Air Berlin A321-200 Economy

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  • Anonymous


    Thessaloniki – Dusseldorf, AB2865

    I arrived at Thessaloniki at 0915 for this 1050 departure, connecting at DUS with BA to LHR. Air Berlin is a Oneworld partner and the connection was bookable via and displayed on the BA iPhone app. However at 24 hours before departure I could only check-in for the second BA sector via the app. I downloaded Air Berlin’s equivalent app and on entering my name and PNR could check-in and save my boarding pass, which like BA could also be added to Passbook. AB is all economy class on the shorthaul fleet.

    Bag drop at the Air Berlin counters at SKG was chaotic. BA does fly there from LGW and I wonder if it would be any better, especially if flying CE. The terminal has the feel of the original at Luton, with LCCs dominant. It took about 15 minutes to reach the counters, operated by Swissport, only to find that this was only to tag the baggage (fortunately through to LHR). I then had to join an even longer queue, which got in the way of that for the counters, for “Baggage control” – this seemed to be a permanent arrangement, consisting of an x-ray machine staffed by two extremely harassed agents who checked boarding passes and passports as hold luggage was deposited on the belt.

    By this time it was 45 minutes since I arrived. Fortunately security was swift and took no more than 5 minutes, but the landside queuing time alone was hideous, not to mention the associated stress and overall feeling of a shambolic operation and hardly reminiscent that we were within the EU. Feel an opportunity for Ryanair, which operates many flights here, to take over the landside ground handling and airside retail establishments – you can imagine the efficiency of the former then! But seriously, airports like this where you are held so long landside must miss out on revenue opportunities airside – you spend no money standing in a queue, and may be less likely to do so airside if the experience to reach there has been negative. It’s common at holiday airports like Tenerife and Malaga too.

    Airside was the usual fare (I noticed a sign for a lounge) but by now I had little time to explore, and the flight was boarding from gate 13 which was nearby. Continuing the theme, boarding was a bit unorganised with the gate agents having difficulty reconciling the documents of a family ahead of me.

    All stands are remote so we duly joined the bus. I had seat 7C so boarded from the front steps, which took ages; this turned out to be because there was a selection of newspapers and magazines, normally located on airbridges, on embarking the aircraft. I have seen the cabin crew on some flights distribute these after everyone was seated, which would seem more efficient where the stand is remote.

    Hand luggage limits on number and size were blatantly ignored.

    The aircraft was clean, and the safety card & magazines were stored in the back of the headrest, giving more space around my knees for the usual pitch in economy. I had hoped that this might also give more awareness of the safety card being at eye level, but nobody around me studied it.

    The safety demonstration was on the overhead video screens in German with English subtitles, and was universally ignored. The cabin crew did not point out the exits nor even stand in the aisle during the demonstration. The video screens above every third B and E seat were not retracted after the demonstration for take-off, nor again for landing. Might this be a safety risk in an evacuation? – they are clear enough of passengers’ heads during normal boarding and disembarkation so perhaps they do not present an obstruction.

    The passenger in 7D continued to use her mobile for some kind of data transmitting function during taxi – I pointed this out to the passing cabin crew member who was not interested. My German is not good enough to have entered into such a technical debate with the passenger, so I duly shut up.

    Take-off and climb out were smooth but we were not released for over 30 minutes, although the seat belt sign was ignored by pax and not enforced by the crew anyway. We were served complimentary tea, coffee or soft drinks with a choice of sandwich (cheese or turkey). Paid-for alcoholic drinks and other snacks were advertised in the magazine, but these did not appear to be available, there was certainly no trolley round.

    The captain advised that the seat belt sign would remain on until over the Alps as there were thunderstorms below, but we did not experience any turbulence. The rest of the flight and arrival at DUS were uneventful but I have to say I was glad to be connecting onto a BA flight.

    Overall, Thessaloniki airport was an ordeal with hold luggage – hand luggage would have been ok – and I just had the feeling of a lesser approach to some flight safety issues aboard AB. I would use them again if I had to, but not out of choice.

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