December Trip Report
Just want to write a short trip report for the last set of flights that I took in 2007. I flew five segments, and for those who wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to read words, please just go directly to the link:
December 25, 2007; Tuesday
VX 318 LAX-JFK 0925 1740 320 BOB
December 26, 2007; Wednesday
AZ 605 JFK-MXP 1755 0755+1 777 DB
December 27, 2007; Thursday
Mostly meals and scenery
AZ 566 MXP-ZRH 0950 1050 ERJ-145 B
Zurich Observation Deck:
December 28, 2007; Friday
LH 3747 ZRH-MUC 1735 1835 319 S 3A
LH 730 MUC-HKG 2120 1550+1 343 DB 3A
Here are the details:
December 25, 2007
VX 318 LAX-JFK Lv0925 Arr1740 Airbus A320-200 N626VA
Another typical Virgin America flight!
Very well staffed and great holiday spirits check-in and boarding staffs! The kiosk is easy to use and I checked in three pieces of bags, which resulted in a $60 surcharge. Just a quick swap of my credit card! And seconds later, all are done. The agents scanned my boarding pass and tagged my three bags.
The flight was five hours and two minutes, and I tried both the yogurt option, as well as the steak sandwich. Very good meal! The F/A forgot my diet coke twice, but eventually I got it. Free Premium TV was offered, as promised at press release!
Loading was near 100%!
The weakest point was that the bags were delivered slowly Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 30 minute after arrival, and not to mention, it took a while for all the bags to come out.
December 26, 2007
AZ 605 JFK-MXP Lv1755 Arr0755+1 Boeing 777-200ER EI-DDH Tropea
AZ 566 MXP-ZRH Lv0950 1050 Embraer EMB-145LR I-EXMG Daniel Bovert
JFKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Terminal One is quite a pleasant airport to ride through, and being one of the newest terminals, it is nice. The terminal was busy with holiday traffic, but AlitaliaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s line was not busy at all. There were two agents staffing the Magnifica class line, and after the staff tagged your bags, you had to bring your bags over to the baggage checkpoints. I recommend buying a cart if you are checking heavy bags. The agents were not overwhelmingly friendly but they got their jobs done and found me a window seat with no one sitting next to me, but of course Row 9 had one missing window. Anyway, more about it later!
The Lounge MICHELANGELO is a very pleasant lounge with lots of space to spread out, and a decent array of sandwiches, salads, fruits, and packaged snacks, as well as drinks. There were two Internet-connected computers, and Business facilities are really weak for all AZ lounges worldwide and I honestly think a complimentary wifi should be available at all proper business class lounges (BA and LH should listen).
The Milan lounge at the non-Schagen area is a shame and is way too small for the flights that AZ is offering. The lounge should be at least three times larger. My advice is Ã¢â‚¬Å“donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even botherÃ¢â‚¬Â! No business facility and the food and snack offerings are limited to biscuits, and no self-service bar, so there was a line requesting orange juice and coffee. Yes coffee and espresso are freshly brewed, but it is just overwhelming for everyone and the lounge is not designed for this large amount of passengers especially the morning USA/International rush.
Very organized and there was a separate business class line. Way better than Rome!
It was an okay experience! The F/As obviously wanted to get dinner over ASAP especially we spent an hour at the runway as usual. The purser was okay, but less the more refined touch, almost like throwing dishes at passengers. Breakfast tray was almost thrown at me. Not to say that he was not friendly or what! But they were in a hurry! The other younger female F/As were friendlier. Dinner was served after takeoff with a full four-course dinner, and then there was a mid-galley stocked with cheese, crackers, Italian sweets, digestives, bottled waters and soft drinks, which was appreciated. A full hot breakfast was offered prior to arrival. The size and portions are just right!
For the EMB-145 flight, it was a simple snack service for the two rows of business class. A bit too simple, but the sole F/A was amazing on this thirty-three minutes flight. For those Mesa, American Eagle, Continental Express, and those US regional airlines F/As, who claimed that 30 minutes was too short for a beverage service. Marcella, our F/A, managed a refreshment and beverage service for 6 of us up front, and then a beverage and light snack service for the rest of the Y passengers (42 of them), and not to mention cleaning up, and still have minutes to spare. The snack was nothing impressive in J but for a thirty minutes flight, what more can you expect? A small cheese and turkey sandwich, a fruit yogurt drink, a chocolate cereal bar, and a small orange juice cup!
Door was closed at 5:55pm, right on time, and we pushed back at 6pm, but due to congestions, we did not start our taxing towards R/W4L until 6:20pm due to rain, reduced visibility and typical congestions. Following a LH Airbus A340-600 D-AIHP and a VirginÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Airbus A340-300, we took off at 7:07pm for our seven hours and one minute flight to Milan. We passed through Cape Cod and climbed to 35,000feet before reaching Lunenberg, Halifax, and Sydney, and climbed further to 37,000feet, and leaving North America after passing through city of St. Pierre. Then we entered Continental Europe at 39,000feet and St Helier, France, followed by Chartres, North of Macon, Geneva, and then the Alps, followed by the city of Turin. Descent began at 7:29am Milan local time and we landed on R/W35L at 8:08am, and then parked at remote stand 405 three minutes later.
Entertainment system and seats:
I much preferred the sleeper seats on the Boeing 777 to the sliding beds of the Boeing 767-300ERs. I also like the real personal TV with airshow over the entertainment units. Much better experience on the Boeing 777! No on demand entertainment, but I like the games available, as well as the moving map.
I have four more flights on Alitalia in 2008, and now know what to look forward to. I will try to stick with the Boeing 777 flights. However I have to bring up another well-debated topic Ã¢â‚¬â€œ employees in a premium class cabin. The loading in business class was very light this evening. The front J cabin was almost all full, but the aft business class cabin have six passengers, and about ten minutes prior to door closing, a rush of employees with economy class cabin boarding pass were allowed in the business class. The purser was directing passengers to the empty middle pairs, and the remaining empty seats. At point, he even planted one non-revenue passenger with a seat assignment of 35H next to me, and trust me, it was a very shocking experience. Thankfully, the female F/A immediately redirected him to an empty seat at Row 11, which was occupied by an employee, so the passenger at 10A and I had an empty seat next to me. I still had mixed feelings about allowing employees in business class, and yes I understand that the staffs should have access to premium seats if they are opened, but how much access should be given without ruining a paying passengerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s experience. That is a key question! I remain very against employee in a real first class cabin on a three-class aircraft, but business class is okay. However, I really think the seats next to paying passengers should be blocked and for the other empty pair of seats, that was more than okay. Also the employees should be more discreet, and the F/As should maintain professional and after breakfast, the employees were busy chatting, shaking hands, and that simply did not look professional. Well to give the crew credits, the non-rev passengers were not offered any of the pasta or entrÃƒÂ©e dishes, till all paid passengers got their choices. Amenity kits were not offered to non-rev passengers too. They should chat at the galleys if they want to. Being professional should be the key! Anyway enough ranting! I hope I wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get yelled at too much! But I really think airlines should really re-examine their employee class concept and should do more to protect their premium cabin. The same thing happened an evening later on my Lufthansa Business Class flights.
December 28, 2007
LH 3747 ZRH-MUC Lv1735 Arr1835 Airbus A319-100 D-AILD Ã¢â‚¬Å“DinkelsbuhlÃ¢â‚¬Â
LH 730 MUC-HKG Lv2120 Arr1525 Airbus A340-600 D-AIHQ (Three Class 34D)
Zurich Airport is a very well designed and user-friendly. I am very fond of it. All Star Alliance carriers, as well as Swiss and LH used the check-in Area One, with other airlines at Check-in 2. There was separate Gold, first class, and business class lines, and the lines were not busy at all. I checked in around 11am, so I could spend sometimes at the observation deck especially to view the widebody rush around noon till 1pm. It was a wonderful experience for those who love planes. Summertime should be more pleasant. Back to check-in, the agent was quite friendly and my request to check-in a third piece of bag was accepted (well as a Star Gold, you can take in an extra piece or 10kg), and my request to have a window seat with no one sitting next to me were accepted. The agents told me the loading was quite light on both flights, which were partially true. But of course, there was no guarantee.
The Swiss lounge at ZRH was fairly nice, and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to say more. The LH lounge at Munich is the typical LH lounge and really nothing more to report as well, but no hot soup was offered in the evening hours at least this evening.
Separate first and business class boarding only available at Munich for the long haul flights.
The flight from Zurich to Munich was a fifty-seven minutes flight, which was longer due to fogs at Munich, and we had to circle a bit before returning to Munich. It should be a thirty-five minutes flight.
The flight from Munich to Hong Kong was ten hours and forty minutes long, and the routing took us to Passau, Poland, and we climbed to 33,000feet, as we approached cities of Wroclaw, Lodz, Warsaw, and then back to 33,000feet before passing Minsk, and further down to 31,000feet and 30,000feet before approach the city of Kaluga, and then up to 33,000feet, we passed through the cities of Tula, Samara, and Astana, and then climbed up to 35,000feet before entering the Chinese airpsace and cities of Urumqi, Lanzhou, and then up to 37,000feet, and cities of Chengdu, Guilin, Wuzhou, and Macau.
LH 730 also ran a bit behind the schedule because we needed to de-ice at Munich, as well as late arrivals from SFO, which the flight came in from. We began boarding at 9:05pm, pushed back at 9:30pm, de-iced at 9:50pm and took off from R/W8R at 10:14pm. Descent began at 3:24pm and then landed on R/W7L at 3:54pm.
No English newspapers onboard the intra-European flights, and the meal service was a very disappointing snack tray with three small dishes and a roll Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Mozzarella cheese with sliced tomato, country ham with mushrooms, and a waffle with cherry compote and mousse.
The Munich to Hong Kong flight was interesting with a full dinner after takeoff, and then brunch prior to arrival. Bottled water and amenity kits were pre-placed at each seat prior to boarding, and the F/As did not offer any newspapers. Headsets were pre-placed at the side console as well, but the padding for the headsets were not loaded on every seat.
Dinner service began at 10:50pm with hot towels and beverage cart, and everything was served in a very leisure manner, which was strange for a late night flight. Appetizer made its appearance at 11:28pm, and then entrÃƒÂ©e was finally served at 12:08am, and then dessert at 12:38am, with the final pick up at 1am. It took the F/A thirty minutes between each course. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if LH is trying the minimal staffing or what! If you ask me, the dinner takes too long for a late night. For a daytime flight, it is the perfect pace, but not in the middle of the night.
There was no mid-flight snack and the snack tray features glasses of water and orange juice. Brunch was served at 7:08am with hot towels, and followed by the meal itself at 7:20am. The brunch service was all served in one tray, which was really too small. There will be more remarks towards the end of the trip report!
They have a Chinese flight attendant, who speaks mandarin, rather than Cantonese. In Hong Kong, our native dialect is Cantonese, and it seems to defeat the purpose of having a language F/A to help with local passengers, but she actually speaks a different dialect.
Here is the menu and wine list:
Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaique, Frankreich
2006 Rheingau Riesling trocken, Weingut Balthasar Ress, Deustchland
2006 Chardonnay Trentino "Barricato 40," Bollini, Italien
2003 Quadrophonie, Wein Quartett Donnerskirchen, Osterreich
2003 Zweigelt "Barrique" Weingut Schneeberger, Osterreich
2003 Chateau Mazails, Cru Bourgeois, Medoc, Frankreich
Smoked Trout Terrine on a Tomato Confit with Basil Oil
Sweet and sour Pork Shanghai-style on Cucumber and Chive
Iceberg lettuce, Carrots and Cucumber Julienne served with Vinaigrette
Roast Goose with Red Cabbage, Potato Dumplings and Herb Sauce
Fried Pike-Perch, Sauerkraut and Herb Puree
Fried Beef Slices on Oyster Sauce, Asian Rice served with Egg and Broccoli
Cheese and Dessert
Tilsit, Gouda, and Camembert
Exotic Yogurt Slice with Fruit Sauces
Cheese plate was pre-placed at the appetizer setup due to the late night flights, and there was a choice of fresh fruit (Pineapple, kiwi, cantaloupes, and grapes) or yogurt slice, which was very sweet. A bag of biscotti were offered as well.
Air-dried Country Ham, cooked Farmhouse Ham, Bresso Fresh Cheese, Gouda and Camembert
Crepe with Gruyere, Leaf Spinach, fried Potatoes and Cherry Tomato
You may request Soy Milk with your breakfast
LH 730 11/07-12/07
I really have mixed feelings about the service:
1. The whole dinner took three hours to service, which was too long for a late evening flight.
2. After the appetizer was served, the F/A actually re-collected the appetizer tray but the passengers had to retain their cheese plate, and eating utensils. It was very clumsy. I think the F/As should just collect the appetizer plates and replaced by the typical casserole entrÃƒÂ©e dishes.
3. How to simplify the dinner service? The trick for these late flights is how to offer a proper hot meal at these late hours. You always have to take care of connecting passengers, who may want a more spread out dinner, but also those who want to go to bed. I think LH should go the following track such as serving the appetizer, salad, and entrÃƒÂ©e all on one setting, and then dessert/tea/coffee service. Speed is also the other key. They really need to speed up the dinner. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mind them not offering a choice of appetizers, cutting the salad course, and make it a quicker dinner service.
4. The complete lack of in-flight snacks Ã¢â‚¬â€œ no snack bars were seat up in mid-business class galley, and there were no instant noodle cup services, packaged snacks, and sandwiches available. I think for those passengers missing dinner, it should be nice if there are some kinds of snacks available around the clock. It does not need to be fancy, but should be nicer.
5. The brunch service was disappointing at best. The breakfast was just like an economy class meal served in real china. Only a small fruit bowl as appetizer, and you have to pick between the cold cut and omelet. I actually like LH should expand the brunch service into two courses Ã¢â‚¬â€œ first, the fruit appetizer with yogurt and a cold plate of cheese and meat, and followed by a choice of entrÃƒÂ©e, and offered more bread rolls. The small breakfast would work on the shorter transatlantic flight, but for a long haul flights like the HKG routes, the breakfast should be heartier, as most folks are hungrier at that time and it is morning time at Munich anyway.
6. Rolls were only served once during the dinner service when they served the appetizer, and for a European airline, I assume breads will be offered a few more times. For breakfast, there was a second bread service, but it came a bit too late.
7. In conclusion, a more simplified dinner should be offered with ample mid-flight snacks and a heartier breakfast/brunch.
I actually am skeptical about the new Lufthansa Business Class seats, but after flying it, it is actually an okay lie flat angle seats, and the seat did not sink a very uncomfortable low position. I think the seat is almost full flat and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel like sliding down the whole night. I got a comfortable three hours sleep. The entertainment system works very well and I like all the small storage bins at the seats (but the shoe storage bin is too small for one pair of shoes).
I am highly suspicious about LH filling up the business class cabin with employees again.
The day prior to the flight, the loading according to expertflyer is the following:
F0 A0 C9 D9 Z9 Y9 B9 M9 H1 Q1 V1 W1 S0
(C, D and Z are all various business class fare categories.)
The seat map was:
Row AC DG HK
3 XX XX XX
4 XX XX XX
5 XX -- XX
6 XX XX XX
7 -- HH X-
8 X- -- -X
Second J cabin
10 B- B- -B
11 XX -- -X
12 X- -- -X
14 -- -- --
X - Occupied
- - Opened
B - Blocked
H Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Handicapped
All the Senators and Star Gold members got their seats next to them blocked. So why the J cabin ended with a near full load except 10D and 14A. Unfortunately I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t speak German, so I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t eavesdrop but thankfully, the LH staffs were definitely more properly dressed and more discrete about their non-rev travel experiences. I also think that the HKG to Germany schedules are changed during the holiday season, and not all FRA and MUC flights operated daily. And I know the FRA-HKG on the next day was not operating. Due to fogs at Munich, many flights were delayed that afternoon and some of them missed the flights to China that evening. They might reroute them through Hong Kong. So it might explain the full flight situation. Anyway, for an airline, which really does not do operational upgrades, its employee travel policy is pretty interesting and does not follow that logic of protecting the prestige of its premium cabin.
Regardless, I was really disappointed with Lufthansa Business Class, despite the F/As were okay friendly and actually used my last name to address me during meals. They are not like CX or SQ or NH, who remembered your names, but they tried the service by adding a personal touch. The mealsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ schedule can be properly adjusted and mid-flight snacks should be available at all times between meals. I think a ten hours flight quality for a proper snack attack tray. There are just these little things that are missing and the whole experience is just not what they advertise. Nonetheless, I am happy to get to fly the Airbus A340-600 and it is an interesting experience.
Thanks for reading the report and wish you all safe travels in 2008!