Since I have term break this week, I had contemplated flying to Beijing to meet friends there, but my indecisiveness, full flights, and long queues at the embassy resulted in going to Munich only. The thesis I want to write was the reason for my flying to Munich because one of my thesis mentors lives there. We decided to meet and discuss some initial aspects of the work. Moreover, flying to Munich is a lot cheaper than flying to Beijing, and because I am such a cheap guy, I never take the CAT because it is outrageously expensive and doesn't offer me any additional value. Thus, I always take the S-Bahn. Yup, that's where you can find me, and a lot of other clever passengers, too. The train was on time and I experienced the "Wiesel" (which is the name of this particular type of car) for the first time.
Vienna – Munich
For about half a year it has been impossible to use the self check-in kiosks in Vienna with a non-rev ticket. It had worked before, and I don't understand why OS does not fix this. Logic would suggest that a non-rev passenger with only hand luggage doesn't have to clog up the revenue passenger line. Well, it's OS, thus, logic is a term unheard of. However, there was not a lot of action going on at 08:00 AM, and a cheerful, attractive check-in agent soon took care of my needs. She seemed to be new on the job because she mumbled the various steps of how to issue me a boarding pass. I know, it's chauvinistic, but had she been an old or ugly person, I would have rolled my eyes in dismay. In this case, I found it cute. All right, I found her cute.
After getting my preliminary boarding pass, I went to the transit area and invaded Starbucks. My feelings about Starbucks are mixed. On the hand, I think they sell mediocre coffee at a premium price and are just over hyped; on the other hand, they are the only coffee house in Vienna that is a smoke free environment. Moreover, Vienna airport is generally short on comfortable places to wait and Starbucks is nicely located in a corner at Pier West. However, it appears Starbucks is charging an airport surcharge. At Starbucks downtown, my "coffee of the week, short" costs EUR 1.50; at the airport, it's EUR 1.60. WTF! Well, I got my coffee and sat down to kill some time. Then I overheard a disciplinary talk between the Starbucks site manager and an employee. Apparently, this girl had come late to work repetitively and here are two excuses she gave. First, she supposedly had stomach pain and didn't want to use the employee toilet but rather her own toilet at home. Next, the day before a friend promised to drive her to the airport but had a car problem. I was close to yelling over that she should just say sorry for being late rather than offering such lame excuses. If her stories were true, then why did she have this smirk on her face? Time flies when you are having fun brings it to the point, and I got up to besiege the gate agent for a seat.
VIE – MUC
May 17, 2006
Boeing 737-500 / D-ABIB
09:15 – 10:15 (scheduled)
take-off: 09:23 (rwy. 29)
touch-down: 10:04 (rwy. 08R)
Photo © Michael Fritz
Photo © Marlo Plate - Iberian Spotters
I knew that the flight was rather full but should have a few open spots. When no more revenue passengers required the agent's attention, I went over and asked her if she had a seat for me. She typed away at her keyboard and handed me a boarding pass without saying anything. I took it and saw that I had a seat in Business Class. Therefore, I thanked her and went to the security check. Since I was the last passenger, the security people were cracking jokes about this and that. Maybe they knew I was staff, but I still think that maintaining a professional behavior is important.
Down I went the jet-way, and my first impression when entering the plane was that the crew was typical German, i.e., correct, but rather die before an additional smile. During take-off, I decided that I don't like the B737. The engines are whiny and the looks of the airplane are unfavorable. I know that this a subjective statement, but that's like comparing the A343's engines to hairdryers. Service on this short flight consisted of a snack tray, which had bread with cold cut, a croissant, and yoghurt. Nothing to write home about but not bad either. Why people actually pay to fly Business Class on such a short flight is something I contemplated about during my flight. I don't have an answer, but I assume it is good that people still pay for Business Class. After landing in MUC, the purser made a farewell announcement thanking people for flying LH "knowing that [they] have the choice." I found this a nice touch, but there is no choice on VIE – MUC (not counting the train). Both AB and JP gave up flying to MUC; hence, only OS and LH operate this route. This is not my understanding of choice, but his effort counts.
We had an outside parking position and were driven to the terminal by bus. One person was a HON member and a fancy car waited by the airplane to pick her up. Big deal! My personal driver to Munich was going to be the S-Bahn, and I found out that between March and May, the ticket price had increased by 6%! I had a good lunch, Weißwürste, and enjoyed a nice after-lunch snoozing in Hofgarten. The weather was fine, and I watched the clouds go by. From adjacent Theatinerplatz the sounds of a demonstration echoed over to Hofgarten and all of a sudden, three sky divers glided down and landed over there. What a spectacle and all for free.
The meeting was productive, and it was soon time for me to go back to the airport. I knew that all of the late afternoon/evening flights to Vienna were full. Thus, I planned on trying my luck with OS 116 first and subsequent flights later. For the worst-case scenario of not making it on any flight, I had made provisions to stay overnight. Unlike in Vienna, the self check-in kiosks in Munich work just fine with stand-by tickets. Next, I made my way to security where one of the screeners made a naughty gesture to his colleague regarding a woman with big breasts. I found this very inappropriate. Yes, we are men and our brain might be located further 'south', but still …
Munich – Vienna
OS 116 was my first choice because it didn't show as overbooked in the forecast the day before. I arrived at gate G20 when boarding was in full swing. Once the masses had cleared, it became apparent that five non-revenue passengers and ten revenue passengers were on the waiting list. The gate manager handled things very professionally (I told him that later), calmed everybody down, and cleared all the revenue passengers but for two. Two non-rev passengers also made it on the flight, a captain and an FA, who were both LH staff and wearing uniform although I don't think they were dead-heads. There were two OS staff, one on duty travel, who were outraged about not having received priority over the LH staff. Not sure, what went wrong there. Once the remaining two revenue passengers, who hadn't made it on OS 116 were rebooked onto LH 3560, the stand-bys were put on waiting list for LH3560. A new game, a new chance.
MUC – VIE
May 17, 2006
Avro 8 / D-AVRM
19:15 – 20:20 (scheduled)
take-off: 20:15 (rwy. 26L9)
touch-down: 20:58 (rwy. 34)
Photo © Thomas Kraemer
Photo © Andy Graf - VAP
Shortly after the cattle call was made, everything came to a halt because the aircraft scheduled to do this flight had a technical issue and a replacement aircraft had to be found. Everybody was ordered to sit down and wait. Meanwhile, the three non-rev passengers were given proper seat assignments. Only the OS staff on duty travel, who was dressed casual elegantly, and I, wearing khaki slacks and a sports jacket, got upgraded to Business Class; the other OS staff, who looked like he had gotten out of the party zone just an hour before, got coach. This is the first time I saw the dress code enforced on LH. While I waited, I saw LH 722 bound for Beijing being pushed back.
Eventually, a replacement aircraft was found, and we were bused to our Avro. Both in Vienna and in Munich this bad habit of bringing carry-on the size of full-grown suitcases on board was curbed. At the gate, passengers were told either to check their oversized bags in or to not get on the flight. Thank you! Finally! The flight to Vienna was uneventful. We had a nice crew but not super friendly. Business as usual. I don't mean this derogatory, but most LH crews are professional but not extra friendly. We got a snack tray with a cheese sandwich , a seafood salad, and a tart. Not too shabby! Oh, and a little chocolate was given out at the end. After landing in Vienna, we taxied to the Pier West, and I saw an OS A342 taking-off, as well as a B737 all in T-Mobile livery. Does T-Mobile have its own B737?
This concludes my report of a usually boring flight, but since this one was a bit different and because I am an all new and improved Beowulf, I decided to write it up. I am now an ebullient person, at least for as long as my medication lasts. All right, boys and girls, you know the drill.
Questions , suggestions , praise , etc. are highly welcome.