When I boarded an Air Baltic A220 on my Swiss flight to Zurich the day before this trip report, I had to smile a little. I had received an e-mail from Air Baltic almost 3 weeks before. "There is a change in your flight," she said. However, this email did not refer to the Swiss flight operated by Air Baltic, but to my Air Baltic flight booked the following day, from Zurich to Riga.
If I had booked the flight including seat reservation from Zurich to Riga with Air Baltic with their A220, I only noticed at second glance that the "highlight" of the mail was not the minimal change in departure time of 5 minutes, but the change of the operating carrier – on the Romanian Carpatair. A shock.
In my mind's eye I saw myself back in their Fokker 10 after almost exactly 100 years. A quick look at the booking tool on the "BT homepage" was at least reassuring to the effect that an Airbus A319 was listed as the aircraft type.
Since the "aviation geek" in me comes through in these moments, the next thing to do is to promptly look into a relevant known aircraft database, where the Carpatair A319 comes from.- (ex easyJet)
(The meanwhile second fleet A319 - which is also in use for Air Baltic - had a somewhat eventful history with delivery to Hamburg International (HHI) and many years of use by Germania Switzerland (HolidayJet) and its successor company Chair.) So the time had come , I found myself at the gate in Zurich. Time to give Carpatair a second chance on this nearly two-hour flight to the Latvian capital.
Check in (Air Baltic):
Air Baltic offers three different tariffs in Economy Class. In the cheapest entry-level tariff "Green", a personal item is included in addition to hand luggage weighing a maximum of 8 kilos (trolley possible). It should be noted that the online / web check is mandatory. However, since Air Baltic had a major data breach at the time of my booking (Aviation.Direct reported), the web check-in was switched off for security reasons and I had to check in at the airport.
In the Green Plus tariff, which is on average around €25 more expensive than the entry-level tariff, checked baggage of 23 kilos is then included. The significantly more expensive "Classic Tariff" then includes numerous extras such as seat reservation, priority check-in at the airport or "Early Bird Online Check-In". At the time of booking, the Classic fare was almost three times as expensive as the cheapest "Green" ticket. A booking in Business Class (in the Business Light tariff) would have been a good 3 times as expensive (from €5). This differs from the regular business tariff only in that no refund is possible in the light tariff, this is only offered with the more expensive tariff. On the day of the test, I opted for a "Classic" booking including a seat reservation in row 300 for just under €5 one-way. On the day of the test, occupancy was 130 guests on board. With a maximum of 112 seats that the A145-220 would have had, the load factor of almost 300% would not have been bad at all for an early flight in the middle of the week. Due to the slightly larger A77 of the Carpatair, the plane was 319% occupied.
Carpatair installed blue, extra thin seats with blue leather covers on their first A319 (YR-ABA, MSN3041). These have a small recline function. In addition, a tightening hook is installed on the left side of the front seat.
The seat pitch corresponds to the normal standard and is given as 150/156 on the Carpatair homepage. Row 1 actually has a spectacular amount of legroom. These 6 seats actually look individually, each as in a throne. However, if you are looking for other features such as USB or power connections, you will be disappointed.
Also, Carpatair currently does not offer any entertainment / streaming / or even Wifi option(s) on your A319.
Service on board (Air Baltic Service):
Air Baltic offers a wide range of pre-order meal options in Economy Class before the flight. At prices between 12 and 20€ you can choose from main course options such as Latvian chicken with roast potatoes, mushrooms and vegetables or teriyaki salmon with rice and vegetables. On board there are soft drinks from the air Baltic Sky Café from €2,99, a panini with cheese and ham is available for €7,49. For my combination (see picture) I paid almost 10€ on board, about the same as with the big low-cost carriers. The small can of Pringles at €3,49 stood out just as much as a local Latvian lager (Pint of Aldaris Teika Lager Beer) – 56.8 cl, 5%, Latvia at a handsome €7,49. The service started quickly after take-off and the attentive and friendly cabin crew also shone here.
And finally ...
To be honest, when the e-mail came with the change of operating carrier from Air Baltic to Carpatair, it was a shock at first. Most recently, years ago, I had the “pleasure” of being able to fly their Fokker100, a flight which, looking back, I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about. Would I have booked my/this flight to Riga on the Carpatair homepage as a regular scheduled flight? Probably not before this flight.
If you book Air Baltic and their A220, you (as FQTV) naturally have certain expectations. This was also evident during boarding, when numerous fellow passengers could be seen and heard irritation as we walked the jetty in the direction of the A319, on which Carpatair could clearly be read.
For me, there is also a certain stale aftertaste when parts of their own A220 fleet are in (continuous) use for SAS, Eurowings or Swiss, but then aircraft are missing in their own flight operations, resulting in a colorful potpourri of subcharters for "BT" on the Riga airport departs.
On the day of my arrival, Hifly with A319 (in Nice Air colors), Cyprus with A320, Avion Express with A320 and GetJet Airlines with Boeing 737-800 were in action for Air Baltic, along with “our” Carpatair A319.
However, Air Baltic also has to admit the well-known and communicated spare parts problems with the A220. These were also clearly evident in the form of 2 machines parked in front of the maintenance hangar, each with a missing engine.
But let's get back to the "flight of the day", operated by the Romanian carrier, which has meanwhile set itself up as a pure ACMI carrier. Unlike my last scheduled flight experience with Carpatair, I can say right away that I will have fond memories of this flight.
The cabin of the "ex easyJet" - A319 was completely modernized before it went into service and looked fresh and modern with the narrow blue leather seats. For the trained eye, the origin of the British LCC could only be recognized by the galley configuration. (the particularly small ovens)
The crew, which also had a line checker on board that day and therefore there were five on board, seemed incredibly warm and hard-working from the moment of boarding and at an early hour. (probably because of the line check).
A highlight is the seat pitch in row 1, in which, after consultation with the crew, it was absolutely impossible to reach the partition wall to the galley with your feet during the test seat. So if you have the pleasure of catching a Carpatair / Air Baltic flight (in Business Class), you should definitely make a reservation in row 1.
A special greeting goes to the crew of the flight, who took care of the passengers in a really warm, hospitable and attentive way. In the end, this once again showed me clearly that a good "hard product" is important, especially on longer flights, but that such a flight can stand or fall quickly because of the "soft product" - a really warm, hard-working crew .
"Well done - Carpatair", this flight made up for the Fokker 100 experience from back then. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to the next time I'm sitting in an Airbus A220 on an Air Baltic flight, which is due to the fact that I really like flying this type of aircraft.
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