Sunday, November 2, 2014

Repost of my Germanwings review...

I wrote this review on Epinions.com back in 2009, so some of the information is no longer accurate.  Still, I am going to repost it here for those who are thinking about a Germanwings flight, particularly if they wish to do a "blind booking".  At this point, I have done three blind bookings-- two since this review was posted.  I still think they are a blast, even if they aren't as good of a deal as they once were.

Europe beckons... German Wings delivers, even booking blind!

 Jan 19, 2009 (Updated May 29, 2012)
Review by   
Rated a Very Helpful Review

    Pros:Clean planes, professional staff, very reasonable fares and plenty of cities.

    Cons:Early flight time this morning... nothing is free or included. Flies into outlying airports.

    The Bottom Line: We're loving blind booking.  Can't wait to try it again!

    My husband Bill and I are temporarily living near Stuttgart, Germany and we want to see as much of Europe as we possibly can. While I tend to be kind of skeptical about the so-called discount airlines, my ears perked up last month when Bill introduced me to German Wings and their "blind booking" program. For 29.99 Euros per person, per direction, travelers can choose a theme and purchase flights from Stuttgart, Hannover, or Cologne, Germany. The catch? You don't know where you're going until you've paid. It sounded like a great deal to me, not to mention a blast. I was game for it.

    Bill and I accessed German Wings' Web site and decided we wanted to pick a flight from the grouping of cities called "Metropolis Westeurope". That group included Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Rome, and Vienna. Any one of those cities would have been okay with us, but had we wanted to, we could have paid an extra 2.5 euros per person and per direction to exclude one of them from the list. German Wings allows up to three exclusions and each one results in an additional five euro charge. We knew Bill would have a long weekend for Martin Luther King Day, so we plugged those dates into the database, put in our preferences, and paid using Bill's credit card. We ended up with a flight for two going to London! I must admit, it was pretty exciting to find out where we were going. Better yet, after taxes, our round trip flights cost us the equivalent of about $145.  That's $145 for two people.  I doubt we will ever get an equivalent deal flying from the States!

    Pack light!

    As I mentioned before, German Wings is a discount airline. That means it's strictly no frills and offers only "coach class" service. We were each allowed one bag at no more than 23 kilos. Carry on luggage is limited to 8 kilograms. Once you go over that limit, you're charged five euros per kilogram. Purses, umbrellas, and coats may be carried without any penalty. Bill usually packs light anyway, but I made an effort to economize on my luggage so that we wouldn't be charged.  I came in well under the limit.

    Check in

    We arrived at Stuttgart's airport and easily found the German Wings booth. A pleasant lady checked our passports, weighed our luggage, and issued us boarding passes. I was glad to see that German Wings has assigned seating, so Bill and I were able to sit with each other. Online check in is also available. We were on our way.

    The seats...

    Our flight to and from London's Stanstead Airport was on an Airbus 319 aircraft. The seats were pretty small and set up in a three by three configuration. Being quite a bit plumper than I'd like to be, I was relieved to find that I fit in the seat with no problem, although the seatbelt was fairly short. I was able to use it without an extender, but very large or tall people might find themselves quite cramped. Leg room is also in short supply.  Since Bill and I both have short legs, we weren't too bothered by that except for when we had to get in and out of our seats. People with long legs might have a very different experience.

    As it turned out, our flights to and from London were only about half full. We had a whole row to ourselves going both directions. I was glad to see that the plane was very clean on both flights.

    The staff

    All flight attendants on German Wings at least speak German (naturally) and English and all onboard announcements are done in German and English. The flight attendants on our flights were very professional and efficient. One even demonstrated a sense of humor... although she did so in German! In any case, we had no issues at all with any of the staff members we encountered.

    No frills!

    I can't stress enough that German Wings is a budget airline. That means no free drinks, no peanuts or crackers, and no free earphones, pillows, or blankets. However, food and drink, as well as a bizarre array of other items, are for sale on the aircraft. German Wings sells Coke products, beer, wine, prosecco, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and a variety of juices, as well as sandwiches, candy, and chips. They also sell model German Wings planes, earphones, jewelery, and cologne.  Because German Wings is a discount airline, that means that it often flies into smaller airports further away from city centers.  London's Stanstead airport, for instance, is a 45 minute train ride on the Stanstead Express to and from London's Liverpool Station.  Coaches take even longer.

    The flight

    Right off the bat, we were happy to find that we had plenty of room on our flights because they were only about half full. No wonder German Wings is offering such deals! The 75 minute flight itself was basically very smooth and quiet. Both left on time. We did have a slight delay getting back to Germany because the Stuttgart airport was closed briefly due to freezing rain. However, that passed quickly and we landed safely after just a few minutes of circling.

    One drawback to "blind booking"

    The one thing Bill and I didn't like about our blind booking experience was that we ended up with a very early flight out of Stanstead. We flew out of England at 8:00am, and because Stanstead is located about 45 minutes by train from London, that meant we were up at an ungodly hour to make our flight. However, given how inexpensive and hassle free the experience was, we think having to rise early was a small price to pay. We liked the blind booking experience so much, we're already planning to do it again. Perhaps next time, we'll choose the Metropolis Easteurope grouping of cities, which would allow us to surprise book Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Dresden, Katowice (near Krakow), Leipzig, Sarajevo, Warsaw, or Zagreb. Since we've already been to Dresden, we would just pay an extra 2.5 euros each per direction to exclude it from the list.

    Other information

    Although German Wings has hubs in Berlin, Stuttgart, Cologne, it flies to 67 cities throughout Europe. Not all cities are included in the "blind booking" fares and blind booking can only be accessed from Berlin, Cologne, or Stuttgart. Cologne seems to be German Wings' biggest hub.

    Overall

    German Wings is not a luxury airline by any stretch, but we had a perfectly nice flight that was extremely cheap. This morning, a cabbie offered to drive us from our hotel to Stanstead Airport. The fare for that 45 minute trip would have likely been more expensive than the plane tickets! We left our flight today thinking that we'd have no problem using German Wings for as many short, European based flights as possible before we get sent back to America. If you need an inexpensive Europe based flight, I think you'd do well to check out German Wings... and if you just want to try blind booking, I'd recommend that too! It may be a gimmick, but it's definitely a fun gimmick!

    German Wings' Web site: http://www.germanwings.com/index.en.shtml

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