Introduction and Planning
When the idea came up to held an airliners.net meeting at Berlin for the opening of the new airport I immediately checked the possibilities to attend. The idea was to fly into TXL and depart then from BER at the first day of its operations. To get to Tegel I booked the simplest option I had, the Air Berlin flight from FKB. This is a well-travelled route for me and I wanted to do it one last time.
But to get back home I fancied something more interesting. After I have heard that three of our Finnish friends (J aka AYA333, M aka makeree and P aka FlyingFinn76) had booked themselves on the inaugural LH flight from BER to Arlanda (and after I saw that this flight was still available for 59,- Euro, oh how I like the new LH one-way fares from Berlin) I booked it as well. This would be my first inaugural and also my first joint a.net flight. What to do from ARN? As I have never been to Stockholm before I definitely wanted to have some time in the city, so I checked for onward flights the next day in the afternoon or evening. After some searching I found a perfectly fitting flight with Malmö Aviation from Bromma up North to Umeå for around 50,- Euro. A new airline and also a new plane type for me with the Avro RJ100. From UME then I booked the morning Norwegian flight to ARN for 35,- and from there Niki won my business with a route via Vienna to Frankfurt for 85,- altogether (Too bad they don't fly VIE-FKB anymore).
Well, we all know what happened then, the opening of BER got postponed indefinitely, and that only some 4 weeks before the planned opening. Quite an embarrassing story if you ask me. But well, there is nothing we could do and with all the flights already booked we all decided that we do the meeting nevertheless. LH and AB were quick to ensure that all flights would operate as scheduled from TXL instead than from BER. Our LH flight got some minor schedule change of 10 minutes, but that of course wasn't a big deal.
So in the end my route looked like this:
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
This first part of the report features the first three flights of the trip (FKB-TXL-ARN/BMA-UME).
Flight 1 (01.06.2012)
scheduled 16:05 – 17:20
actual 16:00 – 17:15
After quite some busy days at work the day of departure finally arrived. Fortunately my dad agreed to take me to the airport this afternoon. Always better to have a personal ride than take the long-winded public transport which would take me more the 1.5 hours that time of day. About an hour before scheduled departure time we arrived at the airport:
The usual suspects on the board today, my flight to TXL is the only one within the next two hours or so and therefore it wasn't very busy.
Check-in was done online the night before, so I went directly through security then, and to my delight I found out that they had reopened the outdoor terrace in the gate area. It also features a nice view on the apron, although today again something important was missing:
Yes, an airplane or two would have been nice. But oh well, at least there was this thing, anyone already tried out FKB airlines ?
Boarding was called exactly on time. By bus to a remote position and there the scheduled B737-700 awaited us. It was D-AHXD, another Tuifly plane, built in 2007. The red winglet looks quite sexy in the sunshine, I really like that angle:
But to keep the tradition, I also took an under-the-wing shot:
Boarding through the rear stairs:
Once I stepped on board I was greeted by a very friendly blond flight attendant and I settled down in my seat 21F. Seat pitch is acceptable here:
While waiting for everyone to take their seats I explored the contents of the seat pocket. On AB flights you can order these meals (and some more) from the somewhat famous Sansibar bar in Sylt:
They even have curry wurst, however I am pretty sure that we had much better ones at the Ess-Bahn in Berlin (definitely cheaper ones). Anyway no need for a BOB meal on a 1 hour flight so let's have a look what else is there. The inflight magazine:
And the safety card:
I picked this one up at the news rack prior to boarding. What could be behind that discreet black cover?
Yes, it was indeed the June issue of the Playboy magazine. There has been quite a lot of interesting articles and documentaries inside so I definitely had to keep it for later .
In the meantime boarding was completed, I estimated the load at around 60%. Quite a lot of business travelers as expected, but also some weekend tourists. I had a complete row of three for myself, so that was nice. View of the cabin prior to departure:
Engines were started 5 minutes early after a short welcome from the flight deck and we started to taxi to runway 21. The black forest mountains are not very far:
Lining up on the runway:
We then performed a nice rolling take-off towards the South, wheels up at 16:07:
The Rhine river with France on the other side:
We encountered some minor turbulences as the pilots made a slow climbing turn towards the North-East. A little later the crew started their service, as usual on these domestic hops we had a choice of sweet or savory. I took the crisps with a coke, an adequate snack on a flight like this:
AB has recently started to serve alcoholic drinks for free again on domestic flights, but I found out only after they had already served my row, bummer. The first officer was on the mike again at one point during our flight with another nice welcome and some info on our route (STR, Erfurt, then North towards TXL on flight level 310). The airshow was also on most of the time, however it was cloudy outside most of the time. This picture was already taken on descent, moments before diving into the soup (I really like the red winglet):
Below the clouds, one of the many lakes around Berlin. This must be Seddinsee:
The route must have taken us pretty close over the yet unfinished new airport, I was sitting on the wrong side for it however, too bad. Getting closer to the ground over some outer suburbs of Berlin:
Getting more and more urban:
And touching down quite hard on runway 26R after a flight time of exactly one hour and one minute:
Oh cool, an Ilyushin IL-76 on the cargo apron:
Taxiing to the gate, past the main terminal and the tower. Will this be my last arrival at TXL, well, who knows?
Most of the domestic AB flights arrive at the C gates of TXL, not really inviting:
As usual almost everybody got up immediately after the seatbelt sign got turned off and gathered their stuff. But then nothing happened for a while. Another announcement then, the ground staff obviously wasn't prepared for our arrival and they didn't had the stairs ready. Oh well. But eventually they found some stairs and we were allowed to disembark. While waiting I took a picture of my seat:
I took my chocolate heart and bid farewell to the crew. Another shot of our plane:
Next to us was this nice Royal Air Maroc 737:
At least they allowed us to walk the few meters to the terminal (I remember one arrival when they actually bussed the passengers this short distance). I made my way to the exit, not before taking another picture of the somewhat ugly check-in hall of the C terminal:
Berlin, Tegel and The Meet
Once outside I took the bus towards the city center and went directly to my hotel. I decided to play it cheap and booked a room at the Hotel Austriana, quite centrally located in West Berlin, close to the Kurfürstendamm, yet in a quiet side street. Here it is:
A bit strange, the reception of the hotel is on the third floor, my room yet was on the first floor. The room was somewhat old-fashioned, but rather big and clean:
The bathroom was a little on the small side though:
An interesting detail in the bathroom (didn't need to push the button fortunately), and the plumbing occasionally made noises almost exactly like the famous barking sound of the A320:
All in all an ok place to stay, especially for the price of 39,- a night including breakfast.
Later I made a small tour through the city, ate a very nice and big pizza and had a couple of beers. This picture was taken near the Friedrichsstrasse station, view towards the TV tower:
Next morning in the hotel I was greeted by this headline at the newspaper:
These were the main points of the article:
- Up to one hour waiting for baggage delivery
- Thefts of baggage because of underpaid workers
- shortage of 200 employees
- Traffic jams, people have to get off the taxi still on the highway
- Not enough space for too many planes
- Air Berlin warns of flight cancellations
Well, the B.Z. isn't exactly a masterpiece of reliable journalism, so it might be just slightly exaggerated .
Anyway after breakfast I decided to head out to Tegel to see who was already there. On the way towards Zoo station:
From where I took the city bus towards Tegel:
On the way, hmm, if you drive a car like this, do you really need to buy your stuff in a second hand shop?
After arriving at the airport I walked over to the Ess-Bahn. The airbus from Brussels in which gabrielchew has arrived was already parked on the apron:
And indeed, a little later I spotted some familiar faces, Gabriel and fellow user Luxair747SP were already there, so I introduced myself. P joined us only a few minutes later and we headed inside the Ess-Bahn for the first beer and the first curry wurst of the weekend. During the next hour more and more crazy a.netters arrived and the meeting got into full swing. At one point we decided to head into the city to check out the place where we would spend the evening. Some suggested to go to the Hofbräuhaus, but I don't know, Hofbräuhaus and Berlin just doesn't fit together, so instead we went to this place:
Some more time for sightseeing and exploring the city now. I wanted to make good use of my public transport day ticket and hopped into the S-Bahn towards Friedrichshain. There I discovered this, not a really inviting name, but it is only some sort of music club or so:
Later I visited the Mauer Memorial Park where there are some left-overs of the Berlin wall preserved:
Back to the airport then at the afternoon for the second wave of a.netter arrivals and also to try to check-in for my flight for the next day. The self-service kiosk didn't find my flight so I went to an LH desk, where a very friendly lady checked me in and handed me out my boarding pass. I joked with her that I would check-in already today to avoid the crowd the next day and she answered that this might be a good idea with all the new flights. She also told me twice to double-check again the departure time and the assigned gate so looks like they were really expecting some problems.
Anyway I got my boarding pass:
After all the others have arrived (and Nils was already back on his way for the night in AMS) we headed back to the Brauhaus Mitte for dinner, some drinks and lots and lots of nice talking (mostly about philosophy and literature, as you can imagine ). My dinner, quite tasty and a generous portion:
Later at night, on the way to the pub for the last drink:
There already have been a couple of reports about our meeting so I won't repeat things here. Needless to say that I enjoyed it very much, it was so great to meet all of you there in Berlin .
Just a few pictures from our spotting session at the TXL visitors terrace on Sunday:
LH with Luxair747SP on board on the way to FRA:
And the catch of the day:
Weather wasn't perfect that day so we spent the rest of the afternoon at a bar in the airports main hall. Our flight to ARN was already on the big screen:
And the last curry wursts of the day (no, I didn't have two, the other one belonged to Suryo):
Flight 2 (03.06.2012)
scheduled 17:40 – 19:20
actual 17:46 – 19:15
As the time of our departure came nearer, M, J and I walked over to gate A13 and through security there. While I put my stuff in the box for x-ray I realized myself that I still had a bottle of water in my bag. How embarrassing. The officer was quite cool about it however, she told me to take another big sip from it and then threw it away. Our airbus was already there, it was D-AIBB, first flight in January 2010, in service with LH since then:
It turned out to be same plane that operated the morning flight to HEL and back. As J took this little side-trip in the morning it would be his third flight on the same plane on the same day, also quite an achievement . Once onboard I took my seat, the middle seat remained empty. This airbus featured the new NEK interior, seats were comfortable:
And seat pitch also adequate:
Boarding completed, a rather good load on this flight, but a free middle seat next to me:
A short welcome from flight deck followed, estimated flight time today would be 1 hour and 20 minutes and the weather in Stockholm as bas as here in Berlin. A Swiss airbus next to us:
Pushback started a few minutes late, but nothing serious, and the engines were started. Now this is also something special in TXL, there is actually a taxiway that goes all around behind the terminal buildings on the landside:
Lining up on runway 26L:
And departing into the cloudy skies with one last view over the terminal and the apron:
In this kind of weather the views of course weren't very good:
After reaching our cruising altitude the crew sprung into action and distributed snack packages with an apple inside (among other things):
Personally I am not a big fan of apples (if they come in form of apple pie it is a different story though) and I looked around if someone else would like to have mine. But as far as I could see nobody ate that apple and most of them were given back later, quite a waste actually. There was also a little chocolate bear inside:
And a sandwich (there was a choice of either cheese or ham). I took the cheese one and it wasn't very good, the bread wasn't fresh at all and so it was a very dry affair. Some salad or other condiments on it would have made it a bit better probably:
There was also a little mint bonbon which I saved for later. As the drink cart came around I really needed one of those to wash down the dry sandwich:
One row behind me a passenger asked the male FA whether beer is free, to which he answered 'Yes, of course, we are a premium carrier'. I don't know if he said that with a smile but it actually sounded a bit arrogant. But besides that the crew were friendly in a professional way, as you would expect from a LH crew.
In the meantime we were cruising over the Baltic Sea and it had cleared up a little, so we had some nice views:
But not very long, as descent started it was overcast again and we had to cross some clouds before the Swedish landscape became visible:
On final approach to runway 26:
The landing at 19:10 after a flight time of 1:15 was very smooth, I could hardly feel the touchdown. During slowdown we passed this scrapyard with some interesting metal:
On the way to the gate I saw this visitor from China:
And finally we arrived at the gate next to this Estonian beauty:
There was actually no mention at all on board that this was an inaugural flight so actually I had almost forgotten about it. But then after disembarking M pointed out that there is a cake waiting at the gate for the return flight to Berlin. So J and I went there (after bidding farewell to M who had to continue on to Helsinki) and we were greeted by some LH official. We had a short chat with him and were also offered a piece of the cake and a coffee, very nice, my first inaugural cake :
Oh yes, and there was this one parked at the adjacent gate, dedicated to 717Flyer, who unfortunately missed a flight on his favorite type this weekend:
Then it was time to say goodbye to J as well, he would spent the night at the Jumbo hostel, while I decided to spent the night in Stockholm since I had a flight from Bromma the next day. I took the Swebus to the central station, cheaper than the Arlanda express, and they even have air-, or rather bus-sicknessbags: