Recanati & Loreto, Italy

The old town of Recanati lies perched on a hill in the Marche Region of Italy. To the east the Adriatic expands to the horizon in beautiful shades of dark blue, while to the southwest the Abruzzi emerge like an apparition above the haze of the midday heat.

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Recanati is a nice, sleepy town that looks a lot like the setting of one of those old Don Camillo films from the fifties. Perhaps they’re just clichés, but it’s still surprising just how well Recanati lives up to those clichés: from the old grannies wobbling along the cobbled streets in all their finery on the way to mass, to the young ladies walking down the street in their skimpy short, languorously enjoying a gelato and seemingly, but only seemingly unaware of the effect they have on the young men that pass them in the street.

Close to Recanati is the town of Loreto, which was made famous by its basilica, in which the alleged house of the Virgin Mary of Nazareth is preserved.

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In Recanati I stayed at the Gallery Hotel, which is also where the meeting took place that I was attending. If you’re thinking of staying there, try to get a room with a view overlooking the valley. It’s worth it!

Here’s the link to the hotel.

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Air Dolomiti, Economy Class – Basel to Munich

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INTRODUCTION
I’m on may way to Recanati on Italy’s Adriatic cost to attend a meeting on language training for the military. The best option for me to get to Recanati is to fly with Lufthansa via Munich to Ancona. In Munich I shall meet my colleague, the flying Dutchman P. who has rented a car from Ancona airport. Originally, I wasn’t going to post on the flights, seeing as they are in Economy Class and both are fairly short sectors. But…

CHECK-IN
I know I probably sound like a grumpy old bastard. A grumpy old bastard who just really, really dislikes Lufthansa on principle. But that’s definitely not the case. You’ll have to take my word for it. Honest, I’m not old…

In any case, it just struck me on this trip that Lufthansa keeps making changes to its frequent flyer programme and introducing new brands and new rules and fare conditions. One would like to think that all these changes and ‘improvements’ were introduced for benefit the airline’s customers. But that is hardly the case and while their new fare structure may make sense on paper, in practice it simply lacks transparency and leaves you with the sinking feeling that the customer was actually the last thing Lufthansa had in mind when the changes were implemented.

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I arrive at Basel airport about an hour before departure. Our secretary has booked me on an Eco Light fare with no check-in luggage allowance. But I’ve decided to take a small suitcase and a rucksack with me after all, so from my research on the Lufthansa website I’m guessing this means I’ll have to pay to check in one item, which is fair enough. Only, the website and the app will not allow me to purchase a checked luggage allowance. In fact, the app won’t even allow me to view my booking because it was done via our travel agent and not directly with Lufthansa.

Apparently, you can always pay for checked luggage at the airport when you check-in, although that is then quite a bit more expensive. So as I approach the check-in counter, I’m fully expecting the check-in lady to want to charge me the higher amount, even though I think it’s hardly my fault if Lufthansa’s website and app don’t work. Only, that’s not what happens. Instead, the lady explains that I am entitled to take both pieces into the cabin ‘because it’s such a small aircraft’. Is that even supposed to make sense to the customer?

BOARDING
Boarding is from gate 32, which is in the non-Schengen sector of Basel airport, seeing as the state of emergency imposed by the government of the department Haut-Rhin in France remains in place. The result of which being that flights to and from some Schengen countries, including the Netherlands and Germany, are treated, de facto, as overseas flights.

CABIN
Today’s flight to Munich will be operated by an Embraer 190 of Air Dolomiti, which belongs to the Lufthansa group and the Miles and More programme but is not, if I understand correctly, a member of the Star Alliance. The carrier operates a number of flights on behalf of Lufthansa. These are mainly wet leases rather than code-share flights, which is also why the Basel to Munich flight only operates with a Lufthansa flight number but not an Air Dolomiti one.

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The cabin design and seats are similar to those of the Lufthansa Embraers, with the exception that everything in the Air Dolomiti cabin is green.

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Another shot of my popular hairy legs, cunningly disguised as a photo to show off the seat pitch…

SERVICE
I am greeted at the door by a friendly young lady. The first thing she does, is to shove a small cake with a good dusting of icing sugar in my hand. Which is a bit unfortunate because I’m holding my suitcase in one hand and the rucksack, my boarding pass and a bottle of Coke Zero in the other. So I decline. For Lufthansa this means that in doing so, I forfeit my basic human right to be served a snack on this flight, because the service protocol does not foresee distributing food, no matter how insignificant, after take-off.

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Once we’re airborne, the crew do a drinks round with a full bar service. Here’s another thing I don’t get about Lufthansa: how can a large organisation like the Lufthansa group be so inconsistent and careless in the treatment of its own brand? Despite the fact that this flight is being operated as a Lufthansa service, the catering is entirely Air Dolomiti branded, which really does not make any sense to me at all.

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ARRIVAL
But at least it’s a lovely day for flying and eventually we land in Munich after a flight time of about 35 minutes.

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CONCLUSION
For a flight of only 35 minutes duration the performance Lufthansa gave here was okay. I was not expecting them to roll out the red carpet. But flying Lufthansa has become a bit of a pain, at least for me, because somehow you’re never really quite sure what you’re letting yourself in for. The website is not intuitive, the interface with other reservation systems simply doesn’t work properly, check-in online didn’t work and between the fees for check-in luggage, fees for reserving a seat and so on, the experience is really not very enjoyable.

And I really don’t see why the crew can’t at least wait for all passengers to be seated before distributing the snack.

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Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg is the capital of the Grand Est region of France and the official seat of the European parliament. It’s a very neat and pretty city that is easy to navigate on foot. The centrepiece of the city is, of course, the magnificent cathedral – a huge, imposing building with intricate masonry and a very tall bell tower.

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Personally though, I think my favourite it the main railway station. The original building is already very nice, with large windows with coloured glass looking onto the platforms. The entire building is now covered inside a huge glass structure that is quite unusual.

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In Strasbourg I am staying at the MGallery Hotel Cour du Corbeau, which belongs to the Accor Group of hotels and is ideally located just on the other side of the canal from the cathedral. The facility has been open since 2009 and is obviously very well maintained, because there are hardly any signs of wear and tear. The hotel consists of a number of old buildings and town houses that have been beautifully restored and parts of the original buildings have been integrated into the hotel’s structure.

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The rooms are nicely appointed and very clean. Next time I’m visiting Strasburg I’ll definitely be staying at this hotel again.

Here’s the link to the hotel.

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KLM, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-800: Copenhagen to Amsterdam

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INTRODUCTION
Time to head back home to the sweltering heat and humidity that is summer in Switzerland. Still, it was nice to escape the heat for a few days and the forecast is that the weather will start to cool down again over central Europe anyway in a few days.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The journey by train from Malmö to Copenhagen airport takes thirty minutes to complete and will set you back SEK150 for a second class, one way ticket. The trains run frequently and are quite reliable.

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I arrive at Copenhagen airport and the escalators taking me up from the platform spit me out right in the middle of Terminal 3. You know those moments we’ve probably all had, when you look at something and just think ‘what on earth were they thinking…’? That is very likely to happen to you at Copenhagen airport. Terminal 3 is the railway and metro station, Star Alliance check-in and arrivals all in one. As a result, the place is always crawling with people and it’s hard to get through, even if you’re not dragging a suitcase behind you.

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But at least the airport authorities have identified the problem and both Terminals 2 and 3 are currently in the process of expansion, making the airport look more like a building site than an aviation hub.

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CHECK-IN
KLM operates out of Terminal 2 in Copenhagen. I’ve already checked in using the KLM app for the flight, so upon entering the terminal I can go straight through to security.

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KLM status cardholders are entitled to use the Fast Track at Copenhagen airport, which really is convenient as the lines for standard security are very busy.

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LOUNGE
KLM uses the CPH Aviator Lounge, which is a contractor lounge. The lounge is divided into two areas. The larger area is to the left and looks very crowded. To the right there is separate lounge, which is slightly smaller and much quieter. It also has good views of the apron.

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The lounge is nice and the interior decorators were definitely tapping into that whole Scandinavian design vibe when designing it. There’s even a fake fireplace and mantle piece.

The food options are good too, with a wide selection of breakfast options – things like cold cuts, cheese, different types of bread and pastries.

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BOARDING
Boarding starts slightly behind schedule. Apparently the aircraft was already late coming in and with the full load on the in- and outbound, turning around is taking longer than anticipated.

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SERVICE & CREW
I think this is the first time I have a crew that isn’t up to the usual KLM standards. It was bound to happen one day… One of the things that always strikes me about KLM is the professionalism of their crew and the level of standardisation they achieve in their on board product. But today’s crew just seem a bit out of it. The purser is more or less improvising with the delivery of the safety on board instructions and it shows. Which rather unfortunate of course, because if even the crew can’t be bothered enough to deliver the instructions properly and conscientiously, they can hardly expect the passengers to take them seriously…

Later on, once the service begins, the lady on the first row of Economy Class asks for a Coke with ice, to which the flight attendant initially replies that he has Coke but no ice. Later on though he does bring her to Coke with ice from the Business Class trolley, which gives the impression that he couldn’t be bothered initially but then changed his mind.

But at least the views outside are nice.

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THE MEAL
With a flight time of only one hour, the service consists of a small box containing a piece of buttery cake and a cup of still water. In addition, the crew make a separate drinks round.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we land at 13:20, with a few minutes delay. A while back Amsterdam overtook Frankfurt in terms of passenger numbers and to be honest, I think it’s starting to show. The terminal is seriously overcrowded and the C dock is definitely not wide enough to accommodate all the passengers passing through it. We shall see what happens.

CONCLUSION
Perhaps I am being persnickety (to use one of the favourite words of the valiant M.) in my criticism of the KLM crew on this flight, and I’m aware of the fact that none of the things they did and that I mentioned in this post are overly bad. I’ve certainly experienced much worse on other airlines. I think it’s just that, having gotten used to their reliable service over the years, it comes as a bit of a surprise to be confronted with a crew that is not up to the usual standard I’ve grown accustomed to from KLM.

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Trelleborg, Sweden

Trelleborg is a quaint little town on Sweden’s southern cost. It’s really very small and there isn’t anything much to see, other than its quaintness. It’s the day after the summer solstice, which is a public holiday in Sweden. As a result, the already very quiet town seems deserted. You know something can’t be right when you walk into the local tourist information office and the clerk starts with ‘the problem is…’.

In Trelleborg I’m staying at the Best Western Magasinet Hotel, which is located right next to the exit from the port and also doubles at the passenger terminal of Trelleborg harbour.

The hotel has basic facilities; the rooms are nice and simple. Here’s the link to the hotel.

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TT-Line – by boat from Rostock to Trelleborg

Yesterday, Saturday 25 June 2017, I took the boat from Rostock in Germany to Trelleborg in Sweden. The weather was simply brilliant with isolated bouts of raining and a temperature that never went above 17 degrees Celsius. Lovely!

The service was operated by the Tom Sawyer, which belongs to the fleet of the TT Line. I had my own cabin with two bunk beds, a clean toilet and even a shower

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Germania, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700: Zürich to Rostock

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INTRODUCTION
Admittedly, I know I’m an embarrassment to all self-respecting southern Europeans, given that I really don’t handle the heat very well. On the other hand, having said that, it really is unusually hot in Switzerland right now – with temperatures constantly in the mid-thirties.

But thank God, there are some places on the continent that have been spared the stifling heat. So that’s where I’m heading for the weekend.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I take the train from Winterthur at 11h58. I’m actually at the station early enough to catch the earlier train at 11h55. But as soon as that comes rumbling into the station, I figure I’m not is such a rush after all. The regular 11h55 train has been replaced with something that avid train spotters would probably lovingly refer to as vintage, which, Swiss Federal Railways lingo, is a euphemism for carriages with no air conditioning.

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CHECK-IN
My flight is at 13h50, but I already checked in at the airport this morning at 05h15, when I dropped off my dad at the airport on his way to Malta.

Germania does not have web check-in or self-service check-in. At Zürich airport they are handled by Swissport in Terminal 2.

When I return to the airport in the early afternoon, the place is a lot busier than it was in the morning. Even so, I manage to secure a nice spot on the A pier, with a good view of the apron and runway 28. Today 28 is in use for arrivals, with 32 and 34 in use for departures.

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BOARDING
Boarding for the flight starts about forty minutes late. The aircraft was already late arriving in Zürich by about thirty minutes.

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The heat in the glass airbridge is agony. For a moment I feel compelled to do my best ‘I’m melting, I’m melting…’ impression of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. But then I remember I forgot to put on my green makeup this morning so people might think I’m odd…

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Anyhow, once we board, the crew inform us about a further twenty minutes delay before we can finally start our engines due to ATC restrictions over Germany. Eventually we depart one hour behind our scheduled departure time.

CABIN & SEAT
Germania’s Boeing 737-700 have a seating capacity of 148. Today’s load is a bit over one hundred passengers, I should say.

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Germania Doesn’t offer a Business Class as such. However, the first row are the so called XL seats, which are available for advanced seat reservation at a cost of EUR30 each. Included in the price is a bulkhead seat with slightly more pitch, earphones as well as complimentary alcoholic drinks and snacks from the buy on board menu.

The pitch is not bad on row 1. However, the lack of width of the seat is quite striking. The cabin feels a lot more crowded and tighter than for example on KLM. I suspect that maybe Germania went with a slightly narrower seat in favour of a wider aisle.

SERVICE & CREW
The crew are a friendly and interesting lot. Strangely enough though, the entire cabin crew is made up of Spaniards and an eastern European and none of them speak even a single word of German, which is a bit unusual for a German carrier, I find. 

THE MEAL
The meal service is confusing. There is a buy on board price list in the seat pocket, which contains drinks and snacks like crisps or chocolate. By at the same time, Germania will also serve you a complimentary snack. On today’s flight there is a choice of either a salami or a cheese sandwich.

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With the sandwich I have a coffee and a sparkling water, both of which are apparently free of charge. I also ask for a Kit Kat, which I haven’t had in ages!

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ARRIVAL
Rostock airport is a dinky little place with only two airbirdges. It is also home to a large Eurofighter base. Because there are so few flights up here, the bus into town is scheduled to coincide with the arriving flights. But seeing as our flight is more than an hour late by the time we land, the bus has already left. Instead, there is a replacement service for EUR9.80 per person.

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The journey from the airport into town will take you about thirty minutes.

CONCLUSION
The tall, blond M., himself triathlete extraordinaire, engineer and skeptic of all sciences that don’t involve numbers, has pointed out that I did give my candid opinion on Germania in the original post.

So here goes: all in all I very much doubt I would go out of my way to fly with Germania. By the same token though, I wouldn’t actively avoid them either. The service was okay but not outstanding, either in a positive or a negative way. I think EUR30 is a bit steep for a front row seat, the additional complimentary snack and complimentary earbuds, particularly given that the earbuds didn’t look as though they were any good and the flight time was only slightly more than an hour anyway.

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Air Malta, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Malta to Zürich

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INTRODUCTION
June is probably one of the best months to visit the Maltese archipelago. The weather is already reliably and consistently warm but without the oppressive and stifling heat of July and August, when temperatures peak in the upper thirties and have even been known to exceed the forties. In contrast, the sea is already warm enough to swim in, while the beaches are still far form being too crowded.

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In Malta even the cats are crazy…

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As luck would have it, it was decided that this year’s user group meeting and a workshop on language test item development would be held in Malta in June. All in all, the meeting went well. Encouraged by the lovely weather on the island, the course participants were very efficient and disciplined in their work – obviously keen to finish on time every day so they would still have enough time to explore the sights and sounds of Malta.

And I even managed to squeeze in a visit to the beach at Mellieha bay, thanks to the meeting ending early and the stupendous driving skills of the valiant M., who joined me on this trip.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The journey by car from Valletta to the airport normally takes about twenty minutes, depending on traffic. Or seven minutes if the valiant M. is driving and making an impressive effort to blend in with the natives, mainly by adapting his style of driving to that of the locals.

Alternatively, you can also take the bus for EUR1.50. The driving is still crazy but at least the busses are slower, making the journey in roughly thirty minutes. The busses are fairly frequent and the service is quite reliable these days. Busses depart from the terminus right outside the city gate in Valletta.

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CHECK-IN
There is one dedicated check-in counter for Club Class passengers and check-in is possible up to 23 hours before departure. The young lady working the desk is unusually efficient. She issues my boarding pass, tags my luggage for priority and hands me an invitation to the La Valette lounge, which is the only lounge at Malta airport.

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The terminal is currently undergoing expansion to cope with the increased number of additional passengers. As a result, there’s a bit of a detour right now for security. But at least the detour is clearly signposted (Are you reading this Vienna airport?).

There is a dedicated queue for premium passengers. Once I’m airside, I head for the lounge.

THE LOUNGE
The La Valette lounge was recently relocated. To access the lounge you have to walk through the duty free store, past the cashiers and then take a sharp left. You should then end up standing in from of a lift that will take you up to the lounge’s entrance on the third floor.

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The lounge is very nicely designed and there is even a fairly large open air seating area in the lounge. Although with the sweltering heat I’m not sure who in his right mind would want to sit outside. The place is also much bigger than the previous lounge.

The food offerings are good and include a wide range of local snacks.

Most importantly though, the lounge has an excellent view of the apron.

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BOARDING
Boarding is via a bus. Our flight today is operated by a fairly new addition to the Air Malta fleet which only joined the airline in April of 2017. The aircraft is wearing hybrid colours of sorts, with a white hull and red engine cowlings. The only marking I can see is a small ‘Air Malta’ sticker next to the L1 door. Interestingly, unlike the other aircraft in the Air Malta fleet, which all have CFM56 engines, this specimen is equipped with the V2500.

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THE CABIN
The cabin of this aircraft is nearly identical with the rest of the Air Malta fleet. But not entirely. The seats and carpets are the same but the bulkhead looks different and also provides more leg space. And there is no cabin divider to separate the Club Class and Economy Class cabins. This turns out to be rather irritating immediately after take-off, when seemingly half the aircraft a) decide now would be a good time to go to the loo and b) fail to realise that there are in fact two perfectly functional loos in the rear of the aircraft.

SERVICE
There are four females on this aircraft and they really are excellent. Especially the purser Joyce is very charming and personable. They take their time to chat with the passengers during the service and they’re very proactive in their service delivery – for example offering to bring down my backpack from the overhead lockers after take-off without me even asking.

I’m also quite surprised that they make their announcements in Maltese, English and in German.

The service on the ground starts with the distribution of newspapers and either juice or water for a welcome drink. The hot towels they used to provide appear to have fallen by the wayside. Instead, there is a pre-packed scented cold towel on the tray with the food.

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Mellieha Bay

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Comino and the Blue Lagoon on the right, part of Gozo on the left

THE MEAL
The meal service starts with a drinks round. Of course I have a Kinnie with ice and lemon.

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The meal service hasn’t changed much since my last trip with Air Malta. Only the menu is different. The main course consists of a plate of roast beef with crumbled Gorgonzola and a skewer of tomato and mozzarella on a creamy mustard seed dressing. There is a dish with three different types and cheese and also a profiterole filled with some sort of nutty cream. There are also two warm buns with butter on the tray and during the meal service the crew come by twice offering more bread and butter.

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The meal is good and hits the spot nicely, although on a flight of over two hours I think a hot meal would not be too much to ask.

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I have two cups of coffee at the end of the meal. But even so, I’m so exhausted that I doze off immediately once the tray is removed and I don’t wake up until the aircraft rolls onto stand and comes to a halt at the gate.

CONCLUSION
We land in Zürich with a delay of roughly thirty minutes, which was caused by a problem starting up the engines when we were still in Malta and that needed to be looked at by Air Malta’s ground engineers. But apart from that, this was a really nice flight and even the valiant M. is feeling generous and willing to give Air Malta ten out of ten for the on board experience!

As the financial problems at Air Malta continue, the carrier’s future hangs in the balance. The government has announced that in two weeks time a new strategic plan will be presented to the unions for review. Air Malta is a nice little airline and I think it would be a shame to see them go. But to be honest, I won’t hold my breath for their new strategy if it is driven by the government, when in fact Air Malta’s biggest problem has always been the government’s persistent and incessant interference.

– William

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SkyWork, Economy Class – Saab 2000: London City to Basel

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Date: 14. May 2017.
Departure: 19:40.
Arrival: 22:00.
Flight time: 1 hour 20 minutes.
Seat: 1F, window.

INTRODUCTION
I just landed in Heathrow on a Boeing B 747-400 of British Airways, coming from Mexico City. I have to say, Europe is still my favourite continent. Although of course one might argue whether or not Britain should be counted to Europe.

In any case, from Heathrow I take a Heathrow Express train into Paddington station and from there the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus. You see, I figured if I’m passing through London on my way home anyway, I might as well take the opportunity to have a grand thali at the Masala Zone behind Carnaby Street.

The one way ticket on the Heathrow Express will cost you GBP16.60 for a journey of fifteen minutes in second class. The Oyster Card is not valid on the Heathrow Express.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
By the time I finish my dessert of Gulab Jamun with ginger ice cream it’s time for me to get a move on and make my way to London’s City Airport. From Oxford Circus I take the Central line to Bank and from there I change onto the DLR for London City. Being a nice and sunny Sunday afternoon, there are not too many people on the tube. I arrive at the airport just after 18h00.

CHECK-IN
Check-in is a bit of a pain to be honest. Web check-in is possible on SkyWorks Airlines, but I still need to check-in the suitcase I’ve been carting around since I left for Mexico. I don’t quite know what the hold up is, but eventuality it takes me 25 minutes to reach the head of the queue.

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AIRSIDE
Security is well organised and fairly swift. As far as I know there are no airline lounges at London City airport. There is a large waiting area just behind security and passengers are expected to wait there until the boarding gate for their flight is announced. I find this rather irritating, because seating is fairly limited in the waiting area, whereas the gate area has recently been renovated and expanded and offers ample and comfortable seating (including some great ramp views).

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BOARDING
Boarding for the flight starts with a bit of a delay. Apparently we have to wait for the BA Embraer parked to the left of our aircraft to move off stand before they can let us walk the short distance across the apron.

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CABIN & SEAT
Today’s flight is operated by a Saab 2000, which looks as though it were in pretty decent condition. Of course, some of the illuminated signs are starting to look a bit dated, but generally speaking the impression is good. The seats are comfortable and look and feel as though they were only recently upholstered.

Admittedly, the Saab 2000 does feel rather cramped as long as you’re standing or moving around the cabin. But once you’re seated there is lots of personal space and the seat pitch is very good.

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SERVICE & CREW
There is one cabin crew on today’s flight. She is rather friendly and there is something ever so Swiss about her, although I don’t think I could put my finger on it and say what exactly it is that gives me the impression.

The other thing I notice about here is that the uniform is way too big for her. The collar of her blouse looks wide enough for two people and the sleeves of her jacket are so long they even cover her hands.

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THE MEAL
Catering consists of a choice of a complimentary chocolate muffin or a Dutch apple pie, with either water, juice, coffee or tea. Other drinks and a few more snacks are also available. However, these have to be purchased.

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ARRIVAL
Inevitably, by this time I’m really exhausted. Despite the fact that I managed to sleep on the plane from Mexico, it’s still been a long journey and eventually I pass out in my seat. I am awoken in Basel by the thump of the main lading gear hitting the runway.

Immigration is a very tedious affair in Basel these days. The state of emergency imposed by the prefecture of Haute-Alsace is still in place, which de facto means the Schengen treaty has been suspended for all flights arriving and departing in Basel from outside France. As a result, the queues for immigration at arrival are ridiculous and I spend a good thirty minutes waiting to have my passport checked. At least by the time I finally manage to get through my suitcase has already been delivered on the carousel.

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British Airways, Club Class – Boeing B 747-400: Mexico City to Heathrow

British_Airways_Logo

Date: 13. May 2017.
Departure: 21:50.
Arrival: 13:30.
Flight time: 9 hours 50 minutes.
Seat: 62K, window.

INTRODUCTION
This has been one of the most tiring trips I have made in a very long time, so I’m rather glad it’s finally over and I am on my way home again. Although I must say that travelling with the wiry R. has been rather fun and really easy going.

CHECK-IN
My flight back to Heathrow will depart at 21h40. Just after 20h I check out of the hotel and make my way across the footbridge to Terminal 1. Signage inside the terminal is really bad, verging on non-existent, and eventually we find the check-in counters more by chance than by design.

British Airways has its own dedicated check-in counters in area F of the terminal. From check-in you have to walk back quite a bit to area G, which is where the security checkpoint is.

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Generally speaking, the impression I get of Terminal 1 is of an old and tatty facility that has grown organically and without order and method. Apart form the bad signage the building has very low ceilings and was obviously designed by somebody who is either blind as a bat, has absolutely zero taste or who has no aesthetic appreciation whatsoever. It’s an incredibly ugly airport!

LOUNGE
Of course we walk straight past the Iberia lounge the first time because there are no signs here either… To access the lounge you have to head up two flights of stairs. The lounge is rather nice though and looks as though it was only recently opened or refurbished. With the Iberia flight to Madrid leaving around the same time as ours to London it’s quite full and there are only few places left to sit. We only have about ten minutes in the lounge, enough to have a drink, before it’s time to head back downstairs and to the gate for boarding.

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BOARDING
Boarding planes is something the Mexicans do really well. There are separate lanes for First and Club Class passengers and another queue for the working classes. Boarding starts forty minutes before departure. By this time I’m so exhausted I head straight up the airbridge and then for the upper deck so I can sit down and start dozing.

CABIN & SEAT
On this leg I’m sitting on 62K, which is the window seat on the emergency exit of the upper deck. And quite frankly, I think this must be the best seat in the house. First of all, being a window seat you have a lot of additional storage space – which the aisle seat is lacking. More importantly though, it’s one of only two seats – the other is 62A – that gives you access to the aisle without having to climb over your neighbour on the aisle seat.

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CREW & SERVICE
The crew on the upper deck consists of two elderly gentlemen that are very friendly and laid back. The service follows the same sequence as the outbound flight, with wash bags, menus and welcome drinks being offered in sequence.

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By this time though, I’m simply too exhausted. I feel stupidly tired in fact. While we’re still on the ground I change into my shorts to reveal my hunky hairy legs and even studlier Happy Socks for the benefit and pleasure of all of humanity. As soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off after take-off I extend the seat into a bed and awake over six hours later, just due west of the Irish coast and with three hours left to go to London.

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THE MEAL
So I actually miss the first meal service. And to be honest, in hindsight I think I wish I’d missed the breakfast too. Yuk, this really is the most disgusting meal I’ve ever had on a plane. How on earth can you manage to totally ruin Rösti? Have they got a salt shortage in Mexico or something? But it’s not just that, the scrambled eggs taste last lumpy bits of plastic and the pink little sausage is disconcertingly reminiscent of a… Still, at least the baked buns and the yoghurt are edible.

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ARRIVAL
Around forty minutes out of Heathrow the Jumbo’s nose gently tilts down and we start our descent. It’s a lovely day in London for flying and we are treated to some really spectacular views of central London. We approach the city from the west, flying an easterly track just south of the city. We turn on to the approach abeam of London city airport, which has already reopened after the weekend by the looks of it. And then from there we fly along the Thames, before eventually gliding down to runway 27L. I’m home again.

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CONCLUSION
In my opinion there really is no other aircraft that can rival the Boeing B 747. I know the Airbus A 380 is much larger, heavier and what not. But the 747 simply has style. Alas, the type is very quickly becoming a thing of the past as more and more aircraft are choosing to replace their existing 747 fleets either with the Boeing 777 or the larger A 380. So I’m kind of left wondering if perhaps this may have been my last flight on the Queen of the skies. I hope not!

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