Saturday, 1 October 2011

Trip Report 9, Part 1 LH BHX-MUC-HKG, J/F

I had a need to be at a wedding in Hong Kong, I also was very short of holiday but had a small cash surplus , I'd also really like to be a SEN before my holiday in November.

All this added up to a F ticket, well an A ticket - I'm not paying full price for LH F. I did toy with the idea of LX F out and LH F back, but LX have annoyed me lately. Or rather the B bus gate bag police have.

Anyway, as usual, it all started with a taxi to BHX in glorious warm sunshine, a silly 27C for the tail end of September. Check in was, errm, up the the outstations usual standards, as in minimal eye contact, minimal speech and the odd placement of a HOT tag on my bag when I had a 1:45 connection at MUC - perhaps they knew something I didn't.

Anyway, I did security which was good, avoided the spraying women in the walk through duty free which was good, did my usual shopping and then decided to proceed through to the lounge for some water and shelf-stable cake.

Boarding time came about 20 minutes late and it was the usual extremely poor performance by LH's contract ground staff. Three people there, one half heartedly checking tickets and docs whilst  chatting to her two mates. When the holding pen was full, they walked up opened up the door to the air bridge and walked back without a word. Classy.

Mercifully, there had been no late substitution this time and it was a E-195 on the MUC run, but it had a small technical problem and we lost our slot. So we waited on the ground a bit and finally took off about 35 minutes late, l saw my valuable lounge time slipping away.

2D was reasonably comfy and I settled into my magazines, the service was the usual from a MUC crew, fairly friendly but fairly quick. I declined the food, thinking of the feast that was coming later (plus it really looked pretty poor) and took only a plastic cup of still water. A second round of drinks was offered and then the crew had a rest for the rest of the flight.

On arrival, LH had arranged some minibuses for some direct connections, which I thought was very good service. However, as we were at a remote stand, a car had been sent for me to take me directly to the First Class Lounge. With about 30 mins before boarding (and knowing how long it takes to fully board an Airbus 340-600), my imp of the perverse almost sent me onto the bus and to take my rightful place in the FTL lounge, but I carefully resisted this.

Instead I was whisked off in a Mercedes and escorted to the Holy of Holies the First Class Lounge. I wouldn't have long in there at all, but it was enough time for a cigarette and some rehydration.

The last picture is of the minibar in the small "Cigar Lounge" which must be the classiest smoking room in an airport anywhere. I did nibble some cheese and ham and have a glass of Helles in there as well, but I was feeling a bit anxious about a small clothing malfunction - so I went to the extremely classy toilets and sorted that out.

By this time, it was time for boarding, so I collected my passport and headed off to the gate. Hopefully, I will get a bit longer at FRA on the way back.

Boarding the Airbus was very swift, two gates were being used, one for economy and one for First, Business and I assume Star Gold members. The F/J line was very short, so I was straight on board. There are eight seats in F on the Airbus A340-600, but there were only three passengers which is bad for LH, but good for the passengers.

LH currently has two types of First, New First on the A380's and some 747's and Old First on the other 747's and the airbus fleet (I think one of each type of Airbus has been converted as a test bed). Old First is a bit of an aged product, whilst it has a lie-flat bed, it's first generation and a bit cranky, there's also a fairly poor IFE and some suboptimal storage. However, it's still better than LH's poor inter continental business class.

As usual at this point there was an offer of pre-flight drinks, I had a glass of water and the handing out of the goodies, which consisted of some rather nice pyjamas, slippers (too small for my plates of meat) and a very empty and naff amenity bag. I was really rather unimpressed with this. Menus were saved until after take off.

We were a few minutes late leaving, but nothing that couldn't be made up in flight and we were swiftly on our way to Hong Kong where the pilot warned us there would be turbulence for the last half hour or so of the flight.

About 10 minutes after take off, the crew came around with menus and offered pre-flight drinks, I decided on a scotch and soda. This was actually a bit of a sin really, as they opened a new bottle of Johnny Walker Blue just for me and I only had one drink out of it - the rest will be poured away. I felt slightly guilty. It was a large and strong one. There were three crew for the first class section, two ladies and a rather dishy young man, all three were excellent and a credit to Lufthansa.

The menu was not what I expected, I had seen the standard Sept/Oct Star Chefs menu and wasn't that impressed. This, however, was a special Oktoberfest menu for MUC flights only.

This may have been a "beerhall" menu, but it had lots of appeal to me and I enjoyed.

We started with a amuse, which was a small chicken boulette on a crouton.

This was rather good, although quite large for an amuse.

I switched for the meal from the scotch to the special Dunkel (dark beer) that was on board, whilst not the best Dunkel I've drunk, it complemented the food very well.

My starter choice was Weißwurst, I know it's a morning food, but I like Weißwurst and one pair of those, a salt pretzel and some sweet mustard and I got a really good feeling about the flight. I even remembered to peel the Weißwurst, something you occasionally see not happen. I've had better, but not at 10,300 meters.

There was then a salad course, now I know I'm a bit of a salad dodger in my figure, but lambs lettuce with bacon and pumpkin is right up my street. I took the potato dressing for it (very German). The salad was excellent and the potato dressing did no harm.

By this time, it was time for a second glass of Dunkel and onto the mains. Now all three Bayerisch mains were tempting, but I resisted the veal shank sheerly out of the memory of tackling a few slices of one of these in München once. I went for the mushrooms with dumplings. Sounds odd, doesn't look great on the plate either.

Tastes fantastic, a good selection of mushrooms and excellent rich creamy sauce and Fried Bread Dumplings. That was one completely cleared plate. By this time I was getting a little bit stuffed, so I just had a smidgen of the cheeses available.

The squidgy stuff isn't some Kräuterquark, it's Obatzda - something normally for that snacky moment with your beer - I love it and this wasn't a bad one. Nice to have some radish as well to go with it.

I refused dessert, I really couldn't have managed another mouthful and after a few pages of book, changed into the PJ's in the tiny loo and then tried out the bed. I would say that I rested more than slept for about 5 hours, but I obviously slept at some point because some kind soul (hopefully the dishy dark-haired purser) covered me with a blanket/throw, bless them. It did it's job and it's better than I'd manage in LH C.

After that, there was about three hours left of the flight, I was offered immediate breakfast if I wanted it, but I settled for two large cups of strong coffee and a bottle of water whilst I got the MacBook out and cracked on with my best man's speech.

With about 75mins to go, it was suggested that I had breakfast if I wanted it. I did consider not having it as I was still quite full, but decided to have a bite. Apple juice, coffee and some freshly scrambled eggs and bacon.

To be honest, I could barely manage that, but it was nice to have fresh eggs.

As we had been promised, it was a bumpy ride down to HKG where it was raining quite heavily and we did seem to have a very long taxi to the gate. However, we were only about five minutes late and after a bit of a trek to a trouble free immigration, it was off to baggage claim and to see if the mystery tags had worked. They obviously had, second bag off, virtually no wait at all for it. With this, it was time to locate a smoking area and then off in a taxi to the Conrad.

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