I arrived back home from a business trip to Montreal yesterday afternoon. I should have arrived in the morning but I was travelling via Heathrow and with the snow there and the fog in Zürich the flight was delayed by more than two hours and I ended up reaching Zürich in the early afternoon. But it doesn’t matter, the important thing is that I made it back to Switzerland on time because today, finally, I’m off on holiday.
First of all, courtesy of the great circle mapper, here’s the itinerary:
This review is about the first part of my journey from Basel via Frankfurt to San Francisco in Lufthansa First Class.
Date: 24. January 2013
To: San Francisco
Aircraft: Boeing B 747-400
Cabin: First Class
Seat: 81H, first row, right hand side
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Our story begins with me emerging from a Canadair Regional Jet. It’s just gone nine o’clock. It’s a lovely winter’s morning with a slight nip in the air here in Frankfurt. I disembark from the aircraft to find the Porsche Cayenne First Class pick up already expecting me.
No matter where your connecting flight will be leaving from, the First Class pick will always drop you off at Terminal B arrivals, if you’re coming from a Schengen country. From there it’s quite a trek to the new A+ dock and the Z gates on the upper level of the dock.
The First Class lounge is inconveniently located on the Schengen level and passengers are not taken to the aircraft by car if their flight is departing from one of the Z gates. So if you visit the First Class lounge, make sure you plan ahead. You will still need to go through passport control so better make sure you have enough time. At least there is no further security check to reach the Z gates.
I arrive at the gate at 09h40 and boarding has already begun for our 10:15 departure. First Class passengers may board at their leisure through an automatic gate. In my case however, there is a slight hiccup to get on the plane because my visa details were not complete. But the issue is soon sorted.
There are two airbridges attached to the aircraft. The left one is marked First and Business Class while the right is for all Economy Class passengers. Lufthansa has its First Class on the upper deck of the B 747-400. The stairs leading you to the upper deck are located right by the second boarding door. Therefore, it actually makes more sense to use the Economy Class airbridge, even if it means standing in the queue. Otherwise, if you use the First and Business Class airbridge, you will still need to pass through half the Business Class cabin to reach the stairs.
There is a further security check in the airbridge, where all passengers have the name on their passport checked against the one on their boarding pass.
THE CABIN AND SEAT
As I climb up the stairs and turn the corner, I am delighted to find that I shall be travelling today on an aircraft with the new First Class cabin.
The first thing that strikes you upon reaching the upper deck and doing a u turn into the cabin, is the large bed that has replaced what used to be the window seat. This also means that there are only aisle seats to give you more privacy when lying in bed. The B 747-400 is the only type of the Lufthansa fleet to have this feature, which is essentially a compromise between revamping the First Class product to make it more competitive but without having to move it downstairs as on the B 747-8i.
Surprisingly, apart from the most obvious feature – the bed – there are quite a few subtle differences between the seat I’m sitting in and the one installed on the A 380: the seat controls are slightly different and so is the little tray table mounted on the armrest.
And the stowage space is not as ample as on the A 380, but Lufthansa has obviously put a lot of effort into maximising passenger space. Apart form the overhead bin there is further stowage space in one of the armrests and there is even a drawer under the bed.
The flight attendant comes to welcome me aboard and asks me what I’d like to drink. I ask for a glass of sparkling water, which she brings me with a bowl of nuts.
She then returns with the pyjamas, earphones and slippers.
Our departure is to the east and judging by the long take-off roll we must be rather heavy. From Frankfurt our course takes us on a northerly course for Bremen, from where we turn in a northwesterly direction and out to the open sea.
Once the seatbelt sign goes off, service continues with the distributions of the scented hot towels and the menu. The purser comes to introduce herself. She’d wanted to before but I was still on the phone to my dear old mum. The purser wishes me a pleasant flight and hopes I’ll enjoy my stay on board.
The crew on this flight are friendly and professional in their attitude. They do an excellent job of making passengers feel at home and give the impression that no request is ever too much.
After my last experience with Lufthansa to Tokyo in First Class I am not really quite sure what to expect in terms of food on this flight. But I must say the sequence of the meal and the quality and quantity of the food are rather good.
To start we have an amuse bouche, served with a glass of sparkling water. Unfortunately I forget to ask what the dish is and I can’t make out all the flavours. It’s veal with some creamy filling. The green stuff on the side tastes like some kind of kiwi jelly.
The first course is the caviar with traditional garnishes.
For the second course I have an étagère with three different dishes:
- Salmon confit and egg salad with Belgian vinaigrette. Very good, especially the vinaigrette.
- Creamy chicken salad with sweet potato and tarragon crème fraîche. This is a bit strange and there is gelatine in it. I don’t finish it.
- Vegetable terrine with avocado salad and cherry tomato confit.
After that comes the salad of mixed leaf with grilled bell pepper and zucchini, bleu d’auvergne cheese and asparagus with walnuts and a vinaigrette dressing.
And then for the main course I have the cod on lemon verbena with braised chicory and brandade. This is a very tasty dish, the sauce is well balanced and complements the fish perfectly.
I skip the cheese and just have dessert, which today is an outstanding Tarte Tatin with Tahiti vanilla sauce and ice cream.
The dessert is accompanied with Earl Grey tea, which is served in a small porcelain teapot. And as usual, I demolish the two pralines before I remember to take a picture of them.
And then I decide to lie down and have a nap. The bed is tremendously comfortable, for the simple reasons that it feels like real bed and not a chair cunningly disguised as a bed, which is what most First Class seats are today.
Just under two hours out of San Francisco a piping hot refreshing towel is placed before me, and the crew start preparing the cabin for the second service. There is a separate menu for this service.
For the first course there is a selection of dishes to choose from and which are served from a trolley. I have the pasta with spinach and garlic, some coleslaw and a cold crab cake with guacamole and a mango and ginger chutney. It’s an interesting and tasty meal, with a combination of unusual flavours and tastes. Especially the crab cake is quite excellent.
There are two choices for the main course. I go with the red snapper with grilled bell peppers and mini zucchini and sweet potato purée, with a drizzle of olive oil and a black olive tapenade. This dish impresses me. It’s a nice piece of fish and it has remained juicy and flavourful.
And then for dessert I have a slice of white brownie with figs and dates with whipped cream and some mango on the side. An espresso completes the meal.
After that I change back into my normal clothes and start collecting and repacking my things ahead of our arrival into San Francisco.
Lufthansa certainly redeemed itself on this flight. Perhaps the most obvious point to start with is the new cabin and seat. As I already mentioned above, I think it’s quite apparent that Lufthansa has put a lot of thought into designing a cabin that is both comfortable and functional. I think that is quite apparent from the fact that on the new B 747-8i they have taken the very wise decision to move First Class downstairs into the nose and use the upper deck for more Business Class seats instead.
The seat and bed are tremendously comfortable. I could have spent hours in that bed with my iTunes, Kindle and the spectacular vista outside.
The food is also much improved over my last experience in December. The selection of dishes was very good and all the dishes were quite tasty, except for the chicken salad. But that was not because it was badly prepared but because I don’t like gelatine. The red snapper I had for the second service is worth mentioning. It was simply excellent.
As for the crew, I thought they were nice. They obviously take their job seriously and made a point of keeping all the passengers happy. Of course it helped that only five of the eight seats were occupied.
From San Francisco I continue my journey with United Airlines to Las Vegas in domestic First Class. The experience is certainly interesting, shall we say. I spend the night in Las Vegas at the Hotel Bellagio, which, in my personal view, is the epitome of bad taste. The next day I pick up a car and head out of the city towards the Amangiri, a hotel located about 20 minutes out of Page, Utah. From Las Vegas it’s a five hours drive through some of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen, including the Zion National Park.