Sorry for the picture quality, taken with my phone in mostly rainy and windy weather.
I took this trip in late November, by now I think LH has stopped using the 747 on this route.
After AirBerlin announced, they would suspend all flights Lufthansa decided to use the 747 and other widebodies on routes to and from TXL.
I figured it would be a nice to use this opportunity to fly on the 747, on which I've never flown before. And to go to Berlin for a weekend.
Booked a ticket from my home Airport Nürnberg (NUE) via FRA to TXL, which was only a bit more expensive than flying FRA-TXL directly. Departing at 6:15 am, I would arrive in Berlin at 8:55am. With a 45 min. connection in FRA. For the return flight, I booked a simple non-stop flight on Eurowings, as there were no suitable 747 flights that day.
Flight to Berlin:
The day before the flight I checked in online and selected seat 4F, right behind the 'Business Class' section. I woke up at about 4am, drove to the Airport and walked to the terminal on this rainy Saturday morning, where I got a paper Boarding pass on one of the check-in Kiosks. Security was quite busy at this early hour, with flights departing to the Hubs in FRA, AMS, CDG, ZRH and a few holiday destinations like PMI and HRG, as well as the early morning Ryanair flight to STN. Once Airside I saw the aircraft taking me to FRA today. It was D-AINA, the first A320neo delivered to launch customer Lufthansa in January 2016. This would be my first flight on a neo and I was excited to see how it performs compared to the regular A320 family aircraft.
Boarding was called on time with priority Boarding enforced, I got on the A320neo right behind status and Business Class passengers. The cabin crew greeted all passengers at the entrance and soon I was seated in my seat right behind the Business class section.
All A320neos have a tight 180 seat configuration, but I found legroom to be good for my average height. The seats were not very comfortable though, which would bother me on a longer flight, as Lufthansa flies these narrowbodies all the way to Tel Aviv. The cabin filled out quickly and was about 80% full, with the middle seats in my row still empty.
Next to us was a Boeing 737-700 still in the now bankrupt AirBerlin livery, flying to Hurghada for Nike which also ceased operations recently.
As the engines were turned on, I immediately realized how quiet the PW1100G were, which made for a pleasant experience onboard.
We departed on time, no de-icing was needed, as temperatures were still in positive territory. After a quick taxi and take-off we were in the Air and in a thick cloud layer. There was no onboard service for economy, but Business Class got a full tray of food, which I would have a hard time eating in the about 25 minutes overall flight time. Soon we were approaching Frankfurt Airports 25R, with the Frankfurt skyline in the background
After a smooth landing and short taxi, we parked at the Terminal, but there wasn't a gate, instead buses waited outside. It took about 10 minutes until the door opened, with the passengers in Business Class eagerly waiting in the aisle. A quick picture of the neo in the rain, as I was walking to the bus
The bus took us to the Terminal, where we arrived on time. Upstairs a Lufthansa employee was waiting with an iPad giving information about the gases of connection flights. The passengers arriving before me were also going to Berlin, so I joined the walk to Gate A50 where the Jumbo was waiting. It was D-ABVO one of the oldest 747s in the LH fleet, it arrived earlier this morning from Tehran.
Once at the gate, boarding was already underway with most people aware of the special flight and everyone excited to board the aircraft.
I went to my selected window seat above the wing, sadly the seats in premium economy section were not available for selection. When everyone was onboard the Captain welcomed us on this 747-400 flight to Berlin, he was also aware that a lot of the passengers were aviation enthusiasts.
The legroom was okay for my 180cm height, but on a long haul flight it wouldn't be too comfortable. Boarding took quite some time, compared to the regular A321 used on this route, but because boarding started earlier we still departed on time. Taxi was quick with some heavies to see along the way. Lots of 747-8 Intercontinentals were arriving from long haul flights and taxied to their gates.
As we turned on the runway the sun began to rise, or rather it started to get bright outside, as it was still rainy with a very cloudy sky. Take off was very pleasant and powerful, but not as loud as I expected.
With the huge wing and clouds outside I couldn't see anything out of the window, so I turned onto the IFE. Headphones were not provided, but I had my own with me. the touchscreen is easy to use and has a large selection of movies and TV shows. I started to watch a bit of Alien: Covenant, but unsurprisingly the flight was too short for the whole film. For the rest I put on the airhow.
The cabin crew started to distribute a drink and a cereal bar to passengers in economy class of which I forgot to take a picture. This is quite impressive work by the flight attendants, who were still friendly to everyone. I had a little small talk with a flight attendant about this plane on this route and how they handled it. After only 30 minutes in the air, the captain was already starting descent into TXL.
Because of the bad weather and the window right above the wing I couldn't see much outside during landing. Which was however very smooth
The 747 flights at TXL are all bus gates, because the giant aircraft couldn't fit at any existing gate. As in every flight, many people got up before the stairs were attached, I was however in no rush to get off the plane.
A last picture of the LH Economy seats on the 747-400
Many people decided to wait until others are off board as well. It really seemed like a most of the passengers took the flight especially for this aircraft.
Lots of pictures were taken of the 747 from the waiting buses. As soon as the bus was full, we were shuttled to the mess that is Berlin Tegel. The Terminal is just so old and in desperate need of a replacement.
Which unfortunately won't come in the near future.
I then took the TXL bus to the city, where I did some sightseeing and met up with a friend in the afternoon.
Flight back: (or not?)
The next day I woke up in the morning and since my flight back was in the afternoon I decided to check out the abandoned buildings at Teufelsberg
It's costs an 8 € entry fee, but in my opinion is definitely worth it. It takes about 1h to get there from the city centre, with a 30 min. Bus ride and 30 minutes hiking up the hill. As I walked up there I got my phone out to take some pictures, when I saw an email from Eurowings informing me of the cancellation of my flight home. It was only four hours until the departure time, so I was a bit nervous about how to get home today, as I had to work the next day. I visited the website where the options for rebooking were not available as I already checked in the day before. The only option was to call the hotline, the friendly agent told me they could only offer me a train voucher or a flight the next day, no connection flights within the Eurowings, Lufthansa or Star Alliance network were offered. I was quite a bit pissed about not flying today, but at least I would be getting home that day.
When I was finished with exploring the abandoned buildings I walked down the hill and took the train back to the city, where I immediately went to the main train station to find out when the next train leaves. One I got there the next train to the south was only 20 minutes until departure, so I quickly got something to eat and drink from McDonalds and REWE for the trip. Walking down to the platform the train was already waiting, Once I got inside all the aisles were already full, so no chance for a seat or a comfortable journey home. An off duty LH flight attendant, who was also booked on the canceled flight was standing next to me, so we chatted for about two hours about the company and aviation until some people got off the train. Widebody flights and fully packed trains surely means there's enough demand for domestic travel in Germany. The train arrived after a 5 hour journey at Nuremberg central station, where I took the U-Bahn to the airport, where I parked my car.
This was not how I expected to get home, since I booked a quick flight rather than a 5h train ride with no seat reservation. I contacted Eurowings about compensation already, so far no response. But I will try further.
I was however still satisfied with the Lufthansa flights. I haven't flown Eurowings before so I was interested in trying them out. I checked Flightradar24 on the train and found out the aircraft, which was scheduled to operate my flight was stuck in Brussels, probably with a technical Issue. It was an A320 build in 1990.
Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays!