Today I'd like to write a report about my domestic travel on Luxair.
Luxair is offering flights from Saarbrücken, a small german airport near the French boarder, to Munich, Hamburg and Berlin.
Instead of flying i.e. Luxembourg-Berlin nonstop, the planes are since then making an intermediate stop in Saarbrücken.
This is rather odd, since the distance between LUX
is approx 80 km and an approx 45 minutes drive. Nevertheless it's perfectly possible to book a flight from LUX
, although it wouldn't make any sense price- and timewise.
One will also be able to book a flight from SCN
to anywhere else on Luxair's network. Interestingly the flights from SCN
are mostly cheaper than from LUX
, i.e. SCN
was easily available for approx 100 EUR, while the same flight LUX
-BCn would cost considerably more.
Luxair is competing with Air Berlin, Germanwings (from Zweibrücken a few kilometers away from SCN
) and used to compete with Ryanair as well on this route.
Luxair is codesharing with LH
on their routes, and that's the way I booked my ticket. A LH
-Ticket from SCN
and back at a rock bottom price.
So I was looking quite forward to this flight for several reasons: I would be able to fly Luxair, I would be able to fly from saarbrücken, which I never did before, and I would be able to fly a (at least for me) rare Embraer Jet 145. I used to fly on a FlyBE Embraer 135 before, but that's it.
I was thrilled to see that on the TXL
sector they replaced the Embraer with a Dash 8, which is good news too, since I don't fly them a lot as well.
So here we go, it's time to get the report started!
Saarbrücken airport is not that far away from my home, near Frankfurt. I had a 1h15 minutes drive in perfect sunshine and hot temperatures down the Autobahn through Rheinhessen til I reached Kaiserslautern, where I got some fuel and a Subway Sandwich. Then the A6 direction Saarbrücken and Paris until I reached the small town of St. Ingbert, where I left the Autobahn.
The last 10 minutes of the drive took me trough very windy roads in a hilly area where none would ever except an airport.
Just after leaving the Autobahn:
Drive through woods and plains to reach the airport:
Approaching the airport:
But soon enough the terminal building and the multi storey carpark came in to view and I tried to find a place where I could leave my car for no fee. That wasn't easy. There is space around the airport anyway but unless you want to leave your car in the middle of the woods you wont find any free parking options. There is one road which seems safe with a few free spaces, but there were all taken.
So I drove into their huge multi storey terminal (which seems way too big), since parking is not quite expensive here anyway: 6 EUR a day, 10 EuR two days, and then 2 EUR each additional day. That's fine, especially since the car park is located just in front of the terminal.
I arrived approx 2 hours before the flight. The terminal was rather empty. Some locals which used their bikes or hiked around the towns and woods made a stop at the airport, there was an ice cream van in front of the terminal selling ice cream to the kids, a children on the lawn in front of the terminal, man, this place is relaxed!
Upon entering the terminal I saw a sign stating that passengers which arrive before the terminal opening time (4am) may go the the guardian which will show them a warm place to wait until the terminal opens.
The sourroundings are nice.
Contact Air Maintenance:
Cirrus Airlines offices (not sure if they're still in Munich or returned to Saarbrücken...):
Cirrus Embraer 170 between hangars:
Car park (a little too big for that airport):
The terminal is quite nice and airy and actually doesn't feel "cheap" at all. One side is the arrivals area with some travel agencies, a bank, an information booth etc., and the other side is the check in area. Basically they are two players here: Luxair and airberlin. airberlin has a huge ticket counter. There are approx 10 check in counters, with nice wall paints of the airlines in the background. There is also a huge Hamburg International sign, and indeed Hamburg International used to be a big carrier for charter flights out of Saarbrücken. But they filed bankrupty now.
Departure area next to it:
Only one check-in counter was staffed, they were 3 Luxair flights departing within several minutes: Hamburg, Munich, and mine: Berlin. Apparently I was the first customer, since everyhting was closed and she was reading. She took a key to start up the counter and open the conveyer belt.
Her Name sign showed "Saarbrücken Flughafen", so she aparently was an airport employee. For whatever reason I was unable to check in online, no matter if I tried through the Luxair or Lufthansa website.
I was sequence 2 and she gave me a lone window/aisle seat (13 A). She tried to check me in for TXL
on the next day, but this flight was closed. She was quite friendly and wished me a pleasant flight. The boarding pass was a a Luxair Service boarding pass. They also had some self service check in counter, one from Saarbrücken Airport, offering Luxair and airberlin check in, and one from airberlin itself (doesn't makes any sense to me, but well...).
Not much traffic today:
Newspaper stand on the way to security:
I still had quite some time til departure, so I went up to the viewing terrace where a lot of families were awaiting the soon to land airberlin-flight from Palma de Mallorca. It was an enclosed and not open air place, so it was quite hot and not very pleasant. There was a bar serving food and drinks, but it was closed.
I saw the airberlin flight from PMI
land. A follow me car was escorting the flight to the stand and people were debarking via stairs and walking to the terminal building. I loved the luguage carts, which were carts an conveyer belts alltogether. The looked like elephants
Just take a look at the picture.
Soon enough it was time to clear security, which was a breeze, people very friendly there. The airside waiting area is nice and bright, with nice views on the apron. There is quite a big duty free shop and a bar. But that's it. Aparently there is a lounge, since I saw lounge vouchers at the check in desk, but maybe those were for the lounge in LUX
in case there is a connecting business or status passenger... I wasn't able to see any lounge sign in SCN
The waiting area started to fill up quite well, since there were 4 flights departing: Berlin with LG
, Berlin with AB
, Hamburg with LG
and Munich with LG
. Most travellers seemed to be from AB
, it was the biggest airplane (73G) anyway, and probably the one offering the cheapest fares too.
I tried to use the free of charge wireless hotspot they had, but a password was needed, that one should get at the information booth (which is located before security). Since I was not fancy to clear security once again I turned off my netbook.
Then the first of the 3 flights from Luxembourg landed, it was an Embraer, and it was mine to Berin. It landed at 18:20. 5 minutes ahead of schedule after the short hop from Luxembourg.
A Cobus Bus was driving out to the plane and 2 (!!!) passengers disembarked. No clue why they had to drive them, maybe some biz passengers? I cannot imagine that they only flew from LUX
, I guess they must have been in transit in LUX
and their travel started in another place. Minutes later boarding was called. I was expecting the flight to be full for two reasons: a) Amadeus GDS only showed 2 seats left in business for days now, economy class having no seat sold in any booking class. and second reason: The gate area near gate A (where my flight was to depart) was full.
I was quite surprised to see only a few people showing up at the gate while usually people tend to queue even if boarding isn't called. Well, we were 4 people to board in Saarbrücken! Quite crazy. We had to walk to the plane, which gave me nice views on the airberlin 73G as well on a Cirrus E170 and an Contact Air ATR parked near the maintenance hangars.
The plane looked great and clean. I love their livery and it's so much better then the old one. A lot of airlines adopt new liveries which I don't like, bit in Luxair's case I think they did a good job.
I was greated by a friendly f/a, they had newspapers ready but didn't offered me one. I was expecting a full flight, but when I boarded I realized only 50% of the seats were taken. Therefore I settled in 5F and had two seats for myself. Doors were closed and we engines were started at 18:30, 10 minutes before schedule. The engines were quite silent in my opinion. New passengers were welcomed in German and English and a manual security demonstration was made from a tape.
There were 2 female flight attendants. Their uniform is goodlooking. It's dark blue while their shirt is white with turquoise small "lines" and a turquoise scarf.
While the aircraft looked shiny and new from the exterior, it was quite worn inside. The seats were very comfy, light grey leather and a thick headreast. Seat pitch was good. But the cabin showed some signs of age, especially the seats. But the cabin wasn't dirty though.
While we taxied to to runway the second of the 3 Luxair-flights arrived, this time a Dash8. I guess this was the plane bound for HAM
, since the Munich flight showed delayed on the departure board. Nobody disembarked (I guess connecting passengers from LUX
took the first flight, which was ours). It's interesting to see that the Dash8, which is a turboprop, is actually the Embraer's (a jet) bigger sister at Luxair.
While lining up on the runway the plane came to a complete stop and made the engines spool up with brakes on, old school style I would say... The runway is quite short in SCN
and there is no room for extensions, since it's sourrounded by hills and valleys. This is a major problem in SCN
, since they can't handle anything bigger than a A320 or 737...
We rocketed down the runway and were in the air quite quickly. Since we started in western direction we overflew several towns and I could clearly see how hilly the area is. We flew over the city of Saarbrücken and made a turn towards north-east which gave great views over the city: the Saar river, the city center, main train station, university and Stadium...
Seat pocket stuff:
There were 2 passengers in Business class which were seated in the first rows. The f/a's started to serve them first. Then they came with two carts, one with a choice of sandwiches (ham or cheese), I took the cheese and it was fine and actually quite big. Unfotunately I had to wait a little before eating it, since the tomatoes were still partly frozen. They offered drinks with that, also alcool for no charge. I took a Coke Zero, but they don't offered any additional hot drink or any refills, even though they finished the service quite soon. Actually after finishing business class service half way in flight, they prepared themselves coffee and sat down in row 3 and 4 and started reading and remained that way until approach into Berlin. I do realize there was not much left to do, but the flight is so short and it doesn't gives a good impression. They should rather do this in the very back of the plane or just acting as if they had something to do or serve refills or something.
But otherwise their service was fine, friendly (although not overwhelming). However there is a language issue. They don't really know what language to adress you with, so once it would be french, the next time german etc... I do understand they use quite a bunch of languages in Luxembourg...
By the way, we had great views of Frankfurt airport. One can see that the new runway is already there and works on the South Terminal are ongoing.
We overflew Erfurt Airport and shortly before Leipzig the Captain, which was a lady made a short and friendly speech, first in Luxemburgish, then French, then English then German. So many languages...
Nice seats and windows:
We sourrounded Berlin from the South, passing East and then turning to the West in order to land in Tegel. Unfortunately I sat on the wrong side to see the city. I'm sure they must have been quite nice sights. The flight attendants came into action again to check that everybody had their seatbelt on. They also came with a basket with some sweets, especially very good toffee candies which I enjoyed a lot.
The approach to Tegel is great. You have the impression to land directy in the city center, with all the big buildings around... Seconds before landing I saw the "Hotel Bärlin" which was one of the hotels that had a decent rate for that night. However reviews on Tripadvisor were a little bit on the bad side, so I choose another one. However if you have a room facing the street in the upper floors and you want to spot planes, this is the place! The planes will pass just past your window... I get next time I'll go there, plus is convieniently located near the airport, too...
Anyway, we made a nice landing and taxied to the apron. Tegel seemed quite busy with a lot of finger gates occupied. We taxied to a remote position, passing a Germania jet and parking next to a Cirrus Airlines Dornier which had just arrived from Mannheim. I said goodbye to the crew and boarded the bus. However we had to wait a second before deboarding since we had a UM
on board which absolutely wanted to say hello to the captain. That's fine, I guess that little boy was very happy about it.
We boarded the bus and were brought to a place between the "regular terminal" and the new terminal which is built next to it.
No bags to retrieve and I was at the bus stop minutes later. Bought a "Mehrfahrtenkarte", which are actually 4 tickets, but for a discounted price. This should do for my 24 hours stay in Berlin. The bus "TXL
" took 40 Minutes to reach Alexanderplatz and then a few stops with U5
to Friedrichshain, were my Hotel was located. It's called "Arcadia Frankfurter Allee" and is located in a small shopping center. I booked it for approx 40 EUR including breakfast at austrian tour operator "Terra Reisen" (part of TUI). They gave me a nice room with 2 beds. It was great. Breakfast was fine too and I would recommend it. Nevertheless it's quite far from Tegel, but if you want to go to Kreuzberg or Alexanderplatz you will be there in a short Bus or Metro ride.
The next morning I had breakfast and then I went to Alexanderplatz and to Hackescher Markt and to the borders of the Spree not sure what to do. Berlin is nice, but I'm German, I know my capital city and I've been there quite a lot of times before, so what to do... I thought about going to Tempelhof airport, which is now closed and converted to a public park. Weather was great, so I thought this could be cool. I took the subway to "Platz der Luftbrücke", although the park entry is farther south from that. But I wanted to go check what the terminal had become. Interstingly all the signs showing exit to the airport in the Subway station have not been removed. Even on the short walk from the subway to the terminal all airports signs showing the way to the terminal entrance are still there. Even the flags are still in front of the terminal building and the parking - obviously empty - is also there. It's like the airport never stopped operating. I went to the main terminal, but it was locked. Unfortunately it's not possible to glance inside, since you'd need to pass other doors and walk a few steps down, therefore no views possible.
Love the "Ampelmännchen" Traffic light:
I asked a friendly lady how to go the the park and she told me to walk down the Tempelhofer Damm, the road heading South west of the airport. It's a 10 to 15 minutes walk and then I reached one of the entries. There was a guy from the company in charge of taking care of the park which gave me a flyer with some information. Entry is free and it's open during daylight. It's not like a green park where you can expect flowers and trees or lakes, this has been an airport after all. However it's great for bikers, rollerbladers, joggers etc, since you can track down runways and taxiways. The apron is fenced off, but you can see a few stored planes which belong to a museum I guess... There is also a shooting range used by the US Army as well as a firefighter training plane stored near the apron. Other from that you can do Segway tours, there are dog training facilities, toilets and some places were you can grab something to eat... I would say this park could be boring for people who don't really care about aviation and who just want to have a nice walk. But for people into sports and for aviation geeks, this is great. I loved it and it felt very special to walk down the runway in Tempelhof, the same runway I have landed on with a Dornier 328 and especially with a farewell flight of LTU with an Airbus 330!
Soon enough it was time to head to the airport. I took the Subway to Unter den Linden in order to catch the "TXL
" bus there. Since I had a little time left and got a brochure about the RITTER SPORT Museum which is located near that place, I thought I would check this out. I have to say that I LOVE chocolate, and especially RITTER SPORT. It's nothing special, not really big (i.e. like M&M's on Times Square in NYC), but on the other side the prices are fine. You will be able to buy all the regular flavors for 0,79 EUR, which is the regular fare. Furthermore they have some special chocolate products that you will find nowhere else, i.e. a huge 500 grams (or even more?), some fan things (bags, poloshirts etc) and also some special offers, i.e. 4 boxes of assorted small Ritter Sport chocolates for the price of 3 etc. They also have "Nutella" but from Ritter Sport, which I never have seen before. I bought that one and will try it later. What is very cool is that you can also order a very own RITTER SPORT chocolate. You tell them if you want milk or dark chocolate and then you can choose 3 of around 30 flavors and then they will make a own chocolate just for you. It costs 3,50 EUR, which is quite a lot for a chocolate tablet which would usually cost 0,79 EUR, but I guess it's not overpriced either...
But now it was definitely time to head to the airport where I arrived some 30 minutes later, approx 1h30min before the flight departure. I was not able to check in online, so I headed to the main terminal (the old and classic one) since I thought LH
would be checking in for that flight (I mean, LG
is Star Alliance and that flight has LH
-flight numbers, too). Unfortunately I was not able to check in at a LH
kiosk either. Then I realized that the flight would leave in the new terminal (terminal D I guess) which is located next to the regular one. I thought only charters and things like that would fly from here. This terminal is a few meters away and it's so small. It was a mess. Interstingly a lot of Star Alliance carrier would check there as well, even SK
. Furthermore they were checking in a Cirrus airlines flight to Mannheim, a BT
flight to RIX
and a OK
flight to PRG
. There was one counter opened for my flight with Luxair to SCN
and I was the only one in line. The agent was from Acciona (again no LH
here??), she was friendly. I asked what plane would operate, knowing it was the Dash, but you'll never know. She confirmed it was "the big one" (huh, again? *g*). I asked for a window seat, she asked me if last row was fine, I told "yes of course" and got 19F. Sequence number 40 on a bland Acciona all whitish boarding pass. Hey, I care about these kind of things
Arriving at the airport:
View to Terminal D:
On my way to Terminal D, the classy S-Bahn-Currywurst-Stand on the way:
Crowded and quite small checkin area of Termianl D:
Since I had some time to spend I went back to the main terminal in order to go the the lounge which can be used by Priority pass members. I've been there before (last time I was flying with AB
) and I remembered it as nothing special. It's quite small. They have some nice things, i.e. fresh fruits, crisps and things like that, and also some beer and juices, but when it comes to soft drinks, well they are none (yes, no Coke or nothing) and when it comes to water, you have to get it from a dispenser, no mineral one...
No Wifi here, since you'd need to use a provider which needs you to pay. However the nice lady gave me a cable to connect my netbook to the network, but it didn't work, could be my netbook settings however...
I just stayed around 30 minutes and left for the terminal D again. It got quieter since most of the passengers were checked in. Security was a breeze. There is not much to do in the waiting area, which is rather average. But you have nice views of the apron. I saw my LG
Dash already sitting in the same remote position as yesterday, next to the Cirrus Dornier again, and next to the Air Baltic Dash...
Boarding of quite a lot of flights were called, finally our flight was called on time as well. We were bussed to the aircraft and while I boarded (one of the last ones) the Dornier next to our plane turned the engines on and went away taxiing for it's trip to Mannheim. I love this plane. It's so small but so spacious inside, I flew with them from Mannheim to Tempelhof and it was such an enjoyable flight. Well, this time it will be Luxair and the Dash. Not to bad either, since I didn't got to fly the Dash a lot, actually only once before, that was between Zagreb and Pula on Croatia Airlines, with a short stop in Zadar...
We were greeted by 2 friendly female cabin attendants, one elderly one, one young one... Newspapers (luxemburgish ones) were available. Again a few business class passengers, and this time also some curtains to seperate them from economy class travellers. The plane was quite full again, but the seat next to me stayed empty. The plane makes a more modern and new impression compared to the E145 I had the day before. Seats are dark blue, I guess it's the regular seats that all/most of the Dash 8Q
have... It felt comfortable and seat pitch was fine. Boarding took quite some time and we were on our way a little behind schedule. It took quite a lot of time til we reached the runway and therefore take off was quite late and we were running delayed. But no big deal. We took off in western direction and then made a turn to south-west. We passed some nice lakes while the sun set.
Dark cabin during take off:
The crew came into action quite late. They came around with the same sandwiches again. I took the ham this time. The sandwich was delicious. First of all it was not dry or hard, it was soft, and quite big, too... Then It had some nice ham (not that strange sort of ham you could find on a pizza) and mayonnaise instead of butter. It's not healthy, but I loved it. And of course some salad and pickles... It was very good. I have almost asked for a second one. I took some still water and a tomato juice with it. The tomato juice was served from a small (but for one person quite a big one) glass bottle all for myself. I was able to fill almost two glasses with it. The crew was very friendly on this flight and never disappeared or sat down preferring to read. No sweets this time however...
We passed Frankfurt by night as well as Darmstadt and reached Mannheim. I was able to spot the strobe light of the Cirrus Airlines Dornier on the airfield of Mannheim (I guess that's the Dornier which departed a little earlier than we did in Berlin). We made a right turn, passed Kaiserslautern, Zweibrücken and finally litterally smashed down on the runway. I fly a lot, but this landing was very hard. Anyway, we taxied to the apron while an announcement was made that the stop would last 15 minutes and passengers to Luxembourg should stay on board. We were late and therefore the last of the 3 LG
-flights that should have landed in SCN
(again from HAM
), one other Dash was lining up on the runway while we parked.
This time quite a few people deboarded, I would say around 40% of the load. So this time it was worth to stop in SCN
. We were bussed to the terminal and I realized that there is actually a transfer flights corridor... quite crazy. Not sure if this is used at all... Of course it was a breeze to get out of the airport and minutes later I was in my car driving home.
So what's the conclusion? In my opinion Luxair is a nice airline. Their planes are comfortable and the crew generally friendly, especially on the second flight. Their catering is quite good. They could offer some German newspapers and some magazines too, especially since they operate out of SCN
... What I disliked is the crew that just sat down, drunk coffee and read some magazines, but I don't care that much. It just leaves a strange impression. However no fault on the crew of the inbound flight. Well, and what I disliked as well was that Online-check-in wasn't working, although promoted as working on their website, even for passengers holding a LH
ticket. Other than that I would definitely recommend them and fly with them again.
As for the airports, well Saarbrücken is nice, staff friendly, parking cheap and it's very laid back. And - at least by car - it's easily reachable since it's not far from the highway... As for Tegel, well it is what is it. A classic airport located near the city center, but hopelessly overcrowded and Terminal D (as well as Terminal C) an extension in order to get the job somehow done til BBI
opens... I like this airport nevertheless.
Thanks for reading