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December 3, 2012 ·  By Fr. Shay Cullen, Journalist, Author

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I did not expect trouble with our trip to Poland with Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa. Lufthansa Star Alliance for frequent travelers is the best choice with its good service, multiple destinations and efficient and effective onboard service. Due to rising fuel charges, strikes and threats thereof (but solved quicker than British Airways), prices have risen. Food quality has remained steady in Economy.

My latest trip, (always in economy, with a rare upgrade to business class with Lufthansa) was to Poznan, Poland via Hong Kong. Lufthansa has no direct flights from the Philippines. But with Star Alliance partner, Cathay Pacific, we had trouble. They had over one hour to transfer our luggage to the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt but failed in a spectacular way.

Cathay Pacific seats are cramped. Their planes to Hong Kong have close seat formation and less leg space making the one and a half hour flight to Hong Kong cramped and uncomfortable for anyone more than 5 ft. 8 inches tall.

I am 6 ft. tall so it was tight fit and Cathay Pacific is not recommended for tall people. Check with your alternative airline to get a seat that will do you no physical harm. They charge extra payment for the exit door seats which have more leg room. They should assign more leg space in at least one row for tall passengers. Trying to pack more passengers in a cramped plane to make more money is not the best idea and bad for reputation. Singapore airlines seating is spacious.

We arrived in Frankfurt on time, made a smooth transfer to the flight with a small jet by City Air to Poznan. In the airport, our luggage was missing and Star Alliance partner LOT was unhelpful, they don’t help with lost luggage, we were informed and they had no interest in us or giving directions where was the handling agent.

The Poznan airport information desk likewise had no information about who traces lost luggage. After asking around we found a small unmarked office at the end of the terminal that had an agent assigned to this task. The lady there made the arrangements with Lufthansa and informed us it would be arriving the following day from Hong Kong.

She gave us a shaving kit and said we could purchase US$ 100 clothes and make a claim to Lufthansa. However, no written authorization or voucher was given to us. We were wary of making a purchase of warm clothes to combat the cold especially coming from the tropical Philippines without a written guarantee. We bravely faced the cold and hurried to the warmth of the vehicle to take us to our first speaking engagement straight from the airport, no stop even at the hotel!

I apologized to the waiting audience of two bishops and an archbishop and 60 clergy. Being in Poland, formal clerical dress is normal. For three days, we survived without a change of clothes. This is the one reason that I travel with hand luggage only.

It’s in the interest of Lufthansa to improve luggage transfer with Alliance partners and recognize these problems but there was no note on our data base on their computers.

Commendation for Lufthansa.

I commend the Lufthansa Manila Service team and the Hong Kong check-in desk for smooth check-in for our flight to Frankfurt on 7th November for the Manila team sending a timely request to Hong Kong LH desk and for HK desk approving our request for seats in row 32.

In most previous flight, I got the same courtesy which is great for tall people with long legs! Likewise, we give appreciation to the LH check-in desk at Frankfurt on our return trip Frankfurt to Manila. see SeatGuru.com

The LUFTHANSA check-in desk on 23rd Novermber approved our seat request on that row on their 747- 400 to Hong Kong. Many airlines now charge a fee for these exit row seats, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, PAL among others. But not Lufthansa, they save them for Frequent Travelers with Miles & More silver or Gold cards. That’s a big encouragement for and other Frequent Travelers like myself to continue with them now going for almost than 20 years. However they apparently changed the number of status miles for the senator card and I was disqualified or perhaps I just travelled less.

CHECK-IN LUGGAGE. However, travelers be sure that you inform the check-in officer of your final destination. They at times miss it and this clerk checked in the luggage to Hong Kong only. Our destination was Manila on Philippines Airlines (PAL). This is not a member of the Star Alliance.

The Lufthansa international 747-400 planes are now fitted with the on-board entertainment individual screens and a choice of entertainment. A great improvement although they are years behind their competitors. Without the upgrade to individual access to entertainment, the plane appears old beyond its shelf life and aged and for some passengers this is a concern for their safety. There is no need to worry as Lufthansa has the world’s best safety record and best German quality maintenance service. Another reason I always fly LH.

With Cebu Pacific you have to endure the cramped seats. If you are more that 5 ft. 6 inches, it’s a tight fit. But the costs are low. They are not always on time so be prepared for delays and late arrivals. Food on board is very expensive, but try buying a snack elsewhere at 35,000 feet .You are a captive customer. Bring your own sandwich for all low cost flights. Weight restrictions for baggage are also enforced.

However, Ryan Air is a passenger packer too but mostly always on time, great if you have to make connections. Be sure to book in advance to get the low cost ticket and print out your boarding pass at home or in an Internet shop. Or else they will charge you mighty if you don’t have it. They are strict with the weight restrictions for on board baggage. No arguments allowed.

Cebu International Airport is an expensive place to buy Philippine traditional food, the vendors have to pay high rights for the lease of space and so charge 30 % higher for the stuff on sale. The Timex Wrist Watch stall charges almost up to 100% higher price than the same model abroad.

WiFi is now needed like air and water. Cebu claims free WiFi but it does not connect likewise NAIA, it doesn’t work there either. This has been ranked as the second worst Airport in the world! But if Mumbai has not been renovated in the past five years then it has to be worse.

But like public water, fountains with drinkable water there are none in the Cebu or Manila airports. Expensive bottled water only. Critics say it is a conspiracy with the bottling companies that want to sell surgery drinks or bottled water a hefty profit. Drinking water is a right and should be available as it is in the best airport both before security check and after it. Hong Kong and Singapore are among the best in Asia .They also have free Wifi for a limited period. Frankfurt airport now has a free 30 minute period of free wifi and Lufthansa lounges have only 30 minute free wifi access as an improvement. Before they and Fraport are giving T-Mobile total commercial control of their cyber-space, no doubt for a cut of the earnings. However, passengers are rating the airport quality on availability of free wifi service.

To be continued……

 

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