Contact Air From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 1154 posts, RR: 14 Posted (10 years 6 months 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 3524 times:
In March this year, the Slovak carrier SkyEurope Airlines launched a new daily service (Mon-Fri) from Bratislava (BTS) to my home airport Stuttgart (STR) with Embraer 120. Being a real turboprop-fan but having never been on the Emb 120, I had to try out this connection. I took the opportunityto do this trip during a short holiday I had from work.
SkyEurope offers this flight from EUR 25 one-way plus tax. But having booked not too much in advance, I paid EUR 119 for the flight STR-BTS on Monday morning and only EUR 25 for the return flight plus EUR 22,73 tax which made a total amount of EUR 166,73. I booked the trip on their internet homapage. They call themselves "Central Europe's first low cost low fare airline". Their whole internet presence is available in five languages (Slovak, German, English, Italian, and Hungarian). The German language is a bit funny in some parts, but of course, you understand everything ("Merken sie sich, bitte, diese Reservationsnummer für Ihres Register" and later there is a button with "Drücken" instead of "Drucken). I don't want to criticize this - everybody knows what they are meaning - I just found it in some way amusing.
Date: 02nd June 2003 (Monday)
Flight number: NE 501
Departure time: 09:40
Arrival time: 11:20
Type of aircraft: Embraer 120ER Brasilia
This aircraft was built in 1990 and was delivered to SkyEurope in January 2002; originally it flew in the USA for United Express (Westair Commuter) and later for BASE Airlines (Holland) in BA-colours, so it has a rather interesting history.
I arrived at the check-in desk at Stuttgart Airport about 90 minutes prior to daparture. Check-in was done by Aerogate, the local handling agent at STR. There was one counter for the flight to BTS, but as the flight at the neighbour counter to Paderborn had just been finished, the lady at that desk helped her colleague. The two young ladies were really friendly, but check-in took some time (regarding the fact that there were only four passengers in front of me) because one passenger me seemed not to be on the passenger list - so they were discussing what to do. One of the check-in agents finally decided to phone someone while the other proceeded in checking in the other passengers. I finally got my boarding pass - seat number 9A in the second last row (a window AND an aisle seat, as the configuration of the aircraft is 1-2). I went to the visitors terrace to do some spotting - later I passed security check and went to the gate. Boarding started 20 minutes prior to departure, but we had to wait about 10 minutes in the bus for three missing passengers who appeared at the gate quite late. Finally the bus left with all 26 passengers for this flight - not bad for such a new service and regarding that the aircraft has only 30 seats - so it was nearly fully booked. Hearing the passengers talk to each other, I guess it was about half-half Slovak and German passengers. The bus stopped in front of our aircraft OM-SKY and close to a newly delivered Garmania Fokker 100 on its first flight to TXL (and also one of the last ones - this route seems to be discontinued after only one or two days of service - at least I didn't see it on the timetable today and the STR-flights are no longer bookable on the Germania web-page). But this only as a side-note.
We were welcomed by the young and very friendly flight-attendant. Naturally, space for hand luggage in this small plane is very limited, the overhead compartments are rather small. The interior of the aircraft was really nice with dark blue leather seats. The Embraer 120 is quite comfortable for an aircraft of this size, but of course the cabin is narrower and not as spacy as in larger props (Dash 8 or Fokker 50). After everybody had found his/her seat and all hand luggage was stored, the flight attendant explained the use of the emergency exit to the passengers in the row in front of me (the exit row) and made the welcome announcements in an excellent German, Slovak and then in English (in that order). Safety demonstrations were only held in Slovak and English, all other announcements in the three languages.
The engines were turned on and we taxied to the runway and took off in Eastern direction. It was rather quiet inside the cabin; not noisy at all. After we had reached our flight level, the flight attendant started with the service (food and drinks are for free unlike on other low-cost airlines). For drinking, passengers had the choice between coffee, tea or mineral water. As a trolley service in this narrow fuselage would be impossible (or at least a bit difficult), the flight attendant distributed cups first, then she walked around with a pot of coffe, tea and finally with a big bottle of mineral water. Later she came through with sandwiches - ham or cheese were available. I had a cheese sandwich - very good ! The flight attendant talked to every passenger in his/her language - either Slovak or German. She seemed to remember who spoke which language after some time - very remarkable, I thought. All in all a very attentive service - one of the best I have ever had on a flight.
The captain made his announcement and told us that our flight level was about 6.400 metres. As it was very clear and we were not flying too high, there was a great view to the ground. We flew over Southern Germany; I regognized a town with a very big factory (maybe it was Ingolstadt where the Audi cars are produced as far as I know - but I'm not sure. When we came over Austria, it became more and more clouded, so I read a bit in the inflight magazine. I read an article about my home town Stuttgart and some articles about the Airline SkyEurope. Then we started our descent into BTS and landed on one of the two runways about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. We stopped in front of the terminal, left the plane and walked the short distance to the arrival hall. Our arrival was the only one at that time so the arrival hall was rather empty. I passed customs quickly and collected my luggage.
I spent some time there for spotting. There are not too many movements - mainly solvak carriers (the three Emb 120 of SkyEurope, Air Slovakia with B 737-200 and Slovak Airlines with B 737-300 and Tu 154), some Eastern European frighters (Il 76) and the fleet of the Slovak Government. The only international passenger aircraft I saw were a CSA ATR 72 from Prague and a EuroLOT ATR 42 from Warsaw. Spotting facilities are quite good: there are areas on both sides of the terminal with direct view to the apron - very nice with benches and an artificial pond. The terminal building consists of an older and a newer part. The two parts are connected. The new part is very modern. The old part has been completely refurbished; nevertheless it still has something of the charm of the 1970's - especially from outside. After all the flights had left, it was so quiet inside the terminal building that you could have heard a needle falling down. The only shop was closed, the bar closed for lunch break and the restaurant was never open as long as I was there. All in all the airport was a bit sleepy to that time of the day but I still liked it.
Date: 04th June 2003 (Wednesday)
Flight number: NE 500
Departure time: 07:30
Arrival time: 09:10
Type of aircraft: Embraer 120ER Brasilia
This aircraft was built in 1991 and was delivered to SkyEurope in March 2003 when some new routes were opened - among them Stuttgart. It used to fly for Regional Airlines / Air France before. Unfortunately, there is not yet a photo of OM-FLY in the airliners.net-database, so I brought up one of its sister ship OM-SPY and one of the "former life" of OM-FLY as F-GIYH in France:
I arrived at Bratislava Airport shortly after 6 o'clock for this early morning flights. At the end of the long row of check-in counters, there were only two of them open, both for SkyEurope: One for Kosice (the only regular domestic flight within Slovakia from BTS) and one for Stuttgart. There were no passengers at all in the whole terminal. I went to the Stuttgart-desk, checked in my luggage and received a boarding pass with sequence number 4 - again seat number 9A. I went out to have a look at the apron and saw a Slovak Airlines Tu 154 and a WDL F27 frighter taking off. Then I passed through passport and security check. There are four international gates at BTS (the domestic departures are in an other part of the airport). The gate was opened only about 15 minutes before departure. There were three ladies from Bratislava Airport-staff checking the boarding passes when entering the gate. Today there were only 12 passengers on the flight (this time mainly Slovak people) so three persons of staff seemed a bit exaggerated to me. When it was time to board the plane, one of the three gate agents closed the door of the gate behind her, opened an other door to the stairs down to the apron and just said a word on Slovak (I guess it must have been something like "follow me" but I didn't understand). No announcement was made. This time we were bussed to the aircraft because it was parked a bit away from the gate. It was OM-FLY.
The interior was also nice, but a bit different from OM-SKY. The carpet was in an other colour (if I remember rightly) and some other details were different. All signs inside the plane were still in French - which indicates that this plane flew for Air France / Regional Airlines until some months ago.
Most of the passengers of the 12 were sat in the back of the aircraft - the first two rows remained empty while the last rows were all occupied by at least one or two passengers. It was an other crew than on the flight two days before. The announcements were again held in all three languages, then we departed into the morning sky. This was going to be one of the most interesting flights I have ever had: A great view during the whole flight. After take-off we could see the city of Bratislava with the castle and the River Danube, shortly after we flew directly over Vienna Airport and the city of Vienna. Later there was a beautiful view on the Austrian Alps - the higher mountains in the background were still covered with snow. Simply great. The captain made his announcement and told us something abouth the route in details. Service was similar to the first flight - again very good and friendly. This time I had a coffee to wake up. We approached to STR from the East, but we had to fly in from the West. So we passed Stuttgart Airport in the South - I could see the airport through a window on the right. The descent from the West into STR is still my favourit landing bacause it leads over Boeblingen (my former home town) and the area South of Stuttgart which I know very well. We touched down and reached our parking position, again about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. The flight attendant made her farewell announcement with pointing out the new SkyEurope routes from BTS to London (STN) and Paris (ORY) starting this summer with a newly purchased B737-500. It was the same as on the first flight, but this time every passenger even got a leaflet about the new services when deboarding ("Sorry Vienna, Bratislava calling." - as Bratislava is very close to Vienna - about 60 km - , they want to attract also passengers for Vienna). We were bussed to the terminal. When I had passed customs and arrived at the baggage claim, my bag was already there.
Summary: All in all I had two great flights with SkyEurope. The service is extraordinary good, especially for low-cost (although I wouldn't call SkyEurope a typical low-cost airline). All members of SkyEurpe staff were extremely friendly. You can feel that they really like their job.
In contrast to this, Bratislava Airport-staff was a bit indifferent towards passengers. I mean, they were not unfriendly, nothing went wrong - most of them just didn't say one word more than necessary.
I hope SkyEurope is doing well on the STR-route so I can fly them once again in the future (maybe also to visit Vienna next time).
As I am looking at the report now, I see that it got much longer than I wanted it to be - I hope it is not written in a too boring style. As usual, comments, questions, criticism, etc. are always welcomed.
TriStar500 From Germany, joined Nov 1999, 4690 posts, RR: 45 Reply 1, posted (10 years 6 months 1 week 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 3221 times:
Thank you for a very good report about a seemingly very nice airline! Sky Service shows that low cost doesn't necessarily mean no frills. I guess you would not get such a personalized and attentive service on a major airline over a comparative stage length.
Just wondering: you found the Brasilia to be quiet? Granted, my last flights with them is few years back (SLC-GJT), but I found the aircraft to be awfully loud and extremely vibrating. Actually, my flights with the EMB-120 were my only ones ever where I almost got airsick!
And another question: Is Bratislava (town) worth a visit or did you go to Vienna?
Homer: Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!
Contact Air From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 1154 posts, RR: 14 Reply 2, posted (10 years 6 months 1 week 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 3216 times:
thanks a lot for your reply.
About the Brasilia being quiet: maybe it depends where in the aircraft you sit. I was in the back of the aircraft a bit away from the engines. It may be a lot louder if you are closer to the engines. But one reason why I found the Emb 120 quiet might also be the fact that I simply like small torboprobs so maybe I just ignored the noise ...
About Bratislava (town) / Vienna: I didn't go to Vienna (altough I had intended to go there) because there was a general strike in Austria on that day and I didn't want to get involved in this chaos (no trains or busses running, etc.). So I stayed in Bratislava.
The city of Bratislava is definately worth a visit: it has got a very nice old part of the town ("Altstadt"), everything has been renovated there in recent years (at least in the inner city; some of the suburbs still look like they looked 10 or 20 years ago). And there is an old castle on a mountain above the city. I really liked it. But Bratislava is not too big; you can see most of the major sights within one day. For a longer stay I would combine Bratislava with Vienna: for example one day in Bratislava and two days in Vienna or something like that.
Chepos From Puerto Rico, joined Dec 2000, 6097 posts, RR: 11 Reply 3, posted (10 years 6 months 1 week 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 3156 times:
Very good trip report, especially from such an exotic airline (at least to me ) like Sky Europe - not a common sight to see a trip report from this airline.
WHat was the flying time ?- Sorry for asking if you mentioned it
About the EMB-120 I also found it to be extremely noisy but not cramped considering the fact I was flying a turboprop.
Once again excellent trip report.
Jumbolino From Germany, joined Mar 2001, 490 posts, RR: 19 Reply 4, posted (10 years 6 months 1 week 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 3111 times:
I was waiting for another SkyEurope trip report for ages !
last when I was looking (to try them myself) MUC-VIE (shuttleservice by bus to VIE) all places at suitable price where sold out
but I'm sure I'll try them .... and ....
UN_B732 From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 4288 posts, RR: 4 Reply 6, posted (10 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3070 times:
I read about them in Airliners magazine. OM-SKY is their first plane, I think..Because in Airways it shows 2 guys the CEO and other guy standing there smiling with a sign that says inaugural flight.
Ndebele From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 2897 posts, RR: 24 Reply 7, posted (10 years 6 months 1 week 4 hours ago) and read 2997 times:
Thanks for this detailed report - can't wait to see the photos you have taken while passing above VIE!
Your report sounds really like a fun trip to Bratislava, and one sometimes wonders what's so low-cost about an airline like Sky Europe, I mean they seem to offer a great service and meals for free, sounds more like a high-quality regional airline to me. Btw, I had no idea there are domestic flights within Slovakia!
Contact Air From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 1154 posts, RR: 14 Reply 8, posted (10 years 6 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 2994 times:
Thanks for your comments everybody!
"one sometimes wonders what's so low-cost about an airline like Sky Europe"
You are right, Ndebele, I think SkyEurope is not a "typical" low-cost airline like for example Ryanair. Ticket prices are somewhere in the middle between Ryanair and traditional airlines like LH, BA, etc. The cheapest tickets at SkyEurope are EUR 25 one-way which makes a total amount of about EUR 70-75 for the cheapest return-tickets incl. taxes. This is of course not as cheap as the Ryanair 1-EUR-tickets. I think the prices of SkyEurope are comparable to "middle-class-airlines" like Air Berlin or maybe Easyjet or DBA who still offer a bit more service than the typical low-costs (at least Air Berlin does) and serve the main Airports.
About the food service of SkyEurope: they cater only at BTS (Bratislava) where food is very, very cheap (compared to Western Europe). So I think they are able to offer food service for free without too many extra costs for the airline.
On the other hand, the variety of available drinks is not as big as on the main airlines: you can choose between coffee, tea or mineral water. So if Manfred Krug should ever travel on SkyEurope, he wouldn't get his "red wine, from France" (referring to an old German television spot for PanAm).
Thomas_Jaeger From Switzerland, joined Apr 2002, 2335 posts, RR: 29 Reply 9, posted (10 years 6 months 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 2967 times:
From what I know, SkyEurope calculated that it would cost them more to set-up all the administrative stuff to sell food on board than it actually costs them to buy the food and drinks at BTS, so that's the main reason for giving it away for free.
Swiss aviation news junkie living all over the place