I am currently travelling 4-6 times a year to Milton Keynes in England. I the past I had mainly used Ryanair HHN-STN or Germanwings CGN-STN. However I got kind of tired of the long bus journey from STN to M.K. and also of Ryanair (Sure, they bring you from A to B, but try e.g. telling a Ferrari enthusiast that the local bus will take him to his destination as good as a Testarossa )
So I decided to try something new for my recent trip in February and booked a web saver return ticket from CGN to BHX on Duo Airways. Air Fare was 140EUR, all taxes included. Quite a bit higher than the 25EUR I paid for my last Ryanair ticket, but still much less than these routes used to cost not too long ago. BHX also has the advantage of being only 48 minutes by Virgin Train from Milton Keynes, compared to the shaky 2.5h bus ride from Stansted.
OK, booking was as easy as it can be and after a few minutes I had an email with my trip details:
Your booking is confirmed for the following flights: ______________________________________________
Date: 1 Feb 2004
Depart: COLOGNE 20:20
Arrive: BIRMINGHAM 20:40
Date: 6 Feb 2004
Depart: BIRMINGHAM 18:00
Arrive: COLOGNE 20:25
Fares excluding taxes: EUR 98.11
Taxes: EUR 41.89
Total: EUR 140.00
One week before the flight I got an email from Duo, informing me that my outbound flight is rescheduled to 20:55-21:15.
On Sunday, 01FEB it only took me 1.5h to get to CGN airport and very early I went to the Check in counter. I was quite surprised to see that they still showed 20:20 as departure time. The agent checked me in and told me that the flight is approximately one hour delayed... and other passengers had already shown them a similar email like mine, but they were not aware of a planned schedule change. Anyway there was an announcement shortly afterwards that departure of flight VB119 (Ah VB... still remember this code from their old "Birmingham Executive" days!) would be at 20:45.
The gate was located in the new terminal in CGN where all passengers got a double security screening before we could go to our bus. After a short wait we were brought to the aircraft, a Canadair CRJ-700, G-DUOB, here a photo taken earlier on the same day:
Photo © Jean-Luc ALTHERR
I had never flown on the CRJ-700, but was quite amazed that it is so much bigger (especially higher!) than the CRJ-200. I also noticed some pretty clever innovations like the extra compartment in front of the port wing for hand luggage delivered at the air stairs. While I am not at all a fan of the smaller CRJs, I was very positively surprised by the interior of the CRJ-700. Obviously the designers at Bombardier had listened to their customers' customers and have not only stretched the fuselage but also lowered the floor by 2.5cm and moved the windows up by some 11cm! (No, I didn’t take measures, but read the dimensions later in a magazine )This gives a far more spacious feeling than in the rather claustrophobius CRJ-200!
But back to the flight: Once on board we were welcomed by a friendly female flight attendant. Seating was no problem as we were only 7 or 8 passengers that evening. I took my assigned seat 8F, just on the wing root. The cabin is filled with 70 leather seats in Duo’s grey-greenish colour (anyone knows how to describe the colour better?). The leg room is very generous, far more than one would expect from a regional aircraft.
At 20:58 we left the parking position and taxied to runway 14L for takeoff. All I could hear from the engines was a VERY distant whining... Then the next surprise: This little aircraft is definitely not underpowered! The takeoff was like sitting on a rocket and within no time we climbed steeply into the dark sky over Cologne... Yeah, that's it, a Ferrari and no city bus .
Soon we got a warm dinner, served on China. I think it was beef in a red wine sauce (am not a too big beef fan, but that's not the fault of Duo) with a salad, a little bottle of Italian olive oil/vinegar and rolls. I was just thinking when I got the last time a warm meal on a 1h20min flight but could not remember any more... the Service was very friendly and professional, up to par with any European business class I’ve flown so far. After the dinner a twix candy bar was offered and shortly before arrival in BHX the cabin crew served hot towels. The only thing that did not really fit to Duo’s business-like image was the selection of the newspaper : I think they rather should offer no newspaper at all rather than the tabloid “Sunday Express”….
During the whole flight the captain spoke a couple of times to the passengers and gave details about our arrival and the expected weather at the destination. After 1h15min we passed to the west of the airport of Birmingham and made a long turn over the city prior to landing on runway 15. Somewhere down there were some fire works…amazing how tiny they looked from the aircraft perspective! As previously announced, the approach was very bumpy due to strong wind, also resulting in a – let’s say “solid” – landing.
Taxi time was very quick and soon we disembarked at Terminal 2, the BA “Eurohub”. I took my bags from the conveyor belt and went to the airport train station, just in time to catch my planned train to Milton Keynes.
On Friday, 06FEB, it was time to return home. I arrived at BHX at around 1500h, went to Duo’s check in counter in T2 and got my boarding pass for the flight to CGN, this time seat 4A. Despite the rather lousy weather I spent the remaining time outside, watching the variety of BAe 146s. Of course I also used the opportunity to visit the Ian Allen bookshop in T1 to leave some money there…
Boarding was well on time, but I nearly came late because I didn’t find the gate… “Door F (?)” Gate 12, well hidden behind a corner. Anyway, this time we were about 35 passengers, more than half of them German businesspeople. Unfortunately it was raining cats and dogs, so that we only ran one by one from our dry shelter under the “finger” to the air stairs of the CRJ-700, this time G-DUOA. I always thought that the 700 can use the finger docks?
Photo © JetPix
Anyway, once on board we were again received with a warm (and dry ) welcome, one of the flight attendants even made the announcement in German. Well on time we left our parking position and taxied towards runway 15 for an immediate, again rocket-like takeoff. A few minutes later the clouds gave a little glimpse on the city centre of London, with the high rise buildings at Canary Wharf and London City airport nicely visible. Dinner was served, this time a very tasty and quite spicy seafood rice with a similar salad to the one from the outbound flight. Again full bar service, twix bar and hot towels.
All too soon we were on descent, and after a flying time of just one hour we touched down at CGN’s runway 25 and taxied to the remote parking behind the A pier, next to a European Air Express ATR-42. A bus brought us to Terminal 2 arrivals where the bags turned up shortly afterwards.
Well, back home now with at least four more trips to the UK this year. After these great experiences with Duo you can bet that I already booked my next available flight with them! As said in their advertisements : "When did you last enjoy a flight?" In my case this was the 6th of February
OK, hope you like the report, sorry again for the length