This spring break I was originally planning to just go somewhere like SAN with a buddy of mine but as the time grew closer to the actual week of spring break, we realized the international loads were really wide-open... fringe benefit of a global economic downturn I guess, haha. Anyhow, we eventually decided to go to FRA to see the Technik Museum at Sinsheim. I'll preface in saying "thank you" to a ton of a.net members who helped me with countless items. Flight loads, nonrev lists, and especially those who helped me figure out the Bahn!!
As usual, I nonrevved the whole trip. Given the heavy domestic loads but light international loads, I had to take a bit of the 'long way' around to get to ORD:
DEN-HDN: UA CR2, weather below minimums - returned to DEN
DEN-HDN: UA CR7
HDN-ORD: AA 757
ORD-FRA: AA 763
FRA-ORD: AA 763
ORD-DEN: UA 763
23 Mach 2009
Block Time: 08 hours, 30 minutes
Seat: 4H, NextGen Business Class
Photo © Tom Mousel
Well, as I said a bit before, just getting to ORD was going to be the hardest part of the trip. Once I got to HDN, the weather started getting worse, and fast. All sorts of flights were diverting and canceling left and right, most of them going to DEN. DL from SLC, DL from ATL, NW from MSP, CO from IAH, and AA from DFW all diverted, unable to make it into HDN. By some Godly miracle, my AA 757 from ORD was able to make it in and turn back out to ORD [almost] on time.
What a great sight for me - AA 757 arriving from ORD, the only plane to get into HDN during the snowstorm.
Once I got to ORD, I had to walk quickly to make my connection to FRA, but made it quickly with no problems - they hadn't even started boarding. I looked to the gate and saw my name was already on the "cleared list" so went up to get my seat - 4H, aisle in Business Class.
Initial boarding of AA84 to FRA
Boarding went fairly fast given the fairly low load factor for the flight. Just after takeoff, the FA's handed out the personal media players, Bose noise-canceling headsets, menus, and took our orders.
Media player and headset
Media player main menu
I tried to take a picture of the menu but couldn't really get it to come out so I'll just type the menu descriptions for each item below the picture.
Warm mixed nuts or Marinated cheese antipasto (I got both )
Also, my favorite Cran-apple juice
Smoked salmon and herb marinated shrimp
Assorted gourmet breads offered with butter or Sapori d'Arte olive oil.
Fresh seasonal greens and an assortment of fresh vegetables offered with classic Caesar dressing or balsamic vinegar
Breast of chicken simmered in a creamy Thai curry and coconut milk broth accompanied by shitake mushrooms, edamame, and jasmine rice
Ice cream sundae
Vanilla ice cream with a choice of hot fudge, butterscotch, or seasonal berry toppings, whipped cream and pecans. (I got *everything* on mine, haha)
~ As an aside, for those of you that say AA is being "cheap" with offering ice cream, I suggest you know this before you level your complaints: AA got rid of the ice cream desserts back in either 2004 or 2005 for the very same reason of appearing as a "cheap" offering for a Business class and First class dessert. The outcry against this from their frequent fliers and most important business clients was, in fact, so strong and unanimous in opinion that AA should continue to serve ice cream, forced AA to bring it back very quickly.
Also know, AA always serves other desserts besides the ice cream sundae. However, given how popular the ice cream is, that's typically what everyone chooses anyway.
After the dinner service, I reclined my seat and fell asleep for as long as possible, given the typical bad jetlag on eastbound TATL flights. I did, however, make sure to wake up for the breakfast service prior to arrival.
Chilled juice, fresh seasonal fruit, cream cheese and chive omelette served with filet mignon and O'Brien potatoes.
Descent and approach were rather sporty, fairly turbulent the entire time in addition to quite a few turns - I'm not sure if that's just part of a STAR into FRA or if ATC was vectoring us around quite a bit.
Globe-view of our route
Business cabin just prior to landing
Steep turn just prior to arrival
Unfortunately I was only able to get a single picture out of the window as the person sitting at the window next to me seemingly insisted to keep the shades shut, even for landing. *grumbles*
I won't go into a long description of the trip or anything, but the main highlight for me was being able to see the Tupolev Tu-144 at the Technik museum at Sinsheim. The day we went, however, was absolutely miserable. Snow, freezing rain, wind, and just ridiculously cold. But hey, it was still worth it!!
Me, standing in front of the Tu-144
Inside the Tu-144. Hard to tell, but my jacket was dripping wet - as was my hair, jeans, etc.
26 March 2009
Block Time: 09 hours, 50 minutes
Seat: 6A, NextGen Business Class
Photo © Kyle Donagher
After a short, but great trip to Germany it was time to head home again. Unfortunately, we didn't make it out to the Technik museum at Speyer... but hey, it gives me an excuse to go back, and soon
I arrived at the FRA airport 3 hours before the AA flight to ORD, so the line for check-in was quite short and took only a minute or two. While the departures hall of FRA is quite nice, I don't really care for their bizarre system of gates. That is, with outbound passport control kiosks for clusters of 4 or 5 gates, not allowing you to roam around to any other section of the airport once you've cleared the outbound passport control.
Anyhow, at the gate I got my seat assignment in J-class again, seat 6A and was told that there would be nobody in 6B next to me - I love that!! As boarding began, we were loaded onto a bus and taken out to a remote gate location. I've never seen this done before in the US, but did it in CDG as well - maybe it's a European thing??
Boarding at door 1L of N382AN for AA83 back to ORD
I was pretty excited to be taking AA 763's again - my last ride on them was in June '08, in the closing days of AA's ill-fated ORD-EZE route.
Boarding took a bit longer than I expected, given how they had to make multiple bus runs to our plane at the remote gate. Despite this, we were still able to get out 10 minutes early, which was lucky given how the pilots were expecting a longer en route time than normal, with headwinds higher than 100 knots during some portions of cruise.
Biz class cabin in final boarding, prior to closing the doors
Taking on last-minute fuel for the stronger-than-anticipated headwinds
Once the doors were shut, we were off pretty quickly. Very quick taxi to the runway, taking only 2 or 3 minutes.
Wide open row. Seats 6DG and 6HJ.
Takeoff out of a cloudy and snowing FRA
Initial level-off, above the clouds
Right after takeoff, the FA's quickly began the meal service. Given the light J-class load, I think they wanted to finish as quickly as possible so they could get longer crew rest breaks (I don't blame them one bit!)
Menu for our return flight. All of AA's 2009 menus will feature cover artwork and photography by AA employees.
Again, I tried to take a picture of the inside of the menu but it doesn't really work so I'll just type the menu descriptions below the pictures.
Warm mixed nuts or Marinated cheese antipasto (again, I got both, along with my Cranapple juice)
Marinated grilled shrimp, smoked trout and grilled salmon enhanced by a mustard caper sauce, served with fresh thyme and a lemon wedge
Assorted gourmet breads offered with butter or Sapori d'Arte olive oil
Fresh seasonal greens and an assortment of fresh vegetables offered with honey dijon dressing or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
A blend of tomatoes, basil, black olives, and mozzarella cheese served over penne pasta with a parmesan and creamy goat cheese tomato sauce
Ice cream sundae
Vanilla ice cream with a choice of hot fudge, butterscotch, or seasonal berry toppings, whipped cream and pecans. (I got 'the works', again)
After the meal service, I fell asleep for a few hours but wasn't really that tired so got up and watched a few episodes of "The Office" on the personal media player, followed by the movie "Juno" which I found to be a lot better than I was expecting it to be.
At cruise, somewhere over the Atlantic. I love ETOPS!!
About 2.5 hours out from Chicago, the FA's asked if I'd like the pre-arrival meal service earlier than the rest, as it seemed I was only one of two or three people in the J-cabin who were awake. The pre-arrival choices were a beef fillet sandwich that sounded *really* good, but the other option was pizza, and I just can't pass up the novelty of having pizza on an airplane, haha.
Deep-dish spinach pizza seasoned with garlic, offered with a fresh green salad topped with broccoli, plum tomatoes, and italian herb vinaigrette
Fresh fruit and oatmeal raisin cookies, freshly baked on board.
Having flown both AA and UA a number of times now, I have to say that AA's food service is leagues ahead of UA. Much larger portions, greater selections, and a much better 2nd meal service. I know some on a.net love to rag on AA's new Biz class, and while it may not be lie-flat, the food service easily compensates for that shortcoming, as UA's food service I find to be highly lacking compared to other US legacies.
Anyhow, I barely finished watching "Juno" before the personal media players and Bose headsets were collected before landing. Great approach though, always plenty of cool stuff to see going into O'Hare.
Final approach into Chicago O'Hare. Speed brakes deployed, Sears Tower and Chicago skyline visible in distance.
Despite the short duration, I had a fantastic time in Germany and can't wait to go back, especially to see the Space Shuttle Buran at the Technik Museum in Speyer. Thanks again to all the a.net members who helped me in the days/weeks before the trip!!