I originally wasn’t planning on doing a trip report, however, the lack of photos and accounts of the inaugural online led me to reconsider. I apologize in advance for the lack of photos of my journey out to LAX. Hopefully the photos of the 748 and the product itself will make up for that.
I have been fortunate enough to forge relationships with several airlines, and Lufthansa is one of my closest partners. Despite my age (17), I have been covering travel events for the better part of four years now. However, most of my coverage takes place locally in the Washington area.
When Lufthansa extended me an invitation to cover the 747-8 LAX inaugural, I was beyond excited. It’s sort of been a trying year school-wise, between homework, extracurriculars, and college applications. A trip to Los Angeles, while brief, would provide me with a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of my everyday life. It was also an opportunity to have another meeting with one of my favorite aircraft, the 747.
I began searching for fares, and eventually settled on a one-day turn. I would depart Baltimore on 10DEC, and return the same day on the red-eye, arriving back to Baltimore early on 11DEC.
While not my preferred carrier, I found an attractive fare on US Airways. For a BWI-CLT-LAX-PHL-BWI itinerary, US was asking $230 all-in. Perhaps one of the best transcontinental fares I’ve ever found, considering that I was only two weeks from departure. Furthermore, the times were perfect for the LH inaugural event.
Anyone who’s followed me on the forums knows that I’m not the biggest fan of US, and I’m outspoken against the US/AA merger. However, I want to assure everyone that I approached this trip with an open mind and would love nothing more to have my perceived shortcomings be proved wrong.
As an added bonus, thanks to Aegean Airlines’ generous FFP, I would be pushed over the threshold into Star Alliance Gold status, my first elite status on an airline. Unlike many other airlines, Aegean only requires 16,000 miles flown within 12 months for Star Gold, and US Airways is a 100% earning partner.
So, with little hesitation, I set about booking my tickets and finalizing plans. Come join me on my trip to Los Angeles to experience one of the world’s most beautiful aircraft!
The final itinerary was as follows (thanks, as always, to Great Circle):
December 10, 2012
After an excitement-fueled sleepless night, I awoke at 2:30am for my 5:15 departure to Charlotte. Leaving for the airport at 3:00am, I encountered only a handful of other cars on this cold, rainy morning in Baltimore.
Apologies for the poor photo quality.
A cursory check of the weather showed beautiful conditions in Los Angeles today.
Boarding passes for today’s flights.
After printing my boarding passes at a self-service kiosk, and proceeding through deserted security lanes, I made my way into BWI’s Concourse D. A few years ago, D was the ugly stepsister of BWI airport, and rumored to be falling into a shambles. However, as Delta has moved from C to D, and WN will eventually take over A-C, the airport has done a good job of smartening up Concourse D. It’s no Barajas, but it has a nice amount of restaurants, newsstands, and other amenities. It also featured BWI’s notoriously clean bathrooms, and the concourse was clean and well-maintained overall.
BWI’s Concourse D. Apologies for the poor quality.
I will apologize at this point for the low-quality photos. I was shooting with my iPhone while walking as my camera was packed away in my carry on. Don’t worry, the photo quality will improve a bit later.
As I arrived at gate D26, it became evident that this morning’s flight to Charlotte would be almost completely full. Boarding was just about to commence as I arrived.
Let me just say, for the record, that I believe that US Airways has the most back asswards boarding process in all of the industry. There were no less than ten zones called, each one more gimmicky than the last. As far as I can tell, this was the boarding order:
1. First class passengers
2. Dividend Miles Preferred members
3. Star Alliance Gold members
4. Anyone else holding a PreferredAccess boarding pass
5. (Zone 1) Bulkhead seats / some exit row seats
6. Families with children
7. (Zone 2) US Airways Mastercard holders / “Choice Seats” / some exit row seats
8. (Zone 3) Back economy section
9. (Zone 4) Middle economy section
10. (Zone 5) Front economy section
The agent would call a zone, then stand at the door for a good 2-3 minutes waiting to see if anyone came up to the boarding lane. As a result, the boarding process seemed to take an extremely long time, and it was a good 10-15 minutes before my zone, zone 3, was called.
Flight 1 of 4
US Airways 1049
Baltimore (BWI) - Charlotte (CLT)
STD / ATD: 5:15 AM / 5:12 AM
STA / ATA: 6:43 AM / 6:40 AM
Seat: 21A (window)
First impression of the A319 was that it was clean and well-maintained. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any cabin photos.
A neighboring US 757 in the wee morning hours at BWI.
The flight attendants announced that it would be a nearly full flight this morning, and as a result, I would have two neighbors. Both fell asleep immediately after settling in, which was fine by me. Overall the flight seem destined to be sleepy and quiet, until …
… a loud, talkative middle-aged couple settled in the row behind me. For the entire flight, they proceeded to talk about rather, er, personal matters, stopping only to order beers.
Anyway, the flight was generally uneventful, and we landed in Charlotte on-time. After arriving in C, I began the walk over to B for my flight to LAX.
I’d (again) like to apologize for the lack of pictures. I know how important they are, and you’re probably pretty tired of my text. Hang on a little longer, it gets better, I promise …
Flight 2 of 4
US Airways 1431
Charlotte (CLT) - Los Angeles (LAX)
STD / ATD: 7:45 AM / 7:43 AM
STA / ATA: 10:06 AM / 10:10 AM
Seat: 23F (window)
Again, I can’t figure out for the life of me this boarding process. What is even more astounding is that US manages to board our flights on time, and both of this morning’s flights have departed slightly early.
This flight was also nearly completely full, and I (again) had two seatmates.
View from 23F.
The most striking thing upon entering the A321 is the lack of IFE. No CRTs, no dropdown screens, and certainly no AVOD or powerports. US has opted to completely neglect their transcontinental IFE offerings, save for the installation of Gogo Wi-Fi, which I made use of the entire flight.
This is where I must commend the US crew. On this CLT-LAX leg, and on the return, the crews were awesome. The crew all were fairly personable and seemed happy to be onboard. They smiled a lot, said “you’re welcome,” when thanked, and were just very well-rounded.
The flight was mostly uneventful. The crew came around twice to make drink runs, while I listened to music and did some schoolwork.
Once we reached the western United States, the scenery became stunning. I’m not exactly sure where we were, but I’m guessing somewhere over Arizona or New Mexico. The mountain ranges were just stunning.
Soon after, the captain announced our descent into the Los Angeles area.
After arriving, and deplaning (which took a good 10-15 minutes), I made my way curbside to catch the “Airline Connections” bus, which would take me to TBIT.
Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Inaugural Event
Upon arriving at TBIT, I followed the signs to the dedicated event checkin at the Lufthansa counters.
Boeing 747-8 model set up in TBIT.
Media credentials issued.
The media delegation proceeded through the TBIT security checkpoint, and into the gate 123A overflow area, where Lufthansa had set up an amazing spread for journalists and VIPs.
The plates, flatware, and glassware were pulled from actual Lufthansa First Class trolleys, which was a cool touch.
Lufthansa water glasses.
After snacking for a bit, we were led out to the tarmac by the Lufthansa corporate communications staff. We walked down the stairs directly to the tarmac under the jetway, with clear view of the arrivals runway. Fire trucks were already in place, ready for the water cannon salute.
More spotting. This WN plane looks a little faded.
Here she comes!
Touchdown. Photo by Brandon Farris / seahawks7757.
Coming round the corner.
Water cannons: activated.
I can’t get enough of this airplane.
Welcome to Los Angeles, D-ABYA.
Pulling into position.
All smiles from the personnel down here!
We were then herded back into the terminal, where we were invited to chow down some more as we waited for the crew to deplane. After a few minutes, the beautiful crew joined us in the reception area.
Pilots (left and center left). Purser C. Daniels (center right) and Purser G. Matthiess (right)
At the ensuing press conference, guests included Deputy Mayor Matt Karatz from the Office of Economic and Business Policy; Elizabeth Lund, Vice President and Chief Project Engineer of the 747 program at Boeing; Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey; and Mr. Juergen Siebenrock, Vice President, The Americas for Lufthansa. (if you’re looking for specific quotes and such, find them at http://blog.racingwinds.com/2012/12/...-boeing-747-8-touches-down-at-lax)
It was then time to tour the aircraft! There are so many photos to choose from, and I just can’t post them all. Here are some brief snaps, and the rest are linked below from your viewing pleasure.
Full photo set at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/racingw...nds/collections/72157630014850522/
At that point, the media were sort of being shooed out of the gate area so that the aircraft could be serviced and prepared for the flight back to Frankfurt. It had arrived late, and we had delayed it a bit with the photo tour and such, so the Lufthansa staff were eager to get us on our way.
It’s not like they weren’t hospitable, though. They simply moved the food out into the hallway and handed us gift bags on the way out. I don’t blame them for not wanting to take a further delay on the service.
I made my way back out to the pre-security area of TBIT. At this point, I still had around seven hours before my flight home. I had plenty of schoolwork to do, and it was just a matter of finding space to do it.
I walked around the check-in desks several times, and one level up from the desks is a small food court-ish area, though power ports were in short supply. I rounded the corner and found a somewhat secluded alcove with several tables and couches, powerports, and *gasp* a tarmac view. The view was great, right over the alleyway where I had just been standing.
It looked out upon gates 119-123, and, one by one, I watched the Lufthansa 747-8, an Emirates 777-300, and some other widebodies that I can’t recall push back for their respective flights.
At around 7:00 PM, I decided to take the bus over to Terminal 1, the US Airways terminal, figuring that I’d finish my work there. Let me just say that it was my biggest mistake ever. Compared to TBIT, T1 was smelly, crowded, and just less conducive to doing work. Power was not available, and airside food offerings consisted of a McDonald’s and a shoddy Mexican restaurant. At this point, I was kicking myself for not eating landside at the (overpriced) California Pizza Kitchen or La Brea Bakery.
As flight time neared, the gate progressively got more and more crowded. Earlier in the day, I had been advised by the US gate agent that exit row seats became open for general reservation 45 minutes prior to scheduled departure. After quickly checking the seat map online, I saw that almost all the exit seats were open on tonight’s flight, so at about 9:35 PM I headed up to the counter to inquire about getting reassigned.
There were two gate agents on duty tonight; a middle-aged female and a younger male. They were deep in conversation, and when I approached, they both turned and glared at me as if I were interrupting something. One of them asked in a rather haughty tone what I wanted, and I made my request for an exit seat. The exchange went something like this:
Agent: What do you want?
Me: I was wondering if there were any exit row seats available tonight?
Agent: Yeah. *starts typing* But we don’t release them until 45 minutes before departure.
Me: Well, it’s 9:35 or so. Are they available yet?
Agent: *glancing at watch* Oh. Right. I’m not sure if I can assign you one, but I’ll try.
Agent: Okay, here’s a middle seat for you.
I had seen on the seat map that the entire row 22 (exit row) was open, so I asked if I could have 22A.
Me: Is 22A available? Sorry about that … I should have asked before.
Agent: NO. Not available.
Me: Um, okay. How about 22F?
Agent: Fine. *prints/hands boarding pass* Here you go.
The ground service is definitely US Airways’ low point. The agents all morning, at BWI, CLT, and LAX, were all very short and didn’t seem to go out of their way to help the customer whatsoever. Being a gate agent is a job that requires interaction with the public; if that bothers you, then you shouldn’t be a gate agent. I would HATE to be subjected to these agents in an IRROPS situation.
We went through my favorite boarding process again, and then I was onboard the A321 back to the east coast.
December 10, 2012 (part II)
Flight 3 of 4
US Airways 1446
Los Angeles (LAX) - Philadelphia (PHL)
STD / ATD: 10:15 PM / 10:21 PM
STA / ATA: 6:10 AM / 5:59 AM
Seat:22F (exit window)
As soon as I settled in to my seat, the flight attendant, standing mid-cabin near the exit row seats, struck up a conversation with me. I explained to her what I had been at LAX for, and she seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing. We talked at length for much of the boarding process, and it made me feel very nice inside. If there’s one thing that I must compliment US on, it was their crews. Throughout the day, especially on the transcons, the crews were very warm and personable. Thumbs up.
Generous legroom in this exit row seat.
I slept for basically the entire flight, having been up for nearly 24 hours at that point. I only awoke on final approach to Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the US 321s don’t have windows aligned with row 22, so you sort have to lean back in your seat and see through the window positioned between rows 22 and 23.
We arrived into Philly a bit early, and I took the bus from the main concourse to the F concourse, the US Airways Express terminal, which is currently undergoing renovations of some kind, which meant there were very few available food options.
I stopped at an Au Bon Pain that we passed while I was walking, and grabbed a croissant. After that, it was off to the gate.
Let me just say that I absolutely loved the agent working this flight! She reminded me of Madea, but only younger. She wasn’t taking sass from anyone, even her colleagues. The first agent I encountered on the entire trip who didn’t seem bothered or unhappy about being at work. Boarding was started bang on time, and she got everyone onboard in no time.
Flight 4 of 4
US Airways 3827
Philadelphia (PHL) - Baltimore (BWI)
STD / ATD: 8:00 AM / --
STA / ATA: 8:50 AM / 9:25 AM
Seat: 10C (aisle window)
There really isn’t anything to report about this flight. I slept. 100% full flight this morning, every seat taken.
The approach to BWI was a bit turbulent, but otherwise uneventful. Once on the ground, it took an obscenely long time for the rampers to roll up a set of stairs, I’d estimate 15-20 minutes.
After 30 hours and nearly 5000 miles, my whirlwind trip comes to a close on the same Baltimore tarmac on which it started. After a quick bus ride to the Daily parking garage, I made my way to school, where I spent a very groggy eight hours.
While I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly US Airways again, they got the job done. The fare was cheap, and the times were right. The inflight crews were probably the most redeeming factor, given that they seemed to generally enjoy their job. Ground staffing is where US most suffers; I wouldn’t want to spend a lick of time with them if I didn’t have to.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to comment. I’m fairly new to trip reporting, so any comments/criticism are welcomed!
[Edited 2013-01-12 21:56:15]
[Edited 2013-01-12 21:58:50]
[Edited 2013-01-12 21:59:59]