Return on July 10, 09.40.
I first visited Berlin (via Tegel) 7 years ago for a shopping day trip and was fascinated by the changing city so I thought it was time for a longer visit.
This was my first experience with EasyJet but the taxidriver taking me to Luton(at 04.30!) told me that he and his friends were regulars on the Luton to Glasgow route for golfing weekends and they had never had any problems.
Photo © Mario Aurich
The airport was heaving with travellers at 05.00 with plenty of business at the EasyJet check in desks. My own line was delayed by two youths with backpacks, one of whom was refused check-in and directed to another part of the airport. The check in lady sighed heavily and told me that his passport photo was almost torn from the passport. Otherwise, check in and security were uneventful.
We were boarded according to check-in numbers by groups of 30. My number was 38 so I was in the second group and able to get a right side window seat on our nearly full 737, well behind the engine with good views. Taxi and take off were smooth and we climbed away from runway 26 into a clear blue sky. Views were superb but we hit turbulence crossing the Dutch coast. The First Officer spoke to us for the first time that day, telling us that we were descending to 29,000 feet for smoother air.
Cabin service was brisk and efficient, with drinks and snacks available at premium prices for those desperate for sustenance on the 1 hour 20 minute trip. One sadist ordered a bacon sandwich, the aroma of which, I suspect, made half the cabin, myself included, salivate!
A strong tail wind meant a long circular detour around north Berlin, offering views of first Tegel, then Templehof, and a final turn to the West to approach Schonefeld for one of those long, floaty, hanging final approaches into the wind where the aircraft with flaps down feels as if it might stop in mid air. A smooth landing on 25L and a fast taxi brought a 5 minute early arrival.
Every passport was scrutinised closely, to the annoyance of the lady behind me who said that she had been waved through at Tegel the week before.
By the way, if you are visiting Berlin, when you get into the arrivals area, turn right and walk through to the newspaper shop at the entrance to the EasyJet hall and buy a Berlin/Potsdam travel pass. I bought a 72 hour pass for 21 Euros which was perfect, as I was arriving at 09.30 on a Wednesday and returning to the airport at 08.00 on the Saturday. The pass also offers discounts from all sorts of tourist places so it was a great deal.
Returning on Saturday morning, check in was easy and security exceptionally careful. Having been well gone over with the electronic ping-pong bat, I even had to put my feet on a foot stool so that the security man could feel over my shoes and socks.
I have to say, though, I was disappointed with Schonefeld. I know that the aim of the exercise is to move passengers through and out as quickly as possible, but the departure lounge areas are painfully small and cramped.
I seem to remember Tegel being very similar. There was a news item while I was there about Templehof being earmarked for closure so maybe Schonefeld will expand its facilities to deal with increased demand.
Called forward to Gate 00 we were herded into a small room, with passports checked as we went. Unfortunately, the room had no toilet, so one of the ladies first in had to ask permission to go out again before we were all ready!
Our 737 was parked only 100 metres away so we were allowed out in our groups of 30. The aircraft was parked with its nose towards us with everyone climbing the front stairs, but I noticed a flight attendant waving vigorously from the rear door so I nipped smartly up the wobbly rear stairs and had plenty of choice of seats. I chose a window seat again.
A couple came into the seats beside me. The gent was asked to move out of the aisle into the row to let others pass and he did so, dropping a very large bag between his knees. The bag eventually stayed there, as once he had sat down he did not attempt to put it into the overhead lockers, and a newspaper concealed it from passing cabin staff.
We departed on time, again with almost all seats full, and climbed into cloud, continuing up to 38,000 feet. Fortunately, the cloud cleared as we approached the English coast so the views were good on our straight in approach to runway 26 at Luton where we enjoyed a smooth landing. As we turned off the runway, the landing lights of another aircraft were close behind. This was to their advantage, as we trundled off to a distant parking spot and were bussed back, whereas they (also EasyJet) parked straight in front of the terminal, so they beat us to Passport Control!
Photo © Ian Woodcock
Photo © Ian Woodcock
Luton seems to process people quickly so it was only a few minutes before I was jumping on to the free shuttle bus to trundle down to Luton Airport Parkway Station to head for home.
So what do I think of EasyJet? My impression is of a highly efficient airline working within very tight boundaries. Cabin staff remind passengers to make sure that all rubbish is handed in or taken with them to facilitate fast turnaround times, and everything seems geared to making sure that every second counts when the aircraft is on the ground. I notice that EasyJet have advertised for airports across Europe who can achieve very short turn around times, without which the whole thing would fall apart.
Cabin staff were friendly and cheerful, the aircraft were clean and seemed well
maintained and my ticket was competitively priced. Good luck to EasyJet - I think I will be back!