Air Berlin – Farewell

Owing to a keen and unfortunate ability of mine, known as bad luck, I purchased a flight from Budapest to San Francisco on Air Berlin days before they declared bankruptcy.  Unable to change or refund my flight I settled in for what might turn out to be an unfortunate trip, though assurances from the German government and Lufthansa that operations would continue lifted my hopes.

The day of my flights arrived and all looked well.  Both flights were listed as on-time.  Check-in in Budapest was uneventful and my flight left on time.  The only issue was a girl that must have partied too hard or been drugged passing out shortly after take off.  Sad for her but did not have an effect on the flight.

Tegal airport was a different story.  This terrible airport is an awful place on the best of days, but this day it exceeded itself.  The terminal was a mess of stranded travelers.  Feeling sorry for these poor souls I saw my flight to San Francisco was good I got a pretzel and beer and waited to escape Tegal.  Come boarding time we were informed that our flight was delayed twenty minutes without a reason given.  No need to worry.  Delays are understandable given the circumstances the airline is under.  Twenty minutes later we are told the flight is canceled and to get on a bus to take us to baggage claim.  Again no reason or apology is forthcoming.  Rumor on the bus was that crews were taking sick days so the airline could not fly the planes.  Understanable reaction by people about to lose their jobs but quite annoying to people trying to get home or go on vacation.

Figuring that I would be transfered to a Lufthansa flight quickly I was not worried too much, but oh how I should have worried.  Being one of the last to get my luggage I was greeted by all 300 passengers in the rebooking queue in front of me.  I would stand here, with many bathroom breaks, for six hours.  Air Berlin dumped all of us on three airport staff to rebook over 300 people.   Happy and positive when it came my turn I rebooked on Lufthansa through Frankfurt the next day.  When I asked for a hotel she almost laughed at me and said Air Berlin will not pay for anything but I could write to them complaining.  I thought this was against international law as this cancellation was not an “act of god” but was the airlines fault.  I guess they didn’t care since they didn’t really exist anymore.  So I paid out of pocket for hotel and food and went to sleep.  The next day I flew on beautiful Lufthansa without a hitch, recognizing many people from the day before.

I wrote to Air Berlin asking them to pay for my hotel and food and also to change my return flight to Lufthansa since they were unreliable.  Two months later and I have yet to hear a peep from them.  Though I was nervous waiting at the gate for my return flights both went off without so much as a delay.  I guess some of the crews still enjoyed flying.

I will miss Air Berlin a little.  I had enjoyed their planes and crews up until they declared bankrupcy.  They had severe headwinds in the forms of a terrible airport hub and Lufthansa as competition, but they did well.  Now that they are gone I hope Berlin will tear Tegal down and replace it.  Then perhaps Air Berlin can rise from the grave and try again.

Farewell Air Berlin.  You join Malev in airlines that I have liked and lost during my time.

 

 

 

RyanAir

No….and no.  It is just that simple.  You get what you pay for has no truer example than RyanAir.  Do the right thing and fly EasyJet or WizzAir, or gasp, a national carrier.  Everything from top to bottom about this airline is rotten.  From the creepy CEO to the poor flight attendants selling scratchcards on board.  It is a quagmire how such a beautiful nation(Ireland for those that don’t know where this airline is based) can cause so much harm to the world.  This airline, the financial crisis, the IRA.  It is incredible.

Don’t do it unless you really enjoy being treated as a piece of meat and really need to save every copper.

WizzAir

WizzAir is my favorite low cost carrier in the world.  I fly out of Budapest, Hungary quite often and since the folding of Hungary’s state airline, Malev, many years ago WizzAir has taken over and made it one of its bases.

WizzAir, like all low cost carriers sticks with one type of aircraft to save on maintenance and training costs.  So you will be flying on an A320 or the newer and lengthened A321neo.  The planes are easy to spot as they are a colorful pink and purple.  They carry this theme inside as well and the crew are equally colorful.

Attention to detail begins while searching for your ticket on their website.  They have many levels of tickets and options.  There are two different clubs to join for discounts, Wizz Discount Club and Wizz Flex.  They offer different discounts so read about them to see if either helps you.  They are only worth it if you will fly on WizzAir more than a few times in the year.

Once you find your flight you must decide if you want the Basic, Wizz Go, or Wizz Plus ticket.  Again you must read the description to see what works best for you.  A free 23kg bag, larger size carry-on, seat selection and so on.  I cannot stress enough to do your research.  WizzAir has two sizes of cabin bags.  Bring one too big and they will charge you a fortune at the gate.  Make any mistakes and you will incur a big fee at the airport.  Plan your flight out correctly and it will be beautiful and low stress.

On your departure date be sure to print out your boarding pass before heading to the airport.  This is a requirement.  They do not look your ticket up by your identification like the major carriers do.  The line will probably be an unorganized mess or it might be orderly.  This depends more on the airport than on WizzAir.  Everything will go smoothly if you have everything in order.  Don’t blame the ticket agents for mistakes you made.  Everything you chose and paid for will be listed right on your boarding pass.

After checking in you will go the waiting area.  I don’t believe I have ever had a gate with WizzAir.  Expect a bus to your flight or as is the case in Budapest, a walk.  Boarding is a free for all affair unless you paid for an upgraded seat.  You still get an unassigned seat but you get to board first and pick from specially marked rows.

All the planes I have been on have been well kept and clean.  The crews are young, efficient, and friendly.  They even clean the toilets in-flight.  You do have to pay for food and drinks but the prices are fair.  One euro for a soda and four for a beer or wine.  Again they have discounts for buying certain combinations.  The pilots are also outstanding.  All my flights have been smooth and without incident.  WizzAir runs a tight ship as they refund the ticket price to Wizz Plus ticket holders if their flight is delayed too long.  I have always been on-time or just a few minutes late.

I cannot recommend WizzAir enough.  If they fly the route you are taking give them a look.  If you have had a bad experience with them, which I’m sure some have as nobody is perfect, please comment and let me know about it.  I enjoy all stories and want to know how my luck has been.