Another birthday rolls around, 23 this time, and I decided to go back to Belfast for the first time in over 4 years!
I had previously flown on my last two Belfast trips to Belfast International (BFS) with Ryanair, so I wanted to change things up by flying to Belfast City. I chose to fly from Southampton with Flybe and then fly to London Heathrow with Aer Lingus (Flight Report to come!), before heading on with my week long European Tour to Gibraltar and Gothenburg.
I had a 40 minute drive from my home in Dorset to the Hampshire Airport which is famed as the home of the first Supermarine Spitfire flight in 1936. All the flights leaving at that time in the morning were all Flybe flights across the UK, Channel Islands and a few major cities (Paris and Dublin, Amsterdam mainly) from nearby EU Countries.
Southampton used to get regular services from BMI Regional (Munich), Aer Lingus Regional (Cork) and KLM Cityhopper (Amsterdam) back when I did my first flight from here back in May 2016. Four years on- it is very much the domain of Flybe with a few Auringy Air Service flights to the Channel Islands and a seasonal easyJet service in the winter to Geneva. Given how Flybe has been financially in the last few months, it is worrying how this airport is so reliant on one airline!
Southampton is a very tiny airport by comparison to the likes of London Heathrow and London Gatwick- who it competes with. One thing I like about SOU is I can be at the Airport (with hand luggage only and a mobile boarding pass) 60-45 minutes ahead of my flight's departure time and still have plenty of time to clear security and get a coffee.
The Airport gates are all yards from each other, you could walk from Gate 1 to Gate 9 in less than 5 minutes.
(Image of SOU from a previous trip bellow)
I boarded from Gate 2, though the option to boarding from the vacant and neighbouring Gate 1 allowed me to avoid a long que at the main boarding gate. Walking across the apron, I was greeted with a white and blue Dash 8 Q-400 (G-ECOJ) which was to be my aircraft to Belfast.
This flight cost me £35.99 with a free seat allocation luckily giving me a window seat in Row 7. It wasn't a full flight thankfully with probably a good 60 of the 78 seats filled, the front 10 rows were quite empty, where as towards the rear- the cabin was more filled up.
The weather was still quite blustery and cloudy in both SOU and BHD, the aftermath of the Storm Dennis that had hit the UK and Ireland over the weekend just gone by. However we were able to get going on time, and we taxied to the halfway point on the runway and proceeded to the end of the runway to make the 180-degree turn to depart Southampton.
We took off heading over Southampton city and docks before turning North-West towards Ireland. the flight time was going to be roughly just over one hour, a similar flight time to flying in a jet.
The flight attendants started off the buy on board service from the Cafe. I went with the £4.50 breakfast offer (Hot Drink and Pastry) with a packet of chocolate digestives for £1.20p
We began our decent towards Belfast, coming in from the North-East over the sea. We landed, passing the Ikea just off the airport- which I've heard is a good spotting location for BHD!
We parked up on a remote stand next to the LHR BA Shuttle flight. Out of the six planes at the Terminal, all the aircraft were Flybe except for the two LHR flights operated by Aer Lingus and British Airways.
I was allowed a quick flight deck visit to say hello to the pilots, who wished me a happy birthday and I asked how there day was going- they had to return to SOU then shuttle the plane to Birmingham (BHX). I left the plane wishing the crew a safe journey home and a good day!
Flybe- Good service and solid flight experience. the flight was on time, good selection on the cafe menu, seat had enough legroom (for me anyway) and the flight time was a good value (£35).
Southampton- One of my favourite airports, and a very underrated regional airport for the UK in my opinion. Has the necessary facilities and requires very little time to be present in the airport. Very easy to navigate as well due to its small size.
Belfast City- Great airport. Public transport was cheap (£3.50 for a 24hr day pass on the busses), easy to navigate in the terminal and the toilets were clean.