Air Southwest Dash 8-300 Economy

BACKGROUND Plymouth-based Air Southwest was taken over by Eastern Airways in September, but continues to operate under its existing brand. The airline dropped London City airport in May and, since this flight was taken, Air Southwest has also stopped serving Gatwick. (Click here for more information.) However we are publishing this review as the seating information for the carrier’s Dash 8-300 remains relevant. For a seatplan of this aircraft click here.

The carrier has hubs at Bristol, Newquay and Plymouth, serving destinations including Dublin, Glasgow and Jersey, while the Eastern Airways brand is present on routes from the East coast, the Midlands, the North of England and North East Scotland.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Newquay airport, which is about 10km from the city centre, at 1710, with just over an hour until the last flight of the day to London Gatwick was to depart. There was no queue at check-in and I was processed promptly (online check-in is not available). I was offered a choice of a window or an aisle seat, and opted for the former. I was then issued with a boarding pass and instructed to pay the compulsory £5 “airport development fee” at one of the nearby machines. (You need to keep the ticket that is printed out to present at the gate when boarding.)

The fee came into effect in October 2005 and is used to “Help towards development costs and capital expenditure necessary to support the growth of the airport. It is not used to fund day-to-day operational cost”. Norwich, Waterford, Kerry, Knock and Blackpool have introduced similar charges. It is only payable on the outbound journey.

Security was fast (no passport check but liquids and laptops out and shoes off). The departure lounge had plenty of seating, a bar, café and newsagent.

BOARDING There were four gates – my flight started boarding from Gate 2 at 1755. Boarding passes were checked and airport development fee tickets collected. After walking across the tarmac, passengers accessed the small Dash 8-300 plane via steps at the front. I was in my seat by 1805.

THE SEAT The plane is configured solely with economy class seats arranged 2-2 (A-B, C-D) across 13 rows (one to 14 but no 13). Note that seats in row one (C and D only) are backwards facing. The seat on board this aircraft has a pitch 30-32 inches and a width of 17 inches, and is upholstered in grey/blue plasticky faux leather. They were quite narrow – as was the aisle – but they were bearable for this short flight of just over one hour.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Exit row seats have a little extra legroom, which is welcome considering how cramped the cabin feels. Aisle seats are also a good bet if you need a little extra space to stretch out. If you don’t like backwards-facing seats, avoid row one. Other than that, they are all much the same.

THE FLIGHT After an efficient safety demonstration, we took off on time at 1815. The man sitting next to me in seat 12C was offered the chance to move as there were plenty of free seats available – fortunately, he accepted this proposition, which meant I had a bit more room on this rather claustrophobic plane with dense seating. A swift drink and snack service commenced at 1830, once we had reached cruising altitude. Pringles cost £1.20, an oat flapjack £1, a Mars/Twix bar £0.70, Twinings tea/Kenco instant coffee £1.70, Britivic juice £1, Plymouth gin/wine £3.30.

ARRIVAL The flight took exactly one hour so we landed ten minutes early at 1915. We were disembarked from the front of the plane and my suitcase was at baggage reclaim by 1930.

VERDICT A punctual flight with friendly crew. This is a decent A to B service that is much quicker than the train, which takes about five hours, although it is operated by a small Dash 8-300 so don’t expect to find it particularly comfortable.

PRICE Internet rates for a direct return economy class flight in December started from £82.

CONTACT airsouthwest.com

Jenny Southan


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Air Southwest Dash 8-300 Economy

BACKGROUND Plymouth-based Air Southwest was taken over by Eastern Airways in September, but continues to operate under its existing brand. The airline dropped London City airport in May and, since this flight was taken, Air Southwest has also stopped serving Gatwick. (Click here for more information.) However we are publishing this review as the seating information for the carrier’s Dash 8-300 remains relevant. For a seatplan of this aircraft click here.

The carrier has hubs at Bristol, Newquay and Plymouth, serving destinations including Dublin, Glasgow and Jersey, while the Eastern Airways brand is present on routes from the East coast, the Midlands, the North of England and North East Scotland.

CHECK-IN As I was booked on the 1955 flight, I took the Southern train from Victoria to Gatwick at 1806 and arrived about 30 minutes later. I then followed the signs to the North Terminal shuttle service, three minutes away from the departure area in the South Terminal. After a short wait, a train arrived, and I was at the North Terminal by 1840. Departure Zone D is accessed via a set of escalators (those with suitcases must take the lift) and slightly to the right on the upper level.

There were two Air Southwest desks (D1 and D2) open and only two people ahead of me in the line, so I was checked in and issued with a boarding pass by about 1945. (Online check-in is not available – all you need is your booking reference number.) Air Southwest allows passengers to check two pieces of hold luggage with a combined weight of up to 20kg.

Plastic bags for liquids were on-hand at security, which was close by, and as there was no queue I was into departures in a matter of minutes. The gate was due to open at 1915 so I had time for a quick bite to eat and to buy a newspaper for the journey.

BOARDING At 1920, my gate (55E) opened. It was a five-minute walk away in a separate hall beyond the main departures area, along with gates 55A, B, C and D etc. Once there, I took a seat as there was a bit of a wait until boarding started at 1955, which meant we were going to be late. There was no explanation for the delay and when I asked how long it would be I was told that the plane had just landed and they were in the process of offloading some people in wheelchairs.

When the time came, passengers walked across the tarmac to the tiny propeller plane (a Dash 8-300) and accessed it via a flight of steps at the front. The process didn’t take long and most people were in their seats just after 2000.

THE SEAT The plane is configured solely with economy class seats arranged 2-2 (A-B, C-D) across 13 rows (one to 14 but no 13). Note that seats in row one (C and D only) are backwards facing. I had asked for a window seat at check-in but 1D was the only one left and I decided I’d rather have an aisle seat that faced forwards so opted for 12C. The seat on board this aircraft has a pitch of 30-32 inches and a width of 17 inches, and is upholstered in grey/blue plasticky faux leather. They were quite narrow – as was the aisle – but they were bearable for such a short flight.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Exit row seats have a little extra legroom, which is welcome considering how cramped the cabin feels. Aisle seats are also a good bet if you need a little extra space to stretch out. If you don’t like backwards-facing seats, avoid row one. Other than that, they are all much the same.

THE FLIGHT We pulled back at 2017. There was quite a lot of noise from the engine but it didn’t prevent me from getting on with some reading. Drinks including tea, coffee and gin and tonic were available for a price, and although I was quite thirsty I didn’t bother getting one. The rest of the flight was uneventful.

ARRIVAL A member of the cabin crew went around asking passengers individually if they wanted a taxi booked from them on arrival. I was surprised by this at the time – but once on the ground I discovered why they did this. Newquay airport is in the middle of nowhere (about 10km from the city centre), somewhere in the depths of the Cornish countryside and unless you have pre-booked a cab you are very unlikely to find one waiting for you.

After any rubbish had been collected, the plane made it descent at 2105, landing at 2115 (just ten minutes late). Passengers exited the plane from the front, down some steps and across the tarmac to the modest airport terminal. As this was a domestic flight there was no immigration and my suitcase was through within five minutes. My pick-up arrived shortly after, and from there we drove to Falmouth, about 50-60 minutes away.

VERDICT Although the flight was a little late departing, we made up some of the time en route. This is a decent A to B service that is much quicker than the train, which takes about five hours, although it is operated by a small Dash 8-300 so don’t expect to find it particularly comfortable.

PRICE Internet rates for a direct return economy class flight in December started from £82.

CONTACT airsouthwest.com

Jenny Southan


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