Time for Marambio’s second A.net trip report, this time telling about my quite recent flights from Argentina to France.
I was going on a group trip to Paris, Perigord (southwest) and finally Reims. The whole group flew with Iberia, but because of price reasons and a Senator membership, I decided to put my money in Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa.
Here I go. Enjoy your reading and sorry for the mistakes.
I arrived to Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza airport at around 13:00 on a terribly hot, sunny and humid afternoon, for my 16:55 departure. The Lufthansa counters already were full of people, but check-in at the Business Class counter took less than 3 minutes. The efficient Swissport male agent tagged my luggage all the way to Paris and gave me the boarding cards for both EZE-FRA and FRA-CDG flights. He also handed me an invitation for the Lufthansa Business Lounge, officially known as “Salón de las Américas”, near gate 3.
After a quick lunch with my parents at the restaurant located in the arrivals sector, I passed security in a breeze. Nevertheless I wasn’t so lucky with passport control, which took some fifteen minutes due to the high amount of Finnish and German nationals going back home to celebrate New Year. I killed my time in the queue watching a very pretty Finnish girl, and even exchanging some words with her. I could not get her e-mail, though.
Once at the airside I passed through the strategically located Duty Free Shop, full of middle aged ladies checking out the newest Chanel and Christian Dior parfums. Needless to say I run away from that place as fast as I could, to finally end up at the entrance of the “Salón de las Américas”. The Lounge was also crowded, but I managed to get a good armchair with a wonderful view of gate 3, where a TAM A320 was being loaded for its forthcoming flight to São Paulo. I had some crackers and an Isenbeck beer, and borrowed a La Nación paper from the wide selection of global press offered by the airlines that share the lounge, i.e. Lufthansa, Air France, Grupo TACA and Avianca, among others.
At around 15:50 I decided to leave the “Salón de las Américas” for the normal waiting area, in order to spot a gem I was really looking forward to see – Gol’s 737-700. Although it didn’t carry the special Buenos Aires livery, I was really happy to catch it. The big lady that would later carry us to Frankfurt was already peacefully resting at gate 5. As I approached it to see the registration, I thought please tell me it isn’t D-AIHE, as I have already flown three times on it. People strangely looked at me when I started laughing, because today's flight was going to be operated by...D-AIHE!
At 16:10 boarding started, commencing by Business Class passengers, and HON Circle and Senator Members. After them it was Santiago de Chile connecting passenger’s, to finish with the Economy poor souls. As for me, I entered the plane with the first group, while contemplating with compassion the drama that was about to start for the Economy Class martyrs, as their boarding still had not begun and Lufthansa’s Ezeiza personnel is known for its ridiculous boarding organization.
Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to Frankfurt Rhein-Main (FRA)
30 December 2004
Lufthansa LH 527
Seat 33C (Economy class – aisle)
Estimated / Actual time of departure: 16:55 / 17:30 (GMT -3)
Estimated / Actual time of arrival: 10:20 / 10:20 +1 day (GMT +1)
Photo © Balazs Pinter
Photo © Mario Andreya
Before entering the plane I took a Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper from the wide selection Lufthansa offers without cost to its passengers. I was surprised not to find any local or Chilean newspapers, yet later on I would realize those were offered by the crew once onboard.
After passing through the jetway I was greeted by two female flight attendants and the male purser, and was indicated the way to my seat 33C, where I installed myself before my neighbor, a Spanish girl living in Chile, arrived.
The whole boarding procedure took longer than expected, thus the smooth but long take off took place 35 minutes after the estimated time. Indeed the take off was long, mainly due to the high outside temperature (+30C) and the fully loaded aircraft. Load-factor was around 100%.
Once we reached 30.000 feet service started by the so called “Cocktail Service”, consisting on peanuts plus an aperitif. I took a tomato juice, which was fine. About forty minutes after this Cocktail, the main course arrived. Today’s chooses were pasta or meat. I took the pasta, which was spaghetti with some vegetables and meat. Not bad at all. Beverages arrived some ten minutes after food, which I thought was quite odd, but they compensated it by giving me a Beck’s beer instead of that crappy Warsteiner they usually offer. The tray also had a small salad and a piece of marmalade cake, which was excellent. I am afraid I cannot say the same about the salad, which was just mediocre.
Following the main course flight attendants offered coffee, tea and a small selection of spirits: Bailey’s, cognac and whisky. I refrained from my classical Bailey’s this time in order to pay a visit to the restroom before the entire crowd had the same idea. Restrooms located in the lower-deck are more spacious than their main-deck counterparts, but waiting in the stairs doesn’t really fit me, hence I rushed to the toilets when they still were empty. When I left, there already were like five people patiently waiting…in the stairs.
During the night we were showed two movies, but I don’t know which ones as I spent the whole time sleeping. I woke up thirsty a couple of times, and I always saw one or two flight attendants passing by with orange juice and water. Nevertheless I went to the famous lower-deck to grab a bite, since the crew always places there and in the galleys some sandwiches and soft drinks.
Regarding the seat pitch and legroom, all I have to say is it gets smaller and smaller every time I fly with Lufthansa, a.k.a. every three months.
Today’s route: after taking off from Ezeiza we crossed the Río de la Plata onwards Uruguay and Brazil. We flew over the cities of Belo Horizonte and Goiânia, before leaving South America by Fortaleza. We then crossed the Atlantic and followed the African coast, passing near Praia, Dakar, Nouakchott, Laayoune and Casablanca to later enter Europe by Cádiz. We then flew over Madrid, the Pyrenees, France, and entered Germany by Saarbrücken, to finally land at neighboring Frankfurt.
Breakfast consisted of the classic egg roll, a hot croissant, a fruit salad and a yoghurt. Needless to say we were offered all sorts of drinks during the service, coffee and tea of course included.
Sunrise took place while flying over France, some 40 minutes before landing. I was surprised they didn’t show the nearest connecting flights on TV a few minutes prior to arrival, as they always do.
Landing at Frankfurt was a little bit bumpy, and we were greeted by temperatures in the negatives and rain – lovely, don’t you think? As of taxiing, it took us quite a lot to get to position B22, where some Bundesgrenzschutz (Federal Border Police) agents randomly checked passengers’ passports while we were all smelled by an anti-drugs dog.
Transfer at Frankfurt Rhein-Main (FRA)
After leaving the plane I proceeded to Lufthansa’s Business Class Lounge, located upstairs in front of gate B46, which tends to be less crowded than the nearer Senator Lounge. Indeed I was right and I even had time for a quick shower, though my connecting time was really short.
By that moment I started considering my luggage would not make it to Paris. My connecting time was 35 minutes, ten less than the 45 needed for the baggage to be transported from plane to plane, as Fraport AG guarantees. Since I had some clothes in my hand luggage, I thought it would be nicer to get the luggage sent to my hostel by someone else than carry it by myself all over Paris, even with a delay. “Take it easy, man!”
After my shower and some quick cell phone calls it was time to go to my following flight’s gate. I made my way to the passport control, which took no time. There was a small queue for non-EU nationals, though. Once in the Schengen area I went to gate A01, where I arrived at 11:15, stipulated boarding time for our flight. I took a copy of that funny, sensationalistic tabloid called “Bild” and a few moments later boarding begun.
No zones for boarding were announced, thus our way to the aircraft became quite Ryanaresque at some point. I know this is normal in Economy Class boarding, but French people tend to be more irritated (and more irritating sometimes) than other European citizens, which makes it even more comical. This means after queuing for some minutes words like “merde” and “putain” started to sound louder and louder, most of the times associated with terms such as “embarquement” and “Lufthansa” (the latter pronounced “Looft-onsah”).
I believe by this time you get that most of the passengers were French connecting from other places, although there also were people from all over the world going to spend New Year in Paris.
When I finally entered the plane I was greeted by a gorgeous blonde flight attendants and the not so gorgeous, older purser. I made my way to seat 14F and, after putting my stuff in the overhead bin, I sat down and enjoyed the view of the wing through the window.
Frankfurt Rhein-Main (FRA) to Paris Roissy (CDG)
31 December 2004
Lufthansa LH 4218
D-ABJH “Heppenheim / Bergstrabe”
Seat 14F (Economy class – window)
Estimated / Actual time of departure: 12:10 / 12:10 (GMT +1)
Estimated / Actual time of arrival: 13:20 / 13:30 (GMT +1)
Photo © Cence jojo
Photo © Brändle Lukas
Once boarding finished (load factor 100%) it took us some ten more minutes to finally leave our position, after which we taxied to the runway. During taxi the cabin crew showed us the security measures in German and English. Afterwards, a pre-recorded tape remembered the most important procedures in French, and wished us a “bon voyage” on behalf of Lufthansa and the Star Alliance.
After reaching cruising altitude the flight attendants started the service. It consisted on a small cheese sandwich and the usual plethora of soft and alcoholic drinks. As of me, I took a Diet Coke and kept on reading (and laughing at) Bild.
As soon as I finished my sandwich, the female first officer announced we were starting our descent to Paris, which made flight attendants rush to collect our garbage and prepare themselves for landing.
Landing at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport was smooth, and while taxiing to “Aérogare” 1 I managed to spot a South African A340 and an El Al 767, both aircraft that we don’t get back at home.
Arriving at Paris Roissy (CDG)
After walking ages to finally reach the baggage belt, I noticed my luggage didn’t make it, news confirmed a few moments later by the loudspeaker, where a female voice called in French (and only in French) “Monsieur” Marcos Roca, coming from Buenos Aires, and asked me to go to the Lufthansa counter, which I did.
A middle-aged, sympathetic French lady told me, after I announced her I am Marcos Roca in my Molièresque French, that because of my very short connecting time at Frankfurt my luggage still was in Germany. She asked me some information regarding my suitcase (color, brand, etc.) and my address and a telephone number in Paris. She then gave me a black, plasticized paper with my baggage reclaim number and Lufthansa Paris’ telephone number and address. The paper apparently was standard for all Star Alliance airlines, as it carried the coalition’s logo and an apology message written in German, English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Regarding when I would see my suitcase again, she told me that because of New Year it would arrive only by the following day’s afternoon, and that it would be shipped to my hostel without cost. She was right, and when I came back to the hostel on January 1st, around 7 pm, my luggage was waiting for me.
As soon as I finished with this paperwork I left the “Aérogare” and proceeded to the “Cars d’Air France” desk, located in front of exit number 36. The “Cars d’Air France” are buses that link the airport with different important locations in Paris, such as Étoile, Opéra and the Montparnasse train station. I took the bus to Montparnasse, which was 12 euros. The price is not great indeed, but still it is cheaper than the taxi and more comfortable than the not-so-cheap RER, Paris’ suburban train. After a small wait I boarded the bus and less than 45 minutes later I was at Montparnasse, from where I took a bus no. 38, which let me two blocks away from my hostel. The whole group was waiting for me there, and after such a long a trip it was only now that my journey was about to begin…
This is all, ladies and gentlemen. I hoped you enjoyed your reading as much as I enjoyed writing this report. Questions, comments are welcome and appreciated and, again, sorry for the mistakes.