Seems like you all were busy churning out trip reports about our new German LCC's so I guess I have to find something equally exotic to get some interest here.
The new German low fares market
The introduction of new low-cost competition on the German market has prompted LH to introduce a couple of new, lower fares even on the domestic market, which was so far dominated and - at least in terms of fare levels -strangled by our beloved national carrier.
Thus I was pleasantly surprised when LH announced their new 88 Euro-fares for any nonstop flights between all destinations within Germany. And as there are quite a couple of friends of mine living in far-away parts of our country, I didn't hesitate one bit and booked a couple of nice weekend trips to visit people who I usually see far only rarely .
Friday, December 6th 2002
Koeln-Bonn Adenauer Airport (CGN) - Friedrichshafen Loewental (FDH)
operated by Team Lufthansa/ Contact Air
Photo © Andreas Zeitler
Scheduled block time: 1705-1825h
Boarding call: 1645h
Door closed: 1705h
The airport (CGN)
The last time I visited CGN was during that fateful spring of 1996, when a day after the great fire at DUS, many flights were diverted to this airport. At that time, I was more concerned with picking up my parents arriving with their diverted flight from AGP, so I didn't have much time lo look around.
This year, I actually arrived very early at the airport, and had completed check-in at the LH counters in the old Terminal 1 by about 1430h. The only passengers checked in before me (my sequence number being 012) were most likely businesspeople travelling on daytrips, who had checked in already in the morning for their return flights. Still it was early enough to get a window seat (11A).
Being in the aiport planning business myself, I took some time to check out the terminals and airport layout I basically only know from plans and charts.
LH's flights depart exclusively from one of the two star-shaped terminal piers in T1, while the other one is used by its (virtually) daughter-company germanwings.
Here is a good picture giving an overview of the terminal layout:
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
The whole airport notably breaths the air of the late 1960's/ 1970's design with low ceilings, concrete wall and relatively small window areas. There are a few shops and bars grouped along the root of the terminal half-circle providing the traveller with all his necessary travel goods like newspapers, souvenirs as well as hot and cold drinks.
One could really notice the surge of weekend travellers arriving within the next few hours. Most of them being businessmen (and a few -women), they were visibly looking forward to spending a weekend with their families at home.
Terminal 2 on the other hand, is one of our contemporary glass-and-steel passenger complexes with an emphasis on atmosphere and architectural design rather than mere functionality like T1. A lot more retailing opportunities are even situated on the landside, so they are available for both passengers, meeters and greeters as well as visitors. This reflects the current trend among airports to maximize their revenue from secondary business fields.
About one hour before departure, I decided to proceed to my gate. When I tried to pass security, the metal detector went off for the first time, really surprising me in the process! It seems like the tolerance level of the detectors has been increased in recent weeks, as the same problem occured on my return from FDH a few days later.
The inside of LH's Terminal 1B can be described as "easily comprehensible. There are (as far as I remember) eight gate areas positioned in the triangle corners of the star-shaped terminal pier. In the center of the pier, travellers with a desire to spend some cash will find a small coffee and snack bar and the inevitable duty free/ travel value store.
After running around CGN for almost two hours, I was more than longing for a comfy seat, a newspaper and something hot to drink. Thankfully, LH provides all this free of charge to all their passengers, since there is a coffe and tea machine as well as a selection of international newspapers at every gate area.
At a quarter to five, boarding finally started at gate B1, and after handing our boarding cards to the very friendly ground personal, we were guided downstairs to the apron, where a bus waited for us in order to bring us to our Fokker 50.
The flight (CGN-FDH)
After climbing up a few steps via the onboard latter, we were greeted by two relatively young and very courteous flight attendants. The inside of the Fokker is surprisingly airy compared to other turboprops in its size class. LH has configured the aircraft of their regional partner airlines with a light-weight version of the bright grey leather seats which can be found on their European mainline fleet, so there is a good consitency regarding the product that is offered to the customer.
Our flight this evening was totally packed - and from overhearing a few conversation at the gate - there were actually some additional passengers on standby. Almost all of the passnegers were businesspeople flying back for the weekend, with only a few leisure travellers (like yours truly) dotted in between.
This trip was my first flight on a Fokker 50, and I anticpated the same deafening roar you'll get to endure when flying with the competitors. To my very pleasent surprise however, when the turboprops were started up and our flight went off-block at 1709h, the noise level inside the cabin was comparable to that of jet-turbine powered aircraft. This very nice impression remained consistent during the entire flight even on climb-out. Fokker must have really had a winner at their hands - too bad that quality sometimes is a little more expensive, and most airlines went for the competitor's products.
Since the wind had blown from a northeasterly direction all day, our Fokker proceeded along the taxiway to the treshold of RWY32. Unfortunately for the casual spotter hidden inside of me, I was sitting on the left side this time, so I missed checking out the UPS cargo planes I had noticed a little bit earlier.
Photo © Frank Schaefer
One of the positive aspects of CGN is the lack of aircraft movements- we proceeded to the threshold very quickly, and without any delay whatsoever, our Fokker lifted off at 1717h after a quick stop at the holding line.
By this time, night had fallen, and a dense cloud layer didn't help to improve visibility during our climb and cruise at all. Nevertheless, the next one hour passed away quickly, and at least from my perspective, a relaxed weekend atmosphere was very evident among the passengers, who gladly accepted the drink offers by the flight attendants during their two service cycles.
One aspect had changed since my last flight on a Team LH aircraft more than one year ago though. At that time, passengers could expect to receive a bag with a light refreshment, usually consisting of some fruit, a roll or sandwich and some candy. Seems like this little amenity fell victim to another round of inevitable cost-cutting. I won't complain though - I rather just pay the 80 Euros.
About 30 minutes after take-off, a quick announcement from the flight deck gave some information about the trip tonight. Our cruise level today was 19.000ft with an average speed of 500kph. Flight time was estimated at 1h5min. This announcement was followed by what seems to be the remnant of happier catering standards long gone by - every passenger was presented with a neat little chocolate Santa Claus made by a very fine and well known chocolatier - a very nice little gesture which only improved my already good impression.
Some minutes later, descent into Friedrichshafen started, but it wasn't until the very last minute or so that our aircraft broke through the low cloud ceiling and I was able to see the lights of Friedrichshafen's shoreline along Lake Constance. Touchdown came at 1822h on RWY 06, and 3 minutes later were were on-block exactly on-time at 1825.
I won't go into any detail here, but definitely have to recommend a short holiday break at Lake Constance. Lots of pittoresque medieval towns, very good dining and especially in winter - cosy and charming christmas markets in the German, Swiss and Austrian towns and villages along the lake are definitely some of the reasons for me to go back there next winter - even if I won't be able to see the impressive Swiss Alps due to the low ceiling, which did not go away during my entire stay.
And now the return flight...
Monday, December 9th 2002
Friedrichshafen Loewental (FDH) - Koeln Bonn Adenauer Airport (CGN)
operated by Team Lufthansa/ Contact Air
Photo © Kai-jens Meyer
Scheduled block time: 1030-1150h
Boarding call: 1015h
Door closed: 1025h
The airport (FDH)
One of our typical regional airports and not really worth a longer stay even if you're a die-hard enthusiast. All movements this morning consisted of a Eurowings ATR-72 to FRA departing about 30 minutes before us and a A321, which must have been parked at the airport for quite a while, since all the engines and various service hatches were sealed off in order to protect the aircraft from the fierce winter weather.
The great aspects of these airports - and that's why I prefer to fly from them as frequently as possible - are the very brief diestances between check-in and gate. Added to this is a more personal and relaxed atmosphere among the airport personal, which offers a friendlier service than their stressed colleagues at the hubs and larger counterparts.
Here's a picture of a Contactair F-50 at FDH:
Photo © Thomas Köpfler
The flight (FDH-CGN)
Not much more information to add compared to my inbound trip. Take-off was performed from RWY 06 without any holding at the treshold whatsoever. Our flight route took us from FDH across STR and FRA to CGN. Thankfully, the weather was much better this time around, and as soon as our Fokker had left STR, we were treated by a beautiful view over the wintery landscape - I was even able to see as far as the wintery mountains of the Roehn and Thueringer Wald from my window seat at 12A.
Flight level again was 19.000 feet and the speed set at 500kph. Same catering like on the imbound (including the chocolate Santa Clause), but our FA had a much reduced workload this time, with a seat load factor of maybe 50%, among them a colorful mix of busines people and leisure travellers.
We actually managed to touch down on RWY 04 at CGN a few minutes early, passing over a KLM Cityhopper F-50 and an Air Berlin B737-400. And I might add - this touchdown was followed by the speediest taxying I ever experienced onboard an airliner - seems like our Captain Haas was quite a bit of a Formula 1 fan himself.
On-block occured a little earlier than scheduled at the very same apron position we had left from a few days earlier. A short bus trip to the terminal marked the end of a nice, eventless and punctual return trip on Contactair/ Team LH.
Team LH offers on domestic flights the same reliable and punctual service without any surprises like its mainline counterpart. With some new low fares in place, LH definitely has a winner at their hands, which might come into play after the introduction of the new controversional ticketing system of German Rail. I would definitely recommend taking a look at what LH has to offer if you're planning to travel within Germany domestically - with low fares even on "exotic" routes like this, I can only wonder, how long it will take until this very good value for money gets more publicity.
Thanks for bearing with me. I hope you enjoyed this little report and maybe I was able to convince you that the future doesn't necessarily rely on LCC's alone.