Tuesday, 14 September 2004
Friedrichshafen (FDH) – Berlin Tempelhof (THF)
Flight number: 3L 362
Scheduled departure time: 14:15
Scheduled arrival time: 15:55
Type of aircraft: Dash 8-300 Q
Photo © Kai-jens Meyer
Photo © Renato Burkhart
This aircraft was built in 1998 and flew originally for Augsburg Airways in Team Lufthansa before being leased by InterSky in 2003.
I arrived at Friedrichshafen Airport by train after a journey from Stuttgart of about 2 hours. There is a very convenient direct InterRegioExpress service which links Ulm with Friedrichshafen Airport. There were still 3 hours left to my departure, but I wanted to explore this regional airport a bit.
Photo © Florian Sindermann
The terminal is quite modern and has a nice viewing deck. But the apron was completely empty. The only interesting thing was a Zeppelin NT taking off for a sightseeing flight from the other side of the airport. The terminal itself was extremely crowded as there were 4 flights leaving nearly at the same time: Ryanair B 737-800 to STN, Hapag-Lloyd B 737-800 to AYT, Eurowings / LH ATR 72 to FRA and “my” InterSky flight to THF. I took a seat close to the check-in area and waited. Ryanair check-in opened at 12:00 for the departure at 14:10. The flight seemed to have a good load factor and I was surprised to see that the majority of the FR-passengers appeared to be British tourists. But the terminal facilities are definitely not designed to handle 2 fully booked 738’s at the same time: you couldn’t find any free space, it was crowded as hell.
Check-in for the InterSky flight to THF opened at 13:00, only 1:15 before departure. A bit short from a passenger’s point of view, but of course enough time to check everybody in. InterSky flights at FDH are handled by Avicon, the local handling agent who is also responsible for the FR-flights. The lady at the InterSky desk seemed to be some kind of supervisor as her two colleagues at the FR-desks always asked her questions. Nevertheless, check-in procedure was quick and efficient; I requested a window seat in the back of the aircraft and got 14F, the very last row. I asked the check-in agent how many passengers were booked on this flight and was told that there were 30 pax, so load factor was 60%.
I made my way through security control to the waiting area. There are 6 gates at FDH, 3 of them being domestic, 3 international and occupied by Ryanair at that time. At 13:45 I saw InterSky D-BLEJ arriving from VIE and stopping at a position a bit further away from the terminal as the positions directly in front of the gates had already been occupied by FR and HF. As this was half-time of the day’s operations of this InterSky aircraft, there was a crew change. I could see the crew of my flight walking to the aircraft: A captain aged around 40, an extremely young first officer and a young female flight attendant.
Boarding started at 14:00 and was done by the same agent who had already checked me in. To my surprise, there was no bus service. The gate agent just told us to walk to the far back side of the apron, “The small plane back there”. So, together with the other passengers, I had a nice walk passing directly in front of the FR and the HF. When arriving at our Dash 8, we were welcomed by the flight attendant and offered free magazines. The cabin was Lufthansa Regional-style with light grey leather seats, so InterSky obviously didn’t change the interior when taking over the aircraft from Augsburg Airways, but the seats looked still all right.
Photo © Renato Burkhart
The first 2 rows (which means 6 seats as there are only 2 seats in row one) were reserved for Business Class passengers. There were 3 of them on this flight, the rest of the passengers were booked in Economy. I took my seat 14F, and the seat next to me remaining empty. Seat comfort was good for a regional aircraft, but I realized two things: the seats were non-reclining (not only in the last row but also in the other rows) and there were no window shades (did they get some advice from Michael O’Leary ?? )
The passengers were a mixture of business travellers and leisure travellers; however, leisure travellers seemed to be the majority which might be caused by the flight time in the early afternoon and the fact that there is only one daily flight on this route. I guess they could attract more passengers by offering two daily flights – in the morning and in the evening, but of course they can’t offer all destinations at that times with only one aircraft based at FDH.
The flight attendant made the welcome announcements and the safety instructions. She had a slightly Austrian accent and was wearing a T-shirt with the InterSky logo. The engines were started and we taxied to the runway. Shortly before take-off, there was a welcome announcement from the flight deck: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard, we will take off in minute”. That was all we heard from the cockpit for the whole flight; there was no in-flight announcement to inform passengers about flight route, altitude, etc. which I missed a bit as I always like to know where I am flying. But even with these short words it couldn’t be overheard that the Captain was Swabian (on the way back there was a Swiss captain, so the airline staff seems to be quite international). We took off over Lake Constance with great views to the coast and the lake with ferries and many sailing ships on it. Later we turned North and it became clouded.
A bit later, cabin service started. The flight attendant was still very young and highly motivated: service was extremely friendly and attentive. At first she told the passengers that InterSky was doing a survey about possible further destinations. She distributed questionnaires which everybody who liked was asked to fill in and return. The question asked was: “Which new destinations would you find useful to be served from FDH by InterSky?” For those of you who want to know: The destinations to choose from were TLS, ERF, GRZ, CDG, BCN, FCO, MXP, DUS, DRS, AMS, PRG, BUD and as summer destinations (with probably only weekly service) NCE, VCE and SPU.
The passengers in Business Class received a free meal and drink service, then the flight attendant walked through Economy Class and asked if somebody wanted to buy something, writing down the orders. Choice were sandwiches, butter pretzels, cake, sweet or salty snacks and all kinds of drinks (hot, cold, alcoholic, non-alcoholic). I had an orange cake and a coffee for all in all EUR 3,00. By the way: they used LH-sugar packages. About half of the passengers bought something. With only 30 passengers and a net flight time of 1:30, there was plenty of time for the cabin service, so the meal service was followed by the sale of what was called Travel Value products which consisted of jellybabies in aircraft shapes and aircraft models of the InterSky Dash 8.
When we came over Brandenburg, the air became clear and the flat landscape with many lakes was visible. The approach into THF was really impressive and lead directly over the Southern suburbs of Berlin. Touch-down was rather hard. We taxied to a position in front of the terminal where we arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule. When the passengers left the aircraft, the captain stood at the exit and said goodbye to the passengers. I thanked the crew for this great flight and everybody walked the short distance to the terminal. There are no real arrival facilities at THF; you walk up some stairs and go through a door which leads directly into the departure hall. The only luggage belt for domestic flights is also in this hall (I suppose there is a second luggage belt in the customs area for international flights). Luggage arrived very quickly.
I spent some time with my friend and I also explored the city myself. I have been to Berlin quite often, but it is a place where I always like to return. After two days it was time to fly back.
Thursday, 16 September 2004
Berlin Tempelhof (THF) – Friedrichshafen (FDH)
Flight number: 3L 363
Scheduled departure time: 16:30
Scheduled arrival time: 18:10
Type of aircraft: Dash 8-300 Q
Photo © Daniel Werner
Photo © Bruno Althaus
I arrived at Tempelhof Airport by Underground at around noon. The old terminal building with the huge departure hall is really impressive and reminded me of the old days when flying was still something special. A really historic place.
Photo © Ralph Peters
Photo © Bernd Lawrenz
The Berlin regional government wants to close THF at the end of October this year and move all traffic to TXL or SXF. There are some groups of airlines, companies and private people who want to keep the airport, but at the moment it looks like the end of THF is near. In my eyes a wrong decision as a city airport can be an important economical benefit for a city, and when the large new airport at SXF will be opened in some years and TXL is also planned to be closed down, THF might be a valuable alternative especially for business travel. LCY shows that a city airport can be run very successfully if you have the right concept.
But THF is already dying slowly: Many offices and counters in the large terminal are empty, the place is somehow deserted. There was a notice that all Denim Air flights had been moved to TXL from September 13 and all OLT flights will move to TXL from September 20, so I was lucky that InterSky didn’t move yet. Like most airlines at THF, InterSky is handled by Globe Ground Berlin. As there were quite a few flights leaving at about the same time, they opened one check-in counter for all flights, which were Cirrus Airlines (MHG, SCN), EAE (FMO), OLT (BRE), LGW (DTM) and of course InterSky (FDH). A very friendly lady checked me in and I received a Eurowings boarding pass.
I passed security control and proceeded to the gate area to get a view to the apron (you don’t see anything from the main departure hall). There are 4 gates for domestic flights and one international gate that was used for an LX-flight to BSL. A nice variety of regional aircraft (Dash 8, Do 328, Metroliner, Saab 2000) was visible, as well as a Germania F 100 which is used for daily flights to ATH and SKG. As I already mentioned, there were 4 or 5 flights leaving at about the same time, so the gate agent went from gate to gate and made one boarding announcement after the other. To avoid confusion, passengers were bussed to their aircraft, and always when the bus returned, they boarded the next flight. Load factors on this early afternoon flights were very light: 5 pax on an OLT Metro to BRE, 4 pax on an EAE Metro to FMO, and so on.
Photo © Bart Noëth
Photo © Daniel Werner
A Zeppelin with some Japanese titles was also on the apron – a nice greeting from Friedrichshafen!
When D-BLEJ from InterSky arrived from FDH, the apron as well as the gate area had emptied. After the passengers from the incoming flight had left the aircraft, a tank truck arrived to tank up the plane. Obviously fuel is less expensive at THF than at FDH. When this was finished, boarding was announced, this time without a bus as the aircraft was perked close to the terminal. The gate agent walked ahead and the 28 passengers followed her. This time there were no passengers in Business Class. I had seat 4F and the seat next to me remained empty again.
It was a different flight crew than two days before, this time we had a Swiss captain and again an Austrian flight attendant. The announcement from the captain was again made before take-off. It was not as short as on the first flight, but also not really detailed (something like “after take-off we will be heading South” – what a surprise! )
After a quite long taxi to the runway we took off. It was a clear and sunny day, and I got an excellent view to the skyline of Berlin. Really great.
In-flight service was similar to the flight two days before. This time I had a butter pretzel and an orange juice for EUR 4,00. Quite a lot of people bought something. As I didn’t know any details of our flight route, I could only guess which cities we crossed. But finally I caught sight of a place that is very familiar to me: we were flying over Stuttgart Airport! It was the first time for me to see my home airport from high flying altitude, but I recognized it immediately. From Stuttgart it was not too far any more to FDH. Approach was again over Lake Constance. This time there was a second announcement made by the captain (“Ladies and gentlemen, we will soon be landing” ). We touched down and taxied to a parking position in front of the terminal, next to a Eurowings ATR 72-500 which was the only visitor besides our aircraft. All passengers left the plane, walked to the terminal and entered the arrival area where luggage arrived quickly.
Conclusion: InterSky offers a good product and good value for money. They have introduced a low-fare concept on regional routes and beat the prices of traditional regional carriers by far. Naturally, the average ticket price on small regional aircraft has to be a bit higher than on airlines which use larger aircraft as the costs per seat are higher on a small plane. Service on both flights (and also on my two flights with InterSky in July this year MUC-Elba-FDH) was very friendly and attentive.
Thanks for reading my report – questions and comments are welcome.