I guess the story starts in January 2012. I was looking through the trip reports on here and thinking that I like the idea of seeing more of the world. Then it suddenly struck me that there wasn’t anything actually stopping me! Having not set foot on a plane since my trip to MCO in 2010, jetting off seemed like a good idea. According to my flight diary the last time I didn’t fly for a whole year was 2005 – and I was unemployed then so had a fairly good excuse! The 2 destinations that appealed to me most were Frankfurt and Malaga. I priced up both with BA and the prices seemed similar, as were hotel prices. I fired off an email to GabrielChew to see what his recommendations were as he had visited both fairly recently. I got a pretty rapid response and Malaga seemed the way to go. Unfortunately, as seems to be the law, when I actually came to book the flights a couple of days later the prices had shot up. Malaga more so than Frankfurt so that was put on hold for the time being and I looked to go to Frankfurt instead. I noticed that the 767 would operate the 07:00 flight and liked the idea of that, but with the earliest coach getting me to T5 at 06:50, it was just too tight. Wanting to go on something different to the usual A32x, I remembered something else that GabrielChew mentioned in his email – that there’s a BA Cityjet flight on the E-Jet from FRA to LCY. A new a/c type and new airport appealed to me and with decent times and prices on the LCY flight, I selected this option.
I used British Airways’ mobile check in service 24 hours before departure. To be honest, I didn’t find it that great. I selected 0 bags to check in and as I had already pre booked my seats, my selection was there too. However, I decided to look at the seat map to get an idea as to how full the flight was, and this is where the process came to a sudden end. The next page I saw said that online check in wasn’t available for this flight and I should call the airline to confirm the flight was still operating. I exited the browser part of the app and went back to the home screen to try again and this time I was met with my mobile boarding pass. I double-checked on ba.com and this confirmed I had infact checked in, although now they seem to think I’m checking in 1 bag. Seems to me like the app had submitted all the default options and shown me something completely different.
I woke up at 5:30 – early for some but no big deal for me as I’m usually up at this time for work. I left home at 6:00 and took a short walk to the station.
Once at the station, I looked at the coach timetable, and noticed the Saturday service leaves at 6:50 – although I was booked on a coach at 6:20! Hmmmm. I saw at the top of the timetable that it was from 2008 and hoped the Internet would be a bit more up to date. Luckily it was.
I hadn’t used the rail-air service for a good few years. Infact the last time I had used it, Speedlink ran it. It has since moved over to National Express. I must admit I was more than a bit disappointed with the service. First off, it must be the only service in the world that charges more to prebook in advance than it does to buy a ticket on board. Secondly, as we pulled up at Heathrow central everybody got off and I stayed put, as I was departing from T5. As the driver got back on, gave me a confused look and asked where I was going – “T5”. He snapped back “WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY WHEN YOU GOT ON?” I replied, “Well it was clearly stated on the ticket that you checked”. The response to that was a lot of huffing and puffing followed by “Well I suppose I could take you round there” followed by more huffing and puffing. Thanks…
Once I was dropped off at the arrivals point (well at least I was at the right terminal) I made my way up to departures and headed for a self-serve check in kiosk. 20 seconds later I was done and off to security.
There was a fair queue at security but it wasn’t anything major. The whole process took no more than about 10 minutes. Once through security I went for a wonder. This was the 1st time I had travelled from T5 – I had only previously been here for work before it was open, so I was keen to see how it looked with people and shops! I found a corner and managed to snap a few pics:
10th March 2012
Off stand: 08:19 local
On stand: 10:57 local
It was time to head down to gate A7 at approx. 7:30. The complete opposite end of the terminal to where I was but no big deal. Managed to snap a couple more pics at the gate:
Boarding was delayed due to the crew being late – somebody obviously couldn’t get out of bed!! It was called at about 8:10.
I was thinking that we would never be away at 8:20 but to my surprise we were actually off stand a minute early. Infact we were pushing back while the last few passengers were still stood up and putting their bags in the overhead locker. Luckily the last few rows were empty and I had the entire row 22 to myself.
A pretty quick taxi out to 27R followed and we were off at approx. 8:35, with no holding for the runway at all. Our flight time was estimated to be 1h15min.
Take off Video
Couldn’t really see a great deal once we were off the ground due to the low cloud coverage so I relied on the moving map to tell where we were:
Breakfast was then served, which was a sausage and egg roll with a cup of tea. After that I took the chance to get some shots of the cabin:
Decent started about 30 minutes later, just after breakfast and this is where I got my first glimpse of the ground since leaving London. To be honest I didn’t really realize how far we had got into the descent until the captain made the 10 minutes to landing announcement. There wasn’t a huge amount to see on the approach really.
At about 10:40 local we landed on Frankfurt’s new runway. We had a pretty long taxi over to terminal 2, but this allowed me to get a few pics, including the 787 – one I hoped to catch.
We pulled up on stand at 10:57 local and then waited around for about 10 minutes – although the reason wasn’t given. I made my way through the arrivals section of terminal 2.
Immigration was certainly different here compared to the US. My passport was taken, scanned and handed back to me without the officer even taking a break from his conversation. No eye contact or anything – if only it was this easy everywhere! After that it was through a W.I.P looking baggage claim and out to the terminal transfer.
I’ve heard people say that FRA is a pretty confusing place to be and I think I’m in agreement with that. I didn’t actually get lost at any point, but I think things could be made a bit easier.
I made my way down to the train station and off into town.
When I got to the hbf it was full of football supporters and police in riot gear! Being the only person trying to get off the train against about 100 drunken guys was no easy task but I just about made it. The next few hours was spent seeing what Frankfurt had to offer. Here are a few of the sights I took in. If your not interested then it’s probably best to skip to my return flight:
I then took the train back to the airport, as I was feeling a bit worn out! I had reserved a room at the Hilton garden inn. Once again, things weren’t very well signposted but I managed to find my way. I had requested a high floor with a room overlooking the airport. I wasn’t disappointed! The guy at check in confirmed my request and said he had a very nice room for me. The view wasn’t quite as good as the Radisson Blu at Manchester but it was certainly better than if I had elected to stay in the city.
By that time it was time to check in for my return flight to LCY. I used BA.com this time and things went much more smoothly. I selected seat 18a.
I glanced out the window and noticed that the fire station on the far end of the airport seemed to be quite active – a lot of fire engines waiting outside with blue flashing lights etc. Then I saw an A330 fly over without landing. I wondered if there was a problem but it eventually came to nothing. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t the only airliners.net member to witness this.
Sunday morning was quite relaxed. Must admit I didn’t have the best nights sleep due to the bed being a bit firm for my liking. Only after did I find out that it could have been adjusted – typical! I wandered down into the squaire and grabbed something for breakfast. I brought it back to my room and enjoyed the view.
When it came to checkout time, I took a walk down to the airport city mall and brought a ticket for the airport bus tour. Outside there was an A380 made out of Lego. They do seem proud of the A380 here – there are pictures of it everywhere!
A few pics from the tour:
Must admit I was very impressed with the tour. And it backed up my theory that they were proud of the A380. Every time one took off or landed we made a beeline for the runway so we could all see. Unfortunately it was only in German, however the girl sat next to me realized I was English and she made a point to translate the points of interest to me – very friendly!
I spent the next hour or 2 exploring what FRA had to offer – it’s definitely a big place! I’ll be back here in 2 weeks en route to BRU so want to get familiar with the place so my transfer is relatively hassle free. Although I’m not totally sure how much use it will all be… I picked up a bratwurst on my travels – very nice too!
At about 4pm local, I picked up my boarding pass and went through security to have a look what was there. The passport check was a bit more thorough than yesterday – the guy actually looked at me today! Although he was still more interested in his conversation.
Not much it seemed apart from some comfy chairs to sit in, some information points yet more A380 promotion and the usual duty free junk. I settled down to watch a bit of Curb your Enthusiasm on my iPad and by the time that had finished it was time to go down to gate D7.
I waited in the holding pen, but there was no E170 in sight. The only BA plane I could see was G-EUPU to LHR.
At this point I was hoping to be leaving from a remote stand. I always enjoy walking up the stairs on to the plane. About 5 minutes later the lady sat next to me got up and walked off, leaving all her baggage behind. Despite numerous announcements during the day not to do this, she obviously felt this didn’t apply to her. Still, the law of karma caught up with her, as no sooner had she got up boarding was called and everybody was up and off!
11th March 2012
Off stand: 18:09 Local
On stand: 18:36 Local
At approx. 17:30 local, boarding was called. I thought this was a little bit early, but then I found out my wish was granted and we were going to be bussed to the plane. There was a bit of a queue while we waited for a 2nd bus but after 5 minutes I was off for my 2nd airport bus trip of the day. The aircraft was parked at the furthest possible stand so the journey took quite some time.
I got on the E170 and I parked myself in my assigned seat. Unlike yesterday the flight seemed pretty full and I didn’t have an entire row to myself this time. Everybody was on fairly quickly with the exception of 1 person. Guess who…
This service seemed quite a bit different to the mainline service. The BA advertising music was playing and there were quite a few pre-recorded announcements. The only actual announcement came from the flight deck saying we were waiting for one passenger and as soon as they turn up we would be on our way. Also he mentioned that we had a flight time of 1h10 and that we were expecting a long taxi to the South runway. Pushback commenced at 18:08 local and the engines were started. It struck me that the E-series was quite a bit louder than the A319 I was on yesterday. Although that could of been due to the fact I was closer to the wing.
We taxied past the Southern cargo area at some rate of speed and on to the runway and made a pretty brisk take off a third of the way down runway 18.
Once above the clouds the cabin service started and we were greeted with a glorious sunset:
Then came a bit of turbulence. Not a huge amount, but just enough to let you know that the drinks service was about to begin!
When the drinks service reached me, we had started our descent. The captain announced that we would be landing to the West at 18:30 local. We slowly made our way down as the light outside faded. At 18:20 local the captain once again came on saying there had been a change of plan. We would now be landing to the East instead and that as it was a nice evening weather wise there would be some good views as we approach over London. And there were some very good views – for everybody sat over the other side of the plane!!
As we got lower, the speed brakes were deployed – as I’ve neither been on an E-jet or into LCY I’m not sure if this is normal practice? Maybe somebody could enlighten me. A few moments later we made a very hard touch down and the brakes were jammed on – to the point where if I hadn’t been strapped to my seat I would of been thrown out of it! We did a 180 degree turn at the end of the runway and made our way to the apron – the whole process taking only a couple of minutes.
We disembarked pretty quickly and I made my way over to gate 6 via the back steps.
The whole border control process at LCY was very well organized and the only hold up came at customs where instead of any high tech machinery there was a dog and a fairly big looking border control officer. The dog seemed to take a keen interest in me and was told to empty my pockets. I did so, and then the dog seemed interested in my wallet. A bit of light banter later and I was on my way up to the DLR station and onwards to Waterloo, where I will leave this report.
Overall I enjoyed Frankfurt, although there was a point on Sunday afternoon where I slightly ran out of things to do. The BA flights were no problem at all. Must admit I found the outbound slightly more enjoyable and the crew more friendly. There wasn’t any problem with the LCY crew; I just found that they seemed a little more professional, although I guess that’s what comes from dealing with mostly business people. I also found the A319 slightly more comfortable, although that’s probably down to me not having a seatmate. If I had a spare seat next to me on the inbound my opinion might be different. The hotel was as expected from a Hilton. Clean and modern. The only let down was from National Express. It wasn’t a huge deal as I had plenty of time but if I was a bit pushed it could have been more of an issue. I also feel that if I hadn’t been so clued up on how the airport worked, I could of ended up very lost.
Hopefully you have enjoyed my first purpose written report. I know a few people like only the aviation side of things; however the ones I enjoy the most is where it goes from journeys beginning to end.
Next up for me is a slightly more interesting trip that will bring me back to FRA on my way to BRU.
All pictures taken on an iPhone4 or Canon 550D