Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport

Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare
Attraction Review: Museo Egizio
Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn
Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport
United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

I had a very early start to the day for my return trip. My flight from Munich to Chicago departed at 11:25 AM so I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to connect – and even to catch a backup flight should my original flight get canceled. So I was booked on a 6:20 AM flight from the Cologne/Bonn airport to Munich. I booked a ride with Suntransfers and my only complaint was that they were non-negotiable as to pickup time and that was at 3:55 AM. At that time of day, with no traffic and it’s a short drive anyway, I was at the airport around 4:30 AM and the Lufthansa ticket counter didn’t even open until 5 AM so I had to stand there for half an hour with my bags. Ah well, certainly better than being late.

CGN airport is quite small. In fact, on their website, the motto is: so simple. There are two terminals. Terminal 1 handles Lufthansa, Germanwings, Austrian and Star Alliance partners and Terminal 2 handles all other airlines. Each Terminal has a lounge. In T2 it’s a generic business lounge for all the airlines while in T1 it’s a Lufthansa-branded lounge.

As the airport is small, so is the lounge. However with Lufthansa being the dominant carrier I can see that it might get crowded with elite travelers gaining access even if they’re on an economy ticket. It opens at 5:30 AM so I had to wait a bit for entry.

The lounge is circular in shape and one side of the room has the comfortable lounging chairs while the other side has tables and chairs for dining.

Lufthansa Lounge CGN Casual Seating

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Categories: Europe, Germany, Lufthansa, Star Alliance | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

My return flight left Budapest at 6:30 AM.  I had booked this leg of the trip using my Miles & More points, hoping that shortly before I left Budapest, Lufthansa would open up space and I’d be able to fly first class via Frankfurt.  But the space never opened up so I had to “settle” for business class.  Poor me.

My friend and I shared a taxi to the airport even though she was returning on Turkish Airlines and her flight was nearly three hours later.  Sure enough, when we arrived she couldn’t even check her bags as no one was at the Turkish counter that early.  So we said our goodbyes and I headed through security to the lounge.

The lounge I was directed to was very small and nearly full.  It did have free wi-fi but didn’t even have its own restrooms.  It was a contract lounge, not a Lufthansa lounge and while it was better than sitting the terminal and had some free beverages, I was completely under-whelmed.

Eventually though we boarded our flight for the relatively short flight to Frankfurt, which was very uneventful.  Like many intra-Europe flights, business class was simply economy with blocked middle seats and nice service.  We did get an edible, if unremarkable breakfast.  Before long we were in Frankfurt where I was able to enjoy the lounge for  a couple of hours.

When I got to the gate, I admit I was surprised.  Where was the German efficiency I so appreciate?  With Frankfurt being a Lufthansa hub, there are naturally a lot of people with elite status who are not flying in First or Business class.  So they hover around, waiting for priority boarding to be called instead of queuing up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen priority boarding be so chaotic, though my experience is not that widespread.  At any rate, eventually I boarded through door 1L and found my seat.

LH 430
Frankfurt (FRA) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 10:40 AM
Arrive  2:10 PM
Duration: 9h 30m
Boeing 747-8
Seat 6D (Business Class)

As I was traveling solo for this leg I selected a seat in the middle section so I wouldn’t have to worry about climbing over anyone or being climbed over.  Waiting for me at my seat was a blanket and this pillow.  I loved the color scheme.

LH 430 Business Class Seat

LH 430 Business Class Seat

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Categories: Award Travel, Lufthansa, Star Alliance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Danube River Cruise

I have a group of friends that like to travel together and one of them knew of another small group that was doing a Danube River cruise with Viking River Cruises.  Having cruised the Rhine with Viking a couple of years ago, we were excited to join that group for another European float.

One of my good friends who lives in Chicago agreed to be my travel partner for this excursion. We looked at the trip extensions Viking offered: a pre-trip extension in Prague before the cruise began in Nuremberg, and post-trip extension in Budapest, where the cruise ended.  As we looked at what was offered, we decided to do our own versions of these extensions and use our hotel points (mostly) to pay for our rooms.

Naturally we used airline miles to cover our flights in business class.  We both used United miles to fly to Prague with a long layover in Brussels.  My friend also used UA miles for a return flight from Budapest on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul.  I used my Lufthansa Miles & More miles via Frankfurt, hoping to be able to upgrade to First Class as the time for our flight grew closer, but it wasn’t to be.  No first class award seat ever opened up on the FRA-ORD leg on my flight date.  Note to self: in the future, don’t fly on a Monday.  Loads of business travelers!  I saw award seats on both Sunday and Tuesday around my date but by then the rest of our plans had been set so I had to “settle” for business class.

Our outbound flight connected in Brussels and I have a Twitter friend who lives in Belgium.  Though we’d never met in person, she was kind enough to drive down to Brussels and meet us for lunch and take us on a walk around the area near the train station.  I love the way the world gets smaller with social media!


My flights in red, my friend’s flights in cyan, joint flights in green

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Categories: Austria, Award Travel, Cruises, Europe, Germany, Hungary, Lufthansa, River Cruise, Star Alliance, United, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – Munich to Charlotte to Memphis

This is the final post in this series.  Other posts include:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part I
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich to Munich
Rhine Runaway – Park Hyatt Zurich

Business Class on a Lufthansa A330 is laid out in a 2x2x2 configuration with recliner seats. If you’d asked me before the trip I could have sworn I’d selected one of the middle seats since, as a solo traveler it meant I wouldn’t have to climb over anyone – or be climbed over. But I was assigned an aisle seat on the left side of the plane, 3C. My seatmate was already in place and I gathered he was a regular on the route as the flight attendants seemed to know him.

Lufthansa Business Class Amenity Kit

Lufthansa Business Class Amenity Kit

On the seat were a pillow and blanket and the amenity kit. I loved the little draw-string bag as it reminded me of a mini-beach duffel. Inside were the usual suspects: lip balm, skin creme, toothbrush & toothpaste, earplugs, eye mask and compression socks. Since this was a daytime flight I didn’t really use any of these but it was nice to have them.

As I learn to be a better blogger, one of my next steps will be to remind myself what I had to eat! As I look over the menu now I truly can’t remember what I had to eat. That tells me that it was good enough, if not memorable.  The menu read as follows:

LH 428 Menu 1

LH 428 Menu 2

LH 428 Menu 3

LH 428 Menu 4

LH 428 Menu 5

LH 428 Menu 6

Service was attentive, but not annoying. I’m one who prefers to be left alone most of the time but I often found that whenever the FAs came by my seat I truly was ready for another round of water or I did want a snack. They were very pleasant and we had no language issues at all.

The IFE had quite a good selection. Only very rarely do I go to movies in the theater at home and I can’t even remember the last time I did. I was able to catch up on a couple of movies, Saving Mr. Banks and Frozen, that I had not seen before as well as a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory, a show I enjoy on occasion but don’t watch regularly.

Before too long we were touching down in Charlotte. It was my first time to use Global Entry and, wow, was that sweet! Gave the kiosk my fingerprints, it gave me a piece of paper and boom, I was through immigration! Fantabulous.

Then I had to go through security again for my connecting flight to Memphis. That’s when I noticed that I didn’t have the TSA Pre-Check logo on my ticket. (Not suprising as it was issued by Lufthansa.) I tried to talk my way into the line, stating I’d just been through Global Entry, but it was a no-go. Lesson learned – next time check in on the mobile app for the domestic portions of my flight! I’ll give that a try on my trip next month to see how it works.

Next stop was the US Airways Club. I found out, to my chagrin, that since Lufthansa and US Airways were no longer part of the same alliance, I was not allowed to use the club, even though I’d booked my tickets with US Airways miles. Once I got home I realized I could have shown my American Airlines Executive World Mastercard and gotten in, but I didn’t even think about it while I was there.

At this point I thought about trying to get on the earlier flight back to Memphis, though the agent in the club didn’t think I’d have much luck. But I hustled down to the gate only to be met with a crowd in the boarding area and a wait list. So I didn’t even approach the gate agents about trying to get on. Back to a restaurant where it was nice to see some of the hockey playoffs, even though my team (Go Predators!) wasn’t on the ice.

When it was finally time for my flight I headed to the gate and found I was in seat 1F. By this point I’d been awake about 20 hours, after a short night’s sleep, and I was grateful to have the window so I could doze off for the short flight.

But it was a fantastic trip all around and business class would not have been possible without the points. Can’t wait for my next big adventure in September!

Categories: Lufthansa, Star Alliance, US Airways | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – Zurich to Munich

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part I
Rhine Runaway – Zurich Part II

I had a 2-connection flight back to Memphis from Zurich, connecting in Munich and Charlotte. That meant an early start to the day since I had a 9 AM flight. My roomie, who lives in a much bigger city and was on a paid ticket, had a much later flight but decided she might as well come on to the airport with me rather than just sit around the hotel for a few more hours. With her single-connection flight she’d be back at her home airport – if not her house – before I would, even with my head start. Ah, the joys of living in a mid-size city!

We’d debated the best method of getting to the airport. We checked out the train/tram maps but part of me was concerned about missing connections and we’d be lugging our suitcases along. I just didn’t trust myself to read the maps correctly at 6 AM. I thought about a taxi but then checked Uber and noticed there was a driver fairly close. I contacted him just before we left the room. By the time we’d checked out he was just arriving. This was my first time using Uber and it was nice that the app showed a photo of the driver, so I could be sure we had the correct ride. I was also thinking about how nice it was that I had a credit on my Uber account so the ride wouldn’t cost as much as the estimate they’d given me. After I returned home and saw that the full amount had hit my credit card I contacted Uber to find out why. It turns out that for a credit to apply, the charge must be in the same currency. So my credit was in USD but the charge was in CHF (Swiss Francs) so no credit for me on this ride. That was disappointing, but lesson learned.

My flight to Munich was on Lufthansa in a regional jet with 2×2 seating. Since I was in “business class” that meant I had the two seats to myself. I recall selecting a seat on the website and it showed the seating as 3×3 with the middle seats blocked so I guess their had been an equipment change. We had some light refreshment – nothing too heavy as it’s only an hour-long flight to Munich – and soon enough we were touching down.

Lufthansa Logo

I made my way to the Lufthansa lounge. Unlike some of the bloggers who’ve been doing this awhile, I realized I don’t take nearly as many photos as they do so I don’t have any pictures. But I found a table and was able to relax in relative comfort for about a 30-45 minutes until it was time to head to the gate. I don’t recall hearing any boarding announcements in the lounge. There were light refreshments available but nothing to qualify as an early lunch. That was OK with me because I’d get plenty of food on the plane.

Our gate was all the way at one end of the terminal. They had the entire end blocked off with a podium manned by a Lufthansa employee who was checking tickets. There was a huge line of folks in coach but fortunately I saw that the other side of the podium was reserved for business & first class passengers and there was no line there. And, just as fortunately, by staying on that side of the building after passing the podium I avoided having to go through screening again. No PreCheck here to save me!

However, getting to the gate area the way I did left me as far from the front of the plane as could be, naturally. I bobbed and weaved through the crowd until I was near the correct doorway. There was a bit of a delay with the boarding and when they finally started allowing people through there was no one checking that only first & business class passengers were using that doorway. I realize we’re all getting on the same plane and it’s not going anywhere without us, it was just annoying. And frankly, after all the German effiency I’d witnessed all week (and loved!) it seemed odd that it would disappear at this point. Fortunately, as we approached the plane first and business passengers were allowed to board through door 1L while the folks in coach went to 2L. My vacation was truly starting to feel like it was over. But there was an ocean to cross first.

Categories: Lufthansa, Star Alliance, Uber | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process

Back in April 2013 some friends contacted me about joining them for a cruise down the Rhine river.  They were considering a cruise with Viking Cruises which was running a special deal: if we signed up for a 2014 cruise before 30 April 2013, we got 2-for-1 pricing.  Having never been to that part of Europe before I was on board immediately.

As I was flying from a different city from the rest of the group, I handled my own airfare.  It just so happened that in the fall of 2012 US Airways was running one of its targeted sales that offered a 100% bonus on purchased miles.  I had made two purchases of 25,000 miles (+ 25,000 bonus miles) during that sale.  I was able to buy both at the beginning and the end of the sale which split the charge over two credit card cycles for me.  The total for both purchases with taxes was ~$1800 and left me with a 100K US Airways Dividend miles balance.

Since the time I purchased those miles I’ve learned not to buy miles speculatively (without a pre-planned purpose).  But it was great to have those miles in reserve when I needed them!  I would not typically use these miles on a domestic fare (unless it was really expensive) but $1800 is a great price for a business-class ticket to Europe.

At the time I used these miles US Airways was part of the Star Alliance.  That gave me a great number of choices to get to Europe.  Our cruise departed from Amsterdam (AMS) and ended in Basel, Switzerland on a Thursday.  Not really wanting to fly back to the States for one work day, one of my friends and I decided to take an extra couple of days and take the train to Zurich (ZRH), spend a couple of days and fly home from there.

US Airways allowed one stopover of more than 24 hours OR one open jaw on an award ticket.  (An open jaw is where you fly into one city and out of another.)  My ticket would be an open jaw since I was flying into AMS and out of ZRH.

Even though I had US Airways miles, I knew that the United Airlines award search tool was MUCH better.  At the time, the US Airways search tool did not display any Star Alliance partner award flights, which made it useless if US Airways did not fly into that city.

Using the United search tool I found a one-stop flight to Amsterdam from my home in Memphis via Houston on United.  Sadly, United only flies one-cabin regional jets out of Memphis so no business class for me on the MEM-IAH leg.  But that was the only one!  In Houston I connected to a United flight that took me non-stop to Amsterdam in a flat-bed business seat.

For the return trip I had to make a couple of stops.  I originally looked only for flights with flat-bed seats.  This led to a complicated itinerary with two stops in Europe before landing in Chicago where I would have taken another one-cabin regional jet home – and I didn’t land until quite late.  After I booked this ticket I began to think more about the route I was taking and started looking for alternatives.  I eventually settled on a Lufthansa flight to Munich (MUC), connecting to another Lufthansa flight to Charlotte and then a US Airways flight back to Memphis that got me home several hours earlier than the trip I’d originally booked.

I called US Airways and changed the flights.  There was a $150 fee because I’m not an elite US Airways member but I’d decided it was worth it.

My flight from ZRH to MUC was on one of Lufthana’s CityLine planes, meaning a short flight in a regional jet.  But since I had a business class ticket, I had an empty seat beside me and that was fine for the short flight.

I connected to one of Lufthansa’s Airbus A340-600s for the flight to Charlotte.  I’d originally avoided this plane since it only has angle-flat seats in business class but I later realized that since this was a daytime flight, I probably wouldn’t be sleeping much anyway – and indeed I did not.

My flight from Charlotte to Memphis was also on a Canadair regional jet that featured a first class section.

Flights for this route. Map courtesy of

Flights for this route.
Map courtesy of

So that’s the “how” I booked the trip.  Next up: the actual flight to Amsterdam.

Categories: Award Travel, Europe, Lufthansa, Star Alliance, United, US Airways | Leave a comment

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