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).
Our Air France A380 parked at SFO. Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter
Thanks to Delta, I found a smashing deal to fly an Airbus A380 for the first time, and not in economy! My wife and I were married late last year, but postponed our honeymoon because we wanted to visit Europe during the warmer months.
We lucked out and found a very low fare valid for this past September, from San Francisco to Istanbul, in the Premium Economy section of Delta partner Air France. This would be our first time flying the A380, as well as the first time in decades flying on Air France. I was cautiously optimistic about what flying Premium Economy would be like, and I subscribed to the mantra of, “anything’s better than coach,” or even my flight on a CRJ-200 the day before.
Would I be severely disappointed?
His Excellency Akbar Al Baker flanked by two senior Qatar Airways executives at his DC press conference – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
There is a ridiculous war of words over whether or not American customers deserve to have choice. I’ve been over the open skies debate before, many times. Both here and other places. You know where I stand; I support the middle eastern carriers. I am not here to talk about the whole debate today, but am here to talk about only one facet of it – Qatar Airways.
Qatar Airways has been the target of a certain American that neither myself nor H.E. Akbar Al Baker would like to name. I flew to Washington D.C. to watch Qatar’s head shoot down these allegations of questionable legality in person. Furthermore, it’s always a pleasure to see my favorite aviation personality.
JAL Boeing 777-300ER landing in Haneda – Photo: Kentaro IEMOTO | Flickr CC
Recently, I visited Japan for the first time, and thanks to codesharing, my American Airlines ticket was for a flight operated by Japan Airlines. It’s always fun to try a new airline, and even better, I got an opportunity to fly in their Premium Economy cabin!
There’s my seat, 18A – Photo: Lauren Darnielle
Prior to boarding, I visited the Sakura Lounge at SFO, which is available to those traveling in Premium Economy – a nice benefit. It was pretty small, plain, and crowded, but I did appreciate the chance to have a little something before my flight. It was just after midnight, so at that hour, they had a selection of Japanese and American snacks along with mini sandwiches and a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I had a glass of orange juice, a mini egg salad sandwich, and some rice crackers, which were all tasty, and then headed back to the gate.
The lounge was a bit of a walk from the gate, up an elevator, and down a hallway, but with my very short layover from Seattle, I didn’t want to hang around too long and miss my pre-arranged early boarding.