This was my fourth journey via Lufthansa travelling from Dallas to India. On this occasion, we decided to “break up” our journey by spending a few days in Germany before continuing onward to Delhi. On the return segment, we tried the nonstop flight from Delhi to Newark, then continued back home to Dallas.
My previous experiences with Lufthansa have been rather hit-or-miss. Since over six years have elapsed since my last journey with them, I took special note of any significant or marginal changes that Lufthansa has made with regards to its onboard product. You’ll find the results in the following two subjective reports. This portion covers Dallas to Frankfurt, and the following from Frankfurt to Delhi. Thanks in advance for reading, comments and feedback.
Also, as a bonus, our journey to India involved a stopover in Germany for a few days. I have included some photos of our trip through Bavaria towards the tail end for those interested.
Lufthansa Flight 439
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Depart: Dallas/Fort Worth
Arrive: Frankfurt am Main Airport (Rhein-Main-Flughafen)
Scheduled departure time: 4:43 PM
Actual departure time: 5:04 PM
Scheduled arrival time: 9:01 AM (+1)
Actual arrival time: 9:19 AM (+1)
Flight distance: 5,137 mi
Total flight duration: 9:15 h
Aircraft: Airbus Industrie 340-300 series, D-AIGC
Wilhelmshaven, Star Alliance Color Scheme
Photo © fiveVictor
Photo © Sam Chui
Photo © Denis Roschlau - AirTeamImages
Photo © Vasco Garcia (VDG-Images)
Check-in queue at DFW
We arrived at Terminal D at DFW around 2:30 PM, well over two ours before our scheduled departure. We were shocked to see that the check-in line at the Lufthansa counters snaked so far back; they could be visible from the escalators leading up towards the Grand Hyatt hotel. After running into a family friend who coincidentally happened to be on board our flight, and was standing towards the tail end of the check-in line with us, we learned quickly that the “systems were down.” Boarding passes and luggage tags had to be manually re-entered into the system for each passenger – hence, explaining the slow movement of the line.
I was somewhat frustrated – particularly because the US-Ghana game was ongoing and it was not being displayed in the non-sterile part of terminal. After about 45 minutes of virtually no movement, we had an idea: use the Business Center at the Hyatt to check-in online for the flights, and print the passes.
Ten minutes later, we switched lines to the bag-drop lane, having printed our passes on paper and holding them in our hands. Unfortunately, the line moved just as slowly. Lufthansa was very apologetic about the situation – and agents on foot continued to reassure us that the ground staff was aiming for an on-time departure. By the time we had completed check in and proceeded to the security check, it was around 4:10 PM – twenty minutes after departure time.
I noticed that the British Airways and KLM counters were having no such problems, interestingly. Proceeding to the gate, I snapped a few quick photos of our aircraft before hopping in-line to board, which was well underway in order to expedite the push-back given the holdup with check-in.
I had gotten a glimpse of our aircraft as I drove the car into Terminal D, and was excited to see that we would be flying the Star Alliance-branded Airbus 340-300 series to Frankfurt today. Based on a search in the database, it seems like the aircraft was painted during late 2003 and is primarily Frankfurt-based. It seems like does the run to DFW, Chicago, and Vancouver fairly often, but I do not live in Dallas throughout most of the year with my parents, so I wouldn’t know this.
Our Airbus 340-300 aircraft to Frankfurt, “Wilhelmshaven”
I had selected a window seat on the right side of the aircraft, glad to be flying on LH’s 2-4-2 seat configuration. My seat was 39K, and I was seated next to a Polish gentleman who was an aircraft engineer. He had been visiting Texas (and the US) for the first time to attend a conference at Lockheed Martin. We struck up some conversation throughout the flight over a few rounds of drinks – he was a pleasant person to speak with, and also an aviation hobbyist. I also felt comfortable taking photos of the exterior since he himself eventually pulled out his Nikon and snapped some shots of the clouds during the flight.
Once settled into my seat (and trying not to sweat profusely – the aircraft was quite warm) I visually inspected the cabin to notice any enhancements from the last time I had flown Lufthansa. Most notably the biggest change was the Personal TV in front of me with a touch-screen, AVOD system in-place. The old, gray and rather drab seat cushion upholstery had been chucked out and replaced with a thinner, yet livelier looking “Lufthansa-Blue” color with a yellow headrest. I found the new seat to be quite comfortable with decent recline and lumbar support. My window was unfortunately clouded and hazy, so I would have to work around this constraint when taking pictures.
Pitch wasn’t too bad – but there was an IFE box literally the size of a small toaster oven directly obstructing my ability to stretch out the legs. I would either have to angle my feet awkwardly towards the left, possibly infringing upon the lebensraum of my seat-mate. Ultimately, I would shift them back and forth between this area and near side panels throughout the duration of the flight. I got used to it – and figured it was well worth the price to pay to at least have IFE.
Seat pitch/leg room
New cabin interior
Taxi and Liftoff
Ultimately, (and miraculously) we were not delayed by more than 20 minutes.
Taxi was smooth and I observed the movement on the ground at DFW. The KLM flight had departed, and the British Airways 777-200 aircraft had the usual, “Keep the Flag Flying,” insignia printed towards the rear of the fuselage. I was happy to see so many widebody AA aircraft at Terminal D at DFW preparing for peak departure flights to Europe (and one to Sao Paulo).
Our liftoff from Dallas was smooth and afforded some beautiful views of the downtown area. Cloud formations were scattered throughout Northeast Texas and were pleasant to see as we made our way upward through Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and into Canada. There was an old-style CRT monitor hanging in the center of the cabin that would display the air show for the next few hours (I always love this on long-flights so that I can do other things while simultaneously keeping tabs on our routing every so often). This monitor, however, disappeared sometime during the “night” portion of the flight.
heavies at DFW
Downtown Dallas, Interstate-35 bridge, and the Trinity River
Closer view of downtown
Uptown Dallas can be seen here, which has seen a huge boost in the number of high-rise condominiums and luxury living since I left home for college. You can also see McKinney avenue which offers a great nightlife scene
During ascent, announcements were made in German, English, and Spanish (and not badly pronounced either, wow!) detailing the standard procedures and services for the flight. We were asked to participate in a survey conducted by the International Trade Administration on International Travelers departing the states – to be filled out and submitted at the end of the journey before deplaning at Frankfurt.
Once we reached our cruising altitude, Lufthansa cabin members then began passing through the cabin to distribute snacks to passengers. One thing I have always noticed (and appreciated) about the attractive Lufthansa crews on the transatlantic flights is their unmistakable tone of professionalism and courtesy, which was palpable. Interaction with customers is always delivered with a smile and a genuine sense of attention to passenger needs and requests. I find this very admirable and was something I saw somewhat lacking in the crew staffed on my return flight to the states on Continental.
The first round consisted of drinks services along with a “bocadillo” (snacks, as had been announced in Spanish) I found this funny because the “snack” turned out to be a rather disappointing bag of pretzels, which I paired with a Warsteiner German Beer (no offense to any enthusiasts, but there are other German beers that I prefer over this one).
Somewhere over Texarkana
Sorry Lufthansa, this snack could use a severe upgrade
Meanwhile, I browsed through the “Lufthansa Media World” selections and watched some TV shows. I will detail more about their IFE system in a separate section. After drinks and disposables were cleared, flight attendants began passing through the cabin to deliver Lufthansa’s signature “hot towel” service indicating that dinner would be served shortly. Lufthansa remains the only carrier (at least that I have ever flown) to consistently provide this on their long-haul flights: they did this when I flew them transatlantic for the first time I left the US back in 1993, something I will always fondly remember.
Here I braced myself – my previous experience on Lufthansa had NOT been good when it came to meals. I have always felt that their food quality pales in comparison to their European competitors, and they also serve meager portions. Knowing this, I allowed myself some time back at DFW to sprint to the Travel Mart to pick up some supplementary snacks like fruit, yoghurt, etc for this flight.
Special meals were first distributed to their respective passengers (which always happen to be in high demand on these Dallas-Frankfurt segments which carry plenty of people continuing onward to diet-restricted countries in Asia and the Middle East).
Main cabin meal
Our options for today consisted of either Beef or Pasta. I chose the beef, and examined the contents of the tray:
The main course consisted of beef filets with a mixed vegetable medley of snow peas and carrots in a glaze, along with mash. There was a spring salad with radicchio and a sundried tomato, a ciabatta roll, a stick of Monterrey Jack cheese, and a dessert – a brownie with toppings. Accompaniments included Italian dressing, butter, and a cup for tea or coffee.
The drinks cart also followed the meal distribution, offering the same selections as before. Flight attendants also passed through the cabin after completing both the tray and drinks services offering either red or white wine that would be poured in cups. This is a very nice touch.
It overall wasn’t too bad. Personally, the main course was probably a step above what you could find in the frozen dinner aisle at the grocery store, but tasty nonetheless. The salad was great, along with the dessert and everything else. Trust me; it exceeded my expectations after what I have received in the past with Lufthansa. It was filling for the time being (I eat in small quantities anyways). Needless to say, I was glad I had brought additional items along with me to snack on afterwards.
On several occasions throughout the flight, flight attendants would pass through with a tray filled with cups of water and orange juice, along with a chocolate “Milka” wafer bar to keep the blood sugar high for those unable to sleep. Also a great gesture.
Main Cabin meal – Breakfast
Although slightly out of chronological order, I’ll go ahead and cover the final meal service – an hour and fifteen minutes prior to landing in Frankfurt, breakfast was served. As with dinner, special meals were delivered first, and then regulars. There were no choices today – the trays were distributed as is. The contents consisted of a regular omelet with a few pieces of hash brown, and a roasted tomato. There was a fresh seasonal fruit cup with watermelon, honeydew, and pineapple and grapes, and a small sourdough bread loaf and a coffee cup. Standard breakfast food – omelet was bland but not too awful, everything else was fine for the purpose served. This is least an upgrade from just getting a standard cold pastry and/or fruit cup which has become commonplace on other carriers.
In-flight and IFE
After dinner was served, I caught some beautiful shots of the sunset. We were just crossing into Canada off of Maine around the time these photos were shot.
Sunset, wingtip, engine, etc.
What is great about Lufthansa’s IFE offering is that you can preview the selections for the month online before you depart. There are 18 featured films each month, and the selections seem fairly eclectic and provide an adequate mix to choose from a few different genres. In addition, there is a wide-ranging offering of television shows to choose from. The only downside is that there are usually no more than 1 to 2, 30-minute “episodes” per choice, which still isn’t bad.
However, if you want to do cross-comparison with other airlines, Lufthansa is pretty far outpaced by some of its competitors, namely LAN (South America-Frankfurt/Madrid/Paris) Air Canada (Canada-Europe) and Continental (US-Europe/Asia).
Regardless, there was enough to keep me entertained for the entire flight. I watched two films, including Invictus during the first meal service and Up in the Air shortly afterward whilst the cabin was prepared for the night, just as we left the coast of Nova Scotia. My seatmate had left his in-flight map displaying on his monitor while he tried to sleep, which was nice so that I could continually keep track of our progress. Meanwhile, I read my book for an hour or two, and then tried to get some sleep.
hardly felt like a night-flight
Midway through crossing the Atlantic, I tuned to the music video channels called Arabesque and Music Yatra which played popular Middle Eastern and Bollywood modern and classical hits, which were absolutely wonderful compilations (I am big into world genres). These were about 30 minutes each, during which I probably secured maybe 15-30 minutes of dozing in and out, but overall was a pretty unsuccessful attempt at sleeping. Mostly because nightfall was very short (no more than 3 hours) and we were still a good 750 miles off the coast of Ireland when day broke.
I sampled some of the selections playing on Lufthansa’s Listen Relax radio and CD collection. Unfortunately, I did not spend as much time browsing through the offerings as I did on Continental, but there were plenty of choices. After I finally accepted that sleep was an unlikely option, I resumed reading my book once breakfast services began. While eating, I watched cartoons, delighted to watch some solid episodes of Goof Troop that brought back memories of One Saturday Morning.
The approach into Frankfurt was gorgeous: this was the first time I had flown into FRA during a non-winter/bleary time of year. Upon touchdown, I was greeted with the twin Air India 77Ws along with an array of other carriers. FRA may be no LHR, but it is still a fun airport to see a diversity of different intercontinental carriers at various hours.
Since we were deplaning in Frankfurt, we passed through passport control and collected our luggage. Although Frankfurt airport has made considerable facility improvements since the last time I passed through, the layout is rather confusing and difficult to navigate on the non-sterile side. We spent over and hour trying to figure out where to proceed to rent our vehicle (granted I am sure our jet-lag had kicked in by this point and slowed our brain functionality a bit).
To Lufthansa: job well done on upgrading your Y services for US-Germany flights. Your attention to customers is paramount and well preserved in the business model. The German attention to high efficiency standards were prioritized (as evidenced by the slight delay in on-time departure and arrival, but was obviously a situation beyond their control).
When it comes to catering, it seems like most airlines have “cut back” on the size and quantities of their meals on transatlantic flights, so what can you do. Their IFE AVOD is a great start, but hopefully can be improved over time.
I recommend flying Lufthansa between its US gateways and Europe. If you’re considering flying them onward to longer-stretch destinations in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, however, then I might reconsider. Read my onward TR to Delhi for more specifics.
Our week in Germany was fantastic…here are some photos of our trip:
German football fans in Rothenberg
BMW Welt in Munich
Surfing in Munich
[Edited 2010-07-26 12:06:42]
[Edited 2010-07-26 12:09:32]