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f4free & airoli's First Class extravaganza - SQ/LH/KL/BA - Part I

f4free & airoli's First Class extravaganza - SQ/LH/KL/BA - Part I

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Old May 2, 03, 1:47 am
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Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: ZRH
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f4free & airoli's First Class extravaganza - SQ/LH/KL/BA - Part I

f4free and I had agreed to split the work of writing this trip report, and had intended to post the two parts together. However, since I am off again tomorrow and f4free's part isn't ready yet, I will publish my half now and hope for f4free to finalize his report soon. He will cover in detail the flights on LH and KL as well as our stay in Singapore.

Prologue

It was on a sunny afternoon in March that I was walking up 7th Avenue towards Times Square, having some time to kill before meeting AusTXhiker at the Sheraton for a fun weekend in the Big Apple. I decided to quickly check my email at the easyEverything café, bought a $2 ticket and logged in. One of the messages in my mailbox had the subject "Feel like doing F Class for CHF3000?" and was from fellow Flyertalker f4free. Turns out he had found this thread and wanted me to join him for a trip to Singapore via Cairo in "paid" First Class. I immediately emailed him back that I was very interested, and we met "real-time" in the FT chatroom shortly afterwards to start planning. By the time I had run out of money, we were almost ready to book...

Back in Switzerland we did some research and finally tried to book for a long weekend in June. I managed to get the tickets, but shortly afterwards and before f4free could secure seats, the fare went up a bit and the availability for the chosen dates was gone. So we rescheduled to the Easter weekend and then searched for flights to/from CAI. I chose by price and schedules and ended up with a good fare on BA. f4free booked KLM where he is Elite.

About a week prior to departure, LH called us and informed us that our planned flight CAI-FRA had been cancelled, and that we had been rebooked on a later flight without F. The negotiations on compensation are still going on, let's just say that so far what they offered was ridiculous.

I would like to thank all the Flyertalkers who helped us with suggestions on seat assignments, meals, hotels, lounges, and how to make the most of our trip. Their info was most valuable in the preparation phase and most appreciated on the actual trip. Special kudos to FlyByNight, LHR/MEL/Europe/FF and Rudi.

The journey

BA713 ZRH-LHR 17/APR B767-300 G-BNWW 13A Economy


I got to Zurich Airport around noon for the 1pm departure to Heathrow. A couple of weeks ago, BA along with the other oneworld carriers serving Zurich has moved from Terminal B (now called Terminal 2) to Terminal A (now 1), formerly used by the Qualiflyer group. When I got off the escalator to the departure hall, a couple of LX flight attendants approached me and asked me if I was travelling on SWISS today. I declined and turned away, but they noticed the TCGM tag on my carry-on and said "Oh, but you got this tag, so you are a customer of ours!". Thus, I was given a rose like every other SWISS pax, along with a little note saying that despite salary cuts, the LX crews are still very thankful to have my business and that they would like to "let flowers speak instead of critics". Very nice gesture, but unfortunately flowers don't travel well so I passed the rose on to the lady at the bank counter where I changed some money.

Check-in with BA was all the way to Cairo, but I had to stand in line about 10 minutes before being served. The agent helping me asked if I was familiar with the Heathrow terminal change proceedures and also placed a "Rapid Transfer LHR" bag on my case, despite my layover being 4 hrs. She also told me that BA was now using the check-in desks in Terminal 1, but will continue to use the Gates in Terminal 2 for "a few more weeks", so she wanted to send me over to Terminal 2 at that time. I declined and went to the LX lounge in T1 to kill the remaining time until boarding, checking Gallileo for my flights to come and calling f4free.

Boarding time finally arrived and I made my way over to the T2 bus gates, where an additional document check was performed. The staff there insisted that I would need a visa for Egypt, which I did not have. I informed them that I could buy the visa stamps at CAI airport, but they only let me on board after checking back with whoever they called.

We were bussed to our 767 and I settled into my window coach seat, which I found surprisingly comfortable for the 70 minute flight to come. The captain came on the PA and informed us about the flight. While we were taxiing I noticed a Virgin A340-600 being towed to the maintenance area. I guess SR Technics does their delivery tests??

This was my first flight on BA, and I noticed two things worth sharing: First, "internal" cabin announcements on BA are very friendly and polite. SWISS captains will say "Cabin crew, yellow door selectors to armed", whereas BA pilots say "Would the cabin crew please put the doors into inflight positions" or so. Second, and this is my personal taste only, I really don't like the pink & purple uniforms the female cabin crew members wear.

Anyway, we taxied on the runway, waited, and taxied off the runway again. The flight deck informed us that they were missing some figures from <whatever> in Brussels, since apparently their fax machine had run out of paper and they weren't allowed to take off without these figures cleared. We waited for about 10 minutes until somebody in some office had found more paper, and then were on our way to London.

I won't go into details about the inflight service, suffice to say that it was the all day deli BAg. Thinking of the many more airplane meals to come, I skipped it all together and only had a cup of tea. We got into LHR's Terminal 1 about 20 minutes behind schedule, still leaving me with ample time for the transfer to T4 before I was to meet BAGold. I went landside, took the Heathrow Express and then waited in line for about 15 minutes at T4 security, jealously looking over to all the people using FastTrack. I really want LX to join oneworld and my status being valid here too! After clearing security, I explored the shopping mall doubling as airport terminal until my mobile rang. It was BAGold telling me to meet him at Gate 14. I attached the FT baggage tag to my carry on and went there, eventually finding BAGold who immediately invited me to join him in the Concorde lounge until boarding for our flight to CAI commenced. Given that this was still 2 hours away, I had enough time not only for chatting with BAGold, a very nice gentleman and perfect representative of the "Flyertalk spirit", but also for exploring this exclusive place a bit. How lucky I was, first trip on BA and already in the Concorde lounge. I could even watch the wonderful and soon extinct bird being towed into the gate for the eveing flight across the pond. I also sent a text message to LHR/MEL/Europe/FF informing him of my current location. Shortly afterwards, I was paged to the reception desk. I wondered whether for some strange reason I had been upgraded or bumped, but when I got to the counter the lovely agent there asked "Mr airoli, would you like to talk to Mr LHR/MEL/Europe/FF?" Somehow he must have had the number of the Concorde lounge, and called me up. We chatted for a while, with the agent trying hard not to listen to the conversation too obviously. Given that I used words such as "First", "Singapore", "Krug", "Concorde", "Pyramids", "Lufthansa" and "Mexicana Gold" in short intervals, this certainly wasn't an easy task...

BA155 LHR-CAI 17/APR B747-400 G-BNLF 41H Economy

Eventually it was time for us to leave this sanctuary, BAGold looking very relaxed after his treatment downstairs at the Molton Brown spa and myself looking very eager to yet experience another first: flying on the 747 (see Humiliation II thread). We walked to the gate and boarded without much of a hassle. As BAGold was seated in First, he was able and kind enough to take me on a little tour of the aircraft, showing me all available classes (4 on this short flight). As we were standing in Club World chatting, a stewardess walked by offering us C amenity kits, thinking that we were seated there. BAGold declined, but I just took one...

I finally settled into my World Traveller aisle seat, which I found much more uncomfortable than the seat on the previous 767 flight. But the seatback TV did keep me busy through much of the 4h30 flying time. The takeoff thrust applied on the 747 did impress me, but the overall feeling in the Y cabin in such a huge aircraft wasn't quite to my liking. There was a meal service, I believe it was chicken or beef, and I had beef. The only thing I remember is that they served "profiteroles" with chocolate sauce for dessert which were actually quite good. The service was surprisingly polite and friendly.

BAGold came looking after me later during the flight, and he brought me his amenity BAg and F sleeper suit. Much appreciated, thank you!

After the movie had ended I read a bit and soon we started our descent into Cairo. With the wheels touching the ground, another first had been accomplished: my first visit to Africa. After disembarking, I bought the visa stamps (GBP10) and cleared immigration and customs. They did inspect my carry-on, but didn't find anything. Luckily, nobody asked me how long I was planning to stay in the country. It turned out to be just under 2 hours.

LH685 CAI-FRA 18/APR A320 D-AIQD "Jena" 3F Business

I walked through the underpass to the departure terminal, followed by serveral locals touting transportation, assistance, shortcuts etc., and went right back through security into the check-in area. Our original 2:15am flight with F service was cancelled and we were rebooked on a 4:15am A330 flight, but I had decided that I was going to try to get on the 1:15am A320 flight in return for more sleeping time in Frankfurt. The agent at the F class check-in informed me that I had to wait until more people had checked in and they would tell me if they still got any seats left. So waited in the very bland check-in area for about 45 minutes, and then was about to check-in when my mobile rang and f4free told me that he'd just landed on KLM and would now try to get on the same flight as I. The agent helping me checked my bag through to SIN, I filled in the departure form and was on my way to the gate where a second, much more throughout security screening was performed.

What followed is best described by f4free, but somehow he made it to the gate with a ticket in his hand, and we were among the last people to board the A320 for the 4h flight to Frankfurt.

Of course as this was a shorthaul aircraft, it did only have the "variable" Business Class cabin with seats that are really unsuitable for a longer journey. As we both had dinner on the inbound to Cairo, we hoped for the lights to be turned off soon after takeoff, but no such luck. The two decent but not overly friendly FAs served a full C meal, albeit on a single tray. I tried some lamb which tasted very "arabic", but I liked it that way. I really wasn't hungry though so I didn't finish it and only had one bite of the starter, cheese and desserts served. Tried to get some sleep afterwards, but the seat position kept me awake for the entire flight.

We touched down in quiet Frankfurt at 5.30am and immediately made our way to the taxi stand.

Kempinski Hotel Gravenbruch

Lufthansa offers its arriving First Class passengers a complimentary dayroom at this hotel, located about 15 car minutes from the airport in a quiet park with a lake. I was a bit afraid they wouldn't give it to us considering that we only had C class boarding passes on the incoming flight, but when I called them to check they said that they needed to see the boarding pass for the flight from FRA, which of course was in F.

Anyway, our cabbie sped down the empty Autobahn and took us to the hotel in no time and for approx. 30 Euros. There is a complimentary shuttle bus, but it only starts running at 6am which would have had us waiting for 30 more minutes at the airport. We had each booked a single room and checked in without problems. I found my room to be nice and well-appointed, except for the fact that my bed (and I believe so did f4free's) had a very strange, gel-like mattress that took some time to get used to. It wasn't uncomfortable though. I went right to bed and slept a good 4 hours before getting up again and taking a long and refreshing shower.

They had offered us breakfast at check-in (perhaps at a charge though), but we didn't have the time or the appetite for it. Also, there must be a nice spa in this property, but again no time to check it out. We returned our keys (no bill to be settled) and hopped on the shuttle bus back to the airport.

LH9762 (SQ) FRA-SIN 18/APR B747-400 9V-SPF 2F First

At FRA we went straight through security were we first encountered our crew for the flight to come, and then quickly checked out the F/SEN lounge at the B gates as well as the round C/FTL lounge next to our boarding gate B48. All internet stations were out of order (apparently airport-wide) and the food selection was unremarkable in both lounges. But the C lounge was much less crowded and smokey than the SEN lounge.

Boarding for the 747 was a complete zoo, but they made an announcement for F and C passengers to just skip the lines, which we did. Strangely there seemed to be some problem with our boarding passes since after scanning them, the reader clearly said "boarding denied". But after the agent had looked at my complete ticket, she told me to proceed anyway, asking her collegue to "just SOS us". I have no idea what that means. We walked down the jetway and were greeted by an SQ girl at the door. We were guided to our seats (f4free had row 2 middle, I was at the window) and our jackets were hung. Even before I had properly settled into my very elegant-looking SkySuite, the purser came offering a pre-departure drink. He suggested Champagne and asked if Krug would be satisfactory. It was. The flight was pretty full in Economy, practically empty in Raffles and 8/12 in First.

Shortly afterwards they started presenting newspapers (I took the Straits Times) and all the goodies: Bulgari amenity kits, Givenchy sleeper suits, slippers, eyeshades, and of course the beverage list and menu. In English and German, it read as follows:
***
SQ25 Frankfurt to Singapore
Lunch

Satay
With onion, cucumber and spicy peanut sauce.
The SQ signature appetizer was excellent. I did not dare asking for seconds at this early stage already. Should've...

Gooseliver with mesclun salad and fruits in season
Walnut oil and xeres vinegar dressing.
I did not find the salad to be anything to rave about, but the Foie Gras was very tasty.
or
Tian of crabmeat with avocado
Vinaigrette

Cream of sorrel soup
or
Clear oxtail soup with vegetables
The oxtail soup was rather bland I thought, definitely nothing spectacular.

Fine mesclun leaves
Balsamic herb dressing or Thousand Island dressing
This salad was fresh and crisp, and the herb dressing was surprisingly aromatic.

Lobster with scallops in shellfish sauce, mushroom flan and steamed potatoes
f4free had this after our 'book the cook' choice.
or
Chicken with grain mustard sauce, spinach, carrot and potatoes
or
Siamese style curry fish, celery, red capiscums, carrots and steamed rice
or
Stir fried sliced beef fillet in pinenuts-Chinese wine with seasonal vegetables and fried rice

Of course, we had both preordered the famous Lobster Thermidor, which came with buttered asparagus, saffron rice and a vine-ripened tomato. Not only was it presented very nicely, it also was absolutely delicious. f4free, whose family is growing saffron in Switzerland, said that the rice was very good, and he must be an expert.

Selection of cheese with garnishes
The cheese board was decent, they had Gruyère, a German cheese, a French goat cheese and a very tasty (and rich!) French fromage double crème. Unfortunately I don't remember its name, but I remember that we both had seconds. The garnishes included grapes, dried fruit, water crackers, bread and walnuts.

A selection of fresh fruit
I skipped this dish.

Cassata Napolitaine
Layers of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream with mixed glaced fruits.
Yummy, this was again very good, albeit a bit too sweet. It was served at exactly the right temperature (not frozen solid, but a bit melted already so that the taste can develop) and again presented very nicely.
***

While I was reading through the menu, the captain came on the PA and informed us that due to a missing passenger, we had to offload some bags and would be delayed for a couple of minutes. In the end, we left Frankfurt almost an hour late, but this time I really did not care as I was busy tasing both the Krug and Dom Perignon 1995 champagnes. I settled for the Krug eventually since it's less sweet and bubbly, but both were excellent of course.

During taxi, the flight attendant inquired when I'd like to have my lunch, and again wished us a pleasant flight. I could hardly hear the noise of the engines spooling up (and I couldn't see them from any of my 4 windows either), and we were en route to Singapore. Flight time was announced at 11:30h, and the pilot pointed out that we'd be flying "well north of the conflict zone". I reclined my seat, had some more Krug and started exploring the Wisemen system on the large screen. It was absolutely spectacular: A huge choice of movies and some 50 CDs, everything on demand. I compiled my own "virtual CD" and listened to it while waiting for the lunch service to begin. The headphones are comfortable and do noise-cancel decently. One negative aspect: I like to listen to music while at the same time watching the airshow. The only IFE system I know that allows for this is the one of LX. On the BA, LH and SQ systems, whenever I chose the airshow mode, the music would interrupt...

The lunch menu and my comments are described above, let me just add that the entire service was very courteous, friendly, professional and truly enjoyable. I was addressed by name every time somebody spoke to me, and they always repeated my requests, e.g. "Can I have some sparkling water please?" - "Yes Sir, sparkling water. Would Perrier be allright?". I got a kick out of that! Also, they offered different kinds of olive oil as an alternative to butter. Incidentially, those were the same small bottles that Crossair catered for their "pan'e olive" service some years back. I liked them then, I liked them now. As for the wines, here's what was offered:

Champagne
Dom Pérignon 1995
Krug Grande Cuvée

As described above, I sampled both (well, I guess it was more than just sampling for the Krug) and they were excellent.

White Wine
St. Aubin Premier Cru 1998 Charton et Trebuchet
Chablis Premier Cru Les Beauroys 1999 Domaine Laroche
Pine Ridge Chardonnay 1999 Carneros
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 1997 Dr. Loosen

I asked the FA to suggest a white wine to accompany the lobster, and she replied with "I'm sorry I don't drink". Not much help there. I sampled the St. Aubin and the Chablis, and only liked the latter. I believe f4free did try the Riesling.

Red Wines
1998 Cuvaison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
1998 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon
Pommard Premier Cru 1996 Labouré-Roi

I did not have any reds, but I think f4free did.

Port
Graham 20 year old tawny Port
I am a big Port lover, and accordingly had two glasses of this very "warm" and "smooth" Graham with the cheese. Exquisite.

Apart from that, the beverage list included a wide array of cocktails, spirits, soft drinks, teas and coffees. (I believe somebody once posted a scanned version on this board.) With dessert, I asked for an espresso, which was only mediocre. Later, f4free reminded me that I should have asked for the specfic blend I wished to avoid their house mix. I therefore requested the Jamaican Blue Mountain with breakfast, and it was spectacular. I also had some green tea before going to bed. And my mineral water glass was always kept full and replaced every now and then. [snob] I suppose they ran out of Perrier after a while, since they suddenly switched to Schweppes sparkling water. They did not ask me if this was okay with me. [/snob]

By the time the very elaborate lunch service was over, the sun had already set outside and we were over the Caspian sea. f4free joined me for a walk through the other cabins, resulting in worried looks from our First crew. And no, we did not wear the sleeper suits for our promenade in the back of the bus! But we were allowed to test the new SpaceBed in Raffles Class, and were both very pleased with it. I could easily imagine to sleep in this seat. However, avoid a middle seat since it can be difficult to get out when your two seat neighbors are sleeping. Once we returned to First, "our" FAs immediately inquired if we needed anything (to recover perhaps?). I had some tea and watched Star Trek Nemesis on the IFE. The movie was presented in astounding Dobly surround sound quality. After that, while most people got ready to sleep, I wrote a couple of postcards and asked a FA to mail them for me. She smiled and asked me "right now Mr airoli? I open the door and..". I interrupted her at this stage, laughing and saying that since the oxygen masks are so uncomfortable to wear, I'd prefer if she waited with posting them until we got to SIN. She smiled, bowed and left.

At that point, we had about 6h still to go and I decided to get some rest. f4free was asleep already. I went to the lavatory to brush my teeth and asked the purser to turn down my bed. By the time I was ready, so was my SkySuite-turned-bed, and I settled in for some sleep. Despite the fact that I found the bed to be very comfortable and definitely large enough, my body just didn't want to fall asleep. I was dozing and relaxing for about 2 hours, but never managed to really sleep. I gave it up eventually and browsed through the IFE for some relaxing music. They had a wonderful "Ella Fitzgerald Gold" CD available, and for the next 70 minutes I cruised at 37000 feet with 950kph, lying flat with my eyes closed and listening to Ella swinging. This was one of the happiest moments in my travelling life.

A little bit less than 2h out of Singapore, the lights were slowly turned on again and the passengers went to the lavatories to freshen up. I felt surprisingly relaxed, but was still anticipating a shower at the Silver Kris lounge. A round of juices and coffee (Jamaican Blue Mountain!) was offered, and then it was time for

Breakfast

A selection of fresh fruit
I remember having had excellent pineapple, melon, strawberry, and rasberry slices, beautifully presented on a palm leaf.

Fresh Birchermüesli or cornflakes
with low fat or full cream milk
or
Reduced fat yoghurt
Plain or fruit flavored
I had the yoghurt with some sugar. The FA poored the sugar into my bowl and said "Just tell me when" for her to stop. I said "when" and she giggled and left. It was only later that I learned that f4free used the same joke earlier in the flight...

Seafood noodle soup
Egg noodles in rich broth garnished with prawns, fish, scallops and vegetables
or
German breakfast
Local sausage, cooked ham, salami, cheese and scrambled egg
I admit having chosen the German breakfast, and it was just okay. The scrambled egg wasn't overly tasty, but they had a decent selection of rolls and bread available.
or
Free range eggs prepared on board
With bacon or sausage, vine-ripened tomato, mushrooms. Baked, boiled or scrambled

Again, service was top-notch. In hindsight, I think I should have asked for another glass of champagne with breakfast... once my table was cleared (btw, I like it that one can pull the table really close to oneself in the SkySuite), I filled out the ususal landing card and the new "health declaration", and then started stowing all my goodies in my carry-on. (Later it turned out that I forgot to pack my digital camera, which was then delivered to the Silver Kris Lounge by the airport police.) We started our descent, and I looked down onto Malaysia in the dawn. The gentleman in 2A gave us a little geography lesson of the area we were flying over, and soon enough we touched down at Changi. We taxied to the gate, and f4free rightfully took his sweet time to pack once we got up from our seats. He did make sure to take all his belongings with him. A final bow and smile from the entire First cabin crew, and my first flight on SQ was history.

Singapore

f4free will comment in detail on our adventures at Changi and downtown, as well as on our flights SIN-FRA-CAI in LH First Class. I will try to limit myself to a few additional remarks:

This was my first time at the Raffles The Plaza. A fine hotel with an airconditioned connection to the City Hall MRT station. Rooms are more modern and refined than those at the Grand Hyatt I was staying at the last time, but the location isn't quite as good IMHO.

Singapore police closed down the last shop in Lucky Plaza that sold software at "very competitive prices".

Sakae Sushi in Wheelock Place had a smaller variety of goodies on their conveyor belt this time.

A few masks could be seen at Changi airport, but none in the city.

Don't go to the Tiger Balm Gardens. Run-down and kitsch.

LH779 SIN-FRA 20/APR B747-400 D-ABVD "Bochum" 83C First

Perhaps we should have flown LH First initially and SQ First subsequently. The way we did it though it seemed to be a step down from SQ to Lufthansa, especially in the service attitude. On Singapore Airlines, we were treated with great respect and dignity. On LH, it varied between "motherly care" in the best and "what the hell do those young 'Schnösels' do up front?" in the worst case. I admit that two guys under 25 flying First Class together is perhaps not what these Flight Attendants see every day, but we were adequately dressed, polite and friendly. No need to be rude on their part!

The food was good, but the entire service wasn't as refined and "celebrated" as on SQ. But they did have the caviar service as a big plus. And let's not forget the etagère.

The Motzenbäcker Riesling was absolutely sensational! Hadn't LH bought the entire production I'd now be in negotiations with a certain winery. The champagne on offer is the one SQ has in Raffles.

I like it how they put up a little bar in row 83 where the wines and service items are presented, together with the signature LH roses. It appeals to the eye.

On the 747, the upper-deck cabin feels a lot less luxurious and private than on Singapore Air. The seat also is less comfortable. That did not prevent me from sleeping 8h straight though. A walk through C and Y and test-sitting in the C seat revealed that it is only slightly superior to the LX seat (which will soon be replaced if they survive).

The IFE has a very small screen and poor image quality. It doesn't live up to today's expectations in any class. But with the personal video casettes, it's sort of "on demand".

The F lavatory has a window. Lots of funny thoughts... However, it wasn't stocked with any amenities or flowers, and only had paper towels. When I asked the FA for a toothbrush and lip balm, she said "this is all in your amenity kit". On SQ, they have a drawer with such items in each lav.

LH590 FRA-CAI 21/APR A340-200 D-AIBF "Lübeck" 1A First

The same remarks again on the service and service attitude. The FA serving our side of the cabin was very stingy about giving out the sweaters. However, the purser introduced himself personally to me after takeoff and explained the meal service before disappearing in the C cabin. He was a nice fellow and also gave me a sweater without any problems once I asked him prior to landing. It was a turtleneck with zipper.

On this 3.5h flight, LH performed an entire longhaul service, which I find impressive. The A340 cabin is roomier and feels a lot more intimate than the 747 since it's got a 1-2-1 configuration. They also have a nice bar in front of the cabin where they present all their beverages. This looks almost like in a good restaurant.

Cairo

Since my return flight to London was only leaving at 7.30am the next morning, I had booked a USD60 room at the Heliopolis Mövenpick Hotel for one night. f4free had originally planned to wait for his 3am departure to Amsterdam without a hotel, but changed his mind and booked the same rate at the Mövenpick from Frankfurt. Both of us being LX Travelclub Gold members, we were entitled to the "meet & greet service" at Cairo airport, which materialized in the form of a charming lady who helped us through immigration and customs and guided us to the Mövenpick shuttle bus. f4free tried to check-in for his KLM flight before leaving the airport, but the KLM counters were not staffed at this time of the day.

We checked in at the Mövenpick and I think that we were given upgraded rooms, judging by the number of toiletries I got. Still nothing remarkable, but at least the room was quiet. f4free then called the hotel's tour desk and booked a car and driver for a 4h "sneak preview" tour of the Egyptian capital. I guess we could have bargained a¨lot more, but we weren't in the mood for it and the ride was cheap enough anyway. The patron of the limo service offered to take us to all sorts of bazars, shops and museums, but luckily f4free had been to Cairo several times before and could easily tell what was really worth seing. It turned out to be just the Pyramids, and some of downtown out of the car window. We were introduced to our driver, Hassan, and were on our way at once.

I can hardly think of any more striking contrast than the one between Singapore and Cairo. Extreme cleanliness and orderly driving there, utter chaos and unfiltered life here. Truly exciting. Hassan took great pride in pointing out all the international hotel chain properties in town, and also didn't mind stopping on freeways and bridges so that we could take some pictures. He then tried to make us visit the papyrus museum, but f4free declined politely and asked him to take us directly to the Pyramids.

It was almost 5pm already by the time he drove into a courtyard where we were supposed to change from the car to either a camel or a horse for the trek to the Pyramids. We were a bit reluctant at first, not knowing whether this thing was fishy or not, and I made the mistake to bargain the Asian way (i.e. taking 20% off the quoted price) instead of the Arabian way (50% off). But we stroke a deal in the end and were helped in climbing on our horses. f4free casually told me that he used to ride once per week some years ago, and then smilingly took the lead, leaving behind a challenged first-timer on a horse! Luckily, our guide and two kids helping him ensured that I got along.

What followed was a 90minute tour of the area, including several viewpoints where I could take my much-desired "airoli with Pyramids" pictures (it's the charter tourist in me!). It was sufficient to get a first impression of these manificient and magical monuments, but I wouldn't claim having really 'done' them. That will take another, more extensive visit.

Afterwards, Hassan drove us through downtown and pointed out many landmarks before taking us back to the hotel, where we had a drink before calling it a day. f4free had to get up again at 1am to catch his flight, so it was a short night for him.

BA154 CAI-LHR 22/APR B747-400 G-CIVD 48H Economy

I got up at 5am for this 7.30am departure. The shuttle bus ride to the airport took only 5 minutes, but there was a long line for checkin. Luckily, I still got my sought-after aisle seat on both legs. I tried to access the lounge based on my LX status (which says "any flight any airline"), but to no avail, so I went through security (each carry-on item was x-rayed and manually inspected) and hanged around at the gate until boarding was called.

I settled into my seat, checked out the movie guide and listened to the First Officer's announcements. He was a witty guy and came on a couple of times during the flight. On approach to LHR, he made an announcement "For those of you folks sitting on the right-hand side, you can now see downtown London with Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace. For those of you sitting on the left-hand side, well, you have a beautiful view of South London". Flying time was announced at 4:45, and we left Cairo on time.

Once airborne, a full breakfast was served with a choice of either scrambled eggs or continental breakfast. I went for the eggs and they were so-so. But the fruit salad that they had was fairly good. After the meal I watched some romatic comedy starring Hugh Grant for a while, and then walked to the back of the plane to look out of the window a bit. I was treated to a breathtaking view of the Grisons alps, Lichtenstein, the Linth valley and the Zurich region, all from 37000 feet. I have seen my home and office out of a plane many times, but never from this altitude as I am usually going to or from ZRH. I glanced down at the countryside until we left Switzerland over Basel, and then returned to my seat for the rest of the uneventful flight. We were awarded a few circles over Biggin Hill but still touched down on time. However, the airbridge at our assigned gate wasn't working, and we had to wait until BAA found some stairs for us to use. Standing on the tarmac and looking up at the 747, you realize how big those birds really are.

I had about 90 minutes to transfer to T1 for my flight to Zurich, and decided to try the Flight Connections Centre this time. Bad choice as security there was dreadful, I stood in line for almost 45 minutes before making it to my gate just in time for boarding.

BA716 LHR-ZRH 22/APR A319 G-EUPL 19D Economy

This flight was very uneventful, the sandwich in the all day deli BAg was edible and the service okay. One thing I noticed was how hard they tried to sell duty free items. Several announcements during the flight and cabin crew asking each passenger if he/she needed something. We departed a bit late but got to Zurich early. We had to bus it to the terminal, and much to my surprise we were brought to Terminal 1. It seems as if BA flights arrive at T1 in Zurich, but depart from T2??

Epilogue

First, thanks for reading this far. I hope I didn't bore you.

This trip was a whole lot of flying in a very short time. I must say that - also thanks to f4free's company - I did truly enjoy it, especially the F class parts. I consider myself very lucky and priviledged to travel this way, and I believe that I can value and appreciate it accordingly as long as it does not become routine. In retrospective, the trip was definitely worth the money I've spent, at least for this one time. I can't say for sure though that I will be doing it again in the future. But as they say, "never say never"....

Feedback appreciated.

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truly yours. airOli.
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Old May 2, 03, 3:05 am
  #2  
 
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Thanks for the wonderful report.
I'll be starting my F trip from CAI in 10 days. Could you maybe give some more details about the Cairo airport? The things I have heard about it aren't too pleasant and I will have to spend about 8 hours there.
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Old May 2, 03, 5:36 am
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Thanks for this excellent trip report, airoli! Very informative! I am also considering doing a FC-trip ex CAI (but I need some free time).

How about Egyptair for getting to CAI? In another post I've read, that they have cheap C-class tickets?

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by Rudi:
the cheapest ways are with Egypt Air (but these cheap fares are nowhere published). Ask them directly, not through a travel agency. Even business-class grey-market fares with them are very very low (if you meet certain minimum stay etc conditions).</font>

[This message has been edited by Frequent_Flyer1 (edited 05-02-2003).]
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Old May 2, 03, 7:20 am
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A wonderful trip report airoli. I enjoyed it immensely. An interesting comparison between SQ and LH. Perhaps if LX becomes part of OneWorld you will be able to compare CX/BA/QF F product.
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Old May 2, 03, 7:58 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by airoli:
Anyway, our cabbie sped down the empty Autobahn and took us to the hotel in no time and for approx. 30 Euros. There is a complimentary shuttle bus, but it only starts running at 6am which would have had us waiting for 30 more minutes at the airport.</font>
The taxi is the best solution - also during the time the shuttle runs. The shuttle transfer is quite slow: the bus doesn't wait in front of the terminal. You have to call the hotel (from one of the free telephones), then you have to wait for the bus. If you have bad luck, the bus had left just after your arrival and so you have to wait untill the bus drives to the hotel, drops the guests, comes back in order to pick you up and then drives you to the Kempinski. You'll loose more than an hour until you are in the Kempinski! It's ok to take the shuttle if you stay the night there. It's much better to go by taxi and save some time if you have only a few hours to relax. The return on the shuttle is ok becuase the shuttle waits in front of the hotel.


Very interesting to read your comments about the LH and SQ flights. Great report. I'm looking forward to read f4free's part, too.

BTW, I fully agree about the Tiger Balm Gardens. Such a waste of time to see colourful hokum.
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Old May 2, 03, 10:05 am
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In just a few minutes I'll post my first part covering my journey to Cairo as well as my "adventures" at Cairo airport. From what I have heard Egyptair is definitely less desirable than european carriers serving Cairo.
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Old May 2, 03, 10:10 am
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Frequent_Flyer_1: While Egyptair may have C tickets for reasonable prices, I wouldn't expect a lot from their inflight product.

Cathaana: I would definitely either get a car and driver and do some sightseeing during those 8 hours or grab a hotel in Cairo-Heliopolis, close to the airport. The airport lounge won't let you in until two hours before the departure of your flight (strictly enforced from what the KL agents said at the airport). There is a long tranist waiting lounge which is really a dump. Old oriental sofas, no drinks except coffee sold to you by the cleaning staff, an old and very small television and the atmosphere of a prison basement. Whatever you do, don't stay 8 hours at Cairo airport!
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Old May 2, 03, 10:16 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by f4free:
Frequent_Flyer_1: While Egyptair may have C tickets for reasonable prices, I wouldn't expect a lot from their inflight product.</font>
Thanks f4free: I thought so, I didn't except any special business-class care (just reasonable seats).

Looking forward to your part of the story! Keep up the good work!


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Old May 2, 03, 10:19 am
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This is the first (small) part of my share of our trip report. As AirOli stated above, I will be covering my KL flight between CAI and ZRH, my impressions of Singapore and the flights with LH from SIN to FRA and from FRA to CAI. Unfortunately, I am a little (ehm, very - to be honest) behind in getting it done, so I'll share the first part with you now. The rest should follow shortly ...

OK, so after having read about AirOlis encounter in the Concorde Lounge, I'll tell you about my KLM journey from ZRH via AMS to CAI, and my transit adventures at the CAI aiport. Everything else will be posted in this thread later on.
As KLM Plat, I was of course eager to earn a few base miles towards my status renewal and upgrade the flights with the many many "free" KLM miles I got through their generous status match promotion .

This was the first time I actually used the brand-new and very stylish check-in area 3 at the ZRH airport train station. While quite a number of Swissport-handled airlines had their logo on those fancy plasma screens, the blue crown wasn't shown. Luckily the Swissport agent was from the KLM team and offered to check me in anyway. I had only been able to confirm my mileage upgrade for this segment three days before departure because KLM recently reduced their PE upgrade availibility *grrrr* (see FD board). Lucky me - I was a happy camper in 4A.

After check-in I met up with somebody at the airport and - lost track of time. Bad mistake. When I checked my watch I only had 15 min. (!!!) to departure - and all the way from the Swiss operations center at the far side of the A terminal over to B39 !!!! I had to run run run and sweat sweat sweat! Luckily I there were a lot of friendly people so I could cut the line twice.

KL 1962 ZRH-AMS 17/April B737 Seat 4A Business

When I got to the gate, they were just about to start the very final call for MR. f4free. Just in time, there I was. Second to last on board and a bottle of water handed to me by a sweet dutch blonde . Lucky me! (BTW the only nice blond amongst dutch prison matrons - but all of them friendly ones this time ...). Like AirOli, I also experienced a document check at the gate with the agent insisting I would have to have a visa for egypt or else I couldn't board. When I noticed it was hopeless telling her one could be the visa stamps at Cairo airport, I showed her my LH onward ticket and told her I would remain in transit. While my itinerary raised an eyebrow, she let me on.

I can't comment on preflight drinks since the plane pushed back just after I boarded. Well, I guess my bottled water would also count in this case. After the usual long taxi time to the runway, we had a clean lift-off and rapid ascent. The plane was almost full - economy class looked like it was filled to the last seat, and business had only 2 or 3 empty middle seats. I didn't worry about having used miles for a flight where I might have been op-upped, since it was free anyway as part of a long-haul upgrade. After take-off, it did take the crew quite a while to get the service started.

First we were handed a hot paper towel, then came the drink service. I had a glass of white wine (something South-African, I believe) and my sparkling water - as always with a lemon. The cold meal was pretty much the standard KL deal: A piece of dried mead, a leaf of lettuce and a pasta salad along with a very sweet pink cream cake. The roll was nice and hot - they even had those nice olive bread rolls. Drink service was done twice during the meal service and followed my coffee or tea. The coffee was not more than drinkable, and by far not as good as Swiss's coffee or the nice espresso to come on SQ ...

I kept my cup when the tray was taken and asked for some newspapers, since I had forgotten to pick some up at the gate. They even had two Swiss papers, which I endulged in until we reached the gate in Schipol. Evidently the crew had taken jackets since they were passed out before landing. Visibility was good, and the landing into Schipol was uneventful. Our gate was E-5, just accross from my Cairo gate (E-2) and very close to the Crown Lounge. I really like the way a flight attendant waits just outside the gate to thank you and say good bye.

After checking out the gate area for my Cairo flight, which seemed well occupied but wasn't staffed yet, I made my way over to the Crown Lounge, where I mixed myself a Negroni on the rocks (Red Martini, Campari and Gin with a dash of Angostura) and downloaded my e-mails with my cellphone. When my flight was announced I made a quick call to AirOli and went back down to were I came from. Boarding started a minute after I got there, and I went straight to the door just before everyone gut up from there seats. I was first on board.

KL 553 AMS-CAI 17/April B767 Seat 1A Word Business Class

Having read horror stories about WBC on the 767, I was pleasantly surprised when I settled into my seat. It was a little bit narrow, but better than I thought. The 2-2-2 configuration made the seat seam very similar to AA's J. Being in the bulkhead row, I could rest my legs on the seat pocket and get pretty comfortable. Only seconds after I had taken my seat the FA came around to ask me what I would drink before take-off. I opted for the Piper-Heidseck, and explored the movie choice. The only one I hadn't seen yet and was vaguely interested ended up being "Manhattan Love Story". The flight was about half-full in Business and at least half-full in Economy. The egyptian lady booked in 1B opted for another seat, so I had the two seats to myself

Before take-off, I was handed an immigration form, the pack of socks and eyes with a pen wrapped nicely with a ribon, and the metal ammenity kit box. The socks were put on right away, but the amenity kit remained up-opened since I usually use my own earplus anyway and know what's inside. Also, I was handed the meal and wine menu.


Dinner Menu

Prawn hors d'oevre
Tiger prawns served with an apple and celeriac salad and pepper sauce

Chicken with turnips and apples
Grilled chicken breast in a rich red wine sauce served with a shredded beef and red skin potato purée, crispy turnips and apples flavoured with coriander
or
Grilled butterfish "Catch of the day "
Butterfish with a tomato and basil sauce served with balsamic aubergine and a potato and crab cake
or
Lamb medaillons with herb sauce
Medallions of lamb topped with a rosemary and thyme tomato sauce, served with saffrom parisienne potatoes, carrots, sugar snap peas and garnished with roasted cashew nuts

Selection of tart, cheese or fresh fruit from the dessert trolley


Wine Menu

White wines

Special Wine: Rijk's Private Cellar, Chenin Blanc, South Africa
Castello della Sala, Chardonnay 2001, Umbria Italy
King Estate Pinot Gris 2001, Oregon USA


Red wines
L'Enclos de Lézongars 1998, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux
St Supéry, Atkinson House, Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, Sonoma California


Champagne
Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut

Port
Noval 1997 Late Bottled Vintage


Desert Wine
Kaisergarten Beerenauslese, Neusiedlersee, Austria


Before the meal service, I had another glass of champagne. Of course, with the meal service there had to be some turbulences, so I had to hold on to my glass quite well. With the prawns, I opted for the Pinot Gris which I stayed whith througout the entire meal. It was a flawless, rather dry white wine, which IMO could use a little bit more character.

My main meal choice was the butterfish. Maybe a risky option, since fish usually is served to dry on airplanes. But this butterfish was excellent. Extremly tender and juicy, a lot of taste, and keeping up the promise of melting in my mouth. The balsamic aubergine was good as well, but the potato crab cake was kind of dry.

I had some cheese with port wine, which tasted young, and then some sort of tart I can't recall. I do remember that I wanted to try the austrian desert wine, but unfortunately I forgot to ask.

Manhattan Love Story certainly is a "light" film that's good to watch during an airplane meal. Typical happy ending.

After the meal I got to work on my laptop for about an hour and then napped for the remaining one hour and a half. The recline of the seat was satisfactory with my legs up at the bulkhead, but noticeably less then on 747s. It seemed comparable to AA's recline on the old 767 config, and even slightly better than LX's or LH's C class.

The approach at CAI was uneventful. I thought we flew by the pyramides (it was dark but there were red lights forming pyramides that we passed), but on our daytime approach a few days later I recognized a couple of antenna poles. The landing involved the 767 breaking heavily, and a short taxiway to the slighty antiquated fingerdock.

Transit in Cairo

I opted to save the 15 Euros for the stamps and went to the "long transit area". The transit counter was manned by a policemen stacking tickets and passports in front of him, hammering an ancient PC and simultaneously jick-jacking on the phone without pause. When I approached him, he grabbed my ticket and passport, handed it to an aiport agent and sent the guy off before I could protest. "Chav a sit!" So I sat down on one of those arab sofas that were placed all over the "long transit lounge". It seemed more like a basement recreation room of an egyptian jail house. A small TV was placed in the corner, and two african families were sitting there looking like they had been waiting for hours. A guy in the cleaning personnel's uniform came around offering coffee from a plastic cup (presumably for sale) which I declined.

I called AirOli who was just checking in for the 1:15 flight, which we had discussed as an alternative to the 4:15 with an old Sabena aircraft. So I had an hour to tranit to the earlier LH flight. Then it struck me - the agent had no clue I wanted the earlier flight. I went up to the policemen and tried to explain to him that the flight I wanted to get on was leaving in 40 minutes! After repeating this three times (unfortunately I don't speak arab, except "la" and "shukran"), he simply said "Jur flait is cancelled - chav a sit!" Then, what luck, two European-looking guys came by - they happened to be some type of LH mechanics. I explained to them I wanted to get on that earlier flight and that the had run off with the tickets. I asked to speak to the station manager, since I was on an F class ticket. They explained to me what I already knew - that my flight had been cancelled and the two flights of the day had no F - and finally offered to contact the station manager. In the meantime, I called AirOli to tell him about my efforts. Boarding didn't seem close to being started. After a 15 minute wait an arab LH supervisor made his way to the transit counter, only to explain that the flight was closed and that I would surely appreciate longhaul business class rather than the A320 that was used for the 1:15 flight. When my friendly and polite way of asking didn't change a thing, I firmly and calmly stated that I was on a paid first class ticket, already downgraded to C, not willing to wait four hours for the next flight only to get a seat I couldn't sleep in anyway. I emphasized my wish to get to FRA as quickly as possible in order to get some sleep in the dayroom provided. Finally, he offered to try his best, which I greatly thanked him for.

After 10 minutes on the cell phone the agent came back with my passport and boarding pass, and the LH supervisor asked me to follow him, as quickly as possible, to the gate. I got my boarding pass at security screening, where I was the last passenger. My bags were opened and manually searched, evidently because the screeners were eager to check out my new Ericsson P800 "Smart Phone" and IBM Thinkpad, as well as all the chargers and accessories. The guys even enjoyed poking through my To Do list and calender, and started playing "Men in Black" when the LH agent signaled that the plane was waiting ... (They must have never seen such a tech toy before ...).

Well, two lessons learned: Buy the stamps, go through the normal landside check-in routine, and - never - rely on CAI transit counter!

[This message has been edited by f4free (edited 05-02-2003).]
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Old May 2, 03, 2:41 pm
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Having written many travel reports and knowing how difficult and time consuming they are, CONGRADULATIONS! I will be writing a mileage run First Class trip report next week and I already have one full day put aside for writing everything. Thanks
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Old May 2, 03, 4:12 pm
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Thanks for your feedback, and danke f4free for posting your first part.

cathaana: I agree with f4free, you wouldn't possibly want to spend 8 hours at CAI airport. It really is nothing nice at all. Go see Cairo!

Frequent_Flyer1: I don't know about Egyptair, but I don't think they fly into ZRH? Also, driving to and from the airport I have seen their training center and catering ops in CAI. Let's just say it did not necessarily make me wanting to fly them.

LH738: Thank you for the info on the Kempinski. Chances are that I will be staying there again sooner or later...

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Old May 2, 03, 4:49 pm
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AirOli

Great report. Flew LH & SQ SYD SIN FRA LHR returnon SQ & LH in Y and the contrast in service was quite outstanding. There was no comparison to those lovely Singapore Girls to those LH Nazis. Mind you , I thought the LH short haul crews were just marvellous.

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Old May 3, 03, 1:15 am
  #13  
 
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by airoli:
Frequent_Flyer1: I don't know about Egyptair, but I don't think they fly into ZRH?.</font>
No, your are right, they don't fly to ZRH. You would have to fly from MUC or via Rom / Mailand.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by airoli:
Frequent_Flyer1: I have seen their training center and catering ops in CAI. Let's just say it did not necessarily make me wanting to fly them.</font>



What did LH offer you for compensation?


[This message has been edited by Frequent_Flyer1 (edited 05-03-2003).]
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Old May 3, 03, 6:17 am
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Well, they offered us 10'000 miles - in our opinion a joke. We are still fighting.
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Old May 3, 03, 7:21 am
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Lovely report, airoli. Feel like I was there....
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