The announcement that Eastern Airways, a franchise partner of Flybe, is to add a morning and evening peak service into London City Airport has added a new dimension for travellers to London.
Taking just 70-minutes flight time each-way direct into London City Airport, the new service gives Newcastle Airport an alternative to the British Airways route into Heathrow.
For the heart of London, and particularly to the City which lies to the east, Heathrow is not very convenient. The Heathrow Express train which does the journey in 15 minutes still deposits the business traveller at Paddington, which is hardly central, and a long way from the City.
London City Airport, on the other hand, is conveniently located close to the heart of the capital and offers a more seamless service for the business traveller. The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station adjacent to London City Airport provides convenient public transport links with driverless trains leaving every few minutes to Canning Town (to connect on to the Jubilee Link direct to London Bridge, Westminster, Bond Street).
The DLR continues to Bank, as well as connections onto the wider London Underground. Flights are now on sale for the new service and fares start from £79.99 one way inclusive of taxes and charges and are bookable at flybe.com.
We consider that this new service has a better chance than other attempts at flying to other London airports. The first budget airline was 'Debonair' in the late 1990s which ran into London Luton, in the North, with onward connection by train.
'Dan Air' flew into Gatwick, EasyJet flew into Stansted and Flybe had previously tried a service to Gatwick, but only British Airways has consistently flown a continuous service to Heathrow, partly because many of the passengers, sometimes more than half, are actually interlining with British Airways and other carriers to other international destinations.
It's certainly a brave time for Eastern Airways to be launching its new service, with Flybe under considerable financial pressure. However, the timetable is good, with business-focused morning and evening departures (from Newcastle) at 8:05 am and at 5.50pm, returning at 9:45 am and 7.30pm on weekdays.
Onboard Eastern Airways operated flights, passengers are offered a full range of complimentary drinks and snacks, but probably only once since the flight is fairly short at 70 minutes
Beyond the Heathrow / London City competition, the trains service by LNER offers a more frequent, comfortable and not altogether slower service (once you take into account all the extra bits and pieces you need to do prior to, and after, flying).
Of course, the great thing about the train is you can turn up at the station only a few minutes before departure and jump on the train without checking in, going through security, walking to and from the gates and dealing with other boarding formalities, as well as a possible bus ride to and from the plane. In short, there's a lot less faff on the train and Kings Cross is only a few stops on the Tube to most central locations in the City.
When you're talking value for money, the taking the train is can be expensive, but only if you don't book in advance. In fact, it's possible to grab a one-way ticket for around £30-50, and a first class ticket from Newcastle to London is available, particularly on later trains, for as little as £55, which includes a meal, a desk with WiFi, and plenty of free drinks, including teas and coffees.
We'll certainly try out the new service to and from London City now it is available, but we're not sure if it's going to beat the LNER mainline service we often take from the North East to the capital.
What about you? What do you think of the new service? How do you prefer to commute from Newcastle to London, and vice versa?