Tried & Tested

VLM Fokker 50 economy class

20 Mar 2007 by business traveller

CHECK-IN I arrived at London City Airport at 0910 for my VG104, 1030 flight to Antwerp and went straight to check-in, where there was no queue. I chose a window seat, and was told that boarding was to begin at 1010. VLM has seven flights a day Monday to Friday from LCY to Antwerp, one flight on Saturday and two flights on Sunday. There is an earlier flight at 0755 for early meetings and a convenient return flight of 1630 arriving back in London at 1630. Flight time is 50 minutes.

THE LOUNGE I went straight up the escalators and through security to the communal lounge. There are several duty-free shops, a bookshop, a shoe shop, café and bar. While I was waiting I noticed that I had two boarding passes for the flight with two separate seat numbers (3D and 8D). I immediately went to the information desk and showed a member of staff who looked bemused. He phoned check-in to find out which seat I was in and to check that there weren't "two of me". It was confirmed I was in seat 3D and he tore up the other boarding pass. The flight was called on time at 1010.

BOARDING I walked to Gate 6 and then a short way across the tarmac to the Fokka 50 and boarded on time. The seat VLM has decked its fleet out in new beige leather seats (rollout will be completed by the end of this year). The seats are stylish and comfortable with up to 83.3cm pitch and 43.2cm width. Apparently the colour and material was inspired by the interior of the cars VLM passengers drive.

THE FLIGHT The cabin was three-quarters full but I had no one sitting next to me. The captain announced a flight time of 50 minutes; we were offered a sweet and took off on time. After about 15 minutes breakfast was served. This was a crispy roll with either cheese or ham, as well as a hot and cold drink followed by a Belgian chocolate. On a day flight try to sit on the left of the plane to get a good view of Antwerp on the approach. From the right I could only see the new law courts designed by Richard Rogers – an impressive silver sail-like structure. We landed 15 minutes ahead of schedule at 1215.

ARRIVAL We walked across the tarmac into the small airport before the staff at passport control had reached their posts, so I and several others went straight through and round the corner to the baggage carousel. My bag came out quickly and I was out of the airport and in a taxi by 1230 (the scheduled landing time). It is a 20-minute taxi journey into the city centre.

VERDICT A smooth operation. With online check-in now available (see online news, February 15) you can arrive at London City airport 15 minutes before departure and as such you could be in the centre of Antwerp an hour and a quarter later. Faster than taking the Eurostar to Brussels and swapping to a domestic train into Antwerp.

PRICE A return fare with VLM in mid-April costs between £104 and £464 depending on when you book and travel and the degree of flexibility required (see Getting There, page 60).


Felicity Cousins

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