While I thought that spring had come and I was to be more outside then inside my house, I changed my mind this week with the return of low pressure systems and storm fronts moving over my country. Wind, lots of rain and clouds, make most of the day. Typical weather to create a brief tripreport on one of my latest day of travels to sunny Italy.
Since I try to obtain some status with my beloved Star Alliance, I’m working on several mileage runs in 2010, or just book my flights with the alliance more often then maybe usual. Anyway, this was a mileage run, and my opportunity to fly on a still very new type in the LH fleet, the Embraer 195.
Done the Embraer 170, the smaller subtype, already twice before now, but the larger types were still missing in my log. Also, LH is not going to send this type to AMS anymore in it’s summer-timetable 2010 (meanwhile started), so I really had to do it this way.
Anyway, it was in early March when I did all of this, the 8th to be exact. A Monday, so an usual busy day with lots of travellers. We’ll see!
Check-in was of course done at LH.com and what always annoys me is that so many seats are blocked for online check-in, including rows just behind the C/Y seperation curtain, and sometimes also the last rows. OK, I can understand some principles about this, taking in mind restricted passengers using the check-in tool online, or for balancing reasons etc. But LH was offering me online a choice of about 5 seats on all the flights I was going to take. And don’t tell me that I was late, because I was among the first to check-in for each flight.
The first flight was leaving early that day. Too early when you ask me. But I had no choice other then stepping out of my bed at an unhuman time on the cold and windy morning. A quick bite for breakfast and get dressed. Some ‘emergency food’ in my handluggage, and off to get on the bus. Oh boy, it was packed! Hard to get fresh air on the bus. Not really the best thing to do in the morning. But also here, not really a choice since I opted for this early flight.
Once at my home airport AMS, I went up straight to the security checkpoint. No queues that morning. How surprising! But new staff this time. From a job agency. Age roughly between 16-22 years old. With fluor jackets. Not the security staff itself, but the ‘helpers’.
-Yes, take your jacket off!
How unprofessional this all looks. No wonder I think, that AMS is not the best airport in Europe anymore. Oh no, it was “Best of West-Europe”. MUC was best of Europe. Apparently Germany is not part of “West-Europe” anymore. This was read in a news item in the Dutch media lately and referring to the “World Airport Awards 2010” in Brussels. ( http://www.worldairportawards.com ). How funny things can be. At least the CEO of Amsterdam Airport said to be very proud with the award.
Anyhow I got through in a minute, but was called for a random check. It makes me feel even more irritated sometimes. But it’s part of life apparently. It’s funny that I never experienced being ‘random’ at other airports. At least, not as far as I know. All I know is that AMS is very good and safe… Apparently.
No pictures from the departure lounge this time. I was in a hurry to my gate, B15. My aircraft was already there, after an overnight stay. So usually ‘on time’ and you can’t risk to be late.
Once I was at the gate, snow was falling lightly from the skies again. Not much, but enough to leave a thin layer on top of the wings of my aircraft. Let’s see if the handling company was prepared for this weather situation…
Boarding from 06:35L, finished on time at 06:55L. Why do we need 20 minutes to board an Embraer 195? It’s not so difficult, is it? On time, that’s what counts at least.
AMS-MUC operated by Augsburg Airways
Flight No.: LH 4705 Date: 08MAR2010
STD: 0700 ATD: 0726
STA: 0825 ATA: 0855
A/C: Embraer 195 Reg No.: D-AEMA
Photo © Andre Wadman
Door closed, cabin crew prepared the manual safety demo. After this, and we were delaying already, the captain came on the speakers. Due to snow we needed de-icing, but the handling company was expected to come in 10 minutes. Of course, Aviapartner was not coming in 10 minutes, but too nearly 20 minutes to arrive. A quick spray on the wings was enough to get rid of the trouble causing snow, and once completed we immediately got the push. Followed by a ever lasting taxiing to runway 36L (yes the far away runway). Takeoff was at 07:45L.
It was a nearly full flight, very few remaining open seats. But the 2-2 layout on these aircraft make a comfortable ride anyway. I really enjoy the flights with the Embraers so far.
The flight was calm. Good views down to Earth too. Nothing special actually, aside from the fact that the catering was below my expectation from LH. A prepacked vacuum sandwich package with 1 very artificial sandwich inside. Some cheese also, looks some fake cheese. Tasteless actually. Something what you’ll get with your cheeseburger at McDonalds. I wondered, if this becomes a new standard at LH. One drink only that morning, the usual coffee. And my own music entertainment. It got me busy for the time being, during the cruise at 35,000 feet.
We overflew FRA, well visible from our position, and followed by approach to MUC not much later. We landed on runway 08L. Still listening to my music. I think the crew overlooked my electronic device. After 10 more minutes taxiing we parked on a remote position at the commuter apron. A lot of smaller aircraft around there. But convenient German handling. The bus was standy already on arrival, and after disembarking the aircraft, we were off to the terminal in a minute.
I had some time to relax at MUC. And since the airport/LH offer free coffee, plus I brought some emergency food which went well with it, plus I brought my new ereader with a good book,… time well spend in the airy terminal building.
This car would suit me well; new BMW 5 Series Limousine
Gate G64 was assigned for my connecting flight to Italy. It’s located downstairs, near the mini ‘Allianz Arena’. My next flight was with another small aircraft, hence the bus gate.
I asked for free rows and more in front of the cabin and requested a change from the agent. My request was gladly accepted and a new boarding pass was given to me.
MUC-BLQ operated by Cityline
Flight No.: LH 3984 Date: 08MAR2010
STD: 1110 ATD: 1117
STA: 1215 ATA: 1210
A/C: Bombardier CRJ-700 Reg No.: D-ACPO
Photo © Fabrizio Berni
The bus was rather full too. But I knew the seat next to me would be empty. Good for me. “Spaichingen” was going to take me to Italy. This is one of the 20 CRJ-700’s flying with Cityline for LH, and delivered in 2003. Another new registration for me, although I logged several of this type before.
The weather was cold. Minus 14°C. But calm winds. So the feeling was not that bad. And the sun was up in the air. Good conditions I would say. Boarding went fine, but loading the oversized luggage too some more time apparently. So we closed a few minutes late, and we left the apron consequently also a bit later. We taxied to runway 08R for takeoff.
Takeoff was powerful and we climbed like a rocket. Turned around to head South, with the beautiful Alps coming closer into viewpoint.
We levelled soon, not a very high altitude. And service started also. Just a bag of crisps, and a drink. That’s all.
Plus nice entertainment when I looked left out of my window. Crossing the Alps with clear skies. Not an everyday happening for me.
After the Alps-experience descend started for BLQ, Good views on the flat Italian landscape. And a lot of turns on approach for the airport. I wonder if this was a standard arrival route or just by ATC instructions. Landing was on runway 12, with parking on a remote position next to a BA B734, from LGW I think.
BLQ airport has no passenger bridges in use. Passengers have to be transported by a bus, or have a small walk from the building to the aircraft. The terminal building is a bit older architecture and not too good looking from the outside. Welcome in Italy!
Now I had a bit of free time. Time to have a lunch in Italy. What else then having a pasta. Upstairs (2 levels up) is an area with restaurants and a coffee bar. The restaurant offers a few pastas and salads, also other menu’s can be prepared. Pricing is good. About 6 Euro for a plate of pasta. Not bad for being at an airport. Seating is in a large dining area with standard tables. But large windows overlooking the apron and single runway. All traffic is guaranteed seen from here. Spotting is possible too, but beware that the windows are dirty (from the inside). Traffic is not too special though, but you might log a few new numbers at this airport. I mainly saw some Italian stuff including a Blue Panorama B767-300 to Cuba, some European airlines as well Ryanair offers numerous flights to/from BLQ.
I went one floor down again after I finished my meal, since my return journey was scheduled not much later. A different routing was chosen, and planned by equipment which I didn’t flew for quite a while. The Boeing 737-300. Yes, maybe a very regular aircraft, but not on the flights I usually take. So a good opportunity to experience some ‘history’ again.
Security control is simple at BLQ. First an officer scans the barcode on the boarding pass and another officer tells you which lane you have to take. Not many passengers in line, but 4 checkpoints open. Good job. No waiting time. And no beeping. Through in seconds here.
The departure lounge is simple. Black stoned floor, a few taxfree shops around, one with Italian designer underwear and pyjamas. And of course an expresso bar also here. Passengers for the Blue Panorama Cuba bound flight had to take the passport control which is located on the left side of the lounge (near gate 10). My LH flight was going to take gate 11, the usual gate for LH at BLQ it seems. Ryanair flights leave from the other end of the lounge, but it’s a small place anyway. Fews on the apron are available also here, but limited options for photography since it’s a double layer of glass. Registration spotters will be fine though.
The seats near gate 11 were used. A busy place, and apparently the flight was going to be packed. One single groundstaff is doing the boarding process. It takes forever, but at least a good line is formed by the passengers, and not the ‘en masse Ryanair style’ boarding here with LH. A bus is waiting downstairs. And it waited until nearly all passengers were in the bus. A bus with cattle… It was a short ride, nobody seemed to care about it.
My aircraft was out of view all the time, so I was happy to find out a B733 indeed. A new entry for the logbook this was going to be. Boarding via front and rear stairs.
Flight No.: LH 3973 Date: 08MAR2010
STD: 1435 ATD: 1440
STA: 1610 ATA: 1609
A/C: Boeing 737-300 Reg No.: D-ABXL
Photo © Stefano R.
The second bus with the last few passengers were a bit on the late side, causing the few minutes startup delay. We got our pushback, and that B737 was packed! I did not see a vacant seat. I didn’t expect that BLQ would be so popular for LH, but loads of Asian tourists on board that were heading to FRA, connecting to LH longhauls, or NH, OZ, etc.
We would use runway 12 for takeoff again, but a taxiway was under construction. So continued taxiing on the runway and made a 180° turn and powered up for takeoff. A standard takeoff was performed. Nothing special, and a calm climb too.
The flight itself was just a standard LH European flight. I read my ebook, and enjoyed the Alps once again. The captain even came on the intercom telling about the stunning views on the Alps. He even banked slightly left, and then right. So passengers had even a better view.
The service on board was a drink and a middle sized ‘Toblerone’ chocolate bar. Good choice for the afternoon, and I really like that chocolate. So they made me happy again!
The approach to FRA took a while, since we had to follow the arrival procedures for a 07L landing. Coming from the Southeast side, this just takes a while. After landing we taxied to a remote position on the apron, with a bus standby to provide the final ride to the terminal building. Always nice to have the free tour at FRA. So many heavy metal on the ground and you’re driving pretty close to the action.
The transfer at FRA was not really long, but no problem for me. Even with the limited time I took the opportunity to go to the World Shop for some shopping and got myself some additional travel luggage. Actually a bit large for ‘handluggage’ since I got my fully loaded photobag also with me. But I managed to get it on board, and in the end even used up a large part of the overhead bin near my row. Now it was my turn, I thought!
A quick look at FRA Ops screens learned me to fly another B737-300, from a unconvenient and far-away gate. Almost at the total end was gate A42. I used this gate more often for AMS bound flights. Seems to become a standard here? It was crowded in the gate area, seemingly good business again for LH. Maybe connecting traffic which came in from Asian airports on LH or another Star Alliance partner. Boarding started just after 17:00L. Well on time, and I secured the additional handbaggage with me using the self-scan boarding gate (so far away from the groundstaffs, which overlooked this extra piece now, lucky me).
Flight No.: LH 4682 Date: 08MAR2010
STD: 1735 ATD: 1733
STA: 1845 ATA: 1833
A/C: Boeing 737-300 Reg No.: D-ABXO
Photo © Kim Philipp Piskol
Boarding went quick and doors closed early, and we eventually left the gate a few minutes early. The plane was fully booked again. No available seats, at least in Economy. Newspapers upon boarding, including a Dutch one. Good service here! I didn’t expect it to be honest. So something to read along the way. Also here a manual safety demo, and the cabin was carefully checked since a lot of handluggage was placed under the seats also.
Taxiing took not much time, 07L also in use here for takeoff. Upon line-up I was surprised by the unexpected landing in front of us of the daily JL flight (JL407) from NRT. It was served by their international ‘Eco-Jet’ with the green colourscheme. We got that one once only in AMS so far. We took off and needed quite some length to get in the air. After takeoff good views on the busy apron and airport surroundings and the city of Frankfurt.
The flight was again a standard European happening. Usual round of drinks, catering came with a ‘Cream-Cheese Sandwich’. It was tasty and fresh. OK for the timing of this flight.
Some more reading kept me busy also on this flight back home, until descent and approach, which I enjoyed again with an interesting arrival routing from the Northeast via the cities of Zwolle, Lelystad and Almere to runway 36R for landing. You’ll see some nice Dutch polderlandscape on this route, and the sun was setting on top of that. Very entertaining to many on board, since many people were looking through the windows.
Landing itself was smooth, and strong braking made us vacate even via E1, just taxiing behind the runway 24 line-up position (S7). Taxi-route via taxiway B to gate B15, common for LH flights at AMS. Block-in was about 10 minutes early, so good performance here. Deplaning via the passenger bridge took a while, since I was nearly in the back of the plane, so that was not too nice. But we can’t change these things, and go away with it. Leaving a B737 via rear stairs is not a usual procedure in AMS. We’re not in FRA after all.
It took an additional while to get out of the terminal building. Crowded with people at some places, the evening rush was still there. And the walk from the B-gates is a rather long one too. Nevertheless I was out in about 10 minutes, time to grab a bus heading home.
Four more flight successfully completed and logged four new registration for my flightlog. The Boeing 737-300’s were nice. Long time ago that I travelled on those ageing birds. And happy with my purchase from the World Shop at FRA (It’s located in the public area, so you have to leave the ‘airside section’ to go there. And they gave me a nice discount also, which makes the purchase even better.
About LH? It’s still a good carrier. I notice a slight reduce in cabin supplies/catering on board, but still a acceptable level. The crew is not very personal with service, but very professional at least. And they serve both alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks in Y-class, which is a nice extra as well for the afternoon flights.
I hope you liked the report, despite featuring just very standard carriers. I hope that the pictures make up for this a bit. Comments or any reply from you is more then welcome.
Thanks for reading again,