My journey to Cologne actually started with a drive to Audley End station in Cambridgeshire and CrossCountry’s first service of the day from Cambridge to Stansted Airport. By travelling to Stansted in this manner, I paid approximately a quarter of the price that I would have done to park at the airport for the day. It’s always worth bearing in mind parking a bit away from the airport and getting public transport the final stretch as it may save you a small fortune! Obviously make sure that the public transport running at the time you need to use it, as I wouldn’t have been able to use this option if I was flying a couple of hours earlier.
If I’m flying from Stansted during peak periods, especially during the school summer holidays, I usually purchase access to the fast-track security lane. Access can be purchased for £7 from a desk near the entrance to the lane and during busy times can genuinely save you 15-30 minutes and a lot of hassle through security. However having checked in on my phone I headed straight through security and thankfully on a random Wednesday in March the standard queues aren’t busy and I’m airside within 10 minutes of getting off the train. I’ve flown from Stansted quite a lot over the past few years and the experience you get going through security has vastly improved and is a testament to the work Stansted are doing to re-develop the airport.
One advantage of my Barclays Travel Insurance is that I get 6 free airport lounge visits per year via DragonPass with any additional visits costing just £15. Given that at this time in the morning I would have probably bought breakfast from the airport pub, I feel £15 is perfectly reasonable for a lounge visit and on this occasion, I use one of my free visits anyway! The Escape Lounge at Stansted is accessed via a corridor between Pret a Manger and Coast to Coast on the far side of the departure lounge to the exit from security and given the chaos that is the main departures lounge at this time in the morning, I’m glad of my access to the relative tranquility of the airport lounge.
The Escape Lounge is a standard airport lounge with hot and cold drinks, a range of pastries, muffins and fruit as well as a limited hot breakfast option. There are also different seating areas ranging from tables for large groups to individual chairs and tables in a quiet area. I settled down in the latter as when I arrived it was empty and I found a conveniently located plug socket to charge my phone. As a bonus this area also has large windows where you can see some of the aircraft movements on the airfield, although the view is impeded by the tracks for the transit train.
The gate for my flight is announced about 45 minutes before departure, although when checking into the lounge I was given advance notice of what it would be. Today I am boarding from one of the gates that require the use of the automated transit train and so I headed straight to the gate rather than dawdling as these gates take a little longer to get to. At Stansted gates 40-59, 81-88 & 90-93 are attached to the main terminal, whilst gates 1-39 require you to take the people mover to a satellite terminal.
My aircraft today is D-AGWO, an Airbus A319 built in 2010 and has only seen service with Eurowings’ Lufthansa Group partner Germanwings who are operating the flight today. The inbound flight arrives from Cologne 10 minutes early and we begin to board about 20 minutes prior to departure. There are two boarding groups with Eurowings, with the first being for ‘Biz fare’ customers and the second for everyone else. The layout of the aircraft is quite spacious with the first three rows for ‘Biz’ fare customers and a further 7 extra leg room rows. It turns out the flight is fairy quiet today and boarding is completed without hassle in about 10 minutes with push back on time just a short while later.
The cost of my flight today with Eurowings was just £24.99 one way between Stansted and Cologne. For just £11 extra I was able to book a seat with extra leg room and priority boarding which, amazingly, also came with a free drink and snack included. Considering that Eurowings’ competitor on this route charge almost £20 for an extra leg room seat and also extra for a cabin bag of any reasonable size, some Low-Cost airlines don’t seem to be quite so low cost anymore. Having looked at the menu on-board, a coffee and cake would have cost me about £5, so I essentially paid just £6 for an extra-legroom seat!
We took of towards the southwest and then turned to head east and out to the Essex coast. The in-flight service started promptly about 15 minutes after take off with the crew addressing those in the Biz and extra-legroom seats by name. I was quickly served a coffee and a small apple cake (one advantage of sitting in row 5 with only 4 people in front of you, is that the trolley gets to you quicker!) and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of both considering I was at 35,000 feet. Looking at the in-flight magazine it turns out the coffee is roasted and ground by an independent supplier in Hamburg and freshly brewed on-board. It certainly beat the instant coffee on some airlines!
Our route took us out over the town of Clacton-on-Sea and southeast across the North Sea with us making landfall over mainland Europe between Dunkirk and Bruges. Taking a slow turn over Belgium, we started to descend over Brussels and crossed the German border near the town of Aachen. We were soon skirting the town of Bonn on our approach to runway 32R at Cologne/Bonn Airport and whilst the flight was scheduled to last about 75 minutes, we were in the air for just over 50 and landed in Cologne 10 minutes early at 1005 local time. Within 5 minutes of landing we were at the gate and the doors were open for us to alight the aircraft.
In conclusion I would certainly recommend Eurowings and look to fly with them again in the future if I’m heading to Germany. The extra-legroom product was worth the additional cost, and being addressed by name was a nice extra touch considering I was an Economy class passenger. The aircraft was clean, and spacious with the flight arriving early. Stansted airport was also a breeze to pass through, although admittedly it wouldn’t have been as pleasant without the lounge access. Upon arrival, I headed into the city of Cologne for a few hours prior to my flight back to Stansted later that day. Both my visit to the city and the return flight will be featured in future blog posts.
Route: STN – CGN
Flight #: EW355
Date: Wednesday 27th March 2019
Cost: £24.99 + £11.00 (Extra-legroom seat)