FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 31 Posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 6084 times:
Sometimes I hate to be right, sometimes I love it. This time I felt a bit warm and fuzzy inside having been right in predicting that Norwegian would indeed open some winter routes to the holiday resorts of Lapland in the winter of 2011-12, a prediction I made back on the first day of operations at the HEL base in March 2011. Just as I expected they announced a new HEL-KTT route - after all this is an insanely popular route during the winter with Finnair operating some 7-8 daily A320/321 rotations during the peak weekends (and often deploying widebodies on the route) and KF of course providing plenty of their own flights.
A little more surprising was that they also announced a couple of weekly HEL-IVL flights. Ivalo does serve a couple of ski resorts nearby, but these are more of skiing, less of partying type of places unlike Levi (which KTT serves) which sometimes appears to exist solely for après-ski instead of the real thing. Blue1 tried to serve IVL for a couple of winters, but didn’t really succeed with it and has stopped their flights. It’ll be interesting to see how DY will do on the route and whether it will return the next winter. It is not actually that far to Finnmark, the extreme northern part of Norway from IVL (at least in the local distances where driving 200 kilometers to go shopping is not considered a big deal) and Norwegians (the people) do use the airport to travel abroad (via HEL of course) so maybe Norwegian (the airline) is targeting their countrymen as well.
So yeah, me being me I of course wanted to do the inaugural flight on this route. There were no other viable flight options so I ended up booking a same plane return for 36 EUR each way and got ready to fight with the check in folks at IVL who probably will not have heard anything about Norwegian’s “Direct to Gate” concept . Oh well, it is a small airport and I can always play dumb if needed (some people claim I’m not playing, but I swear I am...).
Here’s the map - IVL just happens to be the northernmost airport in Finland and HEL-IVL is also the longest domestic route operated in the country (distancewise, durationwise HEL-ENF on Finnco.. sorry, FlyBe Nordic is longer as it is operated by turboprops):
HEL-IVL is actually a bit longer then HEL-CPH for example.
Not an insanely early departure this morning which of course is nice. So I head to the airport on the 8.15 bus, which is of course packed with commuters and school kids and thus dog slow as it stops on pretty much every stop (no, it’s definitely not a dedicated express airport service) and it takes almost half an hour to reach T2. The worst of the morning rush has passed so security is quite easy - the woman there seems to think my my usual jokes about any liquids in my hand baggage (“Nope, I drank it all last night!”) are hilarious or maybe she is just bored.
Today’s gate is 23 again - this seems to be the dedicated Norwegian inaugural gate as this is the very same gate where I arrived onboard the inaugural flight from OSL back in April 2010 during the first day of DY’s operations at HEL and where the HEL base’s inaugural flight to RVN departed back in March (with me onboard of course!). There’s a gate agent already there so I ask where’s the cake or any other celebrations. The guy is a bit weird, refuses to make any eye contact (this always makes me think the other party has something to hide) but says that he has seen none - apparently the flight’s captain himself had asked the same question!
Here’s the lady doing the honors today - these would be my first and second flights with LN-NOI:
Oh well, with no free cake or coffee around I pony up some money and buy some:
I manage to squeeze in half an hour of work on the laptop before boarding is called - and no, there are no celebrations nor even a mention about the inaugural status of this flight.
Entering the plane I ask the same thing from the Estonian purser - the guy looks at me confused until I mention that it indeed is the first flight on this route and laughs at my suggestion that there should be some free champers...
I did self service kiosk check in last night as usual and as usual grabbed a seat in row one for some good legroom:
Boarding is rather slow, but eventually the plane fills up. Load is very good, over 90% but of course all the seats in row 1 stay empty, good for me!
At least the Swedish captain seems to be on a celebratory mood - first his inquiry about the cake and now he welcomes everybody aboard this “Premiere flight to Ivalo”. The whole cabin crew is Estonian - made very evident by the way one of the girls announces our flight time to Ivalo as “An hour and half an hour” - yes it sounds just as weird in Finnish as it would in English!
Push back is on time.
Finncomm used to be the second biggest operator at HEL, so I guess FlyBE Nordic now holds this honor - at least these two landing and one departing ATR on runway 15 indicate so:
Our take off is from 22R - jets are very rarely allowed on 15 and only if the weather conditions are exceptional as it is the runway with most populated areas under the departure paths.
Bye HEL, see you in three hours or so:
The city of Lahti - I think they could’ve been a little more innovative when coming up with that name - the word “lahti” means a bay and this city of 100 000 people is located at a bay of the Vesijärvi lake (which is another very uninnovative name as it literally means “Water Lake”):
Most of Finland is today covered in clouds:
The crew announce that due to a technical problem no credit cards can be used for the BOB service, only cash is accepted. I decide to skip, I don’t really fancy anything right now - just some reading and relaxing. They also announce that “You may only consume alcoholic beverages purchased from our service trolleys.” - that is a new one for me but I don’t really blame them - I bet they attract a lot of BYO instead of BOB folks...
While passing OUL the captain makes a small announcement - our route is basically HEL-OUL-RVN-IVL, the temperature at IVL is around zero degrees and we might be a few minutes late as we are fighting some strong headwinds.
Eventually our descent begins, taking us into a thick cloud layer:
Once we break the clouds rather low, the stereotypical Lappi landscape greets us:
The red glow comes from the low lying sun in the south - note that it is just past eleven in the morning and this is pretty much the lightest time of the day:
The cabin crew is as amazed as the passengers by the views - taking photos with their mobile phones:
The Ivalojoki river:
The town of Ivalo soon comes into view - calling it a “city” would be the overstatement of the year:
The local church - quite an interesting building architecturally:
Approach into 22 takes one right over the town center:
Is this what was always called the “Horseshoe Bend” in my comic books as a kid:
Landing is on 22 - total flight time just under one and half hours.
I’m really surprised to see Ezy on the apron - bringing in a load of British charter tourists of course:
We stop in front of the terminal building where there seems to be some sort of welcoming committee for us. We are not allowed to deboard right away - instead after the doors are opened some a delegation of a few men comes up. Since I’m there on the first row I hear the leading man introducing himself as some marketing executive of “Norwegian Sweden” (which sounds a bit weird ). The other guy is apparently the token Finavia representative. They have a short chat with the crew and the cockpit folks and soon withdraw to the side and allow us to disembark.
“Avvil” is the Saami name for Ivalo - the sign for the airport when turning off the main road actually reads “girdingieddi” which is the Saami word for “airport”:
Is that Santa there - sorry for the bad quality:
I’m of course the first one to walk down the stairs - down there Santa is waiting for me. I say “Hello” but he doesn’t say anything, not even a “Ho Ho”. Sorry, couldn’t get a picture as it was very windy and I was holding to my hat with both hands!
A bit further away in front of the terminal there’s a TV crew - the camera seems to shoot right at me (again!) but I’m not sure which TV network they are actually filming for, might even be from the Norwegian TV for all I know! Anyway one Finnish man yells at me “Hey, you were the first passenger, congratulations!” - “Yes, I try hard to be. Thanks, now I will fly back with the same plane.” - He is not sure whether that is a joke or not and just smiles confusedly.
The baggage reclaim room - the whole airport is built in a nice “log cabin” style:
The check in desk is already closed which I assumed so I head through security (who of course as usual in Finland have no problems with just my booking confirmation printout - well based on Norwegian’s “Direct to Gate” concept it is enough to get you into the plane!) and am soon through - having the obligatory jokes with the nice security folks here.
Airside the theme continues:
Lappi souvenirs anyone:
Reindeer as it is meant to be enjoyed - on my plate:
Once a gate agent shows up I ask for a boarding pass - he says that he can’t print me one but he’ll check me in with the computer anyway. He is unable to change the seat assignment (true Norwegian style) but I have 5F preassigned. I ask whether row 1 is showing any free seats - he patiently repeats that he cannot change assignments and I have seat 5F. I try to be patient: “Yes, I know, but if there are any free seats there I can just hang around, board as last and then grab a seat. I don’t think there will be more passengers checking in after me.” - he finally understands that I know what I’m talking about and confirms that yes, the whole row one is empty. I ask about any celebrations and he points at the plane (where the TV crew is now on top of the airstairs) and says “There’s the celebration!”.
Not much to say about the flight home - the Estonian guys were a bit surprised to see me again settling down on the same seat (“It was far too cold here!” was my line this time) but soon got over it. The flight was half an hour late - the captain explained that the official reception ceremony took quite a bit longer than anticipated:
A couple of pics - the load on the return sector was lighter at around 60%. And there were quite a few Norwegians (the nationality... I now this joke gets old fast) onboard just as I expected.
I was very surprised to see Ezy leaving without any pax - must be the first flight of the season then:
A float plane - very handy for getting around the wilderness in the summertime:
Which runway is it again:
As it was past lunchtime I decided to try their sandwiches - the cheese & ham one was okay. Interestingly the menu listed the prices as 7 + 3 EUR for the water, but they only charged me 8 EUR:
The whole country was covered in clouds this time:
I think we have already come to expect this from Norwegian - no celebrations on inaugural flights for new routes whatsoever. So once again there were none - for the flying public at least. The TV and other media representatives seemed to be enjoying their little happening over at the plane at IVL - but nothing for us.
Otherwise a couple of standard flights with Norwegian - very good comfort thanks to having the whole bulkhead row for me and excellent fares (I think the absolute cheapest r/t one can get on Finnair for this route is now 129 EUR) and okay performance in all fronts. People here in the North sure could use some healthy competition when it comes to their travel options so I certainly hope DY will stay on this route. For the KTT route I already saw insanely high fares so I’m pretty sure they will make a killing there, despite the heavy competition from both AY and KF.
Having now seen some snow it is a good time to escape for a few days to the mild winter of the extreme south of Europe to visit the only EU member state which I haven’t yet visited and to suffer the reportedly very bad legroom of their national carrier as well. The flights are HEL-FRA-MLA-VIE-MUC-HEL. Happy contrails!
FLIEGER67 From Germany, joined Sep 2003, 5170 posts, RR: 55
Reply 3, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 5881 times:
great stuff once more.
Sure a good idea to catch the DY inaugural flight up to Lapland.
Superb pictures above the frozen scenery, well done.
Interesting to follow the whole Estonian cabin crew, nothing noticed about that around my latest flights with the company.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): o suffer the reportedly very bad legroom of their national carrier as well. The flights are HEL-FRA-MLA-VIE-MUC-HEL.
bps3458 From Australia, joined Oct 2006, 565 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 5666 times:
always enjoy reading your trip reports. Keep them coming so I have some entertainment during my lunch break. Am looking forward to my next visit to your home airport in January. Had such a good AY business class experience in May that I have again booked them on the SIN-HEL-HAM and DUS-HEL-HKG segments. Seems no luck getting on a refurbished A330 this time but am not complaining about flying the A343.
airbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4269 posts, RR: 51
Reply 8, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 5184 times:
nice report on this first DY service to IVL! Well, it's grey, snowy and cold up there...not the best combination. Have at least sunshine, then the cold is more bearable. Good decision to go back so soon, although that TV reporter was probably missing his anticipated shots or interview with you
I can only hope that the plans of DY to service AMS more in 2012 will materialize completely and I might have a few more flights on them next year again.
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
infodesk From Switzerland, joined May 2006, 1459 posts, RR: 33
Reply 9, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 4881 times:
Hyvää Iltaa P!
I love these domestic reports of yours. Although as you've logged all the routes we only get to see them when there's an inaugural on the cards. Beautiful scenery on approach into IVL, particularly that horseshoe bend, and I love the terminal, how stylish.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): after all this is an insanely popular route during the winter with Finnair operating some 7-8 daily A320/321 rotations during the peak weekends (and often deploying widebodies on the route)
Have you ever been lucky enough to catch a widebody on this route?
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): - the guy looks at me confused until I mention that it indeed is the first flight on this route and laughs at my suggestion that there should be some free champers...
Well, it was worth a try.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): I’m really surprised to see Ezy on the apron - bringing in a load of British charter tourists of course:
Didn't know EZY flew up there, interesting.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): the sign for the airport when turning off the main road actually reads “girdingieddi” which is the Saami word for “airport”:
Funny, looks like the kind of word you'd end up with if a kids bashes at the keyboard.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): down there Santa is waiting for me. I say “Hello” but he doesn’t say anything, not even a “Ho Ho”.
Sounds like a very miserable Santa, sack him!
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): “Hey, you were the first passenger, congratulations!” - “Yes, I try hard to be. Thanks, now I will fly back with the same plane.” - He is not sure whether that is a joke or not and just smiles confusedly.
I suppose he was expecting "Oh, what, I was on an inaugural flight? Really? I had no idea, I just booked it cos it was cheap".
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 31
Reply 11, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 4668 times:
Hi everybody (in Dr. Nick voice),
Good to see these comments up, thank you very much!
Quoting deltamartin (Reply 1): Nice pictures of Finlands northern landscapes. They somehow reminded me that I have a 100 EUR SK voucher, I have considered to use it to fly KF domestic. Mainly to try their 717.
If you want to see this kind of scenery you must go to KTT with them, OUL and KAO are too southern - but then again I guess you see them around Kiruna anyway. OUL is probably a good bet - many daily flights and some cheap fares available plus possibility to do DY to the other direction if needed.
Quoting deltamartin (Reply 1): Ahh, don't remind me. The sun don't even get above the horizon anymore here in Kiruna.
So it feels here in the southern part of the country as well - been sleeting all day, gray, dark and helluva depressing.
Quoting deltamartin (Reply 1): Maybe they wanted to make up to you for not accepting cards?
Very much doubt it.
Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 2): What was the sandwich like on the flight back, it looked a but naff - interesting to see you had water and not a beer with it
Well I had a number of commitments after I arrived - had to stay sharp and couldn't smell of beer! The sandwich was okay, very fresh and soft. Okay for the 5 EUR price, but the quoted 7 EUR would've been too much!
Quoting FLIEGER67 (Reply 3): Superb pictures above the frozen scenery, well done.
Sometimes the opportunity just presents itself to you like in this case.
Quoting FLIEGER67 (Reply 3): Interesting to follow the whole Estonian cabin crew, nothing noticed about that around my latest flights with the company.
No, it is a specialty of the HEL base. Anybody working for them here is actually required to sign up with an Estonian company instead which basically hires these workers then to DY in Finland. Of course they pay Estonian salaries to the people which in the case of cabin crew is anything between a third to a half of what the Finnish contracts would give them. They spend a tour of duty at HEL (I think they get some sort of housing allowance for that) and then get free ferry rides to Estonia for their time off.
The pilots have similar kind of contracts, well below what is the (union dictated) norm here.
This has raised a lot of bad blood within the company, especially among the pilots in other countries, which is of course understandable.
Quoting bps3458 (Reply 5): Had such a good AY business class experience in May
Glad to hear that. Their business class is great, at least on the European routes.
Quoting The777Man (Reply 7): Looks like a nice way to soend part of the day and the legroom in row one on DY looks great !
Yes, those bulkhead seats are great. Well worth paying the 12 EUR seat selection fee for on a longer flight, but then again nobody has a clue at HEL so you get them free with that previous night self checkin trick anyway...
Quoting airbuseric (Reply 8): Have at least sunshine, then the cold is more bearable.
You have to wait until February and March or so for the sunshine! April in the north can be an amazing month - there still is a lot of snow, but the days are much longer and there's plenty of sunshine which looks amazing when reflecting off the white snow.
Quoting infodesk (Reply 9): Although as you've logged all the routes we only get to see them when there's an inaugural on the cards.
Well, I've got another domestic flight (well two actually) coming up before the end of the year, and no inaugural in sight. Of course there's a special bird there...
Quoting infodesk (Reply 9): Have you ever been lucky enough to catch a widebody on this route?
They do quite a lot of charters during the "British Invasion" every winter. For example today IVL had U2 flights from both Manchester and Gatwick. The other UK charter outfits are also regular visitors to the Lapland airports, even tiny ENF!
PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6811 posts, RR: 77
Reply 13, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 4519 times:
Nice report, P.! Interesting to see that you didn't leave the airport this time.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): So I head to the airport on the 8.15 bus, which is of course packed with commuters and school kids and thus dog slow as it stops on pretty much every stop (no, it’s definitely not a dedicated express airport service) and it takes almost half an hour to reach T2.
Almost half a hour? I'd be HAPPY about that!
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): Interestingly the menu listed the prices as 7 + 3 EUR for the water, but they only charged me 8 EUR:
That sandwich doesn't look good at all - and the regular price is quite high.
sultanils From Belgium, joined Mar 2010, 1721 posts, RR: 30
Reply 14, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 4469 times:
You first real wintery report of this season and a nice one as well. Those landscapes look very surreal at times, even your camera had some trouble with it I see. Not enough contrast but sure a contrast to the summer time. In some days there will be no more light for a while in that region, correct?
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): nd got ready to fight with the check in folks at IVL who probably will not have heard anything about Norwegian’s “Direct to Gate” concept
gabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 3272 posts, RR: 12
Reply 15, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 4306 times:
Nice report there Petteri
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): I don’t really fancy anything right now - just some reading and relaxing. They also announce that “You may only consume alcoholic beverages purchased from our service trolleys.” - that is a new one for me but I don’t really blame them - I bet they attract a lot of BYO instead of BOB folks...
Bit early for BYO isn't it?!
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): I’m really surprised to see Ezy on the apron - bringing in a load of British charter tourists of course:
That's the flight DunaA320 was operating last week I think.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Thread starter): As it was past lunchtime I decided to try their sandwiches - the cheese & ham one was okay. Interestingly the menu listed the prices as 7 + 3 EUR for the water, but they only charged me 8 EUR:
signol From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2007, 3006 posts, RR: 8
Reply 16, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 4188 times:
you and inaugurals seem to go together rather well at the moment
Man it looks cold there! And with a wind strong enough to require both hands on your hat - I might have waited for a warmer period to try the route
The airport itself looks nice, the wood cabin look very effective. Shame that as a same-plane turnaround, you didn't get much time to sample the atmosphere of Santa's grotto
Looking forward to the Maltese report, will see how KM compare to my flights with them a couple of years ago - the legroom didn't appear to be too tight.
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 31
Reply 17, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 3991 times:
Good to see more comments, thank you!
Quoting LXM83 (Reply 12): Thanks for this nice little report. I loved the pictures from IVL, the landscape from the air and the airport pictures. I simply love those small airports.
Well, in the Finnish scale of things IVL isn't that small . For the ultimate small airport experience in Lapland one must go to Enontekiö (ENF) - they don't even have airside there! You simply walk to the tarmac through the metal detector!
Quoting LXM83 (Reply 12): Great that IVL residents now have a choice, lets hope the route can be maintained in summer.
They announced it to a be a seasonal one and I'm pretty sure it will stay that way.
Quoting LXM83 (Reply 12): Hey, I just read about OV's expansion to some finnish regional airports, it seems some nice reports will be coming our way
Yes, booked on a couple of ones already, including another inaugural..
Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 13): Nice report, P.! Interesting to see that you didn't leave the airport this time.
Well, as I mentioned in the introduction the only viable option for getting back was the same plane so no time to leave it. Besides I've been up there before.
That's still a good 10-15 minutes slower than normally!
Quoting sultanils (Reply 14): You first real wintery report of this season and a nice one as well. Those landscapes look very surreal at times, even your camera had some trouble with it I see. Not enough contrast but sure a contrast to the summer time. In some days there will be no more light for a while in that region, correct?
Yes, the scenery is really interesting and rather challenging for the camera's automatic logic. They are already in the middle of the dark season, but the thing is that there's still some light (as you can see from the pictures) around noon, but it is all glowing from the south, over the horizon.
Quoting sultanils (Reply 14): Aren’t they used to such views as well? Or does Estonia has a more ‘moderate’ climate in winter?
Nope, Estonia has basically no mountains at all (the highest point is 318 meters) and since it lies to the south of Finland the climate is a bit more moderate. None of these rugged, northern landscapes there. Snow, sure, but nothing like this.
Quoting sultanils (Reply 14): Oh, now I see. So according to DY, you don’t need a proper bp to get through to the gate. Something to do with them offering connecting flights?
Well they advertise that on their Nordic flights there's no need to check in when traveling with hand luggage only. Simply show up at the gate in time for the flight with your booking confirmation (either printed or the one in your mobile) and they will assign you a seat right there on the spot.
AY domestics have a similar concept, although nowadays it is more complicated as you have assigned seating - in the days of free seating you simply walked to the gate, swiped your FF or Credit card and boarded.
Really? That is interesting, I didn't know he did it.
Quoting signol (Reply 16): you and inaugurals seem to go together rather well at the moment
Yeah, getting a bit jaded at it .
Quoting signol (Reply 16): Man it looks cold there! And with a wind strong enough to require both hands on your hat - I might have waited for a warmer period to try the route
Actually I had one hand on my hat and another on the strap of my back bag. But yes, quite gusty it is. But it was warm, above zero and the locals said that the snow is expected to melt within the next few days.
Quoting signol (Reply 16): Shame that as a same-plane turnaround, you didn't get much time to sample the atmosphere of Santa's grotto
I've been there before, not at the Santa grotto though, his minions probably wouldn't let me in!