The day before the outbound flights, I downloaded the boarding passes into the Lufthansa app on my phone. Surprise: the seats registered on my booking had been changed. I tweeted to Lufthansa to complain, but they replied that only the type of seat (aisle or window) was guaranteed, not the seat itself.
On Saturday, 07 March, I arrived at the airport at 5:55 (one hour and ten minutes ahead of the flight, and not two hours as recommended. At least that gives some additional sleep). I dropped my suitcase at the Lufthansa baggage drop counter in row 3.
I proceeded immediately to Gate A49. Boarding started 20 minutes before departure and was completed 5 minutes before departure. The captain wanted to leave right away but told us he had to wait for the last pieces of luggage to be loaded.
BRU-FRA Saturday, 07 March 2015
Flight LH1025 (codeshared with SN and AC)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200 « with sharklets » D-AIUB (When booking my flight 4 months earlier, I was surprised to see that they knew already it would have sharklets) (strangely enough, this plane has no name, like usual with LH)
STD 07:05, actual 07:07 from gate A49 (GMT+1)
STA 08:10, actual 07:57 at gate A23 (GMT+1).
Total time: scheduled 1 hr 05 minutes, actual 0 hr 50 min.
Seat: booked 11F, actual on boarding pass 19A (window)
Warm welcome on board by 2 stewardesses who gave a cereal/chocolate bar to every passenger. Most of the 24 seats (6 rows of 4 seats with the middle seat empty) of the business class section were occupied, and economy was also rather full, mostly with passengers connecting further in Frankfurt. Safety demonstration in German (first) and English.
Take-off from the usual 25R. After 15 minutes drinks were served to accompany the cereal bar. I had coffee and orange juice. Nice view of Liege and its airport in clear weather.
Landing on 25C and deplaning at Gate A23 in Terminal 1.
After arrival, I had more than 2 hours to change gates and to wait for my next flight. I had to go to Z66, but first to clear customs, as I was leaving the Schengen area. My passport and my boarding pass were checked no less than three times!
In fact, the Z gates are exactly above the A gates with the same numbers. Nevertheless it was a long walk forth and back (Frankfurt is huge and Terminal 1A is the biggest of all).
Boarding started 40 minutes before departure by no less than 3 boarding bridges (one for F and C on the upper deck, two for Y at the lower deck).
FRA-MIA Saturday, 07 March 2015
Flight LH462 (codeshared with OS and TG)
Aircraft: Airbus 380-800 D-AIMI “Berlin”
STD 10:20, actual 10:22 from gate Z66 (GMT+1)
STA 14:50, actual 14:58 at gate J17, terminal S (GMT-5).
Total time: scheduled 10 hrs 30 minutes, actual 10 hr 36 min.
Seat: booked 96K (upper floor window), actual on boarding pass 51K (lower floor window)
Polite welcome at the front door of the lower deck by two stewardesses. The cockpit door was open and I asked a stewardess if I could visit. She went to ask the captain, who agreed. I had a small chat with the three pilots (for longer flights there is an additional pilot. They stay a mere 21 hours in Miami and then come back) and took some photographs with their consent.
I then went to my window seat 51K, in the second row of the lower deck. I understand also why I did not get the booked seat 96K on the upper deck: it does not exist on this particular plane, since the whole upper floor is entirely occupied by First and Business. My seat was not the best one: it is comfortable, but the room for the legs is narrow because of the badly placed IFE box.
Load factor was approximately 80% in Economy (I didn’t see the upper floor for First and Business), and I had a free seat between me and my neighbour (in a 3-4-3 configuration).
Safety demonstration on the screens, first in German and then in English, during the push-back. It was interrupted by the captain who mentioned there was a problem with the APU and he could not start the engines. He would try again; if that didn’t succeed he would have to return to the gate. Fortunately, everything went OK after 10 minutes and we could taxi to runway 18 for take-off.
WiFi was available on board. You could see some world news for free, but surfing and emails were at a cost. IFE had its problems: at first the sound didn’t come through and the system had to be re-initialised. And later, when listening to music, it often automatically switched back to flight data. Eventually that was also fixed.
After 15 minutes drinks were served with some biscuits. Since it was not yet noon I had another orange juice. One hour later, time for lunch: a selection of three dishes: beef, pasta or chicken. I chose the latter, served with rice, a small salad with balsamic vinegar dressing, bread, butter and cheese, and a pastry and a small chocolate as dessert. And real metal cutlery! A large glass of red wine served from a bottle and water were my drinks during the meal, before coffee and Bailey’s on ice.
The flight continued without problems over Luxemburg, Paris, Quimper and the tip of Brittany before the Atlantic Ocean, and later the Azores Islands. The aircraft gained altitude, starting at FL350 on the continent before mounting successively to FL370 and later FL380 over the Atlantic.
A second hot meal was served two hours before arrival: a choice between pasta and vegetables, or meat and mashed potatoes. I selected the pasta, which was quite nice, accompanied by bread and butter and a chocolate pudding as dessert. A glass of white wine (Riesling) and a glass of water to wash this down and a cup of tea to conclude. But for this meal, cutlery was made of plastics.
A last view on the Bahamas (where I would be the next day) before landing on Rwy 9 (not 09 like in Europe) and docking at Gate J21 barely 8 minutes late, amidst scores of planes from South America (mainly Avianca) and a Swiss A333.
Being in the second row, I was quickly outside, but that didn’t help too much! Long walk to a long queue at immigration, which I cleared in 15 minutes after having been taken in picture and given the fingerprints of all my fingers. It was even longer at the baggage claim: the priority passengers had their baggage waiting for them, but ordinary travellers l:ike me had to wait 45 minutes after the landing to see the first bag appear on the carousel, and my suitcase was there only after 55 minutes. OK, an A380 has many passengers, but if there is a sufficient number of cabin crew, there should also be a similar number of baggage handlers…
People from Costa Cruises were all over the airport to guide me all the way to the buses going to the Port of Miami where the Costa Luminosa was docked for a Caribbean cruise.
For the return flight, the bus that had taken me for a guided tour of Miami arrived at the airport at 14:30, three and a half hours before the flight. Horror: there was already a queue of several hundred people in the economy line for the Lufthansa and SWISS flights (both departing at 18:00). I had downloaded the boarding passes in the LH app, but that didn’t help: there is no baggage drop desk at Miami International Airport. I thus had to stay in line. After more than one hour, I was finally at the check-in desk, and despite my electronic passes, I got another two boarding passes for my two flights to FRA and BRU. Not very efficient!
The hand baggage scan was very smooth: thanks to new equipment, no need to remove laptops from the bags, nor to take off belt or shoes!
Time for some wandering through that huge airport and a last Corona beer.
Boarding started at 17:30 by row numbers, after people had already to form in the hall the groups that would board together: that’s a nice idea, although there are always smart asses that will jump to a group that is boarding earlier.
MIA-FRA Tuesday, 17 March 2015
Flight LH463 (no codeshares)
Aircraft: Airbus 380-800 D-AIMB “München”
STD 18:00, actual 18:20 from gate J17, South Terminal (GMT-4)
STA 08:00+1, actual 08:26+1 at gate Z54, terminal 1 (GMT+1).
Total time: scheduled 9 hrs 00 minutes, actual 9 hr 06 min.
Seat: booked 96K (upper floor window), actual on boarding pass 52K (lower floor window)
My seat in the front section of the lower deck was not hampered by an IFE box this time. Boarding was completed almost on time (with a load factor of about 90% in Economy, but I still had a free seat next to me), but departure was delayed because of the strike of Vereinigung Cockpit in Germany, said the captain. As I didn’t understand, I asked the steward what that meant: due to a LH pilot strike in Germany the next day, many people had changed their travel plans and that was the reason for the long queues at check-in and boarding, and thus for the slight delay.
Furthermore, immediately after push-back, the plane waited for a long time before taxiing to Runway 9 (not 09 like in Europe) and taking off at 18:50. The delay would never be recouped.
Soon we flew over the Bahamas and the city of Freeport.
Thirty minutes into the flight, a drink (orange juice for me) and crackers were served. Soon thereafter this was followed by dinner, with a choice between chicken and pasta all’arabiata. I selected the latter, which was appetising.
The night has fallen and I managed to sleep a couple of hours while the aircraft was climbing from cruise altitude FL350 to FL390.
One hour and 30 minutes before landing, we were treated with a hot breakfast: scrambled eggs with vegetables and potatoes.
Meanwhile, the first lights of a new day were appearing on the horizon and the aircraft had a first contact with Europe in Cornwall, exactly at Penzance, followed by Newquay, Southampton, Southend, Dover, the Channel, Dunkirk, Ypres (hello Belgium!), and then right above my home, Wavre, Huy and Germany (Hahn?).
Landing on 07R with nearly half an hour delay, but I was not afraid as I still had 55 minutes to clear customs and passport control and proceed to Gate A1 which was not far away. I was more afraid that my flight would be cancelled because of the strike of short- and medium-haul Lufthansa pilots, but already before landing I had received an SMS from Lufthansa informing me of a gate change, meaning my flight would proceed normally. Which was indeed the case!
FRA-BRU Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Flight LH1008 (codeshared with SN and AC)
Aircraft: Airbus A319 D-AILK “Aschaffenburg”
STD 09:25, actual 09:38 from gate A1 (GMT+1)
STA 10:25, actual 10:29 at gate A49 (GMT+1).
Total time: scheduled 1 hr 00 minute, actual 0 hr 51 min.
Seat: booked 11F, actual on boarding pass 18A (window)
Boarding started with some delay, and all passengers received a chocolate bar at the entrance of the plane. Load factor of nearly 100%, both in C (20 seats) and in Y. The non-striking pilot announced that departure would be further delayed as three passengers had not appeared and their baggage had to be unloaded. Furthermore, there was fog in Brussels and he had to get clearance from Belgian ATC.
The aircraft was positioned so that it did not need to be pushed back, and we started taxiing right away to RWY 18.
Drinks were served to accompany the chocolate (a strong coffee for me). Short flight at a moderate altitude (FL220) and landing on the usual 25L to gate A49 almost on time despite the late departure.
- Good flights (with attentive service, good food and plenty of free drinks) despite some slight delays
- All 4 booked seats had been changed. What’s the point in booking them in advance against 70 euros? (Except that a window seat was guaranteed)
- No baggage drop and printed boarding passes in Miami, despite availability of electronic ones, but nice pre-boarding grouping of passengers