This is the first in a series covering my extended Labor Day weekend trip to Hamburg. You can checkout an overview here.
The beginning to my Hamburg adventure was pretty uneventful. I Ubered from my office to DCA and made it through a busy but fast-moving TSA checkpoint before heading up to the pre-merger AA Admirals Club in the middle pier—the nicer, but smaller of the Admirals Clubs at DCA. It was pretty full, but there will still seats and the standard mediocre food options. I had some cheese and pita chips.
There was one interesting hiccup. When I checked in on the AA app, I got a message that at least one of my flights didn’t accept mobile boarding passes, so I would have to print them out. No big deal; I logged on to my computer and printed them out. As the Uber came, though, I realized I’d left them on my desk. No big deal—I’ll print them at the airport. So at the Admirals Club check-in, I asked, and they said they couldn’t print the BOS-DUS and DUS-HAM boarding passes since those flights were on Airberlin aircraft. That seemed weird that I’d be able to print them myself, but the AA agents wouldn’t. The agent said I could email her the PDF and she would print them for me, giving me her direct email address. So I headed into the lounge and emailed them to her, did some work calls, then headed back to the desk on my way out. Unfortunately that agent was MIA. One agent who was there said I could forward it to the general club email address, but she had to head to the gate before the email came through. At that time it was 2-3 minutes before scheduled boarding time for me too, so I just headed to the gate and figured I’d deal with it in Boston. I saw that agent when I was on the jetway boarding and smiled; to my pleasant surprise, she then went back to the club, printed them, and then brought them to me on board.
Despite frequent flights on the LGA-DCA shuttle, I actually have never flown the DCA-BOS shuttle before—oddly, I’ll be doing that three times in a two-week period due to a work trip. When I booked the award, my choices had been first class on the 1:30pm shuttle flight, or coach on the 2:30. Domestic first on an ERJ-190 for a short flight is not worth leaving work an hour earlier and an extra hour layover. First class award availability did not open over the next several months, so I was stuck with coach. These pre-merger US Airways planes do not have Main Cabin Extra except for the exit rows, but I was able to get one of those. Otherwise, the plane shows its wear quite a bit. There was wifi, though, and I used the $10 US Mobile unlimited pass to connect without a problem.
For a short flight, service didn’t start until 40 minutes into the flight. It used to be that the shuttle flights had truly upgraded food and drink in coach, but the only difference from any other American Eagle flight is beer (Sam Adams) and wine is free in coach. I ordered a Diet Coke with my mini pretzels. The FA had to go back and get some from the galley….and then never gave me one, so I had to flag him down on his way back. I didn’t finish before it was time to prep the cabin for arrival – landing 10 minutes early.
I don’t think I’ve been at Logan at least since I graduated college. I’d forgotten how sprawling it was. There is no post-security way of transferring from Terminal B, where my American flight landed, to Terminal E, where nearly all international airlines operate out of. You can take a free bus around the airport, but I just walked, which took about 15 minutes via moving walkways, escalators, through two parking structures, and down another escalator.
I figured I’d stop at the Airberlin desk since there was no line and get my passport checked before heading to the gate. The Swissport contract agent asked me for my visa, which confused me, but it was because I was on a one-way ticket. I had my TAP return itinerary printed out, so showed that to him, and was on my way. There was no pre-check line, and the premium cabin line emptied out into the main line right after the ID check. It moved quickly, though, and by 4:15 I was through.
Terminal E has been recently renovated and has a lot of seating with tons of power outlets and worktables throughout. The terminal was crowded, as Boston has grown quite a bit as a transatlantic hub, with SAS, WOW, Norwegian, Iberia, Hainan, Lufthansa, TAP, and Emirates flights all leaving around the time of my flight. When I got through security, I saw my flight was delayed by a half-hour, meaning I still had 2.5 hours til boarding would even begin. Not a big deal since I had a 2.75 hour scheduled layover in Dusseldorf. Plus, it meant one thing: lounge hopping!
There really are a silly amount of lounges at Boston’s Terminal E, given how few flights there actually are- British Airways, Air France, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, and Lufthansa. Airberlin’s official lounge at Boston is the Air France lounge. But I’ve never been super-impressed with those. I had access to two others, though: contract lounge “The Club” and the British Airways lounge.
First up was The Club, one floor below the main terminal. It’s basically used for membership programs and Norwegian. It’s in the process of being expanded, but, til then… skip it. It’s a small room with nice enough furniture, but not many outlets. There is a sign you can ask for hard alcohol, and a small cold buffet that is lacking…. Soft drinks are self-serve, and there’s a coffee machine. There is no bathroom in the club. I lasted about 15 minutes. But I did see the area under construction – which is the old Lufthansa Lounge and will double the size and add showers/bathrooms and “expanded dining.” The sign said “Coming Summer 2017,” but this was August 31; it seems it’s opened now.
Leaving was a smart move. The BA Lounge was awesome! The woman was a bit skeptical when I handed her my AA-printed boarding pass, and then looked at it for awhile, before asking me if I had an AA membership card. (I did, but didn’t need it, because (1) the boarding pass said Oneworld Sapphire on it, and (2) I was flying in Oneworld business class.) But once in, I was very pleased.
The lounge is large and airy, and recently renovated. There is the main food area, which was changing over from snacks (soup, wraps, salad) to dinner as I arrived, various seating areas off to the sides in various configurations, and then a large bar area looking out onto the Boston skyline. (There were also bathrooms and shower rooms, nice ones.)
There is also the coffee and cookie station, one of my favorite parts of BA lounges, along with computers.
It wasn’t very crowded when I got there, as folks taking the 5:30 Iberia flight were boarding, and not a lot of people on the 7:20 Heathrow flight (one of 3!) had arrived yet. A staff member came by and offered to bring me champagne or another drink, and you can actually request service wherever you are sitting by texting or using an online form they list all over the lounge.
When the dinner buffet opened, it was a bit of a disaster. The buffet started with salad on one end, then entrees, then dessert. In the middle there was a fish taco station. For 90% of the people, the direction this line moved in was pretty obvious. Yet two separate people gave me attitude as I moved down the line (obviously going from salad to entrée to dessert, in case it wasn’t clear). I had no problem giving attitude back. In addition to the fish tacos, which were yummy, there was some more fish, kimchi flatbread, some dry Jamaican Jerk chicken rice, and soup. Given how short the flight across the Atlantic is, I figured eating then would be good, so I could just sleep on the flight.
I was a little nervous because the British Airways lounge did not have the Airberlin flight on its monitors, and online it was still showing as not delayed. So about 45 minutes before scheduled departure time, I headed downstairs to the gate area. The plane was there, but the delay was still showing 7:30pm, and the crew was waiting to board. While there were seats in the gate area, I figured I had more than enough time to complete a trifecta, and hit up the Air France lounge—where presumably they would announce delays.
The Air France lounge was on the opposite end of the concourse, also downstairs a level but at least with a little bit of natural light. The lounge was very very dated. And although it was a decent size, it was absolutely packed- not surprising since it’s the lounge for more than half the carriers out of Terminal E, and accepts Priority Pass. The food offerings were very random, with small sandwiches, crudité/salad, California rolls, spaghetti and meatballs, miso soup, minestrone soup, and a kosher section for El Al passengers. Spaghetti and meatballs at a lounge is a first for sure. I had a glass of prosecco from the small self-serve bar and just did some more computer stuff for a bit.
Bottom line? If you find yourself faced with the choice of the Air France lounge, “The Club”, or the BA Lounge, British Airways is your best option, which isn’t super surprising. Of course, with Airberlin pulling out of Boston, its unlikely you’ll have the choice of those three.