This is my first trip report, I had not intended to write one, but then thought, why not?
Me and three friends needed a holiday, and were able to borrow a great flat in Nice on the French Riviera, and several airlines now offer cheap tickets to Nice, including Sterling Airways of Denmark, so a great holiday was in the making.
Sterling Airways has been a household name in Scandinavia for 40 years, being best known as an Inclusive Tour operator for the first 30 or so years, but with the new millennium they expanded into LCC-style operations too. Last time I flew Sterling was in 1994 onboard their B727-200Adv, which was great but cramped (28-29 inch seat pitch), so I was a bit excited about their new fleet and concept.
Monday 28 June 2004
Sterling Airways, NB 585, OSL-NCE, depart 0745, arrive 1035
Despite being rush-hour at Oslo Int'l Airport (OSL) with loads of people everywhere, check-in was a breeze as we used the self check-in machine and dropped off our bags quickly. The security check was even quicker, which I found odd as there have been reports in the media about more thorough security checks.
Boarding commenced 20 mins before scheduled T/O-time, and we boarded a bright red B737-800, reg OY-SEI, built in 1999, 189 seats. This was my first flight on a 738, and to my great pleasure we got seats in the over-wing emergency exit row with lots of leg room, cool! The interior was fresh and clean, the safety demo was shown on drop-down LCD screens and the crew had a professional appearance. Five F/As were onboard, which is remarkable in the LCC-style concept (four is the legal minimum and often used), and comprised a Danish Purser, two Swedish and two Norwegian F/As. All drinks, food and headphones were for sale only from trolley services, and fellow pax bought heaps as most had been able to get the airfare dirt cheap. The service was excellent, with charming F/As who obviously enjoyed being at work, that's how we aviation enthusiasts like it. The flight landed on time in a very hot and sunny Nice.
Monday 5 July 2004
Sterling Airways, NB 586, NCE-OSL, depart 1925, arrive 2215
After a great holiday in Nice it was time to return home. Nice airport is really boring after you pass through the security area. With Norway being a non-EU country we had to wait in the small lounge area with small duty-free shops and one bar. Therefore we were happy to board Sterling's newest airplane, a 738 with huge red winglets. The aircraft is only two months old and still had a "new plane" smell and feel, and the wings were so polished they mirrored everything. Sadly, we got standard seats with a 30 inch pitch, but that is acceptable for a 2,5 hour flight. Take-off was great, the aircraft was aching to get airborne, and we made a sharp right turn and passed over Nice, really scenic views. We had a female First Officer who gave lots of information over the P/A system and everyone thought it was really cool to have a female pilot. The cabin crew was again charming and dynamic, the Purser was the same Dane we had on the outbound flight. I spoke to him briefly when I was standing in the lavatory queue, and when I commented on the great service they offered his face really lit up. He was a little annoyed that the IFE system didn't work on the aircraft, especially since it is only two months old. He also said that Sterling chose not to install the airmap as it is very expensive. That is a shame, as it is great to be able to watch where we fly and see the vital stats. We landed on time, but then it took me 2,5 hours to get home using public transport, and I only live 35 kilometres from the airport, annoying.
All in all, a great trip from a great airline. Sterling has picked up several awards lately for its service and load factors are soaring. I was a bit curious to find out what the hype was about, and I'm glad to know that it is well deserved. The industry needs someone who cares about the customer.