IAD-FRA-PRG MAR 2011: feeling the honeymoon heat
Trip reports are deathly dull to most, I’m guessing. But not to me, and certainly not to the diehard cadre of airline enthusiasts.
This departure was late March – a Wednesday, I believe – Lufthansa to Frankfurt, then on to Prague, using miles for business class. Surprisingly, we were able to use the base Star Alliance miles – 100,000 per person – for the dates we wanted. I was certain everything would be full or we’d be forced to use extra miles for some sort of “premium” reservation. But the US Airways agent got us onto Lufthansa with Dividend Miles with no problems. I doubt we could’ve gotten even as far as Frankfurt for 100,000 miles on US Airways, though, based on what their online reservation system was showing us.
We usually fly out of DCA, so the underground train at Dulles was entirely new to us. Heading down to the station, we were greeted by Dulles employees dressed in uniforms seemingly intended to class up the joint. Instead, the workers directing us to either a premium or regular security line (before boarding the train) looked more like sad backup for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in their navy coats with gold-braid epaulets. Next stop, the new Lufthansa business lounge at Concourse B. I was excited to try this out, because I’d been reading great things. Perhaps those great things regarded the superior Senator Lounge with maximum swank. The lower-level biz lounge was eerily quiet, with many solo traveling men in stiff jeans with belt-holstered cell phones, HP laptops, and windbreakers. Contemporary business drag leaves a little something to be desired. There was an inviting beer tap, with a warning that an employee must pour the beer. For the first half-hour or so that we sat in the tomb-like lounge, no employees to be found. And rules were broken. Achtung, baby.
Riding the rails under IAD
Fernando, newly wed, riding those rails
The unattended beer taps that successfully dared at least one otherwise rule-abiding fellow to dive right in
The somber lounge meets my leg, from knee to toes
Eventually, we boarded, taking an elevator from the lounge. We were in the rear of the 747-400 business section. Last row, actually. To our horror, two small children were seated across the aisle. But when it came time to doze, the children were angels. It was the over-warm cabin that kept us awake. And no personal vents! We had to use the menus to fan ourselves. The elderly ladies a row ahead and the senior attendant seemed to be in cahoots to keep the cabin toasty. My mother keeps her own Florida thermostat set to 78, lest her condo get chilly, so I know well of elder-ladies’ love of heat.
Fernando's post-departure beverage
At first frightening, turns out the kids were all right! Having their nanny in the middle seat probably helped.
Speaking of menus, dinner was more about the atmospheric ceremony than the actual food. We’d already had two rounds of cocktails – the welcome champagne (don’t make my mistake and grab the water glass) and proper, airborne drinks – when the first course arrived: fennel and orange confit tuna with mixed greens. Next up, shrimp and mahi mahi, though the mahi mahi did not hold up as well as the tuna. The wine, which was more impressive than the meal, was a 2009 Nord-Sud Languedoc Viognier. Dessert was fruit, along with coffee and Bailey’s.
Then I attempted sleep, unsuccessfully, till the last hour or so. That meant I slept through breakfast. That could wait till the new Frankfurt Welcome Lounge, the highlight of the trip over. The rationale behind this lounge confuses me. To get to it, you’ve got to exit the security-screened part of the airport. That, along with it only being open from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., means it’s generally intended for businesses passengers whose final destination is Frankfurt. Maybe there are quite a few who arrive after a long-haul flight and need to head out immediately for meetings. For them, this lounge must be a godsend, with a wonderful breakfast spread and private shower cabins. If it were me, however, I’d likely want to get out of the airport and on to my hotel room instead. Perhaps that is how most of the intended audience feels, because the Welcome Lounge was not at all crowded. There was no wait for shower stalls and plenty of seating in the main lounge. It was certainly worth the trek from Terminal A. With a three-hour layover, we also had plenty of time to get back to our gate on to Prague.
Fernando recovering in the Welcome Lounge
Sampling the German breakfast bounty
Off to Prague!
The Prague flight was uneventful. There was a breakfast meal in first, which I cannot recall and forgot to photograph. Service was perfect on this short flight.