FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1705 posts, RR: 41 Posted (3 years 7 months 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 7641 times:
After my quick trip up to Kittilä late last February (see trip report here: Northern Exposure: TKU-KTT-HEL (by FlyingFinn76 Feb 28 2010 in Trip Reports) ) I once again was in the position having flown all the current Finnish domestic routes with commercial air service. It didn't really last long, though, as airBaltic, nowadays being heavily focused on the Finnish market announced a bunch of new services connecting Riga with various cities in Finland. Most of these routes would be operated as one stop services via cities that already have a connection to RIX, thus they count as domestic routes in my books (and BT will happily sell you a ticket on the domestic sectors) so I had to start planning how to log these routes. The new routes were TMP-RVN, LPP-KAO and last but not least LPP-KUO. I now have bookings for all of these segments, and by early July should have flown them all.
Anyway this report concerns the first of these flights, which is the route from Lappeenranta in Southeastern Finland near the Russian border up to my hometown of Kuopio or LPP-KUO. I managed to fit the inaugural flight on 3rd of May into my schedule - actually it was easy since the flight has an evening departure from LPP and an early morning departure from KUO, meaning that it could be done during the normal workweek taking advantage of free accommodation at my parent's place .
So I booked the inaugural flight from LPP for around 30 EUR and to get back to work from KUO the next morning the 9.05 Finncomm flight was available for less than 40 EUR so it would have to do.
Originally the equipment was scheduled to be yet another Fokker 50, some time later it changed to the new Dash-8 Q400, but for whatever reason those still haven't entered BT service, despite the first one having been painted in BT livery and delivered (?) already a couple of months ago. Because of this I was very curious about the equipment, and kept checking the flight information - on the day of departure it suddenly changed to F100 with a remark "Operated by airBaltic parner airline". I assumed it would be a Carpatair plane as BT now has wetleased both F100 and F70 from V3 to cover for the Dash routes - I was moderately happy about this even though I've already flown on V3 before...
To get to Lappeenranta I board the 18.18 Intercity train at Pasila station in Helsinki - as a side note the 2 hour train journey cost more than either of my flights. I booked a seat in a working compartment - basically a small, quiet cabin with a small table and power sockets for people wanting to work during the journey - this is what I had in mind and what I also do with my laptop. The train gets in Lappeenranta almost 20 minutes late due to laying of some new tracks and other track improvement work being carried out on the stretch between Kouvola and Lappeenranta, I guess this is in anticipation of the upcoming fast train connection to St. Petersburg.
Anyway once in Lappeenranta I walk to the airport which is nearby - apart from an expensive taxi that is really the only alternative. The two and half kilometer journey takes around 25 minutes.
Some ads on the way:
The right way:
And yet more:
Ok, I get the point, please stop:
The terminal building:
Once there I head inside and try to check in with an agent - I start by asking if there are any celebrations for the inaugural flight. He answers with a smirk "What, on the inaugural flight to *Kuopio*?!" - there's a certain tone on his voice like the whole idea sounded so ridiculous... Anyway the next I ask if it is the Carpatair Fokker, he looks it up from the computer and answers "No, let's see... it says Blue Line on the computer. It is a Fokker 100.". Hmm, that certainly got my curiosity. I ask for a window seat on the left hand side for the good views during landing but computer refuses to check me in, he mutters something like "Closed - What an earth are they doing in Riga?!". I ask if the plane has left Riga - "Yes, it will land in a few minutes.". I tell him that I'll head outside for a while and try the check in again a bit later.
Outside I make a guess on which direction it will land from - later my guess proves to be right - and find a spot with decent visibility of the runway and apron. As expected, lots of Russian cars in the parking lot - the FR route to NRN is very popular with the Russians, the border being only 20 kilometers away from here.
It takes a bit more than a few minutes - ten or so, but finally I see the familiar shape of a Fokker jet approaching and landing on runway 06 around 21.25. I snap a few photos:
Once I get inside the boarding pass is waiting for me - I ask if I'm the only one boarding here but apparently there's another pax who has already gone through security, with around 40 pax in the plane coming from RIX to KUO. Interestingly my boarding pass is printed on old SAS boarding pass stock - they have never served this airport, the closest thing here was Air Botnia years before it was bought by SK and turned into today's Blue 1... Maybe they bought some old stock from SK when they migrated to the current "multiple flights in one" boarding passes...
Check in area:
I head through security, exchanging a few words with the friendly male agent there about my laptop. The departure lounge has gotten a huge makeover, there used to be a very sorry duty free store which to my knowledge was never open and not much else - now it has been replaced by a very stylish bar and seats. Still the area is very small - I imagine it can get very cramped when all 189 pax on a FR 738 are here... Too bad (or maybe not!) I missed such an experience in April, let's see when I can catch that flight...
I chat with the bartender for a while about Ryanair, the Russian passengers, airBaltic and the Lappeenranta airport, but our chat is cut short by the boarding announcement around 21.40. Well, there's no announcement actually, the gate agent just comes personally to me and the other pax (who is not Finnish) and invites us to board . I comment to the watching ground agent that it feels like a private plane when walking across the apron.
LPP-KUO BT1383 Operated by Blue Line F100 F-GNLG Seat 14A 21.59 - 22.32
In the front galley two young French stewards greet me with a smile. They are looking rather good in their grey suits and ties, definitely a bit smarter than your usual airline uniform. In the back galley there is a Latvian steward in the regular airBaltic uniform.
The plane is equipped with dark blue cloth seats. My seat 14A turns out to be the forward exit row, although the seat pitch isn't that generous even here.
Old fashioned controls:
That Fokker wing is a bit weird - it feels almost like I'm sitting backwards:
The captain welcomes us onboard with a very thick French accent in his English, announcing the flight time on "This airBaltic flight to Kuopio" as 27 minutes.
After boarding is completed (well, how long does it really take to board two pax?) it still takes a good 15 minutes before we start our engines, the ground crew members spend quite some time in the cockpit sorting out some paperwork and issues. Finally we depart, still 11 minutes early, taxi to the runway and backtrack (no taxiways here) all the way to the end of the runway before turning around for a runway 24 take off.
I'm expecting a rocketlike take off given our low load but apparently the captain wants to save the engines as our acceleration is not that fast, very quiet and our angle of ascent is quite low. After taking off we turn right towards the northwest for our short 130-mile hop to Kuopio.
The route takes us directly across the largest lake in Finland, the Saimaa and over the area of the country with a very high density of lakes - the views are very pretty even at this hour when the sun is setting.
The seat belt sign stays on during the whole flight, actually right after starting our descent while passing the city of Varkaus, at the routes halfway point the captain announces "landing in 10 minutes" and turns OFF the seat belt sign, by accident I assume. It is turned back on during our final approach when the crew is instructed to take their seats for landing.
Those tiny dots of light are Varkaus:
No service whatsoever on this leg.
Approach to Kuopio runway 33 is always nice when sitting on the left hand side of the plane as the whole city is visible on your side when descending over the Kallavesi lake, today is no exception although I'm not sure if the photos make it justice.
Those bright lights belong to the Savon Sellu pulp factory - famous for making the whole city smell bad when the wind is from the north:
Landing is 28 minutes early after less than half an hour of flight, followed by quick taxi to the apron. I spot the evening KF flight from HEL approaching after us, a good 20 minutes early as well.
During deboarding I tell the French stewards "Merci. Au revoir!" - they seem to appreciate my effort to speak French. While taxiing to the apron I spotted my dad through the arrival hall windows, but now I don't see him anymore. Inside the terminal I find him sitting on a bench, he's real surprised to see me as I told him I was flying airBaltic and he thought this was a Blue 1 plane (well, it does have "Blue" in its title ). We get in the car and are at my parent's place by 11, my original arrival time.
That guy in the window on the right hand side is my dad:
The next morning I flew back home on FC, that was another very standard flight with not much to it - apart from landing in Helsinki where it was almost zero degrees and SLEETING - come on, it's May for crying out loud! Actually when at the Kuopio airport I overheard some ground staff talking about the morning BT flight to LPP - apparently the airport had provided a cake and some other celebratory material - looks like I should've flown on the other direction!
Like they say in Forrest Gump: "Life is like airBaltic - you never know what plane you fly". Very happy about my flight being operated by this relatively rare carrier and plane - sure beats a boring F50. Too bad there weren't any celebrations at Lappeenranta, at least my hometown folks put a bit better effort judging from the ground staff talk... I have a bunch of bookings in May that are scheduled to be on the Dash, let's see what planes I will end up.
The next trip is about more new BT routes from Finland, doing VAA-RIX-HEL and TMP-RIX-TLL-TMP during one weekend, all scheduled on F50s at the moment.
akhmad From Netherlands, joined Sep 2005, 2421 posts, RR: 53 Reply 1, posted (3 years 7 months 1 week 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 7498 times:
What a catchy title of this report of yours. Your flight experience is even more attractive as you were flying with Fokker 100 instead of the regular BT bird. The short leg reminds me at my own experience on board of MS domestic. Did the attendants get the chance to start BOB serving?
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): Well, there's no announcement actually, the gate agent just comes personally to me and the other pax (who is not Finnish) and invites us to board . I comment to the watching ground agent that it feels like a private plane when walking across the apron
Sultanils From Belgium, joined Mar 2010, 1403 posts, RR: 31 Reply 3, posted (3 years 7 months 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 7333 times:
An enjoyable read for sure.
I have never been on a flight with only 2 passengers. That light load must mean a very personal inflight service
Apparently you fly a lot in the dark, how can you enjoy the view through the window?
Since my knowledge of geography is quite bad,I would not be able to pinpoint any of the featured airports on a map (lol)!
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1705 posts, RR: 41 Reply 10, posted (3 years 7 months 1 week 1 hour ago) and read 5815 times:
Hi all and thanks for the comments.
Quoting akhmad (Reply 1): Did the attendants get the chance to start BOB serving?
Nope, the seat belt sign stay on for the whole time until the start of descent so they were sit tight at the jumpseats. It's a bummer actually, I wanted to celebrate the nice bird with a beer but it didn't happen...
I know, pretty happy about this. Of course with my frequency of flying BT I'll probably end up on it many more times in the future, but the first time is always the special...!
Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 2): You aren't getting tired of all these F50 flights, are you?
Well, read the latest report for a twist, shallya? Sure, it's a bit boring, but like I said, with BT you can never be sure.
Quoting Sultanils (Reply 3): I have never been on a flight with only 2 passengers. That light load must mean a very personal inflight service
Err, there were two of us boarding at LPP. However the actual flight is operated as RIX-LPP-KUO, there were around 40 pax coming from RIX to KUO in the plane, so it was not that light. As for the inflight service, what service? There was none
The ground service at LPP was very personal, you are right on that sense.
Quoting Sultanils (Reply 3): Apparently you fly a lot in the dark, how can you enjoy the view through the window?
Hmm, good question. It does look a bit better when you are watching it, the camera often ends up with far darker photos than it really is!
Quoting Sultanils (Reply 3): Since my knowledge of geography is quite bad,I would not be able to pinpoint any of the featured airports on a map (lol)!
Hmm, you might want to try Google Maps for example.
Quoting AYA333 (Reply 7): He must be aiming for a Baltic Miles Executive card
Yep, that's the first step. I basically have it bagged already, but due to these outstations not crediting the miles correctly I need to fight with the crap BalticMiles support team for each segment. But give it a month and I should be a regular at the RIX lounge
Quoting vandenheuvel (Reply 9): Hi FlyingFinn. I think your coming close to be the number one trip report writer on this forum. You just keep them coming. I look forward to your report about RVN, I always wanted to go there.
Well, it depends on what criteria you mean. Sure, I've had quite a few reports (and trips) recently, but there are posters with far better track records than me. But still happy to write these as long as people like them (and comment back!).
ba319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8353 posts, RR: 55 Reply 11, posted (3 years 7 months 1 week 1 hour ago) and read 5767 times:
Finally caught up with this, sometime after the e-mail!
Sure is nice to get something different from the usual schedule, something which never happens to me, if it does, it's a change from a 319 to 320 or something like that!
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): Interestingly my boarding pass is printed on old SAS boarding pass stock - they have never served this airport, the closest thing here was Air Botnia years before it was bought by SK and turned into today's Blue 1... Maybe they bought some old stock from SK when they migrated to the current "multiple flights in one" boarding passes...
- Interesting about the boarding card stock, especially since SAS have never served this airport!
airbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4125 posts, RR: 51 Reply 12, posted (3 years 7 months 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 5447 times:
was looking forward to yours, and on this grey Sunday morning a good moment to read yours. You know, the aircraft is quite special. I think Blue Line got 2 F100's in service and do flights for other airlines all the time. It's quite interesting to see that aircraft operating a route so far up in Finland. The seats on that Fokker look quite nice and in good shape.
I love the pictures during your approach to KUO. Great evening lights and the reflections of the lakes below you.
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1705 posts, RR: 41 Reply 14, posted (3 years 7 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 5175 times:
Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 11): Sure is nice to get something different from the usual schedule, something which never happens to me, if it does, it's a change from a 319 to 320 or something like that!
You should've been flying during the BA cabin crew strike - they had some interesting companies operating some flights - the most ironical one probably FR doing LGW-MAN/EDI/GLA for BA.
Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 11): - Interesting about the boarding card stock, especially since SAS have never served this airport!
Yep, I was surprised as well. Although these days anything seems to go - I remember the TV screens in the elevator of one office building in Xi'an, China some years ago advertising some local travel agency - the ad had a picture of an SK 736!
Quoting airbuseric (Reply 12): It's quite interesting to see that aircraft operating a route so far up in Finland.
I found pictures of it at TMP in the database as well, I wonder if it has done work for BT previously or was that something completely different.
Quoting airbuseric (Reply 12): I love the pictures during your approach to KUO. Great evening lights and the reflections of the lakes below you.
Yep, I love the approach a lot as well. It can be very pretty if the weather cooperates.
Infodesk From Switzerland, joined May 2006, 1368 posts, RR: 35 Reply 16, posted (3 years 7 months 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 4297 times:
You're definitely spoiling us with all these TRs. When do you find time to write them all?!
That's quite a novel line to read here: rather than taking the taxi walking to the airport. There's not too many places you can do that.
Your photos have just reminded me how beautiful it is up north with the long hours of daylight in the summer. And you certainly got a flight to remember with only 2 passengers on a Blue Line aircraft, so perhaps that makes up for the lack of cake
"Do nothing in haste, look well to each step and from the beginning think what may be the end" - Edward Whymper
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1705 posts, RR: 41 Reply 17, posted (3 years 7 months 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 4038 times:
Quoting Infodesk (Reply 16): You're definitely spoiling us with all these TRs. When do you find time to write them all?!
Well, I happen to be an easily obsessed person - right now I'm obsessed not only by traveling (or rather flying) but also writing about it!
Quoting Infodesk (Reply 16): That's quite a novel line to read here: rather than taking the taxi walking to the airport. There's not too many places you can do that.
Actually you can do that just about anywhere, but the question is is it sane or not . Anyway I counted that I've walked between the airport and the respective town or city on at least three places, all in Finland: LPP, POR and MHQ.
Quoting Infodesk (Reply 16): And you certainly got a flight to remember with only 2 passengers on a Blue Line aircraft, so perhaps that makes up for the lack of cake
Nope, remember that the plane was doing RIX-LPP-KUO on one flight number - there were around 40 through pax from Riga so the load was a bit more than the two of us who boarded in Lappeenranta...