Lufthansa – Premium Economy

Just finished my first Premium Economy experience with Lufthansa and I am very impressed.  It surely was not only two extra inches of legroom like I was expecting.

Boarding my A330 was normal.  No special treatment for Premium Economy, which is fine by me as we all get there the same time, no matter how early you board(Amazing how many people do not seem to understand this).  On board all was excellent as is normal with Lufthansa.  Spotlessly clean and everything in good nick.  Passing two rows of business class seats and the bulkhead row of Premium Economy I arrived at my aisle seat.

The overhead bin swallowed my two carry-ons and coat with ease.  Moving my blanket, pillow, and amenities case(toothbrush, blindfold, ear plugs, socks, headphones), I sat down.  What a difference from Economy.  The seat felt much more comfortable and wider.  Legroom was outstanding, but the star of the moment was the recline angle.  As I leaned back I assumed my seat was broken as it just kept going and going and going.  It was beautiful.  No complaints were heard from the seat behind me, unlike in Economy where anyone over six feet tall hits their knees if you lean back.  Beyond this the video screen is huge and beautiful.

As I got comfortable the flight attendant offered me a refreshing towel and then an orange juice while still at the gate.  This equated to business class on domestic flights.  I was very satisfied as I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and napped.  Before landing breakfast came around and put a cherry on the whole experience.  Usually I am displeased with Lufthansa food but my omelete plate was outstanding.  Now perhaps it is the same food Economy had and I fooled myself into thinking it was better than it really was but I don’t think so.

I can highly recommend Premium Economy on Lufthansa.  It is a much nicer experience than Economy and not too much more expensive.  It is especially worth it if you need two checked bags, as two are included in the price but in Economy you only get one.  Give it a shot, you can thank me later.

Riyadh to Csongrad, Hungary

Driving in Saudi Arabia is bad enough, but riding in a taxi takes it to a whole new level.  An Indian in a Toyota Fortuner picked me up from my villa at midnight to take me to the airport.  Usually I sleep during car rides but in Saudi it is impossible.  I close my eyes but each speed bump we cruise over knocks my head against the roof, the seatbelt doing nothing to hold me down.  At intersections we squeeze as far forward as possible, even if it means going to the far right of the road to get one car length ahead just to make a left turn.  As soon as the traffic light turns green my driver lays on his horn even though there are twenty cars ahead of us.  It goes on like this for for forty white knuckle minutes.  I am not sure if people in Saudi have no planing ahead ability or if they just enjoy driving in this style.

At the Riyadh airport I purchase a large box of dates for my in-laws and wait near the gate for my Lufthansa A-330 to Munich.  I try to relax and read but find it impossible due to every single person watching videos, listening to music, or talking on their smartphones.  So I get up and walk circles around the terminal until boarding.  Up to this point I have only experienced the stupid secondary search on flights to the USA but it appears Germany or Saudi Arabia has jumped on the bandwagon.  As we board there are security personal in the jetway going through on luggage.  I drift off and wonder how far we will go with pointless security measures when I am brought back to the present but my checker giving a little squeak as he cuts himself on something in my bag and starts bleeding.  Surprised that I’m not immediately arrested for having an extremely dangerous zipper I board and relax in my window seat for the five and a half hour flight.

Unable to sleep I watch some films and eat terrible food on this spotlessly clean plane.  When daylight appears my soul rises as green fields and forests extend to the horizon dotted with beautifully blue lakes.  After the endless expanse of brown in the Middle East it as if I am in heaven.  I stare out of the window enjoying this scene until we land.  When I finally move my neck is as stiff as a board, but it was worth it.  I only have an hour connection to make my Budapest flight but this being Germany everything is perfectly efficient and I am through customs and at my gate being anyone else.

Though this flight is under the Lufthansa name it is actually operated by an Italian airline.  The plane is blue inside and out and the crew Italian, though their German is very good.  Again I stare out the window for the whole flight as we follow the Danube, or Duna, down to Budapest.  Everything is beautiful.  After landing I make my way to the bus, 200E, which takes me to the Metro.  On the way out I take note of the new building being built just outside the terminal.  Budapest will finally have an airport hotel.  It is growing and modernizing quickly.

My bus trip is the normal bumpy ride and switching to the Metro is easy.  I make sure to validate my ticket as the first time I visited this city I was caught and fined as I thought I only needed the ticket and did not know to validate it.  I take the beautiful blue Russian metro of the M3 line a few stops before switching to the M4 line.  What a difference this makes.  The M4 is the newest line and has modern air conditioned trains with beautiful stops. The other lines do not and get extremely hot and stuffy in summer.

Arriving in Buda I spend a few hours with my parents who are in Budapest to visit me and get some dental work done.  If you need dental work come to Budapest.  The prices are and service are outstanding.  After a few nice hours chatting and walking around I leave them to catch my train for Csongrad.

I have always loved trains and they are my transportation preference.  They don’t get stuck in traffic, they sometimes have restaurant cars,  you can walk around and move seats if you don’t like your neighbors and there is something so relaxing in the sound of the wheels on the tracks.  I purchase a first class ticket and it turns out to be a first class intercity carriage which I have never seen before.  It is air conditioned and spotless.  The seats are large and lay back to almost flat.  It is an amazing carriage for Hungary and perfect.  I have a wonderful time for my one hour trip to Kiskunfeleghaza, where I get off to switch to the local train to Csongrad.  A more extreme difference could not be imagined.  Across the platform from my first class carriage is a tiny yellow and rusted two carriage mini train.  The whole train is smaller than my previous carriage.

I climb on board with my luggage and join a family of five and a more than a few spiders hanging from the ceiling.  The temperature is extreme and the air flow zero.  Once we get moving the air flow increases to just below a breath.  This one hour train ride belongs in an amusement park.  The amount of movement in the carriage in incredible.  I hold the belief that is is impossible for anybody to stand on that journey without holding on.  It is not that the train is fast, it is most surely not, it is that it wobbles like it wants to fall over but is just barely hanging on.  I enjoyed the hell out of it.

The icing on the train trip is that it actually has a ticket checker(I wonder who he pissed off), and stops in the middle of fields to pick people up and drop them off.  Even more amazing is that people were actually at these stops.  I have no idea where they came from as it is nothing but farm fields as far as the eye can see.  I love how the world works.

I arrive in Csongrad a sweaty mess, but with a massive smile on face.

Lufthansa

The national carrier of Germany has joined all other major carriers in a race for the bottom.  Once my favorite airline it has become yet another average experience in a world taken over by low cost carriers.

German airports are usually clean and efficient, especially Munich and Frankfurt considering how much foot traffic passes through.  Berlin Tegel, on the other hand, is a mess.  I believe it was built in Roman times and has never been updated, though it is due for closure sometime between five years ago and fifty years from now.

Check-in is efficient and easy as is standard in Germany.  Ticket agents have always been helpful and quite good(though in Chicago my ticket agent was quite incompetent, though that may have been do to never seeing a Saudi visa before).  Waiting areas are fantastic.  Excellent restaurants with superb beer, pay showers, and sleeping pods welcome you while waiting for your flight.  Boarding is actually a pleasure.  One domestic German flight I was on everyone actually waited until their section was called and didn’t crowd the gate.  It was a miracle.  But that was only once.  Normally the foreigner’s or bad Germans mess the system up like everywhere else in the world.  Me first, me first.

On the plane the perfect maintenance and cleanliness continues.  Lufthansa’s planes are consistently the nicest I fly on.  Seats are comfortable and there is an in-flight entertainment system.  The screens are beautiful though the library of films is not as extensive as some other airlines.  Cabin crews are good but not as good as ten years ago.  WizzAir and Turkish have better cabin crews.  The pilots have always been the best.  Smooth flights and landings with never so much as a hint of an issue.  But here we come to my biggest complaint.  Lufthansa has joined America in being way too safety first.  On my recent flight from Germany to Miami we had mild turbulence from take off to landing.  Most of the flight the cabin crew were asked to suspend meal and drink service.  So we never received a meal and only half the passengers received a drink.  This is terrible.  Cabin crews should work in mild and moderate turbulence.  A risk of injury comes with the job, just like firefighters risk dying and doctors risk getting ill.  You accept the risk when you take the job.  Also the passengers must accept their decisions.  If you order a hot coffee in turbulence and it gets spilled in your lap it is your fault, not the flight attendant who was trying to serve you.  Lufthansa, please tell your cabin and cockpit crews to take care of your customers.  Perhaps Lufthansa has gotten as bad as the USA with lawsuits and no personal responsibility.  If that is the case I shed a tear as I thought the USA was the only place where personal responsibility no longer existed.

Overall Lufthansa is still one of the best major carriers in the world but they are fading fast.  Only one free checked bag on international flights, charging for a seat reservation, and some of the worst airline food ever in economy.  I wasn’t actually too upset not getting a meal on the flight to Miami as the meals I have had with them the past few years are disgusting.  I’d prefer pretzels or a sandwich over the hot plate they claim to be food.  Bring on some Bavarian pretzels and sausage and not the gruel you have now.