First trip report in a while, so I hope that you enjoy this one. My wife and I went over to Europe for a little over a week to visit a friend and tour around. No pictures, as my wife doesn't like me taking pictures at an airport after an over zealous security guard gave me the third degree for taking pictures before a flight one day. Let me know if you have any questions.
Load Factor - Close to 100%
Arrived at BWI
close to two hours early for the flight. I haven't flown a legacy carrier out of BWI
in quite some time, so I wasn't sure of what to expect with lines, service, etc. Check in was fully automated, but there were also multiple agents to assist. While all of the kiosks were in use, there really wasn't a line. After 5 minutes, we were fully checked in through to FRA
. We grabbed a quick lunch at Bill Bateman's (A Maryland favorite) pre-security. BAA has done a great job of updating the stores and restaurants at BWI
. I will be happy once the construction is finally completed. After lunch, we made our way to the dreadful D-Pier security checkpoint. As anyone who has traveled through BWI
knows, for some reason D-Pier always has horrible lines. Like normal, security line went beyond the ropes, and down the corridor. When in line, I noticed a very high percentage of international travelers (by their foreign passports). You normally don't see that high of number going on domestic flights connecting to an international flight, when IAD
is so close.
Boarding started promptly 25 minutes before the flight, and was quite organized. We originally had seats in row 20, but seeing that it was a full flight, I changed to one of the front rows (I believe that it was three rows back?). I had not flown NW
in over 10 years, and was very pleasantly surprised to see what good service was offered, and to not see any bitter service staff. This isn't meant to be a dig, but I think that most people know that the battle between NW
mgmt vs union has always been fierce. Drink service on the flight was quick and efficient. Everyone received a full can of soda on this short flight. Other than that, the flight was uneventful, and we got to the gate on time. We arrived at the North End of the terminal in DTW
and took the Express train to the center.
My impression of the new terminal: Lots of natural light, and lots of shops. I was surprised to see how small the seating areas were though. I can't imagine that this is a fun airport to hang out in when lots of flights are delayed. We had a 2 1/2 hour connection, so I was quite happy that we had access to the NW
World Club. Being that it was my first time in DTW
, I chose to visit the center club. This club is the largest, but it was also the most crowded by far. Finding two seats together was a little difficult. The food and drink offerings in the club were quite nice. Fountain soda was provided (Pepsi products), as was cans of juice, MGD, Heineken, Miller Lite, Red and White Wine, and all kinds of liquor. Snacks were cookies, crackers, cheese, and carrot sticks. There was also a fancy coffee machine for use. While the club was quite crowded, the service staff was very good about picking up used glasses, plates, etc, and re-stocking snacks. We were seated in a quiet zone, which had a sign with a slash through a cell phone on one wall. I guess they need to get multiple signs, because one doesn't work. We only had one really bad "I'm important" cell phone talker, but it is still annoying. The club did announce international flights only, which was odd, but nice for us. As it crept closer to 5PM, and our flight wasn't announced, I knew this wasn't good. Went to check the flight status board, and our flight was delayed one hour. Confirmed with the front desk that it was a maintenance issue. The FRA
flight on the 7th also had maintenance issues, and was delayed 2 hours. History repeated itself....
Actual: Departure - a little over 2 hours late; Arrival - about 1:40 late
Load Factor: Again - Close if not 100%
Around 6:30, they made an announcement in the club that the FRA
flight was now boarding. We took about 5-10 minutes to get straighted up, and then made our way to the gate. We could have taken another 10-20 minutes. Boarding was somewhat chaotic, with no announcements. As I mentioned previously, seating in the waiting area was an issue, so people were sitting on the floor in the corridor, etc. My wife and I figured that there was no reason to hurry, so we were one of the last 20 or so to board. We somehow were assigned seats in the front section, which are normally reserved for Priority members. Seats are supposed to have an extra 2" of pitch, but I couldn't really tell the difference. To me, all Y seats are uncomfortable. After we were fully boarded, the C flight attendants came through the cabin with the left-over C newspapers. Nice and smart thinking on NW
's part. Costs them nothing extra to do this, and little things like this will help them to set themselves apart from other American carriers. Every Y seat had a blanket, pillow, and headphones at the seat. Mine was missing a blanket, but I was fine with this. Pushback was delayed about 15 minutes, as they were still completing maintenance on the aircraft. We were then informed that in Y that two of the center lavatories were out of service. Not a good start to the flight. Taxi to the runway was extremely slow. I noticed this on all of my NW
A330 flights. Maybe a pilot got in trouble, I don't know, all I know is that it was super slow. We made a very slow climb up to cruise, not sure if that has anything to do with US/Canada ATC handoff or not. The curtain to Business class was closed once we reached altitude, but it was sheer, so you could still see everything in the front cabin.
Once at cruise, flight attendants started with a drink service with snack first. I had a red wine. Very nice not to have to pay $5 for a wine during an international flight. Dinner service came by about 40 minutes later. The choice was literally pasta or beef, no description. The flight attendant had a sense of humor though. When I waited a second so I could see my wife's entree before choosing, he said no cheating! I had a not so memorable beef dish. Wasn't bad, just regular airline food. Had another red wine with it. One thing I noticed was that pre dinner, soda was served by the can, while with dinner, soda was served from 1 liter bottles. Service throughout the flight was quite prompt, and very friendly. The AVOD was nice and worked well. From what I have read, the choices are not as extensive as other carriers with AVOD, but I thought that it was quite nice.
One positive of the AVOD was that there was no large queue at the lavatories after the movie is over with, since everyone is on a different schedule. I still had to wait since 2 of the bathrooms were out of service. Bathroom was fairly clean considering. Afterwards, I stopped by the galley to get a soda to drink. Again, very friendly service. Flight attendants brought water around almost hourly.
Things on the A330 that I noted could use improvement during the flight: Flight attendant call buttons. They were located on the handset, which when stowed, sits right next to your hip. Call buttons went off a lot during boarding, and when people got up and sat down. Plug for electrical power in Y seats. While it is very nice that NW
offers this without a converter, I would think that you would have to be a contortionist to be able to plug anything in.
After what seemed to be a short few hours, the flight attendants turned up the lights to start breakfast service. Again, NW
gets extra points for having a hot meal for breakfast. It was a hot breakfast (egg and cheese) muffin. Nice and small, perfect size for a breakfast a few hours after dinner. Watching the moving map, it estimated our arrival into FRA
at around 8:20AM. As our altitude remained constant, I knew that 8:20 was really going to be later. The flight crew turned off the entertainment units (including the wall map) very early. Right around 8:15, I looked out the window, and saw FRA
. The only problem was that we were at least 15000 feet above it. So, I knew that we must have had a few planes in front of us. How many we really had in front of us surprised me. We traveled outbound for about 20 minutes before making our inbound turn. Had a nice view of downtown Frankfurt coming in. Landing seemed slightly long, but I think that was more of a visual queue than reality. Taxi to the terminal was again slow, but de-boarding progressed fairly quickly.
Was surprised to see that FRA
does not use the sterile terminal approach. Took a little bit of time to find customs, as the signage was fairly poor. Basically had to trust the sheep method (follow the person in front of you), which I almost never do at airports. Immigration was a breeze. They didn't even ask any questions. That was a first for me. I guess that they get so much US military into FRA
, that they just don't ask. We were visiting a friend who contracts for the military. Bags came off fairly quickly for an international flight. As our flight was 2 hours late getting in, and it was past 9AM, our friend was not able to pick us up, so we had to catch a train to the base. Here is where it got to be a little bit of a pain.
We arrived in Terminal 2. We had to get to Terminal 1. There were some signs telling us to take the sky train, while others told us to take a bus. We decided to take the bus, just because it was right outside of customs. After waiting 10 minutes, our bus made the 10 minute ride to Terminal 1. We found the commuter trains, and tried purchasing tickets. First problem, the machine only takes coins and 5&10 Euro bills only. Bought a water and made change. Why they wouldn't have a machine that would accept credit cards, or larger bills at an airport in beyond me. Or, why they didn't have more ticket desks open, as the queue to buy from a person was over 20 deep.
Anyway, that is it for the first leg of my trip. I will report on my internal Europe legs tomorrow. Hope that you enjoy.