DBV and OTP in Dec. via DL J and LH F: SEA-AMS-ZAG-DBV-ZAG-VIE-OTP-FRA-SEA

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  1. gba
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    gba Silver Member

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    DBV and OTP in Dec. via DL J and LH F: SEA-AMS-ZAG-DBV-ZAG-VIE-OTP-FRA-SEA
    In early November, I decided to take my newly minted 1k status out for a spin, making an award reservation I wasn’t sure I could use knowing full well that I could cancel and change the reservation as needed. The trip I first booked was something like SEA-ORD-MUC-LJU-VIE-ZAG-DBV-ZAG-MUC-FRA-SEA which evolved to SEA-FRA-ZAG-DBV-ZAG-VIE-OTP-FRA-SEA as the trip got closer. Fortunately, while some segments had to be originally booked in C and with connections through United hubs, as the departure date got closer I was able to grab First Class seats on the Lufthansa non-stops to/from Seattle.

    I’ve probably provided more detail than anyone could care about, so skim the text, look at the pictures, and enjoy the report!

    December 21, 2010
    Lufthansa 491, FRA-SEA

    Winter weather in Europe over the prior weekend didn’t have me too worried about my trip as the long term forecast showed the snow letting up by the time I was supposed to depart. Unfortunately, the forecasts proved to be a bit optimistic and I awoke on my departure morning and went online to find that the inbound flight of my aircraft, Lufthansa 490, had been cancelled before it left Frankfurt.

    As I begun to look online to see what other flights may be available to me, my phone rang. It was a representative of Lufthansa in Seattle informing me that the flight had been cancelled and asking if I needed to get to Dubrovnik today. I informed them of my preference to get there as soon as possible, and they said they’d look into my options and get back to me. Maybe 15-20 minutes later, they called back and said they could re-route me to Dubrovnik via Delta’s SEA-AMS flight and then Croatia Airlines AMS-ZAG-DBV. I said that would be fine and they proceeded to re-issue the ticket.

    When I arrived at SeaTac, I found a lengthy line at the Lufthansa ticket counter however a mini-lounge had been setup, complete with snacks and soft drinks, in the Lufthansa offices behind the ticket counter where first and business class passengers could wait and get re-booked. I confirmed my ticket had been re-issued, picked up a confirmation and itinerary, and then headed over to the Delta ticket counter to check-in.

    December 21, 2010
    Delta 232, SEA-AMS
    A330-300, N802NW
    Scheduled (Actual) Departure Time: 12:50pm (1:02)
    Scheduled (Actual) Arrival Time: 7:45am+1 (8:10+1)
    Duration: 10:08 Seat: 4H

    It appeared to be rush hour at the Delta ticket counters, even for business class so I made my way over to a check-in kiosk hoping that I could avoid the wait for an agent, fortunately my reservation popped up as soon as I scanned my passport and I was soon issued a “seat request card” for the flight to Amsterdam. It’s not a boarding pass, and I was still a bit concerned about being denied boarding (or downgraded) if the flight were oversold, but it’s better than a cancelled flight so I took it as a sign of progress and headed for a reasonably short security queue and made my way to the Delta World Club in the South Satellite.

    Having become semi-accustomed to Red Carpet Clubs, the World Club seemed like a big improvement. In reality, I think I simply enjoyed having different snacks (especially caramel corn!) after countless things of trail mix, carrots, celery, and cheese cubes, the one concrete improvement over the RCC was the self-serve soda fountain and the tarmac views (in contrast to the dungeon-esque atmosphere of the SEA RCC). The club was surprisingly quiet given that heavies to both NRT and AMS were about to depart which I suspect may have been due to a low volume of elites traveling around the holidays. I enjoyed a few nibbles and watched ground crews ready my aircraft for the long flight.

    [​IMG]
    View of aircraft from World Club

    Around noon, boarding for the flight was called and I fought through masses of people (must both of Delta’s transoceanic flights be boarded from the same gate area?) to the podium to exchange my seat request card for a boarding pass, and overheard a passenger getting an operational upgrade Clearly, those only get handed out when I’m already confirmed in the front cabin so for those of you looking to get one, just buy me a first class ticket on your flight.

    Dual-lane, but single jetway, boarding was in full force and I hopped into the business class line and was soon walking through 2L, cutting through the galley to the far aisle, and settling into seat 4H. Waiting for me at the seat was a rather sizable pillow and duvet along with a menu, small bottle of water, noise cancelling headphones, and amenity kit. You’ll have to peruse other trip reports if you want to see a photo of the contents of the amenity kit, but unlike others that tend to have fancy but less-useful items in a hard box (I’m talking to you British Airways), the Delta kit was in a nice, round, soft-sided container and had a couple more unique and useful items, like a Delta pen, which I will likely get more use of then, say, pillow spray.

    [​IMG]
    View of legroom, with oversized duvet and pillow visible

    My coat was promptly hung and I was offered a choice of orange juice or champagne. I opted for the OJ, and as I settled into my seat I realized I’d managed to do something many say is near-impossible: fly Delta World Business Class on a saver award. For those looking to do the same, here’s my advice:

    - Obtain United 1k status (this will keep costs down)
    - Book several saver first class award tickets on Lufthansa (say SEA-FRA) – more is better
    - Wait for one of your Lufthansa flights to get cancelled and ask to be put on Delta (say SEA-AMS)
    - If your Lufthansa flight isn’t cancelled, cancel your trip and have your miles re-deposited and hope for a cancellation next time

    As boarding continued, newspapers were offered from a cart and the flight attendant working my aisle came by and asked what I’d like to eat. Let’s take a look at the menu (12/10 BE-US-AMS-C15C PDX/SEA/DTW/MSP/MEM/ATL-AMS):

    FIRST COURSE

    A TASTING OF TWO APPETIZERS
    shrimp with lemon grass and marinated hearts of palm and roasted beets with blue cheese

    TOMATO AND BASIL SOUP

    MIXED GREEN SALAD
    with jicama, yellow peppers, almonds, and roma tomatoes

    MAIN COURSE

    DELTA CHEF, MICHELLE BERNSTEIN’S SELECTION
    SALMON FRANCAISE
    with crispy garlic, citrus mojo sauce, boniato purée and asparagus
    “This dish defines who I am as a chef; French classic meets new world Latina!” –Michelle Bernstein

    FILET OF BEEF
    with grain mustard sauce, sweet potato wedges, zucchini and yellow squash

    LASAGNE PASTA BITES
    with spinach and radicchio in gorgonzola sauce, topped with pine nuts

    ROASTED BEEF AND GRAVALAX
    with a deviled egg, hearts of palm and tomato
    served chilled

    If you would like more time to work or relax, we suggest this chilled entree as a LIGHT AND QUICK replacement to the traditional entree

    DESSERT

    SELECTION OF FINE CHEESES
    offered with fresh fruit

    VANILLA ICE CREAM SUNDAE
    with your choice of sauces, whipped cream and chopped nuts

    PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

    I opted for the salmon and was assured that it was a “very nice piece of fish”

    As the relatively quiet business class cabin slowly filled, I realized that boarding the aircraft more than 45 minutes before departure is a bit of a waste. While no doubt in the back of the plane folks were blocking the aisles and struggling to find space for their belongings, up front we had nothing to do but wait.

    We eventually closed the door and pushed back about ten minutes late and taxied to the north side of the airport and were soon rolling down runway 16L and airborne into the cloudy Seattle sky. After a big left turn we were headed northeast towards Amsterdam.
     
  2. gba
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    gba Silver Member

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    As we approached our cruising altitude, the in-flight service began with a round of hot towels, followed closely by an offering of wine (or other beverages) from a remarkable caddy which held the four bottles available on the flight, after drinks were served ramekins of luke-warm nuts were offered. The entertainment system played Delta propaganda to start the flight but when that finished I navigated through the rather decent IFE selection and began watching the surprisingly tolerable “Other Guys” as the service progressed.

    Dinner began with the presentation of the appetizer and soup courses on a single tray along with a glass of water, this was followed by a choice from a variety of warm breads and rolls from a basket.

    [​IMG]

    The appetizer itself was a pleasant combination and variety of tastes but the soup was a bit disappointing, while the flavor was ok it tasted a bit watered down. When I finished the starters they were cleared and a generous bowl of salad was offered along with a choice of dressing.

    [​IMG]

    The salad was a meal in itself and I just nibbled at it to avoid ruining my dinner. Salad bowls were cleared, and entrees served, as folks finished the course. And numerous trips through the cabin with the bread basket, and the wine bottles, were offered.

    [​IMG]

    Like the previous courses, the entrée was a generous portion, but it was definitely airplane food. I enjoyed the sauce and the garlic cloves (although they weren’t crispy as described) and the potato puree and asparagus side were both good, but the salmon had an odd coating of what looked and tasted like egg, which I hadn’t anticipated, and was a bit dried out, as often happens in airplane ovens. It wasn’t bad, and with the good sauce was perfectly edible, but a bit different than would probably be ideal (and certainly not a preparation that would define anyone as a chef, as the menu claimed.

    Plates were cleared as people finished their entrée and once the entire cabin had finished eating the dessert cart began to make its way through the aisle. The cart was definitely a highlight of delta’s service and was topped with the cheesecake, a tray of cheeses, bowls of fruit, sundae toppings (ice cream was on the second level of the cart) and a bottle of port.

    When the cart reached my row I gluttonously asked for a selection of cheese and fruit as well as a sundae which was promptly presented along with a glass of port and a fresh set of silverware.

    [​IMG]

    I don’t recall the cheese being anything fancy, but it is always a nice way to end an in-flight meal, and I may have been distracted because the sundae was outstanding. Well done Delta!

    The meal service finished up about 1:50 after departure from Seattle and after a quick pass through with the duty free cart lights were dimmed and people settled in for the “overnight” portion of the flight. I have a hard time believing that a flight that leaves at 1pm and lasts for 10 hours could ever be considered overnight, but at least in the winter it’s dark outside and, given our scheduled early morning arrival in Amsterdam figured I should try and get some rest. The oxymoronically named slanted lie-flat seat is fairly comfortable for sitting but, as has been discussed at length, leaves something to be desired when sleeping. I didn’t get the wedgie effect others have described but did feel like my feet and to sort of support my body so I could avoid sliding down the seat. The highlight of the sleeping portion of the flight was definitely the “normal” (not airline) sized pillow and duvet, I can imagine that when combined with Delta’s new fully-flat business class seat this could yield quite a restful bed.

    I alternated between dozing, starring at the moving map, and watching bad comedies on the IFE and probably managed 3-4 hours of sleep on the way across the pond, which I was pretty happy with given the time of day. I didn’t notice frequent trips through the aisles by the flight attendants but some light snacks were available in the galley as well as additional mini-water bottles and additional beverages were available upon request.
     
  3. gba
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    The lights were turned back on in the cabin when we were roughly 1:45 away from Amsterdam and the flight attendants were quickly in the aisle asking for breakfast orders. The options were:

    PRE-ARRIVAL MEAL

    Served with assorted breakfast breads and condiments.

    SEASONAL FRESH FRUIT

    Please choose one of the below options

    SWISS CHEESE AND MUSHROOM OMELET
    with grilled tomato, potato cake and chicken apple sausage

    OATMEAL RAISIN GRANOLA
    with milk and yogurt

    Having never had an airline omelet I particularly enjoyed, and not being particularly hungry at this point, I opted for the granola and, looking at the omelet others were served, think I made the right choice:

    [​IMG]

    A variety of breakfast breads were offered from a basket, along with cream cheese and jam, and flight attendants also came around with trays of orange juice and pitchers of coffee. The granola itself was quite tasty and the fruit reasonably edible given how long prior it must have been sliced and all-in-all I’d say it was a rather satisfying business class breakfast.

    As soon as I’d finished my tray was cleared (we were still more than an hour away from Amsterdam) and when the whole cabin was finished, around 45 minutes before landing, the lights in the cabin were dimmed again. This would be my one semi-substantive complaint about the flight: the breakfast service began way too early. While I was awake when the service began, I think the general goal should be to wait as long as possible before beginning the second service.

    Overall, however, I was rather impressed with Delta’s business class service. For the aspects that were within the airline’s immediate control such as service, food, and bedding, the product was quite nice and when the legacy Northwest seats are replaced by Delta’s new flat bed seats, it will be a fine product indeed.

    The pilot came on the PA to announce our impending arrival 25 minutes before landing, coats were returned, and the purser came through the cabin to thank passengers for flying with Delta “Thank you Mr. (looks at list) gba for flying with us today” – a nice touch although if names have to be read off the manifest (and that would be the only time I was referred to by name during the flight) I’m not sure it’s that impressive.

    With our slightly late start out of Seattle, we were a bit late into Amsterdam and finally dropped out of the thick clouds and landed in a very white looking Amsterdam around 8am local time.

    After landing, I identified the transfer desk for my Croatia Airlines flight but was informed check-in wouldn’t open until two hours before departure so I headed for the lounge complex on the second floor of the airport. During my layover, I dropped into the Menzies lounge (via Priority Pass and Croatia Airlines *Gold) and Singapore Airlines (via *Gold) lounges and was fairly disappointed in both; generally small, uninteresting views, scary looking snacks, and no showers. I settled on the gigantic KLM flagship business class lounge which, while crowded with passengers awaiting flights, and a noticeable crowd of folks angry at the delays that had been occurring across Europe over the previous days, but was reasonably comfortable, had light breakfast items, and usable wifi. Unfortunately, there was a 2+ hour wait for the showers and, though I added my name to the list, never got called during my time in the lounge.

    December 22, 2010
    Croatia 451, AMS-ZAG
    A319, 9A-CTI
    Scheduled (Actual) Departure Time: 11:20am (11:50)
    Scheduled (Actual) Arrival Time: 1:10pm (2:04)
    Duration: 2:50 Seat: 19D


    When the time came, I made my way to the transfer desk and checked in for my Croatia Airlines flights to Dubrovnik. While the Lufthansa agent in Seattle said they would waitlist me for business class on this flight, upon checking in I found that the aircraft was going to be flown in an all Coach configuration. Oh well.

    As we got closer to departure time, I began the lengthy trek to the departure gate at the far reaches of the D pier and found a long line of folks waiting to get through security mixed with passengers coming off the incoming flight from Zagreb, some of whom joined the line for the flight back to Zagreb just because they thought it was the place to be. Since the inbound was late, outbound passengers were held in the gate area for longer than would be ideal, but eventually an announcement was made and a scrum towards the plane began with no semblance, or attempt at, organization.

    [​IMG]
    View of Star Alliance A319 in foggy Amsterdam

    As we boarded, copies of some Croatian newspaper were sitting on a cart by the boarding door…this particular edition seemed to be especially popular amongst a certain segment of the passengers as it contained a 2011 calendar featuring topless photos of a (popular?) model. Once onboard, I secured bin space for my carry on and plopped into my seat and admired what was probably the oldest looking A319 I’d been in. Judging by how the plane looked, I wondered if the seats had been taken from an older aircraft and put into this Airbus. Although I was seated near the back of the aircraft, I realized that the legroom wouldn’t have been any better had I been in business class, as originally scheduled:
    [​IMG]

    Although boarding was relatively quick, the general chaos of the process meant that several people were standing in the aisles looking for somewhere to place their luggage after the “boarding complete” announcement was made. Once everyone was seated, it was announced that we would be further delayed due to air traffic control limitations due to the lingering low clouds around the airport. When we finally pushed back, we were treated to a cartoon safety demo on drop-down screens, once in Croatian, once in English, and then proceeded to taxi around the airport for over half an hour (and I don’t mean that we waited to takeoff for half an hour, I mean that we did at least three laps of the airport on the ground) before finally taking off nearly an hour after our scheduled departure time.

    Even as we continued to climb, the flight attendants were up and about and soon were coming through the aisles with carts distributing lunch consisting of cold chicken pieces, marinated veggies, cream cheese, a square of apple pie and a traditional Croatian cookie:

    [​IMG]

    As coach food goes, it was better than anything I’ve had in the U.S. in quite a while (ha!) and was tastier than a similar meal I’d had on Lufthansa a couple years ago, principally because the roll was soft enough and you could bite into it without chipping a tooth. I was a bit disappointed in the apple pie square, though, as until I cut into it I thought it was baklava. The beverage cart (including wine!) followed slowly behind the food cart.

    We encountered turbulence mid-flight and it was announced that coffee and tea service would not be available due to the bumps. I dozed off and on throughout the flight and soon enough we had commenced our decent into a snowy, cloudy Zagreb.
     
  4. gba
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    gba Silver Member

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    I’d been scheduled to have nearly an hour and a half layover in Zagreb but since we were late out of Amsterdam I now had less than half an hour to get through immigration and customs, re-clear security, and make it to my flight. Zagreb Airport lacks jetways but with busses waiting at both the front and rear doors we were able to de-plane quickly and were dropped out at immigration and joined the lines of those with other flights arriving at that time.

    December 22, 2010
    Croatia 384, ZAG-DBV
    A320, 9A-CTK
    Scheduled (Actual) Departure Time: 2:35pm (3:00)
    Scheduled (Actual) Arrival Time: 3:30pm (3:45)
    Duration: 0:55 Seat: 7F


    I may not understand the rules correctly, but from what I could determine from what the agents and the signage in the immigration hall said, transit passengers (or at least those with close connections) are allowed to cut to the front of the line for immigration. An agent guided several of us headed towards Dubrovnik to the front of the queue at one of the immigration podiums and, since I had carried my luggage from Seattle, I was quickly able to make my way through customs. From customs, it’s a bit of a walk to the left past rental car counters, ticketing, and check-in to the main security checkpoint for departures, and it was in the slow moving lines here (without apparent permission to cut) that I nearly missed my flight. It was after 2:30 (but definitely not yet 2:35) when I made it to my departure gate and stumbled onto the bus out to the aircraft.

    As my luck would have it, once onboard we proceeded to sit for another 20 minutes to wait on additional connecting passengers. Once we were on our way, the flight was uneventful, we were only in the air for about 45 minutes during which time we were offered a traditional Croatian cookie, and a choice of still or sparkling water. Prior to arrival, as had also occurred on my flight into Zagreb, the overhead monitors dropped down and played a ten second “happy holidays” clip before retracting again; this appeared to be the extent of IFE available on Croatia.

    We landed in Dubrovnik about a half hour behind schedule and were taken on an absurdly short bus ride to Dubrovnik’s shiny, new looking terminal.
     
  5. gba
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    gba Silver Member

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    In Dubrovnik I stayed at the Hilton Imperial where I had secured a fabulous rate through Hilton’s “Any Weekend Anywhere” promotion. This may have been my favorite hotel stay ever, the Hilton is located just outside Dubrovnik’s old city and I was upgraded to an elite plus room with a balcony looking out at the city walls:

    [​IMG]
    View from my room

    Although the executive lounge was closed due to low occupancy, I was given vouchers for snacks and drinks in the relaxing lobby bar, and my rate (like all rates at the hotel, I believe) included a generous buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant including a variety of English, Continental, Japanese, and (presumably) Croatian breakfast items. I was greeted with was a very nice welcome amenity:

    [​IMG]

    Much to my surprise, a similar amenity, alternating each day between sweet and savory items, was delivered to my room each evening. The hotel staff went out of their way to see if I needed anything (I requested and received a fresh bottle of water in my room each day) and, in general, were exceedingly friendly, and helpful. All of this was complimented by the great location of the hotel and the general beauty of the old city of Dubrovnik.

    [​IMG]
    View of hotel from city walls

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    Dubrovnik city walls and coast
     
  6. gba
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    [​IMG]
    Dubrovnik old city skyline

    [​IMG]
    Dubrovnik breakwater outside old port

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Dubrovnik old port
     
  7. gba
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    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Monestary in Dubrovnik’s old city

    [​IMG]
    Dubrovnik old city main street on Christmas day

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Dubrovnik old city at night
     
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  8. gba
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    One highlight of the sights in Dubrovnik is the recently rebuilt cable car that leaves from just outside the old city and goes to the old fort atop the hill outside the city.

    [​IMG]
    View of old city from cable car summit

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    View of cable car base from top with old port

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    View from top of cable car, looking south
     
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  9. gba
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    December 26, 2010
    Croatia 663, DBV-ZAG
    DH8-400, 9A-CQD
    Scheduled (Actual) Departure Time: 12:55pm (1:02)
    Scheduled (Actual) Arrival Time: 2:00pm (1:50)
    Duration: 1:05 Seat: 2A


    After four great days in Dubrovnik, it was time to move on. The airport bus leaves from the main bus station an hour and a half before each flight and provides quick and cheap transfers to the airport along the hair-raising road out of the city.

    [​IMG]
    View back towards Dubrovnik from road to airport

    Like the city, the airport gets most of its visitors during the peak summer season and was virtually deserted except for the handful for passengers on our flight.

    [​IMG]
    Unused check-in counters at DBV

    The airport is divided into domestic and international departures areas. There are a small gift shop and café on either side of the check-in area but once you clear security (and security didn’t open until 40 minutes before the flight) there’s nothing but a place to sit.

    [​IMG]
    Waiting area at gate at DBV

    Twenty five minutes prior to our scheduled departure, boarding was called and everyone on the flight loaded into a bus for the short ride out to the plane. Now, I understand that jetways are expensive, and I certainly don’t feel like I need one in order to get on a plane, but given the option, I’d much rather walk 50 yards to a plane rather than crowd onto a bus for a short ride. Unfortunately, Croatia Airlines (or Croatian airports) seem to prefer the bus option.

    [​IMG]
    View of plane from bus

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    Boarding the Dash 8

    Business Class on the small plane for this flight consisted of three rows on the left hand side of the plane and two on the right with seats apparently blocked so that business class passengers would have two seats to themselves. Prior to takeoff, we were offered a large Croatian cookie (bigger than what was offered in economy class on the flight to Dubrovnik—sorry, no picture) and a Croatia Airlines handi-wipe.
     
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  10. gba
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    We took off to the North on Runway 30, I was hoping we could get some decent coast views on our ascent but unfortunately we flew almost directly over the coastline so all I could see out the window was ocean before we ascended into the clouds. Interestingly, the windows on the Dash 8 lacked shades which could be a pain in the wrong lighting, but wasn’t a problem for me.

    As soon as we leveled off the flight attendants came through with a cart and offered a snack service along with a choice of beverages.

    [​IMG]
    DBV-ZAG business class snack

    The snack consisted of a generous helping of macaroni salad, a roll, and a piece of cake. Neither the cake nor the roll were particularly exciting, but I’m a sucker for macaroni salad and all-in-all found it to be an enjoyable snack for a short flight.

    Trays were cleared quickly and before I knew it we had begun our approach into cold, snowy Zagreb. We pulled into the stand a few minutes early and all of the passengers filed into a bus for the short ride to domestic arrivals. From the entrance where the buses offload passengers you can continue directly out of the airport, or turn right into the domestic departures area. Most passengers were connecting onwards and there was a bit of a scrum to get through the ticket inspector, who was confirming that passengers held onward boarding passes before allowing them into the departures area.

    Once in the departures area, connecting international passengers (which again seemed to be a good percentage of the people on my flight) walk past all of the domestic gates to passport control. Fortunately, there were several immigration agents working and it was just a short wait before my passport was stamped out of Croatia. Immediately after immigration is an up escalator which leads to the small lounge area. It appears that a new Croatia Airlines/Star Alliance is under construction but for now there’s only the shared “Zrinjevac” business lounge for various elite and business class passengers (and Priority Pass).

    [​IMG]
    Zagreb lounge

    The lounge itself was fairly bland, orange décor aside, but quieter and more comfortable than the rest of the terminal. A decent selection of cold drinks was available, and a very limited snack selection consisting of peanuts, pretzels, and greasy, slightly stale, savory pastry sticks (I only bit one so I could report back to you, dear reader).
     
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  11. gba
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    December 26, 2010
    Austrian 684 (operated by Tyrolean), ZAG-VIE
    DH8-400, OE-LGB
    Scheduled (Actual) Departure Time: 3:15pm (3:30)
    Scheduled (Actual) Arrival Time: 4:10pm (4:15)
    Duration: 0:55 Seat: 2C


    After a cold drink in the lounge, I made my way down to the general international departures area. Since all aircraft are at remote stands, boarding doors for various flights are in close proximity to one another which leads to crowded waiting areas.

    [​IMG]
    Gates 13 and 14 at Zagreb Airport

    I paid a visit to the large duty free shop mostly to avoid the crowds in the gate area, and as flight time approached “now boarding” appeared on the screen above our departure gate and boarding began without a formal announcement. The flight was relatively lightly loaded and the bus departed promptly once the handful of people headed to Vienna were aboard.

    [​IMG]
    The aircraft taking me to Vienna

    It wasn’t until boarding was complete that I realized how light, in fact, our flight would be. There were only 20-25 passengers and I was the only person seated in the first six rows. Once seated, the friendly business class flight attendant offered me a choice of reading material from the magazines they had aboard, as well as a beverage.

    We were delayed about 15 minutes at the gate in order to be de-iced, but only had a short taxi before we were airborne. Before I knew it, a snack was presented on a small tray. This would be my first in-flight meal catered by the noteworthy Do&Co caterers and I was eager to see whether the “gourmet entertainment” (according to the large sign on the front galley) lived up to the hype.

    [​IMG]
    ZAG-VIE business class snack

    Unlike DBV-ZAG where the service was definitely just meant to be a snack, this shorter flight had what could be called a “light lunch” with a half a mozzarella and pesto sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a small container of very yummy pudding. A small bottle of water was on the side, and hot and cold drinks were offered from the beverage cart. The snack was perfectly acceptable, but not extraordinary, but I would have several more opportunities to experience Do&Co’s “gourmet entertainment” on upcoming flights.

    Due to the de-icing delay upon departure, we were a few minutes behind schedule into Vienna and parked at a remote stand which, unlike the stands right in front of the terminal in Zagreb, meant a relatively long-ish bus ride before we were deposited into the non-Schengen arrivals area.

    December 26, 2010
    Austrian 787, VIE-OTP
    737-700, OE-LNN
    Scheduled (Actual) Departure Time: 5:30pm (5:30)
    Scheduled (Actual) Arrival Time: 8:10pm (8:07)
    Duration: 1:40 Seat: 2A


    I narrowly avoided going through immigration (stay to the right!) and made my way into the very quiet Austrian Airlines Senator lounge in the departures area. The pleasant lounge had a generous selection of yummy, but unhealthy, cream-based foods including potatoes au gratin with ham, a waldorf-type salad, another, even creamier salad with leeks, some tasty soup, and other more typical lounge fare. And yet Europeans are still healthier than Americans.

    45 minutes prior to our scheduled departure the flight status monitors flashed that boarding had begun and I made my way out of the lounge, shuffled through security, and into the holding area where everyone proceeded to wait until about 25 minutes before scheduled departure when the floodgates were opened and everyone pushed their way onto the plane as pleasant, motzart-inspired boarding music and video played. The business class cabin on this 73G had just two rows of 3x3 coach seats with a blocked middle seat and a bit of extra legroom (comparable to United’s Economy Plus).

    We pushed back from the gate on-time, and after a cute cartoon safety demo (are you listening Jeff Smisek?) lights were dimmed and we took off into the night sky. Once airborne, the overhead screens flipped back down, and displayed the in-flight moving map tracking our progress towards Bucharest. As we leveled off, dinner trays were presented and a choice of rolls from a bread basket was offered.

    [​IMG]
    VIE-OTP dinner

    Dinner consisted of a generous portion of smoked salmon and cream cheese accompanied by a warm potato cake, a salad of rare roast beef over a cabbage slaw with oil and vinegar dressing, and a piece of cake. Cold beverages were offered with the meal and tea and coffee were served prior to trays being cleared. I’m not sure I quite understood how the components of the meal came together (what was a main? What was a side?) but I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy it. While the cake wasn’t quite to my liking, all of the other components were fresh and tasty and all-in-all very enjoyable for a sub-two hour flight.

    The rest of the flight proceeded uneventfully, I took a moment to marvel at the wall of curtains that had been drawn to keep the masses out of the business class cabin. closest to immigration and after a short walk to passport control, I was in Bucharest.
     
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  12. gba
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    gba Silver Member

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    In Bucharest

    In Bucharest I elected to stay at the JW Marriott. While not centrally located, I’d heard great things about this hotel on the Marriott forum, and the property did not disappoint. I was upgraded to a room on the executive level which was quite comfortable, very large by European standards, and appointed with all of the features one expects from a JW (I’ve never been able to fault Marriott on consistency) and the enormous executive lounge had an excellent continental breakfast spread, an ample selection of evening selections, and 24-hour access for coffee, tea, and cold soft drinks. I especially enjoyed the smoked fish platinum amenity which consisted of four types of fish and a variety of accompaniments:

    [​IMG]
    JW Marriott Bucharest smoked fish amenity

    Although as a Marriott Platinum with 150+ nights in 2010 I was disappointed (but not entirely surprised) to find the experience to be less personal than at the Hilton in Dubrovnik (as a Diamond with 4+ nights in 2010) the hotel was larger, and busier, and, had I not been coming off such a great stay there, would not have disappointed in anyway. Also, since the main restaurant was being renovated the ample buffet breakfast (included in my room rate) was served in the American-themed sports bar

    [​IMG]
    Breakfast buffet at the Champion’s sports bar

    The breakfast served consisted of a wide assortment of continental-style breakfast items, including smoked meats and fish, cheeses, breads, pastries, fresh fruit, and cereals, as well as a line of hot items and a station where omelets were made to order.

    [​IMG]
    View from my room out the back of the JW Marriott

    [​IMG]
    View of JW Marriott from modern art museum in Palace of Parliament

    All, in all, a very nice hotel, and although not as central as the Hilton or Intercontinental (which made for a couple of long, cold, walks, given the weather when I was there), I’d definitely recommend the property to others.
     
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  13. gba
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    Unfortunately the weather in Bucharest was rather dreadful when I was in town (it snowed six inches the first day!) so, in order to keep my fingers from freezing, I didn’t take a lot of pictures but do have a couple to share with you all:

    [​IMG]
    Statue in the snow

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    Nice old building with graffiti by Christmas(?) market

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    Palace of Parliament – 2nd largest building in the world by surface area

    [​IMG]
    Romanian Triumphal Arch

    [​IMG]
    Nice old church surrounded by communist-area apartments
     
  14. gba
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    December 30, 2010
    Lufthansa 1419, OTP-FRA
    737-300, D-ABET
    Scheduled (Actual) Departure Time: 2:10pm (2:27)
    Scheduled (Actual) Arrival Time: 3:50pm (4:15)
    Duration: 2:40 Seat: 2A

    I was happy to arrive at the airport after a somewhat questionable cab ride from the JW. The terminal area wasn’t too busy in the middle of the afternoon and I quickly found the Lufthansa check-in counters where there was no wait in the business class line. The efficient, sub-contracted check-in agent promptly printed out my boarding pass and provided a lounge invitation. Unfortunately, he insisted that I check my roller-board because it was over the weight limit (and it was somewhat overstuffed, although it would’ve fit in the bin size-wise).

    There wasn’t much of a line at security and I was quickly through. The generic business class lounge that appeared to be shared by all airlines is to the left and upstairs after proceeding through immigration. I had a few Romanian Lei left to spend and poked around duty free for a bit before being informed that they only accepted Euros so I quickly retreated up to the lounge. After the disappointing lounge in Zagreb, I had low expectations for the facility in Bucharest but it was surprisingly decent with a fair amount of seating, a wide selection of packaged snacks (cookies, crackers, chips, etc.), a cooler full of beverages, and free wi-fi.

    Large, ominous looking signs were posted around the lounge warning that staff were not responsible if you missed your flight and that travelers should not expect flights to be announced. I kept a close eye on the time and made my way down to the boarding gate right as the boarding call was made. There was quite the boarding crunch as everyone pushed towards the gate at once but I followed another passenger to the far side of the podium where a poorly-signed business class line allowed us to bypass the mob.

    The flight was totally full in the back (I believe the only open seat was the aisle of my seat group in the third row of business class) and without the draconian enforcement of carry-on regulations and repeated announcements from the flight attendants that are part of flying within the U.S., boarding took a little longer than expected. Prior to departure, a selection of newspapers and magazines were offered and once everyone was settled we pushed back maybe 15 minutes behind schedule. We took off towards the east on runway 8R and quickly made a big left turn back towards Central Europe.

    Before we had leveled off, flight attendants were up and about and meal trays were quickly served:

    [​IMG]

    On the tray was a note card describing the lunch:

    Roast of Veal with Basil Pesto, Tomato Jelly on Olive Gremolata with Lime Olive Oil, Paella, as well as Olive-Chocolate Canache with Fleur de Sel and Red Wine & Coffee Sauce

    As well as emphasizing the high quality oils selected by Heiko Antoniewicz using more words than I will bother re-typing here. Beverages were served from the beverage cart before it proceeded towards the back of the aircraft and a selection of rolls was offered from a bread basket. Lunch itself was exceedingly tasty for the short flight, the paella was quite tasty and the dessert satisfied my chocolate cravings (well, for at least a couple hours).

    Tea and coffee were offered when trays were cleared. Impressively, the two flight attendants working in the business class cabin addressed me by name throughout the flight without (obviously) consulting the manifest. Well done!

    As we got closer to Frankfurt, the flight attendants came through the cabin and passed out full size milk chocolate bars, which I elected to place in reserve for a future chocolate emergency. Due to our late start out of Bucharest, we landed in Frankfurt about 20 minutes late on runway 25R. As is to be expected, we pulled into a remote stand and quickly deplaned from both the front and rear doors. There was a fair amount of anxiety amongst passengers with connections and some who were in danger of missing their flight were put on special busses to head directly to those aircraft.

    Since I was arriving in Frankfurt, I took the bus to the terminal, cleared immigration, and then walked for at least 15 minutes to baggage claim and waited another 10 minutes for my involuntarily checked bag to appear. Fortunately, the priority tag was semi-effective and I quickly collected my bag and headed off to the train station.

    [​IMG]
    Frankfurt Cathedral at night

    December 31, 2010
    Lufthansa 490, FRA-SEA
    A330-300, D-AIKI
    Scheduled (Actual) Departure Time: 10:05am (1:02)
    Scheduled (Actual) Arrival Time: 11:40am (12:05)
    Duration: 10:35 Seat: 1K

    I generally don’t like to wake up too early in the morning, especially if I’m just going to end up sitting at an airport waiting for my flight to board, but I thought it was worth making an exception for the Lufthansa First Class Terminal.
    I got off the train at the airport and followed the signs for “A” arrivals. From the arrivals area, walk out of the terminal and turn to the left, walk past the parking lot/waiting area full of taxis, and you will soon come to the lower level of the FCT. Given the early hour, unseasonable cold, and windy walk, I was probably a bit, well, not First Class looking when I rang the buzzer to get into the terminal. Quickly, an attendant had opened the door and led me into the elevator up to the main entrance. I handed over my passport, informed the agent of my destination, quickly cleared security, and within 5 minutes of my arrival at the lower entrance, was seated for breakfast in the restaurant area of the virtually deserted FCT.
    I won’t bore you all with a repetitive, superlative filled description of the FCT, which definitely lived up to the hype, but wanted to just add that, while many of the features of the FCT are very good, the showers are awesome (like 10’ high waterfalls) and I don’t think they’ve gotten sufficient praise on these forums.
    [​IMG]
    FCT Breakfast Buffet
    [​IMG]
    Snack selection with very good mint and gingerale drink
     
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  15. gba
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    Thirty minutes before my scheduled departure my attendant walked over to me and informed me that it was time to board my flight. We took the elevator downstairs, I retrieved my (now stamped) passport from the immigration officers, and was directed to a Mercedes S350 for a short drive to my flight. I don’t know much about cars, but this Mercedes had more controls in the back then I’ve ever seen in the front of a car—including power adjustments in any direction, and warmers, and 5 other buttons that I didn’t recognize and whose function I couldn’t determine.

    [​IMG]
    View of D-AIKI upon arrival at gate

    We arrived at the aircraft while boarding was underway and made our way up the elevator and entered the cabin through 1L. While the driver who brought me to the aircraft hoisted my bag into the overhead bin, a flight attendant took my coat and offered me a choice of drinks which was served with macadamia nuts.

    [​IMG]
    View left from seat 1K during boarding

    As boarding continued, flight attendants distributed customs forms, slippers, amenity kits, and what was described as a sweater but was what I think of as a long sleeve polo shirt. The amenity kit contained some standard items like lotion, toothpaste, ear plugs, and an eye mask as well as items I hadn’t seen in an amenity kit before including a comb, shoe horn, and ear covers for the headphones built into the seat (addition lotions, and razors, were available in the lavs). The first class seat, while not at the level of the top of the line suites available on other airlines, was comfortable for sitting, as well as flat, although I was glad to have a single seat by the window rather than sharing a middle pair with a stranger.

    When I looked online from the FCT only 4 of 8 seats in the cabin were occupied however as boarding progressed all 8 seats ended up full. Based on the conversations I overheard, I suspect there were several op-ups from business (maybe even coach). We were slightly delayed due to a “light in the cockpit” and eventually pushed about 15 minutes late, although I doubt I would have noticed had the captain not made an announcement. We had a rather lengthy taxi to the end of 7L and around 11am took off into the cloudy Frankfurt skies. After a big left turn to the due west, we turned right toward the northwest and flew over Cologne, then near Amsterdam, before heading out to sea.
    As we climbed, menus and wine lists were offered, roses were placed in their designated spot in the seat, followed by piping-hot, rose-scented refreshing towels. After folks perused the drink offerings, orders were taken and drinks were served a long with a salmon canapé.

    [​IMG]
    “D” de Devaux Brut, Champagne Veuve Devaux, Frankreich, water, and in-flight map

    [​IMG]
    Salmon tartar canapé with an orange sauce sitting on top of the menu

    I sipped the very nice champagne and perused the hefty, tri-lingual menu (LH 438, 440, 452, 454, 456, 458, 490, 498, 510, 534, 542 11/10-12/10):

    Choice of Hors d'oeuvres

    Caviar with the traditional garnishes

    Salad of Bacalao with Oranges, black Olives and Sherry Dressing

    Cecina de Leon, grilled Zucchini and shaved Manchego Cheese

    Mixed Vegetable Terrine on Pine Nut Vinaigrette with Artichoke Mousse

    Salad or Soup

    Frisee, Chicory, Romaine Lettuce and Radicchio with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and Beetroot presented with your Choice of Tomato and Tarragon or Orange and Mustard Dressing

    or

    Frothed Soup of Watercress with Croutons

    Choice of Main Courses

    Braised Cheek of Beef garnished with Olives and Leek accompanied by mashed Celery

    Saffron crusted Halibut with Sauce Bouillabaisse, Bell Pepper and black Venus Rice

    Tian of Eggplant, Couscous and Tomatoes with Mediterranean Vegetables

    LufthansaClassics
    Roast Goose with Red Cabbage, Potato Dumplings and Herb Crumb Butter

    Selection of cheese and desert

    Manchego, Queso al Romero, Blue des Causses, Banon and Coulommiers Cheese presented with Quince Jelly and grapes

    Truffle Cream of Chocolate and Olive Oil with Flor de Sal, Raspberry and Bell Pepper Jelly

    Cream of Lemon Salt with Cherry and Rosewater Sorbet, Ducca Hazelnuts

    We are pleased to serve you a selection of canapés, biscuits and fresh fruits during the flight.

    As we finished our canapés the flight attendants came through the cabin and took meal orders. As I had eaten an ample breakfast in the FCT, I requested that my meal service be delayed for an hour and a half or so until a more normal “lunch time” based on Frankfurt time—although I think this was a hassle for the flight attendants, it was executed perfectly. In the mean time, I kicked back and began watching Dinner for Schmucks while the service proceeded for the rest of the cabin. I also made use of the inflight wifi to surf the net and send a few emails.
    [​IMG]
    Serving station at front of first class cabin
     
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  16. gba
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    The meal service started at the requested time with a serving of caviar and a tower containing all three appetizers listed on the menu along with a selection of bread from a basket

    [​IMG]
    Caviar and appetizer tower

    The caviar was spot-on, but the appetizers were more of a mixed bag and probably tried to be fancier than they needed to be, of the three, the Cecina de Leon was probably my favorite. As I finished each layer of the tower dishes were cleared and when I’d eaten all of the starters my main was presented:

    [​IMG]
    Braised cheek of beef

    The entree was quite acceptable, although I think the sauce could have had a bit stronger flavor, the mashed celery was very enjoyable. Although by this point in the meal I was starting to get full a first class meal just doesn’t feel complete without cheese and dessert.

    [​IMG]
    Truffle Cream of Chocolate Dessert with selection of cheeses

    The rather rich chocolate dessert held up very well next to the generous, and interesting, selection of cheeses, and was a top-rate conclusion to a very excellent first class lunch. As I finished, I was offered a choice of tea or coffee and my coffee with Baileys was presented along with a choice of chocolates from a very nice box.

    After the meal was complete, I reclined my seat and tried to get a couple hours of rest and the lights in the cabin were dimmed about 3.5 hours after we departed Frankfurt. One feature of the seat I liked was the water bottle holder behind the armrest which, while only accessible when the seat is reclined, allowed one to quickly grab a drink while resting.

    I dozed for a couple of hours and awoke to a clanging in the cabin as mid-flight snacks were being offered to those who were awake. Not wanting to let my readers down, I took advantage of this opportunity and chose a cheese sandwich and piece of fruitcake from the selection of snacks available.

    [​IMG]
    Midflight snack and in-seat rose

    One complaint I’d have about the seat is that it lacks a small table (or half tray) so I had to perch my snack on the armrest or use the large tray table which seemed like overkill. After the snack, I rested a while longer and before I knew it, roughly 1:45 from Seattle, preparations for the second service began.
     
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  17. gba
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    Lufthansa presents a “Sky Lodge Holiday” menu immediately prior to the second service which was distributed as the service began, followed by another round of piping hot rose towels.

    Cold and hot specialties

    Duck Galantine and Roast Venison with Pear, wild Cranberries and Walnuts

    Smoked River Trout with Apple Fennel Salad and Horseradish Cream

    Cheese Salad Appenzell Style

    Savory Cheese Spread Bavarian Style, Lard and red Radish

    Viennese Schnitzel with Potato Salad

    Semolina Dumplings with Parsnips and fried King Oyster Mushrooms

    Dessert

    Linzer Tart

    Fresh Fruit

    The service began with the “cold” starter cart snaking its way through the cabin and flight attendants offered passengers a choice from the first four items on the menu as well as a selection of bread basket items.

    [​IMG]
    Trout and duck with venison appetizer, with accompaniments and pretzel

    The starters were again somewhat more towards the excessively fancy side, although the trout and venison were both tasty. As we enjoyed our starters, the flight attendants took orders for the hot mains. By the time they reached my seat only the Schnitzel option was left, however that was my preference anyways.

    [​IMG]
    Schnitzel with warm potato salad

    I had heard good things about the schnitzel in the FCT and was disappointed that it was not on the breakfast menu, however this certainly helped make up for not. The dish was quite good, especially the potato salad, and rounded out my “German” experience appropriately. After everyone had enjoyed their main courses, the cart appeared in the aisle again with desert options:

    [​IMG]
    Linzer tart with fresh fruit
     
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  18. gba
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    Yikes, I can’t believe I ate all that, yet I enjoyed every bite. I found the second service, as a whole, to be especially impressive when compared with what I had on British Airways LHR-SEA last year, which was limited to an enjoyable, but not nearly as extensive, selection of tea snacks. It was also complimented by lovely views of the Canadian Rockies and later the cascades as we made our way towards Seattle

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The second meal was served at a leisurely pace and was made by the time it was concluded and the cabin cleared we were around thirty minutes from landing. I quickly changed out of my in-flight shirt, and rearranged my belongings as we flew over Seattle’s eastside on an unseasonable nice day in the Pacific Northwest

    [​IMG]
    Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, downtown Seattle, ship canal, and Lake Washington

    We made a U-Turn over the Tacoma area and came in for a smooth landing on 34R, after a bit of a taxi back to the south satellite to our gate. We deplaned through 2L and, without checked bags, I was able to make it quickly though immigration and customs and was quickly on my way home.

    I’m not sure if anyone’s still reading at this point, but if you are I hope you enjoyed the report and I look forward to your questions and comments.

    Safe travels,

    gba
     
  19. cockpitvisit
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    Great trip report, thanks for writing it. Especially enjoyed the pictures of Dubrovnik!

    Did you get any compensation for the downgrade from F to J on SEA-FRA ?
     
  20. gba
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    Yes, I did end up getting a pro-rated refund of miles from United because of the downgrade. The email I got from the refunds department suggested that it was a "one time exception" because I'm a 1K but I couldn't quite understand the logic behind their statement because the email was so poorly worded. In general, I'd like to think that refunds would be given for award tickets the same as if I'd been downgraded on a paid ticket, but I'm sure that doesn't always happen.
     
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  21. diver90
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    Really nice report! Dubrovnik was not on my list of "How about let's go there?" destinations, but now it is.
     
  22. kiwi
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    Great trip and report. Shame about the 2 invol downgrades.
     
  23. Rlpro
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    Very nice trip report. Thanks!
     
  24. JohnDeere19
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    Great trip report and photos. I'm really looking forward to flying LH F this summer (on the A380 and A346).
     

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