Here is a shorter trip report about my trip to Europe with my father. I apologize for there being no pictures, but I will just make this a shorter report. Check out two of the other reports that I wrote for this trip to Eastern Europe. Aeroflot Business Class Tu-154 IST-SVO-LED (pics) (by RoseFlyer Apr 29 2006 in Trip Reports)
LH First LED-FRA-ORD-IND Alone On The 744Upperdeck (by RoseFlyer Apr 21 2006 in Trip Reports)
I live in the Midwest and my parents live on the west coast, so this trip was to be a bonding experience of sorts. I was going to fly IND-ORD-FRA-PRG and I would meet up with my father in FRA. He would be flying SEA-PDX-FRA-PRG. He had about 600,000 frequent flyer miles with United, so he cashed some in to get us both first class tickets on Lufthansa for the trip. I was quite excited.
I drove to the airport in a rental Volkswagen Toureg because my Audi A4 was in the shop. I went to the tiger parking discount parking lot since I would be gone for 9 days and wanted a reasonable rate. After parking I walked all the way to the United check in counter, which is on the far side of the airport from the car parks. There were a fair number of people in line. There was a huge crowd in front of the international check in line, so I just went to the Premier Check in line where an agent who I had seen many times before when flying out of IND immediately helped me. I had paper tickets because that is all UA could give me. She was able to process everything fortunately and printed me boarding passes all the way to PRG including ORD-FRA in First Class on Lufthansa and FRA-PRG in business class. There were delays on flights to ORD, and I was scheduled on the last flight of the day from IND to ORD on an ERJ. With only marginal spring weather, I knew that there was the possibility of delays. So I asked the agent if I could get on an earlier flight to ORD since my scheduled departure time was not for two hours. There was a 757 departing 1 hour earlier, but it was looking like it would be delayed. But since there was flow control into ORD, I knew that being on mainline would be much better. I have sat in the ground so long in IND waiting for flow control to allow us to take off for the short flight to ORD. Mainline is always better. She first gives me a stand by ticket for the flight to ORD, but I ask for a seat assignment. She says that it looks very good, but I knew that I was on an unrestricted first class award ticket that allows for free changes in the itinerary, so I pressed her a little harder, and she eventually gave me a boarding pass. Unfortunately I was in just regular economy. I did not get into first class, but I did not argue, and since it was a reward ticket, that meant that I could not even sit in economy plus. But it did not matter.
I went through security which was rather quiet at this relatively late hour. I had to go through the air blasting machine that checked for explosives. I sat with a friend that was headed to DCA on US Airways for a bit, and then went to the gate. They kept switching it around and the flight had a rolling delay since it obviously had not departed ORD yet. Finally about an hour after boarding was supposed to start, I see a 757 in the old livery land. The plane taxis in and eventually we start boarding. At this point it was the scheduled departure time of my original flight, so I was glad to have been on the earlier flight.
April 7, 2006
Flight 473 switched from UAX 7817
Departs 6:49pm (actual 8:00pm)
Arrives 7:04pm (actual 7:55pm)
Economy Class Seat 18A
Load Factor: 50%
Flight time: 40 minutes
Photo © Clr2lnd
Photo © Terry Wall
I got on the plane with seating area one since I am Premier Executive. I turned to the right and made my way back past the exit row. This is the first time that I have flown on a 757 in regular economy with United since they first started economy plus. I put my rollaboard in the overhead compartment and put my small bag under my seat. After a few minutes a lady sits in the aisle seat. They boarded the plane very quickly, but there were only about 100 people on this flight, so it was a light load. They were asking people in the gate area to switch to this flight from the later ERJ flight. Just as we finished boarding, an ERJ pulled up to gate D9. I think that plane likely would have zero passengers on its flight up to ORD. After the door was closed I moved my bag to under the center seat. Legroom was not great, but it was ok if I did not have my bag under the seat in front of me.
They played the safety demonstration. I was quite surprised that it was a new video. It was not the old one with the flight attendants in the 1980s uniforms and old livery, but rather a partially animated video with the new livery. It was quite attractive compared to the old one.
We push back and were just over an hour late, but this was my original scheduled departure time. I was glad to that I would be able to make my connection. The engines start up and I enjoyed seeing a puff of smoke come out the back. We then make our way on a long taxi to the far end of the airport. I was listening to channel 9 and they said that we had a departure slot immediately, but the pilot would have to hurry to the end of the runway. I was glad that we would not have to wait. I hate going through Chicago on late flights, because there are always delays. I would have preferred going via some other city, but Chicago was the only connection that had seats. YYZ, DTW, PHL, IAD, BOS or other cities would have probably been preferable.
We then turn around and the engines spool up. We move down the runway with authority. The plane was very light since this was such a short flight and the load factor was low. We were probably at about 4,000ft by the time we were off the airport property. We turn to the north and I get out my book and relax a bit. It was getting dark, but was a pretty smooth evening. The weather was not horrible, but there were some severe thunderstorm warnings in some surrounding areas, so there were delays in and out of ORD.
After a few minutes the flight attendants make an announcement, but say there will be no service. Sometimes on these short flights, they give out water, but nothing for this flight. It did not matter much. The flight was pretty smooth and our maximum cruising altitude was 17,000ft. We were slowed down a little early. It was pretty busy on Chicago approach. We were handed off just 7 minutes into our flight to Chicago approach.
We were originally cleared direct Bears-Ohare, which means we would be landing to the west, but that was amended as we turned to the west over south Chicago land and joined the approach for runway 4 (I think) as we landed to the northwest. This had been a pretty uneventful flight, and it ended well with a nice soft approach and landing.
Once we were on the ground in ORD, we taxi for a while to get to the gate. We end up taxiing to gate B5. That gate has a lot of significance for me since it was the gate of my first departure from ORD. I experienced that gate again last September when I was on a business trip to Singapore and flying ORD-EWR-SIN. We ended up pushing back three times that day as problem after problem happened on the ORD-EWR flight. We ended up 2hrs 15min late, and if it was not for a private escort from Singapore Airlines to get me to the gate and through security even though I had not checked in, I would not have made the connection.
I walk out and notice a mess in Concourse B. The late bank of departures to the east coast were all delayed. I decide to go to the international first class lounge. That meant a walk to Concourse C. United has very discretely hidden the lounge with no signs. It is right next to the customer service counters in the concourse, and is hard to find if you do not know where to look. I had some trouble with the door, but am welcomed in. I show them my boarding pass and the gentleman jokes about me flying on the Luftwaffe tonight. After checking me in to the lounge and telling me about the features, I went and took a seat. It was a nice little lounge, but quite small. I noticed a ton of self serve alcohol, but skipped that and just had some crackers and snacks. The lounge is one of the best that United has, but it cannot compare to lounges in terms of food and services of other airlines. I take a seat and relax a bit while going over some financial stuff. I look around and notice that I am the only one in my 20s in the lounge. There were mostly men along with a group of three somewhat intoxicated women and I think I was the only one younger than 40. I felt so privileged.
After sitting there for half an hour, I decide to get up and walk all the way to the end of the B concourse to board my Lufthansa flight. The man that checked me in wished me a good flight. I then walk over and see a huge crowd when I get to the gate. It looks like it will be a pretty full flight. I then notice that there is no A330 at the gate yet, which was annoying.
I take a seat and after waiting another 30 minutes, it was time to board. It was a crowded mess at the gate. I wished that I had stayed in the first class lounge. I guess I could have gone to the Red Carpet Club right next to the gate, but just sat in a seat. Eventually they did start boarding, and there was a huge mess of people. It was incredibly disorganized. It was just a mess of people forcing their way up. There were separate lanes for economy and first/business, but everyone just charged, so it was a mess. I was not happy.
April 7, 2006
Departs: 9:40pm (actual 10:00pm)
Arrives: 1:05pm (actual 1:05pm)
First Class Seat 2A
Load Factor: First Class 5/8
Flight time: 8hrs 30min
Photo © Brett B. Despain
Photo © Alex G.-Denicourt - Contrails Aviation Photography
I finally made it up and was shown the left door. They did a final check of my passport, and I walked down the jetway. I was glad to be out of ORD and on my way to Europe. This would be a pure vacation, which I really needed. I was not greeted by any flight attendants, and just went to take my seat. I settled down and put my stuff in the overhead compartment. The seat was nice, and just like any other Lufthansa First Class seat. I love the Airbus planes since the window seats are by themselves. I love seats that are both window and aisle seats.
After I settled down a nice older flight attendant offered me Champagne. I took her up on that offer and she got it for me along with some nuts. I enjoyed sitting there sipping my Champagne as others passed by. I love first class. It is so nice. I knew I would be well fed, entertained and would get a good nights sleep. That is so much better than those in the back who were in for a miserable night.
Boarding was accomplished rather quickly, and the doors were shut. The same flight attendant came by with all my amenities. They give an amenity kit, along with full pajamas and a menu. The flight attendant topped up my Champagne. The safety demonstration was then shown on the television in the front of the cabin.
After the safety demo, my empty flute was taken and I relaxed as we taxied. Most of the flights for the day had already departed, so there was no wait. We taxi to the south side of the airport and takeoff directly to the east. The takeoff was relatively powerful for a heavy jet.
We slowly climbed into the air with some gentle turbulence. It was fairly comfortable, but I was watching the television show the very gradual climb. We were not moving very quickly. Finally the flight attendants did get up. The purser then came around and welcomed on board personally each of the first class passengers. She was a nice younger lady. She is probably the youngest long haul purser I have seen. She spoke perfect English like all Lufthansa flight attendants that I have ever encountered. She asked if I wanted to be awoken for breakfast, and I said no. I do not like eating breakfast, and wanted to get at least 5 hours of sleep.
I explored the seat a bit. It is quite comfortable and found a nice position and the blanket from the storage space behind me.
Photo © Walter Pietsch
Photo © Walter Pietsch
After she welcomed me aboard, another flight attendant came and set my table. They do not use trays in first class, so everything is put on your tray table by hand. The meal is very well presented. After a few minutes, the appetizer cart came out. I was last to be served. They served in a U shaped pattern, but there were only five of us, so it did not take that long. I had some Asian Beef Salad among other appetizers and warm bread. It was a nice start to the meal. I was offered my choice of drinks, and from the wine list I selected a German wine. I have never had wine from Germany before, so I thought I would try it. It actually was some of the best wine that I had ever had (but that is not much since I rarely drink alcohol).
The flight attendant then came by to take the order for my main course. I asked for a pasta that was on the menu, but I was surprised to be told that they were out of it. I then asked for chicken. I was kind of surprised that they did not have my first choice, but there were three dinner options for only five passengers. I am sure they end up wasting so much food in first class.
My wine glass is topped off as well as my bread plate before my dinner comes. The chicken came, and it looked very good. It was an orange colored breast with a nice flavor. Chicken usually tastes like nothing on planes, so I was glad that it had some flavour and was moist. After I finished, my food was promptly taken away. Dessert was shortly brought around, but I had to pass. I cannot eat much dairy, so I had to skip out on the desserts, but did have some cheese. I was feeling the alcohol from the wine and Champagne, so I skipped the dessert wine. I was feeling quite good, so I knew I would sleep well. I watched the most recent Harry Potter movie during dinner. On the A330s, the IFE is fully AVOD in first class (unlike the old cassette players on the 747s). There is a touchscreen, but it is a little small. I wish it was bigger. The PTV in business class is actually larger than first class.
After I finished the cheese, I had the flight attendant clear my tray of everything, and I went to the lavatory. There is a window in the lavatories, which I think is cool. I could see some Canadian lights down below us. I decided to stay in my normal clothes since I do not really like wearing large baggy clothes, but I find it very nice that Lufthansa gives you a designer pair of pajamas. I have plenty of sleep shirts from Lufthansa as well.
I go back to my seat and settle down with my blanket and large pillow. I make sure to put a blindfold and ear plugs in as I recline my seat all the way. At this point there are 5hrs and 45min left in the flight. It would not be enough sleep, but that is ok, since it is good to be able to get some sleep the night I would arrive in Europe. I like the longer flights from the west coast to Europe when flying first or business class. The flights from the east coast are just too short to eat a full dinner and get a good amount of sleep.
I awoke at the sound of some dishes. I peer around to see the breakfast service in full swing. I go use the lavatory and as I get back to my seat, a flight attendant has a glass of orange juice for me and is ready to set my table. I politely decline however and go back to sleep. I rest for a while longer. I was so tired. I eventually get up after we begin our descent. Another flight attendant comes to offer me more orange juice and see if I want a fruit plate. We were already in descent, and I was surprised that they would still offer food, but I declined again. I do not like eating when I wake up in the morning.
I just relax and finish off the movie as we descent. The purser comes by and asks if I had a good flight. I said I did and was quite relaxed. The man in front of me was connecting on to a flight to India, and she offered him some assistance on where to go. I really loved the personal service. I could not have wanted anything more other than maybe my first dinner choice.
We continue through the clouds, and I see the German countryside for the first time in a year as the seat belt sign is turned on. I noticed some other passengers moving around and getting some things done. I put my stuff away and put my shoes back on. The flight attendants were working very hard to prepare the cabin for landing. Everything was cleaned up and I saw them take all the wine away that had been sitting out for the flight. There were 4 bottles of wine/champagne. I feel bad that almost all of that expensive wine would be thrown out. But it still is nice to have on the flight.
The flight attendants are then seated as we were on final approach on this cloudy afternoon. We make a perfect landing in FRA and slowly decelerate after a 4000 mile journey from the United States. We pull off the runway and the flight attendants welcome us to Germany. We then pull in to the A gates. I was glad that we would have a gate instead of a remote stand.
The seat belt sign goes off, and I gather all of my things. I have to check the seat to make sure I do not forget anything. The Lufthansa seat unfortunately lacked storage space since there was only some storage in the arm rest. The seats are comfortable enough since they are fully flat, but they lack the privacy and storage space of the modern suites. But I felt pretty good after a long haul flight, so it was ok.
I go to the front and exit out after saying goodbye to the purser. I was one of the first off. My father had arrived in FRA about 2 hours earlier, and said he would meet me at the gate, but he did not. I was not that surprised, but I looked around for him.
After not seeing him, I went to a Senators Lounge and asked if they could call the first class lounges to see which one he was in. After about 20 minutes, the lady comes and tells me he was at the lounge at gate B23. I then get my stuff and go all the way over there. It was a long way that included a train ride. On the way there was this very confused lady asking for my help. She asked me in Spanish. Lucky for her I do speak Spanish and helped her get to her gate. I was surprised that she expected me to speak Spanish, as I look somewhat Middle Eastern (though technically I am a mixed race of Irish and Indian).
I then walk all the way to the first class lounge. I get there to see it empty. They lady said that my father had left to meet me. Arg, that was annoying. So I give up and decide to just go to the gate for our connecting flight to PRG. That meant another long walk all the way to the C gates. I get there and have to go through security again. I find the gate, but still had about half an hour before boarding, so I stopped by the Red Carpet Club in the C concourse. Surprisingly I found my father there. We reunited and exchanged stories after not having seen each other in a while.
After a bit we are kicked out as they have to do a security inspection. I was surprised that they had to do this, but we go out and stand in line for security before we go back and enter the club again. Finally we make our way to gate C5 for our connecting flight.
April 8th, 2006
Departs: 3:55pm (actual 4:15)
Arrives: 4:55pm (actual 5:10)
Business Class Seat 2D/F
Flight Time: 35 min
Photo © Guy Daems - Brussels Aviation Photography
Photo © Bjorn Alegren
We get to the gate and I realize that my father was in seat 2A and I was in 2F. So I get our seats switched so that we can sit together. We wait in the lounge a bit and someone starts smoking right next to me. I hate that about Europe. FRA is such a clean airport, but people smoke all over the place. It is horrible. In the United States you often cannot smoke in or within 25 feet of a public building, let alone in a crowded waiting room. Eventually they start boarding. There is no priority boarding, so everyone just queues up.
We make our way on board the plane when my father realizes he lost his coat. He has to get back off the airplane and go back to the Red Carpet Club to get it, but fortunately he finds it and makes it back on the plane. He is so forgetful, and he nagged me about forgetting things.
The flight attendants hang up our coats as we stuff our bags into the overhead compartments. There is limited space on these older 737s, but our stuff did fit. The male flight attendant offered us drinks. I had some water.
The door is finally shut, but we do not do anything for a while. The captain then comes on to say that a passenger did not board and that they have to offload his suitcase. I sure enough watch the rampers dig through the bags as they try to find the bag. We end up waiting 20 minutes, which is causing us a delay. Eventually they do find it and we push back. The flight attendants perform the safety demonstration in German and English, and then play a tape in Czech.
We taxi out to the far end of the airport and depart off the crosswind runway. There is no delay and we soon blast off into the evening air. The takeoff is fast. We jump into the air for our short flight to Prague. After a few minutes the seat belt sign is already off and the flight attendants start a quick beverage service. I have some orange juice, and that is followed by the meal. It was breakfast for me, but a late afternoon snack for everyone else. It tasted good enough and was just cold meat, bread, cheese and a dessert. I ate it though and it was fine.
As soon as we were up and I finished my food, we were already descending. The flight attendants then collect the trays. It was a very smooth flight. The 737s are older and not quite as nice. The Lufthansa business class seats are not very good at all. They are just economy seats, but they leave the middle seat empty. That is nothing compared to first class on domestic flight in the United States. Economy Plus on United is nicer.
We make a few turns over the dry Czech country side before landing in Prague. It was a bit of a rough landing. We are welcomed to Prague and taxi out to the gate. The airport looked pretty much empty. There were only a few Czech airlines planes and a single Alitalia jet.
My father is first off, and I am about 10th off. I hate how he rushes like that. I catch up to him at immigration though after he is yelled at for going into the local passport line. After passport control, we meet up with our driver and are off to the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Prague.
Lufthansa is a very nice airline. Their first class is very good. The service is great, but the seat could be a bit nicer. I would like a bigger PTV, more privacy and more storage, but Lufthansa makes up for it by offering great service. They have nice amenities and so many lounges in FRA. I highly recommend anyone fly Lufthansa.
Thanks for reading my report. This one is not as good as others as I apologize for not taking pictures, but I wrote it out of request. Please leave your comments as I appreciate feedback. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Lufthansa experience. I am really lucky to have been able to fly first class with them.
[Edited 2006-05-03 00:36:45]