When I was looking for flights from London to Frankfurt, I thought I’d explore the possibility of flights to Cologne, with a ground transfer to the German aviation capital. After all, regular readers would know I’ve already made this journey with both British Airways and Eurowings. On this occasion, the cheapest flight was offered by Malta Air. Having not flown with Malta Air before, I decided to give it a go!
Who is Malta Air?
Malta Air is a subsidiary airline of the Ryanair Group. It was purchased earlier this year and sees Ryanair placing 12 of their aircraft on the Maltese aircraft registry with “9H” registrations. It seems as though one of these aircraft is based in Cologne, as almost every day the morning rotation between Stansted and Cologne is operated by the airline.
As usual, when booking flights, I used Google Flights to find the cheapest route and flight. In this case, google flights advised me that the cheapest fare would be with Ryanair at £27. Unfortunately, every time I tried to book the flight in the app, an error message came up. As such, I headed to the Ryanair website to book my flight. Here was the first indication that I would be flying with Malta Air, a small sub-note on the flight in question.
I proceeded with the booking as normal on the Ryanair website and received the standard Ryanair travel itinerary e-mail. Every other communication regarding the booking came from Ryanair. Annoyingly, I received four further emails from the airline trying to sell me a seat and a hotel room. Although I booked the flight just three days before traveling, the price did not reflect that. Indeed, just this morning fares were still showing at under £50.
The check-in process with Ryanair was nothing to write home about. I completed the check-in process on my iPhone to add another boarding pass to my Apple Wallet collection. I again had to clear several pages attempting to sell me everything from priority boarding to fast track security at the airport.
Once I had completed the check-in process I was assigned seat 28B. Interestingly, Ryanair seemed to be placing every passenger in the £4 section with me. In the end, with 20 minutes until check-in closed, I paid £6 to select seat 30F as my seat for the ride. While I’m usually against paying Ryanair for any extras I don’t need, I could see that 30D and 30E were also free. £6 seemed like a fair price to have half a row to myself.
Being an early morning Ryanair flight, I needed to arrive at the airport early. However, I always arrive at the airport with time to spare in the morning. You can’t beat an overpriced large breakfast at Wetherspoon surrounded by stag parties!
The screens above the entrance to the security search area advised that the current wait time was 0-5 minutes. My timer proved this was a lie as it took 8-minutes and 44-seconds to complete the process.
What always annoys me about Stansted Airport is the long walk past every single shop in the duty-free area. Presumably, this is a tactic to increase sales. While security took around nine minutes to complete, it took me around seven minutes to get through the duty-free area without stopping and whilst maintaining a brisk pace. Stansted Airport reliably informs me that for £10 you are entitled to use a special corridor bypassing all of the shops. Maybe I’ll try it out next week?
Getting to the gate was also a circus. The usual train between the main terminal and satellite terminals was out of use. This meant that passengers either had to walk or take a rail replacement bus. For my gates, I had to walk.
My assigned gate was 23, so when I ended up in an area of gates in the 80s, I walked back to the main terminal. It turned out I had gone to the correct place. Every passenger for this gate area had to walk through gate 87, around a 180° turn, and up a fairly narrow staircase. Not ideal with the number of passengers who take heavy carry on bags.
Despite Ryanair being seen using jet bridges at other airports, this is not the case at Stansted. As is usual on Ryanair flights, there were two queues at the gate. One was for priority boarding, the other for non-priority boarding. I opted not to pay for priority boarding as I only had a small bag. Interestingly, the priority boarding line was longer than the regular boarding line.
The boarding process went by very quickly, though the aircraft was late in arriving at Stansted. Once my boarding pass had been scanned and identity confirmed, I walked down some steps, a corridor and more steps until I was on the apron. It was then a short walk around the wing to the rear staircase.
Had you been watching the aircraft takeoff from the ground, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that it was registered in Malta. Ryanair touted the aircraft as having a red livery when the airline was launched earlier this year. However, the aircraft remained in the Ryanair livery. We only notice four small clues that the aircraft was operated by Malta Air:
1. The “Operated By Malta Air” Sticker by the front entrance.
2. The Maltese registration on the back of the aircraft.
3. The Malta Air logo replacing the Ryanair logo on the safety cards. I wonder if this could be a regulatory requirement, as nowhere else inside the aircraft had the Ryanair logos been changed or covered. The crew even wore the Ryanair uniform and handed out the Ryanair inflight magazine.
4. The announcements all referenced Malta Air as opposed to Ryanair.
According to Planespotters, today’s aircraft was a 1.7-year-old Boeing 737-800. One of twelve Boeing 737s currently registered to Ryanair’s Maltese subsidiary. Eurowings offers an almost identical flight to Malta Air. The Malta Air was following Eurowings both ways.
What I find slightly ironic is that being an ex-Air Berlin aircraft, the Eurowings A320 looked closer to the proposed Malta Air livery than the Malta Air aircraft. Interestingly, the A320 in question previously flew for LaudaMotion, another of Ryanair’s subsidiaries.
There wasn’t anything to write home about regarding the flight. The service was fairly standard as to what you’d expect from Ryanair, and there wasn’t anything to distinguish as being Malta Air. However, the flight was fairly empty. By tactically delaying buying a seat until just before the cutoff deadline I managed to score three seats to myself. This meant that I was able to put my bag under the seat next to me. As a consequence, I felt that I had slightly more legroom.
The flight time was just 54-minutes. After the seatbelt went off I visited the dark and bizarrely blue restroom. I then walked back to my seat. Minutes later the crew announced that we were approaching the top of our descent.
Arrival at Cologne
The arrival at Cologne wasn’t too bad. We landed away from the terminal, meaning we had a bit of a taxi to get to the gate, however, I was able to admire several UPS Boeing 747s out of the window. When we arrived on the stand, the doors were opened fairly swiftly. We then walked down the stairs and across the ramp to the terminal.
Despite having four e-gates, every passenger had to queue to see the Bundespolizei. This took a little while, however, wasn’t as long as some passengers recently experienced in the United States. As I was traveling without baggage, I was able to walk straight out of the terminal, where I discovered that I’d booked my bus connection to Frankfurt for three weeks time. Oh well, we can’t have everything.
Have you flown on Ryanair’s Malta Air? What did you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!