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Flybe Embraer 195 Economy
BACKGROUND Flybe currently has 194 routes serving 12 countries, operating from a total of 68 departure points – 36 within the UK and 32 throughout the rest of Europe (on sale for Winter 09/Summer ’10). It also carries more UK domestic passengers than any other airline; carries more domestic passengers at London Gatwick than any other airline and operates more than four times as many domestic routes as any other airline (CAA statistics – Apr-Nov 09).
CHECK-IN I was booked on the 0855 BE962 service from London Gatwick to Belfast City. The flight was available for online check-in from 36 hours before departure. If you check in online you must be able to print out your boarding pass, otherwise when you get to the airport you will have to request one which will cost £10. Since I had no printer available, I did not check in, instead choosing to check-in at the airport where there is no charge. If you are flying with a colleague or partner, checking in at the airport is the best way to ensure you get seats together for free, since if you do this online, you will have to pay £6 per seat per sector to get seats together (so £24 for a return trip for two), although both system obviously rely on what is available at the time of check-in / seat selection.
LUGGAGE On Flybe flights hand baggage is restricted to one item with maximum permitted dimensions of 50x35x23cm. (108cm – smaller than the standard 115cms.) The max weight was 10kg. I could also take a laptop bag but only if travelling on a Flybe Economy Plus ticket. Since I needed to take my laptop bag, and I had a normal economy class ticket, it was clear I would have to check-in a bag. Accordingly, my ticket included one check-in bag, though I was uncertain of the allowed weight for this having seen different estimates on the Flybe website (anything between 10 and 20kg). During the check-in process (where it was quoted as 20kg), I was asked how many bags I wanted to check in, and when I said one, it added a surcharge of £9.99 to my ticket (a second one would have been an additional £40 – included in the price of an Economy Plus ticket). I did not want to pay this and so made-do with travelling with just one piece of hand baggage and pockets full of everything that wouldn’t fit in the bag. (I later learned that the bag had been paid for, though for some reason it didn’t show on the website.)
THE FLIGHT Flybe uses the South Terminal at London Gatwick. The trains were delayed getting there, and I arrived 35 minutes before departure, well after the time stipulated on the website (which was one hour before departure). I fully expected to be told the flight had closed, but instead a ticket was issued and I went through security and straight to Gate 5 where the flight was about to board. An airbridge took us onto the aircraft.
THE SEAT Flybe has its Embraer 195 aircraft configured in a 2-2 configuration with 188 seats. To see a seatplan of the aircraft, click here.
When you book your flight you are pre-assigned a seat. Changing this seat costs £6 for this one way flight or £15 for an “extra legroom seat” (effectively the emergency exit). I had accidentally changed my seat when investigating online check-in so to actually check-in online would have incurred a £12 charge, as I had changed my standard seat on both legs. This was another reason for not checking in online. Perhaps because I had come late I was given a seat in the absolute back row of the aircraft in 31B, even though the plane was only perhaps 30 per cent full. The toilet is on this side (although on the far side of the exit, so you don’t have any disturbance form it). The leather seats are in a two-tone blue with a maroon carpet.
We took off a few minutes late though well within the 15 minutes push-back window, and once airborne, the three flight attendants came round offering food and drink. I was hungry having had an early start, but was unwilling to pay £6 for the meal deal (drink, sandwich and chocolate bar). We landed at 1005, ten minutes early, and quickly disembarked.
VERDICT The flight, seat, aircraft and punctuality are all excellent. But the complications of the booking process, and the ways that check-in seems designed to catch people out and make them pay more, are a shame.
PRICE Mid-week return fares in February from Flybe’s website start at £72, including taxes/charges and one bag (20kg).