Duesseldorf International (DUS) - Leipzig/ Halle Airport (LEJ)
(operated by Eurowings)
Photo © Stefan Roesch
Seat: 3A (Economy)
Scheduled flight time: 0945h - 1100h
Boarding call: 0925h
Take-off: 1004h (RWY 05R)
Touchdown: 1103h (RWY 26)
About the trip
A good friend of mine from my former university days celebrated his 30th birthday that weekend and had invited us to come along and join the party. This event, combined with the recently launched fare sale on domestic German flights by Lufthansa (88 Euros return for any non-stop domestic service) gave me a couple of good reasons to break out of the old routine and go to Leipzig for 36 hours.
The airport (DUS)
Although I had already checked in for my flight by internet on the evening before my departure, I was hesitant to turn up at the airport at the very last minute and took an earlier train from my hometown Dortmund. Upon arrival at Duesseldorf's relatively new train station; I proceeded up the escalator and entered the check-in hall of the train station. A nice and innovative feature of this futuristic looking steel-and glass construction is the possibility to already check-in luggage here instead of having to haul it all the way over to the main terminal. Although it is still not possible to check-in for all major airlines serving DUS at this location, the Star Alliance carriers provide this service weary customers like me. Believe me; I was more than happy to get rid of my bag at 0800h in the ungodly morning hours of this otherwise crystal-clear Saturday morning!
Photo © Bernd Lawrenz
The train station at DUS is about 2 kilometers to the west of the main terminal complex, and in theory, passengers should not have any problems to reach the terminals from the train station, because the airport has provided an automated peoplemover. However, reality proved once again that it is not always a bright idea to go for the latest technological advances, as the peoplemover was again inoperable and a bus shuttle was offered instead.
I wonder if DUS airport authority is already contemplating this investment - the peoplemover was only opened this summer after a delay of more than a year, and is experiencing hiccups ever since. For me as an airport transportation planner, this worst-practise example gives me a good indication of what kind of infrastructure I should rather not suggest to my airport customers when planning their landside access strategy!
Anyway, back to the topic. The bus dropped us of at the arrival level and I proceeded to the security check at the root of the Terminal A pier. A nice aspect about travelling on Saturday mornings in the middle of winter is that there are hardly any lines - check-in proved to be a breeze and this experience was repeated at the security point.
By now it was about half past eight and I still had about an hour to spare until the boarding of our flight would commence. Even after several hundred flights, I still enjoy sitting at the panorama windows of a terminal and stare at the hustling and bustling on the apron - actually this is one of my favourite ways to relax and let my mind wander. Unfortunately, this morning must have been one of the most boring days when it comes to interesting traffic at DUS. Only a handful of LH 737's, 319's and 320's were parked at the gates, getting ready for their morning flights to MUC, TXL, LHR and CPH. The adjacent Terminal B pier was equally unexciting, with only a BA 319 and an AF 320 waiting for their passengers.
With nothing remarkable going on outside, the best way to spend the remaining time in the terminal was by grabbing a newspaper, which LH is offering a complimentary extra to all of their passengers and get a nice hot cup of tea - again a free service courtesy of Lufthansa.
My departure gate this morning was A83C, which is, as some of you will know, not on the main level of the terminal, but instead downstairs on apron level. From here, busses take waiting passengers to aircraft parked on remote stands.
The first boarding call was announced as right on time twenty minutes before departure at 0925h, and the few passengers for this mornings short hop to Eastern Germany were on the bus within about three minutes. A quick headcount by me resulted in about 25 fellow passengers on our flight today, which is probably the best possible seat load factor Eurowings will get on any Saturday morning flights to a secondary destination like Leipzig/Halle.
Our ATR42-500, the rather brand-new looking D-BOOO, was waiting for us on V.26, an apron position adjacent to the DUS Air Cargo Terminal. And guess what? Right when our bus was pulling up next to the aircraft, one of the other passengers, a fourty or fifty year old lady started complaining to her (I suppose) husband: "Oh no, did you know that we are flying with such an ancient prop plane? This thing is so small and old it cannot be safe!" Geez, I can understand that not all of us do know their aircraft types and delivery dates inside out, but how comes that always the most ignorant people have to voice their opinions the loudest!?! Would LH really team up with Eurowings if they would be flying fifty years old rustbuckets???
Trust me, I really had to bite my tongue to stay out of this conversation and instead hopped off the bus and hurried onboard our ATR - it was just too darn cold this morning to stroll across the apron in a leisurely pace!
After saying good morning to the equally freezing looking purser who was waiting at the cabin door, we proceed down - or should I rather say "up the aisle", since the cabin door of the ATR is at the rear of the aircraft?
Eurowings has configured their ATR's in a 2+2 configuration. The dark blue leather seats are pretty wide (for a regional aircraft) and offer - for my 1,75m frame - decent seat pitch. The seats, the dark blue and grey carpet and the red seat belts give the aircraft interior a professional, but still fresh look.
Boarding was completed at 0935h, but we still waited…
…until finally, by 0958h, the purser closed the door and the engine startup cycle commenced. Taxying out in a westerly direction, we passed Terminal A and B and headed down the taxiway for the threshold of RWY05R - one of the rare instances when an easterly take-off is used at DUS. The reason this time was fairly obvious, because despite the crystal-clear skies, a frosty easterly wind had been blowing for a couple of days, covering Germany in some rarely seen snow and ice.
Photo © Peter Unmuth - Vienna Aviation Photography
Without any hold whatsoever, our pilot turned onto the threshold of our runway, advanced the throttles, and the ATR chased down the runway with a mind-numbing roar. After having flown on a Fokker 50 on a recent trip to FDH, I have really come to appreciate the engineering capability of the Dutch, because from a passenger comfort point of view, comparing the F-50 with the ATR is like putting up a Mercedes against a VW - both are nice and reliable, but a Mercedes just offers so much more comfort and luxury.
A few minutes after take off, a bell indicated the passing of the 10.000ft altitude and engine power was markably reduced. At this point of our trip, I totally started to enjoy the view of the scenery outside. We were cruising at a fairly sedate 500kph at a flight level of 16.000 ft under a crystal clear sky with almost unlimited visibility. I somehow felt like on a scenic flight along the Ruhr valley:
The landscape below us stretched out like a map, so it was not difficult for me to see the Technologiepark Dortmund, where I am working, the residential area south of downtown where I am living and several other landmarks like our TV tower, the Hardenberg building, Central station and the DTM airport among other things. While our ATR beat its path eastbound, the Kamener Kreuz (one of the most heavily frequented Autobahn junctions in Germany) soon followed the Dortmund scenery, again making way for the city of Unna and the medieval towns of Soest and Lippstadt with their very visible circular downtown layout. In the very distance, I was even able to get a glimpse of Beckum, which is very close to the small village in the Muensterland where I grew up.
After passing PAD airport, the weather unfortunately started to deteriorate and soon after crossing into Hesse, a solid cloud cover obscured the scenery. Cabin service seemed to be timed perfectly this instance, as the purser commenced with his onboard program. Eurowings is offering freshly baked pastries in Economy Class on domestic German flights, today's selection being a somewhat cold but nevertheless delicious chocolate-covered croissant, accompanied by a free selection of hot and cold drinks.
After cabin service was completed, our purser made a second round handing out small "Thank You"-chocolates to everyone onboard.
About 25 minutes from touch-down, when I was peering through my window, I noted a company BAe 146 racing right above us into the opposite direction. Most likely this was the Eurowings flight from Dresden, which is scheduled to leave DRS on Saturday mornings at 0935h - nice to know what aircraft is passing us on our way!
Photo © Mathias Henig
By 1045h, descent was started and our purser gave the usual instructions about seatbelts, tray tables and so on. I was hoping for an eastbound touchdown at LEJ in order to get a glimpse of the giant socialist suburban township of Halle/ Neustadt, but instead, our turboprop stayed well above the low-hanging overcast and made two sharp turns to the right in order to line up for LEJ's newly built RWY 08/26, where we touched down after a lengthy flare (no point to touch down early on a 3.800 m2 RWY if you have to taxi all the way to its end) at 1103h.
Passing over the Autobahn towards the terminal, the ATR was greeted by all relevant service vehicles at its apron position (V.10).
On my way out of the aircraft and onto the bus, I stopped for a moment in awe, as the Antonov An-12 parked next to us powered up the engines, covering the apron with a hellish roar and quite a few clouds of exhaust. Welcome to Leipzig/ Halle!
The airport (LEJ)
This is possibly the right time to explain why I have a soft spot for Leipzig/ Halle airport. When a friend of mine and I were searching for a topic for our final thesis, we contacted, among others, the LEJ airport authorities. To cut a long story short, LEJ offered us extensive help for our thesis (Mobility Management for Leipzig/Halle Airport) and even supported us with free flights between DTM and LEJ as well as almost unlimited human and material sources for the passenger and employee surveys we conducted. Even more surprising for me was to note that the airport had actually implemented quite a few of our findings, e.g. offering information about the landside transportation options, setting up an information computer onboard the dedicated airport train and opening a remote check-in facility at Magdeburg train station!
So quite understandably I was in a very good mood after this flight, passing through the airport and noting all the little things they had actually implemented and improved!
…alrighty now, back to the trip:
Leipzig/Halle Airport - Duesseldorf International (DUS)
(operated by Eurowings)
Photo © Andy Graf
Seat: 5A (Economy)
Scheduled flight time: 2100h - 2215h
Boarding call: 2040h
Take-off: 2104h (RWY 25)
Touchdown: 2201h (RWY 23R)
Not many aspects to add here. The flight was almost completely booked out, with most of the passengers being weekend commuters between their homes in Leipzig and their Northrhine-Westphalian workplaces. Lucky me, I got one of the few vacant seats next to me and could therefore comfortably spread out all my belongings. Cruising altitude again was 16.000 ft at 500kph.
Service this time consisted of a nice, flavored bread roll plus a free selection from the bar. Being in the mood for some celebration after a very nice - although kind of excessive - birthday party the evening before, I ordered a dry red wine plus some water, which was presented to me by a very friendly and cheerful flight attendant.
As it was already pitch-dark outside and the skies were overcast up until we reached the Ruhr area, there wasn't very much to see for most of the trip. But then, I was actually pretty exhausted from the evening before and was just glad enough to just idly thumb through the Eurowings and Lufthansa inflight magazines I found in the seat-pocket in front of me.
BTW - another nice feature of Eurowings is that every passenger also gets a copy of the current EW timetable in his/ her seat-pocket, a feature which always keeps me occupied for a few entertaining minutes.
Photo © Peter Unmuth - Vienna Aviation Photography
Touch-down came smooth as silk a minute after 10 p.m. and the ATR was on-block on one of the apron positions adjacent to Terminal C a few minutes later.
Photo © Stephan Tophoven
After flying with most of Lufthansa's regional partners (Augsburg Airways DH8/ Contactair F50/ Eurowings ATR) I can conclude that all of them offer a decent and consistent service on domestic German flights. Flights of such a short duration offer relatively few chances to provide extraordinary gadgets to the travelling public, so differences are few and far in between these airlines.
IMO, the Eurowings product still gets the edge over its two competitors in most aspects though. I like their strong brand awareness, so as a passenger you still see that you are flying Eurowings and not some anonymous "Team LH"-partner with a neutralized individual image. Speaking purely from my personal perspective, the relatively noisy cabin of the ATR is a slight disadvantage though, although it is understandable that Eurowings is sticking to an aircraft family which actually has a development future ahead compared to the much more comfortable and quieter Fokker 50.
I will be doing a few more domestic trips both on business and personal purposes this year, and whenever possible, will try to get on a flight operated by LH's regional affiliates, be it Contactair, Augsburg Airways or Eurowings.
That's it for now. Thank y'all for bearing with me on this rather lengthy trip report. Questions and comments are always appreciated and I will be glad to add any detail I should have missed.