Thursday, 7 June 2012

Trip Report 11; BHX-MUC-TXL; TXL-BHX LH Y

Well, it was supposed to be a trip with the purpose of trying out the new shiny Berlin airport, but as we all know, Berlin's new airport is a bit of an epic fail. After a week or so where communications were non-existant from Lufty, I rang up to be told that the new service would operate from Tegel. This, of course, didn't stop the seat-shifters reassigning everyone to new seats (aisle, back of the bus, quickly corrected).

It wasn't the best of starts to a trip, for some reason I had a nuit gris and so ended up at BHX on about 2 hours sleep. However, I was to have a pleasant surprise when I dropped the case off, rather than the usual low-level grunting, a pleasant young man address me by name explained why he was giving me a HOT tag for the bag and wished me a nice journey. Mildly stunned, I wandered up to security, where there was a very short queue and I was quickly through to airside. I ignored the breakfast options in favour of free coffee, I wasn't feeling hungry but I did need a fix, so it was off to the CircusAir lounge. We were called roughly on time and I wandered up to gate 54, where I was again shocked by properly done boarding with priority boarding. Has someone from CircusAir been reading the blog?

Anyway, we had a shiny new Embraer 195, I had a decent seat, it was a bit full in steerage, so I had a seat opponent. We took off 10 late, which is sort of standard for the early MUC these days, there was a service, I declined the muffin, but I did have two cups of Lufthansa's tolerable coffee, I watched some stuff on the iPad to pass the time. When we got to MUC, we spent a good few minutes going to the bus farm but it was a fairly quick bus ride in. As MUC gets it right and doesn't lie like FRA, there was no need to reclear security, so it was off to the new Smoking Room (the old Rauchenhütten have gone) and then into the Schengen SEN lounge for a proper Butterbrezel and a quick sit down.

It was an Airbus 321 to Berlin and it wasn't quite as full, so I managed to snag one of the seat pairs in front of the exit row and escaped without a seat opponent. We were actually off bang on time and the service consisted of drinks and a choccy bar. Being a bit anti-sugar at that time, I declined the choccy bar and just had some more water. The 50 minutes to Berlin went quickly, although it was unusually bouncy on the way in. I waited only a few minutes for my bag and then it was quickly outside to have a smoke and contemplate how mean I was feeling,

After lining up the benefits of a taxi to the hotel and being possibly too early to check in versus being mean and dealing with an overcrowded bus, my innate pettiness won. I also contemplated a quick stop at Die Ess Bahn for a snack, but I still wasn't feeling too hungry, so I just queued up for a ticket and got on the X9 into town. Now the X9 runs to Bahnhof Zoo, but if like me you are getting the U2, the trick is to get off at Ernst-Reuter-Platz and get on the U2 there where you might get a seat. The trick worked and I got safely to Stadtmitte.

My ploy hadn't quite worked and my room wasn't ready, but they quickly found me another one (although I never got my Diamond amenity), I made a very quick trip out for some essentials (water, fags, crisps) and then came back, closed the curtains on my partial Dom view and crashed out for a  few hours, therefore missing about the only decent weather of the weekend.

Apart from that teensy glitchette, everything about the Berlin Hilton was fine. The lounge kept me in breakfast and sometimes in either afternoon tea or evening snacks, the wifi was solid, housekeeping were good and the refurbished bathrooms with the new showers are a joy. I wandered out plenty, but the wicked weather stopped several plans, but there was a decent exploration of the area South of the Tiergarten, a trip out to the Brauhaus in Spandau, a couple of attacks of Currywurst and a couple of Fleamarkets. 

Anyway, all too soon, it was time to go. As it was once again pissing down, I decided to get a taxi to Tegel and issued some route suggestions to the driver (like no Tiergarten Tunnels, no sneaking through Westhafen) and was swiftly facing the unsmiling visage of whatever ex-Interflug staff inhabit the Lufthansa bag drop off area. Having got rid of the Rimowa and popped to the WorldShop to pick up a model 747-800 for HWMBO, it was quickly into the SEN lounge for a quick pillage involving more Currywurst, Potato Salad and some cheese washed down with a couple of glasses of Coke. The TXL SEN lounge has a smoking room, which was better than standing outside that day.

After that, it was swiftly onto an Airbus 319 for the direct flight back to Birmingham, security (which is at the gate at Tegel) was quick and friendly and it was straight onto a half-full plane for the 1:40 mins journey back. I had no seat opponent, so it was out with the iPad and and use the middle seat as the table. The food offering was in a brightly coloured Berlin themed bag, but inside lurked the dreaded rooftile sandwich, I chose the ham, it was just as nasty as I remembered it to be, also lurking inside was an apple, a tiny bear-shaped choccy and a herbal cough sweet. There were two rounds of drink service and a rather long and bouncy decent into BHX. No queue at the UK border, bag off fifth and home in 20 mins.

I have realised that the direct Berlin has new opportunities, with it's 19:20 depart from BHX and its late afternoon departure from TXL, it means it's possible to have a short weekend in Berlin at the cost of no annual leave. Having found a cheap fare and a decent weekend rate at the Hilton, I shall be trying this out in September.

Where next, WAW in about five weeks - with a double dose of FRA for changing. I'm a glutton for punishment, but there's a miles promotion involving FRA at the moment and if I am going to pull next year off I need every mile I can get.