Friday, July 6, 2012

Flying the 747-8 Intercontinental - Part 2

Part 2: Return Flights – 747-8i to DC and home to OC via Chicago

View from My Room

I had a little difficulty sleeping through the night trying to quickly adjust to the time change.  The bed was comfortable, the air conditioning worked, I was feeling tired but I still woke up after only a few hours of sleep stayed awake for a couple and took a nap for a bit more.  Eventually I was able to fully wake up and head out for the First Class Terminal, the first highpoint of the day.  The walk to the terminal was much quicker than yesterday's trek to the hotel.

The Squaire

The FCT staff welcomed me once I walked inside and proceeded to take my passport and escort me through security into the building.  They keep your passport until you depart for your flight but they will bring you your boarding pass.  The terminal includes a restaurant (all free), cigar bar, sleep rooms, shower rooms, full bar, lounge, and work cubicles.  I went to the restaurant for breakfast and helped myself to the fresh orange juice and buffet with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, and breads.  Options to order food include pancakes, omelets, etc. 


The food did hit the spot and the fresh baked breads were good.  After I finished eating I went to the lounge area and relaxed a few hours before my flight.  From time to time I went back to grab some breadsticks or olives to snack on as well as downed a few glasses of dessert wine – it was 5 o’clock somewhere!  As the morning went on they switched out the breakfast items for lunch items including desserts and I grabbed some apple pastry with a cream sauce.  A perfect way to spoil my lunch J 


One of the best aspects of checking in at the FCT is that they will drive you right to your plane for boarding.  Thirty minutes before departure, the staff member that checked me in found me in the terminal and took me downstairs to head out.  Passport control is just before you get in the car and it took a few minutes for the border agent to find my passport which scared me for a second.  Once my passport was stamped, I was in a Mercedes with another passenger heading to the 747-8i flight to DC.  This ride is perfect for an airline geek as you drive along the tarmac by all the planes and you see A380s, A340s, 747s, and 777s all from a multitude of airlines.  As we were driving along I kept looking around for the telltale front or wings of the 747-8 so I could spot where we are headed.  It took maybe 5 minutes and then we pulled up alongside the airplane named “Brandenburg”.  I got to walk outside the airplane and take a few photos before heading up the elevator and boarding the plane. 

Car Ride

The 747-8!

The 747-8!

The first class cabin was just to the left of the jet bridge on the main level of the aircraft.  Eight seats are situated in the nose with a brand new first class cabin configuration for Lufthansa.  The seats and finishes are similar to what I experienced on the A340 over and earlier on the A380.  The ceiling of the cabin with recessed lighting and new overhead bins flow along with the shape of the aircraft.  My seat was 1A, the very first seat on the right side.  The seat was great – comfortable, spacious, and with just enough privacy.  One difference from other flights I’ve been on is that the 747-8 requires a shoulder strap to be attached to your seatbelt for takeoff and landing.  I think I like the cabin feel (and plane) better than the A380.  There is just more elegance to the aircraft and cabin than the Airbus, which is just a bus packing passengers in. 

First Class Cabin

The "A" Side Seats

Center Seats and "K" Side Seats

Pre-departure champagne, macadamia nuts, amenity kits, and pajamas were passed out as the rest of the passengers boarded.  Before we took off I changed into the pajamas so I wouldn’t have to be in the same clothes all day long.  Unlike the A380, the 747-8 has overhead bins and a half-height locker for storage and hanging clothes to prevent wrinkles. 

View from My Seat, TV, and Champagne

I turned on the airplane nose camera as we pushed back from the gate and took off.  One of the amazing qualities of the 747-8 is the quietness of the aircraft.  Even with the surge of power from the engines rolling down the runway, the noise in the cabin was minimal.  In fact, the air circulation systems were the most present noise during the whole flight.  The cabin humidity, pressure, and noise were better than what you would experience on other aircraft and didn’t bother my sinuses or ears. 

Food Menu

White Wines

Red Vines

Drink service commenced upon reaching cruising altitude and I started off with 2007 Chateau de Rully.  The amuse bouche was an interesting shrimp cannoli with cauliflower puree.  The cauliflower was good but I could pass on the shrimp. 

Amuse Bouche

The appetizer cart was rolled out and I grabbed some caviar, guinea fowl and basil vinaigrette, and tomato salad.  All were quite good with the guinea fowl being my favorite.  I also had some of the garlic bread and pretzels for some carbs. 


The salad course was next with a tomato vinaigrette (not pictured) followed by an excellent cold soup of beetroot and pistachio oil.  It was rich and sweet and had a tomato quality to it. 

Beetroot Soup

I was a bit adventurous with the entrée course and selected the saddle of reindeer with curry lentils and plums.  It was a very interesting dish that also came with a béarnaise style sauce.  The lentils were al dente and you definitely tasted the curry.  The reindeer was very gamey and perhaps a bit well done, but with the sauce it was very good.  I think I prefer kangaroo over reindeer.  I switched out my white wine for red and enjoyed a glass of the 2005 Montemareto Countacci. 

Reindeer and Lentils

Dessert was a warm chocolate brownie, with pineapple sauce and an olive ice cream.  The brownie would be perfect with a cold glass of milk.  The olive ice cream was a weird, but good flavor.  It had an initial sweetness on the tongue which then transitioned into olive across the palette.  I had a couple of glasses of the same Beerenaulese as the prior flight with dessert as well.

Brownie and Olive Ice Cream

The IFE options were more expansive than on my Munich flight (still no Top Gear) and I watched “Sherlock Holmes 2” while having dinner.  It was another movie which I missed when it was in the theater.  When I finished eating I asked for turn down service and laid down to sleep for a few hours.  While the privacy of the first row of seats is great, a downside exists in that the closet where all of the bedding is held is right in front of the seats.  I was able to sleep for an hour or so before waking up and then dealing with the passenger across from me snoring loudly.  I couldn’t get back to sleep.  He just kept going and going.  I was almost ready to throw something at him when the pre-arrival service was starting. 

The salad with olives, feta, peppers, and veal Wiener schnitzel in champagne vinaigrette was very good.  Pretzel bread was served too.   The dessert was a weird tart that reminded me of a Jell-O salad. 

Pre-Landing Menu

Salad, Veal, and Dessert

We arrived into DC earlier than I was expecting, about 30 minutes early.  The approach brought us on a path where we could see the city and monuments on the horizon, passed Dulles, and then into land.  We taxied to terminal B and quickly deplaned.  They separated passengers with connections and those stopping in DC into separate busses.  The busses were parked next to the 747-8 and provided a great opportunity to take picture of the aircraft and it looked great.  The bus shuttled us over to Terminal C where customs and immigration are located.  A few minutes later I was waiting the security line to head to my next flight to Chicago. 

Nose of the 747-8

Sleek Plane and Raked Wingtips

Stretched Upper Deck

I was initially worried that my 85 minute connection would be problematic if the customs hall was busy but thankfully I had plenty of time to get to the next gate.  The flight to Chicago was on an internationally equipped 767 and I was seated in a Global First seat / suite.  It was very comfortable and could go into a full flat position.  I hope my parents have this seat on their flight back from London in a few days.  The flight was short so there wouldn’t be any meal service although snacks were provided.  I was able to watch “John Carter of Mars” all the way through by the time we reached our gate at ORD. 

United Global First Suite

United Global First Suite

I had two hours in Chicago to relax in the United Club before my final flight to Orange County.  Thankfully, the Club was adjacent to my departure gate.  I headed over to the gate prior to boarding and there were already plenty of families waiting to board – oh, joy.  Boarding was taking longer than scheduled due to some late arrivals.  The flight was on a standard A320 with domestic first class, nothing special but I still appreciate the seat width and leg room.  We did receive a “snack” service with a cold pasta salad and chicken breast which was surprisingly peppery.  It also came with a fruit bowl and triple chocolate brownie.  I enjoyed a couple of glasses of chardonnay with the meal and then resorted to water for the rest of the flight to hydrate myself as much as possible. 

Overall, this was a great experience and I loved being able to try out the latest commercial airliner.  All of the quick planning and use of miles to get a first class round trip ticket was worth spending more time in the air than actually on the ground.  I can’t wait till the 747-8 starts flying on the LAX routes and can find an opportunity to ride the plane again.  I have to try the new lie-flat business class seat on it as well! Now, it’s time to be back in my own bed.

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