January 16, 2013 One week, around the world, 37,000 miles: PHX-ORD-FRA
With the trip set on Friday for a Sunday departure, it was time to go.
Sunday, January 6th, 0430
BEEP BEEP BEEP. The sound of the alarm clock woke me from dream like state and brought me back to the cold dark world that is 0430 in the morning. Why 0430, because I live just under two hours from the airport, so I need to get up and leave about three hours in advance and I had a 0750 flight to Chicago. The drive to the Phoenix airport is a simple one, I-17 South I-10 East and boom airport. I dropped my car at the parking spot, corporate discount, and trucked over to terminal two. Terminal two is currently the oldest terminal in Phoenix and houses UA, AS, and Great Lakes Aviation, though at some point US Airways had an operation there.
Check-in was a smooth as possible. I had a new passport so I had to enter all of my information into the Mr. Chick-in and have it verified by a ticket agent. When she went to verify my information TIMATIC popped up with the relevant information. TIMATIC is the service most airlines use to verify admissibility into the country of your destination. Airlines have to verify if you need a visa and if you need it if you have it. If you don’t have a visa they don’t let you on the plane. This is because airlines get fined when they transport an inadmissible person to country and that person gets denied entry. This will become important latter in the story. I was given boarding passes for the first two segments of the ticket. PHX-ORD and ORD-FRA, I would have to collect FRA-BKK and BKK-RGN down the line.
I took my roller board and backpack and made my way through security. I went through the backscatter machine without a hitch. I know people will judge me for not opting out; I just don’t have the will to care anymore about it. I collected myself and went to the United Club to wait the ten minutes before boarding. Dear lord the United Clubs have gone downhill. They took away the granola cereal, really the only healthy option, and replaced it with rice crispies. So, I had a danish. Boarding started and I made my way over to the gate and got on just as boarding started.
PHX-ORD, UA F, A320
The flight was about what one would expect a domestic flight from Phoenix to Chicago would be like. Since I booked the flight on the previous Friday, I had the choice of 3A or 3A. I went with three A. What surprised me about this flight, was one that it had working empower and two the captain had turned on Ch. 9. Empower is an older DC power system and Ch.9 allows the passenger to listen to whatever ATC radio channel the cockpit is tuned to. I didn’t take any pictures of this flight mostly because I tried to sleep as much as possible. I knew I wouldn’t be getting very much sleep over the next few days so I tried to get it where I could. Also on this flight the flight attendants apparently took meal orders by status because I was the first one asked (1K on a reward F ticket counts as full fare). I had honey nut chex cereal also in anticipation of a massive dinner. We landed in ORD on-time and after landing I made my way over to United’s Global First Lounge. For some strange reason Lufthansa and ANA both depart from United’s B gates. This is odd because they have to arrive at the international terminal on the other side of the airport and be towed over to the B gates from the international terminal. Also, Swiss and Aer Lingus both arrive and depart from terminal five even though they are also United partners.
Global First Lounge.
United’s Chicago Global First Lounge is a part of United’s C satellite lounge complex. There is a United Club and an arrivals lounge attached to it. It is also one of the few pre-merger united lounges that have access to showers. The GFL can be found just to the left of the service counter when viewed from the escalators. The lounge consists of a medium sized lounge area, buffet area, restrooms, business area, and a service counter. When I got there it was packed, then they called the Hong Kong flight and it emptied out.
Lounge space, the buffet is behind the divider.
You can see the C United Club through the window.
As you can see there is a decent selection of food and wine. I was quite happy with the lounge though it is a far cry from LH’s F lounges. I started to have problems when I went to ask for a shower. Apparently because I was on a Lufthansa flight, they didn’t want to allow me access. This is against Star Alliance rules, but I have noticed that UA lounge staff care little for rules. Eventually after some back and forth they let me because I flew UA from Phoenix to Chicago. I’ll spare you all pictures of the shower, it was pretty nice and well designed and in true United Style the hand held showerhead didn’t work. United provided a nice shower kit containing all the basic toiletries and a few extra creams that I am guessing were for the ladies or people who want to smell like summer flowers or whatever.
After a few hours in the lounge it was time to make my way over to the gate in the B gates for boarding. Lufthansa has a very strong gate queue system so everyone knows where they need to be. First Class has a special seating section roped off if I wanted to use it. I noticed that the afternoon ORD-SFO flight was departing late and I had a look at the gate departure screen. Apparently there were over 100 elites on that flight not counting the ones that got upgraded. Remind me never to take that flight. Boarding started and gent starting pushing people out of his way, when he got to me a stern glare put an end to that nonsense. On to the flight then
ORD-FRA, LH F, 83C, D-ABVK “Hannover”
Lufthansa went ultra-prestigious with their first class on the 747-400 first it is on the upper-deck, where let’s face it all the cool kids hang out. Also they cut the number of seats from 16 to 8 and with the 747 replace one seat with a bed. This isn’t a seat that converts into being a bed or a fold down cot, no it is an actual bed next to the seat. It’s awesome. It is sad that Lufthansa decided to move first class on their 747-8’s to the nose and just use a flatbed seat.
Here are some pictures of the sea and bed.
Before departure the purser came by and introduced herself to each first class passenger. This is where one of the passengers went off the rails. Lufthansa provides vehicle transfers to departing flights for first class passengers out of Frankfurt, which is nice. However, one passenger demanded to the purser that he be picked up in car. No matter how many times she said that is Frankfurt’s issue, he wouldn’t accept the answer she gave. He earned the jerk of the day award. The flight attendant in charge of first class cabin was awesome. He was Mexican and lives in Mexico City. He commutes to Frankfurt for work, and I thought I had a long commute. His is 5944 miles each way. I asked him if he worked any of the Mexico City flights (LH has one daily departure) he said “nope.” His preference was South America flights which works as apparently in addition to English, German, Spanish, and possibly French he speaks Portuguese.
Five languages? I was left wondering why this person decided against world domination as a career choice.
Anyways enough silliness I know why you are here, you want the food porn and you shall have it. Lufthansa has a slightly odd menu, they offer a trio of appetizers plus caviar. You can always tell if someone is flying LH F for the first time because they try to choose which appetizers they want. So anyways here is the menu. I forgot grab a picture of the Amuse Bouche and breakfast, sorry.
Crab and avocado in a lemon grass gazpacho.
Seared beef Sashimi with cabbage and gyoza dressing.
Soba noodles and crisp vegetables with roasted peanuts.
Salad with a mango yogurt dressing that was AMAZING.
Main Course: Stir-Fry egg noodles with eggplant, tofu, sesame seeds, and green onions.
For dessert I passed on the cheese cart and stuck with Chocolate pot de crème with vanilla ice cream.
After dinner, I asked the steward for the aircraft model from the duty free cart. What can I say I am sucker for the aircraft models, I’m a nerd. The steward informed me it wasn’t in the first class cart but he would have the other attendants shake down the aircraft. At this point I wanted some sleep, but first the lavatator pic.
Oh yah ladies back off, one at a time there is plenty of me to go around. 😉
During the flight I couldn’t really sleep so I asked another attendant to see how the model search was going, she said people were looking. In the morning, the FA dropped of the model and I paid for it. Then 10 minutes later another FA came by to tell me that it had been sold on the flight to Chicago. Think on that for a moment. The first person found it, and got it to me. The next person heard that it had been sold, rather than tell the first class passenger that it had been sold, they went with a lie. I understand why they lied, they don’t want to tell an F passenger their item had been sold to business or coach passenger but when the first instinct is to lie, that’s not good. Anyways I had the European breakfast and the passenger who demanded the card loudly remarked that he was passing on breakfast because “the breakfast in the lounge is better,” cementing his jerk of the day status on multiple continents.
Landing was smooth and as it was still dark out, there are no pictures until I get to the FCL B, which will be in tomorrow’s exciting edition.