and welcome to my second trip report. This one will cover my flights to and my stay in London in the course of a field excursion. Date of travel was Thursday, 13th of May, returning six days later on Wednesday, 19th of May. Carrier of choice for both flights was germanwings with service to London Stansted Airport. I had been looking forward to spending some time in the capital of Great Britain months before, and it sure turned out to be a great trip.
Date: Thursday, 13th of May, 2010
Flight: 4U 2376
Route: Stuttgart-Echterdingen (STR) — London-Stansted (STN)
Scheduled Departure Time: 6:45 AM LT
Actual Departure Time: 6:50 AM LT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 7:25 AM LT
Actual Arrival Time: 7:20 AM LT
Aircraft: Airbus A319-100
Registration: D-AKNU (delivered 13/12/2005)
Photo © Markus Buttinger
Photo © Klaus Ecker
As you can see above, the scheduled departure time was very early in the morning. However, there are some flights that depart even earlier, right after the night curfew ends at 6:00 AM. I left home at 5:00 AM and needed roughly half an hour to get to the airport. The streets were surprisingly busy well before sunrise on this public holiday and I had to double park at the curbside in order to unload my suitcase. I decided not to check-in online before and made my way to the designated check-in counters in terminal 1 for the STN flight, although germanwings actually operates its own terminal (T2) at STR. With no queues in sight yet, I quickly checked-in and received my boarding pass. Given that germanwings is a LCC, I had to pay 16€ for my normal luggage beforehand. In addition to that, I decided to pre-book a seat. For the outbound flight I chose 19F –starbord side, behind the wing– for a small surcharge. Unlike other no-frill airlines, germanwings doesn't maintain a free-seating policy. You can still pick a seat at check-in, or you will be assigned one. I for one appreciate this practice!
Small FIDS screen together with the latest news - Estonia becoming a member of the Euro-zone
Due to the fairly high number of departures at this time of the day, security was crowded, so we elected to go through as soon as possible. Things weren't different at the passport check - long queues on the stairway to the exit where a bus picks up the passengers since germanwings doesn't use any jetways at Stuttgart. I left the one queue, and joined another one to get on the first bus. Yes, things were busy indeed - no time for taking any more photographs at this time. After the bus was fully stuffed with travelers, it brought us to a parking position –45 or 46, westerly apron– and I boarded the aircraft through the front door and was greeted by a medium-friendly female flight attendant. I located my seat, buckled up and waited for the other passengers to arrive. The load factor would turn out to be 100%.
Cloudiness, occasional rain, low temperatures - foul weather
The late arrival of some passengers caused a minor delay of a few minutes, after that the engines were finally started. However, we had lost our slot by now - and subsequently had to taxi into a 'penalty position' to give way to other airplanes. In the meantime, Captain Tilman came on the PA with some basic information about the flight and when we would be able to leave the airport. I also had quick read in the germanwingsmag which mainly includes articles about cities served by the airline and some of their other involvements - does anyone watch Model-WG here?
I also learned how to fill out a Russian immigration card. Great, isn't it? 4U has a scheduled service to Moscow-Vnukovo.
Making a 180°-turn for a ~10 minute wait
At 7:03 AM, the aircraft was finally ready to depart from runway 07. The acceleration didn't seem especially powerful to me, but hey, I'm used to sitting in DL B767 taking off from that runway . Anyway, halfway down we rotated, and had a very smooth climbout. Almost a bit unreal given that we had to fly through clouds for a while. The noise level seemed rather low to me.
Shortly after departure
Right through the
At cruise level (FL340), First Officer and pilot flying Tobias came on the PA providing the passengers with detailed information about our route, the weather and the aircraft's performance. Very committed and articulate annoucement, I could only commend him. germanwings doesn't offer a complimentary snack/beverage service, but has a BoB program. I was hungry, so I purchased a muffin & a small coffee, both for 3,80€. In case you're interested, germanwings' on-board offerings can be found here:
For the entire of the duration of the flight there was a solid overcast which finally cleared off as the aircraft was crossing the Channel.
Reaching England in beautiful weather only spoilt by my dirty window!
When asked by the FA, I shut my camera off and enjoyed the remainder of the flight. It became clear we were approaching runway 04, which meant we had to fly around the airport for a while. I spotted a long traffic jam while on final approach, little did I know we would be caught in the same one only a short while after. The FO made an excellent landing, and we taxied off pretty soon bound for apron A, position 12. Several Ryanair B738 taxiing to the active and the big hangar left little doubt who is the biggest player at Stansted.
Upon deboarding, I asked the flight attendant if I could see the cockpit, which turned out to be no problem at all. The Captain was very kind and let me sit in his seat for a while. I was pretty amazed how roomy and tidy the Airbus A32S cockpit is, really a nice place to work in. We did some smalltalk, and since everyone else had deboarded by then, the ramp agent accompanied me into the terminal building in complete privacy. Upon leaving the aircraft, the Captain wished me a successful Abitur (final exams in Germany). What a lovely experience on germanwings!
I forgot to take any pictures at this point, but more will follow on the inbound flight. We were taken to the immigration hall by the small airport train. The passport check was done in a minute but it took pretty long until the baggage finally arrived. We were transfered to the city by bus, which took almost 2 hours due to the congestion on London's streets, rendering it longer than the flight time from Stuttgart to Stansted. Well, at least the weather was nice. 10°C (as opposed to the 0°C forecast when the aircraft was still on the ground at STR ) and sunshine.
Below you will find some pictures covering some of the activities we did while in London.
City of politics
BA London Eye
Union Jack meets BA 767
London from above
I placed my foot on the zero meridian
bmi's dig at BA
Personality is allowed at NZ!
After spending a great week in London, we were flying home on germanwings' evening service to Stuttgart leaving at 8:30 PM. Transfer to the airport was again by bus, which took once more about 2 hours, but time seemed to fly for me. Arrival at the airport was at approximately 5:00 PM, the check-in opened some 3/4 hours later, which gave me plenty of time to explore the airport.
Main terminal building
What would Stansted be without the LCC from the Emerald Isle?
FIDS filled with departures for the remainder of the day
I was among the first to check-in when the counter opened. For this flight I had pre-booked seat 15F –starboard, exit row– which was a bit costlier than the seat assignment on the outbound leg. I had never sat by the emergency exits before, so I was eager to find out how much more space these offer.
Servisair is in charge of handling germanwings flights at Stansted
Shortly after checking-in, I went through security which luckily wasn't very busy, but people who apparently haven't heard of the regulations concerning liquids onboard weren't exactly speeding the whole process up... After clearing this section, I was still in the main terminal, with approximately one hour left before scheduled boarding time at 7:50 PM.
Once more, a transit by train was required, but a sign asks passengers to only board this train when the gate is displayed on the FIDS.
Spending my last coins
FR Boeing getting ready to leave
Finally we made our way to the terminal where the flight was going to depart from. I was curious to find out which aircraft would operate the flight, and hoped for one with IAE V2500 engines, which are also the newest in the fleet.
D-AGWE - IAE V2500 turbofans! Now I'm sure you'd expect me to write something like 'this was my ride home' but I tell you it wasn't so. As this picture was taken there was another 4U A319 on approach, which ironically had IAE engines as well, but this one wasn't the aircraft I was going to fly on either. One of these aircraft was going to Cologne-Bonn, the other one to Hanover. But which airplane would fly me home to Stuttgart? Find it out below!
AB with A319
After a minor delay at boarding, I was on my way down the escalator. Since the germanwings aircraft pictured above was parking not really parking close to the boarding gate, I expected a bit of a walk, but it didn't come so. The actual jetway is pretty much adjacent and when I came there, I double-checked with my boarding pass if I was at the right entrance because the aircraft standing at the gate was...
...this beauty! D-AHLK of TUIfly in Hapag-Lloyd retro/Kreuzflüge livery. Wow, what a surprise. Two of these aircraft are on wet-lease by germanwings, I learned afterwards.
Date: Wednesday, 19th of May, 2010
Flight: HF/4U 2379
Route: London-Stansted (STN) — Stuttgart-Echterdingen (STR)
Scheduled Departure Time: 8:30 PM LT
Actual Departure Time: 8:23 PM LT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 11:05 PM LT
Actual Arrival Time: 10:45 PM LT
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800/WL
Registration: D-AHLK (delivered 21/12/2008)
Remarks: Operating wet-leased on behalf germanwings
Photo © Moritz Riemer
Photo © Maximilian Keil
I stepped aboard and was welcomed by two female FAs. Being among the first to board, I quickly found my seat, and was stunned by the space I had. I could fully strech my legs - great! Since boarding had started later than scheduled, I expected we wouldn't be off on-time, but the load was fairly light, maybe 70% at best. Even better - I had the complete row for myself, making it my ultimate privacy and comfort zone . Too bad the arm rests don't go up in this row, but that would probably be too much asked. Unfortunately, the FA advised me to put all my belongings in the overhead bins, which meant no camera for the first section of this flight. Well, that's the only negative aspect I could find - but I'd always put up with it. We pushed back soon and made our way to runway 22. No other planes insight, immediate take-off followed by a left turn with the clouds beautifully illuminated by the setting sun.
GWI headrest covers, HLF seats
The seat cloth in detail. 4U opted for grey leather seats while HF decided to use traditional cloth seats. I found both were decent.
It seemed like forever until the seat belt sign was finally switched off so that I could get my camera out of the overhead bin. Mid-flight, the First Officer, Andy, came on the PA to give some details about the flight, including route, weather, et al. After crossing the Channel finishing near Calais in France, the aircraft was flying south of Brussels, and then on to FKB. His native language seemed to be English rather than German, and he accidentally mixed up Luxembourg with Luxor. Well, that would have been quite a detour . He got it right in the English annoucement however. The weather forecast for STR was rather unpleasant (could it be any different?), apparently it had been raining all day long. Night had already fallen as we started our approach into STR flying through clouds all the time. The reflections from the aircraft's lights were just great to look at. It was also raining later on, but overall the flight was still fairly smooth. On final approach for runway 25, the passengers at the window seats were presented with a crystal clear view of the city. Again, what a sight! The landing was a bit rough, sparking some noises from a few of the passengers. Long roll-out was possible that night, and we blocked off at an apron position.
I noticed that the cockpit door didn't open during the entire duration of the flight, not even during boarding or deboarding. Anyway, a Cobus took the passengers to the passport control and shortly thereafter our baggage arrived, which marked the end of a great trip for me. Getting home was uneventful.
I hope you enjoyed my report & I would be happy to receive feedback on it. Thanks in advance.
My trip reports
Delta to ATL, TUL and ABQ
6 Days In London | germanwings To Stansted