Review: CityJet – London City (LCY) to Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS)


Economy Class, Avro RJ85 Avroliner – February 2013

CityJet's new Christian Lacroix uniforms at London City Airport

CityJet’s new Christian Lacroix uniforms at LCY

It’s cruel, but also easy, to think that passengers get the kind of airport they deserve. I flew out of Luton once. Don’t judge me – it represented, for a variety of reasons, the easiest route from London to Taormina. Looking back at the operatic degeneracy of it all, I would rather have walked. There were anti-date-rape devices on sale from vending machines in the toilets (designed to stop anyone tampering with your alcopop, should you leave it unattended momentarily) and a recurrent amplified announcement that “all liquids not in a clear plastic bag WILL be confiscated”. The Orwellian menace was compounded by the fact that the only plastic bags available in the departure hall before security were ones that were FOR SALE.

In contrast, there’s London City Airport, which I will jump through the hoops of a carrier’s schedules to fly from. It is tranquil. There are no screaming children. You are invited to pass through security gates by scanning your ticket at a ticket barrier. You are treated like a human being rather than stag-party scum. Yes, there are drawbacks – it’s something of an oversight that you can buy a TAG Heuer timepiece, but not deodorant ­­– but with airlines offering a check-in time of less than half an hour before departure, who’s complaining?

On my trip, no one had booked what counts as their Business class, because the whole of LCY feels like a Business class lounge

I use Air France long haul because I can usually avoid Heathrow and jump on a CityJet flight from City, connecting to their major routes through Paris (often with anxiety-inducingly short transfer times). CityJet also fly seven times, daily, in each direction, between London and Amsterdam. The Eurostar is still, sadly, a faff from London to Amsterdam (there is no direct train, and a recent attempt to book a return on that route confused Eurostar’s website, which claimed repeatedly that nothing was available, on any day, ever). In comparison, the CityJet flight takes around 50 minutes, though they allow for longer on the schedule in case of taxiing and holding patterns, usually at Schiphol. Flights start early enough for you to make your morning meeting, and finish to allow for a full day’s work before leaving for the airport.

There are no bells and whistles on CityJet’s RJ85, even if the new uniforms are by Christian Lacroix. On my trip, no one had booked what counts as their Business class, because the whole of LCY feels like a Business class lounge, and everyone sits in the same 3-3 narrow seats on the plane. You wouldn’t want to be in these seats for more than a two-hour flight, but the Amsterdam jaunt is so short that you barely have time to flick through the Air France Magazine (easily the best in-flight publication going, for looks and content) before beginning your descent.

The only difference in flight classes, apart from a few catering touches, is in baggage and flexibility. City Saver is the lead-in fare (no change allowed on the ticket); City Value allows a change of flight with a charge; City Flex allows the change without charge, and City Premium allows you two bags in the hold rather than one (plus a “premium meal” and lounge access in Amsterdam). CityJet is also, it must be said, a bargain product: it’s possible to fly each way for under £40.

CityJet’s London City to Schiphol route is – on my recent experience at least – a flawless product. It ran on time, both outbound and inbound, staff were courteous, and there was the usual mad dash to serve coffee, tea, water and snacks (and wine on my return evening flight). Frankly, I don’t know why they bother when it’s such a short flight. But then I’m sure scores of curmudgeonly travellers would declare it the end of times if they did away with the ultra-short-haul trolley completely. Actually, on consideration, I might be one of them: a G&T on the 18:05 is a nice end to the day.