My flight to Cologne left Mykonos at 9:40 am, which made for an early morning. It was about a 5 minute drive from the Geranium to the Mykonos airport, which I arrived at about 90 minutes before my flight. The small airport was a mess! A large part of this was due to the fact that the other two flights leaving the International Departures area were on EasyJet to Naples and Milan, so the terminal was packed with Italians flying EasyJet, about half of whom I’m guessing did not go to sleep that night. Lines were snaking in every which direction, and it took me awhile to realize there actually was no line at the Germanwings counter.
I flew Germanwings, and chose Cologne, expressly because of its nonstop flight from Mykonos to Cologne. There aren’t many places in Europe you can get to nonstop from Mykonos, and on a shortish vacation, the time saved by a nonstop flight matters. (Alas the flight is not daily, otherwise I would’ve flown the following day).
After checking in, for some reason there was a long queue to place your bags on the security belt. I grabbed a Diet Pepsi from the small café pre-security. I then realized that security leading to the gate area wasn’t open (although a Vueling flight had left 30 minutes earlier) and a long line leading outside the terminal had already formed. Of course that meant a number of people were getting on the line before checking in and confusion and Italian shouting ensued.
Finally, security opened, and the most lackadaisical screening ensued. No one was even looking at the monitor for the x-ray machines. A young Italian couple in front of me was very concerned about whether their jewelry would set off the metal detectors, but didn’t realize that they needed to take their phones out of their pockets.
Through security, there were three gates, another small café, and a duty free shop. I got a way overpriced croissant and another Diet Pepsi and parked myself at a table. With about 20 minutes until scheduled boarding, I headed to the bathroom, which was disgusting and didn’t have toilet paper or paper towels. From there I went upstairs to what was a surprisingly large duty free shop. Alas, the line for the one cashier was so slow that I had to give up. Soon, it was time to board.
Just around scheduled boarding time, an announcement was made for the flight, though oddly there was no one working the gate. But then a man came and said “Cologne/Bonn” and there was a rush to the doors, and we were let out into some sort of holding pen in the baking sun, before finally being allowed on a bus to the plane.
Confused as to what Germanwings is? Not a surprise. So in the 90s, there was a company called Eurowings. It had a low-cost carrier called Germanwings. In 2006, Lufthansa bought half of Eurowings. Lufthansa then fully purchased Germanwings from Eurowings, and made Germanwings a wholly-owned subsidiary in 2009.
In 2012, Lufthansa announced all of its non-transatlantic routes that did not pass through Frankfurt and Munich would be transferred to Germanwings, as would all Eurowings flights (which were Lufthansa Regional flights at the time). Many Lufthansa planes were transferred to Germanwings as part of this process. That process was completed in January 2015. But wait, it gets more confusing. Just as that process was wrapping up, Lufthansa made another announcement: starting in 2015, Eurowings will stop being a Lufthansa regional carrier, and is instead going to take over Germanwings’ routes, completely phasing out Germanwings. (Eurowings will then start flying long-haul leisure flights to places like Cuba and the Dominican Republic as well).
There are three fare classes sold by Germanwings, although there were only two on my flight. Basic is a seat in the rear of the plane, with nothing included. Then there’s “Smart”, which includes 1 piece of luggage, a snack and a drink, and preferred seating with more legroom. And on some flights, there’s “Best”, which is essentially business class — lounge access, priority checkin and security, two carry-ons and two pieces of checked baggage, the middle seat blocked, and a choice of food off the a la carte menu. I went with “Smart” since I’d be checking a bag and it was only a few dollars more than a bag alone.
Onboard the A319, the plane was very similar to Lufthansa European aircraft, with the same slimline uncomfortable seats. I had hoped to sleep most of the flight, but there were a number of factors that kept me from doing so. First, by the time I checked in and could select a seat, there were no window seats left. I got an aisle in the front of the cabin (row 2), but the flight attendants would not let anyone wait for the restroom near the galley/jumpseat/boarding door. Instead they closed the curtain between the boarding door and the cabin, and made people stand in the aisle lined up, i.e., next to me.
Most of the passengers were German — as Lufthansa does not fly to Mykonos, only Germanwings does — and there were a lot of families. (I think Mykonos is a terrible place to take children.) There were a lot of devices being used by children without headphones, which I think is ridiculous. But the worst passengers were the people behind me, a French father and his two girls. One of the girls was about 2 or 3 and spent most of the flight screaming and playing with the tray tables, climbing on the seats, and otherwise being ignored by her father, who tried to sleep. He also loved getting up and pulling my seat to hoist his body weight, and doing the same to sit down.
As soon as we took off, service began. In “Smart”, passengers were given a little sack with a choice of cheese or meat sandwich. It was tiny — about the size of two half slices of bread – and came with a drink. There was better food on offer for sale. But I just read and worked on editing pictures, before landing at the delightfully modern Cologne Bonn Airport. It was a bit of a schlep to the baggage claim, a long wait for my bag, and then then a loooong walk across the airport to the train station into town.
Bottom line: not in a rush to fly Germanwings again, but the nonstop was pretty convenient. On the plus side, my mileage credted to Aeroplan without a problem.