Airline: Lufthansa Aircraft: Airbus A 320 From: Malta International Airport To: Frankfurt Departure: 17h25 Arrival: 19h50 Flight time: 2 hours 25 minutes Seat: 2F, window on the starboard side
Lufthans currently operates three daily flights out of Malta. There is one flight to Munich and two to Frankfurt. The last flight leaves Malta at 17h10 for Frankfurt, which is nice because it gives you a full day on the day of departure.
At Malta airport Lufthansa has its own dedicated check-in, which usually opens three hours before departure. There are three Economy Class and one Business Class/First Class counters. In order to access the fast track lane for security and the La Vallette lounge, you need to have an invitation issued at the counter.
The La Valette Lounge
These days the lounge in Malta tends to be crowded no matter what time you‘re there. It is a nice lounge, though, and has a good selection of local snacks and drinks. And the outside viewing area is just brilliant!
Boarding for the Frankfurt flight is at gate 5. Lufthansa tends to park on the same position at the north end of the apron, which requires passengers to be brought to the aircraft by bus. Much to my surprise, there is a dedicated bus for Business Class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members only, which is very pleasant.
The Business Class cabin has six rows, and from what I can see, there are twenty passengers in the forward cabin this evening. On row two the seat pitch is generous.
We start taxiing out just as the golden hour begins in Malta. It’s that special time of day when the setting sun casts a golden light on the Maltese limestone. Be depart in a northwesterly direction, flying down the full length of the island before heading north to Palermo.
The crew on this flight are polite but reserved. And the purser’s enunciation when she makes an announcement is just strange, even in her first language… The service is pretty much the same as on the outbound yesterday, except with better food.
There is a small dish with a chunky piece of smoked salmon on a very tasty potato salad, some vitello tonnato with parmigiano shavings and some soft cream cheese on a coulis of bell peppers. For dessert there is some vanilla cream with strawberries and a small box with two pralines, but the chocolate is not as refined as the Swiss stuff.
En route we’re treated to a gorgeous sunset, until eventually the world disappears into darkness. It’s quite poetic to watch!
Our descent into Frankfurt, on the other hand, is very rough, with low clouds, rain and gusting winds. We touch down at 19h50 and make our way to the A pier, and by 20h00 we‘re pulling on to our stand at gate A18. I now have thirty minutes before the flight to Basel starts boarding.
Airline: Lufthansa Aircraft: Airbus A 320 From: München Airport To: Malta International Airport Departure: 09h30 Arrival: 11h15 Flight time: 1 hour 45 minutes Seat: 2F, window on the starboard side
The Lufthansa Business Class Lounge
The flight to Malta will be departing from one of the K gates, which is the Schengen concourse of Munich‘s satellite pier. The transfer by underground from the main building takes about two minutes.
There is a lounge on the K concourse, and this morning it‘s very empty. When Lufthansa opened its lounges in the ‚new‘ corporate design a few years, I thought they looked fresh and modern. But I don‘t think the design has aged well, looking at it now. Don‘t get me wrong. The lounge is in great condition and very clean. But the whole design seems slightly old-fashioned now.
At 09h00 I leave the lounge and make my way to gate K07, where boarding starts just as I arrive. It‘s a Saturday morning in February and Lufthansa manages to get the flight full. I count 24 passengers in Business Class. I‘m not surprised about Lufthansa but by Malta, and the fact that it appears to have become a year round destination. Forty years ago, when we emigrated, everybody was just trying to leave the island…!
The crew on this flight seem friendly enough. If I had to guess, I would say the purser is a Dutchman who has been in Germany for quite some time. At least for a linguist his accent is interesting.
There is no cold towel, no welcome drink or anything else of the sort while we‘re still on the ground.
The cabin is your typical European Business Class set up. The seats are exceptionally thin but sufficiently comfortable. There are no power plugs and there are no overhead screens either.
Once we take off, we turn south towards the Alps. Our flight is routing from Munich to Ljubljana and then along the Croatian coast to Zadar. From there we cross the Adriatic to Pescara in Italy and continue on to Palermo and finally Malta. It‘s an unusual routing for sure. But we have a strong tailwind, giving us a very short flight of only one hour and 45 minutes.
The meal service is from a trolley and every passenger is served their meal first. Once that‘s out of the way, the crew take the trolley back to the galley and then return into the cabin with the drinks trolley. I‘m guessing this is the most efficient way to do it. Because then they can just keep on going with the service in Economy Class.
The meal service hasn‘t changed at all since the last time I took this flight a year ago. And I really mean, not at all.
The tray consists of a small dish of smoked salmon on buttered pumpernickel, a bowl of cream cheese sprinkled with radish, a bowl with a slice of salami, parma ham and one stick of a bell pepper and some yoghurt with a few berries on it. The crew only pass through the cabin once offering bread, and seconds are obviously discouraged. Other than that, salt and pepper are absent from the tray.
The crew are efficient and clear away the trays promptly.
For the rest of the flight I nap, it‘s been an early start today. But then we start our descent, and suddenly I‘m wide awake again. I don‘t know how many times I‘ve returned to Malta since we left in 1979, but somehow the approach never seems to get old. Not for me at least.
We make a slight left turn and Malta comes into view. We pass Kalafrana and continue out to sea before doing a sequence of gentle right turns until eventually we’re lined up for a runway 34 arrival, bringing us in right over Birzebbuga, where I spent my childhood.
While there’s nothing overtly wrong with the Lufthansa service, I think it’s blatantly obvious that the airline is trying to save costs at every corner. Which is what pretty much every airline is trying to do these days. What I find problematic with Lufthansa though, is that they’re obviously trying to save money in all the wrong places. First of all, because I think the premium cabins are definitely not where the money should be saved. Secondly, what’s worse is that as a passenger you actually notice the cuts, and that’s never a good thing. Other than that, if an airline really has to rely on not having a small packet of salt and pepper on the tray, then they really must be in a very sad state.
But apart from all that, even if the airline isn’t really able to offer the passenger anything much in terms of the quantity or quality of the food that is served, that is still no reason for the service, such as it were, to be so indifferent and tired.
Lufthansa and its Star Alliance partners all call Terminal 2 home. The bus ejects me at the main terminal building. My onward connection to Malta will be departing from K09, which is the Schengen concourse in the satellite of Terminal 2. To get there, there is an underground shuttle that runs every few minutes and makes the journey across in slightly over one minute.
This is my first trip through the satellite and I have to say, I like it. It’s very spacious and despite the many travellers, the place is very quiet.
The Lufthansa Business Class Lounge
There is a Business Class and a Senator lounge in the satellite. The Business Class lounge is not very busy when I arrive, probably because it is still early on a Saturday morning.
The toilets have apparently all gone out of order at the same time. So instead, passenger have to use the toilets in the shower rooms instead.
Other than that, it seems to me the lounge’s style hasn’t really aged all that well. It’s also quite small.
Before boarding even begins, there’s already a mob forming in front of the automatic gates. There is a separate gate for Business Class passenger, who are invited to board first, but it’s not that easy to get through with all the people milling about.
From what I can tell, it looks like it’s going to be a full flight this morning.
There are four rows of Business Class on this flight, and twelve out of sixteen seats are occupied, which is surprisingly high. There also seem to be a lot of French passengers on the flight.
Leg space in Business Class is excellent. I’m sitting on 2F and I have ample space to stretch my legs. The windows are also nicely aligned for some excellent outside views.
There are two middle aged women working the Business Class cabin and they’re really excellent. Their service approach is relaxed but still professional. They interact with a lot of ease and charm with the passengers, which I think is indicative of a breed of usually senior flight attendants that have been properly trained but is sadly becoming increasingly difficult to come by these days.
Again, there is absolutely no service on the ground. However, no sooner has boarding been completed, one of the crew members passes through the cabin offering nice fluffy pillows to passengers for some additional comfort.
We depart more or less on time. The flight time is announced as a quick 1 hour and 45 minutes. We take off in an easterly direction and then do a right turn to point us south. It’s a lovely crisp morning with good visibility. A perfect day for flying really.
The Alps look beautiful from above. They’re all covered in snow and some of the valleys are still shrouded in morning mist. It’s not a bad view to go along with breakfast.
The meal service starts shortly after take-off. This time, the trays are delivered from a tray by one of the flight attendants. The tray has on it:
A sliver of smoked salmon on rye bread with mustard and dill.
Vanilla yoghurt with berries.
A small plate with a cream cheese with radishes.
Another small plate with salami and smoked ham.
A strawberry smoothie.
Butter and strawberry jam.
The crew also pass through the cabin with a bread basket. I’m starving, but I decide to just take one bun, given that my request for another when I took this flight a year previously did not go down so well with the crew.
Surprisingly though, the crew pass through the cabin a second time with a full bread basket that contains croissants as well as buns.
The weather stays good right up until we reach Sicily. From there on it gradually starts to cover up. The weather in Malta doesn’t look too bad though. There are some clouds in the sky but it’s mostly sunny and warm.
We land slightly ahead of schedule. Given that I only have hand luggage, I’m through to arrivals fairly quickly. I step outside and grab the X2 bus, which goes to St. Julian’s. The ticket price is EUR1.50.
If I’m perfectly honest, this flight was much better than I had expected. I think that partly has to do with the fact that Business Class was not entirely full. As a result, the crew were able to take their time with the service and tried very hard to make passengers feel comfortable.
Apart from that though, I do think it’s a shame how the service on Lufthansa on short-haul has been cut back to the absolute minimum. They’ve become as bad as British Airways – and I don’t mean that in a nice way! The flight was okay. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to travel Lufthansa.
Date: 04 March 2017 Departure: 09h35 Arrival: 11:40 From: München To: Malta Flight time: 2 hours 5 minutes Seat: 2F, window
A while back I figured it might be a fun idea to participate in the Malta half marathon on Sunday, 5 March 2017. The 21.1km race begins in Rabat, just outside the city gate of Malta’s elegant old capital, Mdina. From there the course takes you all the way down towards the east coast of the island, past Mtarfa, through Mriehel and Marsa to Floriana. From il-Bombi the route branches off to the left, down to the water’s edge at Sa Maison for the last five kilometres, which run along the shoreline of Marsamxet harbour, through the outskirts of Gzira, Msida and Ta’Xbiex to cross the finish line at il-Ferry in Sliema.
Transfer in München
And so I find myself in Munich on an early Saturday’s morning. It’s just gone seven as I step off the Bombardier CRJ-900 that has brought me here from Basel. I really think Lufthansa should get rid of these little airplanes. I mean, I love flying but those things are just so narrow and awkward that even I start to get claustrophobia.
Normally I make a point of flying Air Malta when I travel to the island, mainly because you’re never quite sure if perhaps it might be your last flight with them, given the financial state they’re in. But I only have the weekend to make the trip. I have to be back in Basel by Sunday evening. So on this occasion, Lufthansa was simply the best choice and allowed me to arrive in Malta at noon on Saturday and leave again the next evening after the race. As the German saying goes, in der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen!
I check in using the Lufthansa app, which works nicely. I also think Lufthansa do a very good job in keeping you up to date on the status of your flight, sending you notifications of gate changes by mail and by text message.
The Lufthansa Business Class Lounge
My first stop is the Lufthansa Business Class lounge. It was still early when I left Basel this morning so I only had a coffee at the airport and some still water on the flight to Munich.
The lounge in Munich is pretty nondescript. Essentially it is just one big cavernous room with a somewhat anonymous, nondescript atmosphere. It gives the appearance of somebody having really made a gargantuan effort to strip the place of any character it might have had. Who designed this place?
I don’t try the showers but the toilets are definitely starting to look a bit rough around the edges. They’re not exactly in the cleanest condition either.
The food options are okay. There is a buffet with typical breakfast fare – a good selection of different breads, cheese, cold cuts, cucumber and tomato. There is also Müsli, fruit salad and scrambled eggs.
Boarding starts at 09h10, fifteen minutes behind the time advised on the boarding pass. The initial call is for Business Class passengers and status card holders to board first, although from what I can tell nobody is really paying attention and the gate agent doesn’t seem too bothered about that either.
The seat and cabin have been stripped to the absolute minimum level of comfort. There are no power plugs at all and from what I can tell there is also no inflight entertainment system either, which is okay because the flight attendant doing the safety on board demo seems to be having a whale of a time pretending she’s on the catwalk in Milan or Paris…
There are three rows of seats in the Business Class cabin this morning, with eleven of the twelve seats occupied. Originally, I’m the lucky guy with a whole row of three to myself. But after take-off Mr 1C moves across to sit next to me on 2D. I suspect he’s probably had enough of the crew tripping over his feet every time they exit the galley.
The crew are nondescript too. Not overly gushing but not rude or impolite either. As far as the service is concerned though, I think I’m starting to see a pattern here. In fact I think the service is about as lackluster as the lounge and the crew and the cabin of the aircraft. There are no welcome drinks and no refresher towels. After take-off there is no drinks service ahead of the meal service either.
So essentially, this means the service on this flight consists of a unmotivated flight attendant unceremoniously parking a tray before you with grub on it. And what a frugal meal it is! There is a small bowl of some passion fruit concoction, which does, admittedly, taste rather nice. Then there is a small plate, a really small plate, with one slice of some sort of ham, one piece of hard cheese, a blob of cream cheese and more fruit. And that’s it. For a moment I wonder if perhaps somebody I know is trying to give me an oh so subtle hint that I should loose weight by ordering the low-calorie meal for me. But no such luck.
To drink I have coffee which is tepid and bland and probably even too weak for an American.
The crew come through the cabin with a large breadbasket, which has more than enough bread in it for the eleven passengers in the Business Class cabin. However, it is quite apparent that seconds from the breadbasket are not encouraged and actually frowned upon by the crew.
When the flight attendant comes to remove my tray she asks me if there’s anything else I’d like to drink. For a moment I consider giving her my best puppy eyes and asking her, with a shaky voice and trembling lips if ‘please Ma’am, can I have some more…’? But then I decide against that, figuring she probably wouldn’t know Dickens anyway. Besides, I think it might cause her physical pain to smile and I’m not that cruel. And so she saunters off in the direction of the galley looking mightily pissed off. A few seconds later she returns with the bread tongs holding one single piece of bread. After all, we wouldn’t want any of the other passengers getting funny ideas now, would we?
I smile and say thank you, to show her I appreciate her effort. But alas, as the saying goes, there’s no hell on earth that’s like a woman’s scorn and my flippant trespass shall not be forgiven so quickly and so the snow queen simply gives me an icy glare before she silently glides away.
The rest of the flight passes just as unspectacularly uneventful as the boring meal service. The woman behind me sounds like she’s got a serious bout of hooping cough, which apparently is alleviated by not covering your mouth when you cough to achieve maximum exposure to your germs for all the passengers in the immediate vicinity, which can be quite a few people in the confined space of an airplane cabin.
But all of that recedes into the background as we leave the Sicilian coastline behind us and the captain initiates the descent. We get some spectacular views on the approach. The islands look so green around this time of the year.
Eventually, we land slightly ahead of schedule. As I step down onto the apron I am consumed by a mix of emotion – wondering what on earth I was thinking to register for the race tomorrow, feeling happy to be back home again and making a mental note to never ever again waste money on a Lufthansa Business Class ticket.