Flying Sun Air of Scandinavia from Friedrichshafen via Dusseldorf to Billund

In the month of April I made a week-long trip with Michel, discovering German aviation history in Friedrichshafen, Danish Railways History in Odense and navigating the sea to discover some Estonian history in Tallinn. After learning about German aviation history and the Dornier factory in Friedrichshafen it was time to fly on a Dornier plane up to the Danish city of Billund.

One of the main reasons for Michel and I to take this trip was to fly on one of Europe’s rare airlines and airplane types, Sun Air of Scandinavia and its Dornier 328. As there are only a handful Dornier 328 still left flying we decided that it was now or never, the plane was built during the 1990´s by the German Dornier factory and was the last commercial airplane fully designed and built in Germany.

Originally it was powered by turboprop engines but the manufacturer decided to build a version using jet engines hoping to sell more planes. Unfortunately the plane was not a commercial success and only 217 where ever built, of which Sun Air of Scandinavia is one of the biggest operators worldwide.

Sun Air of Scandinavia is a small Danish airline based in Billund, they fly a number of thin and less obvious routes and thus found their operating niche. They operate under a franchising agreement with British Airways which means they use BA flight numbers, booking systems, their planes are painted in BA colours and the staff is wearing BA uniforms.

To the outside it looks like a British Airways operation and only a small sticker on the nose of the planes makes it clear it is a different airline.

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Friedrichshafen is a small airport located in the south of Germany, close to the Austrian and Swiss border and it also the closest airport for Liechtenstein. There are not a lot of flights operating, Lufthansa has a number of daily feeder flights to its hub in Frankfurt, while the Turkish Airlines 737 to Istanbul and the Wizzair A320 to Tuzla are the biggest aircraft operating there.

Last year Sun Air of Scandinavia based two of its Dornier 328 aircraft in Friedrichshafen to operate routes to Hamburg and Düsseldorf. We decided to fly the route to Düsseldorf and connect there to the route to Billund to get to Denmark.

As the airport is so small check-in only opens about an hour before departure and is handled by one agent. As we were taking a connection in Düsseldorf the agent had to look for transfer tags to put on our bags as it is not common to have transfer baggage on these flights. Unfortunately there were no Transfer tags available and she just attached some priority labels and hoped for the best.

Security was the fastest and smoothest I ever experienced, there were 2 lanes opened and as Michel and I where the only two passengers going to security at that time we each had a lane to ourselves.

We were through within a matter of seconds and after passing through the relatively large tax-free shop we could wait in the Airside waiting lounge until our boarding was announced. Airside there also was a café operating which seemed to have quite a good number of people consuming something.

Boarding was commenced about 15 minutes prior to take-off and as our plane was standing right in front of the terminal building we could just walk across the apron to our plane. Nothing beats a short walk across the apron breathing in the kerosene fumes in the morning, also providing us some photography opportunities.

Flight BA 8241
Friedrichshafen (FDH) 7:20 to Dusseldorf (DUS) 8:25
Flight time 1 hours and 5 minutes
Dornier Do-328JET OY-NCU
Delivered to Skyway Airlines in August 1999, Flying for Sun Air of Scandinavia since May 2013

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Upon boarding we were welcomed by the flight attendant and offered a regional German newspaper. Once everyone was boarded, found their seats the door was closed nothing else happened.

The pilot made an announcement that our take-off would be delayed for about half an hour due to lack of Air Traffic Controllers in one of the ATC centres on the route. The sole flight attendant immediately took action and came around the cabin offering apple and orange juice to compensate the wait, a very nice and welcoming gesture.

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The plane only has a comfortable single class 1-2 layout in leather seats, offering seats for up to 32 passengers. If you are travelling alone the A side with its solo seats is probably the best to aim for, if you are traveling together with someone else the DF side allows you to sit together.

There is only a baggage locker above the DF side of the plane, which was sufficiently big to stow my backpack but clearly could not hold roll aboard bags. I was seated in seat 10A which was the row after the emergency exit and offered a very spacious legroom, probably one of the better seats in the plane. As there were only about 20 passengers on this flight, most people could have some room to spread out.

After the half an hour wait we were cleared for taxi, we taxied to the end of the runway and after letting 2 propeller planes land it was our turn to blast off into the sky. As it was a grey and rainy morning we were quickly up into the clouds, the sky only cleared up once we got closer to Dusseldorf.

Contrary to mainline British Airways Sun Sir of Scandinavia still offers a complimentary on-board service in economy. On this domestic flight we received a small BA themed box containing a small sandwich with sausage and lettuce, as well as a yoghurt. After handing out the breakfast boxes the flight attendant came around offering tea and coffee in paper cups, she also came around offering refills when clearing the empty boxes. Just before starting descend she came around once more to ask if anyone wanted some more drinks and delivered them by tray to each person.

All in all she really did a splendid job providing service on this short one hour flight by herself.

After a scenic descend over the Rhine-Rhur area we landed in Düsseldorf airport and parked at a remote stand. We were bussed to the terminal where only Michel and I followed the route for connecting passengers.

We climbed up the stairs for connecting passengers up into terminal A to only walk down the stairs again at the opposite side of the corridor to go to our remote gate at A30. Strangely enough our flight was not mentioned on the departure screens, yet boarding did start on time and we were bussed back to the remote stands. Our outbound Dornier to Billund was parked alongside the inbound Dornier from Friedrichshafen, so we had good hope our bags would have made the connection.

Upon boarding we were once again greeted by the flight attendant, but as this was a Denmark bound flight she offered us a Danish newspaper.

This time I settled in seat 3A towards the front of the plane, offering less legroom than 10A on my previous flights. As there was only a load of 8 passengers on this flight, the Flight attendant asked the passengers to spread out a bit more for a better weight distribution as everyone was seated near the front.

Flight BA8202
Dusseldorf (DUS) 9:45 to Billund (BLL) 11:00
Flight time 1 hours and 15 minutes
Dornier Do-328JET OY-NCI
Delivered to Air Vallee in April 2000, flying for Sun Air of Scandinavia since February 2015 

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After a short queue for take-off we blasted off in the sky for our flight to Billund. The skies over this part of Germany where clear, so we had some nice views over the flat rural landscape and coastlines below.

Service on this flight was even better than on the previous flight. First the FA came around offering apple or orange juice to everyone. This time we received a full tray, holding a cheese-mushroom spread, some cheese slices, butter, jam and a yoghurt. Along with this we could pick a full sized bread from a bread basket.

Later she came around offering coffee and tea, using the proper plastic cup on our tray. The meal was nice and tasty, but it would have been nice if she had proactively came around a second time offering some more bread.

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It is remarkable how on both flights of around an hour on the same airline in the same aircraft and at the same meal time the on-board service can differ so vastly, I’m sure Sun Air did the maths on why this is best but I would recommend anyone wanting to try Sun Air’s fabled service to fly on one of their Billund sectors.

We had a smooth landing on an empty Billund airport and where even parked on a jetway equipped stand. Of course a plane this small is unable to connect to a jetway so we stepped out onto the apron and then proceeded to climb some outside stairs into the terminal. Billund airport was undergoing some expansion works so there where little areas where they were doing construction work throughout the terminal, to compensate they handed out free water bottles to their passengers.

When arriving at the baggage belt 2 bags popped out on the belt, the bag of a fellow passenger and Michel’s bag. Unfortunately mine did not show up, how we dealt with this you will be able to read in special article on Tuesday.

All in all I had a pleasant journey on Sun Air of Scandinavia, they still offer in-flight service like in the ‘old days’, if you ever get the chance to fly them, do not hesitate as they are a unique experience. It’s nice to see how such a small airline shows how flying can still be a more personalized affair.

Have you flown on Sun Air of Scandinavia and how did you experience it? Let us know in the comments below!

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