Old Nov 2, 10, 7:42 am
Flying Buccaneer
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: TPA
Programs: DL Plat, AA Plat 2MM, HH Diamond, WoH Explorist, SPG Gold
Posts: 2,199
TPA to IST in F via MUC/NRT (US/LH/TK with many pictures)

My previous trip reports:

My First Trip to Turkey - How It Came About - Where I'm Going June 2008
Going to California, and We're... July 2008
Istanbul and Amsterdam to End 2008 and Start 2009
Germany: Driving the Romantic Road and Rhine Valley May 2009
Flying to and from South America: Viña del Mar, Santiago, and Buenos Aires December 2009 - January 2010
Driving around NZ's South Island + QF A-380 in J and 12 hours in Sydney September 2010

Earlier this year, I decided to teach a two-week study abroad course in Turkey during May 2011. After getting approval from my university’s international programs and curriculum committees, I had an excuse to visit Istanbul during my sabbatical!

Because the trip would be on my own dime (or miles and points, in this case), and also because Mr. FB would not be able to accompany me, I needed to limit the length of my trip. Armed with 120K+ miles on US Airways and the ANA website’s Star Alliance award availability finder, I was able to book the following itinerary in First Class:

November 1
November 2
November 6
November 10

Why Tokyo? Because booking a round trip ticket to NRT with a stopover in IST on the return required fewer miles than a simple round trip ticket to IST. Also, I had never been to Tokyo, other than to transfer at NRT, so I thought it would be a good diversion.

With air transportation booked, I just had to make sure that I was able to get three nights in Tokyo and four nights in Istanbul at minimum or no expense. For Tokyo, I was able to get three nights at the Conrad—two from Hilton’s first quarter promo and the third from points. For Istanbul, I reserved four nights at the W—one from Starwood’s second quarter promo and the other three with points.

After months of waiting, I was amazed that there were no major changes in the itinerary. I monitored availability at the W Istanbul almost daily, hoping to find a cash and points deal on at least one of the nights, but I had no luck.

Finally, the date of departure arrived:

Monday, November 1, 2010

US Airways 1492
Scheduled Departure/Arrival: 1:35 p.m/3:12 p.m.
Actual Departure/Arrival: 1:35 p.m./3:03 p.m.
Seat 2A

Because Mr. FB had to be at work at 9:00 a.m., I decided to book my trip to the airport with SuperShuttle. We live close enough to the airport that a taxi fare is usually around $20. However, I would have to stand outside and wait for a taxi, at least I would be able to track the SuperShuttle from indoors (and save about $10 in the process).

I booked a SuperShuttle that was to arrive at 10:35 a.m. At 10:25 a.m., I received a call from the driver that he was waiting outside. I was ready to go, so I gathered my bags and headed outside. There was one other passenger, and I was the last pickup, so we were at the airport 15 minutes later.

I went to the US Airways ticketing area and stood in the first class line. Within a minute, an agent came over to help me. He asked me where I was going, and I handed him my passport and a copy of my itinerary. I got the idea that he rarely gets passengers flying to Tokyo via Charlotte and Munich, but he was fascinated by the fact that I was doing all of this just to get to Istanbul. He was very good-natured during the process, and wished me well.

Security at Airside F took awhile. There are no elite/first lines at any of Tampa International’s five airsides. To make things more frustrating, there rarely seems to be a single line to get to the security screening. Passengers have to choose a line, and I always seem to choose the one that stops moving. However, after clearing security a realized that it would not have mattered today. Both were moving pretty smoothly.

After clearing security, I went to the US Club to wait for the nearly two hours before my flight started boarding. I was able to take care of a few emails and bills while waiting, and 1:00 p.m. arrived quickly. When I arrived at the gate, Zone 2 was already boarding, so I spent a bit of time on the jetway. After I settled into 2A, one of the FAs repeatedly warned passengers that overhead bin space was filling quickly and that they were trying to avoid a delayed departure. By the time all was said and done, only 2 – 3 bags needed to be checked and we pushed back at the scheduled departure time. Taxi to the runway was quick, and we took off to the north 8 minutes after pushback. Off the left side of the plane, I had good views of the Gulf Coast, including Honeymoon Island.

After we reached our cruising altitude, a FA came through taking drink orders. A little later he returned with drinks and then with a snack basket. I took a bag of potato chips.

I guess at this point of the trip report, I should mention that I just recovered from a bout of food poisoning. On Thursday afternoon, I began to feel, well, those of you who have had food poisoning know the feeling. On the bright side, I began to feel the symptoms about an hour before a visit to my doctor’s office, so he told me to drink lots of fluids and let it run its course. After experiencing the worst of both worlds (trying to be delicate here) on Thursday night, I thought I was better on Friday. However, I awoke Saturday with a milder but still uncomfortable feeling. Therefore, an appetite is something that I have not really had since Wednesday evening.

Back to the flight. It was uneventful, and we landed in Charlotte at 2:58 p.m., reaching the gate 5 minutes later. I headed for the US Club between concourses C and D. The club was crowded and noisy, so I headed to the quiet room. The large room was practically empty, so it was the perfect spot to wait for nearly three hours before my flight started boarding.

Around 4:30 p.m., I heard an announcement for passengers to Munich to get their documents checked, so I went to the desk with my passport and the BP I had received in TPA. When I reached the front of the line, an agent took my info and gave my BPs for CLT-MUC and MUC-NRT along with a form (more like a photocopied piece of paper) to complete before boarding. The piece of paper said it was collecting information required by the United States to match the passengers on the flight to their names. Don’t tickets and passports do that? Anyway, I completed the form.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lufthansa 429
Scheduled Departure/Arrival: 6:25 p.m/8:10 a.m. (+1)
Actual Departure/Arrival: 6:30 p.m./8:08 a.m. (+1)
Seat 2A

I left the club at 5:30 p.m., and reached the gate about 10 minutes before boarding started. Passengers needing assistance and those with small children went first, then first and business classes boarded together. I made it down the jetway and turned left once on the plane. First Class looked bright and spacious.

I got to seat 2A and took a few things out of my backpack before putting it and my duffel in the overhead. As soon as I sat down, an FA approached and said something to me in German. I would be able to pass for German or Dutch, that is, if I could speak German or Dutch. When I did not respond immediately, he welcomed me on board in English and asked if I would like a pre-departure drink. I asked for a glass of champagne and he asked if I would like some macadamia nuts with it. Sure, why not!

Another FA came by with pajamas, amenity kit, and slippers. Then newspapers. After a few announcements, the door closed and the jetway pulled back from the plane. It was another 5 minutes or so before we pushed back, and nearly 20 minutes after before we finally took off.

Once we were in the air, I checked out the personal video screen. The screen was a bit smaller than I would have expected, and there was no AVOD. While in-flight entertainment is not high on my list of necessities, it is a nice thing to have. While I was fooling around with this, a FA came over and asked if I would like something to drink. I asked for another glass of champagne. After taking a sip, I figured this would be a good time to go to the lavatory.

When I returned to my seat, I barely touched the champagne glass and it topped over. Thank goodness it did not fall into my seat. Instead, it fell against the video screen and onto the floor, shattering into pieces. I knelt to pick up the pieces. The two FAs were taking dinner orders and did not notice what I was doing. I know it looked weird, and probably suspicious, for a passenger to be on his knees discreetly doing something against the wall of the plane. When the purser passed by, she asked if everything was OK. When she saw what had happened, she got a towel to put on the floor and told me not to worry about the glass. Then she brought a blanket to put on top of that. She brought me another glass of champagne, and all was good!

Because all the movies had started while I was spilling champagne, I decided to watch Dinner for Schmucks. I had already seen it and figured that it didn’t matter than I had missed the first 20 minutes. A FA came by with a piece of seared tuna garnished with tomato, cucumber, and avocado.

This was the type of thing that would have turned my stomach as recently as Saturday, but it looked appetizing and tasted even better.

As quickly as the first appetizer was history, another FA came by with a cart of appetizers. In addition to “Caviar with the traditional garnishes,” there were three choices:

Dungeness Crab and California Citrus Salad with Blood Orange Vanilla Vinaigrette

Seared Beef Carpaccio with Baby Arugula and Watercress, pickled Onions and Lemon Oil

Roasted Red Pepper stuffed with Goat Cheese, grilled Artichoke Hearts, roasted Fennel and Red Wine Vinaigrette

Normally, I would have gone for the lot, but playing it safe with my newly found appetite, I chose the red pepper stuffed with goat cheese. The FA offered the caviar again, so I had some of it as well.

I especially liked the roasted fennel with the vinaigrette.

The next course was a “Seasonal Salad with dried yellow tomatoes and green bell pepper presented with dressing.” For the main course, there was a choice of the following:

Pancetta wrapped Prawns on Butternut Squash Puree, Mushrooms and Sage Butter

Grilled Tenderloin of Beef with Porcini Butter, roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Broccolini, Cherry Tomato Confit and cracked Pepper Merlot Jus

Grilled Chicken Breast with Balsamico Grape Jus on Chive mashed Potatoes, Baby Carrots, Balsmic infused Pan Juice

Vegetable Tart with stuffed Portobello Mushroom and red Pepper Sauce

I was torn between the beef and chicken, but chose the beef:

All of the flavors mixed nicely, but the beef was on the well side of medium well, unfortunately.

The portions were nicely sized, so I had room for dessert. I chose the “Almond Apple Puff Pastry Tart and Sour Cream Sorbet.”

It was delicious, but I realized I was full after a few bites. After the FA collected my dish, another came by with a box of truffles. I had eaten enough, so I stashed it away for later. By now it was 9:00 p.m. EDT, so I put my seat into the bed position and relaxed. The seat was close to flat and horizontal. As far as flatbed seats go, it was good. At 6’5”, I never felt constricted. My only complaint is that when I was on my back, I felt like I had no place to put my arms. Anyway, it was early to try to get to sleep, but I think I first dozed off after about 90 minutes. I woke up a few times, and I have no idea how long I slept. All I know is that when I put the seat back in the upright position around 6:00 a.m. Munich time (1:00 a.m. EDT), I was ready to sit up.

Seeing that I was up, a FA came over and asked if I would like something to drink. He returned soon with a pot of Assam tea. While I was pouring my second cup, he came back to ask what I wanted for breakfast. I wasn’t really hungry, so I took the “Fitness Breakfast” with a croissant.

Before long, we were making our final descent into Munich. The service on this flight had been exemplary. Of course, when you have 2 FAs taking care of 7 passengers, that’s to be expected. In addition, the FAs and purser were very personable. One of the FAs had a conversation with me before landing, asking if Munich was my final destination. When I told him I was going to Tokyo, he was a little puzzled, but I explained it to him. The purser and I also had a nice talk after breakfast when I joked that I had not broken any more glasses!

We landed just after 8:00 a.m. and were at the gate a few minutes after that. With seven hours to kill, it would be nice to take the train into Munich. However, I had been there with Mr. FB last year, and it would not be the same without him. Instead, I looked forward to spending the time in the LH First Class Lounge!
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