p.s: please be gentle, this is my first TR. and by the way, the pics look better than this, but I had to shrink them to deal with the size limitations here. oh well.
LH691 TLV-FRA 31/10/08
Flight Time: 4h30m
Load: 100% F/CL, 100% C/CL, 95% Y/CL
So here I am, arriving to the LH Check in counters at 03.30 in the morning. always thought this was an exceptionally bad time to fly, but I also realize that the flight schedules FRA-TLV-FRA are heavily influenced by the rest of LH schedule, as on this route there are mostly connecting passengers to and from TLV, and they need to catch feeder/onward flights into/out of FRA, so I've learned to live with it.
The check in staff at TLV is ok at best. over the last few years, a very noticeable decline in the service offered by the ground staff in TLV took place, due to a new contract of LH with a local ground handling company. hopefully LH will have the brain to switch to a better one once this contract is over.
After the check in, I proceed to the departures hall. LH counters are located in level G (ground) of terminal 3 in TLV, while most airlines check in at level 3, which is where the departures hall is. basically, level G is very small (only 20 check in counters) and is allocated for LH, OS and LO only. if that's the case, the least they could do is stick a Star Alliance logo in there, but nope, the airport authority doesn't allow it and those airlines won't pay the advertising fees.
Nothing exciting from here on - passport control, which is as usual packed during the early morning rush hour, just before all flight to europe are departing, and then the inevitable duty free. I'm not a big duty-free fan, but I really needed a new pair of Adidas and they have those quite cheap here (funnily enough, cheaper than in Germany - although this is imported from there).
Since it wasn't really meant to be a trip report (that part only hit me later), I didn't take much pics of the terminal - but I promise to bring many more in the next report. honest!
Now to the lounge. there are 3 lounges in the departure area of terminal 3 at TLV - the most beautiful one is of course the one offered by LY to its passengers (if only their aircraft interiors looked as nice), and 2 others operated by the Dan hotels chain. those are in use for all other airlines (yes, as horrible as that sounds), which makes them fully packed and hardly the place to unwind before your flight. but hey, I wanted a piece of cake.
As you can see for yourself - the lounge is quite small (WYSIWYG. really.) and the food offerings is nothing to be astounded by: a few pieces of some decent cakes, few pastries, some salads, crackers and cheeses. that's about it. amazing to see sometimes passengers fighting with the staff about an entry they're not entitled to into this hole...
Boarding was called upon at 04.52. the lounge is not that far from the boarding gate - lounge at C2, gate is C6 - which is the only bright point to this story.
I board the aircraft just to find out THIS:
Yes yes, my favourite aircraft of the LH fleet has arrived today to TLV! this was the aircraft on which I had my very first flight, and the one I chose my username here after! I am actually a big fan of the A346 that used to serve TLV, but at this point I am very happy that LH has decided to downgrade to the A343. oh, the joy. with a big smile on ,y face I am greeted by a very nice purser, and going to my seat to find out a second surprise - this seat next to me is empty! hoping it will stay this way, I keep praying until I hear the "boarding completed" announcement, and then I settle in peacefully and wait for take off.
Push back is very quick today, but I notice that the aircraft is going to the farthest runway, and even there we have to wait a while - 05.30 is departure time not only for LH, but also LX, KL and AZ. we soon take off, and I just love the sound of the A343 taking off, climbing higher over the coastline of TLV, and onwards along the mediterranean on the way to the balkans.
This is the time to get comfy - but as much as I love the A343, apparently LH loves it a bit less. the horrible Recaro seats are nothing joyful, the seat pitch is horrible (and hey, I'm 175cm / 5'9" !), and nothing here says comfort. considering every passenger on board this aircraft hasn't slept during the night, it would be nice to have a more comfortable aircraft to people can sleep during the flight. but no. even IFE isn't installed in the Y/CL yet, which makes the seatbacks look sadly empty:
I take comfort in the fact the Y/CL is really almost completely full, and I got to enjoy a spare seat next to me, and start reading a newspaper just as the drinks run is on the way. until a while ago, LH used to serve breakfast right after departure - now they do a drinks run, let people sleep a while, and serve breakfast before arrival into FRA.
I am not very tired but I know I have a long day ahead of me, and opt for some wine hoping this will get me at least a bit sleepy. I stretch over the second seat, reading my newspaper, when suddenly I see the man on the other side of the aisle kicking the seat in front of him. soon I find out, that the lady sitting in front of this huge guy has her seat reclined, and he is getting squeezed in his seat (you really notice how awful the pitch is when the person on front of you in reclining theirs). so he pushes the back of her seat, trying to wake her up, she wakes up and starts shouting at him to stop. he keep pushing saying that he can't sit like that and her seatback is hurting his knees, she retaliates with "then next time buy a business class seat!", to which he answer "and who will pay, you?!".
I usually would have been amused with the early morning charade, if one of the flight attendants didn't come and say to him "well sir, why don't you switch to this empty aisle seat here?", pointing at the one next to me. too bad, I really liked this F/A up until now, when I didn't have the urge to drag him into the galley and beat him into a pulp.
Surely enough this huge guy is taking the seat next to me, and now I don't even have a place to hold my newspaper comfortably. I give up on reading and trying to catch some sleep, but soon the huge guy is sleeping all over me. I push him with my elbow, and after a few minutes he's over me again. what a nightmare. a note to the readers: DO NOT use very smelly after-shaves when you plan to sleep on other passengers, thank you!
I try to fold myself into the corner and manage to sleep for a short while.
I wake up a bit later, check the window (which was closed by the crew) and see the beautiful winglet over some part of eastern europe (who can tell when there's no routemap as there's no IFE?!) :
a short while afterwards, about 2.5 hours into the flight, breakfast is being served. the lovely crew is offering everyone "a salty dish, fritata with spinach, or a sweet dish, crepes" (I swear this was the F/A, not me). not a big fan of potatoes, I choose the crepes. the huge thing sitting next to me and half over me, takes the fritata, poke it with the fork, looks at mine, and says to the F/A "uhhh... I want that too".
Now really, I'm trying to be positive, but don't let looks deceive you... the crepes (and the swamps of jam resting next to them) are sickening sweet. talk about sugar rush.. maybe this is LH way of getting you wide awake after not being able to sleep in their Y.
the rest of the meal is quite ok, though. still, much better than what you'd get on LY Y/CL to FRA.
After the breakfast, this is a good time to stroll around in the cabin and check the load:
Soon we are starting our descent into FRA. it's a rainy cool day in good old Frankfurt, but that doesn't stop us from having yet again a field position (which is mostly the case arriving into FRA at this time in the morning, since all gates are busy). We are getting into the bus to take us away from this beautiful bird and into the terminal:
Having the time, I just have to show you one more thing: this is the underground tunnel linking area B and area A in FRA T1. I always love going in it, although once it had submarine sounds in the back ground and colourful lights switching on and off, which made it quite nice. now no sounds and the lights are steady, but still nice:
Summary: if you have to get anywhere else in Europe, I would take LX instead of LH anyday, but it's still the best way to get to FRA from TLV. the crew was very very friendly and nice, the meal was decent, the only bad point is the seats. LH must change those horrible uncomfortable seats. for a 4.5 hours flights it's hard to complain (well, it's easy for me anyway!), but keep in mind this A343 is serving other much farther places than TLV, and passenger much higher than my 175cm.
Total Score: 7/10
Now, surely you wanna know what happened with the FRA-TLV part of the trip. well, I know it's a lame excuse, but I was at a birthday party the night before and had a lot to drink. I was partying all night and at 05.00, there was no point anymore in catching a sleep for a couple of hours (LH686 FRA-TLV departs 10.10), so instead I stayed awake, went to a breakfast with a local friend at the nice new Marche restaurant opened in arrival hall A (or was it B?) of T1 in FRA, and then to the flight. TLV flights now depart from gate C13 in FRA, which is in the new section of the terminal, just built. as my friend told me: go straight ahead, and after 30 minutes when you think you've gone far enough - go some more. there's your gate". and he wasn't kidding - after passport control, you get to this corridor:
...Which leads you into a much longer corridor:
... At the end of which, when you're certain you're in another city by now rather than FRA, you finally get to the gate just to find a HUGE queue in front of the security screening:
Now, after all that, and not sleeping the entire night, and having some alcohol during the night, how can you blame me for falling asleep the minute my ass hit the seat until the aircraft arrived in TLV?? I can only spare these infos: the 747, although an aircraft I really don't like (to say the least), was no doubt quite new and in very very good shape. it was very clean and comfy. the crew was very nice and charming yet again (and everyone flying frequently with LH knows it's a hit or miss), and I also know that the meal was (surprise surprise) beef or chicken. don't ask me what with, I didn't even wake up to eat, although offered with a huge smile by the sweet F/A.
Let's just say I owe you a trip report, ok?