Staying in touch with your friends can be difficult if they decide to move to an entirely different corner of your country. Thus it has become a tradition of mine and two of my closest friends to meet every couple of months either in my place either in Dortmund or in the Muensterland, or at their home down at beautiful Lake Constance (Bodensee) in southern Germany.
When I searched for flights in late January, LH still offered a thrice-daily nonstop service between CGN and FDH, which I booked for a mere 88 Euro return. Unfortunately, due to the second round of cost cutting at Lufthansa in early March, this route was, among other domestic services axed. Currently the only options to fly between Northrhine-Westphalia and FDH is by Hahn Air (nonstop from DUS) or LH via FRA, both for a whopping 324 Euro!!!
Luckily for me, LH rescheduled my trip without any hassles, and therefore I got 4 flights and double miles for just 88 Euro out of this whole affair - can't complaion about this!
Thursday, April 24, 2003
I had tried to check-in via internet the night before my flight in order to get window seats on Thursday's flights. However, since my booking code was still allocated to the cancelled CGN-FDH flight, I had to phone the Lufthasa hotline and ask the very friendly and competent call center agent to complete my reservation. After some difficulties - the fare base used for my connecting flights usually doesn't permit transfer connections - I secured my seats for the next morning. Everything was supposed to go just as usual. Or so I thought.
The airport (DUS)
As usual when I am flying for leisure, I arrived at DUS by train right at the fairly new train station at the northeastern end of the airport area. The spaciously designed, well-lit station hall not only features all relevant facilities of German Rail, but also check-in counters of most major airlines serving DUS. This nice and not so common feature permits passengers arriving in Duesseldorf by train to check-in their baggage right after leaving the tracks, so it is no longer necessary to haul all their belongings to the main terminal, which is connected to the train station by a three-kilometer long people-mover.
The check-in procedure itself proved to be an interesting task for the "trainee" check-in girl behind the Lufthansa counter. Not only did she have to struggle with the CGN-FDH flight coded unter my e-ticket number, but she actually wasn't able to assure that my baggage would be transfered to my onward flight in FRA: therefore she asked me to tell the gate agent in FRA to assure the transport of my suitcase from the inbound to the outbound plane.
After check-in I enetered the peoplemover station and waited for the train to arrive. One very interesting visitor to DUS caught my attention - unfortunately the aircraft was parked to far away just west of the LTU hangar in order to make decent photos. As I found out today, the TriStar sitting on the tarmac turned out to be this bird...
Photo © Michael Stappen
... a Caribjet Cargo L1011-200F! Nice! No need to say that I kept my eyes glued to this exclusive sight throughout the entire peoplemover ride to the main terminal. It was a pretty warm spring morning this Thursday, and I was reasonably exhausted after the train ride from Dortmund, so I didn't spend much time inside...
Photo © Philipp Brumann
... the DUS main terminal hall and went straight to the security check-point of Terminal A, which is chiefly used by Lufthansa and its Star Alliance partners. One could tell that noontine on a Thursday isn't exactly the busiest period at Duesseldorf airport, because the inside of the Terminal was virtually deserted. Still, if you have some time to kill and money to spend, there are a few brand name retailers of fashion, accessories, perfumes and fine spirit inside the building, coupled with a decent-sized Travel Value/Duty Free shop upstairs from the main terminal floor, plus a Lufthansa lounge also situated upstairs.
Luckily for the casual spotter that I am, Duesseldorf Airport Authority has refrained from plastering all the terminal spaces along the large glass windows with retailing facilities and bars, so it is still possible to watch the action on the apron and take decent photos from the terminal. Around noon, however, there was hardly anything going on except for the occasional Lufthansa CRJ, 737 or Avro. The only interesting bird I was able to make out was the Blueline (?) A320-200 D-ANNE inside the Lufthansa hangar...
Photo © OST Aviation Photography
...adjacent to Terminal A (visible here in the upper left corner of the photo). While I was making my way to the gate at two o'clock, the ominous announcement bell chimed and the speaker announced "Ladies and gentlement, flight LH003 to Frankfurt is delayed. Estimated time of departure now is 1455h." Oh well, 25 minutes, that's not too bad, altough very unusual for Lufthansa.
Finally, at 1420h, our Airbus arrived and I was delighted to see that we would be travelling on D-AIPA, actually the very first A320 delivered to Lufthansa in 1989 (and, I guess I was the only passenger noticing this nice trivia fact anyways).
While I was watching the handling processes with interest - how would LH manage to turn around the aircraft within a low-cost carrier timespan? - my concentration was somewhat distracted by a call of our gate attendant: "Mr.F., travelling to FRA on LH026 with onward connection to Friedrichshafen, is requested to contact the gate personal." I was expecting a rescheduling of my Friedrichshafen flight, because I was travelling on a tight connection anyways, but it turned to be a slightly different problem: I was booked twice on the flight to FRA! Not only was the seat I had requested by telephone reserved for me, but also another one was blocked for my due to the check-in at the train station. Well, it wasn't much trouble to sort that little problem out...
The flight (DUS-FRA)
Duesseldorf International (DUS) - Frankfurt Rhein-Main (FRA)
Scheduled block time: 1430h - 1525h
Actual block time: 1505h - 1550h
Flight time: 1515h - 1545h
delivery date: 16 Oct 1989
Photo © Kai-jens Meyer
Boarding started at 1455h - the time we were supposed to go off-block - and about 75 passengers started to fill the Airbus and thrust all carry-on belongings into the spacious overhead compartments of the A320. From the looks of it, most of our light passenger load today consisted of business travellers, many of them being Americans connecting to flights homeward bound across the pond. The movable cabin divider between business and economy cabin was installed behind row 11
With only a few passengers, the boarding process was closed within just five minutes, and the fairly senior chief purserette welcomed us aboard our short hop to Frankfurt. Due to the short duration of our flight we wouldn't see any cabin service, which was fine with me. I am always getting weary as soon as I am sitting in an airplane anyway, so no disturbance was actually an added bonus.
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
Interior view of D-AIPA
The interior of the Airbus was just the expected Lufthasa standard - although IMO the light grey leather seats with yellow lining give the cabin a somewhat sterile look, and the orthopedic design is definitely not up to the latest standards. The seats and carpets are always spotlessly clean and functioning however. For such a short flight like today, I didn't mind these shortcomings at all, although on longer two or three-hour flights, a better seat and some inflight entertainment (just like most other European "flag carriers", LH has refrained from installing audio or video equipment on the majority of the shorthaul fleet) would probably be welcomed.
Photo © Michael Fritz
LH narrowbody seat (A320)
With the characteristical whining/ barking of the electric fasteners, the baggage compartment door was arrested at about three o'clock, "Boarding completed" was announced and within a few minutes, pushback started from our position at gate A13, which is siutated at the very end of the narrow alley between Terminal A and the hangars. A westerly wind was prevalent today, so our take-off would be from RWY 23L after a short taxying to the threshold along the DUS Air Cargo Center, the LTU Hangar 8 and the train station.
Our light passenger and cargo load was notable on take-off - from the looks of it, D-AIPA lifted off the RWY after thundering down only about half or two thirds of the runway, retracting its gear after a few seconds and making its way into a beautiful, crystal-clear spring afternoon. Our flight path followed the runway orientation for the first couple of miles across the River Rhine, until we banked sharply to the left and continued our journey between Duesseldorf and Cologne. From this position, our flight more or less followed the Rhine southbound, passing over Limburg/ Lahn before turning eastwards and decending along the Main until we passed Frankfurt north of the city. It was an absoluetly beautiful day for flying with hardly any clouds and haze, so as a frequent traveller (by car) between Dortmund and FRA, and being a former resident of Frankfurt for some time in 2001, I was happy to identify the rolling hills of the Taunus, the Wiesbadener Kreuz (Autobahn Junction), and all the small cites in the metropolitain Franfurt area. By the time we passed Frankfurt, we were actually already low enough to identitfy all the different skyscrapers and other prominent buildings like the Goethe University.
After passing Hanau, we turned abruptly to the west in order to line up with RWY25L and started a very rapid descent. It seemed like our pilot was requested by ATC to comply to some very tight spacing inside the approach queue, and with some drastic veering to the left and right, we were aligned with the ILS. On a funny side note, the guy sitting next to me, an American businessman, noted to his colleague, how typical of European pilots it is to fly their birds somewhat "rowdier". Dunno... I have never noticed such a difference, I suppose it is more dependant on ATC commands than on the character or passion of pilots on this side of the Atlantic...
Touchdown was completed at a quarter to four after lengthy soaring across the threshold, followed by heavy braking and full reverse thrust. So much for our passionate pilots... I guess he wanted to save some time and catch the closest taxiway, as the next plane was already visible close behind us after we turned off RWY25L.
Braking heavily turned out to be very favorable, because we were now position just across Lufthansa's Terminal 1A and were able to go on-block at Gate A10 (at the root of the terminal fingeradjacent to the Lufthansa base) at 1550h.
The airport (FRA)
With only a few minutes between my connecting flights, I made my way straight to the gate of the Friedrichshafen flight, which turned out to be leaving from A13. Frequent travellers through the Lufthansa hub at FRA will know, how tediously long walks between gates at FRA often turn out to be, so I was fairly glad that my transfer came to an end only a couple of meters away. No time for spotting or shopping this time, but T1A isn't exactly a great testament to architectural design anyway. Pleasing on the outside, the interior is fairly dark, with stores and service failities blocking most of the views on the apron, narrowing the passageway between the gates to a long, narrow tunnel.
Photo © Michael Fritz
The flight (FRA-FDH)
operated by Eurowings
Frankfurt Rhein-Main (FRA) - Friedrichshafen Loewenthal (FDH)
Scheduled block time: 1640h - 1750h
Actual block time: 1655h - 1750h
Flight time: 1705h - 1747h
Photo © Daniel Werner
At the gate, I greeted the gate attendant from her colleagues in DUS and asked her to take care of the transfer of my bag to the FDH flight, which she gladly did. Since I still had about fifteen minutes to spare, I took advantage of the free offers of newspapers and hot drinks, Lufthansa provides to all their passengers via newsracks and automatic coffee and tea dispensers. Nice to see that rationalization has shown no effects on the newspaper selection so far, since a vast array of German and Englsih-language general and business papers was still available. I took "Die Zeit" and sat down at the window, happily sipping my tea while wathcing the push-back of a LH 747-400.
At exactly 1610h, boarding was announced and passengers queued in front of the gate. Interestingly, although the alternative was clearly announced by the gate personal, only a few passengers like me used their e-ticket boarding pass in order to get through the gate barrier by inserting the boarding pass at entry separate from the "general" queue.
Our ATR was waiting at the usual remote parking position at the very northeastern corner of the airport east of Terminal 2 and just adjacent to the US Army Postal buildings. Apart from our ATR, there were also a BA ARJ, several Eurowings Bae-146 and a Styrian CRJ waiting for their passenger loads.
The flight was fully booked with mainly business passengers, and this heavy booking situation showed some effects during the long wait in front of the aircraft on the tarmac. Fortunately we were lucky, because the usually sucky German weather seemed to have taken a day off, so it was absolutely no problem for us to wait in front of the aircraft until it was finally our turn to suqeeze into the narrow aisle of the ATR.
Photo © Camille Hodges
My seat today was a special one - I had finally managed to secure one of the rearwards facing seats at the emergency exit at the very front end of the cabin. I was able to watch the whole boarding and safety briefing process from the flight attendant's perspective. Quite amazing, how very few passengers actually watch the safety demonstration (altough I won't blame them, I don't see much use for that after watching the presentation a couple of times).
We went off-block fairly late at about five to five, and with some relief I noticed the engines spooling up. At least the searing heat inside the cabin would be reduced in due course - a heat, which seems to be notorious for the ATR, because I have never experienced cabin in any other aircraft warming up so quickly if the APU isn't running.
Our designated runway today was 18 at the very western end of the airport, so from my seat, I was getting a free scenic tour along the entire length of the terminals, the Lufthansa base and Cargo City Nord. Speaking of the latter, watching five MD-11F gleaming in the sun at the Lufthasa base was certainly a sight to behold for this very Trijet-fan.
With an intensive rattling, our ATR soon thundered down the runway and left the ground for a flight, which would take us straight to the south on flight level 150. According to the cabin announcement of one of the two female flight attendants in their late twenties, due to the short duration of our flight, there would only be cabin service in Business class, which is, due to the reduced noise level of this turboprop, situated in the rear of the aircraft.
I don't remember very much avout this flight, because I was fairly tired and really had to fight sleep on our southound trip. Anyways, altough we were still travelling under perfectly cloudless sky, the intensive haze hardly blocked any view of the ground below us.
Photo © Oliver Brunke
Cruising at FL150
About 15 minutes before landing, the friendly and attentive flight attendants made the famous "chocolate run" Eurowings is known and loved for among frequent travellers, offering complementary chocolate bars to all passengers. Captain Ian Richardson made a short welcoming adress and announced the start of final decent right afterwards.
Approach into the usually sleepy FDH must have been interesting that day - it was the first evening of the Aero 2003, a general aviation exhibiton, and the sky was filled with lots of Pipers, Cessnas and the likes. After touchdown on RWY24, we proceeded to the very end of the RWY before turning back on the taxiway and travelling to the small terminal, which is situated at the northern corner of the airport. We passed dozens of light aircraft scattered all across the airport grounds on our way to the terminal, and by the time we finally aligned with the terminal building, a waiting queue of at least a dozen smaller planes were watiting behind us, until they would be allowed to taxy to the runway threshold.
Deboarding was completed swiftly and the passengers were directed to the arrival "hall" (actually a small room with a single baggage belt). Much to my surprise, a Star Airlines A320 was parked right next to our ATR, so I finally got my first chance for a perfect photo on this travel day - and thankfully, the very patient operations personal on the apron allowed me to snap a couple of pictures.
Monday, April 28, 2003
The airport (FDH)
All too soon, the weekend had passed and I had to say goodbye to my friends. Again, I had checked in by telephone the day before and hoped that everything would go well upon arrival at the check-in desk this time. The line in front of the three desks this morning was fairly extensive with a mixture of mostly middle-aged men in business attire and families with huge piles of suitcases and much more causal clothes. This flight promised to be just as packed as on the way out. This time around, check-in was a lot smoother, and it was even possible to transfer my bag without special notice to the gate personal in FRA.
Waiting at FDH can be quite tedious, becuase there are an average of just eight to ten airline movements each day, comprising four flights to FRA with Eurowings and two each to DUS, HAM and TXL with Hahn Air.
One of the major advantages of the airport is its geographical location though. As you can see from...
Photo © Andrew Hunt
... the airport overview (FDH), it is very close to downtown and the major industrial zones, so if you have business to attend, a short cab ride will take you from the airport to your destination.
Check-in was completed very late today due to the full load of the aircraft, and boarding only commenced at a quarter to ten.
The flight (FDH-FRA)
operated by Eurowings
Friedrichshafen Loewenthal (FDH) - Frankfurt Rhein-Main (FRA)
Scheduled block time: 0950h - 1100h
Actual block time: 1005h - 1110h
Flight time: 1010h - 1103h
Photo © Daniel Werner
Boarding was the same lengthy waiting procedure already experienced in FRA, altough most passengers handled the embarkation professionally and patiently under assistance of two very friendly and good-looking female FA's. Seems like the recruiting office of this airline is doing a tremendous job by providing their flights not only with professional, but also well-groomed service personel.
The wind was blowing from the west, so we used RWY 24 for take-off, which was completed within five minutes of leaving the apron. Gear was retracted soon after leaving terra firma, the aircraft made a slight right hand curve and proceeded along the coastline of Lake Constance. From my seat at the right side of the aircraft, I was now able to identify many of the sights I had visited the days before with my friends in the FDH area. About two minutes after take-off, a sudden turn to the north near Meersburg indicated our slow progress towards FRA.
According to the cabin announcement of our captain, the travel time would be slightly longer on my return trip. 55 Minutes would also allow the service professionals inside the cabin to perform the full programm, i.e. complemenatary hot or cold drinks and a piec of slightly cold, and somewhat not very fresh pastry (in our case, a variation of the French chocolate croissant). Still, better something to munch than starving on such a morning flight!
On our way north, we soon left the Lake Constance area and it was time to say goodby to the breathtaking view over the still snow-covered Austrian and Siwss Alps and the lush green landscapes.
Our flight route gave us a good indication on the natural splendor of Baden-Wuerttenberg, as we crossed the State almost over its entire length. Unfortunately though, my geographical knwoledge of this area isn't as good as it is in Northern germany, so it is hard for me to point out our exact routeing.
About 15 minutes from landing, the ATR-72 left its cruising altidutde, the throttles were pulled back (quite a relief for me, because as many of you will know, the ATR is comparatievely loud inside the cabin), and the big bird passed just southwest of Aschaffenburg before turning westbound towards Hanau, Offenbach and finally FRA. Just like on my outbound trip the week before, visibility in the Frankfurt area was fairly good, and it was possible to view all major landmarks in downtown Frankfurt like the Messetower, the skyscrapers and the Central Station.
A firm and short landing allowed our flight to exit RWY25L within a few seconds after landing, and since we were again scheduled to park at the apron in the east of the airport, our ATR followed Taxiway Charlie (i.e. the central one between the parallel RWYs) to its parking position. I would have loved to have my camera at this point, because the view of the US Air Base's apron at the southern edge of the airport was just breathtaking - there were 12 C-17s, 2 civilian C-130's, 2 AN-124's a UA 747-400, an AA 777 and two ATA L1011's in various stages of loading or unloading. Impressive!
The airport (FRA)
One major disadvantage of airrival in FRA by regional aircraft is the lengthy bus drive to the terminal, in our case again LH's T1A. Well, I wasn't in a hurry this time, so I was able to enjoy the free apron tour. Although I am a lucky posessor of a FRA airport ID (for professional reasons), I haven't been able to take an apron tour for quite a while, so watching a huge United 777 right in front of our bus and carfefully position it into its narrow position of Terminal 1C was a sight to behold. I guess I will never get tired of my hobby and my job!
Most of my waiting time inside the Terminal was spent at the transfer desk, where I had to rebook my seat reservation for the DUS flight. Again, the telephone check-in must have been too much for LH's reservation system, because upon check-in at FDH in the morning, I was presented with a different (i.e. aisle instead of window) seat than originally scheduled. The reason again this time, according to the friendly LH staff, was a double booking on the DUS flight.
IMO, there seems to be a lot of room for improvement, if these procedure are so flawed.
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
The flight (FRA-DUS)
Frankfurt Rhein-Main (FRA) - Duesseldorf International (DUS)
Scheduled block time: 1300h - 1345h
Actual block time: 1300h - 1345h
Flight time: 1310h - 1340h
delivery date: 20 Mar 1992
Photo © Walter Pietsch
I won't go into much details for this flight, because it was fairly short and up to the same consistent LH standard like the outbound leg from DUS. At least it offered a direct comparison between the A320 and 737 "Classic" in LH configuration. In my personal opinion, the differences are subtle and prbably only visible to the frequent traveller or aviation buff. The cabin width seems to be at least subjectively smaller, an effect, which might not only be produced by the actual difference of a few inches, but also because the lightning inside the 737 cabin seems to be somewhat darker and more yellowish.
The easts are almost the same on both aircraft types, again offering no audio or video plugs and a fairly dated orthopedic design.
Photo © Viktor László - Budapest Aviation Photography
Photo © Marlo Plate - IBERIAN SPOTTERS
LH narrowbody seat (B737)
Passenger load was again light with just about 50 percent occupancy, both from business and leisure travellers. Take-off was performed from RWY25R after a fairly long and bumpy take-off run, which set off a small dog, transported inside the cain in its small portable cage, who started barking and whining nervously. The whole commotion subsided soon after we reached for the skies and the gear was raised.
Our flight path took us across the Main River just east of Wiesbaden, and the Feldberg was clearly visible while we were ascending to our crusing altitude of just 15.000ft. The only interesting part of the short hop was the landing - DUS was experiencing a modest crosswind, and we were notably touching down with the left main gear first in order to put the wing into the wind and avoid too much deviation from the centerline. Still, this mini-stunt provided more excitement for some of the passengers, who gasped and "ah"-wed on during the final seconds of our flight... I wonder how they would have felt onboard the Augsburg Airways DHC-8 I saw land and almost plow into the runway edge while I was driving by peoplemover to the train station a few minutes later?!
As we were allocated to a gate at the northern side of Terminal A this time, our taxying to the gate was very short, as was disembarkation. A nice and freindly goodbye, coupled with some free chocolates courtesy of Vodafone (presented to us on the way out of the aircraft) concluded this very straightforward no-nonsense flight.
I used to be very critical about Lufthansa's pricing strategies and the paucity of courteous and personal service you'll get as a humble passenger.
My recent travels in 2002/3 have indicated a change for the better though. It is now possible to fly domestically for just 92 Euros return on any nonstop connection, which is excellent value for money compared to going by car or wasting money on German Rail.
I would have never thought I'd write something like this only two years ago, but by now, I would happily recommend LH on short-haul domestic hops as long as the lower fare laveles are still available.
Thank you vor bearing with me all through this rather lengthy trip report! If you have anything to add, any comments questions or suggestions, please fell free to post them here, I#d be delighted to help you.