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Member Name: Morgenhund
Date: 16/12/04, updated on 08/09/06 (6565 review reads)
Disadvantages: ex-Bratislava for Vienna
I discovered SkyEurope originally when a friend mentioned to me that she had found a cheap airline for flying to Croatia. She was happy with their flights – it was cheaper than going by train, and a hell of a lot quicker too, and I have also been perfectly happy with their service… If you don’t mind flying to/from Bratislava instead of Vienna then this is also going to be a viable alternative to Austrian Airlines or British Airways.
SkyEurope describes itself as being the first Central European No-Frills Airline, and is based in Bratislava and Budapest. SkyEurope has only recently entered the scene – most of its routes only started up in 2003 – London and Paris routes having been added during the second half of 2003. Often the flights are advertised as Vienna (Bratislava) – in actual fact you land in Slovakia, but Bratislava airport, only 6km east of the City Centre is still only a mere 50km away from Vienna. A word of caution - check that you don't require a visa to enter Slovakia - and for those of you from Schengen countries, you'll have to travel on a passport rather than an ID card until at least 2007.
Whether I fly SkyEurope usually depends on the time factor – getting to Vienna Schwechat is a lot easier still than Bratislava, and also the fact that at the other end the journey from Stansted to the City in London is another time consuming factor tends to decide whether I fly with SkyEurope or not. On business, I generally don’t, although the timings of flights recently did allow me to fly to Paris from Bratislava with minimal inconvenience. On the Bratislava-Stansted service I have to add about EUR 50 for getting to and from the city centre at both ends, so if the saving is not that great I tend to not bother looking at cheap tickets… Another problem is that there is usually only one flight a day from Bratislava to Stansted – and no Tuesday or Saturday flights… so that often rules it out for my business travel.
It is made slightly more of an option by dint of the fact that there is a shuttlebus service to Vienna for EUR 10 one way to/from Bratislava from Vienna, with the bus leaving from Erdberg U3 station – of course you have to book a ticket for it in advance and the journey takes about 75 minutes – dependent on the border crossing – although from experience this has not been too much of a problem. And of course at the other end you have a EUR 30 (GBP 20) trip on the Stansted Express (which is hardly remowned for travelling at high-speed!) to Liverpool Street – thereby negating most of the saving. The alternative, and a good one if you wish to spend time in Bratislava – I tend to often go for lunch or a lazy afternoon – is to take the train from Vienna’s Südbahnhof to Bratislava Main Station – the journey costs about EUR 10 for a single ticket. From the Main Station you can then walk into the city centre, and the bus to the airport, which travels every 15 minutes and takes about 20 minutes costs about 23p (yep – that’s right less than the cost of a stamp!). The Bus route to take in the No. 61 to the stop “Letiško” (that’s Slovak for “airport”).
Alternatively from Bratislava you can also get a bus to Brno for EUR 17 – Brno being in the South East of the Czech Republic, and certainly worth a look at on the way to Prague. Since the buses are tied in terms of departure time to when the flights arrive you don’t need to worry about getting stranded in Bratislava overnight – the buses leave once the flights have arrived, and there is generally no mad rush. In any case the terminal at Bratislava airport is pretty small so you won’t have far to walk.
I first flew on the Bratislava-Stansted and Bratislava-Paris Orly routes, which are probably the busiest routes operated by SkyEurope, and in the last year there are now 15 destinations served from Bratislava, as well as others served from Kosice, Budapest, Krakow and Warsaw.
Recently I flew to Amsterdam and back - see below for further information about my particular experience.
As with all budget airlines, flight tickets are available most cheaply over the Internet from the SkyEurope website at www.skyeurope.com. The booking process has proven to be exceptionally easy, although only currently possible with a credit card (I like using a debit card for personal travel!) The website itself is very easy to use, with a multilingual interface in seven languages (German, English, Hungarian, Slovak, French Polish and Italian for those pedants out there!). A confirmation of your booking is then sent out via e-mail, although I would advise printing the page out straightaway, or if you have the means to, to print as a .pdf file for later printing, especially if you have to use a receipt to claim flight expenses. One thing to note is that while your flight may be advertised in pounds or euro, your credit card will probably be charged in Slovak Crowns (SKK). For my recent flight to Amsterdam I was advised that SkyEurope had to cancel my Wednesday evening flight, but that my reservation could be changed to the Thursday flight at no extra charge, and with a free flight voucher valid until March 2005 in return for cooperating, which was fine by me. Obviously if you really need to get on a flight, then SkyEurope might not be for you in this case...
Apart from Launch Prices (crazy tariffs to coincide with the opening of a route) which start from EUR 1 or HUF 1 (yep 0.28p!), it is possible to get some very reasonable flight prices. For example, my most recent flight cost €125 including taxes from Bratislava to Paris and back (i.e. under GBP 90). Often flights start from EUR 25 / SKK 990 (one way), although to get these prices you will usually have to book a return flight – certainly you have to for the launch prices – otherwise I would probably fly “open-jawed” from Budapest to London if I paid a total of HUF 2 for two open-jawed flights! I would of course have to frame the credit card statement billing me for GBP 0.01 for a return flight! With most routes only being flown 3-4 times per week (c.f. London-Vienna about 5 times a day by BA or Austrian) the demand on tickets can be quite high. If you really want a cheap flight then I would advise looking around a few days prior and post your original departure date. I recently got a EUR 1 deal to fly out to Amsterdam - and another one by booking a return on another credit card.
The company operates Boeing 737-500 planes on the Bratislava-Paris and Bratislava-London services, which seat up to 133 passengers (3 on each side) and for the other routes they use Embraer 120ER planes, seating 30 passengers (1-2 configuration). The planes have clearly been refurbished and purchased second hand but are still relatively new.
Most of the planes are quite distinctive – the outside is plastered with a massive picture of Adriana Sklerenikova-Karembeu – Slovakian supermodel and wife of the petulant footballer who put New Caledonia on the footballing map, Christian Karembeu. The airline is *very* Slovak – in terms of being operated from Slovakia, and its livery being in the Slovak national colours.
I can’t really fault SkyEurope in that as a frequent flyer I recognise that a good flight is one you can’t remember anything of any note as having happened. Basically I am easy to please – as long as I land in one piece and get my luggage back in one piece then I’ll not complain – as with most frequent flyers!
The check-in process was as standard – check-in begins 2 hours before take off, and shuts 30 minutes beforehand. Normally I tend to pitch up about 40 minutes before take-off, and spend as little time as possible in the airport, but with SkyEurope I tend to arrive earlier so that I get my favourite seat next to the emergency exit (most legroom!), as it is not possible to reserve seats in advance. You are allowed up to 20kg of luggage – which barely represents a problem as I tend to go for a maximum of 3-4 days and as I travel to locations with shops I tend to pick up anything I might have forgotten at my destination…
The only memory of SkyEurope flight that I have to date was on a flight to Paris which was crammed-full of infrequent flyers – you know the ones who actually believe that you have to get off the plane asap, and then stand around waiting for their luggage, and who are also the ones pacing around for hours since they are afraid they might miss their flights… The landing in Paris was a bit like a triple jump which provoked the Viennese Prolo next to me to shout out “Biiiiiiiiiiiist du naaaaaaaaaarisch!” (“You’re kidding me!” - or something similar!). I was unperturbed – a bad landing in my book is one which causes you to spill your G&T. Although of course on a SkyEurope flight it would be a glass of water or an instant coffee / tea that you’d spill. The cabin crew were attentive by not in-your-face, polite and looked quite fetching in their Denim suits – well the female flight attendants did!
In flight catering was basic – the tea and coffee were instant – snobs might not be convinced, but perfectly adequate, and water was offered as a soft drink.
The in-flight magazine was interesting – written in Slovak and English and kept me amused for a good quarter of an hour – I usually have enough to read on most flights for the rest of the time in any case. The translation into English wasn’t great on occasions – but then again I am bound to be biased as a translator…
UPDATE - The whole Amsterdam story
Having mentioned earlier that I wanted to fly to Amsterdam on a Wednesday flight and then got bumped on to a Thursday flight because they had cancelled my flight - because they had sub-let the plane, I then had a bit of a nightmare. On arriving at Ivanka airport, I was told that my flight was 90 minutes delayed from Amsterdam due to weather problems - fog at Schiphol leading the airport to be closed. As we were about to board - or so we thought - it was announced that our flight was cancelled. Fortunately I collared a SkyEurope Sales employee whilst still in departures, who said that she could get me onto the Paris flight which would be taking off (after a three hour delay for bad weather) in about 40 minutes time, and she sorted out my tickets whilst I went to baggage claim. I checked in, whilst the hordes of disgruntled infrequent flyers were starting to get uppity, and got onto the flight. Admittedly I had to pay for a no-show hotel room in Amsterdam and had the extra cost of a hotel room in Paris and Thalys train ticket to Antwerp to make it to the conference the next morning, but this was still a cheaper option than not going! My return flight was 30 minutes late, and the bus to Vienna was 75 mins late as we had to wait for the delayed Paris flight to land before we could travel and I got home at 2:30am rather than midnight - not ideal but beyond my control.
Frequent flyers cards:
There is currently no frequent flyer card for SkyEurope – some other no-frills / budget airlines e.g. Air Berlin have frequent flyer programmes with various levels. The absence of such a programme is not really a negative point, and hopefully as the network of routes flown expands, then one might be introduced.
I have been very happy with the service on board SkyEurope and the whole experience, on all occasions where I have flown with SkyEurope. The airline would be more attractive for me if they flew more frequently to London, and/or if they flew to other destinations in Britain. All in all a very satisfactory experience! A lot of people would blame the airline for cancelling flights - but if an airport is shut, it is shut for everyone - no matter how expensive the tickets.
Summary: Starting to prove itself as a staying force in the low budget world