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This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Voyage Home

Along with all the other punters who had figured out that the “ordinary” trains from central Vienna out to the airport were as frequent and not much slower than the dedicated City Airport Train (CAT), I paid my EUR 3.60 – as against the EUR 9 for the CAT – and still enjoyed a reasonably comfortable and timely journey. This time I was routed via Munich and in the hands of Lufthansa – aided by another “partner” airline called Augsburg Airways.

What the idea of “partner” carriers is I’m not sure – they’re probably a cheaper way of doing business. Augsburg turned out an Embraer 195 for the short hop to Munich (about 45 minutes flying time, but a whole four and a half hours by rail) which was modern and quiet. The Brazilian firm has come a long way since they majored in prop planes like the Bandierante, which a retired ATPL holder in my extended family described from first hand experience as “A bloody awful aircraft”.

Munich’s new build airport – the one where the 1958 crash happened closed some years ago – was built on a green field site well north of the city, with parallel runways either side of the terminal, not unlike Heathrow before T4 opened. It’s still nowhere near capacity, and as an added bonus, transit passengers do not have to suffer yet another security check – Zürich and CDG take note.

And taking me back to Manchester was a familiar sight, an Avro RJ-85, a type that has been doing the route for long enough for me to have flown in one back in 1998. That was for work, someone else picked up the tab, and in those days Lufthansa made the whole plane “City Class”: you got a proper meal in flight. Financial reality now dictates that punters get a cheese sarnie and a fun size Bounty.

But, this being a German carrier, the beer is still taken seriously. It comes in a bottle – none of this pratting about with cans – and the contents conform to Rheinheitsgebot, which means water, malted barley and hops only. You can have another bottle if you want, which makes the flight relaxing and civilised.

But return to the UK brings a variety of reality: after exiting the aircraft, two out of three travelators within Terminal 1 not working, the wait for passport control under the large sign proclaiming “UK Border”, another enforced passage through an alleged tax free shop, having to go outside the terminal building to get to the overhead walkway, and ticket barrier checks at the station. Then on leaving Crewe station the wind blew and it rained.

Welcome home!

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