Fifth Freedom rights – where an airline travels from its own country to another and onto a third having the right to sell tickets and transport passengers between the latter two ports. In this case Lufthansa flew from Frankfurt, Germany to Bangkok, Thailand, where I boarded, and onto Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – two countries completely different from Germany.
I wanted to spend a bit of time exploring Bangkok’s huge Suvarnabhumi airport, namely the Business Class Lounges before my flight so I asked my airport transfer to pick me up from my hotel at 11am, a good four hours before my flight. I should have realised though, as Lufthansa only flies into Bangkok a few days a week, their check-in would not be open when I arrived and so I had to wait until 1230 to check in.
The first benefit of flying Business Class came when check in finally opened and I presented myself at the Business Class check in-desk. My bag was tagged priority to Kuala Lumpur and I was given the Business Class boarding pass with seat 1A and a premium lane pass which meant I could bypass the longer queues of immigration. The premium lane was a small room with about 4 security officers and one x-ray machine and upon x-raying my bag a security office noticed I had a tin of soup in my bag – don’t ask – as the soup contained liquid they advised me to check that bag in, so off to the check in desk I went again and had a 2nd bag tagged through to Kuala Lumpur – priority 😉
After clearing security and Thai Immigration, it was time to visit the lounge. I knew that Lufthansa wouldn’t have their own lounge at this airport, so I had checked the airlines website prior to departure and as Lufthansa is a Star Alliance Member, I could visit either the Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge or the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge…or could I visit both?….both! 😉
First stop would be the Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge mainly because it was the first lounge I came across and being the flagship lounge of Thai Airways and Bangkok being its home base I expected this to be the better of the two. There are actually five Royal Silk Lounges at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, four in the international concourses and one on the domestic concourse of the terminal. The lounge I visited was in the main concourse D and the largest of all 5 at 2,410 sq m and seating up to 314 people.
After a quick survey of the surroundings and the food and drinks on offer I found myself a nice discreet corner about, halfway in the lounge between entry and exit, where I could sit and relax. From one of the food stations -there were several throughout the lounge all serving the same fare – I plated up a serve of Hainanese Chicken Rice – one of my favourite Asian dishes – and a side salad. The chicken was delicious, perfectly cooked and juicy, so good in fact I had a second large serving of just the chicken! There were other items such as mini quiches, mushroom soup and petit fours also available. For my first few drinks it was just plain iced water with a squeeze of lime. Later, when I decided to have something stronger, I had to enquire where I could obtain a white wine – that was back near the entrance and was a bar service. A few Chilean white wines and other hot snacks later, it was time to head off and experience Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge on concourse A.
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge is located on concourse A, about a 10 minute walk from the Royal Silk Lounge I had been to. The lounge was much smaller but seemed a lot brighter and airier. The food on offer seemed a little more European and the alcohol, beer, wine and spirits, were self service. I sat briefly with a plate of cured meats and soft French Camembert and a glass of French Sauvignon Blanc. I didn’t spend much time in this lounge unfortunately as it was nearing time to board.
It was a bit of a walk from the SilverKris Lounge to the gate, D7 and the departure boards were flashing that the flight was boarding. When I got there, the flight wasn’t actually boarding so I settled into a seat in a cordoned off area reserved for First and Business Class next to the aerobridge entry.
The aircraft I was flying on today was delivered from the Boeing production line to Lufthansa on 17 May 1996. Registered D-ABVO and named Mühlheim an der Ruhr, the 17 year old aircraft is one of 30 Boeing 747-400’s operated by the airline.
First and Business Class passengers, Star Alliance Gold Card members, the elderly and those travelling with infants were among the first called when boarding began. With dual aerobridges, those seated in First and Business Class boarded through the first aerobridge while Economy class boarded through the second.
First class is located upstairs on Lufthansa’s 747’s with Business Class separated into three cabins on the main deck. My seat 1A, a window seat, was located in the forward cabin in the aircrafts nose.
The Business Class seating on this aircraft is in a 2-2 configuration in the forward cabin while a 2-3-2 configuration the the rear two Business Class cabins. The seating has between 57″-60″ of pitch and is an angle (165 degrees) lie flat bed.
Including the Lufthansa ‘Magazin’, inflight entertainment guide and emergency exit card, the seat pocket also came with a 10 page guide to the seat. The guide informed the passenger on all the seats amenities in German, English, Mandarin and Japanese.
As soon as I was seated a flight attendant, who greeted me with “Sprechen sie Deutsch oder Englisch?” – “Do you speak German or Enlgish?” (I do speak German, however I was thinking in English, my mother tongue, at the time so I answered “English”) offered me a glass of orange juice or champagne and obviously as the picture above shows, I chose the latter.
Being in seat 1A, there was no seatback TV in front of me, the TV screen/AVOD (Audio Visual on Demand) came out of the armrest so when my seatbelt was fastened and the pre-flight safety demonstration began I watched it from the screen above the coat locker in the front of the aircraft. The safety briefing was delivered in German with German subtitles first then in English with English subtitles.
It was a quick departure from Bangkok and as soon as we were in the air the crew announced that, todays flight, taking 2hrs, passengers would be served a refreshment in Economy Class and a hot meal in First and Business Class. A few moments later, a new, previously unseen, flight attendant came to me and asked “Sprechen Sie Deutsch oder English?” “English” I answered and she proceeded to advise me of todays lunch choices – a beef curry or a creamy pasta with mushrooms. As above, I chose the pasta. My lunch was not served as individual plates but on a tray, rather economy-esque with a side salad and fruit bowl. The pasta, with sauteed spinach, diced red capsicum and slathered with cheese, was tasty, albeit a little on the dryish side. The salad, with mesclun, cherry tomato’s and blanched asparagus was perfectly crisp and refreshing, as was the fruit bowl, nicely presented with a garnish of mint. Prior to starting my meal, yet another newly unseen flight attendant presented herself in front of me with a basket of warm bread and said….. “Sprechen Sie Deutsch oder Englisch?” – “English” I stated and chose one of the warm wheat-grain rolls. Surely the cabin crew of this barely full flight must know by now?…?
I may have confused things further when yet again another previously-never-seen-before flight attendant arrived, with a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine, in front of seat 1A and asked…..“…Deutsch oder Englisch?” …SIgh .. “Weiss, bitte, Danke” I answered, in GERMAN!… and was presented with a lovely white wine. I settled back and with my AVOD screen from the armrest in front of me I proceeded to watch a documentary on Sloths in Costa Rica – “Meet the Sloths” (strange choice, I know, but there wasnt enough time to watch a movie and it was quite fascinating!) As soon as my tray table was cleared yet again the obvious standard “…Deutsch oder Englisch?” was asked by the first crew member I’d encountered…(?)…I ordered another white wine. 😉
Overall it was an enjoyable, if short, flight. The crew could have been seen as having a lack of communication although I may have confused that further by speaking German at one stage, however they were Germanly efficient and polite. The food was lacking in quality and presentation however I would expect the product on a longer haul flight to be much better. In fact between the seats I found an inflight menu with a boarding pass from a flight a few days earlier. The aircraft had flown from Chicago to Frankfurt and the menu listed such items as Nantucket Scallop, Grilled Beef with Lime Vinaigrette and Papaya Salad and Miso Cod with Ginger Soy Dressing, Soba noodles, sauteed Spinach, Oyster Mushrooms and Chinese Long Beans – this menu sounded nice and I found myself deciding what I would have ordered. The aircraft, while being 17 years old was clean and not to shabby or tired looking and I felt it still had a good few years left in her. The seat, while comfortable enough, did make me wonder what it would be like on a long haul flight with those angle lie flat beds, I have experienced them before on Vietnam Airlines which I have reviewed here before. Also being in seat 1A, while private and less traffic, as the TV screens come out of the arm rest these must be stowed on decent so I missed the final minutes of “Meet the Sloths”! So, would I take this Airline and flight again? Absolutely! It was a little piece of Germany in the sky thanks to the Fifth Freedom 😉