Friday, 26 August 2011

Trip Report 8, Part 1, LH C, BHX-MUC-TXL

Bum, Buttocks, Basingstoke. There are days when you know things aren’t going to go right and this was one of them. The journey was OK to the airport, after that it just got worse and worse.

The check-in was the usual no recognition, grumpy delight that I’ve come to expect from CircusAir at BHX. I think they uttered one word, or rather more of a bark Frankfurt? To which I replied Berlin via München. This was the business class and Star Gold queue, Lord knows what they do in economy. Security was a doddle, but might have been rough without the priority line.

I then went to the lounge, that was a mistake as well, I should have gone and had breakfast at Pret, but at least I got a free cup of coffee, I foolishly ignored the top quality breakfast repast of shelf stable cake and Walkers French Fries provided for us here – some people actually pay for this!

Anyway, after the usual BHX boarding tricks of get them to the gate way too early and then leave them hanging round whilst discussing X-factor or so such drivel. Anyway, eventually we geese were herded on board and to my horror, I saw a CRJ-900 instead of an Embraer 195. Now I the CRJ-900 is actually fairly tolerable for that series of nasty curved walled, tiny bogged, flying skidoos from Soviet Canuckistan – but it meant I was in a bulkhead.

Now some people love bulkheads, but I hate them on shorthaul. I’m a fat bastard, but I do still fit in a standard Euro seat (even NEK, if I don't want to use the laptop), however, a bulkhead can be a bit tight, especially on a CRJ or a Fokker 100 and I am sufficiently porky that I can’t use the tray table which means that I can’t have my breakfast.

However, I have a solution to this, as boarding is completed, I’ll just nip back to the empty row behind me , it has tray tables, I can have a nice flight, not a slightly squashed one.

So, I ask, I explain my predicament to the crew, can I please move to 3D? It seems it can’t be done, 3D is economy class. Well, it may be beyond the curtain, but I explain that it is a more comfortable seat for me and because it’s not a bulkhead and anyway all the seats are the same on the CR9. I say, I don’t care if it's economy class – anyway, the two crew have a bit of a conflab and decide I can sit there, but they have to move the curtain back and evict the poor bloke in 3A back to 4A. Well, I’m not having that especially as if he’s in row 3 he’s probably a SEN or an HON. So I stop then and I sit in my poxy bulkhead for the flight, with no brekky and just a plastic cup of water. It should be easy, I’ll take the downgrade for comfort, they can even give me the Eco snack rather than the fairly rubbish LH small breakfast (just as long as they give me the miles for the flight I paid for), but it can’t be done without evicting poor old 3A and I'm not that mean.

We take off a few minutes late, but I’m not sure what happens during the flight as we end up 35 minutes late into München, which leaves me with 45 mins for my connection which really isn’t a problem normally, in fact it’s dead easy. However, immigration into Schengen takes rather longer than usual, although bless MUC’s little cotton socks, we don’t have to go through security again, but I do end up nowhere near the lounge, but I am near the smoking room – so I go and cigarette vigourously and with extreme pleasure.

By this time, there’s about 25 minutes left, I can’t really get to the lounge have a belated breakfast and get back in time, not with my dodgy ankle. But there’s a café just down here, so a filled roll and a cold drink will set me up. If it wasn’t for a queue of 15 people and one bloke serving slowly. I settle for a slightly sweaty Twix from the machine and a second fag.

Anyway, we are boarding, but there’s no aircraft there which means it’s time for another nasty bus journey, MUC starts to feel more like FRA at this point. Luckily the airbus parking area us a bit nearer than the regional jet parking area.

The airbus 320 has been NEKed, that means that the seats are nearly impossible to do any work in without sitting at a very strange angle and not being able to use your tray table or the middle seat tray table. Don’t get me wrong, if you are just looking for a seat for a short flight, they are fine. Want to get that laptop out, kiss goodbye to the food and drink and even then you'd better have a middle seat free and be ready to creep out your seat opponent.

The visible crew are a pair of Schiki-Mikkis (there's probably another two at the back) , camp, groomed to an inch of their life and showing vast potential of being a bad crew by handing out the economy snack at the door instead of inflight. However, we are off on time and it’s a beautiful day for flying over Central Germany, but I am in a bit of a mood by now. I decline the food (which is going to be variations on a theme of Krauterquark) as I need to finish my document off, but ask for water. It seems I can’t be served a glass of water unless I have my tray table down, so I ask for a paper cup – they can’t do a business class drink in a paper cup. As I suspected, a pair of wankers, I get zilch and they ignore me when doing further drink rounds and handing out ice-creams (that’s a new touch).

I arrive in Berlin, slightly dehydrated and utterly starving, my meeting is at 3pm, I decide to taxi it to the hotel, I’ll have time for a decent lunch and a pint. Also the idea of the TXL bus in 30 degrees of sunshine is a bit too much to bear and my stress levels might reach psychotic if I do, especially as only one ticket machine is working and only one member of staff in the kiosk.

Sum result – two business class flights, total service one cup of water, due to the seat shifters and the NEK crap. I’d complain but I’d just get a form letter telling me how other passengers love bulkhead seats and the NEK cabin. Perhaps I should look at ScaryTeam more closely for next year, or lift my self-denying ordinance on LX, although that will probably end with me in a slammer in ZRH after another encounter with the bus-gate Gestapo there. 

The good thing about this trip so far, priority baggage worked, bag off first and my hotel room was ready, the same one as last time, which is great because I liked that room last time.

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