Thursday, 25 November 2010

Trip Report 3 - Part 1 - Lufthansa BHX-DUS

I didn't get chance to do any posts about different types of aircraft, it's been a busy couple of weeks one way or another. However, I'm on the move again, this time to Köln for a bit of work and a bit of leisure.

After a busy morning at the office, I managed to get a taxi to Birmingham at about 1pm, the driver was a tad late because he assumed I was psychic about the pick-up point. However, the roads were fairly clear and by 1:30pm, I had deposited shiny case at the drop off desk, gotten my fast track security pass and was standing outside in the smoking zone to get freezing cold before making my way through the maze.

This time, despite being only 20 minutes later than last time, there was virtually no-one at security - fast track really wasn't needed. Two machines operating and four people waiting, straight through, no silly business with swabs and no Nude-O-Scopes or Gropes. This meant I had plenty of time to get a copy of The Economist, buy a couple of items from Boots and even get a salad at Pret. As is usual, I didn't bother with the truly dire lounge at BHX.

Boarding was the usual bait and switch, called to the gate ten minutes before they were actually ready. Four staff at the gate, one doing the work, three doing the hindering of the one doing the work with important news about X-Factor. They really do need some better staff, there again, perhaps if they paid a bit better and didn't have horrible split shifts.....

The aircraft was a CRJ-900, I've come to like this type over the last year. I loathe its little brother the CRJ-100/200 as being cramped, noisy and unpleasant, I'll tolerate the CRJ-700 as being better as long as you don't have a window or need to go to the loo, but the CRJ-900 is OK.

We had about 20 minutes waiting for slots and the crew were good enough to tell us we could keep our electronic equipment on. I see a growing number of iPads and Kindles on flights as the year progresses. I'm still not tempted by the iPad, but I'm starting to think about an Kindle.

We took off about 30 minutes late, which doesn't really matter because there's a silly amount of padding in the schedule anyway, although not quite enough in this case as we ended up arriving about 15 minutes late. Service was the usual LH standard, a drink (my choice was water) and a choice of repulsive half sandwiches ("cheese" or "meat not pork" - declined as I'd eaten). The crew were fine, although the one had trowelled on the make-up to a drag queen standard.

As usual, arrival at Düsseldorf was to a bus gate, although at Düsseldorf at least you don't end up half way to Essen. In contrast to my last three trips through DUS, we immediately end up in the baggage area, but went through immigration into the main terminal, which would have been nice on the last three trips to stop me having to re-clear security, but this time wasn't needed.

I had to wait a little while to collect my bag, not a BHX-type wait, but sadly, shiny case was the last one off the belt by which time it was 17:45 and I had 12 minutes to get to the train station via the Sky Train. This is pushing it, it's even more pushing it when the ticket machine isn't accepting coins or non-German Eurocards and there a couple of eejits in front of you trying their card again and again. Mind you, Deutsche Bahn, a better error message might help the feckless. Anyway,  wasn't going to make the 17:57 train by this time.

Little known DUS facts - yes, you do need a ticket to ride on the SkyTrain, yes, you do need to validate it after purchase, yes, they do inspect the tickets on the SkyTrain and yes, the Grippenführer can fine you 50€ if you are caught. 

At this point, it was a choice between the 18:34 Regional Express or going down to the other station (Düsseldorf Flughafen Terminal Bahnhof) and getting the rather slow S-Bahn at 18:12 which would get me in about five mins later than the 18:34 as it goes round the Wrekin. I chose to stick with the Regional Express as it gave me the chance to have a cigarette whilst waiting at a station which can best the described as a larger slightly more desolate version of Bristol Parkway. It arrived on time and was already rammed to the gunnels, so I stood for the 40 minute journey to Köln Hbf. Next time I'll get the S-Bahn, as it starts at DUS, there must be a decent chance of getting a seat.

Luckily, my hotel is less than 5 minutes shiver from the Hauptbahnof and I was able to get to my rubber chicken dinner with a couple of minutes to spare. I probably should have lingered, then I'd have had something decent to eat this evening :-)

Next: Köln, possibly Wuppertal, a nice ICE ride from Köln to Frankfurt and then another boring FRA-BHX leg.

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