Here is the return portion of my "Quest for Charlemagne" where I flew DFW
/BA including Business Class on the new AA
767 seats. Click here to see that trip report
The most unique part of this trip report is that I fly BRU
without flying on any Star Alliance carrier! I flew SN
Brussels Airlines and connected to AA
. That ended up working very well because the gates were virtually next door to each other. I'm unfamiliar with FRA
, so that was a relief. Both flights were in premium classes. B-Flex on SN
Brussels and First Class on an AA
First, I'll start with some pictures from Brussels, which was a great city to visit.
The Cathedral in Brussels
If you look closely to the left of the spire, you'll see the moon. (It didn't come out like I would have liked)
Here's a great restaurant underneath the main square in the center of Brussels that I enjoyed. Cave du Roy.
Here's a pedestrian street of nothing but restaurants.
Most restaurants specialized in shellfish, particularly mussels.
Some also had a focus toward beer too.
so there are some "destination" photos. After enjoying the city for my last night, I took the train back to the airport, where I was staying at the airport Sheraton, which is located on property at the airport. All you have to do is cross the street and you are in the lobby.
The morning flights were already listed on the departure board. I had listed myself as a nonrev on the 0710 LH
flight to FRA
. Looking at the departure board I realized there was a SN
Brussels flight at 0630 to FRA
. I have flown LH
before (in 1993) but never SN
Brussels, so I decided to see if they would take me.
So I went here to the Brussels Airlines ticket desk and asked them if I could nonrev on their flight in the morning with my LH
ZED standby ticket. They said no problem and there were plenty of seats. They were very polite, and spoke to me willingly in English, and recommended that I check in at about 5:00am for the 6:30am departure. I thanked them and was on my way.
Here are some shots from the terminal:
Quality Burger. I can't think of a more enticing name than that. I can't believe they had some empty seats. A shame I had already eaten at Cave du Roy.
The most interesting feature of the airport and one of the best reasons to stay at the airport hotel. A supermarket across the street! Water, soft drinks, and beer all for 1 Euro or less. This was built into the terminal on the arrivals level.
So the next morning, I checked out of the Sheraton and got to the Brussels Airlines checkin a few minutes after 5:00am. They are one of those airlines that wants everyone to use the self-service kiosk and I wasn't even listed for the flight as a nonrev, so I explained my situation to the attendant greeting people near the machines, and she told me to make my way to the b.light checkin, which was marked with red signs.
I went over the to the b.light checkin (b.light is their cheap economy, while b.flex is their premium economy) and the agents were very friendly and didn't mind that I was checking in with no standby listing and using a Lufthansa ZED ticket. In fact the two agents discussed between themselves and decided to put me on standby for b.flex, their premium class.
After handling that very cordially with me in English (my French isn't good enough to discuss airport standby lingo, and I don't know Dutch at all) I decided that I should check my carryon, because I was unfamiliar with European carryon luggage restrictions and knew the Brits would make me check my bag. So I checked my carryon to FRA
They didn't give me a boarding pass on the spot. I got a pass to get me through security that said I was on standby for b.flex on the 0630 to FRA
. She told me what gate it would be at, even though it wasn't yet posted, and I went to security. This was my first ever Schengen flight (intra-European) so there was no passport control or immigration procedures.
There were a few gates down on the ground level.
Here's the main terminal going toward my gate. Lots of windows here, though unfortunately it was dark due to the long dark of winter. Also, on the right, you will see a "Oneworld Charging Station" where people could charge their electronics courtesy of the Oneworld alliance. This was at about a dozen gates.
Here's my boarding pass once they called my name. Seat 6F
in b.flex. It was very nice of them to seat me in their premium cabin. Also, the gate agent went above and beyond in asking me what type of seat I would like, and telling me about the flight.
Here's a good Avro shot.
My flight was on a 737-300 with winglets. A former Virgin Express plane, actually.
737-300 with Winglets
45 mins late
b.flex 12/48 (premium economy)
b.light about 70% full (normal economy)
For those who are unfamiliar, here's a description of the b.flex cabin and service. As you can see it's remarkably like coach, being a 3X3 cabin, but it has perhaps a bit better legroom, though I would say it's in line with AA
's MD80s (which is good compared to most coach seat pitches).
The first six rows were b.flex. A customer can sit in all six seats going across, as there wasn't a pull-down console or anything blocking the middle seat as sometimes is found on European carrers. The cabins are color-coded by the cloth that hangs over the headrest. b.flex was blue and b.light was red.
Newspapers were handed out to b.flex customers but not to b.light. Food was provided to b.flex but was buy-on-board in the b.light cabin.
Finally, onward with the flight. We boarded on-time and I was pleased to find that I had a row to myself. Here's my view:
Regional E-145 and a KLM Cityhopper F50 plus some others.
After boarding, the captain made some announcement that I couldn't fully understand, but I understood that the point was that FRA
had some ATC or weather issue preventing our on-time departure and we would depart at 0700 rather than 0630. I was glad, at this point, that I had taken the Brussels Airlines flight at 0630 rather than the LH
at 0710, because my flight home was at 1025 and I didn't know how complicated it was going to be to get to AA
upon arrival at FRA
At about 0645 it started snowing outside. The snow started coming in rather heavy and they announced that we would be even later due to our need to be de-iced.
Click here to see the de-icing video! It's pretty cool and you can hear the "mood music" that brussels airlines plays
Eventually, about 45 minutes later than scheduled, we actually pushed out of the gate. That was a relief as I was a bit nervous about my connection in FRA
, but still knew I had plenty of time as long as we didn't delay too much further.
Here's a view of the terminal, that I would love to enjoy during daylight sometime. Unfortunately, sunrise was about 0800 in BRU
, so it wasn't to be.
We taxied extremely fast. Much faster than I'm used to going. In fact it seemed like we were very close to an AA
767 ahead of us. I'm glad that I didn't wait for an AA
ride home because the weather was deteriorating fast at BRU
Here is the takeoff video. It was a really strange takeoff too. We did a super fast taxi all the way down to the touchdown zone marker and then held. You can see how hard the snow was coming in. This was the day that LHR shut down and the UK got covered in snow.
After we took off, the cabin crew (of 4) on this 737-300 started doing the breakfast service in b.flex. One thing I noticed about this crew, which was remarkable is that they learned each person's language quickly and spoke to each person in their preferred language for the duration of the flight. Even when disembarking, they said goodbye in each person's language. And they used French, Dutch, German, and English. It was very impressive.
I can't speak for the passengers in b.light behind me, but that was the experience in b.flex.
The croissant was warm when served and the yogurt was cold, of course.
An interesting advert on the box.
Everything was b.(whatever). Even the safety card was b.safe
Finally, as we were well into Germany the sun begins to rise.
Click here for the landing video at FRA
Look what plane was right next to where I was parking at FRA
. My AA
We parked at gate C1, which is set up for Schengen arrivals (no passport control) and my AA
777 back home to DFW
was at gate C6
, so I had an easy connection.
Here's a shot of my plane. A former Virgin Express 737-300 with winglets.
Now for the AA 777 in First Class FRA-DFW
The whole flight was booked about 50% capacity
10hours in the air
This is my longest AA
flight by distance, but not the longest in duration. CDG
last January was 30 minutes longer in an 767-300.
I got lost trying to find the baggage claim since I foolishly checked my bag to FRA
. I asked at an info desk and they opened a secret doorway to let me in the baggage claim area. It didn't take too long and then I was off to find the AA
There wasn't much of a line there, and when it was my turn, I made sure to show them my boarding pass from BRU
, so they would know I was a through passenger (it gives me higher status on the standby list).
The last I had checked there were only 3 first class passengers booked on the flight and only 15 in business (the dead of winter--one of the reasons I chose this flight). She said the flight was so empty that the computer allocated me a first class seat upon check in. I was given seat 3A. How nice! I've never had that happen before! Usually they hang onto the F seats until the last minute. I asked the agent about my bag, which is carryon sized in the US, but I usually check in Europe. She told me it would be no problem to bring onboard. I'm thinking this is one of the reasons people still dislike Heathrow. I would have had to check it there.
So then I had nothing to worry about and started to wander the airport a bit.
They had this ridiculous amount of travel agencies on the upper level above the check-in area. It's rather obnoxious. They aren't pictured here well as I didn't want to take a picture of it. This is rather an overview of the terminal.
What's an airport without a casino? This casino actually had a blackjack table in it. LAS
doesn't even have that!
One cool thing about my Priority Pass membership is that they have now contracted with a few international AA
clubs. Working for AMR, I am not allowed membership to the Admiral's Club. But Priority Pass gets me in. So this was my first time in an Admiral's Club as an AA
I got out the computer to check flights and make sure I was OK
. I even did a couple nerdy things like checking my work email (and answering some issues) and also taking a picture of the a.net front page just to post here. I logged into the chat room but everyone was asleep I think. It was about 1-2am Central time.
Here's a view of the lounge. It was smaller than I would have expected, espeically since they contract out to Priority Pass and Alitalia. It is located outside of security, physically just upstairs from check-in, so maybe the location slows down the traffic a bit. I'm always a bit careful with my time if I'm in a landside club, knowing I need to clear passport control and then security.
The club was nice. As you can see the dark woods and decent decor. There was no view of the airport from there. There was a self-service bar area with some snacks and a well-stocked refridgerator, etc.
So I made my way to the plane. Passport control was quick and easy. I checked the duty free but didn't buy anything. Then I got to the gate, which had its own security just for that gate, which is surprising and annoying if you like to plane-spot.
After a bit it was time to board my 777. Here are a few cabin shots.
Who needs one air conditioner when you can have 4!
An attempt at a cockpit shot from my seat. I was in 3A. The pilots used 1A as their crew rest seat.
5135miles to get home!
I didn't really get to see FRA
as much as I would have liked, so I took some shots as we pushed out and taxied.
Click here to see the takeoff video. Sitting ahead of the engine, it has excellent engine noise if you like the whirr of the Rolls Royce Trent(which I love)
Once we got going, the 5-course lunch service commenced.
For starters I got both choices, the warm nuts and the cheese antipasto.
Also pictured are the Bose QC3 headsets that are handed out to Business and First class customers for use onboard.
They offered (and I accepted) a second bowl of the cheese antipasto. I found that I was a bit of a glutton on this flight and ate way too much!
Next came the choice in breads, and I chose the foccacia, and to accompany the bread is yet another choice: butter or branded olive oil. I chose the olive oil. I think I had three pieces of the foccacia!
Then came the other pictured item. Shrimp and salmon. The salmon was served after being shaped into a rose, served with the toast and capers and other items that traditionally come with salmon.
At this point we made landfall over the UK. I still didn't realize the magnitude of the storm that hit the UK that day (Monday the 2nd of February). One of my options returning home was to do BRU LHR DFW
, and I'm very glad I didn't do that!! Here is landfall somewhere up north, maybe at Newcastle or York, and as you can see, the country is blanketed in snow.
Here's the salad, which was mixed at my seat. They ask you which vegetables to put in the salad and offer a chicken breast too. I got it all (once again the glutton).
Keeping you up to date on our progress, as we were headed northwest toward Glasgow, we passed a LH
A343. I couldn't help but wonder whether or not it was LH438, which is scheduled to depart 15 minutes ahead of AA70 on the FRA
I'm unable to resolve the registration in this photo, so I don't know if it was that flight or another.
Next is the embarassing entree I ordered. I'm actually of the opinion that it is best to eat light meals on a plane, but for some reason I ordered this huge beef entree that you'll see in the next picture.
I actually was going to order the pasta, but ended up ordering this. Here's the description:
Braised beef tenderloin filled with sausage, offered with a red wind portobello sauce, glazed carrots and Normandy-style potatoes.
Yeah I should have had the Gnocchi.
The dish was way too much food, especially after eating all these courses leading to this point, but it was really good.
Finally the dessert. I couldn't decide between the cheese and ice cream sundae, but I went with the ice cream sundae and a Bailey's.
At this point, after eating so heavily, I was ready to sleep for a while, and actually slept longer than I probably ever have on a plane. I fell asleep at Scotland and woke up here:
The first class seat becomes a 6'6" bed and is comfortable. There's a nice pillow and blanket as well. I left my TV
on the flight map, so whenever I woke up for a few seconds I could see where we were. I shut my 3 windows and slept for at least 6 hours, which was amazing for me!
Here we are entering US airspace.
The air show went through different European languages, and I took this one specifically to show you the "Michigan See" for Lake Michigan!
The UK was blanketed in snow, and you can see the US was also blanketed in snow, at least up north of Chicago it was.
I had slept through the mid-flight snack of a cheese plate and also some Lindt chocolates, but when I was awake the flight attendant brought the box over to me and offered me some.
I haven't mentioned it yet, but the AA
cabin crew were very nice. One of the best crews I have had on a DFW
long-haul flight. In my other trip report DFW
on the outbound of this trip, that crew was excellent as well. They were friendly and with a keen eye for service.
Shortly after that, a flight attendant came around and asked if I would be interested in a light meal. There were three flight attendants rotating through the first class cabin, one of which was the purser.
The choices for the light meal were The pizza with a salad or Asian chicken. Since I have a soy allergy, I went with the pizza.
I was surprised to see the iced tea served with mint leaves. They kept my iced tea refreshed as well. One of the good culinary symbols of America, or more likely the Southern part of America, served in a classy way in first class on a flight to Texas. I liked it!
And that was followed by a warmed cookie and a cup of tea. Of course, being the glutton still, I didn't refuse the offer of two cookies rather than one!
I like this 3D map. We are getting close to home, but that's ok.
As we begin the descent, they start showing arrival information.
Connecting gate info
And then I decide to point out a few more features of the seats...so here you go. I haven't pointed out the desk very well. Once I actually put together a presentation for school using a desk on a 777 in the Flagship configuration like this on a ORD
flight. You can swivel the seat to face the desk.
This is facing forward, looking to the left. The desk folds out from here.
A view facing the desk with the seat swiveled where you are seated facing the windows.
And the desk is extended where I am filling out my landing card.
And here is a shot of the legroom and the ottoman. When the seat is reclined into a bed, the ottoman is the bottom part of the bed. It has a seat belt in case you know someone seated in steerage that wants to come visit you. Also, I've seen a husband and wife use the other seat so they can have a meal facing each other. The seats face each other and the table is designed to have plenty of room for two setups on it for this purpose.
Finally I am forced to face my seat forward and in the takeoff/landing position. We are in the DFW
area descending toward Love Field on downwind for 35C.
Love Field. We are probably over my house here.
The new football stadium in Arlington. At this point we are on final for 35C.
Click here for the landing video!
Back in DFW
with all the AA
metal. We are parking at D30.
A familiar sight at DFW
. A bunch of shiny MD80s.
A view of my plane from the customs arrival area above the gate area. There are two of these angled corner gates at DFW
, and they say these two gates (D15 that KLM uses and D30 that AA
uses) are the ones that are A380-ready. They can handle the size of the A380 due to being on a corner.
Now I'm about to brag about entering the USA via DFW
's Terminal D. This was the best experience for me yet, but it's always a good experience. First of all you saw the picture just above. Here are pictures facing the other direction.
These pictures show what a nice, bright, refreshing experience it is to enter such a cheerful place after a long flight. That adds a lot to the atmosphere.
Now, we had arrived long enough after KLM and before LH
and other European arrivals (2 of 3 LHR
flights cancelled and the remaining one--AA767 was hours late). I was in the second to last row of first class, so I was one of the first to arrive at customs.
I physically had to wait for one person ahead of me at passport control. When it was my turn, he stamped my declaration slip and told me welcome home. I had no bag to claim so I exited customs immediately. The only time I stopped walking other than to take those three pictures was to wait for one person at passport control. It was literally less than five minutes from the jetbridge to being finished with customs and immigration.
I have had the same experience on AA79 from LGW
before, which arrives at the same time as one Mexico flight, but that's it. Once I had a longer wait arriving on AA49 from CDG
Usually it is very swift and pleasant arriving at DFW
's Terminal D.
Anyway, that wraps up my trip report I think. So thanks for reading. Please leave a comment if you feel inclinded to do so.