Allez-Hop! and the Twinjet Beech 1900
Hello, and thanks for clicking on my latest trip report, featuring a flight on a Air France operated by their newly formed regional subsidiary Hop! and a flight on the rare Beech 1900 operated by the French business regional airline Twin Jet.
The Beech 1900 had been on my to fly list for quite a while after missing it back in 2011. I was then scheduled to fly on a Gulfstream International Airlines Beech 1900 operating for Continental Connection between Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, but in the end Continental ceased their regional operations in Florida so the flight got canned. Since there are hardly any operators of this type in Europe, flying this bird would become a challenge.
Enter Twin Jet. This is a small, business oriented airline, flying between secondary cities in France. They only operate the Beech 1900, and with a fleet of 10 they are the largest operator of the type in Europe. The problem is, most of their fares are extremely high - clearly aimed at the business traveller who is willing to pay to travel and have convenience. €200-300 fares for one-way and the double for roundtrips are the norm. There is an exception on the Bergerac-Paris route. This is operated with a subsidy from the regional government and has fixed fares of around €130 oneway for all (non-refundable) tickets. Still expensive, but manageable. And I could combine this with my planned summer holiday. Unfortunately, it turns out that that these flights didn’t operate during the high summer season. Bummer. Some further research that one some other routes one or two seats per flight were sold for around €90. This included the Basel/Mulhouse (BSL
) to Marseille (MRS
) route. Availability was incredibly low, sometimes only one seat was available per week. Fortunately I was able to find a suitable date mid-June in the early evening. After booking the price went up to €250 so I did grab the last available seat for this price!
To get from Amsterdam to Basel I had several options. There is a daily Easyjet flight, and KL
operates a two-daily Fokker 70 service (as well as several connecting options with AF
) which I could book as open jaw with the aforementioned summer holiday. I widened my search however to some surrounding cities and noticed Strasbourg isn’t all that far away from Basel. I had been meaning to visit this city, so I looked for options there. Also here I could book an open jaw with AF
-KL. There was a convenient morning Air France flight which would be operated by Hop! This is the newly formed subsidiary that covers all three former Air France regional airlines Airlinair, Brit Air and Régional. Most Hop! flights are between French secondary cities and Paris Orly, but to and from the main hubs at Paris Charles de Gaulle as well as to and from regional cities and Amsterdam these flights are operated as Air France flights - the ‘traditional’ regional airline model so to speak. The flight would be operated by an Embraer 145 - been a while since I flew one of those so a nice treat there too. A train would be able to take me from Strasbourg to Basel.
And this is how that all looks mapped out by the Great Circle Mapper:
Friday, June 2013
Air France flight 5483 operated by Hop!
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) - Aéroport International de Strasbourg-Entzheim (SXB)
228th overall flight
23rd flight on Air France
3rd flight on an Embraer 145 (7th flight on the E135/E140/E145 family)
81st visit to AMS
, 1st visit to SXB
1st time flying the AMS
Departure Time (Scheduled/Actual): 10.00 / 10.00
Arrival Time (Scheduled/Actual): 11.15 / 11.07
Block time (Scheduled / Actual): 1.15 / 1.07
Flight duration: 58 minutes
Mileage: 289 miles
Even though my flight would only depart at 10.00, I already arrived at the airport just a little past 07.30 hours. By coincidence my parents would be arriving that morning at AMS
after a 3 week holiday Indonesia. Their flight would land at 07.00, so once I had arrived at the airport they had just past immigration and were waiting to collect their bags. Once that was done we headed to the landside Starbucks and I let myself be entertained by their great stories from Bali while we all enjoyed a nice Starbucks Cappuccino. Time flew by, and at around 08.45 it would be time for me to head airside. As I had a mobile boarding pass already, I simply headed to the Priority Checkpoint, was through within a few minutes and then went to the KLM Crown Lounge for a quick breakfast.
Breakfast at the KLM Crown lounge. This lounge now features Ipads with a wide offering of worldwide newspapers of the day
I then proceeded to the C Pier of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, where my flight would depart from. All the Air France Regional flights depart from the bus gates at the C Pier. These days, AF
only uses these particular bus gates, most other regional operators - including KLM Cityhopper - use the most larger bus gate area in the B Pier. Boarding would commence at 09.30, I arrived just a little before that time. Judging by the number of passengers already in the waiting the flight appeared to have a healthy load. Boarding began a few minutes after 09.30 - first Elite and Elite Plus frequent flyers - followed by the rest of the passengers. At 09.40 all 43 (so I heard) passengers were on board the bus and we departed for the apron - often popularly still called the Fokker Form because of KLM Cityhopper’s large Fokker fleet that is always parked there.
Passing by some other French visitors on my way to the C Pier. 2 flights bound for Paris, and a Marseille flight
KLM tails, including a Skyteam liveried one, at the opposite pier. Note the Air Astana intruder
Down the escalator for the 4 C busgates
The small waiting area for those gates. Today only used for 3 AF flights to Strasbourg, and two AF flights to Nantes
Up close and personal with two KL 737’s parked at the regular gates, including the Retro livery on the right
And an Air France A321 on the other side
Bussing over to the Fokker farm. Visible amongst others are a Fokker 70, Air Adria CRJ and two FlyeBE Q400’s
Another Fokker, two Embraers, a Swift Air cargo plane and an AF Embraer 145... unfortunately not yet in the Hop! livery
KLM Cityhopper Embraer 190 in Skyteam livery. Yummy looking plane.
I was one of the last passengers to board the aircraft and was greeted by a (business) friendly FA
in a Hop! uniform. As I made my way past the galley I noticed the aircraft flight sheet and saw that the sole duty of the aircraft today would be flying three round trips between SXB
. All passengers settled in and it would indeed seem that the flight was almost fully booked. As everyone was settling in the captain came on the PA and welcomed everyone on board this “Air France flight operated by Hop!”. Flying time would be one hour, and we could expect clear skies and 17 degrees at our destination. As there was only one FA
the manual safety demo was done with an audio recording. And then right on schedule, at 10.00am, we departed the Fokker farm towards runway 18R.
My view for the next hour or so
Sufficient leg room here. Always nice to pick the single A seat in these Embraer 135-145 aircraft. Do note that the seatback pocket is starting to wear off
Cabin view after boarding complete call. Door to the cockpit is still open
Departing the Fokker farm
Passing the apron between the C and D piers. Company traffic to Paris also taxiing towards the runway
Long live the tri-holer!
Approaching runway 18R. Looks like we would be making a take-off from an intersection, in contrary to the E90 in already taking off, and the Lufthansa CRJ holding short
Looks like we’re even getting priority over the Lufthansa jet. Sorry there fellow.
Take-off! Note the many greenhouses.
Clearing a small and thin cloud layer
Shortly after take-off an audio recording was played with the usual pre-departure announcement about remaining seated until the fasten seatbelt sign has been turned off, this is a non-smoking flight, and have you considered our frequent flyer program already? Meanwhile the FA
prepared her trolley and came around in the cabin to serve coffee, tea and/or soft drink with the usual AF
“sweet or savoury snack”. The remainder of the short flight went by uneventfully, and with about 15 minutes of flight time left the FO was on the PA with the latest arrival information. We would be making an on-time arrival, 16 degrees and partly cloudy. As the approach began, a recording was once again played asking all passengers to fasten their seatbelts and prepare for landing. During final descent another recording was played advising us that landing would be imminent.
Inflight service. The sweet snack, AF Nescafe instant coffee and water
Twist and turns with some nice mountainous scenery below
Some more flat landscape now as we are approaching Strasbourg.
Getting there. Shortly after this picture was taken the landing gear was deployed with an rather loud bang that startled some passengers.
Final approach, with the remains of former military activity visible in the 2nd picture.
Touchdown, with a nice overview of the Strasbourg Airport Terminal.
Closer view of the Terminal. Also visible an Hop! (also still in AF livery) CRJ-1000.
Reaching our parking stand. Finally a Hop! plane (CRJ-700), and also a Brussels Airlines Q400 - operated by FlyBE if I am not mistaken.
Strasbourg Airport only has a small terminal, as you could see from the previous pictures. Here’s the arrivals hall...
... And the departures hall. The long queues are for a Vueling flight to Barcelona and an Tunisair flight to Tunis.
And finally the airport terminal as seen from the covered walkway to the airport train station
| | | Strasbourg | | |
After arrival at Strasbourg Airport I took the train to Strasbourg. A direct train takes you to the central railway station, which is known for having the old grand station building covered with a large class facade. Strasbourg has a beautiful old city centre, built around small canals and rivers. A small impression.
| | | Basel | | |
Then, a train ride to Basel. This is a nice two hour train ride through the scenic Alsace region of France, before crossing the border to Switzerland near Basel. As I had visited Basel before, I didn’t do much exploring but to decided to relax near the Rhine river.
Friday, June 2013
Twin Jet flight 4416
EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (BSL) – Aéroport de Marseille-Provence (MRS)
Seat 6A, later moved to 7A
229th overall flight
1st flight on Twin Jet
1st flight on a Beech 1900
2nd visit to BSL
, 1st visit to MRS
1st time flying the BSL
Departure Time (Scheduled/Actual): 19.30 / 19.43
Arrival Time (Scheduled/Actual): 20.55 / 21.05
Block time (Scheduled / Actual): 1.25 / 1.22
Flight duration: 1 hour, 12 minutes
Mileage: 308 miles
Basel Airport is a unique airport, in the sense that his has (together with Geneva) both a French and Swiss part in the airport. This comes from the time when Switzerland was not part of the Schengen agreement, and by splitting up the airport it was possible for French travellers to come to the airport in Switzerland directly from France over a customs free road without having to pass passport control or customs. On the airport itself was a immigration and customs checkpoint to cross the border if one was travelling on a flight leaving from the Swiss sector - or the other way around. Most international flights used the Swiss sector, and French domestic flights (using the MLH IATA code instead of BSL
) used the French side. Nowadays Switzerland is part of the Schengen area, but the airport is still split in two sides, yet there is only a small customs checkpoint where you can just walk through.
Upon arrival at the airport it was first a little difficult to identify where I had to check in. There were two Twin Jet flights that evening, both at 19.30 - one to Toulouse and my flight to Marseille. Check in was done at counters 1-5, but counters 1-3 were used by Air France and counters 4-5 were closed. Then I noticed that also all AF
flights were listed as check in at counters 1-5 so I assumed that Twin Jet would be checked in by AF
. I approached the counters and this was indeed the case. After showing my passport I was issued a boarding pass with seat 6A
. No need to ask for a window seat here, the small Beech 1900 only has window seats. After checking-in I decided to take a quick look at the (free) observation terraces. BSL
has two, one on the French and one on the Swiss side. Not much traffic this evening, so after a little while I headed towards the security checkpoint for the French side. Only 2 other passengers ahead of me, so I was airside at around 18.30 - still 45 minutes to go before the 19.15 boarding call.
Euro Airport as seen from the bus towards the airport
Check-in area on the Swiss side of the airport
Check in on the French side
Observation deck on the Swiss side...
... and the observation deck on the French side
The airside area of the French side is the smaller one of the two. Three jetbridges that can also be used as a bus gate, and two additional bus gates. Most traffic departs from the Swiss side of the airport, which is much larger and also has the usual airport amenities such as duty free shops, airline lounges and restaurants. The French side only has a small cafe. The airport does have much glass, and the French side is located on the side of the airport with some good runway views.
Security checkpoint for the French side, with two gates in the back of the picture
Small cafe in the French side
Waiting area for the other gates, with nice views of the runway
Runway and apron view, with an Easyjet flight landing...
And an albino ATR operating a Hop! / Air France flight to Paris Orly pushing back
At 19.05 I noticed a Beech 1900 landing. That’s one good looking plane. At 19.10 a second Beech 1900 landed. Both parked at the French apron. Later it turned out that the first one was for Toulouse, and the second one would be my flight to Marseille. At boarding time 19.15 there were only 4 people in the waiting area for the Marseille flight. A light load it would seem. Also no gate agent was there yet at boarding time. This apparently worried one of my fellow passengers who asked me if this would really be the flight for Marseille with so little passengers. When I told her it would only be a small airplane and I pointed towards the little Beech 1900 on the apron - she was quite shocked - Is THAT our plane?
A few minutes later a Air France gate agent did appear, and she approached all passengers personally to inform us of a slight delay. Boarding would begin at 19.35 for a 19.45 departure. Nice touch to do this personally if there are so little passengers. Boarding indeed began at 19.35, and all 4 passengers were bussed to the aircraft. When the bus arrived at the aircraft the captain was standing on the platform personally welcoming us all on board - another nice touch. And in the cabin once again a warm and friendly welcome from the young female flight attendant.
The first Beech 1900 arriving...
... followed by the second one a few minutes later
Both parked brotherly next to each other
Arriving at the aircraft
View from seat 6A
Shortly after everyone was seated the engines were powered up. This made the captains PA (in French only) announcement hardly audible. I did catch up that the flight time would be around 1 hour. During taxi the sole flight attendant welcomed everyone on board once again and performed a small safety demo.
Taxi towards the runway. The other Twin Jet flight is just taking off
A very powerfull take off with a nice view of the airport, and an area of the airport with quite some stored aircraft
Lovely view of Basel
As we levelled of the inflight service began. I did not expect much, but to my surprise the flight attendant approached each passenger and asked if would a sandwich, cheese or ham, and what we would like to drink. The items were then brought individually to each personal. Again nice personal service. Later in the flight a second drinks round was offered. I also moved towards seat 7A, to have a more unobstructed view.
Cabin view during cruise
Some more clouds during this part of the flight
Meanwhile, a stunning sunset began on the other side of the aircraft
Flying near the French Alps. That’s Chambery Airport (CMF) down there. By coincidence I just booked a flight there a few days earlier - nice to pass it now
Lovely scenery here
The sunset again
With about 15 minutes to go, the captain was once again on the PA, informing us that decent had began and that we would be landing in sunny and warm (23 degrees) Marseille shortly. Lovely views of the Provence in the meantime
I then recognized the surroundings and then realized that the airport should now be visible on the other side. Indeed it was.
Making a 180 degree turn towards the airport, with a view of Marseille
Only a short taxi, not to the main terminal area, but it would appear that we would be parking near the private aircraft terminal. We parked next to two other company Beech 1900’s
Who needs a full size bus with only 4 passengers?
The three Twin Jet Beech 1900’s
Passing some nice traffic en route to the terminal
Approaching the main terminal. Air Corsica is just departing
Welcome to Marseille airport!
| | | Thanks for reading! Comments and remarks are appreciated as always. Stay tuned for the next report - if all goes as planned this will be about a small mik-run with Wideroe in Norway. Thanks again, and good day! | | |