Director packed an overnight bag for a swift British Airways trip from London City airport to Douglas – capital of the economically prosperous Isle of Man…
When the Isle of Man and business are uttered in the same sentence, it’s invariably followed by the term ‘tax haven’. And while tax rates in the self-governing crown dependency are undeniably low (individuals can’t pay more than £120,000 in income tax per year), there’s more to the island’s economy than that.
The Isle of Man was the only part of the British Isles to escape recession, partly due to its finance industry, which generates more than 40 per cent of economic output. Its GDP went past £4bn for the first time last year, with average weekly wages now £620 (compared with £449 for the UK).
The arrival of online gambling firms in the late-Noughties, plus the island’s burgeoning film industry (the Isle of Man has invested £170m in film and TV production since 1995) has bolstered the local economy too.
Indeed, in 2010 Moody’s bestowed the island of 80,000 people with a AAA rating (it was downgraded to Aa1 last year, but the credit rating agency stated that the island remains more diversified than other offshore centres such as Bermuda). Director recently travelled on an 80-minute British Airways flight from London City airport to Douglas to see if the Isle of Man’s aviation links are as impressive as its fiscal credentials…
British Airways check-in
At 20 minutes for domestic and European connections, London City airport boasts the shortest check-in time in the UK. The airport, located on a former London Docklands site, has also just introduced ‘self bag tagging’ too. Passengers weigh their own bags (the maximum is a generous 23kg on this service) and print their boarding passes at the kiosks to create their own luggage labels before going to a drop zone. Although some travellers I noticed were confused by the service, the aim is to reduce check-in times to under a minute.This contrasted with my experience at Ronaldsway airport on the return leg. Although there was an empty desk, security in the Isle of Man was akin to that of many US airports, with travellers asked to take off their shoes and belts. Score 9/10
With only 50 seats to fill on a full flight, boarding is simple on this route. At London City, the security queue was long but dealt with incredibly efficiently – not only plenty of staff but also an unusually efficient queue management system – so it took only 10 minutes to get through. Once we were called to the gate, we were held in a seating area briefly before going straight onto the plane. There’s no fast-track service, as it would be redundant with such a small plane. On the return journey, the boarding process was similarly well-organised. Score 10/10
The London City-Ronaldsway route is covered by two 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprops. The smart new cabin interior of this craft – one of the world’s fastest turbo-props thanks to its two Rolls-Royce engines propelling it to a cruising speed of 425mph – was unveiled in early 2014, and the leather seats all looked and smelled brand new. They had a luxury sports coupé feel to them – surprisingly pleasant to sit in. And, with a generous 32in seat pitch, along with some single seats, it’s a great plane to be on should you require some recuperative solitude. Score 9/10
British Airways in-flight experience
For a start, it was brief: a little over an hour and a quarter, in fact. BA cabin crew seem to share a kind of breezy charm, and this batch didn’t disappoint. The aisle’s pretty narrow, which might have become an issue had the flight been longer and I’d had a few more coffees, but on such a short haul I was glad of the more generous seat space that clearly allows.As for the food, BA has gone to great lengths in recent years to improve the quality of its in-flight dining. The airline has reworked its menu to include more umami-rich dishes, as dry cabin conditions and high-altitude pressure often suck the flavour out of food. It’s also upped the fruit content in wines too. The refinement of the menu was ably demonstrated by the cooked breakfast I had on my morning flight, which tasted more flavoursome than food I’d sampled on previous trips with the airline. However, on my evening flight back to London, we received nothing more than a drink and a packet of crisps. Score 7/10
The first thing passengers see when they break through the seemingly ever-present cloud-cover for the descent into Ronaldsway is a patchwork of lush fields. Its surrounds may look like that of a private airstrip but the Isle of Man’s airport, Ronaldsway (or Purt Aer Vannin in Manx), seven miles from the capital, Douglas, befits the island’s boom-time with numerous renovation projects since 1998 and a runway that extends into the Irish Sea. Disembarking and getting on our way was super-efficient – expect your luggage to beat you to the carousel, as mine did. Score 9/10
British Airways provided a truly pleasant, hassle-free way of making what would – by road and ferry – be a reasonably stressful business trip. 44/50
Flight: British Airways, BA3282, London City to Isle of Man, economy. There are usually three daily BA flights from London City airport to Ronaldsway, with the first departure at 8.40am and the last at 8pm. All-inclusive one-way hand baggage only fares are available from £83.
Article by Nick Cowley, December 2014/January 2015: Director Magazine