My history with Condor actually goes way back to my time growing up in Michigan in the 1980s. I lived just north of Detroit, about 45 minutes away from DTW. I was just a young boy at that time, but my interest in commercial aviation was already in full bloom and I vehemently declared that to be my home airport – even though my parents hated it and preferred FNT instead due to its small size. Why do parents always have to be such downers?
Our subscription to the The Flint Journal (the local newspaper) was my only source of information regarding the airlines that flew in and out of Detroit, and the Sunday travel section was my Holy Bible.
It was so fun to see the ads for Northwest Airlines international service to points all over Europe and Asia, and I usually clipped out the best ones with the pictures of Northwest Orient 747s and DC10s on them and kept them in a folder in my room. These were eventually replaced with pictures of other things as I grew older, but I’m not going to comment any further on that… 😉
Mixed in with the Northwest Airlines advertisements were ads for a weird little airline called Condor. They were advertising flights from Detroit to Frankfurt, but at the time I couldn’t tell if it was actually a charter company or an actual airline.
The confusion stemed from the fact that I had never even seen a Condor airplane in my life at that point, and the vacation packages they were selling made it seem like it was just a charter operation.
Keep in mind this is way before the days of the Internet, and researching information like this was actually kind of difficult – especially when you live way out in the country like we did. This airline remained a mystery to me for years.
Much to the delight of airline and travel enthusiasts such as myself here in San Diego, Condor announced nonstop 767-300 service to Frankfurt which was launched earlier this year. It was a seasonal service, meaning that they would only go for the summer season (through October), resuming again in the spring of the following year.
So while it wasn’t daily year-round service, it was still very much appreciated and very exciting to see. I just had to try it.
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Duration: 10 hours, 41 minutes
Seat: 5A (business class)
Of course I made a video too (yup, I’m that much of a nerd):
Now, on with the trip report!
Condor check in counters are located at the far west end of terminal two east, and even though I arrived roughly 3 1/2 hours early, there was already a line of passengers waiting to check in.
Unfortunately there was no dedicated business class line, so it was kind of a free-for-all as far as I could tell. However, all of the overhead displays still said “position closed,” so maybe they weren’t fully set up yet for the bulk of the check in process yet. It didn’t really matter much to me, as I only had to wait about 10 minutes in total.
The agent who checked me in was more than friendly, and much to my surprise, they were giving free passes to the Airpace Lounge (now the Aspire Lounge) to all business class passengers. I guess I wasn’t expecting that, but little perks like this are always appreciated.
As a matter fact, my expectations going into this was that this was going to be a low-budget business class experience and that it wouldn’t be anywhere near on the same level as, say, Club World on British Airways. But so far, things were looking good.
By the time I finished my snack and hung out in the lounge for a bit, the plane had already arrived and was docked at the gate. As a matter of fact, it came in quite a bit early and I missed the opportunity to get some nice video of it pulling in. Oh well – not a big deal. I just meandered for a bit and waited for the boarding process to begin.
From the looks of it, it appeared as if a majority of the passengers in the gate area were European based on all the Euro languages that I overheard while waiting. This was confirmed very clearly once the boarding process started.
There was a definite language issue when boarding was called and it ended up being a little bit funny to watch. First they announced families and people needing extra time to board, which went ok. Then, out of nowhere, there was a mad rush for the gate which left the gate agents flustered – and it was just chaos from there.
Nobody could understand what the gate agents were saying (all announcements were in English), and there was no order to the boarding process at all. I simply tried to find a hole as best I could and worked my way up to the podium to present my passport and boarding pass. Not a great way to start!
The chaos and confusion only continued once on board. I hadn’t been seated for all of two minutes when I was approached by another passenger asking if I wouldn’t mind moving to a different seat so that he and his wife could sit together.
Normally I would be accommodating to something like this if the seat I’m moving to is of equal or greater comfort/convenience, but the only seat they could offer me was a window bulkhead – which I didn’t want at all for two very good reasons…
First, I was filming a video on today’s flight and I wanted to be seated as far back as possible so that I could get good cabin shots along the way. Second, being that far forward would have been too far away from the engines, which would have made my window pics a lot less interesting.
Of course I didn’t tell him any of this, and I simply replied “I’m sorry I prefer to sit here.” After all, this was a seat that I specifically reserved several months ago when I made this reservation, and as bad as it may sound, it irritates me to have to be inconvenienced for other people’s lack of planning.
Besides, would it really be that big of a deal to not sit next to your wife on the flight? My wife and I end up separated on long flights all the time, and we think nothing of it. it’s really not a big deal.
Unfortunately, this guy wouldn’t take no for an answer and he got the flight attendant involved. She simply told him to wait until all passengers were on board and then start asking again. So that’s what he did, and it ended up being a bit of an awkward situation due to the fact that I ended up being the kink in the wheel somehow.
The issue could have been resolved very quickly if I would have moved, and I could see the guy getting very irritated with me as he was trying to find people to move to accommodate him and his wife. This was really killing the mood for me, and it was hard to get excited about being on this flight.
Thankfully, they eventually found someone to switch seats so they could sit together, and once we were all seated I tried to put it out of my mind as best I could and got back into AvGeek mode. What a pisser.
Oh – and there was one more thing that wasn’t going right. My window seat wasn’t actually a window seat! Yep, I was seated next to a wall where the window should have been, so the air was really being let out of my tires here. All was not completely lost though, as I still had two other windows to work with to get good wing/engine shots.
Once the flight attendant came by with complimentary champagne and water, I started to relax a bit and things were suddenly looking better. It was at that moment, as we were pushing back the gate, that I finally had a chance to get a good look around the cabin and appreciate these business class seats for what they were.
Condor actually has a really nice business class product! The seats are attractive and nice, comfortable, and the flight attendants seemed very attentive so far.
During the taxi out to the runway, the captain’s welcome announcement included information that we would be making a big right-hand turn to the north after departure and then head up over the northern US and Canada over the North Atlantic and then back down into Germany.
Something must’ve changed in the few minutes after his announcement in the time that we took off though, because our big right-hand turn turn into a big left-hand turn. I actually preferred this since I was seated on the left-hand side of the plane and it gave me a really good view of San Diego on our way out.
Cabin service started with a bang immediately after take off with the distribution of menus. Dinner orders were taken shortly after that, with hot towels following very quickly behind. Being seated all the way here in the last row of business class, I was surprised and delighted to find out that my choice for dinner was still available. I wasn’t expecting it, but somehow it all worked out. Either that or I tend to make very bad culinary choices…
Drinks and a small snack bag were distributed immediately before the appetizers came.
I’m not really sure why they were rushing the service so much considering that this was such a long flight, but at least it was keeping me entertained and I wasn’t complaining one bit. The main course was served just minutes after I finished my appetizer, followed very quickly by dessert.
Somehow I ended up watching “CHiPs” during the meal service, for reasons I still don’t quite understand. Being a child of the 80s, this remake of that classic TV show didn’t appeal to me at all when I first heard about it. It looked so stupid! And you know what? It was. But I will admit that I was funny enough to keep watching all the way through to the end. Yeah, it was OK but nothing can replace the original TV show (which was stupid enough in it’s own way).
To make matters worse, I followed that movie up with something equally embarrassing to admit. I watched the entire length of Crazy Stupid Love – a total chick flick that was actually kind of good. I would like to point out, however, that I was on my second glass of wine at that point so that may have clouded my judgment a bit. At least I hope that’s what happened…
I’m not sure if it was the wine or the bad movies, but I could feel really bad headache coming on shortly after the dinner service. Drinking wine on airplanes usually does that to me, so I chalked it up as my own fault for having that second glass during the meal and tried to get some sleep.
Unfortunately it was still early afternoon in San Diego and my body was not even near ready to lay down and sleep yet. The combination of the bad headache and the feeling of sliding down in the angled lie-flat seat kept me from falling asleep completely, but I will admit that I was quite comfy and warm under that thick duvet.
Keeping me somewhat entertained during the next four hours was the fact that the sun never set completely. We flew so far north that it was sunset for the majority of the flight, which was actually quite scenic and I got a lot of really good pictures.
For those that are curious, yes, it is possible for window seat passengers to access the aisle when the person in the aisle seat is in the flat position. You do have to step over their feet, but it’s not so bad if you’re careful and I had no problems doing it several times during the flight.
The only problem was with about 2 1/2 hours of flying time to go, just before the second meal service. Just as I was thinking that I would get up and go use the lavatory one last time, my seatmate raised his knees and blocked me in for another 45 minutes. Oh well. That’s the way it goes when in the window seat.
They turned on the lights on with about two hours and 10 minutes of flying time remaining, and were quick to hand out hot towels before getting breakfast started. Well, technically it wasn’t breakfast since we would be landing in the early afternoon, but the second meal service always feels like breakfast to me no matter the time we arrive at the local destination.
The wine must’ve worn off at that point, because I felt that my movie selection during the second meal service was on point. Have you seen the remake of The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio? I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, it’s a very long movie and I was only able to watch half of it before they turned off the entertainment system in preparation for landing. Total bummer. I’m going to have to rent that one at home.
The weather over the Frankfurt area that afternoon looked spectacular, and it was fun to watch the scenery below as we twisted and turned our way in. There was obviously a lot of congestion at the airport at that time because we ended up doing several laps before making our final approach.
Adding a bit of drama to it was the fact that my seatbelt had completely disappeared into the seat while it was in the lie-flat position, so I didn’t have a seatbelt to wear during landing. All I could do was put my faith in the pilot that he would keep the wheels down and the shiny side up.
So there you have it. if you’re anything like me and you’ve been curious as to what Condor is all about, hopefully this will clear it up for you. Prior to this trip I would’ve been hesitant to choose them over more well-known flag carriers, but I’ve got to admit that Condor business class is pretty darn good and very competitive.
Of course it doesn’t compete with the likes of Korean Air business class or Singapore Airlines business class but it’s just as good as any of the major US or European airlines. If if you ever stumble across a good price on Condor, I highly recommend grabbing it. You just might be pleasantly surprised with this little airline from Germany as much as I was.