Browsing Tag: Flight Review

Icelandair's Boeing 757 sits at Seattle, waiting to be towed to its gate. Photo by Ben Whalen /

Icelandair’s Boeing 757 sits at Seattle, waiting to be towed to its gate. Photo by Ben Whalen /

My friend Ben recently made the trip from Seattle to France and had a number of choices to going. After quite a bit of research (and many questions to me) he decided on trying out Icelandair, which flies from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Keflavà­k International Airport (KEF) before changing planes and flying to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). Since I have never flown on Icelandair, I asked him to write a review for me. Here is his Icelandair review in his own words:


I bought the ticket online today, February 2nd, 2012 and the online process was a bit confusing. They first have you select your home airport and then the dates which are all simple enough.

This however is a bit confusing when you are used to the mm/dd/yyyy format, which most people use in the US. Icelandair has theirs in the dd/mm/yyyy format making me have to triple check that I was flying on April 7th not July 4th. Then unlike other websites where you can type in the airport code CDG for example I had to type the city name Paris. Okay, maybe these are not the biggest deals, but first impressions matter.

The rest of the ordering was simple enough. On the flight to Paris, I chose the cheaper economy class and on the way back it was only $47 more for the economy comfort. I figured it was worth the extra money to check out the differences. I was able to choose my seats for all of the legs except one where it showed no seats available, which is always annoying.

The economy class and economy comfort has a 3-3 layout. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /

The economy class and economy comfort has a 3-3 layout. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /

It is now April 7th, the day of my flight. I show up a few hours early and head to check in. Although they run only one flight per day out of Seattle, the airline had their own ticket counter with three lines: Economy, Comfort and Saga.

Because I was a bit early, there was no line and the front counter lady was extremely nice, checked my passport, and tagged up my luggage. My passport was in a cover and she organized my tickets and baggage claim tickets nicely in the different compartments then could tell by my fresh passport that I likely have not flown from the international terminal recently (wait Ben’¦ ’œrecently’ wasn’t your last international flight like 13yrs ago? ’“ David) and gave me directions.

I go through security and was disappointed that the body scanners weren’t operating; I was hoping to show off. My flight departed from the S-Terminal, so I the short train ride over. When I arrived at the gate the plane was parked across just sitting by itself away from the terminal.

Later, I found out that the flight from Iceland to Seattle lands an hour after the one from Seattle to Iceland leaves so one of their 757s sits on the ground 23 hours every day. About an hour before boarding they towed my aircraft to the gate.

Boarding was pretty painless and typical. They load first class (Saga) first then fill from the back.

Each seat has its own in-flight entertainment system, although I wish there were more options. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /

Each seat has its own in-flight entertainment system, although I wish there were more options. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /

It was a full flight but I didn’t have any trouble getting my stuff in the overhead bin. Everyone had a pillow and blanket on their seats and the IFE system displayed fun facts about Iceland such as the prime ministers phone number is listed in the phone book and that every Icelander can trace their family back to the original settlers.

As we were taxing, the IFE system started working. You could pay $4 for headphones provided by the airline or use your own. The IFE consists of about 30 movies and 11 TV shows, but they most only showed the pilot episodes. I thought this would be plenty, but after 24 hours in the air (round trip), my choices felt quite limited.

The food service started as soon as we started to level off. Being fairly close to the front of the economy section, I only had to wait about 15 minutes to get my food and beverage. But the food doesn’t come free and everyone must pay, which takes time.

You have to pay for the food, but it isn't too bad. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /

You have to pay for the food, but it isn’t too bad. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /

After choosing the main hot meal and a beer, the flight attendant said it would cost twenty four hundred — uh WHAT? At first she thought I was being cheap but then realized I was just an ignorant American and gave me the cost in US currency — $18. Not too cheap. I noticed that a good majority of people declined a meal and drink.

Upon arrival in Iceland I had 50 minutes before the next leg of my trip to Paris. We were led off the plane through a series of passageways and then we had to go through security again. The downside to this is I had a liter of water in a Nalgene bottle I had filled up in Seattle and it was chug it or lose it. There was no opportunity to dump it out.

Once through security and getting my passport stamped into Iceland, I still had time to check out the gift shop before heading to my gate (thanks for not getting me anything ’“David). Boarding in Iceland was a bit different. The gates were just in the hallways and the flights weren’t announced. Because it was a hallway, people just naturally were lined up and they just started boarding without announcing anything. The remaining leg of the flight was pretty uneventful.

Upon arrival in Paris we disembarked and by the time I made it to the baggage claim I only had to wait two minutes for my bag to arrive.

The signs diving the different classes can be moved to offer quite a bit of versitility. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /

The signs diving the different classes can be moved to offer quite a bit of versatility. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /


The check-in process was a bit odd in France. The notes on the ticket for comfort Economy stated there would be a separate check-ins, however there was only Economy and Saga check-in. After 20 minutes in line the gate agent was quite abrupt and told me to stop when he was the next free agent. When he finally let me approach and after a minute of looking at my passport he just handed me a ticket and pointed to the security line.

I thought his abruptness may have been a language barrier thing as I am non-French speaker in France but then I heard him speak fine English to the next person asking questions.

When buying my ticket for this leg there were no seat options available. Turns out I got put in seat 4A, which was actually a Saga class seat. I was able to sit in the 2-2 Saga class, but still received Economy Comfort level of service. There were moveable signs on the seat backs marking the separation from Saga and Economy Class seats.

The Saga seats were plush with plenty of leg room the info card said 39″ pitch in first class, 33″ in comfort and 32″ in coach. The only other difference I noted was a much nicer pillow. It was not a bad deal having a Saga Class seat with a lower level of service.

Food in economy comfort is free, except for spirits and champagne. I had the sandwich of the day which was a chicken and a cheese thing, a gull beer, and an Icelandic milk chocolate bar. All of which tasted decent (I say this after spending a week dining on French cuisine).

I was able to sit in Saga Class, which has a 2-2 layout, but still received Economy Comfort service. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /

I was able to sit in Saga Class, which has a 2-2 layout, but still received Economy Comfort service. Photo by Benjamin Whalen /

After landing back in Iceland, I had 90minutes and was excited to check out the lounge that you have access to with an upgraded ticket. We were guided out of the plane and directed through passport control after which I could easily locate my gate however could not find the lounge.

The airport at KEF looks very simple and clean with hardwood and glass everywhere. The challenging part is there is not much seating at the gates which are long hallways so people are standing around crowded a bit.

This time I was in an actual comfort class seat it is an economy seat with an inch more leg room and the center seat has a tray folded down. I got lucky with my seat being 9C because it was by the loading door and gave me an extra four feet of leg room. If you get this seat, I suggest boarding last, since I had the whole plane squeezing by me as they boarded.

The seven hour flight from Iceland to Seattle was pretty uneventful, which I prefer on a flight. We landed on time even after taking off a few minutes later than scheduled.

Overall I would recommend Iceland air when traveling to Europe. They seem to have the scheduling down for very short layovers. Their whole fleet is 757s which seems to take less time to load. If you choose economy either plan to pay for the food or pack your own. The only other downside is their IFE is quite limited I watched all the tv shows and most of the movies. If the ticket is not much more, I wold suggest springing for economy comfort. It gets you much better service more legroom and not having to fight over the shared armrest.

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 757-200 at Addis' Bole International Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 757-200 at Addis' Bole International Airport. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.

Previously I shared a review of Ethiopian Airline’s Cloud Nine Business class, written by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren for This is his second review, which looks at Ethopian’s economy class. Here is his review in his own words…

WASHINGTON DC:  Four flights, forty-four hours of flying, and one day trip to Ethiopian Airlines headquarters in Addis Ababa later, NYCAviation (NYCA) has one good story ready to roll.  Over the course of the next month, NYCA will be debuting a three part series focusing on the Ethiopian carrier; their in-flight service, their history, and their future.  We hope you’ll join us for the adventure!

The first in the three part series, NYCA reviews the in-flight experience in the economy cabin on board Jo’Burg to Addis and Addis Ababa to Dulles flights.  Both flights were inaugurated during the mid to late 1990s as part of an aggressive expansion of their international service surrounding their 50 year anniversary (1996 and 1998, respectively).  Ethiopian provided the flights to NYCA at no charge, flying both legs in September 2011.

Part I  Jo’Burg to Addis

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 808 Service to Addis Ababa from Johannesburg
Boeing 757-200 ET-AMT or AMU
Dep: 1438/SAST  Arr: 2030/EAT
Seat 15A: Economy Class

Having been dropped off from a previous flight in the domestic terminal in Johannesburg, finding the international check in desks was a bit of a chore.  Once located, the line had built up to a forty minute wait, despite not having a bag to check.

Once ticketed, customs and security were both very straightforward and easy.  The inbound flight from Addis was running late, and I spotted an Ethiopian Boeing 757, not the listed Boeing 767, rolling to a stop on the runway about twenty minutes prior to boarding time.  Nevertheless, boarding began only eight minutes late at 1348 local time, and I settled into 15A for the five hour flight north to Addis Ababa.  My carry-on has no problem finding a home, and the camera comes out for departure.  The 757 being the performer that it is, we rocket nicely out of Johannesburg about 32 minutes behind schedule.

Considering the 757’s are some of the older aircraft in a fleet that is otherwise unusually young, the quality of the cabin is remarkably good.  All the economy seats are (p)leather clad and comfortable enough for economy.  They recline a workable 32 degrees of pitch and feature a built in remote in the armrest for selections of music or movies.  However, it was odd that the armrest did not lie flush with the seat when not reclined.  It stuck out a healthy amount, enough so that if you were lucky enough to have a seat vacant next to you (as I did) it becomes hard to stretch out without getting poked by it.

This particular aircraft was not outfitted with personal TV’s but did have the screens that are fixed to the cabin ceiling.  The programming began about 45 minutes in with the smaller shows through dinner culminating to the movie about three hours in.

A meal & drink service began about an hour into the flight presenting options of chicken or fish.  The meal consisted of chicken breast with a tomato sauce, rice and carrots.  A roll with butter, crackers & block of cheddar cheese, salad with Greek dressing, and packaged desert of coconut cheesecake with berry sauce complimented the main dish.  Overall it was a serious step up from anything you’d get domestically in the US nowadays, but it was not ultra fantastic either.  It was satisfying, filling, warm & good.  The meal was followed up by traditional post meal coffee and tea service.  Trays were cleared about an hour following dinner, which appeared problematic for many of the other passengers, since most were done within twenty minutes.

While not watching the movie most of the flight was spent sleeping or talking up the staff in the rear galley.  Speaking of the staff, there were some noteworthy exchanges.  For the first, I attempted to inform a flight attendant, who throughout the whole flight never gave the impression that she was thrilled to be on board, that one of the lavatories had an issue needing attention ’“ I never received a response.  On the flip side, I had some questions about how customs and the process in general worked once arriving in Addis.  I inquired in the rear galley and all three flight attendants were extremely helpful in answering each and every question in addition to pouring me a few drinks.  The one attendant aside, the staff met or exceeded expectations for friendliness and professionalism.  I wish I had more pictures from this flight, but unfortunately the vibe was not right for it, so the camera stayed put away through most of it.

Despite the late departure we made up the time in the air and ended up landing ten minutes early; a nice surprise.  After waiting for Cloud Nine business class passengers to vacate, we de-boarded via the air stairs and onto large busses that took us the short distance to the terminal.

Ethiopian Boeing 777 in Addis. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.

Ethiopian Boeing 777 in Addis. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.

Part II  Addis to Washington Dulles ’“ Via Rome

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 500 Service to Washington Dulles from Addis Ababa via Rome
Boeing 777-200LR ET-ANO
Dep: 2227/EAT  Arr: 0300/CEST  //  Dep: 0801  Arr: 1117
Seat 23A: Economy Class

Arriving at the ticket counter around seven at night after a long day, it was relieving to see a ticket counter dedicated solely to the flight.  Check-in was smooth and fast, with customs and security following the pattern.  At 2130 the flight begins to board, and twenty minutes later I settle into 23A for seventeen hours aboard the brand-spanking new Boeing 777-200LR (ET-ANO).  Despite a scheduled departure of 2205, we did not end up pushing from the gate until 2216, with wheels up for Rome at 2227.  Twenty minutes is not the end of the world though, and we predictably made it up en route while trekking over Sudan, Egypt, and the Mediterranean.

Much like the prior flight from Addis to Jo’berg, the first meal service promptly began about an hour in.  We were offered choices of chicken, beef, or fish.  I chose chicken.  It was bathed in a cream sauce along with rice and carrots.  A side salad, crackers & cheese, and a roll with butter were also provided.  The meal was of average quality and filling.  It might have been better – or I might have been a better judge – had I not had a nasty head cold that developed from the day before.  As a result, my sense of taste was not in its best form.

While waiting for the dinner tray to be cleared I spent some time playing BlackJack on the 777’s seat back entertainment system.  It was clear that Lady Luck was not with me, as I burned through my 1000 in fake money in what may have been a new airline record.  Shortly after, while starting a movie, the entertainment system froze and then shut down completely.  My seatmate had the same problem, and flagged down a flight attendant who attempted to rectify the problem.  About thirty minutes later the system restarts and is fine for the remainder of the flight.  Most of the rest of the first leg is spent asleep.

We touched down in Rome almost twenty-five minutes ahead of schedule at 0300.  A short taxi later we’re in position on a remote ramp for a refuel.  Most of the cabin is asleep, watching a movie or reading a book, and no one seems to notice that the hour scheduled stop has come and gone.  About ninety minutes into the stop the pilot announces that we’re still taking on fuel and it’ll be another hour: plus some tires have ’œlow pressure’ and need to be replaced.  Frankly this sounds fishy to me, low pressure in the tires does not normally require replacement unless they were totally flat, but maintenance is what it is and at this point complaining is not going to get me off any faster.  Another hour later the jack for the tires arrives and it is not large enough.  The correct one does not arrive for another ninety minutes or so.  By the time the plane has been refueled (twice by the pilot’s record) and fixed up with new tires the stop in Rome lasts just over five hours: No fun.

That being said, the airline and the flight crew did a great job of making an unfortunate situation tolerable.  Consider: the plane was kept cool, powered, and the entertainment functional the entire five hours.  The crew completed a meal service (I’m told it was breakfast, feeling pretty awful I slept through it), and offered drinks the whole time.  And they kept smiling to boot ’“ impressive. We finally set off for Rome four hours behind schedule, with wheels up at 0801 local time.

Cutting to the product itself, the seat-back entertainment is quite nice.  The on-demand offerings ranged from TV to games, flight maps to movies.  The screen can be operated by touch or by a remote built into the armrest.  The seat reclines to 32’ of pitch, and also pushes out to decrease the amount of recline into the person behind you’s space.  The plus side is the passenger in front of you takes up less of your space’¦the downside is you reduce your leg room by pushing the seat out.  The trade-off seems worthwhile to me.

The airplane being new (the average age of the 777 fleet is under one year), the cabin is predictably in great shape and the newness of the airplane impresses a lot of travelers.  The 3-3-3 setup feels reasonably spacious, despite the cabin being full to the brim (287 folks on board).

The remaining nine and some change hours en route from Rome were largely spent sleeping and catching a few movies.  Still feeling rather ill, I declined brunch except for a ginger ale, though the food of my seatmate appeared to be similar in nature to the late night dinner we had some twelve hours earlier.

We greased the runway at Dulles at 1117 local time and pulled up to the gate quickly.  Deboarding was a bit chaotic, but with a little planning I ended up being first off those annoying Dulles customs shuttles, allowing for a quick sprint through customs and back into the good ole U S of A.

Departure out of Johannesburg

Departure out of Johannesburg. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.

Part III  The Bottom Line

Regarding Flight 808 to Addis, it was a slightly above average economy experience.  The service and staff were generally friendly and fast, the food was good, and the seat on par for an economy experience.  Personal entertainment systems, like a seat back system, would have been a bonus, but the five hour flight is not terribly long: bring a book or an e-reader if you need some help passing time or utilize the in-flight entertainment.  When compared against most US domestic economy sections, this flight comes out looking good.  With the variance on plane types for the flight, you might even be treated to an oversized Boeing 767.

Moving on to Flight 500, let’s cut right to it: seventeen hours on an aluminum tube in coach is never going to be a picnic no matter the carrier.  And even worse when an unexpected delay pushes it to twenty-one straight hours.

Addressing the delay, a five hour ground stop for fueling and tire replacement seemed excessive, but this is also a moment that forces an airline and a crew to show their true colors.  In this respect Ethiopian met or exceeded expectations: they kept the plane powered & cool and the PTV’s running, they completed a food service, and they kept drinks available through the entire stopover; with a smile.  What could have been a nightmare worth writing home over instead turned into an opportunity to show off the airline and crews ability to manage a stressful situation and make the best out of it.

The vast majority of the time, however, the flight will not experience a similar delay and by and large customers will find an enjoyable economy experience.  Friendly service, plentiful & decent hot meals, and a well stocked entertainment system help the scheduled seventeen hour flight go by fast.

Overall, while other reviews online are not especially positive, this traveler had a markedly pleasant experience on both economy flights even with the five hour delay in Rome factored in.  When you consider prices that the carrier has recently offering on the flights, it is an option that is hard to pass up.  This author feels that most travelers will find themselves pleasantly surprised and that coach travelers can rest assured that they will be kept comfortable and well fed on board Ethiopian economy.

Flying on a CRJ 700 down to LAX to catch my flight to Hawaii. Photo by Maresa Gochanour

Flying on a CRJ 700 down to LAX to catch my flight to Hawaii.

Maresa writes the blog Around Puget Sound and when she was recently taking a trip to Hawaii on United Airlines, I asked her to write up a review from a non-airline nerd perspective. This is her review in her own words: 

My United Airlines Review – The Beginning

I’m on my way from SEA to LAX to ITO (Hilo, HI). It’s time for a vacation; to get away and escape from the fast paced life we all seem to live in these days. I’m hoping for good weather for hiking, biking, and snorkeling. I’ll be staying in my very favorite vacation rental: Papaya Sunrise on the East side of the Big Island during the week of my visit.

Currently, I’m traveling from Seattle to L.A. I’m riding in a CRJ700 and it’s tiny! I’ve never been in a commercial jet this small on the mainland before. As many of you know, Hawaii has many inter-island jets that are about the same size.

We took off from Sea-Tac only about 10 minutes late, but our expected arrival is still ’˜on-time’. I have about a four hour lay-over in LAX, but the way I see it is I’d much rather have way more time than necessary than be stranded somewhere I just didn’t mean to be.

It’s always exciting to fly. I love the views I get over Washington. I feel extra fortunate when I get the added bonus of flying past Mt. Rainier–talk about a spectacular view!

One of the nice parts about the smaller jet is it took hardly anytime to board the plane. Also, United was willing to check larger bags for free at the gate that were too big to fit in the narrow overhead compartments. My carry-on bag fit just fine, but it was nice to have the option to check it and to have enough space up ahead for my backpack. The folks on the flight who did check their bag will be able to pick up their bag right after getting off the plane without going to baggage claim.

Right now, the woman next to me is dozing with four radiant sunflowers clasped in her grip, undoubtedly from Pike Place Market. It’s a good reminder of Seattle, of the summer to come, and the sunshine that I’m on my way to see.

I’ll let you know about the next leg of the trip when I get that far…

From LAX to ITO, I rode on a Boeing 737-800. Not this exact one, but one like it. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

From LAX to ITO, I rode on a Boeing 737-800. Not this exact one, but one like it. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Over Five Hours Later

Wow, LAX was huge! My connecting flight wasn’t too far from where I landed. I have to tell you though, this second flight is shaping up to be much stranger and unpredictable than the first part.

When my fellow passengers and I were waiting to board, many people were struck by how rude the gate agent collecting boarding passes was to fellow passengers. ’œNo, don’t go in that line! I said the right line–not the left!’ The United/Continental worker shouted to customers. ’œNo, rows 30 and higher may board, only rows 30 and
higher!’ Calm down lady–I think you’re taking this all a bit too personally.

I found out a few minutes later that she wasn’t looking or scanning at the tickets she was collecting from people either, which meant that anyone with a ticket of any sort could board the aircraft–and someone did. A man got my plane to Hilo but didn’t find out he was on the wrong plan until he found someone sitting in his seat–how could there
be two people in seat 28E? ’œIsn’t this flight going to Denver?’ The man asked. ’œNo, we’re going to Hilo as in Hawaii…’ The flight attendant responded sounding surprised. The man quickly grabbed his things and deboarded the plane. ’œIn all my six years of working as a flight attendant, I’ve never had that happen!’ The flight attendant said shaking his head.

After only 20 minutes in the air the pilot informed us that we’d be experiencing some turbulence for the next 150 miles–how long it would take to pass through, they didn’t say.

Now I’ve done a lot of traveling and encountered some pretty bad turbulence but this far surpassed it all. The flight attendants were all losing their footing and desperately trying to hold on. The SnackPacks were bouncing all over in the carts and were about ready to bounce out onto the floor. At the moment that I thought someone might
actually start to panic, one of the flight attendants actually did. He exclaimed, ’œBuckle up, buckle up! We’ll come back with the drinks and food, is everyone buckled, because I need to go buckle up.’

After a while, the turbulence settled down and the beverage service began again.The flight attendants were going right along and missed my row entirely. I called him back and wound up drinking a flat Ginger Ale. Great.

Photo by Maresa Gochanour.

Mauamai Beach on the West side of the Big Island.

Right Now

The flight attendants have just come back with another round of beverages and somehow they missed my row and walked right passed us again. When the attendant was called back by my seat-mate the man serving the drinks said abruptly to me, ’œWhat’d you want?’ ’œCranberry juice please,’ I asked. ’œHere–’ the man says shoving the can of juice
at me.

United/Continental, I was not amused…not amused. I heard one passenger say, ’œNever have I seen passengers treated with such disrespect,’ but thank you for getting us all to paradise safely.

If you are looking for things to do around the Puget Sound region either as a resident or a visitor, be sure to check out Maresa’s blog, follow on Facebook or Twitter.


Airline: Porter Airlines
Aircraft: Bombardier Q400
Route: Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) to Montreal’“Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
Class: Economy
Seats: 13B (aisle) and 15D (window)
Length: About 70 minutes (each way)

Cheers: Everyone gets treated like they are flying first class — including free wine and beer.
Jeers: Some people might not like riding on a turbo-prop.
Overall: This is the way flying should be — and a rarity to find it on a regional carrier.

Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400 sits at Toronto.

Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400 sits at Toronto.


During a recent trip to Toronto, I had the opportunity to fly to Montreal and back using Porter airlines (disclosure: the trip was paid for by Bombardier to check out their Cseries in Montreal). Being based in Seattle and flying Horizon/Alaska quite a bit, I am no stranger to the Q400 aircraft. There have been quite a few times that when I talk to people about the Q400, I am asked if I have tried Porter Airlines. Luckily, I can now say that I have — and that is a good thing.

When flying Porter Airlines,  getting to the airport was half the fun. I walked about a mile (could have easily taken a cab, bus or subway, but it was a nice morning), hopped on a shuttle bus, then took the world’s shortest ferry ride. For those that love anything that involves transportation, the experience is pretty cool. So why a ferry? Well, that is kind of a long story.

After arriving at Billy Bishop airport, be sure to turn around and catch the view of the ferry with Toronto in the background.

After arriving at Billy Bishop airport, be sure to turn around and catch the view of the ferry with Toronto in the background.

Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is located on an island in Toronto and is restricted to  prop aircraft and helicopters. When Porter first began looking at starting operations there, they were under the assumption that a bridge would be built to allow easy access. There was some fun political stuff that went down and no bridge has been built. Instead, the airport runs a small ferry that can hold cars and passengers from the “mainland” over to the island. Don’t blink, because you might miss the ride — it is the shortest ferry ride in the world.

The Toronto Port Authority is in the process of creating a pedestrian tunnel that will allow easier access and reduce the onslaught of passengers that come with each arriving ferry. The ferry will still operate once the tunnel is completed (which they are expecting to be done in 2014), to handle car traffic and presumably passengers who want to get the full experience.

I was staying in downtown Toronto and decided to make the one mile walk to the Royal York Hotel, where Porter Airlines operates a free shuttle to the ferry . Even with the walk, shuttle and ferry, it was less than an hour from my hotel room to my gate, which was quite impressive.

Porter Airlines waiting area is nicer than some airline first class lounges I have been in -- and everyone gets access.

Porter Airlines waiting area is nicer than some airline first class lounges I have been in -- and everyone gets access.

Since all I had was a camera, it was quick and easy for me to get through security. Every time I go through airport security any place that is not in the US, I am reminded how much better it can be. I was greeted with a big smile and asked how I was doing (what… is this a trick?). I asked if I needed to take off my shoes and I was told no. He looked at my belt and said, “that might make the alarm go off,” and I explained it never had before and he let me through (very different from the barking orders that the TSA gives).

This is when things really get different. Instead of having a bunch of uncomfortable seats with bad lighting, the Porter Airlines waiting area is like a first class lounge — and a good one at that. I have been in a few first class lounges of other airlines that have been worse than Porter’s waiting area. There are free drinks and snacks, nothing major, but still impressive. There is free wifi and plenty of comfortable seating.This all comes at no extra charge and is just part of the Porter experience.

Before my flight I had an opportunity to sit down with Brad Cicero and Amanda Ashford, with Porter communications, to learn a bit more about the airline. They explained to me that Porter is looking to add some paid options in their lounge, including ready-to-go food and alcohol.

Porter Airlines offers a comfortable cabin that feels high-end, especially for a regional prop airliner.

Porter Airlines offers a comfortable cabin that feels high-end, especially for a regional prop airliner.

Each flight is clearly announced and people line up at one of three doors before heading to one of ten gates. With most regional prop aircraft, you have to (well “get to” for airline fans) go on the tarmac to board. This can be okay some times of the year, but winter in Toronto has a way of getting a bit cold. So, the airline helped to design a customized boot to allow an inside hallway to connect to the aircraft, keeping passengers out of the elements.

The Q400 is not known for having spacious overhead bins (although the Q400nextgen does do a pretty good job) If you have a larger carry-on, you can give it to the Porter employee at the gate and they will return it to you once you land. This is a similar service that Alaska and Frontier Airlines also offer on their Q400s.

Porter has arranged their Q400s with a 34″ seat pitch with 70 seats vs the typical 78 seat set up. All the seats are leather and the interior uses lighter color tones. It felt more like someone’s personal aircraft than an airliner. On both my flights I had a seat mate, which didn’t give me too much room side-to-side — although I am a bit bigger of a guy. I was sitting in the aisle going to Montreal and I would really have to bring my shoulder in from being hit by people passing in the aisle.

Yea, this might have been a 11:30am flight (8:30am Seattle time), but I had to test out the free wine for my story.

Yea, this might have been a 11:30am flight (8:30am Seattle time), but I had to test out the free wine for my story.

Just because the flight was only an hour doesn’t mean that passengers don’t get full service. A bit after take off the flight attendants started down the aisle giving out meal boxes and drinks. On the way to Montreal I had a chicken sandwich with pasta and on the way back was a chicken wrap with veggies. Now, these are not full meal portions, but way more than you would expect in economy on almost any other domestic airline. Not to mention you also get free beer or wine — in a real glass.

The flight attendants have classic uniforms that look professional and the four I was able to interact with seemed to actually enjoy their job and positively interacted with passengers, even though they had a short time line to complete their service.

The weather in Montreal was foggy and a bit snowy, so we did not see the ground until we almost touched down. Even sitting near the rear of the plane, it is always a quick de-boarding process on the Q400.

Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) seen from the Porter Airlines Q400.

Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) seen from the Porter Airlines Q400.

After a few hours in Montreal, I was back at the airport ready to take another ride on Porter. The ride back was equally enjoyable. This is an airline that seems to be in at the right place at the right time, offering the right service.

They are working towards getting US Customers Pre-Clearance in Toronto, so that they can expand routes into the US that do not have customs. Porter is also planning to bring lounges to additional airports that they serve like Montreal and Newark, sometime in the future.

Previously the airline has not turned a profit and has been around 50% passenger load. Once completing the numbers for 2011, they are hoping to show a profit and occupancy loads to be around 60%, helping to fuel future growth for this unique airline.


Frontier Bombarider Q400 (N502LX) sits at Denver, waiting to take me to Aspen.

Frontier Bombarider Q400 (N502LX) sits at Denver, waiting to take me to Aspen.

Being based in Seattle, I have had plenty of opportunities flying on Bombardier Q400s via Horizon Air Alaska Airlines. When I had the opportunity to recently fly from Seattle to Aspen, for a ride on a Beechcraft Starship, I did not have too many choices on what to fly from Denver (DEN) to Aspen (ASE). I could either fly on a United Airlines CRJ 700 (operated by Skywest) or a Frontier Airlines Q400 (operated by Lynx Aviation). Being the aviation fan that I am, I chose my airline based on the aircraft type and wanted to experience the Q400 flying into Denver — lucky for me, it was the cheaper of the two tickets as well.

When landing at DEN from Seattle (SEA), I had about an hour and a half layover. This was a good thing, since the Q400s are located pretty much at the end of the airport, down some stairs and at the end of a very long and narrow hallway. I kind of wish I would have spent more time in the main terminal, since the waiting area for regional flight do not have too much to offer.

The Q400 is not known for being very roomie, but this flight was almost empty, so I had plenty of room.

The Q400 is not known for being very roomy, but this flight was almost empty, so I had plenty of room.

Our flight was pretty empty, with about 20 people flying on the 70 passenger aircraft. Boarding was easy with one announcement made for people to start boarding and it only took a few minutes. One of the attractive parts about flying on a regional carrier is the increased chance of boarding on the tarmac. Although most air travelers probably hate boarding this way, for an airline fan, nothing can beat it.

When boarding there was a cart that passengers could put their carry-ons to be placed in the cargo-hold and not in the cabin. All I had was a back-pack, so I opted to bring that on board… bad call. Even though it was small (in carry-on standards) it still wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin. Lucky for me, I had no problems storing under an empty seat, but if the plane was full, stuffing a back-pack under my seat would have really taken a lot of my space.

For weight distribution, everyone sat near the back of the plane. I was in row 7 and I was the farthest to the front and there was no one even around me.

Many passengers might not enjoy this view when looking outside, but I love it.

Many passengers might not enjoy this view when looking outside, but I love it.

Unlike Alaska’s Q400s, Frontier’s have sun screens and the seats are able to recline. Sure, nice touches, but this flight was only about 45 minutes, so these features meant little to me.

Engine start up on a turboprop is always my favorite part of the flight and those sweet Pratt & Whitney PW150A engines did not disappoint. Being in row 7, I had a favorable view watching them slowly start up and hearing the growl of the engines. Again, maybe not something the majority of passengers would enjoy, but it is one of the reasons I choose to fly on a Q400 when I have other options.

The views flying from Denver to Aspen were prettying amazing. Flying low in the Q400 sure helped.

The views flying from Denver to Aspen were prettying amazing. Flying low in the Q400 sure helped.

As I normally do, I had my camera at the ready to take photos as we took off. Yes, you can yell at me for keeping an electronic on while taking off, but there is no way that a camera is going to affect an airplane. It is very rare for a flight attendant to say something, but this was one of those flights. I was told that I had to turn off my camera and had to wait until we reached 10,000 feet before turning it on… sigh — okay fine. I may not agree with the rules, but I am not going to argue with the person just trying to do their job.

We were also told that we would not be able to turn on our cell phones during the entire flight. Not just airplane mode, but it couldn’t be on at all. My guess is that since we never flew very high, we would still be able to get reception during the flight and possibly cause interference. Either way, I listened and kept my phone off and enjoyed the view out the window.

This wolf pup's name is Wolfgang and he looks pretty much at home in Aspen.

This wolf pup's name is Wolfgang and he looks pretty much at home in Aspen.

The short flight was pretty bumpy, especially near the end. Again, most people probably wouldn’t like the idea of flying on a turboprop in turbulence, but I actually kind of enjoy it . It was obvious that this plane had been in turbulence before. Even when the bumps were not that bad, but the overhead bins were shaking like it was a huge storm and competed with the engines on making the most noise.

The weather got worse as we got closer to ASE and with the rapid descent, the flight attendants did not even get up to do their final safety check, but asked us to make sure our seats were up and belts buckled for landing. Okay, I can understand that, but they never got up during the entire flight anyhow. Not that I need a drink during a 45 minute flight, but at least getting up once to check on the passengers would probably be a good idea, instead of sitting in your jump seat chit-chatting with each other.

Flying into Aspen was quite beautiful and a bit aggressive. We bounced around as heading down at a steep angle to make it into the airport. As an aviation lover, this flight was great, but I could see how most people would not think the same way. But, if you are looking to fly into Aspen, you do not have much of a choice, other than flying on a CRJ700 or a private plane. Good thing I love flying and most people are willing to do it to experience Aspen.

A few more photos of my Frontier Q400 flight…