Tried & Tested

Zoom Airlines premium economy

30 Sep 2007 by Mark Caswell

BACKGROUND Zoom’s decision earlier this year to fly from London Gatwick to Bermuda means that BA now faces competition on the route for the first time in 40 years – the last time was in 1967 when Cunard Eagle Airways and BOAC (the predecessor to BA) were plying the route. Zoom has entered the fray with a two-class, twice-weekly schedule (Bermuda-London on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and London-Bermuda Wednesday and Sunday). The carrier has recently added a London-New York route to its offering, and also serves various destinations in Canada including Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax and Montreal. When the London-Bermuda flight was launched back in June Zoom had not received its ETOPS (extended range twin operations) licence, resulting in flights having to take a more circuitous route closer to land. This has now been granted, so flights times are just over seven hours on the outbound leg, and six and a half hours on the return journey.

CHECK-IN Zoom’s flights from Gatwick leave from the South Terminal (BA’s depart from the North Terminal). I arrived at 1015 for the 1300 inaugural flight, and proceeded to Zone J for check-in. There were four people in front of me in the premium economy queue, and a slightly larger queue for economy passengers, but check-in was pretty swift. Premium economy passengers can pre-select their seats online for no extra charge, while economy passengers can do so for an additional £10 each way – economy passengers can also choose seats with extra leg room for a supplementary £30 each way. Premium ticket holders also enjoy a greater checked baggage allowance of 30kg, as opposed to 20kg in economy – this compares to BA’s limit of two bags weighing a maximum of 23kgs each, in both World Traveller and World Traveller Plus. Security checks were as lengthy as on any other flight these days, and I was airside by 1055.

BOARDING The flight was due to start boarding at 1200 from gate 12, although I was there early for the inaugural celebrations. Once we had boarded the captain announced that there would be a delay due to a “no-show bag” needing to be taken off, although he said we should still arrive on schedule at 1615. The flight finally took off at 1330.

THE SEAT I was sitting in seat 6H in the premium economy section, which is configured in twelve rows of 2-3-2. Premium seats have a 36-inch pitch, compared with 31 inches in economy. Soon after take-off I was offered a Canadian newspaper and a selection of magazines, and was also given a set of headphones (£2.50 in economy) and a comfort pack containing a blanket and eye mask (£3). There was a complimentary bottle of water in the seat pocket, as well as Zoom’s magazine. In-flight entertainment is viewed on old-style communal screens rather than individual seat-back systems.

THE FLIGHT Complimentary alcoholic and soft drinks are served in premium economy throughout the flight (in economy alcoholic beverages are chargeable), and I was served drinks before the lunch trolley came round. There was a choice of chicken or beef, and I went for the former, which came with rice, a salad, a roll and a slice of cherry tart. Paid-for snacks are also available throughout the flight in both classes. I wasn’t familiar with the films being shown on the IFE, so decided to get some rest, and was woken to the sound of the pre-landing snacks being served, which consisted of a coronation chicken wrap, a chocolate bar and a soft drink, with hot towels being handed round before landing.

ARRIVAL As predicted by the captain we landed just five minutes late at 1620, and this being the inaugural flight the aircraft received the traditional fire-hose shower as we taxied to stand. Bermuda airport is a fairly basic affair, and is located to the north-east, on St David’s Island, around 40 minutes’ drive from the capital Hamilton (the speed limit on the whole island is 35kmph).

VERDICT It can only be good for prices that Zoom has started competing with BA on this route, and the budget carrier’s lack of fare restrictions (such as Saturday night stays) also make it attractive. There’s no doubt that Zoom’s in-flight entertainment offering is not as comprehensive as BA’s, but those looking for savings over the little extras will be attracted to the service.

PRICE From £199 one-way.


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