About one month after making the booking, I received an email from the airline stating that the flights would now be operated via Antalya. As an aviation enthusiast who loves to fly, I didn’t mind this too much, although it was of course a bit of an inconvenience as the travel time would be longer. Instead of leaving Vienna at 14.15 and arriving in Bodrum at 17.40, we would now leave at 14.35 and arrive at 19.55. So we would arrive at Bodrum two hours later than originally planned and we would still have a two-hour drive ahead of us to Kusadasi, meaning driving through the mountains in dark, not a very pleasant prospect on the not-so-well-kept main roads in Turkey. For the flight back, the times had been changed from a 19.50 departure and 21.20 arrival to a 19.50 departure and 23.15 arrival.
Our day of travel came, and we made the 45 minute journey from our house to the airport. After parking the car at the long-stay car park, we made our way to one of the Lauda Air “Ferienfluge” (holiday flights) counters in Terminal 1. There was a huge crowd, and as it turned out most of them would take one of two flights to Antalya, the second of which was also ours. Once it was our turn, we asked whether there was any possibility to get seats in the bulkhead or emergency exit rows for a bit more comfort. After all, the trip would take quite a while now, with the intermediate stop in Antalya. At first the check-in agent was having difficulty finding suitable seats and even mentioned that she might not be able to seat us together, but she must have had a lightbulb moment when she suddenly said that getting seats in row 1 would be no problem. Then she diligently started to study my passport, scrutinising the personal details page and subsequently looking through all the visa pages. Whoever does that is in for a surprise as my passport is full of visas. In fact, I now only have one whole blank page left and will have to plan a visit to the Dutch embassy pretty soon to get a new one. Finally she asked me whether I had an extension. I asked why, as it was valid till November, and then she realised that she had confused my birth date with the expiry date. If she would have asked me right away, it would have saved time and confusion. Duh!
Anyway, with the boarding passes with the desired seats in row 1 in our hands, we made our way to the gate area in Hall A and after passing passport control sat down at a cafeteria awaiting our flight. Initially departure was planned from a gate with a passenger boarding bridge. The board showed that the current flight boarding from the gate was to Bucharest, and ours would be next. However, as our boarding time came nearer, our flight magically disappeared from the board and was replaced by one to London. Just as I was about to ask the gate agent, an announcement for a gate change was made – our flight would now depart from one of the bus gates, on the ground floor of Hall A. A bit unhappy about the prospect of being pushed like sardines into a bus, we then made our way to the crowded waiting area, where a group of loud football fans was jumping around and screaming. I don’t know what they were celebrating though, as by that time Austria had been eliminated from the Euro 2008 football championship. Maybe they were just celebrating the prospect of getting drunk in Antalya.
The boarding process took extremely long and we had to stand and wait in the overcrowded, hot bus for ages. Finally we made our way to our aircraft which, to my pleasure, was one of two Airbus A320s in Lauda Air’s fleet. While most people couldn’t care less, this was a nice bonus for an aviation enthusiast like me.
20 June 2008, Vienna – Antalya – Bodrum
Lauda Air flight OS9427
Airbus A320 OE-LBR
VIE-AYT: STD 1435, STA 1825; ATD 1515, ATA 1830
AYT-BJV: STD 1900, STA 1955; ATD 1920, ATA 2000
Photo © Ingo Lang
By the time boarding was completed, the Captain informed us that we had missed our slot and had to wait for start-up approval. We were pushed back with a 40 minute delay and made our way to Runway 16. Flight time to Antalya was only 2 hours and 15 minutes, so we would land only 5 minutes after the actual scheduled arrival time. As soon as we reached our cruising altitude, the efficient crew started the in-flight service, handing out a delicious meal consisting of pasta, salad and a chocolate pudding.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, starting our descent somewhere over central Turkey for a runway 18L arrival at Antalya. We were parked on a remote stand, sandwiched between a Daghestan Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 and a Donbassaero Airbus A320. Once the Antalya passengers had disembarked – in other words, most people on board – I took the opportunity to walk around the cabin a bit and asked the crew whether I could step out onto the stairs to take some pictures of the aircraft around us. Besides the mentioned planes, there were also two Transaero Boeing 747-300s parked at the international terminal as another of the company’s 747-200s just arrived. Must have been Russian day on the Turkish Riviera…
As the aircraft would again return to Antalya later that day, no new passengers joined the flight to Bodrum and as soon as the refuelling was done the cabin doors were closed and we made our way to runway 18L for departure. We took off over the sea, turned back to overfly the airport and turned west towards Bodrum. With a flight time of 40 minutes, we started to descend almost immediately after reaching cruising altitude. Touchdown was extremely smooth and with only 26 passengers on board, we were in the bus and the arrivals hall in no time. Passport control took ages however, as it does most times, and it took us about another hour to get from immigration via baggage claim to the exit. We picked up the rental car and started on our last part of the journey, the two-hour drive to Kusadasi.
"Splendour of the Seas" leaves Kusadasi:
During our week in Turkey, we made a trip to the Greek island of Samos and included a brief visit to the small (and deserted) airport. On another trip to Ephesus passed the small airfield of Selcuk – even smaller and more deserted…
Pamukkale, impressing and somewhat surrealistic:
The final day of our holiday came and we got in the car at 4 pm for the drive back to Bodrum. We arrived there just as the check-in desk opened and were the first to get our boarding passes. We were hoping that we would have the best pick for seats, as the plane would make a stop in Antalya to pick up the rest of the passengers (there were only 16 passengers checking in from Bodrum). The gate agent told us however that she wasn’t able to give seats in the first row nor the emergency exit rows, and as reason stated that the plane would go to Antalya first. This reasoning didn’t make any sense to me. Everything was done by hand and I saw that she had a sheet with stickers including all seat numbers in front of her. She ended up with giving us seats in row 17, two rows behind the emergency exit - they would have to inform Antalya handling about the taken seats anyway, so what was the difference? I wrote Lauda Air about this issue and am waiting to see if they will respond. It’s not a complaint, but I want to know why this procedure was followed – they have inconvenienced us by changing our non-stop flights to one-stop flights in both directions, and I think that being able to choose the most comfortable seats for the consequently longer trip would have been a fair compensation.
27 June 2008, Bodrum – Antalya - Vienna
Lauda Air flight OS9428
Boeing 737-800 OE-LNQ
BJV-AYT: STD 1950, STA 2045; ATD 1955, ATA 2035
AYT-VIE: STD 2125, STA 2315; ATD 2140, ATA 2315
Photo © Andreas Stoeckl
Anyway, we went though passport control and sat down in the waiting lounge, which was completely overcrowded and on top of that had to accommodate angry Gatwick-bound passengers whose flight was delayed for about six hours. I saw our plane land and park; a handful of passengers disembarked and we soon boarded the bus to take us to the 737. Upon entering the plane, I was surprised to see that it was almost completely full. Apparently the flight was making a stop in Bodrum before continuing to Antalya this time. The crew informed us that it was free seating until Antalya, and there we would take our assigned seats. The vast majority of the passengers to Antalya were high school graduates celebrating “the end of an era” with a holiday, making for a very loud 40-minute ride to their final destination. Once there, we parked at a passenger boarding bridge, which made the process a bit faster. The plane filled up with a new load and we were soon off again towards the home base.
Flight time was 2 hours and 35 minutes. All announcements from the flight deck were made by the first officer, who gave very detailed information about take-off speed, altitude, routing… even the aircraft’s weight at take-off. He must have been an aviation enthusiast as well. For the meal we could choose between pasta and schnitzel. I opted for the latter, which came with potatoes, a salad and a chocolate cake – yet again very tasty. After the meal I fell asleep for an hour or so and woke up during our descent, in the vicinity of Gyor, Hungary. We made a not-so-soft touchdown on Runway 29 and docked with a passenger boarding bridge at the C-gates.
All in all, I was impressed with Lauda Air and mainly with their in-flight service. The routing change was somewhat inconvenient but not a major deal for me. They did keep us informed about the timing changes, unlike some other airlines I have flown with. The handling of seat assignments for the return flight was the main issue, but then again this might have to do with the handling agent – Havas – instead of Lauda Air itself. Let’s see and wait if they reply to my comments about the trip.