Dortmund’s newcomer regional airline Dauair offered free tickets to Berlin Tempelhof (free in the sense that you only had to pay the taxes, which amounted to 15 Euros) a while ago, so I jumped at the opportunity of another inexpensive daytrip to Berlin.
My first attempt to land in Berlin’s classic downtown airport Tempelhof, which was planned and built during the totalitarian Nazi reign and still stands largely unchanged from these dark times until today, had failed in June (please see http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/59491, when my DBA flight was diverted to TXL, so I kept my fingers crossed that the second time would be the charm.
Because I also wanted to take another look at Berlin Schoenefeld Airport (SXF), which once was the central airport of another totalitarian regime, the former German Democratic Republic, I searched for a return leg departing from this particular airport. Germanwings, Germany’s largest low cost carrier, has recently introduced an up to three-times daily service from SXF to Duesseldorf (DUS); so I made my reservation here for an other 19 Euro. The total amount paid for this little joyride to our nation’s capital amounted to a mere 32 Euros, which is hard to beat by any alternative means of transportation.
Friday, September 18, 2005
Dortmund Wickede Airport (DTM)
I arrived at Dortmund’s smallish regional airport, which is situated in the eastern suburb of Wickede, about one hour before my flight was scheduled to depart. Inside the terminal, a few queues were forming in front of the Air Berlin counters, where the check-in procedures to Vienna, Heraklion and to the Air Berlin hub in Palma de Mallorca were conducted.
On the other side of the medium-sized, very modern and spotlessly clean terminal, the dedicated EasyJet check-in area was carrying an air of tranquillity. The morning wave to Luton, Palma de Mallorca and Alicante had departed about one to two hours before, and the three modern Airbus A319, which are based at the airport, were currently roaming the skies of central Europe.
At the very end of this terminal side, two lone check-in desks were open for all Lufthansa and Dauair flights leaving Dortmund – this is all that is left of the former Eurowings main base and hub, which once saw ATR’s and BAe’s reaching for the skies to business destinations all over Europe. Unfortunately but also expectedly, soon after Lufthansa managed to attain the majority ownership of Eurowings, most routes were abandoned and all what is today left of a bustling regional hub are a few daily LH Regional flights to Munich. One can only hope that both Easyjet and Dauair, which are operating at the opposite end of the market spectrum from each other, will succeed with their operations from DTM and give Lufthansa/ Eurowings a run for their money!
Checking in at the counter was a matter of one minute, and after I had received boarding pass number one, I walked towards the security checkpoint, endured the traditional screening and arrived on the airside, which was almost deserted save passengers of the aforementioned flights to Heraklion, Vienna and Palma de Mallorca.
Unfortunately, the weather outside was the exact opposite of what should have been expected on a summer morning, rain gusting against the terminal windows and low clouds chasing across the sky.
While I was waiting for the Dauair Saab to arrive, I witnessed a few other movements, among those a few LGW (Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter, another small regional carrier based at DTM) Dornier 228, a Eurowings CRJ bound for Munich and, interestingly, an inbound Luftwaffe Challenger, which was carrying the Federal Chancellor for a few election campaign appearances in the region, as I found out after my return in the evening.
About thirty minutes before scheduled off-block time to Berlin Tempelhof, my Saab arrived…
…and was marshalled into a parking position right in front of our gate.
Only two (!) passengers disembarked, and the plane was fed and watered for the next section of its daily roster. A few minutes later, a slur of Air Berlin Boeings started to arrive, and while one of them was towed into one of the tight jetway positions, boarding commenced for the flight to Tempelhof.
I presented my boarding pass to the gate agent, walked down the stairs towards the apron, took a short stroll across the tarmac and entered the Saab’s cabin through the forward door.
First flight (DTM-THF)
Dortmund Wickede (DTM) - Berlin Tempelhof (THF)
Flight number: D5 112
Scheduled block time: 0945h – 1055h
Take-Off: 1004h (RWY 06)
Touch-down: 1058h (RWY 09R)
D-CASD christened “Dortmund”
delivered: January 18, 1991
Photo © Rolf Wallner
A young blonde flight attendant, about 20ish, greeted me at the forward door as I entered the small cabin of the Swedish regional propliner. Available on the first row of seats were complementary copies of a number of local and national newspapers like the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Sueddeutsche Zeitung or Westdeutsche Allgemeine. Additionally, some fashion and glamour magazines were also offered to the passengers.
Once I reached my seat row, I stowed my backpack in the small overhead bin and took my place on 9F. Boarding was completed soon afterwards with only ten passengers having booked this short hop to Berlin in the late morning hours.
The front door was closed almost on time, then a few more minutes of waiting on the rain-drenched followed, before a low-pitched rumble indicated the start-up of the left, then the right hand engine.
Very little other traffic was evident on our small regional airfield today, so we immediately taxied to the active runway (06), entered the threshold…
…the two powerful turboprops spooled up to an immense roar, we rushed down the wet runway and lifted up into the grey cloudy sky about halfway down the 2,000 meter runway. To our right, another Air Berlin Boeing737 was taxiing to the terminal just as we left the airport boundary.
Our last visual contact came only one minute later just as we were passing the Kamener Kreuz, which is one of the most frequented junctions in the Autobahn network.
About ten minutes after takeoff, we levelled of at our cruising altitude of 18.000 feet, the prop’s noise pitch noticeably reduced as we bumbled along at the rather sedate pace of 245 knots. A short announcement from the cockpit informed us about our routing, which was supposed to be Dortmund-Bielefeld-Hanover-Magdeburg-Berlin today, concluding by wishing us a good flight.
Dauair had changed their inflight catering concept since my last flight with the airline in June. Having been almost no-frills in June, when only a small assortment of hot and cold soft drinks were available, management was now following a rather interesting composite path: a leaflet in the seatback pocket informed us about snacks and beverages, which were available for sale, while there would be also a complimentary “welcome special” for all passengers, consisting of a free hot or cold beverage plus either a piece of cake, muesli bar or a salty snack.
Once it was my turn to select from the inflight bar,I chose an orange juice and a small piece of cake, which was handed to me by the very friendly and, throughout the entire flight, highly motivated flight attendant.
The remainder of the flight went by very quickly as we cruised along over a massive cloud cover.
About fifteen minutes from touchdown, cruise power was reduced again and we started a sequence of left and right turns in order to align us with the approach path to Tempelhof, which is sandwiched in between the arrival and departure paths of the northern Tegel and the southern Schoenefeld airports.
We broke through the low cloud cover only a few hundred meters above the densely populated southern quarters of Berlin…
…lowered flaps and landing gear, as some turbulences rocked our ship at an altitude which almost permitted us to look into the kitchens and living rooms of the residents.
A few seconds later, the railway lines of the local train service vanished below us, then we were right above the airport fence…
… then we touched down firmly, props were put non reverse and we left the runway at the very end, turning to the left and slowly driving past a number of apartment blocks on the way to the massive 1930’s terminal building.
In front of the terminal with its trademark “Flughafen Berlin Tempelhof” sign, a DBA Fokker 100 inbound from CGN and a Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter Dornier 228, which had arrived from Dortmund only a few minutes before us, were serviced while we were manoeuvring into our parking position.
Disembarkation at Tempelhof is an experience for itself. There are no jetways at this classic airport; however, the airplanes often are parked under a huge veranda-style ceiling, which dwarves even mid-sized regional airliners like the Fokker 100. How ingenious and up-to-date even after more than sixty years this airport design still is! No need for costly specialized jetways for regional turboprops and –jets, just a large veranda is all that is needed to get the passengers to the terminal with dry feet!
On my quick stroll towards the terminal entrance, I took another few photos in order to capture the mood of this impressive half-moon shaped structure.
A few more minutes of walking took me to the next subway station, which is located just across the terminal exit next to a small park called “Platz der Luftbruecke”, where a memorial commemorating the efforts of the Western Allied air bridge into Berlin during the Stalinist siege of 1948/49 is located.
If you are interested in more pictures of this magnificent airport from a very dark period in German history, you are welcome to check out this earlier trip report covering a departure from Tempelhof in minute detail, also including a plethora of pictures from this historic landmark: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/59491
Berlin Schoenefeld Airport
After spending a few hours in the center of Berlin, I took the regional train to Schoenefeld airport, where I arrived about ninety minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave. While taking the five-minute walk from the train station to the terminal building, the unique architecture of this former example of Socialist Realism became apparent.
The terminal is made from standardized concrete elements (colloquially called “Platte”), which were used in virtually all building projects in the former German Democratic Republic, be it housing, commercial or administrative buildings or, like in this case, the “Zentralflughafen” (central airport) of the deceased East German state. Coupled with the characteristic golden-brownish tinted windows, the simple rectangular shape and the original airport sign “Flughafen Berlin Schönefeld” still breaths and lives the long lost Socialist era.
While extensive rework of the terminal interior has turned the airport from a drab piece of Socialist Realism into an airport to Western standards at least cosmetically, the narrow hallways, low ceilings and small functional areas are still a reminder of a design philosophy, where emphasis was put on the conservation of resources rather than the optimization of handling and retailing processes.
Interestingly, in order to comply with the new EU regulation concerning the screening of all inflight baggage, the Berlin Airport Authorities have installed baggage X-ray machines in front of the check-in desks instead of in the back offices, urging passengers to haul their bags and suitcases onto the examination belts before being allowed to check-in for their flights. Since I was travelling with hand baggage only today, I walked through the baggage screening seamlessly and arrived at the Germanwings check-in, where a small group of passengers was already waiting. After enduring a short wait, I received boarding pass number 19 – therefore I would be among the first group of passengers to enter the airplane.
I still had a good hour and a half to spare, so I explored the airport a bit more. Upstairs from the check-in area, a travel market mall was located, chiefly offering cheap discounted all-inclusive holidays in Bulgaria or Turkey.
More interesting to me was the dedicated EasyJet terminal adjacent to the original terminal building. This makeshift building had recently been extended to cope with the expected increase of passenger volume after the latest announcements of new EasyJet routes from this airport. Just like in Dortmund’s case, the interior design of this terminal did not leave any imagination about who dominates this airport today!
After passing through security, I walked around the airside part of the terminal. A Bulgarian Air Charter MD-82 was about to be pushed back for its flight to Bourgas via Munich (no points for guessing the former owner of this “Mad Dog”)…
… while the very few retailing opportunities were frequented by other travellers chiefly waiting for domestic flights by Germanwings to Munich, Cologne-Bonn and Duesseldorf.
All in all however, the airside was just as small, narrow and cramped like the landside with very little view of the apron.
Unfortunately, after I had walked downstairs to the bus gates and taken my seat at Gate 59, a call announcing the delay of the Duesseldorf flight due to technical disruption on the previous segment of our aircraft (a SXF-ARN-SXF return) posed a little setback to my plans to get back home early on this Friday afternoon. As it turned out, the boarding call was further and further pushed back during the next hour. In the meantime, I spent most of the waiting time watching an LTU A320 being turned around…
… and then being pushed back for its next flight to the undoubtedly sunnier climes of Mallorca.
Thank goodness, a small grey dot in the distance appeared, soon identifying itself as a Germanwings A319. The stubby Airbus touched down, thrust reverser roared and only three minutes later, us weary travellers of the Duesseldorf flight were graced with the welcome view of an Germanwings bird being marshalled into its parking position.
The trademark quick turnaround followed, and only twenty minutes after arrival of the A319 at our gate, the boarding process was initiated. While this is usually conducted in an orderly fashion at Germanwings’ base in CGN, seemingly the outsourced handling agents at the outstation do not care too much about following the company procedures of boarding by sequence numbers. The result? While most of the boarding was still quite civil thanks to the many frequent travellers on this flights (lots of grey and blue suits visible among the crowd), a little huffing and puffing could not be avoided. Alas, soon everybody was on board of this former Lufthansa bird, and we were ready and more than willing to finally leave the rainy and cold Berlin for the Rhineland.
Second flight (SXF-DUS)
Berlin Schoenefeld (SXF) – Duesseldorf International (DUS)
Flight number: 4U 1052
Scheduled block time: 1515h - 1625h
Take-off: 1703h (RWY 25L)
Touch-down: 1754h (RWY 05L)
delivered: December 10, 1996
Photo © Wim Callaert - Brussels Aviation Photography
I won’t go in to too much detail concerning the procedures and service onboard Germanwings flights, since they have been covered by many of my fellow co-authors in this forum pretty well. My seat was 4F, and the seat load factor reached an estimated 70 to 75 percent, comprising a large percentage of business travellers (so much for the rumors, there are no cost-conscious businesses around, who tolerate the price gouging of our beloved national and other so-called flag carriers).
After pushing back from the terminal, our silver-grey A319 slowly taxied towards the active runway through the rain gusts of this dreary September afternoon. With no traffic in front of us, we were number one for take-off and immediately entered the active runway to the south of the airport’s perimeter.
Our trusty CFM-56’s spooled up with the trademark buzz-saw sound, propelling several tons of aluminium, steel, fuel and human beings over the rain-soaked runway, shoving the stubby Airbus into the stormy sky.
The vast and deserted rural farmland of Brandenburg and the last outskirts of Germany’s largest metropolis Berlin soon disappeared below the low hanging clouds while we continued our ascent into the wide blue yonder.
The rest of this short hop across northern Germany went by fairly quickly at an altitude of 29.000 feet and a cruising speed of 485 knots. The low and dense cloud cover slowly began to dissipate as we were pursuing our westerly course, and when we initiated descent over the western Muensterland, the sky and become clear, clean and crisp like it is only the case after an intensive rainstorm.
Well below ten thousand feet of altitude the Rhine appeared in front of us, majestically meandering through the flat and green Northern German landscape.
A slow and wide left hand turn ensued soon after transiting Germany’s largest river, taking us across Krefeld and Moenchengladbach, then lining our Airbus up on the ILS to RWY 05L over the western outskirts of Duesseldorf.
Another low pass over the Rhine, this time towards the east, and we were only seconds away from touchdown. To the south, the brand-new Arena Duesseldorf became visible, slightly oversized for a third-rate soccer team like Fortuna Duesseldorf, but nowadays also a popular location for other sports and music events. No points for guessing them main sponsor of the arena though!
Early evening traffic in Duesseldorf was about to pick up from the afternoon lull, as evidenced by the following picture, which I shot during our final stages of descent. An Air France Boeing 737-500 was just about lining up on the parallel runway for the short hop to Paris, followed by a brand-new Alitalia Express EMB-170 (trip report covering a flight on one of the Brazilian hotties following in late October).
A firm touchdown was followed by a quick application of moderate reverse thrust. We vacated the runway, and after the Air France 737 had taken off in front of us, we crossed the parallel runway and travelled back to the Star Alliance Terminal (A), where we docked about 90 minutes after our scheduled on-block time.
Leaving the aircraft took only one or two more minutes after the jetway was connected, and soon I was on my way back home after an interesting and eventful daytrip on two very different airlines.
Dauair and Germanwings are both serving very different ends of the market, but both are offering a positive impression to the frequent traveller.
Dauair is a charming little airline with personal service, which is offering quick connections between some of Germany’s, Switzerland’s and Poland’s regional airports. The service comprises all aspects, which can be expected from a contemporary business airline, ranging from an easy-to-use web booking interface, seat selection at check-in to free newspapers and catering onboard. Service is usually punctual and reliable – so far, the trusty Saab of Dauair has acted up only once, and has in the meantime been joined by another bird of the same kind.
I strongly hope that this little hometown carrier will be able to economically succeed and fly below the radar of the big players, offering good and frequent connections at affordable prices from Dortmund and elsewhere for many years to come.
Germanwings on the other hand has now been firmly established by Lufthansa as their low cost weapon against aggressive domestic and international competitors. The airline offers a usually value-priced, steady and clean product without any extras above what can be expected from a reliable and professional operation. It is serving the main metropolitan airports at attractive schedules and with good customer service during irregularities, unlike the bad excuse for an airline from Ireland, and thus caters both to the business and private traveller.
Both airlines can be recommended – however from my personal point of view, if given a choice between both kinds of airlines, I will opt for the smaller, regional operator, even if it will cost me a little more, because I don’t really enjoy the cattle-car transportation style of the low cost carriers unless necessary and financially sensible.
Thanks for reading my report! Questions, comments, or criticism is always appreciated.