STN-HHN, FR 752
Scheduled & Actual: 0745
Scheduled Arrival: 1000 Actual: 0945
Booked this flight only one day ahead, for the reasonable sum of £53.54 return (plus an annoying £1 charge for using a DEBIT card, as opposed to a credit card - only Visa electron users avoid the card charging now ).
Why Hahn? Because I had just finished my last exams before graduation, had nothing better to do, and wanted to visit FRA...my first choice would have been a carrier that flew me directly to FRA itself, but the cheapest available was with BA for £152 - for one day, I couldn't really justify that expenditure.
So it was back to good old Ryanair. Arrived at the airport at 0600 - the Hahn flight was being processed at Zone J, which is a bank of check-in desks to the far left of the terminal building.
There were about 5 other people in front of me when I found the desk, but passengers were processed quickly and efficiently by the agents, which is all you can expect.
The screens showed that many flights to France had been cancelled - I presumed there must be another ATC strike in France (in fact, there was).
The flight was called at 0730. There were not many people for this morning's flight, in fact, probably the least busy Ryanair flight I have ever flown. Once on the plane, I took the last row - I don't really have a favourite place to sit, I guess I don't fly Ryanair that regularly. The last row guarantees a good view though.
A far as I could see, all of today's crew were Spanish; they were pleasnt enough, and doing their job well. I overheard the number count, it was 100 on today's flight. Was Ryanair making money on this flight? Who knows, although this was definitely the 'lightest' Ryanair flight I have taken.
Our Captain welcomed us aboard - he had a French name but a sort of American accent, so maybe he was French-Canadian?
We were actually ready to go to at 0730, but waited until 0745 to depart. I cannot remember the exact details, but I seem to remember a Transavia 737 of some sort, the Germanwings A319, an Air Berlin 737-400 and a KLM Fokker 50; the usual assortment of hybrid buzz/continental planes were around, plus a go aircraft still in full colours.
Take-off was quite fun, as usual. We left runway 23, climbed a few 1000ft and then turned left towards Holland, Brussels, Liege etc. The weather was pretty good, although there were some CBs in their early stages....
Somewhere over Holland I think I caught sight of something like a blue top 747, so I guessed it was a KLM, although it was very low below us, and not far off the ground - maybe it was climbing?
Our cruise today was 27,000 ft. We passed over a major international airport whose identity was a mystery until our first officer, with an unmistakable Norwegian accent pointed out we had just passed Brussels, and were about to make a right turn.
The rest of the flight passed pleasantly enough. A few passengers were purchasing mostly coffees (although I wouldn't call what Ryanair serves "coffee", and don't get me started on their concept of "tea"...)
Soon, we were descending over the German countryside, and somewhere on our descent path I saw these big wind turbines - but they didn't seem to work very well - some were not even moving, and there were too few of them - do these things really work that well in such small numbers?
Anyway, who cares, we soon made a nice, smooth landing at Hahn airport - there was nothing on the tarmac - NOTHING!! Nada! I couldn't believe it - all this tarmac, and not one single aircraft - gee, I'm glad I wasn't staying around here!
Hahn was actually much bigger than I expected - I thought it might be like Skavsta or Treviso (the former airport Ryanair uses for Stockholm). NYO is a small shed; Hahn was like a major airport in comparison.
So anyway, here we were a long way from anywhere interesting; ok, the countryside was kind of pretty I suppose - not completely flat, like I imagined. After flashing my passport I was out of there, and waited for the bus to pick us up to take us to Frankfurt. It leaves 30 minutes after the scheduled arrival of a Ryanair bus, so was scheduled for 1030.
To my delight, the bus driver informed me that the bus would first stop at FRA airport - well, that was easy. I bought a 24 hour ticket for 16 euros, return.
The bus was in Volare colours, advertising "low-cost made in Italy".
Ok, so I won't bore you with the details of the 1hr45min trip to FRA...........
FRA was really great fun - the airport interior was ok I thought - better than Heathrow (which is not difficult) although not as nice as Dubai, Changi or even Cape Town (for different reasons).
The viewing deck is most enjoyable - I didn't realise you had to walk so far to get to the actual viewing area, from the entrance. What I really enjoyed was the ability to see the aircraft (at least the front bit) from so close - in some cases, the pilots are literally metres away from you.
There was a huge number of long-haul Lufthansa departures when I was there - and seeing the American base on the other side of the runways was quite interesting - in fact, an American 777 and ATA Tristar that landed, taxied directly to the air base, so they must have been on a military charter.
There were lots of other interesting movements - perhaps less varied than Heathrow, but still enjoyable. The model shop (at the entrance, before you go out) was very poorly stocked, and this was a surprise - I remember at DUS the fluggi shop was excellent, and the staff were really nice and helpful in trying to find me this or that model - not at FRA.
Anyways, I had a great day here really. At midday I went back into the terminal to eat some German food and drink a beer - I ordered a Paulener (sp?) some tall beer apparently made in Munich - as usual, it was just delicious. The meal was some sort of 'nurnberger' kind of hot-dog, but with nice sausages on a bed of lettuce and mustard.
It was a hot day, and there were quite a few people around - in the afternoon, a huge bunch of children arrived, but thankfully they soon got bored, and left us in peace to go to the bar on the 1st level
Sceduled Departure: 2305; Actual 2350
Scheduled Arrival: 2340; Actual: 0000
The return trip to Hahn was very stormy; I arrived at Hahn at 2130, and there were already a number of people in front, but not many at all. A flight to Milan was also checking-in.
I was given a card with the number '018' on it, and London II printed on the front.
At around 2245, a few Ryanair flights started arriving; mostly they must terminate here, because I also saw the flightcrew walk with their cases into the terminal.
At the same time, an announcement was made that our flight was delayed, and would be arriving at 2326....
Oh well, whatever....unfortunately, the magazine shop had closed at 2000, which seems strange when your potential customers are all asking why you are closed so early, and with flights to depart. I would have definitely bought something...some people have no business sense!
In fact, our aircraft did arrive at 2326, as advertised. The plane seemed full, so it took a while before we were allowed to exit the building, and walk all the way to the furthest stand away.
By the way, those numbered cards? They never seem to work - as usual, everyone just crowds in front of the door as soon as someone in uniform arrives, and your position in the queue, not the number on the boarding card, determines how soon you get on the plane - the same with Germanwings. Only easyjet (at least at Luton) seem to have been able to stick strictly to the numbered card system.
This flight was almost full, so it took a while for everyone to reach the aircraft. I decided I would try and sit in the front this time, but the first 2-3 rows were blocked off, so I settled for row 6A.
Once aboard, the crew sincerely apologised for the delay, even though no reason was given, which might have been nice.
It was raining at Hahn, and we experienced a bit of turbulence after take-off. The flight back was actually quite interesting - we passed many large towns and cities which were clearly visible; there was a major electric storm to our left, about 20 minutes into the flight, and I think we may have flown around this, as we made a sharp right turn for a long while, then with the storm passing beside us, we turned back sharply again.
There was much cloud over southern Britain last night, so it was only when we were in the advanced stages of the approach that I caught sight of the towns passing below us; flying through the clouds at night was kind of spooky - our approach lights were on, and our navigation and anti-collision strobes together created a ghostly affect as we flew through each cloud - like driving at night through a mist patch.
As we turned left, I actually caught site of the runway far ahead, so we were now beginning our glideslope descent!
The landing was fine; a Channel Express 737 had landed in front of us, and an easyjet flight landed behind us, as we taxied back to the passenger terminal.
And that marked the end of another Ryanair flight.
My thoughts are that Hahn really is a bit of a silly place if you really want to go to FRA - but I decided to accept this, because Ryanair in this case were really quite a bit cheaper than LH or BA, which would have been my preferred options. I suppose I could have booked well in advance, but part of the enjoyment is finding a lastminute deal on a budget airline.
It was an enoyable trip anyway - I did actually enjoy the flight, the service aspect was fine. FRA spotting was great.
If you fly to HHN, just bring some magazines or CDs with you, and the journey isn't so long. And hey, the beer was worth it.