From home to home
GVA (GMT+02:00) – FRA (GMT+02:00)
Photo © Florian Kondziela
Boeing 737-530 D-ABJH Name: Heppenheim/Bergstrasse
-Schedule: 07:20 - 08:45
-In fact: 08:02 - 09:05
-Flight time: 1 hour 3 min.
At 06:10, all alone nonetheless not feeling lonely, as LH frequent traveller I check without standing in line at one of the LH business counters at GVA. Both my pieces of luggage (total weight 40 kg) are labelled “priority”, and I receive two boarding passes : GVA-FRA and FRA-MAA. I go happily one escalator up, through the passport control and walk to the departure satellite-lounge B32 with my laptop bag and another hand luggage : one escalator down, one first travelator , one second travelator, breezily through the security check, one escalator up. Here I am, now seating and waiting for my flight to be called for boarding, enjoying being right now free from any pressure. Three flights are successively called before mine: Swiss for Zurich, Alitalia for Rome and SAS for Copenhagen, with latecomers on every flight.
At about 07:00 I board in the 737-530 named “Heppenheim/Bergstrasse “and come near my seat 19C, put my two pieces of hand luggage in the overhead compartment, take my seat and have a look at the passengers still boarding and the FAs welcoming them on board. The flight is about 40% full. Once I notice I have the full row of three seats for me, I slip into the window seat 19A and just realize how it’s heavily raining outside.
The Captain comes on the intercom and says that the plane will depart with a delay maybe up to one hour, owing to stormy weather conditions affecting the landings in FRA. This announcement is giving some passengers cause to worry about their connecting flights. A second announcement is made with the attention to prevent the passengers to worry for their connecting flights in FRA.
As the plane has to stick on for a longer time on the apron, we are served some drinks. I take an OJ. In spite of the facts that we have been reassured about our connecting flights in FRA , and that the drinks are the most welcome, some passengers have still good reason to worry for their connecting flights and keep on asking FAs for more information. As the scheduled departure of my flight to MAA is at 10:45 am in FRA , there is no reason for me to worry, and I will even manage to make some duty-free purchases in FRA.
There is a smell of coffee. Is our plane going to move ? Much sooner than expected, at 07:55 I see that we are moving away from the gate for starting our taxiing to the only one runway GVA possesses. Instead of one hour, we are only 35 minutes late : the captain should have meanwhile found a better time slot for landing in FRA. The usual security instructions are given in both the language of Goethe and the language of Shakespeare, supported by a FA giving a demonstration with an oxygen mask. Then the instructions are given without any demonstration in the language of Voltaire through the same unaltered, clear feminine recorded voice.
At 08:02 we reach the end north-east of the runway and we lift off after a ??-second run time
(forgotten to time it) and climb provides a beautiful aerial view of all the planes still pinned to the apron, and next to the airport I can see how the traffic towards Geneva is tailing back on two roads, and as we climb I can admire the river Rhone snaking to the French border.
We take a turn to the right, fly along the Jura Mountains : dark green fieds, greyness landscape, reddish-brown roofs, everything is tidy at its place under the clouds.
At 08:07 we are inside the clouds. It is beginning to bump, to hop, to jump, to shake, to rock : there is no more room for doubting that it will be a most bumpy flight. But I know by experience that on this route between the Alps and the Jura Mountains, when flying direction north-east, and at our not so high altitude, it may be bumpy for 20-25 minutes.
I have pulled my tray table down to write my trip report, but writing is not that easy in these rough conditions. The Captain does not make any announcement. He is sharing the same bumps as his passengers and being sole master on board under God he must clutch at his controls. A passenger is getting up from her seat and she is immediately invited to sit down again by an FA seating behind the plane ! As I am sitting in one of the last rows just near the shelf with LH timetables and writing paper, I get up, make a quick jump to the shelf, but as soon as I have some writing paper in the hands it is my turn to be invited to quick sit down again ! I obey, but let me tell you a secret, and please keep it under your hat : I love staggering along the aisle when it is very bumpy !
At 08:15 FAs are still fastened in their seats, nobody is speaking. I begin to have my first stomach cramp, from which only a sandwich could deliver me. At 08:20 I have the impression it is becoming calm. No, it was only an impression, but it should soon stop shaking us. At 08:25 still no service and suddenly a triple ringing. Still bumpy. One double ringing. The seatbelt sign is turned off now.
The rough sea is behind us, now we are out of the bumps ! At 08:30 two FAs begin the service in coach. I take a ham sandwich and sparkling water. A young passenger sitting on the other side of the aisle stands up and goes to the lavatory. As far as I can judge it at the livid color of his face he seems to have suffered from the bumps. Hopefully it was not his first flight.
The sandwich is most welcome and very good. In 30 minutes we should land in FRA. The plane slows down, probably to fit he time slot for landing in FRA. A FA taller than a giraffe but milder than a doe asks me If I want drink a coffee. How could I refuse an offer made with such kindness ! Here I am, now drinking my coffee and appreciating it.
At 08:40 the clouds covering is losing its density and I can survey the grayness of the German territory between the clouds. Big bank to the left. There are clouds covers at different levels, circulating at different speeds. At 08:45 the seatbelt sign is turned on and we can hear a double ringing. The captain announces a landing time within 20 minutes. Big bank to the right. We are now again inside the clouds and the extreme end of the wings becomes very hazy.
Two banks to the left. At 08:54 we are asked to remain seated and to put our seats in an upright position. As I still use my tray table for writing, a Fa asks me to put it up again. Big bank to the left again. Some brake flaps are activated and I can here the FAs behind the plane chatting in German about their work, etc. We are still flying in the clouds, as if we were lost in a snow-white universe, where I pause to think about the air-traffic controllers and appreciate their important guidance.
At 09:00 an announcement is made to the passengers flying to MSQ and to LHR and the details of their new connecting flights are given first in German, then in English. At 09:03 the undercarriage is moved down, the usual message “crew ready for landing” is given. All flaps are out and suddenly we emerge out of the clouds, fly over a highway surrounded by pine forests and at 09:05 we have an normal touch down and I can see like a thin contrail originating in the end of the left wing.
After deplaning we enter in a bus, in which announcements are made in German, English and French. During the five minutes drive to the terminal N° 1 I can gaze at the planes of various Airliners such as Thai, Air Canada, Delta, United, Northwest, Gulf, China Airlines, US Airways, Continental, Malaysian, Bulgarian, etc….. and LH of course.
Transit in FRA
Once arrived at Terminal 1 I have a look at the huge blue departure board and can see that my flight LH 758 to MAA is at Gate B48 with a boarding time fixed at 10:00 am, just like indicated on the boarding card FRA-MAA I have got in GVA. One escalator up and I go to the next tax-free shop , test some fragrances, and finally decide to buy for my wife the latest eau de parfum « L’instant de Guerlain », some chocolates and some American whiskies.One long travelator brings me to Gate B48.
FRA (GMT+02:00) – MAA (GMT+05:30)
Photo © Peter Unmuth - VAP
Boeing 747-430 D-ABTE Name: Sachsen-Anhalt
-Schedule: 10:45 am - 11:10 pm
-In fact (approx): 11:30 am - 11:15 pm
-Flight time : 8 hours 15 min.
As most of the passengers are already sitting in the departure lounge when I am arriving at Gate B48, I stand in line for only 10 minutes before my boarding pass is ripped apart at the entrance of the lounge. Showing my LH frequent traveller card I ask an agent to put one of my two pieces of hand luggage, the one on wheels, in the baggage hold of the plane with a label “priority”. No objection to my proposal . I make a phone in India and already the flight is called. Small walk down the gangway and I board in the 747-430 named “Sachsen-Anhalt“, where I am welcomed by smiling FAs. After weaving my way through the other aisle and galleys to avoid passengers stagnating in the aisle and blocking the road with much inertia to others, I reach my seat 36G, put my laptop and the plastic bag with my tax-free shop purchases inside in the overhead compartment, take my seat and have a look at the passengers sitting next to me. A woman and a man, age about 60. Who are they ? I will know it soon.
The Captain comes on the intercom and says that the plane will depart later. I guess that our plane should not reach MAA before 11:00 pm, because Chennai (ex Madras) International airport would be bustling with to much activity at that time. After saying hello to the two passengers next to me, I begin to talk with them, and I learn that they are from Marseilles and we begin to joke a little in French.
We are talking and joking, the lateness has become nonexistent and our plane is already on taxiing to the runway. The captain announces a flying time of 8hours 15min. We lift off after a rather long 48-second and will follow the usual route over Southern Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, South of Black Sea, Turkey, Iran (Zahedan), Pakistan (KHI), India(BOM) and MAA.
As the passengers sitting next to me are really a nice couple I abandon the idea of writing a trip report for this flight portion. As we have reached our cruising altitude appetizers are served and I take a gin tonic. The lady sitting next to me is going to the lavatory and when she comes back her husband come sitting next to me. He explains me that he is suffering of a handicap due to a car accident and as he refused to finish his days in a wheelchair he got a special surgical operation and now thanks to sophisticated microelectronic equipments he has not lost the use of his paralyzed left leg. Before retirement he was working in military aviation industry.
As we are speaking about Aviation, European, Chinese and Indian Cultures, and other subjects, with a sense of humour in the right time, time is just flying. The lunchtime (chicken, etc + red wine + liquor + coffee) is interrupting our conversation, but not for long, and suddenly we realize that our plane is leaving Turkey to enter the Iranian territory. I get some sleep all over Iran till we enter Pakistan. Then our conversation regains, but never with abrupt change of subject. Between KHI and BOM a supper is served (pasta, etc + red wine) interrupting again our conversation, but not for long. The FAs, (female and male) are all very kind, smiling and helpful. It is really a nice flight and the long conversations we have are never boring. I was lucky not to have been free bumped up to business class this flight and even if I will not know about their future, this French couple will stay in my memory in the privileged part of it, I mean very near to my heart.
We land in MAA without missed approach and after immigration I find immediately my three pieces of checked luggage labelled “priority”. And before going out of the airport I hear somebody calling “Claude”. It is Michel and his wife, the French couple, saying goodbye to me before leaving the airport for their first trip in southern India.
Some people have no home. I have two and consider it as a great blessing to love the two of them !!
Well, that’s my first trip report. Please be kind with me and apologize for my lapses of any kind.
Thank you for your comments. Best Regards. Kilavoud.