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Trip Report: Flying a Jetstream With Eastern Airways

Flying a British-built aircraft in Scotland.

Boarding an Eastern Airways BAE Jetstream 41. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

The United Kingdom used to be one of the powerhouses for building commercial airplanes. The rise of Airbus and the European Union eventually meant the country stopped assembling full airplanes.

British Aerospace (BAE) used to be one of the major commercial airplane manufacturers in the world. It produced iconic airplanes such as the Trident, VC 10, BAE146, and the Jetstream. Recently, I had the opportunity to fly in rural Scotland on Eastern Airways’ Jetstream 41.

The BAE Jetstream 42 first carried passengers in 1992 and can carry 29 people in a 1-2 configuration. It’s the stretched version of the BAE Jetstream 31 which first flew in 1980. Eastern Airways is one of the only three airlines still operating the type based on data from planespotters.net

BAE Jetstream 41 has a 1-2 configuration cabin that seats 29 passengers. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

I flew on the company’s route between Aberdeen and Wick, Scotland. While the flight time was around 30 minutes one way, it would take five hours by road and nearly eight hours by train. Therefore, an air link is critical for the local community at Wick. Similar to remote communities in other parts of the world, the flight was made possible due to subsidization from the Scottish government.

Booking

The flight turnaround time in the U.K. was very short, presumably influenced by the likes of Ryanair and easyJet. The scheduled turnaround time for this flight was 25 minutes. The scheduled boarding time for the return leg was even before the scheduled arrival time for the inbound flight.

Therefore, the website does not support booking a same-day return trip on a single itinerary. I ended up making two separate bookings for this trip.

Pre-Flight

It surprised me that the airline offered online check-in and even seat selection for the flight. By default, the airline charges an additional fee for seat selection. However, like most airlines with seat selection fees, it will assign a seat for free during check-in. Since the aircraft has either an aisle or a window seat, I didn’t bother paying for one.

The airline does require a weigh-in for luggage, as weight and balance are critical to the safe operation of these smaller turboprop aircraft. However, the online check-in did not mention such a process. Since the aircraft does not have overhead storage, all hand luggage larger than purses will receive a valet tag, which requires you to drop off the luggage during boarding and pick it back up after the flight has arrived.

The value ticket allows 7 kg (15 lbs) for each passenger. Although I received a seat assignment during online check-in, the actual assignment on my boarding card was different. The check-in agent did not mention the change at all when she handed me the new boarding pass.

Eastern Airways uses the John Muir Lounge at Aberdeen International Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

The departure board displayed “go to lounge” for my flight before a gate was announced. However, I didn’t know what lounge it was referring to at firstThe lounge my flight used is the John Muir Lounge. It has no connection to the famous nature writer, though. John Muir was the airside manager who worked in Aberdeen from 1988 to 2001.

The lounge was used by NHS patients who have traveled to Aberdeen for treatment and was named after him since he also fought cancer until passing away in 2022. The lounge felt cozy and like a community center.

The Flight

My flight boarded through gate 12, at the end of the facility at Aberdeen airport. The flight was reasonably full, especially considering it had a standard seat pitch for 29 passengers.

Each seat onboard the BAE Jetstream 41 has two windows, making the seat feel very spacious. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

The plane has a few noticeable different design features from its smaller Jetstream 31/32 cousin, which is uncommon among aircraft in the same family. For instance, the cockpit has a door, unlike the Jetstream 32s at Contour Air which allows passengers to peek into the cockpit during flight.

The BAE Jetstream 41’s seat has all the bells and whistles of a standard economy seat on jetliners. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

The biggest difference though is the rear exit of the plane. The rare exit is on the right side of the plane while the Jetstream 32 has its door on the left. This difference in layout is quite a significant change between the two designs.

Eastern Airways still publishes and carries an inflight magazine.(Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

In addition to the structural difference, the aircraft also has a very different interior from the seat to the PSUs. Each seat’s side wall is also concaved in to allow a small footstep and additional space for the passenger, which I think is a great improvement.

Flight over Scotland’s country side is quite scenic. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

The flight itself was short and scenic. Overflying Scottish countryside seeing all the cows and sheep in the field was quite poetic as well. There was no inflight service since the actual flight time was less than 30 minutes. What’s interesting, though, was that passengers were held onboard until the ground crew had unloaded all the valet bags from the cargo hold. While it helped reduce the passenger’s time on the ramp, it meant customers needed to stay in the cabin longer without air conditioning. 

Wick Airport

Wick John O’ Groats Airport played an important role in various reconnaissance missions during the Second World War. The airport has some historic photographs and models to show this part of the history in the terminal. Like many smaller airports of the same size, agents here work both the check-in counter and boarding. Therefore, there was no one to check me in when I deplaned from my flight. 

Boarding area of the Wick John O’Groats Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

Since I was flying on a separate reservation and I did not check in at the counter before security screening commenced, I was worried that the airline would mark me as a no-show and drop me from the flight. Luckily, the agent found me by the time I passed security and logged my bag’s weight information.

The return flight was also quite packed on a Sunday afternoon, which shows how useful this connection is for the local communities. Overall it was a memorable experience to fly on one of the last British-built aircraft in the United Kingdom.

Fangzhong Guo

Author

  • Fangzhong Guo

    Fangzhong grew up near an OEM airport in northeastern China, where he developed his enthusiasm for aviation. Taking upon his passion, he's now working as an aircraft interior design engineer. Besides working in the aerospace industry, Fangzhong enjoys trying out different types of airplanes and seeing how airplane interiors have evolved. So far, he's flown on over 80 types of aircraft. He also planespots in his spare time. His rarest catches included the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and AN-225.

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