In the Embraer 195-E2 from Mallorca to Gran Canaria
Flying... - that was once, connected with a certain magic. With anticipation, in some cases more than a year in advance. I remember economy class flights with a three-jet engine to the Caribbean. A small "care package" was already waiting for each passenger when they entered the aircraft, including a small bottle of sparkling wine, long before the start of any kind of on-board service. The upper storage compartments were a better parcel shelf and not "littered" like today. Yes, flying has changed...hugely, to be precise.
When the first flight took place in 1989, at that time still as an Iberia subsidiary with four (Casa) CN-235s, Binter was one of the few airlines to use this type of aircraft. A machine which, although used by the military, never really caught on in civil aviation. With 40 seats, flights between the Canary Islands were initially taken up hesitantly.
Just like aviation, Binter Canarias has changed over the past 33 years of its own company history. Away from the Iberia subsidiary and on its own two feet, away from the "pure island hopper" between the Canary Islands, towards a full-service airline with different pillars.
Before the first of the five ordered Embraer 2019 jets of the latest generation "E195" went into service in 2, Binter was already flying between 2005-2008 with a Boeing 737-400 (EC-INQ) of the Spanish charter airline Futura. After that, several CRJ1000 jets were used at times to bridge the time until the brand-new E-Jets were delivered.
Today, Binter flies a fleet of 30 aircraft. With the 25 ATR72 and 5 E-190 jets, the airline operates flights between the 7 large islands of the Canary Islands and their 8 airports as well as flights in Portugal's island traffic between Funchal and Porto Santo. The brand-new jets will serve numerous destinations in Spain, France and Italy, West Africa and Cape Verde from the two hubs in Las Palmas, where the airline is also based, and from Tenerife North Airport. The flights between the Cape Verde Islands, which are now offered under the brand name "Binter Cabo Verde", will no longer be offered since May 2021.
Since Binter was sold to a local group of investors in 2002, the airline sees itself more than ever as a representative of the archipelago. But what does the "flag carrier" of the Canary Islands offer on an "island hopping flight" in the EMB195E2 from Mallorca to Gran Canaria?
Binter offers the PMI-LPA route in the entry-level tariff from around €45 one-way if booked in good time. To be fair, however, one has to say that the low-cost competition is not entirely to blame, since a significantly higher entry price is sometimes required on the Embraer routes with a monopoly in the route network. In the course of promotional tickets, prices from France, Italy and mainland Spain are currently advertised starting at 58,50 euros, a price that is still fair when you look at the overall product. A total of three different tariffs are available when booking via the homepage.
Basic – includes one piece of hand luggage weighing up to 8 kilos and free catering. The middle tariff is called "Plus" and includes, for an often small surcharge, on the test day the price difference between Basic and Plus was €7,50, in addition to the above services also a 23 kilo checked baggage and a free seat reservation ( from row 4 backwards and without XL seats). The most expensive tariff is called "FlexiPlus" and includes various rebooking and cancellation services as well as a free reservation of preferred rows of seats as well as priority check-in and boarding.
The check in / boarding
At Palma de Mallorca Airport, Binter Canarias relies on the ground handling of the former parent company, Iberia. Check-in and baggage drop-off usually takes place at the Iberia counters 120-129. I had already checked in the night before using the app, which was in fact somewhat buggy, and which could definitely use an all-round update. When I entered Palma airport about 1,5 hours before departure, I was the only one to drop off my suitcase. There were two separate check-in counters for the Binter Canarias flight to Las Palmas, so that you didn't have to wait in line with the Iberia guests and I was on my way to the security check after less than 90 seconds at the counter.
Flights within Spain are mostly carried out in Palma from the gates in area D, including on this day. The boarding of the flight started with priority boarding, but then without further "boarding groups" more than punctually, almost 35 minutes before the scheduled departure time. On this evening in May, the plane was almost 70% occupied, with a good third still using the possibility of connecting flights to Lanzarote and Tenerife from Gran Canaria. Surprisingly, the proportion of Spanish business travelers on board seemed significantly higher than the tourist proportion of guests on this Friday evening flight.
Each of the five E195-E2s newly delivered to Binter Canarias has 132 seats in an all economy class configuration. The machines are named "Islas Canarias, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura". The burgundy leather seats are arranged in a 2-2 configuration and, as Binter Canarias did not opt for the maximum number of seats (146), have good seat pitch in the cabin.
Since I had made my booking in the middle tariff "Plus", it was not possible to reserve a seat in rows 1-4, as this is reserved exclusively for "FlexiPlus" guests. Since I tend to play it safe when it comes to legroom on flights to the Canary Islands, especially with airlines / aircraft types that I don't know, I decided in advance to reserve an XL seat. There is also a 110V socket under each seat and there is also a small recline function.
In addition, the cabin can be provided with "Moodlight" in a wide variety of colors from the color palette, in the style of modern Airbus and Boeing aircraft. From red to green to blue, everything was there on this flight. The Canary relaxation music already known from the ATR flights during take-off and landing over the on-board loudspeakers does not have to be dispensed with on the Embraer Jets, but this remains a matter of taste, it does not necessarily apply to my opinion.
service on board
Immediately after the start, there was a comprehensive and explanatory service announcement about the process, which aroused my interest. Did I understand correctly that the service and consumption on board takes place in “blocks of 20 minutes each”? Only a few minutes later the riddle was solved: Yes, the service was organized in two blocks of 20 minutes each. First, all even-numbered rows of seats received food and drinks and had exactly 20 minutes to remove their masks.
Five minutes before the twenty minutes was up, another announcement was made that there were five minutes left before the mask would be put on again and the rubbish collected. After the collection, the service was repeated, this time only for all odd rows of seats, also with a note of the 5-minute time span. A service concept experienced for the first time in more than 20 years of pandemic that raises some questions. This interesting concept, which made me feel rushed personally, overshadows this absolutely grandiose catering.
A "gourmet box" consisting of "Royal Ibérico Salchichón", Spanish hummus, a small bag of crackers, a lukewarm roll and a cheese-nut mixture was served together with a cold drink of your choice (the local Tropical beer could also be chosen free of charge). , a box with sliced snack vegetables and a chocolate bar. Everything already looks high quality and tastes very good, just the right amount for an evening flight on Friday, one of the best economy class free delivery caterings on the current market. A few minutes after the boxes and the cold drink were distributed, coffee was also offered, which, however, had to be drunk in the remaining 20 minutes that had already started.
Overall, the crew always seems very friendly, attentive and present in the cabin. The only personal criticism was the high number of announcements on a Friday evening flight, for my taste definitely a little too much of a good thing. Overall, however, the quality of the food and selection of drinks, as well as the friendliness of the crew on board, was an economy class flight that left nothing to be desired and was really very good.
Wifi / entertainment
Binter also shows a good solution in the area of entertainment. All Embraer aircraft have a modern on-demand streaming service for your own device. This offers a small selection of films and TV series, an extra area with content for children, music from various Spanish daily newspapers. In addition, there is destination information and an "AirShow" function.
The entire scope is not incredibly extensive, but for a medium-haul flight between 2,5-4 hours it is sufficient and extremely positive. In addition, the AirShow is also run as a screensaver on the monitors (for light, temperature, etc.) at the flight attendant stations in the front and rear galley during the flight, so that all generations can see the current position , when stretching the legs or on the way to the toilet.
An explanation of the entertainment service is attached in the form of a sticker to each front seat on the plane and is therefore also highly visible. However, WIFI / WLAN is not offered on the aircraft.
And finally ...
Binter Canarias has rightly received various awards in recent years. To the outside world, the airline sees itself not only as a transport company from A to B, but also as an ambassador for the Canary Islands.
The entire on-board product and equipment of the Embraer has been thought through from front to back down to the smallest detail. Whether it's the Canarian background music on take-off and landing or the excellent free catering using local products during the flight. In the comfortable leather seats, with a good seat pitch, sockets on the seat and on-demand streaming, even a three-hour medium-haul flight is very entertaining.
The meticulously clocked 20 minutes for eating and drinking as well as the strikingly high number of announcements on an evening flight were the only two points of criticism for me on the test flight, albeit minor ones.
At Las Palmas/Gran Canaria Airport, Binter has the home advantage of its own ground handling and very short transfer distances, so that the transfer from leaving the E-Jet to boarding the ATR15 for the onward flight is possible in less than 72 minutes.
There are currently only two airlines flying on the route from Palma de Mallorca to Las Palmas, and they could hardly be more different. If you are willing to pay a few euros more for a little comfort and a pleasant journey, you will make the right choice with this Binter flight. In any case, for me this flight, especially in the area of catering, was like a little journey back in time, back to a time when flying was still something special, just like this flight.