Old Nov 30, 13, 10:26 pm
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: New York, NY
Programs: IHG Spire Ambassador, Hyatt Explorist, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 327
Cashing in my UA miles on LH-TG-NH, almost all F

Just completed a whirlwind trip from New York to Hong Kong via Frankfurt, Tokyo and Bangkok to see a friend and burn some United miles prior to the devaluation. I’m afraid I don’t have the attention to detail to write a proper trip report. There are so many good ones out there covering nearly every aspect of my trip. Instead, I’ve included an outline and some highlights. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments or PM me. Flyertalk and the travel blogs (especially One Mile at a Time) have been invaluable resources for this and previous trips. Even if I can’t offer a full trip report, hopefully I can answer some questions based on my recent experience.

First, the book-keeping: I used 140,000 United miles and paid $137.50 in taxes and fees. I started to build the itinerary using United.com’s multidestination award search tool. I got lots of error messages until I read on FT that .bomb seemed to like three city pairs (not “three-city pairs”) when doing multidestination searches. E.g., I searched NYC-FRA, FRA-NRT and NRT-HKG. It seemed to me that all selections had to be in the same class for it to price correctly. I created two one-ways, then an agent married them to create a round-trip. I fine-tuned as availability changed closer to departure date. Luckily, I am United Platinum, so the changes were free. Dealing with UA agents, whether Platinum desk or not, is always hit or miss. But, I eventually got what I wanted so long as I was patient and, most importantly, was willing to HUACA. Since I was a solo traveler, it made getting desired F seats much easier.

Nov 25, JFK & LH/F lounge – Check-in at LH/F counter. Asked if I would like an escort to security and an escort to the gate for boarding. No separate security screening. Spent some time in the Senator lounge until the F lounge opened at 2:00pm. Table service dining. Service was excellent. Food was OK. In the future, I would not rush to spend time in the lounge, even in the separate F section.

Nov 25-26, LH 401 (747), JFK-FRA, dep 3:50pm, arr 5:35am – First time on the new LH/F 747, so I was very excited. Hard product met all my expectations. The separate seat and bed are wonderful. Service was very good. Food was fine. Only quibble is that the upper deck feels a bit cramped given the lower headroom, although there is definitely a sense of privacy. Lavatories were nothing special. Pajama tops are soft, but bottoms are worse than hospital scrubs.

Nov 26, FRA & LH/F Terminal – First off the plane and no line to get my passport stamped. Easy walk to the FCT – hang a left when you exit the airport and once you clear the building you just exited, continue walking underneath the roadway above you. The FCT is on your left once you’re past the pile of taxis. There are so many good reviews out there of the services in the FCT. I don’t have much to add, except: if you wish to use one of two nap rooms, go to attendant immediately for availability. I couldn’t sleep, but it was nice to have a private room to stretch. I also hopped into town since it was a sunny day. The old part of central Frankfurt is quite compact. I recommend walking to the Eisener Steg footbridge and taking in the city from there. Returned to the FCT and took a nice, long bath to get ready for the next flight.

**Some info on the train to/from the city: Upon deplaning, follow signs to the underground station. I bought my ticket at a staffed counter since the machines wouldn’t accept my credit card (yes, it has a chip) and I didn’t have small enough bills. Fare is 4.25 Euros each way. I took an “S” train to Konstablerwache station (to walk along Zeil, the pedestrian shopping street through the old part of Frankfurt). I was told I could take any train departing from platform 1, but perhaps there are other types of trains that depart from this platform into town. On the way back, I walked to the main train station and looked for the “S” trains for the airport. The platform was not exclusive to trains going to FRA, so make sure the ceiling-mounted sign at the platform notes that it is going to the airport (which may be “Flughafen”).

Nov 26-27, LH 710, FRA-NRT, dep. 1:35p, arr. 8:35am – Driven to plane in minivan with three other passengers. Not a Porsche, but still very cool. Again, good on-board service and OK food. Movie selection is awful and felt acutely since I’ve watched everything I wanted to by this second LH flight. TV tides me over until I switch carriers.

Nov 27, NRT – LH/F ground service escorted F passengers through security screening to ANA Suites Lounge. Nothing special about this lounge. The food is limited and mostly buffet. Good selection of drinks, but I feel bad drinking so early in the morning (and being time-zone confused)! Oddly, one passenger was escorted to my next flight, although I and another passenger were not.

Nov 27, TG 641 (380), NRT-BKK, dep. 10:45am, arr. 3:45pm – Service was excellent. Polished, professional and spot-on, unlike what I read from previous reports. Can’t tell if I enjoyed the food so much because it was not LH or if it was just good. Cabin feels a bit cramped, which is unfortunate given that it’s a huge plane. I asked if I could have a walk around and I was promptly given a tour! The forward lavatory is massive. The F seating area is wasted space, but it was pleasant for a change of pace. I can imagine it being much more valuable on long-hauls. The bed needed some extra pillows to make comfortable enough for sleeping.

Nov 27, BKK – met by TG ground service and driven to security screening and then to TG/F lounge. Before I tried it, I used to think the buggy/escort service was frivolous, but the drive was not unsubstantial. En route, I asked the escort if I had enough time for a massage, after which I assume (because she radioed in Thai) she proactively alerted the front desk at the TG/F lounge. Although my onward flight was in TG/C, they arranged a one-hour appointment at the spa without me asking. Perfect way to spend the layover.

Nov 27, TG 602 (330), BKK-HKG, dep. 6:40pm, arr. 10:35pm – Service definitely not as warm, but still fine. Second time in TG/C and I’m quite fond of their hard product.

Nov 27-28, Hong Kong – zipped through security, onto the Airport Express and took the shuttle to Intercontinental Grand Stanford. Arrived at the hotel within an hour of landing. Although I was the only person on the shuttle, it still had to make all of the scheduled stops for pick-ups. Were I to arrive at a busier time, I would probably have just taken a taxi, MTR or walked. Hotel was good. Even though I used points, they still offered me a drink coupon (used for a lovely cappuccino in the lobby bar the next morning) and free in-room wifi, which was decent. It’s not super-close to Nathan Road, but not far and just across a footbridge from the harbor-front promenade. I took advantage of IHG’s award flash sale. Otherwise, this hotel is not worth 50k points, especially when the other Kowloon Intercon, which is nicer and has the best location on the water, is 45k.

Nov 28, HKG – check-in located at Terminal 2 was a pain since you have to get yourself back to Terminal 1 for departure. TG/F lounge is a small section of the larger lounge. Nice gesture, but nothing special for F passengers. No escort.

Nov 28, TG 601 (380), HKG-BKK, dep 1:25pm, arr. 3:10pm – Service was fine, but still not as good as original TG/F flight. Still, a great way to get from Hong Kong to Bangkok.

Nov 28, BKK – buggy then escort through security. Although the ‘living rooms’ in the TG/F lounge aren’t totally enclosed (no door and the rear wall is open to the main terminal area below), they are separate enough to feel that napping is OK. I put on eyeshades and inserted ear plugs and was fast asleep on the couch in no time. I had another massage and must say, they really do get quite close to one’s business! Nothing untoward at all happened. In some ways, they take pains to preserve your modesty (you disrobe and lay on the table behind a sheet they hold up above them), but they also massage your back well below the waist and really get up into your inner thigh. Again, nothing upsetting, just surprising. Buggy and escort to plane for boarding. Again, this was welcome since it seemed quite far. Had to go through security screening another time.

Nov 28-29, TG 640 (380), BKK-NRT, dep 10:45pm, arr. 6:15am – The first TG flight of this itinerary remains tops in service, but this crew still did a great job. My pre-ordered meal was the best food yet of the trip (Thai set menu, seafood option). Thai food seems to be uniquely well-suited for in-flight catering. Slept well after padding the bed with extra pillows. I’m obsessed with the spaciousness of the lavatory. Every time I go in there, I giggle. Even the much smaller rear F lavatory is a marvel to me.

Nov 29, NRT – ANA Suites Lounge – Narita was still asleep when we deplaned. I looked for my departure gate on the board and then made my way to the ANA Suites lounge nearest it. I initially got situated in a cubicle, but decided to post near the window in the main seating area instead. It’s really quite dark in the back and it was a lovely, sunny day out. Given the limited buffet, I turned to the made-to-order food for a beef bowl.

Nov 29, NH 209 (777), NRT-FRA, dep. 12:00pm, arr. 4:15pm – Up until this point, this was the best flight. The seats, while not as sophisticated in look as LH’s, had the best controls and was quite comfortable. With the foam mattress pad and pillow, it was also a great bed. I also welcomed a fresh set of movies. But what really made this flight special was the food. Excellent gourmet Japanese and Western options. Far and away the best I’ve had on a plane and even memorable when compared to meals I’ve had on the ground! The service was also great. And the pajamas and blanket were tops! I wish the seat (cubicle) were a little less enclosed – not very easy to look out the window nor would it be easy to engage your companion if you were seated in the middle two seats. The F lavatories also had washlets, which are utterly ridiculous and very awesome. I really look forward to flying NH/F again.

Nov 29-30, Frankfurt – train to/from Intercontinental Frankfurt. Hotel itself really needs to be refreshed, but I can’t argue with the rate I paid through olotels (via hotelscombined). I was a bit leery of this OTA, but they came through for me very well. The hotel is near the train station (the Le Meridien is closer). They honored my IHG Platinum and gave me free wi-fi. Breakfast was included in the rate. Fine enough to hold me over until I got to the LH FCT.

Nov 30, FRA – LH FCT for quick breakfast before my flight. Unlike my last departure out of the FCT, I was driven solo to the plane in a Mercedes S-class sedan. Unfortunately, the plane was right around the corner, but it was still really cool.

Nov 30, LH 440 FRA-IAH (380), dep. 10:00am, arr 2:10pm – I made a last-minute change to fly on the A380 and I’m sure glad I did! The cabin itself is really sophisticated and elegant. It’s open, which really worked (helps that cabin was half full) and felt very spacious. The lavatories alone are worth it. Unlike Thai’s A380, the space is much better used with a big sink and counter, a sitting area that makes sense and a separate urinal, which was a revelation to me (I suppose I have a thing for plane lavatories)! The food and service seemed better than on previous LH/F 744 flights. Maybe it was the suggestive power of the A380, but I really believed their earnestness when they said I could have whatever, whenever from the menu. On the 744, however, the service seemed much more automated. I’m sure they would’ve obliged if I asked for flexibility, but they didn’t come close to the graciousness of the A380 crew.

Nov 30, IAH – Breezed through immigration with Global Entry. I especially loved that there was also a separate exit channel for those with only carry-on luggage. Quickly made my way to my connecting flight home. I’m currently on a UA flight, IAH-LGA (food is bad, but service is great), which had to be booked separately since I apparently exceeded the maximum segments for my ticket. It obviously pales in comparison to the flights I’ve just had, but I’m more than a little happy to be on US metal on a domestic flight heading home.

Just thinking about this trip, I’m exhausted all over again. But it was a ton of fun and something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the time or motivation to do (thank you, devaluation?). My goal was to have as many F flights as possible, trying to take advantage of home airport lounges. Even though I wanted to minimize paid hotel stays en route, I’m glad I had the night in Frankfurt on the way back i addition to my one night at my destination, HK. My partner and I are going to SE Asia immediately after Christmas, so fingers crossed we can experience some of this together.

Again, feel free to ask any questions and hopefully I can help with you trip planning. Thank you FlyerTalk and OMAAT for such a wonderful trip!
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