ALL airlines I used are claiming to be LoCo-carriers, but as I found out, there is a HUGE difference between them!
HAM-LGW, A319, 16th of Feb. 2006
the better way to fly Lufthansa
Early wake-up to get ready to fly from HAM to LGW. 4U is doing quite well on the route, taking most of FR passengers away from LBC-airport going to STN.
Photo © Jan Szidat
As 4U is using the "old" terminal, exclusive to StarAlliance Members, LGW and Nordic Leisure, it was not surprising to see an empty terminal in the morning- quick and nice check-in.
On time we were going forward to board our a/c to LGW.
Photo © R.Hesse
Photo © Werner Horvath
During boarding we received some magazines for reading. the cabin is quite looking like Lufthansa- dark grey carpets and nice leather seats. one word: spotless condtions!! and to make it even better, very well (by LH-academy)trained Flight-Attendants.
The service is typical LoCo-style. after take-off you can buy sandwiches & drinks on board. followed by a healthy morning "1$-service-round". this means, you can chosse from bananas, apples etc.! straight after it, we were offered the on-board sales... Pretty uneventful, great flight. In my opinion the better way to fly than LH. you will get magazines for free, nice spotless cabin, well trained crew and all that for a LoCo-price! 4U tix are starting from ca. 19$, LH is charging you at least 99$ PLUS tix surcharge! So there is enough money left to buy a coffee on board!
HAM airport staff: 10/10
HAM Airport: 7/10 (4U is using the "old" terminal- not very customer friendly!)
cabin crew: 9/10
IFE: 5/10 (for free magazines to read on the flight!)
Next stop was LGW south terminal. One word: HORRIBLE! when I arrived I was shocked. This is the entry card for guests visiting GB! Come on! it smelled terrible, very difficut to find your way out as some minor renovation was done...
LGW-BFS, A319, 16th of Feb. 2006
getting closer to Ryanair-standards
After arrival I went straight to EZY check-in. It was the pure horror, as opposite the counter Virgins check-in were running... as the space is very limited, the area was totally overcrowded. check-in-lines were not longer visible and the groundcrew of EZY was not very motivated. well, after I received my boarding pass I went to the security. I was totally dissapointed to see it. as Virgins was filling their B747 it was totally overcrowded too. not enough counters were opened to cope passengers demand. Than I was rather surprised to see the renovated waiting loung. but it is far too small for handling all the passengers. No space too move... But luckilly I found a place to seat down and soon my flight was announced. after endless and dirty tunnels, doors and stairs I found my Northern Ireland gate 9. The gate was very filthy and the ground crew seemed not be very bussy with themselfs, chatting in front of the passengers. no focus at all on the paying pax!
Time to go on one of EZY's A319...
Photo © Helmut Bierbaum
Photo © Sergio Domingos
As I heard only good storys about this carrier, my expactions were high. maybe too high.
The crew welcomed me on board. chewing some gum and drinking coffee-all during boarding. this was not the expected welcome I was hopeing for. Than routine, closing door and safety briefing, again very unmotivated with chewing gum. the cabin was not in this perfect-factory-like-style as 4U's one, but quite ok. the leg-room was terrible, and strangley I felt me a little more squeezed in.
The rest standard procedure- food and drinks to buy, followed by the on-board-sales. during landing easyjet is using an orange waste back to collect the rubbish. not so stylish like 4U as they use a trolley.
After 80mins. landing in Belfast International, another airport you mustn't have seen. What was very strange to see, after we arrived at the stand and as soon as the doors were opened, the crew started during de-boaring to eat their lunch... Not very professional!
LGW airport staff: 03/10
LGW Airport: 1/10
cabin crew: 2/10
BFS Airport: 5/10
and off we go to Belfast City. Luckilly I found a cheap hotel without any comfort, but it was ok. Travelodge was offering rooms from 59GBP, but on the sales-out, I found a family-suite for 26GBP. so sightseeing in Belfast...
BHD-MAN, DASH8Q-400, 17th of february 2006
Flying in style
Next morning early departure from Belfast. The airport is a real jewel, little Dubai compared to London-Gatwick South Terminal. Very well conntected to the city, so the transport couldn't be easier. First an impressive impression of a small but very clean and modern airport. I was welcomed by an BE-agent. He was checking the passengers lists and the luggage items. As you might not know, BE is offering a new way of check-in. You have to book your luggage in online, or you have to pay extra money at the counter! So we were seperated in 3groups. First and major group was the hand-luggage only and pre-announced luggage holder, second group were BE Biz-Class customers and third group were passengers without pre-booked luggage! Unfortunately, only 3counters were opened, so one for each group. In the morning rush-hours at BE North-Ireland hub, this caused much congestion. After receiving my boarding card, it was time to have a coffe at the airport restaurant with aperfect view on the runway. Btw. The coffee was really cheap for an airport and the view was fantastic. It was impressive to see a bmi A321 rotating from this short runway!!! after waiting in the lounge, it was time to board our a/c. This is a major problem, as the doors and gates are not clearly instructed on the screens.
Photo © Adrian Falconer
Photo © Andrew Marks
Well, there she was waiting for me, my DASH-8Q400. Very strange to see, as the seat-pitch is overall the same, and also economy-passengers can pre-book the first row, the Biz-class passengers were sepearted and spread over the a/c. The only difference, these customer have received a voucher for a free snack on board! We were welcomed by some funky music from the new flybe-music-channel. Unfortunately, as earlier announced, the music was soon to be switched off for the rest of the flight! Let me say, this a/c is very nice, but a pain in the a**! Why, first problem: also seating up to 70passengers only one lavatory is available behind the cockpit! It is very complicated to use it, if you are seated in the last row and the service is on the way- bypassing the crew at all the times. Second problem is load and balance. As this was today a half-full load, we were all squezzed in the middle section, under the wing - instructed by the crew not to move for weight-and balance reasons..
The rest pure standard, but great to see a very high standard of the cabin crew, very professional! After 3minutes the trolleys were set up, strating straight on. Followed by board-sales and waste in a real trolley! Very attentive service- great skills! On down to Manchester!
BHD airport staff: 06/10
BHD Airport: 9/10
cabin crew: 9/10
IFE: 5/10 (for the boarding-music!)
MAN-LGW, B737-300, 17th of february 2006
Another no-frill, LoCo-operator without profile
Arrived in MAN, another pure horror airport. It's new terminal 2 is very attractive, but unfortuantely I had the pleasure to head of to terminal 1. The check-in counters are on different levels, very dark, very unfriendly. Jet2.com has its own check-in-lounge in bright red, but still very hard to find... Check-In was very complicated, as Jet2 has its own special hand-luggage regulations. Even a standard-international-approved-cabin-crew-bag is too big for the cabin- why? I don't know! So its much better to keep some plastic-bags ready to get important things with you... So, fight your way through a highly congested security check and and you will come to a highly overcrowded waiting lounge. Well, the best thing is the STARBUCKS with 10broken arm chairs, sticky tables and lot of trash. And on top, very small windows close to the ceiling! So impossible to catch a glimpse on the tarmac! Well, at least the coffee was expensive but delicious! After some waiting it was time to head to the gate, get on the bus and on we go to our G-CELG. It was great to spot the nice and silvery colours in the sun!
Photo © Aaron Lupton - WorldAirlineImages
But coming on board, I was shocked to see the interior!
Photo © Martijn de Boer
Photo © Jeroen Eekhof
Compare the pictures! The a/c was fitted out before with nice IFE-monitors, but they had been removed and re-placed by some lids... the cabin walls were nice yellowish or brownish, different bulbs in the lightning gave the cabin a nice hospital-charme (some lights were yellow, others were shining white). On top, oxygen-masks for infants were not available in every row, giving an alert sign were to sit with an infant. Funny though, the emergency rows were equipped with O2-masks! Tray-tables broken, poor seat-pitch. But it was possible to up-great for extra money to an emergency exit! Only highlight was the well groomed and top styled cabin crew in a real nice uniform! Splendid! Off we go! Demonstration and rotate! The crew seemed to be in the beginning very professional. But this changed soon... Nobody seemed to be responsible for the service, nothing was running smooth... So the service started very, very late- too late. So after we left the cruising altitude and began our approach to LGW, the crew was still selling from the snack-bar. No time left for a board-shop. Close to gear-down, the crew was running through the aisles and collected with a nice plastic-hand-bag the rubbish. HARD landing in LGW, fist we touched down with the right gear, skidding the runway along and bouncing after some seconds on the left gear! Full breaks! Let me say something, why I choose the sentence „without profile“. I think Jet2 could be a leader on LoCo-charter-flights, offering great holiday-destinations with a nice and smart crew. But why should I choose Jet2? Well, the price! And thats it! They are not „different enough“- like germanwings is offering a Luhfthansa-high-quality-standard-service, like Stelios-orange-is-different-philosophie or flybe.com Biz-Pax-focus... Thats very sad!
MAN airport staff: 06/10
MAN Airport: 4/10 (for Terminal 1)
aircraft: 6/10 (had seen better days!)
cabin crew: 6/10 (too slow, but well groomed)
IFE: 1/10 (for the board-magazine)
And here I am back in LGW. I decided to spend the night in the IBIS hotel, the BEST value-for-money choice in my opinion! But a little bit deserted- but at least a free shuttle to and from the airport 24/7! Best part, IBIS is offering the best french-look-a-like continental-breakfast I haver had in GB! Well done!
LGW-HAM, A319, 18th of february 2006
After a delicious and very, very cheap breakfast it was time to go. LGW-airport was still sleeping in the morning hours and it was not a problem to check-in. Check-In was done by „AVIANCE“ and nobody seemed to care about you...well, at least security was fast. Also in the morning hours, the far too small waiting lounge was over-crowded, so I was happy to leave hell's-hole as the aircarft arrived on time... Boarding was quick, just by opening the gate-door, no announcement (was done later, after the passengers start to board the aircraft). This time no magazines, and the service as above... Long delay due to fog and heavy traffic! Only negative points this time for never ending announcements from the flight-deck and cabin-crew, so impossible to sleep. And a lack of safety, pregnant passenger at the emergency exit and no prior-to-landing-cabin-check...
LGW airport staff: 01/10
MAN Airport: 1/10 (for Terminal 1)
aircraft: 10/10 (had seen better days!)
cabin crew: 7/10 (too slow, but well groomed)
IFE: 1/10 (for the board-magazine)