My report today is about my roundtrip flights from the West Australian city of Perth (pop: 1.7 million) to Esperance (pop 9536), a regional town in Western Australia and return on Skywest Airlines Pty Ltd. This Singapore based carrier flies regional and commuter services across the mining and agricultural state of Western Australia. Flights are operated under their own colours and some will soon be flown with Virgin Australia colours. NB This is not the same Skywest who fly regional services in the USA on behalf of United, US and Delta.
Since 2004, Skywest in Australia have expanded their fleet from 7 aircraft to 18 aircraft. They will soon add more aircraft (ATRs) as part of their new ten year alliance with Virgin Australia. Revenue has risen steadily but fuel costs have also risen rapidly reducing profit by 37% this year so far. Still For a number of airlines. in the rough and tumble world of airlines, this would be a gig that would be envied by many with a monopoly on most of their routes.
Booking: 7 out of 10
The actual booking engine at www.skywest.com.aux is very straightforward and earns them top marks. It clearly shows all the fares available on each flight. There are four flights in each direction between Perth and Esperance, most days. Skywest offers only economy service with four types of fare.
Where they lose marks with everyone, is the monopoly they have on the Esperance to Perth route. As a result, it is general opinion that fares are very high.Certainly, everyone I spoke to in the town spoke resentfully about the fares. The cheapest fare is their discounted Webbit at around $169 for a flight distance of 360 miles, or 580 km. These fares are pretty much booked out in advance all the time. I scrolled through and I saw little availability for the webbit seats. Skywest do say “get in early!”. The fare then climbs to $359 each way which may be the only fare available at the last minute. My fare to Esperance ended up being way more than my flight from Melbourne to Perth, a 2700km (1600 mile) flight.
Virgin Australia frequent flyers have been able to earn points on Skywest flights for some time now.
Check In: 9 out 10
On line check in is available. I have yet to see the point of online checkin for departures out of Esperance as there is only one desk to check in at. You may save a few seconds at the counter but thats about it. Flying out of Perth, the online check in makes more sense.
On arrival at Perth, there were lines of miners ready for their Fly in Fly out shifts. 6 to 730 am apparently is peak hour at Perth airport for these groups. Many of them looked grim faced heading int a nine or ten day tour of duty in dangerous conditions away from families. I was in awe of the efficient way Skywest, were rapidly handling the check in. Staff were positioned at the head of then lines directing customers to the next agent quickly. The lines were moving fast. Staff at Perth were not by any means abrupt.
At Esperance airport things were a little quieter. The airport is a small building with a baggage unloading space, lavatories, vending machines, small waiting area a check in counter — and free wifi. 26 kilometres out of twin in the middle of scrub and there is wifi very impressive. Thank you Esperance Council! Check always feels a little more harried here because the single staff person always seems under pressure.
My bag weighed (9kg). There is no bag check at the gate so I checked it in. Something I do not do very often!
At Check in, I requested and got front row seats on the Fokker 50m aircraft in both directions: 1G going to Esperance which has some extra leg room and 1A coming back which has a huge amount of leg room.
Boarding: 9 put of 10
Boarding was via tarmac at both airports. At Perth, we were bussed to the plane. At Esperance it is a very short walk from the door of the terminal to aeroplane stairs. Crew were polite in welcoming people on board. Both times, boarding was relaxed, stress free and fast.
There are no airport security checks for passengers at Esperance airport. That will shortly change with new government security regulations. The Esperance airport staff are bracing themselves for a flood of complaints.
On Board: 8 out of 10
The Fokker 50 has 46 seats arranged 2 by 2. Seat pitch is a very comfortable 33″. The planes though older, are in great condition. The flight attendants appeared to very young crew. They were very polite and appeared quite reserved. The passengers on the flight to Esperance were mostly fly in fly out. This and it being an early morning flight meant the plane was very quiet. The return flight was much more boisterous.
There is no entertainment on board apart from a complimentary newspaper on every second seat coming from perth and the remains of the read newspapers of the return flight!
Safety briefing was clear.
630am is peak hour at Perth airport, it seems. We sat waiting for clearance for 30minutes before taking off very smoothly. We landed ten minutes late but had to wait for another ten minutes for the luggage. Skywest has a service where passnegers can order a taxi from the crew who radio ahead for waiting cabs.
On the return, we flew out of Esperance right on time, on a very windy day. The pilot accelerated rapidly. We swayed from side to side down the runway and then bounced through the climb. I love flying! The rough weather continued for ten minutes into the flight but we so soon levelled out. Flight crews were very good with announcements. We landed on time into Perth where there was a longish walk back to the terminal and my waiting friend.
I actually really like the Fokker 50 a with its interesting arrangements with the wheels and engines. I am sad that Fokker went broke. This photo of the same plane that I was one, was posted by Bob on the skywest.blogspot.
Meals: 7 out of 10
Skywest provides free light cold meals on its flights. To Esperance I was given a breakfast (cereal, milk, orange juice and on the return snacks. Non alcoholic drinks were available free of charge.
My rating: Overall 80% (4 out of 5). My overall rating of Skywest based on six flights is 4.3 out of 5.
Positives: Roomy, fast check in
Negatives: High fare
Would I fly them again? Yes. A nice solid product delivered well. The perception of the airline’s pricing is poor. Should any significant competition emerge on Skywest routes and, I think you would see a loss of customer loyalty-fast.
My last Trip Report: March 13: Gulf Air: Bahrain (BAH) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) Embraer 170