Old Apr 27, 09, 6:05 pm
  #2  
baggageinhall
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: London
Programs: BA
Posts: 2,361
To India via the LH FCT (Part 1)

My taxi arrived at 4.20am and despite the predictions of many, the roads were clear and we got to Heathrow in 25 minutes which is the norm at that time of the morning. Terminal 2 was quite empty despite the number of flights that depart before 7am. I could see the LH Business and First counters and made my way over to them.

Check-in
The lady at the First Class check-in desk looked just as she was, bored and disinterested. I appreciate that it was 5am, but the staff around her were all quite cheery and were making an effort with their passengers. She printed out my boarding pass and put it into a silver LH F class sleeve before summoning over the LH concierge who was directed to take my up to security. I’m sure this is a worthwhile service when it’s very busy at T2, but since their powers are limited to taking you to the head of the queue to having your boarding pass checked, it saved no time this morning. The chap was pleasant and wished me a good flight, ensuring that I knew how to get to the Senator lounge.

At security, ‘shoes off’ but ‘laptops stay in’ was the order of the day. As I took my shoes off, the security lady remarked ‘nice socks’. In my haste to get ready at 3.45am I had grabbed at the first pair of socks that I could lay my hands on. I have a healthy supply of Marks and Spencer’s socks, most are black with a coloured heel and toe, but some of the new batch that I received at Christmas are black with a multi-coloured stripes from heel to toe. This pair were green and orange striped. Not the best choice in public.

I wanted a bottle of aftershave from duty free and had to wait a few minutes for it to open at 5am. Whilst doing so, I saw a number of people who had set off early due to the snow, finding somewhere to sit as they waited an hour or three before their flight.

The LH Senator Lounge at LHR
The LH lounges open at 4.30am and so by the time I arrived at 5.10am were already a hub of activity. The lounge attendant checked my boarding passes and directed me towards the Senator lounge. It was already half full as I entered but I found a seat at table that overlooks the apron. I had a couple of glasses of tomato juice whilst reading about the Steelers victory on Sunday night. Before long it was time to board and so I gathered my belongings and with followed about half of the lounge out towards gate 7 where our A300 awaited our presence.



The gate area was busy with two dozen people on standby who were nervously counting the numerous passengers who were adding to the load this morning. Would they get a seat? Time would tell. I stood in the queue to board and reached the aircraft door around 10 minutes later.

LHR-FRA : Seat 3C – Lufthansa Business Class on an A300
I settled into my seat. I had flown on an A300 twice before, both in 1995. The first flight was FRA-LHR on LH where I seemed to have vague memories of it being configured as a three class aircraft; perhaps someone on here can confirm. The second was later that year from EWR-DEN on Continental.

The cabin filled quickly and as the infamous ‘boarding complete’ message was broadcast I noticed two empty seats in the forward C cabin, one of which was next to me. At 6.25am the Captain announced that we were set to leave the stand when ATC amended our slot time to 7.05am and so we would remain at the gate until 6.55am. It was almost 7.15am before we taxied slowly to what appeared to be the only active runway, alternating between take-offs and landings. At last we were away at 7.35am

As soon as the seat belt light was extinguished, the crew sprang into action, offering breakfast and drinks.



I ate the fruit and left the salami. Whilst I am a great fan of cured meats, I much prefer the delicate taste of the French, or the flavoursome cure of the Italians to the more course and direct German stuff.

My breakfast tray was cleared away and I managed to get 15 minutes sleep before we came into land at Frankfurt. There was an announcement about a number of flights that had been cancelled from FRA and the new connecting flights that passengers on board had been moved on to. After a short taxi to one of the B gates, we parked next to a Qatar A330 moments later I exited through 1L into FRA. Though we had left LHR an hour late, we had made up some time en route. Despite that, there were two LH ground staff asking passengers if they had ‘missed connections’ and were ready to assist. I headed towards the exit, through passport control and made my way to the LH First Class check-in area at the far end of the terminal building. I waited behind a lady travelling to Hyderabad. The check-in assistant explained that the flight was heavily overbooked and that whilst she would almost certainly get a seat, if she wanted to volunteer to fly to Dubai on LH and then onto HYD on Emirates, the compensation was €700 in cash or an €800 travel voucher. She declined.

As it was my turn to be served, a shuttle driver appeared to take a passenger to the First Class Terminal. The check-in agent serving me told the driver to wait for a moment and then spoke to me. Having ascertained that I wanted to go to the FCT, he smiled at the driver and said ‘one more’ before pointing me in his direction.

The Lufthansa First Class Terminal
On arrival at the FCT, two concierges were waiting at reception for me and the other passenger with whom I rode to the building. He was dealt with first and went over to the reception desk to change his seat.

My concierge took me through security where a problem was discovered. I had purchased a bottle of aftershave at Heathrow and the bag hadn’t been sealed. It was 5.30am when I purchased it and the thought hadn’t crossed my mind that I would be going through security again in Frankfurt and at 200ml’s it was too big. The male security agent handled the situation poorly, shouting at me and saying that I must have known the rules and telling me that it was my fault that I hadn’t got it sealed. I agreed but asked him to stop shouting, at which point he got even more annoyed and walked off. The female agent said that she would go and ask her supervisor. Resigned to loosing the bottle, I began to repack my bag. The previous male security agent reappeared and virtually threw the bottle (in its box) at me and said that I could keep it. He had done me favour and wanted everyone around to know that. I knew I was in the wrong, but at the same time I wanted to keep the aftershave so I kept quiet. The LH concierge looked embarrassed.

She then asked if it was my first visit to the FCT (it was) and so gave me a quick tour of the building. Before she disappeared, I was told what time I would be boarding and that she would come and find me.

I thanked her and took a seat in the dining area; one of the waitresses came over and handed me a menu, she invited me to buffet and asked if I would like coffee or tea. I asked for an espresso and went off to see what delights awaited me for breakfast. There was a huge array of items, ranging from classic northern European bacon and eggs, to sushi and various eastern items.

I tucked into a small plate of bacon, eggs and hash browns followed by a little smoked salmon. After a second cup of espresso I decided to have a shower. The effects of waking up at 3.30am were beginning to catch up with me. I walked over the to shower rooms and was directed to a vacant bathroom by one of the attendants. She warned me that the water wasn’t particularly hot and so a bath was out of the question. The knock on effect was that the shower might not get too hot either. Despite the warning, I was able to have a long hot shower which perked me up at little.

I found a seat by the window and listened to my iPod for while. The waiting staff were attentive and magically appeared every time my glass of water needed refreshing. With an hour to go before boarding, I decided to try a glass or two of whisky from the well stocked bar.

I moved to the long table adjacent to the bar and ordered a glass of Aberlour 10. It came with a carafe of filtered water and some nibbles; a few chunks of grainy parmesan and some slivers of silky smooth prosciutto.



I followed that with a glass of Suntory whisky from Japan. I preferred the smoky notes of the Aberlour.

As I finished the Suntory, my smiling concierge appeared and told me that she would be back in 5 minutes to take me to car transfer area. I packed up my belongings and had a glass of water before being escorted downstairs to reclaim my passport and await my car transfer. There were 5 of us headed for the Delhi flight. Seeing this, my concierge asked me to take a seat and went to speak to one of her colleagues. I smiled as I watched the other 4 get into a Mercedes van; could this possibly mean a whole car to myself? Indeed it did, I was directed to the Porsche Cayenne next to the van and as I clicked my seat belt in, we followed the van towards our plane.

The journey to the aircraft took just under 5 minutes. On arrival at the gate, I was joined by the other 4 passengers in the van and we taken from underneath the aircraft up to the gate area where there was still a long line of economy passengers boarding the aircraft.

FRA-DEL: Seat 83A – Lufthansa First Class on a 747
We entered through 1L and made our way towards the upper deck. The business class cabin was almost full, though the FA’s were doing their best to reseat passengers in the middle seats elsewhere. As I walked up the stairs I noticed that despite the seat map showing only 5 occupied seats just over 24 hours before departure, that the First Class cabin was full. I got to my seat, removed the items I wanted during the flight and then headed back to the stairs to put my carry-on in the cupboard adjacent to them. Though my carry-on bag was within the size regulations set down by LH, it wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment. I walked back to 83A and was greeted by a FA who handed me a Van Lack sweatshirt and a Rimowa design amenity kit. I was also given a duty free magazine though a quick flick confirmed my assumption that Sterling’s continued decline against the Euro meant that the prices weren’t competitive.

Another FA asked if I would like a drink, I decided to stick to water whilst we were on the ground. There was a short delay whilst the crew sorted out a seating issue in economy. The Captain told us that we had been given a new taxi and departure time but this was only 30 minutes later than scheduled. The impact on our arrival time would be no more than 10 minutes later than scheduled. Knowing that we weren’t going anywhere for a short while, instead of topping up drinks, the crew disappeared into the galley at the back of the upper deck.

Shortly after take-off, the I was offered a glass of Champagne (Piper-Heidsieck Rare NV) and a bowl of macadamia nuts. The Chief FA (I didn’t catch the title that LH use) introduced himself to each passenger and handed them today’s lunch menu and the wine list. A second FA then set the table and handed out the infamous LH rose




Whilst it was nice personal touch for the Chief FA to greet each passenger, it resulted in a significantly delay before the first course was served. It was approximately an hour into the flight before I was offered my choice of starter. I chose the caviar, but declined the shot of vodka to accompany it, sticking to champagne instead. The caviar was pretty average but the freshness of the accompaniments and proper melba toast meant that it was better than I had had in the air before.



The next course was salad and I decided to try the 2007 Vom Porphyr Riesling with it which was a crisp and refreshing match for the salad.



The main course choices were fish and chips, a loin of lamb or an Indian chicken dish. Knowing that LH were featuring an English chef, I had hoped for something that was a little more ‘plane friendly’ than fish and chips, a dish best eaten moments after it came out of the fryer and not hours later when it had been re-heated. As I would be eating some fantastic Indian food over the next week or so, I selected the lamb. I asked the FA if she could try and heat mine for the minimum permissible amount of time in order for it remain as pink as could be (whilst acknowledging the limitations of an in-flight oven); sadly on arrival it was cooked through and tough. A few glasses of 2001 Chateau Yon-Figeac (St Emillion) made up for the disappointing meat.



I was given a choice of cheese or desert and opted for the later. I was presented with a couple of slivers of mature cheddar and a few small wedges of stilton. Both were rounded of with a small glass of South African port which was cloyingly sticky. I needed the glass of water that came with it.



The FA’s began to clear away people’s tables and offer coffee, chocolates and drinks. My seat mate and I had our plates cleared and each given a small plate for chocolates. It was now 3.5 hours into the flight and I like many had started to watch a movie. An FA came over and offered my seat mate a selection of chocolates and then took his coffee order. I had paused the movie and taken off my headphones in anticipation but she walked away after taking his order. When she returned with his coffee, I asked if I could order a coffee and she said that she would be back in a moment to take my order. She never came back. Another FA cleared my table and unused chocolate plate away. My seat mate looked a little embarrassed at the oversight. I pressed the call bell in the hope that the original FA would realise that she had forgotten to return to me. The bell was answered by a different FA who got me a coffee but no chocolates because they had run out by then.

Approximately 1.5 hours before landing (and in fact, just 1.5 hours since the end of lunch), the crew began to set up for dinner. Menus were distributed which detailed a selection of light bites and a main course choice of guinea fowl or a vegetarian option. I had a selection of starters; smoked eel, filet of trout and a cucumber salad.



For my main course, I had a succulent breast of guinea fowl though the sauce was tasteless and gloopy. I consoled myself by scraping most of it to one side and sipping a buttery glass of 2006 Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay from Napa.



By the time my dinner plate was cleared away, we were 45 minutes from Delhi. I listened to some music on the IFE and prepared myself for landing.

We landed on Delhi’s new long runway that is a good 15 minute taxi from the terminal building. We passed a number of Jet Airways 777 and A330’s which looked like they had been parked for some time. Finally, almost 20 minutes after landing, we reached our gate. The FA’s sprang into action and formed a little barrier around the bottom of the upper deck stairs, allowing all of the First Class passengers to leave the aircraft (via 2L) before those in Business Class. As I walked onto the airbridge, the familiar smells, sights and sounds of India hit me and I smiled to myself.

Taking full advantage of being 4th out of the aircraft, I walked quickly passed the three LH ground staff holding HON boards (there appeared to be 15 on the flight) and down towards immigration. I was expecting a mammoth queue but in fact I waited around 2 minutes before having my passport stamped and continuing on the baggage hall. The belt began to move as I got to it and less than 5 minutes later I had my bag. At Customs, an Officer stopped me and seemed adamant that I had more than 1 laptop in my bag (I have no idea why) and asked me a number of questions that grew more comical as he continued:
“You have how many laptops” – “one”
“You don’t have two laptops”- “no”
“For what purpose have you brought two laptops” – “I have one laptop, not two”
“You realise that you have to pay duty on second laptop” – “Yes, but I only have one laptop”
“Do you want to make problems whilst I open your bags” - “You are welcome to open my bag”
“You are sure you only have one laptop” – “Yes”
“You may go” – “Thanks”

Last edited by baggageinhall; Apr 28, 09 at 1:31 am
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