Air France by HOP, Economy Class – CRJ700: Paris Orly to Basel

INTRODUCTION

The last time I saw Tutankhamun was more than twenty years ago, when I was in Cairo studying Arabic. And so, when I read that there would be an exhibition with artefacts from his vast tomb treasure in Paris, I figured it was too good an opportunity to miss. Before you ask: no, the death mask is not one of the exhibits and I very much doubt if that will ever leave Egypt again. One way or another though, the exhibition is well worth seeing and provides a glimpse into the ancient Egyptians’ understanding of eternity.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

On Sunday morning I leave the CitizenM hotel at Gare de Lyon at 09h30 and walk the short distance across the Seine to the Gare d’Austerlitz, from where I want to catch the RER C to Rungis and from there the shuttle to Orly airport. My flight to Basel will be departing at 12h00.

Only, once I get to the Gare d’Austerlitz I find out that there are no trains running, and instead there is a replacement bus to take me part of the way. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have taken that bus, because quite frankly, none of the staff that were positioned along the way to help stranded passengers actually knew what was going on. And so, two busses and one Uber later, I finally manage to arrive at the airport 35 minutes before departure.

CHECK-IN

Air France’s domestic and Schengen flights operated out of Orly 1, otherwise known as Orly Sud. Luckily, I’ve already checked in online. Originally, I was hoping to check in my bag. But by the time I arrive at the terminal, I figure that check-in is already closed.

AIRSIDE

There are people standing around everywhere and there’s literally no getting through. Eventually I have to climb over a whole row of seats with my suitcase to bypass all the passengers and reach the entrance for the priority security lane. And Indeed, I think if it weren’t for my status with Air France, which allows me to use the priority lane, I’m pretty sure I’d have missed the flight.

Finally, I arrive at the gate about five minutes before boarding begins. Enough time to visit the loos. The flight is boarding from gate A22, which is in a part of the terminal that was recently extended and renovated.

BOARDING

Boarding starts with a call for SkyPriority passengers. The gate agent tags my suitcase for me to leave it at the bottom of the aircraft’s steps. I think she’s surprised that I thank her for that, rather than start complaining…

CABIN

This is a strange bird. F-GRZL was delivered to Britair in 2006 and was later on transferred to the HOP by Air France fleet. But the cabin is different to that on the CRJ-900 and the CRJ-1000. The bulkhead is lavender coloured, the seats are in dark grey, the window panels look old-fashioned and there is no Air France branding inside the aircraft.

Other than that though, pitch is good on row two and the seats are properly aligned with the windows to give passengers a good outside view.

CREW

There are two quite senior cabin crew on this flight. One male and one female. They’re not overly friendly, but they’re professional and polite.

SERVICE

The flight time is announced as 45 minutes. The cabin crew start their service and inform passengers that due to the rather short flight time, they will only be serving passengers one drink each to speed things up and to make sure that every passenger gets at least something.

THE MEAL

There is a choice of hot and cold drinks, including alcoholic beverages like beer. Passengers also have a choice between a sweet or a savoury snack. The gentleman sitting next to me asks for the savoury snack, which turns out to be a packet of Pretzels. I have the sweet snack, which is a Madeleine filled with jam.

ARRIVAL

It’s a nice day for flying today and as we approach Basel the ground visibility improves further. Eventually we land after a flight time of only 42 minutes. We park on a remote stand, and there’s even a bus to drive us the 200 metres from the aircraft to the passenger terminal. Ten minutes after we touch down, I exit the terminal building on the Swiss side and head for the bus stop.

I now have a whole working week in the office ahead of me before my next trip on Friday. Woohoo!

Lufthansa, First Class – A 380: Basel via Frankfurt to Tokyo Narita

INTRODUCTION

It’s Boxing Day. Another six days left before 2012 draws to an end and I’m down to my last five flights of the year, which will bring be to 112 flights by the time I arrive back in Frankfurt on 31 December 2012.

I’m travelling from Basel via Frankfurt to Narita and then on to Sapporo with Lufthansa and ANA. From Sapporo I will return via JAL to Haneda and then from Narita to Frankfurt on ANA.

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From: Basel
To: Frankfurt
Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: Canadair CRJ-700
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 2D, window, right side

THE LOUNGE

The beginning of this report finds yours truly sitting – yet again – in the Swissport Skyview contractor lounge at Basel airport. There aren’t many people about – the usual state of affairs here. In fact, the place is so quiet that the buffet on the lower level has been closed down over the Christmas period and only the top floor of the lounge is open for customers.

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Since the lounge was taken over, the food options have improved considerably and now also include a small selection of warm items throughout the day.

My breakfast: beans, scrambled egg and a veal sausage.
My breakfast: beans, scrambled egg and a veal sausage.

BOARDING

Boarding for my flight starts on time from gate 35. I am the last passenger to board the flight. Much to my surprise the flight is showing quite a healthy load, despite the holiday. There are two and a half rows of Business Class (row 1 only has the A and C seats as the toilet is located across the aisle where 1D and F would be), with a total of five passengers in the premium cabin this morning.

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SERVICE

The crew consists of two German females. One in her late twenties I would say and not overly friendly, and the other, the purserette I believe, in her forties and very amicable and attentive. As soon as I reach my seat on 2F she approaches me and offers to hang my jacket.

THE CABIN

The cabin on this aircraft has been recently refurbished. Those horrible light grey seats have made way for a much darker grey and I think they must have redone the upholstering as well while they were at it. The bulkhead has that funky chrome-like appearance that – I must say – I find rather cool.

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DEPARTURE

Departure is to the south towards the city of Basel. As soon as we get airborne we bank right to execute a 270 degree turn, which brings us back over the airfield before crossing the Rhine into Germany.

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The new Jet Aviation facility at Basel airport.
The new Jet Aviation facility at Basel airport.

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Turning back towards the airport.
Turning back towards the airport.

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THE MEAL

The meal served on this flight is something in between breakfast and lunch. There is a bowl with some sort of yoghurt and fruit, a small dish with cheese, ham and a few slices of bell pepper and a bun. To drink I have a cup of coffee and a glass of mineral water. The meal is perfectly adequate for a 10h40 departure. My only grippe is that the presentation of the meal is somewhat unappealing, particularly the coffee served in a cardboard cup, surely a real mug or a cup won’t break the bank!

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Instead of the usual chocolate at the end of the flight, today we get a special box with season’s greetings and two pralinés in it.

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ARRIVAL

Our flight time is only 40 minutes and before long we’re descending through the murk towards Frankfurt. As we break through the clouds it’s snowing and raining simultaneously. What horrible weather!

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The final approach for FRA.
The final approach for FRA.

Waiting to cross the parallel runway.
Waiting to cross the parallel runway.

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We pull onto our stand and I am pleasantly surprised to find a black Porsche Cayenne expecting me. Lufthansa’s First Class pick up service is somewhat unpredictable in Frankfurt and does not always work. I’m guessing they’re not so busy today due to the Christmas holiday.

TRANSFER

Transferring in Frankfurt is never fun and today’s experience is certainly not going down in history as one of Lufthansa’s finest moments. The driver drops me off at the Terminal B arrivals. From there I follow the signs to the Z concourse, which is the non-Schengen area of the newly opened A + dock – a trek of some 15 minutes. I go through immigration and even manage to find the Business Class and Senator lounges. I inquire at the desk about the whereabouts of the First Class lounge and the friendly lady there informs me that the First Class lounge is one floor down in the Schengen area. I will have to go through immigration again. I’m not really sure what the point of all this is, after all, as far as I know, Lufthansa does not offer First Class on any of its European routes. So why put the First Class lounge in that sector?

By this time I’ve had enough and I have no desire to spend the rest of my time in Frankfurt wandering about trying to find this new lounge. So instead I head for arrivals in Terminal A, from where it is just a short walk to the First Class Terminal.

From: Frankfurt
To: Tokyo Narita
Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: A 380-800
Cabin: First Class
Seat: 2A, window, left side

THE TERMINAL

As soon as I arrive at the First Class Terminal I am assigned my own personal assistant and guided through security. My boots trigger the scanner’s alarm. It’s moments like this that make you understand the benefits of flying First Class: without any hassle or hurry the guy doing the screening kindly asks me to step aside and take a seat on a plump leather sofa. There I remove my boots and wait while they are rescanned.

The process is a swift and pleasant one. Even the security staff are friendly, all smiles and even wish me a happy holiday and a safe journey. My assistant takes my passport and informs me that he will come to pick me up when it’s time for boarding.

Lufthansa has obviously done its homework with the First Class terminal in that it really makes a very pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal complex, which is not very user friendly for the customer. It’s just a pity it’s so complicated to get to the First Class terminal if you’re transiting through Frankfurt – which is a bit unfortunate given that transfer passengers are likely to spend more time at the airport than those whose journey starts in Frankfurt.

The terminal is not really very busy when I arrive but it looks quite untidy – there are empty glasses and used plates standing around. But never underestimate German efficiency: shortly after I find a place to settle down, the cleaning crew launch an efficient and merciless offensive and have the place tidied up in no time.

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BOARDING

At around 13h00 my assistant comes to pick me up. There are two other gentlemen in the lift with me as we head one floor down to immigration. From there we head outside where some enormous looking thing with a Mercedes star on it is waiting to take us to our aircraft.

It just a short ride before eventually we pull up at the aircraft’s stand, the driver opens the door for me and I step outside and I come face to face with the beast carrying me to Japan today. The A380 is of course always a sight to behold, but it is even more impressive when you’re actually standing in front of it at ground level.

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From the car we are ushered into a lift and taken up to the third floor, from where we have direct access to the upper level of the aircraft. Our driver leads the way to the aircraft’s door, where the crew is already expecting us. She introduces every passenger to the crew by name and we are then individually escorted to our seats. There is a fourth passenger who is already on board when we arrive. This means that the load in First Class on this flight will be 50%, with all the window seats occupied.

THE CABIN

The cabin on this aircraft is really beautifully appointed and the beige and brown colours are worlds apart from older First Class cabin with all that blue and grey. The designers of the cabin have paid a lot of attention to detail. The walls of the cabin for example are covered in some material that has the look and feel of soft suede leather.

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The first thing that strikes me is how well conceived the cabin is: it is as attractive as it is functional: there are no overhead bins, which gives the cabin a very airy and light feel. Instead of the bins every passenger has his own personal full size locker. Each locker contains hangars and a suit cover. Additional storage space can be found under the ottoman.

The seat itself is comfortable and offers a lot of space and privacy: there are screens in the shell of the seat that can be raised automatically.

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This picture was taken after take-off. The screen was raised by the crew to provide more privacy. Later on, the crew turned this seat into my bed, so I could lie down after the meal and wouldn't have to wait for them to make up the bed. The shell of the seat has further privacy screens that can be raised automatically.
This picture was taken after take-off. The screen was raised by the crew to provide more privacy. Later on, the crew turned this seat into my bed, so I could lie down after the meal and wouldn’t have to wait for them to make up the bed. The shell of the seat has further privacy screens that can be raised automatically.

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Another nice touch is the red rose at every seat – even at those unoccupied during the flight – for which there is a purpose built holder. A small lamp right above the rose gives quite a dramatic effect when the cabin lights are dimmed.

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The windows have these really funky automatic blinds that you could play with for hours – I know, little things please little minds…

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And finally, the toilets: there are two up front on each side of the stairs, and here too I am quite impressed by the functionality and clean design. Rarely have I come across a First Class toilet on a plane that provides such ample space and is evidently also intended as a changing room. On most carriers you more or less have to be a contortionist to be able to change your clothes!

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The toilet is well stocked with shaving kits, combs and toothbrushes and toothpaste, all of which are neatly stowed in their respective drawers.

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SERVICE

There are two young women working the First Class cabin today. They have the usual stereotypical German efficiency about them and yet they are both very charming in their manner and endearing in their handling of the passengers. As they pass through the cabin on different errands they make a point of stopping regularly to have a chat about this, that and the other, which makes for a very personalised service.

Once I am settled in my seat I am handed the amenity kit, slippers and pyjama. The new pyjama is another vast improvement over the previous one in that it is made of thinner material and thus doesn’t make you seat so much while you sleep.

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I am also brought a glass of sparkling water and some warm nuts. Then the purser comes by to introduce himself personally and hands out the menus.

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DEPARTURE

As we depart, we get a good view of a substantial part of the Lufthansa fleet that has been parked up for the holidays, including eight MD-11s stored behind each other.

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THE MEAL

Immediately after take-off, one the seatbelt sign goes off I am handed a scented hot towel.

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To drink I order an ‘Apfelschorle’: apple juice with sparkilng water.

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We begin with an Amuse Bouche of warm smoked salmon with Dijon mustard and cucumber. It takes a while for it to arrive and the purser explains that for some reason or other the food was still frozen solid when catering delivered it to the aircraft. Subsequently it had to be warmed in the oven first (…and tasted accordingly). To be honest I think I wouldn’t even have bothered.

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Next the table is set up for the meal: despite the fact that I have chosen the Japanese menu, my table is decked out with a small bowl of First Class embossed butter, a side plate and salt and pepper shakers. There are also some rather cheap looking chopsticks.

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Contrary to what it says on the menu, the first course is not the caviar service but a selection of cold Japanese dishes.

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Soba noodles with soy sauce and Wasabi.
Soba noodles with soy sauce and Wasabi.

A salad of mussels, greens and shitake mushrooms.
A salad of mussels, greens and shitake mushrooms.

Smoked salmon with an egg vinaigrette and asparagus.
Smoked salmon with an egg vinaigrette and asparagus.

Miso soup.
Miso soup.

A selection of sushi.
A selection of sushi.

Green tea to drink.
Green tea to drink.

After that comes the caviar service. At the risk of sounding like a snob, I really do think Lufthansa would be doing itself a favour to get rid of the caviar as long as they are unwilling or unable to provide a larger portion and all trimmings. As it is, the small plate looks quite forlorn on the large table.

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After that all the dishes are cleared away and I am brought the main course: the beef in a Japanese sauce with steamed vegetables, which comes with miso soup, mixed pickles and Gohan – Japanese sticky rice.

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More miso.
More miso.

Japanese pickles.
Japanese pickles.

Gohan package.
Gohan package.

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To end the meal my intention had been to just have a bit of cheese. But when the trolley appears, the flight attendant talks me into also trying the sweet chocolate and raspberry dessert. And indeed, it really is very tasty and very rich – to the extent that I am unable to finish it.

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And then, finally, comes the coffee, which is served with two small pralinés and a Father Christmas.

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After the meal the crew distribute water bottles and Christmas cookies. And then the lights go out.

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My bed with the privacy screens raised.
My bed with the privacy screens raised.

SECOND SERVICE

I manage a good five hours of sleep, although I’m rather unsettled – I suspect I’m suffering with indigestion.

About 80 minutes out of Tokyo the lights go on again somewhat abruptly – there’s no mood lighting on Lufthansa – and the blinds on the left side of the aircraft are raised automatically to reveal a beautiful sunrise.

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The crew bring me another refreshing warm scented towel and a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

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For breakfast there is a warm and a cold option, although the warm option on offer is not the one that is on the menu. Apparently, as one of the flight attendants explains, Lufthansa is having problems with one of its kitchenware suppliers. But it does not matter as I opt for the cold breakfast anyway.

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Selection from the breadbasket.
Selection from the breadbasket.

Fruit salad.
Fruit salad.

Yoghurt.
Yoghurt.

Birchermüsli with toasted Pumpernickel.
Birchermüsli with toasted Pumpernickel.

Cold cuts and cheese.
Cold cuts and cheese.

My salvation.
My salvation.

During breakfast there are no refills for the orange juice and it is a bit unusual that no preserves are offered with the breadbasket. I have to ask the crew, who bring me a selection of jams and marmalade straight away.

ARRIVAL

Once the meal is over we’re already nearing Tokyo. The mighty A380 gently dips its nose and we start our descent. The cabin crew pass through the cabin distributing landing cards for Japan and take the opportunity to say goodbye to every passenger individually.

Outside it’s one of those typical lovely winter days you get around this time of the year in the Tokyo area. It’s only minus 6 degrees Celsius and the sky is cloudless and clear.

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Always good to check you landed at the right airport.
Always good to check you landed at the right airport.

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We arrive at the terminal and squeeze into what looks like an amazingly tight stand for an aircraft the size of the A380, with an ANA B767 on one side and a Singapore Airlines B777 on the other. I bid the crew farewell and thank them for their service. And with that I disembark. It’s nice to be back!

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The only real draw back with flying the A380 to Tokyo – allow me to do some nit-picking – is that the only stands equipped with three airbridges are located at the very end of the concourse. As a result it’s quite a trek from the aircraft to immigration.

Next stop: Sapporo with ANA.

CONCLUSION

The Lufthansa First Class experience is a mixed bag. On the positive side, the hardware on the A380 is simply amazing. I still think the A380 is undoubtedly one of the ugliest aircraft ever built but even so I cannot help but be impressed by the level of comfort its size allows for the passenger and what Lufthansa has managed to do with the available cabin space.

On the negative side, the transfer in Frankfurt is a messy and a tedious affair. From the Porsche Cayenne pick up service, which sometimes is there to meet you and sometimes not, to the unsatisfactory lounge situation for transfer passengers.

The service on the flight was good in that it was very personable and friendly. The crew took good care of me. Even so, I also think their service lacks polish and attention to detail in many areas. It’s little things: because I ordered the Japanese meal, I was given chopsticks but no cutlery, which then also meant that I did not receive a napkin – because that is wrapped around the cutlery. Of course when I asked for a napkin the crew were apologetic and promptly brought me a nicely folded one. But should I really have to ask? The absence of preserves during the breakfast service I have already mentioned. It’s the same thing really: when asked the crew were more than willing to oblige, but when travelling in First Class I think these are basics that one should not have to ask for.

The meal was okay but certainly not outstanding. First of all, the quality of the food was rather average and tasted a bit bland. More importantly, the sequence in which the meal was served was unorganised and chaotic. It would have made more sense for example, to serve the caviar first, which, incidentally, is also how it had been intended according to the menu.

Lufthansa, Business Class – Boeing B 737-300 / Canadair Regionaljet CRJ-700: Copenhagen to Basel via Frankfurt

INTRODUCTION

It’s the last day of the year, 31 December 2011. The Tivoli in Copenhagen closed its door for the season the night before. The shops don’t seem to be open either and the streets of Copenhagen are surprisingly quiet as I cross the road to access the railway station. And indeed, as the old years draws to a close, it’s time for me to return home as well.

Date: 31. December 2011
From: Copenhagen
To: Frankfurt
Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: B 737-300
Seat: 1F
Class: Business Class

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

At around noon I check out of the hotel. Copenhagen’s main railway station is right across the road.

Danish trains are rather comfy and well maintained, but lord they’re so ugly to look at from the outside!

The railway station and platforms at Kastrup airport are located one floor down from the terminal. As soon as you get off the escalator you’re already standing right in the middle of the check-in area.

I try one of the self-service kiosks. For some reason it prints my boarding pass for the flight from Frankfurt to Basel but not the one from Copenhagen to Frankfurt. When I try a second time a message appears on the screen telling me I need to contact Lufthansa when I get Frankfurt, which seems somewhat difficult to achieve without a boarding pass to get to Frankfurt. So I head over to one of the counters for check-in, where I receive my boarding pass with no difficulty at all.


I’m flying Lufthansa, so no SAS Fast Track for me today. If only! The queue is something nasty. Eventually it takes me 20 minutes to reach the actual security check.

Surprisingly though, once I arrive airside, the terminal is nearly deserted. Where is everyone?

I really like Copenhagen airport. It just looks so nice with the low winter sun peering in through the windows.

THE LOUNGE

The Scandinavian lounge is very quiet and peaceful, which gives me a good opportunity to take some pictures of course…

BOARDING

At around 16h00 I leave the lounge and go on a walkabout. By this time the airport is nearly deserted and most of the shops are already closing or have already closed. Note the absence of humans in the following pictures.

My flight to Frankfurt, it will not be a full flight.

THE CABIN

There are three passengers in Business Class. Surprisingly, the aircraft has the new ‘Eurokabine’. I was under the impression that Lufthansa was getting rid of its Boeing narrow-bodies, so I didn’t think they would bother to refit them. In any case, those seats are just so thin!

DEPARTURE

It gets dark quickly up north. And by the time we push back it’s nearly night.

Obviously there are no queues for take-off and once we break though the low clouds the scenery is actually rather nice and very poetic.

THE MEAL

The meal service is typically German fare, with loads of Wurst and Speck, both of which are not top of the list of my favourite foods. At least the starter is good. It consists of red snapper in a saffron sauce.

SERVICE

The crew on this short flight is excellent. They are all very attentive and the purser even makes sure to address passengers by name, something you don’t get very often on short-haul flights these days.

ARRIVAL

We land on the new runway in Frankfurt. By this time though it is already dark, making it difficult to get some good shorts. At least we park on a remote stand!

THE LOUNGE

I travel through Frankfurt quite often and I think I can truly say I have never seen the Senator lounge so empty. There are only about ten people in it and the staff look as though they’re bored absolutely senseless. One of them strikes up a conversation with me. She complains to me that she’s already wiped every single table at least four times and still has a few more hours to go to the end of her shift!

Date: 31. December 2011
From: Frankfurt
To: Basel
Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: CRJ 700
Seat: 4A
Class: Business Class
BOARDING

Eventually boarding begins and we all head downstairs and onto the bus that will take us to our aircraft. I count 30 passengers on this flight, with only two of us in Business Class.

THE CABIN

The Canadair Regional Jet is certainly a beauty to look at. From the inside however, I must say I find them rather cramped. Furthermore, Lufthansa’s somewhat drab cabin design on these birds – shades of depressing grey with shades of more grey – does not make them any more appealing to the passenger.

DEPARTURE

Take-off on this little bugger is powerful, especially with such a light load. With a flight time of only 35 minutes,  the cabin crew more or less start with the service as soon as the gear goes up.

THE MEAL

Actually I am quite surprised to get anything at all, even if, again, the main event is Wurst with an enormous salad. The dressing is something strange.

Still, the chocolate makes up for the Wurst I guess.

ARRIVAL

Basel airport, like Copenhagen and Frankfurt, is deserted and very soon I am though the terminal and back on the bus home.


CONCLUSION

So what about Lufthansa? The usual actually: not very stylish, not really inspired either, but reliable and efficient. I never thought I’d see the day but I’ve come to prefer Lufthansa over Swiss recently (except for the Wurst bit perhaps). It’s the professionalism of the entire operation and of the staff that tips the scale in their favour. The new Eurokabine is also definitely a major improvement over the previous cabin design and gives the aircraft a very stylish appearance.

Asiana Airlines, First Class – B 747-400: Basel to Seoul via Frankfurt

This report also includes the feeder flight from Basel to Frankfurt on Lufthansa Cityline.

Date: 25 May 2012
From: Basel
To: Frankfurt
Airline: Lufthansa Cityline
Aircraft: Canadair Regional Jet 700
Class: Business Class
Seat: 2F

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

What a lovely day for flying! My first stop today, of course, is the Swiss railway station, where I pick up some Japanese Yen and some South Korean Won. Basel has three railway stations: there is the German one on the other side of the Rhine, known as the ‘Badischer Bahnhof’. And then there are the French and Swiss stations that are integrated in one building known as Basel SBB.

I collect the cash and then catch the bus line 50 to the airport. The stop is right outside the main door of the building. The journey takes 15 minutes to complete with the airport as the terminus station.

AT THE AIRPORT

In due course the bus pulls up at the departures level of the Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg – as the facility is officially known – which is quite empty at this time of day. My flight to Frankfurt leaves at 14h10.

I recently decided that I prefer checking in at the airport to doing it online or via mobile. There is some old-school charm about checking in at the airport. So I walk up to the SWISS Business Class counter and am greeted by a friendly middle-aged woman. The moment she sees on her screen that I am travelling in First to Seoul, her manner changes. She becomes even more courteous and cannot do enough. She even offers to check me in for the flight to Fukuoka, which will not be until the day after tomorrow but is already open for check-in.

She places my boarding passes in a Lufthansa First Class folder, wishes me a pleasant flight and gives me instructions to the lounge.

Before I head upstairs through security I take a quick peek around the newly renovated, extended Easyjet check-in area at Basel airport. Looks rather nice actually!

THE LOUNGE

Security is a breeze, in fact I am the whole queue.

And then I head to the lounge. Quiet as usual! The lounge is operated by Swissport on behalf of Swiss. It is the only lounge at the airport and is also available for passengers on BA. Air France/KLM passengers however, have no access, there is no agreement in place.

In many ways the lounge is like a fossil, it hails from the old days of aviation, when a setup like Crossair and its Eurocross hub at Basel was still regarded as a serious business proposition. Thus, the lounge is positively enormous! It is on two floors and offers some excellent views of the ramp from the upper level.

BOARDING

Departure is delayed by some 20 minutes. Apparently the ILS for one of the runways in Frankfurt is out of order, causing a few delays. When the flight was then ready to leave Frankfurt for the flight to Basel, the crew had exceeded their duty time and a replacement crew had to take over, causing the delay.

DEPARTURE

THE CABIN

There are nine rows of Business Class on this flight. On the Canadair Regional Jet Lufthansa only uses two of the four seats in each row in Business Class. This means that passengers will always have the seat next to them empty.

Whatever you do, if you’re travelling in Business Class with Lufthansa on a CRJ 700, never take a seat on row one. These must be the worst seats in the house, because they are exactly opposite the Business Class toilet. Thus, I am quite happy with my seat on the right-hand side of row two. It is a bulkhead too, but without the pong of the loo in your face all the time.

SERVICE

The crew on this flight consists of two male flight attendants. The younger one of the two has a bit of an attitude issue. But not too bad.

THE MEAL

Shortly after take-off the meal is served. Here is the menu.

And it is all quite tasty too! The only thing I do not eat is the poached veal.

ARRIVAL

Just as I finish the meal, the descent begins. We approach Frankfurt from the south and then make a left turn to fly due west along the length of the airfield, before finally doing a right 180 degree turn back towards the airfield for the final.

I even manage to get a picture of the cockpit. The co-pilot even poses for me!

I then take the complimentary guided bus tour of Frankfurt airport, which eventually drops me off at arrivals somewhere deep in the bowels of the terminal complex.

Date: 25 May 2012
From: Frankfurt
To: Seoul Incheon
Airline: Asiana Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing B 747-400
Class: First Class
Seat: 2K

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THE LOUNGE

From arrivals I head through passport control and then to the Senator lounge. My flight is leaving from B48, which is right beneath the lounge and gives me some excellent photo opportunities as my bird arrives on the inbound flight from Seoul. The lounge is not too crowded and I manage to secure a seat by the window, where I can overlook all the action.

BOARDING

I arrive at gate B48 shortly before boarding begins. First and Business Class passengers have their own dedicated counter. I am the first to pass the gate. An Asiana member of staff introduces herself to me and shows me a piece of paper with the food options for my return flight in a week’s time. She would like to know what I would like to eat on the return so Asiana can prepare the experience for me. Blimey, I do not usually know what I fancy to eat one week in advance.

THE CABIN & SEAT

And then I go aboard my vessel. First impressions of the cabin are good. The colours are perhaps a bit strange – at least I do not fancy them much – and the seat may not be of the latest generation either. But it is rather comfortable and offers a lot of personal space and privacy. There is even a small closet for my shoes.

A day blanket and a pillow have already been placed at my seat when I arrive. In short sequence the cabin crew come by to introduce themselves personally and bring me the excellent BOSE noise cancelling earphones, newspaper, slippers, pjs, immigration and customs forms for arrival in South Korea and, above all, a lovely vanity kit. It is made of the softest leather and contains all sorts of goodies of Bulgari’s Essence de Thé Blanc.

There are six passengers in First Class today. Four seats remain empty.

SERVICE

Once the doors have been closed, two of the flight attendants working the First Class cabin on this flight position themselves in front of the bulkhead. As the purser makes his welcome aboard announcement, the two attendants bow deeply.

Service is everything you can expect it to be from an Asian carrier. The flight attendants pay a lot of attention to detail and are charming and polite. Moreover, they seem very personable in their approach. I am addressed by name and have a nice chat with some of the crew as they bring the food or remove the empty plates. They seem unrushed and very relaxed but very efficient.

DEPARTURE

Departure is to the east. Traffic is quite light so we do not have long to wait before it is our turn to depart.

Once we’re airborne I make myself comfortable. The flight to Seoul will take about ten hours. I take off my shoes and try the funky red slippers. Their XL is somewhat tight…

THE MEAL

Welcome drinks are not served while the boarding process is in progress on Asiana. But once we push back, I am asked if there is anything I would like to drink while we taxi out. I choose a Buck Fizz, which is duly delivered with a small bowl of warm nuts.

Immediately after take-off, the Asiana inflight experience begins and it is truly outstanding. Apart from its excellent crews, catering is definitely one of Asiana’s strongest points.

To drink I have Perrier with lemon and ice. The cabin crew are very attentive. Every time one of them notices my empty glass, I am asked if I would like some more. Moreover, Asiana obviously ‘don’t do’ refills, instead I am given a new glass each time I ask for more Perrier.

We begin with an amuse bouche of grilled bell peppers and diced tomatoes rolled up in grilled eggplant with garlic and basil in a drizzle of olive oil.

Next the table is beautifully laid out for dinner. Asiana has lovely and delicate Fine Bone China and silver cutlery.

Next comes the breadbasket, which also includes some lovely garlic bread.

And then comes the first course: the Caviar service!

Crème Fraîche.

Boiled egg.

Finely chopped onion.

The main event.

And of course a mother-of-pearl spoon.

While airlines like Lufthansa will give you only a portion of Caviar, Asiana gives you the entire jar!

Then we have an antipasto of veal with a roll of marinated eggplant and peppers and shrimps in herbs on a balsamico reduction.

And then comes the carrot soup with pine nuts. This is simply out of this world.

The soup is followed by a mixed salad with either a lemon and yoghurt or a French dressing.

For the main course, one of my favourites: Bibimbap.

The large bowl contains minced beef, marinated cucumber, shitake mushrooms, carrots and two different types of marinated cabbage.

First you poor sesame oil and add some of the spicy pepper paste to the large bowl.

To that you then add the rice and mix all together very well using the metal chopsticks.

You eat the Bibimbap with a tasty kind of seaweed omelette, dried small fish, a light fish broth with spring onion and Kimchi, Korea’s national dish. It is basically a cabbage that is smeared, layer by layer, with a paste made of chillies, garlic, soy sauce and oysters, which is then left to ferment. It is excellent, nourishing, very tasty and so spicy it really helps to clear the tubes if you happen to have a cold!

After the Bibimbap comes the fruit and cheese with crackers and bread.

And then there should have been dessert. But by this stage I am simply too full and so I decline. I opt for an Earl Grey tea instead.

Once the meal is over, I ask to have my bed made up while I change into my pjs. And then off I go to sleepy land until it is time for the next meal. Good night!

I get a few hours of sleep. But I am unsettled and keep tossing and turning. I probably have indigestion…As soon as the crew realise I am awake, I am brought a towel and asked if I would like to have breakfast. To which of course, I say yes! I head for the bathroom to change back into my clothes. When I return, the bedclothes and pjs have been cleared away and there is a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice awaiting me.

Then the table is set once more with the beautiful Fine Bone China and the silver ware. Then comes the breadbasket, which is immediately followed by a tray of preserves for me to choose from.

The first course is a plate of fruit.

The cornflakes are served with milk and a bowl of what must be the tastiest, creamiest and most enjoyable blueberry yoghurt I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy.

After that comes the hot dish. Leek quiche with grilled tomato and a crèpe of sweet and sour chicken breast.

During the meal the coffee and Perrier are refilled regularly.

ARRIVAL

And then, all too soon, the flight draws to an end and we start our descent into Incheon. Just before we land one of the cabin crew comes by to thank me for having chosen to fly with Asiana. As a farewell present I receive a small designer terracotta pot with a scented candle inside it. Apart from KLM and their famous little Bols-filled town houses, Asiana is the only airline I know of that gives farewell presents. It is only a small gift and I am not really sure what to do with it, but still it is a very nice gesture.

Incheon is rather quiet when we arrive. Customs and immigration do not take long at all to complete and very quickly I find myself landside.

The journey takes 43 minutes.

CONCLUSION

This concludes the first part of my journey. What can I say? Asiana were simply amazing, their crew, as well as both the quality and quantity of the food were outstanding.