I've blogged a lot about my hotels and other parts of my trip to Thailand and Hong Kong, but I haven't covered how I got there or how I got home.
This was a Star Alliance First Class redemption from North America to Asia via Europe. It was 145,000 miles per person (now this award is 140,000). I made several changes after booking, usually trying to get the Manila call center theorizing that they would be more open to the exact changes wanted to make. I did availability searches primarily using the ANA tool. It was originally booked by what I believe was the Dearborn call center, or at least someone that talked like me, sounding like they were from the midwest US.
My routing was as follows with links to related blogs:
ORD-MUC LH F 346 (8 hour layover)
MUC-IST TK C 738 (2 hour layover)
IST-BKK TK F 77W (3 hour layover)
HKT-BKK TG C 744 (23 hour layover) Grand Hyatt Erewan
HKG-FRA LH F 744 (overnight) Sheraton Frankfurt Airport
FRA-ORD LH F 744
I wanted to take advantage of the best in flight and ground experiences I could on a single award. I managed to hit several what some consider to be the best of both. I flew in the Jet Airways F suites (operated by Turkish Airways), Lufthansa First on a 346 and the now old 747 configuration. As for ground services, I really did well here also, with First class lounges in MUC, IST, BKK and HKG, and the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in FRA.
My trip began in Chicago. Upon arriving, we checked in with Lufthansa. Though the flight was departing from the B concourse, were directed to the United First International lounge on the C concourse. I walked by this lounge countless times, but never entered, as I've never had access at ORD. The RCC nearer the Lufthansa gates is certainly more updated, but the offerings are not nearly as nice, and its much more crowded
United doesn't really provide much variety at even their top tier lounges. These ramekins contain the same nuts as offered on meal flights, although they aren't warm.
Diverse liquor selection, but hardly 'first class'. Then again, it very much puts to shame what is offered at the Red Carpet Club on the other side of the wall.
Next stop, the A340-600 to Munich. 8 seats in First class, only one other occupied besides my wife and I. The other person slept the entire flight, so we basically had our own cabin.
It was a very nice flight. Nice new plane, excellent service. Great meal, and got some decent sleep. I really don't like redeyes, but this later departure time (8:50pm) made sleeping much easier. We arrived at MUC early afternoon. There were limited flights to IST, so we had a long layover in MUC and therefore a short one in IST.
As nice as the First Class Lounges are in Munich, we decided to spend a few hours in the city. As always, transportation in Germany is so simple.
Next up, the only non-widebody flight on the itinerary, European buiness class on a 737-800 to Istanbul. This was rather unremarkable, although there was a menu provided for the meal on the 2 hour flight. I wasn't really hungry with recent meals including one first class flight and several first class lounges visits. We had a short time in Istanbul, but we were driven to the Prime Class Lounge (thanks to Ben for the report). A full meal service was offered, but we only had a few nibbles knowing more food was to come on the flight.
After our time in the lounge, we were driven to the plane via cart, and escorted directly to our seats. This is of course the Jet Airways owned plane that Turkish flies.
This was quite simply, the best airplane seat I've ever experienced.
Yes, I was watching Date Night....
Canapes with some funky Vodka drink they offered me
Chicken Tikka main course
The lavatory decorated with flower petals. Unfortunately, this large main lav did not have working fixtures. One of a few issues with TK service on board. It worked fine to change into pajamas.
Upon returning to my suite, it was made into a bed, with a mattress pad, duvet, 2 pillows, and a lavender sachet.
gazing at stars before sleeping
The hard product was incredible. The service itself was not so good. The crew was very friendly, but not at all polished in their service. Caviar was offered after dessert and I was not woken for breakfast as requested. Neither are major issues by any means, but I expected more in International First Class.
Upon landing in BKK, we were met with a golf cart and driven to priority immigration then transferred to the domestic terminal for our flight to Phuket. Flights to/from Phuket were flown on Thai Airways 747s, but only sold as 2 class, and we were seated in Business class.
Classy Lufthansa place setting.
Even the butter is first class.
It was a nice flight, with predictably good Lufthansa service on board. Despite the long flight time for HKG-FRA, no pajamas were offered, since it was not an overnight flight. We arrived at FRA in the late evening, and headed over to the Sheraton across the street. The next morning was our first trip to the First Class Terminal and then FRA-ORD.
Walking from the Sheraton was easy, despite the cold weather.
breakfast offerings in First Class Terminal
Bathroom at FCT. Can anyone spot something out of place in this photo?
Shower in FCT
The First Class Terminal in Frankfurt was an amazing experience as others have stated before. In terms of overall ground experience, Thai airways in BKK does more pampering, with the carts to and from planes and the complimentary massage, but to me, the FCT is a unique oasis to relax or work, eat, sleep, really whatever suits your fancy. Its well equipped for all of those and more. As a Star Alliance flyer, its great to have such good options to choose from. I'll certainly make an effort to route through BKK and FRA on future award trips.
The Turkish Airways First Class experience was good, mostly due to the plane itself. Unfortunately, this is going to be gone soon. They are phasing in their own two class 777-300ER aircraft on many routes. As of July 2011, these Jet Airways owned planes are still available on some routes with Turkish, as well as some routes flown by Thai Airways, currently BKK-NRT and BKK-CDG.
Note: This trip was taken in late 2010, before I had a blog, so I apologize for the inconsistent nature of photos. Thanks for sticking with me through this whole report!