Lufthansa, Business Class – CRJ-900: Frankfurt to Basel

Airline: Lufthansa Cityline
Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ-900
From: Frankfurt
To: Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse Freibourg
Departure: 22h05
Arrival:
22h40
Flight time: 35 minutes
Seat:
4A

My flight from Malta ends at gate A18. I now need to make my way through that depressing tunnel that connects the A pier to the B gates. The lifts taking passengers down to the tunnel at basement level are hopelessly overloaded, so I take the stairs instead.

Part of the tunnel is closed, hopefully for embellishing, but in this rat hole I‘m pretty sure that‘s a lost cause… at least there aren‘t that many people down here and I make quick progress.

As soon as I arrive at the gate, they make an announcement inviting all passengers who have been to China in the last two weeks, or to a country with reported cases of corona virus or who have a Chinese passport to contact the ground staff. I find this rather odd. While I understand that there is clearly cause for concern over the spreading of the corona virus, I still think it’s racist and rather awkward to single out the nationals of one country only.

In any case, once boarding begins, we go down once more into the bowels of the terminal complex and then take the compliemtary bus tour of Frankfurt airport to reach our aircraft, which is literally parked on the remotest remote stand, in the eastern-most corner of the apron.

Boarding is quickly completed and the flight is not full. The Business Class cabin has eight rows. Although there are only two people on row 5, behind me, and another passenger across the aisle from me on 4F.

There are two male crew in the cabin. Again, they make an interesting linguistic case study. The purser is obviously Australian. His German is very good and he only makes few mistakes with his declensions. His colleague is probably German. His English is fine, but with a slighly strange accent. Allegedly, he also speaks French, most of which, though, is incomprehensible.

As passengers board, they are handed a packed of almonds.

We make our way out to runway 18, which is at the completely opposite end of the airfield, despite the fact the threshold for runway 25C is only a few hundred metres away from our stand.

We reach the runway, stop abruptly and then turn back. Apparently, the wind has changed and runway 18 is no longer available. So we have to make our way back to the threshold of runway 25C and wait for a slot for us to open…

One hour and fifteen take-offs later it’s finally our turn to make our departure. The initial climb is very bumpy, but then very quickly we settle into the cruise and the crew begin their service.

For dinner there is small plate with a skewer of feta cheese, olive and cucumber, another piece of vitello tonnato wrapped around some leaves of rocket, and a few slices of melon. For dessert there a passion fruit mousse and more of the chocolates. By the time the crew clear away the trays, we’re already descending into Basel.

We land at 22h40, one hour behind schedule. Which is not so good, because it’s also around the same time the easyJet fleet based in Basel returns home. As a result, the bus heading into town tends to get very full. As we taxi in, I notice the KLM flight from Amsterdam is nowhere to be seen, which is strange and slightly worrying, considering it should have landed at 21h45. I suppose I should be alarmed, but that’s another story, I’m too tired…

Lufthansa CityLine, Business Class – CRJ-900: Basel to Munich

Airline: Lufthansa Cityline
Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ-900
From: Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse Freibourg
To: München Airport
Departure: 06:30
Arrival: 07:20
Flight time: fifty minutes
Seat: 2F, window seat on the starboard side

It‘s just coming up to five o‘clock on Saturday morning as I make my way across the station square to catch the airport bus. Remind me, why am I doing this again?

There aren‘t many people about at this time of the night. The bus isn‘t very full either. So I grab a seat at the very back and desperately try to catch just a few more minutes of sleep.

At least that means check-in and security are quiet too.

My flight to München is boarding from gate 60, which is inconvenient because it means I shall have to pass through the duty free shop to get to the lounge – and I really do need a coffee right now – and then back again to board my flight.

Boarding starts on time. By the time I reach the gate there are only a few passengers left… ‚after-you-no-after-you-please-I-insist-after-you…‘.

As passengers step on board, we are handed a small chocolate biscuit sandwich. In Economy Class that is the full extent of the inflight service. But it is a very short flight after all!

The crew aren‘t exactly exuberant, but they seem friendly enough and a vast improvement over my previous experience with Lufthansa.

There are six rows of Business Class for a total of twelve passengers. And the cabin is full. On the CRJ-900 the bulkhead row on the port side of the aircraft is row 1. On the starboard side, the bulkhead is on row 2, because the toilet is located on what would be row 1.

The CRJ-900 is a dreadful aircraft, it‘s tight and cramped and the cabin colours Lufthansa went for are just drab, dull and dark. Not sure in what universe off-grey is not depressing and ugly… on the upside though, on row 2 the aircraft really is exceptionally quiet.

Once we‘re airborne and the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the service begins. First the crew roll down the aisle with the food trolley, dishing out the trays. Only after all passengers have their meal do the two flight attendants return to the galley to bring out the drinks trolley.

The meal is presented in a small basket with a checkered pattern, which is kind of cute. The basket contains a müsli bar of sorts, which is rather vile, a bottle of strawberry and banana smoothie that gives me heartburn before I‘ve even finished it, a few grapes, and a ham sandwich. As I said, it‘s only a short flight.

The cruise isn’t very long obviously, and very soon we’re already descending into Munich. Eventually, we land at 07h15.

The flight comes to an end on one of the few remote stands for the CRJs immediately next to the terminal building. So at least there will be no bus transfer and passengers can just walk straight into the terminal.

I now have two hours before my onward flight.

Lufthansa Cityline, Business Class – CRJ-900: Basel to München

Introduction

I’m on my way to Malta. Tomorrow is the Malta marathon that I was planning on participating in. But it’s looking like that may not be happening after all. First of all, I have a collapsed arch, which doesn’t cause me any problems when I’m walking or running but all the more pain when I’m just standing or resting my foot. And apart from that, the organisers have announced that despite the expected gale force winds (!), the run is expected to go ahead as planned. But I really don’t think I fancy that.

But the flights are booked anyway, and I think it’ll do me good to go home, one way or another. The upshot of course, is that I’m going to have to travel with Lufthansa, which is rarely a pleasurable experience.

Getting to the Airport

My flight from Basel to Munich departs at 06h15, which means I have to take the 04h55 bus to the airport, which gets there at 05h09. Being a Saturday morning, the bus is still fairly empty.

Check-in

The Lufthansa app works moderately well. It takes quite a while to load, but that might just as well be because of my iPhone or the connection, I guess. Seeing as I’ll only be gone one day, I’m only travelling with hand luggage.

The Skyview Lounge

Basel airport has been a constant building site since the partial suspension of the Schengen treaty. And to be honest, I can’t help but feel that perhaps that was the main idea – to keep people in the area in jobs. And while there’s a lot of construction going on in the terminal building itself, more and more flights are shifting back into the small secured Schengen area that still exists. Apparently, Lufthansa or Germany have made it on to the ‘good’ list, so at least I won’t need to go through immigration.

The lounge is mostly empty, save for an English family with two boys. One of which picks up a large bottle of orange juice from the fridge, opens the lid and then proceeds to drink the juice straight from the bottle. His parents very obviously so couldn’t give a shit. Apparently they must have been raised on a farm too, just like their son.

So I wait for them to get lost, then take the bottle and chuck it in the bin.

Boarding

Boarding starts at 05h55. There is a separate line for Business Class passengers and status holders and these are also invited to board the aircraft first.

Trying to get to the gate is a bit of a tight squeeze, because the passengers for the easyJet flight are already lined up in queue for boarding and ready to go.

The Cabin

I’m seated on row 2A. I know I complain a lot about Lufthansa, but one advantage they have in Business Class, is that even on a puny little squirt like the CRJ-900, the seat next to you will always remain empty. And I also must say, the amount of noise up front is minimal. It’s quite calm and pleasant.

On a side note, row 1 is right opposite the door to the toilet – which might be unpleasant, especially on a full flight.

The Crew

There are two cabin crew on the flight: a middle aged woman with a rather grating voice, especially at 06h in the morning, and a middle aged gentleman. I don’t think he’s German though, because his accent when he speaks English and French is nearly non-existent.

The one thing that always strikes me on European Lufthansa, is how the service has been stripped to the absolute minimum. There is not refreshing towel, no welcome drink and no interaction with the crew.

The Meal

The flight time is announced at slightly over forty minutes. The Business Class meal is served on a tray and passengers are served individually from the galley, as opposed to a classic trolley service.

And what a sad meal it is! The food comes on a small white tray which is decked out in a red and white chequered napkin, in what I can only assume is Lufthansa’s interpretation of rustic Bavarian country bumpkin chic.

On it is a nut protein bar, a small bottle with a coconut and pineapple smoothie, a yoghurt with cherry compote and a ham sandwich wrapped in paper. Apart from the fact that the meal really looks very sad and just screams ‘cost saving’, it’s also not particularly good.

I also find it somewhat awkward that they should put pork ham in the sandwiches. Surely, it wouldn’t hurt Lufthansa to use cheese or something else that will not immediately exclude or cause offence to people who will not eat pork for religious reasons or any meat out of conviction.

Arrival

The flight passes quickly and eventually we land at 07h11. I now have just under two hours to make my connection to Malta.

We stop on a remote stand and then from there we’re bussed to the main terminal building.

Adria Airways, Economy Class – CRJ-900: Zürich to Ljubljana

adria-airways-vector-logo

Introduction

My flight to Ljubljana will be departing at 15h05. So I leave the office at 13h40 to catch the 13h55 train from Winterthur, which should get me into Zürich airport at around 14h10, leaving me fifty minutes to reach the gate.

Check-in

I already checked in for the flight the evening before using the Adria Airways app. I think this must be a Star Alliance or a Miles & More thing, because like SWISS, the Adria Airways boarding passes do not show up on the locked screen of my iPhone, even though I have them saved to the Passbook wallet.

Airside

It’s only once I reach security that I realise I may be cutting it a bit fine arriving at the airport less than an hour before departure, because the queue for the security checkpoint is long and nasty. Luckily, just a short while after I reach the tail end of the queue, they open up the lower level security area, which at least speeds up the process.

Because I’m running rather late and I still need to get something from the duty free, I don’t have time to visit the refurbished and recently reopened SWISS lounge. Instead, by the time I’m ejected from the duty free store, it’s time for me to head to gate A 56, the boarding gate for today’s flight.

Boarding

Gate A 56 is located in a provisional building that was erected many years ago but which they then ‘forgot’ to tear down. A 56 is a bus gate and it’s not a particularly nice area of the terminal.

The same gate agent is manning the gate today as I had a month ago when I flew to Macedonia via Ljubljana. She’s not particularly friendly, and I’m kind of surprised myself that I even remember her.

I’m on the first bus to the aircraft. There’s a bit of a hold up once we get to the aircraft, because apparently they’re still refuelling. But eventually, just as the second bus arrives, we are finally allowed to board.

The Cabin

I really, really don’t like the CRJ-900. It’s such an unpleasant little aircraft. Once you’re actually seated, it’s not that bad. Adria Airways has a pretty decent seat pitch on these aircraft and they also still have these old school seats that have good padding.

But the cabin is very tight, narrow and cramped. Of course it also doesn’t help that today’s flight is quite full, which gives even more of an impression of the cabin being crowded.

I’ve decided to sit on 18A today, which means that for a change I’m seated behind the wing and will be able to watch the various surfaces of the wing move during the flight.

Yeah, okay. So I’m a geek, what’s your excuse…?

The Crew

The service on today’s flight is done by two female cabin crew. I think they’re really brilliant. They’re very chic. And both of them are friendly and enthusiastic about their job and their interaction with the passengers is polite, relaxed and unrushed.

The captain comes on the loudspeaker to welcome us on the flight and informs us that we will have to wait another forty minutes before we’ll be allowed to start the engines. Something about congested airspace over Austria and thunderstorms in the Zürich area… Before he’s even finished the announcement, the crew are already passing through the cabin offering complimentary cups of water to passengers, which is a nice touch.

Eventually, we depart with a delay of 45 minutes. The flight time is announced at fifty minutes.

The Meal

On Adria Airways water is complimentary in Economy Class. In addition, there is also a selection of items that can be purchased from the buy on board menu. In the name of scientific research and progress, I decide to order a Coke Zero and a cheese sandwich, which will set you back EUR5.- and which is quite decent, I think. What’s more, the sandwich is very tasty! It’s filled with ruccola, nice bread spread and some sort of lovely smoked cheese.

The flight passes quickly. This is my idea of bliss. Sitting on an aeroplane flying through unsettled weather, with decent food and watching the world go by beneath me.

Arrival

Eventually we land with a delay of slightly more than one hour. The approach is very bumpy and quite rough. In the distance I can see dark storm clouds looming on the horizon.

Getting into Town

There is the bus, which will take you to the railway station. This takes about fifty minutes to make the journey and will cost EUR4.-. The bus only runs every hour on the hour.

Then there is also the shuttle service, which will drop you off anywhere in the city. The price is EUR9.- and the shuttle will only leave once there are at least five passengers. The journey into town will take about thirty minutes.

And then there is the taxi, which also takes about thirty minutes but will cost you EUR50.-.

Shame on you Lufthansa!

I’m on my way back from Ancona to Munich on LH1959. I am seated by the window on 6A. Across the aisle on 5F a gentleman is sitting on his own. The aisle seat next to him on 5D is empty. Once the cabin crew announce that boarding is completed, another guy appears from the back of the aircraft and asks the gentleman on 5F is perhaps he might store his large North Face rucksack next to him, seeing at the bag won’t fit in the overhead bins of the tiny CRJ900 and the crew have obviously not been particularly accommodating in assisting the passenger to stow the large bag.

But of course the bag is so huge that it won’t fit under the seat. And so the owner of the bag wedges it in, de facto blocking the guy on 5F’s access to the aisle. I worked as a flight attendant long enough and I think I travel more than enough to know that the reason they ask you to store your bags under the seat in front of you is to ensure they will not obstruct your escape path in case of an emergency.

IMG_5919.jpg

At some point Mr 5F tries to get out of his seat to get something out of his own bag in the overhead bin. As he clambers over the obstructing bag he nearly ends up falling on one of the flight attendants who happens to be passing. She looks down at the huge rucksack, smirks and then waltzes off. Quite obviously she either doesn’t realise that this is a violation of a safety rule or, she quite simply couldn’t give a shit.

The bag is still in the same place as we go thundering down the runway on our take-off roll.

Forty minutes later we’re already descending through the clouds towards Munich. The crew pass through the cabin to make their final cabin check. The same flight attendant walks straight past the bag wedged in between the seats and just ignores it. By this stage they guy next to me, who has also noticed the bag, is getting concerned so he uses the call button for the flight attendant. A short while later the purser appears from the front of the aircraft. He points out the bag to her and asks if that is seriously the way the bag should be stowed. She explains that her colleague must have missed the bag on her check. I then explain to her that the guy had nearly fallen on to the flight attendant before the flight and that she simply hadn’t done anything about it before take-off, to which the purser only replies ‘dann hat sie’s wohl vergessen’ – then she probably just forgot – in a tone of voice suggesting that this is all no big deal and I am only being persnickety. The guy next to me asks her what the cabin crew’s name is, to which the purser replies that she doesn’t know but think her first name is Lisa. Seriously? And then she walks away and eventually we land.

Surprisingly there’s a bit of a hold up deplaning because the owner if the bag is still waiting in the rear of the aircraft, while the poor gentleman on 5F is having trouble getting out of his seat because the bag, which is now stuck and obstructing the aisle…

I find this incident simply unacceptable from Lufthansa. I can accept bad service, rude cabin crew, crap food, delays, you name it. But safety on board is simply not negotiable. I appreciate that Lufthansa has to watch its costs. But if that means cutting down on crew training and compromising safety, then I think this airline definitely has a problem. Furthermore, the fact that the purser apparently didn’t know the name of her colleague is either a blatant lie and indicative of a highly unprofessional behaviour, or it highlights just how dire the training situation at Lufthansa is. If you don’t even know the name of the person you’re working with, what exactly does that say about your crew resource management?