The grand finale of our two week trip to Europe included a trip on Lufthansa’s A380 from FRA back to SFO. My fiancé and I were super excited for this last part, as neither of us had ever flown on a A380, and we were keen to experience a flight on the biggest commercial plane ever! I planned to use a United systemwide “paper” upgrade converted for use on Lufthansa, but I screwed up, booking a fare code that was ineligible. However, we got extremely lucky, and the gate agent processed our upgrades anyways! Not only were we flying in the largest commercial plane ever – we were doing so in style!
We were late to board, but it was pretty neat going up an escalator to get to an upper boarding level. It was definitely my first time ever boarding a plane on its second floor, and that in itself seemed neat. Coming onto the plane, I did my best to peek my head into First Class, to see that coveted Lufthansa first class experience, but I wasn’t able to see too much. We walked back through the plane, and it was just such a funny experience to me. I had never seen such a huge business class cabin in my entire life (maybe that’s because a larger one does not exist?). I had also never before walked all the way to the back of the plane and still been in a premium cabin. Lufthansa’s A380 is configured with the entire bottom floor as economy seats, and the entire top floor is First Class and Business Class.
And while I knew that Lufthansa (for whatever bonehead reason) decided not to put 180 degree flatbed seats in their A380 Business Class, my second impression was that these seats didn’t look half as nice as United’s International Business Class (examples of my experiences with that are here and here). That didn’t temper my excitement for being on the plane, though! We made our way back to the two seats in the very back middle of the plane. Considering that fifteen minutes earlier, we were expecting to spend the flight on the bottom floor in economy, those seats were just fine with us!
My next impression was that the overhead bin space was incredibly small. The bins were deep, but they were not very tall at all. It’s a good thing most of our bags were checked because there’s no way that our stuff would have fit in those bins.
Before settling in our seats, we grabbed a few “first time in the a380 obligatory pics.”
After sitting down, my next impression was that the personal screen was not very large. Not only was it small, but it was also at an awkward angle I had to look down to see it. Considering that we were in a state of the art plane, I was especially surprised how NOT state of the art the seats were.
Exploring my personal space for the next few minutes, I found the amenity kit. I am used to amenity kits being in small cloth bags, but this was a tin with a picture of the A380 on it. Very nice! It will make a good pencil holder or something like that.
Looking to my armrest on the right, I found the controls for my seat and in-flight entertainment.
It looks like the same company that makes this system for Lufthansa also makes it for United, Virgin America, Air Canada, and countless other airlines, as it was immediately familiar to me. I turned on the back massager, and then pre-departure beverages were delivered. Despite it being morning time, champagne seemed like a great idea.
As we got ready for takeoff, I enjoyed my champagne and flipped through the in-flight entertainment, looking for the A380 plane cam. It’s actually pretty neat. There are three different live video cameras mounted on the A380, and you can watch them whenever you like. They’re obviously most interesting during takeoff and landing. There’s one mounted on the top of the tail, giving you a view of the fuselage. There’s one mounted under the plane, giving a not-so-great view of the tarmac, but this is the neatest view after you take off. I don’t recall where the third camera was, but there definitely was one.
Take-off on the A380 was a special event. I was bummed to not be near the window, but it felt pretty cool, knowing that I was taking off on the largest commercial plane ever. I expected the plane to spend a longer time on the runway than it did, actually. I don’t have any actual numbers about how long an A380 needs to take off, but it seemed to take off quicker than a 747. Maybe it was just in my head or the fact that I didn’t have a view out the window. Liftoff was smooth, and the big bird was in the air.
Service commenced soon after takeoff, and we received the menu below.
I decided on the schlutzkrapfen. This was my first premium cabin experience on Lufthansa so I was surprised by the “lunchbox” style presentation. I suppose calling it a lunchbox isn’t really fair, but your appetizer comes out in a box. Once they take the top of the box off, you can see the box sectioned into three different areas, each with a different appetizer. The appetizers were tasty, and the main course soon followed.
The schlutzkrapfen came out on its own plate, and I must say that I appreciated it not being a standard “airplane plate.” Whether on Air Canada or United, they both have the small-ish oval plates that fit nicely on the tray. Having a real plate for my meal was a nice touch. And not only did it come out on its own plate, but it also tasted delicious! It isn’t that ambitious of a meal… dumplings with browned butter and melted cheese, but nevertheless, it was quite well prepared.
While eating, I watched “Hanna” on the screen in front of me. Like I mentioned earlier, I was not a fan of the screen elevation. I had to look downward to see it, and the screen was quite small. Contrast this with United’s Business Class seats, where the screen is huge and at eye level. This lets you work on your computer and still have a great view of the screen behind it. You can’t do that with Lufthansa’s A380 Business Class setup. I found desert to be rather disappointing. United typically has ice cream in Business Class, and Air Canada has one of the best chocolate lava cakes I have ever had. Instead, Lufthansa had a choice of cheese & crackers, polenta cake, and fruit salad. I wanted something sweet, and the polenta cake looked weak – I went with the fruit salad. Boring. They also brought some truffles.
My attempts to explore the plane were limited. I walked as far up in the cabin as I could, and then on my way back, I tried to go down the spiral staircase to check out Economy class, but the spiral staircase was barricaded the whole flight.
Lufthansa really does a solid job of keeping the cabins separate, but I would have loved to walk down the staircase, if for no other reason than the fact that I’ve never been on a spiral staircase on a plane! My next stop was the bathroom. I wondered if Lufthansa did anything interesting with the A380 bathroom. In first class on the Emirates A380, there is a full shower! In Air Canada Executive First, the bathroom has tile (or at least “fake tile”) flooring and a window. Unfortunately, the Lufthansa A380 Business Class bathroom is just like any other airplane bathroom. The one neat feature was a cool LED based system on the faucet for choosing how hot or cold you want the water to be. You just move your finger along the light strip to determine temperature.
After watching a movie, eating my meal, and attempting to explore the plane, I settled in for a rest. I turned the seat into a “bed” and reclined it as best as I could. As I mentioned earlier, Lufthansa did not install full 180 degree flat beds in business class. Instead, they opted to go with “angled flat” beds. It was better than I had expected, but once again, it really couldn’t compare to the comfort I find that United’s International Business Class gives. I slept for only a couple hours, but that’s not unexpected, given that it is a day-time flight. After waking up, I listened to some music, wrote some blog posts, and generally relaxed. It was during this time that the Lufthansa Flight Attendant informed me that they had run out of Diet Coke. What?! Who runs out of Diet Coke!? Terrible news!
As we got closer to landing, they came to bring us our choice of a snack before we touched down. I chose the wrap and a bit of cherry cake. The wrap was good. I believe it had some sort of curry flavor it it, and the cherry cake was average.
As we got closer and closer, I became anxious, ready to get back home. As the plane descended into SFO, I again had the sensation of how neat it was to be flying on such a beast of an airplane. The landing was extremely smooth, and we were back at home. All in all, it was a great flight, especially considering that we were expecting to have spent it in the back of the plane, but I think my expectations were a bit too high. I think I expected my A380 experience to be magic in the sky, and in reality, once in my seat, it was just like being in any other floating cylinder.
Apparently, companies like Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and Qantas all think that they have magic in the sky as well, as they all block first class award availability on the A380. I think once the hype dies down, these companies will open award inventory on these planes just like all the other planes. I’m happy to say I’ve been on the A380. Now it’s time to set my sights on the next hot new plane: the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. And actually, I’m quite keen to try out one of the new A320 Neo planes.