Entry Info

2nd (Sun)
May 2010

[day51] Dubai to Cairo?

I stayed only three nights in Dubai as the city was bit too demanding for the backpacker's budget. After Dubai, the next destination was Cairo but via London and Frankfurt. Many people would ask why I didn't fly to Cairo directory from Dubai and the reason was I had a Star Alliance's award flights which starts from London and travels around Middle East and Europe on first class. I'd saved up ANA mileages more than 90,000 miles by mostly credit cards, and with the mileages I booked the following flights; London -> Frankfurt -> Cairo -> (by self transportation on the land) Istanbul -> Tel Aviv -> Frankfurt -> Lisbon -> London. In fact, there were only two sections which had actual first class settings(Frankfurt -> Cairo, Tel Aviv -> Frankfurt) but I didn't mind this at all as the most important factor of this route was using Lufthansa's first class at Frankfurt.

That's because this Lufthansa's first class inspired my funny idea of flying on first class. The dream was born when I was working on a web site development project for Lufthansa in Tokyo some years ago and astonished with their facility called "First Class Terminal".

Lufthansa has a special terminal exclusively used for the first class passengers at Frankfurt Airport which is their home ground airport. At the terminal, what the passengers need to do are only two things; checking in the luggage and passing their passport to the personal assistants. After these easy procedures, they can enjoy delicious meals at the real restaurant and a luxurious limousine sends them to the airplane for the boarding. When I was developing the web site for Lufthansa, I simply wished to taste this kind of service and started saving up Star Alliance mileages. And at length I managed to accumulate an enough amount of the mileages for the first class flights.

However, just a month ago of the flight, when I was in Melbourne, ANA called me regarding this flight. According to them, only my flight was going to be operated without first class due to an aircraft issue. In other words, my flight was automatically downgraded to business. What a bummer! Besides, there would be no refunds since the flight is a part of a reward flight series and I have another flight on first class. Although I sent a sort of petition to Lufthansa asking to let me use only the terminal, they coldly turned it down for this was the rule. The only possibility to use the first class flight was changing my schedule but I had to wait 10 days at Dubai. No way, I can't help it. I reluctantly accepted the downgrade.

Anyway, I flew to London from Dubai by British Airways' first class. Yet the flight was in the middle of the night and I went to bed straight away. Well, I hope to enjoy BA's first class meals the next time when I'm going to North America from London in September.

After moving to Frankfurt from Heathrow, I had to wait more than 20 hours at the airport. Since I'd anticipated using the first class lounge and terminal, I intentionally set the long hour transit. I'd never imagined such a consequence. Nevertheless, Lufthansa's business lounge was quite spacious and very well equipped for it's their basement airport. It was a reasonably nice place to stay as long as I could stand the paid wi-fi system and big crowds.

I'd had a little sleep at terminal for the lounge was closed at the midnight and at length the boarding time came. Confirming the time written on the ticket, I arrived the gate but somehow no people were there. I asked the staff nearby why and she answered 'the airplane has gone already.'


Entry Info

22nd (Mon)
Mar 2010

[day47] Sydney to Dubai 2

Sydney to Dubai2Sydney to Dubai via London. 24 hours from Sydney to London, 15 hours at London and 7 hours from London to Dubai. Considering the other waiting times, it was a huge trip taking more than 48 hours. Although everybody told me something wrong with this itinerary, for me this was the one of the chief event of "first class backpacker". The 2 nights & 3 days trip is long enough to saver what First Class is. (This entry is continued from the previous entry)

Heathrow British Airways Concorde Room

Sydney to Dubai2T5 is the newest terminal of Heathrow Airport and at near the normal first class lounge, there is a very special room named Concorde Room which only first class users can enter. Like Sydney Qantas first class lounge I stayed before, first class lounges are usually accessible to premium mileage members as well. However, this Concorde Room is different. Only those who have the actual flight ticket of BA first can enter the room. My eyebrows were raised at the very beginning when a staff asked me for the first drink. She said "Would you care for any drinks?" Who would ever talk to me such a ultimate polite term!?

Sydney to Dubai2In fact the interior was absolutely gorgeous. The lounge in Sydney was simple and modern but on the other hand here in London is classic and luxury. Many chandeliers are dangling from the ceilings and even a set of fireplaces is there though the fire is just a dummy. I thought this is the Great Britain. What's more, there is a sort of half private space at the restaurant which can be on a par with luxurious hotels' ones. Yet, their taste was sadly so-so. Indeed it was still nice but far below than my expectation caused by this premium atmosphere. I know I'm expecting bit too much but honestly they could improve the quality of the foods in order to be equal to the quality of the space.

London to Dubai

Sydney to Dubai2I stayed Concorde Room for 13 hours drinking fresh juice, organising the photos and wiring the blog entries. When I became slightly bored with the room, the boarding time had come. The flight departed at 21:30 with London time which means very early morning with Sydney time. Therefore I was already half asleep as if I stayed up until morning. What's more the arrival time was 9:30 with Dubai time but 4:30 with London time and 15:30 with Sydney time. So confused was my body that I went to bed without eating any in-flight meals except for a glass of white wine. As a result, I woke up very easily in the next morning and could eat breakfast in the airplane. This is my first time to eat a decent in-flight breakfast indeed.

Entrance to Dubai

It is said that to enter Dubai is very easy. They don't require visa to Japanese and in fact just showing the address of the accommodation, I got a stamp at the passport control. However at the custom, an unanticipated trap was there. I had nothing to declare and tried to go through the gate but an officer stopped me and dragged me to the table nearby. He asked me, "What have you got in your backpack?" I answered "Just my personal belongings for daily usage." "Well, can we open and check the back", responded the officer. From then taking more than an hour, I had to explain all the things in the bags one by one. What's more, their English is not really good, for instance they don't understand "Medicines for hay fever" and I had to use a lot of body languages. Eventually, I was forced to enter a small room for a body check and all the procedures have done.

Observing the gate carefully, I found that mainly people who rear a backpack were caught there. Well, this is not the country the budget backpackers easily call in. Though I gently cooperated with them as they seemed to just obey their mission, not to have any malicious thought I hope this kind of thing would never happen again.

Entry Info

17th (Wed)
Mar 2010

[day46] Sydney to Dubai 1

Sydney to Dubai1Seven days I stayed in Sydney and restarted the life as a backpacker in a hostel as I had been staying friends' houses at each places for a month. However, I just did sightseeing only one of seven days because the hostel was bit too far from the city. I had to switch my round the world ticket to an e-ticket and went to JAL which is located in a very central area. Using this opportunity, I also visited the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, amongst other tourist spots and soot some photos. Apart from the day, I spent my time just relaxing like writing journals at cafes and cooking steaks by myself.

In fact, the highlighted event at Sydney was the flight to Dubai via London. Although it was possible to fly to Dubai directly, the flight between Sydney and London is one of the longest haul of the world. It is almost a 24 hour flight and what's more it is operated by A380 well known as the newest and biggest, most luxurious aircraft. This should be the best flight to savour what the first class is. Though this single flight would have cost more than 13,000AUD if I'd purchased with a full-fare rate, the round the world ticket allowed me to book the flight as just one segment of 16 allowances. It's a damn good deal indeed.

Sydney Qantas First Class Lounge

I'd have preferred staying at the lounge than the cheap hostel and checked out of the hostel early but I made too much haste. As the check-in luggage procedure was available 4 hours ahead of the boarding and I arrived 2 hours earlier than start, I had to wait on the couch in front of the counter. Anyways, the soft couch was much more comfortable than the hard bench at the hostel.

Sydney to Dubai1At length, the lounge's gate was in front of me. As Sydney is their home airport, Qantas puts the best effort on this lounge. The ceilings are very high and the spacious room makes an absolutely luxurious atmosphere. Yet the interior design keeps a very simple and modern Australian style. I actually used some Qantas and in general I like their sense of design styles. When I sat a couch, one of the staff walked by me and asked "What would you like to drink?" For the time being, I ordered fresh juice and started browsing the internet with my iPhone. There are many airplanes going and coming in front of me through huge bright windows.

Sydney to Dubai1As it was lunch time, I decided to eat meals as well. Though the lounge has some self service snack counters, basically we order from the menu. Thanks to its descent kitchen, they have quite nice range of menus from a daily full course to a la carte plates and the quality is indeed very high, probably higher than in-flight meals. And of course all meals and drinks are free of charge for the visitors. Though in terms of wine lists, in-flight menus of first class are better than the lounge, as presumably the lounge is accessible for not only first class flyers but also high ranked mileage members, it can be a good idea to eat good amount of meals on the ground. The boarding time came when I was eating ice cream after having a shower.

QF44 Sydney to London

Sydney to Dubai1With a quick glance of the aircraft I found strangely an old Boeing moored there. The interior was identically the same as the one I used before from Hong Kong. I asked CA where A380 was and the answer was "it's working in Melbourne today". Uh, when I booked the ticket, I definitely saw the letter of “A380” on the display. Well it was long time and half a year ago and the schedule must have been changed without any notice. We can't trust flight companies for such a long scheme. Of course the old Boeing which had full flat seats and a lot of private spaces looked amazing. Nevertheless, I couldn't stop myself feeling disappointed with it as I had used it already and anticipated a far better one. Maybe someday I should try A380 on my own.

However, the wine list more than consoled me. As I wrote here often, I have lived in Australia for a year and got some knowledge about Australian wines. And I found a superb item which wiped out my discontent. "Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay" This is the best Western Australian white wine which once won a blind tasting competition of the world, surpassing other renowned world class wines. I didn't find any unpleasant smells and it's very easy to drink. Last time, from Hong Kong to Sydney, I had only a few hours to enjoy in-flight meals but for this occasion literally a whole day was available. Paying attention to not drinking too much, I fully relished the beautiful meals and the wine.

To be continued to Dubai.

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