Monday, March 30, 2009

The sky's the limit as Washed and Ready to Eat makes aviation history

Having spent 40 years on this planet with a relatively modest carbon footprint from flying, I never imagined that I would be a part of a landmark event in aviation. But on Sunday night, returning from Milan Malpensa (MXP) to London Heathrow (LHR), I unwittingly became involved in a milestone flight of such significance that I was awarded a free gift. Let me tell you more.

LH1880 was the inaugural flight (or the ‘volo inaugurale’ to quote my memento) of Lufthansa’s service from the fashion capital of southern Europe to the fashion capital of the north. Passenger numbers for this special occasion were, if I’m honest, a tad disappointing. On a plane that could easily hold 150 people, we struggled to break into double figures. In fact, I think there were probably only two travellers for every one crew member. Nevertheless, it was a jolly affair and I was handed a key ring by an excited Italian steward to commemorate the occasion.

The German carrier has a real identity and branding crisis at the moment. On the one hand, they are Lufthansa, a member of some sinister sounding organisation called the Star Alliance, which I think may be fighting the One World Alliance connected with British Airways. On the other, they are Lufthansa Italia when they fly from Milan. Except that… er… the service is actually provided by bmi, the British airline that Lufthansa bought out a few months ago. Confused? Well, imagine sitting on a bmi plane with seatbacks showing the Italian flag and then being served Italian food in Lufthansa packaging. This is the branding equivalent of both engines failing at the same time.

I was asked whether I’d mind sitting by the emergency exit. When I agreed, I was handed some card that told me I was responsible for removing it in the event of disaster. The instructions explained that the door was unhinged and very heavy. Nevertheless, I needed to catch it as it fell towards me and then throw it out of the plane before climbing onto the wing. All I can say is you wouldn’t want anyone unhinged sitting next to this unhinged door. Otherwise it could be laters for all concerned.

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