionalism. The crew on both flights were attentive in their service, constantly making sure you were well fed and hydrated. The aircraft them-self, although old in their age, were well maintained but lacked what I would call ‘modern day necessities’ like universal power sockets or USB charging ports. I would never hesitate to fly Air Baltic again and i would love to properly test out their CS300 product.

The only negative that stood out was the Business Class ticket price and indeed the economy ticket price. You are paying a hefty premium to fly Air Baltic over the likes of the low-cost carriers operating in this region, such as WizzAir or Ryanair, and for some this premium may not simply be worth it for the 2hr30minute flight. For example on the 13th June a one way ticket from London to Riga would cost £65 with WizzAir from Luton, whereas Air Baltic from Gatwick would set you back a hefty £282 (Economy class Ticket). Worth the price? That’s up to you.

diclaimer: This trip was fully provided by Air Baltic. I was under no pressure to express any specific point of view and all opinions are my own.

More Boeing 737 Reviews on LondonSpotter:

WestJet B737MAX Review

Buckle up ladies and gentlemen because this flight review is certainly extra ordinary. It all began while curiously searching Kayak, my favourite search engine, a week or so ago, I had noticed that the seasonal WestJet service to Halifax Nova Scotia from Glasgow, Scotland had just restarted. This WestJet operated flight from Glasgow to Halifax does not, however, finish up in Halifax, the final destination is Toronto Pearson. Prices from Glasgow to Toronto were seemingly cheap and – with some further price hunting – I managed to score a fantastic deal from Glasgow to Toronto via Halifax, and then from Toronto back to London Gatwick, also via Halifax. Flying back into London Gatwick was not only more convenient for me as I am based in Brighton, but it allowed me to compare Westjet’s brand new 737MAX8 to their ageing 737-700 product. I have always been intrigued about how these narrow body 737s fly transatlantic, and how this impacts the passenger experience, and now I had the chance to put this theory to the test and try them both for myself!

Photo Credit: AirwaysMag

It was only a few days later when I found myself eagerly awaiting my flight to Canada at Glasgow Airport. I had pre-booked my priority security which was only £4.99, and unlike the priority security at most other UK airports, it was super-efficient, and did not merge with the other security traffic. I was through security in 3 minutes, saving me upwards of 15-20 minutes.

Glasgow Airport has certainly seen better days, the facilities airside were not too bad, but the overall architecture was ancient and the airport will need renovation in the near future. When it was eventually time to board the aircraft, the ‘zone’ boarding system WestJet has in place was properly enforced, however once in the jetty way we found ourselves waiting for nearly 15 minutes for the ground crew and flight attendants to finish prepping the cabin and aircraft. Once on-board I took my seat 6A, which had a fantastic view on the 737-700 and I started setting up my GoPro and other camera equipment.

Wingview from seat 6F

 

After sitting on the ground for upwards of  30 minutes with no update from the flight crew, it was evident something was wrong. The captain finally informed us that due to a discrepancy between the aircrafts log book and the Thomas Cook engineers at Glasgow, we could not take off immediately, and had to await information from WestJet’s maitainance team. In the meantime, the crew offered water to all passengers. Then finally, with a delay of 1 hour, we pushed back from our stand at Glasgow Airport, still unaware of the actual technical problem that we faced earlier. Nevertheless we took off from runway 23,  1 hour late, bound for Nova Scotia!

Takeoff out of Glasgow

Once airborne the fantastic WestJet connect became available to use. Most of WestJet’s fleet are equipped with this ‘SATCOM’ antenna which provides services like entertainment, flight map, and for an added fee, Wi-Fi to your tablet device. You must have the official WestJet app downloaded to be able to take advantage of this. I personally found the service flawless and I ended up purchasing a small amount of inflight Wi-Fi although sadly that was not as fast as I had hoped. I started my own inflight meal service about 20minutes in and I tucked into my WHSmiths meal deal; I knew that there was only a snack and small drink offered so I needed to bring my own refreshments. When the free service was finally offered by the flight attendants, I chose a coke and a small bag of pretzels. I will emphasise that you must buy food beforehand, as coping 6hours on a small bag of pretzels and a coke is certainly not do-able! As the flight progressed I was surprisingly relaxed, the legroom on the 737-700 was great and well above my expectations.

There was a universal power adapter on each seat to charge your electronic devices as well as a USB charge port. The 737-700 Next Generation CFM56 engines were quite loud but with headphones in it was much less noticeable and compared to the option of a WestJet Boeing 767 from London, it was most likely similar.  It also felt certainly more personal on the narrow aisle 737 and your interaction with the crew is more intimate too.

Due to the cramped flight deck of the 737,  and the longer flight time transatlantic, the flight crew kept switching giving them some time to stretch their legs. I got talking to the first officer while he was on his break and this was when I found out that the technical problem we encountered back in Glasgow was that this aircraft was no longer ETOPS. An ETOPS certified aircraft can fly more than 60 minutes from a diversion airport, in essence allowing the 737 to fly transatlantic, but due to a discrepancy on the ground the aircraft was no longer flying ETOPS. Therefore, the flight crew had to plan an alternative route to Canada overflying central Greenland, maintaining close proximity to land, hence our delay in Glasgow.  From a photographer’s perspective this was phenomenal, overflying central Greenland provided some incredible views and with crystal clear skies it was a truly magical experience.

Overflying Greenland

The 6 hour flight time had seemingly flown by, after watching a couple of films we were practically already in Canada! Flying on-board the smallest 737 had been impressively comfortable, not what I would have expected from a narrow aisle jet. We started our descent into Nova Scotia where the weather was also stunning with now only 30minutes of delay. After the “WestJet Stretch” on the ground at Halifax I had a quick flight deck visit and chat with the jolly flight crew from today’s flight. At Halifax all passengers have to de-plane, even those carrying on to Toronto and pass through the Canadian Border Control. I unfortunately then had to pass through immigration as well which ate into my connection time. At this point Passengers with checked luggage have to pick up their hold luggage from a carousel and then like all other connecting passengers then pass through security for domestic departures, the same process as the security in Glasgow. A handy tip I found out when talking to a security agent is that any duty free purchased in Glasgow over 100ml will not be allowed through and so they recommend after picking up your luggage from the carousel putting it in there.

A fellow 737MAX pushing back next to us for a flight to Ottawa

Once back airside at Halifax there was just enough time to grab a smoothie before boarding my onward flight to Toronto. This leg of the flight was being operated by WestJet’s brand new Boeing 737MAX8. I would recommend waiting until you are airside in Halifax or even waiting until you have landed in Toronto for buying a coffee, as my connection time was 2hours and I only just made it through security in time. The plus side is that you arrive in Toronto as a domestic arrival so you do not have to go through border control.

Wingview from seat 20F

Once on-board you could immediately tell that this aircraft was brand spanking new, the cabin was absolutely spotless. The MAX sure does set itself apart from the Next Generation 737s, as I mentioned in my LOT MAX review, it feels like mini Dreamliner! WestJet have ordered a whopping 65 Boeing 737MAXs to replace their ageing fleet of -600s/700s. Their older aircraft will no doubt ably swap hands into their new low-cost subsidiary, “Swoop” which will begin flying in June 2018. After taking my seat, I went to attach my GoPro to my window, as I would normally do. As soon as it made contact with the window an angry flight attendant descended on me and swiftly told me to remove the device as it may “shoot off the window due to the pressure changes”. I was in no place to argue as I was already super tired and I did not want to cause a scene but I have never been asked before to remove my GoPro. The pressure change would never cause the gopro to fly of as the suction cup is attached to the window, and the cabin pressure is maintained throughout the flight so there would not be any dangerous pressure build up that would cause the camera to fly off. Instead I had to resort to manual iPhone filming for the YouTube review, this was in no way as stable footage but it would do for this flight.

WestJet 737MAX cabin (Photo by WestJet)
Takeoff out of Halifax, NS

We experienced some “light chop” for most part of this short hop to Toronto. The snack service was identical to the one on my previous flight. I must say, I was getting annoyed of the WestJet pretzels by the 4th bag!

The MAX itself was remarkably quiet, just as I had remembered it from my flight with LOT Polish late last year. The legroom was fantastic, and not only due to the generous 33”, but the considerably larger overhead storage (the new ‘Space Bins’) allows travelers to store all their carry-on luggage above them, eliminating the need to place bags under the seat in front of you. Another noticeable feature of the MAX is the redesigned light switches that helps to avoid calling flight attendants by mistake. The flight itself was largely uneventful, and after the scenic descent into Toronto, we touched down on runway 23, 10 minutes ahead of schedule! But a long taxi made that 10 minutes a more realistic five. At Toronto, as mentioned previously, you simply exit into the departure lounge where I was 10 paces away from my flight back to Halifax. Any passengers that have their travels terminate at Toronto can simply exit the terminal as a domestic passenger, as you cleared border control back in Nova Scotia.

Westjet 737MAX pushing back at Toronto

I am not going to bore you with the details of the 2 flights I took after deboarding in Toronto, as they were quite simply the reverse of what I had just done, landing in Gatwick rather than Glasgow. These flights were also on the 737-700 and 737MAX, so my passenger experience was near identical. The flight crew upheld the high standards set by the crews on my earlier two flights and I arrived back into Halifax and Gatwick on time!

Landing on Runway 26L at Gatwick

Overall, my personal WestJet experience had been flawless. The cabin crew were great fun yet professional and the seat pitch and width were great. The entertainment worked really well on the WestJet connect app.

Don’t be put off by the thought of a narrow body plane to cross the Atlantic; it’s probably one of the most pleasant flights I have had in economy!

I always check my flights through Kayak, this way I can found out what aircraft type I am flying pre-booking, and therefore tailor my sectors based on the aircraft type. I then proceed to SkyScanner to book.

Want to see more flight reviews as soon as they’re published? Subscribe below!

More Boeing 737 Reviews on LondonSpotter:

E-Jet Express: Flybe E195 Review

Entering a crowded market is never an easy task – the London to Dublin route has over 50 flights every day, all with carriers already established on the route. In fact, 4.5 million passengers travelled between the British & Irish capitals in 2015, making it the busiest air route in Europe. But in October, Flybe launched services from London Southend – offering a completely different proposition to carriers already in the market. With a three-daily frequency, flying from Southend with Flybe is more relaxing, comfortable and convenient for a whole host of people living in Southeast England and London. So is this the best way to cross the water to Ireland?

The departure lounge at Southend is strategically located next to the departure gates, with the passenger in mind

At around 14:00, the gate was called for my flight to Dublin. The six gates at London Southend Airport form a horseshoe shape around the departure lounge, meaning my departure gate was literally steps away.

My aircraft was the sole Embraer E195 operating for Stobart Air – G-FBEF – which they received in November, and dated back to 2007. Despite being 10 years old, the aircraft’s exterior is aesthetically pleasing and modern, and that doesn’t change when you step onboard. The cabin is configured in a single-class configuration, offering 118 Economy Class seats. The purpose of the Embraer 195 is to straddle the boundaries between a regional and a mainline market – offering better economics to regional carriers who want a regional aircraft. This makes the E195 the perfect aircraft for Stobart Air to expand its route portfolio with, and to launch a trunk route such as London-Dublin.

With jovial crew member Donantinou on hand to greet passengers, my initial impressions of the cabin were positive. The seats had lots of padding, making them very comfortable and easy to relax in – rather than more modern slim- line alternatives. The entrance to the aircraft was spacious and the cabin had a very airy feel – with extremely large eye-level windows (up to 30% larger than most other aircraft) to let in lots of natural light. Although the seats were provided lots of comfort, with ample legroom for the short hop across the Irish sea, they had a low seat back with no headrest. This is a minor point, but one to consider, as one may want to take a travel pillow with them for extra comfort.

The E-195 seats 118 passengers, in a single class configuration

The benefit of a 2-2 configuration is not to be underestimated. 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 personal space and allowing for wider seats and aisles than larger aircraft. The lower oval is widest in the baggage and cargo hold which boosting space for your luggage. With no dreaded middle seat, easy access to onboard facilities such as overhead lockers, and lots of headroom – this concept makes the Embraer a winner with passengers and superior to many mainline cabin standards. This configuration is also highly beneficial for companies too, with fast boarding and deplaning, allowing for quick turnaround times.

Flybe uses the same ‘Café Air’ onboard refreshment service on all flights, but included some hot food options on this route – something that wasn’t available on my ATR flight from Manchester.  Prices were not unreasonable for short-haul low cost flying.

Deboarding G-FBEF in Dublin

The crew – Gerry, Sharon & Donantinou – were very pleasant throughout, and I spoke to Donantinou several times during the flight. He kindly let me stay onboard after disembarkation to take some pictures of the empty cabin and he shared his thoughts with me about his career and enjoying his work aboard the Embraer.

Our routing took us north of the M25, over the Cotswolds and the valleys of Southern Wales before making the trip over the Irish sea. We arrived into Dublin ahead of schedule, at 15:45 and I visited the cockpit – which sports fly-by-wire technology.

Conclusion

This flight had a more personable feel to those mainline and ultra low-cost carrier flights, all to familiar on UK-Dublin sectors. It proved to be more relaxing, quick, easy and comfortable than any other flights I’ve taken – from the punctuality, to the relaxing cabin and ease of London Southend airport. If you are looking to fly from London to Dublin in an effortless and calm manner, look no further from Flybe’s express across the water.


W!ZZ to Warsaw: Airbus A321 Flight Review

BACKGROUND: W!ZZING TO WARSAW

Wizz Air is one of the fastest growing carriers in Europe at the moment. They primarily fly throughout Eastern Europe, but, recently, they have branched out – offering flights as far afield as Dubai and opening a major base in London’s Luton Airport. In 2018, Wizz will offer over 550 routes across Europe, Israel, Asia and the UAE. Recently, they inaugurated their brand new fleet additions: The Airbus A321  with sharklets – which they call ‘the most efficient aircraft in the skies’. With this celebration, came a new livery, a rebrand and a mission to fulfil their slogan ‘Now we can all fly’. But, will we all enjoy a polished flight experience, or a lacklustre low cost escapade? I flew to Warsaw with Wizz Air to find out.

AIRPORT EXPERIENCE: LONDON LUTON

Luton Airport often gets a bad rap in the media (and has even been voted worst UK airport in a multitude of surveys) – many believe it is a cramped, low cost airport catering only for holiday makers. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well organised, efficient and modern operation. Security was handled with ease, and the selection of well-known eateries and premium-brand shops available was on par with other regional airports in the UK, such as Birmingham or Liverpool. The management team at LLA are taking big strides to improve the airport’s overall experience, with new retail outlets and seating areas being added. In the future, this will continue to improve the prospects of travelling through London Luton and future prosperity of the airport.

IN-FLIGHT: LONDON LUTON-WARSAW

At 0730am, the gate for my flight to Warsaw-Chopin was announced. Boarding was efficient and organised, not chaotic – unlike some experiences I’ve had on comparable low cost airlines. Boarding commenced soon after and, as I embarked on my journey, I was met with a warm “Dzień Dobry” (Good Day) from Justyna and directed to my seat. The cabin immediately gave an impression of space, with a light, airy feel but not sterile and unwelcoming.

Wizz Air possesses 23 A321ceo aircraft, equipped with sharklets for additional fuel efficiency.

Wingview from Seat 8A

A large amount of these are based in Poland – with Gdańsk and Warsaw being the largest; a tribute to the fact Wizz commenced its journey to one of Europe’s leading low cost carriers in these cities back in 2004. My aircraft – HA-LXK – was delivered in November 2016 and the modernity of the aircraft was evident.

Disembarking at Warsaw.

These aircraft are configured in a single-class configuration, with 230 Economy Class seats with 30″ of seat pitch. In spite of this, it appeared evident cabin crew were keen to sell the extra-legroom seats left unoccupied, so this is something to bear in mind. Even though 230 passengers can fly on Wizz’s A321 aircraft, this is achieved by Airbus’ Space-Flex scheme and slim line seats which achieve great economics simultaneously with adequate space and comfort.

Wizz Air Flight 1302 to Warsaw became airborne at 0836am – just 20 minutes behind schedule – and we were informed of a flight time of 1hr 50mins. Soon after departure, Monica and Anna passed through the cabin with the food options for the journey.

The cabin crew on my flight were truly caring and cheery. They give the impression that they thoroughly enjoy working for Wizz and refer to themselves as ‘Wizz Ambassadors’ proudly sporting their vivid and vibrant brand. They completed every task with a smile, and had a genuine enthusiasm for their work. I was very impressed! View the slideshow below to take a look at the cabin and in-flight service:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I love the freshness of the Wizz Air brand; it stands out in the aviation industry and reflects many of their revolutionary policies such as Wizz Flex or Wizz Discount Club. The Wizz Discount Club is a membership scheme that results in massive savings for those who travel frequently, and even those who only travel twice or three times a year. It also results in perks such as priority boarding, and access to ‘Member-Only’ deals. These benefits can also be extended to your travel companions. What’s more, Standard Membership only costs €29.99. In addition, Wizz’s new Flexible Travel Partner service provides you the opportunity to create a new reservation without adding all passenger names at the time of booking. When creating the booking, it is sufficient to provide only one name and include more passengers without an additional fee, unlike other airlines.

DESTINATION: WARSAW

Warsaw is a true gem – up and coming as one of the best cities to savour across Europe. An architectural mix of St Petersburg and Paris, old and new are elegantly combined, with a shiny centre and a quaint ‘Old Town’ (rebuilt after the horrors of the Second World War). Lazienki Park provides a reprieve from the bustling Old Town, with a beautiful ‘floating palace’, large expanses of greenery and an abundance of Red Squirrels. Add this to superb value for money, frequent flights from the UK with Wizz Air, authentic atmosphere and a heart-warming local cuisine and Warsaw is a new name topping the list of many European travellers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

THE VERDICT: WIZZ AIR

Compared to other low cost carriers, Wizz Air tops the league table easily. Organised, welcoming and comfortable; they fulfil their slogan ‘Now we can all fly’ with pride and honesty, reaching out to more people than ever before with an ever-growing network. The fact that Wizz Air also flies to Chopin airport, rather than Ryanair’s alternative of Modlin, is very convenient – being only 20 minutes from central Warsaw.

W!ZZ’s branding is unique among the aviation industry.

Wizz Air operates frequent flights from Luton to Warsaw with fares starting from £24.99 (One way, including all taxes, non-optional charges and one cabin bag), enabling everyone to explore this beautiful city. Wizz Air also flies to Warsaw from Aberdeen, Birmingham, Doncaster Sheffield and Liverpool. Flights can be booked at wizzair.com. I can’t wait to explore more of what Poland has to offer, with Wizz.


Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Wizz Air

More A320 Family Reviews on LondonSpotter:

Singapore Airlines Unveils Luxurious New Cabins

For months, Singapore has had the aviation industry excited. With so many disruptive new Premium products introduced by airlines, such as Etihad’s Residence and Qatar’s Q Suites, Singapore Airlines needed to re-establish its place at the forefront of the market. As part of this, Singapore Airlines is unveiling new Suites, business, premium economy, and economy products. Recently, you could say Singapore has been ‘teasing’ us with videos and pictures showing different aspects of the suite. Here is one such of those videos, released on the launch of the new cabins:

Singapore air first class suites

This is how Singapore Airlines describes the new Suites in their press release:

With six Suites tucked spaciously within the front cabin of the upper deck, customers will experience a sense of exclusivity and intimate privacy aboard the A380. Behind its artistically-designed sliding door lies a personal oasis complete with lavish furnishing and finishes. Each Suite is furnished with a separate full-flat bed with adjustable recline and plush leather chair, enabling customers to lounge comfortably in the chair or rest in bed without the need to convert the bed from a sitting position. For couples travelling together, the beds in the first two Suites of each aisle can be converted to form a double bed. Each seat is fully adjustable using an electronic control side panel which can accommodate a variety of sitting and lounging positions. The swivel capability of the chair with recline up to 45 degrees provides added flexibility for dining and relaxation. Each Suite also has a full-sized personal wardrobe, customised handbag stowage compartment, amenity box lined with soft leather, specially designed carpet and a feature wall with mood lighting – all exquisitely crafted to give a touch of luxury and intimacy.

Singapore challenged Etihad with their individual suite, here. Creating a ‘Residence-Style’ experience, which certainly looks exclusive and luxurious.

The Individual First Suite

One possible disappointment is that Singapore won’t be offering onboard showers, such as Emirates, but rather two lavatories including a smaller ‘standard’ suite (although this looks anything but standard to those who fly Economy!). Then, they will offer a larger lavatory, including a dressing table.

Singapore Airlines’ New Lavatory

Continuing with their tradition, Singapore will again offer double-beds. In this product, the second row of the suites will convert, offering two seats and a double bed.

Singapore’s Duo Suites

One fault of this seems to be that there is no space for a couple to dine together, unlike on Etihad. This is of course a minor issue, but when comparing the products, this could be a game-changer.

Singapore air new business class

Singapore will offer cocoon style seats, again, with individual seats by the window:

Singapore’s New Business Class

Whereas in the centre of the cabin, they will offer a convertible double-bed. This is a game-changer in Business Class, and looks like the ultimate luxury for couples on business. However, does this deter people from paying that extra money for Suites Class?

Centre Double Seats on Singapore’s new Business Class

Singapore will debut their new cabins on the five new A380s they will receive over the next couple of years. The first route will be Singapore to Sydney – from 18th December 2017 – although I find it hard to believe London will be far behind.

Although this offering is underwhelming for some, I think that this, coupled with Singapore’s renowned in-flight service, will help the airline to reposition itself as the leader of the market once again.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 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