RTM-MAD on the Transavia 737-700
MAD-FRA on the LAN A340-300
FRA-DUS on the Lufthansa 737-300
In early December of last year, the feeling of wanting to fly out somewhere started to act up again. I always like to squeeze in a trip before the end of the year and started to look for opportunities. Initially I looked into flying the NorthFlying Metro but unfortunately they did not operate the route on the dates I was looking at. The SQ 77W from MUC-MAN had inconvenient times and it would be a hassle to fly back from MAN, and I had already logged the AB6 with Monarch a few months earlier so there was no real need to get on the KU routes either.
For the past few years however, I had wanted to try out the LAN Airlines 343 flying SCL-MAD-FRA-MAD-SCL on a regular basis. It is perhaps the most well-known 5th freedom route in Europe, and I decided to look into it. The 343 would be a new type for me, and I hadn’t flown LAN before either. The fares from MAD to FRA and vice versa were all around 120 dollars and that seemed reasonable to me. The question was, how to get to MAD, and more importantly, how to get home out of FRA? There is plenty of traffic into MAD from the Netherlands, so that wouldn’t be too much of an issue. FRA-AMS however, is either LH or KL and one way fares are insanely expensive. Of course a third, unattractive option would be the Deutsche Bahn and NS, going home by train.
I would only have to pay until the Dutch border as at the time, I could still travel for free on Dutch trains. The train fares were all around 90 euro’s which I think is quite expensive, but doable. I noticed DUS in one of the train itineraries and figured I might as well fly to DUS, and hop on the train there to Venlo. This short international train trip would only set me back 15 euros. The LH flights to DUS are usually quite affordable and I decided this would be the way to go. Hoping to log the 737-500, I booked a FRA DUS flight with the 735 as scheduled equipment. The airfare and train ticket set me back around 100 euros. Still a better deal than taking the train all the way from FRA I thought!
To get to MAD I also looked at several options. I finally decided to try out Dutch LCC Transavia again. It had been a while since I had flown them and it would be interesting to see how the service was these days. The HV flight to MAD left RTM however, an added bonus, as I had never flown from Rotterdam airport, at least not as an airline passenger. The fare was as I recall 75 euros. The flight would leave RTM at 0720, and getting to RTM by public transport is nearly impossible at this hour, so I had to rely on someone driving me there instead. Luckily my dad was willing to drop me off in the early morning!
We left home at around 5AM and got to RTM an hour later. My friend and former travel companion was on duty at RTM that morning, and secured me a seat at the exit row. I happily accepted that as I’m a tall guy and the HV legroom isn’t very good!
Foggy and cold morning at RTM
HV recently introduced a fee for checked luggage, and the checks for carry-on bags were very thorough. It actually happened ahead of the security check rather than at the gate, so anyone with luggage that didn’t fit in the size-wise was immediately send back to the check in desk. Good stuff! After picking up my boarding card and saying hi to my friend, and goodbye to dad, I cleared the security check. RTM was already very busy and the lounge seemed very crowded and cluttered with all kinds of furniture everywhere. While stylish, it seemed very small and I don’t want to be here in high summer season! There was a variety of HV flights leaving around this hour. The departure terminal features a small observation deck where I was the only one at that moment.
PH-XRY would be my ride for today, parked closest to the terminal. I do think the 737-700 winglets is the nicest looking 737 (except for the originals)
Boarding at RTM is via the stairs as there are no jetbridges available. When boarding time was called I walked onto the ramp where my friend was once again greeting me, and informed me that the plane had some technical issues with the air-conditioning packs. I said goodbye and boarded the plane. I was greeted by two friendly flight attendants and walked into the very “green” cabin towards my seat. Sitting down I was instantly happy with the exit row as the legroom was excellent! It was nice to fly a -700 series again, as the last time I flew one was well over 3 years ago with SkyEurope. For a minute it seemed the middle seat word remain empty, however the cabin crew reseated an incredibly tall guy here, which I thought was a nice touch to give him some decent legroom!
HV 6317 operated by Transavia
3rd time on type
4th time on airline
Photo © Rainer Bexten
Photo © Davide Olivati Piti Spotter Club
View from my seat
The fixing of the A/C packs took around 20 minutes. I wasn’t worried as I had planned for at least 5 hours between my HV and my LA flight. After the problem was solved we taxied out and departed runway 24. The take-off was nothing spectacular and we climbed out over Belgium. The captain announced that the routing would take us over Paris, and outside the sun started to rise, seemed like a great day for flying! The drop-down monitors showed some promotional HV video’s, I don’t think I saw a moving map however.
I started to get a little hungry, and I bought a cup of coffee and bacon-egg sandwiches for 6.50 eu. I hardly ever buy-on-board so I can’t say if this was a fair price or not. The coffee was alright and the sandwiches were pretty good. The flight attendants were a friendly bunch. It appeared that the signature on my credit card had faded off from being inside my wallet so long, and the flight attendant asked me to put it on again before accepting it.
The flight was pretty much eventless and I spend most of the time listening to music. I got some limited views of Paris as we flew over, but saw loads and loads of other traffic on the same airway over France. The cockpit crew came on the pa system again and informed us about the descent into MAD and the weather conditions.
Already on approach into MAD
We landed with views of the old Iberia “graveyard” as I had hoped. The taxi to the terminal seemed endless and took a long while. At one point we passed an old Fairchild Metro which was parked right in the middle of the airfield, without any cars or buildings or anything nearby! MAD seems to have more of these odd parking spots.
Another example, 3 Gulfsteam I props parked in the middle of the taxiways, these have been here for a while..
More LCC traffic parked next to us
After docking and most of the pax had disembarked, I walked forward and asked the purser whether HV still had inflight magazines or not, as I always collect these and I hadn’t seen one in the cabin. He told me that due to cost cutting the only thing they are getting these days are “Two wings and that’s it”. When you look at the fact that even ultra-LCC Ryanair and other LCC’s still have in-flight mag’s for free it makes you wonder what HV’s financial situation is!
XRY at the gate
Some nostalgia on my way to the terminal
It was my second time in MAD after a week-long visit to Spain in May of 2011. I’d flown Ryanair out of EIN back then and my memories of the airport weren’t too good. Mainly because of the fact that terminal 1 is so old. It hadn’t changed a bit and I was happy that my LA flight would leave from T4 which is as I was about to find out, a whole different story. I had chosen in favor of MAD spotting instead of a lightning visit to the city center, as I had already been there in May. I quickly found the free coach to T4, the drive was about 20 minutes IIRC offering some nice views of the airfield, and of an unmarked abandoned DC9 standing next to the highway. The drop-off area of T4 looked very nice, but it wasn’t very busy as Iberia was on another strike.
LAN, that’s me!
The whole of T4 looked great from the first moment. I wanted to pick up an actual LAN boarding card in favor of the home printed one, but the lines at the check-in desk were very long. I asked one of the LAN staff and he directed me to a service desk where there were no lines. The guy sitting there didn’t understand why I wanted a new boarding card but he printed me one anyway. I decided to go straight to the non-schengen part of T4 and headed to the security check. The security check itself was very fast and efficient and the staff was quite friendly. I descended down 4 escalators to an underground train station for the unmanned shuttle to T4. The train ride was quite long, and after leaving the train and climbing a few stairs, I had to clear the passport control. The lady checking my passport didn’t say anything and waved me through instantly. The architecture in the gate area’s was equally impressive and I have to say this is one of the prettiest terminals I’ve ever seen.
One of the few IB flights leaving today
The Schengen part of T4 and the MAD financial district in the background
There were some drawbacks however, I found the toilets in the terminal to be quite filthy, and there were hardly any “functional” restaurants. I found a place which attempted to look like an American burger restaurant. I bought an overpriced burger which wasn’t very good as they had put some kind of sour butter on the bread… I believe the Schengen part of T4 has a McDonalds and some more restaurants. I spent the hours plane spotting, and one of the highlights was a stunning looking SBA 763 which unfortunately I couldn’t get a good picture of.
When wandering around the terminal I suddenly noticed that my plane was already there! Kinda disappointing as I was hoping to see it land. It wasn’t very busy at the gate area, and the majority of the people there seemed to be Germans. I don’t think more than 100 people boarded the flight in MAD. Due to the terminal architecture getting a good picture of the airplanes is quite a challenge.
CC-CQF, 10 years old at the time
I do believe LAN has one of the nicest liveries out there
One of the 4 CFM-56-5C4 engines
Nose and center gear
Boarding was called per row number, I always love glass jet-bridges
We were greeted at the door by the flight attendants and I made my way to the back. I was very impressed with what I could see of the cabin. Very stylish, nice choice of colors, and everything looked spotless. Much nicer than what airlines like BA, UA and DL and the likes offer on their long haul equipment. I made my way to my seat and the aisle seat was occupied by an old lady. I didn’t see her at the gate area so I assume she flew in from SCL. She later asked me something in Spanish, but when I told her that I don’t speak any Spanish she remained quiet.
Business class, rather empty
Photo © Glenn White
Photo © Glenn White
My backpack is tagged appropriately
Legroom, not half bad, but with an annoying entertainment box under the seat
Nice and large IFE screen, I also like the cup holder
My view for the next few hours
Seatpocket contents. I was very impressed with the eyeshades and earplugs that were provided for all economy pax. Hadn’t had this on any other flight before. The Eyeshades had a nice LAN Star on it so they I took those home.
After everyone got seated it did look that most of the aft economy section was full, so after all not a bad flight load. I think we left more or less on time, a long taxi to the active runway followed. On the ground I found the 343 to be extremely quiet, you could hardly tell if the engines were running or not. During the taxi I heard a lot of squeaky sounds as the long airframe rolled over the concrete plates. It seemed louder than I had heard on other flights, possibly because it wasn’t drowned out by the engine noise.
LA704 operated by LAN Airlines
1st time on type
1st time on airline
Photo © Andrés Contador - AirTeamImages
Photo © Francisco Muro
Take-off video, my first A340 flight is a fact!
Due to the short flight the plane wasn’t very heavily loaded and so I didn’t experience the infamous slow climb of the 343.
Climb out over Spain
The fuel jettison tube
The inflight service consisted of a nicely decorated box with a ham/cheese sandwich and a small chocolate bar. I opted for a beer, hoping to get a Chilean one, but it turned out to be a very decent Spanish beer instead. The crew seemed quite friendly although I didn’t see them in the cabin much apart from the food service and waste collection. In all pretty good considering the ticket fare and seeing what other airlines offer on intra-Europe flights these days.
During the flight I switched between the ever popular moving map, and the very disappointing movie “Contagion”. The outside views were stunning, as we flew over the Alps as the sun set and so I was glued to the window for most of the time.
Nice cloud covering the mountain top
After about 1.5 hours in cruise, we started to descent into FRA as the sun shone it’s last rays of the day.
It was rapidly getting dark outside, and once we flew below the cloud layers covering FRA it was completely dark. The weather in FRA was quite miserable and we encountered some rain accompanied by turbulence on the descent. A smooth landing on the center runway and after taxiing we parked next to one of CC-CQF’s sisters flying for SriLankan Airlines, at the very end of Terminal 2.
After bidding the crew goodbye I left the plane and walked into the terminal. Because of the bad weather I couldn’t make any good pictures of the airplane. For the night, I had booked the nearby Ibis Kelsterbach, which, as I had experienced at the Anet 2011 Trip reporter meeting, offers good quality for a fair price. I got onto the unmanned train to T1 where I had to clear passport control before entering the landside terminal. The immigration officer waved me through and I entered the very crowded landside part of T1. I checked in for my flight the next day at one of the LH Kiosks. The seatmap showed a 735 which was half empty. Before going to the hotel I decided to grab a quick bite, and after following the McDonalds signs I entered a large underground mall which I had never seen before. FRA is always full of surprises!
After that I took the complimentary hotel shuttle to the Ibis, where I checked into the exact same room as last time. After updating my flight log in the hotel bar while enjoying an excellent German Weissbier (Franziskaner iirc) I called it a night. I had an excellent breakfast the next morning before heading back to FRA airport. I will definitely stay at the Kelsterbach Ibis again next time!
Let’s see what is on the planning for today, first off, a meeting with Daniel (Anet’s LH4532), my flight to DUS on LH, another meeting with Anet’s Wilco737, and then 5 train rides back home! I got to FRA ahead of Daniel and had to buy some lanyards and other LH merchandise for my coworkers, in one of the LH World Shops. The lady in the store was very nice and helpful. I checked the OPS screens and it showed DABIN, a 735 as hoped and planned for, as the equipment for my flight.
The famous LH FIS screen, I always stop to have a look
I met Daniel near the spotters terrace in T2 which was unfortunately closed for winter, even though it was decent weather outside. After having coffee and catching up it was time for us to go our separate ways. After saying goodbye to Daniel I headed to Terminal 1 for my flight. The security people were once again very pleasant and I think FRA’s airport security has among the most friendly and polite employees in the business. AMS and the TSA could learn from them.
FRA spotting never gets old!
The famous DAIRX
I checked the OPS screen again, and to my horror, it showed an aircraft change for my flight. DABEW was now scheduled. Bummer! DABEW is a 733, so still better than the usual change to a 32S, but still a major disappointment! I noticed that DABIN arrived late from MXP so I’m sure it had to do with crew rotation or something. I checked the later flights to DUS as my ticket was rebookable, but the next one wasn’t for another 5 hours and also a 733. Oh well! I spent the remainder of the time plane spotting until boarding was called for my flight.
The gate used the self-scan boarding card readers which open a gate to let you on board. After descending down some stairs and walking through a long corridor we got on the bus to a remote stand. As I plane spotter I don’t mind these long bus rides (this one took well over 10 minutes) but I can imagine it is very annoying for normal passengers.
TF-FIJ “Svandis”, my favorite 757, I always spot her everywhere I go
As if to rub it in my face, DABIN was parked close to my plane. Maybe I should make a run for it and see if I can get on board?
DABEW, at least it’s not an A320!
I was greeted by a flight attendant at the rear door and made my way to my seat. The plane seemed largely empty, and because of the change to a bigger plane, there was hardly anyone seated in the back. This would be my second 733 flight, the first one being on an (ex-LH) 733 now in service with Jet2.
View from my seat
Seat pocket contents
LH78 operated by Lufthansa
2nd time on type
6th time on airline
Photo © Hans Domjan
Photo © Oliver Brunke
Taxi out, on time iirc
The runway quality seemed to be quite poor, as we hit a lot of bumps and dents shaking us around. The departure was very nice, circling over FRA and offering some nice views.
We reached cruise altitude quite fast, and the 3 flight attendants handed out meals to the business class pax. After this they all disappeared in the forward galley for the remainder of the flight, leaving the aft galley empty and not offering any service. Even though it’s a short flight, the cruise was around 30 minutes so they could have offered us some service. I was quite disappointed by the fact that we did not get anything at all, not even a chocolate bar or sandwich. This was my 10th flight with the LH group but the first time the service was inconsistent. I understand it’s hard to serve a fully loaded plane with only 30 minutes, but there were hardly more than 50 pax on board!
Turning and descending into DUS
Anet’s Wilco737 was at DUS, spotting at the moment, and he was kind enough to send me the following pics of the landing as seen from the ground. Thanks for that!
Photo’s by Wilco737
The landing seen from the inside
I’m not the only Dutchman here, too bad the DUS AMS fare on KL was well over 300 euros otherwise it would have made for a nice flight!
It was my first time at DUS and the terminal seemed mostly deserted. I followed the arrival without baggage signs and I ended up entering the terminal in a different arrival zone then for the pax with baggage. I found Wilco soon enough though. I hadn’t eaten since leaving the hotel so the first thing to do was get some sandwiches. The guy in the sandwich shop was so impressed by my German speaking skills that he forgot to charge the bottle of water
The impressive DUS terminal
Wilco and I headed up to the observation deck for some spotting, before taking the futuristic train to the parking lot / train station / second spotting place.
DABEW getting ready for the flight back to FRA
Air France Baby Bus to Paris
View from the second spotting area near the end of the runway
This one is high on my to-do list, in order to log the entire Dash-8 family
After spotting and catching up with Wilco it was time for us both to go home. We said goodbye and I headed towards the station. My itinerary for the train trip was as follows:
DUS Airport - DUS Central - Venlo - Utrecht central - Amersfoort.
5 different trains and 4 transfers. The shortest was by far at Dusseldorf Haubtbahnhof, and with only 1 train per hour to Venlo it was preferable that I made it. The transfer turned out to be no problem at all, and I got onto a very slow all station service to Venlo. The entire trip took about 4 hours but went very well, no delays and near empty trains all the way.
[Edited 2012-05-07 05:58:20]