TRANSFER TO THE TERMINAL
Transport: Mercedes Benz.
Departs from: Right outside the aircraft.
Journey time: About ten minutes.
I emerge from the aircraft to find the First Class and Hon transfer service already waiting. There are two other gentlemen making the journey to the terminal complex with me. The car drops me off at arrivals near the B gates.
From here I take the stairs one floor up and then do a u turn which eventually brings me to immigration. From there I keep on walking until I reach gate B 22, where there are stairs and a lift to go up one floor to the First Class lounge on the B concourse.
Location: Near gate B 22 in the main terminal complex.
Type of Lounge: Dedicated Lufthansa First Class lounge.
Facilities: À la Carte dining restaurant as well as a very extensive and also very tasty buffet of hot and cold dishes, an incredibly well stocked bar, day rooms, shower rooms and bathrooms, lounging area, meeting rooms, smoking room, work stations.
Internet: Wifi is available in the lounge. A password is not required.
I really must hand it to Lufthansa: the lounges at their hub are really brilliant, just like this one. At reception I am welcomed by two friendly receptionist, who immediately take offence at my SWISS boarding pass that had been issued in Basel and immediately replace it with a Lufthansa branded one, which, incidentally, they also place in one of those totally camp, hopelessly useless but still rather nice board pass holders.
Once I settle in, I decide to go freshen up. The lounge is completely deserted, literally. There are only two of us here. Even so, I expect there are probably rarely any queues for the showers – I count at least five shower rooms. Every room is stocked with fresh, soft towels, slippers, bathrobes and some nice toiletries by ETRO.
Once I finish and exit the shower, one of the lounge attendants approaches me and asks me if there is anything I would like to drink. I grab some food from the buffet and make a start on the report. At this time of day there are only cold options at the buffet, with many different antipasti. Eventually I go for a plate with Hummus, Baba Ganouj, grilled asparagus with Parmesan, aubergines Parmigiana and some Asian inspired cucumber salad with chilli and coriander. Very tasty, but I will resist the desserts.
Priority Boarding: At 17:35 I return to reception. One of the lounge ladies accompanies me to the lift. As the doors close she says good bye and wishes me a safe journey. Thank you!
The lift opens again at ground level, where a young man is already expecting me. My driver. This time I shall be travelling in a Porsche Cayenne. This is just so cool. We are moving at a leisurely pace past the A 380s and B 747s lined up at the Z dock before eventually we pull up next ‘Bremen’, which will be flying me to Haneda today.
We enter the building and take the lift one floor up. M., if you are reading this, it is not my fault. Honest! He did not even ask if I wanted to take the stairs instead! My driver accompanies me to the first of the two airbridges attached to our aircraft and wishes me a safe journey.
Configuration: 1 + 1 on the first two rows, 1 + 2 + 1 on the third row.
Pitch: 85 inches.
Width: 31.5 inches.
Facilities: Individual 110V AC power outlet, wifi provided by Skynet.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand, remote control or touch screen operation.
On the Boeing 747-8i, Lufthansa has installed the First Class cabin on the main deck. There are eight seats in total. Due to the curvature of the nose of the aircraft towards the front, there are no seats in the middle on the first two rows, there only being seats 1A/K and 2A/K. There are two seats in the middle on row 3 though.
In the sitting position, the seat has a very open and airy feel to it. However, for more privacy there is a screen that can be raised around the sides and back of the seat.
The cabin and seat are very elegantly appointed, with lots of indirect lighting. The colours are a combination of brown, cream and white, which are soothing and calming.
Apparently the Boeing B 747-8i has a bit of an issue with the insulation, which tends to soak up the humidity in the cabin air. As a result, on long flights the excess liquid has been known to start dripping from the ceiling, earning the aircraft the name ‘Tropfsteinhöhle’ – Stalactite Cave – from the crew.
Of the eight seats, six are already taken when I arrive. At the time boarding is completed, that one seat remains vacant.
The captain comes on the PA to welcome us aboard. He also informs us that the tailwind component on runway 18 is too strong. Subsequently, all departing aircraft are going to have to use runway 25C instead. As a result, we will have to wait on board the aircraft for at least another hour. And indeed, eventually we end up taking off with a delay of ninety minutes over our scheduled departure time.
There is one young lady serving the First Class cabin today. She is friendly, warm and very professional. In short sequence she brings me the slippers, pjs, vanity kit, the macadamia nuts and the orange juice I ask her for.
Later on, when it becomes apparent that there is not going to be any improvement on our departure time, she distributes the menus, takes orders for a second drinks rounds and serves the amuse bouche: crab meat salad with pickled cucumber and roe of flying fish.
Welcome drink on the ground: orange juice with macadamia nut, later still water and plum wine.
Hot towel before the meal: scented hot towel. It is rather a strong and masculine smell.
Pre-meal drink: still water.
Choice: there is a choice between a Japanese meal and a Western meal. In both cases there are two options for the main course.
Delivery: trolley service.
Appearance: the starters are served from a trolley and passengers are free to combine, mix and match as they like.
Type of meal: dinner.
- caviar with trimmings
- marinated asparagus salad
- assorted hams
- smoked fish mousse and cucumber salad
- mixed salad
- selection of bread slices and buns from the bread basket
- steak with fried onions, leek and potato mash
- cheese plate: Cabrissac, Blue Stilton, Pont l’Evêque, Chaource, Felsenkeller with orange chutney
- dessert: manjari chocolate, coffee ice cream and golden nuts
- fresh fruit
All in all, the quality and taste of the food is quite good. My only complaint really, is the presentation of the main course. I mean, look at it! The green makes the leek and potato mash look positively venomous, even though it tastes just fine. A chef once told me that in a decent restaurant, a plate will always be served with an uneven number of items on it. Apparently the eye finds this more appealing. To be honest, I had never really paid much attention, but having seen this main course, I think understand what he meant now.
Hot towel before the meal: yes, another one of those nice hot and scented affairs.
Drinks: orange juice, followed by a choice of filter coffee or cappuccino
- fresh fruit
- cornflakes with milk
- mango and passion fruit curd with passion fruit seed yoghurt
- selection of cheese and cold cuts
- scrambled egg with bacon or chives on demand
The weather in Japan is about as bad as it was in Switzerland yesterday, with the difference that it is much warmer here. 40 minutes out of Haneda we descend into the murky grey below and only emerge underneath the cover of cloud shortly before touchdown.
GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport: Bus line 7.
Departs from: International Terminal.
Journey time: About 40 minutes.
Fare: 569 Yen.
If you are travelling to Yokohama, the easiest way to get there from Haneda is by direct bus. There are even busses that go directly to most of the large hotel chains. However, the frequency of the hotel busses is not so good. So instead, I shall be taking a bus to Yokohama railway station and will try to make my way to the hotel from there.
Alternatively, if you prefer taking the train, take the Keikyu Line to Shinagawa. The journey from Haneda to Shinagawa takes 13 minutes. At Shinagawa, transfer to a JR Tokaido Line train to Yokohama, which makes the journey in about twenty minutes.
So what about my Lufthansa experience? It has been quite a while since my last flight with the carrier, so I was rather curious to see what they are like now, or perhaps what my perception of them is. As far as the ground product goes, I really do think that there is no European carrier that can touch Lufthansa. I think Frankfurt is one huge mess, but if you are travelling in First Class with Lufthansa, none of that really matters and the carrier goes to great lengths to keep you away from the chaos, the hustle and bustle and the crowds.
The inflight product on the other hand, is a different matter. The Boeing B 747-8 is a gorgeous bird, really. I also think it was the right decision by Lufthansa to move the First Class cabin from the upper deck into the nose of the main deck. Having said that, I am not really sure all passengers will equally be ale to appreciate the location of the First Class cabin in the nose of the beast. I was on 1K, so I had the entire cabin behind me. I was also very far away from the noise. But I think If I had been on row 3 I may not have been such a happy bunny, the noise and the light from the galley are quite glaring.
The crew were friendly enough, no complaints there. And the food was good too. But all in all, presentation was lacking and choices were limited. If you do not like meat, you are in serious trouble in Lufthansa First Class.