Airports nowadays – you know the drill. You spend ages trying to park at the airport, only to get to the terminal to wait for an age to check in along with other people who are similarly tired and frustrated.
And after all that, you go through the hostility and indignity of security, to then find yourself waiting around for an hour or two just to board your flight.
It’s the worst part of flying for sure. Even at my local airport where there’s a handful of flights a day and one room for a terminal, it’s still a hassle.
But recently, I discovered a regular commercial flight without security checks, or even boarding passes.
(I should say, there were boarding passes but nothing like you’re used to. I’ll come onto that later.)
In an age where we’ve never been more safety conscious, it was almost unnerving to experience a commercial flight that’s similar to getting on a bus or train.
Flying back in time
The flight in question operates between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall, South West England. It’s served by Skybus – a regional airline that operates a fleet of Britten-Norman Islanders and De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters.
Not only is Skybus popular with tourists, as one of the only ways to access the Isles of Scilly, it’s also a vital lifeline for residents of the island to reach the mainland.
It was barely a 15 minute flight, which doesn’t put it anywhere near the world’s shortest commercial flight, but it did give me a glimpse into a world I’d never experienced before when flying commercially. A world where security and identity checks don’t exist because, well, they simply aren’t necessary.
I should say at this point that Skybus flights to and from other airports like Newquay and Exeter do carry out security checks, for the simple reason that they operate other domestic and international flights, so it’s a legal requirement.
Arrival at the airport
After a relaxing drive through the majestic Cornish countryside, I ended up at an airfield in the middle of nowhere.
Not only did I park my car next to an active runway, but I was also able to walk into the terminal within a couple of minutes.
What’s more, I didn’t pass a single person until I reached check in, almost impossible at any other airport.
Check in was a breeze as well. I had a large suitcase as I was going for a week, so I headed to the (only) check in desk for it to be weighed.
Interestingly, this wasn’t just to check whether I was within weight limits, but also because of the type of operating licence Skybus has, the weight of the aircraft can’t exceed ten tonnes.
And to my surprise, I wasn’t even issued with a paper boarding pass complete with barcodes and other data. I was instead given a hard plastic numbered and colour-coded token, which signifies which flight you’re on and your passenger number.
This is commercial flying at its most basic, and I’m happy to say, its most pure.
Following a pre-boarding safety briefing, I was escorted to the aircraft next to the building and greeted by both pilots.
An extremely short taxi and take off followed, with breathtaking views over the Cornish coast, and cruising low enough to clearly make out everything below.
And just like that, the flight was over.
Hassle free flying – it still exists
The only other flight I’ve been on where I’ve had this kind of experience was on a Grand Canyon Airlines flight about 15 years ago – but that was more sightseeing flight, not commercial.
I’d love to know how many other flights like Skybus still exist – let me know if you’ve flown on one recently and what it was like in the comments below.