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Posts: 3049
Joined: Mon Mar 29, 2004 5:23 am


Thu Dec 16, 2004 6:09 am

You will be wondering why I didn't get on the direct LH423 flight from
BOS to FRA and, instead, I flew through IAD. The main reason was that
LH423 leaves far too early (16:45) and I really couldn't leave work
early enough to catch it. Additionally, and more importantly, because
of its early departure, I can never get any sleep on it and I always
arrive at FRA sleepy and zonked out. So, I decided to take a chance
and fly through IAD on UA since I could catch a later flight.

Fri, Nov 19, BOS, Terminal C

I was at the airport around 2.5 hours before the flight. The UA
check-in desks were quite busy but, thanks to my AC Gold card, I used
the priority check-in line which was pretty quick. I then went to
Legal Seafoods, my favourite airport restaurant, and had a nice dinner
(light clam chowder and a seafood salad, YUM!  Big thumbs up). I then went
through security and spent some time at the UA Red Carpet lounge which
was not too busy.

Fri, Nov 19, UA861, BOS 19:01 to IAD 20:42, B757-200, Gate C16, Seat 13C

When I reached the gate, around boarding time, I saw some passangers
disembarking the plane so I assumed that it had arrived a bit late. UA
turned it around pretty quickly though and boarding was called 10-15
mins later. It turns out that the same flight would carry on to Sao
Paolo after IAD. I got on board and reached my seat. I usually like
window seats but this time I had chosen an aisle seat to be able to
get out of the plane as quickly as possible to catch my connection at
IAD. I put my hand luggage on the overhead bin, sat down, looked to my
left, and, oh crap, that's the row with no window! I hate this
row! I should have checked seatguru beforehand. Oh well, it will only
be for an hour or so.

Boarding took a long long time to be completed. The flight was full
and a lot of passangers had large-ish carry-ons. So, the overhead bins
got full pretty quickly and passangers had to try to walk against the
flow to find space for their carry-ons. Eventually the crew had to
take away some of them. The (female) pilot informed us that flight
time would be around 1h10m. Doors closed around 5 mins late (not
bad!), we pushed back, taxied, waited around, taxied some more, waited
some more, and we eventually took off around 19:20. Did I say I
hated not being able to watch outside and see what's happening?

The flight was smooth. We got some refreshments by the very courteous
and friendly crew and I read my book (Vampire$ by John Steakley). The
girl who was sitting next to me was watching Monster's Inc on her
laptop and I couldn't help taking a look (at the screen!) every now
and then.

We eventually landed at IAD only a few mins late and taxied to our
gate. Thanks to having an aisle seat I managed to get out of the plane
very quickly, but there was not real hurry as I had plenty of time to
reach the next gate.

Fri, Nob 19, IAD

Our arrival gate was at one end of Concourse D and the departure gate
of my next flight was at the end other of Concourse C. So I had to
walk for about 15 mins to reach it. I stopped on the way at a Red
Carpet Lounge to drink some water (did I see three lounges on my

Fri, Nov 19, UA932, IAD 21:45 to FRA 11:35, B777-200, Gate C3, Seat 24J

When I reached the gate boarding had already started and within a few
mins I was on board and on my seat. I love UA's economy plus seats! I
hadn't been on a B777 for some time (about a year I think) and, for
some reason, its interior looked particularly cavernous and spacious
from my seat. The flight was again full. This time I took my
noise-cancelling headphones out of my luggage so that I could listen
to Ch 9. All airlines should have Ch 9. It rules!

We pushed back and took off on time. I listened to our (female again!
Cool!  Big thumbs up) pilot talking with the ATC for a bit and then decided that
I should get some sleep. So, I took out my mp3 player, put on my sleep
mask, and got confortable. I have tried many times to sleep on LH
A340s and, say what you like, but the shape and position of the wall
with respect to the seat on the A340 is just unconfortable. The wall
is too curvy and there is a gap over which I have to stretch to reach
it. As a result I can never get sleep confortably on A340s (and A330s
too). I have no such problems on B777s because the wall is at a
perfect position (for my height at least!) to lean against. And,
thanks to the extra leg room of UA's economy plus seats, I could
actually position my legs in a confortable position. As a result I
fell asleep for a bit, woke up a couple of times. Checked the map. We
were just under 3 hours into the flight. Tried to sleep some more.

The next thing I know it's bright outside and we only have 1h40m
left. 10 mins later they started serving breakfast. Great! I love when
this happens! This was the most sleep I've had on a flight for a long
time. Thank you UA! Breakfast consisted of some fruit, an orange
juice, a hot pastry, and lots of coffee. A bit later we started
descending towards FRA. I started listening to Ch 9 again. At some
point a LH pilot didn't quite understand what the ATC told him and the
ATC made a joke about the pilot's English (in a very thick German
accent). It was pretty amusing.

We landed slightly ahead of schedule. I hadn't flown UA transatlantic
for some time and, I have to say, I enjoyed it very much and I'm glad
I chose UA for this trip, despite the extra connection.

Sat, Nov 20, FRA

We disembarked at the A gates at FRA. I walked towards immigration,
which in that part of the terminal is next to the luggage reclaim area
and didn't have any long lines. So I went through quickly and I was
out in less than 15 mins. Excellent! Overall, a very enjoyable
transatlantic crossing.

While in FRA, I went to Vienna on a short sight-seeing trip with my girlfriend. You
can read about it here, as I decided to post it separately:


Mon, Nov 29, FRA

I got to the airport two hours before the flight. I wanted to do some
work on my laptop (whose battery was pretty dead) so I was hoping that
the flight would leave from the B gates since the LH lounge near that
area is quite big and there's more of a chance to find an empty seat
with a power outlet. I check the board for gate information. Crap,
it's A63. Double crap, the flight is already an hour delayed
(estimated departure time was shown as 11:40). I checked in at the
First Class desks (thanks to my AC gold card) and the agent there, who
was polite and very efficient, warned me about the delay and suggested
that I should find a LH lounge to relax. I was planning to!

I was through security and immigration pretty quickly and I reached
the LH Senator's Lounge near the A gates. It was packed. I
managed to find a seat at one of the tables but I couldn't find one
with a power outlet. So, instead of doing some work, I started reading
the book I had with me for the flight, Orson Scott Card's Ender's
Game. More people kept coming into the lounge and it's the first time
that I've seen a good number standing up. It was pretty mad! I
considered myself lucky for actually having a seat. During my stay I
had a few of the small sandwiches which were offered (chicken club and
smoked salmon) and lots of pretty good coffee.

One of the LH employees who was sitting at the desk was a Greek lady
and she kept talking on the phone to one of her friends in Greek. At
some point a passanger asked her something (I didn't hear what) and
after he left she started bitching about him to her friend (still in
Greek), about what an idiot he was asking the question he asked and
how it is unbelievable that passangers can ask such stupid
questions. Whatever the guy asked I feel that it's totally
inappropriate to make such comments in public (and pretty loudly
too!), believing that noone can understand you. Very
unprofessional, Mrs, very unprofessional... Tsk tsk tsk...

Around an hour before the estimated departure I started making my way
towards our gate. For a change the extra security check for US flights
was actually totally deserted so I didn't have to stand in line at
all. I think it was because all the other flights from that part of
the terminal had already left and we were the last. I reached the
gate, got my passport checked (as they usually do), before proceeding
to showing my boarding pass to the gate agent. She told me that we
were going to change gate very soon, since there was an equipment
change, so I should just wait outside. I asked whether there was a
technical problem with the plane and she said indeed it was and
couldn't fix it on time. So we will have to get on another one, but
she couldn't work out why we needed to change gates.

Eventually we were hearded off to gate A65, which was thankfully
almost next to A63. Hearded off is an extremely appropriate term here,
since there was 400+ people in an enclosed gate area, moving in one
group to another enclosed gate area, flanked by LH agents who were
making sure noone ran away. What a civilised way to start your flight!  Nuts
We were then told that the new plane is not ready yet and boarding
will start in about 25 mins. I really hate the gates at FRA. There's
never enough seats for everyone, lots of people have to stand, it's
totally crammed, and just unconfortable. I assume the reason why they
insist in locking the passangers in the gate area is to make sure that
everyone has got their documents (extra passport screening and
boarding passes) checked. But they could easily do the extra screening
earlier in the terminal (after the extra security check? I remember
they used to do that), check the boarding passes when passangers board
the plane (and not when they get into the gate area), and allow people
to freely walk in and out. It'd be much better and more civilised.
Yes, if we only have to stay in the gate area for 10-15 mins it's
OK. But this time some people were there for hours and I'm sure they
were sick of the experience. I wish someone at LH reads this.

Mon, Nov 29, LH422, FRA 10:30 to BOS 12:30, B747-400, Gate A63, Seat 25K

Eventually boarding was called and we were told that we will be taking
the bus to our plane. Aha! This might have been the reason why we had
to move to a new gate (perhaps A61 didn't have buss access). I got on
the second bus. Interestingly, when we reached the plane (which was
parked at the low numbered A gates) we actually boarded from the
back-left door. I can't even remember the last time I boarded a B747
via the stairs. Standing next to it, the B747 looked awesome. I got in
and I had to walk along the entire economy cabin, as my seat was on
the second economy row. Boarding was pretty chaotic. Some passangers
also boarded from the front doors and, as a result, there was
confusion in the aisles, with people trying to get round each other. I
can only imagine how much fun it would be if we had 100 more
passangers boarding on an A380 this way!

I have to say that I really do not like the 3-X-3 config as, if you
want a window seat, you have to jump over two people to get to the
aisle. So, despite being a Boeing fan, the B747 is not my favourite
plane, mainly for this reason. And, of course, I did have two people
sitting next to me, as the plane was totally packed, as usual. We
pushed back 1h40m late but taxi was very quick and we took off shortly

Everyone on board settled down for the 7h10m flight. The crew first
offered refreshments, then a hot lunch. The option was turkey or
beef. I had the latter, which was pretty good: a salad with small
pieces of smoked salmon, reasonable beef chunks in a bbq sauce, with
some pasta and some veggies, and a nice rice pudding with stewed fruit
and cinnamon. Above average, I would say, for economy food. There was
some tv programming, followed by the movie which was "Anchorman: The
Legend Of Ron Burgundy". I really didn't seem all that appealing so I
skipped it. Instead I carried on reading Ender's Game, which was
absolutely great and I couldn't put it down. About 2 hours before
landing we were offered a hot snak. The option was ham panini or
veggie pizza. I had the latter and I would say that it was very
good. I've flown LH on this route for a couple of years now and I have
to say that their food has definitely improved.

We hit some bumps on the way and the seat belt sign came on a few
times. It was pretty awesome seeing the B747's huge wing flexing and
the engines moving left and right! We eventually started our descent
towards BOS. We approached from the East, first did a left turn to
move away fom the airport, then a tight right turn to line up with the
runway. Around 1,000ft the pilot did an S-turn (tight right, then
tight left turn) and then aborted the landing. If you want to see the
radar track of this, the instructions are included here:

As we were gaining altitude the captain said that he felt we were too
close to the plane in front of us and he decided to go around. It
would have been so cool to have had Ch 9 during the aborted
landing! The lady sitting next to me seemed a bit nervous so I cracked
a joke in the lines of "Welcome to Lufthansa's scenic tour of
Boston. On your right you can see the Boston Harbour Islands. On your
That seemed to cheer her up a bit. Having said all this,
we did get a nice view of Boston and Boston Harbour during the go
around, as the weather was gorgeous and we were flying low (at least I
was enjoying myself!). We eventually landed safely 10 mins later and
reached our gate around 1h35m behind schedule.

Mon, Nov 29, BOS, Terminal E

The good thing about arriving late was the fact that passangers from
most flights from Europe had already arrived and passed through
immigration, so the lines there were not too bad. The immigration
officer I interacted with was particularly polite and courteous. I
then went straight through customs (no need to wait for checked
inluggage as I didn't have any). I've gone in and out of the US many
times and this was the first time that my luggage was searched by
a customs' officers. To be honest, I didn't mind. It didn't take long
and the guy was pretty polite. So, despite all this, I was out of the
airport in 20 mins after I left the plane. This is pretty good for BOS.


Final Thoughts

I did like flying both airlines, but I do have to say UA have the
edge, because of the extra legroom in economy plus and Ch 9 (I'd take
Ch 9 and a good book over any other form of IFE any day). I
really hope that UA makes it, as I really enjoyed their service and
I'm looking forward to flying them in the future. The only thing that
left a very bitter taste in my mouth was the fact that LH only gave me
half miles for the return trip. They used to give full miles across
the Atlantic for cheap booking fares, but apparently they stopped
doing that last November. Given this, I will actively avoid them in
the future and try to rely on UA and AC who still give full miles
across the pond (unfortunately, I'm already booked on LH over Xmas :-().
It's a shame since I have flown on LH many times in the past and I
like them (read some of my other trip reports). But, if they think
that my business is not good enough to give me full miles, then I'm
going to give it to someone else.

[Edited 2004-12-15 22:17:15]
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