Our Thanksgiving in India was coming to an end and at around 1am it was time to leave the Grand Hyatt. I went down to the club lounge to check out, and noticed on my bill two breakfast charges (I never ate a restaurant breakfast at the property during my stay). The charges were immediately removed. They asked whether I had taken anything from the minibar, I had not. (There was a minibar slip in the room from the previous guest, who apparently did take something, that slip was never taken so perhaps he was never charged or perhaps he fessed up at checkout.)
I asked for a car to the airport, it was complimentary after all, they retrieved our bags from our room and we went downstairs and headed off towards the airport, which really bustles in the middle of the night. The car dropped us outside, and we navigated through a sea of people to enter the terminal. There was only one person ahead of us in the first class line, though that person took quite some time to be taken care of while the business class line moved at a fast clip. No worries, we had plenty of time and were checked in quickly enough.
We were given security tags for our carryons, which had to be stamped when we went through security. And we got our boarding passes. I asked where the lounge was and was given the location, which ultimately turned out to be wrong… I was told where most of the lounges were, which wasn’t far from the Lufthansa gate, but had to ask inside the British Airways lounge how to find find Lufthana’s (the directions included walking through a duty free shop, oddly enough, but that was correct).
After checking in we headed over to passport control and security. The lines weren’t especially long but security does take a good bit of time in Mumbai. Everyone — and I mean everyone alarms the metal detector. I did, and I didn’t have a single piece of metal on my person other than my wedding band. I was wearing sweats (stylishing enough, but sweats nonetheless for an overnight flight that departs around 3am) and had literally nothing in my pockets.
Men and women are separated in different lines, lest the secondary searches being done on women seem too lascivious to onlooking males I suppose?
After being searched I picked up my carryons, newly stamped by security, and off it was to the lounge.
Lufthansa built its own dedicated lounge in Mumbai, which opened I think about two years ago. That seems strange to me, for an average of less than two daily flights (Frankfurt is daily, Munich is not) but it’s the primary Star Alliance lounge at the airport and perhaps they make enough from their partner airlines to justify the operating costs.
When the lounge first opened there was a business side and a Senator side. Senator lounges are accessible by Star Alliance Gold members, even flying coach. Now they’ve rebranded the Senator side as “First Class” which requires a first class boarding pass (or HON membership) to access. Knowing this I was intrigued and somewhat excited to see what Lufthansa had put together. I’ve seen their nice dedicated lounges in the US, and this was actually a Lufthansa-owned lounge branded as first class. Certainly wasn’t expecting the First Class Terminal, but this was going to be good!
Then again there I was going again making the most elementary mistake about India. As one wise observer noted to me, things in India are nice if you compare them to what came before. But they won’t ever seem so nice if you compare them to what they purport to be.
And indeed, we entered the lounge to find a sign that said the male restrooms were inoperative.
The lounge itself seemed tired, carpets worn, there were food options but they seemed really unappetizing which was mostly a function of presentation. I made myself a modest plate but didn’t eat, sensing from the overall vibe of the place that this would be my last opportunity for Delhi belly which I had managed to avoid throughout the trip and knowing that I had a full dinner to look forward to onboard.
We queued up for boarding and security staff were inspecting carryons to ensure that they had the requisite security stamp. My wife’s only sort of did — security had stamped her luggage tag rather than her security tag, that provided some momentary confusion but was fine. Still, I don’t really understand the entire exercise. What would have stopped her from removing all of the contents of her unstamped bag and putting them into my stamped bag? It seemed more of a makework jobs program than legitimate security measure, though I’m not sure why that should have surprised me.
Once past this little bit of drama we boarded the aircraft, ascended the stairs, and dropped off our carryons at the closet by the galley (since the overhead bins are so small, we had 20 inch and 19 inch carryons respectively but neither fit comfortably). We made our way to our familiar seats, 81 A and C, where we were met by a friendly flight attendant who offered us drinks and brought us nuts.
Though row 83 is the generally preferred option, I tend to take row 81. Traveling solo I’d definitely choose row 83 which does have more legroom, there’s no awkwardness climbing over a seatmate. But traveling together I like the bulkhead row because the entire rest of the cabin is behind you, you really never notice anyone else, and have a greater sense of privacy (even if an illusion).
Pajamas and amenity kits were distributed, and we settled in for our flight. Which we already knew would be more festive than our flight into Mumbai, if only because the cabin was already decorated for Christmas:
Shortly after takeoff dinner was served.
Choice of Hors d’oeuvres
- Caviar with the traditional Garnishes
Poaches Lobster with Tamarind Glaze and Fennel Salad
Tabbouleh with Coriander and grilled Chicken with Mustard Mayonnaise
Khaman Dhokla with Hara Bhara Kebab and Imli Chutney
Rice and Lentil steamed Cakes tempered with Mustard Seeds and Curry Leaves, chopped Cucumber and Tomato Salad rolled in Cucumber Slice, garnished with black Olive, deep fried Spinach and Potato Cakes cooked in Indian Spices and Tamarind Sauce
- Mixed Lettuce with Feta Cheese and fresh Pineapple presented with Dressing
Choice of Main Courses
- Salmon Tournedos with Red Wine Jus, sautéed Potatoes and Pumpkin
Chicken Crepinette with Port Wine Sauce, String Beans, Baby Carrots and mashed Potatoes
Prawn Mirch Masala, Deewani Handi, Dal Jamavar with Jeera Rice
Prawn cooked in spiced Onion and Tomato Gravy with Capsicum, mixed Vegetables cooked in Onion and Tomato Gravy, Bengal Gram cooked with Tomato, Butter and Cream, fragrant long Grain Basmati Rice cooked with aromatic Spices and Cumin Seeds
Khade Masala Ka Paneer, Aloo Methi, Dal Tadka and Bhune Plyaz Ka Pulao
Cottage Cheese Cubes cooked with Indian Spices in Tomato Gravy, Potato cooked with Fenugneek Leaves and miles Spices, yellow Lentil cooked to Perfection in miles Indian Spices and tempered with Cumin Seeds, fragrant Long Grain Basmati Rice cooked with aromatic Spices and brown Onions
Selection of Cheese and Dessert
- Manchego, Bleu des Causses, Coulommiers Cheese, Almonds, dried Fruits
Chocolate Mille Feuille with whipped Cream and Blueberry Sauce
Ramalai with Pistachio
Indian sweet Creame Cheese Dessert
One thing I’ve never entirely understood is the capitalization used in Lufthansa’s menus, but I didn’t fret on it and instead enjoyed the meal service.
The caviar and trio of appetizers to start:
My wife had the salad, though I passed:
I opted for the same as my main…
… while she chose one of the Indian dishes.
we both skipped the cheese. She had the ramalai with pistachio:
And I had the Chocolate Mille Feuille, which was just absolutely outstanding. And I don’t often like purely chocolate desserts (though I’m quite certain it was served with a raspberry — rather than a blueberry — sauce).
After dinner our flight attendant unwrapped the blanket, which I again used as a makeshift mattress pad. I requested a second pillow, put my seat flat, laid down on the blanket and went to sleep for a perhaps three hours.
Shortly after waking up there was orange juice at my seat, a cappuccino, and it was time to eat some breakfast. Still full from dinner I only picked at it, but it was perfectly fine.
All in all, a perfectly normal as-expected and totally pleasant Lufthansa First Class flight. Not special as far as these things go, but exactly formulaically executed. Which is all I really wanted.
We arrived at the dreaded C pier, which is just awful for connections. We’d be leaving on United, out of Terminal A, and so we began the long trek through the bowels of Frankfurt on our way to the A Pier’s First Class Lounge, which will be the next installment…