reifel From Germany, joined Feb 2005, 1135 posts, RR: 1 Posted (1 year 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 4472 times:
Good Day everyone,
it's time for big travels again. Having had a lot of work during the last 6 months and being basically unable to take any time off from work it was now time to take a 2 week holiday and travel.
As an aviation geek which usually travels within Europe and only once or maybe twice a year long haul, I try to make it a little special and not travel the most direct way. Instead I opt for booking a lot of flights, usually those on offer, and matching a lot of different carriers.
Now I understand a lot of people do the same, and I really love to read these multi part reports as it's some kind of long story which is entertaining for days or even weeks.
I will do something similar, however I thought it would be funny only to post step by step and leaving you somehow the guess where I will head next. I will not disclose my travel plans for now.
So, here we go. The big day came and I worked until 5 this Friday. It was time to head to Frankfurt airport, to catch my first flight. I took the S-Bahn to get there.
This first flight was usually a part of a complete other trip that I scheduled for a weekend in Madrid. It was the well known route with the A340-300 with LAN. I did that flight before, however it was 3 years ago. Back then I was absolutely impressed. The crew was nice and professional, the food was delicious, saved on china and with proper metal fork and knive, it was a cold snack consitsting of different wraps and sandwiches, together with Chilean wine.
I do understand this has changed, however I still want to see how they perform.
FRANKFURT INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL 2 - MADRID BARAJAS TERMINAL 4S
LAN AIRLINES FLIGHT LA705
Airbus A340-300, CC-CQF
I arrived at the airport S-Bahn underground station approx 1,5 hours before the flight. This may sound a little late for a non-Schengen longhaul flight (the plane continues to Santiago, Chile), but I have my reasons. I also didn't have checked in online, although this is an option offered by LAN.
As some of you maybe know, I work in the travel industry and use Amadeus on a daily basis to book flights for customers. I booked this flight before for other people and realized that Lan easilly upgrades on this sector, no matter if people are travelling alone, if they have status or night, or if they bought the cheapest fare. Maybe this has changed, but I wanted to give it a try.
Basically it is possible to follow the check in process in Amadeus and to see the seatmap fill. If it's all full, it's the time when check in should be made. LAN would rebook the booking in business class and the guest receive a new boarding card at check in.
I was not expecting the upgrade as the flight showed quite a few open booking classes, but since an afternoon flight of Oneworld Partner Iberia was cancelled the afternoon, I was not sure if Iberia could reprotect all their passengers on their own evening flight departing around the same time as the LAN-flight, it thought just to give it a try. The risk was to get one of the last economy class seats and get stuck in the middle row, but I was willing to accept this, as the seats are fitted with PTV and therefore it would entertain me anyway.
Before heading with the automated train to Terminal 2 I went to Tegut Supermarket and bought a bottle of Coke and realized the Hooters Restaurant in front of the supermarket is gone and replaced with a "Sportsbar", some sort of American diner which also offers Mexican food at decent prices. A new option and actually an option to consider since there was no way I would have gone there before. Prices are same as in town.
Then it was time to go to Terminal 2 where the LAN check in was deserted. I was taken care off by an average friendly lady. She didn't asked for my seat preference and gave me seat 25C. Not too bad, but I nevertheless asked for a window seat and got the answer they were all gone. Fair enough. LAN uses own branded boarding passes.
I like Terminal 2 a lot. It's way more bright and airy than Terminal 1, and more modern. Usually not a lot to walk and shorter queues.
This time was no exception, it was absolutely flawless. Since the flight is going to Santiago and arriving at the Non-Schengen Satellite in Madrid, even guests bound for Madrid need to pass passport control. In Terminal 1 they have self service booths with Iris scanners installed. While these have been modern a few years ago, they require a one time presignup with the police station in Terminal 1 (in front of LH first class check in). As of today a lot of other Schengen countries (and even UK) offer these without preregistration for all Schengen passport holders.
Nevertheless there are no automated gates at all in Terminal 2. No problem for me, as there was no queue and I was through right away.
Then a short walk to gate D8, where Security check takes place just before the holding area. Again, no queue and friendly staff. What a great experience for a long haul flight!
Boarding passes are checked and the stub given back at the entry of the waiting area, meaning a faster boarding process later on. I like this as it saves time. The boarding area is huge and there are Spanish and German magazines and newspaper on a shelf offered by LAN. A lot of staff around issuing boarding passes for connecting guests, aparently LAN has no transfer desk in T2 and some other airlines are unable to issue onward boarding passes. I remember having booked a guest from Austria to Buenos Aires via Frankfurt and Santiago on a LAN through fare. The Austria-Frankfurt feeder was operated by OS.
A lot of spare seats made a relaxed atmosphere in the waiting area. The plane seemed like half full, but it was full as I saw later, it's just that the waiting area is so huge.
The plane waiting:
Boarding was announced approx 40 minutes prior departure and by rows. This was strictly enforced by the gate agent. The boarding was incredibly easy and organized. Never had such a flawless and professional boarding experience.
Economy class was full, and this was a long haul flight! Within 20 minutes everyone was on board and seated and we even left 13 minutes earlier!! Absolutely incredible.
But lets go back one step. Once entering the aircraft at door 2 I was friendly greeted by a female crew member which showed me which aisle to take. I passed a few rows of Business Class, which looks nice, although probably not the most up to date product. Still seats can probably lie flat (or almost) and are not "just" recliner seats.
Then I passed the first Economy Class section. The seats look great and have blue and purple colours. Although the cabin interior being approx 7 years old, it still looked spotless and well maintained. Didn't seen a lot of age usage traces. Crew was great. They were 3 male and 1 female taken care of Economy, their uniform look sharp and professional. The male flight attendant in charge of my section was terrific. While I arrived he was speaking in Spanish with other passengers telling something like "Bienvenido en mi casa" and then I saw my seat, 25C was an emergency row seat with plenty of legroom! Nice!
They also had nice boarding music playing. Again, I was absolutely impressed about the whole experience. Arrived 1 hour before flight at check in for a long haul flight, no queues anywhere, a flawless boarding experience, a sincere welcome, and a 13 minutes earlier pushback as a bonus on a fully packed flight! Well done Frankfurt airport and LAN.
View from my seat:
Once everyone was seated, they handed out headsets for the inflight entertainment and the safety video was conducted.
We had the regular rather long taxi to "Starbahn West" and a rather shaking take off. We all know that the A340-300 is not a good climber and the climb rate didn't impressed indeed. However it wasn't as bad as I remembered it. I actually felt the plane climbing, so maybe it's because of rather light fuel load...
Soon after take-off the inflight entertainment was turned on. While the air show was blocked on a map showing the world and no route or plane on it, the other options were interesting enough for a 2 hour flight:
I am sure other airlines offer more movies and sitcoms, but LAN had a dozen of movies for each kind of film i.e. Comedy, Drama, Action etc... The screen had a good size but audio was a little bad, it didn't helped that everything was in English. While most movies had Spanish and sometimes even French or Portuguese versions, I can't remember seeing one movie with German subtitles. Although passengers travelling on airlines from abroad shouldn't expect too much, I think that the market just expects from a legacy carrier to offer at least a few options in their native language. I also found this option interesting: You could select form every menu that you don't wish to be disturbed and then it would show on your PTV:
While I was tempted by The Hangover 2, I realized it would have been too long for the flight, and I saw it before anyway. So I settled for "Hall Pass" which while not extremely funny was still amusing and a good way to pass the flight.
The friendly staff came with the snack. Maybe you remember I mentioned that a few years before I received a cold snack consisting of Nice wraps and Sandwiches on china with metal cutlery, well this time it was just cupboard box with nice South American motives on it. It had a small iberian ham sandwich and a mini Snickers in it. I was quite hungry, so it left a gap. However I guess you can't expect much more these days on such a short flight, i.e. Lufthansa would offer something similar and Iberia nothing at all... The drink selection was great. It included your regular non alcoholic choice, but also Whiskey, Baileys and some other Spirits as well as Chilenian wine.
No alcool for me this time since I was taking a rental car upon my arrival in Madrid, so I settled with an apple juice and a glass of still water, which were served in thicker plastic cups than other airlines use. I also realized they serve hot drinks in this white styropor cups, which isn't very environmental friendly.
By the way, the staff had no problem at all speaking English and did it very well. There were obvisouly a lot of non spanish speaking passengers on board. I can't recall a German speaking staff member, but one always said "Danke", "bitte", probably all she could say, but it was a nice touch. German announcements came twice upon departure and after arrival from tape, and it was also mentioned during that annoucement that "the English and Spanish speaking crew is there to help you".
The flight went by rather nicely with the movie and soon enough we started our descent to Barajas airport. Trash was collected, and IFE turned off soon before landing, and therefore I missed 20 minutes of the movie. Probably better stick to sitcoms on this sector (they had the usual things like 30 Rock, 2 and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory, and a whole Season of the Simpsons).
Landing was quite soft and we taxied to the beautiful Terminal 4S, which is the non Schengen Satelitte and arrived way ahead of schedule. Connecting passengers to other LAN destinations, which included Lima, Guayaquil, Quito were told the contact the ground crew and connecting passengers to Santiago were invited to leave the aircraft as a new crew would take over.
Looking back at the plane:
In Europe in non-Schengen areas, arriving and departing passengers are separated as they need to reclear security, when they arrive from a non-schengen country. Our flight was some kind of exception, since it was a flight arriving from a Schengen country and therefore passengers have passed Schengen safety control standards. While arriving passengers were directed to the upper walkway to reach arrivals or the security check point, guests to Santiago were allowed directly through a short door into departures, saving them to reclear security. I think they should also have let passed other connecting guests past this door, as they also don't need to reclear security, but they were directed to arrivals.
Terminal 4 was rather quiet and a georgeous place. while the furniture is "normal", the architecture is simply amazing and impressing. And this place is incredibly long and clean and nicely lit at night.
Okay and here is an idea about the length. We look on one side:
Then we look back to the other side:
impressive, isn't it?
Clearing passport control was a breeze as no one was there. They have automated booths for Schengen passport holders, but they were closed as there was no queue at the staffed booths. Then you need to go down 2 floors, take the metro ride (rather long I thought) to the main Terminal, where you can either connect to Schengen or selected non Schengen destinations (probably short haul like UK) or leave. The bagage claim area is very huge, too. Since I had only hand luguage I left the secured zone immediately and found myself in the greeters area. I was expecting quite a walk to the car rental counters, but actually it was well sign-posted and quite straight-forward just a level down. I was offered a Fiat 500 or a Toyota (Auris or Yaris, not sure...) and since I can vaguely remember the Fiat 500 being known as a fun car I though I'd take that one.
Indeed it was a nice red mini fun car with a glass roof and a complete red and white interior. While I found it rather made of plastic and while it had no horsepower at all, it was fine for the night.
Rental car area:
Rental car (taken next day):
I found my way to the hotel "Silken Puerta Madrid" quite easily and found a parking space right in front of it and left the car there rather than paying approx 20 EUR for one night hotel parking.
The hotel itself is a 4* hotel and probably the best I will get in the next 2 weeks. The room and bath room was huge, as were the beds.
Since I was hungry I thought I'll drive the motorway in direction of Madrid, expecting some Burger King or McDonald's one the next exits. It was almost midnight by then. Well, I didn't found anything, but finally ended in Madrid city center on a huge alley with almost 10 lanes and almost deserted at night. It is the big alley going north to Plaza de Cuzco and Chamartin station. I passed Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid, and finally found a McDonald's at Plaza de Cuzco (if I remember correctly). The way back to the hotel was more direct and rather easy.
while I lost an hour, it was actually quite fun driving that car through Madrid at night and as soon as I came back to the hotel I had a good sleep.
Tomorrow morning I can sleep til 9 or 10am, before my next flight leaves.
So, what to think now? Well I'm still in Europe and had a great flight. LAN does offer an great longhaul product. The crew was terrific and had no problems speaking English to non spanish speakers. The seat was comfortable, the legroom in the exit row excellent. The plane seemed to be in good shape. Again, the whole boarding process was relaxed and flawless. Plus we were well ahead of schedule and I had great entertainment. Would definitely consider them for long haul travel if price is right (and if I fly to one of their destinations obviously). Catering was business standard and decreased from my last travel with them, but then it's more than Iberia offers and on par with what LH offers on the same route. So not too much complaints here. The "hard ware" obvisouly is top knotch for a intraeuropean flight and the movie entertained me well.
I'm far from having reached my actual holiday destination! It's on you to guess where it will head me next... Hope you enjoyed the read so far. All comments are highly welcome.
reifel From Germany, joined Feb 2005, 1135 posts, RR: 1 Reply 2, posted (1 year 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 2798 times:
Hello and welcome to the continuation of my journey. As you may remember from my first part, I explained that my flight with LAN was booked long ago as a weekend trip to Spain, before actually deciding to use part of this trip to actually use part of this weekend trip to reach a destination much more far away.
Back then I also book several short haul flights in the area which I will join with you in this part of my report:
MADRID BARAJAS TERMINAL 4S - LISBON TERMINAL 1
TAP AIR PORTUGAL TP1013
Airbus A320, CS-TNN
This flight was booked months ago during a promotion period for less than 30 EUR incl taxes one way.
While TAP may by nothing special, I never flew with them before and really wanted to try them. From a professional perspective working business to business with them is enjoyable and they seem to offer a decent long haul product to Miami and Newark.
I have been in Lisbon with Lufthansa before, and enjoyed their lounge. While it has no view, it has great catering for European standards. I found the whole TAP operation in Lisbon looking nice. Now let's see it from a passenger perspective.
After waking up at 9 am, taking a nice shower and unplugging all my things that I have recharged during the night, I packed my bag, checked out and was on my way to Terminal 2, well actually Terminal 1 first, since I had to return the car there. Nevertheless I had to refuel on the way, because I had travelled some 40 km after all! The airport petrol station was really far away in some filthy industrial area which I wouldn't want to drive around at night, but it was well sign-posted.
Terminal 1, and Terminal 2 by the way, is a modest affair, especially compared to Terminal 4. I have been there before when Spanair used to run the place, it may be easy to transit there on a connecting flight, but spending more time than necessary is highest priority.
Leaving the hotel:
In Terminal 1 I saw some interesting airlines, especially Cubana check in. Interstingly while the check in was going on the Ticket counter was closed and stores down. I made a photo from the Cubana Check in area and while I was about to leave some official looking men came and told me very rudely that this is not allowed in Spanish, did not understood much, however he stated something like because of the country. He had no ID or something, probably some kind of Cubana supervisor. I was about to ask who he was but I thought in this situation it's better to keep quiet and just continued my way to Terminal 2.
Terminal 2 looks a little nicer than Terminal 1.
Mostly Star Alliance check in can be found here, but also Skyteam:
I found the TAP check in counters, they were quite empty.
On the counter on the left there was a men which aparently made the worst flight connecting trip ever, as the check in agent had to call the ramp guy to tell him to accept two bags from Iberia from somewhere in South America, and retag them to somewhere else via LIS on TP, probably some portuguese islands in the Alantic ocean. She had to preprint the tags and told him she would bring them to the gate later and they will retag the bags on the apron. What a trek... At least this is what I understood and actually saw from my window when I later sat in the plane.
In front of my counter there were 2 french backpacker type guys denied as they had no valid papers. I asked them in French if they need help, as I could use my netbook for them to make an ESTA if necessary. In France Air France has self service computers in the airports where people can book flights, but also make their ESTA, in Frankfurt there are travel agencies offering you doing ESTA all over the place. In Madrid I didn't saw a travel agency at all. Well those guys didn't travelled to the US but to Angola!! Although I were sad for them I just can't understand why people which travel to a place like Angola wouldn't better plan their trip. I mean how can you forget to enquire if you need a visa to go to Angola? It's beyond me...
As for me, I was quickly checked in. Actually I already checked in online the day before, but was too lazy to print my boarding pass, and actually I prefer the real ones as long as they still have them. I got a Swissport boarding pass and wonder why TP don't use their own stock in Madrid:
Anyway, due to my Star Gold status I was allowed to use fast track security, which was conveniently located right next to the TAP counters and empty. There was even a comfy seating area there. Security obviously was a breeze and I saw two signs to a lounge, but only stating the name of the lounges and not which airlines use them. I know that there is a lounge in the rather nice Terminal 3 (which is actually directly connected to Terminal 2 and therefore easily reachable, although a few minutes walk away).
Luckily I found an information counter right in front of security and the guy directed my to the other lounge, which was actually right next to me. Stairs up, and there it was. I guess it was the former Spanair lounge? Anyway, now it's a AENA lounge which can be used by most Star Alliance carriers here. Wifi is free for 30 minutes, you get a scratch card with a one time login.
The lounge was nothing special. Prepacked triangle sandwiches (not looking very good), some prepacked carrot salad, fruits in pieces, crackers, chips and so on. Plus an ok selection of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks and nice seating areas. Furthermore it wasn't too full, which I like.
For breakfast I took a joghurt which I mixed with prepacked pieces of Orange, which tasted very good. Took a danish with that and some cold "hot chocolate" drink from a bottle:
Had great views on the apron with some nice long haul traffic leaving Terminal 1 to the runway.
Soon enough I saw the TAP airbus arrive on time and docking not too far away at gate D26. I left the lounge and went down to the gate and took a seat. A lot of brazilian passport holders and people holding two boarding cards there. Obviously good connecting traffic here.
My plane arriving:
Not so nice Waiting area in Terminal 2:
Boarding was announced. I believe there was a priority boarding call, but it was barely understandable and I didn't bother and just took the regular queue. The flight didn't looked fully anyway so I shouldn't have any trouble placing my rather big on board luguage in a overhead bin.
I was friendly greeted upon entering the aircraft by a male flight attendant and made my way to the last row, which I took since it's usually a good chance to have less other travellers there and thus a free seat next to mine.
To be honest I was not impressed by the cabin at all. The seats were some leatherlike grey-blue material, but very old. While clean enough, the cabin looked really worn. The carpet was grey, which didn't looked nice either. However the seat pitch looked good in the first rows (which can be used as business class). By the way, the first 5 rows are in a 2-3 configuration which slightly larger seats. Row 4 and 5 are often available to economy class passengers if business class load is light, like on this flight.
However in the last row it was a completely other story. While the seat was well padded and comfy, the leg room was horrible. Luckily I had the whole bench for myself, so I could strech my legs under the middle seat. By the way, the last row didn't reclined. I know this needs to be expected when travelling last row, so I was not disappointed. That said, more and more airlines offer at least a little if not the regular recline in the last row nowadays.
As for now, not impressed... Then nothing happened and we pushed back 10 minutes after the scheduled time without any explanation. No problem for me, but still nothing to jubilee...
Planes next to us:
During taxi the pilot made a speech in Portuguese and English. I can't remember any Spanish announcements at all on the flight. However since my Spanish is apalling and my Portuguese non-existant I don't care. During taxi we encountered the Ilyushin 96 from Cubana arriving from Havana:
Terminal 4S is Iberia paradise for sure, however I also spotted an Avianca and a Tarom I believe. I guess their code share with Iberia is more important as with their own Skyteam partners and therefore they depart from T4 rather than from T3?
We were followed by this nice US Airways jet. I really like their livery.
In front of us a A340-600 of Iberia departed. we could see her banking to the left when she took off and it looked dramatic. Could have been the runway curbature, but it looked frightening.
Then it was our turn. Half during the take off roll we were pushed aside and I was almost pressed to the the window as the captain (or due they have an automated system which keeps track on the middle of runway) steered in the other direction. Must have been very windy and I didn't encountered this as hard as before. As we were airborne same thing again. I guess we must have looked the same as the Iberia jet in front of us.
I know unused traveller usually blame the airline for that. I often hear things like "their pilot made the most shaky take off roll I ever encountered". May be true, but I doubt it's the pilots fault.
Anyway, once airborne things got smoother and service began. The crew consisted of 4 male crew members. I can't recall when I had this the last time, but I think it's uncommon with the airlines that I usually fly. They were friendly and soon started their service.
Now I was not sure what too expect. I had a quick read through their inflight magazin "Up", which is not bad by the way (although they don't have any information about connecting in Lisbon in it). They offer free parking, valet service etc for business class customers, but no information about other services. All Spanish airlines, no matter if Iberia, Air Europa, Vueling or defunct Spanair, don't offer any free drinks or food on intraeuropean or domestic services in Coach. Furthermore TAP has some strange branding like Brussels Airlines, and I had booked the brand "Discount", while people connecting to long haul flight usually have brand "Classic". So I thought that maybe Classic travellers would get some free things, but not me. Anyway, I was expecting nothing at all.
The announced flight time was 1 hour and therefore I was extremely surprised that they served a cupboard box with hade a nicely sized Sandwich with ham, cheese, some salad and tomatoes, as well as a peach smoothie in it. Then they came around with drinks, which also included Wines if I remember correctly. And that was for a one hour flight! Absolutely impressed.
During the flight the Air Show as turned on and it was overcast until we reached Lisbon. So I took time to write this report.
Soon enough we begun our approach. I took a seat on the right side, as the approach in Lisbon is absolutely breath taking. The airport is very close to the city and therefore planes overfly the old town at very low level, just see for yourself.
This is a prison in the lower part:
Landing was a little bumpy and we made our way to the gate. No special announcements or instructions for connecting passengers were made, however there was TAP staff available when exiting the aircraft.
We arrived some 20 minutes late.
Our plane at her gate:
So what to say? Well, get some new seats and you will have an excellent product. Staff was friendly and professional, catering definitely more than adequate and a good surprise. On time performance could be improved though. Could have been some ATC restrictions however, as the flight would have been ready to leave MAD in time and I realized that in Lisbon a lot of flights were delayed. Not sure if TAP is to fault. if they provide a similar catering and same good staff longhaul, then they should defnitely have a good product. As far as I know their long haul fleet, especially the A330 is state of the art, I will be able to evaluate this when flying Funchal-Lisbon on one of their A330.
Lisbon airport is the airport with the strangest layout I have ever seen. It's so unconvenient. It's like the whole airport is 20 meters large and 1 km long... You get the idea. It's just like a looooong corridor, nothern side Non-Schengen gates. I guess there is just no space as the whole area around the airport is built up. I know they will built a new one, which will not be as conveniently located as this one, but maybe better set up.
It makes people walk a lot, especially when connecting. That said, it's not that big, so that most people should be able to connect in a short time.
You get the idea when you look at the map:
So that was flight number 2. Flight number 3 is coming right away, I'm not going to leave the airport.
abrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 4917 posts, RR: 55 Reply 3, posted (11 months 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 2130 times:
Cool report, and thanks for the "mystery" . While LAN is probably a notch above the Euro carriers on intra-Europe segments, I note that they have done quite a bunch of cut backs on their meal service on this sector.