TRIP REPORT: San Francisco - Belgrade


Written by Aleksandar Stojanović


- Amtrak: Roseville Station (RSV) - Richmond Amtrak Station (RIC)
- BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit): Richmond Station to SFO
- United UA 58: San Francisco (SFO) to Frankfurt (FRA), Economy Class
- Lufthansa LH 1406: Frankfurt (FRA) to Belgrade (BEG), Economy Class

My trip begins at 6 am after a sleepless night when my friend dropped me off at the local Amtrak station. The route is called the “Capitol Corridor” and it is a high frequency service between the Sacramento area and the Bay Area. The price for the ticket was $31. Travel time was slightly under 2 hours.

At Richmond Station I transferred from the Amtrak train to the local BART. The BART train is somewhat of a hybrid between a metro and a suburban railway and connects the peripheral areas of San Francisco and Oakland to the city center. An interesting feature of this system is that the track is broad gauge (1676mm) instead of standard gauge (1435mm). The price for going from Richmond to the Airport was $11. Fares are calculated by distance between stations and trips that begin or end at SFO or Oakland Airport are substantially more expensive than other trips.

I am very familiar with SFO because I often use this airport when traveling to Europe. The international terminal is modern and nice but it is greatly lacking in restaurant options. I was rather disappointed to see that this problem was exacerbated by Covid-19 because all but two of the restaurants were closed. My disappointment was short-lived once I noticed that there was a new open-air viewing platform that had opened up since I had last traveled. Since I had a long time to wait before my flight began and because the airport was rather empty (international travel has not recovered yet) I took this opportunity to grab a quick nap on one of the lounge chairs.

The plane waiting for me at the gate was N27958 of United Airlines, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with an age of 5.8 years. Boarding was smooth and takeoff was with 30 minutes delay. I must complain that United Airlines has removed ALL ability to choose or change your seat for free on international flights. Since I am 1.96m this is quite a disappointment for me. Usually I have very good results when asking a gate agent to change my seat to one with an exit row or bulkhead in front but the gate agents said they are unable to do that. Despite this, the legroom was adequate for myself.

The flight was actually very well filled. United has removed any free-of-charge checked baggage on their lowest fare classes on international flights so finding overhead bin space was difficult. The cabin was in good condition and well cleaned.

Shortly after takeoff the flight attendants served soft drinks. After that they came by with the main meal. The two options are Pasta and Chicken. I have eaten these meals multiple times and I am unsure if United served anything other than these meals to their economy passengers on longhaul flights.

The sunlight rapidly disappeared as we went eastwards. The cabin crew dimmed the windows and lights on the dreamliner and this made a very pleasant experience for sleeping. The dreamliner has a more favorable cabin atmosphere and less noisy engines so sleeping is easier than in some other airplanes.

When we were somewhere over the Northwest Atlantic the cabin crew came around with sandwiches. When they arrived at my row, they explained that they were out of sandwiches and thus had to come back. Unfortunately, they had forgotten to come back to serve this row. About half an hour later once the entire plane was served, I realized what had happened and I flagged down a flight attendant and requested a sandwich. The hospitality was quite poor because they gave me the impression that I was bothering them. I asked for a vegetarian sandwich for my sister and they were reluctant to go search for one (they said they believed they were out of those). Once I insisted, they later returned with a vegetarian sandwich for her to eat.

When the airplane was nearing Ireland the cabin crew came around once more to serve breakfast. This consisted of Yogurt and a biscuit. Eventually we arrived in Frankfurt and the pilot taxied the aircraft to a remote stand.

The flight attendants instructed everyone to remain in their seats until 19 passengers that were going to Nairobi exited the plane. Our plane was late in arrival and other passengers also had short connecting flights so many of the passengers were visibly agitated by the slow pace. Luckily it seems that many flights out of FRA were running on a delay including my flight to Belgrade thus I made it onto my connecting flight.

The Lufthansa flight from FRA to BEG was on an A319-100. The flight attendant said that the flight was 109% booked which sounds very high to me. Perhaps there were standby passengers. Finding overhead bin space was a challenge again. The cabin crew served each passenger a 10 gram chocolate and a water bottle. The flight was uneventful other than some heavy turbulence that caused some passengers (including the lady seated next to me) to feel sick. There was no vomit bag close by (I notice that these are less common now) but luckily she found a plastic bag.

Overall this was a long and very exhausting trip. I was happy to be on the ground again.

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  1. Anonymous09:08

    Nice and detailed trip report, thank you!
    Interesting that you used a remote stand in Frankfurt, I am surprised you didn't get an airbridge.
    No wonder Lufthansa boosted FRA-BEG to A321 this July. Loads seem to be really healthy on the route.

    1. Anonymous21:35

      MUC is also increased nect week with 5 weekly on the A319 and one A320.

  2. Anonymous10:14

    I like airports with the terrace and this with sunbad ist totally cool. This LH catering if we can call this catering is like they joking with passengers

    1. Anonymous10:43

      I wonder what prices for other things are like.

  3. Anonymous17:42

    Thank you, great trip report.

  4. "Chicken or pasta?"--i totally hear you. For some reason, United can't come up with a way to more creatively brand their menu. An ex-USSR crew would've done a better job:-)
    The entitlement and lack of customer focus of the flight crew is a total United product. I fly United b/c it's convenient and safe, but their flight attendants are a total turn-off.

    1. Anonymous09:17

      I think that's the same with Lufthansa. Their product isn't great, their crew is rude but they have a wide network and they are the most convenient.


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