Trip Report – A Dream Adventure Come True: Seattle to Frankfurt

Seattle to Frankfurt
Frankfurt Fun Times
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Newark
Newark to Seattle

Saturday 15th May 2015

Today’s flight was a little bit different than what is normal for me. I generally end up on two kinds of flight when leaving my home. Either one that requires departure first thing in the morning or one that requires departure late in the evening after work. Today was a flight departing mid afternoon on a Saturday, very foreign to me. What was also strange was the fact that this was going to be my longest trip away from Heidi since we got married. The last time we were separated for this length of time, was when we were just dating and I was visiting Vancouver to get my visa renewed. So what time I had free was spent with Heidi, getting some quality time together before she dropped me off.

Originally I was hoping to get a shot of the aircraft landing at SeaTac but unfortunately the winds did not allow south flow, so after a quick detour to the drug store to pick up some last second supplies, Heidi dropped me off at SeaTac. This was the first time I was departing directly from SeaTac on an international flight, again a new experience for me. This was also my first time flying on Condor, which you could say is a Low Cost Carrier of sorts. Condor has good reviews from some friends, so I was interested to see how it went. They contract out their staffing at SeaTac to Swissport so whatever was going to happen on the ground, was not going to be done by actual Condor staff. I was wait-listed for an upgrade to business, but it didn’t look possible at all 🙁

I lined up in the Premium Economy queue and it didn’t look that busy at all, however it looked like just about all the staff were in training as there seemed to be problems everywhere. I waited about 5 minutes or so before I was called over to a desk and I handed over my passport. The funny thing was from this moment on, I knew it was just not going to be a perfect flight. Check in took forever and that was mainly due to a new hire checking me in. You have to start somewhere right? It didn’t really bother me at all and I confirmed my fears that Business was already full. Premium Economy it is! Since she was knew I didn’t try to push my luck to an empty adjacent seat, I just left it as is. I think I confused the new hire a little bit when I she asked me for my checked bag and I put up a carry on sized bag. When she asked to see my carry on, I knew something was up. I said I had two pieces and showed my usual carry ons (Camera Bag and small backpack). She asked to weigh them, and this is when I figured things were going to go bad. My small backpack went down first and it was super light, just a couple of kg. However when I put the camera bag on, she was shocked at the weight (funnily enough it weighed more than my checked bag, about a pound more). I told her that it was all camera equipment and that I would be happy to move things about into my other bag if she really wanted, but it was not getting checked and it was coming with me either way. She told me to leave it and she left it at that. She wished me a safe flight.

I walked away wondering what the hell. No telling me boarding, or reconfirming departure gates. So confusing! I walked away and stashed my lovely cardboard boarding pass and whipped out my print at home version. Time to thwart the TSA. Security took forever, even with priority security (which again, was not told I had, however I knew I had it). The silly thing was that although the ID check was non existent, the scanning line took a solid 20 minutes to get through. Ugh! Once getting through, I did the dignity dance and it was all done.

After getting through security, I swapped around a few things in my bag and grabbed out my camera (had forgotten to take it out) and headed off around the airport. No upgrade meant no lounge and that meant I had several hours to kill. I went for a walk to the B gates to scope out where the new American Express lounge was going to go, wanting to see just where it was all going in (in between the McDonalds and the Sbarros, should have good views of the A Gates). I wanted to grab a coffee while I waited and had a good discount code for a really cheap iced coffee, but Starbucks did not want to play ball, so cancelled the order and decided to head over to the gate (since I know how to read a monitor). Had I not known where or what to do at the airport, I would not have known where to go to or even what section of the airport I was departing from).

A quick trip on the train and I was in the S Gates where it was heavy time. Just about every gate was tied up with a heavy flight departure. Several Airbus wide-bodies for Delta, a 787 for Hainan, an A330 for Asiana, Lufthansa’s lone 747 and 777s from Korean (hello Skyteam livery), British Airways and Emirates and our my lone 767. The blue winglets on Condor really do stand out compared to everything else that was there. The terminal was rammed and there was staff walking around paging last minute stragglers for certain flights. The gate area for Condor was so small and even so far out from departure there was just no where to sit. I checked at the counter about the seat situation and was told unfortunately it was going to be a full flight so my seat was not going to change. *sigh*

I sucked it up and headed off to find somewhere to sit near a power point to give my portable battery pack some juice. Since there was no power outlet onboard condor (just USB), I decided to make sure that the portable USB pack had as much power as possible. I pretty much sat at a random gate (near the lounge steps) and just chatted online about a few things. Nothing all that exciting. It was an easy way to pass some time. About 30 minutes to boarding I decided to head over to get some water and then head over to the gate to find a seat. Finding a seat was not possible, so I picked a spot up against a wall. When things started to get closer and closer to boarding, I moved over towards the duty free store (which was next to our gate). Anything to avoid the crowds by being close to the front of the queue.

Condor Flugdienst- DE6048
Seattle Tacoma to Frankfurt (SEA-FRA)
Boeing 767-300ER (D-ABUb)
PremiumEconomy Class – Seat 8K

Boarding: 1435 (Gate S1)
Push Back: 1531
Take off Roll: 1544 (Runway 34R)
Top of Descent: 0958
Touch Down: 1028 (Runway 25R)
Shut Down: 1042 (Gate B43)

Originally boarding was set for 2:30pm (not that I was told) and a few minutes out they advised a delay by about 10 minutes. No big deal they said, we should be out on time. Hah! It was funny though because they started doing pre boards mere seconds later and in fact started boarding a solid 5 minutes ahead of what they said they were going to. This flight was so confusing! I can’t tell if it is just Swissport doing this or if it was Condor? Who knows!

When boarding began they of course boarded Business first, which really just caused a massive rush of everyone trying to cram into one lane. I waited a few seconds till they called Premium Economy passengers (which by this time had already been boarding). As I got my passport checked (and the paper home copy stamped) I headed around the corner to the actual boarding lanes. When I showed her my boarding pass from home, the Swissport staff member said that I couldn’t use this, I had to go and get a real boarding pass. I said to her that this was my boarding pass, it even says “boarding pass” on it. After about 30 seconds of convincing her it was legit (which it was) she saw a supervisor, waved my boarding pass in the air and her supervisor yelled back “Just scan it already”. I let her scan it, she handed it back and onboard I went! Hello unbroken, non scribbled boarding pass 😀

Into the Jet-bridge I headed to see a total traffic jam ahead of me. Not a single person had moved further than the jet-bridge and it was backed way up. *sigh*. I waited it out in the jet-bridge for a while and eventually we got moving. I walked down towards the aircraft and stepped onboard my first 767 in almost 2 years (the last one I was onboard was from Seattle to Honolulu on my way to NZ). I walked through the small 3 row business cabin (I guess I could of had that upgrade if they had of equipment swapped out to a 5 row cabin). Premium economy was starting to fill up and it was then I got the first introduction to my seat mate, an old lady. She was dumping all her stuff on my seat and then going through her bag on her seat. When I stopped she apologized for having her suitcase on my seat to which I corrected her saying that I was at the window (which again I had been foiled by the offset window). Eventually I stored my camera bag up top and hopped into my seat and started getting myself settled.

We took a while to get sorted in the cabin. It felt like an endless stream of people in the jet bridge. The set up in the seat wasn’t bad. Although it was still a standard economy seat, I had extra leg room and better amenities. There was even a small amenity kit (socks, eye shade and a toothbrush/toothpaste set up) in a little plastic case. Did not expect that at all! A pillow and a blanket were on my seat to round things out. Can’t really complain about that can I. While boarding took forever by the time the crew started to close things up we were still sitting there, a good 10 minutes past our scheduled departure. On time my butt!

The cockpit crew came on and told us that unfortunately we would be delayed going out as the ATC had changed our routing and they had to reprogram the flight management computer. I totally understand this, just wish ATC did not screw with us sometimes. We eventually had two different sets of Safety video. First it was done in German with English subtitles. Then it was done in English with German subtitles. Confused yet? We slowly pushed back and as we did I watched out the window, judging the Swissport ramp staff on their push back. I don’t know their exact procedures for wing walking or disconnect, all I can say is that the guy working the captains side on this flight today was very very lazy. As the bypass pin was waved in the air and the push-back was driven away with the tow bar, we were cleared away (with an extremely weird, and I assume incorrect, hand movement) towards the sky.

We taxied out of the ramp control area, onto the taxiway and towards the south end of the field. A Short taxi was extended by what felt like endless waiting, for what reason I have no idea as I didn’t see much in the way of other aircraft around us. We finally took a good push into the air and were airborne before the gate areas around C20 (my old stomping ground). We climbed out of SeaTac passing over Boeing Field, and then turned right over lake washington to skirt between Bellevue and Factoria, climbing and heading East. We apparently had our routing changed to head more over Eastern Washington and headed for the Midwest states, rather than climb for a polar route, Usually the aircraft would come down over the Rockies however winds or turbulence must have been better this new way. Well as long as we get there in one piece, I was not worried.

We climbed out and got to our cruising altitude pretty quickly and the crew did not hesitate to turn off the seat belt sign at an efficient time. None of this wait for a solid hour crap, it was just switched off. So when it went off I jumped up and grabbed my laptop, so that I could do a little work on the flight. As I wrote away we were offered a round of drinks and some snack mix (happy mix?). The first meal service would be a while after takeoff, almost 90 minutes after take off. Which isn’t to bad as it would resemble an early dinner for some. For me, since I don’t sleep in flight, this was just a late lunch for me and some fuel to keep me going. I was expecting a long long day, almost 25 or 26 hours awake.

The meal service began (and it smelt amazingly good) and the set up was pretty decent. The thing that caught my eye was the full metal cutlery and the full size kit kat. I had not had a kit kat in ages and I had been contemplating buying candy in the airport. Kind of glad I didn’t now, because now I had some for free! I stashed the kit kat away for later (and the spoon from the cutlery of course) and stuck into the food. It was fairly fresh and tasty. The appetizer portion of the menu was some smoked salmon and a prawn (and I was reminded so much of that famous Shrimp Cocktail song by Alton Brown). The main was some kind of beef stew thingy with what I think was “Gnocchi” but who knows. It was tasty though so I can’t really complain.

Rounded out by some kind of cheesecake thing for dessert and the meal was good. No coffee service (why I don’t know) but I just settled in to watch a wierd movie, I was constantly worried about my laptop since the guy in front of me somehow was able to constantly make his seat move more than anyone I have ever met. Whatever dude! The lady next to me though. Not a peep… she just stayed quiet and in her own little world. All the movies had been set to free for the entire aircraft as the credit card system was offline, which meant everything had to be done in cash. Drinks and all, Sorry guys, I barely have any euros (6 to be exact) so I am keeping it.

I set to work on the trip report a little and my screen went offline. I tried to turn it back on but it just would not work so I just left it. After a while I wanted to see where we were, but nothing. So I just held in the power button till it hard reset. I didn’t think it would work, but who knows. It did work and it reset itself. Will remember that trick for next time! I managed to get a good chunk done and before we had reached St Johns Newfoundland, I was watching some of my TV shows to catch up.

As the flight cruised on and I settled in, it just kind of blew by. By the time I finished through all of my shows, I headed to grab a cup of coffee and before I knew it, the crew was coming through the cabin to wake everyone up. It was a bit of a show. First the crew came through hot towels and then came the breakfast service (a simple yet tasty service). Then after that was another coffee service. Once that was all cleaned down we were about an hour out from Frankfurt and slowly starting to cross the UK and into mainland Europe. We crossed the coast around Amsterdam and as was passed Cologne we began descent.

We seemed to head into a runway that felt like them middle of no where. After a long long taxi, we were dropped off at a bus gate and taken over to the C arrival facility. Everyone groaned, I as happy. Then they mentioned that we could only exit via the rear door. Sigh. Since I was in row 8, so it wa going to be a long time, By the time I got off, took a few pictures of the QR A350 at the gate two down, and off we went. Off to immigration, a quick passport check (he didn’t even ask any questions) and a non existent customs check. I was in Germany, let the fun time roll.

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