Trip report VGO - DUS - VGO with Lufthansa (LH) and Spanair (JK)
I'm just back from a short break to Germany . My itinerary was
9/oct/2001 LH* 2591 VGO 07:30 MAD 08:40 (operated by JK 513)
LH 5849 MAD 10:05 DUS 12:50
21/oct/2001 LH 4398 DUS 14:40 MAD 17:15
LH* 2596 MAD 21:35 VGO 22:50 (operated by JK 526)
When buying the thicket, I tried to fly to FRA on the on bound flight and return form DUS
(Actually my actual destination was Colmar in France, whose nearest airports are
SXB (flown by IB) or BSL (flown by LX) , but I was planning to stay in Iserlohn, closer to DUS,
for the second week. FRA is closer to Colmar than DUS, and combining different airports
/airlines would mean a much higher fare for my ticket, so ... )
A few 'firsts' for me on this travel :
First time flying with Spanair (JK)
First time flying the CRJ and Lufthansa City Line (actually not, more later)
First time flying to DUS airport's new terminal building
I enjoy very much flying , and actually I was quite excited for this was my first flight since
the summer of 1999.
1. VGO - MAD , LH 2591 (aka JK 513)
VGO 0730 - MAD 0840 , M83 EC - HGJ "Sunworld" , Y Class, Seat 20 A
4 FA's (1 male)
After a stressfully week at the university I woke VERY sleep deprived at 5:00 , finished packing in
a rush and took a taxi at 6:00 am. I do not live very far from the airport and arrived around
There was a short queue already at the Spanair (JK) counter and the processing seemed to
last something longer as usual. When it was my turn, however, I was checked in quite fast.
The lady was very nice and welcoming and gave me the requested window seat on exit rows for both
flights.Actually this is important at least with JK. Their a/c's are still configurated for
charter flights and i've been told several times that otherwise the exit rows their seat pitch
is awful. I asked her about LH / JK integration. She told me that is still in progress.
Maybe some day JK will also join the Star Alliance.
Actually, VGO (Vigo, my hometown in NW Spain) is quite a small airport , only served by Iberia
and Spanair and with very few destinations (MAD, BCN, BIO, ORY, VLL). But it is very funny.
Iberia is within One World alliance and codeshares with BA , while JK codeshares with LH and SK
always and depending the time of the day also with OS and RG. Each time a flight leaves / arrives
the PA broadcast announcements for 3-4 different flight numbers , in 3 different languages ,
Spanish, English and Galician . An absolute madness !!
For a so small airport, there was a lot of policemen, Guardia Civil and the like around. Paranoia
also arrived here.
Boarding was announced on time and I was among the first to board , after a lady in a wheel chair.
Our MD 83 was in Spanair's new livery . Its name was "Sunworld". (All their planes are called
sun_something) Newspapers were on the finger's door. The cabin interior was OK, nothing fancy
but in well condition. The crew seemed also cheerful and nice.
Spanair pays much attention to keep their pax informed. I liked very much their on board announcements,
very informative, and also the safety briefing (yes, I always pay attention, no matter I know
the M80 series quite well. I actually *enjoy* those things). Toweletes were handled out before take
The plane was around 55 % full. The captain was quite talkative and Service on this short flight
(about 50 min) was excellent. We got a small breakfast tray with a muffin, OJ and a cookies
packet. The crew offered tea , coffee or hot chocolate (which was very good) and even offered
refills. The captain announced descend shortly afterwards and they still offered some candies
Once in Madrid, we where ferried with a bus to the terminal . I enjoyed exiting the aircraft
through the rear door. It brought me very fond memories of other flights, this is now not so
common. I was puzzled to see the crew also exited and was replaced by another one -- I thought
this was their first flight of the day ...
There were many interesting sights in Madrid, for example Spanair's new A320 and A321, their
B767 in mixed JK / Lauda air livery , Iberia's "Francisco de Quevedo" (one of their first 747-200,
probably to be replaced soon) and many others.
I had a relative short transfer, so I headed to Lufthansa's gate (C40 or C41 if I recall correctly)
I also noticed Spanair has grown from a small charter airline with few schedule destinations
to a major carrier. In the C gates zone at MAD one could see overall JK flights, as if Iberia
and other majors did not exist. I also noticed they now handle a lot of other major carriers
like Portugalia, Alitalia, Pluna, etc through their handling subsidiary Newco, and you could only
see their gray and yellow uniforms everywhere.
*** Departure airport : 3/5 . Check-in & boarding : 5/5 . Board Service : 5/5 .
Arriving airport : 5/5 .
2. MAD - DUS (or ... hum, let it be FRA better )
I stayed around my gate a bit, wandering through the shops etc. Boarding was scheduled
to start around 09:40. I was excited bout flying the CRJ and because the last time I flew
Lufthansa was in 1988, DUS - MAD in a 737-200 with a stop in STR and which was still configurated
in that silly "FC" (officially no Y cabin) that they had back then. I was eager to see how
they changed in all those years ...
09:40 came by, and boarding time was changed in the monitors to 09:58. By then LH's airport
manager came and told us the plane (BTW, standing right there by the gate) had technical
problems and that he'd inform us in 15 mins. 20 or 25 minutes later he came again and told us
that the flight was canceled. A ground agent scorted us to be reticketed first to baggage claim
and then to LH ticket counter to be reticketed. I also got a coupon valid for a sandwich
and a drink. I tried to convince the LH lady to switch my destination to BSL or SXB,
but she refused. (She only offered DUS via FRA or CGN) My new itinerary was :
LH 4323 MAD 12:40 FRA 15:15
LH 218 FRA 15:35 DUS 16:55
Wow ! the opportunity to fly 2 flights instead of a single one ! After checking in again,
I realized 16:55 arrival at DUS would be to late if we wanted to drive to Colmar the same evening
(it's about a 5 - 6 hours ride) . Also, the connection was a bit thigh , more for the luggage.
I got a call from my relatives in Germany and we decided they would drive already half the way
and pick me in FRA. That's the wisest option, but I was missing LH 218 ... sigh ;( ...
So I went to the chek-in desk again. The lady said it should be not problem, except some minor
fuss with the baggage handlers ... they say they would look my bags to be retagged, but only if
they were not already the aircraft ... so she told me to wait till 12:00. I walked around the airport
a bit and surely enough, when I arrived she gave me my new boarding pass (seat 24 F, windows emergency exit
in the A321) and luggage tags.
I cleared security (nothing unusual, except for a more serious inspection of my boarding pass instead
of just waving it in the air) . I was to use my coupon when i noticed in a monitor that boarding time
was 12:05, so I ran to the gate (I was in the D area by then) and boarded
2. MAD - FRA , LH 4323
MAD 1240 - FRA 1515 , 321 D - ???? , Y Class, Seat 24 F
6 FA's (1 male)
LH interiors are really cool! i liked the leather seats and the cabin looked really good. On the
other hand, there is no IFE while Iberia has it on European routes since many years ago ...
There were newspapers in many languages near the aircraft door. I liked specially my seat . 24F
is the seat by door 3L , and there is only one seat mate (24D is a crew position). That was one
of the best things of the flight, it was cool to be seated there.
Only a pity there that was a German guy in 24E (the flight was near 100% full) so I could not
talk with the FA ...) On the other hand there was no real window ... one can't have anything. I found LH's
briefing somewhat casual ... did not like it very much.
The pilot announced a 3 minutes delay due to congestion (?! this could only happen in a German
airline) . It turned out not to be so, i dozed a bit and woke up when we where taking off by then
it was 13:20 or something like that.
LH has really changed since 1988... and sadly the quality of cabin service is now on the cheap
side. I can understand that the scenario has also changed a lot, but frankly Iberia and others
do better on short European routes. The so called "lunch" was cold (except for a warm bread roll )
and on the cheap side -- a small chicken breast slice, a tiny cheese square, a slice of Spanish
serrano ham , some green salad and that's all. Also some German rye bread and a VERY cheap Spanish
chocolate bar (I get 3 of them for 100 pesetas, about 1.2 DM or 0.6 $ at a shop nearby ). That
was the worst, I was hoping like a slice of German Kuchen (cake) or pudding like in the past.
There were 2 drinks offerings (coke from the bottle) but coffee never arrived. There was a duty
free selling, and there were some interesting things, but I felt asleep and passed it. Upon
landing the purser provided some connection information. It was a "blind" landing (having no window)
and I felt it a bit hard.
Well, my first LH flight after 14 years was not bad at all, but also nothing special. The magazine
(which by the way I liked very much, unlike other those of other airlines) proudly said "There's
no better way to fly" and I am sure they are, at least in the same route. Plus the crew was not
very charming at all (but also not rude) with the exception of "my" FA seated in 24D. Also LH
is normally more expensive than other carriers (it was a big surprise for me that on this flight
it was the best deal)
Despite the somewhat late departure we landed in FRA almost on time.
*** Departure airport : 5/5 . Check-in & boarding : 5/5 (LH's ground assistance in MAD performed great!)
Board Service : 2/5 (there was much to improve).
Arriving airport : 5/5 . (FRA is my favorite!!)
In FRA there were policemen with rifles around ... I did not feel any safer because of this.
In the baggage claim area there were free "Hoerzu" (a German TV magazine) as a "Lufthansa Welcome
Surprise !! One of my bags was damaged. And I was very upset because it was an all new bag
and I *knew* it was LH's handling fault because of the recheck at MAD. LH filled a report without
complaining and send me to FGS (FRA airport baggage services) They had a huge store room with
all kinds of suitcases, but no one was like mine (they wanted to give me a new one). They gave me
a paper stating it was their fault and told me to buy a newer one and send LH customer service the
receipt. I hope they do so.
Well I spent 2 wonderful weeks in central Europe ... October 21th I was rather sad on my way
back to DUS with my father (who was already in Germany and was flying back with me) and my
aunt, for this is most probably my last visit to Germany for a long time. We leaved Iserlohn
at 10:30 and arrived DUS around 11:45 (way early) My aunt hates the airport and she wanted to be there
We found our way to concourse A (the new terminal building looks very airy , bright and nice
but outside is still terrible and only the main section is fully finished) and went to the LH
Check-in took forever, for some reason the agent could not log to Spanair's computer system.
He finally gave us seats 15 A & C ("Bulkhead", the first row of the Y cabin, for the emergency
row was in the C cabin) for the LH flight (an A320). He tried for sometime and said he was not
able to retrieve the seat plan of the JK flight. He gave us seats on row 31 , said "I know you're
seated together but not where" and advised us to change the seat allocation once in MAD. no problem,
for we had plenty of time. Finally he wished us a good flight (and did not mention our approx
10 kg overweight )
(side note : One very good thing of flying Spanair is that if you have their FF card you get
10 kg extra baggage allowance even it is your first flight. GREAT ! In any case only in JK -operated
flights. They have also some other small bonuses other airlines only give you when you are
a tier member)
We wandered through the airport with my aunt, drank some coffee and visited the shops , and
cleared security at about 14:00. Again nothing unusual, but the terminals were fairly empty.
DUS is really very nice now. And you have good sights of the tarmac from many points.
Lh's gate area is very neat, with lots of free newspapers and also a hot drinks corner. Very
pleasant and LH gets 1 more point for this !
Around 14:20 boarding was called. I was drinking some tea and we were among the last to
board an almost empty A320.
3. DUS - MAD , LH 4398
DUS 1440 - MAD 1715 , 320 D - ???? "Stadt Erfurt" (or something about Erfurt) , Y Class, Seats 15 A&C
4 FA's (1 male)
I liked the crew much more on this flight, and the captain was joking almost the whole time.
Being the first row of the Y cabin, it was configurated as C. (convertible seats)
Service was almost identical : meal (again cold and not very generous, but better than on the
other flight : smoked salmon, cheese, tiny but tasty pasta/carrot salad, some ham, 2 leaves
of green salad and 2 kinds of bread, plus a lila pause chocolate bar as "dessert") , 2 drinks
offerings and coffee never arrived (it seems it only was served on request, the guys sitting in
row 16 kept calling the FA's almost the whole flight) I again missed the cheap chocolates I
wanted to buy ... Somewhat bumpy flight over France and also some turbulence when landing.
I was amazed there was such a huge C cabin, for there were about 6 C pax. I asked the crew
and the purser told me it was because of weight balance .
*** Departure airport : 5/5 . Check-in & boarding : 4.5/5 (Bad LH/JK integration)
Board Service : 3.5/5 (Better, but very average. 0.5 plus for the very welcoming FAs)
Arriving airport : 4.5/5 (Lounge 2 at Terminal 1 was somewhat chaotic and the sign posting
a bit misleading)
We arrived again on time, despite taking off again somewhat late. Once in MAD we had hours to
kill, so we exited the secure zone (btw I've never seen before the arrival lounge our flight got)
and first went to a JK check-in desk, when we got our seat assignments changed to 20 A&B, emergency
row. It turned out very well, for row 31 is almost the last one on the MD-83, where the sound of
the engines is unbearable.
MAD has grown to HUGE size.(there are now even transit busses running across the terminals but we did not use
these) We visited almost everything , walking from one side of Terminal 3
to Terminal 1 , about 2 times each direction. I liked very much the aircraft model exhibition
near the metro station . I also visited the "Bulevar Barajas" a shop gallery which is located
in T2. It is now the oldest part of the building, and was its "core" till not so many years
ago. It brought me fond memories of other flights ... I enjoyed looking once more through the
window. Nowadays it is a dark, dirty and uncentral part of the terminal , but in the past was
the main observation point. That location also appears in many older (70's) Spanish films.
We cleared security again around 20:00, in a somewhat strange entrance with a lonesome and
rather bored Guardia Civil who did not even bother to check our boarding passes. We were
somewhat tired, but kept walking around having something to drink till 21:15 when boarding
for our flight was called. Again gate C40 or C41 and again a wheelchair before us. Boarding
was made by rows, starting with rows 20 to 35.
4. MAD - VGO , LH*2596 (aka JK 526)
MAD 2135 - VGO 2250 , M83 EC - ??? "Suntreck" , Y Class, Seats 20 A&B
4 FA's (1 male)
Something strange, there was no Avant (C class) cabin in this flight.
The multi cultural crew (a South american woman and an Oriental man) on this flight was really
excellent, genuine kind and warm.
The pilot did some strange turnarounds around Madrid at very low altitude after take off.
A quick drinks service (with *actual* peanuts ) and we were ready to land. After saying farewell
to the crew (again one of the best I had in the last flights) we exited the aircraft and that
concluded my trip.
*** Departure airport : 5/5 . Check-in & boarding : 5/5
Board Service : 5/5 (EXCELLENT crew!)
Arriving airport : 3.5/5 (baggage claim last ages always in VGO, but at least you no
longer need a 100 pesetas coin to get a trolley)
After all, very nice on time flights. LH was not all bad , but worst comparing with what it was
in the past. I also think they had very good ground assistance, while their cabin service on
short European routes is so-so. It also wondered me very much they no longer have those
refreshing toweletes you find everywhere with other airlines. JK was even better that I thought
(for some time their slogan was 'pay less and travel in a better way', and I must say it is
true.) Overall I would give JK a full 5/5 and LH a 3.5/5.
Thank you for bearing with such a long report (and with my English).
Any comments / questions will be welcomed.