Tashkent, Uzbekistan to Washington, Dulles on Air Astana and Lufthansa
Got to the airport at 9pm for my 11:50pm flight, since I’d been warned by several colleagues that immigration to get out of Tashkent could be nasty. I tried to check in at the VIP terminal again, but turns out that’s only for those flying on Uzbekistan Airways. No priority anything for other airlines. There was no wait to check in, however, but there was probably a 30 minute queue for passport control.
The real nightmare began on the other side. The person manning the baggage scanner decided I was a good target for harassment, and pulled me and my bags aside for a hand search and grope. And when I say grope, it made the TSA look like naïve innocents. Seriously, I’m pretty sure there are people hire “professional escorts” who get less of a grope. Then, it continued on to a very very detailed baggage inspection, going through every little container I had, squirting a little bit of toothpaste out, looking in prescription jars, etc. Eventually, I’d had enough and refused to answer any further questions until he called a supervisor over. The supervisor continued the harassment, but when I told him where I’d been working when there, he finally gave up and sent me on my way.
Not that it was much better – the entire airport is one large waiting area, and again there was a lounge, but the doors were locked. No access for Air Astana. Rather bizarre. I ended up just sitting around for nearly 90 minutes trying to kill time until it was time to board.
Air Astana flight 124
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (TAS) to Astana, Kazakhstan (TSE)
Depart 23:50, Arrive 2:55 next day, Flight Time 3:05
Embraer ERJ-190, Registration P4-KCH, Manufactured 2012, Seat 2A
Water, juice, and sparkling wine were offered during boarding, and the flight appeared to be completely full today. We pushed back pretty much on time, and were airborne shortly. Despite the late hour and being a regional jet, Air Astana pulled out all the stops and served a full hot meal. Actually quite impressive…starting with warm nuts and wine!
This was followed with a full hot meal (and wine refills upon pressing the flight attendant call button):
Shortly before landing, immigration cards were distributed. I didn’t see any way to to an airside transfer in Astana, but it could be possible. I didn’t require a visa with my passport, so I decided to just clear immigration and check in with Lufthansa. I found the immigration forms mildly amusing, because watermarked across them in large text was the fact that they were free!
Immigration took less than five minutes, but checked bagged took over 30 minutes to show up! Not a big issue though, and went upstairs and checked in with Lufthansa quite easily. Exit immigration and security were a complete non-event, and once again there was no lounge on the other side. I’ve never been to a Lufthansa international destination that didn’t have a lounge for business class passengers, so this was rather surprising. The airport had free, and fast-enough-to-Skype internet, so that was good at least, and helped to pass a bit of time.
Lufthansa flight 649
Astana, Kazakhstan (TSE) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 4:40, Arrive 6:45, Flight Time 6:05
Airbus A330-300, Registration D-AIKE, Manufactured 2004, Seat 3D
There’s not going to be much detail on this flight, other than to say it was about 2/3 full in business class, and I was lucky enough to have the seat next to me remain empty. The downside is, at 4:40am in May this far north, the sun was already rising as we took off, and we flew into the sun the entire flight. The crew was great about putting the shades down very quickly after takeoff so those who wanted to sleep could. When the food/drink service came around I wasn’t hungry, but asked for and got two glasses of red wine, the proceeded to pass out and sleep for five straight hours. Excellent!
However, I did keep the menu, and appears there was no food service. The flight comes from Almaty where they serve a small dinner (listed aso Chicken Breast stuffed with dried Tomato, marinated Prawn and Mango Sauce with fresh fruit for desert) but this flight featured a breakfast which I didn’t bother waking up for:
Marinated Prawn, moked Beef (not my typo, theirs), smoked Chicken Breast and Chili Cause, Bavaria blu and Goda Cheese
Cheese Omelette with Chicken Brochette, Potato Cake, Asparagus and Tomato Sauce
After clearing security in Frankfurt, I went straight to the Senator lounge and asked about upgrading my next flight with a United Global Upgrade. I was worried because Expertflyer showed 4 seats left in first, and I know Lufthansa usually loads meals in sets of 4, and sometimes where there are exactly 4 seats left they will use it as an excuse not to upgrade you. The agent said she would call the agent handing the flight and get back to me shortly. Meanwhile, I decided it was time for a shower and an espresso while I waited.
After the espresso, the agent came over to tell me that normally it would not be possible to upgrade on this flight, but due to my “corporate account booking” they would be making an exception. Score! I opted to wait out the next two hours in the Lufthansa First lounge, even though it meant having to clear immigration to the Schengen side. I have no idea where there’s no First class lounge for the Z gates since they’re almost all longhaul international flights, but that’s how it is. Once there, I had time to wait, so had a proper morning snack. Pain au chocolate, kiwi juice, smoked salmon, and a bit of Veuve rosé bubbly:
Back through immigration after catching up on some work, and soon it was time to board.
Lufthansa flight 416
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 9:40, Arrive 12:30, Flight Time 8:50
Airbus A340-300, Registration D-AIGZ, Manufactured 2000, Seat 2D
I’m going to mainly focus on the food service here, as the crew was flawless as usual. I think I’ve taken around a dozen flights in Lufthansa first now, and every single crew has been absolutely perfect. As a bonus, this flight had wifi so I was able to get quite a bit of work done. I still think it’s ridiculous they charge for WiFi in first class, but it is what it is. Unfortunately, all four window seats were taken when I upgraded, but I ended up with all four middle seats in the middle to myself. Hooray! Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the pre-departure champagne and macadamia nuts, however.
To start the meal service, the customary Lufthansa rose:
This was followed by an amuse bouche:
The table was set, and today’s bubbles were Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame….YUM!
I asked the flight attendant to slow down service since it would be a long flight, and I opted to start with the caviar before appetizers. Ok, I’m going to confess to it here too….this was one of three servings I had. They were all delicious. I was the only passenger eating early in the flight (I noticed 3 of the other 4 never at at all) so I hoped I wasn’t eating it all, but hey…she offered…
Today’s appetizer choices were:
- North Sea Crabs with Mustard Dill Sour Cream, Pumpernickel Cream and Cucumber Relish
- Prime boiled Veal with Frankfurt Green Sauce, Egg Salad
- Mozzarella with Giant Oxheart Tomatoes and Pine Nut Dressing
- Salad of meadow Herbs with Oyster Mushrooms accompanied by your Choice of Yogurt Dill or Tomato Tarragon Dressing
I decided to try everything but the crabs, and it was all quite tasty. Yes, more bubbles please….
I’ve seen Lufthansa serve some really unusual stuff in First Class before. One of the more memorable oddities was the milk-wine they served, even though it was delicious. Today definitely took the cake though, there was a palate cleanser which was described as “melon sorbet with cucumber tapioca and basil oil.” I took one bite, and the combination of texture, taste, and smell was just not the least bit appealing…and this coming from someone who will eat just about anything.
Palate cleansed (or revolted) it was time for a main meal. Choices today were:
- Asparagus Spears with Sauce Hollandaise, Black Forest Ham, boiled Ham and Parsley Potatoes
- American Rump Steak on White Bean Mash with Feta Cheese
- Filet of Char and its Caviar with Grape Seed Oil and mashed Green Peas
- Oriental flavored Saddle of Lamb with Citrus Yogurt, Pomegranate and Couscous
I went with the lamb, and it was absolutely delicious. Only complaint is there needed to be more lamb!
There were three red wine choices to accompany the lamb:
- 2007 Château Conon-La-Gaffelière Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé
- 2007 Guade al Tasso, Bolgheri Superiore DOC
- 2007 Neuquén Patagonia Malbec
Being a huge fan of Argentine malbecs that’s what I chose, and it went perfectly with the lamb.
Next up was the cheese course:
Brillat Savarin, Gruyère, Reblochon, Goat Cheese and Gorgonzola with Orange Chutney, Grapes and Celerey.
I took a little taster of each along with some more malbec.
Then, it was dessert time. There were two choices:
- Toasted white Chocolate, pickled Pineapple and Curry Crumble
- Cream Cheese Mousse and Ice Cream on Rhubarb Ragout with Strawberries
Now, I have a little confession. I’m pretty sure I chose the second option, especially because it contained rhubarb which I love, but there’s no photographic evidence nor do I really remember it. There is, however, evidence on my camera of at least two glasses of Johnny Walker Blue, one ice cube. Hey, priorities!
At this point I went to the washroom, changed into my Lufthansa pyjamas, came back to a made up bed, and proceeded to pass out for around four hours. I did manage to snap a selfie in the pyjamas before passing out though and post it to facebook…a great use of in-flight internet if I ever saw one!
Woke up about 90 minutes out of DC and sampled the “snack time” service just to report on it of course. Our options today were:
- Frisée, Radicchio, Arugula and Romaine Lettuce with Carrots, Bell Pepper, Cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes, Red Radish and Chives presented with your Choice of Champagne or Yogurt Herb Dressing
- Salad of Chilean Shrimps
- Marinated Cocktail Tomatoes with Mozzarella Balls
- Orecchiette Pasta with Green Peas, sun-dried Tomatoes, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Spinach and Italian Herbs
- Toasted Pine Nuts
- Fried Button Mushrooms
- Serrano Ham and Poulard Breast with Thyme
- Fried Swordfish with Herbs
I got a little sampler of things, since I was being indecisive:
I was completely stuffed, but hey, there’s always room for desert. It was a “chili flavored chocolate tart with whipped cream.” Oh, wait, that’s where things went! I actually stopped the first meal after the cheese… I did have the rhubarb from the main course…just later!
…and to finish things off, a nice double espresso.
At this point we were getting close to landing, so it was time to change out of pyjamas. I briefly considered being obnoxious and going through immigration in pyjamas, but really didn’t need to risk running into anyone I knew, or having more fun dealings with CBP.
Soon, it was time to stow away monitors and get ready to land.
That wraps up this trip report! Nothing on the horizon, but I’m sure that won’t last long!