Note: I will split this report in 2 parts for your reading comfort This part contains the first 2 of 4 flights taken that day.
The amount of intra-Europe widebody flights is quite scarce. Most flights within Europe and beyond - even medium longhaul ones - are operated by narrowbody aircraft. Sure, there are some nice widebody flights in Europe to get yourself onto: LA, KU, SQ amongst others.
Always on the lookout for something different, I noticed that Air Berlin also does some intra-Europe widebody flights, namely to the popular Spanish holiday island of Palma de Mallorca, operating the A332 and A333. As you may or may not know, tons of tourists of German and other descent fly out to this destination of fun and sun practically all throughout the year. Needless to say that the amount of flights offered ex-Germany is impressive.
While browsing the schedules and fares on AirBerlin.com it became apparent that STR, CGN, MUC, DUS, FRA amongst others were regularly visited by an Air Berlin A330. Seeing STR in that list reminded me of the fact that since May 2012, the Lufthansa route between BRU and STR was given in the hands of Germanwings, which is part as well of the Lufthansa group. Having never ever set foot on a Germanwings plane as well I thought it would be great to combine both Germanwings and Air Berlin to get me to PMI.
Timings were very favorable for a daytrip so a BRU-STR flight with Germanwings was booked for € 47, together with a STR-PMI-BCN flight on Air Berlin - with STR-PMI operated by an A333 - for € 119.
Then 1 thing remained: getting home from BCN to BRU. Brussels Airlines and Vueling both had suitable departures in the evening but the price with Brussels was already skyhigh so I had to settle with Vueling for € 89.
To sum it up: 3 new airlines, 1 new type (A333), 1 new airport (STR) and - more importantly - enough connection time to allow me some relative peace of mind I was also in contact with the founding member of Tripreporter Productions Inc, namely a.netter FLIEGER67, who kindly agreed to a meet and greet at STR.
BRU-STR on Germanwings’ A319
STR-PMI on Air Berlin’s A333
PMI-BCN on Air Berlin’s B738
BCN-BRU on Vueling’s A320
And on a map (thanks to the excellent www.gcmap.com, copyright Karl L Schwartz):
Brussels Airport - BRU
Having done OLCI the day before - Vueling does allow you to check in 7 days in advance and Germanwings 3 days in advance - and with the morning duties duly done I hop on the bike and arrive at my usual parking spot at
The main FIDS - which is of the rolling type, don’t you just love that - shows that all is fine for me right now:
There are not too much people around this morning due to it being Mother’s Day and an official holiday in Belgium so my passage through security is swift and happy. On my way there I see some advertisement that I think fellow a.netter OA260 amongst others will appreciate:
This area will most likely change a lot in the near future as BRU starts another major building project soon called ‘The Connector’:
Some photos of how that’ll look like can be found here. I grab the obligatory bottle of water and a dry croissant to-go and proceed for my usual stroll up and down the terminal. Next to the gate where my flight should be leaving from, sits this one, awaiting that one last passenger. ‘Just a little bit, yes!’ I answer the gate agent when she asks me ‘MAD sir?’ I’ve taken this very flight a few times when traveling to Peru and Mexico on Iberia some years ago:
Must-have-an-A330-in-a-report. Arriving from the J-oF-K, dedicated to FlyingFinn76 and MSS658:
Some interesting advertising here:
A few minutes before schedule, the expected silver-yellow-burgundy A319 turns into the gate:
This brave worker pulls the umbilical cord out of the ground to provide the plane with the needed energy:
The turnaround is pretty quick and by the looks of it, the load will be extremely light this morning.
BRU to STR
Photo © Gerry Stegmeier
A mixed crew of 3 - male, female, black, white - awaits us, not happy not sad, just business friendly as one would say Most people sit near the front of the aircraft, in the so called ‘Best Seat’ zone, but being a hardcore a.netter, I opt for the very last row in the ‘peasant zone’ - which btw FLIEGER67, has a window on this plane. I count a total of 20 passengers and the last 20 rows or so are for me alone:
The overall cabin impression is excellent. It hosts the ultrathin Recaro seats, the colours used are pleasant and warm and the legroom is very satisfying:
Next door is a Lufty brother/sister preparing itself for the journey to FRA:
The safety demo is done manually. I get a private one, because the 2nd F/A performing it is standing just behind the very last passenger in the front part of the cabin. So I pay attention like a well behaved school boy.
After that the captain mumbles something about a 55 min flight time and a routing over Liège but that’s all I can understand from his F1 speech.
At T minus 3 we leave the gate:
The last weeks there were some re-surfacing works ongoing at 25R, but due to the dry and good weather these works were ready before schedule. No departure from 02 then, but from the newly surfaced 25R:
The ultralight load sees us lifting off early, fighter jet style!
Banking left after departure so I can take my signature BRU shot:
See you tonight hopefully!
Those who paid quite some money to sit upfront now receive their benefits: a free drink and snack. As I’m seated far away, I can’t tell what I miss out upon but I’m not hungry anyway. Although a cup of tea is more my cup of tea (pun intended), so I order one from when an F/A asks me if she can get me anything. A few minutes later, my tea is ready and my wallet € 2,50 poorer. Hey, that’s 20% more expensive than on SN And the muffin/hot drink combo costs here € 4,80 iso the € 4 on SN. The thought that the home carrier at least has some things right, makes me a bit warmer inside
Here’s the contents of the seat socket, the magazine is not overly interesting:
Being creative with barf bags. No need for a bag this morning as we sail smoothly:
The weather was good in Brussels but underway the sun has a hard time cleaning up the clouds:
But in the final stage of the flight, the conditions improve some:
Life is good in the valley:
And beyond as well:
I chose a righthand side seat to anticipate a 25 arrival and good views of the airport but it seems we’re not doing that as we approach over some hilly terrain from the west for a landing on 7:
20 minutes ahead of schedule we arrive at STR:
Passing by a Cessna farm:
And passing by an ill-fated Contact Air F100. According to FLIEGER67 this one only does 1 MXP run in the morning and 1 in the evening. For the remainder of the day, it sits idle on the tarmac.
Passing by an oryx from the Middle East. This one does an interesting STR-ZRH-DOH routing, but the STR-ZRH leg is only sold in business class. It would’ve been a perfect 5th freedom flight but the flight time is short and prices are steep.
The airport building is no example of contemporary engineering, au contraire:
At last, we make a stop at a remote stand and join the morning meet with a few company planes. Deboarding is pretty fast with this light load:
One last look to this nice machine, a route I will surely fly again at this price!
Stuttgart Airport - STR
I’m landside pretty quickly where I agreed to team up with FLIEGER67, who is indeed awaiting me at arrivals, smartly dressed and all
We hop into FLIEGER67’s car - the weather is nice and warm - and drive to a spotter’s place where we spend some nice time talking this and that and of course watching some departing and arriving traffic. Having about an hour to spare, FLIEGER67 kindly drops me off again at T1. Thanks very much for your time and the meet, the pleasure was mine!
The Air Berlin flight actually leaves from T3 but as I fear that maybe the security lines will be somewhat longer with all these holiday makers on their way to PMI, I decide to take FLIEGER67’s advice and security check myself at T1 instead:
The process is smooth enough and moments later I’m airside again. The terminal is a bit of a mix of building styles, annexes, extras which makes it look somewhat chaotic. This restaurant is integrated in the gate waiting area:
The apron views are not good due to the fact that blinds are lowered to keep the sun out, thus generating a GVA effect. Well, there’s not that much interesting traffic anyway...
Well, apart from this one then, arriving from Varna:
After a short stroll I arrive at T3, which is located at ground level and basically is just a large hall with seats - enough of them - and doors that lead to the apron. LCC style in other words. My flight is the only one that will leave from here in the coming time and by the looks of the number of people around, it’ll be pretty full as I expected:
I set myself aside and watch the show. Lots of kids around and about but for the moment they are relatively quiet At 11:20 - bang on time - I see something big, white and red touching down: she has arrived! Not to my surprise, the plane parks at a remote stand. With a turnaround time of only 45 mins for a full widebody aircraft, I smell trouble ahead.
But surprisingly, the whole boarding affair is fast and organized. People are asked to line up at either the left or right door, depending on their seat number. The staff checks this carefully and turns back those that are in the wrong line.
STR to PMI
Photo © Sebastian Sowa
When we arrive at the plane, there’s lots going on, the ‘feuerwehr’ is on site, apparently cooling down the brakes with a fan:
A lot of apron workers are present as well, to guide everyone quickly into the aircraft:
One last look to the apron before setting foot on board:
I feel sorry for the person who has to hammer in all those rivets:
When I step onboard, almost all seats are already taken. This ex-LTU plane has a dense all Y config.. Note the abscence of overhead bins in the mid section and the old school overhead monitors::
The crew is a very mixed bag and appears to be PMI based: quite some older crew members are around and mostly speak Spanish and bad German and worse English. They seem quite disinterested at first and at second as well. That will prove on later in the flight.
The legroom is fairly OK, but for longer flights it could pose a problem. There’s a black (IFE?) box under the seat in front which restricts my legroom somewhat. Overall, the seating comfort is fine but this plane really shows it is old and heavily used:
The housing of the lighting is not transparent anymore:
The German captain comes on the horn and explains the situation with the firemen: cooling down the brakes to speed up our departure. He concludes by saying that everything will be perfectly safe for our flight to PMI. I guess there are quite some nervous flyers on board today.
Well, we are fully ready to go at the expected departure time but once again ATC pins us another 20 mins to our parking spot as we have to wait for our slot.
Meanwhile, them guys are packing up and leaving for another boring day ‘on guard’:
At last, we leave our parking position and head for the departure runway 7.
I wouldn’t mind having something like that in my garage:
We turn onto the runway and fire up immediately:
Bye STR! The takeoff feels quite powerful.
We make a right hand turn immediately. Pictured here is Köngen:
And the airport we’ve just taken off from:
This one’s for Knightsofmalta, you know this airport, don’t you
And obviously, this is GVA:
Less obvious now, here’s NCY:
Meanwhile, we have established cruise and the crew is released to do their duties. A male F/A comes round to take orders for those who would like a hot meal (to be paid for!). As I made an online order for a ‘penne arrabiata’, I feel no need to order a second hot meal. Only a few people make an order though. As the cart is rolled out, there’s a free sandwich with ‘käse’ and something else (I don’t get it because the Spanish F/A distributing the sandwiches has a hard time speaking some proper German) and free drinks. I decline the sandwich offer but ask for some apple juice and water.
Well, the cart passes and people that ordered their hot meal get it delivered quite quickly. But nothing for me... I wait some 10 more minutes but nothing happens. I push the call bell but nothing happens in the next 10 minutes as well. Then the trash is collected by another Spanish F/A. When she passes I ask about my meal:
‘Excuse me, but I have prebooked a meal’, I tell her.
‘It’s coming’, she says with a puzzled look and walks off, only to return within 10 seconds:
‘Did you order on internet’?
‘Yes, I did’.
‘OK, one moment’.
Hmm, I wonder if the order didn’t get through or they didn’t take notice? Eventually my meal reaches me, it is accompanied by a glass of water but there’s no bread like with the other dishes. Before I even have the chance to ask about the bread, the F/A walks off again and I’m left to my own devices.
The meal portion is generous and appears to be quite spicy (hence the extra water?). It is however very basically presented:
Now this red sauce and white trousers are not an ideal combo so I try to eat with great care - to which I succeed brilliantly
Meanwhile, we leave the mainland over Marseille and enter the blue golden Med:
Could this be Swiss? Yes, it is!
After the meal, I browse some in the available magazines and meanwhile the crew does a duty free sale:
Soon enough, the captain comes on the horn again and announces we will be landing in about 20 mins. By this time, we have already entered Palma de Mallorcan airspace and before joining in the line of arriving planes we perform a holding loop over the northwest part of the island. This gives some nice views:
Eventually we descend more and the last part of the flight takes us over the dry land area of Mallorca in summertime:
We land 20 minutes late on 24L after 1h40 of air time:
The Air Berlin operation here is really massive:
I’m a bit anxious - yes again - about my connection to BCN as it is now shortened to 40 mins and I’m not even in the terminal yet. I hope for a finger gate arrival to speed things up but to my surprise we are guided to park at a remote stand.
Follow the yellow dotted line and please stop BEFORE the follow-me car
Deboarding is also surprisingly swift, there are 6 buses waiting in half a circle around the aircraft. This appears to be an efficient strategy.
I have still have time for some sunny shots:
You can’t get any closer to a widebody than this...
‘Under the wing, you know’.
After this last shot I quickly jump into the bus, which brings us to the C terminal - the Air Berlin terminal.
I’ll end this part here.
For now, a few questions still remain...
Will I make the connection to BCN?
What is the % of humidity in the BCN T1?
Are my knees still sore?
There’s more to come so stay tuned!
For now: thanks for reading!