Lufthansa (North Atlantic)
by Haas Mroue
PHOTO: ROY LOCK
Route: Los Angeles (IATA: LAX/ICAO: KLAX)–Munich [München]-Franz Josef Strauss (MUC/EDDM)
Date: September 22/23, 2006
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300 (D-AIGN)
Seat: 30K (exit row)
Departure time: 1615
Arrival time: 1230 (next day).
Passenger: Haas Mroue
The economy check-in line was about 80 people deep at precisely 1415 when I arrived at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Luckily, I was able to use the business class counter owing to my Gold Star Alliance card. Check-in took ten minutes but then everybody had to drag their tagged bags to the TSA security clearance X-ray machines and wait. The situation was confusing as people had to wait until the bags cleared the X-ray machines before they were allowed to move to the next security checkpoint, into the ‘sterile’ waiting area close to the gates. What most pax did not know is that once you’ve passed security there is only one shop, no cafes, and no restaurants. No signs are posted to warn the passengers of this huge inconvenience.
Again, owing to my Gold status, I was able to use the LH Lounge, which offered armchairs, a self-service bar area (complete with wines, hard liquors, and snacks such as cheese, crackers, and peanuts). No wireless access was available but most patrons could pick up on the Japan Airlines Lounge signal next door.
Boarding was delayed by a few minutes but was completed on time at 1610. I had seat 30K, the only exit row in the economy section. Young, energetic flight attendants (all female) welcomed us with smiles. We pushed back precisely at 1615 and taxied slowly to the southern half of the airport.
Rumbling along Runway 25R, we were airborne at 1640 and made a right turn along the coast, passing adjacent to Santa Monica. At Malibu we turned left over the ocean and then headed south, turning left again over Long Beach before starting our long trek eastward.
Headsets were distributed at 1650, again with a smile from the enthusiastic flight attendants. At 1715, two drinks trolleys per aisle were rolled out and the beverage service began. All drinks are free on Lufthansa—a far cry from Star Alliance partner United’s trans-Atlantic charge of $5 per alcoholic drink. Lufthansa serves liquor from large bottles. Wine choices were a French merlot (red) or a German Riesling (white). Pretzel sticks were handed out with the drinks.
At 1725, we levelled off at 31,000ft and the captain gave a lengthy announcement about our route. We were then flying over the Grand Canyon and the view was breathtaking with the setting sun in the background. We then passed Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam as we tracked along a rather southerly route.
Routing was direct to Chicago, Montréal, and Gander before crossing the Atlantic. The captain informed us that he expected a smooth flight all the way to Germany.
Hot towels were passed out at 1805 before another drinks service began, along with dinner. There were two choices: a pasta penne with tomato sauce or chicken with rice. I choose the latter. The trays were rather small and came with a tiny Caesar salad with humongous croutons, a slice of Colby cheese, a roll, and chocolate cake. Everything was edible except for the chicken, which consisted of three brown and ominous pieces of indescribable origin. The rice tasted as if it had come out of a box and a spoonful of canned corn was the ‘vegetable’ with the main course.
The FAs were obviously busy serving the full load on this A340, but most passengers grew antsy without wine or coffee until 1840 when more drinks were offered. By then, people had finished eating and just wanted out of their seats.
At 1855 coffee and after-dinner drinks were brought round. We were almost over Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before the trays were cleared.
In economy, the entertainment system on this A340 is a joke. There were only four TV monitors for every four rows and the screen was not big enough for most to watch anything. There are, however, 24 channels of audio and the moving map display comes on between movies.
At 1955 we hit moderate turbulence and the captain ordered the flight attendants to be seated immediately. The moderate chop continued for about 20 minutes, and then we descended to 29,000 feet where it eventually petered out.
When the shaking stopped, most passengers settled in for a long night. The estimated flying time was 10hr 45min—and we still had a long way to go.
The FAs were very alert, although they mostly stayed in the rear galley. They responded to call bells immediately—and with a smile. Water and orange juice was kept on trays, ready to offer to those who walked to the galley.
Two hours before landing, the cabin crew passed around the cabin with water and orange juice, followed by hot towels. Then breakfast was served. This consisted of a plain omelette topped with diced green peppers and three wedges of potatoes. A roll, jam, and a fresh fruit salad rounded out the meal, along with coffee or tea.
The fresh fruit was the most welcome and delicious offering served on board this long flight. Again, LH surpasses partner UA in catering over the Atlantic, because UA offers only a snack for breakfast, not a meal on a tray.
Both meals came with real silverware— including knives (though blunt, of course).
Throughout the flight the FAs checked the lavatories and kept them freshly stocked. Compared to UA, again, the lavatories are not well taken care and by the end of a trans-Atlantic flight they are in terrible condition.
About 45 minutes before landing, the captain bid us good morning and informed us of the fine weather in MUC and an on-time arrival. A short video about MUC airport was then shown before the FAs made their final preparations for landing.
We landed on time at 1230 and taxied quickly to the H-course gates where we disembarked promptly.
Lufthansa receives very high marks for excellent service that is still superior to most other western airlines; catering out of LAX leaves a lot to be desired, however.
The entertainment system is no match for most other international airlines and it is a glaring deficiency. Among the Star Alliance partners, perhaps only Varig has a worse entertainment system.
There is, however, wireless internet aboard most trans-Atlantic flights—and that is a welcome perk. The wireless connection was fast and easy to use and cost $9.95 per hour or $26.95 for the entire flight.
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