Sunday, 14 September 2014

53 Oz 2014 8: TXL Via BCN. QR J/AB Y SIN-DOH-BCN-TXL

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Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Hi there, and thanks for taking a look at the eighth part of my series following my trip down to Australia that took place back in April 2014. If you’ve missed any of the previous parts, then they can be seen here:


This part will focus on my return from Asia with Qatar Airways, and onwards journey to Berlin with Air Berlin. As I had a few days between arriving back in Barcelona and having to go back to work, I didn’t really fancy flying straight home from BCN. I looked at a few options and as I’ve been wanting to visit Berlin for a while that’s the one that stuck out the most. Since trying out their home airline last year, I was generally impressed with them so I turned to them to fly me there.

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There were a few flights throughout the day, but just the one would fit my schedule as I was due to arrive on QR at 14:15. Unfortunately, much like last year, the AB website didn’t recognise my BA status and wanted to charge me £9 to pre book a seat. No thanks.

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After a warm and wet few hours looking around the last few sights of Singapore, I headed back to the hotel to grab my bags before heading off to Changi.

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Around 45 minutes later, I was at T3 but as I was so early, check in wasn't open.

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Never mind though, I headed up to the viewing deck instead.

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Although photography is a little difficult, viewing was good enough.

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At 17:30, check in did open, and I was seen to fairly quickly.

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I made my way through security.

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Instead of heading straight up to the lounge, I took a look at some of Changi's other attractions.

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Eventually, I did go up to the lounge.

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It wasn't a massive lounge. The food options didn't really appeal to me - I'd eaten in town, but as long as they had a steady flow of cool drinks I was happy.

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I checked out the business centre to see if I could print my boarding passes, and therefore keep my QR ones, but it was a bit of a fail.

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So I decided to do something I'd never done in an airport before - take a shower! After getting very hot and rained on walking the streets of the city, I felt it was a good time to make my debut. Unfortunately, there were remnants if the previous occupant. But other than that it was clean enough.

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By the time I was done, there was something on the food table that took my fancy.

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Feeling very much refreshed and rehydrated, I made my way down to gate A10 where boarding would begin shortly.

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There wasn't a priority line for security, which was surprising as there were 4 metal detectors/X-ray machines.

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I was though pretty quickly, and although I couldn't actually see my jet, I could just about make out 'CI' on the nose wheel doors - meaning I'll be on one of QR's newer 787's, delivered just a few weeks previously. As I sat and waited, I noticed a bit of a storm brewing outside. It didn't seem to be affecting the movements all that much though.

Boarding was announced, and as usual there was the mass stampede towards the door. The ground crew did a great job at sorting it all out though.

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April 2014
Boeing 787-8 / A7-BCI
Seat: 4A/ Business
Scheduled: 21:20/23:45
Off Stand: 21:32
On Stand: 00:28

For some reason, I thought that the QR Dreamliner seat was almost identical to the CX one I'd experienced previously, although I was more than pleasantly surprised to see it was much better.

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The captain announced a flying time of 7 hours 20 minutes.

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Many seat positions
Ready and waiting for me was a pair of amenity kits and a menu.

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One of the crew took my drink order – a lime and mint.

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Meanwhile the purser came and introduced herself and offered some pyjamas and a hot towel.

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All about the QR 787

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Good amount of connectivity

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Not so good IFE controller. Way too complicated.

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We pushed back a little behind schedule, and made our way out to the runway on the opposite side of the airport. It was a pretty slow process. We would inch forward, then stop, inch forward some more then stop again. We would eventually make a quiet takeoff some 30 minutes after push back. We did a 180 degree turn over the masses of ships in the harbour, before passing SIN and then disappearing into darkness.

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Soon after departure, my PJ's were delivered.

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Magazine rack at the rear of the cabin

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Standard flower in the 787 premium washroom

When I'd got back from changing, I found the following waiting for me. I was impressed that the crew seemed to sense my liking for the lime and mint – and therefore kept bringing me refills! After a warm day in Singapore, all of them were very much welcome.

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I decided to watch an episode of Top Gear on the IFE.

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Headphones and water in the armrest.

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A few moments later, dinner orders were taken. I skipped the starter and went for the duck for the main.

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Followed up with ice cream for dessert.

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After this, I put the seat into full recline, and fell fast asleep.

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I only awoke when the seatbelt sign came on for landing, so that goes to show how comfortable the seat was! It was a bit of a mad rush to get changed and ready for landing. A few moments later, we were on to finals and touching down into Doha.

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We initially braked a little hard before seemingly just rolling down to the end of the runway and letting the plane slow itself down. There was method in the madness though. As we had been assigned stand 1, it meant we could pull straight off the runway and on to stand.

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I took a few moments to gather my things and I was last off.

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It was then a tour of DOH, first stopping at the Doha arrivals terminal, and then the premium terminal. Once more, a couple of economy passengers managed to get on the premium bus, and were left a little red faced when they weren't allowed entry to the premium terminal, and there was no bus to take them to the standard terminal.

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I cleared security, had a brief wander of the duty free shop before heading upstairs for a nice 8 hour layover.

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Around 2AM, I was approached by one of the staff saying the buffet was about to close so if I wanted anything to eat, I should grab something now. Not fancying anything from the buffet, I made my way to the deli instead, but I was informed that was now closed. Luckily, I wasn't too hungry. I was now totally reliant on my iPad for entertainment…

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Pretty empty at this time of night/morning.

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A bit of Jack Dee later on.

It appeared everything would start coming back to life at 5 AM.

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Once the lounge did start waking up again, I ordered some breakfast.

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About the most I got to see of Qatar from ground level.

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At around 07:10, feeling like I'd seen enough of the lounge, I made my way downstairs as according to my boarding pass, boarding was due to start in 10 minutes. It was a little off however, as things were a little busy.

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Boarding finally did begin at 07:45, and it was on to a bus over to A7-AEG

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April 2014
A330-300 / A7-AEG
Seat: 3K / Business
Scheduled: 08:20/14:15
Off Stand: 08:29
On Stand: 14:22

I turned left at the door and was immediately met by a very orange looking Spanish steward offering me a drink. I took the lemon and mint. I must admit, I preferred the lime.

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Amenity kits, headphones and a menu were already waiting on my seat.

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Just when I thought I'd got lucky, my seat mate showed up. Shortly after, hot towels were brought around.

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The French captain announced a flying time of 6 hours 30 minutes and a cruising altitude of 36,000ft.

We pushed back and made our way over to the active. We sat and waited for around ten minutes without moving, before finally lifting off over the bay.

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Around fifteen minutes after departure, the breakfast service began. First off was the smoothie - very refreshing.

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At around the same time, I decided to put a film on, Fargo. I'd seen it before, but not for a while. That was the theory. A system reset and a new pair of headphones later and I was good to go.

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Breakfast continued.

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I then missed most of the film due to falling asleep.

To try and wake up, I went and cleaned my teeth and had a chat in the front galley about my trip. During which I was offered some fresh baked, straight from the oven cookies - well, I won't say no!

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I returned to my seat and I tried my luck with the taking of Pelham 1,2,3 instead. It was filmed in [url=]the museum I visited in September 2012[/url]

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During the film, the crew member looking after my side of the aisle came and placed another three cookies in the centre console.

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With around two hours of the flight remaining, the snack service started. I didn't indulge though, as it was still feeling a little full. The Spanish crew member did his best to try and persuade me otherwise, but I just didn't feel like it. Even when he brought my seat mates meal, he once again asked if I had changed my mind.

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Around 35 minutes before arrival, the captain said we would shortly be starting our descent and gave a weather update.

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The crew gave out yet another hot towel.

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We turned over the city to some pretty decent views.

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Touchdown came at just before 14:20, and despite only being a minute or two behind schedule the crew were very apologetic about the delay. We taxied over to our stand, which just happened to be next door to the EK A380.

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There was then the usual scrum to disembark.

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It was then a case of following the signs to baggage reclaim.

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Once there, our belt was shared with no less than four other flights, meaning it took a good twenty minutes or so for the first of the bags to emerge.

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Once they did, mine was in the first batch off. It was then through customs and upstairs to start all over again!

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I ventured outside to grab some fresh air, as I'd not really had any for a while!

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When I came back in, the AB check in area was still setting up. They appeared to be having issues with their signs. They either both showed priority, both standard or the airport logo. Not one priority and the other standard.

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Once everything was set up, the agent announced that the line I was in was for priority passengers only. Despite this nobody moved. Check in was a little slow due to the guy in front checking in 4 people without them being there. There seemed to be a bit of a discussion as to why they needed to be present, but in the end he gave in and moved.

I asked about lounge access, and the attitude seemed to be 'guess you'll just have to go and try it...'

After this, I headed through security which took only a couple of minutes, before heading off to grab a shot of the QR jet that brought me here.

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After this I made my way up to the lounge and was granted entry without issue.

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It was basically the same as the non Schengen lounge, but the other way around. And not as busy.

I waited here for a while, until I spotted a blue tail out of the window. I recognised it as Aerolineas Argentinas, and immediately set off to investigate, as I'd not seen the new livery in the flesh before.

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I also took the opportunity to see what else was around.

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Once I'd seen what I wanted, I took a wander down the B pier before heading in the direction of the C pier where my flight would be departing from. There was an AB 737 on stand, and I figured that would be my ride up to Berlin.

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In the mean time, I found a quiet area with a view and waited for boarding to begin.

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Boarding was announced at 17:20, and I was the third on board behind a pair of AB golds.

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April 2014
Boeing 737-800 / D-ABBG
Seat: 5F / Economy
Scheduled: 17:55/20:25
Off Stand: 17:47
On Stand: 20:15

As I boarded, the crew were handing out boiled sweets but I didn't indulge as I'm not a fan of them.

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The flight seemed full, but boarding was completed quickly. So quickly in fact, that we pushed back a good ten minutes or so ahead of schedule.

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A flying time of 2h25 was announced. Normally I'm all up for longer flights, but this was the one occasion I wanted something a little shorter. I was starting to feel a little tired by now. We sped down to the runway and lifted off without hesitation.

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We made a couple of turns over the sea and then made our way through the thin cloud layer.

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Shortly after departure one of the crew members came through the cabin asking if anybody wanted the enhanced catering - basically a hot meal for around €10. And after this, the regular snack service. A choice of cheese or salami roll. But rather than the prepackaged option you get on LH, this was fresh in a paper bag.

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Impressive! AB have a pretty decent model here - snacks for all and the option of paying for more if you want it.

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There's not an awful lot more that can be said about this sector - there weren't even any views to be had really.

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Descent started, and we landed into TXL.

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Annoyingly, we were given a remote stand. Normally, I wouldn't mind this but I just wanted to get to bed now.

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Unlike my previous flights, the crew weren't giving out chocolate hearts on disembarkation. Shame, as I would have taken them up on that offer! It was then on to a bus for the very short ride over to the terminal – that was more like a warehouse.

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There was a bit of a wait at baggage claim, but my bag was still the forth out. It was then on to a bus to the city.

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I arrived at my hotel, the Park Inn, and was told there was a problem... Due to the hotel being sold out, they would have to upgrade my room to a suite therefore it doesn't have a window... Whatever, as long as it's got a bed I don't care!

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40 hours or so after leaving my hotel in Singapore, it was finally bed time. I surprisingly woke up pretty early though and made my way downstairs for breakfast.

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Following this, it was out to see the city.

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My hotel with the Fernsehturm next door

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Berlin Cathedral

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The Amplemann

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And his very own shop.

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Brandenburg Gate

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In the city

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Checking out the Ritter Sport shop

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Luckily, the sun finally put in an appearance. Something of a rarity on this trip!

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I decided to take a look at the pretty interesting (and packed) DDR museum.

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Much like my outbound flights, the service onboard Qatar couldn’t be faulted. The only complaint is that going from their latest J product to arguably their weakest was a bit of a shock. Although the A330’s are designated to mid haul routes so I guess it doesn’t make much sense for them to fit them out with full flat seats.

Air Berlin were fine too – a decent and tasty snack option and a cheerful enough crew. Just a shame about the terminal they use at TXL.

Look out for the final part of this series that will finish off this journey with a flight on Turkish Airlines over to Istanbul, before flying on BA’s 767 in Club Europe back to London.