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Inaugural Flight: Helvetic Airways CWL-ZRH  
User currently offlineOlafW From Germany, joined Jul 2009, 103 posts, RR: 0
Posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 10303 times:

Tripreport Helvetic

As mentioned in myl ast tripreport, I was stuck far from an airport for quite a while. But after almost 6 months in the UK it was finally time to go back to Switzerland. I was already dreading to take another flight from Cardiff via Amsterdam, but luck had it that exactly at this week there was something new: a direct flight from Cardiff to Zurich.

My travel date was the 31st of March, so it seemed like I would miss the inaugural flight by one day. Well, you can't have everything...

Some info on the flight operations:
Helvetic Airways is a Swiss airline with 6 Fokker 100s, two of which were only acquired last year (HB-JVH and -JVI, the other ones being JVC, JVE, JVF, and JVG). 3 of these are operated for Swiss on routes like Birmingham, Budapest etc., the others on their own behalf, but with Swiss codeshare on some routes. I had flown them to Birmingham quite many times, so I knew that the aircraft would be ok, service would be something new. Let's see how they perform on their own flights.
Flights to Cardiff started on March 30th with a 4x weekly schedule, with an early morning flight on Mondays and flights around lunchtime on Wed, Thu and Fri.

Some statistics:
13th flight on Helvetic Airways
1st flight on their own behalt
18th flight on a Fokker 100
1st flight on HB-JVI
180th flight altogether
11th flight in 2011

Flight: 2L 443
Aircraft: Fokker 100, HB-JVI
Takeoff: 1503 lcl
Landing: 1724 lcl
Seat: 14A

The flight was booked via our travel agent, so no experience on this. But it seemed like a fairly standard booking machine, so I wouldn't expect any trouble when booking myself. Some days before departure it became obvious that I would exceed the baggage limit of 20 kg, which was included in the ticket. So I called the airline to book another 10 kg extra for 30€ - not the cheapest, but way better than to pay at the airport, which would mean 10€ per extra kg. I was also worried about excess hand luggage, because I had two computers with me, plus my camera bag and a guitar bag. The latter one dropped out eventually as one of my colleagues could take it in his car for me.

The day of the flight I was picked up at my apartment by a taxi, also organized by the company, for the two hour drive to Cardiff airport. Without any problems we arrived with about 1.5 hours to departure. The plane was already sitting on the ground, which surprised me. Normally it should only arrive about 45 minutes prior to departure. Something was strange here. And then it dawned on me, that when I checked my flight time the day before, the flight to ZRh on 30th and the flight to CWL on 31st were shown as fully booked. I couldn't imagine that except for some special reason. After all, this is an unusual city pair and some are still wondering who is to be attracted by these flights. Okay, I know a company that has use for these flights, but they do not send enough people to fill a 100-seater 4 times a week in both directions...

No photos from the outside as I had an encounter with police once at this same place and I wanted to avoid another entry on my report. But some ads for the new route inside the terminal:



I proceeded to the counter which was, as I expected, empty. I talked to the gate agent and he informed me that there would be 63 people on the flight. Not a bad load, I thought. When asked about the flight from the day before, he told me it was cancelled. A bad sign? We will see later.

I checked in my bags with one computer in one of them, so the hand luggage problem was solved: Laptop + 1 additional bag was ok. Unfortunately I exceeded my extra allowance as well, so I was given a paper to show at the ticket counter to pay for more luggage. And here's where it started to go not so smoothly. Given that it was effectively the first day of operations from Cardiff for Helvetic, I was apparently the first one with excess luggage to pay. It took a while, but Ceri and Michelle were really friendly and helpful all the way through and apologized many times. Good that I had allowed for some extra time. After about thirty minutes and with the third credit card (AmEx? Doesn't work. Visa? Not as a debit card... Mastercard? Yes, that works!) I had paid for everything and could return to the counter. A longer cue had formed here, judging from the talks and some glimpses on the passports, almost all of them German or Swiss. My bags were finally completely checked and I got my boarding passs for a seat just at the wing.

Knowing Cardiff Airport, I proceeded to the security check directly. And it was exactly as expected: Only one line open, moving terribly slow. I don't know what it is at this airport, but security never seems to be a quick affair. Of course my camera got the drug sweep, but no problems, also as usual.

Once airside, I tried to figure out which gate we would have. It's a little game I like to play: as UK airports don't announce the gate until 20-30 minutes before departure, I always awander around to see which one it is. A quick affair this time, HB-JVI was already parked at Gate 3, easily visible from the restaurant windows:



After I took this picture, i was asked "Are you a member of the Helvetic group?"-"No, just flying with them."-"Ok, sorry." Ok, something was going on here...

So now I knew which gate to go to - just no can do, because the doors to the gates are locked until the gates are announced and also passport check is at these doors. I started to feel hungry, and I took out the food which I brought with me. The Helvetic operations were announced to be Buy on Board, so I prepared something myself. Still holding a grudge against the airport restaurant from former times - standing at the bar for 10 minutes without anyone serving me is not what I call good service - I didn't feel like spending money there. While eating, some of the "Helvetic group" tried to enter the gate area, apparently unfamiliar with the procedures. I talked shortly to them and a few minutes later the gate area was opened and I went through as one of the first.

Finally a view from the sunny side (well, it was cloudy anyway) on the plane. Some minutes later, some people were asked to come to the gate. They joined some airport staff members and apparently one other Helvetic member or someone from the airport wearing a jacket with "Marketing & Communications" on the back. The plane crew deboarded and everyone gathered at the bottom of the stairs for a short ribbon-cutting ceremony. The ribbon stated 30th March, although it was really the 31st:

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5228/5688621184_26fd99413d_b.jpg



Maybe this wasn't going exactly as planned. Anyway, once the ribbon was cut, boarding started. Many people were taking pictures, but it still went quick and smooth. The staff at the gate was friendly and the same can be said for the flight attendants who greeted us at the stairs. There was a special feeling with this for sure.
While boarding:


I made my way to row 14, which was the first Economy row. I stowed my handluggage and then began taking some pictures. As you can see, the seat pitch is quite generous (34") and the same for all rows. The difference between Business Class, called Viva!, and Eco is the headrest. Red for Viva!, grey for all others.



Soon after we were ready to depart. A short wait until the Flybe Dash8-Q400 next to us was pushed back and then it was our turn. A short taxi to Runway 30 and soon enough we were airborne. Flapless takeoff, as usual with the Fokker and a quite short takeoff roll due to the light load: 6 Eco and 57 Business. Maybe this was only the official load, on my pictures I couldn't count as many...



This definitely was a delegation from the airline. Apparently they had used the first to flights for a short getaway to Cardiff. The flight attendants distributed water for everyone, shortly after menus and hot towels. I was surprised to get a menu - the Buy on Board menu was in the Magazine.



Safety card and Waste bag:


Well, it turned out that to celebrate the inaugural flight, everyone would get the full business experience. Nice detail with the menu: it is slotted on the folding side, so that the food menu can be changed easily. The drinks seem to stay the same for longer.



So we had the following menu:

- Mini bell peppers stuffed with cabbage
- Small pepper pastry with lingonberry sauce
- Bresaola (dried beef)

- Zugerberg Cheese
- Engelberg Tomatolino
- Pear-quince-chutney

With that came some bread rolls.

The drinks choice included two white and two red wines (one of each was from Switzerland) and Champagne. I opted for Champagne and the Swiss red (No. 1 Cuvée E Obrist Chardonne), as I don't get this treat that often. Altogether it looked like this:



I'm not sure if it was intended, but the whole menu showed a subtle mix of reddish and white - the Swiss colours. To finish the meal, coffee and tea were offered in real china cups.



The food was immaculate as were the drinks. The attendants came around frequently for more drinks or bread rolls. Perfect service from my point of view.

Much too soon the flight was over, we broke through the clouds an landed in a overcast and slightly drizzly Zurich. No picture of this, it would destroy the nice impression  

Upon deboarding, I waited a bit to be the last one and snatched a picture of the cabin. A thanks to the crew and out to the waiting bus.



The baggage was delivered quickly and soon I was out to get me taxi - with over 50 kg of baggage I just didn't feel like taking the train...

And that was it, my second inaugural flight. The Helvetic service did not leave anything to be desired. Certainly the food choices will be more limited in normal operations, but the crew does a good job here. Considering the prices, I could imagine that the Viva! class will draw some attention to it. After all, it is just a bit more that double the price of the economy ticket. Not too bad of a premium to get the extras.

Just one week after, I was on my next trip to Vienna on a new airline. Watch out for it and thanks for reading!

16 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineIwantaBBJ From Switzerland, joined Jun 2002, 776 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 9573 times:
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Thanks for the report... Glad that you had a good experience

All the best

Mike Steffen


User currently offlineSultanils From Belgium, joined Mar 2010, 1718 posts, RR: 30
Reply 2, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 9181 times:
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Hello OlafW,

Nice little story on this Helvetic inaugural, thanks!

Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
18th flight on a Fokker 100

18th? That's quite an achievement given it is not so easy to get on a F100 nowadays.

Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
HB-JVI was already parked at Gate 3, easily visible from the restaurant windows

The aircraft looks nice, do they have a new colour scheme?

Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
to celebrate the inaugural flight, everyone would get the full business experience

That's a real added bonus   



Bye,
(Sulta)Nils



In thrust we trust.
User currently offlineinfodesk From Switzerland, joined May 2006, 1459 posts, RR: 33
Reply 3, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 8918 times:

Hi OlafW,

Thanks for this nice report. you got lucky, getting an unexpected inaugural and it seems Helvetic really spoiled you.

Did you find you the reason for the cancellation? I'm guessing technical? Tonights arrival from CWL is also delayed, technical.....Still, those F100 are nice planes, the legroom is excellent and the seats comfy. It will be interesting to see if this route proves to be a success.

Happy flying
Infodesk



"Do nothing in haste, look well to each step and from the beginning think what may be the end" - Edward Whymper
User currently offlinemainMAN From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2005, 2097 posts, RR: 5
Reply 4, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 8837 times:

Great TR, thank you!

I hope this route works for Helvetic and CWL, 63 people on an inaugural flight seems good. I'm assuming this isn't a codeshare with LX, which would undoubtedly help in the long term.


User currently offlineOlafW From Germany, joined Jul 2009, 103 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 8743 times:

Thanks for your comments!

@Nils:
well, to be precise, that was my 17th flight on an F100. Since then one more flight with Contact Air was added to my list.
Actually, it's not all that hard to get the Fokker 100, when you fly from Zurich often. There are the Helvetic planes, on which I had some flights to Birmingham and back, once or twice even when they were still wearing that pink colour scheme. In addition, Contact Air also flies their Fokkers for Swiss to Warsaw and Prague. And every now and then also Montenegro Airlines brings them here.
Indeed they changed their colour scheme, I think it was in 2009. The bright pink was really an eyecatcher.

@infodesk:
I didn't hear any thing about a specific reason. Given that all of the Helvetic people had some luggage with them, I think it was planned somehow to let these two flights go. They even weren't bookable some weeks before.
I'm also curious how the loads will develop.

@mainMAN:
right, LX doesn't codeshare here. I could imagine that it would help fill the planes and provide an alternative to connect in AMS or CDG.


User currently offlineNQYGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 8732 times:

Nice one, interesting report and route. Why Cardiff though?!

User currently offlineFlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 30
Reply 7, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 8159 times:

Hi Olaf,

Great to see a Helvetic report, there haven't been too many of those here. This route is definitely quite oddball, but here's hoping that they manage to make it work. Maybe all the reserved Swiss folks want to come to experience the legendary Cardiff nightlife!

Glad that they went the extra mile with the (unexpected) inaugural flight - that's the way it should be!

Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
The flight was booked via our travel agent, so no experience on this.

Do you happen to know the fare? I've been looking at various flights with Helvetic (one that I'd especially like to fly is ZRH-RLG), but fares have always been a bit on the expensive side so haven't done it yet.

Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
The ribbon stated 30th March, although it was really the 31st:

It's very confusing how they put "Zurich - Zürich" in the ribbon, it makes it look like they were flying ZRH-ZRH!

Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
to the light load: 6 Eco and 57 Business.

Are you sure about this? Sounds like a top heavy flight to me and every airline yield manager's wet dream!  
Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
Well, it turned out that to celebrate the inaugural flight, everyone would get the full business experience.

So they loaded an additional six meals for the eco passengers?  

Anyway, joking aside a very nice gesture from the airline! Too bad I've been on many low cost inaugural flights (latest one was yesterday and have another one later today as well) where there was absolutely no celebration onboard, no free BOB, nothing.

Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
Altogether it looked like this:

That looks good!

Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
Upon deboarding, I waited a bit to be the last one and snatched a picture of the cabin

A very nice looking cabin and looks to be in quite immaculate condition as well.

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 2):
18th? That's quite an achievement given it is not so easy to get on a F100 nowadays.

Hey, I've got 14, with another one booked in August! There are quite a few Fokkers still around in Europe - Contact Air, Helvetic and Tyrolean are heavy users.


User currently offlineOA260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 26995 posts, RR: 57
Reply 8, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 8145 times:

Great report and I remember seeing this route advertised in a promotion stand in ZRH.

Love the interior and meal . Always wanted to try them out. Your report has only added to that desire.


Many thanks for sharing .

OA260  


User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6808 posts, RR: 77
Reply 9, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 8061 times:

Hi Olaf,

nice report with good pictures! Reports about Helvetic are quite rare.

Quoting OlafW (Thread starter):
So we had the following menu:

- Mini bell peppers stuffed with cabbage
- Small pepper pastry with lingonberry sauce
- Bresaola (dried beef)

- Zugerberg Cheese
- Engelberg Tomatolino
- Pear-quince-chutney

With that came some bread rolls.

The drinks choice included two white and two red wines (one of each was from Switzerland) and Champagne. I opted for Champagne and the Swiss red (No. 1 Cuvée E Obrist Chardonne), as I don't get this treat that often. Altogether it looked like this:

That meal looks great!


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineOlafW From Germany, joined Jul 2009, 103 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 7947 times:

Thanks all for the comments

@NQYGuy:
Simple thing: it is the closest airport to the place where I worked. At least there are no scheduled flights from Haverfordwest or Swansea and business jets are not available for us...

@FF76:

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 7):
Do you happen to know the fare? I've been looking at various flights with Helvetic (one that I'd especially like to fly is ZRH-RLG),

I missed the chance to look the fare up today at work. But I remember seeing the lowest fares as around 170-200€ when I was checking the flight times. Viva! was around 400€ if i remember correctly.
ZRH-RLG or vv is also on my list. Maybe I can once substitute HAM for RLG on one of my trips. Oneway are around 200, sometimes 150. Not exactly cheap, but it's one of the few chances to get RLG logged.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 7):
...every airline yield manager's wet dream!

Not exactly. Since they were company personnel, I could imagine special prices for them or even non-revving. About the numbers: At check-in I was told 63 and I counted 6 Eco seats taken (+3 who took a row to discuss something after takeoff, but they were in the front rows before). However, on my cabin shot I only counted about 40 heads, so maybe there were more planned.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 7):
Too bad I've been on many low cost inaugural flights (latest one was yesterday and have another one later today as well)

You sure do many of them lately. And people tell me I would fly a lot... 
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 7):
A very nice looking cabin and looks to be in quite immaculate condition as well.

Indeed immaculate. Although I knew that the plane cannot be new, I was surprised that it's already 20 years old. Hopefully the others will be updated as well, one of them had a "self-reclining" seat last time I flew on it.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 7):
There are quite a few Fokkers still around in Europe - Contact Air, Helvetic and Tyrolean are heavy users.

How could I forget Tyrolean? Just had a flight on them to your homebase in March in a F100.

@OA260:

Quoting OA260 (Reply 8):
Always wanted to try them out.

They are starting service to Inverness later this month, maybe that's a chance for an interesting roundtrip Ireland-Scotland-Switzerland-Ireland?

@PH:
Thanks, I'll try my best to cover some not so usual flights.


User currently offlineAlwaysOnAPlane From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2010, 305 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 7716 times:

Hi OlafW.

Great report on an Airline less covered and on a quite rare type.

I think this livery really looks good on the F100. Much prefer this to the bright pink....

Looks like you had a really good flight here with some nice little extras.

Actually, my first flight that I took just for the sheer love of flying was on one of Helvetic,s F100s around 4 Years ago operating for LX on the MAN-ZRH leg. Nice to bring back some memories.

Cheers, Lee.


User currently offlinereifel From Germany, joined Feb 2005, 1360 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (3 years 4 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 7701 times:

Definitely a nice suprise - even for an inaugural flight - to treat all the passengers with business class experience.

Thanks for sharing!


User currently offlineLXM83 From Switzerland, joined May 2005, 610 posts, RR: 5
Reply 13, posted (3 years 4 months 1 week 2 hours ago) and read 6954 times:

Nice report on an interesting routing - thank you!.

Would love to fly this route, but the fares just seem way to high.


User currently offlineNQYGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (3 years 4 months 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 6827 times:

Quoting OlafW (Reply 10):
Simple thing: it is the closest airport to the place where I worked. At least there are no scheduled flights from Haverfordwest or Swansea and business jets are not available for us...

Apologies.. It was more a question of why Helvetic choose CWL rather than why you did!

You're working in an interesting part of the world anyway- my grandparents live in Pembrokeshire.


User currently offlineFLIEGER67 From Germany, joined Sep 2003, 5169 posts, RR: 55
Reply 15, posted (3 years 4 months 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 6824 times:

Hey, Olaf,

good to see Helvetic and the Cardiff operation, nice pictures by the way.

The airport is also on my schedule for summer, but Helvetic was to expensive, KL for me, payed by some miles.

Greetings,
Markus(FLIEGER67)



Next: Capital travel on schedule!.
User currently offlineOlafW From Germany, joined Jul 2009, 103 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (3 years 4 months 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 6693 times:

Quoting NQYGuy (Reply 14):
It was more a question of why Helvetic choose CWL rather than why you did!

Ok, got that one wrong. To be honest, I don't know why they chose Cardiff. Maybe they felt that the southwest of the UK was underrepresented with flights to Switzerland. But then again, Bristol would have been more logical for me if you want to cover Cornwall as well. Maybe there is some bank business going on between Wales and Zurich? At least, as mentioned before, this route must be aimed at business travellers, given the flight times. They are certainly not incentive for leisure...


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