DCA to Cotonou, Benin on United, Lufthansa, and Brussels Airlines in First
I know there’s been lots of discussion of Lufthansa First on the internet before, so I’m not going to go into painful details here, but lots of folks still like to see meal pics, etc, so I figured I’d do a quick mainly pictures post.
This trip came about thanks to free changes thanks to United premier status, and opening up better and better options up until the day before…when I finally got this routing sorted. The goal was to fly either Lufthansa or Swiss first, and hopefully leave out of DCA which meant a connection or two. Final routing was DCA-ORD-FRA-BRU-COO with ORD-FRA scheduled on the Lufthansa 747-400 hopefully with the new product of flat bed AND seat. Unfortunately 12 hours before the flight, they switched back to the old configuration. Boo hiss – at least I’d have two seats to myself and a great Lufthansa meal.
United operated by Shuttle America flight 3482
Washington, National (DCA) to Chicago, O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 11:37, Arrive 12:30, Flight Time 1:53
Embraer ERJ-170, Registration N649RW, Manufactured 2005, Seat 1A (aisle)
Nothing to say about this flight, it was on time, good crew, and that’s about it. I know some people dislike United Express, but I actually like the ERJ-170s.
Spent a bit over an hour in the United First lounge in Chicago, where I was the only person in it for half the time. As long as they keep serving Veuve I think it’s a decent product. It’s not Lufthansa quality, but perfectly adequate. Especially with the cocktail shrimp!
Lufthansa flight 431
Chicago, O’Hare (ORD) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 15:45, Arrive 07:00 next day, Flight Time 8:15
Boeing 747-400, Registration D-ABTF, Manufactured 1991, Seat 83H and K (aisle and window)
I was a bit nervous for this flight. I tend not to like early transatlantic redeyes because they make it really hard to sleep. Even though this was 4:45 pm by my body clock, I had doubts I’d be able to fall asleep by 7p and get enough sleep to be functional and happy the next day. I didn’t have to worry, because in the end I got almost 6 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep.
Despite being the “old” hard product, Lufthansa first is fantastic as long as the crew keeps the heat down which this one did. A few pre-departure pics:
A rose at my seat…
The service cart parked in front of my seat. They know where to keep the champers!
Mildly disappointed Lufthansa seems to have continued the macadamia nut and cashew mix in favour of mixed nuts. Boo!
After takeoff, a nice hot towel to refresh and an amuse-bouche, and then the table was set for supper:
So, what’s to eat and drink this flight?
Some garlic bread to start, followed by the caviar service. I’ll admit this was only the first of two helpings. I was tempted to have a third since the cabin was only half full and it was offered, but you know, I didn’t want to be a COMPLETE glutton!
…especially since I had to try all three appetizers and the salad. For the sake of science you know. Plus, the flight attendant made me do it!
I went with the masala lamb for a main, and frankly it was the most disappointing part of the meal. Fairly dry, for something with indian spices it was really quite bland. Fortunately, there was a spicy rioja to wash it down.
Since I’d already thrown all pretense of being healthy out the window, I opted for the cheese selection AND dessert. In for a penny in for a pound! I was forced to wash the cheese down with a glass of dessert wine which I was promised paired perfectly with the roquefort cheese. He was right…I almost wanted more.
…and the perfect end to a great meal, a couple of fantastic chocolates and a couple glasses of Johnny Walker Blue with one ice cube. Smartass flight attendant asked “is that one big ice cube, or one small ice cube?” Correct answer: “if it’s a standard pour a small ice cube, if it’s a generous pour a large ice cube.”
Completely stuffed, I fell asleep for about 6 solid hours, waking up just 15 minutes before landing.
I had a couple hours to spend in the Lufthansa lounge, which became 90 minutes after I navigated the maze of Frankfurt Airport and managed to get to the Schengen terminal where my flight was leaving from. Felt much more human after a shower, and was ready for the short flight to Brussels.
Lufthansa flight 1008
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Brussels, Belgium (BRU)
Depart 9:35, Arrive 10:30 next day, Flight Time 55 minutes
Boeing 737-300, Registration D-ABEA, Manufactured 1990, Seat 7A (window)
Despite being only about 40 minutes in the air, Lufthansa offers a full food and beverage service on this flight. Still stuffed from supper I only had a few bites, but it was more than you’d get on most longer distance flights in the US, not to mention a 40 minute flight!
Arrived to Brussels a few minutes early, refueled with some Starbucks, then headed to my gate.
Brussels Airlines flight 231
Brussels, Belgium to Cotonou, Benin
Depart 14:35, Arrive 20:15, Flight Time 6:40
Sat in the lounge, which had a nice view out the window to the plane that would be taking me to Benin:
All was wonderful, and I was about to grab a delicious pain au chocolate, when the gate agent came up to me and said “I’m afraid I have some not so good news” and then my phone buzzed:
What, SERIOUSLY?! I was about to start a trip which had a lot packed into a short time, and I was worried about the reliability of African airlines, and here was Brussels Airlines canceling my flight? Yup, and they had clearly been planning this, because the agent already knew that they would take the next day’s flight, scheduled to go Brussels – Abidjan – Ouagadougou – Brussels and insert a stop in Cotonou first. I also found out I was the ONLY passenger in business class, and there were only about 50 in economy. I’m sure that light load had nothing to do with the cancelation…
I tried to negotiate for a reroute, but the only option was Royal Air Maroc via Casablanca, with a midnight connection arriving Cotonou at 4am. I figured that would make me completely useless that day in Cotonou anyways, so opted for the 22 hour delay. Tried to negotiate a better hotel than the offered Crown Plaza (bad only because it requires a taxi/shuttle to get to the train station) but they claimed everything was full. All I managed was to get dinner and breakfast included at the hotel…but the amount offered wasn’t even enough to cover the price of a meal. Rather sad and pathetic.
At least the hotel was decent, the bed was comfortable, and no complaints on that front!
Supposedly according to EU rules I’m entitled to 600 Euros cash compensation, but the agents claimed I had to write in. Over three weeks later now, they still have yet to respond to me. I have the feeling this is going to be like pulling teeth! Next up….will I finally leave the next day?!