And this is the third, and last, part of my series of trip reports from Argentina to Europe and back last August. I’m sorry about the mistakes, but it’s too late and I’m too lazy to correct them.
My parents and I drove all the way from Assisi to Fiumicino on our Hertz-rented Fiat Punto, which took us a little bit more than three hours, due to works in the “Grande Raccordo Anulare” and in some other routes. Signals for people dropping rented cars were quite clear, and in no time we were heading to the check-in counters.
We first found Lufthansa’s, where I checked-in at the special Senator counter. Much to my surprise, the agent was not Italian but German. I started talking to her in English, but she immediately switched to German after paying a look to my passport. Back in Holland, I had seen on the Internet that both flights were a little bit overbooked, so I asked her about my chances for a courtesy upgrade. “On this flight to Frankfurt, it is very likely you will get one, because there are no HON passengers on board. Be sure to get to the gate some minutes in advance, and ask the girls over there. As for the flight to Buenos Aires, it is also slightly overbooked, but you’d better ask at the lounge in Frankfurt”, she said.
She sent my luggage all the way to Buenos Aires with “Star Alliance – Priority” tags, and handed me both boarding passes. Finally, she gave me an invitation for the lounge. “If you don’t want to go to the lounge, you can use this invitation at the cafeteria. It works as a voucher for four euros”.
Afterwards I went with my parents to the Alitalia counter, as they were heading to Amsterdam. The agent told us, on a very bad mood, that we should head to the KLM counter because their tickets were issued by KLM. Once at the KLM counter, the very nice boy expressed his surprise with his co-worker’s idea, but nonetheless he checked them in for their flight, which was due to leave five minutes before mine, at 17:15.
I remembered the first time I got to Fiumicino, about ten years ago. At that time, the airport really surprised me. It looked futuristic, with lots of stores, glasses, and big halls. Comparing to my hometown airport Ezeiza, Fiumicino was ages ahead. Now, in 2005, I was disappointed. Not only have I travelled a lot more during those ten years, and Ezeiza has become a respectable airport (well, sort of), but also Fiumicino hasn’t changed at all. Same glasses, same stores, same big halls. The only difference was that everything was showing its age. I don’t believe a new Fiumicino must be built, but Aeroporti di Roma should take care of it a little bit more. I am talking about stupid things – like cleaning the dirty floors and emptying the full ashtrays. Some parts of the airport reminded me of a deep-Argentina bus station more than of an international airport through which millions of people transit every year.
Security was, fortunately, done in no time, and before realizing it we were on the airside of the airport. Now, something that really shocked me: announcements were not recorded, like in most airports. They were said live by a female voice that apparently was always in a hurry. Therefore, what should have sounded like “Lufthansa flight three-eight-four-seven to Frankfurt” actually was “LufthansaflytrieitforsevetoFrancoforte”, due to both the announcement’s high speed and the lady’s strong Italian accent.
Soon after I went with my parents to the Air France Lounge, which is shared with some Skyteam partners, including, of course, KLM. After they showed their Platinum and Gold Elite cards, she asked about me. “Well, I’m just dropping my parents here, because I’m heading for the Lufthansa lounge” I said. “Oh, they’re your parents? It’s all right then. If you want to come and pay a visit to them, either now or later, just enter. No problem!” the lady at the entrance replied on a cheerful voice.
The lounge was actually a nice place, with really comfortable, leather armchairs and a really complete selection of drinks. Italian, French, and Dutch newspapers and magazines were also available. A TV set was always tuned on LCI, the French version of CNN.
After letting my parents on the lounge, I headed for the Lufthansa lounge, owned and operated by Aeroporti di Roma (Rome Airports, FCO and CIA’s managers). It took me something like half a minute to walk the forty meters between both. A cute woman in her late 30s greeted me at the entrance, and asked to see the invitation, which she placed on a corner of her desk, with some other cards.
A nice feature about this lounge is a bar, where you can order your drinks to, in this case, a nice Italian guy dressed with a suit. I asked him for a beer, and in return I got a full glass the size of the Argentine “porrón”, id est about 350 cm3, and a bawl full with peanuts. Really nice. I grabbed a copy of the Frankfurter Rundschau and installed myself on one of the comfy armchairs, next to the window, from where an Ethiopian 767 in an albino colour scheme could be seen. Apparently Iberia and Aegean Airlines also use the lounge – a copy of each airline’s in flight magazine was placed (on purpose?) on the table in front of me.
My clock showed it was 16:40, so I decided it was time to leave the lounge and pay a last visit to my parents, before going downstairs to the gate. At the Air France’s lounge desk there was a different employee, but when I started to explain him my situation, he answered her colleague had told him, and let me in. I grabbed a Le Monde and a Libération with a nice, blue “For Lounge use only” seal…yeah, sure.
I bided my parents a last farewell before they boarded for their Alitalia flight to Amsterdam, and then went to my gate. I approached the counter and asked whether my upgrade had cleared. The young girl checked on her computer, and said no upgrade had yet cleared, but she’d keep me informed. Some minutes later, while I was watching some planes through the window, she came and said, in German with a very strong Italian accent “You are Herr Roca? Here’s your new boarding pass”…very nice, I thought; let’s try Lufthansa’s European Business Class for the first time in ages.
Boarding begun some minutes later, with priority for HON members and Business Class passengers. I entered the plane (whose registration, of course, I forgot) and I was greeted by nice looking young flight attendant and the overweight purser. I settled in my seat and the cutie offered me a nice selection of German magazines. I took a copy of Focus and started reading it. Through the window I could see an Alitalia A319 with my parents on board: I-BIMJ “Isola di Caprera”, which, if not mistaken, is a small island near Sardinia.
After taking off service begun, consisting in the classic, ridiculous sandwich for Economy (Cattle) Class passengers, and a nice plate for us, the lucky ones. I will not proceed to describe the food because, as said on a previous report, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, I’d appreciate if somebody could tell me what the heck that sort of brown mousse was.
The rest of the flight was nothing to write home about. We flew over the Tyrrhenian Sea, entered again the continent through Genoa followed by Austria, and then crossed the Alps (gorgeous views, by the way) and finally Germany, starting our approach somewhere near Mannheim. I managed to take some pictures of Frankfurt’s skyline, which turned out to be quite decent, so I uploaded a couple.
Landing was fine and people clapped – first time I hear it in years. We parked at one of those outdoor positions in the middle of nowhere, where two buses were waiting for us. Of course the sunny and hot Italian weather was long gone, and it had become…let’s say, more German. Now, something that really surprised was this Kyrgyz Tupolev peacefully waiting next to us for its return home – what was it doing there?
Once at the airport, passport control took a while, and the Bundesgrenzschutz officer only said “Danke” after I gave him my passport. Guys at immigration desks always are really talkative, you know?
Afterwards I went upstairs to the Senator Lounge, which was crowded as hell, as usual. When I was about to give up and go to the common waiting area, a Japanese man on his early 50s asked me if I wanted the seat next to him, which I happily accepted. I had a glass of French red wine and went to the desk to see if today was my lucky day. The nice lady said the problem was many people were willing to use their miles for upgrading, so no chance for me. After thinking about it for a while, and phoning my parents to see whether they had arrived well to Holland, I thought one only lives once, so I told the woman to use the bloody miles. Five minutes later, a voice on the loudspeaker said “Herr Roca, please present you at the front desk”. I did so, and she gave me my new boarding pass. She also asked me why I travel so much, because of the high amount of miles I have got on my Miles & More account. We had a nice talk about flying, Lufthansa, etc. and I left the lounge with a big smile.
Boarding had already begun when I reached the gate, and I went through the special jet way for passengers flying First and Business Class, after which I was greeted by the purser with the typical “Guten Abend”.
After I settled in my seat, a flight attendant asked me whether I spoke German or English. I said I speak “beide” (both), and she invited me to move to the emergency exit, as the passenger sitting there could make himself understand only in Portuguese. I was actually pleased by the crew taking care of this security measures.
Enjoying my new seat, whilst taxiing to the runway I had a nice talk with a Chile-born flight attendant, who subsequently called me “Señor Roca”. When I told him he could use my first name, he smiled and called me Marcos for the rest of the flight. To my surprise, he instructed the rest of the crew to take special care of me, and every single member addressed me as “Herr/Señor/Senhor/Mister (pick the language you prefer) Roca” during our journey.
Soon after reaching our cruising altitude, somewhere above France, service started. First, an aperitif. I went for a Fernet Branca with Coke, and also got a small bag with some cashews. As my new friend, and flight attendant passed by, he noticed I had eaten my nuts, and gave me another bag without me even asking for it.
“Herr Roca, would you like an entrée?” said another steward some minutes later. I could opt between some salad and some meat. Being the carnivore I am, I decided to have the meat. I also had a nice Italian white wine to drink.
The main course I chose was lamb with some vegetables and potatoes.
And finally, I had some cheese for dessert, with a cup of coffee and some Graham’s port wine.
I really can’t comment about the in-flight entertainment, as I slept for most of the flight until breakfast was served. You may notice the meal was nothing to write home about.
Landing at Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo was fine, and I had a nice talk with some flight attendants. They said they actually liked better to overnight in Buenos Aires than in Sao Paulo, and that they had no clue about Lufthansa’s policies regarding their South American routes.
After biding farewell to the crew, and welcoming the new one, we left South America’s biggest city for Buenos Aires. I spent my time reading the Le Monde newspaper I grabbed at the Air France’s lounge in Rome. Because of this, the new flight attendant always spoke in French to me.
“Monsieur, would you like to have some breakfast?” he asked me. I said yes, of course, and first got a cup of coffee and some orange juice.
Some minutes after, he brought me a full plate. Much better than my previous breakfast.
As for the rest of the flight, I spent it reading and sleeping. Landing at Ezeiza in Buenos Aires was alright, and my bag’s priority tag was not ignored, so I left the airport in about no time.
That’s it for this report. I hope you enjoyed your reading and, as usual, comments, questions and critics are more than welcome.