Monday, September 1, 2014

Privat Air Lufthansa service to Frankfurt from Pune via Bucharest

Of all those who have been in the loop on how this trip was being planned, I am sure half of them would have wondered what an idiot I am. What was planned in July/Aug and later spilled over to September was a trip to Singapore, a follow on visit of my trip in April, which was to be on the SQ A380. However, out of nowhere, 10 days ago came this news that I may have to visit Kansas City. Options explored, it would have to be a two stop, with an option to try out EK for the first time. This soon changed to Mexico City and the options narrowed down. As the options started dwindling, so did the seats available due to the peak season. Things took a new turn almost on the eve of the trip as the final destination was changed to Monterrey, Mexico.

Keeping the plethora of options apart, this is how the final trip would look like

Pune-Frankfurt with a technical stop at Bucharest on the Privat Air B738, Frankfurt – Mexico City on Lufthansa B748i, AeroMexicoE-190 on Mexico City – Monterrey, American Airlines MD83 on Monterrey – Dallas, and back to India on Lufthansa with Dallas – Frankfurt on A343 and Frankfurt – Mumbai on B744. 

A dream trip so to say, because I would land at Bucharest, Mexico City, Monterrey, Dallas for the first time and travel in Embraer and MD series for the first time with B748 and A343 being new sub types. Again, how many flights these days have technical stops! 

Tickets, insurance, hotel bookings, all was a mess till the last minute. And the trip finally started on the day after the Ganpati festival began. With all the stories about Mexico, it was good to have a colleague along as we left early morning on 30th Aug to this two and a half weeks trip.

Arriving at Pune Airport at 0330hours, it was nice to notice that the canopy is now complete and the old parking area has a new building, which looks like ticketing offices and if they indeed are, it will help free up space in the existing terminal and wonder how they will be put to use.

With no rush, we made our way to check-in after two CISF checks. The baggage screening was done by Jet Airways. The whole drama started at the check-in counter with the check-in agent saying that we will not be allowed to go to Mexico on this visa. Both passports, invitation letter and other details were taken and somebody started checking on the other computer at the last counter about the possibility of going to Mexico on the visa we had. I joined them and showed them the websites I knew and after a while they were convinced. I had already blocked 11A/C for PNQ – FRA and 38A/C for FRA – MEX leg and got both the boarding passes. 

Within minutes, immigration was announced and a LH staff guided us through the connector area from LH check in section to the old check in area used by AI / 9W/ 6E – where the immigration counters are. A look at the line, made it clear that this was a full flight and it indeed was, 32J, 60Y all occupied.

Immigration & security was a breeze and in no time we were on first floor SHA where VT-INZ , VT-IEZ & VT-SZK with crew livery were parked for the night. D-APBC arrived at 0405 hours, this being the only aircraft in this configuration; it’s a no brainer to guess the aircraft.

Around 0430 domestic pax started trickling in, with a mix of IndiGo and Jet passengers with Jet being the first domestic departure at 0535 to BLR. Boarding for our flight was called at 0505 hours with priority boarding, wheel chair pax, row 16 onwards, row 10 to 15 and then business class. The regular sight of fully fit and fine Indians asking for wheel chairs continued here as well, with the main reason being it’s their first time abroad. 

Long queue was formed but LH staff enforced the zone wise boarding. Privat Air was parked at Bay 2 and since international boarding was to take place, Jet Airways – which was parked at Bay 1 was normal boarding from the ground floor.

I boarded at 0515 and took few magazines since hardly any English material was available. Settled in 11A in this full flight and doors were closed at 0525 when we pushed back behind jet airways at 0530. 

The pilot came on PA and announced our flight path, first in German and then in English, with takeoff in westerly direction overflying Pakistani airspace near Karachi and then over Iran and Turkey before landing at Bucharest estimated in 6hours 10 mins.

The lead FA announced that breakfast and light lunch will be served, and it started with one othe best meals I have ever had about 40 mins in the flight. Ever since I missed chicken pasta on FRA-IAH sector last September, because I had booked AVML, I had decided that I will not book a meal and take my chances and it all paid off well. An Omlete with Sausage and potato – with the omlette being the best I have ever had inflight ! This came along with a choice of Juice, Fruits, Yogurt, Cake & Bun.

I slept off soon as trays were cleared and woke up over Iran, we were already about 5hours and 30 minutes into the flight. The galley had ample glasses with juice and water in the tray next to it. Lunch service started soon and the options were a chicken sub or a veg sub. I opted for the chicken option and it was fantastic again! The IFE was unresponsive but we had started our descend into Bucharest where we landed 15 mins ahead of schedule on runway 08R which reminded me of the Bengaluru runway full of patches before resurfacing. I told the crew about the IFE and it was promptly reset.

We parked at a remote bay as refueling started & standard instructions were given regarding seat belt and the purser took a count of people on board, since doors were open and step ladder attached. 

Before landing at Bucharest, the flight was somewhere between Tbilisi, Yeravan, Tehran & Ankara – the places which figure high on my wife and my list of places to visit.

At Bucharest, Tarom and Globeground did the ground handling. Saw Tarom, Olympic Air for the first time. Turkish was around and so was Wizz. Exactly 25 mins later, I told my friend that we are good to go and so did the FA, to the astonishment of my friend. We had a long taxi to runway 26R and a powerful and long take off roll after which we turned right and set course to FRA. Also saw the C27 and C130 of Romanian Air Force.

Service started again! And now it was chicken puff or two paneer rolls. For a foodie, a normal choice was 2 over 1, but I chose the chicken option which was decent, not as good as the previous ones. This came with coke or Beer, and I opted for beer.

1) Lake Balaton, 2) Balchik Airstrip in Bulgaria, 3) Just after take off from Bucharest

Europe is always fun with a window seat, because of the sheer number of aircraft you see and today was no different.  

 We landed on runway 25 L at FRA and taxied to remote bay. This meant that we would take longer for transfer and with transfer time being just 1:20. The bus dropped us at a gate and we came up to security after a short walk, which meant the train ride wasn’t required. Security had long lines but was brisk and within minutes we were on other side, near the Z gates and soon near our revised gate Z58 for a surprise in store which will be covered in next part.

Aircraft Details
D-APBC / MSN 33016
B737-800(WL) modified with special configuration and assigned code BBJ2 by Privat Air
Previous Operators : Sun Country Airlines, Transavia
With Privat Air since April 2009
Operates 4x weekly to FRA-PNQ-OTP-FRA route and 3x weekly on FRA-DMM-FRA

Flight Summary
PNQ: STD/ATD: 0525 / 0530
OTP: STA/ATA: 1010 / 1000
OTP: STD/ATD: 1040 / 1025 
FRA: STA/ATA: 1205 / 1150
*All times local

On-Time: 5/5
Website &Checkin: 5/5
Check-in & airport experience: 2/5 (The staff could have handled the visa issue better)
Aircraft Cleanliness: 4/5
In-flight experience: 4/5 (Always found the Privat Air crew better than LH crew)
Food: 4/5
Alighting & Arrival experience: 4/5


  1. Really glad to read this. Will be using this option to fly to BOS in August. Way more convenient than going to BOM and taking the MUC/FRA flights

  2. Really glad to read this. Will be using this option to fly to BOS in August. Way more convenient than going to BOM and taking the MUC/FRA flights