Tried & Tested

Germanwings A319 economy class

25 Nov 2014 by Jenny Southan

BACKGROUND

Part of the Lufthansa Group, Cologne-based, low-cost airline Germanwings offers three different fare types – Basic, Smart and Best.

Basic budget fares are from €33 one-way, with unbundled extras at a fee – snack and drink from €6, a bag up to 23kg for €15, preferred seating for €10, or a seat with extra legroom plus a drink and snack for €18.

The Smart fare costs from €55 one-way and includes preferred seating, a savoury roll, still water and one other soft drink, lounge access at selected airports for HON Circle members, Senators and Frequent Travellers, and one piece of checked luggage up to 23kg.

The Best fare provides a business class-type of experience. It costs from €149 one-way and includes preferred seating in rows one to three with more legroom, an adjacent seat free, lounge access (where available), increased miles, priority check-in, access to the security fast lane (subject to availability) and priority boarding, reserved hand luggage compartment, a la carte catering (here is a link to a sample menu) and two bags up to 23kg each included.  

This week, Germanwings also relaunched its website, with new functions such as “flight observation” allowing people to track the status of their flight.

CHECK-IN

As someone else had booked this flight for me, they had checked me in online and printed my boarding pass. I was travelling with hand-luggage only (the limit is a case up to 55cm x 40cm x 23cm). You can also carry a small handbag or laptop but the combined weight can be no more than 8kg (which isn’t very heavy). My bag was probably over, but luckily no one asked to weigh it at any point.

I arrived at Berlin Tegel airport at 1630, and was dropped off outside the A05 section of the terminal for my 1740 Germanwings flight to London Heathrow. There was a Germanwings check-in desk directly ahead, and a small lane next to it for security. Annoyingly, you have to pay €1 for two plastic bags from a nearby vending machine if you don't already have one for your liquids.

There were about ten people ahead of me and two X-ray machines with very little space to unpack or queue. Liquids came out (some people had multiple bags of bottles and this didn't see to be a problem), as well as laptops. Coats and jackets also had to come off.

At the end of the small security channel was a desk where you had to show your passport and boarding pass before entering the crowded waiting area. There was a modest cafe, a couple of washrooms, a duty-free store and a fair bit of seating but not much else.

BOARDING

The gate (A05) was right in front of where I was sitting, so all I had to do was stand up and join the line when passengers were called for boarding at 1720. The process was quite quick and efficient, with one member of staff checking documents, while a second one entered people’s seat numbers into a computer.

Boarding was via an airbridge. The A319 felt crowded and narrow and there was little room left in the overhead lockers by the time I got to my seat (14B) so I put my bag under the seat in front of me, which restricted my legroom significantly.

THE SEAT

Seats are arranged in a 3-3 configuration (A-B-C, D-E-F) on this A319, with the front three rows for Preferred Seating, rows four to ten for Extra Legroom, and row ten by the exits in the middle. Rows go up to 25 but there is no row 13.

The product is a thin, grey plastic Recaro model with grey leather upholstery and minimal cushioning. The armrests were narrow. There were fold-down tray tables, above of which was a copy of the Sky Bistro magazine, Sky Shop and in-flight GW publications. Under was a net for personal items.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

It is definitely worth paying extra for a seat with extra legroom. Avoid middle seats B and E, and try to sit as near to the front as possible so you can disembark quicker. I’d also try and board relatively quickly as, once the plane fills up, there is much less space for stowing bags in overhead bins.

THE FLIGHT

There was little in the way of a welcome and I don't even remember there being a safety demonstration but there must have been. The plane pushed back at 1740 when the cabin lights were dimmed for the evening service, before taxiing for about ten minutes. Take-off was at 1750.

Once at altitude, the lights came back on (although not as brightly) at 1805, whereby a refreshment service took place, with drinks and snacks swiftly distributed to those who had them included in their fare. Most other people seemed not to be bothering with paying for anything.

I didn’t order anything on this occasion but you could get a sandwich for €3.90. Spirits were not available but you could buy beer and soft drinks for €3, and wine for €4.90. 

ARRIVAL

The plane landed at Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 at 1920 (1820 local time). There was a ten-minute taxi to the stand, with disembarkation from the front via an airbridge being swift. However, the walk through the terminal taking a good 20 minutes. There was also quite a wait at immigration. I was landside by 1915, and there was another long walk of about ten minutes to the Tube.

VERDICT

This was not the most comfortable economy class flight but I think my experience would have been better if I had paid for an extra legroom seat. The service was punctual though. A decent short-haul option.

FACT FILE:

  • SEAT CONFIGURATION 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F)
  • SEAT PITCH 29in (or 32 inches with extra legroom seats)
  • PRICE Internet rates for a midweek return economy class flight in December from London to Berlin started from £140.
  • CONTACT germanwings.com

Jenny Southan

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