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VLM Delightful "virgin" experience LCY-MAN-LCY with pix link

VLM Delightful "virgin" experience LCY-MAN-LCY with pix link

Old Mar 1, 09, 2:15 am
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Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: New York
Posts: 6,670
VLM Delightful "virgin" experience LCY-MAN-LCY with pix link

VLM: A Delightful Regional Experience

Not sure when my fascination with VLM begins! Maybe it is because of its high quality service! Maybe the opportunity to fly Fokker 50, a new aircraft type for me personally! The opportunity to fly a few exciting new airports make me try harder. For the past two years, I have tried booking twice, and all trips have to be canceled in the end due to various reasons. I finally am able to book a roundtrip London City to Manchester in February! After flying these two segments, I think it is a worthwhile investment and VLM is definitely one of the best regional airlines out there.

Photo link:
VG 323 – http://share.shutterfly.com/action/w...8QbNHDNy5bqM_Y
VG 194 – http://share.shutterfly.com/action/w...8QbNHDNy5bqNA4

Flights:
February 13, 2009
VG 323 LCY-MAN Lv1850 Arr2015 Fokker 50 OO-VLX City of Luxembourg
February 14, 2009
VG 194 MAN-LCY Lv1000 Arr1100 Fokker 50 OO-VLM FC Hyde Park In Aid of Dance4Life

Booking:
Pretty straight forward booking from flyvlm.com – very simple, okay with my US credit card, and pretty to use search engines… no advance seat assignment for cheap Y tickets!

Check-in:
London City – Well Friday night, the scene was not pretty and the terminal was very small with check-in counters on one side, kiosks in the middle, car rental counters and airline ticketing desks on the other side, with a small airport information counter near the entrance of the airport. It was very crowded with a huge amount of business travelers heading home, as well as families heading off for weekend vacations. VLM has two counters fully staffed, and the self-check-in kiosk also accepts VLM flight, but they don’t seem to like my US credit card. Using the counter is no issue. The efficient and friendly agent found my name, asked for my ID, and then asked if I want a window or aisle seat. Soon enough, I was handed my boarding pass and headed to the upper floor for the departure level. There is a bar and a restaurant in the public area. Security was busy but not out of control. People were civilized and most folks were obvious frequent travelers. The holding room was so out of control this evening and I could not find a seat in the holding room. There were shops and restaurants, but since all the gate information were not released till forty minutes prior to departure. People were standing everywhere.

Manchester – VLM uses Terminal three, and there are no self-service kiosks, but there were two agents, which were efficient and friendly. They checked my two bags with no issues, but the lady could not get me a window seat after getting me an aisle seat. She promised to look for a window seat at the gate, but with a less half full flight, it was easy to get a window seat. Security was okay and the whole check-in and security experience was pleasant.

Boarding:
VG 323 was boarding at gate 10 this evening, with the very full Swiss flight to Zurich next door at gate 9, and the VLM staff had to come upstairs to separate the VLM passengers. Boarding call began at 6:30pm, but in reality, we were all kept in the smaller holding room while waiting our aircraft to complete its cleaning, refueling and servicing. Finally at 6:46pm, we were allowed on the plane. I actually think it is an okay boarding experience, anything to get away from that crowded room.

VG 194 had a much smoother experience, and gate 1 was a stair gate. Boarding began t 9:48am and I purposefully waited last and the F/A allowed me to move to an empty row at 7. After everyone was seated, the F/A passed around a tray of candies – orange or lemon, and later, as our flight was delayed twenty minutes due to break down of baggage belt at MAN and waiting for bags to be loaded, the F/As immediately swung into action and served us orange juice or water in real glasses of course. That is what service is!

Flight information:
Despite a bit late in boarding, VG 323 closed its door at 6:54pm, and as some of you know, London City has a very unique departure experience. There is no tow truck, and the aircraft just steered and taxied out on its own. Movement began at 6:59pm, and since we were using R/W28 this evening, we had to taxi all the way down the runway to reach the holding point. We raced down the runway at 7:02pm, and we took off from R/W28 at 7:13pm for the forty-eight minutes flight. We cruised at 14,000feet, and descent began at 7:38pm. We landed on R/W5R at 8:01pm and parked at an outer bay five minutes later.

For the return flight, due to baggage problem at MAN, door was not closed till 10:19am. We pushed back at 10:23am, and took off from R/W23L at 10:30am. Flying time was a quick forty-two minutes. Descent began at 10:51pm, and we landed on R/W28 at 11:12am.
Aircraft:
Fokker 50 is a really nice turboprop and the interior is really not as bad I originally think. It is still a turboprop but the noise level is acceptable, and there is ample overhead locker room (except no stowage for Row 4/5 as there were where the wings are).

Seats:
I tried both the older generation of blue leather seats, and the newer generation of slimline leather seats. Of course the new slim seat feel much better as there are more legroom and under-seat storage room. The brown leather looks better and cleaner. There is additional coat hook at the side of the new seats, and the tray table is much larger with a more ample magazine storage bin.

Service:
For a forty minutes flight, there is a full beverage and refreshment service, with tea and coffee service, as well as chocolate on the evening flight to Manchester. Complimentary alcoholic beverages were provided, and the F/As were generous with drinks refills. All drinks were served in real glasses. On the outbound flight, there was a choice of full-sized Beef & Mustard or Cheese & tomato sandwich, and an after-meal chocolate thin from Leonida’s – Orange or Miele-Feuille are provided. The service sequence is sandwich and full beverage, followed by chocolate, and then tea/coffee. For the return flight, there was a choice of Ham & Pickles on white bread or Brie & Tomato sandwich. Full beverage service was provided, as well as tea and coffee.

Flight Attendants:
There were two flight attendants working each flight, and they dressed professionally, and the service was very good. Nothing was too much, and they were more than happy to get you an extra glass of water. I had a UK crew heading to MAN, and a Netherland-based crew on the return. They are all efficient and friendly, and smiled.

Baggage:
My check-in bags rolled out at the baggage claim five minutes after arrival at gate. Amazing!

Conclusion:
I really think VLM is a wonderful airline with good hard products, such as drinks in real glasses and cups, substantial snack, and nice well-kept leather seats, as well as soft product, such as good ground agents, F/As, and service from most staff. The London City airport experience was disappointing in terms of the crowded factor, but the takeoff and landing are spectacular, and the convenience of being closed to Center London is unbeatable. Just so convenient! However, I will love to see the terminal being expanded a bit, and hopefully the new expansion phase will improve the departure experience much. VLM is truly a delight experience and definitely one of the best regional airline out there. Now I hope the merger with Cityjet, as well as the link with KLM, will not lessen the service, as I know, Cityjet offers a much “cheaper” product in the air than VLM. Cityjet has already taken most VLM’s London City to Amsterdam flights, and I doubt it provides the same beverage in real glass and cups, and full snack service. I hope VLM merger with Cityjet will bring improved on their products, instead of “cheaper” its high brand of service.
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