Review of Bulgaria Air flight Berlin Sofia in Economy

Airline Bulgaria Air
Flight FB320
Class Economy
Seat 13F
Aircraft Airbus A220-300
Flight time 01:48
Take-off 31 Mar 24, 20:34
Arrival at 31 Mar 24, 23:22
FB 19 reviews
LondonLaddie.
Published on 2nd April 2024

Journey - (BErlin & sofia):


Routing

  • FR145 - Economy - London → Berlin - Boeing 737-800 Not available
  • FB320 - Economy - Berlin → Sofia - Airbus A220-300 You are here
  • FB851 - Economy - Sofia → London - Airbus A220-300 Coming soon

Introduction:


Welcome to my 1st report on this website!


In the summer of 2023, Bulgaria Air received its first Airbus A220-300, after committing to 5 A220-300s and 2 A220-100s built by French-based Airbus in their Canadian facility and leased by Air Lease Corporation. Bulgaria Air have stated that the new aircraft are part of a fleet renewal plan in hopes of slowly phasing out their aging fleet. Before the first A220 was delivered, Bulgaria Air had 10 aircraft in their fleet; 1 Airbus A319, 5 Airbus A320s and 4 Embraer E190s, the youngest of which being LZ-PLO, an Embraer E190 delivered in October 2012. Since the first A220 delivery, Bulgaria Air have acquired 4 of the 5 Airbus A220-300s ordered and are awaiting the 2 A220-100s, at the time of writing.


On the 31st March 2024, I was lucky enough to fly one of these new examples on flight FB320, from Berlin Brandenburg (BER), Germany, to Sofia (SOF), Bulgaria.


Departure from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER):


On accident I arrived at Brandenburg 4 hours before departure in hopes of doing some plane spotting from the Observation Deck in Terminal 1, where my flight was departing from. However, I was lead to believe that the Observation Deck was after Security but didn't realise that it wasn't until I had already passed through Security! Before that I tried to print my boarding pass so I could keep it as a souvenir as it was my first time flying Bulgaria Air and wanted something to remember it with. But the check-in desk wasn't staffed yet and self check-in desks weren't an option so I couldn't. Perhaps this a consequence of arriving 4 hours early!


'Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt' (BER) is the single commercial airport serving Berlin and the surrounding State of Brandenburg. The airport opened in 2020 and replaced Berlin's previous three airports, being Tempelhof (closed 2008), Tegel (closed 2021) and Schonefeld (closed 2020). Construction started in 2006 and was scheduled to open in 2011, but due to delays caused by poor planning and management the airport did not open until 2020.

BER located 18 kilometres south-east of Berlin's city centre and easily accessible by taxi, bus, local mainline trains and the S-Bahn (Berlin's urban train network). The airport itself is the 3rd busiest in Germany and the 15th busiest in Europe. Additionally, the airport handles roughly 34 million passengers annually.

Terminal 1 is served by mainstream carriers such as the Lufthansa Group, Air France, KLM, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and a few others. An exception being low-cost-carrier easyJet. Low-cost-carriers Wizz Air and Ryanair utilise Terminal 2.

BER uses 2 runways. The northern runway (07L/25R) used to be the southern runway of Schonefeld which was built in the 1960s. In order to accommodate Brandenburg's traffic, the runway was refurbished and lengthened. The southern runway (07R/25L) was built from scratch and was commissioned in 2012.


From my experience, there is a plentiful amount of facilities in Terminal 1. The same can't be said about Terminal 2 as I haven't flown out of it before. After exiting Security, I was met by probably the shortest World Duty Free section I have ever walked through, which I was glad for as I personally despise the long-winding path through the jungle of cosmetics, perfumes and alcohol. Reaching the end of World Duty Free, you are greeted by the main departure hall with the A and C gates on the left, B and D gates and a food court on the right and shops and restaurants all around. Throughout the corridors to the gates are a few bars and extra restaurants. Whilst walking through them looking for vantage points to plane spot from the gates (I still had 3 hours to kill) I counted around 4 or 5 open lounges, including the Lufthansa Group's Senator and Business lounges. Also scattered across the corridors are a couple bathrooms and free charging stations which are located at some gates.


Flight fb320 (BER - SOF):


At 06:10pm local time, my gate number was revealed so I then headed to gate A03, about a 2 minute walk from the departures hall, with an estimated departure time of 08:10pm CEST and a scheduled arrival time of 11:20pm EEST. 


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At 07:29pm the inbound flight from Sofia (FB319) touched down on runway 27L around 9 minutes late. A couple minutes later, it pulled into the gate. The example in question was LZ-ROM, the first Airbus A220-300 delivered to Bulgaria Air in June 2023. This route usually sees Bulgaria Air's Embraer E190s operating it, so an A220 operating it is a bit rare to see. The complete deboarding of the aircraft was further delayed due to a passenger needing assistance with a wheelchair. From the outside, the A220 looked quite smart and shiny. In my opinion, the Bulgaria Air livery suits the Airbus A220 quite well. Boarding commenced at roughly 08:00pm which weirdly allowed any passenger of any class to board whenever they liked instead of Business Class first, then Economy.


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When reaching the aircraft I was greeted by the friendly cabin crew and a clean white cabin. Bulgaria Air's A220-300s can capacitate 143 people with 8 Business Class seats at the front and 135 Economy Class seats behind them. My Economy Class window seat (13F) was located on the right side of the aircraft and 1 row behind the emergency exits.


 Due to the strange nature of the Airbus A220s having a 3-2 seating configuration there are no seats with the letter 'B'.


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The seat itself features a few amenities. For starters, it contains a standard armrest and 3-inch recline. It also has an adjustable headrest, something I have never seen before on an Intra-European Economy product. Additionally there is also a large tray-table, a table/phone holder above it and a charging port for USB-A and USB-C. In the seat-back pocket there was also 2 Inflight magazines and a safety card. It's worth noting that Bulgaria Air currently does not offer in-flight wifi or an IFE system. Upon walking aboard the aircraft, the crew handed out a bottle of water to everyone onboard, which I think was a nice touch.


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At 08:25pm, with a delay of 15 minutes, we pushed back from the gate and began taxiing to runway 27L. The crew went through the standard safety procedure, once in Bulgarian and once in English. We then taxied on to the high-speed entrance and waited for a Pegasus Airbus A321neo in front to depart. We then took off into the darkness before banking left, heading south-east, whilst climbing to our cruising altitude of 37,000 feet.


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At around half-way through the flight the cabin-crew came down the aisle with the complimentary meal service. The items on offer were a warm ham & cheese sandwich with a Bulgarian sauce made of tomato and pepper called 'lutenitsa' and a beverage. The drinks on offer were Water, Fanta, Coke, Sprite, Apple and Orange Juice, Coffee, Tea and Wine?! I have never seen this kind of meal service before especially in Economy Class! After that, about 10 minutes later, the crew then handed out mini branded chocolates, a reoccurring appearance on other European carriers. Something I noticed is that despite the moderate episodes of turbulence the crew still served hot drinks and managed to have no spills; impressive! Overall, I enjoyed the meal service as it was pretty tasty!


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arrival into SOfia Airport (SoF):


It was 11:02pm EEST when we began our descent into Sofia Airport (SOF).


 Sofia Airport is the main international airport in Bulgaria and serves the capital city, Sofia. It was opened in September 1936 and was used during the Second World War. By the late 1970s the airport was handling upwards of 3 million passengers per year. The airport has witnessed the rise and fall of many Bulgarian flag carriers, the latest being Bulgaria Air who started operations in 2002 and has been operating since. Sofia Airport now handles roughly 7 million passengers annually.

Sofia Airport is located 10 kilometres from Sofia's city centre and can be accessed by bus, taxi and the Sofia Metro.

Terminal 1 is served by Low cost carriers Wizz Air and easyJet whilst Terminal 2 handles mainstream carriers British Airways, Lufthansa Group, LOT, El Al, ITA Airways, Qatar Airways, Bulgaria Air (which have a base here), a couple others and low cost carrier Ryanair. The northern sector of the airport is utilised by the Bulgarian Air Force as Vrazhdebna Air Base.

SOF has one runway; 09/27. This runway was put into operation in 2006 replacing the old runway now offset by 210 metres to the north and extended. The new runway is 3600 metres long and can handle 20 aircraft movements an hour. Its worth noting that the eastern end of the runway crosses a newly constructed bridge over the Iskar River.


We touched down on runway 27 at 11:22pm, local time and taxied to the stands beside Terminal 2. Despite leaving Berlin 15 minutes late, we still managed to make up time and arrived into Sofia with a short delay of only 2 minutes. Deboarding the aircraft was quick as the flight was only around half full. We then had to take the airside buses to the arrivals area at Terminal 2 which is entertaining as we get to pass by a few aircraft which were parked for the night. Passport Control at Sofia is quite quick because their isn't any on some occasions. You see, if you are travelling from one Schengen nation to another, in this case Germany to Bulgaria, then you don't need to go through the hassle of Immigration and Passport Control.


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Here is the flight's routing:


photo screenshot-2024-04-04-094211
See more

Verdict

Bulgaria Air

7.6/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew7.5
Entertainment/wifi6.5
Meal/catering7.5

Berlin - BER

7.9/10
Efficiency7.5
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Sofia - SOF

7.4/10
Efficiency7.0
Access7.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness7.5

Conclusion

So, in conclusion, what do I think of Bulgaria Air?

Well I was genuinely shocked by the service provided by Bulgaria Air on this flight. Some features such as an adjustable headrest and warm complimentary meals I have never seen before on major Intra-European carriers such as British Airways or Lufthansa which usually only offer them in Business Class whilst Bulgaria Air served this in Economy! I was very pleased with my experience on flight FB320 and loved the new, sleek and clean Airbus A220s. Whilst Bulgaria Air have been criticised by others in the past, I believe that they are definitely taking a step in the right direction and
I would love to see them expand further.

So, would i recommend flying Bulgaria Air if you have the chance?

Yes!

And would I fly them again?

Yes!

Thanks for reading.

Related

3 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 648069 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 6718 Comments
    Hi there, thanks for sharing your first review here with us! And it's the first review of a Bulgaria Air A220 on the site, which is awesome. Bulgaria Air are definitely underrated as they are one of the few European carriers with a true Business class cabin and meals in Economy. For Economy passengers, the A220 probably offers the best comfort for a narrowbody with the 2-3 configuration and seats over 18" wide--the USB-A and USB-C ports are really nice to have as well and very well-placed.

    A very nice first Flight-Report! Welcome to the site and looking forward to more reviews in the future!
  • Comment 648354 by
    ThomasDutch SILVER 639 Comments
    The A220 is definitely one of the better rides to have on regional flights and with the combined service of Bulgaria, it seems to be a decent to good flight. I was surprised to see a complimentary snack and beverage service though as I expected them to provide you with a BoB service like they do on their charters and guess you lucked out too by flying them on the day they joined Schengen as border control could be a tedious process before.
    -----
    Welcome to Flight-report though :)

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