Back in January, I decided to spend two weeks in Florida together with my brother when we were offered quite an attractive flight/rental car combi offer by our travel agent. This means that there was a lot of time to get excited of how this trip would turn out to be.
So here we go:
My brother and me arrived at Frankfurt´s Terminal 1 about three hours prior to our flight´s scheduled departure. Although we had tickets issued by United Airlines, we had to check in at Lufthansa because our flight was operated by them (this was different when I last flew on SQ with a LH ticket). Having experienced very very long lines at the LH USA/Mexico Check In counters during the months before, I was somewhat relieved when I entered the terminal realizing that there were at least three counters without any passengers being handled at that moment.
We were allowed to enter the Check In area after having presented our tickets where our baggage was screened before we proceeded to one of the free counters.
The young lady working for LH greeted us and soon handed us our boarding passes which contained the assignment of our reserved seats in the back of the airplane.
This was one of the fastest Check In processes I have ever experienced.
After leaving hall A of Terminal 1 we went to one of those touchscreen monitors in hall B where we checked on which exact airplane we would be flying on.
I found out that D-ABVW was scheduled to fly LH462 FRA-MIA on that day and I realized that this would be the newest 747 I had flown on so far.
Still having to kill more than two hours until boarding time, we decided to visit the new McDonald´s in the tranist area of Terminal 1, area B.
When our carry on luggage was screened I wondered how there still can be so many people who seem to be totally ignorant regarding the increased security measures since 9/11.
These are some of the stylistic howlers I heard out:
"What, I´m not allowed to take this knife on board of the plane. But I have to peel my oranges. I can´t stand 10 hours without an orange!"
"Are you mad. I´ve always taken this trunk with me on the plane and I´m not interseted in whether it fits into this f…… frame or not. I will not go back and check it in."
"No, I won´t open my suitcase. This is just my intimate privacy."
Oh man, how can people be so stupid and so bitchy. Ok, I guess they all were finally convinced when they were told that they could either follow the rules or stay at home.
The new McDonald´s is really nice and as it was quite empty this morning, we were able to take some seats at the window from where we had a very good view on the airplanes being parked at the B gates.
Some interesting planes I was able to spot included a SA 743, CX 744, Thomas Cook 767 and lots of north american arrivals. At one time I was able to see nine LH 744´s at once, which I think is only possible at FRA at this time of the morning.
Enjoying this kind of view and looking forward to a long haul flight and two weeks of holidays, even a breakfast meal at McD can be considered as edible .
About 15 minutes before our boarding time (9:30am) we left our spotting location at McDonald´s and went to the gate. We immediately took notice of the long lines that were caused by an additional hand luggage control but fortunately there was a female airport employee who told us we could use an additional access to the gates wich is located in the upper level.
So we took the escalator and - how lucky - waited for 0 minutes at this location.
At the gate (B25) our passports and boarding passes were controlled before we proceeded to the windows where we saw her: The majestic 747-400 D-ABVW carrying the name of the...ehem beautiful and famous city of Wolfsburg. So this should be the first Volkswagen for me to fly on .
About ten minutes later First and Business Class boarding started, which of course did not prevent at least half of the Y-Class passengers from rushing into the direction of the entrance to the airplane...
The Economy Class boarding was organized by calling different zones but I didn´t really get the sense of this zone system. Why not simply boarding from the back to the front? I think this is the only logical method to save time during this complicated process.
Flight: LH 462 FRA-MIA
Aircraft: Boeing 747-430 D-ABVW "Wolfsburg" del. 03/13/99
Scheduled departure time: 10.10am
Scheduled arrival time: 01.50pm
Photo © Florian Kondziela
Nevertheless we soon arrived at row 55 where our seats 55H and 55J were located. Being the second last row in all LH 744´s, row 55 has a 2-4-2 configuration which means that we had the privilege of occupying two private seats.
After boarding was completed, I noticed that about five seats in Y-Class were not claimed by any passengers, though, according to LH´s reservation system, all classes were completely sold out for our flight.
The cabin crew´s instructions concerning the usual security issues were followed by some welcoming words from the captain who promised an on time departure and anticipated some details about our route including the fact that we would be taking off from runway 18.
Indeed our plane was pushed back only five minutes after the scheduled departure (which is quite seldom for long hauls at FRA).
On our way to runway 18 we were able to spot a lot of parked LH and LH cargo airplanes as well as some of the asian/african airplanes which are parked near the Lufthansa Technik facilities until their departure in the afternoon or evening. The QF 744 must have been delayed on this day because I couldn´t see her anywhere.
As soon as we had reached the runway, the four powerful engines began its famous roaring and the takeoff roll began. I was able to see the spotters´ platform out of the right window where I have been myself quite often, most of the times envying those people who were sitting in such beautiful planes and flying somewhere far beyond. Hehe, this time I was able to turne the spear around.
The following climb was one of the bumpiest ones I have ever experienced during my 747 flights out of FRA, but I did really like it. After following the path of Autobahn 67 until Darmstadt we made a right turn and proceeded into the direction of France.
After nearly having reached our cruising altitude, the first serving of beverages began. A good german beer (this time it was a Beck´s) has become some kind of a ritual for me when I´m flying into holidays so of course I didn´t let it out this time.
Just after we had left french airspace the FAs (which seemed to be very professional altogether, most of them were even friendly) began performing the lunch service.
Unfortunately LH has cut the printed menus a long time ago so I did´nt know what I had to expect.
We were offered a choice of chicken or pasta (no additional details) whereupon I decided to take the chicken which turned out to be the standard airplane chicken meat served with some noodles and the usual vegetables. It was ok, but as most oft the times in Economy, really nothing I would desire to eat when I´m on the ground.
Beverages were offered quite often on this flight which surprised me a bit, considering that on my last LH longhauls (FRA-SFO-FRA) they seemed to have reduced this kind of service to an absolute minimum.
As always on Europe-Miami flights there wasn´t anything to see out of the window than the blue atlantic ocean until about half an hour prior to our arrival.
Some medium-heavy turbulences made the flight a bit more enjoyable but I have to admit, as much as I´m always looking forward to such a flight, it becomes boring three hours after deparurte at the latest especially when taking LH´s inflight entertainment into account (I just don´t like watching "Spiderman" on a monitor which is five rows away from me, but I think this lack of service will finally be history after the introduction of the A346 in late 2003).
Unsuccessfully having tried to get some sleep, I finally saw Florida´s east coast slowly rising up at the horizon and rejected the second meal in favor of taking some pictures of beautiful Palm Beach.
We followed the coast line until Fort Lauderdale where the captain turned right what gave us a good view of Miami International airport to the right.
After touching the edge of the Everglades we again turned right and soon the gear was lowerded followed by a smooth touchdown at the sunny Miami airport. Almost no reverse thrust seemed to be needed because our terminal was located to the left of the runway´s end where we taxied to gate (if I remember correctly) F17.
After a few minutes, we left our 747, saying thank you and goodbye to the mostly very nice crew members and went to the customs which weren´t as bad as I had them expected to be.
The following two weeks were absolutely fantastic. I wouldn´t even have dreamed of such a wonderful nature as we experienced it visiting all those spectacular highlights of Florida. Great people, great sightseeing, nice hotels at reasonable rates, good food...I can just say thank you, Florida!
14 days later we left the Alamo shuttle bus at concourse F of Miami´s International Airport and went to the United Airlines Check In area where there actually wasn´t one single person in front of us.
The only member of the UA staff which was waiting behind the long desk checked our tickets and printed our boarding passes. Selecting one of our three baggage pieces (by random I guess) which should be inspected in detail, she sent us to a seperate security counter where we left this piece of baggage.
Afterwards we went through the screening facilities where our carry ons were defintely examined longer than at FRA.
Again I wondered about those people who don´t seem to understand the sense of a metal detector and happily leave their purses and cellphones inside of their pockets walking through the frame...
Our gate was F9 which was still closed so we proceeded to the other F gates where we took a seat with a view of the apron.
Being a bit hungry I was disappointed by the fact that the only one who could have solved my little problem was a lonely hot dog seller who led me to the decision to wait until I was in Washington.
Anyway, those soda machines gave me the opportunity to get rid of some coins.
Spotting could have been a bit more exciting as it mainly consisted of discovering the fact that American Airlines meanwhile must have received a hell of a lot 737NG´s.
Later at the gate some of the bags were checked in detail before their owners were allowed to enter the airplane. I was lucky and managed to avoid an additional inspection so I waited until our row was called for boarding.
Flight UA914 MIA-IAD
Aircraft: Airbus A320-232 N410UA del. 04/01/94
Scheduled departure time: 01.20pm
Schedulel arrival time: 03.55pm
Photo © Chris Coduto
Boarding this time was performed from the back to the front of the airplane which makes a lot more sense than calling by zones I think.
Arriving at our row 14, my suspicion of having to sit right over the wing unfortunately turned out to be right so my brother´s hopes for some great photo opportunities over Miami Beach somewhat became smashed.
After the doors were shut the captain announced some facts about our supposed flying time and the weather in Washington D.C.
Leaving the gate two minutes early, I was optimistic that our connection at IAD would not be a problem at all because we would have more than 90 minutes of time between our flights there.
The A320, which was about 90% full, taxied to the runway and started its takeoff roll right after an American 757 had landed.
Right over Miami Beach we turned left so that there definitely could have been a fantastic view if there just had not been this wing...
Soon we were over the clouds, which became more and more the more we followed our path to the north and drink service was started.
The female FA who served me a Pepsi was an extremely nice person who really seemed to like her job and did her absolute best to make everyone feel comfortable...that´s the freindly skies, I concluded.
Approaching Washington DC after about two hours of flight time, we broke through the clouds and recognized that the weather wasn´t by far as nice as the captain had predicted.
We touched down over thirty minutes ahead of schedule and after quite a long roll across the apron (spotting BD A330, Swiss A330, UA 744, LH A340, AF 777 and lots of UA 777´s among others) we reached our gate D6 where I thanked the FA I mentioned and appreciated her great attitude towards her job.
Entering the huge terminal, we checked where our flight to Frankfurt would leave and found out that our gate would be D18 which for me clarified that our airplane would be N772UA as I had seen her out of the A320´s window just a few minutes before.
Never having been on a 777 so far and having feared an equipment change until I knew better, I was quite relieved when it was finally confirmed that I would be able to enjoy my first ride on this fantastic airplane.
Offering a lot more restaurants, shops and other facilities than Miami´s concourse F, IAD´s United terminal was far better in my opinion.
We had a small pizza at the Pizza Hut Express before grabbing a newspaper in order to kill some time before and during the flight.
At gate D18 there was a huge mass of people standing in line in front of the counter still waiting for their seat assignments. As I had supposed before, the flight was completely oversold.
Talking to one of the FAs later on the flight, I found out that all LH and UA flights on that day were packed with people. For our flight, UA916, 250 people showed up at the Check In with their Y-Class tickets while there are only 197 seats in the back of the UA777...
Well, we had solved any problems by having reserved seats before our journey and checking in early at Miami, I guess.
First and Business Class boarding was announced on time and as always there seem to be a lot more F and C Class passengers than there are seats in the aircraft...
I noticed that about every fifteenth person who boarded the plane was asked to follow a security agent to a little area that was a few steps apart where they had to have their carry ons inspected in detail. Some of them also had to remove their shoes.
Fortunately we were lucky and the passenger who was standing just in front of us was selected by the security staff.
Flight UA916 IAD-FRA
Aircraft: Boeing 777-222 N772UA del. 09/29/95
Scheduled departure time: 05.25pm
Schedulel arrival time: 07.10am(+1)
Photo © Bart Noëth
Soon I became a bit excited while I was coming closer to the fifth Triple Seven that was built and the first one I would have the honor to fly on.
Entering the airplane, I immediately took notice of the famous 777 style interior which indeed appears to be roomier than in other airplanes.
We took our seats 31H+J and waited until boarding was comleted. I think it was a customer-friendly and reasonable step by United Airlines to send some FAs onto their longhauls which speak the language of the country that they are flying to fluently because still many, especially older people in european countries don´t have a clue about english vocals. One male FA even talked to an italian passaenger in his native language.
A few minutes before pushback, the first officer let the passengers know that he expected an on time departure and an early arrival at Frankfurt, where the weather would be cool but friendly.
Indeed our 777 left the gate on time and began a long roll passing the whole terminal where I was able to spot a BA 744, a LH 744 and again a heap of UA stuff.
For the first time I listened to Channel 9 which I had not expected to work that perfectly. I found it quite exciting to hear the tower giving the captain of the airplane that I was sitting in his takeoff clearance.
Soon after we were airborne after a powerful takeoff, the usual announcements concerning security and onboard service were made followed by the first beverages being served.
I decided to drink a Heineken when I was offered the choice between this decent dutch beer and a Budweiser (please forgive me) and my brother and me clinked our glasses to celebrate the great time we had behind us.
Somewhere near Halifax the dinner was served and I chose the beef meal over the pasta which turned out to be a good decision because this was one of the best Economy Class meals I have ever tasted on a non asian airline. The beef was served with mashed potatoes and some respectable vegetables. Well done to the caterer at IAD!
Afterwards I tried to get some sleep but of course failed again so I searched the entertainment guide for a good movie which could maybe kill my boredom.
Managing to find the channel where the movie "Bad Company" was shown, I was able to watch a very entertaining and thrilling movie in the following two hours.
In addition to my newspaper the movie made me feel to be over England quite early where I was looking forward to my breakfast which consisted of something which was called a "Croissant" (uhhm, every frenchman would have got really upset if he had seen it), accompanied by some fruit and orange juice. It was ok but nothing special when compared to the warm breakfast meals that were served on american airlines before they had to save money...
The FAs on this flight were again very professional, special wishes of the passengers were immediately fulfiled if possible. I really don´t know where the bad reputation of the United cabin staff does come from because everytime I have flown UA, the staff has been friendly and just did a good job.
Approaching FRA´s runway 25L was spectacular as always, passing Frankfurt´s skyline with the Messeturm and the Commerzbank building raging high into the sky.
We touched down on the runway very softly just behind LH´s 744 D-ABVW which we had flown on on my way to Miami.
After leaving the runway we proceeded to gate B48 which amazed me a bit because I have not seen a United Airlines plane being parked at a non C gate for a long time (at least not since 9/11).
I grabbed my carry on, again thanked the nice crew and left this wonderful airplane after about seven and a half hours of a pleasant flight.
My conclusion is that both, Lufthansa and United Airlines, offer a very decent service level which according to my opinion is better than their reputation might signalize.
If you care about PTV´s in Y-Class, make sure to fly on United´s 777 or 767, because their 747 and LH´s 340 and 747 do not offer them yet.
Seat pitch was similar I guess, at least I did not notice any differences.
I hope to fly both airlines again soon and would be happy if you liked reading my trip report without getting too much bored.
Thank you for your interest, any comments are appreciated!