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!