The airline with the best average rating is Lufthansa with 7.4/10.
The average flight time is 1 hours and 7 minutes.More information
Once again it was time to visit Berlin. I've been there every year for some time. Actually, I didn't intend to go there again in the next few years, but a family event was taking place, which made me go anyways. Living near Frankfurt, the options to get there were:
- road (car, Flixbus)
- rail (ICE, Flixtrain)
- air (Lufthansa, Easyjet)
Normally, I would have chosen the train, but it wasn't bookable yet. Flixtrain was not an option, because it's slow, uses old and run-down cars and runs infrequently. I didn't feel like going to Berlin by car and I personally despise intercity bus travel. Easyjet was an appealing option, as there were cheap tickets available and I had never tried them before, but heard that they were one of the better LCCs out there. So my parents, who live close to me, and I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, the return flight was cancelled. It was communicated that we would be able to get a refund, even though it wasn't clear how that would be exactly. After a call with one of their callcenter agents, it could be confirmed that we would receive a full refund on the return flight. We reinvested the ticket price in a one-way ticket from Berlin to Frankfurt on the ICE train, first class - see how that went in the bonus section.
Traveling on the cheapest tickets on U2 you don't get anything but the basic transportation - even hand luggage is limited to one piece, without the personal item you usually get extra. There's no chance to choose your seats for free either, not even on check-in; if you don't pay, seats will be assigned then. We checked-in extra early (it's possible 30 days before departure) and voi là, we were at least assigned three seats next to each other - 13D, 13E and 13F. Not having realized we were flying in an A319 instead of an A320 I even thought we were extra-lucky and got seats in an exit row. Well…
The day of the flight arrived, and the journey to Berlin started at Frankfurt's central station. The easiest option to get to the airport from there (except maybe taxi/Uber) is the S-Bahn. However, that's boring, so I went with the vlexx RE3 to Saarbrücken, which takes just 10 minutes to the airport, but only departs once per hour. It arrived at the airport station 2 minutes behind schedule, but that's completely alright for German trains.
The airport station itself is somewhat dark and depressing, but it fulfills its function kind of well. It could be more spacious, though. After taking one of two escalators (the other one was out of order), I arrived in the good old departures hall of FRA at around 12:45 for my 15:05 departure. The two check-in/bag drop counters assigned to Easyjet weren't even staffed yet. That's pretty weak considering they are pushing for passengers to arrive extra-early at their departure airports on their websites, and closing boarding 30 minutes before the official departure time.
At around 1pm, the counter was finally opened. It was manned by staff from an external service company, but they were friendly and efficient. As the airport was busy that they, we were advised to proceed through the security checks early. Indeed I have seen them emptier, but it was still tolerable.
The flight departed from gate B9. The B gate area for Schengen flights is pretty small and bare. A FIDS screen confirmed that our flight was existant and on time. The gate itself was easy to find. I expected it to be a bus gate, but we would board via airbridge. From the gate area, not much could be seen outside. On the contrary, several beams obstructed a lot of the view. Another weak point is that there aren't many shops in this area, which includes places to eat. Food and drink are especially expensive - I recall seeing a piece of pizza for 8,20€! There were just enough restrooms, although cleaning left something to be desired.
A tip for Frankfurt: There are gates with a drinking water dispenser. There aren't any in this area, but the next-best solution is probably one of these duty-free stores, as they sell 0,5l waters for 1€ each. I have no idea how they do it and particularly why, but they've done so for years and it seems they'll continue doing it. Perhaps they somehow profit from having a large number of customers, or they hope to sell something else on top.
Today's ship: A319-111 OE-LQT, built date: Mar 2007.
First delivered to EasyJet in the UK as G-EZBL, transferred to Easyjet Europe in Feb 2018.
Config: Y156 (the maximum legally possible)
Boarding commenced at approx. 2:20pm, and first passengers needing special assistance were called, then Easyjet Plus and Speedy Boarding customers. Of course, almost everbody stood up as soon as the first boarding call was made. Still, the gate staff were correct and friendly, even with people who didn't manage to properly scan their mobile boarding passes.
The plane still carried the old classic paintjob with the exception of one part of the engine cover, which made the engine say "EasyJ". On board, we were greeted by a friendly crew. Even though the cabin has aged rather gracefully, it was clear that cleaning wasn't much of a priority - notice the headrest cover in the fourth image below; plus, the tray tables in our row were more or less semi-clean only. A great thing about the 29" pitch is that it makes the length of my legs appear normal in the photo I took. Don't kid yourselves though - 29" is pretty tight, at least with this type of seat. Still perfectly alright for a one-hour flight for persons of not more than average height.
It goes without saying that there is no IFE onboard this plane. The only kind of entertainment you get if you don't bring your own is the seatback contents. There's nothing to be said about this, though: You get a safety card (they even saved money on those - they clearly say "A319/A320"), an inflight magazine without any kind of interesting articles or information, a duty-free shopping catalogue and a BOB menu. I would say that the prices are somewhat high, but still acceptable. However, I have no idea what kind of service the crew can offer on such a short flight; drinks and cold snacks, yes, but certainly no warm food(?) You can preorder food on their website, but there are no hot meals except sandwiches and mini calzones. The best deal value-wise is probably the wine/beer+nibbles deal, which I of course forgot to take a photo of; however, everything can be also found on their website.
The boarding was completed very quickly. As we stood at the gate waiting for us to be pushed back, the cockpit door was still open. The captain and the cabin manager made some announcements before departure as well. They were pretty good, as they were clearly understandable and both seemed to be in good spirits. The safety demonstration was a bit odd, though: first a German audio track was played, but it was almost inaudible. Then, the English version (a bit louder) followed, together with visual demonstrations by the flight attendants.
Pushback actually took place a few minutes ahead of schedule. After that, a short taxi through rainy and cloudy Frankfurt followed. The only "prominent" (=clearly visible) guest on this taxi was the TK A330 you can see in the gallery below. Two more planes were coming to take off towards the West, but we snuck on the runway before them and were ready to go really soon.
We then rolled past a Condor 767; since the Thomas Cook bankruptcy I've started seeing Condor planes everywhere in Frankfurt. I sincerely hope they'll make it through, as they still have a great brand name, even though there product seems to have somewhat deteriorated. Still, I don't know if it would be so good for the German aviation market if another important airline disappeared after Air Berlin and Germania.
Anyways, soon we were fast enough to make the raindrops disappear from our windows, and equally soon the two CFM56 engines effortlessly pulled the A319 into the air. After pushing through a thick layer of gray clouds and making a sharp right turn, we were at cruising altitude and the scenery for the rest of the flight appeared beneath us.
Other noteworthy stuff in the gallery below: Lufthansa retro 747-8 (image 3), cities of Mainz (left) and Wiesbaden (right) (image 5).
The rest of the flight was uneventful. At some point of time, the inflight service happened. But I spent the short flight time mostly reading and listening to music, so I don't really have an idea how that went over.
However, before we knew it, it was already time for the descent, and we quickly dove through the cloud layer spanning over pretty much all of Germany that day. Approaching Berlin from the South, we turned right and circumvented the city on the East in a big 180°-left turn. The exact route looks like this on Flightradar24:
Leaving behind Northern Berlin, it was time for the final approach into Berlin-Tegel. On the way, our flight path provided us with nice views of Berlin's North-Eastern outskirts.
Despite the somewhat bad weather conditions, the landing was very smooth. Nothing much was to be seen at the airport itself: just a big heap of Easyjet planes, plus the usual Star Alliance suspects Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian and also Aegean Air. The only sight slightly out of the ordinary was a Qatar 777; there aren't a lot of long-haul connections from Tegel, or from Berlin in general.
Speaking of Easyjet - they've been operating quite a formidable base in Berlin-Tegel since the bankruptcy of Air Berlin, which was also based there. Actually, Easyjet had been using Berlin-Schönefeld before (and they still use it), an airport that is much more distant from the city center. Having been the former main airport of the GDR and not really well-maintained since the reunification in 1990, it is not really the place to be. I like Tegel a lot better, as it is closer to the city center, and at least Terminal A is great: it's laid-out well so that there are short ways to walk without being shoved through half a dozen airport shops.
Easyjet however seem to operate most if not all of their flights out of Terminal C, a provisional building erected in 2007 for five years. Now, twelve years later, it's still in use, and you see it. The tentative nature of the building is obvious as well, as there are no airbridges. In fact, the distance between our gate position and the gate itself was very walkable, like 30m; still, we were brought to the entrance with two articulated buses. By the way, Easyjet even has a Berlin-themed jet. How do you know that it's Berlin-themed? Because it's broken, vandalized and unfinished, all at the same time. Haha. (For those who didn't notice: That was meant half-ironically.)
Deplaning took place via two sets of stairs, then with the aforementioned buses. And looking at the photos below, I think the provisional nature of Terminal C is obvious. It looks more like a storehouse than an airport terminal, and it's totally crowded. Plus, the checked baggage took ages to come out, with too few belts being used and those used being full of inconsiderate people standing right at the belts. Of course, close to no staff to assist passengers needing help were to be found. Landside, the overcrowded and makeshift character of Terminal C continued to show; not a very inviting place to spend some time. Everything makes Osaka Kansai Terminal 2 look like Singapore Changi. Luckily, our baggage arrived at some point and we were good to go.
Last but not least, found in the baggage claim area: probably the most Berlin-like thing of the whole trip report:
I said Tegel airport is close to the city, I know. And it is. But public transport is… not quite optimal. There had been plans to connect it via subway, but they naturally were dropped after it was determined that TXL was to be closed at some point. So the only option besides private car or taxi is the bus. I think it's not really necessary to say that this bus transit isn't exactly well-organized or well laid out.
Following the bus signs in the Terminal, it was soon very clear that the buses don't depart from it itself. Thus, a transfer to Terminal A was necessary. This would have been no problem, if there wouldn't have been just too many people walking around everywhere and smoking close to the overcrowded walkway. Luckily, for those who need them, a few elevators have been installed at some time, even if they cannot be seen on the photos below.
Then, the next source of
annoyance pure delight was in sight: Tickets have to be bought before getting on the bus. For this purpose, there are two (2!) vending machines available; I think you can imagine how long it takes to get tickets with an army of people standing in line before you, all of them of course not familiar with how the machines work. Adding insult to injury, the bus platform itself is very, very narrow for the number of people it actually has to accomodate, and because of columns it gets even narrower at some spots. Furthermore, there are multiple lines, and if you don't know which one is the right one, then you will have lots of fun at the bus platform.
However, if you have got your ticket and have found the right bus, the experience is pretty smooth. Thus, I would like to end this report with this photo of the X9 bus. This and/or the (fittingly-named) TXL will most likely be the right bus for you, as they go to most of the important places like Zoologischer Garten or Alexanderplatz.
I feel honestly sorry if I appear to be overly sarcastic or negative today. Actually I was quite content with how everything went on this trip. So thank you for bearing with me up to here; I hope you enjoyed reading this report and/or got any useful information out of it. If you have any questions or suggestions for me, feel free to let me know. Click on the bonus to learn about the trip back to Frankfurt by rail. That's all, so: all the best and bye till next time!
Hey, glad you made it here! This train ride was somewhat special indeed, as operations still aren't normal. In fact, in contrast to other big German cities, Berlin didn't have a central station until 2006; the year of the soccer world championship in Germany. For this purpose, the station was hastily built. Because of this, unfitting parts were built into the trackwork, which means that over the years to come, there probably will be huge construction works going on… people who can read German (or paste everything into a translator of their choice) can find all the details here.
This however wasn't too bad after all. From Zoologischer Garten, the Central station was just a 7-minute ride in the commuter train (S-Bahn) away. There, a 1st class ticket - except in the cheapest fare - grants you access to not only the DB Lounge, but to its first class section. We didn't have a lot of waiting time, so it wasn't really worth it. Still it was great to get a cappuccino and a croissant before the train ride. Still, of course, it's not comparable to a proper airport lounge.
This day's train was the ICE 597, which starts in Berlin central station at 9:28am everyday and is destined to Munich via Frankfurt. It was already there when we arrived at the platform. It was mostly clean and comfortable. However, I don't like the seats very much; they provide good space, but the material choice - leather - makes them very slippery.
Every seat has some sort of table and a power socket. Seats in rows have footrests. For every few seats there is a little brochure detailing the consist of the train and its stops, including connections. There's also unlimited Wi-fi, which unfortunately isn't the fastest. Still, DB lets you stream a bunch of movies from their site and even provides you with a real-time moving map of the train, including speed and information about landmarks near the tracks. Free newspapers are also offered. Good views out of the big windows are included in all tickets and classes.
Departure was about 5 minutes late. About an hour after departure (and shortly before arrival in Frankfurt), a piece of "favorite guest" Ritter Sport chocolate was handed out.
You can also order drinks, snacks and even meals to your seat in first class; however, this service is not free of charge. The prices for some items are somewhat elevated, but I would call their overall pricing still fair.
From Leipzig on, 1st class was somewhat full, but there were still free seats available. According to the DB Navigator app, though, 2nd class was totally booked out, so tough luck if you haven't gotten a seat reservation.
Restrooms, by the way, weren't exactly nice to look at, but adequately clean and useable.
After acquiring the necessary delays at a construction site near Fulda (one has to maintain their image), the train moved on straight to Frankfurt, its next stop on its way to Munich. All in all, the train was delayed by 14 minutes, which, while definitely not perfect, is still okay for a train ride of more than four hours - especially considering that it wasn't really that fast compared to other high-speed trains: most of the times, the ICE ran at 150 or 200km/h, and it rarely ever went over that speed. However, it was a nice and comfortable journey overall, and for a price of 48€ per person (one-way) in 1st class, the ICE is a great way to travel within Germany and neighboring countries.
U2: Much like riding on a bus. The check-in time window and the information available on the website could be optimized. Otherwise, it was an sufficiently "easy" flight, on-time and adequately comfortable with a welcoming-enough crew.
FRA: Good access from downtown Frankfurt. Unfortunately, also a lack of information and/or staff to help people who are lost or otherwise need help. Could be a bit cleaner overall.
TXL: Stellar location, albeit not very well connected to public transport. Terminal C is a mess, overcrowded and with airport staff nowhere to be seen. Baggage delivery took ages. But honestly, I would much prefer it if Tegel were kept open after BER opens; with a renovated Terminal A, reduced slots/operation hours and access to the subway systems (people living around the airport could also profit from that) could make Tegel a magnificent city airport.