A Lufthansa Airbus A380 at SFO
Traveling from the Bay Area to Europe? Chances are you may find yourself on the Star Alliance trunk route from SFO to Frankfurt. I did recently as I kicked off a trip to Germany, India, and Southeast Asia, celebrating my final few months of freedom between a journalism job and medical school. In my experience, flying to Lufthansa’s “Fraport” mega-hub from San Francisco generally meant a trip on United’s venerable – and noticeably aging – 747-400s. While they are beautiful birds from the outside, they don’t make for the best long-haul economy class flights: no seatback screens, no power outlets (although that has since been corrected), and cramped seats, unless you can bump up to Economy Plus or better. Interested in something new, I leapt at the chance to try out Lufthansa’s A380 flight on the same route.
I was glad to be able to book the flight on United ticket stock (ticket number beginning with “016”), which meant I earned both premier qualifying miles (PQMs) and dollars (PQDs) for the flight. With the current UA premier qualifying system, you earn PQMs when you book non-UA ticket stock with Star Alliance partners, but not the PQDs – which are needed for elite qualification.
Heading to the back of the plane, to then go upstairs
Curiously, the confirmation code United provided me allowed me to manage my reservation on Lufthansa’s website, but did not work for online check-in. I found a Lufthansa-specific code buried in a separate email. A bit confusing, but not a huge deal. One downside of booking a Lufthansa-operated flight through United is that you are not always able to pick a seat in advance. That ended up being the case for this flight, and I was dreading the possibility of a back-of-the-bus middle seat. Luckily, seat availability was still good when I checked in online, even though the flight ended up being full.
I had only flown the A380 once before (on Emirates) and assumed that the upper deck was first and business class only. To my surprise, there was an “upper deck” tab on the seat selection window during online check-in. It turns out that on Lufthansa’s newest layout for some of its A380s, there is a premium economy section in the front of the lower deck and a small section – five rows, to be exact – of standard economy at the back of the upper deck. I snagged a window seat at the front of the latter section, thrilled that I would finally get upper-deck bragging rights (though without the usual business class accouterments that usually go with it).
Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport. Is this the ultimate airline lounge?
Every major airline in the world tries to ensure that their hub lounges are the best that there can be. I am lucky enough to have visited a few of these in my life. From the Singapore Krisflyer Lounge to the Qantas First Class Lounge. However, there has always been one lounge in my sights that I never thought I could attain – one lounge that seemed unreachable.
So many people have visited it and raved about how amazing it was. Surely, I could find a way to visit it once in my life. What am I talking about, you are probably asking by now? That would be Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal (FCT) at their Frankfurt hub.
My ride to Frankfurt, a Condor 767-300ER (reg: D-ABUB)
I recently decided to take a trip over to Frankfurt for a few days and, thankfully, I was able to take it in Premium Economy.
This was going to be my first flight with Condor, and also my first taste of a long-haul leisure carrier (think low-cost, but to vacation destinations). I was flying on their non-stop service from Seattle to Frankfurt. Adding to the number of firsts for me were also a new airport (Frankfurt) and my first time flying internationally out of Seattle.
The Premium Economy section in Condor’s 767
The flight was scheduled to depart mid-afternoon, which for me felt a little bit different than normal. Generally, I end up on flights departing first-thing in the morning or late in the evening. So having most of the day to relax, make final packing arrangements, and spend time with my wife was a good thing. The bad part is being prime time for international departures out of Seattle. This meant that while the line for check-in with Condor was short, even with priority access, security would be an absolute mess.
Ryanair Boeing 737-800 – Photo: Steven Paduchak
That’s right, people, it happened! Last weekend, I flew Ryanair with my buddy Dan. It was a quick weekend getaway from Frankfurt to London. We’re here in Germany on a semester abroad, and neither of us had been to the United Kingdom. Before coming over “the pond”, we knew it was on the list of places to visit.
It all started on a Wednesday afternoon. We booked the trip a few weeks prior, and we were counting down the days. We all know Ryanair. They’re known for having the cheapest airfare in the industry; making the airline beloved here in all of Europe. The Dublin-based air carrier offered us each a forty euro (yes, you read that right) roundtrip from Frankfurt to London. That’s a huge deal, flying between two major European markets.
I knew after a deal this unbelievable, there’d be some sort of catch. In the end, there definitely was. Left and right, we were advised we had to pay for everything; printing off boarding passes, seat selection, food, etc… Being cautious of something like this, we came well prepared with food and boarding passes already printed off, so we managed to avoid all the imposed fees.
The day finally came, and we were on our way. To our surprise, however, the airport we flew out of was FOREVER away. It was one of the biggest catches we didn’t realize until our journey. The airline flies into the smaller and medium-sized airports in order to avoid the hefty landing fees imposed by the major international locations. This is completely understandable – we all want to save money whenever we can, right?