Route: Exeter (IATA: EXT/ICAO: EGTE)–Paris (CDG/LFPG)
Aircraft: Bombardier Q400 (DHC-8-402)
Date: October 2006
Departure time: 1730
Arrival time: 2000
Passenger: Haas Mroue
Exeter Airport is compact and dominated by Flybe; the check-in line was quick and I had my boarding pass in hand within two minutes. Flybe charges ₤5 for checked baggage, but luckily I had only a small carry-on with me.
ALL PHOTOS: HAAS MROUE
The line for security at Exeter was rather long as there was an Air Malta A320 charter about to depart for Lanzarote. Once past security, there’s a spacious waiting lounge complete with a bar, a few shops, and ample seating space. Closer to the gate area, however, there is hardly room to move. At departure time, the 50 or so passengers on the Paris-bound flight were standing and wondering why we hadn’t boarded and why we hadn’t heard any announcement of a delay. None came.
At 1735—five minutes past the scheduled departure time—boarding began. It was a quick walk in light rain to our Bombardier Q400 and within ten minutes everybody was on board and strapped in. I settled into my leather seat, which was comfortable with good leg-room. We pushed back at 1752 and Sara and Laura, our two friendly flight attendants, conducted their security briefings with efficiency and grace. The captain bid us good evening and warned of a rather bumpy take off.
Heading due east, we were airborne at 1800 in windy and rainy conditions but the turbulence was minimal. As soon as we climbed through the clouds we could see the coast below us and the FAs were up and about in the cabin preparing for service. First came the ‘meal deal’ trolley—loaded with fresh offerings from sandwiches to pastries and cookies. Credit cards were accepted for payment (unlike most US legacy carriers were only cash is taken). Next came the drinks trolley. I bought a split of Charles-Lafitte Champagne but most passengers chose beer, wine, or tea. Immediately after the drinks service, the duty free trolley rolled down the aisle.
The flight attendants, though working hard, still managed to smile and exchange pleasantries with some of the passengers. Forty minutes after take off, they completed their duties and even had a moment to sit down in the vacant front row of this Q400 for a quick rest. A few minutes later, the captain announced our initial descent into Charles de Gaulle and the flight attendants collected the last remaining service items and cleared any discarded newspapers.
We landed in Paris under a clear sky a few minutes behind schedule and we disembarked quickly. Wheels off to wheels-on time was 65 minutes. The crew would have only 30 minutes on the ground before returning to Exeter, their home base, for the night—and they bid us farewell with a smile.
Far superior than both Easyjet and Ryanair, Flybe’s smaller size means that you can still expect some graciousness from the flight attendants.
The only point for Flybe to improve on is its ground staff—more care on the ground with respect to flight announcements would be much appreciated. Gate agents seemed harried and disinterested when compared to the cabin crew who were warm and friendly.
In-flight catering, although not complimentary, was also of much better quality than that of Easyjet. The new Bombardier Q400 was comfortable and felt much less cramped than the large budget carriers’ Boeings and Airbuses. The 2-2 seating layout helps make it feel more like a corporate jet than a cattle car.
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