Your guide to the best value airfares for the month ahead!
We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. This months edition is focused on finding you some of the best Bank Holiday Monday day trips out there!
For this months Fare Finder, I used Kayak to locate these fantastic value flights. Check them out and grab a bargain for yourself!
If you were to ask a large group of people what their favourite day trip destination was, I can guarantee the most popular answer would be Dublin! Known world over for being the home of St. James’s Gate since 1759, the Guinness brewery offers an interesting insight and unique perspective on how one of the worlds most popular drinks came to be. Other must see sights include Dublin Castle, The National Museum of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Normally cheap flights to the Irish capital are offered by Ryanair, well known for their no thrills service. However, this deal gives you the opportunity to fly from Birmingham with Ireland’s only 4* airline! Aer Lingus are offering return flights from as little as £85pp return; their excellent flight timings also mean you get a full day in Dublin!
In March’s Fare Finder, we featured Benidorm. Alicante is often seen as the gateway to this Costa Blanca resort, but if you take a closer look, you will find an adventure, that you didn’t even know was there. Overshadowed by the Castillo de Santa Barbara, the Barrio de la Santa Cruz is home to some traditional Tapas bars and narrow picturesque streets that are sure to make an excellent Instagram photo!
Many readers might be surprised to learn that British Airways are offering return flights to Alicante for £90pp. This London Gatwick departure leaves at 6.30am, and offers travelers nearly 14 hours in the city. The BA website can be found by following this link.
Not feeling adventurous enough to jet away across Europe? Why not keep getaway closer to home, and spend your Bank Holiday in Manchester? The 180,900 m² Intu Trafford Centre, is the third largest shopping centre in the UK, with bargains to be found in almost every shop, try not to spend too much! Football fans can take tours of the National Museum of Football and cross city rivals Man City and Man United’s grounds. Avgeeks on the other hand might not want to leave the airport and choose to spend all day at the Manchester Airport Viewing Park!
Flybe’s Embraer Regional Jet will get you up to Manchester quicker than road or rail, and given the time of the month, probably cheaper than them too. A return ticket will only cost £70pp, but with seats on the Jungle jet limited, don’t leave it too soon to book.
Munich is a city that has previously featured on Fare Finder. For it to feature twice, surely means that it is a must visit, right? First time visitors to the city will be impressed with the ease at which you can get lost wondering around the streets, discovering the delights of the Bavarian capital. Again, for the Avgeeks who want to make a spotting trip out of it, the Visitors Park just outside the airport’s perimeter is the ideal base. Offering superb 360° views, a well stocked shop and cafe, it really is a must visit for any spotter.
Ryanair are offering cheap return flights from their Irish headquarters of Dublin. Priced at £81pp return, it really is a steal for a great value day trip. I would recommend using Kayak (the website I used to find all these deals), as you will be able to ensure you get the best price.
in next months fare finder:
We look at finding you the best flight deals for June!
Featuring Cobalt Air’s New Airbus A320 Business Class & Economy Cabins
At 0920am, the gate was announced, and I made my way to the boarding area. After already completing one five-hour rotation from Larnaca, my aircraft was enjoying some well-earned rest on the tarmac. Cobalt Air flies to Manchester year-round and has done since 2016. In the winter season the route operates twice a week and, in summer, increases to three-weekly. Having been met by the dispatcher at check-in, I was able to take some photos of the empty cabin before the rest of the guests boarded and have a chat with the cabin crew.
As I stepped onto the aircraft, my initial impression was that the cabin looked airy, comfortable and welcoming. It was also modern, fitted with Recaro seats which offer adjustable headrests and a substantial recline. Although a minor detail, the boarding music enhanced the relaxing and tranquil atmosphere onboard; as the flight was not full – boarding was done in an orderly and efficient manner, without being chaotic.
My Cypriot chariot for the outbound flight – 5B-DCY – is one of 6 aircraft in Cobalt’s fleet and is fitted with 12 Business Class seats in a 2-2 configuration and, as with all Airbus A320 aircraft, economy class was fitted in a 3-3 configuration and began in Row 4, with 144 seats. Obviously, the bulkhead seats were very comfortable; the rest of the Economy seats offered 30” of seat pitch, adjustable headrests and substantial recline. All of the Business Class seats offer a 40” seat pitch and lots of width – with a foot rest and several seat controls, allowing you to find a comfortable position. On my inbound flight, I flew on one of the airline’s Airbus A319 aircraft which are configured in an all-economy class setup with 144 seats. Cobalt received this A319 (5B-DCU) in November 2016 and had a much more dated cabin, but equally comfortable.
business class: cobalt shines above its competitors
The new Business Class – introduced in December 2017 – is where Cobalt really shines above its competitors. British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and others offer an Economy Class setup, with a blocked middle seat. Whilst this is convenient for the airline and easy to amend depending on the load of a flight, for passengers, it offers little to no more comfort than those sitting at the back of the plane. Contrastingly, Cobalt’s Business Class looks more like a short-haul premium product you’d find in Asia or a US airline’s domestic ‘First Class’.
For longer flights, this really does offer all of the comfort you would need. When flying in Business Class, guests will experience several amenities offered by the airline which make the experience more seamless and tailored around you:
• Express Check-In Lanes & Priority Boarding
• 2x 20kg Baggage Allowance
• Dine On-Demand Menu (just ask a crew member when you are ready to eat!). Of course, when flying on a Business Class ticket, you receive a full complementary meal service. If you are on a flight when you can simply upgrade to the seat, you will have the same food choices as economy passengers.
The full Business Class service is currently only available on routes to Gatwick, Heathrow, Athens, Abu Dhabi & Moscow – but I found you can upgrade to the cabin on other flights for just €75, without the additional benefits. This offers an attractive proposition for business travellers and, if I were to travel regularly between Europe and Cyprus/Middle East on business, I would undoubtedly choose this Business Class product over Cobalt’s other competitors. I simply cannot credit Cobalt enough for the introduction of this “proper” Business Class and its introduction reveals the pioneering and innovative attitude at the heart of the airline.
It’s also interesting to note that Cobalt is also now offering connections through their Larnaca hub. For example, you can now book flights from Manchester through to Tel Aviv & Beirut – providing a more comfortable, seamless and relaxing alternative connecting through the modern and simplistic airport of Larnaca, in comparison to other major European airlines with often chaotic and confusing hubs.
onboard service: reflecting cyprus
The Out of the Blue menu included Grilled Chicken, honey and mustard wraps, halloumi and lountza (a Cypriot meat), baguettes and a variety of Primo Gusto Pizzas. There was also a range of alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, hot drinks and the obligatory Pot Noodle selection. The prices were quite reasonable – in line with most other airlines – and the airline accepts both British Pounds & Euros onboard. Although I was impressed by the menu, as the airline makes the transition from a low-cost carrier to a full-service operator with the introduction of a designated Business Class cabin, I would like to see complementary beverages and snacks available, or at least at a lower price – especially on longer flights such as mine from Manchester & London to Cyprus.
I liked the fact that the airline was inventive with its menu choices – reflecting aspects of the country it represents. The crew also oozed typical Cypriot hospitality and were very personable, genuine and polite. Celine (the cabin manager) and indeed the rest of the crew were jovial and welcoming – especially so to the children onboard. Also, Cobalt being a Cypriot airline, I was able to use some of my Greek language skills with the cabin crew. Celine even commented that my Greek was ‘amazing’ – but I shrugged off the comment, being the modest person that I am!!
Cobalt claims to be ‘the favourite airline of the Cypriot people’ and, speaking to the locals, it seems to be so. Many believe Cobalt harvested the best of the now defunct national carrier – Cyprus Airways – then modernised it and instilled ambition. The airline is also growing rapidly, adding routes to London Heathrow, Dusseldorf, Copenhagen, Mykonos, Geneva and Abu Dhabi from its Larnaca hub this year. It appears that Cobalt Air is also committed to improving the medium-haul travel experience more generally. The airline has recently signed an agreement with Bluebox Aviation Systems to offer wireless streaming of in-flight entertainment to passengers onboard. Bluebox provides wireless content streamed to passenger devices in any aircraft cabin, including film, TV, audio, games and other digital content accessed through any web browser. The device can be stored in overhead lockers and each box’s single swappable and rechargeable battery offers the equivalent of delivering 15 hours of streamed video content to 50 passengers simultaneously. Yet again, this is an example of another area where Cobalt have distinguished themselves from their competitors.
my conclusion: cobalt are unique
Overall, Cobalt are a unique airline; in the words of the CEO Andrew Madar, “not LCC, not legacy, just Cobalt”.
Medium-haul flying is often argued to be the most uncomfortable and tiring; 4-5 hours on a narrowbody aircraft, with no entertainment, poor legroom and lacklustre food. However, Cobalt seem to be committed to improving medium haul flying – whether that’s from the introduction of a spacious new Business cabin, to the friendliness of the crew. As they grow, with big ambitions for the future (including working intensively on a business plan so as to connect China, Africa and the US with Cyprus), I am certain that their ‘small airline, one big family’ feel won’t wear away. Despite big ambitions, Cobalt continues to put Larnaca back on the map as a regional air hub and contributes massively to the Cypriot economy.
I hope that more people across Europe can turn their back on traditional holiday airlines and business carriers and sample a little slice of Cyprus in the sky. Flight bookings can be made on Cobalt’s website or here!
Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Cobalt Air, but I was not pressured to express specific opinions in any way. All the views expressed are fully my own and if you would like to ask me any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
As we glide into Autumn, airlines are well and truly giving us some great excitement with route planning for next summer. Here’s my monthly pick at the most important news.
Norwegian – Yet again, Norwegian dominates the route review – with new services from London Gatwick to Denver and Seattle both launching this month. Both services are to be operated by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, and compete fiercely with BA’s current London Heathrow-Denver service and the plethora of carriers serving London Heathrow-Seattle. With Thomas Cook starting Manchester-Seattle services next May, one may ask, is the UK-Seattle market becoming oversaturated? The proof will be in the figures.
In addition, on 28th September 2017, Norwegian launched their new Gatwick-Singapore connection – the first long haul flight to be operated under the Norwegian UK subsidiary. This flight will also operate with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner equipment, and marks the entry of Norwegian into the Singaporean market.
Loganair – Loganair broke free from it’s Flybe alliance – starting it’s own services on September 1st. With the new services, comes the increase of Manchester-Glasgow flights to 6 a day, and a beautiful Tartan livery. What’s more, they’ve done all that without IndyRef 2
Washington D.C. to Edinburgh (marketed cleverly by Edinburgh Airport as ‘Capitol to Capital’)
New York Newark to Reykjavik & Porto
San Francisco to Zurich
All services will be operated by Boeing 757-200 aircraft, with the exception of Boeing 787-8 operated SFO-ZRH. The new European connections will begin next summer.
Air Canada – A transatlantic revolution is taking place, and for that we can thank the Boeing 737 MAX. The MAX opens up long thin markets for airlines to operate profitably; it’s why we are seeing routes such as Belfast to Providence, and Edinburgh to Stewart. Air Canada clearly didn’t want to miss out, and has announced services between Toronto & Shannon and Montréal & Dublin. This marks a massive vote of confidence in the Irish market for the Canadian flag carrier – as they will now serve three destinations from Dublin (Vancouver, Toronto, Montréal) and are the only foreign airline to offer a transatlantic destination other than New York, from Ireland’s second airport – Shannon.
Delta – For Delta this month, it’s a very mixed story.
Firstly, let’s get the bad news out of the way. Next summer, Delta will cut two destinations all together – Moscow (SVO) and Stockholm (ARN). In addition, it will end service from Philadelphia to Heathrow (already announced) and Paris, suspending service from Newark to Amsterdam.
Now, on to the exciting route development news. Among the aviation community, it is widely seen that Delta is employing a rather different strategy than the other US airlines. Instead of expanding out of hubs, they are adding flights from smaller US markets to their main hubs of Paris and Amsterdam in Europe. Whilst in August, Delta announced a new Orlando-Amsterdam service, this month they went further. Delta will start a new 767-300ER service between Indianapolis and Paris in summer 2018, which will go on sale on the 23rd September. This will be the first transatlantic connection for Indianapolis – so, unsurprisingly, the route has been supported by subsides of $5 million, Indiana Business reports. They will also launch two new routes between Los Angeles and Paris/Amsterdam with Boeing 777-200LR equipment, adding to their joint venture partner’s (Air France and KLM respectively) frequencies. Finally, and perhaps the most surprising, is between New York JFK and Ponta Delgada (Azores). This makes Delta the only US airline to serve the Azores, and gives Delta two destinations in Portugal.
Of course, there is other less significant news and frequency changes but their is not enough room to report everything here.
Virgin Atlantic – Virgin Atlantic will be increasing it’s operation at Manchester next year. They will be adding 40,000 seats to the market, with an additional 747 base. The new 747-400 will operate four-weekly services to New York JFK and three-weekly services to Atlanta. However, both routes are served daily, with the remainder being operated by the current A330-300 aircraft.
Next year, in peak summer, Virgin will offer 35 weekly transatlantic departures from Manchester, every week.
Icelandair – Iceland’s airlines just can’t stop growing. In fact, I may have to dedicate a whole blog post to them every month! This month, they announced services from their hub to Dallas/Fort Worth. Icelandair’s first venture into Texas will come in the form of a four-weekly, Boeing 757-200 service.
In other news, they also filed the schedule for their 737 MAX services, which will operate to only Birmingham in the UK.
WOW Air – Yes, you guessed it. WOW Air also announced flights to Dallas/Fort Worth. This connection will operate thrice-weekly, but with a widebody aircraft – the Airbus A330-300. Both airlines are clearly trying to upstage eachother, but I fear it could end badly for both airlines involved. On a lighter note, more competition can only be good for the passengers!
British Airways – British Airways announced in mid-September that it’s London Heathrow to Austin route would be upgraded to a Boeing 747-400, from a Boeing 787-9. That’s a massive capacity jump – particularly for the high-yielding cabins – and shows how the 787 really can open up new markets, that can then be grown into a great success.
In arguably more exciting news, British Airways is launching service to the Seychelles in March 2018. The service will operate with Boeing 787-9 aircraft, on a two weekly basis. The interesting development here is that BA will operate this flight from Heathrow, rather from primarily Leisure-based Gatwick. This is clearly to optimise connection opportunities, around Europe and Transatlantic.
Cathay Pacific – After starting the route in 2015, Cathay Pacific has now confirmed it is axing it’s Hong Kong to Dusseldorf route from March 2018.
On the contrary, it will increase its services on the Barcelona and Tel Aviv to Hong Kong connections – both of which operate with Airbus A350 equipment.
KLM – KLM will launch new service from Amsterdam to Fortaleza in Summer 2018, on a twice-weekly basis, with Airbus A330-200 aircraft. This will mark KLM’s third gateway into Brazil, and secures KLM’s position in the Latin American market.
Emirates – Emirates announced plans this month to launch a fourth-daily Dubai-Sydney service, operating with Airbus A380-800 aircraft. It will add more and convenient connections for customers, and an additional 6.846 seats per week in capacity. This, and expansion to the Brisbane service, means the UAE national carrier will serve Australia 91 times every week.
Qatar Airways – Qatar Airways stunned everyone back in May, when they announced the intention to launch Doha to Cardiff flights. This month, they opened bookings for the new route. It will be operated on a daily basis, with Boeing 787-8 equipment. Great news for Wales & Cardiff!
Garuda Indonesia – Garuda Indonesia transferred from London Gatwick to London Heathrow some time ago. Previously, due to the strength of the runway at Jakarta, they had to make a refuelling stop in Singapore. Now, it appears that has been resolved, as Garuda Indonesia will offer non-stop Jakarta to London services from October 31st. Frequency will remain the same, but with an amended schedule, as Garuda wants “to boost connections from the UK to Australia (Melbourne, Sydney and Perth), the Far East (Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul) and China (Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai)”.
Royal Air Maroc – Before March 2017, Casablanca had never been served from Manchester before, but Royal Air Maroc came bursting onto the scene, offering a wealth of connections to Africa through their Moroccan hub. Now, they are increasing flights to 4-weekly from next summer; from a standing start, this route can widely be acknowledged as a great success.
Air France – Air France will be launching new service to Seattle and Taipei, after a hiatus from both markets. It will join KLM in the Taiwanese market and joint venture partner Delta in the Seattle market. Both services will operate with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, and from Paris Charles de Gaulle.