Although I usually take Air France from DUS (or lately the direct EasyJet flight from my hometown DTM) to fly to my favorite city, I decided to take Lufthansa this time in order to check out their new Terminal 2 in MUC. The flight was booked well before the new Miles and More regulations took effect, so I was expecting 4.000 miles for these four legs; instead I will now receive 1.250 miles, which is one of the several reasons, why I will no longer take Lufthansa for my private travels (except if there is no other choice). But I digress…
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Dortmund Airport (DTM)
I arrived at the airport about two hours form departure, parked my car at the remote parking lot P7 and took the shuttle bus to the terminal. Unusually for Dortmund, a fairly small provincial airport with about 2 million passengers per year, the terminal was fairly crowded. This effect is based on the currently ongoing main travel/ holiday season in this part of Germany and the new EasyJet hub, which commenced its operation in mid July.
The queue at the two remaining Eurowings/ Lufthansa check-in counters was fairly short, with two families checking in a huge pile of suitcases for their flights to Teheran. Since I had already selected my seats via internet check-in the evening before, I wasn’t in a hurry, so I waited patiently until these quite anxious and nervous travellers had gotten their act together.
The Lufthansa presence at the airport is only a shadow of Eurowing’s former glory days, when Dortmund’s hometown airline operated to a large variety of primary and secondary cities within Europe. However, since Lufthansa has assimilated Eurowings in 2000, the usual anti-competitive game has started, and all Eurowings routes from the airport save the one to MUC were discontinued. Today, even the flight to MUC is no longer operated exclusively by EW, instead there is a mixture of EW/ Contact Air and CL flights. Thankfully however, EasyJet has started a new hub in Dortmund, and I strongly hope that they will give Craphansa a run for their money in this part of Northrhine-Westphalia.
I spent the rest of my waiting time on the airside, watching a fairly tranquil apron with only an EasyJet A319 being prepared for its flight to ALC and an LGW DO-228 sitting idly in the August sun, waiting for the evening rotation to such illustrious places like THF, STR or ERF . Except for a very obnoxious First Officer dead-heading to MUC on our flight, who kept talking loudly into his cell-phone to some colleague, trying to impress the other waiting passengers with his “importance”, all the other travellers, among them six UM’s, a wheelchair passenger and two passengers with broken legs, were really calm and well mannered.
Boarding commenced a little late due to the delayed arrival of our ATR from MUC, and we were further set back by the complicated and time-consuming boarding procedure of all our passengers with special needs today (i.e. the UM’s, the wheelie guy and the broken leg dudes). Finally, however, it was time for the remaining passengers to walk down the stairs towards the apron and take a short stroll across the concrete where our ATR was waiting for us.
The flight (DTM-MUC)
Dortmund Holzwickede (DTM) - Munich Franz Josef Strauss (MUC)
Flight number:LH2106 (Operated by Contact Air)
Scheduled block time: 1250h - 1415h
Take-Off: 1308h (RWY 06)
Touch-down: 1418h (RWY 26R)
Aerospatiale/ Alenia ATR 42-500
delivered: September 24, 1999 to Eurowings
Photo © Sven Pipjorke
When I boarded the cabin, which is performed on the ATR from the rear of the aircraft, I was greeted by a friendly, blonde middle aged flight attendant. Some passengers had already taken their seats, but despite our small delay, no one seemed to be in a hurry, so I leisurely made my way to seat 06A, stored my backpack in the overhead compartment and took my seat.
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
While I was looking around the cabin of this ATR-42, I noticed a striking similarity with Eurowing’s former ATR-42’s, in fact the blue leather seats were the same original equipment, which was installed when the aircraft was first delivered to EW in 1999. In the meantime, EW has retired their smaller ATR’s, only keeping the ATR-72, so most of the -500’s have made their way to other Lufthansa Regional partners like Contact Air. The seating standard can be described as fairly typical - or shall I say - notorious for a regional prop, i.e. it was very, very cramped even for a fairly average sized guy like me. Luckily, sitting next to me was a kid of maybe ten years of age, who still hadn’t fairly small shoulders, so I was able to use his “air space” during the flight.
A few minutes later, boarding was completed, and with a dark rumble, the engines were started - first the turbofan engines began to spool up, followed a few seconds later by the propellers. At this moment, finally the air condition started to kick in, giving us a well-needed break from the stirring heat inside the small metal tube, which had been sitting in the glistening midday sun for more than half an hour.
Our fully booked aircraft left its parking position, spooled up the engines and turn towards the left on the taxiway in order to travel towards the threshold of RWY 06, leaving behind the brand new terminal building. While an Air Berlin 737 was touching down in front of us, we waited for another minute until the charter Boeing had vacated the runway, the engines spooled up again to a loud roar, brakes were released and our ATR thundered and rattled down the runway, lifting off into the blue afternoon sky after a 30 to 40 second takeoff run.
Gear was retracted a few hundred feet above the ground, and while we were travelling across the green outskirts of Dortmund, passing the “Kamener Kreuz” highway junction below, the flaps were retracted and speed increased while we were making a gentle southbound turn over the city of Unna. Unfortunately, the hazy sky soon started to obscure the outside view while we were travelling above the dark green forests of the “Sauerland”, a mountain range to the south of the Ruhr District, and a few minutes later clouds started to appear on the horizon, increasing in size and density on our journey to the deep south of Germany.
The cabin bell chimed, indicating the release of the cabin crew for their service run, and the two girls soon started their fairly standard service program on an internal German flight, i.e. a drink service. Unfortunately, the times where one could expect at least a roll, a piece of cake or a few cookies on a trip onboard of one of Germany’s regional airlines, is finally over - thanks to the assimilation by “Big Brother” Lufthansa, the cabin service has now degenerated to the same minuscule standard offered on Lufthansa’s mainline domestic flights.
The rest of the flight went by fairly quickly, and I dozed off a few minutes after the drink service was completed. The monotonous roar of the turboprops, which is so much louder on the “Lada of the skies”, compared to his commercially unsuccessful, but from a passenger’s point of view, so much more advanced and comfortable brother, the Fokker F-50, really took its toll on my concentration, so I decided it would be better to just spend the rest of the flight sleeping. Our flight path BTW took us from Dortmund via Frankfurt, Wuerzburg and Landshut to Munich at a cruising speed of 250 kts.
Regaining my consciousness while ouraircraft was just passing through a thick layer of rain clouds, shaking and rolling, I noticed that we were only a few hundred feet above the ground on our final apporach into a rain-soaked Munich. Under the heavy influence of cross wind, the pilot’s effort to point the nose of the plane into the strong winds were fairly noticeable. The ATR soared across the perimeter fence, and with some last minute maneuvering we were finally back again on terra firma.
The turboprops were put into reverse and within only a few hundred feet, our decelation had reached a virtual stop, so we exited the runway and proceeded towards the large apron adjacent to MUC’s new Terminal 2, which was filled with a variety of regional Dash-8‘s, ATR’s, CRJ’s and even a few Dorniers from Lufthansa Cityline, Air Engiadina, Lufthansa Regional, Cirrus Air and Eurowings. We reached our parking position in what seemed like the very last corner of the apron a few minutes later, props finally fell into a deafening silence (ever noticed how much louder and uncomfortable the ATR is compared to other regional turboprops?) and we left the aircraft through the rain and entered the bus, which brought us to the terminal, passing, among the more mundane 737’s and A320’s, a few Lufthansa A340-300 and even a -600 on our way.
Munich Airport (MUC)
Originally, I was scheduled to have only a brief layover at MUC, so I explored just a small portion of the huge new terminal before I decided to walk to my gate, which was, like the other regional departure lounges, located at the ground level. Here I picked up a news paper from the free selection of papers and magazines, Lufthansa is offering even to its Peasant Class customers, prepared a tea from the coffee and tea maker, which is also one of the few reaing extras Lufthansa is offering to its passengers compared to other so-called “Full service airlines”, sat down in front of the gate and waited.
Photo © Michal Buciak [epwa_spotters]
In my humble, the professionalism and reliability of an airline is not only indicated in times of smooth operations, but rather when something goes wrong. Lufthansa prides itself with the fact that it is not only a reliable airline, but also that they sort out any problems with your ttravel plans in case something goes wrong. I was about to test this for myself.
About 30 minutes from scheduled off-block time, a gate attendand appeard at the very modern, stylish and flat-screen decorated gate and announced ”Ladies and gentlemen, Lufthansa regrets to inform you that due to technical problems with our aircraft, our boarding will be delayed. We have not yet determiend what is wrong with the jet, but expect to annoucne more news at four o’clock.” Well, things like these happen, and at least they were acknowledging the most important strategy in case something goes wrong, i.e. giving the passengers ample information.
More minutes passed, and three more gate attendants arrived. Since I was sitting next to the counter, I was able to overhear most of their conversation. Obviously, something more difficult had happened to our Canadair, and they were discussing whether to cancel our flight and rebook our passengers onto the next Lufthansa- and Air France flights. Unfortunately for us - by this time I would have longed to travel again on good old Air France, my favorite carrier - this plane was about to leave Munich and the next possible Lufthansa flight at 1710h was scheduled to be a 737-500 with too few vacant seats in order to carry our “full house” of 70 passengers to Paris.
In the meantime, it was already a quarter past four, the passengers remained remarkably silent, and although I was growing increasingly impatient, I had to acknowledge the professionalism of the Lufthansa ground crew, which was really trying to sort out every viable way to bring us to Paris close to our original schedule.
Finally, about half past four and fourty minutes past our original off-block time another annoucnement was made, much to the delight of the waiting passengers: “Ladies and gentlement, we are now ready to start boarding in a few minutes.” The display on the flatscreen monitpr changed from “delayed” to “expected departure 1655h” and people were finally showing signs of relief that they were about to depart. A bus arrived in front our our gate briefly after half past four and within a few minutes, all passenegrs had boarded the vehicle which brought us to our CRJ through the poruing rain, which had increased in intensity during the last two hours.
The flight (MUC-CDG)
Munich Franz Josef Strauss (MUC) - Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
Flight number: LH5774 (operated by Lufthansa Cityline)
Scheduled block time: 1540h - 1710h
Take-off: 1714 (RWY 26R)
Touch-down: 1830h (RWY 27L)
Canadair CL-600-2C10 Regional Jet CRJ-700
delivered: November 2, 2002
Photo © Jerome Zbinden
The bus stopped in front of the CRJ, doors opened and passengers hurried to the welcoming 1L door through the heavy rain. We were greated by a young and quite friendly flight attendant, and I passed through the narrow and long tube towards my seat, which was located at 06F. This flight was again totally packed, with the majority of travellers being tourists either flying to Paris for their vacation or returning from their travels abroad to thei hometown, which is arguably the most beautiful city in the world.
A few minutes later, boarding was completed and an announcement was made from our pilot, Mr. Sasse: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome onboard this Lufthansa Cityline Canadair Jet to Paris. We would like to apologize for this delay. Your original plane has suffered a technical breakdown, and unfortunately, the replacment aircraft also went unserviceable. Therefore, our aircraft was pulled from its original rotation, which was supposed to be DUS-MUC-TXL. Instead we will now fly DUS-MUC-CDG. Please be patient for a few more minutes, since catering has to be loaded.”
Again thumbs up for the very positive information policy of Lufthansa! Keeping the passengers informed really helps to ease any potential tensions. The catering truck arrived soon afterwards, and within record time, the small gally was loaded with all necessary food and beverage items. Even before the truck had pulled away, the engines were started (barely noticeable when you are sitting int eh front part of the cabin)
Passing a few Lufthansa 737’s and A320 sitting at Terminal 2 on our way to the active runway, our pilot certainly cut some corners and chose not to depart from the threshold of RWY 26R, isntead taking an earlier access to the runway. Engines spooled up, and we shot down the runway like a white arrow, the pointy nose rotating briefly, before we pulled away from Bavarian soil and into the gey rain clouds.
Photo © Vasco Garcia
The next few minutes of our ride were really kind of bumpy, much to my amusmenet but quite frightening for a few other passengers. Finally, about twenty minutes after takeoff, we levelled of at FL 340, our speed increased to our cruising velocity of 450 kts and the Canadair Jet proceed on its flight path to Paris via Würzburg, Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Reims.
While the three cabin attendants prepared the food and drink trolley, I took a look around the cabin. The CRJ-700 is really one looong tube - the tunnel effect is still very evident despite the attempts of the cabind esigners to reduce it through clever lighting and curvature of the ceiling.
Photo © Bjorn Alegren
The seats were again the usual regional jet standard, i.e. very thin and very narrow. At least Lufthansa has decided to keep their trademark grey leather seats in these birds instead of their unwise decision to replace them with cheapo fabric seats on some of their 737’s (although I have heard that they are reverting back to leather after an abundance of customer complaints).
Cabin service today consisted of a drink and a meal service, the food options being “ham or cheese”. Yes you are right, the ubiquitous epitome of Economy Class standard food nowadays thrown at the passengers on short to medium haul routes! It is hard to say anything at all about the baguettes, which were offered in Peasant Class, their production must have cost only a few cents judging fromt heir taste or the lack of it.
The rest of the flight proceeded fairly quickly and soon we were starting our final descent into CDG through some scattered clouds and across the flat farmlands of the Picardie
Photo © Vasco Garcia
We were passing over some small villages and roads, and somehow I noticed a slight difference from the regular approach I have expereinced countless times on my previous voyages to Paris - it seemed like we were much too high. Soon enough, this subjective impression was validated, since engines suddenly spooled up and our Regional Jet began to climb again, soaring over the RWY 27L and regaining altitude before making a sharp turn to the north, away fron the airport. Gear was raised and flaps retracted to a smaller angle in order to stabilize the aircraft at a slightly higher speed while we were making a gentle right hand turn in order to line up again with the ILS to RWY 27L.
It has to be said that despite this unusal incident, the whole cabin remained totally calm, and even an air of amusement arose and quite some laughter started after the following annoucnement from the cockpit was made: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is once again your captain. As you will have noticed, we had to abort our landing and make a go-around. The reason… well… the controller inside the tower has dropped his microphone during our final descent and destroyed it, so we were without ground contact in the final phase of our flight.We will now line up again for approach and be on the ground soon….”
And so we did, in “Ground Hog Day” fashion, we were experiencing the same approach over the same well-known raods and villages once again, and this time touched down firmly, before decelarating and leaving the runway in order to reach Satellite 6 of Terminal 1, where we came to a standstill about one and a half hour after our scheduled time of arrival.
While we were leaving the aircraft into the balmy evening sun, I quickly snapped two pictures of an Air China B747-400 and A340-300 sitting at the adjacent satellite, the proceeded into the building, where I picked up my bag and took the RER (i.e. local train) downtown.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Our short family reunion was over much too soon, and I was back again at the airport only four days after my arrival in wonderful Paris.
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
It has to be said however, that CDG’s Terminal 1 certainly isn’t very wonderful. In fact, I cannot think of a greater difference between and city and its airport terminal. Constructed in the early Seventies as part of a revolutionary terminal design comprising a central terminal building and a ring of satellites with the boarding gates and -bridges, this place today is totally crowded, dark, run-down and, to use a much-used to term in the most appropriate manner, “a total dump”.
Photo © Jonathan Derden - SPOT THIS!
Once you have passed through the ordeal of the dark and crowded, smelly and loud check-in hall and have arrived at your airside satiellite, there is actually nothing you can do but just to sit, stare and wait for your flight to arrive and put you out of this misery. No shops, limited apron view through a double glass window and only a small bar. In one of the worst terminal layouts I have ever experienced, there are even no resttrooms on the airside, so once you feel a pressing urge, you are forced to go back to the non-sterile portion of the satellite, take a leak and pass through security again. Now how narrow-sighted and dumb is that?
Thankfully, our CRJ arrived very much on time, boarding started in typical Lufthansa fashion - right on time - and after a short walk through the midday sun, I was climbing up the stairs and entering the jet.
The flight (CDG-MUC)
Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) - Munich Franz Josef Strauss (MUC)
Flight number:LH4245 (operated by Lufthansa Cityline)
Scheduled block time: 1310h - 1450h
Take-Off: 1332h (RWY 28R)
Touch-down: 1441h (RWY 26R)
Canadair CL-600-2C10 Regional Jet CRJ-700
delivered: February 7, 2003
Photo © JetPix
I won’t go into much details regarding this flight. Everything was very standard. Our lightly booked aircraft (about 30 passengers) left the gate on time, proceeded towards the threshold of the southern ruwnay 28R, where we waitied for a few minutes before finally commencing take-off.
Photo © Vasco Garcia
This time I was sitting at the very rear of the aircraft, seat 20F thanks to the “wonderful” automated web check-in, and noticed that the cabin noise was much more evident or shall I say deafening, here in the rear of the cabin right next to the engines. After we had levelled of at FL 230, proceeding on our flight path (Paris-Reims-Luxembourg-Frankfurt-Wuerzburg-Munich), cabin service started once again.
We got thrown another sterile ham or cheese baguette at us (well, at leats the three girls of the cabin crew were really friendly)…
... got another drink service and I dozed of to the dark rumble of the engines for a good 45 minutes before our final descent started.
Photo © PatrickB
Soon enough, we had touched down on RWY 26R, decelerated and proceeded towards the regional jet- and prop-filled apron under a clear bue and white Bavarian sky. After leaving the aircraft and sying goodby to the cabin attendants, bus took us to the terminal, where I proceeded to the landside part.
Munich Airport (MUC)
My main motive to fly Lufthansa this time to CDG was to check ou the new Terminal 2, so I had scheduled a six-hour layover before my onward journey to Dortmund. After spending two and a half hours on the visitors deck, where I noticed, among the more mundane AF, KL and BA 737’s and A320’s, quite a few Tu-154’s (i.e. Aeroflot, Siberia and Tajikistan Airways), I walked back to the Terminals, grabbed some dinner and explored the landside portion of T2.
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
The terminal certainly is an improvement over the original Temrinal 1, which was not designed for hub operations - the old building was eperated in sveeral units, which made transferring between flights definitely a trick task.
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
Photo © Michael Fritz
The new terminal is a long, but nevertheless easy to navigate constructions with ample waiting space next to the gates (which are located at the eastern front of the temrinal), a central infrastructure line with restrom, shops and bars and, at the western front of the terminal, the “traffic zone” with moving walkways and a lotof maneuvering space for pedestrians. I will now stop boring you with more details, but being an airport planner myself, I found hardly any major flaws with the design of the finctional zones on the airside portion of the terminal.
Boarding for our short hop to Dortmund started in the evening, the sun was already going down and in the red lights of the dusks, the Boeings and Airbusses of Lufthansa’s continental European fleet looked so much more enchanting and full of life than during their everyday operations at airport sall over our continent.
The flight (MUC-DTM)
Munich Franz Josef Strauss (MUC) - Dortmund Holzwickede (DTM
Flight number:LH2153 (operated by Lufthansa Cityline)
Scheduled block time: 2045h - 2150h
Take-Off: 2105h (RWY 08L)
Touch-down: 2150h (RWY 24)
Canadair CL-600-2B19 Regional Jet CRJ-100LR
delivered: July 7, 1995
Photo © Johan Junemo
Boarding our very well-booked flight (about 40 passengers, most of them wearing busienss attire) via bus was completed with only ten minutes delay, the cabin door was closed and soon enough the engines spooled up again in order to propell our little Canadair to the runway.
Photo © Bjorn Alegren
We took off eastbound into the night, turned to the north and proceeded with our climb until we reached acrusing altitude of 24.000 feet. Night had already fallen on Europe, so there were millions of small lights of cities and towns, streets and railway lines visible in the pitch dark below us on our way from Muncih across Wuerzburg and Fulda to Dortmund.
Photo © Max Teuber
Cabin service was pretty standard - another round of drinks - and the cabin interior very much resembles the one of the CRJ-100’s larger sibling, which I had flown on my previous flights. The mood itself inside the cabon was tranquil, almost somber - many fellow passengers were sleeping, others reading the newspaper or staring out of the window into the dark.
All too soon, descent was initiated and we touched down on Dortmund’s ruwnay 24 after passing over Unna, the Kamener Kreuz and Holzwickede. Reversers roared, and while we were vcanating the ruwnay for the short taxi towrds the well-lit and welcoming terminal, we were bid a final farewell from our captain, who seemed to be very much at the end of his motivation, too: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Frankfurt… err, Dortmund. You see, it was a long day, time to go to bed. (Laughter inside the cabin). We wish you a pleasant stay here in the Dortmudn are or a safe travel home.”
Right when a thunderstorm began to rumble in the not too distant west of the airport, we left the CRJ throught he front door and walked towards the terminal. A very long, but nevertheless very interesting trip was finally over and I was happy to drive back home, where my girfriend was waiting for me.
Lufthansa offers a reliable, no-nonsense product. If you are travelling with the German national airline, you can be sure that you will reach your destination on time or close to on time. In case something goes wrong, they sort out these problems and make their utmost efforts to bring you to your desired location.
Whenever I am travelling on business and take Lufthansa, I can relax and be confident that they will “deliver” me at my destination on time, so I can reach my appointments. This is worth a small premium, however, with “upscale” low cost carriers like Air Berlin, Germanwings or EasyJet available in my home market now, our company is increasingly taking the LCC approach, because the “service plus” Lufthansa is offering, is not worth double or thrice the ticket fare on a short or medium haul flight.
As a private traveller with more time to spare, Lufthansa is now only one of several options, and it is certainly not worth any ticket price premium compared to low cost carriers anymore. In my humble opinion, they have done away with many of the small amenities and gadgets, which made flying “full frills carriers” something more desirable and attractive than flying “low cost”. Now, with only a marginal cabins ervice, abysmal seat pitch and a frequent flyer program without any chance to accrue sufficient miles if you are a “seldom traveller”, it makes more sense to fly a low cost carrier or other competitors.
For my part, I will continue to fly LH when flying on my company’s expense (if they are allowing it) or if there are no other viable options. However, every other route will most likely see me take flights on Skyteam airlines, where I have the majority of my frequent flyer points and where mileage accrual is still positive, or take the “no frills” approach, which offers a productwith high value for money.
Thank you for your patience! Comments, questions or just a small “thank you” note are highly appreciated by your humble author.