26 December 2003
Helsinki Vantaa (HEL/EFHK) – Frankfurt Main Intl (FRA/EDDF)
Lufthansa LH 3101
1355-1525 – On Time
Business Class, Seat 1A
Photo © Charles Falk
Photo © Aaron Lupton
I arrived at Helsinki airport about two hours before – the economy class lines were completely insane, stretching out all the way to the AF ticket counter. SAS Self Service rejected my ticket because “ticket information doesn’t match the reservation”. Checked in at the business class counters quickly, the guy just handed two boarding passes to me without saying a word…
I quickly made my way to the SAS lounge – it was absolutely empty. They had some ham and glögi (hot x-mas drink) available, but otherwise the lounge was its usual very basic self. The toilet stank absolutely horrible, next time I’ll just go outside to use regular toilets. It was gross. There were two more people in the lounge by now – they soon boarded their MD80 to Copenhagen. LH3100 from Frankfurt soon landed, and it was an A321 instead of the scheduled A320.
The flight boarded on time at gate 28, and the load was surprisingly light actually. The FRA-HEL sector must have been quite full to warrant the aircraft change. I had row 1 all for myself, and there were three other passengers in business (three rows). The front bulkhead had some Christmas decorations on it and looked nice. Cold refreshment towels were offered before pushback along with newspapers and magazines.
Pushback was right on time and we took off from 22L a few minutes later. Beverages and a bag of almonds were offered after takeoff – I asked for champagne and some water. The stuff I was given was actually some sparkling wine… A hot snack was served shortly thereafter, consisting of mixed salad with French dressing, chicken with rice, some cake and Godiva chocolates. Nice meal for European business class.
As I was sipping my Baileys near Hamburg, a northbound Lufthansa 747-400 passed us – what a beautiful sight! We soon started our descent towards Frankfurt and juices or water on a tray were offered once more in business class. Landed on 25L at 3:25pm and taxied to the A-concourse. The ladies wished me a nice onward flight and I headed to the B gates.
Thanks to Lufthansa’s Christmas schedule changes, I had a 7-hour layover at Frankfurt instead of the original two hours. I suppose I wasn’t the only one, since the standing/smoking room that is also called Lufthansa First Class Lounge / Senator Lounge B had no seats available. My visit lasted about 30 seconds.
United Airlines International First Class Lounge, Frankfurt DE
Luckily United operates a real first class lounge at Frankfurt airport. It’s relatively big, and I was the only passenger there for a while. Food and drink offerings are nothing special, some warmed baguettes, sandwiches etc. They do have JW Black and decent champagne though. There are no computers with internet access. Overall a decent lounge and a peaceful haven compared to the LH lounges. Met some guy on his way from SFO to CPT and had to spend the whole day at FRA. He said he always wanted to visit Thailand but the US authorities say it’s not safe to travel there. Yeah… whatever. The UA lounges close at 8.30pm, so I was forced to go to the Senator Lounge B for a while. The only seat that I found was in the smoking section… Had three glasses of champagne before heading down to B25 for boarding.
26 December 2003
Frankfurt Main Intl (FRA/EDDF) – Bangkok Don Muang Intl (BKK/VTBD)
Lufthansa LH 744
2200-1410+1 – On Time
First Class, Seat 82K
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
Photo © Philippe Bleus
Photo © Joan Martorell
Photo © Mario Aurich
Boarding was just starting as I made it to the gate, and it was done orderly for once. Nevertheless, once First class and families with children were called, all the Filipinos started rushing to the door (very many MNL bound Filipinos in Y). The guy went nuts and started shouting in his microphone and finally the 300 pax backed off a bit. I was amongst the first to board and made my way to the peaceful upper deck.
I was immediately offered a drink and a bowl of warmed nuts, I chose champagne as usual. The flight attendant said she remembers me from a previous Bangkok flight – nice touch. She worked indeed on my latest flight in Business I believe. My original seat was possibly the best one in F – 83A. There was however a couple split between 83C and 82K and I agreed to switch to 82K. They’re all nice seats anyway and I didn’t want to make anyone’s flight miserable at Christmas. However, I later saw the boarding pass of the lady; she was travelling on positive space LH staff F ticket. Should I have known that, I’d never have moved and I find it quite strange that the crew agreed to ask me as a Senator to change.
The upper deck filled up completely, and slippers, amenity kits and sweaters were handed out before pushback. My glass of champagne was refilled twice and a hot towel was offered as well. Also personal video orders were taken, I ordered none. Noise-cancelling Sennheiser headsets are located in the armrest, you can not remove them. They’re the exact same ones that Finnair uses in business class and quite nice.
We were pushed back for the 9 hour 45 minute night flight exactly on time, at 10pm. We taxied to runway 18 and took off ten minutes later. It’s a different world on the upper deck of the Jumbos, it’s rather quiet and peaceful even during takeoff. The big bird lifted off after a 40-second roll, and we turned left soon thereafter. As soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off, more drinks were offered. I had champagne again. The purser then gave out menus and a Christmas gift from Lufthansa – a Jeunes Restauranteurs d’Europe cookbook. He also chatted a bit with everyone, a nice touch. His last comment was a nice one: “I see you’re a Senator as well, so you fly up here more than I do. Have a great flight.”
The linens, cutlery etc were soon placed on my table, and a rose was placed in the armrest flower holder as usual in LH F. Here’s the menu:
Lufthansa First Class
Frankfurt – Bangkok
Bangkok – Manila
With great pleasure we present to you a true Master of the trade. Today, Frank Zlomke will pamper you with his kitchen artistry.
Caviar with the traditional Garnishes
Sea Trout Confit with Sushi Rice and Wasabi
Papaya Salad with roasted Cashew Nuts and Curry Dressing
Smoked Ostrich ham and puréed Figs
Frisée, Radicchio, Lollo Rosso and Lamb’s Lettuce
with Cherry Tomatoes and Croûtons
presented with Grapeseed hazelnut Vinaigrette
or Meaux Mustard Dressing
Tenderloin of Springbok in Morello Cherry Crust
accented by Pinotage Jus and Polenta
Fillet of Halibut with Parsley Glaze
complimented by Lemon Butter and Tagliatelle
Eggplant Ravioli enhanced by Rosemary Sauce
and grilled Vegetables
Roasted Goose, Red Cabbage with Apples
and Potato Dumplings with Herb Butter
Cheese and Dessert
Comté, Brie, Bleu d’Auvergne, Morbier
and Pont l’Evêque offered with Grapes
Baumkuchen garnished with Strawberry Coulis
Brioche Pudding with Apple Filling
accompanied by Cinnamon Crème
German Specialty Dessert Wines
Freshly squeezed Orange Juice
Pineapple, Apple, Cantaloupe, Blueberries, Kiwi and Mango
Gourmet Müsli, Yogurt, Chocolate Banana Müsli
Cereal and Fresh Milk
Bread, Rolls, Toast, Brioche, Croissants and Muffins
with Butter, Diet Margarine, Preserves and Honey
A variety of cold Breakfast specialties
featuring roasted Loin of Veal, Chicken Pastrami,
Allgäu Cheese and Spinach Tofu Quiche
garnished with Carrot and Cucumber Sticks
and Pumpkin Seeds
Scrambled Eggs will be freshly prepared upon your request
accompanied by your choice of Bacon or Chives
Bread Soufflé with Almonds and Raisins
accompanied by Pineapple Ginger Mascarphone,
marinated Figs and Berry Chutney
Last Minute Breakfast
Coffee or Tea
Freshly squeezed Orange Juice
Champagne: 1997 Louise Pommery, Champagne Pommery, France
I started with the caviar and some toast as well as champagne. The cart soon stopped at my row again, I asked for the Papaya Salad this time. The flight attendant handed me the nice plate holder containing all three appetizer choices and said “Why don’t you just try them all!” They were all tasty. As soon as I was finished, my salad with the mustard dressing arrived and my glasses were topped up constantly. Various breads were offered many times, the garlic bread was nice.
The springbok was my choice of entrée and it was perfect. It was one of the best main dishes that I have ever eaten anywhere, no kidding. Cheeses, dessert and chocolates followed and I had a few Baileys with ice as well. There was a young couple and their young baby in 82A/C/H, and after the meal they decided it would be ok to change the diapers right there… Pretty inconsiderate to other I’d say. Later the lady put on the LH sweater, took off her skirt and went to the bathroom with just panties and the sweater – that move I didn’t object at all I then reclined my seat into bed and fell asleep in no time.
I woke up about two hours before landing when the cabin lights were switched on and breakfast service was starting. A glass of freshly squeezed OJ and a hot towel arrived quickly, and the main breakfast service started soon. I was still full from the nice dinner, so I just ordered the fruit plate and scrambled eggs. Both were tasty and nicely presented.
After the meal, I went to the bathroom to change back to normal clothes. The upper deck lavatories are relatively large and have a window, but there are absolutely no amenities, so bring you better take the amenity kit with you. We were already in Thai airspace and started the descent towards Don Muang shortly after I made it back to my seat. Familiar views of Thai countryside came into view, and at 2pm the good old jumbo sharply turned right for finals to BKK 21L.
We landed smoothly a few minutes ahead of schedule and taxied to gate 56. That gate is so far away from T2 immigration that it’s not funny. Passport control took a few minutes, and my bag appeared amongst the first fifty priority bags or so. LH should most definitely attach separate priority tags for First Class baggage, not just the usual Star Alliance priority tag. Took a taxi to the JW Marriott and it took about 22 minutes.
JW Marriott Hotel Bangkok
I had personally requested a king bed non-smoking room during my last stay in the beginning of December, and let them know about my arrival time. However, they had no room assigned for me, and said it would be about an hour’s wait as they had no rooms available at the moment. I would expect a little better for a Marriott elite member who has stayed at this particular hotel six times. Ironically, the first stay was the best and the service has gone downhill on each subsequent visit. No letter from the manager or any newspapers on last visit for example. Nobody escorts you to your room anymore either.
They offered us complimentary orange juice in the lobby lounge, and the room was ready after an hour. Luckily the agent had upgraded us to a very large corner room on the 15th floor with nice views towards the Conrad. The room, while almost double the size of the regular rooms, was missing the comfortable large armchair. There was just a bed, working desk and a TV. It reminded me of the Courtyard Toronto Downtown which has big rooms with pretty much nothing inside them.
The bathroom was absolutely huge, but still had the same small bathtub. Room service and housekeeping staff were exceptional as usual, although they bring you new shower gel at random days and my girlfriend always complains about that. Overall a great stay again but I like the Westin, Shangri-La and Intercontinental more. Can’t beat the location of the JW though.
03 January 2004
Bangkok Don Muang Intl (BKK/VTBD) – Manila Ninoy Aquino Intl (MNL/RPLL)
Lufthansa LH 744
First Class, Seat 83A
Photo © TTT
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
The week passed by way too quickly, and it was time to go on to Manila. We took a taxi to the airport at noon – I wanted to have time to check out the SQ and TG F lounges. I checked in at the First counter quickly and bought the departure tax ticket. I then said goodbyes to my girlfriend and headed through immigration straight to the Singapore Airlines First lounge.
Singapore Airlines Silver Kris First Lounge, Bangkok TH
The lounge is quite small and nothing special. Snacks included sandwiches, fried noodles, pastries etc. Swensens and Hägen Dazs ice cream for dessert. No champagne and very basic drink selection. They do have one internet terminal and great views of the tarmac.
Thai Airways International Royal First Class Lounge T2, Bangkok TH
This one is a brand new lounge between concourses 4 and 5. It has a very nice Thai design and feels like a real first class lounge. They have a very nice selection of drinks, including Chivas Royal Salute and Courvoiser XO cognac. Moët&Chandon cordon rouge champagne was available from the kitchen after I asked. They have showers, internet terminals and a decent snack selection as well. I was the only customer in both first class lounges.
LH 744 to Manila was to depart from gate 56 again. I made it there about 20 minutes before departure and boarding had not yet begun. It was quite a zoo at the gate and the flight seemed to be rather full with lots of Filipinos joining from Bangkok as well. As soon as boarding started, I made my way to the upper deck and was told that no other passengers would be joining from Bangkok. There was one guy coming from FRA but he opted not to get any food or drinks during this leg.
I was offered a drink and a bowl of nuts immediately again. However, they served Duval Leroy champagne from business class as pre departure drink… And the pillows were the el cheapo economy class ones. We were pushed back about ten minutes late and taxied to 21R for takeoff. We lifted off after a short roll, and headed towards the Philippine capital.
Quite disappointing service on this flight, no amenity kit or slippers or even menus were given out. There was just one starter, some salmon and vegetables. Main course was either fish with noodles or spicy chicken. I took the fish and it was ok. Dessert was just a fruit plate. The guy serving me on the upper deck was a nice fellow and kept my champagne glass always full (real F stuff after departure) and suggested that I try his special Baileys cocktails after the dinner. Had two and man were they strong. I had a cappuccino as well.
For the rest of the flight, I just plugged in my laptop and read some book that I have as a pdf file there. Meanwhile, the sun was setting and soon it was pitch black outside. We started our descent into Ninoy Aquino International Airport just after 7pm. We landed on time and taxied to the dump called NAIA 1. Said bye to the guys on the upper deck and made my way to immigration which had some lines due to the arrival of KLM and Qantas from Amsterdam and Sydney respectively.
I then proceeded to the hotel taxi area and the guy from Intercontinental arranged a car for P600 to the hotel.
I made the mistake of not doing enough research on 5* hotels before I bid for this through Priceline. Thus I assumed it would have been either the Makati Shangri La or Peninsula, but I got the Intercontinental for about 6 dollars more than what interconti.com quotes.
I got upgraded to an executive room according to the desk clerk, no idea how it is different from standard rooms as it’s not same as club intercontinental with lounge access. The room itself was a bit old, but with nice furniture and good view of the Glorietta mall. The queen bed was a joke, very hard and uncomfortable. The bathroom was old and small but clean. There’s a fax machine on the working desk and also Intercontinental WorldLink broadband access. The staff were all nice but prices at the hotel are outrageous. A two-minute call to Thailand cost P350 and a burger from room service P440. I have no idea about other Manila 5* hotels, but compared to Thailand, Hong Kong etc, I’d rate this place as 4*, not 5*.