Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Comedy Estonia is doing its regular monthly standup show in Tallinn on March 9th, and on that night, I'm flying back to Tartu. I've been taking the last coach of the night, leaving at 11pm and arriving at 01.30 - unpleasant, but beats staying at my dad's place and catching the 7am express to make it to my day job on time. I'm losing the same number of hours of sleep, but I get to be in my own bed, and get to the office within half an hour of taking a shower and putting on fresh clothes - as opposed to three hours with the early coach. I've spent enough time on that one in my college days, especially the first year, when I lived in a dilapidated dorm building just before it was completely gutted and renovated. Tartu University mostly doesn't schedule classes on Fridays, so I'd get the 7pm coach to Tallinn on Thursday night and the 7am one back on Monday morning - in time for the 10am class. (I think they briefly tried to schedule a class for 8am on Monday morning in later years, but the prof rapidly switched the slots, to the students' great relief and approval.)

The Tallinn-Tartu flights are designed to hook into Tallinn Airport's schedule, which in itself is built around the idea of delivering people to major European hubs in time for connecting intercontinental flights (or work, especially in the case of the Brussels Special). So the plane gets into Tallinn early in the morning, and leaves late at night - 23.45, in fact, getting into Tartu Airport at 00.30. With the time to get out of the plane and take the shuttle into the center of town, I won't be saving much time over the coach, and the ticket is about 18 euro more expensive; but it'll be a fun experience, anyway. And I get to hang out at Drink a bit more after the show.

Curiously, this will be the third regular flight out of Tallinn Airport to destinations within Estonia (after the island towns of Kuressaare and Kärdla), and I believe all three of those are actually longer than Tallinn's busiest air link - the one to Helsinki. It's 80km over water, but Vantaa Airport is further inland. Can't be bothered right now to figure out if Kärdla is closer.

The island routes are operated by a small independent company, but the Tartu link is Estonian Air, operated by one of their little Saab turboprops. I've actually flown on one of those, a couple of years ago, Tallinn to Stockholm. It was officially called an Estonian Air Regional flight, and there was some administrative difference - it was run separately from the strict guidelines of SAS, the Scandinavian conglomerate that used to own EA. This meant that, ironically, the little local-service Saabs would actually serve sandwiches to their passengers for free - while the Boeings of EA proper charged you for a glass of water.

Those Boeings are being gradually retired with the long-overdue and much-celebrated arrival of brand spanking new Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft from Canada. I've flown on an older-gen CRJ before, a Lufthansa plane from Frankfurt to Tallinn. Compared to the ubiquitous 737s, they've got a funny behavior. They fly just as high and just as fast, but they're a lot smaller and lighter; so while the big Boeings just sort of glide down out of the sky, the little CRJs and Embraers and the rest of them actually point their noses down for a steep descent. Disconcerting, when you don't expect it.

Estonian Air is running a contest right now to name the two new planes (a third one will be arriving later). The contest is here, on Facebook. At the time of writing, the most popular options is Tartu, which I voted for. Number two is Põhjatäht, which means Northern Star and would be a fine name, except that non-Estonians would have a hell of a time pronouncing all those funny vowels. Third place is Sinilind, Bluebird - this seems to be the overall nicknames of airplanes in the flag carrier's livery. Go and vote for your favorite! (A history major friend of mine suggested Sigtuna Gate - that would be popular on the Stockholm route!)

No comments:


| More