At the travel agency we found a nice offer for Hurghada, Egypt, four plus star hotel, all inclusive at a very attractive price. The only decision left was on taking which airline. Air Berlin, Hapag Lloyd, Thomas Koch, LTU and even AMC Airlines were possible. I decided against the omnipresent B738, and I didn’t want to take the Kochs (I will try to get the 753 elsewhere), and AMC Airlines is not an airline I really would enjoy to fly…so I voted for LTU which I hadn’t flown before and which I was very interested in trying out.
München (MUC) – Hurghada (HRG)
LT 6654, 20.20-01.35
D-ALTJ (2002 model, msn 1838)
Photo © Michael Nikel
Photo © Daniel & Robert Fall
I arrived at MUC early and had to kill some time until check in counters opened. I walked over to Terminal 2 and realized for the first time that there is no underground connection between the two terminals. One always has to leave the buildings, with only that high roof construction offering a bit protection from the weather – it doesn’t keep off the wind well. It was so damn cold that day that I turned really angry at that strange construction. But since both terminals were not planned to function as connection terminals they had a good reason to save money for a underground tunnel.
When the counters opened about 40 people were already waiting and I was glad being there early. Typical ‘touri’ atmosphere soon could be felt as people started to complain about other people who obviously didn’t wait in an exactly straight row …
At check in I requested a seat in row 29, right side. I received my boarding pass and went through security. Terminal 1, section C was not very frequented, only few flights were about to depart or arrive at this late Saturday evening. Air Mauritius B762, Aer Lings A320, Onur Air A321, that was all. According to the departures screens my flight was supposed to leave at gate C10, but my boarding pass said C6. I found out there was another LTU flight to Hurghada 20 minutes later and I wasn’t sure which gate was the right one. At C6 it showed my flight number so I guessed this was the right gate. An announcement later confirmed that. The nose of the aircraft showed a standard livery and a closer look showed me the registration was D-ALTJ.
Boarding was started on time and I took my seat 29E. Seat pitch was not good, as expected. 174 seats is close to the full capacity and that’s what you get on the ‘touri bombers’. The flight was completely full, no seat was left empty.
After leaving the gate we passed the other LTU A320 to HRG which was scheduled to leave 20 minutes later, and of course I knew it before, it was a soccer logojet, the Bayer Leverkusen one. Bad luck again and again, who is the bastard who calls the airlines and tells them ‘hey, take the standard plane, crazy guy Udo is coming!’… ?
However, missing the soccer logojet is not comparable to the trauma which I once suffered from after I had been sat on a worn out Cathay B744 without PTVs and in old colors while the other London flight got the shiny Spirit of Hong Kong…
We taxied to the southern runway quite fast, no other traffic around and without waiting we turned in and accelerated. A fully loaded A320 on a four hour flight is not a rocket but well, it’s still miles ahead of an A340 classic. Shortly after take off we turned left and headed towards Austrian airspace. The flight routing was shown for about 20 minutes, then they started LTU ads and previews, followed by a movie with Walter Matthau which I didn’t watch. I decided to invest the 2,50 Euro for the new designed LTU headset on the return flight.
A cold dinner was served one hour later, it consisted of pieces of chicken breast, potato salad, fruit salad, cheese, and a tasty cake. I would rate the meal’s quality really good. Alcoholic drinks had to be paid for but I didn’t mind and remained with soft drinks. Cabin crew was very friendly by the way.
We flew along the Croatian coast, then we directly crossed Crete and headed towards Cairo. The flight was not very smooth, and the captain warned of possible upcoming turbulences due to wind speeds of more than 250 km/h over Egypt. I was already looking forward to see our ‘touri bomber’ being shaken but nothing happened. We passed Cairo in the West and came closer to Hurghada. I had read most of the time and time had passed quickly. Soon descent was started and after a turn off the Red Sea coast we approached Hurghada. Touch down was normal, and after taxiing to our parking position it happened: people started to applause!!! Oh my god, how embarrassing…
Stairways were placed at both ends and after walking out I was almost blown away by the wind, and it was damn cold! I though we had landed in Germany again, not a nice welcome. A bus brought us to the terminal building which didn’t look really big. Some other LTU flights had landed as well, plus some other planes and the arrival hall was packed with masses of touris. However, passport control and visa check could be passed quicker than expected and we could start waiting for the luggage. The belts didn’t really work at the beginning and airport staff had to use force in order to make them move. Trolleys by the way were only given away for 2 Euro…
Finally our cases showed up and we could follow the masses of touris fighting their way towards the 20 or 30 busses waiting outside.
Hurghada (HRG) – München (MUC)
LT 6655, 02.35-06.05
D-ALTC Bayer Leverkusen logojet (2001 model, msn 1441)
Photo © Toni Marimon
Photo © Jorge Abreu - Madeira Spotters
Spotting by the way was only possible on distance because the airport is totally blocked off and cannot be reached by visitors but only passengers. And even if, then I would not try to use my binoculars there – and never would I try to write down regs…Egyptian prisons are definitely not a good place to spend the summer I guess…
I then watched aircraft approaching and leaving from the beach which was possible most of the time. There was great traffic on some days, examples were Kras Air IL86, East Line IL86, different TU154, Air Finland B757, the remaining Flash Air B733 (!), AMC MD80, plus most European holiday carriers.
After a very relaxing week in and around Hurghada it was time to go home. I was a bit concerned that I might not be able to catch a good seat at check in because all people on our flight were brought to the airport at the same time. It was impossible to take an earlier bus though there might have been empty seats. But the rule was ‘same flight – same bus’. At the airport I found myself as number 40 or so to check in but I was lucky almost nobody seemed to request certain seats. I decided to take row 30, seat A this time. Oh, before reaching the check in area, every piece of luggage and every passengers is screened. The Egyptians take security really serious!
After check in one has to pass another security check, along with passport and visa control. Then you reach the departure area which doesn’t look very inviting. The area looks like a big bazaar, and walls, roofs, seats, everything is in a bad shape. When we tried to use the toilets we were stopped by four guys who wanted a 2 Euro entrance fee – and I said, thanks, I’ll use the LTU toilet instead!
Masses of passengers were moving through the area since there were around eight flights within an hour – quite a high number for the small facilities. 45 minutes prior to departure we decided to proceed to the gate and we were shocked because there was an endless queue of people waiting – another metal detector check had to be passed and there was only ONE entrance! I though we might face some time pressure but the queue moved faster than expected. Then another gate confusion occurred: on the TV screen at the gate for the LTU to Frankfurt they showed our flight to MUC. People for both flights headed to the same gate and then boarding was started for the FRA flight – with MUC pax also trying to go out there. Then there was a correction announcement on the gate issue and the combined FRA and MUC crowd looked like a confused swarm of bees…I then had passed security and arrived on time for boarding – at the right gate.
We were taken on a bus again I had already expected to see another standard plane – but oh wonder, we got the Bayer Leverkusen logojet!
It was really funny when our bus stopped in front of that large Bayer 04 logo…most pax were Bavarians and many of them Bayern München fans obviously…and while I was laughing, I heard a nice mix of wild voices, shouting thinks like ‘What is this?’, ‘Is that a joke’, ‘Sauerei’, ‘Sakrament, wolln dei uns verorschn?’
I left the bus and unfortunately I found only the front entrance being accessible…and the queue didn’t move. It was so damn cold again, and the wind almost blew me away again. Then after some 10 minutes they realized the problem and a stairway was placed at the rear entrance. I was the first running around the wing and could soon enter the warm cabin. A very nice crew welcomed me and I took my seat 30A. Boarding was soon completed and again the aircraft’s 174 seats were filled. We left the parking position on time and taxied towards the runway. We waited for a departing Air Polonia B734 and then we took off. No spectacular event again, however the strong winds could be felt intensively.
This time I bough a head set but soon disappointed about LTU’s audio channels. There was no channel with new hits or charts, but just stuff like folk songs, classic, Cuban, Caribbean, Latino and whatever music. Very weak, LTU, very weak. They showed the movie ‘Seabiscuit’ but I didn’t watch it.
Seat pitch was even worse in the last row and I just had to tolerate it. Four hours is really the maximum for such a pitch, how terrible!
It was announced that a hot breakfast would be served and I though we would get it some 1,5 hours before landing. However, they started serving it half an hour after departure – 03.15 at night is not a perfect time to eat an omelette with cheese and ham. Meanwhile we passed Cairo and it was impressive to see its endless lights.
After breakfast cabin lights were turned back and I started to sleep a bit. Drinks were only served twice during the whole flight (the same as one week ago) which was quite disappointing.
After some four hours we passed Salzburg and descent was started. As aircraft number three on arrival this morning we landed some 10 minutes early. Again my ears were forced to listen to some guys’ happy applause…it was really time to leave the aircraft NOW!
At the end it was a nice trip, but I was disappointed by LTU. They are quite average, I haven’t seen any special strengths which would make them different from their competitors. The service or overall product offered was not very spectacular. I’m quite sure traditional holiday carriers like LTU, Thomas Cook or Hapag Lloyd will have to question their short and medium haul operations in the long term. LCC are already in use by tour operators and I fear we will see more transitions from holiday carriers towards LCC in the future. A free meal and free soft drinks are just not enough to justify higher costs.
[Edited 2004-03-16 21:18:09]
[Edited 2004-03-16 21:21:25]
[Edited 2004-03-16 21:23:36]