Hello all folks! Welcome to the 4th part of my summer 2016 trip back home.. This trip report is about my fourth flight on the Airbus A380-800, and my second flight onboard Lufthansa. I wrote about my first flight on Lufthansa (on the B747-8i), and it wasn't the greatest. 17th May 2016 was a long day with three flights and long layovers at Minneapolis and Chicago. I was hoping for better things onboard Lufthansa the second time around. Read on….
Find the video trip report here, I would recommend watching it! :)
THE TRANSIT IN FRANKFURT, MAY 18TH 2016
Two young ladies had walked by. They both smiled as they walked by. The socially awkward penguin in me was quite shocked by this plight. Concerned, I sat up. It was 1000 hours, roughly three and a half hours till my flight to New Delhi. Half way through my long transit. Concourse Z at the time was empty. Once the two ladies walked by, there was literally no one around. Not a soul, not a plane - all the massive Lufthansa jets had departed to their respective destinations.
Frankfurt Am Main. Connecting nearly 300 destinations in nearly 100 countries, one of the busiest airports in the world, and yet I was the only one in this part of the terminal!
A quick glance at the large selection of newspapers provided by Lufthansa (which, by the way, goes to show Frankfurt's awesomeness). Chatted with a couple of people on a WhatsApp group, I was advised to start walking towards Concourse C.
The person in question has been a frequent flyer onboard Lufthansa. He flies Bengaluru - Frankfurt - wherever needed quite often, with the BLR-FRA being on the loud B748. He suggested that the DEL A380 flight usually departs out of gate C16 : yes, he was right! He also asked me see if they had Sparkling wine onboard. Being quite a short sector, he advised that service might be a tad slow on the upper deck because only one crew member serves the small Economy cabin up there. I was hoping this A380 flight would be much better than onboard the B748, while I was also being very excited about the same! Excitement that was arguably not present in Chicago.
I gingerly began my long walk towards concourse C at 1056 hours. Who needs travelators when there are minutes to kill? :) Further away from concourse Z and more towards the main terminal itself, the number of duty free shops and eating joints/pubs increased. The walk all the way included pretty nice views of the jets around - I was quite tired then, but now I realize what I missed out on by not taking would might’ve been stunning images! Being the home base, it was not surprising to see so many Lufthansa Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s together.
The long and twisty walk also included a quick journey on a tram - that was to be expected! Unsurprisingly, there were many Indian folk around. There were four different flights departing to India around the time, more on this later. I saw a Delta Air Lines A330 land in to Frankfurt around the time - wow, I fly all the way to a Star Alliance hub and I manage to see a Delta bird.
Once at the Concourse, I still had quite a long way to walk, however. This part of Terminal 1 seemed to be quite old, giving me some not so nice memories of Amsterdam-Schiphol from back in December 2015. It was quite crowded and felt really claustrophobic too. But wait - what about the planes?! The lack of Lufthansa planes was refreshing. Iran Air A300, Qatar Airways and Air Canada B787, Singapore Airlines A380, Condor A320/B767, a PrivatAir B737-700…. Ah, this was quite nice to see!
The long walk continued on for another 10-15 minutes before I finally reached the security hold for a couple of gates in Concourse C, including mine.
And what a contrast to Chicago this was - there were no lines, while the security staff were stern but helpful, understanding and relatively friendly. Not the TSA! A quick stamp on the boarding pass, and finally a Guten Tag being replied back, I was in the zone, closing in towards gates C16. The couple of gates here were all handling flights to India: C16: Delhi bound LH760, A380 (dep: 1345 hours) C15: Bengaluru bound LH754, B748i (dep: 1300 hours) C14: Mumbai bound LH756, B744 (dep: 1335 hours) C11: Pune bound LH768, B73W (dep: 1230 hours) (the VIP configured bird, enabling the tiny 737 to make it to PNQ!) The missing link was LH758 to Chennai, operated by an A340-300. This departed at 1050 hours, much earlier than this bank.
I was in love with Frankfurt. Or was I? I got very close to the noses of the two B747s. I would expect to get exactly the same of the A380, right? WRONG. I only got to see the rear half of the plane, I could not see the nose or the entire plane itself. Curse my luck - first the horrors of B17's location in Chicago, and now this. I knew I would not get half a decent picture at Delhi because of it being in the night and because Delhi is relatively spotter unfriendly. Gate B17 at Chicago, now gate C16 at Frankfurt, here are the shambles:
Some spotting from Concourse C: Condor B767
Air China B777-300ER
Is that you, UL?!?! :D
D-AIMB would be the Airbus A380-861 taking me to New Delhi. Named 'München', after the German city of Munich, the second A380 to be delivered to Lufthansa. She was 6.9 years old on the day of flying, undergoing a quick surgery as one of the 20 tyres on the main landing gears were being changed. It was nearly 12pm, about forty odd minutes till boarding started, and and hour and a half till departure time.
I walked around in the gate area. First up, gate C15 where D-ABYH operating flight LH754 to Bengaluru. This flight seemed to be quite full, as boarding was underway, while there were many folk around waiting to board.
BLR bound B748 and my A380
Next up at C14 was D-ABVO preparing for flight LH756 to Mumbai - Lufthansa staff made many announcements as they tried to sell Premium Economy class seats for the Economy class folk. In addition, this flight did not look very full either.
AN EMPTY FLIGHT?
After all the walking around, spotting planes and an attempt at judging loads, I finally settled down at Gate C16. And that’s when the penny dropped: why was gate C16 so empty?
Empty empty…could this be what I wanted….
Curios, I went up to the two ladies manning the gate. ‘How full is the flight today?’ hoping for an exact figure of the loads. ‘Not very full sir.’ one of them said. ‘Where would you like to sit?’ ‘Oh erm.. I do not have my boarding pass on me, I will get it in a bit’. Heading back to my seat, I had to think long and hard.
TO WASTE $35 OR NOT TO…
I paid $35 for a seat on the upper deck: the fun of being on the upper deck, while also having the stowage bin by my side to dump by stuff in to. Having already experienced the A380 upper deck (SQ861 HKG-SIN in 2014…I will share it here!), this was going to be a light flight, so stowage was not an issue, sleep was top priority, while it is a known fact that the A380 windows are strange..more so on the upper deck! I made my decision. Goodbye, seat 97A, goodbye upper deck, hello sleep! I headed back to the gate agent and handed my seat 97A boarding pass. ‘A seat just behind the wing if possible please’, I requested to her. She printed a new boarding pass that said 82A.
Another lady of an Indian origin enquired if it would be possible for her to upgrade her parents to Business Class with her - an affirmative for her. There were barely thirty odd passengers waiting to board the Superjumbo to New Delhi. Although I was guaranteed a three seater for myself, I really wanted to know: how empty would this A380 really be?
This was it. A feel of excitement before a Lufthansa flight. It was something that I missed before LH431. Perhaps I was very tired. I was looking forward to what would be a very special flight for me: onboard the world's largest plane in to home!
1306 hours, thirty nine minutes before departure time, boarding was announced. This time around, I wasted no time and joined the queue….or the lack thereof? :D Third in line in the self boarding gates - one agent was there to help, however she encouraged us folk to ‘board’ ourselves. Being attached to two different doors, I naturally went for the one towards the right, since I was seated behind. Up the escalators and elevators was the Senator Lounge, offering direct access to boarding from the lounge itself. Being an A380, straight in to the upper deck!
It was quite a strange feeling as I had no one in front of me, and there was no crowd whatsoever. Just non stop and a clear way towards München! I didn’t bother with a Guten Tag this time around, however I did receive a very warm welcome onboard. Making my way through the largely empty A380, I was also greeted by an Indian flight attendant! This was really nice - Lufthansa showing how important the Indian market is by having a flight attendant from India, and also sending some of their largest planes to India.
Anyway, my section of economy was the second from last in the lower deck. There were barely ten people in this section, including me. Seat 82A was exactly at the end of the entire wing section, and a great view of the flaps, instantly reminded me of my first flight on the Airbus A380 with Singapore Airlines, on a similar seat, and I was shocked to see the size of the wing itself, both then and now! Massive aircraft, the Airbus A380 is.
ONBOARD - SIGNS OF A GREAT CREW?
I started walking around, because why not? :D I went to the galley just behind me and requested for a glass of water. The flight attendant gave it to me without a hitch. ‘I guess your job is going to be pretty easy today!’ I said, pointing out the light loads onboard. ‘Yes’, he said, ‘Please do let us know if you need anything else’. Thanking him, I dropped the glass for some reason, and apologized for it - ‘Its only water!’ he said. Time to buckle up!
Empty empty empty!
EMPTY FLIGHT - BUT INTERESTING PEOPLE….
Now if you haven’t viewed the video flight report yet (I would recommend!), you’ll hear some kids. There weren’t too many on this plane, but two of the more louder ones were seated in 81A/B. Great, just my luck! It was a family of three, the father, the younger loud son, and the slightly elder, but not as loud daughter. So, starting off with the girl's rather interesting statements: 'Is Lufthansa German?', and 'Why is it such a big plane? It’s stupid to have a flight on such an empty plane.' Well then :P She however, was not half as bad as her brother, who was the usual fidgety kind and wouldn't take sit down as an answer. But I won't talk about him just yet, there's still the entire duration of the flight still to go! Ahhhhh the windows that are not really that big ;)
Legroom: no IFE box for the window seats to worry about
IFE controls on arm rest - same as on the B747-8i
The Captain made his welcome announcement at 1335 hours, ten minutes before departure time. He announced boarding was completed (of course :P ), and that flight time would be 6hr55min (ten minutes longer than KL871 AMS-DEL back in December). Straight after, there was the cabin crew welcome announcement. In no less than three languages! Deutsche, English and Hindi! The Hindi announcements I felt were the exact same script that’s used on Jet Airways domestic flights as well :D So much better than a pre-recorded announcement.
A bit more rambling before I get straight down to the flight itself. Its pretty epic how the entire concept of a global airline works: not too long ago my United A319 was parked beside an Air Canada CRJ200, while here in Frankfurt, there was only an Air Canada Dream)liner, and a couple of United B747/B777. On the other hand, Aer Lingus, KLM and Royal Jordanian sent an A330, B747 and a B787 respectively for the flights across the pond, while in Frankfurt there were the usual A320/B737 types. This thought struck my mind when a Royal Jordanian A320 parked right beside us (the gate vacated by the Bengaluru flight). A fairly mind-boggling thought for a very jetlagged and tired me.
D-ABYT, the retro livery B747-8i taxied by. What a great livery, it looks stunning on the Queen! This is when the safety video started, spoken in Deutsche and Hindi, while subtitles were in English. This actually had produced many questions in my mind. D-ABVO was pushed back for a slightly delayed departure to Mumbai as LH756: it was 1345 hours. We would be delayed too since we were behind the Mumbai bound jumbo in the pushback sequence. D-ABYT
1352 hours, seven minutes after scheduled departure time: pushback! The massive but very empty jet was pushed back by what I presume was a very small tug (relative to the size of the superjumbo!) This was it. My fourth time on the world's largest passenger jet, and the third A380 airline! I was getting more and more excited when the aircraft grew silent. Most passengers became silent, in unison. Two of the four Trent 956 engines fired up slowly: such was the calm and quietness onboard, I could hear the engines hiss in to life, before making the relatively loud sound (or as I call it - the silent fart :P)!
Slowly, all four turbofans were fired up, a cautious taxi towards runway 18 began. This was something new for me: Runway 18 is 4000m long, but its used in just one way! There is no Runway 36 in Frankfurt. UA B747-400….they're being retired very quickly!
Barely the tail of a lovely AC B787
I'm always in awe when the A380 moves - how can something so massive move around with zero incident, let alone take for the skies! The massive wing did obstruct a bit of my view, however. Taxiing was a bit long - we did not follow D-ABVO towards runway 25L. We taxied straight towards runway 18 for our departure. From the side of runway 25L, the B747-8i and B787 looked lovely from as they took off. Slowly, the pilots took D-AIMB on to the runway, gently increasing the power of the RR Trent engines as we taxied on to the runway, before finally lining up at 1415 hours and blasting down the runway, the light and quiet A380 gracefully took over the skies, as a sleeping man’s snore was the loudest thing that made up the sounds onboard. :P
And that’s when the little guy started his yelling. ‘TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SIX MILES AN HOUR, TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY FOUR, THREE HUNDRED, THREE HUNDRED AND FOUR’, ruining what effectively was a reasonably quiet take off. But anyway, I dozed off with the DSLR in my hand, recording this take off. I woke up because of the sound of the sound whiny flaps being retracted after take off :D
I love the tail camera!
The quiet flight continued as we headed for our cruising altitude of 35000 feet. During the climb, the flight attendant briefed us about the services on the flight: bar service, lunch, tea/coffee, followed by a duty free run and then finally a list snack before landing in New Delhi. She also explained the entertainment options provided on the in flight entertainment screens.This was something that did not happen on LH431 - a great informatory announcement.
As soon as the seat belt signs went off, I made my bed by placing three pillows on the armrest, and of course making full use of the three blankets! I was absolutely enjoying this.
My first class bed :P
A quick walk to the restroom at the rear of this massive jet - the rear most section of the plane barely had 15 passengers! Headphones were distributed, quite unlike LH431 where they were already placed on the seats upon boarding. Cabin images - so empty!
Ethernet cable port and USB charger - the B747-8i had no USB charger at all….
Getting cozy in my bed of sorts, I tucked in to my first movie of the flight, Big Hero 6. A small snack was served at 1433 hours in the form of cashew nuts, this was soon followed by the drinks service at 1438 hours - I tried my luck with the Sparkling Wine….BINGO! Basically Champagne in economy class - I was loving this.
Enjoying every second of the flight!
Sparkling wine and water
A hot towel was distributed before the commencement of lunch at 1442 hours.
Soon however, I fell asleep for a quick snooze. The child’s very loud laughter and jumping on the seats is what woke me up.. Lunch service had commenced! No carts were used (or maybe they passed by?) and the flight attendant serving me stopped by and asked what my meal preference was - ‘would you like the Indian vegetarian curry or the chicken breast?’ ‘I would like to have the chicken breast, please’. She went back to the galley and got me the tray. ‘More sparkling wine for you, sir?’ ‘I will be alright. Thank you very much.’ ‘Enjoy you meal!’ I was impressed. She saw me wake up, offered me lunch and remembered by drink choice. Lovely. This exact same meal onboard KLM was actually a vegetarian only affair - pasta or Indian veg.
First things first, curiously, the salad and dessert had no cover on it. This was also the case on LH431 from Chicago to Frankfurt…is this a Lufthansa-only thing? Anyway, the tray contained a freshly cut salad, a bread roll, cheese, butter, a strawberry shortcake and the main course: a lovely chicken breast, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. I had a Sprite to go with it. Suffice to say, this meal was fantastic, and kind of what I was expected on LH431 as well.
‘Would you like some masala tea as well?’ ‘Oh, yes please!’
While the trays were being collected, to finish off what was a pretty epic meal, I had a Bailey’s Original Irish Cream on the rocks - the flight attendant was kind enough to top it up all the way. ‘Is this flight always so empty?’ I asked. ’No sir. You’ve chosen a great day to fly. This A380 flight is usually full.’ She also mentioned that the plane had to fly to Delhi because the return segment was overbooked. Yep, I sure was very lucky on the day!
PTV off, I headed for some pretty deep sleep for a good hour and a half. However, unfortunately, the sleep was great while it lasted, because the kid in front of me was still being awfully loud and laughing hysterically - dude, The Peanuts Movie is not all that funny!
Anyway, that’s what woke me up. Lights were dimmed out, while the sun was setting outside the window. Most of the passengers were asleep too, while the cabin crew never really came around to check on passengers, however they were attentive to all calls and answered them promptly - yes, I got a pack of playing cards from this :D
I was quite liking the product onboard the A380. Albeit older compared to the B747-8, it was much better. The seat backs reclined as opposed to the entire seat moving forward, eating up legroom on the B748, there was a USB port under all armrests, I did not find this to be case on the B748, the IFE screens were more responsive to touch (albeit still slow), and had much more information/simulated views, a third tail camera, and information displayed in Hindi. No IFE box to eat up my legroom, either. Other differences included the tray table a magazine pocket, and mood lighting was not present, strangely.
Seat pocket content:
I switched over to watching Deadpool for the rest of the flight, with minimal success in sleeping. Having a red wine with this did not help, however I did feel less tired after the nap I took, so that worked well. It really was about counting down to the end of the flight.
SNACK - AND THE FINAL STAGES OF THE FLIGHT
2226 hours IST, the lights inside the cabin came on very slowly…like at a snail’s pace. Took about 4-5 seconds just for one light to come on across the cabin :D
It was time for the light snack. 2301 hours, a hot wrap, either vegetarian or chicken, were the options. I went for the latter. Accompanied by ketchup and a glass of Sprite. Another KL/LH comparison: while Lufthansa did have a choice of vegetarian or non-vegetarian for both meals unlike KLM where it was vegetarian only, KLM served this snack as a full meal with a salad, fruit and other condiments. Not a complaint, just my observations! :D
A hot towel was served at 2317 hours. We were now flying over Pakistan, getting ever closer to India and New Delhi! The First Officer briefed us of our arrival - we would in Indian airspace shortly, therefore commencing descent soon. It would be a warm 32C in New Delhi, despite being the wee hours of the morning!
Information in Hindi was nice to see!
Descent commenced at 2358 hours, about half an hour before landing. If arrival into New Delhi onboard the KLM B747 was special, imagine what I felt onboard the world’s largest passenger jet, and being one of just four airlines flying into India with the A380! I was also quite sad, this was actually a flight I didn’t want to get off of. I was enjoying it, despite the many hours of being awake and the many flights I did the previous day.
DESCENT AND ARRIVAL
Stroke of midnight, May 19th 2016. Continuing on with descent, I was properly dreading my layover time coming up in New Delhi. The loud flaps and loud landing gear deployment would actually be quite frightening to a newbie flier…there are quite a few of them out of India. :D
Lined up with Runway 10, and at 0036 hours (14 minutes before time) a smackdown was executed. Yeah, not the smoothest of landings to what was a pretty nice flight. Announcements, once again, in three different languages. Yes, I loved hearing Hindi on arrival in to India!! The slow taxi over the very bumpy taxiway was quite fun. It took a long time to get to Terminal 3 (and the only Code F A340/B748i gate in Delhi). Some of the sights we taxied by were the usual Air India wide bodies (B787/B777), Jet Airways narrow bodies (B737s heading to the Gulf), Aeroflot A320, British Airways 777-200ER, a BH Air A319 (leased by SpiceJet!), Mahan Air A300, Uzbekistan Air A321 and finally, as the child in front of cleared his throat VERY loudly, an ANA Boeing 767.
Engines out at 0050 hours, disembarkation was done within barely 8 or 9 minutes, I thanked the crew for what was a wonderful flight.
Still incapable of seeing D-AIMB’s nose, I could at least see the nose wheel, and the ‘Airbus A380-800, München’ titles. As foreign nationals were stopped to be given an immigration form, us Indians sailed through - I was at the very empty immigration at 0102 hours, 12 minutes after engines were cut out. Mumbai and Delhi airports are known for their notoriously long immigration queues…and yet, 0104 hours, 14 minutes after engines were cut out, I was out in the duty free area! An awesome end to a satisfying flight…I could not believe I actually went through a quick immigration experience in India :D
I was slowly getting more and more anxious because my suitcase was one of the last to arrive… Yes, I did fear the suitcase was left behind in MSP, or ORD, or FRA, but it was with me in DEL. With that, I headed out, and freshened up a bit and went straight back up to the domestic departures!
Airline/Flight No: Lufthansa flight LH760 Date: May 18th 2016 Origin: Frankfurt Am Main International, Germany (FRA/EDDF) Destination: New Delhi Indira Gandhi International, India (DEL/VIDP) Seat no.: 98A, later changed to 82A Aircraft type: Airbus A380-841, fitted with 4 Rolls Royce Trent 900 Registration/Age: D-AIMB, München, 6.4 years old Departure time (scheduled/actual): 1345 hours CEST/ 1352 hours CEST Arrival time (scheduled/actual): 0050 hours IST +1/0032 hours IST +1 Flying time (scheduled/actual): 7hr15min/6hr55min Delay (if any): none Gate to gate time: 7hr08min Gates used (origin/destination): FRA - Gate C16, DEL - Gate 0017 Terminals (origin/destination): FRA - Terminal 1, DEL - Terminal 3 Runway: FRA - Rwy 18, DEL - Rwy 29
Thanks to TG for helping to edit this one! :D
Frankfurt - FRA
New Delhi - DEL
This flight was more like it. This was the Lufthansa I was looking forward to on LH431. Great crew members, great selection of food (a choice for both the lunch and snack!), a better and responsive IFE system, and pretty comfortable seats. Being an empty A380 certainly helped, but the crew members were simply outstanding. The (relatively) older product on the A380 seemed to be much better than on the B747-8i, which was a little strange. While there was quite a bit of walking, Frankfurt was a joy. Enough space to relax, great wifi, lovely tarmac views and very efficient. Not too many places to eat, however. The quick immigration in Delhi would’ve been ideal if I wasn’t heading to Kolkata - this made my layover much longer. However, that takes nothing away from the positive experience I had on arrival back home :)
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