FlyNiki, Economy Class – Airbus A320: Vienna to Zürich

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Getting to the Airport

Mode of Transport: Train
Journey Time: 30 minutes
Price: EUR3.60
Leaves from: Wien Mitte / Landstrasse subway station
Arrives: Wien Flughafen Schwechat
Frequency: four trains an hour

Just a word of caution. There are two ways of getting to and from Vienna airport from the city by train. There is the S-Bahn – the commuter trains – which make the journey in about 30 minutes and which will cost you as little as EUR3.60. And then there’s the CAT, a glitzy and fancy affair which makes the journey nonstop in just under half time but more than twice the price of the S-Bahn. To be honest, I wouldn’t bother if I were you…

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I arrive at the airport about two hours prior to departure. And once more I’m struck by the incredibly bad signposting and the circuitous routings you have to take as a passenger. This is ridiculous. You start following the signs to a particular area and then suddenly, at some point the signs to that particular place disappear and you’re left guessing for where to go next.

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Check-in

Niki uses check-in area 1. I’ve only got hand luggage, so I checked in using the Air Berlin app, which works incredibly well. Much better in fact than the KLM one for example. It also seems to me that Niki try to keep the seat next to you empty if you’re a status card holder. I’m travelling with my colleague M. but we’re booked on different PNRs. We both look at the seat plan on our respective iPhones. I park myself on an empty row and the moment I do, M. can no longer select any seat on that row. So eventually we work our way around the problem by having him select his seat first and me then parking myself next to him.

As it happens, 1A is still available. And I take 1C.

Airside

My flight will be leaving from one of the C gates, which are located on the old terminal. On my way there I pass the booth for smokers, which is absolutely packed. I have to stifle a laugh. Seriously? This is just so undignified.

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Little do I know that the Air Berlin ‘lounge’ a few steps further up is really not much better. Except perhaps that it’s less busy. It’s a small, sterile looking room with not much to offer in terms of food and drink. Wifi is available throughout the terminal anyway, courtesy of Vienna Airport. They don’t even have a lounge dragon. How uncivilised is that? Instead you just scan your boarding pass and you’re in. I don’t like.

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So instead I take a seat at the bar in the atrium around which the C gates are arranged. I have myself a toasted panino, a cappuccino and a coke zero for EUR10, which isn’t that bad really.

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Boarding

Priority Boarding: apparently

According to the announcement, boarding for the flight is done by cabin zones. However, in practise this doesn’t really count for anything much. There is a gate agent, but he doesn’t seem particularly interested in what’s going on and so it’s pretty much a free for all.

Newspapers are available at the door as we enter the aircraft.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 3 + 3
Seat: standard configuration
Facilities: none
Audio and Video: audio and video, although on this flight only the moving map and tacky Etihad adverts are available

Niki does not have a Business Class. I think the fact that they subsequently don’t have a cabin divider either gives the cabin a very spacious and airy feel. Apart from that there isn’t really that much to say.

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The Crew

The last time I flew Niki, many moons ago, their cabin crew wore these ridiculous silver uniforms that made them look like sausages rolls wrapped in tinfoil. I’m not sure if that was the intended effect but in any case I’m glad to see that the uniforms evidently have matured with the company. Nowadays it’s a much more understated pink blouse and indigo coloured jeans. Yes, much better.

The crew aren’t exactly gushing, but they’re friendly enough and their smiles seem genuine.

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The Meal

  1. Sandwich of chicken breast with salad and barbecue sauce
  2. Hot and cold drinks

I’m not really hungry. It’s just that the food service helps to shorten the journey time. There is a choice between a cheese sandwich and chicken. I go with the latter and I must say it’s rather tasty.

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Arrival

The flight time is only one hour. It’s a lovely evening for flying. We come in over lake constance, crossing it’s entire length from east to west. We land on runway 14. It’s a nice balmy evening here in Zürich.

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Four weeks and fourteen flights later and I’m finally back home again, even if it’s only for a week. It’s good to be home.

So what about Niki? I thought they were okay. Admittedly the experience was nothing to write home about and I very much doubt it will stick in my mind as a particularly outstanding experience. But I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again.

Epilogue

In Vienna I stayed at the Hilton Plaza. The facility recently underwent a complete facelift and only reopened on 6 June 2014. There are still a few teething problems but all in all it’s a very nice hotel and the rooms still have that smell of new furniture. The location of the hotel on the Schottenring is excellent and the U-Bahn stop is literally just around the corner, making it easy to reach any point in the city quickly.

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Air Berlin, Economy Class – A 320: Malta to Basel

Dedication

I would like to dedicate this trip report to all the kind staff we encountered at Malta and Basel airport, to thank them for their excellent work, their dedication and help. The kindness and gentleness they demonstrated in the way they took care of my mum was really excellent. Thank you!

Introduction

I’ve had another blissful and relaxing week here in Malta, just taking it easy and catching up with old friends.

I usually make a point of travelling to and from Malta on Air Malta. But today will be an exception. Instead, I’ll be taking the seasonal nonstop Air Berlin service from Malta back to Basel.

The flight already leaves Malta at 09h35 in the morning, which means a very early start. Even so, this is the most convenient option for this journey. First of all because I live in Basel, so taking this flight will save me a ninety minute train journey from Zürich Airport to Basel. Secondly, I’m travelling with my parents. My mum is in a wheelchair, so flying to Basel will also mean much less of a hassle for her.

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Date: 14. July 2013
Airline: Air Berlin
Aircraft: Airbus A 320
Seat: 4F, window
From: Malta
To: Basel
Cabin: Economy Class

Getting to the Airport

We’ve organised a car to pick us up from the Hotel Phoenicia in Floriana – just outside Valletta city gate – at 07h30. This gives me just enough time to have one last tasty cappuccino on the veranda of the hotel overlooking Marsamxett harbor.

Being a Sunday, traffic is very light this morning, so the journey from the Phoenicia to the airport only takes us about 20 minutes to complete.

Check-in

We enter the terminal building with me dragging along two heavy suitcases and my dad pushing the wheelchair. And then I start to be impressed: an employee of the Malta Airport Authority spots us and makes a beeline for us. After he inquires about the flight we’re travelling on today, he informs us that check-in for the Air Berlin flight this morning will be done at counters 14 through 20. He advises us to make our way to one of the counters while he informs our handling agent that a passenger with reduced mobility – my mum – has arrived. And indeed, just as we reach the counter a gentleman from the handling agent – Global Handling I think – comes forward to greet us. Wow, is all I can say and for one of those strange twilight zone moments I suspect that maybe by some strange occurrence, miraculously the Maltese have become efficient!

The lady at check-in is very friendly and takes her time to explain everything to us. And then she wishes us a pleasant journey and sends us on our way. Am I the only one hearing the twilight zone music…?

And then the gentleman takes charge again and whisks my mum away to the security check, with my dad and I following closely behind. The queue at security is long, but it moves quickly enough and before long we find ourselves in the departures lounge waiting for our flight to Basel.

Boarding

The airport is very busy this morning. Apart from our flight there are three other Air Berlin flights going to Hamburg, Nuremberg and Stuttgart respectively, an Air France flight to Toulouse and a number of Air Malta flights to Gatwick, Düsseldorf and Hamburg.

As there are no airbridges at Malta Airport, we are picked up at the gate by a special purpose vehicle with a large cabin that can be raised to the level of the door of the aircraft. Another representative from the handling agent arrives to help us, he is a friendly young man. As we are driven to our aircraft he makes a point of explaining to my mum exactly what will happen once we reach the aircraft and tells her she should just relax and let him take care of everything.

The Cabin

Air Berlin have installed the same Recaro slimline seats on their A 320 fleet as Swiss, but without the netting at the bottom of the seat for stowage. The cabin makes a good first impression and looks very tidy. Legroom is good too. There are screens overhead on which the safety demonstration is shown. Later on during the flight the screens display a few tacky Etihad adverts, a few music videos and an episode of Big Bang Theory.

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The Crew

The crew on this flight is nearly entirely German, with the exception of the copilot, who is Swiss. The aircraft, incidentally, is registered in Switzerland. As we enter the aircraft we are greeted by a very friendly crew and offered sweets from a basket. There are also free newspapers available in the galley for passengers to take as they board.

One of the cabin crew shows my mum to row three and helps her to settle in her seat on 3F.  Initially I am on 3D, a aisle seat. However, by the time boarding is completed the flight is only half full. So I grab my things and move to the window one row back to seat 4F. I have the whole row to myself.

Boarding is quickly completed. The doors are closed and we start up slightly ahead of schedule. As we taxi out I manage to take a few pictures of the traffic, including an Antonov 124.

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This Air Malta bird was on lease to OLT until they seized operations. It has now returned to Air Malta but retains this rather unsightly livery:
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Air France A 319 to Toulouse:
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Air Malta A 319 to Düsseldorf, if I’m not mistaken:
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The monster:

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Given the light load, there is no need for us to backtrack all the way to the end of runway 32, and instead we line up for departure from the intersecting taxiway.

The Medavia MRO facility, with the SR Technics one behind:
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As we climb out we pass the old terminal building from where we emigrated to Switzerland back in 1979. The building has since been converted into the airport’s cargo facility.

It’s a sunny day, but with all the haze it’s difficult to get some good pictures.

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St. Paul’s Bay:

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But even with the haze the Mediterranean still looks stunning in the morning light, with the sun dancing on the surface.

The Meal

Just before the meal service begins, one of the cabin crew passes through the cabin with earphones for sale at three Euros a pair. To be honest, I wouldn’t bother on such a short flight if you have earphones of your own. The only draw back is that the sound will not be in stereo as it is a twin plug.

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The standard meal consists of a choice of either a cheese or salami or ham sandwich and free drinks. I go for the cheese sandwich, despite the fact that I have preordered a hotmeal breakfast.

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I must say, this is rather tasty. Soft cream cheese with small pieces of red bell peppers and a slice of some mild cheese. With that I have a coffee and an orange juice to drink.

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A few minutes later one of the cabin crew returns with the hotmeal. She is very attentive and asks me if I would like another drink, after all it’s been a while since she came through the cabin with the drinks.

The meal consists of grilled mushrooms, a gratinéed tomato, scrambled eggs and a slice of bacon. There is also a warm bun. The meal is tasty enough and hits the spot nicely, the only thing I don’t have is the bacon, which I prefer crispy.

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Arrival

I spend the rest of the flight reading my Kindle and looking out the window. Our route today takes us from Malta to Palermo, across the Tyrrhenian Sea to Rome and from there across the Alps into Switzerland. We route via Berne, with the airport clearly visible on our right. From there we fly into French airspace to make our approach into Basel airport from the north.

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Conclusion

The airport is quiet at this time of day. We wait for all the passengers to disembark, by which time the handlers have already retrieved my mum’s wheelchair and placed it by the exit of the aircraft for her convenience. There is also an agent from the ground services provider at Basel, who insists on accompanying us to the luggage belt.

And so the journey ends. It wasn’t very spectacular, and that’s a good thing. No delays, no hassle, no problems. Just a lot of very helpful people and a relaxing holiday.