Lufthansa Jumbo Jet Service between Jakarta and Singapore

LH779 Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta T2 CGK – Singapore Changi T2 SIN
29 November 2010
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 20:05 – 22:40
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 20:17-21:25
Boeing 747-400 D-ABVW

Lufthansa check-In counter at CGK

This has got to be the shortest journey for me ever on a Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet. The Airbus A380-800 might have trumped the 747, but as a pioneer in the aviation industry, the 747 Jumbo Jet has its position in the history books as solid as ever. Coincidentally, this was my first trip on a 747 this year, given that most airlines are now utilizing 777-300ERs for their long distance routes. I had arrived early at the airport for check in, and the male check-in agent attending to me asked me for my seat preference, not knowing that I had pre-selected my seat upon buying my tickets at Lufthansa’s excellent website. With a checked in baggage, the agent also requested that I fill in a Lufthansa baggage tag which I attached to my check-in luggage. Noticing my bulky camera-cum-laptop Crumpler backpack, the agent also requested for it to be weighed and a ‘Lufthansa approved’ cabin baggage tag was attached to my backpack. These really stringent checks could make weary travellers feel inconvenienced though my good mood that day made me think of how amazingly efficient Lufthansa was. I headed out to the Mandiri Lounge which has got to be worst airport lounge ever, with a measly offering of snacks which tasted awful. Drink choices were also limited, and seating space was cramped and small. Such a shame really for an international airport lounge offering. The only saving grace was the stable w-fi connection it provided, and a reasonable selection of magazines and newspapers on the shelves.

This has got to be the shortest journey for me ever on a Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet. The Airbus A380-800 might have trumped the 747, but as a pioneer in the aviation industry, the 747 Jumbo Jet has its position in the history books as solid as ever. Coincidentally, this was my first trip on a 747 this year, given that most airlines are now utilizing 777-300ERs for their long distance routes. I had arrived early at the airport for check in, and the male check-in agent attending to me asked me for my seat preference, not knowing that I had pre-selected my seat upon buying my tickets at Lufthansa’s excellent website. With a checked in baggage, the agent also requested that I fill in a Lufthansa baggage tag which I attached to my check-in luggage. Noticing my bulky camera-cum-laptop Crumpler backpack, the agent also requested for it to be weighed and a ‘Lufthansa approved’ cabin baggage tag was attached to my backpack. These really stringent checks could make weary travellers feel inconvenienced though my good mood that day made me think of how amazingly efficient Lufthansa was. I headed out to the Mandiri Lounge which has got to be worst airport lounge ever, with a measly offering of snacks which tasted awful. Drink choices were also limited, and seating space was cramped and small. Such a shame really for an international airport lounge offering. The only saving grace was the stable w-fi connection it provided, and a reasonable selection of magazines and newspapers on the shelves.

Mandiri lounge at Soekarno-Hatta, probably the worst ‘new’ airport lounge ever
Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta departure hall

I took some magazines and reading materials with me after some browsing of emails and such before heading to the boarding gate for Lufthansa which is a short distance away. Boarding has yet to commence even when I reached the departure gate, and this gave me some time to snap some photos of the nose of this jumbo jet before the call for boarding was made at 19:22. As usual premium passengers made their way first into the plane, before parents travelling with their toddlers. The small number of passengers on this leg of the journey meant that these separation of boarding was not really necessary. Thus I soon made my way into the aerobridge and was suprised at the neat tray providing magazines for all passengers. Though they were mainly German magazines and newspapers, there were several English magazines and i picked a copy of ‘Fortune’ before stepping into the aircraft.

Nose cone of the LH Jumbo jet
Fortune magazine provided on the rack before boarding

For a relatively old aircraft, Lufthansa still manages to keep their planes clean and comfortable. Passed by the Business Class section before arriving at my seat on row 38. Due to the small passenger load, I had the whole row of 3 seats to myself, which was nice. There was an estimated 45-50% flight load today and overall cabin ambience was really comfortable and spacious. One thing I noticed about the cabin was the lack of personal IFE screen on the seatback. This was a drawback and would definitely make me think twice about taking Lufthansa on a flight between Asia and Europe on Economy. The seat in the Economy Class section, was however, comfortable enough and was made by ‘Recaro’, a brand also well known for their racing seats. A nice touch in the plane was the christmas decorations put up on the aircraft cabin bulkhead which livened up the staid cabin.

Business class cabin on Lufthansa’s 747
Recaro seats of the Economy class cabin

Glancing out of the windows, I spotted several international carriers at Jakarta at this time of the day. There was a Malaysia Airlines 737 also due to pullback, a Japan Airlines 777, a Qantas A330 and a Cathay Pacific A330 which just arrived. Given the make up of international aircraft types serving Jakarta, it is no wonder Garuda Indonesia chose to re-invigorate their fleet with new A330s. The safety video was shown in the common small TV screen upon pullback at 20:03, and as expected from Lufthansa, a German version was displayed first before an English language version. This took a while, and just as well since the taxi towards the end of the runway also took some time as it was a relatively busy time of planes landing and taking off at Jakarta. This meant passengers on the window could be able to spot planes landing and taking off from the runway as we move parallel along the runway. A total of 2 Garuda flight departing and an Air Asia take-off with the arrival a China Airlines aircraft was completed before we got to the end of the runway and prepared to take off. It was 20:17 before the plane took off and passengers were treated to a nice view of the Jakarta city lights outside on the clear night. Take off from the 747 was as every bit as special as that in an A380, though one has got to admit that extra bit of thrust that is felt in the cabin on take off. Funny, considering that this was a light load tonight.

No personal IFE but a common TV Screen; rarely seen nowadays
Taking off at night from Jakarta

For this short flight, Lufthansa served a small snack instead of a full service meal like Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines provides on the same route. The late night supper of croissant with ham was served at around 20:30 and it comes with a small bottle of mineral water, 2 slices of cake and a small platter of fruits. All packaged in a neat Lufthansa branded box with a nice thick wet towel included in the pack. Overall it was decent and definitely beats the service in a budget airline like Valuair, or Jetstar. I took a walk around the cabin and visited the lavatory after devouring the small snack box. The lavatory was clean enough and passengers could get access to a variety of postcards with photos of Lufthansa’s fleet in various perspectives from the bulkhead area of each section of the cabin. It was a very nice touch and provided me with everlasting memento of my flight with Lufthansa. Flight attendants came by soon enough to clear the snack boxes before offering some customer surveys to be filled in by passengers. I obliged since I was enjoying my flight and the service provided by the crew was one of the best and consistent with my flight with them from London to Hamburg in June earlier this year.

Economy class seat pitch
In-flight snack box provided by Lufthansa

By the time I completed the survey form and returned it to the crew onboard, the captain announced the start of the flight descent and seat belt lights were turned on. It was during the descent that some turbulence was felt. However any turbulence was slight and the flight landed safely and smoothly at 21:25 in Changi Airport. The wet weather in the afternoon did not seem to cause much trouble for the 747 and we were soon docked beside another Star Alliance partner – an Asiana Airlines aircraft. The short journey made me enjoy the experience with Lufthansa once more and has made it one of my favourite European carriers for the consistent friendly service from the crew.

Customer survey form
Arrival into Singapore

LH778 Singapore Changi T2 SIN – Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta T2 CGK
12 December 2010
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 18:10 – 18:35
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 18:52-19:18
Boeing 747-400 D-ABVX
Seat No: 38A

For the return leg of the flight, I almost did not make it for the flight, having arrived pretty late at 17:30 when my flight was due to depart at 18:10. It is also worth noting that I did not photos in the airplane as I was quite tired that afternoon. Thankfully, I was one of the last to check in for the flight and was still able to check my luggage for the flight and passed through the short immigration line. Perhaps it was due to my late check-in, but the check-in process was fast and there was not much hassle on having to weigh my hand-carried luggage or my backpack. I had added another hand-carried luggage after shopping in Singapore and Bangkok. After passing through immigration, I still had time to grab some snacks before making my way to the gate. While I thought boarding should have been conducted, it seems that I was still early since the gate just opened and transit passengers start to make their way back into the waiting area. With the queues still flowing out of the gate, I took a walk outside the gate and took my time in spotting some of the planes in Changi that beautiful afternoon.

All Nippon Airways at Changi Airport Terminal 2

There was an All Nippon Airways plane which I think has one of the smartest liveries around, and a Cathay Pacific aircraft in the distance at Terminal 1. At this point in time, it is worth noting that Lufthansa utilizes Terminal 2 which is a much nicer place to be due to the ongoing renovation works in Terminal 1. Beside the Lufthansa 747 that I was supposed to board lies another Lufthansa plane with registration D-AIFE. Seems like Lufthansa is using Singapore as a sort of mini-hub in South East Asia. Departure time for flight LH778 seemed to be pushed back to 18:30 now based on the display board outside the gate before I went in to wait. Well it turns out more waiting was ahead for passengers as the plane got delayed further. An airport staff came around providing passengers with newspapers though a Lufthansa staff was on hand to keep passengers informed when boarding is to commence. No explanation was, however, communicated to passengers and it was only around 18:20 that boarding commenced. No magazine tray at the aerobridge this time, but I managed to spot that the aircraft was named after the German province of Schleswig-Holstëin. The flight attendant at the entrance mentioned he was from that province when I took a photo of the plaque indicating the plane’s namesake. The photo did not turn out good, however, and it won’t be posted, though it was a nice touch that made the small things matter on a flight. Passenger loads this time round was much more crowded though I still managed to get a middle row seat free, with a Singaporean businessman seated on the aisle. Another comfortable journey to look forward to!

Boarding at Gate E5 at Changi

There was a small note of apology from the captain for the delay as boarding completed and the plane got ready for pullback. Being really tired from the return flight I had from Bangkok yesterday and the wedding earlier this afternoon, I took a rest and thus partook in no more plane spotting before take-off which seemed less uneventful that on my way to Singapore. The snack service was also forgettable considering it was a dry chicken breast sandwich for this flight sector which came with a small dessert of fruit cake and a Kit-Kat chocolate bar. No wet towels was on the snack box, though I managed to ask for an extra bottle of mineral water from the flight attendant. All in all, I much preferred the in-flight snack that came with my flight to Singapore. After the meal service, there seemed to be no other service offerings as the flight attendants kept out of view and I took a short rest before the plane landed at around 19:18 local time in Jakarta. The return flight was not as enjoyable though Lufthansa is still one of those airlines I would consider for the SIN-CGK route even though its late departure and arrival timing might be an inconvenience, it fit my schedule pretty well this time round. Comparing this journey to a full service flight in various timing operated by Singapore Airlines makes it less competitive, though it has to be noted that Lufthansa awards points and miles for this journey while SIA doesn’t when one purchases their economy special fares. And one gets to travel on a Jumbo Jet for this short journey, what more could be better than that!

Lufthansa logo at Economy class cabin
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