I made my way to the transfer desk. The first/business agents were busy but the economy agent was free. It didn't take long to check in for the next 2 flights. I was then directed to the nearby Senator lounge (for *G). However, as an arriving Lufthansa first class passenger I was entitled to use the much nicer First Class lounge, so I went to gate B22 and up to the FCL.
This was the first time I've been in this specific lounge - at other times flying Lufthansa in first I have visited the A62 FCL or the First Class Terminal depending on which was easiest for me. The B22 FCL matches the high standard of the FCT. As can be seen from the menu posted above, it has the same food and drink (a rather impressive list that actually seems to have grown since my previous visit when I compared menus). It has the same nice showers, sleep room, cigar room. The wii exercise room is new. Computers in the personal business centre rooms are a welcome addition for those like me who try to travel sans laptop. The size is much less, but it is plenty big enough today with staff easily outnumbering passengers.
When I arrived I was advised my onward flight was scheduled to use a remote stand and thus I'd get a car transfer. I had a shower and then caught up on messages and some work. The bar staff were fantastic - I only had to start walking towards the bar and they'd already be pouring me another drink. One of the lounge staff had apparently checked my itinerary for she came by with another boarding pass for a flight the next day to save me checking in again.
FRANKFURT to CASABLANCA (FRA-CMN) on Lufthansa A321-200 in business class
There was a change to an airbridge gate so no car ride to the aircraft for me. It was a short walk to the gate and boarding commenced just as I arrived. First call families with young kids. Then a free for all.
The flight was very full but I still managed a row to myself (middle seat is automatically blocked for shorthaul business class on Lufthansa). Before take-off we were offered newspapers and magazines, and a moist towelette in the tin foil packet.
After take-off a drink and packet of macadamia nuts before dinner was served. I had a few bites to eat and some drinks before dozing - trying to get some sleep on this night of short flights.
I awoke when the captain made a longish announcement before landing. A slightly dry towel (of the regular variety that doesn't come in a tin foil packet) was handed out along with arrival cards for Morocco. We had good views of city lights. We taxiied past the terminal and then double backed to our gate. Yay it is an airbridge rather than bus gate - always a relief on short turnarounds in the middle of the night.
It is always a bit of a lottery booking an international turnaround in an airport that isn't a significant hub. Some turn out to be trivially easy (eg LPB), others frustratingly difficult (eg IKA) and others you think may be hard turn out to be easy (eg EBL). Based on my previous experiences transitting and turning around at North African airports I thought Casblanca could be anywhere from trivially easy to moderately difficult.
The first good sign was the signpost for international transits. Yes. Head upstairs to security. No need for liquids baggy. A minor delay while the security folk laugh at the craziness of a turnaround, and one in the middle of the night at that. Then I'm allowed on my way.
I'd read there was a lounge available to me so I searched for it. The signage is poor. The lounge is opposite gate 30 and downstairs (the lift was broken). Downstairs are 2 lounges - a Royal Air Maroc one that has a sign out in front, and another with no signage. It looks to be a contract lounge but I have no idea on what the lounge is called or which airlines use it (other than Lufthansa).
The lounge is very basic but has some comfy couches for sitting or lying on. Minimal food and drink options, but a good selection of newspapers. Bathrooms are outside and shared with the Royal Air Maroc lounge.
CASABLANCA to FRANKFURT (CMN-FRA) on Lufthansa A321-200 in business class
The guy manning the lounge asked to see my boarding pass. Then he asked to see my other boarding pass. I'm not sure what this was about - perhaps boarding passes get a stamp or sticker here, which I'd missed by being in transit? After a few moments he shrugged his shoulders, scribbled a note on the back of the boarding pass and handed it back to me.
I didn't have long to ponder this when boarding was called. At the gate there was no sign of boarding other than a long queue of passengers. Ah a pre-emptive boarding call, although given the relatively small size of airport and that most duty free and other shops were closed at this hour of night, I am not sure how difference it made.
While I stretched my legs wandering around a call for business class was made. Just as I reached the desk the agent ran off leaving me stranded next to the long economy line which then started boarding. By the time he came back half of economy had boarded. He then asked for my other boarding pass too, and when I couldn't produce it he spent some time looking up stuff on the computer. Eventually I was allowed to board, one of the last passengers through the gate. With a fairly full flight there was a queue in the airbridge, but it moved fairly quickly. This time I had a seatmate who'd already claimed the space under the middle seat in front as well as under the middle seat tray (part of the middle seat seatback folds down as a tray and you can store a laptop or other small bag under the tray).
Prior to departure magazines were offered (but not newspapers), another tin-foil wrapped moist towelette, and an eye mask and 2 cheap earplugs.
Shortly after take-off a supper was served. The menu was
a "straight" croissant (what is that called?) with cheese & tomato
a couple of slices of fruit - pineapple and melon
fruit yoghurt drink
The usual tea, coffee and booze on offer. The tray also had a paper bag on it so you could save the supper for breakfast post-flight, although only the wrapped non-croissant, biscuit and yoghurt drink were suitably packaged to keep.
I dozed but did not manage to get a good sleep. Most of the way we had a light turbulence, plus crying babies, plus a constant stream of passengers and crew bumping me as they went past my seat, and topped off by the dawn light streaming in through the non-shaded windows.
On arrival we had the cursory passport check at the gate that is usual for flights from Africa/Middle East.
I walked from B non-schengen zone to A schengen zone. Frankfurt airport is so big and cumbersome that there are several ways to get from B to A. I was on the lookout for one with minimal queues at immigration and security. I succeeded on the immigration queues (passport control at the end of A pier upper level had no queue at all) but failed miserably on security. The first security check was quick and easy and for a nice change no removal of belt or liquid baggy. The second security check, however, was painfully slow. Only one WTMD operating at a busy checkpoint, lots of manual inspections of bags, and the requirement that men could only walk through WTMD when a male agent was free to wand/pat down if needed and similarly for women with female agent made for a slow-moving line.
Once through I headed to the nearby A26 Senator lounge, where I had to show my card as well as boarding pass to enter. I'd planned to meet up with GK1998 but unfortunately his gate changed from A schengen to B schengen, and with a departure time not too long after I reached the A26 lounge we had what was possibly the briefest FT meetup ever. "Hi. Nice to meet you. Sorry I have to go."
I caught up on some messages and then noticed that it was time to leave, and also my gate had changed (fortunately still in A pier but only just). I reached the new gate after the scheduled boarding time but there was no aircraft at the gate. I needn't have hurried - but with the screens showing on time departure how was I to know?
FRANKFURT to MALTA (FRA-MLA) on Lufthansa A300-600 A321-100 in business class
After a while our aircraft arrived and disgorged its load of passengers and crew. A few announcements were made that boarding was imminent, and the monitors continued to lie about on time departure. Thus we were trapped at the gate and I couldn't go back to the lounge for a much needed coffee.
Eventually boarding was called. First families with young kids, then business and *G which was ignored and became a free for all. No wonder most of the agents don't bother with priority boarding. This is a moderately empty flight, perhaps half full, and thus we leave not too late.
I was by now very sleepy and so I can't recall if newspapers or magazines were offered pre-departure. We had a long taxi. Each time I was awoken by a passenger behind me coughing loudly we were still taxiing.
Breakfast was served
choice of pancakes or scrambled eggs with potatoes
cold meat cut
4 different cheeses
I had several coffees to try and stay awake properly and get my body onto european time.
There wasn't much of a view - extensive cloud from the approaching low pressure system obscured the land from Germany, across the Alps, the length of Italy and Sicily and until we were on final approach at Malta. We had some good views of the island though and I was excited to arrive.
No airbridge. Several busses were waiting and business class passengers got a bus to themselves. No immigration because Malta is part of the Schengen zone. I bypassed the shuttles (7 euros) and grabbed a cab (20 euros fixed fare) in under a minute. I had arrived.
Sorry for the delay. The limited number of internet cafes in Albania is refreshing - the slow speed of this connection is less so.
Originally I'd booked using Priority Club points, but when the Easter Sale was launched I nabbed a club room during the Easter Sale, for about half the price of a normal room non-sale, and cancelled my award. I can use the PC points for better value elsewhere.
The room is quite nice without being over the top. I have a nice view of the valley rather than of the bay. The lounge has a great breakfast and a couple of computers. Happy hour in the evening (not sure what food/drink for that as I didn't make it). Self service tea, coffee, juice, water and soft drink the whole day.
As I write this FlyerTalk is down again. I only have limited time online (hence I am rather behind in this report) and need to make the most of it. So instead of typing directly into my trip report, as I usually do, this time I am typing in my email for transfer later.
I wasn't sure what to expect as I knew little about Malta and, as usual for me, didn't research beforehand. I tend to wing it because I find I can get more off the beaten path and discover a more intimate and personal side to places. It is by taking a few "wrong" turns that leads to interesting neighbourhoods and encounters with real people that you don't get by merely visiting the tourist hot spots. That isn't to say this style of travel is for everyone, or that I avoid all tourist attractions.
I had a great couple of days exploring. I got a pass for the bus, and set out to explore by bus and by foot. The hills certainly provided some good workouts. The landscape is wonderfully Mediterranean and reminded me a lot of parts of Israel. Small hills riven by deep gullies. Small areas of open hillsides in between the towns. Wild flowers and shrubs draped over the land as if to deliberately contrast with the white buildings packed in everywhere.
A sense of history in the air like the fragrant haze. Almost every turn leads to another historic site. Ranging from prehistory at the Ghar Dalam caves to neolithic temple remains at Hagar Qim and the medieval fortifications at Valetta and around the coastline.
The early morning walk a blissful slice of tranquility before the bustle of life awakens.
Unfortunately I missed the Good Friday processions due to my schedule. I saw quite a lot in a short time, but was left wanting more. There were parts of the main island I did not get time to visit and nor did I get to Gozo. I will have to come back to Malta another time, for my schedule waits for no one.
MALTA to FRANKFURT (MLA-FRA) on Lufthansa A300-600 A321-200 in business class
Another day another airport. There were 2 lines signposted, one for business and star gold passengers and one for economy. However, everyone was in the business line which moved slowly. When I'd reached about halfway to the front an agent noticed the issue and ordered economy passengers out into the other line, several of which were unhappy to move.
Eventually I reached the front. There was a delay in checking me in because the agent thought I needed a visa for the destination of the 3rd flight in a sequence I would be flying. Normally I bring printouts of entry requirements with me to help assuage any misplaced concerns about visas from check in agents or others. However, I noticed several days ago that this trip I'd forgotten to bring them with me. Fortunately the agent's colleague knew how to look up the system and confirmed I was correct - I do not need a visa for that destination. That settled I was handed 2 boarding passes (yes all that hassle for a flight I wasn't even going to be checked in for) and an invite card for the contract lounge.
No immigration since Schengen flight, and security was surprisingly quick. I had arrived at security just behind a gaggle of women toting lots of bags and various bling. I steeled myself for delays while they disgorge themselves of their many metallic accessories. However, they were seasoned travellers and we got through quickly.
The La Valetta lounge was small but nice. It had a few computers, some food and drink, newspapers, even a fish tank. No showers that I could see though. All airlines use the lounge and, with several departures imminent, it soon filled up. I left at the appropriate time. As with many airports these days you have to walk through a duty free store to get to the gates. It was doing a roaring trade with a long line of buyers and very few passengers squeezing past the checkout without any purchases.
The aircraft had arrived late so there was a delay in boarding. Another short bus ride to the nearby stand. The flight was fairly full. Newspapers laid out at the top of the stairs, and offered magazines pre-departure. Take-off was rather bumpy due to the strong cross-wind blowing. It reminded me of Wellington a little with the pilots fighting for control in the roll and initial ascent.
The lunch menu was as follows
chicken and potato
lamb and couscous
selection of bread and rolls
fruit plate (strawberries, grapes, lychees, peach half, plum half)
tea, coffee, water, juice, soft drink, beer or wine
A couple of meals had been dropped in the galley and so by the time they reached the rear of business class there was no spares left (chicken went first). I helped out by declining a main so the other passengers had a choice.
There wasn't much of a view. Mostly clouds with a few glimpses of the Alps as we flew over them. We made up some time en route and landed 10 minutes late.