Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Trip to Germany! [Part 4]

Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.

Dusseldorf (DUS/EDDL) to Birmingham (BHX/EGBB)
Germanwings (ops by Eurowings) Bombardier CRJ-900 D-ACNI

Before long it was time to head to the airport! We'd bought a Düsseldorf day ticket for travel by train and underground around the city, so we caught the underground back to Düsseldorf hbf and then a train direct to the airport. Düsseldorf airport, despite being really quite big, was easy to navigate and we breezed through to the departure lounge. Half an hour before boarding we went through the passport check and boarded on time.

D-ACNI, the chariot to take us home
Amongst a line up of CRJs
The CRJ was both noisier and felt more cramped than I expected, even more so than the Dash 8 but that might be because it was night-time and there no was natural light in the cabin. Nevertheless it was a pleasant flight back, no real complaints and it was actually cheaper than Flybe to Cologne or Dusseldorf when I booked so I'd definately consider Eurowings/Germanwings/Lufthansa/whatever they are if travelling to Germany again. I believe the Lufthansa Groups plan is phase out the CRJs and replace them with A320 series while rebranding the whole thing to Eurowings, although I'm not sure if A320s are the right aircraft for thinner routes like BHX, which  only just fills 3 CRJs a day, this would surely mean a twice daily A320 but then you're losing frequencies, not ideal for the business traveller, the main pax for this kind of route?
Dusseldorf after departure...

The routing taken DUS-BHX.
On final to rwy33...
An Air India 787 on stand...

My 63rd flight, first with Germanwings and first on a CRJ, landed on time. Despite the Emirates 777 and Air India 787 on stand, they must have arrived much earlier or had yet to disembark, because arrivals was empty. I refuse to use the silly face recognition machines for passport checks, they take so much longer, a person is much better at face recognition! Friendlier too!

And that concludes our trip to Germany. Both the flights were pretty much faultless, no problems here, but Germanwings were marginally cheaper on this occasion! The markets are worth a visit in Germany but no worries if you can't make it over there, the Birmingham one for example isn't that different. In fact some of the stalls were identical (ie the same company!). But Germany certainly makes theirs look more festive. And I dare say the food is better over there too!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Trip to Germany! [Part 3]

Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.

The second day of our trip to Germany began with a wander around the Rhine and markets:
View from the hotel...
Bridge covered in padlocks!

Before long it was time to catch the high speed ICE train to Düsseldorf - the journey took only 20 minutes! 

We spent a while in Düsseldorf...

Düsseldorf is also on the river Rhine...
Next time, the flight back in Part 4...

Emirates to go 3 daily at BHX!

Emirates have announced a 3rd daily BHX service is to start from 01/08/15:

EK41 Dep DXB 02:35 Arv BHX 07:05
EK42 Dep BHX 09:10 Arv DXB 19:10

These flights will also be operated by Boeing 777-300ER's, however the new rotation will offer first class, a first for Emirates at Birmingham.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Trip to Germany! [Part 2]

Part 1 here.

... so after arrival in rainy Cologne, we spotted the zero-G A300 used by the European Space Agency for low gravity astronaut training. We were offloaded onto a bus for a very short hop to the terminal, which we swiftly passed through, heading straight to the railway station. We managed to buy tickets to Koln hbf (the Cologne central station) but decided to wait for a later train which went direct there with no stops to avoid any confusion... unfortunately when we did board the train, a high speed ICE, the tickets weren't valid and we had to pay ~ 4€ extra. No too bad and the conductor was very friendly and understanding about it!

Cologne station is immediately next to the imposing Cathedral, or Kolner Dom:
The view outside the railway station!
After quickly checking in at the hotel and dumping some stuff it was off to the market! Firstly, the Cathedral market. This is a busy mass of stalls, Christmas trees, people and lights and we feasted on such treats as bratwursts, kolsch (the local beer) and caramelised nuts. Having only a vague idea of what to do and how to to get around the city, we decided to get a hop-on-hop-off tourist train around the 4 major markets...
And off we went on the rickety train around Cologne's cobbled streets, with Christmas songs playing in our ears! First stop, the old market. This turned out to be our favourite market, which is split across two squares, one of which is covered by a public ice rink:

Here we had baileys hot chocolates and watched the skaters from a bridge over the ice (we only saw one person fall over, leading us to suspect that only those good at skating dared take to the rink!!). Next we caught the little green train to the harbour market, and popped into the nearby chocolate museum:
 The final stop was the new/angels market, further in town in the main shopping area:
Now being night, we headed back to the Cathedral market and marvelled at the spectacle, this one really looks spectacular at night!
We paused for another kolsch before moving back to the old market, which also looked very christmassy at night!

We then crossed over the Rhine to get a view of Cologne from the other side...

And that was the end of the first day - tommorrow, Part 3 of this festive German adventure: some more of Cologne, and Düsseldorf!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Trip to Germany! [Part 1]

Germany is increasingly popular with tourists visiting the Christmas markets, and having visited the Birmingham market last year, we thought it would be a nice idea to visit the real thing - so we went to Cologne for a couple of days!

Birmingham (BHX/EGBB) to Cologne/Bonn (CGN/EDDK)  BE1836
Flybe Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 G-JECE

We got to the airport about 90 minutes beforehand (not as early as I usually like!) and sailed through security having printed off the boarding passes at home. No problems here, it must have been less than 10 minutes from outside to airside! Then of course Birmingham airport is laid out such that you have to walk through the duty free, even if you're leaving from the old terminal 2, but this was fine as it meant I had an excuse to have a look over the northern apron:
A busy apron! Note the Hi Fly A310 in the background.
On time, we began boarding from gate 10/11 (can't remember which):
G-JECE, our #purpleplane, awaits.
It's been a while since I've flown on a Dash and I was pleasantly surprised, the cabin felt lighter and roomier than I remembered. Maybe it's the new colour scheme?! Our ride was G-JECE, a 10 year old Dash 8-Q400 which has served all its life with Flybe. Push-back was a few minutes late but as it turns out we arrived on time anyway:
"Faster than road or rail". I should hope so to Germany!
Take off was from rwy33. The flight was on time despite a slight detour around Belgium which had closed its airspace that day due to an ATC strike!

The City of Birmingham after departure.

Crossing the Norfolk coast.

Descending towards the Rhine.

Overall the flight was pleasant, no complaints from me! Cheap, on time and safe, what more do you want?! Disappointingly Flybe are dropping Cologne as a Birmingham route despite being routinely 2/3 full, I suppose the market is crowded, with many daily flights to nearby Düsseldorf as well. 

So that was my 62nd flight, 8th with Flybe, and 4th on a Dash 8. In Part 2 - we switch planes for trains and, nearly but not quite, get lost.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmastime Update!

I haven't posted in an age, I've been too busy with uni work etc etc, but here's a quick update of some major announcements at BHX.

  • Norwegian Air Shuttle are commencing flights from Birmingham next year to Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga.
  • Air India are going daily with 787 operated services to Delhi and on to Amritsar.
  • Vueling are starting flights to Barcelona next year.
  • Icelandair are commecing services to Keflavik-Rekyjavik this February using 757s.
  • American Airlines are starting a 5/6 weekly service to New York-JFK this spring, with 757s.
Coming very soon: a trip report from travels in Germany!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Farnborough and BHX update!

So it's been a while since I've last posted and a lot has happened at Birmingham airport in that time, of course this week is the Farnborough airshow week so there will be plenty of news from that too.

Firstly, a summary of the big news at Farnborough so far this year:

  • Airbus have launched the A330neo (A330-800neo and A330-900neo), replacing the A330-200 and -300. These aircraft will have new RR Trent 7000 engines and some aerodynamic tweaking of the wings to deliver a ~14% fuel burn reduction. The A330neo will fill the need for a widebody aircraft smaller than the A350 and 787 lines.
  • Bombardier's C-Series is picking up pace gaining orders from Chinese carrier Loong Air and leasing company Falko amongst others.
  • Mitsubishi's MRJ is also doing well with around 300 orders now. The first flight is due in 2015.
  • The A320neo is selling well, with British Airways ordering 20 units, and Air Asia buying 50. 
Of course next weekend, the big airshow itself will be held. Other big announcements from a while back include Emirate's cancellation of all the A350 it had on order (not as a big a blow to the programme as you might think) and the shock decision from Monarch to order 30 737max for fleet renewal! 

Closer to home at BHX, Thomas Cook have announced they are to replace their 3 strong 757 fleet with 3 A321  and 1 A320 from next summer, while Thomson Airways are to upgrade their 767 operation from BHX to a 787 as of this week. 

PIA 777-300ER AP-BHW on the recently opened taxiway sierra...

...and an EK 777-300ER landing on the recently extended runway 33!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Stormy skies...

An interesting read on the supercells of 28th June 2012, 2 years ago today:

Other good storm related sites are:

Blitzortung, a live lightning detection network, and Torro, a tornado and storm research group.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

BHX update

So lots has happened at Birmingham recently, with the runway extension going live, a major expansion from Flybe and various other developments. Highlights have been:

  • The 400m runway extension and taxiway Sierra are now in use. This now means Birmingham's runway can handle any aircraft with no payload restrictions. The first flights requiring the extension will be a series of charter flights operated direct from Beijing by China Southern this summer.
  • Aegean Airlines, the largest Greek carrier, are starting flights to Athens from BHX from June.
  • Lufthansa are passing all of their BHX flights, with the exception of Frankfurt and Munich, over to their low cost subsidiary Germanwings by the end of the year.
  • Monarch are to operate charter flights to Kavala and Skiathos in Greece this summer. Their maintenance hangar continues to receive unusual guests!
  • Flybe have undergone a rebranding (#purpleplane) and have expanded their BHX operation making it their largest base. New flights from 2014 include Cologne-Bonn, Florence, Hamburg, Reykjavik-Keflavik, Oslo-Gardermoen, Porto, Alicante, Ibiza, Palma and Newquay. Many of these are operated by their new Embraer 175's.
  • Thomson Airways are starting various new routes this summer including Agadir, Catania, Chania, Djerba and Porto Santo. In addition, their German counterpart TUIfly will be operating flights to Palma on their behalf throughout the summer season.
  • In addition to Flybe starting thrice weekly services to Iceland, Icelandair have announced they are to begin flights twice weekly to Reykjavik-Keflavik from Birmingham. Link here. Whether the 2 will be able coexist we will have to wait and see!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Trip to Scandinavia! [Part 4]

Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.

So, our 2 day trip to Copenhagen and Malmo was over and it was time to head back to Copenhagen airport. We took the train back over the stunning Øresund bridge and made the short walk from the station in terminal 3 to terminal 2. We used the self service check in machines, straightforward as always, and went straight through security (voted the best airport security in the world). After mooching round the shops, we had a drink at Starbucks and watched the movements on the busy apron:
G-EUUY, our ride home
Copenhagen-Kastrup (CPH/EKCH) to London-Heathrow (LHR/EGLL)
British Airways Airbus A320 G-EUUY
50 minutes before we were called to the gate. I was surprised at how compact Copenhagen airport is, the walk wasn't long at all. We were held briefly in a separate room, and boarding was swift - pushback was actually ahead of schedule! Time for my 61st flight...take off was from rwy04R:
Service onboard was a chicken sandwich or pasta pot. The cabin crew were mistakenly offering the pasta to everyone as an option when it was a vegetarian choice, as a result they very nearly ran out of them for the genuine vegetarians onboard. Thanks to an on time departure and a tailwind, we arrived at Heathrow 25 minutes early on rwy09L. We parked on pier C so we caught the tube-esque shuttle to the main terminal. It took about 15 minutes from plane to car, pretty fast considering the scale of the airport and the automatic passport checks (those silly machines that take a picture of your face!).

Overall, BA were nice to fly with, but not particularly special and given their normal fares probably not worth the extra. Heathrow T5 was pleasant to fly from, no problems there, but we didn't have bags so nothing to lose per say! Denmark and Sweden were great, I particularly liked Copenhagen and I can't wait to return to Scandinavia some time soon!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Trip to Scandinavia! [Part 3]

Part 2 here.
Part 1 here.

The morning of our second day in Scandinavia started with a buffet style continental breakfast at the hotel, which was very busy! They didn't do Danish pastries and I couldn't leave Denmark with having one so I ate light and we picked some up at the bakery down the road instead. By 10am we were on the  Øresundstag train to Sweden, only 72DKK one way per person. This line (which passes through Kastrup airport) passes over the longest combined road/rail bridge in Europe, over the Øresund straight, part of the Baltic sea.
View from the bridge
The journey to Malmo took less than half an hour...
Our initial impressions of Malmo were that is was very much an industrial city compared to Copenhagen. We walked along the coast to Ribersborg Kallbadhus, a spa/restaurant on a pier with views over the Øresund. But it was closed!
View of Copenhagen airport from Sweden!
View of Malmo from Ribersborg Kallbadhus
We walked all the way back, past some famous Swedish geese (I say famous because they appear on Swedish Krona bank notes) before wandering through the Kings park.
We then found ourselves in the center of Malmo, during a international market. Interesting to see what the Great Britain stall was selling... cheese and crockery! We lunched on a traditional Swedish dish of what was described as a fish burger, served with mash potato, peas and cranberries. Pudding was a nutella waffle from the French stall at the market! After mooching around some more shops, it was time to head back to the station. Heading back there, we noticed this opposite a Burger King:
We also popped into an church to kill a few minutes, and a very nice church it was too. But this note left in the visitors book made me laugh:
So that was our visit to Sweden! Overall a similar vibe to Copenhagen, but Malmo is less historic and much more a working sea port. Next time, part 4, the flight back.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Trip to Scandinavia! [Part 2]

Part 1 here.

Having arrived in a windy Copenhagen with a bump, the journey through security and out the airport was fast and buying train tickets in Copenhagen easy using the ticket machines. Straight down on the platform, and on to a waiting train, all in all about 15 minutes from plane to train! So here's part 2, a long post about the day in Copenhagen...

After a 20 minute train journey, we arrived at Copenhagen Central Station.
Lots of bikes in Denmark, as in the Netherlands! We walked around the station, past the entrance to the world famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park.
We didn't go in as theme parks weren't our thing. We walked all the way round the station and got a hotdog for lunch (with mustard, ketchup, dried onion and pickled cucumber, a Danish specialty and very nice too!). After checking in at the hotel (the Copenhagen Star, highly recommended with friendly staff, good rooms and at a reasonable price) we dumped our stuff and headed out for a walking tour of the city! The Eurovision Song Contest is being held in Copenhagen this year (final is on the 10th May) having been held across the sea in Malmo, Sweden, last year.
First, we headed to the Rundertarn (Roundtower) via the longest shopping street in Europe, Strøget. 
Amongst the standard international brands were a few oddities, including of course Lego shops!
Using just a printed map (and not GPS!) we got slightly lost and ended up in the Rosenborg Palace gardens:
But looking back we realised we'd walked straight past the Rundertarn! Backtracking, we went into this amazing building for 25 DKK (about £2.50). It was built as an astronomical observation tower in the 1600's, and still has a telescope installed at the top today. It has the unusual design feature of a spiral ramp rather than stairs, to allow horses to carry books and equipment to the library and telescope at the top.
The tower is attatched to the church next door and the old library (above the church) has been converted into an art gallery. I normally find galleries incredibly dull but this one, filled with works by Otto Frello, was fairly interesting, as he is an unusual artist - some of the paintings were in 3D! The view from the top was why we visited through...
View toward the airport and Øresund bridge
...and the bridge to Sweden!
As you can see, stunning panoramic views over the city make the Rundertarn a must see in Copenhagen. Next, we walked to Nyhavn, the old harbour, filled with 'viking' ships and restaurants:
We had a nice but very pricey meal at one of these restaurants. We drank cactus cider (yes, cactus!) and I tried to have Carlsberg, Copenhagen being it's home, but they didn't have any?! Like a Dublin pub not having Guinness surely? Anyway, the cactus cider, by a company called Somersby, we were sure was from Somerset. The waitress said it was Swedish. I've since checked, turns out it's a subsidary of Carlsberg but the apples/cacti come from... Herefordshire. Anyway, after an ice cream we headed back along the central 'Kanal' via the Danish Parliament and Royal residence...
So that concluded the day in Denmark. Honestly, Copenhagen was the nicest city I've ever visited, anywhere. Everyone was friendly, the place was remarkably clean and the buildings were nice. Also everyone spoke English fluently (even to each other it seems overhearing conversations?!). A really nice place for city break and I'd be tempted to go back in the summertime and canoe round the city, which we didn't do this time due to the fact it was freezing!! 

So that was our day in the Danish capital. Tomorrow in part 3... Malmo, in Sweden!