Checked in (after queuing for the best part of an hour) to find that the flight was delayed an hour or so ex AKL, which was going to make my connection tight. The QF agent said that he couldn’t check me in on the LH BKK-FRA service – there was no way I was leaving the counter without a boarding card for that service – I knew that it was fully sold and that if I didn’t have a card and the connection was very tight (as it was going to be) then I didn’t have a hope of getting on it. Surprise suprise – he managed to issue boarding cards for SYD-BKK-FRA-MUC and only the last MUC-BHX service was still to be issue (which wouldn’t be a problem as I knew that that could be done in FRA or MUC). My bag was checked through to BHX.
After having a coffee with my mother I checked the LH site to see if my connection was running ontime. The LH744 FRA-BKK was running about 45 mins late and there was a good chance that they wouldn’t be able to make it up on the leg to MNL and back so I was content. No sooner had I seen that, did an announcement come over the PA system. “This is an announcement for passengers on TG992 (pause) ummm the flight is now cancelled with a mechanical difficulty in AKL we are currently exploring other alternatives”. So they had been telling fibs for the last 90 mins – as there was no way that the plane would have made it by the time they said with it still being on the ground in AKL.
After a lot of standing around wondering what was going to happen they advised us that we would have to go downstairs and collect our bags and we would be then taken to the airport Hilton (do I hear free radox bath?) and we would travel tomorrow. Oh well these things happen – and twice in a row is unlucky but at least I wasn’t going to something for which I couldn’t be late.
After a night in the Hilton (with a very ordinary dinner) and the guy next to me drinking VB with his cornflakes (very amusing) we were bussed back to the airport at 10:30 only to find that there was nobody manning the checkin desks. So after being woken up at 6:30 there were some very unhappy people about. Word had got around that there was going to be no onward connections organised here in SYD and we would be met by a team at BKK to sort us out with rebooking. I knew this the night before because I had rang TG to see what they were doing – which they told me was absolutely nothing – brilliant eh?
SO after standing in a non-moving queue for another hour – I had my bag checked through to BKK and my boarding card reissued for TG9929 with the same seat as yesterday 32H.
Then the departure time of my flight slipped back another 2 hrs on the screens – with no PA announcement – can anyone say chicken?
Once the plane had landed I made my way through passport control etc – didn’t want to do it beforehand because the PAX that had allready gone through the night before got to the hotel some 2 hrs after I did.
ATD 14:27+1 (21:22 late)
My nice bulkhead aisle seat came with the added advantage of no TV screen. The TG743’s are poorly thought out. The only TV’s in Y class are those on the centre bulkheads – so those sitting on the sides can only see the screen if they are fortunate not to be adjacent the galley or loo’s.
The service was good – regular drinks service and the meals were somewhat edible… The Thai curry is becoming one of my favourites. I managed to spend most of my time reading my magazines (and boy was I glad that I had bought them). Anyway the flight was pretty comfortable (especially when the person in the middle seat got upgraded grrrr… shows what happens if you whine enough.) There was quite an interesting storm over the South China Sea, which we avoided with some sharp turns about 90 mins out of BKK. The landing at BKK was very smooth – perhaps one of the best I have ever experienced.
Once we were at the gate I had my stuff out of the overhead locker (which were the old old style and very inadequate in terms of side – there is no way on earth 3 people could get their carryon in their – thankfully nobody else in my row had any – because mine was taking up the lions share of the space) quick smart as I knew I would have to run to get to the transfer counter first – or else I could be hours.
The promised team of people to help us with rebookings was there – 2 people! So I found out that LH rebookings were taking place in the LH lounge – and I knew were that was so off I went as fast as my legs could carry me. Some idiot from J class who I passed on the way tried to tell me that it was in the TG lounge – and didn’t seem interested when I told him that I had been there before and it was this way – he made some smart response about how a Y class PAX would know where the LH lounge was (well the idiot obviously has no clue about the perks of FF status) So I continued on my merry little run till I got to the LH lounge absolutely exhausted.
They had no idea what was going on – nobody at TG had bothered to tell them. Which is really bad as the TG flight carried a LH codeshare code. Downstairs at the desk after a lot of umming and aaring from the two LH girls they informed myself and the other LH PAX (F class) who had found the desk (the other guy had been spared the kilometer (maybe more) walk/run and hitched a lift on one of the golf carts) that the flights were very full (well it was Easter Friday) and that they would try and get us endorsed on TG.
So we took a seat and after about 30 mins a whole bunch of LH PAX turned up – including the guy who had tried to tell me where the LH lounge was… he wasn’t real impressed – especially as he saw me sitting down obviously having allready been served. He in fact came up and asked me why I didn’t tell him that he was going the wrong way to which I told him to rack off and leave me alone. It was at this stage that a TG agent appeared and said we have booked you on TG920 to FRA if you would like to come with me I will take you to the lounge and you can wait there while we check you in. Sweet – so off we went on the golf cart to the TG F class lounge. Walked right past the 25 or so people who had got off my flight – didn’t see them again and I presume some of them were stuck in BKK for the evening. In the lounge they took our passports and tickets and went off to check us in. I at this stage requested an aisle seat.
She came back saying that she had rebooked me on the FRA-MUC-BHX legs but was unable to issue a boarding card. She then apologised that the flight was very full and there were no aisle seats left. Great! 12 hrs in a middle economy seat! Anyway she had managed to get me a bulkhead row so it wasn’t too bad – there was some scope for getting up on the flight.
I soon left the lounge (wasn’t brilliant IMHO) and went for a walk to kill the remaining hours before boarding – which was from a remote stand!
I was one of the last to board and when I had finally found somewhere to stash my carryon realised that someone was in my middle seat and the idiot insisted that I have his aisle seat… ok no arguments there!
After dinner – which was ok without being flash I made the mistake of washing down my sleeping tablet with some cognac. Needless to say the rest of the flight after that was a bit of a blur. I woke up crossing Austria so I must have been sleeping for a good 9 hrs which was fantastic. No sooner had I woken up than a hot towel was placed in my hand – great time for breakfast… which was pretty ordinary – the eggs had seen better times and I left the fruit and the like on the off chance that it might not compute with my system.
There is one disadvantage to the TG 744 bulkhead/exit row seats and that is the fact that the seat width is narrowed by a good two inches due to the control panel for the audio not being recessed into the armrest by virtue of the fact that there is a traytable in the armrest. My advice is to get a normal seat – the legroom is very good anyway and you don’t have the seat narrowed by 2 inches on long flights (strangely enough the 743 didn’t have this problem).
After landing I made my way to the LH transfer desk to see about getting to BHX – and sure enough the TG lady had actually rebooked my flights and it was a simple matter of changing the paper tickets (with a sticker) and issuing some boarding cards – which was done with great efficiency.
After finding my way through FRA (which is a bit of a maze) I found my departure gate – as it wasn’t due to leave for another 90 mins I decided to seek out the business class lounge and put my status to good use! Well what can I say – it was packed … but I did managed to get a coke and some sweets so it wasn’t too bad.
The flight was only 40 mins or so in duration. I was glad to be back on LH… everything is just so well … predictable and polices are adhered to. Thai is a bit slack round the edges… on both legs there was no walk through prior to landing with the consequence that there were traytables down and seat backs reclined upon landing. One F/A was still standing in the galley as we started our roll at Sydney. Anyway, they only managed one lap of honor with the drinks trolley and I got reacquainted with the LH apple juice – which is good stuff unlike the so-called TG juice which is just a very sweet mix. As it was Easter there were little lindt chocolates distributed – with the chance to win 15000 bonus FF miles or a free return within Europe. Sadly I didn’t win anything – this didn’t stop me informing a mate of mine (who was too busy getting himself upgraded at BKK to come and meet me in the LH lounge) that I had won 15K bonus miles though!
Nice landing at MUC and it wasn’t long before I was at the gate making my way to the gate of my connecting flight. MUC is a lovely airport to get around – it’s just very easy to work out what you are doing and where you are going. It’s an odd design but it works!
Well my first CRJ ride and a 700 at that materialized abet a day late – but oh well… To be perfectly honest the CRJ is a bit of a pain on longer flights (MUC-BHX is 1:40) as it isn’t overly roomy.
The so-called snack on this flight turned out to be very German indeed. Cold Pork schnitzel with potato salad and other associated bits and pieces. This coupled with a full bar service (free). But I certainly wasn’t complaining. Now if only the Qantas ‘snacks’ were like this. Can anyone say ‘stale cookies’?
Anyway after several laps of the drinks trolley the meals were cleared away and I was by this stage feeling thoroughly sick – LH had those Easter chocolates in the Business class lounge in MUC and I helped myself … which was a bad move – still didn’t win anything on them either!
After 3 rounds of the drinks trolley it was time for the cabin to be locked down for landing. The PA announcement from the cockpit was that turbulence was expected so everyone was strapped in nice and early. The turbulence didn’t materialize and we made a nice landing at BHX. The delivery at aircraft luggage was waiting for me upon walking down the stairs then it was onto the bus to be taken to the back door entrance to the passport control area. I was then barked at by the passport officer for not having filled in a landing card with my non-EU passport. After 60 hrs this was the last thing I needed – if they hadn’t given me one on the plane where was I meant to get one from – close my eyes nod my head and one will just appear? Anyway after returning back to the desk to fill it out (I was the only one with a non EU passport and my flight was the only one in at the time so it felt a bit odd to be the only PAX in the passport control area. The questions asked were not up to LHR standard – when I was there in July 01 they gave me a real grilling as to what I was doing in the UK, how much money I had etc etc but this was far more cursory. Anyway onto baggage claim – where it was another 30 mins before the bags from the CRJ started rolling out. I was a little disappointed – as it shouldn’t take that long to get the bags off a CRJ, which was the only inbound flight at the time. Not expecting my bag to actually arrive (I would have bet a large sum that it was still in BKK) I was very surprised to see it roll out onto the belt third! There was no one conducting random checks in the green lane so it was only a matter of seconds before I was in the arrivals hall.
I decided not to utilize the business class checkin line for this flight as there were but 3 parties in the economy line. I was checked in very efficiently by the lady and secured window seats for both sectors for my weekend trip to Helsinki. After spending some time in the observation area and buying some aviation books I made my way through passport control (which was non existent) and security to sit in the BHX holding pen. Basically its one central area where people wait and once the plane is ready for boarding you walk down the relevant pier to your aircraft. Tip: don’t bother going through till the last minute.
Anyway I was amongst the first to board and amongst the last to board was a large party of males, making plenty of noise. Sure enough I was seated right in the middle of them. Needless to say they were quite happy when they found out that the alcohol was free – and moreover very readily available. I have never seen so much alcohol consumed on an aircraft (and they weren’t even Germans
) so much so that the beer actually ran out (shock! horror!). I contented myself with a couple of apple juices. There was no meal service.
After being bussed to the terminal from a remote stand I managed to get myself totally lost at FRA. I managed to get myself out into the departures area (checkin) to see if I could change my old German Marks – both notes and travelers cheques, but none of the banks would touch them – had to go to the branches in town – ohhh bugger! Next time!
As the departure gate for my flight to Helsinki wasn’t up yet I managed to find a business class lounge and sat there for a while. FF status does have its advantages!
After being bussed to the aircraft – and a minor confusion as to which aircraft we were going to (let me say that I was quite happy to get on the SK 736) it wasn’t long before the doors were shut. The plane was just over half full. The lady in the aisle seat moved to another row – so I had plenty of room to spread out.
Pushback was delayed due to strong winds at FRA preventing the use of one of the departure runways. After taking off from 07L we headed north over Schwerin (which If you are ever in the area – the castle there is a must see) and further north towards Helsinki. The meal wasn’t brilliant – German processed meat with cheese and bread – all washed down with a couple of apple juices. I dozed for quite sometime but perked up when we were nearing the Finnish coast. Decent was quite slow and was rather an interesting experience. I was looking out the window at what I thought were very strange looking clouds – then as we got lower I realised what I thought were clouds were actually frozen water bodies. I wont repeat the exact phrase which went through my wind when I finally realised what I was looking at – but suffice to say that I was rather shocked… It was April afterall. It was an eye-opener for a sheltered Australian like myself. I made a mental note to have a word with my mate in Helsinki whom I was to stay with for telling me that it was ‘warm’. But my anger was cut short when the captain announced that the temp on the ground was 2 below. I nearly died!
Having said that you can appreciate my horror, when I realised we were going to a remote stand! When the doors were flung open the cold air swept through the cabin very quickly. The terminal was very basic – yet it was stylish and practical. The bags came out fairly promptly and a couple of mates were waiting for me in the arrivals hall.
After waking up with a bit of a hangover (tip: Swedish Pear Cider is deceptively strong) we realised that we had missed our planned trip to Tallinn so we decided to revert to plan B – a daytrip utilising youth standby fares on AY to Vaasa.
The checkin line was quite long but the ticketing line was non existent. My language expert (Lari) sorted out the tickets and I just coughed up the EUR50 for my fare. Pretty good deal on all fronts if you ask me.
Security was just like Sydney – a non-event really. My travelling partner was quite pleased to see this aircraft at the gate – he had been on some of the other examples multiple times.
Technically we should have been last to board but we just queued up and were amongst the first on. With free seating I was spoilt for choice. I took a window seat near the prop on the left-hand side. The plane was half full if that.
The flight was fantastic – the scenery was worth every penny. I have never seen anything like it – frozen water bodies as far as the eye could see. The in-flight service was a box drop – apple juice, coffee cup, UHT milk portion and a tiny chocolate. More than adequate for the flight.
Landing at VAA was firm but not bad considering the stiff crosswind. We then proceeded to the ticketing counter to get ourselves tickets on the next flight back to HEL – which just so happened to be a DC9 with an en route, stop… shame!
Well well well, my first DC9 flight! After watching the inbound flight land from Helsinki we moved through security to the departure area. It wasn’t long before boarding commenced and again we managed to get in the queue and have the pick of the seats. Most of the PAX took seats up the front before the curtain but we continued down the back to sit over the wing and closer to the engine.
The takeoff for this 15-min flight was superb. I wish every takeoff was like that – simply superb… what a way to get aquatinted with the DC9!
Sweets were offered in the entire 2 mins in which the seatbelt sign was switched off. Don’t take the ones in the silver wrapper – absolutely awful. After a very smooth touchdown exactly 15 mins after we started our takeoff run we taxied to the apron to drop off and pick up PAX before continuing down to Helsinki.
I must say that the DC9 was spotless. It certainly didn’t show it’s age. After a short turnaround we were on our way for the trip back down the Helsinki. Lari buried his head in a copy of the AY magazine – in between babysitting the baby in the window seat. I spent the flight gazing aimlessly out of the window. The service was the same as on the AT7 on the way over. I took the coffee again – and was starting to feel the pinch after the all you can eat pizza we had in Vaasa! The flight was very smooth and the touchdown in Helsinki marked a very productive day. 1 AT7 and 2 DC9 flights together with a new airline and 3 new city pairs for my logbook – not bad going.
I quite fancy taking AY for a longhaul service or two (especially if it is on AY ticket stock – but that is another story). Helsinki airport is very sleek – has to be one of my favorites.
Now to my first 735 flight! It was very chilly on the way to the airport (not quite as cold as 2am on Saturday morning – but it was close
) Checkin was handled by SAS and the lady was very sweet – not to mention very helpful. On approaching the counter she said something to me in Finnish to which I replied “I’m sorry my Finnish probably isn’t as good as your English” to which she smiled and asked how I was. After giving her my tickets and passport she asked if I would like window or aisle – to which I replied window. About 10 seconds later she was handing me boarding cards for the two flights back to Birmingham, and I left the counter in a state of shock – I sure wish the agents I am used to were like that QF have a lot to learn.
After meeting another fellow enthusiast – Joge it was time to go through security and get on the plane. It was a remote gate again – and boy was it cold when we got out of the bus at the plane. I was delighted to see that my seat was an exit row – but the only drawback is that it was the row where there are only 4 seats and the window seat is really a middle seat although it is an A seat. The Finish businessman in the aisle seat moved to the row in front. After a quick deicing we were on our way.
The service was dished out fairly promptly – another German special washed down with a couple of apple juices.
I can’t really say much about the rest of the flight as I only woke up again on approach into MUC. Landing at MUC was perfect – and it was another remote stand.
After double checking the departure gate of my BHX flight I proceeded to the FTL lounge.
Well the FTL lounge required a cattle prod to gain entry. So I gave up and found a nice quiet spot to whittle away the couple of hours.
The flight was departing from yet another remote stand. I can’t complain though – I love being on the ramp. The flight was full – well so I found out when I offered to give in my backpack (smaller than the time the previous week) and the ramp agent said that it wasn’t big enough. Which was then met with a barrage of abuse from the other ramp agent – who told him in no uncertain terms that if someone wants to give in a bag on a full flight then he should take the bag. The second ramp agent then came up to me and took my bag and thanked me for offering to give it up and assured me that he would personally stow it – which he then proceeded to do.
The flight was completely packed. There was an exhibition on at the NES and the FRA flights were upgraded from a 737 to A321 and the MUC flights were booked solid although they remained CRJs. To be perfectly honest I don’t really like the CRJ’s – they are very cramped and not very comfortable on the longer sectors. I can only imagine what a sector like DUS-HEL is like.
The meal was again better than the mainline LH services – ham, cheese and pasta salad all washed down with a couple of apple juices. A full bar service was offered.
I watched the airports of Europe pass by, the only one I recognized was FRA – but there were a couple of other major ports (3 large runways) that totally confused me – the skyshow does have its advantages!
The landing was a little long but we stopped with plenty of room to spare. Passport control was similar to the previous week – I had a few more stamps in my passport this time (FRAx2 MUCx1 Tallinn boat X2 and Helsinki boat x2) so the questions were a little more that way skewed.
The agent was checked in at LHR all the way through to SYD. Window seat on the LHR-FRA and aisle seats from then on. With nobody to see me off I made my way through security and directly to the great LH lounge at LHR. After about 2 hrs boarding was called and I was the first one down the gangway to board my very first A300 ride.
The flight was packed but we left more or less ontime. It was a rather long taxi to 07L – had a great view of a landing Concorde on our way to the runway holding point – simply magic!
The takeoff was superb and we were soon above the weather. A choice of ham or cheese rolls were offered – I took the cheese one with and had a couple of apple juices to wash it down.
It was a fantastic approach over the city of Frankfurt and a very smooth touchdown. Didn’t get a remote gate this time and after taking the Skytrain to the intercontinental pier I relaxed in the FTL lounge for the 3 hrs or so before my flight to BKK.
Well boy was I glad that I chose this flight. I was originally booked on LH744 which left 10 mins earlier – but that was being operated by D-ABVA – the only LH747 I had flown on, and it was on that very flight.
I didn’t jump in the queue right away. After finding my aisle seat in the second row of economy class I sat and waited for my seatmate to arrive. As luck would have it – the only spare economy seat in the plane was next to me.
This flight affirmed my commitment to continue flying LH whenever possible, even though the connections in Asia are a bit of a pain. The service was nothing flash – but it was like every other LH flight – consistent and friendly. I managed to spend my 600 German mark vouchers on an assortment of duty free goodies. The food wasn’t flash – but very much edible. There was a regular drinks service throughout the night and the purser came up and personally asked me (by name I might add) if everything was all right. Now don’t tell me she hadn’t looked at the log to see where the status members were sitting. I was very impressed.
About 300 miles out of BKK I passed 100,000 status miles credited to my LH account in the last 12 month period and attained Senator status – so I had a little toast to that with my breakfast orange juice! Yes yes I know, simple things please simple minds!
After landing in BKK I made my way to the LH FTL lounge to try and make the 4 hr layover as pleasant as possible.
Well yet another remote stand. I was kind of hoping for a rowboat – but not to be… I had to make do with a bulkhead aisle seat on TG’s newest 744. The bulkhead row was the same as that on TGA – a pain. I wished I had a regular aisle seat. It must have been my lucky day – the only spare seat on the plane was the middle seat next to me… boy was I impressed!
At least the 744’s have the smaller TV’s on the side bulkheads so that everyone can see the TV. After a chicken curry washed down with orange juice and red wine I took a sleeping tablet and woke up 5 hrs later. Thankfully there wasn’t long to go. Breakfast was a little ordinary but I used the glass of orange juice to toast my birthday and the end of a great trip.
Landing on 34L was very smooth and my bag was amongst the first out. After declaring my shoes (foot and mouth) It wasn’t long before I was in the arrivals hall waiting for my mother to turn up – traffic on a Saturday morning … gimme a break.
Well that’s it – if you have made it this far, thanks for your interest.
I'd like to thank Lari (Lufthansa747) for putting up with me in Helsinki, and JogeSpotter, OH-LZA and EGBB for meeting me along my travels.