I had decided not to do any more trip reports on mundane trans-Atlantics in economy, but there were enough little oddities in this one, plus a few photos I like, that I decided to go ahead. As promised in my last trip report, I still owe you guys a trip report for my Dubai trip in spring, which is mostly written but haven’t gotten around to scanning menus, etc. No such need in economy. This one may be kinda boring, it’s mostly about the airport and luggage experiences, not much terribly interesting happens on the flights. There are some pictures. If you don’t like it, I suggest you don’t read it.
I wound up with an odd itinerary outbound for this one. Was headed to FRA to do a day of work on a Monday, 18 Sept to be exact, and wanted to leave as late as possible but fly UA trans-Atlantic. The SFO-FRA flight 900 was completely sold out, plus getting to SFO for a 2pm departure would have been a challenge. I was willing to do the 7:25pm SFO-LHR but it was also completely booked (I didn’t plan this trip very far in advance). I decided to risk the LHR connection anyway, though, and book a UX CRJ SJC-LAX at 2:16pm, then LAX-LHR, then LHR-FRA on LH to start things out. I was a little worried about the LHR connection situation, with security and baggage both issues. Most people were reporting getting to their connecting flights, but not getting bags. It still looked like my best option.
I checked in at SJC and the agent tagged my bag all the way through and said, “your bag will be in Frankfurt when you arrive,” and I laughed and said, “I hope so, but I’m not counting on it.” She gave me a look and said, “well, I did *my* part.” Well then! I smiled and said, “yeah, I’ve just been hearing horror stories about Heathrow, we’ll see how it goes” and everything was back to happy.
Flight: UX6493 (Skywest), SJC-LAX, STD 2:16pm
Date: 16 Sept 2006
Aircraft: CRJ-200, N945SW
Seat: 8D (exit-row window)
We interrupt the boarding of this aircraft to take a picture:
Not much to say about an RJ flight SJC-LAX. Seat 8A was open, surprisingly, and a couple of others were as well. The flight attendant, Katherine or Kathleen or something like that, came and introduced herself to the three of us in the exit row, asked our names, shook our hands, and really made sure we responded about sitting there. I thought she was great, was older especially for an RJ but I’ve got no prob with that, she was fit, energetic, friendly, and I don’t fly to drool over the flight attendants, I’ll go home at the end of the trip and see my wife. During initial descent she came through the cabin doing connecting instructions, good idea in LAX since it’s not trivial (American Eagle did the same thing when I flew them last November), and there were people connecting to the SQ LAX-SIN nonstop, among other international flights. Service was beverage and a choice of two kinds of snack bag (I chose neither), and we wound up out over the ocean before making a left turn for a right downwind to 24R and the long taxi all the way around to gate 80 (which he did at a nice healthy speed, fun to taxi fast when so close to the ground). Good view of the airport on downwind:
Went straight to the Red Carpet Club, where the guy in front of me was given drink coupons but I wasn’t. Fortunately I had brought some from home, which means I’ve been keeping extras so I can’t complain! I watched the end of Michigan kicking Notre Dame’s butts , drank some cava, logged in and did some work, couldn’t help eavesdropping on people’s very loud personal mobile phone conversations, etc.
Soon enough it was time to head out to my gate. I stopped on the way to grab some food to take with me since I knew I’d be hungry mid-flight, and found a cheese/avocado sandwich that looked good enough. Got to the gate and they were pretty close to the end of boarding, and the gate agent was explaining to four women that they were probably going to be involuntarily denied boarding due to overselling. He actually told them the percentage they assume will be no-shows and the percentage they had that day, but I’m not sure I believe it was real numbers, that should vary by fight, day-of-week, and season, and I’m guessing he just made something up to tell them. I generously offered to go non-stop on the LH flight to FRA (leaving 40 minutes later) if they put me in business on it, ha ha, as if. Onto the airplane with you, trouble-maker!
Flight: UA934 LAX-LHR, STD 6:03pm
Date: 16 Sept 2006
Aircraft: 777-200ER (P&W), N797UA
Seat: 24J, right-side window
Channel 9 was on, and I spent the boarding time listening to a steady stream of Skywest aircraft getting their taxi clearances from ground control. Eventually we were cleared to push and expect 25R, and then to amend that and taxi to 24L. I started taking a few pictures, not very good ones, and the guy next to me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “electronic devices are supposed to be off for takeoff – your camera, you need to turn it off.” Missed great lighting on some Southwests packed together as the sun started getting lower. Oh well. I know there are strong opinions on a.net on both sides of the “should you or shouldn’t you keep your digital camera off from door close to 10 thousand feet” and I’m not gonna touch it, other than to say that if I thought it was dangerous or actually included in the “no electronic devices” rule I’d comply, but if anyone around me has a problem with it I’m happy to comply as well. The only bit of a photo I dare to share from the taxi out is the SQ A345, mostly out of interest in the aircraft rather than picture quality, plus I like the Aeroflot in the background, first of three consecutive airports on this trip where I’d see one of their aircraft. Too damn lazy to even open up GIMP and level it, sorry guys, just tilt yer heads.
The cabin crew were London-based and very friendly. Service consisted of a round of drinks (and the infamous – pretzels?), then towels (small, thin, and not terribly warm), then dinner with again drinks, and then I think one more drinks right after? Dinner was some choice of “beef or pasta” and like Dr. Rumack, I had the lasagna. There was also a sealed little cup of water, a little salad, a chocolate cake, some cheese and crackers, and a roll and butter. I stashed the roll, butter, cheese and crackers away for later, and devoured the rest of it pretty quickly. Either with dinner, or right after, I got a second can of La Croix (carbonated water) and she didn’t open it, and I stashed it in the seatback pocket for later.
I think it’s pretty well known, but UA 3-class 777’s in economy have PTV’s with several movies but not VOD. I watched something bad, uh, the Sentinnel, yeah, that’s it. And then – sleeeeeeep. One time when I woke up I accidentally hit my call button and a flight attendant appeared immediately, wow. Took advantage to the situation to request water, and she produced two of the little sealed cups that are on the dinner trays, had them with her. I gulped them both down and ate my roll and crackers with butter and cheese. Slept more, then woke up and ate my sandwich with the reserved LaCroix. Made it through this flight without ever getting water from the dubious pitchers, even though full liquid restrictions were in place, no water brought on board. Couldn’t sleep more so did some work on laptop, and took advantage of my seatmate getting up to run to the lav for the only time on this 10-hour flight.
Soon they were bringing around breakfast, nine zillion calories in a tiny little bag (croissant with egg and lots of gooey cheese). My hands were so greasy afterwards I could probably have found some way to ignite them and bring down the airplane. Too bad they don’t skip the so-called hot towels the night before and give ‘em to us after breakfast.
We came in much more southerly than I ever have before to Heathrow. First, our route came in over southern Ireland. Then we approached from the south, and held south of the airport, at Ockham. In fact, our filed route of flight turned out to be:
LOOP4 DAG J100 LAS BCE BFF DLH YQT J481 YKL SCROD 5400N 05000W 5400N 04000W 5400N 03000W 5400N 02000W DOGAL UN544 DEVOL UN546 STU UP2 NUMPO Y3 NIGIT OCK1F
Which looks a little bit like this:
We landed on 27R (with the normal view of London out my side, but I dared not attempt use of my electronic camera equipment lest I be headlocked and turned over to the authorities), had to wait a few minutes for an outbound United aircraft to vacate our gate, but then had the doors open at gate 321 at 12:25pm, 10 minutes after scheduled arrival, leaving me 100 minutes until my connecting flight departure.
I walked very quickly to the flight connections bus, just missed one, and waited on the next one for several minutes for it to leave. It’s always kinda fun to ride that bus, since you drive very close to lots of aircraft, many of which aren’t normally seen in the US. There’s a big row of middle eastern airlines’ aircraft, which today included an Etihad A330, very shiny. Then a left turn took us past an Air France A318 I’d heard on Channel 9 holding and then landing behind us. Soon we were at the Flight Connections Centre, up the stairs, to the security line. It actually didn’t take very long, was moving very quickly. I spent the time chatting with a woman who had flown in on AA from ORD and was headed to Morocco on BA. The only problem was the people right in front of me at the metal detectors and x-ray, a girl and her mother from Dubai I think. The girl had on boots that were laced way up her leg, and hadn’t been prepared to take them off, and that was a delay of at least a minute. No big deal. Through security and off into Terminal 2, the whole thing took about 40 minutes, leaving me time to go explore the Senators Lounge.
Or so I thought! When I got to the guardhouse, the dragon directed me and my Star Gold card into the LH business lounge instead, and it was pretty nasty. Dirty floors, reeked of smoke, and the worst selection of food/drink I’ve ever seen in a lounge on that side of the pond. Not even beer. I guess it’s true that England is more USA than Europe. Good view out the windows, but only of a few gates. It was a nice sunny day, and I did see my aircraft arrive, always a warm fuzzy. At least there was water, and internet (for the high vodaphone rates).
When they announced boarding (gate 5) I went downstairs and headed for the gate, and there was this enormous line all the way down the hall – people waiting to get into the gate for my flight. I bypassed the line and sat on the benches outside where they check boarding passes, with a few other wise people who didn’t see any need to stand in a long line just to get into a nasty gate area (the way they do things at LHR really sucks), and did some mindless stuff on my laptop to pass the time. Eventually everyone was in the gate area, and there was even a chance they might board, so the rest of us got up and got our boarding passes scanned/ripped and went in, and soon enough we were indeed boarding (but not before I grabbed one each of 3 newspapers to read about the previous day’s Premiership action).
Flight: LH4729 LHR-FRA, STD 2:05pm
Date: 17 Sept 2006
Aircraft: A300-600, D-AIAH
Seat: 18K, right-side window
There’s something kinda fun about taking a packed A300 on one of these 1-hour flights between 2 big cities in Europe – this is exactly what Airbus was supposed to be all about way back when they started, wasn’t it? The guy next to me was dressed pretty nicely and looked absolutely zonked, I think he flew in from the US or Canada also. We sat for an eternity before departing, with no explanation, and all I could see out my window was one gate, where this Luxair was for a while before leaving:
Eventually we pushed back about an hour late, and if there was any explanation, I didn’t hear it. I was hoping they were waiting for my checked bag. As if! We took off on 27L, taxiing around N797UA, the aircraft I had flown in on, which was departing as UA931 to SFO (also pretty late apparently). When we got airborne, the pilot came on and said something or other about the aircraft’s maximum speed and how fast he was trying to fly to make up some time. Whatever. They came around with the ubiquitous LH cheese sandwich. Today’s variant was my favorite, the very simple one slice of cheese and some butter on a grainy roll with nothing else to confuse the issue. I made my standard LH short-haul beverage request of a coffee and a beer, and for the first time got a nasty nonverbal response from the flight attendant (usually they’re pretty cheerful about it), but did get my coffee (awful as usual) and 250ml Warsteiner (basically drinkable as usual).
Soon enough we had negotiated one of the seven hundred published STARs for FRA and landed on 7R, and taxied directly to some gate at A (LH never has to wait for a gate at FRA, isn’t it nice?). Since England is not Schengen, that meant taking the stairs up to the upper level after getting off the jetway. The line to get passports inspected and stamped was nonexistent before our flight arrived, but with only 2 booths open, we made it huge. A German family came walking up past the whole line and planted themselves right behind me, in front of a couple of English people, who could barely believe their eyes. The English guy asked them if they spoke English, and they said very little, but held out their boarding passes and said, “flight leave 15 minutes ago already.” (In that case, what’s their hurry?) The guy started lecturing them on the fact that perhaps they could say “excuse me” or something like that instead of just walking up there and cutting. *yawn* It was about as boring as just standing there in dead silence, and yet I feel the need to write about it.
Once we got stamped into Germany, there was the little train, and on it was yet another example of the lengths the world’s duty-free vendors have gone to so they don’t lose all their business on US flights in the age of no liquids:
Of course for those of us who were not connecting, we might as well have gone to the bar and waited for the line to subside, since it was a while before any bags came out (and departing London during those days of minimal carry-on, everyone had checked bags). Eventually they started coming, and an hour later they stopped, and I joined 20 new friends in line at the LH baggage counter to describe our missing bag and give our contact info.
I’d think LH, with all their bragging about their IT prowess, would know where each individual bag was, but naturally they didn’t. This was a bit of a problem for me since I was leaving the next evening (and checking out of my hotel the next morning). I gave them instructions to deliver the bag if it came in on one of the FOUR later LH flights that night LHR-FRA (which I fully expected it would!) and otherwise to reach me on my mobile phone and hold the bag at the airport, and then set about trying to leave the airport. Problem is, I was all out of Euros from previous trips (keep hoping the exchange rate will get better, so try not to hold on to any!) and banked (no pun intended) on just going to an ATM to get some upon landing. There was only one I could find in the entire airport (none on the arrival level!), and it was out of service. I eventually found another one down two levels in the regional train station, and finally, at least 90 minutes after landing, was in a taxi and on my way.
Since I’m too self-conscious to take pictures of food in airplanes, or in other public places, I like to get room service once per trip and take a photo to share with you guys from the privacy of my room. So, this was from Frankfurt:
All night I checked my bag status on line, and all night there was “no further information.” In the morning it still said “no further information,” so after checking out of my hotel, I sent them a message on the missing bag case status web site telling them to hold the bag at the airport and contact me by mobile phone. Eventually I got voicemail on my phone, even though it didn’t seem to ring, telling me the bag would be in at 2pm and giving me the direct number to the baggage room at FRA airport and asking me to call. After trying that for 3 hours, I sent them another message on the website (which still said “no further information”) saying that I’d tried to call but couldn’t get through, and to please hold the bag at the airport for my pickup, and to try phoning me again. Not 5 minutes later, they called me, confirmed getting my online message, and told me where to pick up my bag. Finally!
Got back to the airport around 5:30pm for my flight at 8:00, with a colleague heading to LHR at 7:35 on LH. We got my bag (mildly amusing story there, you can’t go in through the doors out which people come, since that’s where there could theoretically be customs inspections, but it’s very easy to just walk to an escalator in the departure hall that takes you straight down there), and I pulled out a large tote bag I’d stashed inside it, filled it with my toiletries and a set of clean clothes, and tried to check in for my SAS flight to CPH. The machines wouldn’t recognize me, so I went to a live person, checked the suitcase but not the tote bag, got my boarding pass, and off we went.
My friend’s flight was departing from the top floor of A, so we went there together, and I got stamped out of Germany by passport control. We went to the very small Senators Club at the very beginning of the concourse and I turned the food they always have into dinner. In honor of Oktoberfest they had a special table with bratwurst, pretzels, little lumps of soft warm stinky yellow stuff (cheese-whiz, German style? Yum, whatever it was), and big bottles of Lowenbrau Oktoberfest (yum again). When my colleague left, I ran in and took a quick shower, changed clothes, etc. Then was off towards the B gates, which meant back through passport control and another stamp back into Germany, heh, feels like I barely left. Then off to the little security line for B11 and adjacent gates, and the last time I had to do this I almost missed my flight, and…. Uh-oh! It’s getting close to 8:00, departure time, and there’s a line that’s not that long, but very slow-moving, and the business/Star Gold line just merges into the regular line and doesn’t really buy you much. I’m about 10 people from the machines, and it’s moving VERY slowly, when they announce that all passengers for SK1636 to CPH should come immediately to the gate. I considered asking people if I could go in front of them, but saw that everyone in front of me had a boarding pass for the same flight! They were all coming from HKG.
When we got close, we were all trying to speed the process up, but the security guy was doing his best to slow everything down, getting really annoyed with everyone (and it was mutual!). When the woman in front of me got to him he said, “English or Deustche?” and she said, “no, Dansk.” He said, “do you speak English?” and she said, “yes of course I do.” What really irked me is they wouldn’t let me take my shoes off to put through xray, but then when the metal detector went off, they wanded me, frisked me, and made me take them off and put them through xray. Thanks guys, real helpful, can I have the trusty TSA back instead? Finally I got the shoes, grabbed them, and ran in my socks down to B11. I got there and went straight to the woman taking boarding passes, and saw the people who’d been in line in front of me over at the podium. The woman said, “are you coming from Hong Kong?” I said, “no.” She said, “where are you coming from?” I said, “no where, I mean, here.” She hesitated, and looked like she wanted to not let me board, since I should have been there sooner, but that would be just too illogical, so she sighed and took my boarding pass, and I was down the stairs and onto the bus, which had about 20 people on it.
The woman who’d been in front of me in security ran on right after me, and sat down across the aisle, and I said “we made it!” and she laughed and said “yes, we made it!” We expected them to immediately slam shut the doors and take us away, but instead we waited, and then the driver left. We were up front, so I turned to the same woman, pointed to the driver’s seat, and said, “do you want to drive?” She didn’t, so we just waited, as more passengers mysteriously appeared. Finally the driver came back, and off we went.
We drove to our remote stand, and then boarded and had to do the walk of shame down the aisle as all the suckers who’d already been sitting on the plane bored out of their brains for half an hour glared angrily at us. Fortunately I had a row to myself with the galley across the aisle, so I could become invisible upon reaching my seat.
Flight: SK1636 FRA-CPH, STD 8:00pm
Date: 18 Sept 2006
Aircraft: MD-82 (converted from MD-81), LN-ROM
Seat: 29F, right-side window (the 3-seat side)
I sat down in my empty row (of 3 seats), and passed the time by examining the magazine, in-flight shopping, and buy-on-board menu, which I brought along so I could share with the world.
Soon the captain came on and said that although it was well past departure time, we were still missing five passengers who were thought to be stuck in security, and while we’d decided not to wait for them, we had to offload their checked bags, which could take up to 15 minutes. Not one minute later he came on and announced the good news that they’d been found, and off we went almost immediately.
From our remote stand near Terminal 2, it was a very short taxi to 25R, and we rolled immediately. I was very disappointed when they turned all the lights back on as soon as we were airborne; it was well after sundown and I was planning to sleep, even on this short flight, and hoped for a dark cabin. Eyeshades and my empty row did the trick, and I actually got a pretty decent 45 minutes of sleep, then glued my nose to the window and saw Malmo, the new twisty tower, we made a sharp left turn, I saw the bridge, and soon we’d landed in CPH on 22L. There is almost nothing I can say about this flight, sorry. It was a long, slow taxi in to B9.
It was 10pm, but the airport was full of people and energy. The floors are Scandinavian laminate in many areas with some very nice real wood in others, and the duty-free shopping is extensive and available to arriving passengers – Royal Copenhagen china and all that, besides the normal stuff that’s the same all over the world. The luggage carousels have a feature I haven’t noticed anywhere else; they post the estimated minutes until the bags will arrive, and it was pretty accurate. Soon enough my bag was there and I was off.
I normally don’t want to post too many city pictures in my trip reports, but this one has a contrail in it, so it’s aviation-related:
And again, since I don’t normally take photos of the food on the airplanes, here’s a beer I had at Tivoli:
After two days in Copenhagen, it was time to head back home. My SAS flight to FRA was 9:25am, and I got to the airport before 7:00, figuring I’d have breakfast in the Scandinavian lounge. There was no wait at all at the Star Gold line, the only trick was finding it. My CPH-FRA and FRA-SFO were on two different tickets, but the cust svc guy had no trouble through-checking my bag and giving me both my boarding passes. My 10-year-old wanted me to bring him back some Danishes, so stopped at a little coffee place before security and got one raspberry and one chocolate (knowing any cheese or cream wouldn’t be legal to bring into the US). Then upstairs to security, which was pretty long lines. There was an SAS elite line hidden off to the side, but the guard told me he was certain Star Gold would not qualify, only SAS, and I couldn’t see it anyway, so I just stuck it out in the main line, which was a lot faster than Germany. Got through with no trouble after just a few minutes, and headed to the lounges. I went through the first door, which takes you to the business rather than Star Gold lounge, but I decided to go on in and get some food, and I’d be able to compare. I was pretty hungry, so I sat down and really munched down on rolls, cheese, and marmalade, and had the cojones to take a picture:
The cheese is great, it’s nice and fresh yet sufficiently stinky, and it’s in two big blocks with a wire-cutting contraption; you turn a handle, and it slices some off in a fixed thickness.
After stuffing my face I went outside, then back in on the proper (Star Gold) side, where you check in just through the door and then go upstairs to the lounge, which is all on the next higher floor. The food is the same, plus a little bit of sliced meat I think, and maybe some better fruit, plus better beer and wines in actual bottles, which they didn’t have downstairs. Also much nicer tables and chairs. It was now about 8am, and seemed like a good time for some wine tasting, since they did have wine, and what better time to taste lots of different wines than when they’re free, and I needed to start adjusting my body to my local time (where it was 11pm).
There were six wines, three white and three red. The whites were a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and two French Chardonnays. I don’t have any notes on those, but they were all pretty typical, and I could drink any of them, but wouldn’t go out of my way to (didn’t even write down what they were). The reds were more varied. Brindisi reserve – just says “ick” on my notes. Beaurivage Bordeaux 2003 was OK – says black cherry or plum nose, and tasted like suede. Best of the bunch was La Playa 2003 Block Selection Cabernet Sauvignon – notes say “jammy raspberry nose (like so many Chilean reds), much more intense aroma than the Bordeaux; flavors light but with complexity, cherries & vanilla transitioning to oak or even cedar.” Also had some amazing Danish pastry (in long strips, I think it was lemon-cream filled with sugar and nuts on top?), and got local with a small glass of Gammel Dansk, yum yum yum.
I’ve seen a lot of debate over kids in the lounges. Apparently they’re perfectly happy to have them in the Star Gold Scandinavian Lounge, either that or they bring these over for effect to anyone that’s acting too much like a toddler:
At the appropriate time I gathered my belongings and headed out. Picked up a little bit of duty-free for gifts (some Rosendahl, Sv Michelsen, butter cookies, hot-dog buns) and took a couple of photos of interesting 757’s out the windows –CO with winglets and Air Greenland:
then trotted all the way out to B19, which is at the very end of the concourse. My aircraft was already there, with that CO757 taxiing out in the background:
They had not started boarding, but soon announced that we were oversold by two, and asked for volunteers to take the 10:35 LH flight in exchange for a 150 Euro voucher. A Lauda 737 pulled in at the adjacent gate (B16). There was a good view of aircraft passing by on taxiway Y. A woman was walking around looking at people’s boarding passes, making a little pen mark on them. Soon they announced boarding.
Flight: SK1637 CPH-FRA, STD 9:25am
Date: 21 Sept 2006
Aircraft: MD-87, LN-RMP
Seat: 22D, aisle on the right (3-seat) side
I was pretty or maybe a bit , and don’t remember much about this one either. I don’t even know the departure runway, these aisle seats are pretty rough for situational awareness. I fell asleep on the takeoff roll, awoke briefly when the captain came on the PA to announce we were over Hamburg, and woke up again when we hit the ground in Frankfurt, but shook off the cobwebs fast enough to diagnose we were landing on 7R. We taxied briskly to remote stand V112, and deplaned from both the front left door and the ventral airstairs, which I got to use, wheeeeeee. Stopped briefly on the way to the bus for photos:
we were on time, so I had plenty of time for my connection. Rather than going to the grim Red Carpet Club, I decided to go to the Senators lounge in B. Let some people under time pressure go past me at passport control, then up to the lounge. Signed up for a shower, but the list was long so there was no real hope. Still full from breakfast, didn’t eat much food; I drank as much water as I possibly could, but did break down and have another one of those Oktoberfest beers, did some email stuff (not much happening with everyone in the US asleep) and caught up on NFL news. Took the secret passageway from B to C, where there’s a tiny security checkpoint with no lines. The people in front of me were enroute to Australia via the US and didn’t know about or realize they were impacted by the liquids ban. They had huge backpacks with them (were actually going hiking/camping I think) and apparently all their toiletries, and had to surrender them all, and were pretty irked. Then it was my most hated walk in all of air travel, the trek through the dismal concourse C out to gate C7. Today for the first time I’ve ever been on UA901 the aircraft was at a remote stand, not at the C7 jetway. It’s always fun to drive around on the bus getting up close to all the widebodies around:
It was a nice sunny day, but that made it a bit warm, and when we pulled up to the aircraft, at remote stand V129, the people from the bus in front of us were all lined up boarding slowly. They responded by turning off the bus including the air conditioning and leaving the doors all shut, so it got very hot very fast, not helped by how tightly we were all packed in. That’s what I love getting on an 11-hour flight, everyone nice and sweaty from the start. It seemed like an eternity before they let us off. It is always fun to stand right next to a 747 on the ramp, though.
Flight: UA901 FRA-SFO, STD 1:45pm
Date: 21 Sept 2006
Aircraft: 747-400 (PW), N122UA
Seat: 40K, right-side window (Economy Plus)
I’d debated long and hard whether to (try to) upgrade this segment. In retrospect it was pretty stupid not to, since I was on a high-enough fare that it would only be 15000 miles. But I figured I’d just sleep most of the way anyway, and the last time I took this flight on a Thursday in September (08 Sept 2005), it was pretty empty and I had an empty seat next to me in economy plus, so I figured I’d just take my chances. I was no longer the slightest bit fond of that decision when I got to my seat and found the armrest up so the woman in the middle seat could fit. Ooops. She actually did a fantastic job of staying in her own space (other than no armrest for the whole flight) when she was awake. But all else being equal, I was really kicking myself at this point, thinking that it would be better to be up on the upper deck with a pre-departure beverage in hand and my bags in the side compartment rather than trying to shove my laptop bag into the seat in front of me and still find room for my feet. Ugh. Channel 9 wasn’t on. Skymap wasn’t on, TV screens said to select another channel. Could it get worse?
We pushed roughly on time, after the flight attendants issued some very condescending threats to everyone to sit down so we don’t miss our “departure reservation” (I certainly agree with the sentiment, so I completely forgive the tone), and began the sluglike crawl to runway 7L. I’m pretty sure D-AITH is in FRA every time I’m there, as is D-AITD, the TOUCHDOWN plane, the one LH 747 I’ve been on (I think I actually saw them both on two or all three days on this trip).
One thing I do always like about the taxi to the 7’s and 18 is watching our own reflection in the A-concourse windows.
We took off on 7L, turned left giving a good view of Frankfurt, and then headed west. At some point I looked out again and we were over the Netherlands, and I glued my face to the window. I had a great view of everything northeast of Amsterdam, which I can see on maps but can’t get much info on (big body of water, big long dyke, West Frisian islands, etc.). Then once we were out over the North Sea, I shut the shade and went to sleep.
I was awakened intentionally, and honestly I find this utterly inexcusable, by the flight attendant because it was essential to ask me what arrival documents I needed. I have no idea why this is so important, I can get the docs later on the airplane, I can get them on the ground, and it’s really my problem, not theirs. UGH. Couldn’t get back to sleep at all. At least it was time for lunch, and I was starting to get hungry. They were already showing the first movie (UA 747’s don’t have PTV’s in economy, but on this flight they would show 4 different ones on the main screen), which I think was MI3, I didn’t watch it. As on my outbound, the meal service was preceded by a drink service and then a damp (intended as hot I guess) towel service.
One of my pet peeves has always been economy meal choices where all they’ll tell you is “beef or pasta” or “chicken or pasta” without any more information. Today I learned why they do that – they gave us very detailed descriptions of the meals, and then they didn’t resemble those descriptions at all, other than being “chicken” or “pasta.” I’ve also conveniently forgotten what it was, but I remember it wasn’t as good as what they had announced. After eating, I finally got back to sleep.
I woke up only a couple of hours later, and skymap had magically started working, and showed us well past Iceland (having overflown Keflavik) and nearing Greenland. The views were spectacular, and the flight attendant making all the announcements got on the PA and urged everyone to look. I took a bunch of photos, too many to share, but here are three:
I declared myself awake, and watched the second movie, “Inside Man.” A lot better than the Sentinnel, although I agree with some of the criticisms people have for it. Definitely not bad for killing a couple hours in flight. Somewhere in here they brought around snacks – toblerone, cheese & crackers. Ice cream, was that with lunch, or with the mid-flight snack? I’m sure others know this more than I did, even though I was on the flight!
Soon before the third movie started, my neighbor went to the lav, and I took that opportunity to head out also. When I got back both the center and aisle seats (they were a couple flying together) were engrossed in the movie, “Over the Hedge,” and I decided to not bug them, and let the woman in the middle have some time to relax with a little extra space. I walked up and down the aisle a few times to get the blood running in my legs, then grabbed a brand-new Hemispheres. Stood near the mid-cabin lavs and did the crossword and the sudokus and read a few articles, taking a few breaks to walk around some more. This killed another hour or so, and then when the movie ended I went back to my seat.
I spent the rest of the flight listening to Channel 9 and working on my laptop. Nacho Libre was being shown as the fourth movie, and the guy on the aisle behind me kept laughing really loudly. All through this flight they came around with water which was pitchers and cups, no bottles. I’m guessing that’s the stuff from the tanks? And no filters in the pitchers? Which means you’d have to be either brave or idiotic to drink it, and I’m brave, can handle any kind of food poisoning, so I drank it. Dunno if this is what caused it, but I did indeed suffer 24 hours of intestinal anomaly starting around 20 hours after we landed.
Over far northern California, ATC gave us a “converging traffic” advisory for LX40, the Swiss flight to LAX, 1000ft above us. I looked out and saw him clearly, and started taking photos until he passed directly above us. Bad cheap camera, but good reminder for my memory, and in the interest of sharing the experience ignoring quality, here are four of them:
We got the typical pre-landing snack of a turkey sandwich on white roll, paprika-flavored potato chips, and big candy bar, and they kept the cabin lights off, which I love, hate those European airlines always turning the lights on.
Soon enough we were doing the normal approach via Pt Reyes, west of the Golden Gate, across the city and down the bay for a right downwind to 28R. We landed 45 minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival, and there were no significant delays in immigration or for luggage.
Sorry this was so long, I guess if you got this far you found something of interest.