The European Legs
Part 1 : Sydney To Europe Without Status And Of Lowly Class (by VHSMM Mar 6 2010 in Trip Reports)
It would appear that my story has fallen foul of the size-police and been ruthlessly edited. In this second part of my journey, I will cover the European legs between CDG and LIN and TXL. Part Three will cover the trip back to the land of milk and honey and heat and kangaroos and snakes and spiders and....
Flights 3 and 4 Paris to Milan via Frankfurt
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Scheduled Departure: 13:50
Actual Departure: 13:50
After six days in Paris, it was time to fly onto Milan. Rather than fly into the new and government promoted Malpensa airport, I decided to fly into the older Linate airport. This had two advantages, Linate was much closer to Milan and it required two flights instead of one. Whereas there is a direct flight from CDG to Malpensa on Lufthansa Italy, flying to Linate requires a transit in Frankfurt. Sigh, such is the life of an airline tragic, but I’m pretty sure most Anetters will understand my condition.
These flights were not my first with Lufthansa, having flown them once before when I used to fly business class everywhere. They were good up front, but this was the first time I have flown them in economy class and with no Star status.
I arrived at Terminal 1 at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle Airport at about 12:45 Paris time. By the time I walked around to Hall 4, where Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, LOT and various other short haul members of the Star Alliance have their check-in facilities it was about 12:50.
For the first time I used Lufthansa’s self check-in machines. It worked like the process engineers said it would work. Not only was I given boarding passes for both flight to Milan, but I was given a receipt for the itinerary. I chose a window seat for both legs, of course. From CDG to FRA I was seated in There no queue at the baggage drop desk, but a rather large party of travellers was dropping off their luggage. I was called over to the First Class check-in desk and processed there. Strangely enough the Lufthansa check-in clerk wanted to see my passport at the bag drop, although the Shengan agreement meant that I could travel through two countries without having to show my passport to any immigration official. She also wanted to see my Kris Flyer card after spotting my old Air New Zealand Star Gold luggage tag. She wanted to confirm my status. I only had the paper version downloaded from the Singapore Airlines website, so I assured her that I did not have any status.
My flight was leaving from Gates 60–78. As I made my way through the architectural statement that is CDG, I recognised the gate as one I had used on my previous Lufthansa flight to Munich and a Swiss flight to Zurich. On the first of these, although flying business class I didn’t get to the Lufthansa lounge because it was closed for some reason, but I was given a voucher for 5 Euros to spend at a food outlet near the gate. When I flew Swiss, I didn’t get to the lounge as it was being renovated and the temporary lounge was a bit too far removed the gates for the limited amount of time I had available. Both times were stressful for me due to the massive queues at security. Bearing my experience in mind, I gave myself some time to be processed. You guessed it, no line at all – I went straight through and had 30 minutes to spare, without access to the renovated lounge due to no Star status. Of the rigours of all this international travel!
Still trecking to the gate...
A traveller's favourite phrase
No access for me (sob)
My ride to FRA, my first ride on a LH A321
As you can see, I took a few photos before boarding was called at 13:30. It all went smoothly and I grabbed a copy of the Financial Times on my way down the jetway. I was seated in seat 18F by 13:40. I had a whole row to myself. Indeed the flight looked to be about 60 per cent full. The cabin was clean and in good form. It was also decorated with Christmas decorations, with a festive wreath adoring the front bulkheads.
I've seen better legs on a chair
We arrived at runway 09R, at about 14:00 and Herr Kapitän gunned the engines and we were airborne in a spritely 35 seconds. Not bad for an A321, even if it was lightly loaded. As we levelled off, I spotted a flaw in the renowned German efficiency. While it was a minor oversight, it was something that even Qantas manages to do. The Lufthansa Magazin was from October 2009! Some how, it had survived two full months without being discarded, remember I was flying on 31 December. I wonder if the seat hadn’t experienced the effects of someone buttocks for two-whole months? Is the European air industry in such a par less state that this could occur? Oh well I suppose the advertisers from October had an extra two months exposure for free. The Luftwa..Hansa isn't perfect.
Since most airport food gives me heartburn, figuratively, financially and physically, I was starting to feel rather peckish. I wonder what dietary delight would be dished-up by the rather good-looking cabin crew. At 14:10 my question was answered, a ham roll with a smattering of a cream cheese was going to be my lunch. I was rather surprised that wine was on offer on such a short flight, but rather than sample the vintage from a German vineyard, I opted for water, I had to remain hydrated.
The Financail Times - tough times for JAL
No sooner had I supped on the bountiful feast than the pretty Frauleins were back in the cabin collecting the rubbish. No time to waste on a short inter-European hop. At 14:36 the Kapitän was again on the blower advising our landing intentions and the weather at frosty Frankfurt aerodrome. We eased onto the runway at 14:45 and parked ourselves at the terminal two tiny minutes later.
I’ve been to Frankfurt Airport only before. In August last year I transited through there flying to London Heathrow. However, due to a very late running Qantas flight from Singapore, I saw nothing. It was literally a case of running from aeroplane to aeroplane – while I made the flight, my luggage didn’t. As Lufthansa ran to schedule I had about 2 hours to kill between flights.
During that time, it became very apparent that the aviation industry is considered very differently in Germany and Australia. In Australia it is tolerated by most people and seen simply as a way of getting from A to B. Airline companies in Australia do a great job, but they have extracted the “special feeling” that flying has. You get the feeling that they are run by companies that by chance have chosen air transport as the way to make money by chance, they could just a simply be running a furniture factory or mobile telephone factory. Their in-flight magazines only talk about aeroplanes in terms of new product, not in terms of the wonder of flying. Airports are run by real estate companies as huge shopping centres and car parking stations – you get the feeling again that aviation is almost incidental to their business plans.
In Germany, I got the impression things were different. It started on the plane in Paris – there were postcards on display and not just one type. There were also printed timetables, it must be 7 or 8 years since I have seen a printed Qantas timetable! Similarly in the Lufthansa in-flight magazine there was a mini-profile of an aeroplane (Avro RJ85) – Qantas doesn’t do that anymore. The Australian Way, Qantas’s in-flight magazine is one big glossy advertising brochure. Same with the Virgin Blue magazine, although slightly less glossy. The December edition of Lufthansa’s magazine has pilots talking about flying – sure it’s about the Airbus A380, but there is nary a word about seat pitch or nifty cabin lighting, it is about simulator time, pilots and preparations. There are also articles about Embraer (I know they are being introduced into the LH fleet, but it is more than a product plug pieces) and Hamburg Airport. Newsagents were selling postcards or FRA, like a tourist destination! I like the Germanic approach to flying.
The last time I saw something like this it was at the old Bangkok Airport
Those Germans, prepared for alles...
Eintritt ist für die meisten verboten
Needless to say I like FRA. Lufthansa’s terminals were really nicely branded and I liked the fact that they provided amenities to all their customers eg self-serf hot drinks and a large selection of newspapers at the departure lounge, not just the premiums ones or those with FF-status.
Flight 4 Frankfurt to Milan
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Scheduled Departure: 17:20
Actual Departure: 17:10
The flight to Milan was on time and boarding was announced at 16:55. The gate was changed from the A-15 on my boarding pass printed in Paris to A-13. I was seated by 17:02. The load was light, again I had a row all to myself and the total flight load would not have been much more than 50 per cent. I wonder what loads are like to Malpensa – surely people don’t prefer flying out there when they can fly into Linate? Herr Kapitän did the introductions at 17:10 as the door was closed. The expected flight time was 55 minutes and weather is Milan was low cloud and poor visibility. We took-off from runway 18 at 17:15 with a forty second take-off run.
The service was good and I dined on a cheese roll, something called a Kurbiskasebaugette Butter Kasse. We returned to terra firma at 18:18 and were at the terminal at Milan Linate by 18:21. Unfortunately we stayed there until 18:35 due to a problem with the Jetway. Snow wasn’t falling, but it was on the apron. Happily just as the jetstairs and bus arrived the Jetway sprung into life and was manoeuvred into position, so a slip through the snow sludge was avoided. A minor irritation and the captain kept up advised of any progress during the short delay.
The December magazine
Flights 5 and 6 - Milan Linate to Berlin via Frankfurt
Flight 5 Milan to Frankfurt
Aircraft: Airbus A 321
Scheduled Departure: 19:15
Actual Departure: 19:49
The more I fly with Lufthansa, the more impressed I become. I arrived at the self-check-in machine with my booking number in hand ready to roll. I was greeted by a multi-lingual assistant (I heard her speak Italian, German and of course English) who insisted on helping my check in, despite my protestations that I could do it. She was prepared with a list of passengers and their booking numbers so after I typed in my surname, she kindly read out my booking reference. She put me into a window seat for both legs and soon the machine was printing my boarding passes, with that my helping hand buzzed-off to help some other traveller. As there was no queue at the baggage drop, other than the person being served, I was through the system so quickly that I didn’t have time to snap any photos. I must stop being dominated by women.
There was only a short queue at security so I was airside within 10 minutes of the taxi stopping at the curb. I was impressed.
Linate airport has quiet a few retail outlets if you are interested in that kind of thing. Having no Star Status I was banished to spend about an hour with the other riff-raff. Using common-use facilities, the departure lounge at Linate wasn’t as good as that in Frankfurt – no free coffee, tea or Bonox, nor were there newspapers available, which would have been handy as Europe’s poor weather looked like it had caught up with me. As I was sitting at the gate typing this report, an announcement was made that boarding for my flight would be delayed 30 minutes due to a late arrival of the incoming aircraft. I did notice a build up of snow on the perimeter of the airport as I drove in, but there hadn’t been any snowfalls during the day. Of course Germany is in the grips of a frigid-snap, so who knows what the weather is like in Frankfurt. Hopefully the delay wouldn’t prevent me or my luggage from making the change of aeroplanes on the way to Berlin. I did have 65 minutes, but it would appear that had now been reduced to 35 minutes – gulp!
Not for me
As I had the lap-top out I decide to see if there was any free Wi-Fi. There wasn’t, which was a bit of a bummer as I had completed some important work, the delay of transmission back to HQ would no doubt hold up important matters of state. Oh well, it could wait until I reached the Fatherland. It is a worry when the ground staff keep looking out the window to see if the aeroplane has arrived yet, but that is what kept happening at Linate. Are they looking because they know that the aeroplane has landed and should be at the gate or are they looking because they are as much in the dark as we poor travellers? Who knows, although give the frequency with which it happened, I suspect the latter. Oh well the extra waiting time allowed me to wanter around the airport and take some more photographs, not that there was much happening.
Boarding was eventually called at 19:35 and I was safely in my seat by 19:41. Boarding was done very quickly and the load was only about 70 per cent full. Herr Kapitän said “Guten Abend” and apologised for the delayed departure. He said he would fly at full-speed to make up as much time as possible in the 55 minute flight. We pushed-back at 19:50 and were de-iced –still a great novelty for someone from Australia, although it was an added delay. We eventually took-off at 20:05, zooming down runway 36R, thrusting upwards after a short 25 second sprint.
Must be Milano
The service was what I had come to expect from Lufthansa, a ham roll with some kind of cheese spread followed by a glass of water and a coffee. Nothing fantastic, but not entirely bad either.
The flight that never was
Descent into Frankfurt was announced at 20:45 and just at that point we hit some rather rough turbulence – the aeroplane was shaken from side-to-side. It was announced that we would be docking at gate A-18 at 20:57. That was good for my connection as my boarding card showed us departing from A-19. We touched down on runway 25R at 20:57. Unfortunately due to circumstances not explained, we docked at a remote gate and were bussed to concourse B of Terminal 1. So much for the easy transfer! Luckily, my next flight was also delayed – by 15 minutes, not bad given the pile of snow lying around Frankfurt airport. But I had to navigate my way across to Concourse A – easily done of course, but something I hadn’t done before. I found the lift and tunnel and set off on my way to Berlin.
Frankfurt to Berlin
Aircraft: Airbus A 321
Scheduled Departure: 21:45