E-Jet Express: Flybe E195 London-Dublin 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.


London Southend ‘SkyLife’ Lounge Review

London Southend Airport is one of the easiest airports to traverse in the country, with a promise of under 4 minutes to pass through security. All of this means you have more time to relax in the airport, and the Skylife lounge is the perfect place to do just that.

Whilst the rest of the airport is a relaxing experience to begin with, the Skylife lounge provides a more comfortable environment to wait for your flight. Located immediately after passing Security – on the mezzanine level – above the main departure lounge area, lounge access is not exclusive to business travellers or frequent flyer members. Any passengers flying through the airport are welcome to use the facility; I think that’s a huge selling point for less frequent flyers. You can pre-book entry to the lounge online for £17.95 or take advantage of the walk-in option, which costs £20.95. Special offers are available when combining lounge access with airport parking, and children under 14 enjoy a reduced rate of just £9.95.

My initial impressions of the lounge were very positive. Ambient blue mood lighting created a tranquil atmosphere – there was no lack of seating, with sofas, chairs and stools with desks all available.

The lounge had a distinctively modern feel.

The lounge itself is split into three sections; one by the entrance, which offered stools around one table – striking me as the perfect place for meetings and conferences ‘on the go’ for those travelling on Business. The other two sections were more relaxed, with lots of comfortable seating areas and easy access to the self-service bar. The lounge isn’t particularly spacious, but with the relatively small volume of passengers using the facility, rather than feeling claustrophobic, it felt homely and almost private.

There certainly wasn’t a lack of seating available.

There are lots of power points located around the lounge, in the arms of the chairs, which is essential for most travellers nowadays. In addition, in the seating area overlooking the main airport, adjustable tablet holders were available – perfect for using your iPad or tablet easily. Fast and free Wi-Fi, exclusive to those in the lounge, was also available.

The Skylife lounge provides a great view of the departure area.

Located on the main wall of the lounge, a walk-up self service bar was available. It offered a range of hot beverages, chilled alcoholic drinks, sandwiches, sweet treats and snacks. Unfortunately, it appeared that there was no hot food available in the lounge – so that’s something to bear in mind.

In conclusion, Southend Airport is a great place to be regardless, but the lounge offers more comfort, refreshments, snacks and an all round more relaxing aura. If you have a long layover or some time to spare, kicking back in the lounge and getting your journey off to a smooth and sophisticated start is a great option.


Flybe ATR-72 Flight Review Manchester-London

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