PinoyXPat

A Pinoy Expatriate’s Insane Musings

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Jaunting Through Europe No. 2: A VERY Long Haul…

Posted by Marvin on October 19, 2007

Travelling across oceans and continents have always been easy for me…I was always on official company business ergo travelling on either First or Business Class. Being the typical Pinoy (i.e. cheap but not Genuine Ilocano cheap), I wouldn’t dare buy Business Class tickets at exorbitant prices for our vacation. Ever the cheapskate, I opted to go coach or Economy and used my Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer frequent flyer miles to ensure that it will be a minimal cash outlay situation.

I contacted the San Francisco office of Singapore Airlines in order to book the flights to and from Europe. We chose Paris, France as our entry and exit gateway. Unfortunately, Singapore Airlines doesn’t operate flights from San Francisco into Europe – so they booked me on their Star Alliance partner airlines United and Lufthansa. I’ve used both airlines and I must say that the gruff and stern Lufthansa is much, much better than United in almost every aspect of operating an airline. Take the case of flight attendants – Lufthansa has smart and average-looking flight attendants (still light-years away from the Singapore Girl of Singapore Airlines). United on the other hand is manned by rude crones – flight attendants with an attitude and for whom the term “customer service” doesn’t seem to exist. These are the type of attendants that people emigrate to avoid. Suwerte pa pala tayo sa mga tanders na flight attendants ng Philippine Airlines…

Luckily for us, we got Lufthansa bookings. It cost me 50,000 frequent flyer miles and another 50,000 frequent flyer miles for my wife. I was expecting the fiscal damage to be slight. Little did I realize that redemption bookings across partner airlines carry some huge fees. I was charged around US$ 600 for our tickets – ostensibly for fees and taxes. Oh, well…This is the price of avoiding United…

A few days before our flight, I checked the Lufthansa website for information on their Economy class. I must admit that I’ve been flying Lufthansa for years but I never bothered to take a peek at the Economy section. Being one of the largest airlines in Europe and a pillar of the Star Alliance network, I was expecting the same type of creature comforts as that of Singapore Airlines. I missed the mark by more than a mile…and this was proven by my experience during the flight. Let’s look at it with greater scrutiny:

SEATS

Lufthansa’s Economy Class seats are like your average coach seat in any other airline – with average pitch and seat width. Nothing outstanding and nothing missing either…EXCEPT for the in-seat video screen. The seats have NO video entertainment screens whatsoever…The only form of video entertainment are the overhead CRT monitors which show canned programs. Almost every other major airline in the world has already migrated to in-seat video-on-demand monitors (pioneered by the way by Singapore Airlines) except for Lufthansa…Batong-bato tuloy kami…Imagine sitting in your seats for 11 hours without anything to watch or straining your neck watching Mr. Bean on the overhead monitor! Lufthansa issued a pronouncement that they will start offering in-seat video-on-demand for their Economy Class passengers starting November 2007. Gee great…You’re only late by four (4) years or so…

TIP: Be nice to the check-in counter staff. Smile and be polite…even drop in a few words in German like “Danke!” (“Thank You”). If you’re nice, you could probably request for a nice seat like a bulkhead seat of seats near the emergency exits where the seats have more legroom.

GRADE: Poor

ENTERTAINMENT

As mentioned above, the entertainment system is basically crap. They issue out plasticky, translucent head phones. The audio selection is nothing to crow about and the overhead monitor only showed The Simpsons Movie and Mr. Bean On Holiday…Things to watch out for: The head phones are fragile…I had to ask for a replacement as one of the ear phones is not working.

GRADE: Poor

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FOOD

European airlines have never been known for good food service. Lufthansa is no exception. You get either a vegetarian pasta meal or a chicken meal. Again, nothing extraordinary…

GRADE: So-so

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BAGGAGE HANDLING

This is where I would give Lufthansa an “F”, a failing mark, essentially “kalabasa”… The reason is this: We arrived in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport giddy as you can ever be. Our baggage took an extraordinarily long time to appear on the carousel. I checked in a small (carry-on size), four-wheeled hardcase trolley I bought in 2006. My luggage came out of the carousel in pieces…The hardcase shell has been ripped to shreds!! Fortunately, the hardcase has a lining which basically prevented the contents from spilling out…Otherwise, I would be picking my checkered boxer shorts all over Charles de Gaulle’s arrival area. Here is where things started to get worse and my blood pressure started rising to explosive levels:

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I am a KrisFlyer PPS Club Member which in a nutshell means that I am entitled to Gold Member status in any Star Alliance airline even if I am travelling on Economy Class. Just one of the perks of travelling on countless business class flights. Gold Member passengers’ bags are tagged with “PRIORITY” labels and are supposed to come out of the carousel first and should be treated with an extra level of care – supposedly. My bag has been tagged as “PRIORITY” and yet it came out of the carousel last – and it was mangled beyond repair – to boot.

I immediately went to the Lufthansa Luggage Service desk in the arrival area and reported the incident. They prepared an incident report and asked some details on my flight and luggage. I asked them for a temporary bag wherein I could transfer my clothes. They said they have no replacement luggage on hand.

STRIKE ONE: I asked them for any other bag which I could use. The lady manning the desk said they only have a box or a paper bag…My God, they are going to give me a box for my clothes…Humihingi ako ng bag hindi ng balikbayan box!

STRIKE TWO: I told them to just tape up the bag so that it will not burst open – just to tide me over to the hotel. I demanded a replacement for the luggage. They gave me a card with an address – their local luggage repair/supplier in Paris. I then asked them to contact their supplier for the replacement luggage and send it to my hotel. The lady told me that they don’t deliver to hotels and that I have to go there in person. What the fu…dge!!! I am the aggrived party and you are asking me to do all the work for something which you – as the carrier – is totally responsible for!

STRIKE THREE: I told them than I will not do that as it will take time away from my vacation – they have to find a way to address the issue. The lady was a bit stunned and probably was not expecting a Filipino to be so assertive. She told me that I can buy a bag myself and then submit the receipt for reimbursement. I asked them where I can submit the receipt. The answer they gave me: I have to mail all the documents to their Customer Service Office in Dublin, Ireland…What the @#%?!!!! Ipapa-mail niyo pa sa akin ang punyetang resibo?

AND YOU’RE OOOOOUTTTTA HEREEEE!!!!

I intend to lodge a formal complaint to Lufthansa on this. Their service level – for lack of a better analogy – sucks literally like an Electrolux vacuum cleaner (with apologies to Electrolux)….They don’t know who they’re messing with. I am the airline passenger from hell and I will not let this pass…

So…I encourage everyone to think twice before using Lufthansa. If you have the choice, always pick an Asian airline (like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and the like – I wouldn’t recommend Plane Always Late a.k.a. Philippine Airlines) over a U.S. or European airline. Emirates is also a very good airline.

What a flight!

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Jaunting Through Europe No. 1

Posted by Marvin on October 1, 2007

After what seems to be a very, very long time, I am going on vacation or at least the closest possible definition of vacation. My wife and I picked a two-week jaunt through France, Italy and Austria for our time-off from work. We leave for Europe in two (2) days time…

People might say, that it is relatively easy to go on a trip nowadays…WRONG! If there is one advice I can give, it is this: PLANNING IS CRUCIAL. I had to do a lot of research prior to this coming trip and believe me – it will all pay out in the end.

One thing I am dreading is the long flight to Europe. We’ve booked a flight from San Francisco International Airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle via Frankfurt Main aboard Lufthansa. I’ve taken the SFO-FRA flight countless times (around 10) and I’ve been on around 30-40 cross-continental flights over the last three years. However, I’ve been extremely lucky. Each and every one of these flights are on Business or First Class (courtesy of the company I work for – which also means that all of these flights are on official company business). This upcoming flight to Paris via Frankfurt is the first time I’ll be flying coach (that’s economy class for Pinoys) on a long-haul flight.

I’m already dreading the hours of “sardine-like” conditions…

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