SFO777 The First Class Travel Blog

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72 hours of nonstop First Class

72 hours of nonstop First Class
Lufthansa, Garuda, Korean & Cathay Pacific
November 2016
With another 72 hour hall pass from my sweetie, I'm off on a whirlwind RTW First Class saga on some of the world's best First Class products... Lufthansa, Garuda Indonesia, Korean & Cathay Pacific.   Or as Mrs. SFO777 says, "Lots of flights to nowhere". 
 
The idea for this trip started some six months ago when Garuda Indonesia began offering really attractive London-Jakarta First Class fares.   Since Garuda is one my last remaining aspirational First Class experiences, I just had to find 3 days when Mrs. SFO777 wouldn't mind and I could get away.  So mid-November it is.  And MSP-based FlyerTalker batmandds is joining me in London for most of the trip.
 
The original idea was an overnight in Jakarta, some sightseeing and then Cathay First the next afternoon to HKG connecting to LAX.  The plan was scrapped when Cathay dropped First Class from the CGK-HKG route and substituted a dopey 2 class regional A330.  After some searching for alternatives, we opted for double Korean First Class flights instead of an overnight in Jakarta.  It's new Kosmo suites on both the 77W (CGK-ICN) and the new 748i (ICN-HKG) that sold us.  That and the price… only 45,000 SkyPass points for 11 hours in Korean First Class. And since I only needed HKG-LAX for the last leg, I was able to save 42,500 AA miles by using one of my old banked 67,500 mile AA award tickets for the Cathay First flight back home.  I added Lufthansa First as my positioning flight when M&M released an F seat about 4 months ago.   
 
 
Just before 2PM, I bid adieu to Mrs. SFO777 and headed for the Tollroad and the 405 to LAX.  Very little traffic this afternoon and I made the 59 mile trip in less than an hour.
 

Although Lufthansa is now part of PreCheck, what's the point?  They don't print PRECHECK on either mobile or home-printed boarding passes and require you to stop at the check-in counter.   The problem with that illogical decision is that there is no PreCheck at LAX TBIT.   So PreCheck is useless to LAX LH passengers unless you can access the PreCheck lanes at AA's adjacent T4. Not many pax are going to check-in at LH, then walk over to T4 just to walk back. Since I'm not checking bags, I figured that my best option was to buy a refundable AA ticket, use T4 PreCheck and then cancel the ticket from the lounge.  This worked great as I was able to make it from my car to the Star Alliance FCL in 17 minutes, even stopping for pics along the way.
 

And finally the LAX Star Alliance First Class Lounge.   Second time here and it's a still a meh.  Small, uninteresting and with a pretty weak selection of serve yourself food.  They do offer made to order dishes from a menu but I wasn't really hungry at that point.
 

The Business Class Lounge is actually much nicer...
 
 
 
 
... with open spaces overlooking the shopping concourse. 
 

How true this is!  LOL.

The Lounge includes a really cool outdoor terrace.

Even the serve yourself food offerings were better.

Even though the lounge dragon had indicated that a Lufthansa rep would escort us to the plane, there was no rep there when boarding was announced and I decided to get out into the concourse and head to the gate.
 
 

Lufthansa 453
LAX-Munich
A340-600
5:15p-1:40p (sked)
5:40p-1:10p (actual)
Departed 5/8
Seat 2A
 

 

Unlike Air France, Lufthansa has no problem breaking out the Champagne while the door is still open.   

The always lovely LPGS, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle.

A new amenity kit...

... but the same old meh...

Another glass of LPGS and tonight's amuse-bouche.   Yuck on the amuse-bouche.  Who thinks up this stuff?

Today's menu...

And the wine list with some nice selections.  

And showtime!

I passed on the caviar tonight and went with the starter tray.

Not a good sign when they start getting cheap salad dressing from American Airlines.  Yikes. 

My trio.  Nothing was really that good... could have indeed been American.

And just like on AA, the Char Sui Duck, with sweet and sour mushrooms, yellow beet salad and yuzu vinaigrette.

The Green asparagus, red peppers and feta with truffle oil vinaigrette was the best of a mediocre lot.

On the other hand, my Gorgonzola and Porcini crusted Beef Filet was very good, with Burgundy Sauce, Baby Fennel Gratin and Dauphinoise potatoes.  

Perfectly prepared.  And the potatoes were amazing!  A great main especially when paired with the 2008 Chateau Laroze St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé.   

Cheese course was excellent, with a glass of the Neipoort.

And the Pumpkin cheesecake was good.

Since our wonderful FA forget to go past row 1 with the chocolates, I brought it back to my seat from the front of the cabin.

I changed in the lav while one of our FAs made my bed.  With the help of a little Ambien, I slept like a baby for over 6 hours.

Time for a little breakfast.

Despite the departure delay, we arrived at the gate nearly 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

All in all, a pleasant flight.  But there's just something missing from Lufthansa these days.  Perhaps I'm just spoiled by Air France, but the Lufthansa menu and food are hit and miss, and at times just weird.  However, it's the service that is the biggest disappointment.  Pleasant enough but just not polished.  How difficult is it to present the wine and pour it at your seat, rather than pouring it in the galley and delivering it?

My LAX flight arrived at the new Satellite Terminal 2.  Even though my connecting MUC-LHR flight departing from the H gates, I decided to head to the Satellite First Class Lounge.

And the new First Class Lounge.   Very nice with the full complement of FCL amenities.    

Now there's a table with a view. 

So glad that I stopped at this FCL today, as my LHR flight is departing from a remote stand!  At MUC, that means private driver and car to my plane.  ^​

My driver today and beautiful new S class.

And the short drive to the remote stands.

Munich-London
Lufthansa 2476
A320-200
2:40p-3:45p
November 15, 2016
Seat 2C

I was the first to arrive and board, with the rest of the pax still on the bus on the way over.  
Yeah, the ever uncomfortable phony Business Class seats that European airlines get away with.

At the least protocol is to use the curtain to block the galley from the cabin.

Yeah, that looks like a comfy Business Class experience. 

Today's lunch/snack. A tasty papaya shrimp salad with a meh mini-slice of chicken.

 

With batmandds arriving from FRA at the same time as my MUC flight, we met just before Terminal 2 Immigration and headed downstairs to the inter-terminal shuttle to Terminal 3.

OK, this is one ancient terminal.  We re-cleared security and headed for the transit desk.  Helpful SkyTeam agent contacted Garuda with our flight and passport info.   A few minutes later, he advised us to go to the lounge where a Garuda rep would find us with our boarding passes.
 

Garuda uses the something called the No. 1 Lounge, which seems to be the main lounge for airlines with limited LHR service.  Although not fancy, it's a rather pleasant Business Class facility, ith a number of smaller reserved rooms for First Class passengers.  We found a good spot in one of those rooms to spend the next 4 hours. Staff was friendly and very helpful.  Wifi was adequate and I was able to get some work done and then take a shower.
 

There was a limited selection of serve yourself food options in the main section of the lounge.  In addition, we were offered a menu with made to order dishes.  

Our spot in the First Class section of the lounge.

About a half hour after we arrived, a personable Garuda rep Luke stopped by and introduced himself, delivered our boarding passes and advised that he would be escorting us to the gate and plane. 

At around T-45 Luke came to retrieve and escort us to Gate 31.
 
 
 

London-Jakarta
Garuda Indonesia 087
777-300ER (77W)
8:15p-5:15p +1
November 15, 2016
Departed 2/8
Suite 2A
 

Our passports and boarding passes were scanned at the gate podium and Luke escorted us past the other passengers into a holding area at the top of jet bridge.

After a short wait, the cabin was ready and Luke escorted us on board where we were warmly welcomed by three, count them, three First Class cabin crew members... our 2 First Class flight attendants and our personal First Class chef, who doted on us for the next 14 hours, on our amazing "charter" flight to Jakarta.  One of the best flights ever!   Very attractive First Class cabin.

Oh yeah, definitely a 5 Star Airline!

My Suite 2A, complete with a personal selection of newpapers, amenity box, stationary, menu and wine list.

Pre-departure Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé.

My first of three glass before departure. 

Substantial amenity kit.

With things I can actually use.  What a concept.

Our lovely FA Sari presenting my slippers.  Just like Mrs. SFO777 does at home.  LOL, ya right.

IFE was just OK with a limited Lufthansa-like selection of movies.  In the end, batmandds and I had such a good time drinking, eating, drinking, working online and interacting with most personable cabin crew that I never watched a movie.  

On the other hand, Wifi worked reasonably well for most of the flight, and was complimentary for First Class passengers.  Wow, what a concept.

Very nice starry night cabin ceiling.

Menu...

And the wine list, featuring a nice mix of mostly French wines.   Two lovely champagne choices.  And as a Chassagne lover, the Marc Morey Chassagne-Montrachet was a most pleasant and extravagant suprise.  Even better than the feature Air France La Première Burgundy. 

After take-off, our crew began what was simply marvelous and flawless 14 hours of inflight service.  

Chef taking our dinner orders.

batmandds and I moved to 1DG for dinner.   Showtime, Garuda style!

The fabulous Morey Chassagne-Montrachet.

And another glass for batmandds.

batmandds started with the Smoked chicken terrine, fig relish with tomato and crouton.
 

My Smoked duck was delicious, with coconut and mango yogurt, papaya salsa and grilled pineapple.

Chef with our soup.

A beautiful presentation and serving.

My turn.

OMG, the Chicken noodle soup was divine, with meat ball, pak choy and spring onion.  

Having finished off the Chassagne, we moved on the delicious 2009 Durfort-Vivens Margaux 2e Grand Cru Classé.
 

LOL.

Uh huh.

For his main, batmandds went with the Roasted Lamb loin, with lamb jus, garlic and parmesan risotto, buttered garlic and olives.  

I went with the Indonsian beef rendang with steamed jasmine rice, kale curry and green chili sambal.
 

It was absolutely spectacular.  

Especially when paired with a glass or two, or three of the Durfort-Vivens Margaux.

A little cheese before dessert?  Why not. 

Sari putting the finishing touches on the perfect dessert presentation.

Next up, a glass of Sauternes.   They had us pegged as no one even asked before bringing glasses and the bottle.

My Walnut and dark chocolate tart with vanilla bean ice cream.

To die for.

And my delicious Pure Peppermint Leaf Herbal tea to finish this round. 

After our wonderful dinner, we moved back to our 1A and 2A, while the crew made our beds in 1D and 2D.  How wonderful to have the entire cabin.

After a visit to the lav to change, I slept like a baby for nearly 6 hours.   Alcohol and Ambien, a great combination.

After my sleep, my mid flight snack.   The Indonesian satay platter was delicious!

Time flies when you are having a good time.  Wifi worked well and I was able to do a little work and edit pics.

At T-90, breakfast!  What a gorgeous presentation.

The breakfast pastries were warm and wonderful.

For my breakfast main, I chose the Nasi goreng, beef sate with omelet strips, marinated fried chicken and sauteed vegetables.

What an amazing dish.  The fried chicken was off the charts.

Yep, that's what was missing.  LOL.

Almost there as we begin our descent to Jakarta.

And a perfect landing some 14 hours after departing LHR.

What more can I say.   This was absolutely one of the best flights ever.   Food and wine were wonderful.  The cabin was lovely and the seat very comfortable. But it is the cabin crew that elevates a flight from great to spectacularly great.  It is hard to imagine a better crew anywhere... an extraordinary balance of personality and professionalism, flawless service with meticulous attention to detail.  Never obtrusive, but there when you needed something almost as if they anticipated every need.   I can't wait to fly Garuda again.  Hopefully, when the new CGK terminal is open, they will start US service, offer more First Class flights to more destinations and use CGK as a connecting gateway to Asia.   Based on this flight, Garuda is clearly a top 3 in the world First Class product. 

We bid adieu to our wonderful Garuda cabin crew, walked into the jet bridge and were immediately met by our Garuda First Class Personal Assistant Herlina, who escorted us from the gate to the Garuda lounges.

Our first stop was the Business Class Lounge as there was some confusion as to whether should be permitted access to the First Class Lounge.   Herlina advised that only departing Garuda First Class passengers are supposed to be able to use the First Class Lounge, not passengers on other airlines.   Except that I had an email from firstclass@garuda-indonesia.com which confirmed the would can use the FCL.

I gave Herlina one of my two copies and we waited and explored the Business Class Lounge and its +25 C temp as she went to investigate.   

20 minutes later there was no sign of Herlina, with batmandds and I joking that they were having trouble reaching the CEO.  I had walked up to the lounge entrance to get the Wifi code and saw 5 agents with multiple copies of my email and the "you can use the First Class Lounge" now highlighted in yellow marker.  LOL.   Hoping that no one got into trouble for that email.  Another 10 minutes and apparently the CEO granted permission as Herlina returned with the news that we can indeed use the First Class Lounge...

 
... which is located in the lower level underneath the Business Class Lounge and nicely air conditioned!  We were the only passengers here tonight. 
 

OK, now these are cool.  Individual mini-suites with your own TV.

Not sure if the AC just cooled us down or someone lower the temperature to get us to leave, but it was really starting to get cold, almost Arctic-like.  I checked the thermostat and found it set at +18C.   64F? Yikes, no wonder we were getting cold.  Fortunately, I always carry a scarf, took it out, put on my jacket and was quite comfy.  Who'd have thought I would use it in +40C temp. Jakarta?  We relaxed for a couple of hours, has a few beers and a snack.

 

At around T-45, we packed up and headed upstairs where Herlina has just arrived to escort us to our Korean flight.   We had anticipated a 10 minute walk but, lo and behold, a buggy was waiting to drive us.  

And after a security check, walked us to our gate D2, even insisting on rolling batmandds' carry on.   Just like Mrs. SFO777 does.  LOL.

We said our terima kasih and good-bye at the gate podium, where a Korean representative took it from there and personally escorted us on board.

Jakarta-Seoul
Korean 628
777-300ER (77W)
10:00p-7:00a +1
November 16, 2016
Departed 3/8
Suite 2A

 

Another warm welcome on board as we settled into our seats.   Not quite a charter tonight as there was one other passenger on the other side of the cabin.  He slept the entire way to Seoul so we pretty much had the cabin to ourselves.   A little disappointed not to get the Kosmo 2.0 seats but the old 1.0 version is still pretty nice.

 

Not sure if it is CGK or Korean, but only juice or water was offered as a pre-departure beverage.

Reasonable IFE quality but the movie selection was limited, with pretty much the same weak offerings as LH and GA.   And still no Wifi on KE, which is surprising considering how connected and advanced South Korea is.

Tonight's menu...

... and the wine list which is apparently used on all flights.  You have to read the fine print to figure out which wines are served on your flight.

But Johnny Blue is there, and as batmandds can attest, was free flowing.  LOL.

The chicken satay amuse-bouche was good, although not quite as fabulous as on GA, SQ or MH.

Showtime, KE style.

The KE garlic bread was really good!

Yeah, Angry Birds was the best I could find that I haven't seen or wanted to see again.  May as well see what the grandkids are watching.  Ha.

The Seared King Prawn with salsa starter was nice although a little bland and not very seared.

The Potato Leek soup was delicious.

Mixed green salad with vinaigrette was very refreshing.

For my main, I went with the Korean Bibimbap.

The key is Gochujang, the hot pepper paste which really makes this a tasty dish.

The Burgundy was perfect pairing with the Bibimbap. 

Our FA made my bed in 2D and I moved over, passed on the Ambien tonight and slept for a couple of hours.   It looked much nicer before I moved over.     

We arrived some 20 minutes early.   No personal meet & greet escort today as we headed for security and the Korean First Class Lounge... and our first high speed Wifi in a couple of days.

Not quite the First Class experience as at CGK.  No meet & greet.  No escort.  We're on our own to find our lounge and connecting flight.
 

Pleasant enough lounge but more like a Business Class lounge. 

With pretty weak food offerings for First Class.

The shower was most welcome this morning.

I'm thinking TMI on this one.

At around T-45, we headed out for Gate 21 and our flight Hong Kong.

ICN-HKG
KE 613
747-8 (sked)
747-400 (actual)  
11:00a-2:05p
November 16, 2016
Departed 2/12
Seat 1A and 1J

 

We arrived at Gate 21 just before boarding started.

Whoa.  Say it ain't so.  That doesn't look like a new 747-8 or new anything.   

Ugh.  Bummer. The dreaded equipment swap.  And an ancient relic of a 747-400.

The only good news about this flight was that service was extraordinary and we were the only passengers today.
Strange because the flight was 1/6 yesterday.  Did the 3 pax find out about the swap and run for the hills??
 

OMG, how old is this sucker??   I just hope this can make it to HKG.

Pre-departure G&T.  The 1st of 2 before push.  :)

Today's menu.

Showtime, Korean 744 style.

To start, Peking duck roll with prawn salad.  Very nice.

The KE garlic bread was excellent.

The Lentil Cream Soup was outstanding.

I had no idea what to expect when I ordered the Korean style ginseng Jedong free-range chicken soup.  But it sure wasn't this.  Wow.

OMG.  Where do start with only chop sticks and a spoon???   When I finally figured it out, it was very good.  

Dessert selection.  

They even scooped the ice cream out of the container and placed it in its own bowl.

Cool pics on approach to HKG.

Our hard-working cabin crew that took care of us today.

Not exactly an First Class welcome to Hong Kong, as we were on our own to get to immigration.

And no apparent Priority Lane, we joined the massive queue.  Although, the line moved pretty quickly and no one seemed to care why we were here or for how long.

With some 10 hours until our flight to LAX, we decided to head into Hong Kong.  But first, we need to find the "Left Baggage" office in Terminal 2 to store our carry-ons and backpacks. 

After we checked our bags, we headed to the train to the city.
 

And 20 minutes later were at Kowloon Station.

Since Ozone at the top of the Ritz-Carlton didn't open until 5pm, were explored some of the surrounding area, navigating around massive construction projects.

 

The Ritz-Carlton with very cool light shadowing.

High end shopping at Elements, adjacent to the ICC Centre and the Ritz-Carlton.

Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong lobby.

On our way to the 103rd floor.

Spectacular views from the restaurants at the top.

At 5pm, the elevators opened and we headed up to the 118th floor and Ozone.

And the outdoor bar.
 
 
Unfortunately, lots of haze and smog today not a very good day for sightseeing. 
 

But any time is a good time for a drink!

A restroom with a view, on some days.

Back on the ground level at the front of the hotel.

Then back inside Elements...

... to Kowloon Station and the short and comfortable train ride to the airport.