Saturday, September 24, 2011

Almaty Adventure: ALA - FRA on Lufthansa First Class


If there was one part of the trip we could redo, this would be it. For those who are following this trip report for advice on Almaty (I believe there are a few who are flying to Almaty thanks to the "no YQ fare"), please heed the following advice:
  • If you're traveling on the Lufthansa flight that leaves at ~3am in the morning, don't be a cheapskate (like us) and pay for another night.
  • Do NOT get to the airport early. You should be okay if you show up ~1.5 - 2 hours before the flight. It's also an easy 20-30 minute ride to the airport at that time. 
Since our flight was scheduled to depart at  the ungodly hour of 3.30 am in the morning, we paid half a day rate for the late check out at 6pm. We walked around Almaty, had cake and coffee and dinner before running out of things to do to kill time. We spent the rest of the evening back in the hotel lobby using the free Wifi and more coffee. The pre-arranged hotel airport transport (~$50 USD for both of us) promptly picked us up at midnight and 20 minutes later, we were at the airport.

We got to the airport way too early. The check-in counters for Lufthansa were not opened yet and similar to airports in Colombo and India, we were told to wait in the waiting outside the check-in area. We made our way to some empty seats and killed time with what would be a common theme for the rest of the night - Angry Birds!

Angry birds - Good way to kill time!
The check in counters finally open about 2 hours before departure. Check in was prompt and we tagged our bags all the way to Hong Kong. Getting through immigration however ended being a slight adventure. The immigration agent in their limited English wanted to know where our final destination would be and whether we needed visas for Germany. Did they like us so much that they didn't want us to leave Almaty? Guess they don't see too many Malaysians flying on Lufthansa?

The Almaty departure hall was a dump. It's small for one thing for seating is limited. In comparison, I would guess that the B1-B4 departure hold rooms at Changi is even bigger. We quickly found our way to the only business lounge in the airport and with no one manning it, we simply walked in and parked our butts on the sofas that must have been form the 80s. The lounge was simply underwhelming - no internet and there was a counter where I think the drinks and food would have to be paid. There was no Lufthansa staff around to bitch on this so we just spent the rest of the time playing Angry Birds and browsing the magazines. We did see some other Lufthansa passengers walking in but they quickly just walked out.

Boarding was chaotic. We made our way to the gate once we saw boarding announced on the departure info screen. As we and the rest of the passengers were lining up, some of the ground staff informed us that they were not ready yet and we should just sit down. Since there was no way else to go or do, most of just continue to stay in line and 2 minutes later, we boarded the plane.

It was good to be out of that airport and in the comfort of the plane enjoying some pre-departure champange and nuts. The flight was originally scheduled to be on a A330 but got swapped with a A343. The seats were exactly the same as the A330. We were also provided pajamas to change to and the usual amenity kit.

This flight was surprisingly full in first with 6 out of the 8 seats taken. There was a relatively young mum with her 2 boys aged around 8 and 10 and what we thought was a businessman or politician on this flight. 

Sorry for the lack of pictures on this installment as we were too tired at this point. The service on this flight includes a snack/supper after departure and breakfast right before landing that we skipped to maximize on the sleep time. The snack was a choice of a cold option which consists of salmon, shrimp and cheese or the hot option which was steak and potatoes.

The highlight of the flight was the attendant that served us. He was genuinely warm, friendly and took great care of the entire cabin providing us with whatever we wanted - champange, water, coffee, etc. He also made good conversation and we talked for a good 15 minutes before landing on our travel stories (he gaves us "the look" when we told him we were just holidaying in Almaty), places to see, good coffee places in Frankfurt and most surprising for us, we found out he was friends with a famous chef in Malaysia. Lufthansa might have not the best hard product out there, but I'd say it again, their cabin crew are one of the best especially in First.

We landed Frankfurt right as the sun was rising. We parked at a remote apron where a dedicated first class bus were waiting to transfer us to the terminal. The mum and kids ended up having a car picked them up at the apron (VIP service?) and the other passenger in first did not enter the bus so we ended up having our own private bus transfer to the main terminal.

A343 that took us to FRA

FRA at dawn


  1. Interesting blog. Your experience with the immigration officials at ALA on your departure date seemed to confirm the bad habit they have. You don't mind sharing which travel agency did you book for the airport transfer.

  2. Thanks for reading! We booked directly with the hotel for airport transfers.

  3. Have a question... as you arrive as a first class passenger on LH, thought you could use the FCT??

  4. You can only use the FCT if you're departing on an LH group flight. It can't be use as an arrival lounge.