Flying Local - Don't Just Look At The Ticket Price!
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
There’s something incredibly indulgent about being able to walk to check-ins at Leeds Bradford International Airport (LBA) although few believe me when I quote my elderly mother as once having commented: “I could never live round ‘ere (Yeadon), it’s far too quiet!”
Yeadon Dam, for all its close proximity to LBA, is a haven for ducks, swans and even boasts a boating club a bandstand and a kiddies playground, all just yards from the thriving shopping centre of this former textile town and just as close to the main runway.
The majority of people didn’t even qualify for triple glazing grants in the airport’s early days, such was the comparative absence of noise and, even now, LBA, currently the focus of a multi-million pounds re-development, seemingly disturbs few; at least that’s my personal experience having lived next to the place and witnessed its changing shenanigans for nigh on a decade.
However, for long enough, it was informally branded by locals as a ‘domestic’ airport, a place where you would go to take a flight to one of Jet2’s bucket-shop holiday destinations.
But perceptions are changing.
Whilst planning my next long-haul trip to Manila in the Philippines, I was stopped in my tracks by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as I thumbed the various flights on offer out of Manchester Airport. Had I thought of ‘Flying Local’ out of LBA?
‘To Manila?’ I asked in temporary disbelief.
‘Yes but via Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam,’ came the reply.
It certainly got me thinking but, more to the point it resulted in a dusting off of my large digit calculator, so important to a short-sighted Yorkshireman eager to capitalise on best value deals!
At the time of my research the door-to-door journey between Yeadon and Manila – approximately 22 hours allowing for pre-flight check ins and lay overs in Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi – was coming it at around £650 out of LBA with Etihad Airways offering to transport me the same distance for just £525 if I was prepared to wing it across the Pennines to Manchester Airport.
But before you hit the internet ‘buy now’ icon to make the £125 saving it is worth looking at the numbers a little more closely.
Firstly there’s domestic vs international.
If you fly out of LBA via Schiphol it is classed as a domestic flight because the initial leg is within Europe, which means you only need to check-in two hours before take-off and this is reflected by the fact that KLM’s check-in desk only opens two hours before the flight time so getting there much earlier is pointless. An hour saved!
So, if you live locally, or within striking distance of Leeds Bradford International, you not only gain on time but, generally, traffic is less challenging although parking charges will be similar, if not identical, to those at Manchester. Make sure you check for any ‘book your parking in advance’ deals online.
Alternatively, of course, you can make your way to Manchester Airport which leaves three core options: car, train or a minibus pick-up drop-off service. I have sampled all three.
Car can be problematic, not particularly because of the parking charges, but because of the M62. You either have to set off hours before your flight, just to ensure you get there on time, or travel the night before and book into one of the cheap hotel options like, for example, Holiday Inn Express Manchester.
There you will most probably cop for an evening meal, a breakfast the following day and a hotel room fee that will set you back a few quid unless you have booked well in advance. Even then, you will most probably have already spent that £125 saving mentioned earlier and also be ‘time poorer’.
Equally, if you opt for a pick-up drop-off minibus service like www.connections4u.net, the chances are that you will be one of several travellers collected from across the city within the same time frame which is fine, unless of course you are on the wrong end of the pick-up time.
If, for example, you are in Yeadon, you may have to work your way across Leeds as you pick people up in Wortley, Armley and, for example, Cross Gates before finally taking the M62 to Manchester. You may well be on the mini bus a good 90 minutes before you even leave the Leeds boundary.
And, if you need to be at the airport three hours before your international flight, and your minibus is fully booked, then expect to be collected about five or six hours before your international flight just so that the operator is able to hit the three-hour pre-flight check-in window! Your so-called ‘saving’ of £125 has, in my opinion, just taken an almighty battering.
Either way the Manchester ‘road’ run – although it does have the possibility for more international carrier options – is a time stealer and, if you opt to stay overnight in a hotel the evening before, you can also add ‘cash stealer’ to the list. What you eventually finish up ‘saving’ is questionable if you are robbed on all fronts. As for the train, there may be certain time constraints although the broad arguments remain the same with only the ‘get to destination’ mode changing.
When I went standard class last time the train was standing room only and the carriage occupants were asked to disembark in Huddersfield for onward bussing to Manchester Piccadilly for the airport connection because of works on the line. No prior warning was given. En route home a couple of weeks later, my early morning train to Leeds was also cancelled requiring a change at Manchester Piccadilly. The delays weren’t unsubstantial.
Finally, as a slight aside, there are the new developments at Leeds Bradford International Airport which may influence your decision.
The airport has now announced the next phase of its redevelopment plan and the region’s biggest airport is currently staging a multi-million pound, three-storey extension to its terminal building that will house a transformed international arrivals process, including immigration, baggage reclaim and customs. The extension will also accommodate new, larger departure gates, seating areas and new retail and food & beverage outlets.
Once the new building is completed – late 2019 is the target date - works will then commence on re-modelling the existing terminal building to provide a new security central search area, enhanced check-in facilities, and a simplification of the customer journey through the existing departure lounge, which will also include new retail and F&B offers. All works are expected to complete by summer 2020.
LBAs new pre-flight passenger lounges.
Initial re-developments have now provided for three new grades of pre-flight visitor lounges, The Yorkshire Lounge, The White Rose Suite and the 1432 Runway Club, varying in price between approximately £25 and £30 providing you pre-book.
And I always consider that lounges – be you at Manchester, LBA or any other airport across the world – are a no-brainer because, for the sake of a few quid, you will get onto your flight feeling a lot more relaxed and well-fed, considering that most include some decent food, newspapers, internet and, often, certain hot and cold drinks; they more than pay for themselves.
However, the decider for me was the horrendous weather sweeping the Philippines!
As I was all set to head to LBA for my early evening flight to Manila I spotted a ping on my phone. My KLM flight to Schiphol had been cancelled because of Typhoon Mangkhut which was battering much of the Philippines. Numerous other airlines were also affected.
However, I could not fail to be impressed by the back-up service. I was notified by email, text and two KLM people phoned me independently, instantly giving me the option to fly later that evening out of Manchester or 24 hours later out of Leeds Bradford International. I opted for the latter so that I could enjoy another hassle free night in bed!
The airports in Leeds and Manchester opened at similar points in history and both have a lot to offer.
However, if you value your wallet and, more to the point, put your time at a premium, don’t be too quick to hit the M62 without first assessing the true cost implication of making that arduous journey by car, minibus or train. Sometimes there’s more than just money in the ‘savings’ equation. Time waits for no man – or woman – so guard it jealously and don’t be too quick to give it away, especially to the Pennines! Think about the true ‘value’ cost of Flying Local before making your purchase.
Key Flight Information
KLM flies to Manila from 17 departure points across the UK via its multi-award winning hub, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The airline operates up to 21 weekly flights between Leeds Bradford Airport and Amsterdam and seven weekly flights between Amsterdam and Manila.
Return economy fares start from £723 including taxes and charges. Passengers can book online at www.klm.co.uk or by calling reservations on: +44 20 76600293
Travel Editor Comment
KLM quote their starting price at £723, however, the fares you see online will depend entirely on the dates you are travelling, availability on the flight, any promotions that are happening on the airline at that time and the airport you are travelling from. As such, pricing of all flights is liable to change frequently, potentially even daily, and prices will rarely stay the same for long. I am informed that currently availability to Manila is quite tight, hence why pricing may now be quoting higher than when I was originally doing my online searches.
Flying Local - Don't Just Look At The Ticket Price!, 29th September 2018, 18:37 PM