An Unexpected Trip To India (LX, LH) – Part 1
**Disclaimer: my lens sometimes wasn’t good enough to take macro images in low light; therefore I used my iPhone’s camera to take some pictures. I apologize for some of the low quality images**
I N T R O D U C T I O N
It was just another average day. The constant hitting of snooze to get those extra precious 5 minutes of sleep, then forcing yourself to get out of bed, and 40 minutes later, hitting the rush hour traffic to get to your other home - ala office. After a normal day at work, it was time for a workout session at Crossfit and then heading on home. A fine evening, good dinner & some Top Gear on the television and soon it were time for bed. The normal routine had reached the circle until a dreaded phone call at 11:30 pm. It was from India. By the time I had gotten my hands on the phone, I missed the phone call. I went to the bathroom and when I came back, a couple missed calls from home along with text messages. I called home and heard the horrible news that my grandmother had passed. She was 85 years, lived a comfortable and a happy life. Had no ailments and yet, suffered a heart attack after she had showered. Immediately brought to tears, and trying to keep strength while talking to my dad, I was immediately on my laptop trying to find tickets for my parents.
P L A N N I N G
Being the only grandson, I told dad that I would be joining him. Meanwhile, my cousins in Columbus were also desperately trying to get tickets to India that was departing the next day. My parents got 2 tickets each on US Airways / Jet Airways for $2k each, and yes AA wanted to charge $4500 a ticket (under emergency quota) for Economy. By the time they decided to look for a ticket for me, prices for Y had shot up to $3500. I tried to search on my own, and wasn't successful. At that hour, no travel agency would be open (except for online travel agencies) so my other option was to look at United.com and see if any award travel was available. Much to my surprise, United wanted to charge 140k miles as a standard Y award travel on a non-stop flight to DEL froM EWR. I tried to expand my search options by being a little flexible on the return and voila, I found that there was a possible round trip available as a Business Saver award outbound on Swiss Airlines and Inbound on Lufthansa. Tried to book it and obviously .bomb failed on me. Giving me an error. I was quickly on the phone with United trying to book the ticket and I was informed that the reason it wasn't ticketing was that there were no seats available on the return segment from DEL-MUC. I had to change the date and book as 2 different one-ways (i know, it was dumb as I paid the $75 fee twice), but in the end at about 3:30 am, I was happy with what I received, which was:
CMH-EWR (United First)
EWR-ZRH (Swiss Business)
ZRH-DEL (Swiss Business)
DEL-MUC (Lufthansa Business)
MUC-ORD (Lufthansa First)
ORD-CMH (United Economy)
This wasn't a time to fully enjoy my flights; however I still managed to capture some pictures, as this was my first time in long haul business class!
F L I G H T I N F O R M A T I O N / T R A V E L
So after sleeping at almost 4 am, my alarm went off at 8 am having made plans to call my work and letting them know that I would be missing the next week and a half as I would be in India. Finishing packing, I set off to drive from Youngstown, OH to Columbus, OH. This is almost a 2.5 hour drive, and once in Columbus, I wouldn't have much time to finish some last minute packing, drop my car off at my parents' house and then head to the airport. I got to Cbus, headed to my cousin's place, had some lunch and head to my parents' house. Pretty soon, we were off to the Columbus Airport. I wasn't too worried about checking-in on time as I only had a carry-on bag. This allowed me to get to the airport 45 minutes prior to departure, print out the boarding passes from the self-service kiosk and head straight to security.
CMH - EWR
Departure - 5:20 pm
Arrival - 7:03 pm
At this hour, security wasn't too bad, but I still used the First Class lane and was airside in no time. I was really tired and I wanted to get some much needed rest. By the time I got to the gate area, boarding was about to start. Once boarding started, I was one of the first people on board and I took my seat 1C, which would be my home for the next hour or so. The FA seemed to be a cheerful guy and as soon as I sat down he asked if I would like to have something to drink. I felt that this was a much needed drink and I ordered a Gin / Tonic. I sipped on the G&T while I watched everyone else board.
Boarding was soon complete and the doors were shut and we were informed that today's flight would be a quick 54 minutes. We left the gate on time and started making our way towards the runway. I like how quickly the EMB 170s get to speed and take off. Almost like a twin turbo charged little car that explodes when you press on the accelerator We were airborne and I tried to close my eyes to catch a quick nap. To my surprise, I was sort of woken up by the FA asking if I needed something else to drink. I obliged and ordered another G&T. Figuring out that getting a nap on this flight would be next to impossible, I sipped on the G&T while enjoying looking outside the window and chatting with the FA. He was quite the traveller himself and said he fully utilized the perks; although he complained that sometimes due to quick turn around times, he didn't quite get to enjoy the cities like he would want to.
The time 'flew by' (pun intended) and we soon began our descent into EWR area. This would be the first time I would be visiting this airport so I was semi-excited. I'm always keen to explore new airports; however today was a bit different. My aim was to go get my boarding passes for my next flights ASAP and then go sit in the lounge and relax.
E W R T R A N S I T / L O U N G E
After landing, I quickly got out of the plane and made my way towards the Swiss check-in counters. I had the "United" versions of the BPs but I wanted to get the BPs with Swiss written on them. I got in the line and while attempting to head to the business class check-in counter, I was approached by an employee (don't remember if he was a Swiss employee or not) and automatically he told me that the economy counter was the other one, with a few people waiting in line for it. I said that I was flying Business Class and immediately he apologized and let me go through to the Business Class check-in counter, where there wasn't anyone. I asked if there was a window seat available; and was told that business class was completely sold and there wasn't an empty seat available. No worries, I grabbed my BPs and made my way to clear security again. The security lines at this time were quite large. There were even a few people in the Business / First security line and I had to wait a bit. I'm sure if I were in the other line, it would have taken me close to 30-45 minutes to clear security. In this line, however, it took about 10-15 minutes to clear security and as soon as cleared it, the entrance to the SAS Business Lounge was on the right side. I walked in and my first impression was that it felt dated and not really like a lounge. It felt more like a private waiting area. There were a lot of people in the lounge. The drink selection was decent, but I had a hard time finding an empty seat for about 10-15 minutes. Departure for a flight was announced and soon the lounge started to empty up a bit. I found a chair, sat and grabbed a snack with another G&T. Does Swiss have a Business Lounge at EWR? Or was there another lounge I could have used instead of the SAS lounge? I wouldn’t say it was bad, but my first impression wasn’t the best for this lounge.
It was soon time for me to leave the lounge and head to the gate where my flight was to begin boarding. By the time I got to the gate, boarding had already commenced and I headed straight to the Business Class line and was soon on-board an LX A343 to Zurich. This was my first flight with LX and my first time in long haul business class. I was excited because I was really feeling exhausted at this time and I just couldn’t wait to get some sleep. I didn’t even have any time to do some research on LX’s C product; however I did remember reading some of the TRs here on A.net and I knew that the seat would go flat.
EWR - ZRH
Departure - 10:05 pm
Arrival - 11:35 am
I got on the plane and got to Seat 8D, which would be my luxurious home for the next 6-7 hours. I quickly settled in and took the Champagne as my starting drink. The other choices were water or OJ. I’m not a big fan of juice in general, therefore I settled for some bubbly.
The obligatory leg room shot with some dirty flip-flops
The seat fabric
The seat controls
Once boarding was complete, the doors were shut, the empty bubbly glasses collected and we were departing the gate for take-off. We taxied for what felt like quite a while and then started accelerating for our take off. Is it just me or does the take-off roll for the A343 seem extremely slow and gradual? It felt like we used pretty much every inch of the runway beneath us and even after take-off, it took forever to climb. Once we leveled off a little bit, the seat belt signs were turned off and the FAs got to their jobs. Overall I felt that the FAs on this flight were nice & friendly; however I could have used a few smiles to make me feel welcome.
The Business Class seat
Distance to ZRH
The Business Class cabin after take-off
The FAs soon started the drink service, and then the table was set for dinner. White cloth was laid down and we were prepped for the dinner service.
The Wine List & The Beverage List
For the main course, I selected the Dijon Chicken with mushroom sauce. The chicken was well done, not too rubbery and not too raw. I didn’t know what to expect from the mushroom sauce; however it was a nice complement to the chicken.
Dessert with Swiss Chocolate, some coffee & some bubbly
After a nice meal, I reclined my seat, turned the massager on and went to sleep. I should say that the seat was a full lie-flat seat at an incline. Didn’t think it would be that comfy; however it was. Maybe it was the G&Ts, or the lack of sleep the night before or a combo of both, I was out cold. I woke up to the smell of fresh bakery (or I thought). The night before were asked to write down our breakfast choices. I had ticked the “fresh smoothie” option. So, once again, the table was prepped for breakfast and after some freshening up, I was ready to eat some more.
My breakfast with the smoothie and espresso
By the time I was finishing up breakfast, we were already descending to land at ZRH. Not being at a window seat, I couldn’t take any pictures of our descent, but it was nice & sunny outside. We landed and soon I was off the plane. This was my 2nd time at ZRH (First time was a MR that I did with AC, Trip Report can be found here). I got off and immediately made my way to clear security again. As with ZRH the last time, security was a breeze and I was soon airside once again at the international terminal at ZRH (E Gates). I tried finding a lounge and just couldn’t. I think I found what they called Emirates Lounge on the 2nd floor (???). I remember climbing the stairs and going into a lounge and boy, it was SUPER packed. No seats, lines to get food & drinks and people practically stalking everyone and as soon as someone got up, those seats were taken up like a hungry pack of dogs. I find it hard to believe that Swiss doesn’t have its own lounge in that terminal, especially since majority of the Swiss long haul flights depart from this terminal. Maybe I missed it, but this lounge definitely didn’t feel like a lounge!
The packed lounge
I managed to find a dirty table (was yet to be cleared / cleaned) to sit and got a beer & some Indian vegetable rice as a snack. I don’t know where these came from, but all I can say is good try. The rice was bland and not spicy at all. The rest of the food options, well, I couldn’t even check them out as there were so many people. Either ways, my connection was fairly short; therefore by the time I got done with my beer & rice, it was time for my next flight to board. I hit the rest-room, washed my face and then I head over to my next flight.
The beer & Rice
ZRH - DEL
Departure - 12:45 pm
Arrival - 11:55 pm
Boarding had already started and since this flight was going to DEL, I could see a LONG snaking line form already BEFORE economy boarding was called. I showed my boarding pass and made my way to the jet bridge and into another LX Airbus, this time the A330. I find that A330 to be a very aesthetic plane and it just oozes class. (Don’t have anything against Boeing Jets, but this plane looks majestic). This time I had a window seat to myself in the little private Business Class Cabin. If you are flying C in LX, I would highly recommend getting a seat in this section of the Business Class Cabin. It is small & feels quite private. I settled into my seat, and was greeted by the Purser asking me about my drink. I obliged with requesting some more champagne. I took my camera out and asked if I could take pictures of the first class cabin. With a smile, I was told “Of Course. Take as many as you would like”.
My seat 4K
LX First Class Seat
The First Class Cabin
The HUGE entertainment screen
View from my window
So I settled in with some bubbly in my hand and got comfortable. The seats were identical to the one I had on the way to ZRH, but the overall feel was a bit more private. I was looking forward to the Indian food on this flight. Once again, after boarding, we were ready to go and the plane left the jet bridge to make its way down for take-off. The A330’s take off roll is definitely quicker than the A343’s. Maybe because I am a bit biased towards the A330. He he. We were soon airborne to a clear, sunny Switzerland sky!
The Alps in the distance
Some visible contrails
Some snow in the summer
Anyone wanna guess which town this is?
The Alps again
A nice little river
Alps with the Winglet
Once we got to cruising altitude, it was time for the feast to commence.
The Lunch Menu for today’s Flight
Light meal prior to landing
The Wine List / Beverage List were identical to the previous flight so I didn’t take pictures of that. I elected to go with the Indian dishes / food throughout and wasn’t disappointed at all.
Main Course with Bubbly on the side
Fresh Fruit with Dessert
After the meal, I again reclined my chair, turned the massager on and got some sleep again. I succeeded because when I woke up, we were on the descent again. I did manage to get some light snacks prior to landing but I forgot to snap a picture of them.
Delhi from a distance at night
The plane landed, and I was one of the first to get off the plane. This would be my first time in the new International Terminal (T3) at DEL. I was amazed at this new piece of architecture, as the only terminal I remembered was the old & dingy T2 with only a select number of gates. I made my way to the baggage arrival hall where my parents were waiting for me. They had arrived about 30-40 minutes earlier on Jet Airways and all of us had to wait till about 6:00 am (approx. 6 hour wait) so we could take the metro and head to the New Delhi Railway Station. We would have to take the Shatabdi Express to go to the city of Ludhiana, where my grandmother lived (and also my home-town).
Some first impressions of DEL’s T3
It was really hard to kill some time at the terminal, especially since we knew that we would be greeted with a lot of grief & sorrow once we go to Ludhiana. Time seemed to crawl. I asked my dad to try and close his eyes to get some sleep, but he just couldn’t. Slowly after what felt like an eternity, we started to walk towards the metro station and we would take the first metro out of the airport to get to New Delhi Railway Station.
I must say my first impressions of the Delhi Metro were amazing. I think for such a big city like New Delhi, having a dedicated Airport Express train is a blessing. Usually it would take (on car or bus) about 30-45 minutes to get to the Railway Station (that too depending on traffic). This metro takes 17 minutes to get to the railway station. Furthermore, it’s super clean. The announcements reminded me of the tube, except they were repeated in Hindi. Anyways, we got to the train station and made our way to the platform where our train would be departing from.
NDLS – LDH
Departure – 7:05 am
Arrival – 11:00 am
Our train arrived on the platform and at this point, the jet-lag and mental exhaustion had kicked in. All I wanted to do was get in, and then sleep my way till Ludhiana. Little did I know that this train ride would also offer an opportunity to take a few more pictures. We boarded and settled in our seats and within minutes, the train was departing New Delhi Railway Station. A few minutes into the train ride, each passenger was provided with a 1L mineral water bottle along with local newspaper offerings. Soon after, we were given tea / coffee service. My dad was sort of tired, so he paid the person another Rs. 50 and asked for more tea.
View from my seat in the train
The Tea / Coffee Service
Coffee served with a couple of biscuits
After the tea service, it was time for breakfast. There were three options. Veg. – which included a slice of bread, Amul butter, and two vegetable cutlets; South Indian Veg. – which included idli & sambhar; and non-veg. – which had a slice of bread as well as omelet. I went for the 1st option, mom going for the S. Indian Veg. option and dad going with the Non-Veg. option. The food was surprisingly good; however of the 3 choices, I thought the S. Indian Veg. option was the best. The Veg. cutlets were a bit too spicy for me and I’m just not a fan of omelets that are served in Planes / Trains.
Veg. Cutlet Option
The rest of the way after breakfast, I slept and my parents woke me up when it was time to disembark in Ludhiana. A LONG journey came to an end; however it would be a long week ahead as I had the responsibilities to take care of for my Grandmother.
This is it for Part 1. Coming up in Part 2, I will document our journey, a road trip to Haridwar (for my grandmother), Shatabdi Express Executive Class back to Delhi and Lufthansa’s Business Class / First Class back to the United States, along with Lounge Experience in DEL as well as MUC.
Thank you for taking the time for reading my trip report. If you have any questions / comments / concerns, please feel free to ask them