Airlines – good & bad

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Flying between London and Melbourne in March-April I used seven different airlines for 11 flights, two of which (Adria and Emirates) had annoying delays. And one which I didn’t even fly on, but left me very impressed – Regent Airways of Bangladesh – we’ll get back to them.

◄ My flights started with two Wizz Air connections – London Luton to Bratislava in Slovakia and then Bratislava to Skopje in Macedonia. Wizz Air – Hungarian, headquartered in Budapest – have lots of Eastern European connections, very useful if you want to get to Transylvania in Romania I’ve discovered in the past. They are a low-cost carrier with strict rules on carry on bags, keen on extracting money from you for any possible extra (a bit like Ryanair), but live with that and they’re just fine. I’ll probably be using them later this year if I manage to visit Moldova, it’s on my list.

So no complaints about Wizz Air – US$99 London-Bratislava and US$89 Bratislava-Skopje – we went on time, arrived on time, comfortable, well-kept Airbus A320s, all just fine. Then I went from Skopje to Pristina in Kosovo by train, a bit over US$5.

▲ Pristina Airport, like so much else of Kosovo, looking much glossier and flash than you’d expect from one of the poorest countries in Europe.

▲ And my Adria Airways A319, which was definitely not my favourite airline from this trip. Adria are the airline of Slovenia, I’ve flown with them once before, but after this trip I’d be happy never to use them again. I was flying Pristina-Munich with Adria and then Munich-Berlin with Lufthansa, because there was no direct flight to Berlin. It was costing me a pricey US$250 and that A319 just sat there, for nearly an hour while most of the passengers stood up, waiting in a bus to be driven less than 100 metres to the stupid aircraft, we could have walked to it in 30 seconds.

Eventually we all drifted back to the terminal, Adria hadn’t said anything, but it appeared they didn’t have crew to fly the damn thing. Where they were was never explained, but eventually we left an hour and a half late and with an extra pilot, an extra copilot and an extra flight attendant, all sitting in the one row of ‘business class’ up the front. Of course this meant I’d missed my connection in Munich and to add insult to injury Adria never passed on my Star Alliance frequent flyer number to Singapore Airlines so I could claim the long delayed flight.

Never mind, Lufthansa and German efficiency made up for things. They’d already booked me on a later light to Berlin before I arrived in Munich so I departed Munich at 6 pm, flew to Berlin, got out of the terminal and got a taxi to the hotel, picked up Maureen and took another taxi to Kreuzberg and we were sitting down to dinner with German friends at 8 pm. Wow.

The next flight, Lufthansa again, from Berlin (that tatty old Tegel Airport while those perhaps-not-so-efficient Germans finally get their shiny new Brandenburg Airport finished) to Frankfurt was just fine.

◄ But then I was on Emirates and things went downhill again. Here’s the Emirates flight crew heading uphill towards our flight from Frankfurt to Dubai. Emirates is all about bling, fine if you like bling, not so fine if you don’t. Maureen and I were right up at the sharp end of the sharp end where, if you want, you can even have a shower during your long-haul flight. Can you imagine anything more ridiculous? I certainly cannot.

At Dubai we split, Maureen was continuing to Melbourne, I was diverting to Dhaka in Bangladesh. Still on Emirates, but she was in First, I was continuing on Business. ‘So you are not welcome to use the First Class lounge,’ Emirates announced. OK, your wife is in First, but you can go somewhere else.

Despite which Emirates went even further downhill, my flight to Dhaka didn’t depart.


There was a little more information than with my delayed Adria flight a few days earlier, before it eventually left more than two hours late. Once again, I was going to miss my connection, this time with Regent Airways from Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar. Which is where Regent Airways, just like Lufthansa in Munich, did all the right things.

▲ Remarkably, despite having to apply and pay for a Visa-on-Arrival and get over to the domestic terminal I almost – but not quite – made my Regent Airways connection. Even more remarkably the Regent Airways people were amazingly apologetic about not getting me on the flight, late though I was, and then Md Ariful Islam (Assistant Station Manager) raced me around from airline to airline and got me on a US-Bangla flight so I arrived in Cox’s Bazar only an hour later than I’d planned. Wow again, so Regent Airways certainly get my approval even if I’ve never flown with them.

▲ US-Bangla – Fly Fast Fly Safe on a 737-800 – were just fine although they’d had a fatal crash on their Dhaka-Kathmandu operation just three weeks earlier. The Regent Airways flight had cost me US$50, the US-Bangla substitute was US$48.

▲ Then I was at the Rohingya refugee camps in Kutupalong south of Cox’s Bazar, travelled by road north to Chittagong (road travel in Bangladesh has a very scary record) and flew Novoair in an ATR-72 back to Dhaka (US$34) and with Emirates on a 777-300ER to Dubai and an Emirates A380-800 to Melbourne. All OK this time although the sharp end of Emirates is far too bling for my taste, they even have toilet attendants purely to scurry into the First Class toilets to tidy them up each time a First Class bum sits on a First Class toilet seat. And on Maureen’s Dubai-Melbourne flight (but not mine) the showering passengers used so much water the First Class toilets ran out of water for regular sink use.

Other airline news? Well Qantas has announced their last six Boeing 747s will all be retired by the end of 2020. British Airways still have quite a few 747s although probably the very last brand new 747-8 was delivered to Korean Air less than a year ago. The only other operators of passenger versions of that last 747 type are Lufthansa and Air China.

Then there are cancelled Boeing orders – the 80 Boeing 777s and 737s which Iran Air tried to order, but which won’t be delivered now that Donald Trump has banned their sale. If you take Boeing’s US employment numbers (150,000 people) and Boeing’s 2017 delivery total (763 aircraft) you can estimate that Trump has killed 15,000 US jobs. Well they’re not coal miners so what does he care?