Despite the limited travel situation in Germany due to Covid-19, there are some quite interesting virtual airline projects in Germany in early 2021. One of them is MeerExpress, who connect the largest metropolitan area in the nation, the Ruhrgebiet, with two popular islands in the North Sea, Norderney and Juist. Both islands belong to the East Frisia region. On their debut weekend in late March 2021, I just had to check out their services.
MeerExpress – Network and Fleet
MeerExpress is a virtual airline – which means that their appearance and operation is like a normal airlines, but they neither control planes nor flight crew on their own. In fact, they lease these capacities from other companies. In case of MeerExpress, the cooperate with the company IAS, Itzehoer Airservice, who own two planes, a Cessna 208 (D-FUNC) and a Cessna 208B Caravan. All my flights have been operated by the 208B, D-FUNK.
The propeller airplane is operating in a nine seat configuration. The right hand side of the plane has three blocks of two adjacent seats, two single seats on the left side (called Comfort Seat by MeerExpress) are on the left side of the plane. You can also book the seat of the copilot. During my flight, this was not possible, as they still operated with a two pilot configuration. The rear of the plane can be secured for luggage.
At the time of writing, MeerExpress is operating flights between the three airports I had on my trip. They are serviced in a triangular flight: from Dinslaken / Schwarze Heide, which MeerExpress is calling Flugplatz Ruhrgebiet (“Ruhrgebiet Airfield”), they first land at Norderney, then to Juist, before the plane is heading back to their home base. You cannot book the Norderney to Juist leg solely (this would be one of the shortest scheduled flights in the world). They already have plans to expand their services by other airports in the future. On top of their scheduled flights
MeerExpress – Tariffs and Services
MeerExpress offers three booking levels:
- The BASICTarif already includes 20kgs of luggage (thereof 5kgs carry-on). You may do cancellations (up to seven days) free of change. A late rebooking is possible as well as name changes, both up to 24hrs before flight, for a fee.
- The FLEXTarif includes all these options free of charge.
- The COMFORTTarif includes a total of 30kgs of luggage, free booking of a comfort seat as well as free drinks onboard.
MeerExpress offers transfers to Ruhrgebiet Airfield and organizes them on the island. This one is included in a COMFORTTarif booking free of charge and may thus be a really smart option. All tariffs also include ear protection during the flight – for the highest tariff, you are even receiving bluetooth one to listen to your music during the flight. Catering is a box in the plane, where you can grab whatever you need during the flights and pay to the pilots after arrival. Most of the products have been organic and pricing was absolutely fine. In practice the person sitting in the rear row might have to hand over some food to other passengers during the flight.
MeerExpress – My Trip
On the second day of operation of the MeerExpress virtual airline, I booked the following itinerary. MEX 72 is not booked as two legs
|MEX 69||1045||1140||Dinslaken (ZCV)||Norderney (NRD)|
|MEX 72||1600||1620||Norderney (NRD)||Juist (JUI)|
|MEX 72||1630||1725||Juist (JUI)||Dinslaken (ZCV)|
The price for the ticket was 266 EUR, 133 EUR each direction. On top of that, I paid the co-pilot seat upgrade, which had to be voided due to the operational reason mentioned above. Due to the low booking and operational reasons, the itinerary had to be changed and we flew from Dinslaken / Schwarze Heide (ZCV) to Juist (JUI) first on the outbound before heading to Norderney (NRD). Agreed with all passengers, the inbound to Dinslaken from Norderney (Juist was skipped, no passenger / pax) left earlier. There were three pax on the outbound and five pax (plus one dog) on the inbound flight.
MeerExpress – The Airports
All three destinations of my triangular flights are airfields.
Dinslaken / Schwarze Heide Airfield (ZCV / EDLD)
Dinslaken / Schwarze Heide – or Flugplatz Ruhrgebiet, how MeerExpress is calling this place, is the home base of the virtual airline. Inf act, the airfield is located in the city of Hünxe. The place is unfortunately a bit remote. You can easily arrive there by car, it was even signposted from the A3 motorway. Parking is free. There is an airfield restaurant, which even offers snack services during the weekend despite the pandemic limitations.
MeerExpress put a container-alike check-in building, which even comes with a touch of a simple business lounge – it was really cozy to wait there before the flight and to chat to other passengers and the airline’s staff. The MeerExpress transporter brings you to to the plane and back.
Juist Airfield (JUI / EDWJ)
Juist Airfield is beautifully located East of the main city. There are no cars on the island. A transfer to/from the airport can be done by horse carriage, though. Juist is already connected to German mainland, as the FLN Frisia Luftverkehr operates several daily flights to Norden-Norddeich, which is also quite close to where the Juist and Norderney ferries leave. A closeable pile wall is protecting the airport buildings from the water.
Fun fact about Juist Airfield: this has been my first ever landing on concrete pavement. They use that unusual surface as it is more robust. The runway is located in front of the dyke, so that it is regularly exposed to floodings.
Norderney Airfield (NRD / EDWY)
Norderney Airfield is also located East of the main city. The island is very popular among tourists. The airfield is connected by public bus – the service is however very scattered and has been stopped due to Covid-19 implications at my visit. The taxi service (4kms) is some 20 Euro. I just made a walk along the area around the airport, though. The airport building also has a large restaurant with a nice terrace and a small playground. There are a few parking lots in front of the building.
MeerExpress – The Trip
Here are some impressions of the two flights and of Norderney. Due to technical reasons, the flight pictures are not exactly in the right chronological order unfortunately.
Outbound: Dinslaken / Schwarze Heide – Juist – Norderney
The flight was slightly delayed due to heavy thunderstorms at Dinslaken. MeerExpress also used the flight to test some operations. We had a lovely flight with a peak altitude of 7,000 feet, which is more or less heading North from Dinslaken until the Emden region, where you are already approaching for Juist.
I especially enjoyed when we were approaching the German coastline. The pictures below are the Norddeich Harbor, which is important for East Frisia island ferry connections. The approach to Juist, which also gave a nice view of Norderney already, is really lovely. Cute little airfield, ain’t it?
After some fifteen minutes, we headed on to Norderney. The flight is just a very short one (and would be even shorter if we flew from Norderney to Juist, i.e. Westbound). Lovely approach passing the light tower before touching down at Norderney Airfield.
Inbound: Norderney – Dinslaken / Schwarze Heide
There were some short-notice passengers, but finally, the plane still departed ahead of my scheduled time (which I felt quite happy with). I loved to say farewell to the East Frisia islands before the plane took a left curve Southbound. The route was roughly the same as on the outbound, but we flew at 12,000, so that there was less visibility to the ground. I again definitely enjoyed the relaxing flight. Behind Emden and Papenburg, there are however not too many interesting sights on ground on the way before you start approaching the Ruhrgebiet area. The plane had to refuel in Dinslaken, as the late passengers asked for a onward connection to Dusseldorf Airport – one of the huge advantages of a small airline like MeerExpress: if it suits to the schedule and if you are willing to pay for it, they are much more flexible in these short-term flight changes.
Some Snaps from Norderney
On Norderney, I had a quick walk around the airfield and had a look at the light tower (which can normally be visited, but was closed during my visit).
MeerExpress – Gallery
Due to request I decided to add 286 major size pictures to the travel galleries:
MeerExpress – My View
The day trip with MeerExpress was definitely a lovely aviation experience. I love these small capacity regional carriers. I feel that once travel restrictions have been lifted again, the carrier has a very promising future. The service was really kind and effective – and the Cessna connection should safe you at least two hours plus any additional time you need to wait at the ferry at peak times. It is definitely a smart move by the company to offer transfers. Really an interesting new company worth to receive a Top Pick! rating.
Aviation in Germany