After I had booked the MD-11 flight, I realized that I had not thought about how I would get back home from Paris and soon realized that it would be nice to try out Germanwings as they fly CDG-CGN twice daily and I hadn´t flown them yet.
I decided to stay at Paris for two days before flying home as I had not visited that wonderful city since 1998. Checking fares on 4U´s website was pretty easy and I ended up booking a oneway CDG-CGN flight for about 37 Euros (taxes included)
Until the day of my long awaited journey from Amsterdam to Paris, I permanently had to suffer from torturing nightmares containing Varig 777´s or even 767s. Continually reading about RG´s supposed plans to retire the MD-11 earlier than scheduled and seeing pictures of additional ex-UA 777´s being painted in RG´s color scheme sometimes took me close to a severe nervous-breakdown.
However, on the day before my departure to Amsterdam, I checked their website and it still showed “M11” as the type of equipment which finally made me rather optimistic but still not too enthusiastic (I learned a lot from several nasty experiences I have made in the past).
On the morning of Saturday, the 14th of May, I took the ICE train from Frankfurt Airport to Amsterdam Centraal (well, actually I had to change to a crappy dutch train in Utrecht because of technical problems with another ICE train ). The ride up to Utrecht went by fast and was very comfortable so I didn´t mind too much about the slight delay that was caused by the change of trains.
After a rather short but interesting visit to the city of Amsterdam (a really beautiful one), I took the train from Amsterdam Centraal to Schiphol airport which cost me about 3 Euros and went by quite fast (15 minutes if I remember correctly).
I entered Schiphol for the very first time and wasn´t disappointed after having read so many positive things about this airport. The construction made the terminal very bright and there was not a single place where it seemed to be too crowded. The architecture somehow reminded me of MUC which is also a nice and modern airport with many windows and lots of space.
Unfortunately there wasn´t too much time left so I decided not to check out the visitor´s terrace (I will hopefully do so the next time I will be there) and went to the Varig check in counters where my booking was proceeded in absolutely no time by a friendly dutch agent who handed me my boarding pass which indeed showed 15L as my seat (no free seating like on the CDG-AMS leg, see trip reports of several other users), the gate was G03.
Subsequently, I walked through the passport control (the flight to CDG leaves from the non-schengen area as the Brazil bound passengers stay on board in Paris) and security where surprisingly nobody seemed to care for any boarding passes so basically everyone could have entered the secure area.
I proceeded to gate G03 but found out that RG8721 was going to arrive a bit late so the plane wasn´t there at this point. As I felt pretty hungry and thirsty at this time, I decided to grab a slice of pizza and a Heineken at one of the fast food restaurants (I think it was Sbarro) that offered a nice view of the KLM gates. I once again realized how great KLM´s new livery looks, especially on the widebodies…absolutely stunning . There wasn´t too much traffic apart from numerous KL planes however, so I went back to G03 where I almost jumped through the ceiling of the terminal when I saw that giant, beautiful trijet being parked at the gate…there I was…finally being able to fully enjoy the feeling of having the honour to fly on an MD-11 soon .
The airplane was PP-VTP, one of the ex-Swissair MD-11´s in Varig´s fleet (it once wore the “Swissair Asia” titles).
PP-VTP parked at Gate G03
I settled down in the gate area after having had another Heineken at a bar nearby and waited for boarding to start.
Approximately 25 minutes prior to the scheduled departure, boarding began for First- and Business Class passengers and only a few (four or five) people entered the airplane before boarding for Economy passengers was announced. I counted about 30 people in the gate area at this time which made me look forward to a powerful takeoff performed by a very lightly loaded MD-11…I should not become disappointed
Date: May 14th 2005
Varig Brasil Airlines Flight RG8721
Amsterdam Schiphol – Paris Charles de Gaulle
Airplane: McDonnell Douglas MD-11
Registration: PP-VTP, first flight: 07/02/1994
Photo © Gerardo Dominguez
Photo © William van Wanrooy
Photo © Marinus Bergsma
Entering the cabin, I was greeted by two middle-aged F/A´s who took a quick look at my boarding pass and advised me to proceed to the right aisle. I went through the Business-Class cabin which looked very comfortable in spite of the 2-3-2 arrangement. My seat 15L was the right window seat in the very first row of Economy Class and turned out to be the best seat in the house…giant legroom (for Y-Class standards) and nobody in the seat next to me (not too astonishing with an overall load of only about 35 passengers). Varig has a 3-4-2 layout in their MD-11s´ Y-Class cabin which is a good compromise in my opinion as it prevents passengers from having to sit in that horrinble “E-seat” on a longhaul flight but also offers parties of two their beloved privacy on the right side of the cabin.
The view out of the window, still standing at the gate
The Economy seat did not differ significantly from other airlines´ Y-Class product and was therefore nothing special. However, I cannot second the statements of some other users of this forum that Varig´s MD-11 cabins look terribly worn. At least PP-VTP was clean and didn´t show any signs of age (can anyone inform me on whether the seats are still the old SR seats?)
We were pushed back about ten minutes late at 8.10pm but the purser announced that we would get too Paris on time nonetheless as the flight time would be only 40 minutes.
All announcements from the cabin crew were made in Portuguese, French and English.
Next to PP-VTP, this rather exotic visitor, FlyAir´s TC-FLM was parked
This cute model is used for fire-fighting training purposes
After having taxied to runway 36C, we waited for a KLM Fokker 100 to take off in front of us before we lined up. The three engines soon began to roar characteristically and the MD-11 accelerated like I had never experienced it on a widebody. We were getting faster and faster in no time and took off just moments after the take-off run had begun…fantastic!
The airplane then climbed steeply up into the sky so that we gained altitude very fast.
Right after rotation from 36C
What a fantastic climb performance. This MD-11 rocks!
Right turn shortly after take-off
Schiphol Airport from up above
Only a couple of minutes after we had left the runway, the fasten seat belt-signs were switched off and the captain announced that we would reach CDG on time.
The F/A´s, who appeared to be friendly but not outstanding, soon came around and handed out ham sandwiches accompanied by a glass of orange juice (no drink selection on this flight ). The sandwich consisted of the typical soft airline bread so it was definitely nothing to write home about (to put it mildly).
The time went by much too fast and the descent began when the F/A´s started to collect trash. As we didn´t have to fly any circles over Paris, we touched down smoothly after exactly 39 minutes of flying time and taxied to our gate at CDG´s terminal 1 which seemed to be almost deserted at this time of the day (around 9.10pm).
I thanked the F/A´s and left the airplane while noticing that only about 10 passengers stayed onboard so I wonder if it is really profitable for Varig to extend the CDG flight to AMS when they could let passengers bound for AMS connect at FRA in almost the same time . Oh, well, no complains from my side as they offered me to finally fly on the MD-11…and what a great flight this was!
I left CDG´s empty terminal 1 after I had passed a rather strange construction of escalators in this unpleasant building. Once outside the terminal, I was picked up by the shuttle bus of the Radisson SAS airport hotel where I stayed for two nights. Although the hotel itself is very nice, the prices at the bar are pure rip-off…6 Euros for a small beer (0,25cl), that´s just plain ridiculous.
After a nice time in Paris it was time for me to get back to the airport on Monday morning in order to catch my flight to Cologne. The hotel´s shuttle service worked great again and I stood in front of the Germanwings Check-In quite early (a few minutes before they opened the counter).
After the quick Check-In process was accomplished, I walked around a bit and found out that CDG´s Terminal 1 is one of the ugliest and worst equipped terminals I have been to so far and I have to say that it almost comes close to LHR´s Terminal 2 in terms of dullness.
I went to Satellite 7 where I soon saw D-AKNI arriving at the gate.
D-AKNI arriving at the gate
Boarding began some time later about 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time.
Date: May 16th 2005
Germanwings Flight 4U 403
Paris Charles de Gaulle-Cologne Bonn
Airplane: Airbus A319-112
Registration: D-AKNI, first flight: 04/22/1999
Photo © Wolfgang Hut - TCAS
Photo © Markus Bauer
As my boarding pass showed sequence number 08, I was within the first group of people being allowed to board the plane (sequence numbers 01 thru 30) and chose the left window seat of the second last row in this A319.
The black leather seats were quite comfortable while the seat pitch was very narrow but who am I to complain when they carry me from Paris to Cologne for less than 40 Euros while certain “full-frills” carriers don´t offer a better pitch or even better service for much higher fares…
The load factor on this flight was about 60-70%, mostly German tourists as well as some French business people.
We were pushed back right on time at 8.40am and started taxiing to the runway where we soon began our powerful take-off roll (however, nothing compared to the MD-11 ) and were in the air shortly afterwards. The weather wasn´t very good on this morning so it didn´t make any sense to take photos out of the window.
The first officer announced a flight time of 45 minutes so we were supposed to arrive at CGN ahead of schedule.
This flight was rather uneventful, the friendly and young F/A´s came around to sell drinks and sandwiches but I didn´t feel like paying for drinks this time. Some nice turbulences hit us in the middle of the flight and soon we were on approach to Cologne-Bonn airport where we touched down about fifteen minutes early and quickly taxied to the gate.
I left the plane and walked through the nice and bright buildings towards the train station where I took a S-Bahn to the city center before catching an Intercity train home to Wiesbaden.
My conclusion is that the MD-11 is a fantastic plane to fly on, especially on a short hop like AMS-CDG, so I recommend everyone who still misses this plane in her/his logbook to take this chance soon before RG brings the 777 back (nothing against the 777 but the MD-11 won´t be around for so long). Furthermore, Germanwings is a nice low cost carrier with some very interesting fares on intra-european flights and a nice hub at CGN.
I sincerely hope you guys liked this report and I´m looking forward to reading your replies.