this is going to be the second part of a series of which the first part just released, violently behind schedule (in fact, I had written most of it quite timely but then just forgot/procrastinated finishing and uploading it)
Anyway, after about 4 amazing months at the University of North Carolina (some impressions of which can be found below), my first semester abroad was coming to a close and I planned to head back to Germany over winter break to celebrate Christmas with my family and New Year’s with friends back home. By then, I had already become a big fan of the - imo vastly underrated - nature and cities of North Carolina and even more so the great people I met at my university. In hindsight, that impression was confirmed in my second semester making my final farewell this year so incredibly hard.
One of my first weekends in the US: Labor Day by the Atlantic in Carolina Beach, NC
Delayed by two weeks due to Hurricane Florence - the Tar Heels' first home game at Kenan Stadium!
Fall break in the NC mountains - we took a road trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway
Statesville Balloon Fest
Right before finals week - a snow storm shuts down all campus activity for two days
I had booked a roundtrip flight to/from EWR (see part 1), but booked the flight up to New York separately, later into the semester. After finding out until when I’d be taking finals, I arranged it so that I would have 3 nights and almost 4 full days to spend in the Big Apple. The fact that I had received a $400 coupon by Delta Air Lines for volunteering to take a later flight on the way here made this an even sweeter deal. I ended up actually booking the flight back to LGA in First Class, since the fare difference between Main Cabin and First was only about $45 and factoring in the fact that I’d have to pay for luggage with my own credit card if I had chosen Y, I ended up treating myself to my first flight ever in a premium cabin.
My trek back home began in the early morning hours of Dec. 16th. I had set an alarm for 5:30am and after getting dressed, called an Uber to take me to RDU. It was a wise decision to get up a bit earlier than needed because neither Uber nor Lyft had a lot of cars around at that hour and I ended up waiting about 25 minutes for a pickup.
Waiting outside my house at 6 in the morning
The ride was uneventful and comfortable (as for some reason the Uber premier fares were lower than regular UberX) and my friendly driver dropped me off curbside at 6:20, about 1hr50 before scheduled departure.
RDU T2 curbside
...and the beautiful interior of the terminal, featuring a Christmas tree
I headed inside and dropped off my bag at the SkyPriority check-in counter, where the friendly agent thanked me for being a Delta SP customer (oblivious to the fact that I didn’t technically pay) and after a short wait at TSA I was airside at 6:35. After getting some coffee (it was very early and I needed the warm beverage as my throat was uncomfortably scratchy) I settled into a seat at the departure gate where I ran into another exchange student who had just spent the semester at UNC. Her adventure was sadly over but it was nice to talk to someone about their experiences.
DL SkyPriority check-in counters
Airside RDU - I'm a big fan of this airports architecture
Gate D1 is where I'll be departing from this morning
16/12/2018 – Delta flight DL5992 (operated by Republic Airline dba Delta Connection)
RDU – LGA
Scheduled flight time
- 08:11 – 10:00 (1hr 49mins)
- 08:29 – 09:31 (1hr 2mins)
- Embraer E175 (N214JQ), 9.9 years at time of flight
- 03A, Window, First Class
Boarding began 7:41, about 10 minutes later than scheduled and for the first time ever I was among the first group to get aboard, where I was presented with a bottle of water and another PDB of choice at my seat. I really liked the seat, 03A, as it was on the left single-seat block of the 1-2 configured F cabin.
About 20 minutes later, boarding was completed and the doors were closed, followed by a pushback at 8:16. While the engines started up, a safety demonstration was executed and after a brief taxi we lifted off from runway 23R at 8:29.
Obviously very good legroom at 3A and the view out of the window
A mainline colleague on the neighboring gate during pushback
Turning onto the active
Goodbye RDU, see you in just under 3 weeks
A view of Jordan Lake as we perform a 180° right turn to head north
Downtown Durham and the campus of UNC's bitter rival,
Once airborne, the FAs came around with the snack basket a couple of times and offered additional rounds of drink services, served in actual glasses. Other than that, the flight was rather uneventful and after having had some nice views on climbout, the cloud cover became continuous quite quickly. Before long, the captain had already initiated the descent (9:03) and in fact, when announcing they had begun the approach into LGA, he remarked that the weather in New York was “horrible”. The cloud ceiling was incredibly low and the temperatures were just about freezing, with constant rain. While the flight deck had advised there might be some turbulence, it never got really bumpy and at 9:31 we touched down on runway 4, almost half an hour ahead of schedule.
Cloudscapes above the Eastern Seaboard
Moments after breaking through said cloud cover, already on short finals
A few minutes later we pulled into our gate at Terminal C and, being tagged “SkyPriority”, my bag arrived on the carousel just minutes after I made it to the claim. At just past 10am, or barely the scheduled arrival time I was released into a dreadful day in New York – I absolutely love that city, but the weather that Sunday made it almost unbearable.
Heading into the city
The following three days however were marvelous and made the stopover on my way home unforgettable. I was therefore almost a bit sad to leave (but nonetheless excited to see all these familiar faces again after 4 months) when Wednesday came around and it was time for me to leave. The flight I had ahead of me made me very excited though: Finally a chance to fly what is imo the most beautiful plane ever built – the B748!
The only pretty side effect of the horrible weather on Sunday - low clouds colorfully illuminated
At the Brooklyn Bridge the next day - a whole different world
The famous Rockefeller center Christmas tree - no offense to my beloved second home, but this one puts RDU's to shame
The next day in Williamsburg Brooklyn - bitterly cold but beautiful
I had checked out of my hostel (The Local NYC in Long Island City, would def recommend) in the morning but kept my suitcase there for storage so I could enjoy a couple of hours in the city.
Last morning at the hostel's roof terrrace
At around 2pm I went to return to the hostel and retrieved my luggage before walking over to the nearest stop of the E train. A 15 minute ride later I was at Penn Station and bought a ticket for the next NJT departure over to EWR Airport Station.
Last rays of sun on this winter day as seen from the EWR AirTrain
Even with a small delay, my train arrived there at 3:35pm and after taking the AirTrain over to Terminal B, I made it to Lufthansa’s check-in counters about 2:30hrs before departure. There was no line to speak of, in fact, the person manning the waiting pen let me skip ahead of two other passengers because I had already checked in online. This made the entire process an affair of 5 minutes and I decided (BIG mistake in hindsight) to head straight over to TSA.
TSA at EWR was, in my experience for the first time, deserving of all the bad rap airport security gets. It was a mess and people seemed to be intentionally unfriendly. Nonetheless I made it through in about 15 minutes. This was the big mistake I mentioned though: The concourse from which LH operates, was a waste, there were just one or two actually interesting shops and it seemed far too small, given that in addition to ours there were 3 or 4 other Star Alliance WBs being dispatched around the same time – the waiting area was packed. I decided to just sit by the window and watch the beautiful sunset.
Sunset over Newark with a UA 757 on its takeoff run
My plane has arrived, named after Baden-Württemberg, coincidentally my home state in Germany
19/12/2018 – Lufthansa flight LH403
EWR – FRA
Scheduled flight time
- 18:20 – 07:45+1 (7hr 25mins)
- 19:06 – 07:52+1 (6hr 46mins)
- Boeing 747-830 (D-ABYG), 5.9 years at time of flight
- 44A, Window, Economy
Eventually, at 6pm the boarding process began and even though it was a full flight, boarding was concluded in just over 30 minutes. I was already settled into my seat by that time, having marveled at boarding the queen and passing right by the staircase upon entering. The cabin was very pretty, although the IFE was in fact older than the one offered by United on both of my flights with them. At 18:46 our plane was pushed back and after hearing the 4 engines come to life, we began taxiing out on our own power 10 minutes later. Luckily, there was no line for takeoff and so we lifted off from runway 22R at 19:06 local, after a surprisingly short takeoff run.
Boarding the Queen of the Skies
View from 44A during taxi out
Cabin with mood lighting in the dark red/orange setting
Ready for take-off
The climbout through the clear night skies over New York was breathtaking and I regretted not having scored a seat on the right side of the aircraft.
Dinner service took surprisingly long to start (might have been attributed to where I sat), but about 1:30hrs into the flight, the meal was served, probably one of the best I’ve ever had on a plane. The salmon tasted very good and I appreciated the fact that LH used metal cutlery even in Economy. I was enjoying this flight a lot, and after watching the new Deadpool movie, I tried to sleep a bit. I ended up falling asleep for maybe 40 minutes, awaking to a simulated sunrise by the mood lighting system. Over the remainder of the day, this obviously proved not to be enough, but in that moment it hit the spot just right – a classic power nap.
The Newark port immediately after liftoff
The Meadowlands sports complex again after completing a right-hand turn to get us on a northeasterly heading
The New Jersey Palisades, the George Washington bridge and the last stretches of uptown Manhattan
LH's inflight entertainment system screen
The huge and open seeming cabin in wake-up moodlight setting
A few minutes later, the crew handed out the breakfast service, nothing big but rather adequate, given that with the short duration of this flight the dinner service had just been about 3.5hrs ago. Not too long after, at 7:07 CET or just past 1am in New York, we initiated our descent from FL360 and after circling all the way around FRA from the south, we broke through the low ceiling into a dark and murky German morning about 40 minutes later, before making an incredibly soft touchdown on runway 25L at 7:52.
The breakfast service
Even in shitty weather the design of the Boeing 747-8's wing is a work of art imo
Not exactly inviting conditions down there
Vacating the active to taxi to our jetbridge parking position
After taxiing over to the new concourse A-West, I took my time to disembark and since there was no wait at the automated immigration gates I ended up at the baggage claim about 10 minutes before my bag.
After claiming it, I went outside where my dad was awaiting me.
With a lot of stories to tell and a lot of friends to catch up with, this winter break passed by quickly and I was looking forward to returning after New Year's. This part of the series is already written too, so I should have it up shortly - stay tuned!