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Old May 18, 12, 3:37 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
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Hollywood to Bollywood, the long way: UA/Swiss/Thai 77W/Emirates A380 F + Singapore J


Introduction

A 3-year absence from the sub-continent and the joyful occasion of a relative’s wedding required my presence in India.

One of my favorite parts of flying to India from the western United States is the sheer number of routing possibilities.

TPAC, one can fly to Asia, usually a 12-15 hour flight, then continue onward to India, which takes about 6-9 hours, ending up with about 21 hours in the air.

TATL, one can fly to Europe, about 11 hours, then onward to India, about 9-10 hours, culminating in the same 21 hours in the air.

Growing up, I flew several of these routes, through airports like Heathrow, Frankfurt, Charles de Gaulle, Incheon, Kai Tak, Narita, and Don Muang, all on a smorgasbord of airlines, aircraft, and alliances. Lax stopover rules allowed me to see much of the world en-route to the (grand)motherland.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the majority of these trips were funded with miles and points, many courtesy of my father’s business AAdvantage Mastercard. A mysterious letter that came to our house one day, awarding us something called "Lifetime AAdvantage Gold" status, got me thinking more about miles and status.

However, since we were often 3 or 4 traveling at a time, all these trips were in the back of the bus. Boarding meant having to walk past the posh interiors of business class, as the curtains to the first class cabin were already rung up by the time I was lucky enough to board such marvelous jumbo jets.

No worries back then, as just being on a plane was joyful enough -- I could always bug my parents to let me have the window seat, and so spent many hours of my childhood peering out above the clouds (an activity I still enjoy to this date ). Not only that, but flying economy on airlines like Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific was actually a delight back then.

But on my last trip to India, I spent a rather dreadful 36 hours crammed into a small Delta Economy Discomfort seat from Atlanta to Mumbai on the old DL 184/185, the world’s longest economy class route at the time, just a tad shorter than the fabled all-business SQ non-stops to the U.S. While I had my usual window seat, the flight took off at midnight in Mumbai and landed at 6am in ATL, before the winter sunrise, negating any views. Not only that, but DL ran out of meals. Seriously.

Upon arrival, I left the airport and went directly to class, still in a daze, the usual post-flight high no longer apparent as it was when I was younger. That trip was the impetus to figure out how to leverage my miles and status that I had earned but not yet burned.

Of course, since those were Skymiles, I'd have to figure out another way to save up for a journey to India in a premium class. With various bonuses and promotions, that didn’t take long, especially with US’ grand slam promotion. Some unnecessary Hertz rentals and quite necessary Biscoff spreads later, I had more than enough miles for a relatively small cash outlay. Brilliant.

I had also been repeatedly asked by relatives in Hong Kong to come visit them, even just for a weekend on the way to India. The US award chart allowed me to utilize a comical routing to/from HKG for only 120K in F. Of course, my relatives' idea of "on the way to India" means flying CX and utilizing an HKG stopover. While I have been aching to try CX in F one-way via AA miles, US only allows round-trips. Well, they allow one-ways, but they charge the round-trip price, and I wasn't keen on throwing away 60K US miles.

My sister has also been bugging members of my family to visit Southeast Asia, so she and I decided to head to Vietnam for a few days after our time in India. From there, I had a few extra days before I could go to Hong Kong, so I decided to visit Thailand for the first time, mainly just Bangkok. I know the country has way more to offer, but wanted to save those places for when I had more time. US has an amazing box for intra-South Asia, which unlike UA includes India, so I booked an open-jaw for myself and a one-way for my sister in SQ J. Each was 30K US miles … all in all, 180K US miles well spent, although my US coffers are back to 4 digits, so I’m hoping for another Grand Slam soon .

From there, I just needed to connect my Hong Kong and Bangkok nodes. It’s funny how such opportunities arise. I soon learned that the great Emirates runs a BKK-HKG-BKK flight on the backend of their DXB-BKK service on the Airbus A380, an aircraft that I have yet to experience. While I’m not against flying Y on a stellar carrier, I soon saw that this route had some of the lowest-priced F/J tickets for any 3-hour route, let alone on an Emirates A380. For those of you not familiar with Emirates’ A380 … the thing has showers in First. Where you can take one. At 38,000 feet. At Mach 0.85.

I elected to book the outbound leg in F, to experience the suite and shower. I’ve never flown EK, and this would probably be the best/cheapest way for me to experience a great airline and my first A380. Normally, I wouldn’t pay such a high price for a 3-hour trip, but when would I ever get this opportunity again?! Not only that, but just the idea of flying a UAE carrier between Hong Kong and Thailand with an American passport on my way to India just seems so worldly. Thank you, fifth freedoms!

And thank you Alaska Airlines for giving me a worthy account to bank my first ever revenue F ticket! Double miles, too? You shouldn't have!

In the end, I was able to get an itinerary that looked like this, with links to the posts already completed:

Outbound to India:
LAX-SFO-FRA on UA 747 F (1, 2, 3)
FRA Lufthansa FCT (4)
FRA-ZRH on LH European J, ZRH SWISS FCL, ZRH-HKG on LX A340 F (5, 6)
HKG-BKK on EK A380 F (7, 8, 9)
BKK-SIN-BOM on SQ J, with a day-long stopover to check out Singapore (10, 11, 12, 13)

Asia Side-Trip:
BOM-SIN-HAN on SQ J (14, 15)
5 days in Northern Vietnam (16, 17)
HAN-BKK on QR Y (yes, Qatar) (18)
4 days in Bangkok (19)
BKK-HKG on EK A380 F (20, 21, 22)
A weekend in Hong Kong (23)

Return:
HKG-BKK on TG 747 F (old) (24, 25)
BKK Thai FCL/Spa, BKK-FRA on TG 77W F Suites (26, 27, 28, 29, 30)
FRA-LHR on LH European J, with a 23h50m stopover in London (31)
LHR-LAX on UA 777 F (32, 33, 34)

15 segments, covering 34,335 miles. A lot of personal firsts along the way. Stay tuned ...
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Last edited by amolkold; Jun 16, 12 at 3:52 pm..
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Old May 18, 12, 4:15 pm   #2
 
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LAX GFL, United 954 LAX-SFO (E+)

Have you ever had that “itching to fly” feeling? You know – the one that says, “I haven’t been on a plane in a while … I need to go somewhere.” I started getting that about 4 days before this trip, making it very timely.

A quick 15 minutes on the Metro rail to Union Station and a ride on the FlyAway bus brought me to LAX. On the way to the airport, we passed the 10 Freeway, which has a sign in Santa Monica calling it “the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway.” Unlike Chris, I would actually find India on this trip. Hopefully.

Flying United, I had to wait a while for my turn to disembark at LAX. I’m not a frequent UA flyer, as I’m more likely to fly DL or AA domestically. It’s been at least 4 years since I flew UA to Hawaii on a ghetto bird.


Arriving at LAX. Despite this building recently turning 50 years old, I can't imagine it not being here ...

This was my first time flying UA internationally in sixteen years, the last time being on the old UA #1: LAX-HKG-DEL on a 747, with the infamous Kai Tak approach. While I got off in DEL, the flight number continued with a 767 to LHR to JFK back to LAX. I found it fitting to be flying an LAX-HKG itinerary that included this aircraft, albeit going the other way (and sans checkerboard landing).

And yes, given that this flight was to FRA, I did try my best to change to an LH flight, but there wasn’t any availability. Okay, I’m lying: there was, via YVR or DFW on old-cabin A340s, but it involved a $150 change fee that I wasn’t keen on paying. I’m also not a fan of the short East Coast – Europe flights from IAD or JFK. A lot of FTers would smack me upside the head for not taking that up.

One half of me was holding out for surprise availability on LH’s A380 from SFO.

The other half of me was longing to stay on a Boeing 747. In the past 7 years, I’ve flown the 747 just once, compared to an average of over once a year before that. It was in AF Y, albeit on the more spacious upper deck thanks to my Skyteam status; my first time on the upper deck and it made me fall in love with the aircraft all over again.

I remember landing at CDG and seeing an AF A380, my first time seeing one in person, and yet I felt that I was in the more refined machine. Not only that, but I’m a huge fan of SFO and long for my (otherwise better) half of the state to catch up in airport infrastructure.

With UA placing F in the nose section, I could finally experience the front-most seat on an aircraft (including the pilots).

But back to the actual trip at hand...

I headed over to the left-most United line at T6, the one reserved for Global Services and Global First passengers. A United agent asked, “Global Services?” That was nice of her, since I really don’t look the part. “No, but I’m flying First from San Francisco to Frankfurt.”

“Global First or BusinessFirst?”

“First First.”

“There’s kiosks over there you can use.”

Sorry, but if there’s anything the past 3 months of reading FT has taught me, it’s to not trust UA’s “new” computer system. I’ll take my chances with an agent.

The agent at the GS/F desk did a double take as he looked up my reservation. “I’ve never seen a routing like this before!”

Unfortunately, SFO was under an ATC hold, and my original flight would get me in far too late. When I originally booked this ticket, I left a 4-hour stopover in SFO. A schedule change made that stopover longer, so I used this opportunity to squirrel my way onto an LH flight via SEA for free. However, phantom *A availability reared its ugly head, and I was unable to switch to that flight. Meanwhile, the US Airways rep decided to switch me to a later LAX-SFO flight, leaving me only about 2 hours before my flight to FRA. I didn’t realize this until after I hung up the phone, and when I called back, all earlier LAX-SFO flights were full, in both F and Y. I tried to explain that 2 hours at SFO is not enough due to the morning marine layer at LAX and fog at SFO, but the CLT-based agent would have nothing of it, explaining, “2 hours is plenty of time, sir.”

The UA agent put me on an earlier flight, but since upgrades had cleared, only coach seats were available. I asked if there was space on the LH direct to FRA, which would be on the 747. He checked, but only business class was available. I had checked availability of several LH flights that morning, just in case of IRROPS, and most flights that gave me ample time at FRA had been 0’d out in F.

I got a bit nervous when the agent kept clickety-clacketing on the keyboard with a furrowed brow, only to realize that he was still having trouble with SHARES, 6 weeks after the transition. Fortunately, the Apollo-era computer system spit out 2 tags all the way to HKG. I was given an exit row seat to SFO and BPs to Zurich, as the HKG flight had yet to open. A baggage handler told me to take a picture of my bags, since it’d probably be the last time I see them, given the routing.


See you in Hong Kong ... hopefully!

Whilst my flight departed T7, I headed over to T6, since I know from experience that one line there doesn’t have the nude-o-scope machine. A civilized metal detector pass-through and a brisk walk down a hallway placed me in T7, with reps hawking the new Chase United Visa as I walked past.

The United Club was packed so I skipped that for the LAX International, err... Global First lounge a bit down the way. It’s not a particularly amazing lounge, but it had the peace & quiet that was otherwise lacking in the UC. At most only 4 people were in the lounge at one time. The staff was incredibly welcoming, and joked about how I was accessing the club as an Economy passenger to SFO.



Peaceful and serene


Drink selection


Subpar breakfast selection


A bit too early in the morning ...


View from the GFL

The lounge agent told me to keep an eye on the screens, but came by the tell me that she thought boarding would begin soon. Indeed, she was correct, as boarding began about 1-2 minutes after I arrived at the gate. Despite my new boarding zone number (7), I showed my F ticket from SFO to FRA and explained to the GA that I had been rerouted on an F ticket. Not that I absolutely need to board first, but on domestic routes in coach, I'd rather get my bags on as soon as possible.

UA 954
LAX-SFO, 1h26m
Airbus A320
Seat 21A, E+


There were several passengers on this flight who were in similar predicaments as me, as many had a tight connection to PEK. I was given 20A on my BP but mistakenly sat in 21A (the 2nd of the two exit rows). 21A later arrived and I had a “D’Oh” moment as a potential seat poacher. I then noticed that there was another passenger in 20A … the seat poacher got poached? Turns out we were both assigned the same exact seat on the flight. Way to go, SHARES. Fortunately, all parties were understanding, and the passenger assigned 21A found an E+ aisle seat he preferred open in row 22.


At least it's better than Euro J ...

With ATC still placing holds on SFO traffic, we were placed in a taxi holding pattern, visiting parts of LAX I’ve never even seen before. Channel 9 kept me up to date, and the pilot actually told the truth as to why we were delayed. We were able to take off during a short window of availability.


Taxiing in a before unknown area of LAX ... double alpha??

The flight was nothing to write about, just your normal LAX-SFO run.


Phew ... finally at SFO.

A uniformed gate agent met the flight for those with tight PEK connections, the first time I've actually seen one when the FAs promised one. I still had about an hour to go until my FRA flight started boarding, so I headed toward the IFL. GFL. Whatever.
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Last edited by amolkold; May 18, 12 at 7:05 pm..
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Old May 18, 12, 4:33 pm   #3
 
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UA SFO Global First Lounge

I’ve heard good things about UA’s F lounge at SFO and I can see why. It really is worth a visit if you have access, even if it’s only for a short while.










Oh, hey there


Still sporting the tulip


Decent noon-time spread


Nice sushi, cheese, wine selection. Although I wonder what made them put a sign about the shower ...

With about 15 minutes left until boarding, I decided to head over to the gate. I like SFO’s method of placing the gates one level below the main concourse, which gives both areas a little bit extra space.



Boarding was called for Global Services/United 1Ks/First Class and I made my way to my first First. Of course, this flight had the requisite DYKWIA who assumed that everyone in front of him was in the wrong line, and tried to jostle me aside. I let him go ahead; he must really have been in a rush to Frankfurt.
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Old May 18, 12, 5:13 pm   #4
 
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United 900 SFO-FRA (F)

UA 900
SFO-FRA, 10h50m
Boeing 747-400 (N181UA, tulip)
Seat 1A, F


The cabin feels almost utilitarian. A lot of gray and then some more. I took my seat in 1A, and checked that item off my bucket list. Unfortunately, 1A is very close to seat 1K, and looking to my right side, I could made direct eye contact with seat 2K. A bit awkward.


Seat 1A

The seat has a bunch of nooks and crannies to store things in; a large storage bin between the seat and aisle, a headphone stowage mini-closet, and a storage bin between the seat and window. The screen is a good size and very sharp. The IFE worked on the ground, so I started watching the movie “Hugo” (although with my own headphones, since the ones supplied by UA are rather pathetic).

As a first-timer in the nose section, I was glued to my window, facing partially forward due to the curvature of the fuselage. What a view. I would later be given a front row seat to the Aurora Borealis later that night. Unreal.

Unfortunately, my camera lost the videos I took of takeoff, but the image is still stuck in my head.


View down Runway 28


Maybe next time ...

Service began shortly after takeoff and the meal was somewhat decent. I’ve heard that UA’s F menu is simply the J menu with another choice added on there, and I believe it after the meal. Perfectly edible, but no excitement in it either. I’ve had better lunch meals on Delta’s transcon J.


Table setting

TO BEGIN

Chilled Appetizer - Jumbo shrimp cocktail with wasabi-infused sauce. A bit colder than I'd like, but pretty good.


Soup - Mushroom Brie. Looks plain, but incredibly delicious. Probably the best part of the meal.


Fresh Seasonal Greens - Roasted tomatoes, Kalamata olives, mozzarella and croutons with blue cheese dressing.

MAIN COURSE
Grilled Filet Mignon - Port wine demi-glace, roasted rosemary potatoes and sautéed asparagus with sun-dried tomato

Pomegrandate-glazed Breast of Duck - Pomegranate sauce, jasmine rice with cashews and Chinese broccoli with carrots

Grilled Fillet of Mahi Mahi - Mushroom-Sherry wine sauce, sweet potato pie and sautéd spinach with garlic


Portobello Mushroom-filled Mezzaluna Ravioli - Tomato vodka sauce, sautéed mushrooms and Parmesan cheese.

In hindsight, the duck and mahi mahi look like good options, so I don't know why I chose the ravioli at the time. It wasn't that great of an option, but I wasn't hungry enough to ask for another option.

TO FINISH
International Cheese Selection - Amablu St. Pete's Select Blue, Four Year Aged Cheddar and St. Rocco Triple Creme Brie. Served with seedless grapes, crackers, and Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port


Dessert - Ice cream

I figured that one thing United couldn't mess up was the ice cream and they didn't! It was a great cap to an alright meal.

After the meal, I lazed around and watched another movie, Ocean’s 12, before going to sleep for a few hours. After awaking, I noticed the crew had placed a few snacks at the small bar area between 2A and 2K. It took about 25 minutes for an FA to notice I was awake (with my lights on) to come by and ask if I wanted anything. I didn’t, and I don’t mean to sound like a spoiled brat, but I’m just reporting on the trip. She did ask about why I had my camera out, taking pictures of the outside while it was so dark. This was why:



I just wasn't sleepy, so I kept on with the IFE and got this panorama of the view from the seat:



A couple of hours out of FRA, breakfast was served. I think breakfast is probably the worst meal to eat on a plane, and this was by no means an exception to the rule. I ate just a bit, knowing I’d have an upcoming feast in lounges and upcoming flights.

PRIOR TO ARRIVAL

Fresh Seasonal Fruit and Cereal


Swiss Cheese Omelette - Brocolli-potato gratin, turkey sausage and tomato.

I ate just the egg and the bread. The rest was mediocre.


I still see tulips ...

Approach into FRA was just as good as the departure from SFO. If you haven’t yet been able to sit in row 1 on a 747, you absolutely need to. On products like UA's, you are literally up against the nose and the view is spectacular. Just get it done once. It’s a bit less space, but it’s an experience.




I wouldn't mind this routing on LH's SFO-FRA flight ...

UA’s First hard product is good, with a lot of space, storage space, and a good IFE. Lots of movie selections, in all sorts of languages. The service of the flight attendants is on par with an average business class – no sour attitudes as I’ve heard about, but no sense of proactive service either. No “thank you for flying UA” at the end. There really wasn’t much to say about this flight.

We arrived around 10am and were given a remote parking bay. Naïve visions of a Lufthansa Mercedes picking me up and whisking me to an FCL were quickly unfounded when the UA staff shepherded all passengers into a waiting bus, even keeping F pax waiting for J and Y passengers to get on. Needless to say, it was a scrum once we got to passport control.
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Last edited by amolkold; May 18, 12 at 6:27 pm..
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Old May 18, 12, 5:49 pm   #5
 
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Great report, very informative!! Thanks a bunch and I'm looking forward to the other flights!
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Old May 18, 12, 6:07 pm   #6
 
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Lufthansa FRA FCT

My onward flight to ZRH wasn’t until 4:35pm. While some FTers would head directly to the FCT the second they step on European soil, I figured that 6 hours there would be overkill, especially since I had another 4 or so hours at the FCL at ZRH. One can only lounge so much.

Since I had to sacrifice a passport stamp box to enter the Schengen zone, I figured I’d head out into the area. I decided on Mainz, a town about 25 minutes away on the S8 S-Bahn.









I spent a bit of time in Mainz before hopping on a train back to the airport. As I exited the Flughafenbahnhof, I found myself at the infamous taxi queue that marks the path from the main terminal to the FCT. Left turn to the promised land!









I took the elevator up and walked into an empty foyer, perfect for some pictures. I approached the check-in desks, where the security agents saw me and called over a personal assistant. Christoph arrived, a bit flustered as he explained they were short-staffed today. He clickety-clackitied on the computer for a while, making me a bit nervous. With my luck, they probably changed the access rules that day. Or maybe LH converted to SHARES, too.

Turns out he was just making sure my bags had arrived at FRA and were tagged to HKG. “Okay, Mr. amolkold, your bags are safely in our hands. I can confirm you have access to the First Class Terminal today. Please follow me inside.”

More beautiful words have never been said.

And a more beautiful lounge I have yet to see. It actually looks smaller in person than it does in the pictures, but it’s still plenty large enough for the privileged few who have access to it. After check-in is the world’s friendliest security screening. They even carried my bags for me through to the lounge.

My personal assistant arrived with my boarding passes to HKG in a Lufthansa First Class jacket and asked if I wanted a tour of the lounge. I obliged, even though nothing was very new having read many TRs here.


Gotta love real ticket jackets ...

I asked to have a shower, since I hadn’t had one since L.A., and was given room #1, the one with the bathtub (and the waiting rubber ducky!).





After my shower, I had a wonderful lunch at the restaurant. What a way to dine. There are waiters who take orders, although most of the menu is available at a buffet table at the back.


Menu







Afterwards, some time in the comfortable chairs facing the main terminal. One negative about the FCT is that there are no tarmac views, but I guess they make up for the location with how they take you to the plane.





I also tried to figure out one thing to order from the extensive bar, and after a thorough survey, decided on a glass of cognac to accompany an hour in the relaxation chairs at the far corner of the FCT. Ahhh, this is the life. It’s so easy to forget you’re in an airport.





I was about to nod off to sleep, until my PA came by and said, “Mr. amolkold, your plane is ready to board. Please follow me to your car.” I have never tried so hard to contain childish giddiness.

I shared the car with a HON Circle flyer in Y. He asked if I’d ever been to Zürich – I had at a very young age, but explained today I was going to Hong Kong, leaving out details of how I was coming all the way from Los Angeles and eventually going to India.

The car ride is spectacular. And the fact that it was in a Mercedes S-Class made it even more unbelievable. You could cram me in the back of a FIAT and drive through an airport like that and it’d still be an amazing experience. Probably have more legroom than a CRJ, too.

The coolest way to approach a plane. Period.

After the car ride, the HON and I bemoaned our respective frequent-flyer programs. He was mad that Y fares will no longer count toward HON status. I guess when you get used to Mercedes rides to planes, it’s hard to let go.


Auf wiedersehen

----
I've gotten a lot of PMs wondering how I got access to the FCT -- I explain it here.
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Last edited by amolkold; Oct 5, 12 at 1:15 am..
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Old May 18, 12, 6:39 pm   #7
 
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Lufthansa 1196 FRA-ZRH (Euro-J), SWISS ZRH FCL

LH 1196
FRA-ZRH, 0h55m
Boeing 737-300 (D-ABEP, “Saale” … I only know this because of the video I took )
Seat 2A, “J”


Nothing really to call home about, as it’s just an economy class seat with business class service. The flight is only 55 minutes, and it seemed the pilots didn’t want it to be a minute more, since they sped along taxiways and runways to get to Zurich in a jiffy. I eschewed any service save for a glass of Coke Light, since I knew better things awaited me in the lounge and next flight.


From a Mercedes to this ...


I'd rather Lufthansa just drive me all the way to ZRH in the Benz


At least Lufthansa doesn't place their ads all over their napkins *cough*United*cough*


Landing shadow at ZRH

ZRH FCL

A quick deboard and a walk down the concourse put me in the HON Circle/F lounge before 5:40pm. My flight wouldn’t depart for another 5 hours, so I asked for a day room to have a nap and another shower (since it’d be about 20 hours until the shower at FL390 south of China). I was told that if I wanted a shuttle ride to the flight, that I should report at 10:05pm to the front desk.

Already, a huge difference between the men (Lufthansa) and the boys (SWISS), at least when it comes to ground service. Lufthansa would come to get you, while SWISS makes you report to them.


Day room in the FCL. Forgot to take a picture of the shower.

I napped for about 3 hours, catching up on the sleep that I didn’t get on my UA flight. The shower is great, and I love the Bvlgari toiletries they give you there. I ended up taking them with me and gave them to family members whose bags didn’t show up at BOM for a bit. They loved them as well.

A bit after 9pm, I indulged in possibly the best lounge meal I’ve ever had. That usually wouldn’t be saying much, but I’ll still say it. It was on par with a great restaurant – the presentation, the service, and the food. Though I forgot to take pictures of the menu ...


Table setting


Salad


DELICIOUS Duck entrée


Raspberry brownie dessert

I ended my meal at 9:40pm and surveyed the rest of the lounge, awaiting the 10:05pm shuttle to the far end of the airport.


I'm like a kid in a candy store.


Waiting near the front desk for the van limo to the gate, since I wouldn't want to miss it and walk across Switzerland to my gate.

Myself and 3 others were escorted through a separate passport control (to exit the Schengen zone) then to a waiting Mercedes van. Two of us were on the HKG flight while the other two were on the flight to BKK. After a rather long drive through ZRH, we were escorted through a service entrance to an elevator and dropped off within the terminal to go find our gates. Again, boys (SWISS) vs. men (Lufthansa). Although the boys are better chefs.

The other F passenger to HKG asked if I knew where I was going. I responded to her … “I think so?”

“Good, I’ll just follow you.”

We talked on the way to gate, and she asked me why I wasn’t wearing a jacket since it was a chilly night in Zurich. I explained that I was just connecting and didn’t really mean to exit the climate-controlled airport.

“You’re connecting from California?!?!”

I gave a poker face as to how she knew and began to think how to convince this woman, about my age, that I wasn’t crazy.

“Your accent gave it away.”

Schieße.
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I post on HackMyTrip | Twitter: @PointsToPointB | Trip Report: Singapore Airlines A380 Suites/NEW 77W First Class

Last edited by amolkold; May 18, 12 at 7:48 pm..
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Old May 18, 12, 8:54 pm   #8
 
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Excellent Trip report and pictures!

I'm jealous you caught a glimpse of the Aurora. It's still on my bucket list
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Old May 18, 12, 9:01 pm   #9
 
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Great Stuff

Loving your trip report. Keep up the good work. Excited to see the rest of the story.
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Old May 18, 12, 9:09 pm   #10
 
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Love it!!
Excited to see the rest of it.

What camera are you using?
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Old May 18, 12, 9:22 pm   #11
 
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Wonderful pictures. Ditto with the question above, what camera are you using?
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Old May 18, 12, 10:02 pm   #12
 
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Thumbs up Swiss 138 ZRH-HKG (F)

LX 138
ZRH-HKG, 12h05m
Airbus A340-300
Seat 2K, F


Boarding was called and I made my way to the line for First & Business Class, excited to ride in an A340. It’s such a sleek plane and I love the 4 engine look. It may not have the grandeur and elegance of the 747, nor the massive space of the A380, nor the power of a 777, but it’s still a cool plane to fly nonetheless.


SWISS A340-300

Despite two jetways, the door to 1L was closed, so everyone boarded via 2L. Everyone in front of me had “C” all on his or her boarding pass, so as I entered the aircraft with a big “F,” I was given just a bit more attention. “Mr. amolkold, welcome abroad. Please follow me to your seat.”

I turned left after the galley and through the mini J-cabin at the front. Note: if you’re flying LX on the A340 in J, definitely go for this cabin. It looks splendid.

But this is an F report, so no pictures of that.

I walked into the cabin reserved for the first 2 rows and looked in awe. The shells surrounding the seats are bigger than a picture can properly show. Since there are no overhead bins over the center seats, the cabin looks massive.

I took seat 2K, while the woman from the FCL took 2A. At first, I thought it would be just us 2, but we were soon joined by 6 other passengers, which made it a full F class: 8/8. Still, it’s better than 172/172 down the back. Or 8/8 in one row on UA Business. I’m sorry: BusinessFirst.


Seat 2K


Spacious cabin

I was presented with an amenity kit, pajamas, and a glass of champagne alongside a welcome snack. Given the late departure, 10:45pm at ZRH, and between 2:15am and 4:45am for my upcoming destinations, I changed into pajamas before takeoff. They’re made by vanLaack and extremely comfortable … I’m wearing them at home right now! Fully black with a beige inner collar ... I wish it was acceptable to go out in these. The amenity kit is by Bally and has an odd double-zipper design. The amenities inside are the usual fare with some nice lotions and creams that I passed along to family at BOM.


Amenity kit, Laurent-Perrier champagne, and Amuse Bouche (after some of it went into my bouche)

Despite the 4-engined A340, it has one of the slowest takeoff rolls of any widely used aircraft. It took about 65 seconds on this try.

Soon after takeoff, the Maître de Cabine and 2 other First FAs began service. I asked for turndown service rather than the meal, especially since I had just eaten in the FCL. Despite this being the “old” product, the bed is mighty comfortable, and even without a suite format (no doors or walls shielding you from the rest of the cabin), I didn’t feel any bother at all from the dinner service for the other 7 passengers. The provided eyeshade and earplugs helped a lot in getting more than 5 hours of solid sleep.

Upon waking up, one of the F FAs was at my seat within a minute to ask if I wanted a sandwich or snack. Instead, I asked if I could be served a late dinner (despite it being 4am in Zurich and 10am in Hong Kong, it was 7pm in L.A.). Of course, I “asked” politely yet meant it as an “I’m not forgoing a first class dinner just because I wanted to sleep beforehand” inside.

Not to fear, some choices I was eyeing were still available, and I had a private dinner service.

The Swiss First Menu is a 20-page booklet showcasing meals, cheeses, and wines. Of course, the meal portion is given in 4 languages (English, German, French, and Chinese) so that adds to the length.


Table setting

Quote:
DINNER
ZURICH – HONG KONG

A LA CARTE MENU

First Courses
*Fillet of Balik salmon with blinis and sour cream
--
Lobster coconut ball with a salad of mussel and octopus
Lemongrass panna cotta with curry mousse
Ticino speciality of ‘Farina bona’ cracker
--
Tagliatelle with creamy morel cognac sauce
Green asparagus
(Can also be enjoyed as a main course)
--
White asparagus cream soup
--
*Baby leaves with dried apricots and Swiss Sbrinz cheese shavings


WINE LIST

--
CHAMPAGNE
Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle
Laurent-Perrier; Champagne, France (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir)

WHITE WINE
Vinattieri Biano del Ticino DOC 2010
Vinattieri Ticinese; Ligornetto, Ticino, Switzerland

Esporão Reserva, Private Selection, Reguengos DOC 2010
Herdade de Esporão Reguengos de Monsaraz; Alentejo, Portugal

Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu 2009
William Fevre; Chablis, Burgundy, France

--
RED WINE
Casimiro Svizzera Italiana IGT 2009
Agrioro SA; Arzo, Ticino, Switzerland

Quinta Nova Reserva Douro DOC 2008
Quinta Nova; Covas do Douro, Douro, Portugal

La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan AOC 2007
La Mission Haut-Brion; Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux France (64% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc)

--
DESSERT WINE
Inniskillin Icewine Vidal Oak Aged 2006
Inniskillin; Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario, Canada

--
PORT
Graham's Tawny 20 years
Symington Family Estates; Douro, Portugal


BEVERAGES

--
BEERS
Appenzeller Quöllfrisch
Heineken
Cardinal Sans Alcool <0.5%

APéRITIFS
Sherry La Guita-fino
Campari
Bacardi White Run Superior
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Grey Goose Vodka

LIQUEURS & DIGESTIFS
Single Malt Whisky, The Macallan Fine Oak 18 years
Blended Scotch Whisky, Chivas Regal 18 years
Cognac, Rémy Martin XO Excellence A.O.C. Grande Champagne
Grappa di Moscato Monovitigno Nonino
Zuger Kirsch Vintage Etter
Williams Etter
Baileys Irish Cream
I was interested in almost all of them, but only the salmon and salad were still available. At least it helped narrow down my decision. The Balik salmon was absolutely delightful – tender and moist, especially with the sour cream, and paired with the Portuguese white wine. The salad seemed a bit dry (though maybe that’s just my American taste).


Look at the size of those salt+pepper shakers!


Balik salmon


Leaves



Quote:
Main Courses
Loin of lamb with Tagglia olive crust, Formaggini cheese
Rosemary potatoes, beans with raisins
--
*Corn-fed chicken breast with Maggia pepper sauce
Polenta and spring vegetables
--
Pan-fried sea bass, cavatelli pasta with basil
Stuffed artichokes
I was torn between the sea bass and chicken breast and eventually decided on the latter. Again, I was satisfied with the decision.



Quote:
Cheese
Selection of Swiss artisan cheese
Leave it to LX to have an amazing selection. By far, this was the best part of the meal. I savored each and every bite alongside the dessert wine for the night, the Inniskillin Icewine from Niagara. Interweaving flavors of Valle Maggia and Ticino Mutschli with peach aromas and marmalade overtones … oh goodness, I’m drooling all over my keyboard.


Heavenly

Stuffed already, I skipped the desserts, which had the following choices:

Quote:
Desserts
Amaretti cake with passion fruit mousse
Raspberry ice cream
--
Strawberry apple gazpacho
Apple marshmallow, strawberry jelly
--
Sprüngli pralines
Espresso and a selection of coffees and teas
I finished my meal somewhere above India, with the plane on course for BOM. If I didn’t know that LX runs A330s with new F to BOM, I’d have thought I was on the wrong flight. Or maybe LX knew I was being a mileage-maximizing idiot and was going to kick me out over Bombay with a parachute.


It would cost me 40,000 more miles to end my trip here

The A340 F has a smaller IFE screen than the newer A330 F, and the selection isn’t all that great. But the bed is still downright comfortable, so I went back to sleep for a couple more hours, getting a full night’s rest on just one flight.

I woke up and saw that a couple of passengers in row 1 were starting their breakfast service. The MdC came by within a few seconds and asked what I wanted for breakfast. I'd like to note that although it's 8am in ZRH at this time in the flight, it's already 2pm at the destination. But I just ate dinner 3.5 hours ago so who cares? I just ended up going a little light on the breakfast. I was given a small smoothie which was great.

Quote:
IN THE MORNING

SWISS BREAKFAST
Assortment of breakfast breads, preserves and honey
Fresh fruits, yoghurts, muesli and cereals.
-
Choice of egg dishes, cold cuts and cheese
-
Coffee, tea and juices





One of the awkward things about flying First or Business is the whole window situation. I love window seats, even in Economy. When I'm flying in the back, I'll usually have just 1 window, maybe 2 if I'm lucky. Because seats are closer together, the light only shines on one row, maybe two. If it's an emptier cabin, you're not bothering people if you keep your shade a little bit open.

But in F, you have 4 windows until the seat in front of you. A small crack of the window shade invites the sun into all parts of the cabin as it freely enters. Despite it being 9:30am at our origin and 3:30pm at our destination, a few pax were still asleep, which made looking out kind of tough.

But I still took pictures.




With preparations finished for landing, the MdC came by to thank each passenger by name for flying SWISS. I thanked her for an excellent flight.

I've flown into the new HKG plenty of times but I still miss the old Kai Tak approach. That was a thrill, even if I only remember it a couple of times. We arrived from the west underneath a cloud cover and light drizzle.


Wall design at the back of the cabin, with a Swiss cross on ZRH


Good seats for a couple, but I'd stick with A/K seats for a single travelers

Upon arrival at HKG, F deboarded via a F-only jetway at 1L. I was greeted by a personal escort with my name on a tag. Rather than wait in line at immigration for about 10-15 minutes, I was taken to a side entrance, where my passport was processed within a few minutes. From there, I was escorted to baggage claim, though I’m sure I could have found the way myself.


"No entry" is just a "suggestion"
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Last edited by amolkold; May 21, 12 at 5:34 pm..
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Old May 18, 12, 10:10 pm   #13
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vandiemen View Post
Great report, very informative!! Thanks a bunch and I'm looking forward to the other flights!
Thanks vandiemen. My last TR hit 20 parts, so this might take a while

Quote:
Originally Posted by calvinoeh View Post
Excellent Trip report and pictures!

I'm jealous you caught a glimpse of the Aurora. It's still on my bucket list
Thanks calvinoeh! Having done plenty of West Coast USA - Europe polar route flights (LAX/SFO - LHR/FRA/CDG), Aurora Borealis can be almost counted upon to show up in some form. It's just that most people are asleep for the show.

The actual lights are a lot dimmer, but anytime you take a picture, longer exposures brighten the light. But it's an amazing sight just in person and I'm going to have to make a trip up north next year to see them in their full beauty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kstew View Post
Loving your trip report. Keep up the good work. Excited to see the rest of the story.
Thanks, kstew!

Quote:
Originally Posted by fieldeng View Post
Love it!!
Excited to see the rest of it.

What camera are you using?
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackmamba View Post
Wonderful pictures. Ditto with the question above, what camera are you using?
Thanks fieldeng and blackmamba ... I'm using a mix of an older Canon DSLR (a 7-year-old 350D) and my iPhone 4 (for videos and for when I don't want to be so obvious about taking pictures with others around). If only I could use my miles to get some nicer lenses
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Old May 18, 12, 10:55 pm   #14
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Wow! What a fabulous TR! I'm glad you have a great flight and a successful trip to FRA, ZRH, HKG and anywhere else. Did they delivery your bag to HKG on-time? You don't want to lost the bag.

Sorry, you can't get on entire A380 this time. Maybe next time. You should try to flying on KE next time. You can try to get on entire A380 from LAX-ICN-HKG next time. It's easy way to do it. You don't have to flying more than 48 hours.
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Old May 18, 12, 11:24 pm   #15
 
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Originally Posted by N830MH View Post
Wow! What a fabulous TR! I'm glad you have a great flight and a successful trip to FRA, ZRH, HKG and anywhere else. Did they delivery your bag to HKG on-time? You don't want to lost the bag.

Sorry, you can't get on entire A380 this time. Maybe next time. You should try to flying on KE next time. You can try to get on entire A380 from LAX-ICN-HKG next time. It's easy way to do it. You don't have to flying more than 48 hours.
Thank you, Scotty. Indeed, my bags made it to HKG safe and sound.

I actually did look into KE but they had blackout dates for mileage tickets for the dates I needed. I didn't know they fly ICN-HKG on the A380 ... I'll keep that in mind for when I need to redeem my Skymiles.

The routing I took was mainly to get a flight via the Frankfurt First Class Terminal (which I got on account of a same-day Swiss F flight) and the Thai BKK First lounge. The Emirates A380 was just icing on the cake.

I'm actually flying the SQ A380 from LAX to Tokyo to Singapore soon, but that's in coach. Still looking forward to it
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