28 March 2003
Helsinki Vantaa – Frankfurt Main
Lufthansa LH 3017
1805-2000 – On Time
Photo © Florian Kondziela
Photo © Florian Kondziela
I checked in using the SAS Self Service machines as usual and dropped off my blue Samsonite at the Business class desks. LH3017 to Frankfurt was very full – the best I could get was 16C and my pre-assigned 5D for the long leg. I had upgraded LH744 a few months ago and secured a nice seat in the first Business class section in the nose of the B747.
SAS Business Lounge was not its usual self – I have never seen a lounge so crowded before, not even the LH Frankfurt lounges are like this. There were Arlanda and Copenhagen flights leaving as well as MUC with good loads in business on a Friday afternoon. Had some cold beef and rolls and checked my emails before heading down to gate 27 for boarding. The 737 seats have very limited legroom and the back of the seat goes very low, restricting the legroom even more. I hate these 737s – the LH A320s are much more comfortable. Didn’t care much though as I was in good mood with a week’s holiday awaiting.
Pushed back more or less on time and took off from 22L and headed south for the 2h20min hop down to Germany. Service was same as usual – not bad but not particularly friendly, more or less what I expect from Lufthansa nowadays. Chicken salad and cold cuts were pretty decent, accompanied by some Coke as well as Baileys later.
We landed on 25R a few minutes early and taxied to A42 – the gate at the very end of the new A-concourse extension. Struggled my way through the crowds of the A concourse and the tunnel to B and headed straight up to the Senator Lounge B. After some sparkling wine and Baileys I was in pretty good mood, looking forward to having some dinner in Lufthansa Business Class.
28 March 2003
Frankfurt Main – Bangkok International
Lufthansa LH 744
2200-1410+1 – On Time
Photo © Vasco Garcia
Photo © Florian Kondziela
Lufthansa 744 to Manila via Bangkok was to depart from B26 today – old friend D-ABVU was waiting. I flew her to Beijing earlier this year. The crowd at the gate was quite large – premium cabins had very good loads with some empty seats in the back. Most of the economy passengers seemed to be from the Philippines.
For the first time ever for me at FRA, LH decided to board this flight in an orderly manner – F/C/*G, followed by economy by rows. I was the first one down the jetway and headed to the nose of the jumbo via door 1L. Was greeted by Filipino and German flight attendants and took my seat 5D, one of only two seats in the middle section in the nose. These seats (5D and 5G) have good legroom and only the small “table” used for service in front of them.
Later the purser welcomed us onboard the “long flight through the night to hot and sunny Bangkok”. Announcements were made in German, English, Thai and Pilipino. Flight time today was only 9 hours 30 minutes and the route was more or less same as before despite the situation in the Middle East. The captain welcomed us onboard too, informing about Bangkok weather too - +34 degrees Celsius and sunny. Pre-departure drinks were served – took the champagne. We pushed back a few minutes late due to some last minute cargo loading and headed to runway 18 for takeoff. Took off with no delay – it was very quiet in the nose apart from some noises from the nose gear. The heavy Jumbo lifted off after a long roll and turned towards the east.
Menus were distributed after the seatbelt sign went off – amenity kits were in the seat pockets already; nothing to write home about (socks, eye shade, toothbrush).Drinks and nuts followed, had some Duval Leroy champagne. Dinner was the usual LH Business fare, appetizer and salad with bread, followed by main course and dessert cart later. Had lamb medallions for main course and fruit salad for dessert, I can post the rest of the menu here after my suitcase makes it home…
I decided to sleep after the meal and successfully did that. Only woke up twice and both times got some water within minutes. The F/As must have made frequent rounds or maybe I was just lucky. Lights came back on as we were cruising over the Bay of Bengal and breakfast was served. It was the usual assortment of cold cuts, fruit and a hot option of a chicken warp or an omelette. Had the wrap which was good but I wasn’t hungry at all…
Soon the captain came on with the familiar announcement that we had just flown over Rangoon, Myanmar and were entering the Thai airspace and starting the descent into Don Muang. It was very noisy once the nose gear came out again and we landed on 21L a few minutes early. Immigration was very quick and my bag came out amongst the first ones thanks to the *A priority tag (always works at BKK). Taxi to the Marriott Resort took about half an hour.
30 March 2003
Bangkok International – Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok
China Airlines CI 642
Economy, 47ABC (Exit Row)
1450-1850 – On Time
Photo © Sam Chui
Photo © Propfreak
China Airlines had the best deal to Hong Kong when I bought my ticket in January, THB 6150+tax and I decided to give them a try. Check-in took about ten minutes and my request for an exit row aisle was granted. Paid the 500 Baht PSC and headed through immigration in seconds. No problems getting into the Lufthansa Business Lounge with my SEN card– LH people at BKK are generally pretty nice, no rude lounge wardens like at MUC and FRA. Food was non existent (chips and peanuts) and I was the only one in the lounge for quite some time. Had a cold Singha and later two more Finns came in – they were bound for Manila on LH 744.
CI642 was boarding at gate 46 at 14:20 – half an hour before departure. Once on board, I was impressed. The flight attendants were all in their 20s and very attractive, cuter than TG and SQ. Half were Thai and the rest Taiwanese. The 747 was nice inside – Dynasty Class has same seats as Finnair has in Business class and generous pitch. That USD1200 BKK-AMS-BKK C-class fare starts to look more and more attractive. Economy seats are light purple and have adjustable headrests and footrests. 47C had pretty much unlimited legroom and I was even happier to find out that 47AB remained empty.
A few minutes later, a Thai flight attendant brought me a pillow and a blanket – yes this is economy class. Once the doors were closed, cold towels were distributed and the same F/A offered me an eyeshade in case I wanted to use it as a mask – they didn’t have the real masks on board yet. We were pushed back on time and headed to 21R for takeoff. Our route today would take us near Hue in Vietnam and over South China Sea straight to Chek Lap Kok International Airport.
Drinks were served first – water, juice and coke were available on a tray – more or less same as SQ service on BKK-SIN. Lunch followed and it was a choice of chicken curry with rice or pork with noodles. Took the chicken and it was very tasty for airline food – Thai Catering does always manage to make fine food. The tray had a shrimp salad and some dessert too, as well as a real glass for wine and metal cutlery (except for knife which was plastic…). I felt like getting some more Coke later – pressed the call button and was served within seconds.
Soon the captain announced that remaining flight time was around 25 minutes and that we would start our descent momentarily. We really did – the pilots deployed the air brakes and we were descending very steeply. Landed on 25L after 15 minutes (I thought he said 25…) after a very rough and bumpy approach but they managed to make the touchdown pretty smooth despite the very windy conditions at HKG.
Immigration was quick and I decided to take the Airport Express to Hong Kong Station – what a great train that is. There are PTVs in each seat and the journey is smooth and quick. The airport express shuttle later took me to the JW Marriott – HKD 100 well spent.
1 April 2003
Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok – Bangkok International
China Airlines CI 641
1150-1335 – On Time
Photo © Sam Chui
Photo © Trevor Slack
Checked in at the Hong Kong Station and was pleased when the agent said that it would be an A340 today taking me down to Bangkok. Train ride was smooth again, grabbed some quick breakfast at the McDonalds CLK and headed through security. I made my way to gate 21 where the Airbus was waiting. Took a seat next to a Thai lady around my age – she was constantly flirting with me and had a tight top and jeans (i.e. not what most Thai’s would wear)… Add CI’s rock bottom fare and no need for HK visa for Thai citizens and I guess I figured why she had been visiting HK.
Boarding started soon and I took my seat, 17A. The A340 looked brand new inside and had nice seats with footrests, PTVs and all the rest. Pitch was tight though, maybe 31”. Also, the A340 seats are horribly narrow, no matter what airline. Took a look at the aircraft at gates nearby – B-HOX in its nice livery and Air Canada’s Star Alliance logojet were present. As I looked up, the lady from the waiting lounge was settling into 16A and gave me another big smile…
Cold towels were distributed again and the crew was as nice as on the earlier flight. Pushed back on time and taxied behind a Dragonair A320 to 07L for takeoff. Smooth takeoff and nice views from the nose cam. Flight time was 2h30min and service was about the same as on CI642. Chicken from Cathay catering was more or less tasteless – nowhere near the curry on the BKK-HKG leg. Service was great however. We flew over South China Sea, on to Da Nang, Ubon Ratchathani, Surin and finally entered a holding pattern west of Don Muang. Had a chat with my seatmate – he was flying PHL-SFO-TPE-HKG-BKK-Lahore, that’s one long trip.
I saw a Thai 777-200 circling below us and it landed just before us. We touched down smoothly on 21R a few minutes late and taxied to gate 32 where we parked next to an EVA Air B747-400. When exiting the plane, Miss 16A was hanging around the end of the jetway, clearly disappointed that I just passed by without saying a word… I made it through immigration quickly again and headed up to the airport Burger King to have lunch with a friend working for Thai Airways International.
Took a taxi to the Marriott again – the driver was the worst driver I’ve had in BKK… He refused to understand “tollway”, “upstairs”, “go tollway I pay” etc. Traffic on the regular road was horrible and he kept insisting taking me to Mo Chit skytrain station as it would take too long to the hotel. It was pointless fighting with him, so I agreed… I took skytrain to Saphan Taksin and then Marriott river shuttle to the hotel.
5 April 2003
Bangkok International – Frankfurt Main
Lufthansa LH 745
2355-0610+1 – On Time
Photo © Christian Ettelt
Photo © Mario Andreya
The week passed by way too fast… I took a taxi back to Don Muang at the last minute – checked in about 1h20min before departure. Chatty agent couldn’t confirm the upgrade yet – but offered a double upgrade to F for the two vouchers and THB 28000 cash – good value I think but no thanks. Didn’t clear immigration until before 50 minutes before departure… TG Lounge was pretty crowded, but found a seat for one last Thai beer before taking the long hike to gate 55 for boarding.
Got my upgrade cleared at the gate – I was much happier with 5C than 39D. They had a lot of no shows ex-MNL and also BKK today. Crew weren’t too friendly at all this time but managed to say hi as I boarded. Victor Tango has the large 99-seat business cabin and every single seat was taken (there were quite a few non-revs though).
Pre departure drinks were offered twice – took champagne both times. Captain welcomed us onboard and announced a long flying time of 11 hours and 15 minutes. Pushed back ten minutes late due to cargo loading (always the explanation for late departure on LH…) and taxied to 21R for takeoff. HS-TGY was being pushed back from gate 52 for TG920 to Frankfurt as well.
The Jumbo rolled for almost a minute and headed northeast after takeoff. Due to that damn war, we were taking a very unusual route tonight. Continued towards the “wrong” direction, flew over Udon Thani, Nong Khai and Vientiane before going into the Chinese airspace. Menus were delivered and drinks served – no nuts or pretzels. This flight seems to have somewhat rushed and lousy service every time, maybe because of the late departure.
Dinner followed shortly – had chicken for appetizer and beef for main course. Overall a good meal I’d say. During the meal service, it got very rough as we were flying over the Plateau of Tibet – had my tea spilled all over the table. This was my first time in a regular LH business class seat and the pitch is indeed very tight when the person in front of you reclines. I would strongly advise to take a bulkhead or exit row. I reclined and fell asleep right after the meal service – only to wake up as we were cruising near Moscow, headed towards Vilnius and finally Germany with 2h30min remaining of the flight.
Hot towels were distributed and breakfast followed – more or less the same as on FRA-BKK, but I had the omelette. Don’t know what was the point of serving the breakfast this early – I could have slept for another hour. Finally after the long flight, we landed on 25R and taxied to B45, and for once, the police did not check passports even though they were there.
I then headed up to the First Class / Senator Lounge B just to find out that showers had a waitlist with 13 people on it. Not exactly what you’d expect in an F lounge. LH needs to send non LH Star Golds to the Business Lounges or do something – this is getting worse all the time. Front desk told me that LH3060 to HK), Finland">HEL was overbooked but expected a lot of no shows… I decided to try again at the gate and bingo – they needed my seat and off I went with a Travel Voucher of EUR 150 and Finnair flight 20 minutes later.
6 April 2003
Frankfurt Main – Helsinki Vantaa
Finnair AY 822
Photo © Arttu Laaksonen
Photo © Jussi Kettunen
I then proceeded to take the Skyline to terminal 2 and checked in for AY – a British Airways agent checked me in, gave 8C and told me he blocked the middle seat for me. Security had a very rude old lady – she accused me of having a knife in my bag… I told her that it was most likely my magnetic key for my university – she took it out and put my bag through again and shouted “YOUR KEY”. Off I went to the Iberia Lounge for a quick drink – seemed like a nice lounge but I only had five minutes. They had lots of drinks but not too many snacks available.
Asked the supervisor at D24 if she could make sure my bag is getting onto the flight (LH sent it over already) and she said that she’ll make sure it will be loaded or that she’ll come to tell me onboard if it hasn’t arrived yet… She never came so I assumed my bag made it.
The A319 was rather full with a very senior crew who clearly weren’t too interested in customer service… We sat at the gate for nearly an hour after boarding was completed – no reason given. At this point I was more or less sure that my bag had had enough time to make it. Pushed back half an hour late and taxied past a NW DC10 and other U.S. heavies to 07L for takeoff. Nose cam wasn’t on for some reason – oh well.
Flew past downtown Frankfurt and headed towards Berlin and the Baltic Sea. A hot meal of chicken and vegetables was served – pretty decent but nothing to write home about. I got a glimpse of the pax list during meal service – only one OW Emerald on board apparently. My seat was clearly marked as AA PLAT / ** SAPPHIRE **. Flight was very uneventful and I was very pissed off having to go back to Finland – it was below zero with snow on the ground at HK), Finland">HEL.
We landed almost an hour late and as a bonus, taxied to a remote stand near Finnair hangars… I waited for my bag half an hour but it never turned up. Went to the AY arrival service counter and the conversation went like this:
Me: Are all FRA bags there already?
Agent: Oh yeah.
Me: Well, mine apparently didn’t make it…
Agent: Yeah we already know this one didn’t make it.
I was pretty damn pissed off at this point – how about paging me as the bus from remote stand arrived so I wouldn’t have had to wait?? SAS *ALWAYS* does this as they can obviously see which bags didn’t make it… Oh well, Finnair clearly doesn’t care as I am only AA Platinum and was on a full Y fare (paid by LH but anyway…).
Agent: Don’t worry, we’ll deliver it to you – easier for you to go home without luggage. Oh, maybe you had your jacket there too… it’s cold outside.
Me: Nice point – BYE.
I was fully expecting my bag not to make it but the way AY handled this at both FRA and HK), Finland">HEL is a joke.
JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
Booked through Priceline as usual – USD110 per night wasn’t too bad for a 5* in Hong Kong. Hotel is located at the Pacific Place with direct access to Admiralty MTR and not too far from Star Ferry. Island Shangri-La and Conrad are located in the same complex. Check-in was efficient and I got my preferred king bed-non smoking combo. I was escorted to the elevators and I was pretty impressed at this point.
Room however was small and not as nice as at the JW Marriott Bangkok. Prices at the minibar/room service were the highest I have seen anywhere. Welcome fruit basket and Chinese tea were provided as well as turndown service.
Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa – A Royal Garden Resort
This must be one of the better deals in the Thai capital - $47 via Priceline. Hotel is located by the Chao Phraya river, a 15-minute free shuttle boat ride from BTS Saphan Taksin. Taxis cost THB 80-150 from the early sois of Sukhumvit and THB 70-80 from Silom, depending on traffic. Cold towel and a welcome drink was provided at the front desk when I checked in – nice touch. I got riverview king rooms both times – the rooms are very large, have nice furniture and also a balcony. Not quite as nice as the JW Marriott Bangkok but still fantastic. One minus would be no separate shower stalls in the bathrooms. Minibar and room service reasonably priced.
The hotel has full resort facilities, a garden, swimming pool etc. The garden looks quite stunning at night with all the lights etc. There is a shopping mall next to the hotel with KFC, McDonalds etc as well.
That’s it for now… hope you enjoyed. I can post the menus for LH C if someone wants once my suitcase decides to show up...