BACKGROUND Swiss regional airline Baboo is a newcomer to the UK having only recently launched its Geneva and London City Airport service. The service flies twice daily during the week and once at the weekend. Baboo flies to all its destinations via its base at Geneva, and operates code share agreements with Cityjet and Air France. Its business class offering, SMART, offers little in the way of extra service during the flight, but rather increased ticket flexibility and lounge access. The GVA-LCY route is served by a 74-seat Dash 8 Q-400 turboprop aircraft.
CHECK-IN No checking-in for me as I was transiting through Geneva to London City, having arrived from Venice Marco Polo at 1630. I had hoped to have a little time to shop at Geneva, but no joy as my inbound flight had been delayed by about an hour due to bad weather. However, at Gate 41 there was a small duty-free shop and I was able to buy Swiss choccies for the family.
BOARDING The queue for the plane was quite long and the gate fairly crowded, and there was no priority boarding for SMART which I was quietly indignant about. Anyway, the plane boarded at 1700 and everyone was seated and settled by 1710.
THE SEAT I flew into Geneva on an Embraer 190, which set an unfairly high benchmark which the Dash 8 simply couldn’t meet. I say unfairly as I was not meant to have come in on an Embraer, it was put on as a replacement for a delayed Dash 8. But even so, the Dash 8 felt cramped compared to the Embraer. Unlike the Embraer, the Dash’s SMART seats are no different in size to those in economy. Still, my seat, 3A, was like all the others of an adequate size and upholstered in leather.
The Dash’s seats are in a 2-2 configuration. To see a seatplan click here.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Baboo reserves the first five rows of its aircraft, both the Dash 8 and the Embraer, for its SMART passengers. As mentioned already, on the Dash 8 they’re the same size as in economy, with the same legroom, however I would recommend seats 1A or 1B, particularly the latter as there’s nothing in front other than the door to the cockpit.
THE FLIGHT The flight took off at 1725. It was then that I noticed how noisy the Dash 8 is, something that had escaped me on an earlier Dash 8 flight. It was more apparent again when compared to the Embraer, which was quiet and smooth. As it was late afternoon/evening, and dark outside, I had hoped to catch up on a little sleep, which made the noise of the engines and the extremely audible air circulation system all the more annoying. Ignoring my fatigue-induced grouchiness, the flight was otherwise okay. At 1740 we were served pea soup in paper cups. I’d had pea and cardamom on a Baboo flight earlier in the week, both soups were delicious and quite invigorating. The vitamin overload was very welcome. Baboo-branded 200ml bottles of Pommery champagne were handed out as a special Christmas gift to SMART passengers, which was very welcome as I’d had a bottle of the same stuff, given to me on the Venice-Geneva flight, confiscated by airport security.
ARRIVAL The plane landed at 1855, making the journey just shy of an hour and a half long and slightly ahead of schedule. Even though I was in row 3 and as such close to the exit, I was one of the last off as I had faffed around for too long. Once off the plane and down the steps, there was a short walk across the tarmac to the gate and another slightly longer one to immigration control and baggage claim. The queue at immigration was actually quite long, but it moved quickly. I didn’t have any checked luggage so I was out into the arrivals hall in no time at all.
VERDICT London City is an excellent airport for business travellers and Baboo was wise to launch a service from Geneva. Business passengers are also the only ones likely to pay for the SMART upgrade. Unfortunately I’m not sure I would, as the seats were a little cramped for the money, and I had no opportunity to make use of any business class lounge. A great flight, excellent service and food, but a little expensive.
PRICE A mid-week return flight in January, with SMART upgrade, starts at £396 from Baboo’s website.