I check in at the empty Lufthansa desk at Manchester Airport, and wander through security into the departures lounge trailing all the coats and jackets I couldn’t fit into my suitcase. Manchester is pretty much the same as any other airport out there; big, bright and hot. Except this one had the added bonus of a group of young guys prowling the Boots Meal Deal shelves in tiger onesies. Stag party? First lads holiday? Who knows, but they already looked half cut and were sweating through their polyester tiger suits. I felt instantly sorry for anyone who would be sharing the flight with them.
Manchester airport has that interesting combination of serious business passengers off for a tough meeting or two, and families from Manchester and neighbouring cities like Liverpool heading off to Benidorm or Marbella. It’s a fun mix so I was quite happy to wander departures and enjoy people-watching for my 2 hour wait. I did my best to avoid the annoying guy standing next to a black sports car on a plinth, trying to convince people that they wanted to enter a competition to win the car. I moved away from ear shot when he tried to convince a four year old to go and get his Dad to enter the competition. Some people.
When we were finally called to the gate, the flight was already late. After years of flying Ryanair I had rarely had a late fight, which was funny considering the difference in price, reputation and history that the two airlines have when put head to head. I’d give Lufthansa the benefit of the doubt though; I’m sure it doesn’t happen every time.
Whilst waiting at the departure gate for my flight to München, my group of fellow passengers were a fantastic bunch to watch. I’d say roughly 90% of men, and of that 90% almost all were businessmen. In groups, pairs, or by themselves, they sat around talking on iPhones in their respective languages. Lots of serious looking men with slicked back hair in dark suits is not what you get on Ryanair flights. Fellow passengers on those flights are usually retirees heading out to their holidays homes or back to see grandchildren; big families with screaming babies jetting off on holiday; or people my age trying to save some money. These guys I was about to board with, however, quite literally meant business. It was like being back in the office. My Dad would have been horrified to see almost all of these suited and booted businessmen forwent a tie. Whether they were stuffed into briefcases or carry on suitcases who knows, but not many of their shirt collars looked accustomed to a tie. I’m sure flights in my Dad’s day would have looked a lot different. Amongst all the serious looking Germans, there was one group that made me smile; a group of overweight Englishmen reading the Daily Mail loudly, all dressed in short sleeved Bentley shirts. I wonder what business they are in….
The flight itself was like quiet, German heaven. The seats were dark and the walls a muted white; no electric yellow and cornea disturbing blue in sight. There was no music, no adverts with a jolly Irishman already urging you to buy a J20. There was even a stand outside the door to the aircraft where you could grab an FT for your flight. Very different to the Hello magazine that you need to pay €2 for on Ryanair.
Another real novelty for me was designated seats. No matter what anyone says about boarding flights, having designated seats makes things a hell of a lot quicker. Not only do people not have to rugby tackle others to get the best seat, you also have room for your bags. Instead of having air hostesses sweep your small bag to the other end of the plane to ram into the only remaining space, (or even on one occasion I saw them having to take at least 6 bags down to the hold because there was just no room left), your seat pretty much correlates with a space for your bag up above, which you can put away with ease.
What happened after our speedy boarding, our bilingual welcome from the captain and safety demonstration, nearly blew my mind. The fasten seat belt signs had just been pinged off, and placed on our trays was a little cardboard box filled with a pizza. Pizza? On a short haul flight? For free? Yes please. A lovely pizza too; what seemed like ciabatta bread with a thick and herby tomato sauce on top. Now I’m hungry…
Oh, and the drinks. I was pressed to choose from the drinks trolley by a smiling flight attendant: orange juice, apple juice, water (still or sparking), all types of coffee, teas, wines, beer…I felt rather miffed I had spent something stupid on a big bottle of Buxton water in Boots earlier and had to say no. My body could take no more liquid anyway after nervously downing water throughout the trip so far, but I was still peeved not to be able to take advantage of their hospitality.
Within no time at all we were coming into land after a quiet flight broken only by the laugh of two Germans watching a Will Ferrel movie on their iPads. I noticed as we came down even the noises of the plane was quieter than a Ryanair one. Apart from the occasional loud whining sound, bang or grumble. It wasn’t until I had landed that I remembered the story that flag carriers tended to have older series aircraft whereas the cheaper airlines in Europe tended to have newer, smarter ones. To be honest, I’d rather take my chances with Lufthansa and the occasional disturbing groan, and not have to listen to adverts of the latest scratch cards offer every 5 minutes…
We touched down for a smooth landing at Franz-Josef airport in Munich, an enormous beast of an airport with airlines from EasyJet to South African Airways landing there. No wonder the baggage took 15 minutes to turn up.
I doubt I’ll be flying with any airline like Lufthansa for a while. Perhaps if I finally get around to more long-haul travelling at the beginning of next year, but until then I will have to be content with short-haul hopping on airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet. And, as much as I loved Lufthansa, that doesn’t really bother me. Even though I loved this clean, efficient, and restful flight that was like no other I had experienced, for some reason I am quite excited to get back on that voluminous yellow and blue bus that is Ryanair. Yes it’s noisy and hectic and I spend most of it debating whether I want to risk nausea from lack of eating or spend a small fortune on a sandwich. But it’s what I’m used to. I miss sitting next to teary eyed toddlers and retired expats chatting loudly about the best place to get fish and chips in the Languedoc. I even miss the queuing for a seat, that tense rush of adrenaline when you have to elbow your way through and snap like a hyena over a carcass when someone tries to take your overhead locker space. A flight like Lufthansa every now and again is refreshing and relieves tedium. But I’m quite happy if I can’t afford it every single time I need to fly. It appears I’m a Ryanair girl at heart.