FIRST IMPRESSIONS I arrived by coach to the Heathrow central bus station at 1120 for my 1245 LH3407 flight to Dresden, a route that will cease operations in March 2012 (see online news October 19).
I entered the Terminal 1 building from the underground entrance and went up another level to the departures area. The Lufthansa and Star Alliance check in area is located in zone A, which is the closest possible area to the escalator from the underground station.
I quickly checked in via one of the electronic kiosks by scanning my passport and entering my flight number. For some reason I was unable to select my seat, which eventually proved inconsequential on the very quiet flight. I moved from here through the small security desk to the immediate right and passed through with ease (laptops out, shoes on).
I was airside by 1200 and only had a few minutes to browse the shops before I went through to gate 19 which was due to open for boarding at 1215 according to my ticket. The seating area was small but half empty meaning that boarding was swift once it commenced at 1230.
BOARDING We went down a short flight of stairs and boarded the CRJ900 aircraft (to see a seat plan click here) from the ground using a staircase built into the aircraft. This route is operated by Lufthansa regional subsidiary Eurowings which operates these smaller aircraft.
The front two rows are staggered due to the toilet taking up space at the front of the cabin. The front two rows were reserved for business class passengers with only the bulkhead seats offering any extra legroom. The accompanying seat was reserved to allow for extra space.
The aircraft is configured in a narrow 2-2 from 1-24 (AC – FD). There are two very small toilets located at the front and rear of the aircraft. There is limited head space when standing in the small cabin and anyone over 6’2 would have to crouch. The small cabin soon became very warm and maintained this temperature for the entirety of the flight.
Hand luggage could not be taken on board as the CRJ has very small overhead lockers. Our bags were taken on the tarmac and tagged before being placed in the hold upon boarding. The cases were waiting for us on a trolley when we disembarked in Dresden.
THE SEAT I was seated near the back of the aircraft in 21A and as the flight was fairly empty I sat in 21C and had the seat next to me free, a possible explanation for why people have been unwilling to pay for Business class on this route (see online news above). Up until row nine the plane was full but from there back to row 26 everyone could take two seats for themselves if they wanted to.
There was no IFE on this short regional flight but copies of the Daily Mail, i paper, the FT weekend and some German press were available on boarding, as well as the bi-lingual in-flight magazine.
THE FLIGHT We commenced a very loud, rattling taxi at 1245 but the noise soon subsided once we were on the move. After a 20 minute non-stop taxi to the runway we eventually took off at 1315, half an hour late.
The seatbelt sign was only off for 15 minutes before we hit turbulence and remained uncomfortably on for the rest of the flight. However this did not stop the food and drink service rolling out at 1330 where I was handed a small buttered soft pretzel.
A full hot and cold drinks service followed soon after, serving alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks including sparkling wine. I had a tea with milk and sugar and a nice cold glass of still water and tried to read amongst the turbulence and loud drone of the engines. Rubbish was promptly collected before a very welcome second round of drinks just before 1400, I opted for the same again.
We began our descent at 1515 and landed at 1540 with an overall flight time of one hour and 25 minutes, a full 25 minutes quicker than the stated flight time of lhr 50mins.
ARRIVAL We were through security by 1600 as the staff only had our small flight to deal with and as I had hand luggage only I could go straight on to my hotel. The airport looked as if it were closing down for the day at 1600 on a Saturday apart, from one bar which had a few people sat having drinks.
Dresden airport has its own S-Bahn station on the lower ground floor which connects to Dresden’s two biggest stations, Dresden Neustadt (13 mins) and Dresden Central Station (20 mins) via the S2 line. Trains run every 30 minutes and a single ticket costs €2 (valid on S-Bahn, tram and bus).
VERDICT A small and soon to be defunct route was made slightly uncomfortable by the constant turbulence but this is of course not the airlines fault. A double drinks service, a spare accompanying seat and quick processing once in Dresden more than made up for the inconvenience.
PLANE TYPE CRJ900 NextGen
SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-2
SEAT PITCH 31-2”
SEAT WIDTH 17”
SEAT RECLINE 110 degrees
PRICE Through the Lufthansa website a midweek return fare in December start at around £190 in economy.