Mallorca with Widebodies
Spring 2021. As Europe slowly starts to open up with the COVID numbers decreasing, airlines are starting their holiday services again. Since the German government allowed the Germans to go back on a holiday, the route to their favourite spot (Mallorca) went full on. That is why Lufthansa decided that it was time to plan their flagship, the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, on the route between Frankfurt and Palma de Mallorca. And we were planning to fly along! We cannot wait to fly again, as our last commercial flight was back in early 2020, all at the mere start of Covid….
This trip is planned to be a one night only trip. Friday, we fly with Swiss on an Airbus A220-300 from Amsterdam to Zurich, and then fly onwards with Swiss on a Boeing 777-300ER to Palma. The next day we will fly with the Lufthansa Boeing 747-8i towards Frankfurt and then onwards back to Amsterdam with a Lufthansa A319. We opted for a hotel with view towards the airport traffic and a brilliant spotting trip itinerary was born!
After booking the tickets we reserved our seats for the 747 and the A220, as we look mostly forward flying those two. However, after a couple of days we received an email stating our first flight was changed. We had an aircraft upgrade from an A220-300 to an A330-300! So that is why we fly to PMI on two widebodies on two short haul routes! We love this hobby!
Thursday 22 July 2021 – Test, test, test.
Today we are taking our needed Covid tests. We calculated that we only needed one PCR test as this would be valid for the entire trip (which is less than 72 hours). With the news that the Dutch (especially my test company’s) laboratories could not cope with the holiday test volume and results are handed out way too late, I decided to do even two PCR tests. With our throats ploughed and our noses unclogged, we went to work. That evening, we spend at the CitizenM hotel at Schiphol. This hotel never fails to amaze us. The rooms are great fun and comfortable. We did not have the test results yet, but they will come overnight, wouldn’t they?
Friday 23 July 2021 – Swiss Swiss Baby!
The morning starts early as we want to see a Chinese whale taxiing into gate G09 from our room. Marieke has received her test result: NEGATIVE! She is in, that is a relief. I did not have my test result back yet, so I took my chances at a rapid test that morning. This antigen test should work as well, we read. Luckily, this test turned out to be negative as well, so we are both cleared to travel. We collected a friend of ours, Rudi, who will join us this trip. We show him our amazing hotel room. Luckily for us, the Garuda Indonesia Boeing 777 Retro/Government plane taxis in.
After that we rush towards the check-in, as we have to validate our documents and tests first, in order to receive a boarding pass. The queue seems endless and takes forever. Each passenger takes about ten minutes to check in, and only three desks are open. We are starting to run late this way, and not long after that stressful realization, a check-in agent pulls all passengers to Zurich forward. We show all our documents and we receive our boarding passes. Time to head to the gate!
At gate D62, the big Airbus A330, registered as HB-JHM, was already being prepared for departure. It does not take long before we can board. On the plane, we settle ourselves at seat 28J and 28K, and install the camera gear. Boarding goes quickly as the plane is not fully booked. The plane is pushed back and the Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines are fired up. We taxi out via famous taxiway Q towards runway 36C “Zwanenburgbaan”. As the plane was very light, we took off in no time. After a quick look on Schiphol, we disappeared into the clouds and set off to a sunny Switzerland!
It appears to be a bit busy in Zurich, as we are doing a single holding pattern. This unfortunate event shortens our transfer time from 60 minutes to 45 minutes. The landing is relatively smooth and we are being parked on a remote stand. After deboarding, we get into a bus (which is unfortunately completely covered in stickers which makes looking outside nearly impossible) and drive to the terminal. We rush to our next gate as our next flight had already started boarding!
Our next plane is a Boeing 777-300ER registered as HB-JNA. She used to wear a special livery, unfortunately she is in the standard Swiss dress now. We take our seats (29J and 29K) and not long after we commence our second flight today. The big General Electric GE-90 engines groan beautifully as they start up and soon we take to the skies again. The flight is pretty calm and we see several other planes on this busy route. With the pink salt lakes of the French Mediterranean coast, we know that Mallorca is not far anymore. As we line up with the runway, the air seems to be quite turbulent and our approach is pretty bumpy. After landing, we have a chat with the cockpit crew and disembark the mighty Tripple. Now we just wait for our fourth comrade to arrive: Ryan.
The terminal of Palma is not ideal for spotting, but it is doable. Ryan arrives with Wizzair to PMI and then our gang is complete. We take a taxi towards the AluaSoul hotel, just next to the approach path for PMI. We drop our stuff and go for some great Mexian dinner. With that set, we rent four bikes and make our way to a spotting location. Not the best neighbourhood to be fair, but we made it alive. The spot is worth it as we can photograph some of the holiday traffic taking off. After sunset we decide to risk our lives once again and ride back to the hotel. That night we all sleep well.
Saturday 24 July 2021 – Die Königin der Lüfte
As we wake up we watch the sun rise over Palma. We have a great view of the Mediterranean Sea and all the yachts at Palma. On our balcony we can enjoy the departing traffic from PMI as well. Today there are again some nice visitors. After a short but refreshing dip in the pool we make our way back to the airport. After passing security we spot two Sunclass aircraft: an A321 and an A330. Lufthansa decided to send both retro aircraft to Palma today, so we are stoked for this trip! First we watch the retro A321 taxi out for departure, and then it is time for boarding!
We are assigned a bus gate, as our aircraft, Boeing 747-8i D-ABYT (Retro) was parked at a remote stand. As the bus began to roll, the enthusiasm was hard to contain as we got closer to this beautiful aircraft. Then, the doors open and there she is standing in all her glory. The ground crew and Lufthansa station managers are very welcoming and let all enthusiasts (safely) wander around the aircraft. The station manager even agrees to take us a group photo near the nose of the plane. Everyone is excited for this flight and the atmosphere is great. We board and take our time chatting with the cabin crew and taking photos of every aspect of the 747.
It takes a while before the boarding is completed, so we have plenty of time to explore the aircraft and our seat. Unfortunately, we discover that the In-Flight Entertainment is not working properly, so the famous camera footage is not shown… However, our seats, 42J and 42K, provide a beautiful view of the outboard engine and the wing. With boarding completed we are pushed back and commence our first 747-8i flight.
The engines are really quiet and you barely can hear them spooling up for take-off. As we thunder down the runway we see a small army of spotters who all came out to see this beautiful Queen taking to the skies. The take-off is smooth and we are treated with a stunning view over Palma. We make a left turn and take our heading to the north, towards Frankfurt.
In flight we are allowed to wander around the plane and even take pictures in front of the wing from the business class and the upper deck. The crew clearly likes showing off their Queen to us enthusiasts. The weather is cloudier than yesterday, with a few thunderstorms in the area as well. This means that there is quite a bit of turbulence. After taking some photos from the upper deck, the descent is commenced and the fasten-seatbelt-sign is switched back on. We proceed back to our seats as we prepare for landing.
The approach through the clouds is absolutely spectacular. The jumbo jet bounces through the sky and we enjoy every second of it as we cut through the clouds. Then, we make a left turn and line up with the runway. We descent below the clouds and the sky immediately gets calmer. The approach into Frankfurt is beautiful as always, with a great view of the city. We touch down and taxi to the gate. We take one last look around the plane before disembarking. We are in a kind of rush; this flight was more than we could ever expect!
Ryan needs to hurry as he has a short connection, but the three of us take the same flight back to AMS tonight. That means that we have over four hours to kill. Luckily, Frankfurt has some interesting traffic to spot, so we make the most of it. Albeit with the reflections, because the terminal at Frankfurt has triple glass which makes photography or filming without reflections close to impossible. With the most interesting traffic spotted, we decide it is time to get some dinner in the form of German Bratwurst. As we expected, this was delicious. We head to our bus gate for the last flight of this trip.
It is getting dark as we board the plane: an Airbus A319-100 registered as D-AILL. Our seats for this flight are 4A and 4B, which means we have a nice view of the engine. As we taxi to the runway, it starts to drizzle outside. The take-off is powerfull and provides a nice view of the maintenance area at Frankfurt, just before we dive into the clouds again. The flight itself turns out to be calm as we make our short hop to Amsterdam. We eventually touch down on runway 18R (Polderbaan), which means that we have to taxi for at least 10 more minutes. Not that we bother, as we have an amazing seatmate next to us, so we enjoy ourselves.
Back in the terminal we take one last look at our plane before running towards the train station. This was an exceptionally amazing trip, and we are glad we were back in the skies! Time to plan the next trip! :-)