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Friday 1 June 2012

Flying with Blue1 and the Boeing 717 for the first time


*Aircraft photos are credited to the respective photographers

Originally my plan was to just fly Finnair to Helsinki only, but when I was browsing through sky scanner, I came across a great deal on Blue1 and SAS. I would get to fly on 2 new airlines and 2 new aircraft types for just Singapore $122. What a bargain it was and without hesitation, I booked it almost immediately. It was a good thing I did it fast because I checked again about 6 hrs later, the deal was gone! Finally, my wish of flying the Boeing 717 had finally come true! Not only that, I get to add the Boeing 737-700 to my flight logbook! The next thing I had to consider was whether to sacrifice my Finnair return sector (HEL-LHR), but in the end, I choose not to. Instead, I booked on another new carrier, Norwegian, to Helsinki via Stockholm. This time I was to fly out from London Gatwick.

My itinerary goes like this (All within 4 days) :P


About the website

Using Cheapticket (From sky scanner) to book my flight was easy. According to the ticket condition from the SAS website, I was not allowed to choose my seat unless I have a status with the airline. Browsing through SAS's website on both on my IPad and laptop, I had no problem with it, not the most user-friendly, but at least I get what I want. Unlike Emirates's website, there are not much changes I can do, such as adding the frequent miles, choosing my seats and selecting my meals (I found out later that the meal was not free. The only that I could do was to get a refund (within 24 hrs after the booking) and changing of dates of my flights. (Not allowed due to ticket conditions)

The actual day

In the lovely morning, I met up with a couple of tweeters at Market Square for breakfast. My friend offered to take me to the airport, which I accepted with appreciation. Once we reached the airport, I did our my tour around the land-side before finally bidding farewell to her. It was definitely nice to have some company on this trip. Searching around for proper food, I decided to go into the air-side since there weren't many choices at the land-side.

What I love about travelling within European countries (Doesn't apply to all: UK and Ireland are exempted)is that you won't have to go through immigration; just get the passport, go through customs and then off to the gate you go.

Flight route: HEL-OSL

Miles: 476

Finnair's ERJ-170

Blue1's Boeing 717-200 in normal livery

Air Berlin's Airbus A319

Finnair's Airbus A320 in the old livery

Finnair's retro livery Airbus A319

Finnair's Airbus A319 in normal livery

Finnair's ERJ-170 

Finnair's Airbus A321 in the old livery

Norwegian's Boeing 737-800

Finnair's Airbus A320 in the old livery

Finnair's Airbus A319 in 'OneWorld' and old livery

Finnair's ERJ-190 

Another photo of the retrojet

Time passed by quickly and soon it was 4pm! At that time I saw a star alliance Boeing 717 of Blue1 landed, somehow at that moment I had a feeling that was the aircraft that would be taking me to OSL. How right I was when I reached the gate. My aircraft was parking beside the beautiful Finnair's 'Silver Bird' A319, beautiful isn't it?
My ride: OH-BLP

After the spotting session, it was time to get ready to fly on my very first Boeing 717 ride.

Carrier: Blue1
Flight number: KF677
Date: 29th May 2012
Routing: HEL-OSL
Seat number: 22F
Aircraft type: Boeing 717
Engine type: 2X BMW Roll Royce BR715 engines
1st time on OH-BLP (Star Alliance)
History of aircraft: Ex-Bangkok Airways and Spanair aircraft.
Line number: 5037
Plane delivered: 15th December 2010 (Delivered to Blue1)
Registration: OH-BLP
Flight Duration: 1hr 15mins
Scheduled departure time: 1645
Actual departure time: 1642
Gears up: 1650
Scheduled arrival time: 1715
Actual arrival time: 1708
Load factor for Y class:
Departure gate: 60%
Departure gate: 14
Departure runway: 04R

My search to fly the Boeing 717 has finally ended! A normal 717 would have already made me happy, but to get to fly on the star alliance aircraft, is certainly an additional bonus! This was my 3rd time on a star alliance aircraft and previously I flew on Spanair's A320 and MD87.

Anyway, I entered the cabin not long after and the cabin is similar to any other MD80s aircraft, that makes sense after all these aircraft was supposed to be the MD-95 (Built and design from MD) until Boeing took over McDonnell Douglas and renamed it to Boeing 717. Not long after, the production of this aircraft had stopped as it is competing directly against its own product, the Boeing 737-600. One unique feature about this aircraft is its the only aircraft that is powered by BMW-Roll Royce engines, a joint venture between both engine manufacturers.

When I reached my row, someone was sitting at my seat and I notified him. Actually, I could have just sat the row in front, but at that time I didn't know how full the flight was. It turned out to be just 60% full, with quite a number of empty seats behind. A couple behind me was grumbling when they could not see anything out of their window as it was blocked by the engine. I had to make a guess on the seats that were not blocked by the engine and thankfully my window is just in front of the engine. If you guys want to fly the Boeing 717 of Blue1, choose row 22 for this view.

Pushed back was early and engines started up shortly. The beautiful sound of the BMW-Roll Royce engines filled the cabin, however, it was not as loud as the JT8D engines on the MD87 I had taken last year on Spanair. Soon we made our way to the runway 04R for a powerful takeoff.

There is no doubt how powerful the engines are, the takeoff was quite bumpy but things smoothed out when we reached the assigned flight level.

For the cabin, its in a 2-3 seating configuration. The cabin width is smaller than the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 which are both in 3-3 seating configuration. This Boeing 717's fuselage is pretty short and its main competitors are the A318 and Boeing 737-600.

Cabin photos

Legroom space is quite tight but it is alright for a short sector like this. Fortunately, I had the middle seat free. I can't imagine flying this aircraft for more than 3 hrs on a full flight, it would be too much for me to take. If that happens, I would probably take the aisle seat.

This is the newer cabin. From what I was told, 3 aircraft including this was in this interior.

The cabin looks pleasant, right?

See the amount of dirt! Not good at all. Spotted it when the plane started descending.

As this is a short flight, the seat pitch is bearable. The leather seat is quite comfortable, no complaints about it. Somehow I do like the 2-3 seating configuration, as there are its own advantages, like choosing the window seat on the 2 seater row and if you are travelling in a couple, the 2-seater makes sense.

As for the service, drinks and food are chargeable so I gave it a miss. Since it is only an hour and 15 minutes, no point really. The crews were disappeared to the front during cruising speed and the response from them when they were called, were pretty slow. Mind you the load factor of this flight was just 60%, many empty seats near the rear, not a good excuse.

Some window shots were taken during the flight

Very loud but powerful takeoff! BR-715 engines are not as loud as the PW JT8D.

The BMW-Roll Royce engines are definitely quieter than the PW JT8D engines which power the MD-80 family. 

Approaching Oslo

Landing at OSL was quite bumpy, you can feel the aircraft swinging from one end to the other, this is what you call crosswind landing and the wind was pretty strong. I have thoroughly enjoyed this flight, mainly for the aircraft type. It is a pity that the time went passed so quickly and that always happens when you are having the fun of your life. There are no more Boeing 717 operators in Asia, so to catch one today is definitely one of the highlights for me.


Onboard service: 6/10
Seat comfort: 6/10
Aircraft: 9/10
Legroom space: 5/10
Cleanliness of aircraft: 6/10
Recommendation: Yes, just for the aircraft type.
Overall inflight experience: C+
Just for the aircraft experience: A+

Thanks for reading my trip report.


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