yesterday, I returned from a week of holiday in Turkey, and I´m going to share my aviation related experiences with you, if you like.
I bought my ticket about two weeks before the trip. I deliberately picked a package that included flights from my home airport Dortmund (DTM) via Nuremberg (NUE) to Antalya (AYT) and back for a couple of reasons:
- I had never flown Air Berlin (AB) before;
- I had never flown on a jet from or to DTM (which became possible only last year when the runway was extended from 1450 metres to 2000 metres);
- I had never flown from or to NUE before;
- I had never flown on a 737 with winglets;
- I like connecting flights or enroute stops (which is quite rare in German holiday traffic) - it gives you more flights for the same money.
I was a little disappointed I got those AB flights via NUE only for the outbound part of my journey, while the return was to be a nonstop Hapag-Lloyd (HF) AYT-DTM. However, when the tickets were delivered to my place, a stop at Leipzig (LEJ) had been added for the return flight - every normal customer would have been angry, but not me, I was like "yipie, four flights instead of three!"
The DTM-NUE flight was scheduled for departure at 0630; I would have had to be at the airport at 0430 because AB formally require their pax to check in at least two hours prior to the flight. In order to avoid that, I gladly accepted the offer of a late check in the evening before.
Tue, March 19, 2002: DTM-NUE AB6372 B737-8J6 D-ABAW
I arrived at DTM at 0530 - only to find out that the flight was delayed and expected to depart at 0700. I didn´t care because I wasn´t going to let petty stuff like that ruin my hard-earned holiday. I proceded swiftly through security to the gate where I inquired about the delay´s cause. It was as I had guessed: there´s a 2200 curfew at DTM, and the plane hadn´t made it the evening before. She had been diverted to Duesseldorf and had to be ferried to DTM the next morning. Well done, tree-hugging airport haters: one additional very early morning take off at DUS, one additional very early morning landing at DTM - both the environment and the respective airports´ neighbours say "thanks a million".
Anyway, finally our plane arrived and roughly 100 passengers boarded. The plane was D-ABAW, L/N 485, delivered to AB on Feb 28, 2000.
Photo © Marlo Plate
17 of AB´s 23 737-800 are equipped with winglets, and, as you see, she is one of them. AB´s -800 are configured with 184 seats.
The short 200-mile-hop took about 40 minutes during which the stewardesses handed out some snack bags but no drinks.
I was quite amazed (and not amused) that they permitted smoking. This practice is actually outlawed on domestic German flights.
Tue, March 19, 2002: NUE-AYT AB7840 B737-8J6 D-ABAO
Let me first tell you something about the AB hub and spoke system: on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, AB flies 737s from 13 German cities into NUE where the passengers are reshuffled and sent to their final destinations around the Mediterranean. This guarantees a very high number of connexions with convenient connecting times between one and 2.5 hours. This system is quite unique for German holiday airlines, all competitors rely on point to point traffic, with an occasional enroute stop, but connexions are very rare. So I was not really surprised to count eleven AB 737s neatly side by side upon arrival at NUE. This system does have disadvantages, though: the gate area was absolutely crowded, people having to sit on the floor, clearing passport checks seemed to take forever and the queues at the ladies´ rooms were huge. Thank God I didn´t have to undergo another security check.
Boarding started at 0910 (scheduled departure was 0920). I was booked on the second of three (!) flights NUE-AYT departing within 15 minutes. So next time you´re discussing who needs the A380 on which routes, don´t forget AB on the NUE-AYT run .
A bus took us to the waiting plane:
Photo © Peter Unmuth - Vienna Aviation Photography
yet another -800. This one, D-ABAO, is L/N 42 and was delivered to AB on May 10, 1998. She is owned by AB´s CEO who leases her to the company ( ).
During taxi, I spotted G-LOFC, an Atlantic Airlines (?) Electra.
Photo © Peter de Bock
An eventless flight over the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Istanbul followed. The plane was completely packed, we got a cold breakfast, only two drinks and an assortment of German low quality magazines but no newspapers.
Upon arrival at AYT, two other AB 737-800 awaited us (hmm strange, weren´t we supposed to arrive second?), one of them was D-ABAW with which I had flown DTM-NUE; I noticed a Tyumenavia AN26 (RA-26012) of which unfortunately no photos are available in the database.
Tue, March 26, 2002: AYT-LEJ HF2650 B737-8K5 D-AHFB
After a nice week at the Turish Riviera, my first trip to Asia, by the way, I came back to AYT for the return flight. There was a security check upon entering the terminal building. No queue at check in, due to a very light load I was to find out later. I went straight to the departure area from where a decent look on the apron was possible. Some exotic planes I saw:
Sibir IL86 RA-86108:
Photo © Marlo Plate
(I had actually expected the pax to be Russian parvenus on holiday at the Turkish Riviera, but they were Turks.)
Free Bird MD83 TC-FBG:
Photo © Tolga Ozbek
MNG pax A300 TC-MNE:
Photo © Paul Jongeneelen
After some wandering around, I entered the gate area. Another security check was conducted at that occasion. We boarded at 1000 (scheduled departure at 1020). Our plane was D-AHFB, L/N 8, delivered to HF on Dec 15, 1998. Built early, delivered late, this plane served some time at Boeing as an NG prototype.
Photo © Charles Falk
She still is in the old classy livery, plus winglets have been added since this shot was made.
Upon settling in my seat, I noticed, much to my pleasure, that HF´s change of corporate identity towards the TUI group brought a new sickbag design as well. I quickly repossessed some specimens for my collection, contemplating the fact that on five HF trips I had encountered as many different bag designs.
As I mentioned earlier, this flight was quite empty (HF´s -800s are configured exactly like AB´s, with 185 seats): 49 pax boarded at AYT, 30 left the plane at LEJ, 44 boarded there for the flight back to AYT; of course 19 got off at DTM, don´t know how many boarded there. The plane´s routing that day was FRA-AYT-LEJ-DTM-AYT-FRA, the crew from FRA was replaced at DTM. I learned that from a conversation with a stewardess during our stop at LEJ.
Back to the AYT-LEJ leg, during boarding passports and boarding passes/tickets were matched a third time - combined with the double security check this leaves the impression that the Turks are quite paranoid. Like on AB, we got only two drinks as well as a cold breakfast. But, in addition to the low quality magazines, three of the major four German newspapers were distributed - not bad.
Our routing was similar to the one for the outbound flight. We landed at LEJ on the main runway (3600 metres), which meant we had to cross the autobahn on a bridge in order to get to the terminal.
Tue, March 26, 2002: LEJ-DTM HF2650 B737-8K5 D-AHFB
As I said before, we stayed on board during our 40 minutes stay at LEJ. We had to take all our carry on luggage from the overhead bins so the steward(esse)s could check nothing had been left behind, be it deliberately (God forbid) or accidentally.
We then pulled of the gate for the last leg of my trip, another 200 mile/40 minute hop. On the way to the runway I spotted D-BAKC, a WDL F27:
Photo © Martin Muhr
Of course we had to cross the autobahn again. Interesting titbit: on this stretch of autobahn, a disproportionally high number of fatal accidents occur, because the motorists gawk at the planes. The East Germans are not very good at driving a car, you see ...
Just like on the DTM-NUE flight, snack bags were distributed among the passengers, only this time with drinks.
Upon landing at DTM first the passengers whose journey ended there left the plane, then those who continued on to AYT. This was, by the way, HF´s very first flight into DTM in the year 2002.
A last exotic plane I saw, which I want to share with you:
Kibris Tuerk Hava Yollari/Cyprus Turkish Airlines 737-800 TC-MAO:
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
During both flights between Germany and AYT, I asked the purser(ette) for a cockpit visit. On both occasions the answer was negative, citing company policy forbidding it. My reply was, in both cases, along the lines "oh come on, please make an exception, Condor allows it too" (which is true, they even still advertise this). One purser remained firm, the other one went to the cockpit and asked the captain whether an exception could be made. He/she returned and said it was OK for me to go in. I´m not going to tell whether it was AB´s or HF´s staff who made this exception. Since I don´t know whether they broke or only bent company rules, I don´t want them to reprimanded or anything, just in case some supervisor gets to read this report. I know that´s a long shot, but why take chances.
Anyway, it doesn´t matter that much; I went in and chatted a while with the guys about "God and the world", as we say in Germany. About the -800´s performance compared to the -400´s, about the short new runway at DTM (they didn´t like it, they said it puts a lot of stress on crews and is very unforgiving towards mistakes), about why they preferred this alternate airport for a diversion over the other, about the -800s´ winglets and their savings potential and about their company´s refitting process, about the curfew at DTM etc. After roughly half an hour up front they asked me to return to my seat, because they started the descent.
All in all, I liked HF better for these reasons:
- Better service (drink on the domestic flight);
- Unlike AB, they complied with the non-smoking law on domestic flights;
- Better choice of reading material;
- Friendlier crew
- I didn´t have to watch some silly movie - leaving much more time for the beloved airshow (at AB, they subjected us to the cruel and unusual punishment of an abridged version of "Meet The Parents" - *shudder*).
OK, that´s it. Thanks for reading the entire report (yes I know, it´s long), I hope you liked it. Questions are welcome, and I´d appreciate any kind of feedback.
RE: Cockpit visits - just go ahead and ask, the worse they can do is say no. And, as my example proves, exceptions are possible.
Hasta la vista,