You couldn’t make this up! This is 2013, isn’t it, and not 1913?!
Ever since BA’s daily service to Paris was reduced and they dropped flights between CDG and LGW all together (my neighbourhood airport, 25 mins from home) I have been waiting for a replacement means of getting to one of my favourite cities. So imagine my delight when I learned that the newly formed Brighton City Airways would be offering a twice daily service from Shoreham airport, which is about 45 mins from home. Shoreham airport pretends to be Brighton’s airport - it is, after all, much closer as the crow flies to the heart of that seaside city than many airports that Ryanair uses are to other cities within Europe that they claim to serve!
Of course, the airport in Paris turns out to be Cergy-Pontoise-Corneilles airport (POX), which is further from the heart of Paris than either CDG or ORY. However, the marketing men claim it’s very convenient to the business quarters to the west of Paris, include at La Defense.
My local radio had a reporter at the airport this morning for the inaugural flight. It continues to be a comedy of errors. First, the aircraft (note the use of the singular noun) a LET-410 UVP-E turbo-prop leased to BCA with fancy orange and green livery has gone tech, so they have had to rustle up a replacement at the last minute, which had to fly in from the Isle of Man, of all places, to fill in. So this replacement doesn’t have the fancy new logo on it, and the flight will be at least an hour late departing ESH. Then it was revealed that POX has had no international services up to now, or not to outside of the Shengen zone, and the new facilities are not yet in place. What this means, for another week or so still, is that all flights from ESH to POX need to put down at either Rouen or Le Touquet airports to allow all passengers to go through immigration checks and show their passports, before continuing on. (It is claimed this will add no more than 10 mins to flight times – provided, of course, that no passenger’s passport fails to meet with an immigration officer’s approval.) Last I checked, the plane still hadn't taken off!
Some of the publicity claims that this will be a valuable business service, offering a convenient route between the south coast of the UK (where lots of businesses employ French natives) and the business heart of Paris-La Defense. As both airports are very compact, the maximum number of passengers per flight is 19, and with no other regular international services using either airport, check in and security at departure, and disembarkation procedures and baggage retrieval at arrival realistically are likely to be very swift. Unfortunately, at the moment, neither airport is served by any kind of public transport, so you have to rely on costly taxis instead. In the rush hour a taxi could take over 45 minutes to get from Shoreham airport to say Edward Street (where Brighton’s largest private employer has their main office). It would take nearly as long in a taxi to get to La Defense. At least, a short taxi ride from POX will get you to the last stop on the RER A line at Cergy, to get you into Etoile or Chatelet in the centre of Paris quite quickly.
There are proud boasts that complimentary tea and coffee are served in the airport in a small area that they claim is more like the lounge of a business class service than a normal airport terminal, but you’d better not make too free with the beverages – the plane has no loo! (I am wondering if they make an announcement before boarding to remind passengers of this fact, I’d love to have a first hand trip report!)
For the moment, the two best things about ESH is that, until the airport gets busier, the car park is free, and the transit times at either end of the supposedly one hour long flight will be very short!