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.
Photo © Dietmar Schreiber
Photo © Peter Marianic
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.
About Bratislava Airport:
Photo © Ano Nym
Photo © Yak Freak
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:
Photo © Florian Kondziela
Photo © Marlo Plate - IBERIAN SPOTTERS
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.