The driver pulled up at Lufthansa’s Terminal 2 at 6am and I quickly proceeded to the Germanwings check-in counters, where there were about 30 people queuing in front of me, as there were several 4U flights leaving that morning. It was comforting to see that the line in fron of LH’s Economy counters was much longer. The line moved slowly, and 20 minutes and a quick, painless check-in procedure later I was in possession of a boarding pass for today’s morning flight into Gatwick.
By now I was feeling really tired, cursing myself for not having booked a later flight on BA that morning. Security was painless, as was passport control. When I got to the gate, boarding had already started, with the sequence numbers 1-50 (I had 81) being boarded first. All passengers were hoarded in a couple of buses, taking us out to the tarmac, where A319 D-AKNT was waiting for us, named “City of Hamburg” (how appropriate!). The bus driver must have been tired, too, as he left the door next to me open while driving. I am sure that could have gotten him fired, but me and the other passengers were just enjoying a fresh breath of morning air mixed with jet blast.
Photo © Georg Noack
Photo © Georg Noack
I boarded via the rear stairs, and to my surprise, the aircraft was half boarded but the emergency exit rows were left completely free, so I settled into a window seat. Of course I grabbed a “Bunte” (available for free), a gossip magazine which is among my preferred plane trip literature. My observation is that a lot of men read that kind of “light entertainment” on aircraft. We were off stand on time, take-off was quick and painless, I took one last glance at Hamburg and then fell into a deep sleep until we touched down 1h10m later in Gatwick. Obviously I didn’t miss the free meal one receives on other flights, and I didn’t really feel like anything but sleeping.
Debarking was via air bridge and I soon found myself running down endless and depressing corridors together with my fellow passengers, while some UK cell phone network sent me a welcome to the UK text message. What a nice touch! The walk to passport control must have taken at least 15 minutes, and there was a bit of a queue at immigration. Another 15 minutes later, I found myself on the 8.04am Southern service into Victoria.
The next day, I was due to fly on the 4.05pm BA service out of LHR. I bought a tube ticket a Piccadilly, and just as I reached the platform, a direct service into Heathrow pulled in. As it would later turn out, the train terminated somewhere long before LHR, leaving hundreds of us stranded somewhere between central London and Heathrow. It would have just been too smooth otherwise, anyway. After about 10 minutes wait, another tube train pulled in at the station and finally took everyone through to LHR, where we arrived at around 2.30pm.
Terminal 1 at LHR was a complete zoo. Many Brits going on holidays, I suspect, escaping the London heat. Fortunately, I had a business class (called Club Europe on BA) ticket so I proceeded through to the premium check-in zone R, where three bored agents were waiting for passengers to check-in. I was issued a boarding pass in no time, preceded painlessly through the fast lane security check point and immediately found myself in a huge shopping centre – err… airport terminal. The number and variety of shops available would put most shopping malls to shame. BAA: Build another arcade hits the nail on the head.
I entered the Terraces lounge at the end of the terminal and was surprised at the amount and variety of food and drinks supplied. As I normally fly LH, I am used to lounges that serve beer and peanuts at best, and where oneeven has to fight for a seat. Not here. There were at least 20 different types of spirits, loads of newspapers and magazines, a small cold buffet and internet terminals. And loads of available seats, as the lounge was huge. BA wins hands-down against LH in this respect (but read on!).
As the afternoon progressed, my flight was delayed further and further until about 5pm. Time well spent in the lounge sipping cocktails.
Boarding was at gate 41, a deserted part of the airport without shops and travellers; in fact it seemed the flight to HAM was the only one leaving from here at this time of day. When I got to the gate, boarding was already well underway. Today’s aircraft was an A319, G-EUPB. I was welcomed on board and settled into seat 3F. Later 3D was occupied, and to my disappointment, 3E as well, by a guy who immediately started putting photo’s of his holidays into an album. It all felt kind of cramped. On LH in C, the middle seat is always blocked, something BA should definitely consider. No magazines or newspapers were distributed either, another point deduction for BA.
Photo © Daniel & Robert Fall
Photo © Ralf Meyermann
Once boarding was completed, we were quickly on our way, taking off after some widebodies. Just as the pilot set take-off throttle, an annoying beeping sound emerged from the galley. The FA’s just acted as if it was nothing and the beeping continued until about 10 minutes into the flight, when they got up and switched it off.
Drink service started immediately after the seat belt sign was switched off – for the Y cabin. After about 30 minutes of flying time (and still no service in C), one FA came out with a food and drink trolley, offering afternoon tea (whatever that is supposed to be) or a salad with bread. I asked for and was given a small bottle of wine to go with the food. Overall service was efficient but the FA’s felt sort of uninterested in us passengers. I suppose it must have been the last flight of a long day.
No second round of drinks was offered, but I asked for another bottle of wine as the trays were cleared, which I was given minutes later.
Thanks to the small drop-down screens, I was able to follow the route, which took us north of Amsterdam and over Bremen into Hamburg. Once the seat belt signs were turned on the FA’s came around collecting all remaining glasses, including my almost full glass of wine. I think there is nothing wrong with letting passengers keep their glass during the final stages of flight, and I have done this many, many times on LH. A bit of a disappointment, really.
Landing was about 45 minutes late after 1h15m flight. I debarked via an air bridge, cleared passport control, did a bit of “travel value” shopping and was on a cab home about 20 minutes after touch down (I was travelling with hand luggage only).
To conclude, Germanwings offers a decent product for the price, and I would fly them again if I needed. BA obviously had to live up to much higher expectations, which it clearly did not meet. While the lounge was better, the inflight C class product on the LHR-HAM run is much inferior to what LH is offering for the same price.
Thank you for reading. Questions will be answered and I am looking to post some inflight pictures this weekend.
[Edited 2006-08-04 14:17:58]