Recent trip to Deauville - Very good value in terms of price, decent time for flight and convenient airport.
Check-in online did seem to work. Had to check-in at airport. On outbound trip - managed to get boarding pass quickly. On 20 passengers so no queue. On arrival at Deauville - Sunday - no staff at Flybe desk or information. On departure - check-in delayed, even though small number of passengers - no information regarding flight delay over tannoy, only a text. Vouchers were eventually given for food. Propellor plane was small - little bugs on window sill. Still - overall good value for a 50 min flight.
I have used Flybe.com on a number of occasions. They are one of the cheaper airlines but are still very good. Iv travelled from different uk airports and staff have always been very friendly and helpfull. I have traveled from the uk to another country as well as from one uk airport to another. You can fly from many different uk airports depending on what part of the uk you live. .The air hostes and hosteses are very presentable, friendly and helpful. The plane itself is very nice too. You can get your useual food, drink and duty free. They are easy to book online and prices are generally quite good. Although like a lot of low cost airlines there are always extras to pay. Usually for your luggage. If your lucky you wont pay taxes and theyl be included in your fare, but not always. I really carnt think of anything to complain about with this airline. Its as good as any other low cost airline.
I have travelled a few times with flybe, and have booked through their own website.
It is a very basic process & very straight forward. The website outlines, the days/dates & times of flights, and obviously give you the chance to add on any luggage.
My latest trip was flying to Glasgow. It was quite a small plane, with approximately 21 rows, carrying approximately 84 people. There were 2 cabin crew on board, and they were very helpful during the flight.
Our return flight was less than half full, so were were talking to one of the cabin crew and it was so good to see she really enjoyed her job. She was chatting away, yet remained professional.
We did notice that the plane generally looked worn, and wasn't very clean. I don't normally mind this on such a short flight, but if I had paid any more for the flights, I would have much rather chosen a different airline.
Overall a pleasant experience with great cabin crew, and the pilot insured he kept us updated even though it was only a 25 minute flight.
I would fly with flybe again, procvding there was discount on the flight prices.
Flybe website isn't bad. Searching for flight availability to different regional and international airports is fairly straightforward and the search results are returned with flights on dtes either side and upgrade options.
There are details of partner organisations - like Avis, so you can book hotels and other bits alongside.
Flybe are a bit sneaky, they add baggage costs, tax costs, booking fees and all sorts on top of the basic costs.
I lived in Jersey for a while and the Exeter - Jersey flight was ideal. I've also flown with them to Belfast, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham. In all my travels with Flybe over the past 3 years or so, i have only ever hd 1 flight leave on time. In Jersey they are known as FlyMayBe!. That being said, i now expect this from them, so sitting in airport lounges, i am generlly well prepared to wait, leaving on time is a bonus!
I have a Flybe Credit Card and have built up enough points now over the past two years to get a lounge pass. If you are going to regularly fly with them, get one, it is worth it because of the delays.
Don't expect a lot of them and you won't be disappointed.
The ground staff at Exeter Airport are fantastic.
Most of the crew are great.
Seats are comfy.
The planes always seem to have technical faults out of Exeter, i don't know if this is a national thing or not.
flybe.com is the online flight booking website of the airline with the same name (obviously). I have used it several occassions over the last few years, and rarely found any problems.
Returning to it recently though, I noticed several very big problems. Firstly, it was barely working - that was the first major inconvenience.
Yet inconveniences soon turned to annoyances. I am used to local UK airlines having page after page of extra fees and charges, but flybe is ridiculous.
On the second page, you get to choose your bags and method of check-in Even airport check-in now costs money. There's also insurance to be chosen from.
On the third page it offers you the chance of choosing your seat. Unless you explicitly opt out of this, you will be charged at least £6 for a "regular seat". What are they going to do, strap me to the wing?
Then on the final payment page, you are charged £4.00 for maestro/switch, and significantly more for most credit cards. Only Electron is free.
To make matters worse, when I finally navigated my through all the hidden charges and fees, and "purchased" my flight, it came up with an error. This happened 3 separate times, meaning I had to go through the whole process again, on 3 separate occassions, AND had to check with my bank that I hadn't been charged EACH TIME. Thankfully I hadn't, but it will put me off flying with flybe in the future, and that's before i've even got to the airport, or got on board!
This Particular review is written about Flybe.com, as opposed to The Airline Flybe.
I have recently booked another ticket with Flybe, to travel from Exeter home to The Netherlands, in January.
I have found the website extremely user friendly, and easy to use.
All you need to do in order to come up with the flights you want, is to input your route, dates and amount of passengers into the menu on the right hand side of the home page.
after a short amount of time, your options are displayed nice and clearly. Also another bonus, is the fact that the flights on the day either side of the date you put in are also displayed. This way you are able to compare the prices, and if appropriate, take a cheaper option. (In my case, I had to fly on a particular date, so this feature was of no use this time around.)
One thing that is important to note however, is the fact that they do not show the full price until the very end! You may have found a good price on the flight, but they will add taxes and extras on top.
For instance, the flight I selected, was £0! However, by the end of the process, and by the time I came to pay, it was over £47 (Still a good price to fly from my local airport, but make sure you look out for this.)
Over all, the website is very easy to use, and I have never had any problems. You do however need to be ware of their money making schemes.
I am quite a frequent flyer I would say, and particularly last year I was flying perhaps twice a month, which I paid for myself and was not funded by an employer or anything of the sort, so it was crucial to get best value for money as to not be too out of pocket.
I have tried many budget airlines and I have to say that in my experience FlyBe has come out nowhere near the top. The prices are the main issue. While online when you book a flight that is advertised at £8 each way, you actually end up spending almost £100 on a simple return flight with some baggage. Consequently you feel slightly conned and it wastes your time because if you'd known it was going to come to that much you may have not started booking with them. I have found other airlines, such as Easyjet or even RyanAir to be far more truthful from the outset about the prices of their flights. The other major issue I've had with them is their prices for excess luggage. I was moving abroad with their airline, and had a LOT of luggage, and there was no way of cheaply getting this done. In the end, more than £200 was spent on getting my additional suitcase abroad.
While this is a negative side to their business, I have to say that I have (touchwood) been nothing but happy with the customer service I have received. The staff have all been utterly pleasant, and while the planes are a little dirty sometimes, everything has been very acceptable. The range of routes offered are fine and the checking in online process is easy to use. If you choose not to do this, you can check in at the airport and that's fine, but uses more or less the same system as online so don't think it's going to be easier to wait until the day of flight - save yourself the hassle and the queues!
I would recommend FlyBe as a service, but only if you can afford it. I find their prices very misleading and it can actually be cheaper to fly with BA or similar as they are far from a budget airline at all.
I have just booked a flight with flybe.com. The website is very easy to use. Just put in the dates you want to fly, and where from and where to. How many passengers you want to travel and it will come up with the price and availability for your date chosen, and the day before and after so you can compare prices.
The flight I booked is for October, it cost me £0 but the taxes were £46! Then I had to pay for one bag in the hold which was about £10, and a booking fee of £1.50! There are also extra charges if you want to reserve seats together. I didnt need to do this as theres only one passenger going. But this would cost you about £35 to do this! What a ripoff.
I have flown with Flybe before, because they fly to Southampton, and not many airlines do. The plane was quite dated inside, it smelt a bit old and fusty. The staff were very friendly and helpful though, just as much as on say a Jet 2 flight or British airways. It costs extra for food and drinks, even for water as its all bottled. Best to bring your own sandwiches, and buy any drinks after the security gate or they will take them off you.
After choosing the date, just input the name of the passenger, exactly how it appears on the passport, and put in your credit card details. You can choose to save the details if you are a regular flyer, to save you time. I didnt bother doing this.
When the booking is processed, it gives you a reference number, and a long page of adverts for car hire and package holidays. Just make sure you put your email in when booking and it will email the reference to you.
I found it really quick and easy to do the booking, and was pleased I only paid £0 for the actual flight. I think they must make most of their money on taxes, as they were loads more than a jet 2 flight which from leeds to amsterdam was only £26 compared to Amsterdam to southampton which was £46!
I would recommend this airline if you want to fly to southampton, otherwise try and use jet2 when they have a sale on.
A simple easy to use website with excellent competive prices.We were booking a flight from Birmingham to Hanover and found the most competive price with a regular daily flight.We were able use the website to easily find the cheapest days to travel.
One gripe is the excessive charge for booking by credit card.Debit cards are slightly less but both are disproportinate to the real cost. Still they have to make a profit somewhere !!
You are able to pre book seats if you wish and you are charged for baggage over 10 kg,but at least all these costs are transparent.
We haven't flown yet so we will let you how the service matches up to the cost.
I am afraid of heights, let me get this straight before I start, I am so scared I cannot even go higher than three steps up a step ladder for fear of falling. So as you can imagine flying has never really been on my agenda, well until early May this year that is.
I was going to attend a meet of folks from one of my most frequented websites, I had a lift and I was all sorted, until the lady I was going to go with couldnt get the time off work. Heeeelllp! Along came Ann, a PA in her job and the worlds best organiser. Before I could blink shed found me a solution to my problem. I could fly from Manchester to Southampton Airport (the meet up occurring in Bournemouth) for £41.80, less than half the price of a train ride.
So this is how I ended up flying with Flybe for my very first flight, booking the tickets was incredibly easy using their website. www.flybe.co.uk . Simply enter in the airport you want to leave from, the airport you want to fly to, and the dates you want to go. Add in how many folks will be flying and press the button. The site does all your hard work and will spit out at you all the flights for that day. Pick your favourite time, then click one more button and youll get a confirmation page telling you exactly how much youll be paying, including the airport tax, for your flights. Happy with it? Continue once again to a page where you need to fill in your name and address and credit card details and then youre done. You receive an email with a copy of your confirmation page, but at some point print that off, you need the booking reference number to check in, and there is all your other useful information contained in your confirmation, printing it off means you know exactly whats what, though as long as you have that booking code, then youre fine, as far as I can work out!
The booking process is that simple and the key to getting a cheap flight is booking early. Book your flight early enough and you can get fares for as little as 99p each way, which even with factoring in airport tax youre looking at less than forty quid for a return ticket to places in the UK. The website offers you opportunity to book cheap accommodation and a hire car too, which has got to be handy. Its all easily accessible and before I knew it, Id booked myself a seat on a plane. Gulp.
Now one thing you need to make sure you have is an item of photo ID or youre not flying. I got myself a CitizenCard, which is perfectly acceptable for internal UK flights, this is a list taken directly from the site, of what is acceptable ID for internal, UK flights.
Acceptable forms of Photographic ID are:
* A valid passport - (an expired passport can be used up to a maximum of two years after expiry (UK to UK only).
* Valid photographic EU or Swiss national identity card
* Valid photographic driving licence
* Valid armed forces identity card
* Valid police warrant card/badge
* Valid airport employees security identity pass
* A child on parent s passport is an acceptable form of ID
* Valid photographic firearm certificate
* Valid Government-issued identity card
* SMART card
* Electoral identity card
Next, as you prepare for your flight, you need to know the maximum weight for your luggage, on my internal flight the maximum weight was 20 kg with a 5kg allowance for hand luggage, but please note, there is a maximum size for your hand luggage, 45x35x15 cm, so check your bag fits these specs, or your hand luggage wont be allowed on with you.
Other things to know, you can transfer the name on your ticket up to 6 days before departure at a cost of £25, you can also change the time/day of your flight up to 2 hours before departure for the same price.
Right so, thats all the general detail, now for the experience.
Manchester is a big airport, but I found my check -in with little problem. I checked in with about an hour and half to spare, the only limit on this is you need to check in at least 45 minutes before your flight. Check in is easy, make sure you have your booking number to hand, I just took my print out, and your photo ID and the process will be painless. You get a seat allocated to you at the time and I was very glad to be able to choose a non-window seat!
So after what seemed like an eternity of a wait in the airport, after the interesting wander through metal detectors and duty free I ended up at the gate looking at, a toy plane. Well it looked like a toy compared to some of the other monsters scattered about! The plane was small, with little propellers on its wings and Flybe written along its side. It looked clean and new from a distance, and as I stepped in, I was glad to see it looked the same inside.
The steward was smiling and very helpful, telling me exactly where to look for my sea,. in fact he was calm, confident and efficient throughout the flight, and even managed to look not too silly during the safety talk! The flight was surprisingly nice! I had enough leg room for a brief journey, though if it were any longer than an hour Id have felt a bit cramped. I looked out of the window even and the only bit I was a bit jumpy over was the landing. The plane didnt make any strange noise and we were down within about 40 minutes, not the hour quoted on my ticket.
Picking up my luggage at Southampton was easy, and if there had have been a problem, I had a barcode on the label on my bag, and a barcode on my bit of the label and it could all be traced by that, thankfully I didnt need to test its efficiency though!
So on my first flight they did well, getting 5 stars for putting me at my ease, for keeping me comfortable and most importantly keeping me alive!
After a day and night of meet-up debauchery I was ready to return home. Finding check -in at Southampton was easier than at Manchester and I was offered the opportunity to take my main luggage on the plane with me as hand luggage as well as my actual hand luggage. Funky! I was again asked my seat preference and got an aisle seat, I checked in about an hour early, I guess the closer to the 45 minutes check in cut off the less likely you are to get a seat choice.
6.30pm was on its way round and I sat in departures, butterflies in my stomach aching to take off, when an announcement is made concerning my flight. There is a problem with the plane and it will not be taking off as planned, the next information will be available at 8pm. Well not a good start to the journey home, however we were all offered a £3.50 food voucher to compensate for the delay, so it wasnt all bad. Luckily, just before 8pm our flight was announced as ready to board.
However, the plane I saw this time did not look new and shiny, it was an old, off-white (dirty) thing, with no Flybe logo on it, the only good difference being it looked bigger than the plane I flew in on. Walking into the plane didnt put my fears to rest either, the interior looked as old, worn and dated as its exterior. I did get a whole row of 3 seats to myself though.
The stewardesses seemed stressed and rushed, the pilot kept having to tell them hat to do over the tannoy, and this really didnt put me at my ease! I guess that the young girls were new to it, and we all have to start somewhere, but I was close to getting down on my knees in the aisle and praying for my redemption.
The flight did not improve, the noise the plane made was at best a little irritating and at worst down right scary, at one point in our descent the whole plane shook and creaked and squealed. The plane on the way in made no such movements or noises! I tell you, I was glad to touch down and get my feet back on the floor!
So, Id say Id be generous to give them 2 stars on the way home, one for a whole row of seats to myself, and one for getting me back in one piece!
Now to be fair, some of the scariness of the journey back may have been embedded in my head because of knowing the flight had been delayed due to a major fault with the plane, this was probably in my mind all the way home and I might not have been so concerned if Id not known about the repair.
So will I fly again? Maybe, if it were the cheapest option or I was going somewhere I really wanted to go and could only get to by plane.
Will I fly with Flybe again? If theyre the cheapest option, yes, I guess I would. Both journeys were comfortable and both journeys got me to my destination, even if one was significantly nicer than the other, if you average them out, it wasnt to bad at all.
Oh and of course the most important factor is they are cheap, I like a bargain!
Late last year I received an email stating that Flybe were introducing a new service from Southampton to Newcastle and I just literally jumped for joy. You see I had been paying £154 to travel this route with Eastern Airways and that was the cheapest price I could get! So, as far as I was concerned, competition on this route would be good especially for the customers. I hadnt actually used Flybe (as far as I can remember anyway) for any travel for my boss so I hadnt actually had any form of personal experience with the transactions of this airline.
So, straightaway, I logged onto their site - http://www1.flybe.com - which is very colourful.
Their homepage gives a section with the latest news, for example, Go ski with flybe and you just click onto the relevant section and read what they have to offer. Car hire, hotels, parking (saving of up to 50%), insurance, win gift vouchers, 75% off perfume and onboard duty free plus all your flybe extras which include information on taxis, train tickets, airport transfers, accommodation, internet access, ski equipment hire, resorts guide. So, lots of information given for all your needs.
Impressive so far.
The most important feature for me was Steps 1-4 in searching for flights and prices.
Involves selecting your departure airport (in my case Southampton) and then selecting the airport you wish to travel to. Then you must fill in the outbound/return dates and select the number of adults/children travelling. The last part of this step involves selecting your fare type economy or economy plus.
Shows the outbound/return flights that you can choose. In my case there was only one flight operating both ways but this didnt matter. You still have to tick the fare section but it must be noted that the fares shown at this step do not include taxes or surcharges so please remember this.
Shows all the necessary details of your selected itinerary including flight numbers, flight departure times, flight arrival times plus the TOTAL fare (this is the final price which includes all taxes and surcharges). It does also state that this fare cannot be guaranteed until your booking is confirmed. Rules are also printed stating that the fare is non-refundable.
However, Flybe do allow changes to your flights in fact up to 2 hours before your departure but do charge GBP25.00 per sector. They also allow name changes on unused tickets up to 6 days before the departure date but this is subject to an upgrade fee and a GBP25.00 per sector charge.
I found this feature particularly appealing Eastern Airways do not allow any of the above. As I use the Southampton to Newcastle flight to visit my 84 years old mother, it is very reassuring to know that should I need to change my return flight, for example, if my mam takes ill whilst I am visiting, then I know I only have to pay GBP25.00. I found this to be a great comfort to me.
Also in this step of the procedure you are informed that you can have 20kg baggage allowance per person (and I think 5kg hand luggage) although it should be noted that infants luggage is included in the parents allowance which I always find strange. Anyone who has dealings with children know that they carry the most clothing etc! I really do think that all airlines should reassess this particular point on baggage allowances.
You must now give a list of all passengers and insert your credit/debt card details, billing address and contact details. This page is protected by their security system SSL Secured 128 Bit.
Once you have submitted your card details a confirmation number will appear but they also send you confirmation by email.
You are advised to print out the confirmation details to produce at the Flybe check-in desk at the airport.
You are also advised that you need photo ID which is very important if you dont have it then you will not be allowed to travel irrespective that you produce your confirmation details.
I was charged in total approximately £52 which is a great saving compared to £154 with Eastern Airways. I have also noticed that if you travel on a Saturday then the cost is greatly reduced too - £38 return including all charges!
So far, so good. The test was yet to come flying with Flybe.
My date of travel duly arrived and I went to check-in at the Flybe desk at Southampton Airport. I produced my passport and was just about to hand over my confirmation details when I was told that they were not needed, my passport would suffice as she had all my details on her screen. I must add that the same occurred on my return journey from Newcastle only my passport (photo ID) needed to be produced. My luggage was weighed and went through to the baggage department. I was given a boarding pass and seat allocation which surprised me because I had heard tales that you have to scramble to get seats on budget airlines but Flybe was very professional and very civilised.
I was now free to go for a coffee and wait for my flight.
We had a slight delay of about 10 minutes but this did not concern me.
Passengers started to embark on the aircraft and we were greeted by a very friendly air hostess and guided to our seats. The only difference from this flight to Eastern Airways is that you have to pay for your refreshments. These were quite expensive a sandwich cost £4 and a coffee was about £2 but, even if you spend £6, look at the vast saving you are making so what is £6? Nothing really. However, I wasnt hungry so didnt buy anything as I knew my mam would have a meal ready for me when I arrived at her home. Well, arent all mothers like this? I did however, purchase a hot chocolate on my return journey which cost, I think, £1.80, and it was OK.
Arrived at Newcastle Airport and luggage arrived safely.
Both flights were very pleasant. The only problem I had was with the descent into Newcastle as my ears really did hurt and normally I dont have this problem on this short flight. However, my ears didnt hurt on the return descent into Southampton which I was thankful for!
Flybes Economy Plus fare type provides Executive Lounges away from the main airport and they provide complimentary drinks, magazines and snacks. These lounges are available at Belfast City, Bristol, Edinburgh, Guernsey, Glasgow, Jersey, Leeds Bradford, Gatwick, Newcastle and Southampton. You can even the lounges on the Flybe website.
A good feature of the Economy Plus fare is that the departure time can be changed up to 2 hours before departure without any cost implication.
On board the flight, Economy Plus passengers receive complimentary refreshments from their Deli in the Sky selection which, as I remember, were quite expensive.
Also, Economy Plus passengers receive 10 Freedom points (Freedom is Flybes frequent flyer scheme for which you need to register on their website).
There is also a dedicated check-in for this class of traveller AND they have a more generous baggage allowance of 30kg plus 10kg of hand baggage.
Now for those of you who are wondering how much Economy Plus fares would be, I have just been onto Flybes website and requested fare details on both Economy and Economy Plus for an imaginary return journey travelling from Southampton to Newcastle on 16 March returning Newcastle to Southampton on 21 March.
Here is the price difference:-
Economy Plus: £282
Wow! Is that not a big difference or what! As the journey takes approximately one hour I really wouldnt wish to pay £282 for complimentary drinks and a little bit extra leg room! In fact, Flybe claim their aircraft have more legroom than other low fare airlines 32.
I will keep to Economy!
Flybe do take a pride in their claim that their website is very straightforward and easy to use and that their aim to make booking a flight quick and easy.
All I can say is that I totally agree with their claim.
It was very quick and easy to book and their staff were brilliant.
The only problem I had was that, at one point, their website crashed if I took a little time to fill in all the details relevant to the booking. You know what it is like, you are half way through ticking boxes etc and the phone rings, you take the call but when you go back to the web page it crashes and you have to start all over again. This annoyed me but once my flow got going again it was quick and easy and painless.
Therefore, I have only given 4* because of the system crashing but I will definitely be travelling with Flybe in future.
Sorry to report that Flybe must be the most useless shower that have ever attempted to run an airline. They appear to think that it's reasonable to leave you waiting for hours at a time whilst they try and find a pilot. They refuse to even acknowledge compliants ( six email over three weeks with no response). I have had the misfortune to fly with them on four occasions ( you would think that I would learn) and they have never been on time, with an average delay of well over 2 hours. Not once have the delays been down to external reasons eg weather, air traffic problems. If you enjoy sitting in departure lounges wondering why the only planes with delays are the Flybe ones, then this is the airline for you. If like me you want to get from A to B then I'd try a professional outfit....
To be a little different FlyBe as British European are now known (www.flybe.com)they have come up with a simple idea. Low Fares, Seats allocated, pay for inflight drinks and snacks and if you are transferring through any other airport they can usually check the luggage all the way to your final destination. Anyway I flew from Belfast City Airport (2miles from the city centre)to Birmingham for a day trip so they checked us in for the return journey as well. The flight out was in a small Dash8 plane with 37 seats , it was a bit bumpy but fine. The flight was on time leaving and arriving, I had a coffee for £1.50 and my day return which was on a special offer cost only £67 including all taxes. The average seems to be about £97 return. On the return flight it was late leaving due to a mix up on availablilty of a wheelchair assistance at Birmingham and we were kept informed but that delay was vastly reduced when we landed back at Belfast. This time it was the BAE146 and it was very smooth and comfortable I prefered it to the Dash8.The flight was only 45 mins.Overall a good flying experience. On top of all that the staff were all very customer focussed so well done Flybe. Changes If that was not enough they also allow you to change the ticket, names, times etc up to 2 hours before the flight.Lowest fares are on the website. Airports to fly from Aberdeen (to Paris) Belfast City Birmingham Blackpool Bristol Edinburgh Exeter Glasgow Isle of Man Leeds Bradford London City, Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton Newcastle Southampton They fly to France, Belgium, Channel Islands, Italy and Spain as well as within the UK. Check In Check in is as other airlines up to 30 mins except if you have hand luggage only you can check in as late as 20mins before the flight. If you are returning the same day they will check you in for the return flight. Special help is available for
the elderly and infirm. Aircraft Jets BAE146 Is a 4 engined regional jets capable of carrying up to 110 passengers. A very quiet airplane , smooth with leather seating although they are getting a little older they are very reliable and safe. CRJ200 Very New 50 seat regional jet mostly used on Belfast to Leeds however they will be dropping these as their routes dont suit this type of plane. DHC Dash 8 These are very new twin engined turbo prop aircraft seating from 37 passengers up to 74 in the newest 400Q of which they have ordered another 20.They are only a little slower than a jet EG Belfast to Birmingham 10 mins more. Comfortable but can be a little bumpy in bad weather but again very safe. Inflight Service As stated earlier you do have to pay for everything on board but at £1.5 for a coffee and £2.45 for a filled roll it is not too bad. The captain gives you an update on the floight as to time weather expected etc, and the safety announcements are done in a professional manner.
I can definitely say one thing, those of you living in London and the Home Counties don't realise just how lucky you are - you can nip across to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton and hop on planes to almost anywhere in the world, including shock horror, a variety of locations in the UK. If you live in South Wales then this is not a simple (or cheap process), although the pending introduction of BMIBaby to Cardiff Airport promises to change all that, however from what I have seen of their flight-timings so far for my chosen destinations, cheap they might be, sensible times they are not. My boss and I had a forthcoming business trip to Belfast and to get there needed a flight, the alternative was to drive to Liverpool and get the ferry (500 mile round trip - plus the crossing; I think not - not really cost effective in either time or money). Our only other feasible means of transportation on a somewhat limited budget had to be flights; so where else to look than our 'local' airport, Cardiff International, apparently advertising itself as the gateway to Europe and the rest of the world, but not it seems the British Isles. The cheapest return flight we could get was in the region of £400 each with British Airways - it would have been easier to swim at those prices. I then proceeded to check BA out of Birmingham - £78 - what a difference, BMIbaby from East Midlands - £60 and £45 with EasyJet from Luton. From this little bit of research it seems that the further away from your final destination you get the cheaper the flight becomes - then I saw an advertisement in the Sunday paper for FlyBE a.k.a British European (they are now firmly branded as flybe following a name change in July 2001) A bit of browsing on their website and playing around with flight times, eventually found us a return journey that suited us from Bristol airport at a price we were more than happy with - £127 economy class return including
taxes. (This was far more favourable than the parking charges at Bristol Airport which came in at a casual £12/day - which if my memory serves me correctly is more expensive than both Gatwick and Heathrow - and for anyone who doesn't know Bristol is the only remaining UK airport where you still cannot pre-book car parking - at those prices I wonder why?). In addition, the quality of the car park is pretty dire as is the rather uninspiring airport, but I guess that will keep for another day. Shuttle buses run to the main terminal roughly ever 10 minutes throughout the day. Flybe also operate Business Class return services, although on planes seating less than 100 people and flights lasting less than an hour I don't know what advantages you would get for the extra pennies. The flight took us into Belfast City as opposed to the International Airport; the former as it's name might suggest is only about 5 miles from the City, whereas the International Airport is some 20 miles away so saved a fair bit on taxi fares as well. I am reliably informed that if you are staying in one of the major hotel chains in the City, you can take advantage of the Shuttle Buses for a small fee from both airports (around £5 return from City I believe). Our Taxi to the Hotel Europa cost us the grand total of £8 between three of us. WHO ARE FLYBE? They actually started out as Jersey European in 1979 having gone through a range of changes since then to the current period, acquiring their first London base in 1991 and their first franchises with Air France in 1996, they won best Regional Airline in 1993 and 1994 and became FlyBe in July of 2002, so they are a relatively new player in the cheaper airline market, what they do have is smaller planes, slightly higher yet still affordable prices, allocated seats and it appears nice planes, loads of legroom, reliability and they FLY FROM REGIONAL AIRPORTS - are you listening EasyJet and British Airways? <
br> < br> WHERE DO THEY FLY? It seems looking at the routes on their website, They fly from every major airport on the UK mainland with the exception of Cardiff (that figures) and Aberdeen. They also have links to Amsterdam, Brussels and numerous destinations in France, Jersey, Guernsey, Dublin and Shannon. From Bristol at the moment you can only fly to Belfast, Isle of Man and Jersey, although hopefully the not too distant future will see greater expansion on these destinations. I have been asked to provide more information on routes; usually happy to oblige, on this occasion, this would be something of a mammoth task as destinations from each of the 15 mainland, Eire and NI varies, safe to say they operate on a fairly large scale in these countries and France and I suspect they will continue to grow in Northern Europe for the foreseeable future, check out their website for more details on destinations - www.flybe.com. THE BOOKING PROCESS Preferred option, as with most of these cheaper carriers is on-line and you will make savings of up to £10 each way by doing so. The home page takes you directly into the booking system, much easier to find than BA's - and you simply select your departure and destination airports, the dates you want to travel and the number actually travelling as in adults, children and infants - press the submit button and you will be presented with a selection of both outbound and return flights (subject to availability) that will probably range considerably in price. I tried them from Birmingham for a forthcoming trip to Glasgow and the cheapest flight had I have left first thing in the morning was £14 outbound, the flight I actually wanted was £14, hence I am now flying with GO, who although have a similar pricing structure do put a ceiling on their flights and now seat allocations! Once you have decided which flights are right for you, press submit and you are away. Although I did most of the se
arching, my boss actually made the flight booking was at that point an unknown territory for expenses claims at work; but I understand it was a fairly simplistic process requiring both our names, postal address and credit card detail. The system issued a confirmation numberand our tickets were received in the post within about two weeks. Unusually, ticket and passenger details were changeable for a fee of around £25. CHECKING IN & LUGGAGE RETRIEVAL Fast, efficient, friendly. I was permitted to take my 6.1kg bag with me as hand luggage - what a relief - it meant I wouldn't have to wait for my luggage to be offloaded the other side, although my joy was short-lived as another passenger who was travelling to the same conference as we were was on our flight and her luggage transpired to be in the hold. To be fair the wait at Belfast City was MINIMAL - I didn't even get chance to have a sneaky ciggie away from my boss before seeking a taxi. What I most certainly did like best about the whole process, is that unlike EasyJet I knew where I was going to be sitting from the moment of check-in. It may sound silly but after the free for all of EasyJet, having my seat allocated was music to my ears, lookout for my forthcoming trip on GO then! :) THE PLANES Flying is something I do often but hate with a vengeance and my primary rating of any airline has to be the fact that it got me back on the ground still in one piece. I have heard a few horror stories of small planes on short distances from regional airports and thus was awaiting this trip with a mixture of excited trepidation and anticipation. Thankfully the plane had engines rather than propellers - it was a Canadair Regional Jet - and seated 49 people including air stewards, although I understand that much of Flybe's fleet are smaller than this and many of their planes still sport propellors over engines. Bearing in mind that I am only 5ft 1-1/2?, I co
uld actually see insid e the overhead lockers - these planes are small: normally even when standing on a seat I struggle to check whether I have left anything behind, which can be a real pain when I am travelling without my somewhat taller other half. THE LEGROOM Wow - a plane this small with leg-room - what can I say? There was at least double the amount offered by the likes of Britannia and JMC - I must say I was impressed - although if you are over 4ft 8", then I wouldn't recommend standing up suddenly planes or you could end up with a very sore head the next day. THE SERVICE The captain announced that we would be offered a selection of complementary refreshments including tea, coffee, water or fruit juice accompanied by a mini packet of shortbread of savoury snacks; in addition, they were supposed to offer a range of drinks from the bar but we didn't actually see any of these (I don't fly well sober) but as I guess the flight last only around 45 minutes (it was actually scheduled to last 1 hour 15 mins) then I shouldn't really complain. RELIABILITY & PUNCTUALITY On the outward journey we departed on time and arrived half hour early, on the return journey we actually departed about 20 minutes late, and both the announcers at Belfast, the staff, noticeboards and captain kept apologising profusely, quite impressive and we still managed to arrive back on the mainland ahead of schedule. In fact there was GO flight due to leave 15 minutes before us to the same destination, but it actually arrived some 45 minutes behind us. OVERALL IMPRESSION An excellent service at an affordable price, but remember the planes are small, which means that they feel every jolt, bump, wheels going up and down, engines pulling back - if you are a nervous flyer, try where possible to get a flight on a nice clear day, going out was clear as crystal returning home was a nightmare, cloudy as hell, and I could not
believe that a plane this small could fly safely and comfortably at 30,000 feet and 500 miles an hour - my boss (being something of a daredevil and a glider enthusiast wasted no opportunity in recognising that he had finally discovered my key weakness (he was quite nice about my fear of dentists) and took the mickey out of me mercilessly. Having said all that about London and the Home Counties, I am reliably informed that if you want to get to Belfast, then Scotland is the place to be, as our Co-ordinator actually managed to get a flight with EasyJet for the grand sum of £27.10 return, including taxes, I couldn't get a train fare to London for that price. Want to find out more? Visit www.flybe.com