In the post-launch exhilaration of April 2022, I had decided to book my second trip with the revived Flybe on the carrier's initial route from Southampton to the Northern Irish capital of Belfast. Whilst I had immensely enjoyed the launch event and associated fanfare, I also wanted to take a look at the carrier six months into its operations.
I opted to fly from Southampton to Belfast City for a weekend away, before returning with Flybe into Birmingham in order to reconvene with friends and relatives in the Midlands. I hadn't had enough time in Belfast back in April, and needed a full day in the city in order to get a better feel for its people, history, and culture, whilst also spending some time away from home.
Whilst Flybe offers numerous daily flights between its Birmingham headquarters and its largest base, Southampton sees only a single daily connection, although further rotations are offered by Emerald Airlines and Eastern Airways - the latter of whom are dropping the route, and thus their operations into Belfast, due to the loss of their monopoly.
Southampton Airport is a pleasure to travel from - it's just 90 steps from the railway station which sees direct services to London, Bournemouth, and Southampton itself. The airport is, as advertised, a breeze to travel through, although its small departure lounge can become very cramped on days such as this one which saw three simultaneous British Airways departures full of somewhat rowdy holidaymakers - yes, in the middle of October!
After the departure of the three Embraers, and my ears' gradual recovery, G-ECOR touched down from Belfast. Despite having been held up in Amsterdam earlier in the day, it was keeping relatively well to schedule, with around a 15 minute delay on the inbound sector.
Definitely not humming a self-formulated parody song to commemorate the trip over to Ireland, I made my way onboard G-ECOR, an aircraft which has had a slightly more colourful history than some of Flybe's other Q400s.
Originally delivered to the airline in 2009 as one of their later old-gen Q400 deliveries, G-ECOR operated for Flybe until March 2020, when it was taken out of service for maintenance just 24 hours prior to the airline's collapse. It was subsequently repossessed by the lessor, NAC, and stored at Maastricht until February 2022, when it was repainted for Russian carrier Aurora and assigned registration RA-67266.
For very well-televised reasons, all European lessors cut their ties with Russian carriers, and this aircraft was no exception, with it narrowly escaping a certain disappearance into the Russian wilderness. Instead, however, it was added to Flybe's existing 12-aircraft lease agreement with NAC, and repositioned to the UK for a repaint and pre-delivery maintenance.
The aircraft is now configured with 78 seats, and a refreshed interior when compared to the previous incarnation of Flybe, though it was notably missing the 'mood lighting' seen onboard the rest of the airline's fleet.
Rotating out of Southampton, we would take a sharp turn to the right and headed north, curving up past Oxford and turning west past Birmingham before leaving England over Liverpool.
Even before we'd passed 10,000 feet, however, the extremely friendly pair of cabin crew passed through the aircraft offering Flybe's selection of complimentary teas, coffees, juices and chocolate biscuits. Personally I feel that this is a notable improvement over the former buy-on-board offering, though a wider selection may want to be considered on routes such as BHX to Geneva which is launching in December.
The crew very kindly allowed me to wander around the cabin, as the flight was relatively empty, allowing for a selection of different views, especially as we cruised over the Irish Sea, where an elderly couple also on a weekend trip pointed out sights both on the water, and in the air - with one of the latter being a Loganair ATR 72-600 on finals into Liverpool.
We passed over the Isle of Man, with a gorgeous sunset making itself obvious just as we began to dip below the clouds towards Ireland.
Even beneath the clouds, however, the approach into Belfast City afforded scenic views of the rugged coastline between Bangor and "the city", and we touched down amid a sea of Aer Lingus and Flybe tails with a slight delay of 15 minutes.
Safely down on terra firma once again, I was somewhat dismayed to recall that the Sydenham Bypass into Belfast was subject to lane closures at weekends, and that a taxi into the city could take up to half an hour to turn up.
In the end, however, this did work in my favour as a planespotter, as it allowed me to tick off a new registration - G-EXTB, an aircraft which only entered service with Flybe in September, and the first of their small additional order for Q400 NextGens. Fellow user Danny R has in fact published a trip report from this very aircraft, which is well worth a read!
I hope that you've enjoyed my debut report - hopefully I will be able to publish a second one with my experience flying out of Belfast in due course.
Flybe are certainly falling into a steady rhythm after half a year, and the crew have got the inflight services down a fine art. With the summer schedule just weeks from release, who knows where they could be off to next year?
Very nice first report ! It’s good to see Flybe back flying again. Looks like you had an excellent experience with the revived airline. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to future reports.
Many thanks for your kind words - I certainly did!
Hi jerseyeuropean, thank you for sharing your first FR with us! Very well documented narrative, interesting that some of the old fleet came full circle and were re-leased back to BE. The offering on BE looks comparable to BA and is more than reasonable for their intra-UK flights. BHD looks much more convenient than BFS. Welcome to the site!
Hi, thank you! It was quite interesting though it's good to see the familiar registrations back in the sky. Certainly very pleased with BE's inflight service, and they have just added a choice of hot chocolate as well. Something a little more interesting with a little more relevance for the winter schedule. BHD is definitely more convenient as BFS can be an absolute pain to get to from the city!
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