This is Part 1 of a trip that I was really looking forward to making. It had been 8 long months in the United States, and I was longing to get back home, to the tastes and sounds of India. I was considering Air France/Delta (via Paris - CDG), Delta/KLM/Jet Airways (via Amsterdam and Delhi) and Lufthansa (via FRA) . I booked tickets on Lufthansa; they offered the cheapest round-trip flights from Detroit to Bangalore via Frankfurt and back. However, the entire booking process was not without spice. I managed to find really cheap 2 way fares, but with a very limited availability. Also, I still lacked some clarity about a project that I intended to start post my trip. I decided to avail the $30 fare reservation option; Lufthansa allows you to "block" your fare for a period of 48 hours. You wouldn't lose those $30, should you confirm your booking within the stipulated time.
Fortunately, everything worked out as desired, and I managed to confirm my booking on Lufthansa, a week and a half before my date of travel.
Airline: Lufthansa Origin: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Detroit, Michigan, United States (DTW) Destination: Frankfurt Am Main Airport, Frankfurt, Hessen, Germany (FRA) Flight Number: LH443 Aircraft Type: Airbus A340-313 Registration: D-AIFD “Gießen” Scheduled Departure Time: 15:30 EST, 23rd April, 2017 Actual Departure Time: 15:41 EST, 23rd April, 2017 Scheduled Arrival Time: 5:40 CEST, 24th April, 2017 Actual Time of Arrival: 5:21 CEST, 24th April, 2017 Actual Flying Time: 7 hours and 35 minutes
CHECK IN I planned to reach the airport early, so as to avoid long queues at check-in and security. A quick glance skywards indicated clear blue skies, and hopefully a peaceful and non-eventful flight. I reached Detroit Airport’s North Terminal (the terminal that serves all non-Delta and non-Delta partner airlines) at 12:15 EST. As expected, the check-in lines were vacant. I had checked-in online the previous day and proceeded to the Online Check-in /Baggage Drop-off counters where the agent weighed and tagged my laptop bag. The larger check-in pieces were tagged all the way to Bangalore. To put it simply, check-in was a breeze.
I then headed to the TSA security check, which was efficient and quick. The perks of reaching the airport early: I was done with check-in and security in 15 minutes.
I now had 2.5 hours to while away at the airport, which I spent plane spotting. There was a steady stream of Domestic Departures, generally by the low-cost carriers: Spirit, Southwest and the like. A couple of United and American jets rolled in and quickly turned around to continue their journey.
Spirit Airlines NK117 to Orlando (A320)
American Eagle AA4201 to Philadelphia (CRJ200)
Frontier A320 (Pygmy Owl Livery)
Southwest WN3340 to Chicago (Midway) Boeing 737-800
United Express Embraer E170
I then headed out to Gate D5, which was the departure gate for LH443, passing the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. The Gate was slowly filling up. To veer away from the purpose of this trip report, I guess this was a golden time for European Carriers flying out of the US. With the restriction on electronic devices allowed onboard middle eastern carriers, people hesitant to part with their devices during the flight would prefer flying on some of the European Carriers.
I quickly logged on to FlightRadar24 to check the arrival of the inbound LH442 from Frankfurt. The inbound LH442 flight was D-AIFD, a 16.2-year-old Airbus 340-300 named "Gießen". It was due to land shortly:
BOARDING Boarding for the aircraft was announced at 14:52 EST and Lufthansa followed the general procedure of Boarding Business Class & Star Alliance Gold Class Members followed by economy class; row wise. Boarding was conducted in a very efficient and orderly fashion. Orderly enough to draw comments such as " I love the way Lufthansa fills the jet up from the back……" from fellow passengers…
I had chosen my seats for all segments of my journey when I booked tickets. Seat 24K had adequate leg room, without being too comfortable. Headphones, a soft pillow, and a blanket were already placed on the seat. A quick note about the seat comfort: strangely I find that the Boeing economy class seats are far more comfortable to sit in for tall people like me, in spite of the IFE box eating into the leg-room. The IFE was responsive, and the moving map was pretty accurate (showed our exact parking position)
Pushback began at exactly 15:30 EST and the four CFM56-5C4 engines were fired up in sequence. Sadly there was no pre-departure announcement from the flight deck. We taxied out to Runway 22L for take-off, passing a few Spirit and United Birds. The 4 CFMs were spooled up to full power for take-off. We made a right climbing turn after take-off to follow a North-Westerly course to Canada after passing over Lake Huron.
Pushback from Gate D5
Take-off from Runway 22L (Detroit Airport can be seen in the image, right next to the wingtip)
CRUISE Once the seat belt signs were turned off, the cabin crew began their in-flight food and beverage services, which started off with them handing out salted crackers and drinks.
I was pretty tired and dozed off for a while before I was woken up by the flight attendant who served me my pre-ordered meal (Asian Vegetarian Option):
The lunch was pretty good for an in-flight meal. The Asian Vegetarian Meal had Fruit (Strawberry, Cantaloupe and Honeydew: part of the muskmellon family), Chickpea and Tomato Salad, Rice, Dry Potato Curry, Spinach & Green Peas Curry, a warm bread roll with cream cheese and salted flavored yogurt (Raita). As I was finishing my meal, the other passengers were served either Pasta (Vegetarian Option) or Chicken (Non-Vegetarian Option). The Spinach Curry, in particular, tasted brilliant. My tastebuds were receiving the ideal warm-up to some much-missed and delicious Indian food that I was longing to have over the next 3 weeks.
Cruising over Canada:
One of the parts of this flight I was really looking forward to was the sunset as we entered the North Atlantic Airspace. It was rather difficult to capture a good view as the wing was obstructing any view I could get. The cruise phase of this flight, barring some mild turbulence over Port Cartier in Canada, was very smooth. Most passengers were now asleep and the very friendly cabin crew handed out drinks to anyone who was awake.
Sunset over the North Atlantic
I then drifted in and out of sleep (thanks to a crying baby, they do ruin your sleep - but are also fun to fly with) and finally woke up as we were about to enter the European Mainland over Scotland. A quick visit to the washroom to freshen-up before landing was in order.
We were then served breakfast 1 hour and 10 minutes before our expected arrival time. Breakfast was a very simple affair and consisted of fruit (pineapple), a blueberry muffin, a granola bar and coffee.
DESCENT The cabin crew handed out warm towels after the breakfast service with around 45 minutes to land in Frankfurt. The first officer then came on board the PA system to brief the passengers about the arrival in Frankfurt: The weather was pretty cool, 14C, light winds and no clouds and that we would be landing 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Early arrivals are generally good news, except when you have an already looong layover.
The first officer announced our descent as we were flying over the North Sea
The descent was a pretty smooth affair, just as the FO promised, and a few turns later we lined up with the center of Runway 25C, with the sun peeking out of the horizon. Landing in Frankfurt (Can you spot the runway?)
The landing was very smooth, in keeping with the general trend on this flight. Frankfurt Airport was just waking up to what would be a typical busy day, but was largely empty when we landed. There were a few Lufthansa narrow bodies along with a few Condors.
We then docked at Gate A50, I took all the time I could to disembark, an ultra long 7 hour 45-minute layover at Frankfurt beckoned!! I clicked a couple a few pictures of D-AIFD after disembarking.
I then proceeded to concourse C, with no idea of how I was going to spend 8 hours and 25 minutes before my flight to Bangalore. More of that in Part 2!
Thanks for reading!
Detroit - DTW
Frankfurt - FRA
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