Lufthansa Business Class: New York - Dusseldorf

Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Class: Business
Route: New York - Dusseldorf
Date: July 2011

Two weeks after we came in by Continental we were on our way back to Germany. This time with a nonstop Lufthansa flight from EWR to DUS in Business Class. I was surprised how easy it was to get award tickets during high season.

This was one of the flights I usually do not like that much. You depart late afternoon and arrive very early next morning. It is difficult to catch some sleep, because it is so early and it is even more difficult to feel relaxed the next morning because you're inner clock says not 6:00 a.m. but midnight Eastern time. Also the flying times are often too short to get enough sleep.

We arrived early at EWR, checked in without any waiting time and went through security to the lounge. This lounge is mainly an SAS Business lounge with a small compartment for Senators and Star Gold members. The lounge is small and we were almost the first ones.

We killed time by having some snacks and enjoying the first German newspapers in two weeks. Lounge filled up and 25 min before departure DUS-bound passengers were asked to board. We entered the plane and ... surprise. Originally we had planned to fly as a party of three. One of us had to cancel the flight because of family problems so I flew only with my daughter. But after reservation it was quite difficult to find seats next to each other. And now? The Business section was totally empty. In the back part of the cabin 13 out of 36 seats were occupied. Two of those seats were occupied by award flyers and 5 passengers were on their way back to Israel, where LH sells tickets for really low prices. I think they lost a lot of money on this flight.

When "boarding completed" was announced, I went to the lavatory to get my PJ on. This time I had my LH F pyjamas from an earlier flight with me. Not many Business passengers do this, but I hate to sleep wearing "street clothes".

Then the next (bad) surprise came up. The captain announced that we were now leaving the gate, rolling to another position and have to wait there for about 45 mins. The flight time tonight would be so incredible short, and we would not be allowed to land in DUS before 6:00 a.m. because of noise regulations at this airport. I have had other flights from the east coast with Lufthansa and really did not like their way of service. It seemed to me that they did everything to keep passengers busy as long as possible.

But this time it was different. After some waiting on another position, we went back to our taxi way and took off very fast. After take off the usual drink, some pre-packed pretzels (hey, this is not US domestic coach, this is an international Business Class!). Meal service was real fast and efficient this time. As a starter my daughter had the tomato mozzarella and I opted for the stuffed salmon. No chance to try a bit of all the starters, you have to take what is pre-packed on your plastc tray. After the starter the plastic tray disappeard, they left the cheese and the cutlery and brought the main courses. My daughter took pasta (bad choice, totally overcooked) and I took chicken. The good thing about chicken is that you really cannot do anything wrong. My one was o.k. but nothing special. Some fruit for her, some cake for me and to my surprise in less than 1 1/2 h after take off the cabin lights went off and I found some sleep.

THIS was the service I expect. Short, acceptable quality and fast and efficient. I think this is important on eastbound flights.

One hour before landing I woke up and still got some breakfast. Typically German as I like it: rolls, cold cuts, some sweets like honey and nutella and an excellent coffee service. I got 4 cups within 20 minutes.

Touch down was at 6:05, immigration took only minutes and our luggage was not only tagged as priority, it came quite at the beginning.

Resume: This flight was as I expect it. However, I fear this was only possible because of the empty C cabin. When they are full, it will be like the many times before I flew with them from the east coast.


Continental BusinessFirst: Birmingham - New York

Airline: Continental
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200
Class: BusinessFirst
Route: Birmingham - New York
Date: July 2011

3:30. In the middle of the night. I hate getting up so early in the morning, but we ordered an airport transfer for 4:45 from my home to DUS. Enough time for two big cups of coffee, stowing my computer in my hand luggage, close all windows and the car was in front of the door. Of course at this time there is absolutely no traffic in the streets and we arrived at Dusseldorf international airport 90 min before departure.

Our plan was to fly to Birmingham with Lufthansa (Regional, operated by Eurowings) and continue on Continental 27 from Birmingham to Newark. The flight to EWR was only on a 757 but according to Continental's website all 757 have already been equipped with the new BusinessFirst seats, so I was really looking forward to that flight.

We had plenty of time. At first we saw that Business check In was full, so we headed towards First Class check In (thanks to BMI Gold and Lufthansa Senator) where nobody was in line. We made it within a minute and went straight through security into the Lufthansa Senator lounge for breakfast. DUS is one of the nicer lounges within the German LH network.

After some juices, another coffee, some cigarettes and something to eat it was time to go to the gate. Just a quick passport control in between with some silly questions about another passport I lost a year ago and 1 minute after we had arrived at the gate boarding started. Of course it was a bus gate. The bus took us to a CRJ 900 with the curtain behind row 7. We were seated row 5 and 6. They call it European Business Class but as you see, apart from the free neighbour seat there is no difference to Economy. Some kind of breakfast was handed out, but I was full with what I had in the lounge. Flight was uneventful, no information from the pilot where we were or which route we'd fly, it was one hour of looking stupid at the top of some clouds before we started our descent to BHX.

After our arrival at BHX there had already been announcements that people coming from DUS and continuing to EWR should show up at CI desk 55. With a small look at the arrival screen I saw that this flight had an incoming delay of 2 hrs and 20 mins. We walked to the CI, learned that the delay was not as massive as announced (it changed into a 90 min delay) and that all the information about passport etc. which LH had already collected, had not made their way into the CO system. The whole game once more.

We decided to kill the remaining time at the Servisair lounge at BHX. This lounge is basic only, some drinks, some prepacked snacks. Nothing to talk about. It is better than sitting outside with thousands of people but that's all.

We started to walk to the gate quite early and were really surprised when they started boarding at 9:45 a.m. (45 mins after planned departure but also only 45 mins after arrival). This sounded too good and in reality it took us another hour until we actually departed. With an announced flying time of 7h 28 mins we were scheduled to arrive with a delay of a bit more than one hour.

Service was slow on this flight. Very slow. It seemed as if they wanted to keep people busy as long as possible. Sorry, no picture of the food this time, but I add some pics from the menu.

They started with roasted nuts. After that they came with the appetizer cart and I took, like the most people, a bit of everything. Scallop bisque (excellent!), chicken skewer (average) and some veggie pastry with a very good coriander sauce.

The salad which followed was salad. Nothing more to write about.

Main courses: My daughter chose the shrimps and this was a good choice. I made the mistake to take the beef. It is a shame if you think that an animal had to die to end up as a piece of shoe sole on your plate. This animal died twice. One time regularly, a second time during cooking. Terrible! I ate less than a half of it and enjoyed a big scoop of ice cream with chocolate sauce at the end.

Now the most important part of every flight started. We needed some rest and wanted to sleep. And here the next disappointment showed up. The seats are good if you are in a fixed sleeping position and do not want to move until you get up. However, the tunnel your legs are in is to tight that you cannot turn your body around without pulling your legs back. This really makes sure that you cannot get into any deep sleep to relax and forget about the time difference. I must say it that clearly. From all the full flat seats I had had during my flights this is absolutely the worst one. Might be it is only on the 757 that tight, but I could not manage to get into a deep sleep. If this tightness is the price I have to pay for full flat, I would prefer flat but some slightly angeled seats compared to the ground) like AF NEV3 or the MS 777 which gives you much more space.

Finally I caught some sleep (but no good one) and woke up 1 h 10 mins before we landed in EWR. What they had written on the menu sounded perfect. But basically they served a pizza style roast beef sandwich which was typical American, but not too bad.

As planned, we arrived with appr. 1 hr delay at EWR and luckily the afternoon rush hour at immigration had not started yet. So we were out of the airport after 20 mins and sat in our rental car 50 mins after arrival. Not too bad for a New York airport with checked luggage.

Will I fly Continental again in the future? Of course. The beef was my mistake (everybody should know that you cannot eat steaks onboard a plane if you do not like it cooked to death). The seats: They are not THAT bad, but they are not really good. I think it were my own expections which had been too high and I came back to reality. I will fly with them if it fits my schedule and if the price is o.k. But at this moment they have no chance to become my favourite airline.

My way back will be LH 409 nonstop from EWR to DUS. I'll tell about it.


Lufthansa European Comfort: Munich - Dusseldorf

Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Class: Economy (European Comfort)
Route: Munich - Dusseldorf
Date: July 2011

When flying from Munich to Dusseldorf, I had my first encounter with Lufthansa's new European Comfort cabin. Thinner seats, more space, more comfort. This sounded good! However, a friend of mine had already told me that seating hurts, so I expected something like US Airways' Dash-8.
Unfortunately, my friend was just too right. Don't sit down too rapidly, it might hurt, US' Dash-8 seats are a real sofa compared to this new seat. Actually the only comfortable things about the new seat are the increased seat pitch and the nice new cabin look. But if you don't sit perfectly upright, you feel the core of the back rest all along down your spine and every vertebra protests. Bad for slim people. But even worse: There is a hard plastic cover on the back of every back rest as a cover behind the seat pocket. Unfortunately it is so thin and flexible that a tiny push with one finger can create a temporary ding. So if the passenger seating behind you puts something into or take something out of his seat pocket, you feel it. And it feels even worse with knees or a kid's restless feet.
The back rest is only 3 cm thick and some extra cushion would do wonders, I guess.

By the way: Business Class seats are all the same, just the middle seat stays empty.

Good seat pitch

Senator Lounge Dusseldorf


Thai First Class: Munich - Bangkok | Phuket - Bangkok - Munich

Airline: Thai
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Class: First
Route: Munich - Bangkok | Phuket - Bangkok - Munich
Date: June 2011

One month ago we decided to visit Thailand, so this was a good way to spend some US miles. As the difference between First and Business was small, we went for Thai First for the first time. We also thought about flying from Paris and trying the suites, but connection flights from Munich didn't fit our schedule, so we took the nonstop flight from Munich.

We arrived at the airport early, so there was plenty of time for check in which went smoothly. We had already reserved our seats so there was just the boarding pass to be printed. Our luggage got tagged with "priority" and got the typical golden Thai First tags.
Afterwards we went to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge (the other one was being renovated). Nothing special to write about. The choice of food was a bit limited, soup, some strange looking greasy "Leberkäse" (German meat loaf), bread. WLAN didn't work out. We went to the gate in time and could board quickly through an extra gangway used for First and Business Class. On board we were greeted with name and led to our seats. Immediately a glass of champagne and hot towels were offered. At the seat, a huge dow pillow, a yellow thin blanket (polyester), noise cancelling headphones in a box, a Rimowa inflight amenity kit (dark blue) and board slippers were already waiting. The flight attendant offered violet pyjamas in size M and L, S was not available. We took M, which is a bit too large, but still comfortable (we were invited to keep them). The amenity kit contained facial spray, breath refreshener, toothbrush with toothpaste, a brush / comb, body lotion, lip balm and eau de cologne (cosmetics brand: Maxima Paris). No socks or eyeshades (which is actually not too bad as it just causes lots of garbage, and many anyway bring along their own items). Right in front of us there was the old-old-old-fashioned movie screen showing the route and information about temperature, speed etc.

After take off (in time) service started immediately. The menu was presented very nicely in a cover of golden "Thai silk". You could choose between four dishes for main course, however, none of them was vegetarian, it always contained meat or seafood.
We skipped caviar and enjoyed a delicious meal on a perfectly set table. We dined together - the table is big enough -, one sitting in the seat, the other one used the ottoman.

After less than two hours after departure we finished dinner (skipped desert as well), put on the pyjamas in the well decorated (orchids) and maintained lavatory, and went to bed. Now I started to wonder, as nothing happened. No bed was set, no bed linen was offered. Hm. So I just reclined my seat, took my blanket and fell asleep soon. The seat is comfortable, but offers only very limited space to store your book, socks, glasses etc. and the upper part is not fully flat. So this might be a problem if you are a side-sleeper. It's ok if you place the pillow under the headrest and not on top of it, otherwise it is too high for your neck. However, I woke up in the middle of the night as it was a bit too cold with the thin blanket, so I asked for an additional one. During the night, a 600 ml bottle of water (Vittel) was provided. Of course you got more if you needed more. All in all I slept over six hours and woke up refreshed. Unfortunately the Sky Show didn't really work out in your personal screen, so I couldn't tell where we were, the plane stayed over Munich. I didn't watch any movie during this flight.

In the morning you found tooth brushes and antiseptic hand gel in the lavatory (which also provided Ferragamo amenities like lotion and perfumes). The lavatories were always perfectly clean, I noticed that the flight attendants had a look after each passenger to check if everything was ok. Never was there any water on the floor or in the sink etc.
We enjoyed a nice breakfast together. Unfortunately no muesli was offered, only lots of egg-dishes, which weren't bad, but a bit too heavy.

We landed in Bangkok 41 mins ahead of schedule. I started to wonder again: no orchid was given for good bye in First Class. I cannot tell about Business Class, but I saw many passengers from Economy which got some. Strange.
After the gangway we were already expected by a lady in a golf cart. She drove us to the fast track line for immigration and so we were at the baggage claim within 5 mins after leaving the plane. Our baggage was the very first to appear, then the belt stopped again. A member of the ground staff put everything on a cart and accompanied us to the exit. He waited with us until our driver arrived.
This is really travelling "smooth as silk"!

Then we went to our hotel. We had decided for Chatrium Riverside as it provided huge rooms for a really low price (just 53 EUR per night incl. breakfast). We had booked a grande riverside room with balcony on Expedia. Surprise surprise, at the check in we were informed that our room category was full, so we got a complimentary upgrade to a one-bedroom suite. It contained a small kitchen, living room, separate bedroom and a balcony with a great river view. Really nice! For dinner, a huge buffet was offered, the same for breakfast.


The next day our tour of Thailand started. We had booked a private guide at the local agency LJ Biz - Let's Tour Bangkok. Expected: private car and guide. We got: minibus (9 seats), guide, driver. To take things ahead: excellent guide, travel with full flexibility, nothing to care about, everything worked out, very nice hotels, and absolutely no mistake. Highly recommended! You are as flexible as you wish, can choose hotel / room category, schedule, attractions etc. We had told them the places we would like to visit (which included Isan) and got an itinerary within 24 hours. Moreover, we had the chance to visit a school, go to the rice field with some farmers, walk through the rain forest off track with a ranger and tried almost all fruit the markets offered as driver and guide bought different ones every day. If it started to rain in between (it's the rainy season, so there was a short shower every day), you could be sure that an umbrella appeared within seconds, and refreshing towels and water was always there when needed. We usually took lunch together in local restaurants, also sometimes from those "kitchens" in the streets (and those were the best dishes). Our guide also showed us lots of things which had not been in the itinerary, just because it was nice to see and anyway on the way. And he never put us into "gift shops".
We stayed at Khao Yai National Park (at Belle Villa Resort), Korat (Dusit Princess), Sukhothai (The Legendha), Lampang (Wienglakor), Chiang Rai (The Legend) and Chiang Mai (Dusit Royal Princess).

Shwedagon Pagoda, Tachileik, Myanmar

The Legend, Chiang Rai

The Legend, Chiang Rai

The Legend, Chiang Rai, Mae Kok River

We spend three days in Bangkok and arrived in the very north ten days later, crossed the Burmese border for two hours and also paid a visit to the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai. After so many elephants in chains and strangely rocking back and forth in the streets and near attractions this was really good to see: it's a wide, open area where all elephants can roam free. There are no chains, but every elephant has its own mahoud walking next to it - without hooks, sticks or anything. We decided for this park because we didn't want to support those circus like shows. You got to know sad things about the elephants in the park, most of them were rescued from bad conditions. Three elephants are blind (one was blinded by its owner!), three have broken hips from illegal logging. The oldest one is over 83, the youngest ones 9 months. We were also shown a documentary about how elephants in remote villages are still "trained" to be a working elephant. It's really horrible to see, as it is pure torture. At the age of 4-5 they are put into the "crushing cage" which is so small that they can't move. Then they are beaten, stabbed with sticks with nails on them, even into the ear, around the eyes or toe nails, belly etc. They must not sleep, drink or eat enough, just to break their mind and make them obey their owners. They are even hit with metal hooks on the head. I think most tourists and even Thai people don't know of that.
You can spend just one day at the park (you can feed and bathe the elephants in the river), but also stay over night or work there as a volunteer for a week or so. It was a very good decision to go there!

Then the tour ended and we proceeded to Phuket on our own. We took the direct flight Chiang Mai - Phuket on Thai in Economy Class. It was an Airbus A300, so a really nostalgic feeling came up! As it wasn't full, everyone could stretch out. A lunchbox was offered as well.

We stayed at the Sheraton Grande Laguna in Phuket. There was a farewell offer as it will leave the Luxury Collection and be renovated for the rest of the year. Again we got an upgrade, to an oceanfront room. The hotel is nice, but far too big. Endless ways to walk. But it has a really nice swimming pool with canals. This was needed as the waves were too high, so there was the red flag. The next time I'd go for a smaller hotel.

Soon we had to fly back to Germany, unfortunately. At Phuket airport we were already awaited at the check in counter and again escorted through the airport, to an extra passport control and then to the lounge. The lounge is small, but very nice. It offers separate "cabanas" for First Class travellers and three computers free to use. At the gate I noticed that there was no Airbus, but a Boeing 747. Holding a Business Class ticket we were seated in First Class. It's the old First Class, but still extremely comfortable. I'd even say the seat is more comfortable than the current one, it's like a sofa (a full flat one). A quick hot lunch was served.

In Bangkok we were again escorted through all security checks, straight into the lounge (this time no golf cart, but walking, but this doesn't really matter). We had one hour before boarding the flight to Munich, but still they squeezed a full body massage in. The First Class lounge is very elegant, featuring soft seats and sofas and lots of separate rooms with TVs to where you can withdraw with your family to be in private. I just spent two minutes there, then we were taken to the Royal Orchid Spa. It's most elegant and luxurious and I wished I could have spent more time there. The hand luggage could be left in the lounge. The therapists take you to an own suite featuring the massage bed, a huge bathtub and an exclusive changing area with shower, toilet, closet, sink etc. You get a golden bathrobe, soft slippers and underwear to be used during the massage. We were given a 50-min oil massage (shortened by 10 mins because of boarding time) and then immediately escorted to the aircraft. There is always somebody at your side and opens the way for you.

On board we were greeted by name again and guided to our seats. We could place our hand luggage in the coat locker in the nose of the plane. Our seats were decorated with orchids (they were removed after the second serving). After champage (Dom Perignon Vintage 2002, as far as I could see ... I'm not good at those things!), pyjamas (this time size S was available! They are blue, "Alain Delon" collection; again we were told that we could take them home), Rimowa kit (grey) and hot towels we took off in time. Lunch was served quickly and then the flight attendant asked if we would like her to prepare the bed. Surprise surprise, somewhere eyeshades, earplugs and bed sheets showed up. Rather only a seat cover which was fixed, so it didn't move while you were sleeping, but unfortunately no "real" blanket was available. This time the airshow for your inseat video worked out. The entertainment system is not state-of-the-art, but there is nothing to complain about. There are bigger screens, but I often find it more comfortable to have a normal sized screen in front of your nose instead a huge screen which dominates the whole space. So I just watched three movies and slept a bit until the second serving.

During this flight I also noticed that the flight attendants didn't only clean the lavatory, but also placed seat covers on the toilet after every passenger. A really very great service! Unfortunately there were again no orchids. Economy passengers got some, we didn't.

We landed in Munich 30 mins ahead of schedule and our luggage was again first after crew luggage and some boxes for the Thai embassy. Travel smooth as silk!


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