Last week it was time for yet another trip on Bern's home carrier airline Skywork. I'd booked this flight some weeks in advance for a total price of CHF 160 (EUR 120). After experiencing the LCY approach as a child in 2002 I couldn't wait to fly into this stunning airport again. Unfortunately as you will see in the pictures the weather wasn't too kind to me.
In order to get to Bern aiport on time for the 07:10 AM departure to LCY I had to take a train from my home at about 5:30. About an hour later I arrived in some very thick fog at Belp railway station where one has to connect to a commuter bus that runs the service to the airport.
Belp rail station covered in fog at 6:30 in the morning
Waiting at the bus stop
At this time I began to worry wheter my flight to LCY would even be able to take of as scheduled. I'd seen flights cancelled in similar weather conditions.
After a 10 minute bus ride I arrived at Bern airport at around 6:40. I headed straigth to the passport check and security screening in the Non-Schengen part of the small terminal since I'd done the check-in online on the day before. At 6:45 I was already sitting at the gate waiting for boarding to be called. There are not many airports that can offer such short pre-boarding procedures.
To my liking I'd found the exit row seat 9A still open so I didn't hesitate and reserved this one for myself.
As you can also see on the picture the fog still had not gone away.
Bern Belp airport terminal after arrival by bus
Flight: Skywork SX500
From: Bern Belp Airport BRN
To: London City Airport LCY
Aircraft: Dornier 328-110 HB-AEV
Load: 29/31, 93.5% load factor
Photo © Michael Frische
About ten minutes prior to departure time boarding was called for Skywork flight 500. The flight would be operated by a Dornier 328 this morning, rather unusual as the LCY route mostly sees one of the Dash 8s on duty. This morning service was almost full, I counted 29 passengers in the waiting area of the Gate 4 in BRN.
Passengers were then guided to the waiting aircraft on the ramp, as you can notice the fog was still very thick.
View of the ramp at the small airport. The Fokker 100 is being prepared for a flight to Heraklion. Behind it is a Skywork Q400 ready to operate the morning flight to CGN. Further back one can see a Gulfstream G5 that flew in the band Red Hot Chilli Peppers for their concert on Tuesday in Stade de Suisse in Bern.
Approaching the small but likeable Dornier 328. It was the exact same plane I'd flown in to Madrid in March. At that time the full Skywork livery as well as several kids stickers hadn't been applied yet.
At the door we were greeted by a young but very friendly F/A who upon boarding completed conducted the safety instruction in German and in English.
View from my exit row seat 9A. I still couldn't see how we were going to take off in the dense fog.
To my surprise the engines were started immediately after the safety instructions. It seemed like the fog around the runway had cleared enough for our plane to depart. Departure was on the 1730m long runway 14 to the Southeast followed by an 180 left turn that would bring the plane on its flight path to LCY.
Once clear of the fog one could enjoy a beautiful summer morning over the Bernese countryside
Below the sea of fog lies the city of Bern, capital city of Switzerland
Further norht over the Jura hills
Soon after departure a small breakfast was served along with a complimentary glass of water. Other drinks have to be purchased, I chose a coffee for CHF 2.50.
My breakfast included a regular croissant, a chocolate croissant and a small fruit salad along with a cup of coffee
The exit row seat on the Dornier offers even more legroom than most exit rows on other airplanes
Shot of the rather bright cabin of the little turboprop
The rest of the flight was very uneventful. What was missing in comparison to other Skywork flights was a short speech from the flight deck updating the passengers on the route flown and further details on the flight. This was not done during the evening flight either which I find somewhat disappointing knowing that such a short welcome speech usually puts a personal touch to the otherwise so common flight.
Anyhow after about 100 minutes of flight time we started to descend to London City. The area was very cloudy and for a long time it seemes as though we were flying some holding pattern in thick clouds. The final approach on runway 09 was just as I'd remember from ten years ago. The steep angle makes the approach over the city of London very spectacular.
Shortly before landing at the City airport
Touched down in rainy London
With a delay of around 15 minutes we were pushed back to our final parking position. Thanking the flight attendant for the pleasant flight I disembarked and walked to the apron bus that would take us to the arrivals area (I had never seen apron busses at LCY before).
Immigration at LCY went very quickly, only beaten by the fast process in the evening after arrival at Bern airport
The DLR brought me into central London where I spent the day. I also spent some hours in Wimbledon on the tennis grounds watching Roger Federer win his quarter final against Russian Mikhail Youzhny.
Following a few pictures of London
Tower Bridge with Olympic Rings
The tallest buidling in Europe at 310m, the Shard
Henman Hill at Wimbledon
A doubles match progressing
Later that afternoon it was already time for me to head back from to London City airport. I arrived about 75 minutes prior to my scheduled departure to Bern. Upon checking in at the self service kiosk I went for a quick walk along the dock. There I enjoyed about half an hour of plane action, most prominently the British Airways A318 taking off to Shannon/JFK. The angle the Embraers and the Mini-Airbus take off at LCY is nothing but spectacular
With some spare time left I then headed through security to the busy departure lounge. While in general I find LCY airport extremely efficient and customer friendly the departure lounge really needs to be expanded in size. At the busy rush hour around 6pm the room was filled with mostly business men and women. One could hardly even find an open seat to sit for some minutes until the respective gate is shown on the screens.
Flight: Skywork SX503
From: London City Airport LCY
To: Bern Belp Airport BRN
Aircraft: Dash 8-Q400, HB-JGA
Load: 25/72, 34.7% load factor
Photo © Terry Wade
Around 20 minutes before departure I headed to the gate shown on the screens. The inbound flight from Bern had just arrived. Unfortunately it was yet another Skywork plane I'd already flown before. HB-JGA brought me to Barcelona in February 2011. There were only around 25 passengers on this flight, many of whom I'd already seen on the morning outbound flight to London. With the Q400 25 passengers results in a terrible load factor while on the Dornier this load would be quite good. Skywork officials have already said that the Q400 is too large a plane to fill for them on city destinations and they're looking into operating some 50 seater plane (we'll see what the future holds). The LCY route must be doing quite well nevertheless as Skywork airlines have announced the increase of weekday services to three flights per day with the addition of a 12:40 departure from Bern.
Turning back to the report all the passengers were allowed into the gate area. After some longer wait for the crew to be ready for boarding we were finally allowed to walk to the plane.
We were welcomed by a crew of three, one F/A was new to the job and was probably assessed by the third member of the cabin crew. The flight time to Bern was announced as 1 hour and 30 minutes. Soon after boarding the large prop engines of the Q400 began to roar and the plane taxied the short way to runway 09 at LCY.
View from my seat 15A
Among the planes on the apron were two Swiss Avros, one to ZRH and one to GVA.
Sights after departure:
As on most flights back to Bern a small meat platter with a bread roll is offered as a complimentary meal. This was no different on this evening flight.
Again a very uneventful flight. All that was left to be desired as mentioned above was the information from the flight deck. Hopefully they'll do better next time (I've already very lengthy route documentations to passengers on Skywork ).
Somewhere over the French Jura we started our descent into Bern airport
The approach would lead us over the city of Biel (home of Swatch and Rolex), some rather rural area and the city of Bern straight in to Runway 14. The approach there is steeper than usual due to the location of the airport in a bassin.
You can actually clearly see and the 5.5 degree angle as we approach Bern here
Left of the gear the Swiss parliament building Bundeshaus can be seen
Touchdown on Runway 14 just on time. Backtrack is done on the runway as some taxiways are too small for the Dash. We disembark the plane on an outer stand from where it is about a 100 meter walk to the terminal.
I disembark the plane at 9:16, enter and pass the border control at 9:18 and enter the scheduled bus at 9:19pm just as it is about to leave. These small airports truly have one big advantage!
Again I connect to the regional train at Belp railway station. The evening light makes for a nicer picture this time
To conclude I thoroughly enjoyed yet another two flights on this small but growing regional airline. Even on my fourth and fifth flight I remain impressed by the on-board product and friendliness of the crew. While the city flights are usually quite expensive I managed to find a good fare even on a route intended towards business travellers. I was very impressed by the operations at London city airport, with the exception of the overcrowded departure lounge. Also after these flights I have gained some more sympathy for the Dornier 328 which is a very comfortable and powerful airplane to fly on.
It remains to be hoped that the number of people enjoying the benefits of travelling from Bern airport on Skywork (or other airlines for that manner) continues to increase. The airline could certainly need some more loyal customers.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed. Comments are as always appreciated.
Other trip reports of mine featuring Skywork Airlines
Skywork Dornier 328 from Bern to Madrid
Riding the Skywork Q400 to Barcelona