After all too little time in the First Class Terminal, it was off by car to the plane. I miss the days when you almost always gotta a private Porsche or Mercedes transfer…these days it almost always seems to be a small shared VW luxury van. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It’s just nostalgia. How could you complain when this is your view during boarding?!
Elevator up to the jetbridge, then walked to the door with your driver politely moving all waiting passengers to the side so you can cut to the front of the queue. The moment called for a photo for posterity’s sake!
Time to board, and enjoy the real birthday Lufthansa First flight…the previous flight just a few hours prior had only been an appetizer!
Lufthansa flight 728 Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Shanghai, China (PVG) Depart 17:10, Arrive: 09:55 next day, flight time: 10:45 Airbus A380, Registration D-AIMJ, Manufactured 2011, Seat 2K Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 131,636 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,824,224
First thing I noticed during boarding is that we were on D-AIMJ today…funny enough this was exactly the same A380 that had brought me from Delhi to Frankfurt just 12 days before. Fortunately, today, I was in the correct end of the plane!
Second thing I noticed? The stench of fast food the minute I entered the plane. Had I accidentally gone onto the main deck and into economy class? Nope, this dude and his female companion had two large boxes of chicken McNuggets and it was stinking up the entire cabin. Are you for serious?! All the food in the first class lounge and on the plane and you need to bring on your McNasties?! It’s not like you can’t get them in China!!!
Fortunately, I was rescued by the lovely crew and a wonderful glass of Alexandra. The driver had made a point to tell the crew about the birthday, so the next 10 minutes were an endless stream of crew members stopping by to wish me a Happy Birthday. It was pretty awesome!
I had wondered if maybe this whole trip was a little too much, was I trying too hard to do something crazy and special? Nope…it was amazing every minute of the way!
Even the birthday duck agreed. Duck plus Alexandra plus macadamia nuts…it was a pretty amazing start to the flight!
…throw in a warm towel with lemon and a rose petal, and what felt like the entire crew stopping by to sing Happy Birthday…this was going to definitely be a flight to remember!
So, what’s for birthday eats and drinks?
As we pushed back from the gate the Lufthansa crane made sure to say goodbye and wish me a Happy Birthday.
“Unfortunately, there is only one bottle of Alex here today on the flight….so you will have to enjoy her while you can….but Mssr. Laurent Perrier would be happy to accompany you to Shanghai to continue your birthday celebration…with best wishes from your crew.” Little moments like this are precisely why I love Lufthansa.
Alex joined me for the smoked fish canapé to get things started. I love the lighting in this shot as well.
There’s something delightful about the Lufthansa crane on the glass, First Class stamped into the butter…and a pretzel roll.
What more could I ask for ? The caviar cart was wheeled straight to me. Lufthansa logo facing me, to present one of the most beautiful in-flight sights you could ask for on your birthday. I won’t like…I pretty much wanted to grab a mother-of-pearl spoon and just start devouring it straight from the tin…but….one must be civilized.
Fortunately, a couple passengers (not naming names) had stuffed themselves on McNasty, so an extra large birthday helping of caviar was helping today. Seriously…thats one impressive helping! There were even leftovers after the entire cabin was served and a second round was offered. I’m not going to confess either way…
Fabulous appetizer selection once again today: sous vide cooked lobster with singapore sauce (YUM!), obatzda Bavarian cheese spread with pumpernickel and pickled red radish (quite unusual for me, but I really enjoyed it), and shaved black angus beef with wild mushrooms. Three for three once again!
Next up? “delicious pearl barley soup with white cabbage and chives” – you know when they put “delicious” on the menu….it’s advertising a little too hard. It wasn’t bad, just kinda meh. I decided after a few bites to save my stomach for the upcoming courses.
None of the main courses really excited me too much, so I went with the fried turbot with potato and artichoke stew since it sounded relatively the lightest. It was relatively light and tasty.
…and this is what I’m talking about! As usual, an amazing cheese course on Lufthansa. Tonight we had kellerhocker cheese, brie de meaux, Taleggio and fourme d’ambert. Yum!
…and to finish off the birthday dessert was a chocolate tartlet with pineapple and brioche cubes with vanilla ice cream. Normally I don’t think pineapple and chocolate go all that well together, but with a glass of Johnny Walker Blue it was a tasty combo!
…ok, fine…I’ll have a couple of pralines as well with a glass of wine. In fairness, pretty sure this came before dessert since what civilized person would go back to wine after whiskey?
With that, I was getting sleepy again, and ended up sleeping the next 5-6 hours into Shanghai. I’d decided this trip was so quick that I’d sleep when the body told me to, and not worry too much about the time on the clock. Seemed to be a good strategy, since I got a good amount of sleep on this flight.
It also helped that the cabin was nice and cool, which made sleeping much easier. As I was on the way to Dulles Airport, I thought maybe this was going to be too much – too many awesome flights in too short of a time – and I really wouldn’t appreciate the whole thing.
I wasn’t all that hungry when I woke up, but the crew convinced me that a small breakfast would be nice before landing. Can’t really argue with logic like that…plus I’m a sucker for fresh orange juice!
That couldn’t be further from the truth. So far, I was having an amazing time and loving every moment of it. Next up, A whole 24+ hours to enjoy in Shanghai!!!
After a lovely four+ hours of sleep at my home away from home, the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport, I was feeling rested and not wanting to waste another minute of the day. To ensure maximum performance, the first stop as always was the Starbucks located near the B Terminal of Frankfurt Airport.
Apparently, there are even Basic Beckies in Germany….purse sized ESA, pumpkin spice latte, and all.
Caffeinated and ready to go, it was a short walk to my version of nirvana…otherwise known as the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. Approximately a 7-8 minute walk from the main terminal.
They’re not exactly used to people walking to the terminal (I assume most visitors are posh Germans showing up in their fancy BMWs and Mercedes…or at the very least an Uber… but the good thing is for us AvGeeks who like such things there is a pedestrian entrance as well!
Upon entering the terminal and handing over my passport, the magic began to happen. I explained I was connecting from DC with a long connection, and mentioned I’d chosen it so that I could spend an extra-long birthday in my favourite place. The agent’s face lit up, and she actually remembered me from just a couple weeks prior, and asked if she could do anything to make it extra special.
I mentioned that item number one was to take a quick shower, and then I needed somewhere to set up so I could chair my meeting. Even better, the security staff remembered me from a few weeks prior when I joked about my German apparently not being good enough yet to go through security in German…and I got the full treatment!
Before the shower, I was shown to a work room, and asked if this would do? Absolutely it would…and when I came out from the showers I found my name had actually been written on the reservation slate outside the room and literally moments after I entered a glass of rosé champagne appeared without asking. I’m not sure if that was birthday celebratory or if they remember that’s what I always start with, but it was a super special touch.
Took a few minutes to get the laptop set up for a Skype conference, and the iPad set up with agenda and note-taking, and I was ready to chair the meeting that had almost derailed this entire trip.
…but just before the meeting started, there was a knock at the door, and a hand gesture asking if it was ok to open. It was…and then…the skies opened, a chorus of angels sang out in unison…and manna from Heaven rained down…well, not really, but the whole trip was worth it, because a chorus of Happy Birthdays from several of the lounge staff was delivered along with the whole point of the trip: the elusive Birthday Duck!
The next 90 minutes was decidedly less exciting, as chairing meetings is never all that fun…but there was a rather hysterical moment during the call. Not when they realized it was my birthday and I was out of the office, that was funny, but not that funny.
Anyone who reads my blog knows I spend a lot of time in Switzerland and Germany for work, and is also why I’ve been working on my German. The best part? Half the clients on the call were about 400km away in Switzerland and the other half? Maybe only 100km away from me in Southwestern Germany. The irony is because of this trip…I was actually closer to them than if I’d taken the call from Washington.
Right, business dispensed with, it was time to enjoy my last 45 minutes or so in the lounge. The bartender remembered me from a few weeks prior as well and suggested we do a whiskey tasting again. Who am I to say no?
I can’t tell if the duck is judging me, or secretly thrilled that Lufthansa went the extra mile and really delivered an extra special birthday on the ground! It would have been nice to have a couple extra hours in the First Class Terminal, but the fact I pulled this off at all was pretty miraculous, so I was really thankful for the time I had!
With that, it was almost time to wrap up my magical birthday in the Lufthansa Lounge and head on my way to the second amazing flight! But just to get a bit more perspective, this is the fantastic workroom in the terminal – I’m fortunate to never have needed it before, but what a great amenity to have!
Approximately 18 hours down, 68 to go! Next stop…Shanghai!
Having had a great four hour nap, I finally left for the airport around midnight for a 02:50 flight, just in case there was traffic or other snafus. The flight appeared completely sold out in all classes, so I definitely didn’t want to risk it!
As it turned out, there were no problems at all, and I was at the airport a good 2.5 hours before the flight. Even immigration and security were unusually quick considering how full the flights all seemed tonight, so I was left to kill time in the lounges.
Now, I really don’t like the lounges at Delhi late at night. They always seem to be heaving with people, and a pain to even find a seat. Tonight I decided to try the Singapore lounge first, and it was completely empty…maybe five people total. I have to wonder if it’s because United and Air Canada both still had their flights cancelled, so having 100+ less people spread across the lounges helped?
Either way, it worked out charmingly, and I headed off to the gate about an hour before flight time. Gotta take a selfie with the giant statue!
Boarding for this full A380 was a bit nightmarish. Despite getting to the gate an hour before departure, I was at least 50th in the queue for boarding group one. Fortunately, no problem finding storage for my bags once on board.
Lufthansa flight 761 Delhi, India (DEL) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) Depart 02:50, Arrive: 07:40, flight time: 8:20 Airbus A380, Registration D-AIMJ, Manufactured 2012, Seat 22G Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 117,958 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,810,546
Something about Lufthansa’s pre-departure sparkling wine (or is it actually champagne?) is so much classier than United’s.
What’s for dinner on this very late night/early morning flight?
Snack was fairly substantial, and served all at once if you wanted to eat. I would say about 90% of the cabin opted to go straight to bed instead. It wasn’t the most appetizing looking, but was reasonably tasty.
About 90 minutes before landing all the lights were turned on, and breakfast was brought by. I imagine even if you wanted to sleep it really wouldn’t have been an option.I like the alternating colours in the melon…
With six hours between flights, I thought it was worth getting a room to get just under four hours of sleep, which turned out to be a good decision and helped me beat jetlag a bit.
I even had time to stop by the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for a snack on the way to the gate. I never tire of the cheesy pretzel with a sausage and potato salad! Yum!
Off to the gate, where in direct contrast to the flight from India, I was wondering where everyone was! The gate area felt really empty for a 747, and I hoped my looking at the seatmap was really accurate.
Lufthansa flight 418 Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD) Depart 13:15, Arrive: 16:05, flight time: 8:50 Boeing 747-8, Registration D-ABYT, Manufactured 2015, Seat 82A Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 122,039 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,814,627
I know lots of people love to sit upstairs on the 747, and I admit that I love to as well, however, I refuse to sit in climbover class if at all possible, so on Lufthansa I always skip it. Plus, downstairs, the seats in the middle section have much more space between them and are much roomier than the side seats.
However, today’s flight was under 50% full in business class – something I’ve never seen on Lufthansa before…and not only did I get two seats to myself upstairs, the two seats behind me both stayed empty as well.
The strange part? I saw at least three groups of seats where strangers were sitting next to each other. With this much extra room why wouldn’t you want to spread out?!
What’s to eat and drink on the way to Washington?
Today’s mixed nuts after takeoff….almonds!
Marinated black angus beef….tasty, but served almost TOO cold….
The salmon, however, was excellent. I’ve been eating a lot more fish in-flight lately, and really wonder why I was so stuck on the terrible beef courses for so many years. Healthier AND better prepared almost every time!
Even the cheese course was above average for Lufthansa…and look at those crackers…in their own cute little plate/bowl and not wrapped in a package. *MIND BLOWN*
So, I admit it: to me this was better than United’s sundaes. Yes, it’s still ice cream, yes, it’s in a package and not a bowl, but it’s nice to have adventurous flavours instead of the exact same desserts that United has served on every flight for years and years. Mango & Maracuja crème brûlée?! YES PLEASE!
We took a super northerly routing for a Frankfurt to Washington flight, and passed right over Greenland….not a Trump Casino as far as the eye can see!
Even the pre-landing meal was much better than normal! A nice salad with parma ham, crayfish soup, and a pretzel! Normally, Lufthansa business class flights are just kind of “meh” in my opinion, but this one really stood out for me.
Part of it was being upstairs in a semi-empty cabin for sure, but the food and definitely the crew really stood out. Once the flight attendant working my section found out I’m working on my German she made a point to speak only German, but also clearly and slowly so I could follow along. It was really a treat and left me with a great impression! Unfortunately, I need to fly as much United as possible the rest of the year if I want a chance at Global Services….
With that, seven weeks of crazy back to back travel with less than five total nights at home was over. Switzerland, South Africa, India…what an adventure it was. I was really looking forward to four weeks at home until I had to head to Ghana for work.
…and then I woke up on my birthday and thought “I wonder if I could go around the world in first class for my birthday on a long weekend?”
So, if you saw my post yesterday, you’ll have seen that I had a work trip to Paris, home for one day for an important event, then had to turn right back around to go to Germany. In an ideal world I would have either stayed in Europe, or stayed home longer, but sometimes these matters are just out of your control.
The other downside: when I booked the Germany trip it looked like Paris was going to be a full month earlier, so I’d have lots of time at home, so I agreed to a one-stop routing to save a bunch of money. Unfortunately, this meant leaving home at 11am instead of 5pm like the nonstop to Frankfurt would, so this was going to be a much less than ideal trip. I could really have used those extra six hour at home.
See, at the time, United/Lufthansa had a killer fare from NYC-Frankfurt that was like 1/3 the fare out of DC. So, even with adding a one-way ticket to JFK and a one-way ticket back from EWR, the overall fare would still be less than half. Had I known I’d have so little time between trips, I would have splurged on the nonstop. By the time the Paris trip moved, however, the price difference was more than 300%, so I was stuck with it. Oh well, make the best of it!
Delta flight 5957 operated by Republic Airlines Washington, DC, National (DCA) to New York, Kennedy (JFK) Depart 11:00, Arrive: 12:18, flight time: 1:18 Embraer ERJ-175, Registration N206JQ, Manufactured 2008, Seat 1A Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 26,399 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,718,987
…and make the most of my time I did, so much that I arrived DCA at 10:20. was through CLEAR/PreCheck in less than two minutes and still at the gate 5-10 minutes before boarding. I don’t usually like cutting it close and like to relax in the lounge a bit, but hey, I’ve been in the DCA SkyClub somewhere around 1,000,000 times, so the precious extra minutes at home were well worth it.
Not much to say about this one, standard short hop up to New York. The most surprising part was no wait for a landing slot at JFK (thank you Saturday morning traffic) and would actually be arriving over 25 minutes early today. Also the shortest flight time I can ever remember at 32 minutes.
With nearly five hours to kill at JFK (the only flight that left “enough” time between my separate tickets without anxiety, I decided to make up for my lounge negligence at DCA and visit every lounge I was entitled to at JFK, starting with the SkyClub right after landing.
Food was uninspiring today, but they had real honest-to-God Champagne. Cheese cubes and hummus were as normal, but the chicken strips were awful pressed/processed with fatty and dark streaks running through them. Revolting. I’ll spare you the close-up shot, but rest-assured I didn’t have a bite.
After these adventures in dining, it was time to make my way outside security in Terminal 2 and attempt to find the AirTrain to Terminal 1. Down the escalator, across the street, through a parking lot, up another elevator, and finally the train platform. Seriously, between JFK and LGA I’m not sure which is a bigger embarrassment. That said, I made it just fine on the first try and it gave me practice for my next upcoming JFK flight in a few weeks.
Security in Terminal 1 was the biggest shitshow I’ve ever encountered in the US, with no CLEAR line and no clear PreCheck line either. I asked the agent at the front about PreCheck and “I just yell to the other agent that you got it” – I asked about laptops out, shoes off, etc and was met with a nasty response. When I went through, my laptops caused problems, and the next agent snapped at me that I “should know better.” It was the last straw, and I asked for a supervisor.
“You can talk to me.” No apology, no “I’m sorry that happened” but after calmly explaining the severe attitude from the agents he just said “The one that looks like Dora the Explorer? I need you to identify her so she can be punished.” Seriously, this is what is “keeping us safe” these days? Now, I find TSA agents 99.99% of the time to be great and professional, but this entire crew at JFK was a nightmare. Is this the norm at Terminal 1? I ask because I’ll be back in a few weeks…
Up to the Lufthansa lounge, where I spotted the steed that I will take in a few weeks….the ex-Singapore A330 recently acquired by Evelop! which is operating for Norwegian on the JFK-London daytime flight. I might be crazy for trying this, but I’m kind of looking forward to it. Great views from the lounge, and a tasty array of nibbles…
The lounge was so nice I didn’t want to leave, and had amazing people-watching on top of it (including the Chinese guy with a sequinned sweatshirt that said BITCH PLEASE! in huge letters) but I vowed to try all the lounges I could…so traipsed off to the Korean Air lounge which I could access via PriorityPass.
I should have fled when I saw the elevator was out of service. Lugged my Rimowa up the stairs, and was met by a surly agent who was clearly over it. Seriously, I know New York attitude, but the airport staff (non-Lufthansa and Delta: they were lovely) were just miserable.
Also, this was the best snacks on offer. I should have once again passed…but drank the water, few sips of the wine and a fig newton, and I was off to the gate.
When I got to the gate, thanks to my need to check out the Korean Air lounge, boarding was already underway and I was concerned I might have trouble finding room for my bag due to the huge number of people queued up in front of me. I forgot, however, that the A380 is simply massive even in business class, and there would be plenty of room.
Lufthansa flight 401 New York, Kennedy (JFK) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) Depart 16:10 Arrive: 06:05, flight time: 7:55 Airbus A3800-800, Registration D-AIMJ, Manufactured 2012, Seat 22D Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 30,255 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,722,843
Remember when I foreshadowed yesterday about how nice the last row of business class was in the Polaris 777 as long as there was nobody with an infant in the bulkhead? Well, karma paid me a major visit today…and I had a second passenger in the seat next to me today who seemed incredibly interested in my pre-departure beverage:
Now, in fairness, with the exception of takeoff and landing he did sleep 80% of the flight and was pretty much an angel the rest of the time, so it didn’t work out too badly, except mom was constantly working to keep him busy. Fortunately, with a 4pm departure I had no interest in sleep anyways, so it all worked out just fine.
Meal service was actually one of the better ones I’ve had on Lufthansa lately. Their business class meals can be a little on the unusual side, but they’re usually tasty. This one was more-or-less pretty mainstream, and the crew was absolutely fantastic. Once they found out I spoke some German, even though English was obviously easier, they made a huge effort to speak slowly and clearly in German to let me practice. Major points for that. Plus, the food was really good too:
Other than that, the flight was excellent. I skipped the breakfast since I wanted to head straight to bed upon landing. We arrived nearly 40 minutes early around 05:30 and I was in bed and asleep in the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport by 06:00 for a solid six hours of sleep. So much nicer this way than trying to sleep on the plane, and since it’s still on East Coast time it was very easy to fall asleep.
Woke up at noon, did a little work, and then off to catch my train to Saarbrücken for work. Unfortunately, there were no direct trains this late in the day so I would have to change in Mannheim. Unfortunately, the train to Mannheim was nearly 20 minutes late, meaning I missed my connection and had to wait another hour – making me late to dinner. D-Bahn is no Swiss train system these days – that’s for sure.
I treated myself to some Apfelwein and Pringles to enjoy the delay a little more…
Not too much to say about Saarbrücken since it was three very intense days of working with clients, but fortunately very productive. Stayed at the Mercure hotel this time which was more than adequate, and very well-located in the middle of the city. Close to Starbucks, and walkable to lots of places to eat and drink.
I had been completely unsuccessful on previous trips finding any craft beer at all, but this time found Stube 8 which at least had a couple. Not a great selection, but hey it’s a start!
Enjoyed a nice dinner with clients at Zum Stiefel as well, and got to have some traditional heavy Saarlandische food. I had to try the Saarländische Versuchung (the Saarland Temptation) and got a little bit each of three things: a “gefillder” which is basically a potato dumpling with liver sausage filling and sauerkraut, a green “hoorische” (a green dumpling) and a large meatball which I’m still not sure of…heavy, but delicious!
After successful meetings we ended just in time that I could catch a direct ICE back to Frankfurt. Unfortunately, a person was on the tracks between Mannheim and Frankfurt, and we ended up delayed on the train by nearly an hour. Worst service I’ve ever had in ICE first class, however, and never once did I see the train attendant – would have been nice to have a beer!
Arrived in Frankfurt early evening, however, with just enough time to head out to my favourite little craft beer joint for dinner. Naïv is a great little place, and this time they had several fantastic drafts and cans. Either my German was getting better or the staff’s English worse, because I managed to keep the whole thing in German this time without them switching to English. Dinner was two tasty sausages and a delicious brownie with ice cream. Oh, there may also have been a few beers….
Up somewhat early for breakfast at the airport (I sometimes feel like I live in Flughafen Frankfurt, and it’s amazing!) – my usual Iced American and Bretzelsnack…mmmm…so good! Stopped by the Senator Lounge only briefly and then strait to boarding. I needed to max out sleep this morning so little time for the lounge today.
I was pretty excited for this flight – my first time ever on the 787-10 – which was even more awesome because it had “real” Polaris 1-2-1 seating installed and I had managed to get my favourite seat – 1L – way in advance.
United flight 961 Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Newark, New Jersey (EWR) Depart 11:20, Arrive: 13:50, flight time: 8:30 Boeing 787-10, Registration N12006, Manufactured 2019, Seat 1L Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 34,125 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,726,713
Pre-departure sparking wine delivered, and temperature sensor reporting a reasonable 71F today…at least we wouldn’t be roasted during boarding.
Mixed nuts and wine to start, while Paul judges from afar….
Meal was pretty standard Polaris fare, and nearly the identical menu I had from Paris the week before. I was glad to see the delicious pork and apricot terrine was back, and I went with the fish again as well. This is starting to be a habit! The cheese wasn’t quite as good as from Paris, but much better than from the US, and they actually had butterscotch today! YUM!
Mid-flight snack…I’m addicted to the little cakes and overly chewy macarons. Meanwhile, the Great British Bakeoff was providing some very suspicious looking bakes….and Paul was quick to glare!
Pre-arrival was the same meal options as from Paris, and since I won once with the mozzarella salad and “Hamburger Wellington” I decided to give it another go. The cheese was weirdly peppered with all the pepper on one cheese ball, but other than that it was quite tasty again.
On approach to Newark…not sure which airport this is. Approach into Newark was super, super bumpy today, with our 787 being tossed about pretty seriously.
Immigration was a breeze, though I find it annoying that more and more arrivals into Newark arrive at Terminal B these days necessitating a transfer over to terminal A or C for connection. Fortunately my connection was from Terminal C today, and I was curious if I could get into the Polaris Lounge since my arrival was on a different ticket. Yup, no problem since they were both United, and they even let me bring my Starbucks in. The Newark crew had never heard of the Mescal Paper Airplane, so I got to share that with them…though they were still suspicious of it.
Off to the gate to fly to DCA, and once more short segment to go.
United flight 3434, operated by Republic Airlines Newark, New Jersey (EWR) to Washington, DC, National (DCA) Depart 15:45, Arrive: 17:03, flight time: 1:18 Embraer ERJ-170, Registration N864RW, Manufactured 2006, Seat 1A Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 34,324 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,726,912
How much can you say about a 40 minute flight from Newark to DCA. We were delayed about 30 minutes by a flat tire (seriously) but other than that we still arrived exactly on time. Very good luck today considering how the weather was. Super, super bumpy on the takeoff just as the approach had been.
…and with that two of my four back to back trips were done. Unfortunately didn’t get home until 6pm which meant a very short night to do laundry and repack since my flight the next morning was 8:30am. UGH. Fortunately managed a same-day-change to an 11:00am via Newark, so at least I would salvage a LITTLE more sleep….
Landed in Berlin right on time, and despite over a dozen trips my first time arriving by air and getting to experience the joy that is Tegel airport. For an arrival it wasn’t bad – we got a bus gate, the signs to the area to take the bus to Berlin Hbf station was pretty easy, and overall it wasn’t awful. I was later to find out I was deceived.
I’d decided to forego my princess side, and see if I’d enjoy staying at the Moxy Hotel Ostbanhof. Now, I fully knew that I was getting a very basic hotel, and the room would be tiny. Honestly, the room itself was completely fine, even though the neighbourhood was pretty dead. The service, however, was absolutely abysmal. It took over 20 minutes to check in because they were slow as heck, and the complete lack of desk in the room was not something I could deal with for more than one night. I’d booked the one night as an experiment, and sorry to say…I gave up and went to the Marriott after that. I had work to do, and as fun as working in a common lobby area is for people watching…it’s really not conducive to getting work and writing done.
So right…first time at the Marriott since it was my first post-merger trip, and in the past I’d usually chosen the Westin. I have to say, the Marriott was leaps and bounds above the Westin for me – and will definitely be my hotel of choice going forward in Berlin. Great executive lounge with a super long evening happy hour (albeit a bit crowded at times), and cool artwork as well:
Two of the days I was in Berlin I had a few hours free, so went on two long walks, probably about 12-15km each. Some cool graffiti:
Don’t tell anyone, but my guilty pleasure in Germany is the Starbucks Bretzelsnack and a Caramel Macchiato…
Hey Dotard….I found the wall…it’s already been built AND torn down. Plz to open the US Government back up now kplzthxbye!
One thing I love about the Lufthansa flight to Washington out of Frankfurt is that it leaves just late enough that you can sleep in a little bit, but you still arrive at a reasonable hour. Today that meant plenty of time to get a leisurely coffee and breakfast. I have to say, for a simple lounge breakfast, the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport knocks it out of the park…and the convenience to the terminal can’t be beat!
Was nice to have the time to take the morning at a casual pace, but that very rapidly changed when I got to security. I figured that having 25 bars of soap in my rolling bag might look a little unusual, but things turned south when I got the random explosives swab on my bag…and for some reason it came back positive. Took nearly 40 minutes to get cleared, but eventually did, and I was on my way straight to the gate. Fortunately today, we were at the very first gate in the terminal!
Lufthansa flight 418
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 12:50, Arrive:15:50, flight time: 9:00
Boeing 747-8i, Registration D-ABYK, Manufactured 2013, Seat 11D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 143,304
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,663,366
Pre-departure champagne? Have I ever said no to that?!
Almonds and a reasonable glass of malbec to start things off…
“Slow-roasted veal loin, zucchini tatar, and mini bell pepper” – despite trying to be overly fancy with the name, it was absolutely delicious.
One of my two favourite seasons on Lufthansa: the time of year when they have “Christmas Goose” on the menu. Delicious as always…hopefully I don’t miss asparagus season in the spring!
Four cheeses AND a chutney? That’s how you do a remarkable business class cheese plate!
Could I really say no to a gingerbread mousse with plum compote? It was delicious…
Slept for maybe three hours, watched a lot of tv and caught up on work, and soon it was time for the pre-arrival meal…which is much more substantial than normal. Salad with parma ham, tomatoes, potatoes, and balsamic, a pretzel, and ginger and lemongrass soup. Can’t forget the chocolate and cherry cake! I actually skipped a red wine which would have gone perfectly with it, thinking I might actually try and get myself to the gym upon landing. Yeah, right…
Normally when I book tickets out of Cairo, I can count on a 2-3 hour grilling minimum by the fine men and women of US Customs and Border Protection, but shockingly today the Global Entry machine spit out my receipt…with no giant X of glory on it. Either they’re finally onto the fact that Cairo doesn’t automatically = shady, or they’ve finally flagged my profile as “he just crazy, not dangerous.” Either way, was glad to be out of the airport and on the Washington Flyer bus home in no time.
So, that concludes the trip. It’s funny, I went into it in a bunch of stages:
Have a ticket to Egpyt I have to use up…hmmm, maybe I’ll just do a quick turnaround and enjoy thanksgiving at home
No, that would be a waste, I should do something super adventurous from Cairo while I’m there…maybe Sinai? Sudan? Somalia? Take advantage of being there?
Nah, I want to relax, and to me flying around is sort of relaxing, so where could I sidetrip from Cairo that I would love?
Johannesburg turned out to be the perfect sidetrip, lots of fun, and super glad that I ended up doing it.
Next up: nearly a month straight of travel, comprising a week in Germany for work, a side-trip to Saudi to take advantage of the fact that they’re offering open tourist visas for the first time ever…back to Minnesota to see family over the holidays, and then finally off to Europe to do Chernobyl, Kiev, Riga, Vilnius, Kaliningrad, Gdansk, and Berlin for Thanksgiving. I’m going to be really happy early January to have a bit of time at home!
Time for another throwback post, this time back to 2008 when I was alerted to a mistake fare that Lufthansa had published. The fare was meant to be for DC to Helsinki, but when publishing it in the list of permissible connecting cities they accidentally put the code for Johannesburg. This meant that for a “normal” sale business fare to Helsinki you could add in several more miles earned plus have the chance for a 12 hour stop in Johannesburg! Back in the younger days when I flew more just for the adventure this sounded like a wild deal. I was sold!
Of course, I had nearly 14 hours in Frankfurt on the way to Johannesburg, and that just wouldn’t do at all. At this point I was at only 63 countries visited, so I started looking if there was a sidetrip from Frankfurt that I could pull off within 14 hours. Noticing the frequent flights from Frankfurt to Zurich, I decided that pulling off Liechtenstein would be possible, so a quick booking and I was set to try it!
Fast forward to the flights were relatively uneventful, so few details. Fortunately I was into Frankfurt on time and had no trouble making my connecting on SWISS. Fortunately, since they were both on separate tickets it could have been trouble. This was also in the dates before inflight WiFi, so it’s not like I could just log on and cancel the SWISS ticket if we were going to be late.
Fortunately, no problems.
United flight ???
Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart approx 17:30 Arrive: approx 7:00 next day, flight time: approx 8 hours
Boeing 767-300, Registration N657UA, Manufactured 1993, Seat 6K
Landed right on time in Zurich, and I had exactly 7.5 hours between flights to go see Liechtenstein. Down to the train station in the airport, and a first class ticket to the Swiss town of Sargans purchased. It was just over an hour to Sargans, where upon arrival I bought a connecting bus ticket to take me the rest of the five miles or so into Vaduz, Liechtenstein.
First impressions, a bank with some very modernist architecture:
More walking, and I was really impressed by just how green everything was:
This was around the time it seemed like every city had to have statues that represented the city, painted a bunch of different ways. DC had its donkeys and elephants, Berlin had its bears, and apparently Liechtenstein has its….cows.
…again just how green it was. But brrr, it was mid-August and everyone was still in jackets.
Small tourist train running around Vaduz:
After walking around for around three to four hours, I decided to walk back to Switzerland, you know, as one does. There haven’t been a whole lot of international borders I’ve crossed by walking!
Old wooden bridge between Vaduz and Switzerland:
Apparently, the local graffiti artists are less fond of Switzerland:
…and walking back into Liechtenstein one more time for good measure:
…and back into Switzerland. How many different border signs can I find!
…just one more, I swear!
Caught the bus on the Swiss side back to the train station, and back to the airport in plenty of time to relax in the lounge for a bit before flying back to Frankfurt. Very productive stopover!
No need to clear immigration since at this time Switzerland wasn’t in an immigration union with the Schengen countries, so got to stay in the international area the whole time, and plenty of time for a stop by the lounge on the way to the plane. Best part of the flight down to Joburg? I was so exhaused from sleeping on the plane the night before and walking around all day that I passed out. Plus, this was the old 747-400 configuration with 4D, the solo seat in the nose that people used to call the “Captain’s Chair” because it was in the middle of the deck.
Lufthansa flight 572
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB)
Depart 22:35 Arrive: 8:50 next day, flight time: 10:15
Boeing 747-400, Registration D-ABTF, Manufactured 1991, Seat 4D
This was also in the days before the Gautrain, so I had to hope a shared bus taxi into the city, which dropped me right at Nelson Mandela Square. Looks just the same as it does now 10 years later! I had a great lunch Al Fresco while walking off the jetlag as much as possible before heading back to the airport to fly right back to Frankfurt!
Most awkward part about flying back to Frankfurt? It was the same plane I had come in on in the morning, and I had exactly the same seat heading back! Third straight night sleeping on a plane, and fortunately the seat was still form-fit to me so I quickly passed out and slept just about the entire way to Frankfurt. Three nights in a row on planes will do that!
Lufthansa flight 573
Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 18:55 Arrive: 5:25 next day, flight time: 10:30
Boeing 747-400, Registration D-ABTF, Manufactured 1991, Seat 4D
Lufthansa flight 3102
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Helsinki, Finland (HEL)
Depart 9:35 Arrive: 12:55, flight time: 2:20
Airbus A320, Registration D-AIQW, Manufactured 2000, Seat 4C
Spent the first day in Helsinki walking off jetlag and playing tourist a bit, and then it was time to head to Estonia for a night. I’d never been on a helicopter before, so it seemed the way to go!
Loading the baggage….much easier than a plane!
Excited to be boarding my first helicopter. Back in 2005 Copterline had a crash on this route killing all 20+ aboard, but I wasn’t nervous for some reason….I’m not sure why, but…
Copterline flight 140
Helsinki, Finland (EFHE) to Tallinn, Estonia (EECL)
Depart 17:00 Arrive: 17:20, flight time: 20 minutes
Augusta Westland 139 Helicopter, Registration OH-HCR, Manufactured ?, Seat 2A
Look at those views! We passed over the Tallink Ferry, which would be our ride back to Helsinki the next day:
After landing at Tallinn City Hall Heliport:
One last evening picture…back when it was cool to have holes in your jeans, I know…
Took the more direct route home, not via South Africa, and really did make the most of a five day weekend! Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, South Africa, Finland, Estonia…any trip where you have more countries than days is pretty successful!
Lufthansa flight 3103
Helsinki, Finland (HEL) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 13:40 Arrive: 15:10, flight time: 2:30
Airbus A320, Registration D-AIQW, Manufactured 2000, Seat 2F
Great surprise….an operational upgrade at the gate to first class for the last segment back to DC. What a great way to end what was a fantastic trip!
United flight 933
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 17:00 Arrive: 19:44, flight time: 8:44
Boeing 777-200, Registration N768UA, Manufactured 1995, Seat 1A
Hopefully these throwback posts make an interesting read – I’d love to see how some of these places have changed with time – share your stories!
After a few more long and successful days of work and meetings, it was back to OR Tambo to finally head home after being away for three weeks. I had checked in online, so headed straight to security (which oddly enough had zero lines at all) and then through to passport control, which also had no lines. This means that less than 15 minutes after getting off the Gautrain, I was back in the South African Airways Lounge. Walking up to the counter to get a drink, the bartender quickly recognized me:
“My boss! Long time! Go sit down, I will bring you the usual at your usual place!” Yeah, so maybe I need to be spending less time in Johannesburg for the near future…
Apparently I looked thirsty, because I’d barely taken a sip when 10 minutes later he returned with another glass. Did I mention how I love the service in this lounge?
Off to the gate after a short bit, and my chariot was waiting for the ride to Frankfurt:
Boarding was the usual Johannesburg mess, with rather rude helpers roaming the boarding area demanding to see passports. Knowing the game, I loitered near the front of the queue, and when the boarding agent got flustered with the first few passengers another came right over and started a second line, and I think I might have been the first to board…
Lufthansa flight 573
Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 19:00, Arrive: 05:35 next day, flight time: 10:35
Boeing 747-8i, Registration D-ABYR, Manufactured 2015, Seat 8D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 42,315
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,562,377
I rather like the 2-2-2 configuration on the Lufthansa 747-8i, and no it’s not all aisle access, but the seats in the middle section have a ton of space. Sitting in the window seats is definitely cuddle class. Yuck. 2005 called, it wants its seats back.
Pre-departures were offered, and I accepted a glass of the (warm) sparking wine. It got two sips and that was it. Ugh.
As soon as the door closed I was praising myself for my cunning stalking of the seatmap, and one of the few empty seats in business class was next to me…until the flight attendants brought up a friend from coach and sat her next to me. Ugh. Lufthansa was not doing a good job this flight of living up to their regular high performance. To top if off, “friend” immediately removed her shoes and socks and put her bare feet up in the shared foot area. Ugh. I expect better than this from Lufthansa…
At least the menu looked interesting:
Glass of wine and some nuts to start. I’m so glad Lufthansa finally got rid of the packaged nuts. As a bonus, the flight attendant working my section recognized me from the elevator at the hotel in the morning, where we traded good mornings as I was headed down to Starbucks and he was headed down to the end. Staying in the crew hotel has its benefits…and I got great service the rest of the flight 😀
The duck and pineapple starter was really tasty, but way too small… Of course, United considers two skewered prawns an appetizer, so…
The salad and the main were served together, and both were quite tasty. The beef goulash was also a nice non-traditional choice and a welcome change from the usual chicken or beef madness.
Wow, a business class salad with more than three ingredients. One of the better business class salads I’ve seen in a long time!
Above average business class cheese plate (but sadly no fig spread), and a delicious chocolate cake to finish off the meal.
I wasn’t really that tired, and stayed awake pretty much the whole flight watching tv. Around the middle of the night, I also started to lose all feeling in my right hand. Thinking I had just leaned on it weirdly I got up to walk around a bit, and it didn’t get any better. I stood up and chatted with the flight attendants a bit, and let them know…but the numbness didn’t seem to be spreading so I wasn’t too concerned. This is probably also a good place to mention I’d been dealing with a few (what I thought were) mosquito bites for a few days that had gotten progressively itchier. Fortunately, it never got any worse, but this wasn’t a good sign. (When I got home, medical geniuses decided it must be “some sort of spider or something that bit you in the middle of the night” – wonderful. Fortunately a month later, numbness is finally gone.)
Now, having not died in the middle of the night – or forced a medical emergency landing in Niger (seriously, they probably would have kept going, because, let’s be honest…), it was finally time for breakfast. Despite being dark out, nearly two hours before landing (mind you, 3:30am – no time change) they turned on all the cabin lights and brought round breakfast.
The omelette came with super tasty grilled bacon (though almost tasted more like a pork cutlet) and some cheese and fruit. Overall a rather impressive breakfast!
We landed about 15 minutes early, no line at all at at immigration, so I decided a proper sleep would help, so I headed to my semi-regular haunt the airport Sheraton to get four solid hours of sleep. I had just under six hours between flights, and that was way too long to sit in the lounge, and I figured 3.5 to 4 hours in a bed would make me feel human for the flight home.
Crashed as soon as I hit the bed, got four solid hours, and was worth every cent. Off to immigration and security which had zero line, and I actually had time for 20 minutes in the lounge on the way to the gate. Could have slept more, but had no way to know there would be no lines. Right, on to the flight.
United flight 961
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Newark, New Jersey (EWR)
Depart 11:20, Arrive: 14:00, flight time: 8:40
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration N2331U, Manufactured 2016, Seat 1L
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 46,185
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,566,247
I’d booked this routing largely to finally try the new United Polaris seats, and decide if this was enough to finally give United a try. Well, they weren’t doing themselves any favours with terrible pre-departure sparkling wine in plastic cups:
‘MURICA sized seatbelts, perfect for someone with a 50-60 inch waist:
We taxied past the new Lufthansa livery…I don’t hate it as much as others do, but think it was a giant waste of branding budget.
The Polaris “wine flights” had gone away two days prior, but they still had the mini glasses, and the excellent flight attendant was more than happy to pour me all three to taste:
Above average salad (I’m always a sucker for a greek salad), and extremely sad appetizer. One sad wilted basil leaf, two slices of underripe tomato , a glop of gelatinous balsamic, and some mozzarella. The mozzarella was good at least…the rest was embarrassing.
I went with the short rib, knowing it would be essentially the same short rib from the last five years. It was, although very overcooked today.
At least dessert was awesome, partly because they had butterscotch for the rock hard ice cream today, and the macarons? Well, they were incredibly stale 🙁
Rather sad cheese plate, but because I’m a sucker for all the varieties they had, I’ll give that a pass!
At this point, the internet STILL wasn’t working, so finally the purser offered me compensation and an apology. The crew was absolutely fantastic on this flight, and really apologetic, but the frequency with which United has problems even on new planes is embarrassing. Nope, I’ll continue to book away from them whenever possible. To add insult to injury, the new compensation offers are laughable and insulting. As a 1K only $75 travel voucher or 3,500 miles? Just insulting for eight hours of missed work time.
Pre-arrival “deli plate” was not bad, and a nice lighter option. There was also a heavier-sounding option of a sandwich, but honestly this wasn’t bad. Though, the silly pre-packaged polaris chocolates are a sad excuse for a dessert.
We landed at Newark slightly early, and pulled into a gate in the B Terminal. It seems like United has been using the B Gates for international arrivals lately, and I assume this is to relieve overcrowding in the C Customs Hall? Anyone have more insight into this?
This was my first entry to the US since getting my Global Entry reinstated on appeal after a rogue agent revoked it, and I was curious to see how it would go. Couldn’t have gone better, nice and quick, and I was literally plane to landside in 10 minutes. Score!
Of course, this meant waiting for the airtrain to Terminal C, and then dealing with Terminal C security, which took 40 minutes even in the TSA PreCheck line. sEWaRk indeed – what a disgrace. Shame this airport and LaGuardia represent our great nation.
United flight 1743
Newark, New Jersey (EWR) to Washington, DC, National (DCA)
Depart 16:00, Arrive: 17:19, flight time: 1:19
Boeing 737-700, Registration N54711, Manufactured 1998, Seat 2E
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 46,384
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,566,446
The Port Authority, however, appears to be making me into a national hero. Armed with my cell phone, eyes, and ears I shall protect America’s airports!
Oh wait, never mind, apparently that’s Jason’s job, and I’m just Mason.
With that, it was a super nice treat to get a 737 from Newark to Washington National. Back around 2005 this used to be the norm on this route for Continental, but ever since the merger it’s been an endless stream of ERJ-145s with the occasional ERJ-170 thrown in for good measure. So this was a pleasant treat, and a really nice way to end what was a really nice trip.!
Now, with that, I have no travel booked for 4.5 weeks…and I can’t imagine that will last so….stay tuned!!
After a nice rest, and waking up with Starbucks at Geneva Airport, it was time to find the SWISS First Lounge. I’d done some online searching, and people on Flyertalk generally seemed pretty unhappy with priority security at GVA as well as the lounge. I decided to leave myself about 90 minutes of lounge time to make my own assessment.
Premium security was pretty quick, and waited maybe five minutes in line. Super efficient. The lounge wasn’t very hard to find, and when I offered my F boarding pass from Frankfurt to Johannesburg the agent directed me through the magic door on the left to the F lounge. Now, maybe it’s not the biggest most impressive lounge in the world…but I had the entire place all to myself! How can you not like that?
I liked the decor – not at all crowded, but not a big fan of the chairs. Just found them a little awkward to sit in and the cushions a little too big and firm. I know, first world problems. Did I mention I had the whole place to myself for the entire 90 minutes?
Plus, the buffet had a really nice cheese setup!
Oh, and macarons! I didn’t try any of the other sweets, but one of the downsides of an empty lounge is you know the food isn’t turning over often and isn’t really the freshest.
The macarons weren’t the freshest, but didn’t stop me from sampling a few while I waited…
After a perfectly nice stay in the lounge (only complaint? it was too warm, but that’s just my personal pet peeve almost everywhere in Europe) it was off to the gates. Boarding was delayed about 15 minutes, but we had a great few of other planes and the mountains in the background while we waited. It’s really hard not to like Switzerland…
Boarding was a complete scrum, but despite boarding 15 minutes late we pushed back only five minutes late. Not too bad at all for a completely full flight…except for the other seat in my row! One empty seat on the plane, and it’s next to me once again. Definitely having some good luck on this trip so far.
Lufthansa flight 1223
Geneva, Switzerland (GVA) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 17:55, Arrive 19:10, Flight Time: 1:15
Airbus A319, Registration D-AILL, Manufactured 1997, Seat 4F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 29,921
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,549,983
Did I mention it was a gorgeous day and we had an amazing view of Lake Geneva, the mountains, and the airport as we did a 180 right after takeoff?
Yes, 55 minute flight and they served a rather substantial snack. As someone who loves sour cherries, and cheese…esp cheese with fig compote…it was definitely a great snack…and I had to try really hard not to ruin my appetite for the upcoming stop at the Lufthansa First Lounge and flight.
Landed right on time and…we ended up at a remote stand. I saw the driver next to the plane, and he didn’t have any names, but I hoped…and yup, he was there for me! I’ll never complain about a remote stand when I have my own driver!
Given the driver could only take me to the main airport and not the First Class Terminal (boo!) I opted for the B terminal, knowing that would also eventually guarantee me a ride to my plane which was departing from the Z gates. It would be a semi-short visit to the lounge today, so I headed straight to the dining room for some Schnitzel and champagne! Layovers are so trying when you get served a dinner like this…
…and I think Lufthansa must seriously be stalking one of my social media accounts. As I was eating, the lounge attendant came up to me and said “Herr Mayfield, I thought you might want a duck?” Haha, I’m not sure if I find it creepy or thoughtful….who am I kidding, definitely thoughtful!
After a quick shower, I settled in to watch a little tv until the flight…given the programming, a drink was definitely in order. With over 100+ different scotches/whiskeys to try, it’s going to require many more trips through Frankfurt to make a dent in Lufthansa’s offerings!
Off to the plane we go…Porsche tonight.
Rain or not, there’s always something magical pulling up next to the plane in a Porsche and walking aboard like you’re a VIP. No matter how many times I do it, it never gets old!
Only two passengers tonight, which was a bit strange as I’ve found this in the past to be one of the hardest routes for business to first upgrades. Chatted a bit with the other passenger, as well as the flight attendant serving first, and everyone agreed it was an unusually light load. Not going to complain, though!
Lufthansa flight 572
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB)
Depart 22:05, Arrive 8:30 next day, Flight Time: 10:25
Boeing 747-8i, Registration D-ABYH, Manufactured 2013, Seat 2K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 35,301
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,555,363
Let’s see, what’s for dinner tonight…I mean, not that I need dinner after the lounge
One thing I like about the length of the Johannesburg flight is it’s long enough to get a good sleep in…and
Like the transfer, it never gets old. Welcome aboard macadamia nuts, champagne, and a simple rose…
I’ll start off by apologizing for the dark pics…I find it much harder with the iPhone taking pictures in a dark cabin. Any tips are, of course, very welcome! Amuse bouche of salmon, creme, and some fig spread….wasn’t a huge fan.
Starters from left to right….the asian beef was super tasty, and just the right combo of flavours and textures. The goat cheese with bell pepper and olive was alright but nothing special. I generally avoid shellfish on planes (except maybe lobster!) but the scallop was surprisingly tasty, and perfectly cooked.
Sad was uninspired, and very surprisingly for Lufthansa several of the leaves were wilted and browning. Unusual for Lufthansa (and the crew) to miss something like this.
As the other passenger chose to sleep, the question wasn’t “do you want” caviar, but “how much do you want” – decided to start with a quarter of the tin, which was already a pretty generous portion!
…followed by another quarter of the tin. I may have a problem.
Very rarely do I do the fist option on planes, but when it’s monkfish I cant resist. I was cooked really well, and lighter than a beef dish would have been. Overall it was really tasty and a good choice.
Oh Lufthansa with your amazing cheese cart and sweet biscuits…there are not words enough to describe how fond of you I am!
Raspberry and yogurt cake with pistachio ice cream…not only was the presentation amazing, it tasted fantastic. Plus, I love pistachio ice cream, so it was extra amazing!
…and as is my custom with overnight Lufthansa first flights a couple of pralines and some Johnny Walker Blue to nod off.
Crew kept the cabin nice and cold at my request (after making sure the other passenger didn’t mind) and I crashed….hard. So hard that my request to not wake me up should I be sleeping had to be honoured, and I was woken up 15 minutes from landing after a solid 7+ hours of sleep. Probably one of the best in-flight sleeps I’ve every had, and a wonderful end to another great flight.
Now, time to hope the immigration line isn’t too long, and spend a couple of days resting and recovering before getting down to work!
As I mentioned in the last post, the Mobile Passport app had refused to let me report in, leading me to wonder if it was just a systems error (perhaps due to the federal government shutdown that was underway?) or a sign of something more ominous.
Having never had to actually go through normal lines in over five years, thanks to Global Entry and Mobile Passport, I was completely unsure what to do when I arrived…so I followed the line for US Citizens. I know this is probably boring to a lot of people since it’s what most travels do every time they return to the country, but it was new to me.
Turns out you report in at a machine now that is very similar to Global Entry, but there’s no biometric scan. You still scan your passport, the machine takes your picture, and spits out a receipt that you then get in line to show to an agent. I guess what this does is automates some of the data entry the agent used to have to do, and makes a determination.
My receipt spit out line this, and it’s the same “X of Doom” that I’ve gotten at Global Entry before, so I knew I was in for hell. At this point I only had about forty minutes to connect to my next flight, so I was pretty sure I was screwed:
Took nearly 15 minutes to reach the front of the queue and get to an agent, and I was very fortunately to get a very pleasant and helpful agent. The usual questions. Asked what I’d been up to in Cairo, explained it was just one night on the way to Germany for vacation, which made total sense to him. But then: “unfortunately my friend, you’ve won the lottery today. Please wait here against the wall, and someone will be by shortly to escort you to secondary inspection.” Whee, the automated system had decided (most likely) that my one day in Cairo was a lil too sketchy for them, so I feared the same four hour interrogation I got last time I took this route. I was preparing for the worst…and knew my connecting flight was a lost cause.
“Shortly” turned out to be nearly 30 minutes, and finally a pleasant agent came to get me…with a train of eight other suspects behind her. Me, two teenagers who looked to be somali, a pair of women in abayas, a couple of young African men, an older Pakistani gentleman with a grey beard died orange, and what appeared to be a rastafarian. Clearly I’d gotten the “profiling” flag…..
First stop was to drop six people off for what appeared to be baggage inspection. That wasn’t to be my fate. Me, one of the Somali teens, and the older Pakistani guy were led to another area, and told to “have a seat over there.” I sat for what was probably 30-45 minutes, until what I have to admit was a very professional agent came out with all three of our passports. After a quick glance at them, he beckoned me over first. I guess the shady American was likely to be easier than the foreigners…
What seemed to be a very well rehearsed series of about a dozen questions, he took notes on the back of my receipt, then actually said sorry for the hassle…have a good day. I suspect what ever auto flag I tripped he decided “oh, just one of those crazy frequent flier kids flying weird routes for fun” and let me go.
Finally checked my phone, and yup, despite still being 10 minutes prior to departure United had rebooked on on a later flight from Boston-Newark-DCA…in coach. WTF. A quick check of ExpertFlyer confirmed F was available – although points to United for confirming me on what was the quickest routing. Quick call to United got me moved back up business what I had paid for (why they didn’t rebook me automatically was a mystery…since the same class was available) so no giant inconvenience. I would get home a bit over three hours later, via Newark instead of Chicago…and unfortunately miss my hockey game. Boo!
Boston might be one of the most awful airports to transit in, and the walk from the international terminal to United’s terminal took forever, and required a walk outside, walk through the JetBlue checkin area, then past this flying banana:
By the time I got to the United Club, I was a sweaty mess, and of course there were no showers. No worry, was able to relax, clean up, have some water, before setting off in search of what would be much-needed caffeine. One huge plus for Boston, the United terminal had not just a Starbucks, but also a Peet’s and a Dunkin‘! I love choice!
Off to the gate after a long wait, and it was time to fly to sEWaRk…
United Express flight 3622 operated by Republic Airlines
Boston, Massachusetts (BOS) to Newark, New Jersey (EWR)
Depart 17:29, Arrive 19:05, Flight Time: 1:36
Embraer ERJ-175, Registration N733YX, Manufactured 2016, Seat 1C
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 12,502
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,532,564
Absolutely nothing to say about this flight. It was on time, there was a snack basket, crew was friendly and efficient and offered multiple refills…about all you can ask for for a short last minute regional flight.
Quick stop by the United Club for some water and a glass of whine, before boarding the last flight of the night, which I prayed would be on time.
United Express flight 3722 operated by Republic Airlines
Newark, New Jersey (EWR) to Washington DC, National (DCA)
Depart 20:30, Arrive 21:50, Flight Time: 1:20
Embraer ERJ-175, Registration N746YX, Manufactured 2017, Seat 3A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 12,701
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,532,763
On time, with wine and a refill…nothing more to say! Fortunately, considering all that had gone wrong, I really can’t complain much about getting home the same day. In the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty mild drama!
Next up, a short post on my recent work trip to Mexico City!