Lufthansa, Business Class – Boeing B 737-300 / Canadair Regionaljet CRJ-700: Copenhagen to Basel via Frankfurt

Introduction

It’s the last day of the year, 31 December 2011. The Tivoli in Copenhagen closed its door for the season the night before. The shops don’t seem to be open either and the streets of Copenhagen are surprisingly quiet as I cross the road to access the railway station. And indeed, as the old years draws to a close, it’s time for me to return home as well.

Date: 31 December 2011
From:
Copenhagen
To:
Frankfurt
Airline:
Lufthansa
Aircraft:
B 737-300
Seat:
1F
Class:
Business Class

Getting to the Airport

At around noon I check out of the hotel. Copenhagen’s main railway station is right across the road.

Danish trains are rather comfy and well maintained, but lord they’re so ugly to look at from the outside!

The railway station and platforms at Kastrup airport are located one floor down from the terminal. As soon as you get off the escalator you’re already standing right in the middle of the check-in area.

Check-in

I try one of the self-service kiosks. For some reason it prints my boarding pass for the flight from Frankfurt to Basel but not the one from Copenhagen to Frankfurt. When I try a second time a message appears on the screen telling me I need to contact Lufthansa when I get Frankfurt, which seems somewhat difficult to achieve without a boarding pass to get to Frankfurt. So I head over to one of the counters for check-in, where I receive my boarding pass with no difficulty at all.

I’m flying Lufthansa, so no SAS Fast Track for me today. If only! The queue is something nasty. Eventually it takes me 20 minutes to reach the actual security check.

Surprisingly though, once I arrive airside, the terminal is nearly deserted. Where is everyone?

I really like Copenhagen airport. It just looks so nice with the low winter sun peering in through the windows.

The SAS Lounge

The Scandinavian lounge is very quiet and peaceful, which gives me a good opportunity to take some pictures of course…

Boarding

At around 16h00 I leave the lounge and go on a walkabout. By this time the airport is nearly deserted and most of the shops are already closing or have already closed. Note the absence of humans in the following pictures.

My flight to Frankfurt, it will not be a full flight.

The Cabin

There are three passengers in Business Class. Surprisingly, the aircraft has the new ‘Eurokabine’. I was under the impression that Lufthansa was getting rid of its Boeing narrow-bodies, so I didn’t think they would bother to refit them. In any case, those seats are just so thin!

It gets dark quickly up north. And by the time we push back it’s nearly night.

Obviously there are no queues for take-off and once we break though the low clouds the scenery is actually rather nice and very poetic.

The Meal

The meal service is typically German fare, with loads of Wurst and Speck, both of which are not top of the list of my favourite foods. At least the starter is good. It consists of red snapper in a saffron sauce.

The crew on this short flight is excellent. They are all very attentive and the purser even makes sure to address passengers by name, something you don’t get very often on short-haul flights these days.

Transfer in Frankfurt

We land on the new runway in Frankfurt. By this time though it is already dark, making it difficult to get some good shorts. At least we park on a remote stand!

The Lufthansa Lounge

I travel through Frankfurt quite often and I think I can truly say I have never seen the Senator lounge so empty. There are only about ten people in it and the staff look as though they’re bored absolutely senseless. One of them strikes up a conversation with me. She complains to me that she’s already wiped every single table at least four times and still has a few more hours to go to the end of her shift!

Date: 31 December 2011
From: Frankfurt
To: Basel
Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: CRJ 700
Seat: 4A
Class: Business Class

Boarding

Eventually boarding begins and we all head downstairs and onto the bus that will take us to our aircraft. I count 30 passengers on this flight, with only two of us in Business Class.

The Cabin

The Canadair Regional Jet is certainly a beauty to look at. From the inside however, I must say I find them rather cramped. Furthermore, Lufthansa’s somewhat drab cabin design on these birds – shades of depressing grey with shades of more grey – does not make them any more appealing to the passenger.

Take-off on this little bugger is powerful, especially with such a light load. With a flight time of only 35 minutes,  the cabin crew more or less start with the service as soon as the gear goes up.

The Meal

Actually I am quite surprised to get anything at all, even if, again, the main event is Wurst with an enormous salad. The dressing is something strange.

Still, the chocolate makes up for the Wurst I guess.

Arrival

Basel airport, like Copenhagen and Frankfurt, is deserted and very soon I am though the terminal and back on the bus home.


Conclusion

So what about Lufthansa? The usual actually: not very stylish, not really inspired either, but reliable and efficient. I never thought I’d see the day but I’ve come to prefer Lufthansa over Swiss recently (except for the Wurst bit perhaps). It’s the professionalism of the entire operation and of the staff that tips the scale in their favour. The new Eurokabine is also definitely a major improvement over the previous cabin design and gives the aircraft a very stylish appearance.

Blue 1, Economy Extra – Boeing B 717 / ATR-72: Copenhagen to Oulu via Helsinki

Introduction

This is a review of a trip I took in December of 2011. In the meantime a lot has been happening at Blue 1. The beginning of 2012 looked rather bleak for this Finnish SAS subsidiary, with the airline basically withdrawing from all its international services outside Scandinavia. In the meantime though, things have started to look up, at least slightly. With the financial situation at SAS continuing to deteriorate, it may well be that Blue 1 will end up taking over at least the entire European operation of the SAS group.

Date: 27 December 2011
From: Copenhagen
To: Helsinki
Airline: Blue1
Aircraft: B 717
Seat: 1F
Cabin Class: Economy Extra

Check-in

Copenhagen airport is very busy when I arrive, judging by the queues it looks as though all of Denmark has elected to travel by air on this early morning!

Fortunately I checked in online the previous day, so I won’t have to join the not so fun looking queue down there.

In Copenhagen SAS has a dedicated Fast Track for passengers in Business Class on SAS or with Eurobonus gold status. Fortunately Economy Extra passengers on Blue1 may also avail themselves of the fast track.

There are two exits from the Fast Track security area, one leads you into a duty free shop while the other drops you off right outside the SAS lounges.

The SAS Gold Lounge

There are two lounges in one facility in Copenhagen. The SAS lounge for Business Class passengers is located on the ground floor, while the upper floor is the Scandinavia lounge for all Star Gold passengers. The lounge is rather peaceful. Not really quite sure what to expect in terms of catering on Blue 1, I decide to have breakfast in the lounge.

Boarding

Eventually I head to the departure gate to catch a first glimpse of my ride to Helsinki.  Et voilà!

The Cabin

My first impression of the cabin is good, although the carpets look rather worn and filthy. Of the three flights on a Bue1 B 717 I take on this trip, none were identical from the inside. This aircraft has a bulkhead covered in blue leather and is equipped with two lavatories in the rear of the cabin.

We take off into a murky looking Copenhagen sky, very soon though we are through the clouds and in lovely subdued sunshine.

Service already starts on the ground with a round of water or orange juice. There are eight rows of Economy Extra for only five passengers in this cabin, which makes for a very pleasant and quiet flight.

The Meal

Once we we are airborne, breakfast is served, which comes with nice warm bread. The crew do a number of coffee and juice rounds throughout the flight. One thing that strikes me is that everything on this aircraft is SAS branded, from the seat covers to the salt and pepper sachets. So why not just call it SAS Finland?

The meal is tasty and certainly more than I expected. It hits the spot just nicely.

Arrival

Soon we start our descent, which is a very bumpy affair, making it really hard to take any decent pictures.

Transfer in Helsinki

Upon arrival I head for the SAS lounge, which is right opposite my gate for the connection to Oulu. The lounge is nice and rather well stocked.

The weather is starting to clear up – I think.

Date: 27 December 2011
From: Helsinki
To: Oulu
Airline: Blue1
Operated by: Golden Air
Aircraft: ATR 72
Seat: 18A
Cabin Class: Economy Extra

Boarding

Boarding for this flight is from a remote stand, so we are bussed to our aircraft, which is parked in a part of the airport that really does justice to the term ‘remote stand’.

The load on this flight is close to 100%. There are two rows of Economy Extra. As the ATR has the entry door at the rear, the premium section is also located in the rear section of the cabin. So I take my time and wait for everybody else to get on board.

The Cabin

Seating is rather tight, but quite okay for such a short flight. The cabin is clean and welcoming.

The Meal

On this flight lunch is served, consisting of a chicken breast with some sort of pasta salad and chutney. Every tray comes with a bottle of wine on it (in a plastic bottle, I decided not to try it…). The food, as all the meals I have on Blue1 actually, is quite tasty. The chicken is succulent and not at all dry.

Another proverb for which the Blue 1 coffee cups are famous.

Arrival

Landing in Oulu is pretty rough and there seems to be a blizzard passing through the area as we start our approach. Still the sturdy ATR 72 marches on persistently, seemingly unperturbed by the rough flying conditions. My greatest respect to the cockpit crew’s airmanship skills! As we slow down, there is a strong crosswind component sweeping snow across the airfield and the runway. The snow clearing squad is evidently having a hard time keeping the apron and runway clear of snow.

I have finally arrived in Oulu and clocked the B 717, Blue1 and Golden Air. It’s also so cold that I’m freezing my nuts off by the time I reach the hotel!

Conclusion

I like Blue 1. They’re a nice little airline and the service they provide on the four flights I have with them is consistently very good. I have nothing to complain about. But please, someone give those carpets a good scrub!

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Avro RJ100: Basel to Copenhagen

Introduction

In the week between Christmas and New Year I normally visit Japan. In 2011 however, I decided to do something different for a change. It had also been quite a stressful year so I didn’t really want to stray too far from home anyway.

So where to go? Obviously, given that I probably do have a bit of an obsession – I like to call it a keen interest – with airplanes, apart from a new destination the routing would have to include a new type and preferably also a new airline.

Eventually, the solution came to me and I decided to head for Oulu in Finland. To get there, I would first fly with Swiss from Basel to Copenhagen and then from there on to Helsinki with Blue1 and then on to Oulu.

This trip review is about the first leg of my trip from Basel to Copenhagen. A route which has since been discontinued.

If you’re just interested in the pictures I took in Copenhagen, please scroll down to the bottom.

Date: 26 December 2011
From: Basel
To: Copenhagen
Airline: Swiss International Air Lines
Aircraft: Avro RJ100
Class: Business Class
Seat: 1D

Getting to the Airport

After celebrating Christmas with the family at my parents place, I leave Basel for Copenhagen in the afternoon of 26 December – Boxing Day. My first stop is the main railway station to get some Danish Krona and then catch the bus to the airport from just outside the main entrance of the station. It being the day after Christmas, I was not really expecting there to be any people. Much to my surprise though, the bus is full and the airport is also rather busy when I arrive.

The main entrance to the Swiss Railway Station in Basel
The airport bus from the inside. A few minutes later it was packed!
The departures level of terminal building, taken from the Swiss side of the airport. The boarder with France runs right through the middle of the building.

The Lounge

I’ve already done online check-in, so once I arrive at the airport, I head straight through security to the Swiss Business Class lounge, which is nearly deserted. This however, has nothing to do with the Christmas holiday and seems to be the usual state of affairs for this lovely lounge. As you can see, it looks wonderful with the warm light of the low winter sun seeping in through the windows in the roof.

My aircraft being prepared for the flight to Copenhagen. The Avros are getting a bit long in the tooth. Swiss International Air Lines intends to decommission the last one in 2016 as the Bombardier CSeries comes online. Quite frankly, I don’t see the Avro lasting that long.

Boarding

I looks as though the flight is going to be packed. and indeed, it turns out there is only one row of Business Class. There is another passenger in Business Class. He has the window seat 1F. The seat between us is empty and I am on 1D. I’m hoping to shift to 1A once boarding is completed, but no such luck.


The Cabin

In the row behind me there is a family with two young children sharing the row of three. The flight attendant informs them that they need to be reseated as there are no additional oxygen masks on the row of three, therefore one parent will have to sit on the other side of the aisle with one of the children. So the guy in the aisle seat on the row of two gets up to change seats with the dad, but instead of swapping seats, he just parks himself in the empty two-seater of the Business Class cabin. What’s more, the flight attendant lets him stay there for the entire flight.

It’s a lovely day for flying. The little Avro is obviously struggling with the heavy load, subsequently our climb is not exactly steep. We take off in a southerly direction, then do a 270 degree right hand turn and crossed the river Rhine into German airspace. We then fly a easterly track to lake Constance, on the German-Swiss boarder, and from there set course for Denmark.

Crossing the Rhine.

The Crew

The service on board this flight is nothing much to write home about either. The mini Business Class cabin is served by a German flight attendant who would obviously much rather be at home with her family or by the beach, or climbing a mountain – anywhere but just not on a flight to Copenhagen. Looks like the Avros are not the only ones that Swiss urgently need to decommission. She plonks down the tray with the meal before me, get the drinks and then disappears. No idea where to. She reappears to remove the tray about 15 minutes before we arrive in Copenhagen.

The Meal

The lunch that is served is rather strange and consists of shredded Zucchini with a slice of poached salmon and some Bündnerfleisch – dried meet. It also seems that since my previous trip in Business Class, Swiss has reverted back to using plastic dishes and cutlery. It’s so stylish…

Arrival

The rest of the flight is uneventful, which is rather obvious. The good thing about having a vanishing flight attendant is that it seriously reduces the risk of having red wine or something accidentally spilled over you.

Conclusion

What can I say? This flight was certainly not one of Swiss International Air Lines’ finest moments. First of all, the airline should make up its mind on whether or not to provide a Business Class product on flights from Basel or not. If the decision is to have such a service, then it should be executed properly, and not be treated as some kind of unnecessary burden for the staff.

And indeed, in the meantime this route has been discontinued, together with a number of other destinations from Basel. For an airline like Swiss there is no money to be made in Basel, given the strong presence of Easyjet, which now has something like eight Airbus A 319s stationed at the airport. First of all, the old little Avro – with its four engines and only 97 seats – can hardly compete, from an economic perspective at least, with Easyjet’s A 319s, which can seat up to 156 passengers.Furthermore, Easyjet’s dominance at Basel airport should be a clear enough indication that the market it serves has no use or interest in a premium product.

Obviously, Swiss’ plan for Basel was not to make money but simply to try and regain some of the market it had lost to Easyjet. But this is the kind of strategy you can only pursue if you have sufficient funds to keep it up over a longer period of time, which is evidently not the case for Swiss or any airline in Europe right now.

The Nimb, Copenhagen

In Copenhagen I stayed at the Hotel Nimb, the entrance of which is opposite the main railway station. The Nimb is actually on the premises of the Tivoli amusement park and access is for free for guests. The Tivoli itself is a really magical place to visit in winter.

Fireplace in my room.
The hotel bar.
The hotel from the outside, taken from my room overlooking the Tivoli.
The classic Copenhagen shot.
Water taxi.
The opera house.
She needs no introduction.
A shop that sells cupcakes only.
He was also staying at the Tivoli.