Lufthansa First Class is only my second true First Class experience, so I eagerly anticipated this flight for weeks. My former colleague Matthew of Live and Let’s Fly reports a consistently high level of service since 2009; that just further added to my anticipation, and how it might compare to Air France La Première. The verdict: I don’t quite put it on the level of La Première. But it’s a very solid and “safe” option for a First Class experience. As a reminder, I used 87,000 Avianca Lifemiles, transferred from Citi, for this flight.
Brad flew this same flight in reverse back in 2012, so make sure to check out his review as well.
Note: this post is part of my trip report covering my trip to Germany in March, 2019. Click here for the introductory post and trip report index.
Lufthansa (LH) Flight 418
- Sunday, March 10, 2019
- Depart: Flughafen Frankfurt (FRA), Gate Z54, 12:58, 8m late
- Arrive: Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Concourse B, Gate B45, 16:46, 4m early
- Duration: 8 hours 48 minutes
- Seat: 2A
- Equipment: Boeing 747-8i
Check-In and Boarding
In Frankfurt, I took advantage of Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal for check-in formalities. I’ll cover the FCT experience in a separate post, so I won’t say much here. Lufthansa sometimes engages in seat shenanigans if a HON Circle member wants your seat. I watched my seat like a hawk leading up to the flight, and fortunately nothing happened this time. Anyway, an agent warmly welcomed me, checked me in, and brought me to the FCT’s private security checkpoint while she printed my boarding pass. With that complete, she escorted me into the lounge and gave me a quick tour. Finally, she let me know that she’d return about 12:15 to escort me to the plane.
Sure enough, at the appointed time, she whisked me away to the gorgeous Queen of the Skies.
Suffice to say, I normally hate dealing with Frankfurt Airport, but Lufthansa makes it easy.
Lufthansa First Class Seating and Interior
After stepping on board, the purser welcomed me and escorted me to my seat, 2A. I’ve flown the 747 on the upper deck, but never in the nose of the lower deck. I’ll admit, it’s a little odd sitting at the front of a plane with no cockpit door in front of you. Anyway, First Class on the 747-8i consists of two rows in a 1-1 configuration, and one in a 1-2-1 configuration. If you’re traveling with someone, you’ll want to book the two middles in the last row. Some may find the cabin design boring, but personally I like it. It’s clean and understated, and the yellow and blue are distinctly Lufthansa.
Unlike some other designs, Lufthansa First Class seats don’t include doors. The seat design somewhat reminds me of La Première on the A380, though the 1-1 setup in the first two rows makes it more private.
The seats are starting to show their age just a little, but overall still look quite elegant. Lufthansa’s First Class seats measure an impressive 31 inches wide, with 83 inches of pitch. I found the seat quite comfortable in both upright and reclined mode. Particularly in reclined mode, where the generous padding made it feel like sitting in a La-Z-Boy at home.
Meanwhile, the remote for the seat controls is in the right-side armrest. Basic controls are at the top of the armrest. I found the controls intuitive and easy to use.
Lufthansa places its signature red rose at each seat. As you can see, there’s an immense amount of legroom, even in full upright mode.
As for storage, each seat includes two storage compartments. The first is a small but deep netted box on the panel nearest the window. This box is conveniently located close to the power port (shown later), providing a handy space to charge phones or tablets out of the way.
The second is another cabinet underneath the ottoman. This box is large enough to store a laptop computer or small backpack.
Overall, I found in-seat storage more than adequate. When it comes to storage for larger carry-ons, you can of course use the overhead bins. However, Lufthansa also provides a dedicated storage locker for First Class passengers.
After my lunch feast (more on that later), I asked the FA to place the seat in bed mode. The seat is fully flat, with a maximum bed length of 83″. In other words, plenty long enough for pretty much anybody. I also found the mattress pad and duvet exceptionally comfortable. I napped soundly for about three hours. The cabin did get a little warm, though. That doesn’t bother me, but FYI in case it’s an issue for you.
When in bed mode, a partition curves around the side to provide some privacy from your neighbor.
The divider only provides a partial solution, however. If your neighbor keeps their partition down, you can see right into their seat and vice versa.
The 747-8i comes equipped with blackout window blinds, which do an excellent job darkening your sleeping space.
Lufthansa currently provides Windsor amenity kits in First Class. It’s too bad they ditched the Rimowa kits, but apparently the contents remain the same. It consists of La Prairie products, and typical items like an eyemask and ear plugs. As is my custom, I plan on reviewing the kit in a separate post.
Lufthansa also provides Van Laack branded pajamas. I agree with Brad in his amenity kit review that the top feels pretty warm for pajamas. Though as someone who’s constantly cold, I actually like it. The trousers come in a reusable bag.
The First Class lavatories, located between the First and Business cabins, features a few nice touches. First, you have the distinctive Lufthansa rose in one corner.
Additionally, the lavatories contain a supply of Evian products.
Finally, who doesn’t love a lavatory window?
Lufthansa First Class seats include an oversized TV screen in the seatback with excellent resolution.
The IFE remote is in the left-side armrest, with basic controls at the top of the armrest. I only wish it was a newer system with a mini-screen on the remote, thus allowing you to watch a show and the moving map at the same time.
Each seat includes two USB ports and two 110V universal outlets on the left side of the seat. The location conveniently allows you to place a phone or tablet in the armrest storage box while charging.
Lufthansa also provides a very nice set of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. Like the headphones in La Première, they are hard-wired into the seat. So, no dice if you want to plug them in to your own device.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of the IFE selections. The system contains a fair number of movies, TV shows, games, etc., though not as extensive some Middle Eastern/Asian carriers. Nevertheless, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
Lufthansa offers free WiFi to First Class passengers. While not unusably slow as others report, I wouldn’t call it fast, either. I managed to pull up cat photos on Instagram, for instance, but couldn’t play cat videos. Passengers in other cabins can buy flight passes from €7 to €29. The two higher priced plans contain data caps, but reasonable ones at that (500 MB and 1 GB, respectively).
Lufthansa First Class – Food & Beverage
Now we get to the good stuff – the veritable feast on board. The party began with the offer of a pre-departure beverage of choice. As usual, I asked for champagne for the champagne selfie.
At the time, Lufthansa served Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Rare 2002. It’s a highly regarded champagne that retails for about $150 a bottle. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of champagne, only indulging pre-flight out of habit. But I actually enjoyed this one, with a crisp, dry, even slightly bready flavor. I believe Lufthansa since switched to Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle – hardly a slouch, either.
Before departure, our flight attendant handed out menus for lunch and pre-landing snack service. Lufthansa First Class offers true dine-on-demand service; you can order what you want, when you want it.
I requested a “traditional” serving shortly after take-off. Meal service began with a warm towel. I thought the rose petal was a nice, classy touch.
Shortly thereafter, the FA brought macadamia nuts and a choice of beverage. I went with the König Ludwig dunkel beer. Hey, what’s more German than beer with your pre-meal nuts? (If you like amber beer, this dunkel is a good one.)
Next came a salmon amuse bouche. Fish isn’t my thing, but it was alright, and a decent table setter.
Next, for the appetizer, I selected the mixed salad. Yes, I know, passing on caviar in First Class is blasphemous. I don’t like it, though, and detest wasting food just for the sake of a photo. Anyway, the fresh salad hit the spot, especially after a pretty heavy meal in the lounge earlier.
The appetizer course came with a choice of bread, and I selected garlic bread. It was, quite simply, fantastic, with a perfect crispy crust/chewy center combination.
I also ordered the carrot saffron soup with shrimp. Also delicious, with a hearty base and extra richness courtesy of the shrimp.
For the main course, I selected the duck leg with Szechuan pepper sauce, figs, and a corn patty. I find duck difficult to pull off on a plane, as it gets painfully dry when overcooked. However, Lufthansa got this one mostly right, tender with a hint of spice (but definitely not spicy). My only complaint: skin that was a little limp. For drinks, I switched to an excellent Künstler riesling. Note: if you’re thinking about the Wiener schnitzel, you can get the same dish in the First Class Terminal.
Feeling pretty full by this point, I decided to go with the cheese plate over desert. I enjoyed all the cheeses except the Le Cabrissac (goat cheese), and kudos to Lufthansa for including a genuine Tyrolean Alpine cheese (the felsenkeller). I complemented the cheese with a single malt scotch, perhaps the only disappointing part of the meal. It’s OK, but in First Class, I expected something a little smokier.
The FA brought a couple of chocolates after clearing my last plate.
Lunch took approximately 2 hours from start to finish, just fine for a daytime westbound flight. But keep in mind, the experience is fully customizable. You can make it as quick or drawn-out as you desire. With a daytime flight, I wanted to savor the experience.
After this feast, I crashed for about 3 hours. Shortly after waking up, I ordered a cappuccino. I’m not nearly the coffee snob that Matthew is, but it’s a good, strong cappuccino.
About 2 1/2 hours before landing, I requested my mid-flight snack. I strongly considered the turkey burger, but ended up settling on the spuntino instead. A perfect assortment for this cold cuts and cheese addict.
This time, I selected a simple pretzel from the bread basket. Not quite as good as the one I enjoyed on the street in Mainz, but still a hearty, tasty snack.
Overall, this was a fantastic meal from start to finish. Whether Lufthansa beats out Air France depends on your personal tastes; they both execute the First Class meal experience very, very well.
Lufthansa First Class Service
This is what really won the day. No, I didn’t find the same over-the-top service Matthew encountered on his recent flight to Los Angeles. But I still regarded the service as the best I’ve experienced in the sky. It began shortly after boarding, when the the First Class flight attendant, Carolina, introduced herself, offered a beverage, and then asked if she could store my bag. Shortly thereafter, the purser, an affable gentleman, came by to introduce himself. After asking if I’d flown Lufthansa First Class before, he gave me a quick overview of the seat and the service flow. So far, so good.
Carolina was the real star of the show. It’s hard to describe, but she provided genuinely warm, “down home” service. She seemed to genuinely want her passengers to enjoy the on-board experience. Rather than being pretentious, she treated her passengers like guests in her own home. And she seemed proud to represent Lufthansa. Perhaps sensing my excitement for my trip, she graciously offered to take my photo prior to the meal service.
In addition, I observed her responding well to each of her passenger’s wishes – doting service for those who wanted it, less for those who wanted to rest. First Class went out with 5 of 8 seats occupied, so it’s not like she was short of work.
Shortly before landing, both Carolina and the purser approached each passenger to thank them for flying with Lufthansa. I made sure to compliment Carolina’s service to the purser when he came by. He didn’t seem surprised at all; in fact, he mentioned he consistently hears accolades about her service.
Unfortunately, I enjoyed limited flightseeing opportunities on this flight. Clouds soon obscured the view leaving Frankfurt, which didn’t clear consistently until reaching Maryland on final approach. I enjoyed the planespotting while taxiing in Frankfurt, including a Lufthansa A340 and an Emirates A380.
Persistent morning rain in Frankfurt lifted just in time for takeoff, though some lingering convective clouds remained in the area.
On approach to Washington, we enjoyed nice views of the Potomac River crossing from Maryland to Virginia.
And finally, more planeporn heading to the gate at Dulles. This time, an Etihad 777 and a South African A330-300.
I’ve been highly critical of Lufthansa in the past for indifferent service and a poor product in both Economy and Business. But this flight was a different experience altogether. Good ground service, fantastic on-board service, and fantastic food & beverage made for one heck of a flight. I probably still give the edge to Air France for superior ground handling, and a better hard product on the 777. But Lufthansa provides a consistently high-quality product in all aspects.
The one drawback – while not as difficult to book as La Première or Swiss First Class, Lufthansa First Class isn’t exactly easy, either. I lucked out and booked a seat when Lufthansa briefly opened the availability floodgates last May. But typically, you can only book seats through partner programs at most 15 days in advance. Lufthansa makes seats readily available to Miles & More members, but a lack of transfer partners provides limited utility for the program. More typically, availability only opens up 1-3 days before departure. Nevertheless, if you’re willing to take the chance, the cost in miles is relatively modest. Just 87,000 Lifemiles (only taxes charged) or 70,000 Aeroplan miles (fuel surcharges of about $200 added) gets you a seat.