Airnorth operates a fleet of E120 Brasilias on the “centre run” and shorter regional routes – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
Following my excellent flight on Airnorth’s jet service from Cairns to Darwin, where I got my first real taste of outback flying in Australia, I was left longing for more outback adventures. When I was planning my trip to Darwin, I came across the “centre-run” operated once again by Airnorth. This was the perfect opportunity for me to not only get my fix of outback flying, but also to experience the Embraer E120 Brasilia for the first time – an increasingly rare aircraft type. At one point in the booking process, I did have to question my sanity. Due to time constraints, I could only do a flight same day return, meaning that I would be flying over 1600 miles in nearly eight hours on a turbo-prop in the Northern Territory’s wet season. Needless to say, my AvGeek mentality took over and I booked the flight without a second guess.
A long way to go in a turbo-prop – Image: Great Circle Mapper
The “centre run” (or “milk run” as referred to by the locals), is a three segment flight from Darwin (DRW) in the top-end to Alice springs (ASP), in Australia’s Red Centre. On the way, the flight stops at Katherine (KTR) and Tennant Creek (TCA); both are key regional communities located on the Stuart Highway which stretches across the continent from Darwin to Adelaide. The route was re-launched in September of 2014 as part of the Northern Territory government’s commitment to developing air services to remote communities. In order to maintain this essential air service, the route is currently subsidized by the government.
Airnorth operates a fleet of Embraer E-170 jets on the longer regional routes – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
In a country as vast as Australia, it is no surprise that the population relies heavily on air transport, particularly in the more remote regions of the country. For the residents in these regions, these air services provide a vital lifeline. In many regions of Australia, these remote air routes are subsidised by the government. While the local residents view these services as an essential link to the outside world, for the AvGeek, it is a unique opportunity to experience some interesting aircraft types, airlines, and routes.
One such flight route that I was fortunate enough to experience recently was from Cairns to Darwin, via Gove. While there are at least three direct flights per day from Cairns to Darwin on the other carriers, I was very interested to try out the service offered by Airnorth.
Airnorth was established in 1978 and has always had a strong focus on providing air services within the remote regions of Australia’s top-end. In recent years, the company has been focusing in particular on the contract charter market, as well as FIFO operations.
An American Eagle CRJ200 taxiing at LAX, with an Embraer 175 following – Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter
Let’s face it… the 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 isn’t very popular. At all. You’ll find countless articles and blogs about how much flyers dread flying in it, and how all-around terrible the experience was. Complaints were numerous: claustrophobic cabin, tiny overhead bins that fit only the smallest of carry-on bags, no first class, inoperable lavatories, and so on. This wasn’t limited to just one airline either; CR2s are found in the regional fleets for most of the major U.S. airlines. Coincidentally, many of them are operated under contract by the same regional carrier, SkyWest Airlines.
Does the CR2 deserve its bum rap? Maybe, maybe not (but probably). For some passengers, however, there is hope just over the horizon…
A LOT Embraer E-175 landing at Prague – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
Flying business class within Europe is not often an exciting nor noteworthy affair. That said, I was pleased to recently discover that it can still be a positive experience, with a lot more than meets the eye, and at a very affordable price.
I was fortunate enough to recently experience LOT Polish Airlines’ business class product from Warsaw to Prague. As part of its ongoing brand redevelopment, LOT, like many other carriers, has introduced an online bidding system for unsold business class seats, called plusgrade.
The only business class difference versus economy on intra-European flights – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
The system allows passengers to make a bid up to 72 hours before the flight’s departure, and there is a minimum amount that can be bid (in my case, it was approximately $80). At 48 hours prior to departure, I received an email that my bid was successful, and was issued a new ticket for business class — sweet.
Belavia’s chief Tu-154 pilot, Deputy Director of Marketing and International, and Head of Technical at a quasi press conference in Minsk – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Bernie, why are you starting a flight review with a picture of a bunch of Russian men at a table? Because this is not a story about where the airline Belavia was — this is more about where Belavia is going. Legally speaking, Belavia turns 20 next March, but they are actually much older. Back in the times of the Soviet Union, Aeroflot used to be broken down into departments based on the Soviet Republics. In other words, there used to be Aeroflot Belarus that was headquartered in Minsk. The Belorussian Directorate of Civil Aviation first came into being in 1953 with its first flight between the old Minsk airport and Moscow.
Having spent so much time working with Belavia and their historic Tu-154s, it’s very important to share why Belavia exists, but also what their current passenger experience looks like.