Sunday, June 30, 2013

Trip Report-Leg 2: TXL-DUS-HEL on Lufthansa and Lufthansa Regional (Eurowings)

Leg 2 of the Northern European trip: TXL(Berlin Tegel)-DUS(Dusseldorf)-HEL(Helsinki) on LH (Lufthansa Airlines and Eurowings)

This was the second leg of a 3-country tour of Northern Europe. The other legs were:

Our morning flight leaving from Berlin Tegel airport to Dusseldorf was scheduled for 8:30am. The Tegel airport is a mess. It is very old and antiquated. It was built for a time when they wanted travel to be convenient and have very short distances from curbside to the gate. Because of that design the airport is really spread out in a hexagon design and you have to know where your gate is before you are even dropped off. There is a gigantic sign as you approach the airport that has gate assignments so you can read it from the car and know where to go. It's very difficult to describe and must be experienced to understand. They built a brand new Berlin airport but it has encountered lots of issues and is a controversial blemish for the city. So we were dropped off right at the correct Lufthansa gate. The check-in area is separate for each gate instead of each airline. Once you check in then you enter the gate area which has its own security and shops. It's such a strange design. The conveyor belt that takes the luggage down broke for a while and they just stopped all check-in operations for 10 minutes until they got it fixed. Once that happened we entered the gate area which felt sort of like a holding tank. There was a tiny bathroom, a coffee stand, and a tiny duty free shack. There weren't very many windows in the gate area and this was the only shot I could get of the A320 that would take us to DUS.

As we walked onto the plane a flight attendant passed out a snack bar called, Corny. I saved it until they served drinks so I could have it with some coffee. We were seated in an exit row and had tons of space. Luckily the flight was very short at just under an hour. Interestingly enough, the inflight service on this German domestic flight was comparable to a US domestic flight.

About an hour later, we arrived at DUS. The Lufthansa operation there was quite large but contained in a single terminal building. We only had a 35 minute layover to catch our plane to Helsinki. The gate for the next flight was right next to the arriving one and it was a bus gate. So we had to walk downstairs to a waiting lounge, then take a bus out to a remote gate. The flight was on Lufthansa regional partner, Eurowings.

This is the CRJ-900 that would take us to HEL.

Once again I was able to snag some exit row seats on the DUS to HEL leg. It was surprisingly easy to get these seats because Lufthansa doesn't do seat assignments ahead of time. So when I checked in online the seats were available to take. On the CRJ-900 there is a ton of legroom in these seats, which was good because the flight was 2.5 hours long. They served breakfast that consisted of yogurt and fruit. They did several beverage services and flight attendants were quite present the entire flight.

When we arrived in HEL. We parked at a remote gate once again and had to pile into a bus to the terminal. The arrival process was very quick. The Helsinki airport is quite efficient and the bags were there waiting for us when we got to baggage claim.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Trip Report-Leg 1: LAX to Berlin (TXL) via Istanbul (IST) on Turkish Airlines Comfort and "Business" Class

Leg 1 of the Northern European trip: LAX-IST(Istanbul)-TXL(Berlin Tegel) on TK (Turkish Airlines)

This was the first leg of a 3-country tour of Northern Europe. The other legs were:

I booked one-way tickets to Berlin via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines because they had a really good deal on the premium economy class seats, called Comfort Class. Even though flying through Istanbul would add several hours to the flight time and overall trip, I knew it would be comfortable. The leg from Istanbul to Berlin was booked in a full Y class fare and so I was able to use my United miles to upgrade those legs to Business class for 10,000 miles each. The Turkish flight from LAX leaves in the early evening and arrives in the early evening the next day. We went to the Istanbul Lounge during the layover and it was a zoo. It is nice with lots of food and drinks, but it was difficult to find a seat. 

This is a shot of the Comfort Class cabin

A shot of the mighty 777-300ER wing, engine, and the Swiss A340 next to us.

 This is the view of row 12. There is tons of space. Every single seat on this plane was filled. 

This is the very large personal TV. I watched Identity Thief and Life of Pi.

Legroom shot. They gave out slippers and an amenity kit with some goodies.

Dinner was served soon after take-off.

This is the dessert course.

 Just about 1.5 hours out of IST and breakfast is served. Our location is visible on the screen.

Breakfast somewhere over Poland.

I've been in other airlines' business class that had smaller TVs than this one.

A TK 737-900ER parked next to us in IST. I love red tail planes.

This is our A320 from IST to TXL.

Decal next to the door of our A320 to TXL.

Pre-departure drink in Business Class on the way to TXL.

Taxiing to the runway and I spotted our exact 77W that brought us to IST.

This is a shot of the empty business class seats. They block the middle economy seat and pull down a table. It's not really fancy business class because your seat is just a coach seat with slightly more width. Out of 16 seats in the business cabin, there were only 4 passengers. The service was attentive.  

 Dinner was served soon after take-off. This is the first course.

 View of the wing somewhere over Europe.


Berlin right before landing.

At TXL we parked at a remote gate and had to get a bus to the terminal.

Last shot of our A320 in the last bit of daylight.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trip Report: Long Beach to Sacramento and back to OC

I had to go to Sacramento for a few days and because of the unusually high prices I decided to buy two one-way tickets. One was from Long Beach (LGB) to Sacramento (SMF) on US Airways via Phoenix (PHX) and the other way was on United from Sacramento (SMF) to Orange County (SNA) via San Francisco (SFO). When I arrived at Long Beach I was pleasantly surprised to see a brand new terminal and no trailer waiting areas. The terminal is super nice and very California with drought resistant plants everywhere. There are outdoor and indoor areas. 

The middle outdoor area has the really pretty gardens. The ends of the terminal are where the indoor areas and gates are located. This was my plane to Phoenix, a CRJ-900. I had never been on this version of the CRJ before, so I was glad to be riding it today.

This is the view from the ramp up to the aircraft. 
I love this decal on US Airways. I remember when they bought out all these airlines and I'm glad to see this homage to the past airlines.

Here is the legroom shot, which wasn't half bad. The windows on this version of the CRJ are much larger than the original smaller versions.
After an hour, we arrived in Phoenix and I took a walk around the old America West terminal. Not much has changed since I last flew into PHX many many years ago. I stopped in one of the US Airways clubs and had some snacks and coffee. My flight from PHX to SMF was on an A319 and I was able to snag an exit row seat without paying extra. I don't know how that happened. This is how much legroom I had and that is my backpack way up under the seat in front of me.

An interesting story from this flight was the guy whose elbow and jacket you can see. He was a hot mess and thought he lost his phone about 20 minutes before we landed. He emptied his entire backpack in that empty space by my feet. He had more pills than a pharmacy. I should have taken a picture but I couldn't do it without being conspicuous. He had everyone in 2 rows and the flight attendants searching for his damn phone only to find it in some pocket. It was ridiculous. He was all panicky and crazed. I bet all the pills were anti-anxiety meds or something.

We had just passed by Lake Tahoe on the way to Sacramento.
After my 4 day trip to our state capital, it was time to take my flights back home. The short 88 mile flight to SFO is on a little EMB-120. I think I've done this flight about 3 or 4 times now over the years because there is no non-stop on United from SMF to SNA. They have nonstops from LAX but getting there and dealing with the LAX crazy is exhausting.

I was able to snag an exit row seat again on this prop-job. There is legroom galore. 

We arrived into SFO after 33 minutes of flying. The United Express operation is on the opposite side of the airport from United's main terminal and I was able to take a picture of this nice Air France 777-300ER. I love 777s and think they photograph real nice.

My flight from SFO to SNA had a mechanical issue and was delayed about an hour. They let passengers deplane if they wanted to. I chose not to leave because you never know if the delay will end up being shorter than expected. So I sat in my bulkhead row with no one sitting next to me and read my book until we arrived into SNA.
This is a shot of SFO once we circled back around and headed south toward home. 

This is the typical approach passing Malibu and heading toward Catalina where you hang a left and turn inland. Once we were just above Disneyland we made a u-turn back to SNA.