Honeymoon – Frankfurt to Johannesburg

Editor’s Note:
All posts dated between November 2004 and June 2005 were imported to Keith’s Amusing Musings on January 21, 2006 from my previous travel blog. I decided to delete that blog and move all its content here which some readers may find disruptive considering Keith’s Amusing Musings did not come online until October 2005. The good news there will be only one blog, Keith’s Amusing Musings, going forward. Enjoy these older stories.

The subtitle of this entry is Pajamas and Macadamia Nuts in reference to this previous entry.

TB says I’m being too verbose so I will take steps toward brevity in this and future entries.

We arrived in Frankfurt from Paris at around 3PM, Saturday, Dec 4th, after an hour flight. Frankfurt & Paris are 9 hours ahead of Seattle. One thing we noticed about the Paris and Frankfurt airports was the relative ease in getting through customs and security. While they obviously had similar equipment & procuedures as other airports the process reminded us of the pre-9/11 U.S. procedures. For example, we didn’t have to remove our shoes and we didn’t have to remove our laptop from its bag. Also, the customs agents looked at our passports, looked at us, stamped the passports and pushed us along in about 30 seconds. Contrast that with our 2-hour trek through U.S. customs on our return trip from Amsterdam and the virtual strip-search in practice in most major U.S. airports today.

Frankfurt Airport - Lufthansa First Class loungeOur “second day of travel” started with a six-hour layover in Frankfurt in the Lufthansa First Class lounge. This lounge was fully-equipped like an upscale bar, restaurant & hotel all rolled into one. The picture to the left captures its modern décor. Shortly after our arrival to the lounge, we took showers in their fully-appointed private bathrooms which each had a separate shower and bath, robes, slippers and toiletries. After the refreshing shower we surfed the Internet using the lounge’s compliementary wi-fi service while snacking on smoked salmon, shrimp, fresh fruit and fresh olives. This was some of the freshest tasting food I have ever experienced especially the decadent desserts smothered in Belgian chocolate.

We boarded our Lufthansa flight to Jo’burg at around 9:30PM and headed to our first class seats on the upper-level of the Boeing 747 aircraft. We were very pleased that this flight had the same sleeper seats as the Lufthansa flight out of Detroit that was cancelled. None of our bags fit in the relatively small overhead storage and there was no underseat storage. The fear of being separated from our bags for the entire 10-hour flight was quickly allayed when one of the first class flight attendants said, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of storing your bags. Just have a seat and make yourself comfortable.” This was a vastly different reaction than what we’ve received in economy class seating. We were handed our pajamas and our bags were whisked away to a storage closet near the galley.

To avoid jinxing this flight like the last Lufthansa flight, I decided to change into the pajama top while the remaining passengers boarded and the plane was prepared for departure. Immediately following, we were in our seats chomping on macadamia nuts and choosing our selections from the dinner menu. One “wow“ from this part of the trip was the 5 flight attendants dedicated to the 16 people traveling in first class. They were in constant motion: While one tended to beverage needs, another took meal requests, another helped get passengers physically settled with pillows, power converters, etc.

The plane departed on schedule and as we took to the air we looked at each other and smiled. Southern Africa had been beckoning for months and we were finally on our way.

Keith

Honeymoon – Seattle to Frankfurt

Editor’s Note:
All posts dated between November 2004 and June 2005 were imported to Keith’s Amusing Musings on January 21, 2006 from my previous travel blog. I decided to delete that blog and move all its content here which some readers may find disruptive considering Keith’s Amusing Musings did not come online until October 2005. The good news there will be only one blog, Keith’s Amusing Musings, going forward. Enjoy these older stories.

Only two flights into our itinerary (Seattle to Chicago, Chicago to Detroit) we hit what seemed to be a disastrous snag. It was one of those snags that made us immediately regret our decision to opt out of traveler’s insurance.

Our “day of travel” started at 4AM, Friday, Dec 3rd, after just 3 hours of sleep as we were up late Thursday night making final preparations for our trip. The major cause for the late night was packing everything we’d need for 3+ weeks of travel well enough to carry on all our bags. What made this so challenging is the weight restrictions for the flights between Mozambique & South Africa – we had to stay under 33 pounds per person.

Things we learned from this packing experience:

  • Books & magazines weigh too much.
  • Toiletries are deceptively heavy.
  • Don’t forget to factor in the weight of the luggage everything is being put in.
  • Big feet means heavy shoes.

Our flight departed Seattle at 6:20AM to Chicago on United where we had about an hour layover before connecting to Detroit (also on United). We got to Detroit with no problem and decided to hang out in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for the hour prior to our flight departure. The time to board the plane came so we made our way to the gate where the Airbus A330 was waiting.

We boarded quickly as we were two of the lucky eight travelers flying first class. The is the first time we have flown first class internationally so we were practically childlike oohing and aahing over all the cool gadgets and perks being heaped upon us. The sleeper seats which fold out completely into beds was the first “wow“ as we got settled. With the memory of the price my knees paid on our coach flights to/from Amsterdam still fresh in my memory I was ecstatic by the amount of space we were afforded. By far, the biggest “wow“ was the pajamas (all the way down to the socks) they provided first class passengers. Three of the eight (all guys) actually changed into these pajamas while the rest of the plane was still boarding. This was too much for TB and me. We remained in our street clothes which, as it turned out, was wise.

We all sat there consuming massive amounts of macadamia nuts, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and just generally being pampered. About 30 minutes after the flight was supposed to originally depart, the captain announced there was a problem with one of the engines found during the startup procedure – something around the engine not accelerating correctly. The problem was being investigated and the engine repaired but our departure would be delayed. That didn’t bother us as we were receiving first class treatment and had a 14-hour layover in Frankfurt. There really was no need to rush in our minds so we didn’t think much about it.

Just over two hours past the original departure time, the captain began an announcement in his grave, apologetic voice which could only mean one thing: The engine could not be repaired and our flight to Frankfurt was cancelled. At this point, we remained calm but the reality of the potential impact this could have on the remainder of our trip, coupled with the quantity of macadamia nuts I’d ingested, started to make me ill. The first class flight attendants addressed the eight of us saying how sorry they all were and that Lufthansa would do everything they can to re-route us to our final destinations. They said the ground crew was already at work contacting other airlines and hotels and that the first class passengers would get expedited service. Those three guys had to quickly change out of their pajamas and then the eight of us were escorted back to the main Lufthansa registration desk where they had a crew of agents at the ready.

We explained that we had a long layover in Frankfurt before making our connection to Johannesburg so as long as they could get us on a flight to Frankfurt that evening we would be okay. The head agent said there were no other flights to Frankfurt on any airline that evening – it felt as if someone had punched me in the gut and I could see TB was about to go on the offensive. I informed the agent that Frankfurt is not our final destination, we had to get to Jo’burg on our original schedule since we had guides & transfers scheduled on a strict itinerary and, lastly, we had all our luggage with us. She told us there was a flight on Northwest to Paris leaving in an hour they could put us on but we would need to wait until we arrived in Paris to figure out how to get to Jo’burg.

After watching all the seasons of The Amazing Race, we weren’t too concerned about our abilities to execute such a detour but the thing we did find concerning is we wouldn’t be given anything (paperwork, vouchers, etc.) except their word that someone in Paris would do what they can to get us to Jo’burg. The Northwest flight was really our only option so we didn’t have much leverage. They took us down to the Northwest ticket counter to get our boarding passes and reassured us that they had done all they could do. Skeptical but hopeful – since we had no alternatives and were out of time – we rushed to get on the Northwest flight to Paris.

In that short period of time in first class on the Lufthansa flight that was cancelled we had quickly become air travel snobs. The Northwest flight had two classes of service (coach and business) and their business class was not the same as first class on the Lufthansa flight. First, there were 30 people in business class. Second, the seats didn’t fold completely horizontally. Lastly, there were no pajamas or macadamia nuts. :crying: But, we were on a plane to Europe that night which meant our honeymoon itinerary could still be salvaged.

We had a fabulous sea bass dinner and ice cream dessert and watched The Manchurian Candidate. We then slept most of the way to Paris.

Total travel time from Seattle to Frankfurt: 24 hours

French phrase of the day: Je ne parle pas Français which means I don’t speak French.
German phrase of the day: Ich nicht spreche Deutsch which means I don’t speak German.

This blog entry was written from the Lufthansa First Class lounge in the Frankfurt airport. They have complimentary one-hour Internet access. Stay tuned for what’s sure to be even more harrowing adventures…

Keith