Beginning next summer, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport will host Condor Airlines, a German carrier offering service to continental Europe and adding some needed heft to the airport's "international" stock.
Condor will provide twice-weekly service to Frankfurt, a major international hub that offers connections to cities throughout Europe and Asia. The seasonal flights begin July 2 and are available now for booking.
Jens Boyd, head of revenue management at Condor, recently talked to The Baltimore Sun about Baltimore, German beer and why Frankfurt is the perfect city for a layover.
Why did Condor chose BWI? Why not Dulles?
We fly from Las Vegas and have been flying from there for more than 10 years. We recently added Fort Lauderdale and Seattle. We needed something on the East Coast.
Condor used to be a subsidiary of Lufthansa. Dulles would be too much direct competition with Lufthansa, while Baltimore is a sufficiently close alternative airport.
From a European aspect, we want to cover the U.S. For example, in Canada, we are covering everything from Halifax to Calgary to Toronto. We have a very broad position there and have started building that up in the United States. So we added Fort Lauderdale in 2010, Seattle in 2011 and Baltimore in 2012. … The objective has been to start a new destination in the U.S. every summer.
Tell me about the spirit of Condor Airlines. What's your philosophy on travel?
[Some airlines] are more focused on business travelers. We're more of a leisure airline to make travel available for the average passenger. We try not to be confused with a low-cost carrier. Our fares are more attractive, but we operate 767s and have business-class seating. We have everything that you would normally find in a traditional carrier.
We have online check-in and serve a warm meal, but we don't have half a plane full of business-class or first-class seats. We have primarily economy seats. That is the main audience that we are catering to, like students and families. We want to offer travel more affordably and connect the world to more of Europe.
What do your passengers in Europe and other places love about your airline?
We offer very attractive fares. We don't want to brag about being a cheap airline. We are really trying to make travel affordable. That's one of our biggest advantages. And the service offering on our flights is as good as on any of the other carriers. Sometimes people are surprised by how good the service is: the drinks they were offered, the food they were served.
We are a longstanding airline, founded in 1955, and have always worked with leisure travelers, those who would go spend a summer somewhere. We really try to make sure all of our guests are happy. We work well with families and kids. There are lots of service elements that you would'nt expect when you see the price. We are trying to make certain that everybody is able to travel.
Which American airline does Condor most resemble in practice or business goals?
I don't think I have one off the top of my head. We're not a Southwest Airlines model, we're a segment that's really hard to compare or define. You can have seat reservations in advance. We resemble your traditional airline, but we're not focused on the experienced traveler who requires wireless access, an email alert that the flight has a 10-minute delay. We're focused on people who perhaps are not used to travel big time, [people] who just want to go to Europe on their first trip.
Our German slogan is "Wir lieben Fliegen" ["We love to fly"]. We even painted this slogan on one of our airplanes. So as a company we are devoted to flying and to leisure travel. We like to think that our customers feel this spirit on board.
Condor will offer twice-weekly flights from BWI on Mondays and Thursdays? Why those two days?
Those are the days of the week when there is the most demand for flights overseas. When we start a new route, we typically fly two services the first summer. And if it works well, we come back the following summer with three services and maybe offer winter service.
How much will a round-trip ticket cost from BWI to Frankfurt?
Tickets in October may be below $1,000. In the early summer, perhaps $1,200. Prices are typically quite stable over the season.
What is the German Aviation Tax?
Everybody has to pay it. It's similar to when you pay an airport improvement tax when you fly to Canada. For us and other airlines, it has been a huge tax burden.
You offer "economy" and "premium economy." What's the difference?
First of all we have a Comfort Class with a business seat and a five-course menu on each flight. We offer an additional mobile player with recent movies and a larger choice of free drinks.
Also, our seat pitch [distance between seats that indicates leg room] in economy class is anywhere between 30 and 31 inches. And premium is more like 36 inches. It's also improved service — you get better food, you can board the plane earlier. With the bigger pitch on the seat, you'll also have more space in the overhead bin. If you sit in the 36-inch pitch, you feel like you have too much room. The recline is bigger. People are snoozing away right after they have their meal.
Do I have to pay for checking my bags?
First bags are free [up to 50 pounds]. In business class, you do get two pieces free. After that, there's a fee.
How long is the flight?
It's about a 10-hour flight.
Do you serve German brews on board, perhaps a snack of beer and pretzels?
We do offer beer. I don't know about pretzels. Beer is free in premium economy. We serve Warsteiner Premium, a German beer!
What's the most popular cocktail?
I like a Campari orange. With Campari and orange juice. Although we do not offer a full bar.
Once I'm in Frankfurt, I can get connecting service on Condor to which cities? Or will I have to switch airlines?
We have a strong network in Europe. Our customer will be able to book a Condor flight and go to Prague, Vienna, Rome, to name a few. We have agreements with all of the other airlines in Europe.
We're partnering with Lufthansa, Swiss, SAS, Austrian, Aeroflot … every large airline. Except British Airways and KLM.
Say my destination is Rome. How will that work?
Either you go to travel agent or book online with Condor. You can buy your ticket all the way through to Rome; during the booking process … you can choose which airline you want to connect to [in Frankfurt] for your trip to Rome.
It's seamless travel, one booking process and the flights are corresponding to each other. So you can book flights to most any city in Europe directly. Same thing on your return. Check in once and you're done.
What should passengers expect at Frankfurt Airport?
It's the second- or third-largest hub in Europe. It's very efficient for connecting. Unlike some airports [with multiple terminals], it's all one integrated building and is much more convenient to connect.
If I have a layover, what should I see or do in Frankfurt?
The airport is right next to the city. It's maybe two or three train stations or a 15-minute drive away, very much like BWI is to Baltimore.
It's often called the Mainhatten — much like Manhattan — because it's built along the Main River and it has a real skyline, one of the best in Europe. All of the big banks have built their skyscrapers there, so it's very interesting.
It is also famous for the wine region, including the very famous Riesling wine. Once you land, you have the chance to visit the Rheingau region and have wine tastings.There is also a large shopping area at the airport where you can purchase wines from the region.