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 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.
Even though I did not have to wait long, my check in experience was decidedly below par. In Seattle, Condor uses Swissport for their ground services, which makes sense since they only operate four flights per week, for only half the year. At the moment in Seattle, all of the ground operators are ramping (pun intended) up the hiring for summer and, unfortunately, I just happened to get someone on their first day.
This meant that while she was able to get me checked in, she was nervous, took her time (understandably), and did not fulfill the requirements of letting me know where to go, when, etc. Being an AvGeek, I already knew what gate and time, however, had I been an infrequent traveler I would have been out of luck.
Especially problematic was the situation around the gate area. Many wide-body flights generally depart from the South Satellite. Around the time of my flight, there were wide-bodies at every gate, all departing within 90 minutes. This meant utter confusion and bedlam throughout the concourse.
This is obviously not something that Condor has control over, but it certainly doesn’t add to the experience. Boarding was a mass of confusion, with a lot of infrequent travelers, but once I was on the plane, things settled in quickly and easily.
Condor uses 767s as their long-haul aircraft of choice, and in the back there is a 2-3-2 set up. The seat used for Premium and Economy is exactly the same (albeit with a slightly different color) as those in standard economy. The biggest difference was the legroom — with a solid 36 inches of pitch. This is the same that Alaska has for their First Class product onboard their 737s, so I thought that I could handle it for 10 hours.
The Zodiac seat was slim-line and and came with an in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen at each seat. The screen is high-def and comes with a USB port and headphone jack on the front. Because the screen is a touch screen, there were no separate controllers, meaning passengers have more room on their armrests.
IFE access is included with a premium ticket, so you don’t need to pay for it onboard. In economy, you would have only one movie and one TV show for free; after that it would be eight Euro for unlimited access. Pretty cheap considering a 10-hour flight.
Because of some credit card issues, the IFE was free for the entire flight. The system was quick and easy to deal with and the map display (what I had on most of the time) worked quite well.
We left Seattle a little bit late, but we had a fantastic view of Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier as we climbed out. We settled on a course that was a little bit unusual, as it took us more over Eastern Washington and the midwest and crossed into Canada around Winnipeg, leaving North America just north of St John’s Newfoundland.
Once we got up to cruising altitude, the crew began their first service of the flight. In Premium Economy, there was a separate drink service with a snack mix provided, and then soon after, our meal service. I took this opportunity to check out the amenity kit that was provided in Premium (along with a pillow and blanket).
The kit was basic, with socks and an eye mask, along with a toothbrush/toothpaste. The good thing about the kit was it came in a small hard plastic box, one that could be used as a lunchbox (it even said so inside).
The smell of warm food began to fill the cabin. Premium Economy guests get what Condor calls “Premium Menus.” The meal choices were beef or pasta, and I went with beef. The meal looked like any other standard economy offering, so I was a little confused as to the “premium” nature of it. However, the full-size Kit Kat sure did look good to me.
I stashed that and some of the German brown bread (I believe it was pumpernickel) for later on during the flight. Although the “premium” part might not have looked it, the food did taste better than average.
The flight was non-eventful; no real turbulence at all, crew came through at times giving out water bottles (which I stashed away – they would thankfully come in handy once I landed in Frankfurt) and my seatmate was an older woman who kept to herself.
I do not sleep during flights, so I kept myself entertained with mostly my own devices and about two hours out of Frankfurt, the cabin began the wake-up process for the other passengers. We were due to cross over to continental Europe right around Amsterdam, but first we were fed again.
We started with a hot towel service, something special for Premium Economy. Breakfast was a European-style meal with a yogurt, fruit, cold cuts, cheese, and a warm pastry. This kind of meal hits the spot, as it is both a light and filling way to hit the ground running. Since were were scheduled to arrive at about 10:30am, it would be important to have that energy to start the day.
Meal trays were cleared away, and funnily enough, the credit card system had been fixed, just in time for Duty Free sales. The crew got everyone sorted and the cabin was all cleaned up and ready for arrival into Frankfurt.
After a long taxi around the airport and parking at a stand at the B Terminal, we were bused over to immigration (and what AvGeek doesn’t like a bus gate when it means you get the chance to see an A350 two gates down from yours?).
My flight with Condor was a pleasant experience and I appreciated the upgrades that came with the Premium Economy ticket. Many times, the price difference between the two classes can be quite minimal, and considering the extra benefits that come with it (like the extra legroom, luggage allowances, meals, entertainment) it quickly becomes worth it. Then when comparing the Premium Economy ticket to some of Condor’s competitors, the deal even becomes more evident.
I enjoyed my short-time in Frankfurt and on my way back to Seattle, I decided to do something a bit different; First Class on a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I. That story will be shared soon.