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baggageinhall Apr 27, 09 6:03 pm

India in F (Lufthansa F, Thai F, Swiss F and Jet Airways domestic J) Pics
Note, this is a long trip report. I have broken into into several posts to make it easier to read in more that one visit. But hey, grab a coffee and read it one go!

My previous TR's can be found here:

Swiss and SQ F LHR-JFK-LHR


VS PE LHR-JFK-LHR with child!


In late 2008, I decided that I wanted to go and visit my Grandmother in India. She is in her mid-eighties and I hadn’t been for a while. I saw a two week block in my diary in early February 2009 that I could keep free and so I began to plan.

It started as a very simple trip. My decision to go coincided with BA's sale offering award flights at 50% of their normal level. As I had just over 75,000 miles I booked a First Class return ticket to Delhi. The following day however, I realised that I could trigger my Amex 2 for 1 voucher and so I cancelled the booking and used the same 75,000 miles plus the voucher to book 2 F seats to San Francisco for Mrs BiH and I in October 2009.

I turned instead to my healthy BMI account and with some hesitation, spent 100,000 miles on an F flight with Lufthansa. The routing was LHR-FRA-DEL returning DEL-MUC-LHR. This would allow me to enjoy two different LH aircraft and both the flagship FCT at Frankfurt and the recently renovated FCL at Munich.

Those of you with BMI accounts will (any many without who read FT) will know that BMI’s Diamond Club is one of the most generous FF schemes around. With LH’s purchase of BMI, many speculate that it’s demise is imminent and that we will all ‘benefit’ from being merged in LH’s Miles and More scheme.

One of the vagaries of Diamond Club is that whilst you can’t book an F seat on LH using miles+cash (a half miles + modest cash supplement for those not familiar with Diamond Club), you can use that option to book an F seat on any other *A carrier.

This got me thinking, the same 50,000 miles that would take me home via Munich could be put to better use. Since I was flying alone, a crazy routing just to try a lounge here and a F seat there would not be met with raised eyebrows from Mrs BiH implicitly questioning my sanity.

Those 50,000 miles could be used instead for two awards, Delhi to somewhere in South-East Asia and then somewhere in South-East Asia to Heathrow. I decided to search for the latter first. My first thought was to try and get an F seat on ANA’s NRT-LHR flight. No joy. How about to one of their other European destinations – still no joy.

My thoughts turned to SIN and BKK, wondering if I could get a seat on Singapore Airlines (SQ) or Thai (TG). I could see availability on both. Whilst taking stock of the situation, I navigated over to the BMI Diamond Club forum and saw that someone had found availability on SQ’s A380 in C! I got back onto the ANA site and whilst I could see seats they were LHR-SIN and not in the other direction. Even if I could find seats in the other direction, did I want to travel C when F was available for a few more miles? No.

Deciding between TG and SQ took me back on FT. The reports were that TG F was hit and miss; I erred on the side of caution. Turning then to SQ, I flew SQ F in October from JFK to FRA and whilst I enjoyed it, in retrospect, I preferred the Swiss (LX) flight from ZRH-JFK on the same trip. How could I forget such a wonderful experience! Expertflyer revealed no availability in F (or C for that matter) from SIN or BKK – it is the same flight and popular by all accounts. My attention then switched to alternative LX destinations in the region, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. Japan is on my list of countries that I want to visit, but I want to do a proper tour and didn’t want to break the excitement by a 12 hour ‘quickie’. I hadn’t been to Hong Kong either, it was closer than Tokyo and as I would later discover, easier to get to from Delhi.

I booked the HKG-ZRH-LHR flights, noting that LX use the ‘Wing’ lounges at HKG and not United’s RCC (or SCC as I refer to it, the ‘Stained Carpet Club’ based on my experiences to date in other locations).

Getting from Delhi to Hong Kong would either be on SQ via Singapore or TG via Bangkok. SQ use their 777-300ER on some of their Delhi flights and the no redemption rules in F and C apply to that too. What I could see was TG DEL-BKK in C on a regional config 777 connecting on to a new config 744 in F. A short flight in TG’s F seat and 2.5 hours in the Royal First lounge and spa sounded good; as for the regional 777, it looked like I could get some sleep on those seats, which for a flight leaving at 00:05 was all that really mattered.

I had arranged to meet up with one a good friend who was working in India. We had decided to go to Amritsar and see the India/Pakistan border and the Golden Temple. As it was a 1 night trip, the prospect of an 8 hour train journey each way vs a 1 hour flight was simple. We booked two cheap flights, Jet Airways Delhi-Amritar and Kingfisher Amritsar-Delhi. It was the same price as booking a return with either airline, the decision to split the trip was due to the flight timings.

The final part of the trip was deciding how to get to Pune. I had some Emirates miles from our honeymoon that were soon to expire. I just had enough for a domestic ticket in C on Jet Airways and so booked myself on the direct flight from Delhi to Pune. A few weeks later, Emirates rang to say that they had been advised of a aircraft change by Jet. I was now waitlisted in Economy on the flights I had booked. Jet had temporarily changed the aircraft on both flights to an all Y config. I was given a choice of cancelling the ticket or a refund of the miles between a C and Y ticket? Neither option was particularly useful. A refund of the miles would have left me with miles that would expire before I could put them to use and cancelling would leave me having to buy an expensive ticket.

The lady from Emirates told me that her Supervisor would ring me back later that morning to discuss my options. Being used to the BMI International Call Centre I made a mental note to call back that evening as the promised call would not materialise. To my surprise I received a call back within the hour. I was presented with a choice, a confirmed Y seat or seats in C via Mumbai with a short (but not too short) connection time. I took the later. Let’s face it, by this point my trip already contained flights for flying sake, what harm could two more do?

So, in short this trip report will cover the following :

To India via the LH FCT (Part 1)
LHR-FRA – Lufthansa Business Class on an A300
The Frankfurt First Class Terminal
FRA-DEL – Lufthansa First Class on a 747

A quick trip to Amritsar (Part 2)
DEL-ATQ and ATQ-DEL – Jet Airways and Kingfisher Economy both on an ATR-72

Pune – from sleepy back water to an International hub (Part 3)
DEL-BOM-PNQ and PNQ-BOM-DEL – Jet Airways Premier Class on various 737’s
The Jet Airways lounges at Delhi, Mumbai and Pune

A day trip to Hong Kong via Bangkok (Part 4)
DEL-BKK-HKG - Thai Business Class on a regional 777 connecting to Thai First Class on a 747
The Royal First Lounge and spa at Bangkok

Flying in the right direction; homeward bound (Part 5)
HKG-ZRH-LHR – Swiss First Class on an A340 connecting to Business Class on an A321
The Wing Lounge complex at Hong Kong

Those of you who have read my previous trip reports know that I am prone to sampling as much food and drink on these sorts of trips as possible. All in the name of a good trip report of course! Small amounts of top quality food and drink – must remember the emphasis on the word small…

The Snow
During the afternoon of the 2nd of February 2009, London witnessed a rare sight; snow, but no ordinary snow, this was snow that appeared to be sticking to the ground and building into something.

That night I stayed up to watch the Super Bowl (as I always do) and noticed that the snow was getting heavier. By the end of the game, around 4am, the snow was about a foot and half deep. I began to worry and check the weather forecast. It didn’t look too good. The country was bracing itself for the worst winter in 20 years with plenty of snow and immeasurable disruption.

I spent a large part of Monday 2nd February wondering what the night would bring. My local taxi company were willing to take me to Heathrow but insisted on picking me up an hour earlier than normal and charging just over a third more than normal. I spoke to a number of friends on Monday night, all of whom had struggled to and from work. They confirmed that taxis were scarce and taking the opportunity to charge well above their usual rates.

baggageinhall Apr 27, 09 6:05 pm

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.

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”

baggageinhall Apr 27, 09 6:06 pm

A quick trip to Amritsar (Part 2)
Seat 17D Ė Jet Airways Economy on an ATR-72
BiH: ďWhere are you, itís freezing and Iím not wearing a coat, Iím going insideĒ.
Friend: ďEr, you canít, I havenít got a printoutĒ

One of my best friends is a consultant and had been working in India for several months. We had decided to go to Amritsar to see the Golden Temple, flying out at 7am on Saturday and returning the following day.

I had completely misjudged how long it would take to get to Delhiís domestic terminal and so had arrived at 6am instead of 6.30am. I rang my friend who had just got into a taxi. Despite sending him a copy of the e-ticket and asking him to print out his own copy, he had neglected to do so. You arenít allowed to enter an airport in India without a copy of your ticket and so that meant I would have to wait outside in the cold for half an hour. Finally he pitched up and we walked into the semi-organised chaos that is the terminal 1.

Whilst I awaited my friends arrival, I noticed that none of Jetís flights had departed. In fact, it was quite quiet outside, it didnít sound like there was very much movement on the airfield. We spoke with our check-in agent who confirmed the fog had halted all movements but that the groundstop was now over and flights were arriving and departing. The Delhi fog is at its peak in December and January so I hoped not to encounter it on my trip.

The queue to get through security was huge and snaked all the way through the small terminal building. It took just over 30 minutes to get through and we went directly to the gate, into a bus and to our ATR-72. Once onboard our departure time came and went. It was 45 minutes after our scheduled time of departure that the Captain finally addressed us to say that we would be leaving around 10.30. The ATR cabin is quite small and cramped and so after some negotiation, we were allowed to exit the aircraft and stand next to it. At 10.30, were asked to get back on the aircraft, the door was shut behind us and seconds later, we taxied out towards the runway, finally on our way to Amritsar.

The flight was full, a stark mix of Sikhs, many of whom were visiting friends and relatives, and tourists who were off to catch a glimpse of the Golden Temple. Despite it being a short flight, Jet serve a hot breakfast with the usual Indian choice of Ďveg or non vegí. My friend took what turned out to be the last non-veg tray and so I settled for the veg option. Upon simultaneously removing the foil covering, it was clear that I had won this battle. My tray contained a couple of soft parathas and spicy lentils and he had the dodgiest looking chicken sausage that Iíve ever had the misfortune of seeing. Iím glad that I didnít have a camera with me to capture it.

We landed and taxied the short distance to the terminal building. Like many Indian airports, Amritsar is undergoing a huge renovation program. We walked the short distance from the plane to the terminal building and took a taxi to our hotel.

The Golden Temple
Stunning. Worth seeing at night and again at sunrise.

Back to Delhi
Seat 7D Ė Jet Airways Economy on an ATR-72

When we planned our trip to Amritsar, we decided to take the first flight out on the Saturday and the last flight back on a Sunday. On arrival however, we realised that once we had seen the Golden Temple there was little else to do in Amritsar itself. On Saturday night I rang Kingfisher Airways to see if I could change our one way ticket back to Delhi. Both Jet and Kingfisher serve Amritsar twice daily, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon/evening. Kingfisher had no seats left on their early flight so I rang Jet. They had two seats on their 10am departure but wouldnít sell them to me over the phone. Anxious not to have to wait around all day and take our original flight in the evening I rang Air India to see if they had a flight on Sunday. They did, it was cheaper than the other two but again I was faced with a problem in trying to purchase a ticket. They could only accept a credit card over the phone if it was issued by a bank in India, Bangladesh or Nepal. Grrr!

After waking up at a ridiculous hour to visit the Golden Temple for the second time and see it at sunrise, we made our way to the airport. We arrived well before the Jet and Air India flights were due to depart and decided to purchase a ticket with whichever opened their ticket office first. We then found out that the Air India flight originated in Sharjah and was in fact the delayed departure from the night before. The aircraft was Ďon itís wayí and so were we; to the Jet Airways ticket counter.

We bought two seats to Delhi which were issued as paper tickets. Check-in was busy with most passengers (we later found out all except us) connecting onto other Jet destinations via Delhi.

Our flight was called and we walked the short distance to our ATR-72 via a further security screening. Onboard I can recall drinking a bottle of water before falling asleep, waking up just over an hour later during the long taxi from Delhiís new runway to the domestic terminal.

The afternoon was spent at the Imperial Hotel. A very leisurely lunch at the sumptuous buffet followed by beer and sport on TV at the bar.

baggageinhall Apr 27, 09 6:10 pm

Pune Ė from sleepy back water to an International hub (Part 3)
Check-in at Delhi
Having arrived far too early on Saturday, I decided to set off a little later on this trip. The traffic was heavier on a Monday morning and I began to realise that I was in danger of arriving late. I hate being late for a flight and on this occasion my trip to Pune was so short that missing my flight would have been a disaster. I rang Jet Airways from my taxi and managed to check-in over the telephone.

On arrival at the domestic terminal there were massive queues for all of the Jet desks. I made my way to the Premiere counters and found myself in a very slow queue of people, most of whom were concerned that they would miss their flight. I reached the front of the queue and explained that I had already checked-in over the telephone; this elicited no response and the agent continued to tap away at the computer. A few minutes later and I was told to go and speak to the supervisor. Whilst my e-ticket had my name spelt correctly, the computer had my surname with an extra character in it and this meant she couldn’t check me in.

I went over to the supervisor who looked harassed at the number of people with ‘issues’ that she had to sort out. After a few minutes of being ignored, I found someone and asked them to help out. She wandered off and came back with someone else’s boarding card. She then asked if I needed some help, when I explained that I had just spoken to her, she was adamant that I hadn’t and passed me on to someone else! I explained my predicament and within two minutes I had both boarding passes and was escorted to the front of the security queue.

DEL-BOM: Seat 1D – Jet Airways Business Class on a 737
I glanced at my watch and saw that it was now 15 minutes before our departure time. Considering that I had just over an hour to connect in Mumbai, I began to worry about making that flight. Boarding seemed to take ages (I drank several glasses of water) but the door was shut 30 minutes after our scheduled departure time and we taxied out to the runway almost immediately thereafter. Thankfully, the schedule padding meant that we were due to arrive in Mumbai on time. My seat mate in 1G could see that I looked a little nervous and asked why. I explained my concern and he chuckled telling me that he had the same connection and had done it many times before. I would be fine.

The mainstay of Jet’s domestic fleet is the 737. I would discover on this trip that they have three different interiors ranging from very old to moderately old with the occasional aircraft configured with new leather seats and IFE. The later are also used on Jet’s international routes. This flight was on an aircraft with moderately old interior which was still pretty comfortable.

Shortly after take-off the crew distributed the breakfast menu. It was a plate of fruit to start followed by a choice of an omelette with a chicken croquette, or a traditional South Indian breakfast. I chose the omelette which was soft and tasted like an omelette – a rarity for eggs on a plane. The croquette was crisp and the chicken inside, moist.

We arrived in Mumbai on time and parked some distance from the terminal. There was a separate bus for Premiere class passengers and once full, the doors closed and we set off for the terminal. As we passed the runway, I noticed an Indian Air Force helicopter landing near to the runway. Our bus came to an abrupt halt and a fire engine thundered past. We sat their for almost 15 minutes and my nerves began to fray again as I wondered whether I would make my flight to Pune. Eventually, we moved off an arrived at the terminal building.

The ‘chopper’ incident
It later transpired that I had witnessed part of this:

BOM-PNQ : Seat 2C – Jet Airways Business Class on a 737
I walked through the arrivals lounge and into the departure area. Jet use the new domestic terminal at Mumbai which is a far cry from the crumbling structure that I passed through some years before. My passage through security swift and complete, I headed straight for the gate and was amongst the last few to board the aircraft. This morning’s flight to Pune was full. As I settled into my aging Premiere class seat, I was offered a choice of water, fresh lime or juice. I took a glass of water and it was collected from me a few minutes later as the doors were shut. We sat on the ground for almost an hour without being told why. I drifted off to sleep, waking as the engines spooled up for take-off. It was later clear that the ‘chopper incident’ had caused a short ground stop and our delay was due to the backlog in planes taking off.

The flight to Pune was short (25 minutes) and uneventful. The seat belt sign remained on during the flight and crew seated throughout.

Check-in at Pune
The following day, I was back at Pune airport on my way back to Delhi via Mumbai. Pune airport is a permanent hub of activity served by all of the domestic carriers and Lufthansa who operate an all J config A319 to Frankfurt. I had telephoned Jet on arrival the previous day to see if I could get the issue with my name resolved prior to this flight. A very helpful agent put a note on my PNR which was picked up at check-in. The check-in agent wrote out a lounge invitation and invited me to wait there rather than at check-in whilst she printed out my boarding cards.

The lounge at Pune is a restaurant that has been split into several sections; one for Jet, another for Kingfisher and finally a space marked ‘severely delayed passengers’. On arrival at the lounge, you are handed a bottle of water and there is a small buffet of sandwiches and crisps to pick at.

The check-in agent came up to the lounge and handed me both boarding cards. My flight to Pune would be called for boarding shortly and so I was advised to make my way to security. The security check was swift (I paused briefly to s...... at a sign that read ‘Gents frisking area’) and I collected my bag. As I walked away however, I noticed that the tag was missing. In India, you have to have a hand baggage tag on your bag so that it can be stamped to prove that it has been screened. I turned to one of the security and asked them to re-scan my bag. What followed was a short conflab between three of them as they debated whether I would have to go through the security process again or just my bag. In the end it was decided that as I hadn’t been out of their sight, I was spared but the bag would be re-scanned. Bag and stamped tag in hand, I made my way to the boarding area and on to the aircraft.

PNQ-BOM : Seat 1A – Jet Airways Business Class on a 737
Once onboard I settled into my seat. The FA offered the usual choice of soft drinks before telling me that I was the only passenger in the Premiere cabin this afternoon and so I could sit wherever I wanted to.

This was one of Jet’s newer 737’s fitted with leather seats, footrests, IFE screens and a greater seat pitch.

The IFE was not switched on for such a short flight, but I did have time to try out the seat fully reclined during our very brief cruise (circa 10 minutes). The total load on the flight was less than 30 and we all got into the single bus that came to meet us.

BOM Jet Airways Lounge
I walked out of arrivals lounge and through the passageway into the departure area. The agent at Pune had been unable to give me a lounge invitation card for Mumbai and so I went to a check-in desk where one was provided. When Emirates issued this award ticket, they were unable to get me on to the first available flight to Delhi which left an hour before the one I was due to catch. I asked if I could get onto the earlier flight and was told that it would be Rs 3000 (circa £50). As it would only get me to Delhi an hour earlier than my scheduled flight, I declined and headed for the lounge.

The lounge is an open plan area on a platform above the departure area.

I grabbed a diet coke from the fridge and took a seat in one of the work booths shown above. A few minutes later, one of the waiters came over and asked if I would like some biriyani as they had just put a fresh batch out. I hadn’t had lunch so I took him up on his offer. It was quite tasty, not particularly spicy so as to cater for a wide audience but most importantly it was fresh.

After lunch, I walked over the windows (which were in dire need of a clean) and took a couple of photos of the apron.

BOM-DEL : Seat 2C – Jet Airways Business Class on a 737
I was approached by a member of the lounge staff and invited to board the flight to Delhi. It was the usual bus to the aircraft and scrum to get off and up the stairs. This afternoon’s aircraft was a moderately old config plane. The Premiere cabin was half full, everyone had an empty seat next to them. The last two passengers to board were Jetlite pilots in uniform. They took their seats at the back of the cabin.

I had a couple of glasses of watermelon juice before we taxied to the runway. Shortly after take off the crew distributed menus, which described the meal as a ‘light snack’. This comprised a full size main course followed by dessert.

The keema was hot, spicy and had the texture of gently simmered mince. It lacked that awful burnt edge that you can so easily get with mince. The pao felt like it had been marinated in ghee for a week or two and I managed no more than a small mouthful. Sadly, the coffee cake was dreadful and I stopped after a single small bite.

I was full and a little sleepy from doing nothing so I reclined my seat and had a short nap. I awoke as the Captain told us that we were descending towards Delhi and that as we would be landing on the new runway, we should expect a long taxi back to the terminal building.

The taxi was indeed long, in part because we stopped several times to give way to other aircraft. It was almost 40 minutes from wheels down to arriving in the terminal building. I got a ticket from the pre-paid taxi booth, watched several people cut in front of me in the line outside, and eventually made it back to the house.

baggageinhall Apr 27, 09 6:13 pm

A day trip to Hong Kong via Bangkok (Part 4)
Check-in at Delhi
After a hectic trip it was time to go home. Although of course I wasn’t going straight home, no I was flying east to spend a day in Hong Kong before flying west back to London. I questioned my sanity for no more than 4 or 5 seconds before heading for the airport.

Driving towards the International terminal, I was (not for the first time on this trip), pleasantly surprised to see the level of construction and progress at the airport. Once I had been allowed into the terminal (a very cursory glance of my e-ticket) I was taken aback by how different the check-in area looked. The shabby and randomly strewn desks had made way for a brighter and airier configuration. The information screens pointed me towards the Thai check-in area on the far left hand side of the building.

The far left bank of check-in desks was split between Air France and Thai, though there was little action in the AF section. Thai had 6 desks open, 4 Economy, 1 Business Class and 1 *A Gold. Two of the Economy desks were checking in a huge group of tourists travelling to Koh Samui. Consequently, the other 4 desks had fairly sizable queues. I joined the queue for the Business Class desk, which happened to be the longest and waited patiently. A few minutes later a Thai rep appeared and combined the task of handing out hand baggage tags with policing the queue. Minutes later I found myself third and not thirteenth in the queue.

The queue moved slowly but eventually I reached the front and checked-in. My boarding pass to Bangkok swiftly popped out of the printer but despite furious tapping away by the agent, my BKK-HKG boarding pass refused to follow. The agent explained that she couldn’t get the printer to format the boarding pass correctly to fit on a First Class boarding pass. I explained that I really didn’t mind what it was printed on as I was quite happy to get it sorted out in Bangkok. She laughed and said that she refused to let the computer win and continued to try, enlisting the assistance of three other members of staff. 10 minutes and a computer failure later, she gave up and handwrote the details of my BKK-HKG flight onto a blank boarding pass which she handed to me along with a lounge invitation. The lounge invite was ticked to indicate which of the lounges I was permitted access to.

There were no queues at the embarkation control point and I quickly found myself at security staring at a huge duty free shop. Again, when last at Delhi in 2003 I remember the inadequate seating and a duty free shop that was seemingly stocked with goods last seen in Russia circa 1972.

I almost made the error of going through security when I remembered that the lounges are upstairs before the checkpoint. I went into the ITC lounge and found a seat. I was glad to have turned up early as the lounge continued to fill at a rapid pace. I enjoyed a glass of Laphroig and surfed the internet, interrupted only by staff walking around enquiring if I was on Flight x, as they rounded up the stragglers.

Rather than wait until the last minute, I left for the gate 20 minutes before the boarding time indicated on my boarding pass. I wanted to have a look around the duty free shops and boarding area. Security took less than five minutes to pass through and I had ample time to wander around.

I arrived at the gate at boarding time to see that the flight was pretty full. A 777-300 with a small C cabin can hold a huge number of people and they were all here, chomping at the bit to get on board. Five minutes passed and finally there was an announcement that as the incoming flight had arrived 30 minutes late, boarding would be put back for he same amount of time. That’ll teach me to leave the lounge so early!

I wasted 15 minutes walking around the shops again and came back to see people slightly more agitated that before. As I arrived back, the gate staff announced that there were two lines, one for business class passengers and *A gold card holders and another for economy class passengers. A general scrum formed alongside the far wall where the two lines were supposed to be and I took that as my cue to sit down and wait.

The check-in agent who tried so hard to print out my F boarding pass to HKG spotted me and came over. She had finally managed to get the computer to print out a proper F boarding pass and replaced the handwritten one she had earlier provided.

I thanked her and she asked why I had sat down and not joined the queue. I explained that I was going to wait until it was less busy. She said ‘no, no, follow me’ and led to me the front of the queue, beyond the rope so that I stood in no-mans-land in between the rest of the passengers and the gate agents. Whilst it must have been no more than 10 minutes, standing there on my own as I heard others comment and question as to who I was and why I was there, felt like an eternity. Boarding was announced and I made my way onto the aircraft. I could see it was the new Thai livery, but my seat number gave away the fact that I knew it was an old business class config.

DEL-BKK: Seat 22H – Thai Regional Business Class on a 777-300
At check-in, the agent said that she would try and block the seat next to me. Alas a few minutes after I settled into my seat someone arrived to sit in 22K. A FA came over and invited him to sit in 22A instead. He told us that the load was such this evening that they would be able to sit everyone with a free seat next to them unless they wanted to sit as a pair.

I happily quaffed a glass of juice as I completed my usual pre-flight checks consisting of looking at everything in the seat pocket, playing with the seat controls and putting the amenity kit in my hand luggage. I made a quick trip to the lavatory before the seat belt sign went on.

I settled back into my seat. The Thai old style business class seat is like a big comfy armchair. The recline was sufficient for a short nap but as I would later discover, if the seats in front of you are both reclined and you are in the window seat, the chances of getting past the person in the aisle seat were slim to none. An accomplished lapdancer would have struggled to exit 22K with grace.

Shortly before we pushed back the juice glasses were collected and dinner menus handed out. I had planned on eating dinner before getting to the airport and sleeping on this flight but some last minute matters had cropped up before I left and so I was hungry despite it being just after midnight.
I made the long journey out to the new runway for the final time and we took off into what was beginning to look like a murky Delhi night. I would later discover on FT that several flights after mine were delayed due to the infamous Delhi fog.

The couple in front of me reclined their seats as soon as the seat belt sign was extinguished and slept all the way to Bangkok. The pangs of hunger and sleep began to compete. I selected my main course and explained that as I was quite tired, would it be possible to skip the starter and just have the Japanese croquettes. The FA said yes but must have forgotten as I was presented with a starter moments later.

I reminded him of my choice and he apologised explaining that he would be back in a moment to collect it and bring my main course. Sadly, this coincided with a patch of turbulance that last just over a quarter of an hour. As soon as they were able to continue service, he whisked away the starter plate and replaced it with the croquettes, sticky rice and pickled vegetables.

Hunger had defeated fatigue by now and I tucked into a meal that hit the spot. Just what I needed at coming 12.45am. As few people had decided to take dinner, my plate was cleared quickly and desert, coffee and a sedative Gran Marnier substituted.

I made short work of those and had around 2 hours sleep before being woken up as we approached Bangkok.

Thai Royal First Lounge and Spa at Bangkok
It was dark as we approached Bangkok but the airport shone bright like a beacon. There was a Thai representative at the door of the aircraft to meet me. She apologised that there was no buggy but we were at the cluster of gates next to the lounge so the walk would be short. At the Royal First lounge she handed me over to her collegue who, sensing that I need a bit more sleep asked me if I wanted a slumber room. I grinned like a child in a sweet shop and was led away to get some more shut eye. Before going into the slumber room, I asked to be woken 15 minutes before I had to leave the lounge so that I could have a coffee and take a quick look around.
Sure enough, I was woken with 15 minutes to go with a coffee ready for me. I wandered around the lounge with my coffee, stopping briefly to look at the room with plastic food. To explain, rather than have a menu, you are invited to have a look at various plates of food and select your dish. The chef looked disappointed when I said I only had 10 minutes before I had to leave and assured me that there were things he could make quickly. I thanked him and politely declined as I made my way back to reception.

I was driven to my gate. At first I felt a bit silly being able bodied and yet being driven what I presumed was a short distance to the aircraft. It soon became apparent however, that the gate was some distance away and I was quite appreciative for the ride. The Thai girl spoke virtually no English but cheerily said ‘Goodbye’ as I left to board the aircraft.

In a reversal of the previous flight, the aircraft was sporting the old Thai livery but had the new F and J config seats.

BKK-HKG : Seat 1A – Thai First Class on a 747-400
I was the last person to board the aircraft. The F cabin had only one other passenger, a tall wiry Thai man with an immaculate moustache. He immediately reminded me of a stern Brigadier dressed in civies. Perhaps he was?

I was welcomed at the door and escorted to me seat. I put my bag in the overhead locker and settled into 1A. There was a glass of champagne waiting for me along with a box of chocolates. No amenity kit on this short sector. The FA asked me whether I wanted to take breakfast or whether I would like to sleep after take off. She knew that I had arrived in BKK on the overnight flight from DEL and was happy to make up my bed if I wanted a little more sleep.

As we pushed back, I took a couple of photos of the main screen (used for the safety demo video) and 1K across from me. By only having 12 F seats there is a huge amount of space between 1A and 1K and it makes the cabin feel spacious.

I had indicated earlier that I would take breakfast. I was given a copy of the menu shortly after take off and asked whether I wanted the Tom Yung Khung that I had pre-ordered before or after the main breakfast items. Not feeling that hungry, I opted to have the fruit followed by the TYK.

The fruit was fresh but the soup was terrible. It was meek and lacked the right sour and hot notes. I was disappointed and the FA was insistent that I try something else. She offered to get me something from business class if I didn’t fancy the first class breakfast. I politely declined and decided that with 1.30 to go, I could get a quick hours snooze in. I woke almost exactly an hour later and within seconds the FA was at my side checking whether I wanted something to eat or drink. She brought me a coffee and stopped to have a chat. We talked for a few minutes and whilst it was clearly on her checklist (must talk to each passenger once), it didn’t seem forced or stilted. She came back with a second coffee, a Hong Kong Immigration card and a pen, which saved me from having to retrieve my jacket.

I filled in the card and then watched from the slightly different vantage point that 1A gives you as we came into land at Hong Kong.

Arriving in Hong-Kong
After a short taxi to our gate, I gathered my belongings and stood by 1L. I had a final chat with the FA who had served me as we waited for the door to open. Once it did, I walked up the airbridge and saw someone holding a placard with my name on it. Sure enough, there was a buggy waiting to take me to Immigration (though not one for my fellow F passenger). I felt silly again, partly because I was perfectly capable of walking but also because the buggy was limited to 5mph. My fellow F passenger walked and arrived at Immigration less than a minute after me.

baggageinhall Apr 27, 09 6:17 pm

My day in Hong-Kong
I decided to store my bags at the airport and so headed over to left luggage. I then walked over to the airport station and caught a train into Hong Kong.

The airport express whisked me into Hong Kong where I spent half a day doing all the major tourist things; the Peak, the Star Ferry and Kowloon and dim sum at the Lei Garden in the IFC mall.

I had, courtesy of the FT Hong Kong forum, recommended to me a number of fantastic restaurants but by the time I reached HK station it was 1.30pm and I was very hungry. The Lei Garden had a decent dim sum menu and after a 10 minute wait, I was seated at table ready to order.
Spring Rolls
Steamed buns with beef
Beautifully steamed dumplings
I decided that I had to try something out of the comfort zone so it was a choice between spiced blubber and duck gizzard. The gizzard won; literally in fact as I ate just two slices. It was cold and very rubbery. An acquired taste Iím sure, Iíll have to go back and try again.

By 6pm I began to feel tired. I had only scraped the surface of what there was to discover in Hong Kong but I needed a shower and a sit down. I made my way back to Hong Kong station and boarded the waiting Airport Express

baggageinhall Apr 27, 09 6:19 pm

Flying in the right direction; homeward bound (Part 5)
Getting back to HKG and check-in
The terminal building was fairly quiet and it took a few minutes to pay at the left luggage desk and collect my luggage. I took the escalator up to the departures level and found the Swiss check-in desks. Despite a fairly sizeable Star Alliance presence in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific handles Swiss. I don’t know if this is a throwback to the days of Swissair or Swiss almost joining OneWorld; either way I didn’t mind as it meant a visit to the Wing rather than the RCC or one of the other *A lounges.

Bags tagged and boarding passes in hand, I made my way through security and embarkation control. I didn’t bother to walk around the vast duty free area as I was in need of a shower and a drink so I turned left and entered the Wing.

The Wing Lounge at Hong-Kong

After leaving my bag with the concierge at reception I walked over to the lounge attendant in the middle of the main lounge area and enquired about a shower. It had been a warm day in Hong Kong and I was beginning to flag a little. One long hot shower later and I was reinvigorated and ready to try out what the wing had to offer.

I began by walking through to the noodle bar in the business class section of the lounge. I had done my homework in advance and heard great things about it. My big bowl of noodles (Japanese ramen with beef) took less than 10 minutes to make. When you order, the waiting staff hand you a small circular pager. When your noodles are ready, the pager buzzes and you go and collect your steaming hot bowl of silky noodles and juicy beef.

My hunger satisfied, I walked back upstairs to the ‘Long Bar’ and a glass of passable Chardonnay. Not wanting to drink another average glass, I switched to ginger ale for the remainder of my stay. I knew that I had the delights of LX’s F wine list later that evening and chose not to spoil it.

I walked back to the F lounge and caught up on some work. The three waitress were diligently (but discreetly) checking glasses throughout the evening, offering to refresh glasses when they were almost empty. I felt like a little snack at 10pm and so went into the F dining area. Drinks were served by a waiter but the food was a small buffet spread at the back. There was an impressive range of salad options, a hot plate (short ribs) and a few Chinese and European dishes. The lounge is catered by the Peninsula and was up to their usual standard. I made myself a Caesar salad and had a few slices of smoked salmon.

At 11.30pm, my escort arrived to take me down to the gate.

We arrived at gate 21 to see that the flight still hadn’t been called to board. He apologised and asked whether I would like to go back to the lounge as it was going to be 10 minutes or so before the flight boarded. I thanked him but said that I would rather have a quick look around the terminal. He told me that he would be taking all the F passengers on board and so asked me to meet him back at the gate in 10 minutes.

A quick stroll around the immediate area and I was back at the gate. The gate staff had arranged two queues, business and economy but hadn’t started boarding the flight. My lounge escort got the 7 of us in F and took us on board before the rest of the passengers. As we entered the jet bridge, there was a split, first left was for F passengers only and led to 1L. Straight on led to 2L for C and Y passengers.

HKG-ZRH : Seat 2K – Swiss First Class on an A340-300
The lounge escort showed me to my seat whilst three cabin crew assisted the other 6 passengers. I thanked the lounge escort for his assistance and he went back to the gate. I put my bag in the overhead locker above my seat and took my jacket off. As I did, one of the FA’s came over and introduced herself taking my jacket and a putting it on a hanger (marked 2K) that was sat on the ottoman. She asked me if I would like a drink and some amous. I received a glass of sparkling water and a small plate of amous and could hear the small business class demi-cabin behind me, fill up.

The potato and cheese cup was a little bland and greasy. The crab mouse was full flavoured and heady. The star of the show however was the pastry which was crisp, light and very moor-ish. When I had finished my amous, I was offered a refill of my now empty water glass or an alternative drink. I took a second glass of water and was given tonight’s menu. The FA asked if I had flown LX F before (I had), she said that although it had been omitted from the menu, there would be a soup course and a salad course tonight so I ought to make sure I leave enough room for them!

The FA serving me (and the Maitre de Cabin) noticed that I was that unlike my 6 fellow passengers tonight, I was at least 10 years younger and not travelling on business. As a result, they were slightly more informal and a little ‘Mumsy’ with me. I prefer this to the overly formal service that one can experience in F (and occasionally in J).

The Captain told us that we were looking at a take-off time at 12.30 (timetable 11.59) but that our flight time was such that we would land in Zurich on time. We left the gate at 12.15 and were on our way to Zurich just before 12.30.

Once the seat belt sign was extinguished, the FA’s came out of the galley and prepared the cabin for dinner. The cabinet in front of 1D and 1G was set up with water, a bottle of each of the wines on offer and champagne. Once the dinner service was completed, a selection of soft drinks were added and passengers invited to help themselves or hit their call button during the flight.

The FA’s came round and asked each passenger whether they wanted the full dinner service, a truncated version or just a single plate of something. Everyone, bar the man in 2A opted for the full dinner. He had asked for a plate of cheese when he boarded and it was brought to him directly as everyone else’s tables were set up. After he ate his cheese he slept and was the last to wake up just before we landed in Zurich.

The two people travelling in 1A and 1D decided to have dinner together using the ottoman on 1A. I had wanted to try this out when I travelled with Mrs BiH to JFK last year but the A330 that we travelled on did not have seat belts installed on the ottomans and so we ate side by side.

My huge table was laid with a with a crisp white linen tablecloth. As the FA laid out the various accoutrements, she suggested a glass of champagne which I took. It was the 1998 Cuvee Louise which I really enjoyed. It had all the qualities that you want in a ‘flight champagne’. It was medium dry with a no great alcoholic oomph. She poured me a second glass before the starter cart came out. I selected a few slices of balik salmon, a couple of tandoori scallops (executed well, the right balance between spice without overpowering the tender scallop) and a few slices of roast beef which sadly had seen better hours; it was quite dry.

I moved onto the salad choosing a simple bowl of leaves with some thousand island dressing on the side. The last time I had thousand island dressing was the early 90’s and it was as cloying and addictive as I remember! I had moved on from champagne to the Tokaji. As many of you will know, the Hungarian’s are famous for their sweet desert Tokaji but much less so for regular dry versions. This was a 2007 Furmint Tokaji and whilst a little young was very exciting with a fruit nose and a clean finish.

Whilst plating up my salad, I asked if it was possible to reheat my rack of lamb for as short as possible in a vain effort to keep it pink. I explained that I appreciated that a galley oven was not the most precise cooking instrument and with a wry grin, the FA told me that she would see what she could do! My lamb arrived, brought by the Maitre de cabin who told me that she had done everything possible to keep it pink inside. Indeed, it was the ‘rarest’ piece of red meat that I had eaten on a plane. She came back to check and I thanked her for her efforts. The soft lamb and vegetables, which were just on the point, were rounded off nicely with a big 1995 Bordeaux (Chateau La Tour Haut-Brion).

Fatigue was beginning to set in. I couldn’t face dessert and so skipped straight to cheese. I had a sliver of Reblochon and a few slices of mild Gruyere with a glass of Calem Port.

The FA could see that I was sleepy and offered to make up my bed. Whilst she did that, I changed into the comfy Swiss pyjamas. I got back to my freshly made bed and got 6 hours of sleep.

I woke and was amazed to see that I had managed to sleep uninterrupted for so long. I helped myself to a few glasses of water (though I was offered any drink by the FA on duty) and decided to get some more sleep. I got another 3 hours of sleep and woke to the smell of coffee coming from the galley and the noise from the J cabin behind me.

On getting up and out of my seat, a FA asked if I would like some breakfast and whether I wanted my bed turned back into a seat. I accepted and went to change out of my pyjamas whilst this was done. I returned to find a table laid out with fruit, a glass of orange juice and an espresso. The FA had remembered that after dinner, she had offered me a coffee and I had declined but told her that I would have an espresso with breakfast.

The fruit was followed by a beautifully presented hot breakfast. I ate the bacon and picked at the rest as I wasn’t really hungry for a full on breakfast yet. I also knew that if I got a move on when I left the plane, I could grab some crispy bacon in the LX F lounge.

I had another glass of orange juice and a second espresso whilst I listened to some music on the IFE system.

Right on schedule, we made our approach into Zurich. It was snowing lightly; it looked typically Swiss outside. We were part of a procession of Swiss A340’s and A330’s arriving from around the globe at this early hour. We taxied to our gate on the E dock and I thanked all of the F FA’s as I exited the aircraft.

Knowing that I had little time in the F lounge but determined to get some of that crispy bacon, I ran to the train and just managed to catch one as the doors were closing. Once in the main terminal, I made my way quickly to the F lounge where the attendant confirmed the gate for my flight to LHR and told me that I had about 35 minutes to use the lounge before I ought to leave.

Swiss First Class Lounge at Zurich
As I ate my crispy bacon and indulged in a glass of rose champagne, I watched the initial reports of the commuter plane crash in Buffalo, NY. Always a sobering thought after so many flights in the last couple of weeks.

At the time suggested earlier, I made my way to the exit where I found a member of staff waiting to take me through security. She took me to a separate queue and I was able to bypass those already waiting.

ZRH-LHR : Seat 1D – Swiss Business Class on an A321
The gate was just beyond the security area. The flight was already boarding with just a few people left waiting to have their BP’s checked. I walked up to the desk to see if 1A was occupied (I was in 1C), the lady told me that it was but that 1D and 1F were vacant. I moved to 1D and was issued with a new BP.

On the short flight to London, I read a newspaper and picked at my third breakfast of the day.

I did however, take several glasses of orange juice and a couple of coffees!

At LHR it took almost 20 minutes for the baggage belt to be announced, but my bags were amongst the first to emerge from within the bowels of Terminal 2.

baggageinhall Apr 27, 09 6:21 pm

In conclusion:

1. I think that the LX F product is fantastic. I like the hard product (though it shows its age) and the soft product both onboard and in Zurich. I am also of the view that they have the best intra-Europe J offering.
2. TG F is good but not my cup of tea. I found it to be similar to SQ with the FAís trying a little to hard. The F class lounge at BKK is superb.
3. The LH F hard product is terrible if you are travelling alone. Itís just not comfortable to have a stranger so close to you in F. Perhaps I was unlucky, but the crew on the FRA-DEL leg were not particularly good or enthusiastic. I would try them again, but might wait until they update their F seat. The FRA FCT is excellent. I am glad to see that their new lounge within the B gate area at FRA is modelled in the same vein.

Next up, BA F class to San Francisco in September 2009.

RTW4 Apr 27, 09 7:21 pm

What a wonderful report.. I could not agree with you more on the service in LX F.. I have taken LX F class from LAX-ZRH-JNB and back again.. Truly a great experience.. Thanks for sharing....

crimson2k6 Apr 27, 09 9:49 pm

A very nice report, and the pictures are just the right size. Not too blown out or too small.

LX F seems to reign supreme when it comes to European carriers in F.

chanp Apr 27, 09 10:56 pm

Great report and pics! Some of your dialogues with people at the airport made me smile, boy I havent been there in 12 yrs, but so funny remember getting thru DEL and people there LOL!! Thanks!

vecta Apr 28, 09 2:48 am

Originally Posted by crimson2k6 (Post 11655939)
A very nice report, and the pictures are just the right size. Not too blown out or too small.

Agreed 100%.

Easy to read with great visual illustrations.

Nice work baggageinhall.

baggageinhall Apr 28, 09 8:46 am

Originally Posted by vecta (Post 11656727)
Agreed 100%.

Easy to read with great visual illustrations.

Nice work baggageinhall.

Many thanks. All of the photos were taken with an iPhone and uploaded to Flickr. I have linked the medium sized version from the site.

Zorro Apr 28, 09 12:18 pm

Originally Posted by crimson2k6 (Post 11655939)
A very nice report, and the pictures are just the right size. Not too blown out or too small.

LX F seems to reign supreme when it comes to European carriers in F.

The only drawback I find is that there is only one bathroom - When the F cabin is full and an older lady is getting ready for the day in the morning it can be a pain.

Moomba Apr 28, 09 1:26 pm

Fabulous report baggageinhall

I must add LX F to my list of flying experiences.

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