Headed up the escalators to get my boarding passes for the Lufthansa flights, since my luggage was tagged all the way to New Delhi. However, nearing the Lufthansa/All Nippon Airways check in counters, I found out that Lufthansa's counters would open only at 1245 hours (and remain open till 2100 hours). Back down to arrivals then! Time went by quickly as I spoke to my parents before the intercontinental flights. I headed upstairs at around about 1235 hours. Heading towards the check in counter, a serpentine queue had formed already! I joined the queue but found out after a while that there was an alternate line for passengers who performed an online check in.
ONLINE CHECK IN FOR LH431/LH760
While I'm at it, I'll quickly talk about the mobile check in process. Unlike most other airlines around the world, online check in for Lufthansa only opens 23 hours before departure time. Duly so, I went back on the Lufthansa app and got this done at around 1700 hours the day before. Nothing too strange, I just found it be a bit strange when I saw there was a gap of 8 Economy class rows. I later found out, this was in fact the Premium Economy section sandwiched in between two Economy class rows! I had pre-reserved all the seats for my flights…it did cost me $35 per seat per flight, except for the United flight (which happened for free). This was until I found out it was a bit of a waste, but more on that later. :)
BAGGAGE DROP? NAH, COLLECTING BOARDING PASSES!
At the line, there was a very nice agent talking to most passengers, greeting them and then striking a conversation or two. Good on him! He also asked around if any one was on the United flight to Frankfurt who had joined this line by mistake. There were none. There was a mix of American and Indian origin ground staff in Lufthansa uniform manning the counters. The ANA counters were empty.
The long line was not a very good affair. The most unfortunate of reasons to remember this is because of some people who apparently don't have control of their carts so it kept hitting me legs. Makes me cringe!! Anyway, this was soon sorted as soon as I moved over to the online check-in queue. When asked, the nice and cheerful guy replied that the flight is absolutely full. The check in procedure was obviously very quick! I just needed the boarding passes for both flights, and this happened fairly quickly at the Business Class counter (there were news papers here, too!) Boarding passes printed within seconds, the nice Indian lady said - “You’re all set, enjoy your flights!”
Going through the Terminal 1 in Chicago, I still found it a bit strange that there is no passport control in the USA. Just a regular domestic departure that involves security. As I said before, the TSA can really be a hit or a miss…and both in one go. The person doing the ID/boarding document check greeted me with a rather informal ‘Wassup man?’ and that’s about as good as it got. At the security line however, I did have what felt like a ‘normal’ security check. A lady screaming at most of us Indian passengers to hurry up, or push things forward on the x-ray machines since they don’t push themselves. The same wasn’t for the European or American passengers among us. Interesting.
Anyway, I just put my hand in my pocket and then the lady asked me if there was anything inside my pocket like NO, I already told you once there’s nothing! Truly annoying. Anyway, after security, I bought a burger…more junk food for the day, yay.
Lufthansa’s LH431 service usually departs from Gate B17 after arriving at the International Terminal 5. B17 was empty at the time, and a quick referral on Google Maps showed that the plane would be towed right past the United Airlines concourse, giving me a great view of the same. Oh the plane? She was up in the air when I searched for the same after waking up in Grand Forks: D-ABYC - a 3.7 years old Boeing 747-8 would take me to Frankfurt. The second B747-8i in passenger service, and the 1451st B747 in service. Incidentally, D-ABYC was also the registration for a Boeing 747-100 that served Lufthansa for about eight and a half years in the 80s.
I settled down at the gate by 1337 hours. Just under two and a half hours till departure, which meant the plane would be towed to the gate in lesser time than that. Spotting was pretty boring because United Airlines' narrow bodies dominated proceedings. However, there was the odd American Airlines MD80 that taxied along, and some lovely wide bodies, including a Hainan B787, an Iberia A330 and, oh, the highlight - a KLM B747!! Very reminiscent of my December trip home, expect that this time it was in the summer, and this time it was Lufthansa’s turn to impress me.
Scimitars make the B737-700 look small :P
Hainan B787-8 coming in..
I'd be in one of those come August…
Scimitar B737-800 time here at Chicago O'Hare!
Loved my flight(s) with KLM…how will Lufthansa do? Time to find out!
As time went by, I was still waiting for D-ABYC to be towed in. And how wrong I was! I just peeped under the curtain thing, and there I saw a huge undercarriage, a gray belly and a nose wheel with the letters ‘YC’ on it, an indication of the registration D-ABYC. This was an absolute fail on my part. And now I wondered how I’d get a picture of this magnificent beast. Right by the huge window pane looking at the Boeing 747-8 is the priority seating area for senior citizen passengers on the flight. However, to get there, I’d have to be assisted by a staff member. Well, that wasn’t going to happen.
Luckily, there was one staff member by the gate area who was assisting passengers with any queries that they had. Being the nerd I was, I headed there and asked if it would be possible for me to take a picture of the plane, hoping to get access to the senior passengers seating area.. The guy recognized the nerd in me - thanks to my Boeing shirt! However, he did mention I'd have to lunge over the railings. Oh well. :(
A lot of bending and struggling later, I got an image that was less than half decent. From my mobile phone. So, I could not see the nose of the B747 in my December trip, and here I could. Barely, and only the nose. Anyway.
I sat around in the boarding gate area, a United E175 was boarding for its flight to Washington… How wish I had a comparison shot! Most of the departures were out of Runway 09R, bang opposite, and some international arrivals taxied by (mostly United 777s). I was basically drifting in and out of sleep, being very tired after what was a long day. And none of the flights thus far were over an hour long! A trip half way around the world, things were getting serious now.
Airline/Flight No: Lufthansa flight LH431 Date: 17th May 2016 Origin: Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD/KORD), Illinois, United States of America Destination: Flughafen Frankfurt Am Main (FRA/EDDF), Hesse, Germany Seat no.: 30K, Economy Class Aircraft type: Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Registration/Age: D-ABYC, 3.9 years old Departure time (scheduled/actual): 1600 hours CDT/1601 hours CDT Arrival time (scheduled/actual): Flying time (scheduled/actual): 8hr15min, 7hr30min Delay (if any): none Gate to gate time: 8hr09min Gates used (origin/destination): ORD - Gate B17, FRA - Gate Z53 Terminals (origin/destination): ORD - Terminal 1, Concourse B; FRA - Terminal 1, Concourse A/Z. Runway: ORD - Runway 10L, FRA - Runway 25C Route: DUFEE ELX UNBAR J584 CRL J554 JHW Q29 HANKK JOSSY SYR ALLEX N149D PORTI NATT LIMRI NATT XETBO BANBA KONAN UL607 SPI UT180 PESOV T180 UNOKO UNKO1B
Boarding time was 1530 hours, half an hour before departure time. I was pessimistic of them filling up a 747 with 364 passengers in half an hour, and so, I joined the line for my Economy Class zone at 1510 hours. Boarding was soon called at 1518 with the usual special assistance folk, then the Star Alliance/United Airlines big shots, First Class, Business, etc. Boarding was then called for us humble Y folk, after a document check. Once again, a slightly longish queue had formed outside D-ABYC.
The crew were welcoming passengers onboard and guiding them towards their seats. However, a polite 'Guten Tag' from me went unnoticed and I received a standard 'Good Afternoon'. Oh well. Passed by the small business class cabin, followed by the small Economy Class cabin, then the Premium Economy class cabin and the rest of the Economy class seats. A friendly flight attendant welcomed me onboard. A very old lady was sat on seat 30H. She seemed to be quite friendly and chatty at first as she advised me to look for her walking stick after I had tripped on it. Yeah, and that’s when she collapsed it and stowed it.
Some images of the Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy cabins while boarding:
The Boeing 747-8 filled up nicely. Being seated right behind the premium economy class cabin, I could see what was going on in terms of service. This started off with with juice being distributed in very tiny cute glasses. They also got an amenity kit, I think. The crew were being quite helpful with putting up luggage into the compartments, while being quite talkative to German passengers. Soon, announcements were made - quite unlike the old Boeing 747-400s (KLM), I could hear the announcements here. A flying time of 7hr30min was announced - a whole 45 minutes longer than the ORD-AMS flight from back in December. A very large German man took the middle seat, therefore making for a pretty cramped scene. This felt like it would be a long flight.
Pillow and blanket
Lovely wing view!
The PTV screen
IFE box eating in to legroom on new planes?! :O
Seat back view
The giant was pushed back at 1601 hours, a minute later than the scheduled time of departure. The four GEnx 1B engines were fired up - very similar to the Boeing 787 Dream)liner sounds (since they are fitted with the same engines). There were no less than three of us who were using cameras to record this (as far as I could see) . Never have I seen others take videos on the same flight as me lol.
Pushback, just a minute late!
Safety video and IFE advertising…
We're all set - Frankfurt, here I come!
The taxi towards Runway 10L was very long. However, there were quite a few delightful scenes around. Air Lingus A330, Royal Jordanian B787, the KLM B747, some rare American Eagle (old livery) ERJ145s… However, the aircraft was getting quite warm inside since it felt like the air conditioners were turned off. Add to that, no personal vents.
From one B747 to another!
KL612 to Amsterdam took off from a different runway…spot the yellow taxi!
Three of the major USA airlines in this one, AA (Eagle old livery!), DL and UA
After about half an hour of taxiing around, we finally lined up with Runway 10L and took off Eastwards to Frankfurt. We flew over Lake Michigan before reaching our cruising altitude.
Over lake Michigan
INFLIGHT - SNACK SERVICE, GLITCHY IFE, AND UNCOMFORTABLE SEATS?
I checked out the in-flight entertainment system while on the ground and then again when we reached cruising altitude. The screens were the exact opposite of responsive, I muscled my way to the different camera views onboard (top-down view and nose wheel). I kept it there. Even after take off when a system reset happened inflight, the screens were equally unresponsive. I settled in to Kung Fu Panda 3, a movie I had missed out due to the terrible mismanagement of time and college in general. Service started at 1650 hours with the distribution of a small ‘CloudHoppers’ snack (pretzels and small cookies).
Succeeding in-flight entertainment system’s glitches, I began to discover some more flaws on board Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-8i. This included a very inconvenient location for the three pin head phone jack (in front of an immovable armrest). So I basically had to assume where the port is, trying to ensure the pins go in to the jack, aligned. That was not ideal.
Lufthansa’s website promised a USB port to be around too, however I did not find this. Finally, the seat itself. These seats do not recline into the passenger’s face behind, however the seat itself is pushed forward when reclined. This ate up into my legroom significantly, and if anything, it wasn’t any more comfortable than the regular recline. I also found the Boeing 747-8i to be very loud! Considering the fact that I have experienced the B787 to be very quiet, with exactly the same engines, the loud sounds was quite a surprise. However, it wasn’t as loud as the air vents on the B747-400.
Drinks were served at 1811 hours, quite a while after the first snack service. I had a dry wine, it wasn’t the best, I felt. A hot towel was given out from a regular box. Maybe its just me, but I felt the KLM branded boxes KLM use was a nice touch, and little steps like that make an airline (and a flight) a great one.
Warsteiner beer advertisement on the serviette.
It also felt like the crew only bothered about having a nice attitude during boarding and welcoming passengers onboard. It didn’t feel like a warm welcoming attitude since they barely interacted with the passengers. I received my dinner at 1850 hours, some two hours after take off. There was still another five and a half hours to go till we reached Frankfurt. A sun set, darkness and a sun rise would occur in the mean time. But before that, dinner! It was the usual choice between a chicken and vegetable pasta. I went for the chicken.
DINNER WITH A SUNSET!
The meal started with a salad that included lettuce, a cherry tomato, shredded cheese and a couple of stale croutons. Main course consisted of, once again, stale pasta, not so fresh chicken and overcooked boiled vegetables. The only saving grace of this meal was the dessert. A chocolate mousse with white chocolate shreds. Loved it! I had a orange juice to wash it down.
While the trays were being collected, another drink service was conducted. However, for some reason, most passengers around me were served, but not me. Took me another 15-20 minutes to get my Bailey’s On the Rocks. Surprising…
Cockpit view 3D map and my Baileys on the rocks
The sun was starting to set, the crew turned on purple mood lighting as most passengers were heading in for a quick snooze. Meanwhile, I was nearly pulling 17.5 hours of no sleep. It was quite a day! I settled into the second movie on this flight, The Peanuts movie.
Very pretty sunset!
The kids section on the IFE had a very cute intro with with an animated Lufthansa crane.
A NEW DAY!
And before I knew it, it was a new day! The 18th of May, 2016. I was beginning to feel very tired, after having woken up at 0200 hours in Grand Forks….
There was still another three and a half hours to go before arrival, I headed out for a quick walk when the gentleman on the middle seat headed out with one of his friends. I walked all the back of this giant bird. The restroom functions were exactly the same as onboard the B787 Dream)liner - automatic toilet seats are always entertaining to see lol :P The mood lighting onboard this massive jet was impressive. I loved it!
On the way back, I stopped by in the galley to pick up a drink and a snack from the self service, since I left out most of dinner anyway. However, a crew member came up to me and said ‘sir, please leave us some privacy in the galley to rest.’ Wow, okay then. So why set up a self service bar then?? Anyway, it was at this point (well, maybe earlier…) I realized that I was not enjoying my first experience on board Lufthansa. I hoped that the next flight (on the A380) would be a significant step forward. However, before that, I had to sit through this one.
I drifted in and out of sleep for what seemed like two hours but really was barely twenty minutes. The mood lighting was set to have orange colored walls, reflecting the sun rise that was about to occur not to long from then.
Half way through..
Orange juice while the crew handed out drinks to people awake…
BREAKFAST AND SUNRISE
Hot towels were distributed at 0511 hours to help passengers freshen up, while a breakfast was distributed at 0523 hours. This included an open box with a breakfast bar, cut fruit and a muffin. Again, I felt like the packaging on KLM was a bit better, just the little touches that go a long way. Add to that, Lufthansa did not offer any small snacks to the passengers over the course of the flight, which KLM did. Oh well.
Safety card for the B747-8i
Soon, the Captain came over the PA system to announce descent into Frankfurt. We would arrive about twenty minutes prior to our scheduled arrival time of 0715 hours. No good for me, I wanted a few delays to overcome the long layover time at Frankfurt! The mostly loud B747-8i was descending pretty rapidly towards Frankfurt, and it was now when things got a little quieter. The cabin was secured for our arrival. Chopping through the clouds, I realized the pilots would be just above the cloud layer because that’s how the B747 is designed! :)
We peeked below the clouds - a runway 25C arrival looked set. I took a look outside - mostly country side with farms and a train running through - this changed to a very 'historic-urban' landscape as we drew closer and closer to Frankfurt. A company A321 was on a parallel approach to runway 25R, this was a first for me! However, by the looks of it we were much lower than the A321 because our landing gear came down much earlier (and it was obvious from the height, as well).
Parallel with the Lufthansa A321!
The sight of the highways and roads got clearer as I saw lorries (or semis, depending on which side of the pond) being overtaken by the many cars around. We were getting very close to terra ferma, before finally gliding over the perimeter walls of Frankfurt airport. A lovely, gentle landing was executed at 0656 hours, 19 minutes before arrival time on Runway 25L. Quite like in Amsterdam back in December where a KLM B747-400 followed us in on approach, we were right behind a company B747-8. Its really cool to see the hub work in action! That B747 had probably come in from North America with passengers heading further east to Asia just like us, or vice versa.
B747-8i landed just before us
SQ A380 in the distance - it came in from JFK
Being one of the world’s largest Star Alliance hubs, it was no surprise to see Lufthansa planes with Star Alliance liveries, a few Swiss Air and TAP Portugal Airbuses, and also a Singapore Airlines A380 that had just arrived from Singapore. It would head to New York JFK a few hours later. Two United Boeing 777-200s for good measure, too. For some reason, I quite like how the Lufthansa colors go on the A340-300, especially the gray colored engines. We were heading towards Concourse Z, where other massive Lufthansa jets were parked: narrowed down to A380s and B747s. D-ABYC was just another addition! We docked at gate Z53 at 0708 hours, seven minutes prior to arrival time. Parked at the adjacent gates (Concourse A, gates A8 and A10) were the first two Airbus A320neos ever to be delivered, both to Lufthansa! It was a pleasant surprise to see them.
My first time spotting the A320neo - and two of them at once!
Doors disarmed, everyone hurried towards their connections - many of them were flying to Florence, Italy (including the lady on the aisle seat). I had 6.5 hours to kill, so guess who had all the time to spare as a 747 load of passengers disembarked :)
Hoping for a better flight to Delhi, Lufty…
And again, this is where the crew started smiling once again. A friendly ’Tschüss!’ from me finally gathered a similar response as I thanked the crew for the flight. As much as I did not think about it much, this just might’ve been my last flight onboard a Boeing 747, but one never knows what the future holds! Heading up towards the arrivals concourse, I finally got a decent view of D-ABYC. I was so happy to have gotten some decent pics of this bird!
THE LONG TRANSIT…
This concourse was quite empty - not too many folk were around. I freshened up, and sat down on one of the high stools. I connected to the internet, which had decent speeds, and I just sat around waiting for my next flight. I was quite liking Frankfurt Airport’s services, while there was an airy ambience to it, too. I was loving Frankfurt already! D-ABVZ docked at Gate Z51 (right next to D-ABYC that got me in from Chicago), the B747-400 had come in from….Mumbai! Some other arrivals at Concourse Z made sure there was a passenger flow, however not all were around for as long as me it seemed.
D-ABVZ from Mumbai, LH757 on a B747 :)
At Gate Z57 was D-AIME - ‘Johannesburg’, an Airbus A380-800 that would depart to Houston, TX. This flight was boarding, the only activity that was going on once the morning bank of arrivals were ongoing.
Just this A380…
D-ABYC was pulled away by the tug as it was taken to another gate to operate LH422 to Boston. The Boston - Frankfurt flight would later get cancelled!
As D-ABVZ departed to Washington DC, I found a couple of empty chairs in front of Z53 and stretched my back. I realized a bag pack is not a very good pillow :D With my bags absolutely secure, I dozed off for nearly an hour. Counting down towards my next flight, a flight on the mighty Airbus A380!
The last big activity I saw before taking a nap…
My brother tracked my arrival in to Frankfurt :D (picture from FlightRadar24)
Thank you very much for reading this report! A huge thanks to TG for helping me edit this :)
In the next part - a comprehensively contrasting experience on the A380 to Delhi!
Chicago - ORD
Frankfurt - FRA
I cannot hide the fact that I wasn’t too impressed with Lufthansa’s service onboard LH431. The benchmark was KLM, and while that flight had to be made special by myself in some forms, the small touches on Lufthansa’s B747-8i were nothing spectacular. I was looking forward to decent food, that didn’t happen. The crew barely broke a smile, other than disembarkation of course. The IFE content was decent, however the screen was an absolute nightmare to use, while I found the audio jack placement to be logically flawed. The seat was quite bad - there was not one moment when I was too comfortable onboard. That said, the positives were the flight being on time, good beverage selection, and IFE content. The ground staff at Chicago O’Hare was quite nice, too.
I usually don’t review the aircraft itself, but the longest commercial plane, the B747-8i left me a little underwhelmed. It was unbelievably loud, considering the new GEnx engines that make the Dream)liners pretty quiet. But hey - onboard the refreshed Queen, it was a great opportunity to try out this rare aircraft!
Chicago O’Hare Terminal 1 was quite a mixed bag. I liked T5 better. T1 was very crowded with United’s home base flight passengers, a very rude TSA experience, cramped, limited food options, and finally Gate B17 being a spotter’s nightmare. The Lufthansa staff however, were very nice.
Frankfurt on the other hand was a delight. Airy, spacious, great WiFi, great views on to the tarmac! However, I will highlight the lack of food options here as well, there was only a very fancy looking pretzel cart around. I was left feeling quite hungry at the end of it all.
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