Tuesday, 23 February 2010

New Flight between Barcelona and Bern

Barcelona's mayor recently surprised everyone by announcing a possible run-up for the Winter Olympics of 2022. Barcelona is certainly within easy reach of great ski resorts and the mountains of the Pyrenees. However, and in the meantime, for all those of its citizens that wish to try some new slopes, the Swiss carrier Skywork Airlines is soon to start a new regular, three-times-a-week link between Barcelona (BCN) and the Swiss capital. Until now the connection between the Catalan capital and Switzerland relied on flights to Geneva (GVA), Zürich (ZRH) and Basel (EAP). The service will also compete with sleeper pendular trains that cover the journey overnight.

Skywork Airlines has not missed the opportunity to point out in its website how these services compare in terms of price and time with these alternatives to travel to the central area of Switzerland and to the main attractions of the Bernese Oberland.

Skywork Airlines is what I would call a "boutique" airline, it belongs to the Gribi family of Switzerland, is based at Bern airport and its fleet is made of a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400, Fairchild Dornier 328-110, as well as four executive jets, one Citation Ultra, one Citation Bravo and two Citation Excel for charter services. In addition to the regular flights to BCN, it is opening soon a new connection to Rotterdam (RTM). In summary, this is a small but expanding project that, I am sure, those of us that like skiing will keep an eye on.

Monday, 22 February 2010

From The Times

Quite shocking, to be honest...

British plane-spotters face jail in India

Sunday, 21 February 2010

New connections between the Iberian Peninsula and the Gulf

Foto from Wikipedia: Qatar Airways Boeing 777, by Timothy Dauber from Everett, USA - Washington

At the moment there is quite a large number of direct routes between the Iberian Peninsula and America, connecting Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon to the main cities of that continents (or continents, if you consider North and South America separately), however connections towards the East are very few (Singapore airlines flight to Barcelona and Qatar Airways flight Doha-Madrid being the exceptions), so to fly to the Middle East, Asia or Australia a transfer at other European hubs such as Frankfurt or Paris was required. From this summer there will be more choice, as we will see the launch of two new scheduled services: Qatar Airways will start daily flights Barcelona-Doha, whereas Emirates will open its first Spanish route connecting Dubai to Madrid. My guess is that the bulk of the traffic would be transfer passengers, as these new routes will significantly reduce journey times from South West Europe to Asia and Oceania.

Saturday, 20 February 2010


I use Stansted airport (STN) very often and I have never found it to be particularly interesting for planespotting, given the dominance of Easyjet and Ryanair with their homogeneous fleets, however, this time as a bit different, maybe because I was flying around midday instead of the usual peak hours, there were some interesting sights, like this Aurigny Air Services ATR-72. I felt some curiosity about this airline so I did some research.

Aurigny operates out of the Channel Island of Guernsey and ts network covers the Channel Islands as well as some airports in mainland Britain and France. This ATR-72 is one of the three the airline currently has, they entered service in 2009. As a curosity, Aurigny Air Services is the longest standing operator of Britten Norman Trislander aircraft. I have to admit I had never heard of this aircraft type, I found its engine configuration remarkable, to say the least.

Foto: Britten Norman Trislander, by Wikipedia

Another curious fact of this airline is that, according to Wikipedia, the name Aurigny comes from the local French/Auregnais name for Alderney, one of the lesser Channel Islands, a language that was made extinct by the evacuation of islanders during the occupation of the Channel Islands in World War II.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Great Circle Route and why has Finnair become an specialist in Asian routes

The shortest flight route is not always a straight line. We are used to see the Earth represented flat in a two-dimensional map, however this representation ignores that the Earth is round. The curvature of the Earth means that the most direct routes between Europe and North America or between Europe and Asia would normally go across the polar regions, since the distance to be covered is smaller at those places. This is known as the Great Circle Route.

If you want to see what is the most direct route between two points check out this website

For example, for the Lisbon to Tokyo (Narita airport) example enter LIS-NRT and press "Map", you will be surpised by the results! You can do the same with any airport city codes (you can find a list of airport codes here.

Now you can see why Finnair is focusing on marketing its Helsinki hub (HEL) as the gateway to Asia...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Planespotting in India (II)

An Indigo Airbus 320 queueing behind us, an Air India Boeing 747 in the background

A Jet Airways Boeing 737 on the runway

...and here some pics taken in Mumbai when we were queuing to take off. They were taken at dusk and in misty weather, hence the quality is not the best...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Planespotting in India (I)

India has curently one of the World's most vibrant airline sectors, with the rapid growth of local low-cost airlines such as GoAir, Spicejet and Indigo, and expanding private full-service airline such as Kingfisher and Jet Airways (with their respective low-cost subsidiaries). There are some voices questioning the economic sustainability of so many carriers competing with each other, but the reality is that there are a number of factors that make that flying is today, by far, the most convenient and efficient way to travel across India. Low fares, brand-new fleets, the difficulty of moving over land, the large distances and the expanding economy all play a part on this state of things.

My recent visit to India was a great opportunity to have a first hand experience of the local airline market, specially since the trip involved several domestic flights (stopping at Mumbai, Kochi, Madurai and Chennai airports) in addition to the flights in and out of India, with Gulf Air via Bahrain.

Here are some pictures of the Kingfisher ATR-72 about to take us from Madurai (IXM) to Chennai (MAA)

Arrival at Chennai airport, another Kingfisher ATR-72, the airline uses this aircraft mostly for regional flights in South India.

More pics to follow shortly...

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

What airline has the most comfortable seats?

I got myself a copy of Business Traveller Airline Survey at the Technology Travel Europe show. I did not know this publication and it was an interesting read, despite the fact that some of the airlines I use most often are not featured (in the last page they explain that space limitations have forced them to select just a few). It basically describes the type of aircraft and seating facilities available in each airline. Its content might be of interest to frequent fliers with the ability to select the airlines of their choice. This information can also be accessed online through Business Traveller's Seatplans service

Monday, 15 February 2010

Unusual planespotting opportunity at Stansted

The spell of bad weather that the British Isles endured last January had the unintended consequence of providing some unusual planespotting opportunities. Here are some pics taken while I was waiting to board my Easyjet flight at Stansted airport (STN)...yes, this is Stansted! neither British Airways nor Virgin Atlantic have moved home...what happened is that the severe weather forced the closure of Gatwick (LGW) as well as other airports in the South-East of England at different times during the first weeks of January and planes had to divert to alternative airports(as seen in the pictures, weather conditions at Stansted were also far from ideal!). Birmingham airport (BHX) also took some diverted flights (including some Stansted-bound flights, as the Essex airport was also forced to close temporarily), the Birmingham Aviation Enthusiast's Group took the opportunity to post some nice pictures in their blog.

Foto: VA Boeing 747 "Virginia Plain"

Foto: British Airways Boeing 777

Sunday, 14 February 2010

More on Barcelona's empty airport terminal

Foto: an evening at BCN's T2

When I mentioned a few weeks ago that the recent inauguration of Barcelona's T1 terminal had left the old terminals empty, well... I really meant it! I was there a few days ago and it was almost sad, not to say surreal to walk along the deserted aisles.