Air India’s Dreamliner livery – Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
Let’s start with the bare facts: India’s flag carrier Air India doesn’t have a great reputation. Whenever I’ve asked people about their experience on the airline, they cite inexplicable delays, poorly maintained aircraft, a non-negligible risk of food poisoning, or rude staff. Or, sometimes, all of the above. As a friend of mine put it, “If my only choice for a flight was Air India, I would just skip the trip and stay at home.”
As an American of Indian descent, I’ve always been a bit disappointed that my ancestral homeland’s flag carrier apparently doesn’t seem to have its act together. As someone who has never flown with the “maharaja,” part of me also wondered whether the airline is actually better than the reputation suggests. I decided to find out for myself.
Follow the signs to the Hugo Junkers Lounge in DUS.
Recently on a oneworld itinerary connecting through Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), I was able to visit the Hugo Junkers Lounge, which is contracted by several airlines to serve their premium passengers. As I said in my review of the Hamburg Airport Lounge, I’m always iffy when it comes to third-party lounges, so I headed up the elevator with cautious optimism.
As a oneworld Sapphire elite member (in my case, Platinum on American Airlines), flying with Oneworld partners grants me access to airport lounges, though with the caveat that lounges operated by third parties may not be available. Fortunately, that restriction wasn’t in place on this trip; previously, flying Air Berlin on my first leg from Hamburg (HAM) to DUS, I was given access to the Hamburg Airport Lounge. My next leg from DUS to London Heathrow (LHR) was on British Airways, which contracts with the Hugo Junkers Lounge operated by DUS, to which I was also granted access thanks to my status.
Wikipedia: Who is Hugo Junkers?
The Hugo Junkers Lounge also contracts with several other airlines departing out of in the Schengen zone (read: mainly any airline not named Lufthansa), as well as a few membership programs. One could also pay €21 for access (credit cards only).
Entrance to the Airport Lounge at Hamburg Airport
I’ve been through many lounges, and a big “red flag” for me is whether I’m about to step foot into a contracted lounge instead of one run by an airline itself. Being a oneworld alliance guy at a non-hub outstation like Hamburg, it could have been like being stranded in a desert, parched and wanting of nourishment. On top of that, I was flying Air Berlin, which isn’t usually among the first three or four airlines one thinks of in terms of quality oneworld lounging. Was I going to have to kill some time [like a savage – too much snark?] or [perusing duty-free items] in the main terminal area, or would I be pleasantly surprised…
Ground crews at LAX prep an American 777-300ER for its flight to SYD
Previously, I discussed the process and reasoning for using miles for an economy ticket on an American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER from Los Angeles to Sydney. In this story, I am going to share the actual flight experience, and discuss if this was the right call… or a huge mistake.
FLYING AMERICAN DOWN UNDER: Before the Flight
American Airlines Flight 73
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Sydney Airport (SYD)
Equipment: Boeing 777-323ER
Scheduled Departure Time: 9:50pm (actual 10:21pm)
Scheduled Arrival Time: 7:55am+2 (actual 7:31am+2)
Scheduled Flight Time: 15 hours, 5 minutes (actual 14 hours, 9 minutes)
The day came, and we headed out to dinner before going to LAX to catch our evening flight. While taking our dinner at a leisurely pace, I checked on our flight status and realized that I had confused the departure time as being 10:50pm instead of 9:50pm; fortunately I caught my mistake with enough time to rush through our meal and still make it to the airport comfortably.