My travelling adventure happened last winter but I still have the fondest memory of it. Well, kind of.
The no-frills-airlines dropped me off on time and as I had slept through the entire duration of the flight I can’t tell you anything about the services you buy onboard for a small fee.
What I can tell you about is modern highway robbery at the International Airport in Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The airport being one of Germany’s larger airports is made up of several terminal buildings and a railway station. All of which are connected by the skytrain and for passengers only by the skytrain which in itself wouldn’t be a problem. The only aspect that I didn’t like was that there was a charge for this “service” of using the skytrain and only passengers having already paid for one of the parking facilities at the airport were exempt from paying a moderate fee. The fee was only payable at a machine which only accepts Euro-coins having just come from a country where the Euro isn’t the official currency I didn’t have an abundance of Euro-coins on me and I just assumed that there must be many travellers in a comparable situation who have neither a car parked in the airport parking lots nor have enough Euro coins on them to pay for the only way to get to the railway station.
After having taken the skytrain to the station (without having paid for it, after all it is at least brazen if not highway robbery to demand a fee for a service to which there is no alternative) I learned that the ticket machines at the railway station accept banknotes. But this could be due to the fact that even comparatively short rides on a train require the payment of a total sum which is best paid by a banknote or by card. (read: train rides in Germany are relatively expensive.)
My newly purchased ticket was a bit pricy but I was quite happy as the nice gentleman from the railway company offered me his help immediately after having noticed my confusion by the number of different tickets and ticket types and other special offers I could purchase for my trip. I counted at least 5 different ticket types which may were permitted on the route I intended to travel.
The choice of my ticket which was valid on several trains in all of North-Westphalia proved to be an incredibly lucky choice as the train I planned travelling on was cancelled. Several other potential fellow passengers were not so lucky and had to go to the customer service desk for a refund or a new ticket or maybe a completely new ticket type and some of them just for advice on how to continue their journey. Though of course I faced a much more serious challenge with my ticket valid throughout North Rhine-Westphalia as the train to Cologne (Germany’s gay capital but still the opposite direction of where I needed to go) approached. With heavy & sad heart I decided against immediate travel to where the fun is but instead I decided to wait for the next train in about an hour but as I grew hungry and cold I went back to the terminal buildings via the skytrain (without paying by the way I didn’t even check whether the change I got from the railway ticket machine would have been enough to pay for the ride on the skytrain) to get something to eat.
I went for chips (that is what the North-Americans call fries), paid and got my chips and then helped myself to some of the little ketchup bags.
“Hey you!”, that was the woman behind the counter.
“Yes?” I wasn’t quite certain whether she meant to shout at me. Not whether she wanted to shout but whether she wanted to shout at me.
“You haven’t paid for the ketchup.”
“Sorry?”, my confusion grew while a hot chip I had eaten hastily started to burn my mouth & throat.
“You haven’t paid for your ketchup. Ketchup costs extra.”
So I returned to the cash desk searched for the coins I handily received at the railway-station and paid the little extra fee for my ketchup. At least one can consider ketchup an extra service to which there is the feasible alternative of no ketchup. But at that moment I was more thinking of the advantages of a service at UK airports handing out Euro-coins to passengers travelling to Germany. Or a machine at Düsseldorf airport which changes your banknote into coins (it could be programmed in a way that it retains one or two coins as a fee, couldn’t it?)
(If anyone has been to Düsseldorf airport and knows a way to get from a terminal building to another terminal or the station please let me know. I must have missed it.
The skytrain in Frankfurt’s international airport, in Hesse, is free by the way so it is nothing to do with German airports in general.)