PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6507 posts, RR: 79 Posted (5 years 9 months 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 14088 times:
Sardinian Sun, TUfly's Shiny New 73Gs & Meridiana's Cramped MadDog
With rumors about a TUIfly and germanwings merger increasing during the winter, I realized it was time to take a flight on the former - which was still missing in my log. So when X3 announced the next round of specials in early January I checked numerous flight options for a weekend break. I found a MUC-CAG flight for 19,99 Euro on a Saturday morning and tried to find an appropriate return flight. With only few weekly flights on that route I checked other cities and found 19,99 Euro services to MUC from various Italian cities on the following Sunday. Now I only needed a connecting flight and finally discovered a well-timed CAG-OLB hop on Meridiana for only 27 Euro - operated by a Mad Dog! Within a relatively short time I had convinced my girlfriend to spend a weekend in sunny Sardinia with me and I booked the flights.
X3 charges 6 Euro (per booking) for credit card payment and 8 Euro (per person) for a seat reservation. While I rejected the former, I decided to reserve seats 26 A and B on the MUC-CAG daylight sector.
Since we had one bag to check in we didn't print out boarding passes in advance - I assumed we would have to wait in line anyway. And my guess was correct, even those already checked-in had to wait in line until they could drop off their stuff. After some 20 minutes we were welcomed by a very friendly male agent. Some days before I had found out it's better to sit on the right side when flying into CAG - because an approach from the south allows for good views. So I asked whether row 26 on the right side was still available - which the agent confirmed. He was curious to know why we'd like to change and I explained it to him. He seemed to be bit surprised about a passenger talking about approach directions, but whatever, we got the seats that I wanted.
TUIfly's Newest 737-700
Waiting in line at the security checkpoint took quite a long time, as so often in Europe (or the US). Well, I guess I'm still spoilt by the fast and efficient procedures in Japan...I soon realized we had to take a bus transfer to a remote position - at least it would increase chances to take some nice pics. By checking various online sources I knew we would get a 737-700 - of course I hoped for one of the newer ones delivered in late 2007. Boarding was started early and soon we were offloaded next to D-AHXF - actually the newest of X3's 73Gs, delivered in mid-December 2007.
Red logo on a yellow tail - or to quote some a.net critics: "The Sickle and the Eye"
Cabin Comfort & Seating
We were welcomed by a friendly male F/A in the 50s and took our seats in row 26. The flight was quite packed (load factor some 80 percent) but we were lucky and the aisle seat remained empty. X3 is using modern and comfortable Recaro slimline seats, enabling a sufficient pitch even despite the plane's 148-seat-configuration.
The cabin is equipped with flat and relatively big foldout screens - which weren't stowed during takeoff. Note the Google Earth-style view of MUC:
We left the gate at 12:04, passed an EL AL 747-400...
...taxied to runway 26L...
...and took off into a cloudy sky. Note the plane taking off from 26R - it's germanwings' D-AKNI, the Hamburg Shopper.
Lufthansa A340-600 and two stored ex-VIM 757-200s:
Virtual Views & Flight Info
TV features weren't shown (advertised to be available on flights longer than 1,5 hours), but I didn't mind at all - the alternative was much better: a flight info channel with various maps and virtual views, e.g. window view...
...and cockpit window view. Not bad, especially for those without a window seat.
Flight information page - even showing the aircraft type. Now they only need to add the registration.
Crossing the Alps
Soon we had reached the foothills of the Alps. Here's the Tegernsee:
The city of Innsbruck:
...and foggy valleys:
Map with countries in different colors:
TUIfly Catering Policy
Seatback pocket packed with safety card, airsickness bag, X3's rather attractive inflight magazine...
...and menu cards - valid for city shuttle flights in Germany and to/from Austria, Croatia, France, northern Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK where drinks and food are offered for sale.
Flights to Sardinia belong to X3's "longer flights" (to/from the Canaries, the Cape Verde Islands, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Morocco, Portugal, southern Italy, Spain and Tunisia) where drinks and food, ranging from baguettes to hot meals, are served free of charge. We were offered bagels with cheese and sausage cold cuts, both of which were quite filling. While I considered the cheese bagel to be the tastier option, my girlfriend liked the other one better.
The friendly F/As offered cold and hot drinks and later handed out small Mars chocolate bars:
Menus on Demand
X3 also offers the option to pre-order various snacks and menus (on longer flights). Here's a link for more details (pics and descriptions only available on the German version of the website): http://www.tuifly.com/de/service/bordmenue.html
Pax were permanently hanging around in the aisle, not the best conditions for cabin shots:
Passing the peninsula of Monte Argentario at 39,000 feet:
Another route map version:
We descended along Sardinia's coastline...
...turning right for an approach from the south - so changing to the right side was a good decision!
...from the Stadio Comunale Sant'Elia, home of Cagliari Calcio...
...and the city center of Cagliari.
The Via Roma (where our Hotel Miramare was located)...
...a part of the harbor...
...and the train station as well as the central bus station at the Piazza Matteotti:
Only few more moments...
...until we touched down at runway 32. It wasn't very busy at Elmas Airport in the early afternoon - there were a Meridiana MD-80, an easyJet A319 and an Air One A320.
After grabbing our luggage it took us a while to find a bus ticket machine - it's located far away from the the bus stop area. Who knows which logic's behind that... Anyway, we managed to catch the next bus to the central station at the Piazza Matteotti (running every 30 minutes, 2 Euro one-way).
Cagliari (Sardinian: Casteddu) is the capital of Sardinia and has about 160,000 inhabitants, or some 500,000 including the suburbs. Under the name of Karalis the city was already established around the 7th century BC as a string of Phoenician trading colonies.
From the central bus station it was just a ten-minute walk along the Via Roma to the stylish and charming Hotel Miramare, located on the third floor of a noble old building, called the Palazzo Devoto. To sum it up: very friendly staff, great location just in the middle of the city, fair price (79 Euro per double room, including breakfast) - I can fully recommend this hotel which ranks on 4th place out of 48 Cagliari hotels on www.tripadvisor.com.
There's a lot to discover in Cagliari - and almost everything can be reached by foot. Whenever you need to rest, just sit down in one of the many coffee bars, bistros or small restaurants and enjoy Italian delicacies.
Palazzo Civico - Cagliari's city hall:
La Rinascente - Cagliari's largest (and exclusive) department store:
Bastione di Saint Remy
Piazza Umberto I.
La Cattedrale di Santa Maria, located in the city's oldest district, called Castello:
City views during sunset:
Via Manno with many exclusive stores:
Fiat 500 - far from its home Roma.
Outstanding parking skills:
Orto Botanico - a large botanical garden with many exotic species of plants and flowers. Very recommendable for everyone who likes plants of any kind. Just some examples:
After more enjoyable hours of shopping, sightseeing and dining we took the bus back to Elmas Airport in the afternoon. In contrast to what I have heard before, the busses seem to run regularly and on time even on weekends. Again it was not very busy at the airport and only few pax were waiting at the Meridiana counters. A friendly female agent welcomed us and replied "of course" after I had asked about a window seat behind the wing on the left side. This time we had an opposite takeoff direction so I expected to see the city on the left side. Later I found out she had picked row 15, but at least it was on the left side.
We passed through security and took a seat in the gate area. It wasn't a busy time for a spotter, with only one TUIfly 73G, a Meridiana MD-82 and an Avanti Air ATR 42 around. I was glad when our plane arrived on time - a cancelation or some hours of delay and we would have been stranded. In such a case we most likely would have tried to purchase a ticket for the TUIfly OLB-STR service on Monday, plus a train ticket to MUC...
Anyway, I-SMEB, a 1991 model once delivered to Far East Air Transport, was ready to operate the service to Olbia and further to Bologna.
I had expected a light load, but the flight was packed, probably not a single seat remaining empty. As we stepped on board, a hefty painted female F/A with a disdainful face expression didn't even look at the pax but stared somewhere else - not the kind of welcome you expect as a passenger. At least some others knew how to say hello. We walked down to our row and I was "impressed" by the cramped seating on this plane - never had experienced such a limited pitch on a Mad Dog before. With 165 non-slimline seats on the MD-82 Meridiana's doing it the hard way.
Airborne for 23 Minutes
Just like all other aircraft before, I-SMEB took off from runway 14.
We enjoyed some nice views - but we couldn't see the city center.
Note the runway on the top left corner:
The plane cruised for a while after a steep climb and soon started descending again. Mountainous terrain on the left:
Final approach into Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport:
We touched down at 17:53, only 23 minutes after takeoff. Sister ship I-SMEZ parked next to us:
The Airport Dog
Most passengers continued to Bologna so there were only few people waiting at the baggage claim. We grabbed our stuff and walked straight to the TUIfly counters in the departure hall. The counters weren't supposed to open until two hours prior to departure but two friendly agents started working earlier. Row 25 on the left side was still available and we got our boarding passes two minutes later.
We spent some more time in the departure hall and noticed a dog which was apparently running around without an owner. Then he/she stayed for a while with a group of policemen who seemed to know him/her. Some minutes later the dog started running around again - and peed on a plant in the terminal hall.
Another New 737
We had dinner at a reasonably priced restaurant, passed through security and went to our gate. Because of intensive light reflections on the windows I couldn't see almost anything on the apron. Finally a TUIfly plane arrived and I couldn't read the registration until it stopped at the gate. I had been prepared for getting D-AHXF again, but it was D-AHXE this time, delivered two weeks before its sister ship.
Again a friendly crew welcomed us on board. The load was around 60 percent, so boarding was completed quickly. The general welcome announcement was the same as on the MUC-CAG service ("ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls"), including a welcome by "your tour operator". We left the gate ten minutes early and while we were heading to the runway, apparently the First Officer started talking, introducing himself as not as FO but as "your pilot". He gave us some interesting details about the flight, referring to runway 06, a takeoff weight of 55 tons and a takeoff speed of 260 hm/h. Then he promised to keep us updated about the flight and the routing.
IFE not Available
The screens were stored for takeoff and weren't folded out again later. Some 30 minutes after takeoff I asked an F/A and she said there was a problem with the system. "It's still a quite new machine", she added, trying to indicate some teething problems. The FO kept his promise and informed us about flight details (cruise altitude 40,000 feet) and sights on the ground, e.g. the city of Rome (and later the Allianz Arena at Munich). He also added: "We hope you feel good on board."
Drinks, bagels and Mars chocolate bars were served again, this time with yellow napkins.
Seats & hlx.com
The flying time was only 1:21 which passed quickly. We touched down at 22:14 and taxied to a remote position. Time for two more cabin pics. The new-style Recaro seats:
Interesting to see some hlx.com markings in the cabin of a plane delivered in December 2007...
There weren't any inflight magazines available in any seat pockets on that sector so I asked to get one before disembarking. No problem, of course. Later I read in that magazine that TUIfly prohibits the use of digital cameras during takeoff and landing. When did they introduce that policy? Hopefully there's not a general trend among airlines.
Both sectors on TUIfly were a pleasure, I wouldn't hesitate to fly the airline again. Ground staff and flight crews were friendly, seating comfort was sufficient, quantity and quality of the (free) catering were all right, cabins were clean, booking process and check-in were convenient. And not to forget: X3 has an innovative airshow and flight info channel. It would be a real pity to lose that carrier in consequence of a merger with germanwings.
The flight on Meridiana was very short - and I'm glad about that because the seat pitch on the MD-80 was awful. The booking process was easy and convenient, check-in agents were friendly, but the F/As' appearance was inconsistent. I would definitely fly the airline again and try its product (e.g. catering) on longer flights - as long as it's not an MD-80 with 165 seats.
FLIEGER67 From Austria, joined Sep 2003, 4786 posts, RR: 56 Reply 1, posted (5 years 9 months 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 14033 times:
now your Sardinia story is finally online,
infact, I´am preparing a mail about some spotting later this year, you know,
and thought about asking for your story!.
For sure, a great one with superb pics also.
A nice reminder to my weekend in Cagliari a year ago,
with similar impressions like yours.
Really not bad to catch these new X3 birds and to compare it with the classic Meridiana maddog.
There is a only three weeks old A320 silently sneaked in my log last Tuesday around my trip to Athens!.
It seems you had a good time there in Sardinia and with Tuifly and also partly with Meridiana.
Airbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4125 posts, RR: 51 Reply 5, posted (5 years 9 months 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 13772 times:
a truly great report with supurb picture quality, that's for sure! Really liked the reading, and you must have been feeling very lucky with those 2 brandnew yellow 737's Of course, 23 minutes with bad seatpitch, but on a interesting MD80 isn't that bad
Quoting PlaneHunter (Thread starter): Later I read in that magazine that TUIfly prohibits the use of digital cameras during takeoff and landing. When did they introduce that policy? Hopefully there's not a general trend among airlines.
I think many airlines have this same policy, although it's difficult to check for it. Cabin crew must be seated also during final decend and takeoffs, so are unable to check the things passengers do, at these stages of flight. So,... like me, just be careful and make your sneaky pics and videos
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
LY sometimes uses larger equipment on Saturdays, e.g. they have often sent 777s to MUC during the summer months. But a 744 is still quite a surprise - lots of demand between TLV and MUC lately, it seems.
Quoting Sabena332 (Reply 4): Was alcohol (beer) also for free? Do you know what beer brand they served?
I forgot to mention that one of snack/drink cards is valid on ALL X3 flights:
So alcoholic drinks weren't free of charge. The beer on offer is Radeberger Pils - 2,60 Euro for a 0,33l bottle.
Quoting Sabena332 (Reply 4): Yeah, I am always amazed to see the parking skills of Italians and Spaniards.
And it never stops to amaze me how many damaged cars you see in these countries!
Quoting Sabena332 (Reply 4):
I would definitely fly on them since I read your report; fare, catering, entertainment, and friendliness seem to be pretty good!
I can only recommend to do so, try to get a flight before they start merging with 4U.
Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 5): Cabin crew must be seated also during final decend and takeoffs, so are unable to check the things passengers do, at these stages of flight.
Yes, on most types and in most seats they can't see me. But it's a bit more difficult on certain types, e.g. ERJs.
Quoting KPWM (Reply 6): Just out of curiosity, what was the seat pitch on the CAG-OLB flight? That looked brutal!
"Brutal" describes it well. I don't know the exact pitch, but I'll try to find it out.
SandroZRH From Switzerland, joined Feb 2007, 3403 posts, RR: 51 Reply 9, posted (5 years 9 months 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 13320 times:
Great report, but i didnt expect anything less from you! Cagliari looks nice, your typical south Italian city. X3 seems to be a good option especially for the prices they charge, would be a shame to see them merge with Germanwings.
If you fancy another trip down south, there's a cool sale on Condor's website, but you must book before tomorrow midnight.
Semsem From Israel, joined Jul 2005, 1779 posts, RR: 3 Reply 10, posted (5 years 9 months 5 days ago) and read 13227 times:
Sabena, the reason EL AL operate a 747 to Munich in the winter is because ski holidays in the Tyrol / Austria which is close by, are very popular.
The beaches look spectacular. What was the one way fare to Olbia? What was the weather like now? I plan to go to Sardinia in June and may end up taking Meridiana. Now I know what to expect. Thank you for a great report. I have wanted to visit Sardinia since many years but I think one needs to take 2 trips; one in the north and another in the south.
I heard they just opened up a new airport in the Arbatax area which is about 150 kilometers north of Cagliari. Thanks for a very enjoyable report. TUI looks like a nice airline.
- Must have thought you were a nutter or some kind
Quoting PlaneHunter (Thread starter): I was "impressed" by the cramped seating on this plane - never had experienced such a limited pitch on a Mad Dog before. With 165 non-slimline seats on the MD-82 Meridiana's doing it the hard way.
- I recall a similar experience with an domestic config AZ MD-80 some years ago, never felt so crampt before.
Contact Air From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 1154 posts, RR: 14 Reply 12, posted (5 years 9 months 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 13175 times:
again a very nice trip report and a fantastic selection of pictures!
Quoting PlaneHunter (Thread starter): TV features weren't shown (advertised to be available on flights longer than 1,5 hours), but I didn't mind at all - the alternative was much better: a flight info channel with various maps and virtual views, e.g. window view...
I totally agree: I always prefer a permanent air-show programme over some stupid entertainment programmes on these short intra-European holiday flights.
Pretty good, some 20 degress in the sun. But you need a jacket as soon as the sun disappears. It was funny to see many Italians wearing thick jackets and partly even scarfs and beanies while we were walking around in shirts.
Quoting Semsem (Reply 10): I have wanted to visit Sardinia since many years but I think one needs to take 2 trips; one in the north and another in the south.
Yes, probably a good idea to see both parts of the island. Olbia seems to be an interesting city, too.
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 11): - I recall a similar experience with an domestic config AZ MD-80 some years ago, never felt so crampt before.
Would be interesting to know whether those are still so cramped.
Quoting Contact Air (Reply 12): That's something I have also realized on some of my flights, especially on typical holiday flights. What are people always doing in the aisle on a flight of less than two hours?
And I'd like to know what these people would do on LONG HAUL flights!
StarAlliance38 From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 1445 posts, RR: 4 Reply 18, posted (5 years 9 months 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 12835 times:
Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 5): I think many airlines have this same policy, although it's difficult to check for it. Cabin crew must be seated also during final decend and takeoffs, so are unable to check the things passengers do, at these stages of flight. So,... like me, just be careful and make your sneaky pics and videos
Photography is only permitted by the airlines before the doors shut and in flight. I hoped they'll loosen up and at least let us take pictures on landings.
BrusselsSouth From Belgium, joined Aug 2001, 609 posts, RR: 5 Reply 19, posted (5 years 9 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 12782 times:
Top quality report ! Thanks for taking the time to compose it, and for having included a touristic part, adding to the overall quality.
Your experience on the Meridiana Mad Dog reminds me of mine on a Spanair MD-82 recently (legroom and service-wise). Also, the airshow on the overhead LCD screens you describe is exactly the same I enjoyed on Air Berlin 738.
Quoting B747forever (Reply 17): You got brilliant pics from Cagliari. Seems to be such a nice city,
Yes, I can only recommend to go there.
Quoting BrusselsSouth (Reply 19): Your experience on the Meridiana Mad Dog reminds me of mine on a Spanair MD-82 recently (legroom and service-wise).
Just read your report - that narrow seat pitch is quite annoying. I had the best Eco flight on a Mad Dog in 2002 on American (LAX-DFW) - very generous seat pitch. But AA has changed configurations again...