“This is the blogger who wants to take pictures of this fantastic plane” were the words of the ground staff who handed me over to the crew inside D-AIXC, Lufthansa’s third A350 and one of the handful flying around the world right now. The aircraft would operate as LH764 to Mumbai.
I had three options for the trip – flying (SN Brussels), a new type for short haul (CS100 on Swiss) or the Lufthansa A350XWB between Munich & Mumbai – which I chose. The service & the aircraft were exemplary to say the least.
We started our journey in Paris, having an uneventful flight on A319 into Munich with Lufthansa. Some Good Samaritan has come up with a website easycdg.com which makes the transit / journey bearable for what has been the most confused, cramped and crazy airport I have transferred to till date.
The flight landed on runway two six R and parked at remote bay. Over half the flight made a dash to the FIDS (Flight Information Display System) to check the gate for the next flight!
What makes an airport offer quick connections is signage, color coding and easy access. Munich seemed less crowded & better designed as compared to big brother Frankfurt. The immigration was quick and hassle free as we made our way to gate L13 where a sizable crowd was already around.
D-AIXC was docked to the aerobridge with sister bird D-AIXB docked next to it. Elated I was to see the glitzy cockpit windows of the A350XWB and the winglets.
Boarding & Pictures
All permissions were in place to board first and to click the cabin pictures, talk to the crew and experience the seating, to avoid clicking pictures of crew or fellow passengers. The staff at the gate was aware about this & informed me that they are awaiting a go-ahead from the captain to allow me in.
Around 1110 the staff invited me to board the aircraft & the crew was ready to give me a tour of the plane as quickly as possible before boarding could start in the next 5 minutes.
The aircraft was in mint condition, smelling factory fresh and gleaming in the refreshing colors which Lufthansa has chosen in the cabin. This particular aircraft was delivered to Lufthansa less than a month ago. The re-designed cabin bins give a feeling of extra space and high ceilings.
Lufthansa has configured the A350XWB (Extra Wide Body) in a three class configuration comprising of 48 Business, 21 Premium Economy and 224 Economy class seats. The layout is 2-2-2 in Business and has two sections – one ahead of Door#2 and a small section of 12 seats aft of Door#2 with a small galley & washrooms in between the two. The next section comprises the Premium Economy with 2-3-2 seating and 10 rows of economy in 3-3-3 configuration. The last section has 15 rows of economy class seating.
The A350-900, 15 of which are on order by Lufthansa is marketed by Airbus as the world’s most advanced and most environmentally-friendly long-haul aircraft. It uses 25 percent less fuel, produces 25 percent fewer emissions and is significantly quieter on take-off than comparable types of aircraft.
After clicking pictures of the seats and the cabin, I got a sneak peek into the cockpit where two Captains and one First Officer were busy with the computers and discussing the flight plan. Next were the galley and the washrooms to see what has changed from the previous generation of aircraft.
There was one distinct feature that I noticed – place for people to pass from one aisle to another in the center galley. The earlier generations saw the crew & the passengers having to go from one aisle to another by either going to the rear of the aircraft or some discourteous passengers using the extra space of the bulkhead row to make a quick dash.
The premium economy seats are wider than the economy class seats and have a wider armrest with a center console. The seat pitch is 38 inches (31 inches in economy) and row 2 and 3 get foot rests. There is a bottle holder and electrical sockets for the passengers.
All the seats had pillows & blankets on the seats and the head sets were distributed later.
Passenger boarding started soon & I made myself comfortable on the seat looking at Air Canada A330 next door and comparing the winglets of both aircraft along with the window size. The A350 sports bigger windows but continues with the window shades unlike the B787 from rival Boeing.
Boarding was quick and we pushed back at 1145, a few minutes past departure time, to taxi towards runway two six L. A newly designed safety video was played on the In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) screen and I switched to one of the three cameras to see the view of Nose Landing Gear during taxi and take off. It’s a whole new view of take-off, already available on some other airlines as well as other aircraft of Lufthansa. Sadly, the last of the three camera’s, the tail mounted one was not working throughout the flight. The aircraft was silent during the take-off roll.
In Flight Experience
We soon reached our cruising altitude of 39000 feet or FL390. There was an announcement mentioning that internet will not work on this flight due to technical issue. This also meant that the live TV did not work for the entire duration of the flight. The crew announced that lunch would be served soon and a snack at dinner time before landing. There will be a drinks run before lunch and water, juice and snacks will be available in the galley during the flight.
The features for this A350 aircraft, different than those on the A330s, ambient lighting was in full use for this flight. The cabin altitude of 6000 feet can be maintained in this aircraft.
A smiling crew member soon pushed the drinks cart to the front of the section which was the premium economy cabin. On offer today were Cold Drinks, Juices, Beer, Gin, Vodka, Whisky and Wine. This was quickly followed by the meal cart. I soon heard the crew politely telling the passengers that there has been a mix-up and only vegetarian meals were on offer. I was absolutely looking forward to the chicken meal so I eagerly waited for my turn by when the crew had professionally handled the issue. From “Would you like a non-veg or veg option?” the crew said “I am offering you a vegetarian meal” only to tell the background if asked. The passenger profile was a heady mix of Indians, Germans and other nationalities and kudos to all of them who accepted the veggie meal without a fuss.
The meal comprised Salad + Salad Dressing, raita, kheer on one side of the tray and Bun + Butter. The main course comprised Pulao, Paneer and Dal along with pickle. The meal was delicious & while I was deprived of the non-veg option this was the first time I tried the veg option on Lufthansa and did not repent it at all. Even when the meal was less than half through, the second round for the drink service went past and was followed by a Masala Tea, Coffee and Tea service.
The meal was about to be over when the crew went around with something special – Baileys & cognac! Impressed!
Soon mood lighting set in, window shades down – It was time for a nap. The seat slides down a bit as it reclines and the seating is comfortable even for the window seat. That’s what Airbus calls the XWB! The fuselage is such that the window seat doesn’t feel cramped at all.
After a while it was time to explore the IFE. While it has good content, it is much lesser than the ones on the Middle Eastern carriers. At best I listen to songs while keeping the screen tuned to flight map which had multiple options showing Flight Preview, Route Overview and many more with the most exciting being the last options which gives a display similar to a Head Up Display (HUD) showing altitude, vertical speed per minute, Ground Speed and Pitch.
The crew did two rounds of water & drinks and I walked up to the galley to interact with the crew, understand their experience of the A350 as compared to the A330 and A340 where most of them were before this and talking aviation in general. The galley was stocked with pretzel packets, chocolates, juice, water and a bottle of Coke with glasses next to it.
About two hours to arrival, the meal cart rolled out from the galley on to the aisles and started a quick round of beverage and snack service. On offer was the Veg Roll or Chicken Puff and I opted for the later which though not as tasty as the meal was a good snack at that time.
We glided through the hazy skies of Mumbai to land 10 minutes before scheduled arrival time on Runway two seven at Mumbai and docking between a Swiss A333 and Singapore Airlines A380 – The power of Star Alliance at Mumbai. Announcements were made in German, English & Hindi giving out information about connections at Mumbai and lack of immigration forms on board which are needed for foreign nationals.
Deplaning was orderly and we made our way out from the serpentine immigration queue the baggage was already on the belt.
I have flown Lufthansa from Delhi, Mumbai and Pune and onwards to multiple places in EU and Americas and this was by far the best flight not only with Lufthansa and definitely tied for the first spot with Singapore Airlines on my best flights ever list.
The crew was competent, efficient, cheerful, pleasant and professional. While it was first flight on the type for few of them, the way the whole crew worked as a team from boarding to deplaning was an example of great teamwork, not seen before on other Lufthansa flights as well.
The food, though not my meal choice, was tasty and filling. The tray outsized the tray table of the A350 – which is definitely short in width.
The aircraft is silent, mood lighting ambient and seats comfy. Only flip side is the seating configuration which I always prefer to be a 2-4-2 and with the A340s being phased out globally and all the newer generation aircraft being either 3-3-3 or 3-4-3, only the A330s will be around with a 2-4-2 seating. -
I had taken explicit permission of Lufthansa for taking the photographs & I am thankful to the airline for allowing me to take pictures before the passengers could board. Names of the cockpit & cabin crew have not been mentioned intentionally.