Towards the end of last year I was very close to attaining Frequent Traveller status (FTL) with Lufthansa’s Miles & More programme. I also usually spend Christmas with my family in Austria so thought it would be great to combine the two trips in order to both get sufficient miles to tip me over the edge and be with my loved ones.
Miles & More gives fixed miles for flights within Europe, and therefore incentivises you to take as many connections as possible.
I started by looking a Expertflyer and the routing rules to understand what is possible on a given fare. Ideally I wanted to go to Salzburg flying on Swiss, however they don’t file a fare for that route. Munich was close enough so looked at the fare display.
For the most miles, I’d need a “D” class fare, so dove into the routing rules.
Clearly the simplest would be to fly London to Munich directly, but that would “only” earn 2,000 miles.
Option 1 in the list looked the most complex and indeed would allow me to fly London to Geneva, to Zurich, to Munich, for a grand total of 5,500 miles. The itinerary I picked looked like this:
For my return I preferred to fly from Salzburg, which meant choosing Austrian Airlines. This resulted in a connection at Vienna, before heading back to London.
The eagle eyed will notice that on my outbound I had a 40 minute connection at Geneva, and a 40 minute connection at Zurich. At Geneva, coming from a non-Schengen country, I would of course need to clear immigration as well.
On the return, I only had a 30 minute connection at Vienna, and leaving the Schengen-zone would need to pass immigration there too. Oh, and I’d have bags with me as well, bringing some ski stuff for the holidays.
However being all on the one ticket, I knew that for whatever reason I misconnected, they’d have to put me up in a hotel, provide refreshments, and if their fault, pay-out EU261/2004 compensation too, so I wasn’t too worried.
Friday 22nd December rolled around and headed to Terminal 2 check-in where my bags were tagged all the way through and the staff had a good giggle with me on my choice of routing. I walked to deserted “Gold Track” premium security lane for Star Gold and Business class flyers.
British Airways deserves praise for the excellent “First Wing” in Terminal 5 which is open to their Gold card and oneworld emerald card holders, however this was every bit as good, and just as quiet, although doesn’t lead directly to a lounge.
Once through, I had some last minute shopping to do including at John Lewis which has an outlet in Terminal 2.
For those unfamiliar with Terminal 2, it as a similar setup to Terminal 5 in that it has a main area T2A, and a satellite area T2B where the longer haul flights tend to go from. However instead of a train connecting the two areas, there’s a very long passageway under the apron filled with a bunch of moving walkways. I’m a fast walker, but it’s still an eight to ten minute walk to get over to T2B.
There are a number of Star Alliance lounges in T2B, including the rather excellent United Club, the Singapore Airlines lounge and the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. The latter was the only one that I hadn’t yet had a chance to visit so after a quick scan of my boarding pass, wandered in.
It was pretty busy, however the lounge was quite large and there was a good variety of seating.
The food and drinks selection wasn’t bad either, including a panini making station and staffed bar. However I wasn’t a fan of the Canadian gin.
After a few minutes I left and went next-door to the Singapore Airlines lounge which I’ve previously reviewed and actually rather liked. It was virtually empty and so a much more tranquil atmosphere with which to relax.
Given I didn’t want to miss boarding, I headed back to T2A, around a ten minute walk, and wandered up to the gate where I noticed that boarding was running a few minutes late. Rather than hang around there, I popped up to the Lufthansa Business lounge (again previously reviewed) where the agent said that boarding would be about 15 minutes late due to the inbound aircraft being late.
Well, there was nothing I could do about it, so just waited. About fifteen minutes late, we eventually started boarding. The saving grace was that it was a Bombardier CS-100 aircraft, so a little smaller than your regular Airbus A32x series aircraft, meaning it would be quicker.
We eventually pushed back around twenty minutes late and then got stuck in the standard Heathrow queue, eventually taking off around 25 minutes late and due to land around fifteen minutes behind schedule.
Some light food was served, along with constant top ups of Champagne (Duval-Leroy) from a full size bottle. The cabin crew were lovely and constantly kept me refreshed. After the food service, Swiss chocolates were handed out as they offer every passenger, on every flight.
Before long, we were on our descent into a snowy Geneva.
We eventually landed around ten minutes late onto a remote stand. However there was a bus for business class passengers only, which after about five minutes, departed to drop us at immigration.
Twenty-five minutes to go.
There was quite a large queue, so immediately went to one of the people staffing the queue, showed him my onward boarding pass and asked if he could help. He did, and took me straight to the front of the line.
Twenty minutes to go.
After immigration, there’s a walk through some corridors where you arrive at transfer security. Thankfully there was no queue at all here, but still had to do the normal faff of decanting my laptop and liquids, taking off my belt etc.
Fifteen minutes to go.
Clearing security I was desperate for a pee so headed to the nearest convenience. Which is when I heard it:
“Would passenger David Cohen travelling to Zurich, please go immediately to gate A1 where your aircraft is waiting to depart”.
Not forgetting to shake, I walked briskly to the very furthest gate where the staff were waiting. They scanned my boarding pass which actually beeped red, but they said they’d fix it, and allowed me to board. I asked if my bags had made it, which they said yes to, so walked down the jet-bridge and into 1A of the Embraer 190 where the door promptly shut behind me. Phew.
For the thirty minutes of the very short flight, they again served some small pots of food. It was all quite tasty with high quality ingredients, but definitely not much quantity! I also managed a gin and tonic.
Landing ten minutes early at Zurich, my connection there was somewhat less fraught. It turned out that it was the same aircraft and the same crew. It was simply a matter of walking off the aircraft into the gate area and waiting for them to board. I probably even had time to go and visit the lounge.
Waiting around the gate area, it turned out that the flight was oversold and they were offering around CHF 140 to get the next flight an hour later. Given it was a Friday before Christmas, I thought it was far too low an amount to get many takers, however I was completely wrong! They only needed two passengers, yet had three or four people volunteer.
Boarding commenced and the flight was virtually identical to the previous one. The same food was given out, and again, we arrived a few minutes early at the Satellite terminal at Munich Terminal 2, which necessitated taking a train to the main terminal area.
Around thirty minutes after landing, my bag arrived on the carousel. I was quite impressed!
However had I dallied at immigration and been more British by queueing, then I would have missed my flight to Zurich and things would likely have gone to pot. However, in the end Swiss efficiency was indeed efficient and I made it to where I was going, with my bags.
In the next instalment, I’ll cover the return journey, including the business lounge at Salzburg Airport and if Austrian Airlines can manage an even shorter 30 minute connection!