Airline: Luxair Aircraft: Q400 From: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2G To: Luxembourg Findel Departure: 10h30 Arrival: 11h15 Flight time: 45 minutes Seat: 14F, window
The Air France Lounge
As soon as I enter the terminal building coming off my flight from Basel, I head straight for the Air France lounge to get some breakfast. I don’t quite know what it is about this lounge, but I really like it. Even when it’s quite busy, it still feels very cosy, as though you’re sitting in somebody’s living room. The view of the aircraft approaching the southern runways is also nice.
My flight is scheduled to depart at 09h35, but there’s an initial delay of 35 minutes due to bad weather in Luxembourg. The new departure time is 10h10. The flight is operated by Luxair, with Air France as a code-share partner. As such, you can make use of your SkyPriority privileges, such as lounge access or priority boarding, just as long as the flight has been booked on the Air France flight number.
The gate areas of Terminal 2G have the look and feel of a provisorium, as though the building is only there as a temporary installation. The gate area also tends to be quite cold.
The cabin of the Dash 8 is very tight and uncomfortable. There just isn’t really any room for anything much. Usually, on these small aircraft it’s a lot more comfortable once you’re seated.
But sadly, that isn’t the case for the Dash 8. I have to make a mental note to remember not to select a window seat ever again on these planes. Because the rail the seat is mounted on is in a rather awkward and uncomfortable position.
On row 14 I’m sitting pretty much under the wing, so the view of the outside is somewhat limited on the ground.
By the time we push back from the gate, it’s already past 10h10. And although Terminal 2G is located close to the threshold for runway 26R on the south side of the airfield, we’re still guided to runway 27L on the north side of the airfield, which only helps to add to our delay.
In Economy Class the service consists of a small chocolate muffin that is served in a paper bag with a napkin. In addition, the crew pass through the cabin with the drinks trolley, which has a very limited selection. I mean, they don’t even have sparkling water.
There are two cabin crew working the cabin this morning. And both of them are quite dreadful. It’s not that they’re rude or anything of the sort. They just come across as being somewhat lacking in interest for their job.
Very soon we start our descent. The crew inform us that we’ll be doing an automatic landing due to the low visibility conditions at Luxembourg airport, and therefore we are all required to fully turn off our mobiles.
The landing is smooth enough, and indeed, the runway only comes into view a short moment before we touch down. Judging by the splash we’re making as we taxi in, it must have been raining fairly recently.
Luxair is a somewhat boring, nondescript little airline. There really isn’t anything remarkable about them, which is okay I guess, seeing as you’re only every going to be likely to really have to fly them if you’re intending to visit Luxembourg.
My flight from Zagreb arrives at terminal 2E, which is used for non-Schengen flights. My flight to Luxembourg will be departing from terminal 2G, which is reserved for regional aircraft ops.
The security check is done in terminal 2E. From there, the way to the shuttle bus to 2G is clearly signposted.
The airport is fairly quiet, and in total there are only four of us making the trip to 2G. Sitting up front we have an elderly American lady with her daughter, who’s obviously decided now would be a good moment to have a hissy fit because her mum left her handbag with her to go to the loo…
My timing couldn’t be better. In 2G I first have to go through passport control to enter Schengen. From there I head to my departure gate at G27, where boarding has just started. One hour connecting time between 2E and 2G is perfectly fine, but there’s probably not going to be any time left to raid the duty free shop.
Being such a little aircraft, there’s a baggage cart parked by the stairs of the plane and passengers with larger items have to place them there for them to be loaded into the hold. These items are retrieved directly at the aircraft upon arrival in Luxebourg.
The cabin of the Dash 8 really is tight. Although at least, the Luxair aircraft are configured in a much more comfortable configuration with greater pitch and a seat with better cushioning than on Croatia Airlines.
Sadly, the window seat is of no use, because it’s already dark outside and the guy next to me has his reading light on.
The flight time is forty minutes. The service in Economy consists of a small paper bag containing a bottle of still water and a packet of Happy Snacks savoury crackers. The service is delivered by the crew without any attempt at being polite or civil or at least pretending to give a rat’s bum.
We land just slightly behind schedule. Seeing as I only have hand luggage, I’m out through customs quickly and then head one floor up to catch the bus line 16 to Luxexpo. I try paying the EUR2.- for my ticket, but one machine is inop and the other just won’t take my money…
I have to say, I’m quite impressed by how painless and easy the transfer in Paris works. It seems to me that Charles de Gaulle is better than its reputation. Ai France were also great. The crew were attentive and the food choices were very good. As for Luxair, this is another one that nobody is likely to really miss should one day disappear.
The Ibis at Luxembourg airport is currently in the process of being refurbished. And I think that’s probably a good thing. The room I’m in is nice enough, but the public areas are starting to look grubby. The carpets should probably be declared a bio hazard, and the smell of boiled cabbage is ‘interesting’…
The hotel’s redeeming feature though, is that it’s very
close to the airport terminal, within walking distance.
Getting to the Airport
On foot, the airport is only about ten minutes away from the
hotel. However, there’s also a shuttle that runs every thirty minutes and is
available for guests. The service is complimentary, but advance reservations
are mandatory. The drive takes about four minutes.
I’m booked on the Air France flight from Luxembourg to Paris-Roissy,
which is in fact a code-share operated by Luxair. There are two counters open
for Business Class passengers and there is no queue when I arrive, given that
it is, after all, the weekend.
From check-in I head straight for the security check. There
is a checkpoint at either side of the terminal facility, and trying to figure
out which one is currently in use is not always that clear when you’re standing
in front of the check-in counters. Which means that it’s not uncommon at
Luxembourg airport to see disoriented passengers moving back and forth between
the two, with the look lemmings get when they’re trying to figure out if they’re
really in the mood to go jumping off a cliff with their pals…
But anyway, the lounge is very quiet. All the bankers that normally
populate the lounge have gone home to count their millions. I grab myself a
coffee and a bottle of water, in the hope they will turn me into a functioning
human being again.
The flight is departing from gate B08, which is in the new part of the facility and specially designed to handle small regional aircraft. As in, regional aircraft that do not use a contact stand and thus require passengers to walk across the apron and, as a pleasant side-effect, give me cause to geek out on my obsession with airplanes.
I’m seated on 1A, so I figure I might as well wait until the
very end to board, so as not to be in the way. The Dash 8 is a small aircraft.
Besides, I have a back injury, so my movements are a bit slow right now. And
every moment I do not have to stand in a queue is bliss right now!
There is literally half a row of a Business Class cabin on this aircraft. Because on row 1 there are only the A and C seats on the port side. And as it happens, I’m the only Business Class passenger on today’s flight. The seat is comfortable and nicely padded. It’s very pleasant on the bum and also on my damaged back.
Leg space is also good on the bulkhead row and the seat next
to me is kept empty.
There are two cabin crew on the flight today, one male and one female. Both of them are perhaps not the world’s most extrovert individuals, but their service is attentive, friendly and polite.
There is a trolley set up by the entry door of the aircraft, where passengers can pick up a magazine or newspaper before taking their seat. The selection is rather good. I go for Time magazine, mainly because their cover catches my interest.
Other than that though, there is no service at all on the ground. The flight time is indicated as 45 minutes.
As soon as the crew are released after take-off, the male cabin attendant asks me what I’d like to drink with breakfast. He subsequently brings me a glass of orange juice, served in a real glass, and a cup of coffee with milk and sugar. The coffee is good, but I wonder if they really couldn’t have splurged on a proper cup instead of the cardboard one.
They put down a paper table cloth for the meal. Agreed, it
won’t make the meal larger or better, but it’s still a nice touch.
The meal arrived in a cardboard box. It contains:
a salami sandwich
an apple pasty
and a packaged refreshing towel
Transfer in Paris Roissy
Eventually, we land in Paris more or less on time. Luxair
uses terminal 2G, which is exclusively for small regional aircraft. It’s also
very far out in the sticks. The only way to access any of the other terminals
from here is by bus. Depending on which terminal your onward connection is
departing from, there is an airside or a landside transfer.
I shall be departing from the M concourse, which is
basically the non-Schengen satellite of Terminal 2E. Transfer to 2E is airside,
which means that I will not have to undergo security screening again here in
Paris. On the downside, emigration is done in 2G and the queues are very long.
I’m on my way to Lisbon for a meeting in the afternoon. Fortunately, the fairly large expat community of Portuguese in Luxembourg means that there are numerous flights between Luxembourg’s Findel airport and beautiful Lisbon.
Getting to the Airport
To get to the airport from the Novotel, I first catch a tram from ‘Europa Parlament’ towards ‘Luxexpo’, which is currently the tram’s terminus, until they eventually extend the line to the airport. At Luxexpo I transfer to the bus line 16, which runs from there to the airport, which is its last stop. The journey takes about forty minutes to complete.
Check-in for the flight opens 24 hours before departure. I don’t know if there is a Luxair app but you can definitely check-in online and save the boarding pass to your wallet, if you’re using an iPhone.
There are self-service machines and check-in counters at the airport. To be honest though, I’m not entirely sure what the procedure is here in Luxembourg with the check-in desks, because some flights appear to have their own designated counters, while others don’t. I don’t think it should make a difference though, seeing as Luxair is the only handling agent at the airport.
Luxembourg is nice little airport that is quickly reaching capacity, even though they only recently reopened the old B pier. The really cool thing about the airport though, is that once you’re airside, you have some really good views of the apron and the runway beyond.
Boarding starts slightly behind schedule from gate A 20 in the Schengen part of the terminal. Gate A 20 is a bus gate, which of course has me doing a little happy dance right there in front of the gate because it means me taking pictures of my aircraft from up close.
I wonder if perhaps this is the first flight this aircraft will be doing today, because the cabin is stifling and very warm. The APU isn’t running and, because we’re on a remote stand, there’s no means of hooking us up to an external cooling system. Other than that though, I think the Luxair cabin on the Boeing B 737 looks quite nice. The seats are in light blue leather, while the headrests are white. The sides of the headrest can be folded up for extra comfort.
On the downside, seat pitch on Luxair’s B 737s is among the worst I’ve ever experienced. The aircraft are mainly deployed on typical charter routes, where the main objective is quantity and not quality. Which is why today I’ve decided to splurge on a seat on the emergency exit on row 12.
The advanced seat reservation for 12A cost me EUR25 and was made online at the time of booking. I know EUR25 may seem like a lot, but given the prospect of spending two hours and half with my knees stuck under my chin, I think it’s money well invested.
Unfortunately though, despite the fact that I’m on the window seat, I only have a limited view of the outside, because the outer glass is severely scratched.
Luxair does not have a cabin divider between Economy and Business Class, by the way.
The crew on this flight consists of three cabin crew, all of which are fluent in Letzebuergesch, French, English and of course Portuguese. The two younger cabin crew seem friendly enough but a bit reserved. The maître de however, is a really friendly guy and interacts well with the passengers, especially the fairly large number of elderly Portuguese travellers.
Once we’re airborne, I immediately nod off… Luckily, I wake up just as the service trolley reaches the row in front of me, making me feel like Ebenezer Scrooge when he wakes up on Christmas morning to find that he hasn’t missed anything because the ghosts of Christmas passed, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come have taught him a lesson all within the scope of one night. Oh, you know what I mean (the tall, blond M. will probably have a field day with this…).
And much to my surprise, the meal isn’t half bad either. There is a complimentary full bar trolley service that even includes a Luxemburgish sparkling wine. To eat there is a choice between a chicken or a cheese sandwich. The sandwiches are a good size and look and taste as though they were freshly made. I choose the cheese sandwich.
Unlike the pre-packaged rubbish you get on most European airlines that still offer a complimentary meal service, which usually ends up tasting like the plastic and cardboard it was packaged in, this sandwich is in fact very tasty. The bread is multigrain and inside the sandwich there’s not only the cheese but also a bread spread, cucumbers and a bit of salad.
To drink I have a Coke Zero and a coffee.
The service is well paced. The crew are unrushed but still don’t leave us waiting too long before passing through the cabin to remove the trash.
After the meal I sit back with the intention of reading in my Kindle. But instead, I end up going off to sleep again. What’s going on here…? By the time I wake up again, we’ve already started our initial descent and the crew are coming through the cabin with these small baskets filled with toffees and other sweets to help alleviate the pressure in the ears as we descend. I don’t quite know why, but I find there something nicely old-fashioned about this.
From what I can tell through the scratched window, the approach into Lisbon is gorgeous and takes us right over the city and then out to sea, before eventually coming around and turning on to the final approach. The landing however, is perhaps not so gorgeous… we actually bounce three times before eventually settling on the runway!
Here in Lisbon we’ll be using a remote stand, which is hardly surprising given that the terminal building is literally bursting at the seams and has only very few contact stands. As we taxi in, we pass an Airbus A 330NEO in the colours of TAP Air Portugal but still in its French registration. And then eventually, we make a last right turn and come to a stop right next to an Airbus A 321NEO of Azores Airlines.
I’m always in two minds about Luxair. Their home market is highly affluent but also tragically small. As such, I think the airline does a good job in striking the right balance between offering a reliable air service from its hub in Luxembourg to the major business centres in Europe on the one hand, while at the same time also serving the leisure traffic market. Even so, one cannot help but wonder what the point is of small countries like Luxembourg trying to maintain their own airline.
For my return trip back to Basel I normally take the KLM flight at 18h20, which gets me into Basel at 21h45. But today I’ve decided to travel via Paris, mainly due to the fact that my meeting already ended at 14h00 and I didn’t fancy hanging around the office until the evening.
Getting to the Airport
Fortunately, my meeting is with the Luxembourg Civil Aviation Authority, whose offices are also located near the airport. Very kindly, after the meeting they offer to drop me off at the terminal.
The roads aren’t very busy, mainly because the summer holidays have started across Europe, during which most the many expats living in Luxembourg abandon the city and head home.
Yeah, about that… You see, I’m travelling on an Air France ticket. The French airline has a code-share in place with Luxair on the Luxembourg to Paris CDG route. Check-in is not possible though, neither on the Luxair nor the Air France app. However, eventually I do manage to complete the process on the Luxair website. It’s a bit awkward though that the Air France site will not automatically redirect you to Luxair and the error message I keep getting on the Air France site is not particularly useful either.
Alternatively there are slef-service machines at the airport. But you’ll have to select Luxair on the main screen to start the process, even if you’re travelling on an Air France flight number.
So now what? I’m a Platinum member with Air France. But although my flight is operated under an Air France flight number, Luxair is not a member of SkyTeam, so I’m not entirely sure I even have access to the lounge.
I enter the lounge with my boarding pass and Platinum card ready, but there’s nobody at reception. In fact, I can’t see a single employee anywhere. I wait a few minutes for somebody to arrive, figuring they’re probably just busy. While I’m waiting, an utterly fashionable Italian guy walks in, sunglasses donned, talking on his mobile phone in an irritatingly loud voice. He ignores me but immediately notices the absence of the lounge dragon from reception. Without batting an eyelid he puts away again his boarding pass and heads straight for the buffet, behaving quite as though he belongs here. I figure, when in Rome…and follow him in.
I spend about forty minutes in the lounge, during which I don’t encounter a single lounge employee. Judging by the emptiness of the buffet, they’ve been gone quite a while. So I still don’t know if I’m actually entitled to lounge access.
The lounge in Luxembourg is quite nice, but it does tend to get fairly crowded in the evenings. Toilets are available inside the lounge and the food options, although basic, are not bad. Oh yes, and the views of the apron and runway are pretty decent.
My flight is departing from pier B. The building that houses pier B used to be part of the original terminal facility at Luxembourg but was shut down in 2008 when the new, current terminal opened. Due to a significant increase in traffic in recent years, the pier was recently renovated and eventually reopened in June, once a walkway to the new terminal had been constructed.
From what I understand, the new pier is intended for use by Luxair’s regional aircraft only. The building is nice and very bright, with lots of natural light. But keep in mind that there are really no facilities at all here – no shops or anywhere to buy a drink.
The Bombardier Dash 8/400 forms the backbone of the Luxair fleet. What I like about Luxair’s aircraft is that the seats that are installed on these planes are very comfortable and have significantly better padding than the slim and flimsy seats many other carriers have installed on the Dash 8.
One thing to be watchful of though, is that the ventilation system runs along the floor and takes up some leg space if you’re sitting by the window due to the curvature of the hull. Fortunately, the aircraft is only about half full this afternoon, which means the seat next to me stays empty and I have enough space to spread out.
I’m seated on 8F, which is right under the wing. There is not really that much to see from this seat while you’re on the ground, because you have the engine right in front of your window. But obviously, with the Dash 8 having a shoulder-mounted wing, once you’re airborne you have an unobstructed view below.
There are two female cabin crew working the cabin. Both are middle aged and very friendly. Announcements are made in French, English and Luxembourgish. The latter is really hilarious to listen to because it sounds like a rather unfortunate and unsuccessful attempt to merge German and French. But Luxembourgish is actually a thing, in case you were wondering.
The flight time to Paris is only 45 minutes. Immediately after take-off, the crew pass through the cabin distributing small paper bags containing a bottle of still water and a packet of those notorious Happy Snacks. Still, for 45 minutes it’ll do.
We land in Paris on time. Luxair operates out of Terminal 2G in Paris, which is the facility used for regional aircraft and Air France’s HOP fleet.
Making a transfer from 2G is always a bit of a wild card. I now there is an airside shuttle transfer because I’ve previously taken it. But if you blindly follow the signs for flight connections to 2F, from where my flight to Zürich is departing, eventually you will be spat out in the arrivals hall, landside. This is not a particularly big deal as such, because there is a complimentary landside shuttle too. But it does mean that you will have to go through security again for your next flight.
Luxair is a neat little airline that is tailored to the needs of its local market. Recently Easyjet and even Ryanair have started flights to Luxembourg, but so far the little carrier seems to be fairing pretty well against its much larger competitors. I wouldn’t go out of my way to travel with Luxair, but they’re definitely okay. Of course it helped that today’s flight was only about half full.