July 16th , LH5653, ARJ85 D-AVRB
Scheduled dep. 14.35 arr.16.20
Effective dep. 15.00 arr.16.26
This is the beginning of a long awaited trip to the other part of the world. This was also the first time for me to travel outside Europe and the first time on a wide body aircraft. Since the destination was Australia and the first wide body was a 747, well, it was quite a good start!
The trip began at Florence “Vespucci” airport, at the Lufthansa Check-in counter. No queues at all, so I went straight to the agent. It seemed like she didn’t want me to leave. “This passport has expired”. I renewed it last year, look at page three… “You don’t have a visa”. I have an electronic one… This meant extra work for her, since she had to insert the seven digits of my passport number in the computer, what a waste of energy!
I asked for window seats all the way to Sydney, but she could get one only on the first sector. For the FRA-SIN flight, the computer gave me an aisle seat automatically and it was no possible to issue a boarding pass for the last sector to Sydney. So I had two missions in my life: changing the aisle seat with a window one, and getting a boarding pass for the flight out of Singapore.
Boarding was late, as the aircraft had arrived late from Frankfurt. A lot of Chinese people were on this flight, all continuing their journey to Shangai. At gate 4 a bus was awaiting us and we were taken to our aircraft. I boarded through the rear door as I had seat 15A. The interior of the Avroliner was clean but seats were narrow and seat pitch not generous at all. The six abreast seating on a fully-loaded ARJ is not the best layout!
The two unfriendly female cabin attendants introduced themselves as “being responsible for our safety” and gave a hurried safety demo in English and German, followed by a pre-recorded summary in Italian. Finally we started taxing and took off at 15.06. Some minutes later service started and the choice of sandwich was between ham or cheese. The first attendant went down the aisle asking repeatedly “ham or cheese? Ham or cheese?”, throwing at you the sandwich accordingly to you answer, while the second drove the drink cart. Everything was right until we went through some bumpy air and they had to stop for a short while. After that, they arrived to the three Chinese people in the row in front of mine, who didn’t speak English nor German and didn’t understand what ham or cheese meant. Ham-or-cheese miss asked a second time and they refused any food, so she yelled at them “twice I ask you!” and went away. Just before landing it was the turn of the other attendant, miss drink?drink?drink?, to give proof of her professionalism, when asking to bring the seats to the upright position: “you, up! Up, you too, up, everybody! Uffff! Tankyou!”. Not to mention their perfect English…
Landing was quite on time, and we parked at a remote stand, so remote one could think we had parked in Hamburg. The journey to the terminal took ages, but once inside the terminal I made everything possible to change my aisle seat to a window seat.
It was a strong desire, as I wanted to celebrate my first 747 flight looking out of a window. But, unfortunately, no way. The aircraft was fully booked and all window seats had been assigned. Since I had still more than four hours before my next leg, the long one, I went to the observation deck and took some pictures. Then I went to Terminal 2 just to pick up some timetables, and I could also find the in-flight magazine of Ukraine International, a good rare object for my collection.
But I didn’t wan to gave up with the research for my window, so just few minutes before boarding was called, I went to the agent at the gate and asked if she could do something. YES! Someone had just shown up, asking for an aisle instead of a window! So, 36K, you’re mine!
At this time I felt very emotional, sitting in the waiting lounge with the nose of my 747-400 just a few metres away from mine. And finally boarding was called, by classes and rows…
July 16th, LH778, B747-400 D-ABVN “Dortmund”
Scheduled dep.22.10- arr.15.55 following day
Effective dep.22.27- arr.16.00 following day
Finally I was walking through the finger from gate B22 to door 2L on a 747. At the door I was greeted by two very kind attendants and directed to the second aisle…wow! Finally two aisles!
I sat down and noticed all the new things to me: yellow pillows and grey blankets on each seat, lots of attendants, I couldn’t even count them all, a light rain outside, just to add an extra touch to the already magic atmosphere! I sat and waited with a smile on my face, perfectly aware that the other people could think I was a stupid, but I was too glad and couldn’t get rid of my smile. Everything made me feel happy, the safety demo, the adjustable headrest, everything was worth a smile!
Cabin attendants on this flight were very kind and patient, even though the 747 was completely full. I have recently read a topic on this forum about flights on this route to be always sold out…well, I can only confirm! One of the female attendants working in my zone was particularly kind. She met the usual unruly passenger who insisted to work on his laptop during take off. Finally she managed to convince him to put his toy away. I really don’t understand some people. On a flight lasting more than 11 hours, is it so strictly necessary to work on your pc just during take off, just during the only time your are not allowed to??? Maybe he obeyed to the cabin crew just because everyone else on board had realized he had a computer! But let’s go on…
We pushed back late and had a long taxi to the north-south runway. At 22.48 we took off. I must say, I was a little disappointed with the vibration after lifting off, but I was soon captured back by the air show with temperatures, altitudes, speed…
After take off we were given the headsets and they played a video advertising the “Lufthansa body belt”, costing 5€. I thought it was the ideal gift for my sister and bought one when they came through the aisle selling it.
Soon afterwards dinner was served, the choice being between chicken or beef, with a salad and an inedible cake. Of course there was the usual, and wide, selection of soft or alcoholic drinks and hot beverages. By the time dinner was over we had reached the altitude of 11.300m and a speed ranging from 990km/h to 1100km/h, thanks to favourable winds. The route was over the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia and finally Singapore.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, the movie was “How to lose a guy in ten days”, quite nice, and then some hours to sleep, during which cabin attendants passed trough the cabin offering water and juice. One hour before landing we were served breakfast, eggs, sweets, cheese, juices, tea and coffee. Not bad!
Before landing we were given the landing cards. Since I had about five hours I wanted to try to make a very quick trip to Singapore , and filled the form in.
Finally we landed on runway 20R at 15.51, and we parked at the gate at 16.00, just five minutes later than scheduled.
First things to do: a rush to the toilet and have a boarding pass issued for the flight to Sydney. That’s what I did, in the most beautiful airport in the world. But I also noticed one thing. Toilets were not so clean as I expected to be in this very airport. I mean, everywhere you read that at Changi there is a cleaner behind you ready to clean the toilet when you leave it…well, maybe he didn’t rush in after the visitor before me had left. In fact, it was smelly and the floor was wet, and it wasn’t water, you know what I mean.
After checking in I went straight to the metro station and went to take some pictures of Singapore’s skyscrapers. I arrived at the “Town Hall” station at about 17.50, just to discover that it was rush hour and that the station was an immense shopping mall, it took ages to get out of it. Since my plane was scheduled to board at 19.20, I had 20 minutes to breath some Singaporean open air, before returning to the train station, going to the airport and then through passport and security. Back at Changi, passport control was a breeze, so I lined up for security at gate F 58. I looked forward for this flight, since I really wanted to try an award winning carrier like Singapore Airlines.
July 17th, LH 9780/SQ221, B747-400 9V-SKM
Scheduled dep. 20.20- arr.05.40 following day
Effective dep.20.28- arr.05.18 following day
The emotion for this flight was not so high, and that’s a pity. I had always wanted to go to Australia, and this is was the flight that was actually taking me there. But at that point I was very tired, I had had too long transit times both in Frankfurt and Singapore, so all I was looking for was a seat to spend some time without moving at all. Before boarding I filled the immigration form and SARS declaration card, already available on the ground.
Again boarding was called beginning with the upper classes and then all the other passengers. I took my seat, 41A, and waited for take off. Maybe I was stressed or tired of another full flight, but even seat pitch looked less generous than on other flights. Anyhow, I could finally enjoy the personal video screen and an in-flight magazine much better than Lufthansa’s. Take off was at 20.40 from runway 20L, and since the ride was smooth, menus were soon handled out. Dinner this time was very tasteful and the good final touch was the after-meal ice cream. Cabin attendants made several passages trough the cabin with pre- and post-meal drinks, and a full hot breakfast was served one hour before landing.
The route we followed brought us over the isle of Bali, then over Broome, Ayers Rock, Broken Hill and Sydney, where we landed some twenty minutes earlier, on runway 34L.
On the way to immigration, I could notice that duty free shop were open even at that hour. Immigration officers were very kind, and I was so glad to see that my suitcase had made all the way from Italy together with me!
One nice aspect of this airport is also that you have a lot of information points and accommodation booking offices. Since I had nowhere to stay, I went down to the hostel reservation desk, consisting of a group of free phones and a list of hostels connected to these phones.
After a month in Australia, it was time to go back to Italy. I visited Sydney, Canberra, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock and also flew to NZ to see Auckland, Wellington and Rotorua. You will be soon be able to read about the flights to Alice Springs and New Zealand in the other topic I’m going to start (Return trips from Sydney with Virgin Blue and Emirates).
My return journey on the 14th of August was something quite stressful. I had come back from New Zealand the previous evening and at 12 noon I was again at the airport. I knew it was going to be a tough journey: 24 hours with very short connecting times at two of the world’s busiest hubs, eight time zones in such a little time, very full flights as on the way down…the long queue at check-in seemed like the right premise to all this!
Luckily, this time I could get the boarding passes and window seats for all the three flights, so at least one possible problem was already over. After checking-in I ate my last Mc meal down under and then I bought a bushranger hat, something I looked forward to. Oh, and I checked my mail on one of the many free internet points available throughout Sydney airport.
As usual, officers at passport control were kind and professional, and by the time I reached gate 58 (15h20), boarding had started perfectly on time.
August 14th, LH9781/ SQ222 B747-400 9V-SPL
Scheduled dep.15.50 arr.21.50
Effective dep.15.50 arr.22.00
My seat 48K was the last row before door 4R. Seatback recline was very limited, as I had a galley behind me. Anyhow my plan on this flight was to stay awake and enjoy the personal video, so I could sleep on the following flight to Frankfurt, thus partially avoiding the problems of time zones! AH! If only I knew that…but let’s go step by step.
As usual the very welcome hot towels were given before the flight. I simply love them, they are the best way to start a journey indeed. They are not perfect, thou. Someone should tell airlines not to keep towels inside a volcano till the very last minute before they are handed out to us poor passengers. But once you recover from the fire burn, they are fantastic.
Unfortunately, fantastic cannot be used as an adjective to describe this journey. Well, push back was perfectly on time and there were no lines at take-off. But I would use average instead.
Let’s start with the entertainment system. It worked perfectly, but I couldn’t find on the in flight magazine what was going on. Then I realized that they had made a mistake, i.e. the program on this flight TO Singapore was supposed to be on flights FROM Singapore! But, after discovering this, everything was OK and I could enjoy some movies, one of which even doubled in Italian, and an episode of “Friends” I had never seen.
Menus were distributed, and dinner served. To everyone else but me. In fact, they had finished the trays just when they arrived at my seat. “I’ll be back soon with your meal, sir”. Two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes…I was worried, even because everybody else had already finished, so I rang the bell and asked about my meal. They brought it and apologised for the delay, and promptly asked what would I like to drink. “An apple juice”. Well, I am still waiting for that juice. In the meanwhile they had begun distributing the ice creams and I had to hurry with my meal in order not to have it melted. Anyhow, trays were collected and I was free to watch the movies and so on.
The light snack experience was not what you could expect from Singapore Airlines, at least if compared to the good service I had on the outbound flight one month earlier. A sandwich, beef or ham, I don’t remember, a kit-kat bar and drinks. This time I had plenty of water and juice!
We landed some ten minutes later than scheduled, due to headwinds, on runway 20L, at 21.52, and were at the gate at 22.00.
Since my flight was leaving at 23.05, I paid a quick visit to the toilet and went to gate E4, adjacent to the one I had just come out, went through security and in less than thirty minutes after leaving seat 48K on the flight from Sydney I was sitting in seat 48K on the flight to Frankfurt. Yeah, that’s what you call a rapid transfer!
August 14th , LH779, B747-400 D-ABVM
Scheduled dep.23.05 arr.05.35 following day
Effective dep.23.07 arr.05.20 following day
Until the very last moment I was sure I was the lucky passenger tonight to have a whole row of three seats for myself. So I could relax and have a good sleep before landing in Europe with my body clock tuned on the Italian time. Then the late-comers came and took the seats close to mine. Luckily they were nice people, a just-married young couple, from Germany the man, from Australia the lady.
What I thought could be a relaxing flight proved soon to be a stressful experience. Push back was again on time and we were number one for take off. But as soon as the cabin crew started the meal service, guess what, turbulence begun. I really hate turbulence. It’s not fear. It’s that they are very annoying. They always come during meals, and often, like in this case, they are strong enough for the service to be suspended for a while. And they are also the perfectly wrong ingredient for what you were expecting to be a flight during which you could relax. Another factor is that you never know when it is going to end. This time it seemed to be never ending. Five hours! Sometimes weak, sometimes strong, sometimes more frequent and sometimes less, but always ready to come for five long hours.
I thought the 747 was a plane on which you would never experience turbulence. So big, so large, two decks, it looked more like a vessel than to an airplane, especially to me, who had only been on narrow body aircraft. But I had to change my mind.
I really didn’t care for that dinner, I ate just some salad and fruit, the smell of the main course I had chosen, turkey, was unbearable! I decided anyhow to try to catch some sleep and still now I don’t even know what was the movie that night. About six hours into the flight I went to the toilet and once back in my seat to rest, but unsuccessfully.
Then my throat was so dry that I continuously needed something to drink, and took some water every time some crew offered it. That’s strange how I didn’t suffer from this problem on the outbound flight. Maybe this time the recycling system was used in a different way, or maybe it was just me to be too tired of being in an airplane for such a long time.
Some four hours before landing, once things seemed to have definitely calmed down, I had some chat with my fellow passengers 48H&J, talked about Australia, their marriage, this very horrible flight and so on. When breakfast was served, we had to leave it on the tray: how can you even try to eat badly-cooked-and-even-worse-heated potatoes and drink tasteless coffee at 4 a.m. in the morning? The Australian lady in 48J didn’t think twice and told the stewardess how horrible the breakfast was! The stewardess didn’t miss one beat and replied: “Was it even worse than the dinner?” Wow! And she told us that even if meals were not good, Lufthansa had a lot of routes, an excellent network, was always punctual, was the leader in a strong alliance and so on until she returned to the galley with a cart full of trash and uneaten breakfasts.
We landed safely while it was still dark outside and at 5.20 we were already parked at the gate. As I was on my way to the exit I realized how dirty and full of garbage the airplane was after this long flight. Used cups on the floor, tabloid magazines left open on the seats, seatbelts falling down to the aisle…this is not an airplane, this is a battlefield!
Anyhow, finally on the ground again, but not for long. I walked through passports and went to the gate for the first flight to Florence. The waiting room was empty, no business travellers around, just some Chinese people coming back from Shangai.
When I arrived to gate B13 I was the first to have the boarding pass screened, boarded the bus and wait to be brought to the aircraft. I was quite glad to see the flight was going to be quite empty.
August 15th ,LH 5620, ARJ85 D-AVRI
Scheduled dep.06.55 arr.08.30
Effective dep.06.59 arr.08.20
This time the cabin crew on this Lufthansa City Line flight were very friendly and showed that they knew more English words than ham, cheese, up, you and “tenkyou”. I landed on seat 11F and waited for the flight to be over in a little more than an hour. This flight was uneventful, short, not very bumpy, bread rolls were edible and the ham inside tasted good. This flight was so short compared to the ones I had just left that I still remember of it with the same spirit you can remember a long bus ride home from the station. I didn’t pay much attention to details, this was an intra-European flight like many others, something I am used to. The only thing worth to mention is the fact that inside the cabin it was freezing, not cold, freezing! The stewardess had a lot to do with the few blankets on board. Only later they realized that it was sufficient to warm the whole cabin through the conditioning system. By that time we were landing in Florence some 12 minutes earlier than scheduled. Once you are reassured that your feet are on the ground, you still have the great doubt: is my luggage here with me or do I have to track it somewhere halfway between Italy and Australia? No, it’s here! The agent at customs just asked me if I had great sums of money to declare. I just answered “I wish I had”, he looked at my face suffering from 32 hours without sleep, and he smiled at me, letting me go.
So, this is my report for this long awaited, long lasting journey to Australia. I wish you will enjoy it and, as usual, any comments and any further question are welcome!
By the way, I will be soon sending another trip report about my flights on Emirates from Sydney to Auckland and back, in the first days of their new routes to New Zealand, and from Sydney to Alice Springs and back with VirginBlue.