So recently I got invited by BMW India to attend a conference in Germany and drive the upcoming X3 and 6GT at Sintra, outside Lisbon. When the final schedule was given to me, I was both happy and horrified. Happy because I’d get to fly the A350 finally between Delhi and Munich and fly a new airline in TAP Air Portugal but horrified because my schedule was red-eye flight, early-morning flight, early morning flight, no fly day, early morning flight. Basically, as one of my travel companions joked, we were going to live on India Time this entire journey. Which wasn’t a joke, because that is what we ended up doing.
One way to make up for a lack of sleep was being on the pointy end of the plane, other than the Tegel-Lisbon flight where the agent couldn’t get business class seats. Although, free seat selection was an option in our booking class and despite telling my travel companions to also block seats, I was the only one who managed to get an Economy Comfort seat. Anyway, let us carry on with the story.
They've finally got the mosaic ready on the tunnel
The first 'Irish Bar' to open in Delhi in a while, didn't check if they have Guinness
October 9, 2017
D-AIKA Airbus A350-941
Lufthansa’s Munich-Delhi service LH 762/763 must be the long-haul flight I’ve taken the most times. I’ve done a couple of prior trip-reports on this service. Over the years on this flight I’ve flown on Airbus A330-300’s, A340-300’s and most commonly the A340-600 (last time with a virtually empty cabin). But Delhi was the first city to get long-haul A350-900 service from Munich. Now, Delhi isn’t a really long sector to Europe at between 7-9 hours depending where you’re flying, so it is rather difficult to get a decent night’s sleep. And there is a peculiar problem with lying down and turbulence, once on a KL flight it was severe enough that it woke me up. Sitting down and facing turbulence isn’t pleasant, and while I shouldn’t complain about Business Class, lying down during turbulence is worse. And this time of year as the winds change direction and the monsoon retreats, turbulence was guaranteed. Let’s see how the A350-900 dealt with it.
Check-In was smooth, the Munich flight operates an hour ahead of the Frankfurt flight and while I checked-in late after having dinner with my wife’s family, I was through check-in, immigration (where I was asked how I scored a five-year Schengen visa) and security in twenty minutes. There are dedicated lines for business class immigration and security. I got a new LH Group (LH, LX, OS) cardstock boarding card and after picking up a couple of bottles at duty-free to pick up when I arrived, I was at LH’s dedicated lounge at the Lounges B area. The LH lounge in Delhi is nice, not the best LH lounge in the world, but not bad at all. I caught up with a couple of my travel companions, fellow auto journalists who had flown in from Chennai and Pune and enjoyed a lovely Chilean CabSab. The time passed and I stepped out of the lounge a bit before the flight was called to have a quick smoke although we were using Gate 7 today, which is a slight hoof I was at the gate just as priority boarding started on Nurnberg, Lufthansa’s first A350, delivered late December 2016 and still under a year old.
Not the best offerings but better than the paid or Priority Pass lounges
Heineken and Kingfisher
First impressions of the A350. For one, it is the best looking thing Airbus have ever made, especially the front end. But you have seen that, but inside is where I was impressed. Large windows and a 2-2-2 layout on an aircraft that was clearly wider than previous Airbus widebodies. The cabin felt positively huge. Lots of storage area in the bins and the angled LH business layout while nothing great felt nicer on this than on any A340 I’ve flown. There are eight rows of Business class seats, six in the forward cabin and two in a small mini-cabin at the back.
Take-Off Video - http://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=RfF32nSXBr0
The biggest negative, especially on a red-eye flight is the fact that there are only two small toilets, and this flight was full, many passengers connecting onto the Nordic countries and the US all around me load was 46/48 and that was going to be a problem in the morning when everybody wanted to use the toilet. Also, on the 340-600, there were four toilets in a slightly larger business cabin including of course, the lovely toilets with a view (I also really liked the downstairs loos in Y). It is impossible to reconfigure D-AIKA to D-AIKE for now, but for future A350’s I hope Lufthansa takes note.
After a pre-departure champagne and despite the heavy load up front (Economy was a bit lighter) everything was loaded and we pushed back two minutes before schedule and got a clear (albeit long) taxi to the threshold of runway 29, which our pilots did rather fast and with no waiting around we were airborne a little over five minutes after pushback. With an announced flight time of 6.40 minutes, we were scheduled to reach Munich far ahead of our 5.40 arrival time. I ordered a G&T with the warm nuts (in a bowl) and decided to have a light meal before attempting to sleep. The meal was what it said, light, and was nothing spectacular but no complaints either. I did put on Guardians of the Galaxy 2 to start but after dinner I sort of dozed off, more reclined than full-flat although half an hour later, I did go full-flat and passed out for a couple of hours. So no movie for now.
Reading the A350 Safety Card for the first time
Reaching Central Asia, time to sleep
The A350 is quiet, the AKG noise-cancelling headphones made it quieter but I can’t sleep with such large headphones on. But there is a negative with the quietness, particularly so far forward which I’ll come to in a bit. Being a flight that was going to be in darkness throughout, there was no insistence on closing the window-shades and I woke up just as we were crossing Bucharest below us. And I wasn’t quite alone, a few other people also woke up. While I could always hear the whirring seat motors in your own seat, I was usually spared hearing the entire cabins seats whirring.
The next hour would be quite weird hearing your fellow travellers adjusting their seats throughout, and once you’re up you are still drowsy, and want a reclined set-up and not always the pre-set one, so much like the shower controls in a new hotel, it takes a bit of fiddling. So there was this orchestra of whirring machines, at a pitch level not exactly cut out by the headphones. The Trent-XWB engines were very quiet though. I’ve flown upfront on a BA 787, which was quiet but short of an upper-deck flight, I was really surprised at the ambient noise levels being so low. Like the 787, the cabin air felt fresher and despite not more than about three hours of sleep, I did feel rather okay in the morning, not as destroyed as some red-eye flights make me feel.
Breakfast on Lufthansa included Bircher Museli as usual, I opeted for the standard omelette which was served with potatoes and had a plate of cut fruit on the side and a choice of freshly warmed bread and I chose a croissant. I like Lufthansa’s museli served on Long-Haul flights, the omelettes were okay, moist enough and not your standard bone-dry eggs. The coffee was good though and after so little sleep and a long day ahead I needed another glass. While all of this was going on, I decided to watch some live TV where on Sport24 there was a live NFL game going on. I’m not a huge (American) football fan, but there wasn’t all that much on the TV selection to watch, in fact the documentary selection was particularly thin. I’m not all fond of BA’s Club World layout, but their choices on IFE are excellent, let alone the ME airlines and even QF. Lufthansa has just about enough, if you are not a very frequent flyer. Although, LH IFE has a good classical music selection.
AKG Noise-Cancelling headphones on the A350 (the A380 has Bose)
Standard LH Business Class brekker, great nonetheless
My seat while leaving
The Captain came over the speakers and said that we had made great time and were to be the first plane into MUC, so we would land at 05.05AM. This wasn’t great news, because I knew a lot of immigration counters would not be open as yet. But early we were early, landing just ahead of a Air China flight from Beijing. The taxi back to the stand at Munich’s T2 satellite terminal was long and then much confusion. The satellite terminal also has immigration counters, as does the main T2; you could immigrate into Europe in either place, anyway, the lines at T2S were not all that long, and we managed to get stamped in within ten minutes. Now, the next bit was odd, Munich has a train connecting T2 and T2S, but to get to the station we passed this really odd white unmarked almost industrial corridor. It felt weird.
Anyhow, we got to the luggage retrieval area and our bags were still not on the belt but started coming soon, and ours were first off the belt. But now we had to wait for the BOM-MUC flight where the rest of the group were on. That flight had not taken off on time, indeed it had a 30-minute delay, by the time we cleared customs, I looked at Flightradar as we stepped out to grab a coffee and LH765 was just landing. Thankfully, my friends were also efficient and they were out in about half an hour and ten minutes after that we were in a coach heading into town. We were staying at the Leonardo Royal Hotel, close to the Olympic Stadium and the BMW headquarters, not really close to the city centre but well, we were barely in Munich for 24 hours.
Bizarre white hallway in T2S at MUC
Won’t bore you with too many details of our stay in Munich, but we met some members of BMW Motorrad’s management, had an amazing tour of the BMW Museum - I’ve been here five times over the past decade, but today was a Monday and the museum was closed and they opened it for us especially. Allowed me some amazing pictures without a crowd. Finished off the night with dinner at the top of the tower in the revolving restaurant.
The badge display at the BMW Museum
October 10, 2017
The next morning we left the hotel at 4.30AM, very early indeed and we were at Munich airport within 30 minutes. Our flight was scheduled at 6.30 and this was still far too early. We checked in and some of us being Senator’s with LH took us all in the Senator Lounge instead of the Business lounge as they tend to be emptier. I had some cornflakes and fruit for a quick breakfast and after chatting with friends for a while and reading about the lousy weather expected in Berlin we boarded our flight.
As one of my travel companions joked, “this was a curtain job”, our flight had seven rows of business seats.On Lufthansa’s A320-family planes equipped with business class, the first three rows have a permanent table fixed on the middle seat. I had the window facing west (no sunrise for me) but the other two seats were empty. Takeoff allowed me some great views of the airport by dark, along with a bunch of Air Berlin planes, not long in the world in those colours. We were offered a cold cuts, cheese and fruit platter which I happily accepted along with a couple of glasses of coffee.
Take-Off Bideo from MUC - pretty cool at on a dark morning with all the terminal lights on as MUC awakes - http://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=3nj7Ah3Ufv4
This was a standard intra-Germany commuter, Economy class was packed and business class too was almost 75% full. D-AIDX was one of the youngest A321’s in Lufthansa’s fleet, and did this route frequently according to FR24. I had taken the window facing west because I recalled that approaches to Berlin Tegel are very scenic on that side, But it was cloudy and raining so views were, at best, limited. We arrived five minutes ahead of our 0735 scheduled arrival. Again lots of forlorn Air Berlin aircraft all over the place. I like Berlin Tegel’s setup of every gate being individual with its own luggage area. As this was a commuter flight full of businesspeople, we were among the few people who had luggage. Anyhow, luggage was on the line in a few minutes and we were on a bus and off to the BMW Motorrad Werk (factory) not so far away.
By the time we got into our hotel, the Ellington by 3.30PM, I was fairly tired. But since I was staying near Kurfustendamm I did decide to do a bit of shopping. I love Berlin, and while there was a city tour of the sights organised I decided to stay back in our general area and walk around and shop, and soon after that got done I managed to get ready and go for dinner in the hotel itself. The next day our flight was scheduled for 6AM, and that meant another 4AM start. But I’ll leave the next few flights for a separate part which I'm almost done with. I'll have that up next weekend.
In the meantime I'll so try to do a few of my domestic rotations inside India.
Also, links to a couple of earlier TR's (I take a lot of pictures but I try not to overload - so max 15-20 on a post)
DEL-DXB-DEL with 9W J/Yviewtopic.php?f=9&t=1375425
A trip with Finnair to Finland (J/Y)viewtopic.php?f=9&t=979313&p=13158103
Hey, another new type - Air India's CFM LEAP powered A320neo's between DEL-BLRviewtopic.php?f=9&t=1366517