Sun Air for British Airways operated by MHS Avaiation
16:40 / 18:25
Dornier 328 turboprop D-CIRD
After an enjoyable day, I returned to Billund Airport well in advance for the main event, my flight with Sun Air back to London City.
Near the Zleep Hotel, there is quite a good view over the ramp. My aircraft for this evening was perfectly parked for a photo, having not flown since operating the morning London City flight.
Looking very smart after having recently been repainted into the full British Airways livery. Unlike BA
's other franchisee, South African carrier Comair, a perfect version of the BA
livery has been applied.
The modern terminal building.
The terminal at Billund is very nice indeed, well designed, spacious and perfectly clean. Much like BA
at Heathrow, all check in must be done on self service machines. I checked in, and an identical paper boarding pass was prrinted. Nice to see consistency here!
I proceeded airside, and was through quickly - there was no queue for security. Airside, the terminal is also very nice, with a mezzanine level with catering outlets and lots of natural light. Reminded me somewhat of T5
at Heathrow, albeit with lots of wood.
A Lego shop of course! The airport was first constructed by Lego.
The smallest airliner in BA
colours, a Jetstream 31 sighted. It appears to usually operate the Billund - Dusseldorf route, one perhaps for another day.
, on Flickr
Table football and Lego for children! A nice touch by the airport operator.
As dusk fell, boarding commenced, and I made my way along to the gate. Boarding was nice an relaxed, and I proceeded to the aircraft, stopping briefly to take a couple of photos of the nifty little Dornier.
For the eagle eyed amongst you, you may notice the aircraft is on the German register. As this is one of 3 Dornier 328s to have been leased by Sun Air from MHS Aviation. D-CIRD is the only Dornier 328 prop which has been painted in the British Airways scheme, and is used exclusively on the flag ship route to London City. Both MHS Aviation and Sun Air crew operate these leased aircraft. Sun Air's Dornier 328 Jets are unable to fly into London City as they lack the necessary steep approach software modifications.
The sole British Airways liveried Dornier 328 turboprop looking very smart indeed under the ramp lights.
I was welcomed on board by the sole German cabin crew member wearing the standard British Airways cabin crew uniform. Here it became apparent that this flight was being operated by crew employed by MHS Aviation, rather than Sun Air today.
There was a light load of only 13 passengers, and I was the only one who was not dressed in a suit! I was seated in seat 5A
, a single seat, the aircraft being in a 1-2 configuration. First impressions were very good, new comfortable blue leather seats had been installed, with the entire aircraft being spotless both outside and in. The aircraft seemed brand new, despite D-CIRD being only the 10th Dornier 328 built, being 19 years old. Well done to Sun Air for maintaining the aircraft at such a very high standard.
A welcome announcement in English only was made by the German Captain, who welcomed us aboard this Sun Air for British Airways operated by MHS Aviation flight with a flying time of 1 hour 50 minutes being announced, a shade under the scheduled block time of 1 hour and 55 minutes. A cruising altitude of 28,000 feet was announced, very high for a turboprop. An ATR42 typically cruises around 19,000 feet.
Start up on stand occurred 10 minutes before the scheduled time of departure, and the single crew member did the safety demonstration. Surprisingly the audio for the safety demonstration was not pre-recorded, so the cabin crew member had to stop and pause every few seconds from making the announcement to demonstrate the life-jacket etc. Without any delay, we entered Runway 27 at the intersection and departed 5 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time. The noise increased considerably during the very powerful and quick takeoff, and during the climb there was a loud whistling noise which was a little annoying. Fortunately it stopped after a few minutes.
The small yet immaculate cabin, with very comfortable leather seats.
The legendary Sun Air service commenced shortly after departure.
Orange juice and pretzels, a nice snack for a short flight. Yet this wasn't it as this isn't British Airways mainline! Shortly afterwards a meal was served!
Very good it was too,the meal was very high in quality. The lack of ovens onboard the D328 means no hot food can be served, yet this didn't detract from the service . A a very nice, fresh, crusty bread roll was served from a bread basket and drinks were topped up. Crackers and Camembert were also included. The service seemed more like Club Europe rather than Euro Traveler! A very impressive meal service, which is surely unparalleled in economy in Europe on a sub 2 hour flight.
Yet there was more to come still! After dinner liqueurs were offered, followed by tea and coffee, and ice cream. The generous tub of Danish ice cream was high quality and delicious - vanilla ice cream with chocolate and marzipan. Note the tea served in the Club Europe cup, further reinforcing the feeling of business class service.
A further refill of tea or coffee was offered, which rounded off very nicely what was an exceptional meal service! Well done to Sun Air here for not cutting back in this department.
I made a quick trip to the toilet which was also spotlessly clean and in perfect condition. Although small, it seemed bigger than the toilet in an ATR42.
The flight progressed smoothly and swiftly, and I attempted some photos out the window, which was not easy as it was pitch black and there were lots of reflections.
The Pratt and Whitney PW119 engine going strong. Noise was reduced considerably once in the cruise. I thought the general noise and vibration levels were less than in an ATR42, despite the aircraft cruising much faster and higher.
The Captain made an announcement stating that we were well into our descent and in contact with London Control. The noise reduced to almost negligible levels during the descent. We entered the hold at SPEAR, the beacon above London Southend Airport and did a couple of laps around the hold, which was nice for me.
A blurry photo of the brightly lit Southend seafront and pier - the longest pleasure pier in the world!
Unfortunately the approach was made to Runway 27, which meant no nice view of London before touchdown.
The Queen Elizabeth II
After the steep approach, a relatively smooth touchdown was made on Runway 27, wirth a couple of Cityjet F.50s holding for departure. There was a very short taxi to the Stand, adjacent to Gate 3.
Being marshaled onto Stand - the very tight nose out parking arrangement means that two marshalers are used.
Our final parking position next to the comparatively large BA
The front door was opened quickly, and very soon I disembarked. We seemed to have arrived at the closest gate to the immigration hall, so had a very short wall to the empty immigration area. No queue at all, with the staff returning to their desks as they saw us coming! I was out of the airport a minute after passing through.
So to conclude, Stansted Airport has a lot to improve on, especially if it wants to attract long haul carriers and premium passengers. I'm glad that Manchester Airports Group is making investment now to try and improve things this is crucial as currently the experience travelling through is very poor.
Billund Airprot is an excellent regional airport, which serves Jutland very well, maintaining an impressive array of airlines. The airport was clean, and well designed, a pleasure to pass through.
I thought Ryanair provided a good service for the £15 which I paid. Considering Air Passenger Duty is £13, I suspect Ryanair incurred a loss carrying me.
It is therefore testament to the exceptionally strong Sun Air product that it is able to withstand competition from Ryanair on the London - Billund route. London City is the ideal arrival airport for the airline, being very convenient for the business passengers which the airline focuses on.
The D328 is an excellent aircraft, which must offer the best comfort of any aircraft in its class. It was also good to see to see the aircraft being maintained in such an immaculate condition. Despite being operated by contracted crew from MHS Aviation, the remarkable service offered was not compromised. It is excellent to see full service being truly embraced here by Sun Air. From check in to arrival, the whole experience flying with Sun Air was second to none, faultless in fact! My flight with them is the best flight I have ever had within Europe, this airline deserves every success. I understand that since its formation in 1987, the airline has recorded a profit every single year - a remarkable achievement considering the very high failure rate of regional airlines. Sun Air has a motto 'not bigger - but better', I don't doubt that adhering to this philosophy is a major factor in its charm and success.
Thanks for reading, comments are appreciated.
[Edited 2013-11-01 12:54:51]