Lufthansa, First Class – Boeing B 747-8i: Frankfurt to Tokyo Haneda

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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.

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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.

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LOUNGE
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.

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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.

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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.

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BOARDING
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.

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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.

CABIN
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.

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SERVICE

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.

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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.

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THE MEAL
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.
Meal:

  • 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

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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.

SECOND SERVICE
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
Meal:

  • 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

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ARRIVAL
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.

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GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Bus line 7.
Departs from: International Terminal.
Frequency: -.
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.

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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.

CONCLUSION
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.

Lufthansa, First Class – B 747-8: Hong Kong to Frankfurt

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Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft:
Boeing B 747-8
Cabin:
First Class
Seat:
1K
From:
Hong Kong
To:
Frankfurt
Date:
25. August 2013
Departure:
23:10
Arrival:
05:20 (+1)

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

At 20:45 the shuttle leaves from the Novotel to take me back to the airport. There are only two other passengers with me.

I like the design of the terminal structure, it’s really quite impressive.

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CHECK-IN

Check-in for the Lufthansa flight is done in row F, with two First Class counters on the far left. The check-in agent issues my boarding passes for the flight to Frankfurt and the onward connection to Basel. She also hands me a voucher for the golf cart shuttle through the terminal. I still have some time on my hands, and so I decide to walk instead.

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Once check-in is completed, I am escorted to the security check. On our way, the young lady escorting me explains to me that I have a choice of either using the United Airlines lounge or the Thai Airways one. I decide to go for the latter. It’s the same lounge I sat in the day before on my way from Hong Kong to Bangkok with Thai Airways. I will be picked up from the lounge once boarding commences.

THE LOUNGE

There is one other passenger in the First Class section of the lounge. One of the lounge attendants immediately brings me a menu and asks me if I’d like a drink. I order a Perrier with lime and to eat a selection of dim sum.

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BOARDING

True to her word, the escort appears to pick me up about thirty minutes before departure. As we reach the gate there are already two long queues forming for boarding. But the intrepid young lady takes my boarding pass and marches right past the queue to the counter with the scanner. The gate attendant scans my pass and I am cleared to board.

THE CABIN

This is my first experience with the B747-8 and I’m rather curious to see how the First Class cabin compares to that of the older -400 model, with First on the upper deck. There are three window seats on each side of the cabin and one double seat in the middle.

The first impression is good. For one, there is a lot more storage space than there is upstairs. For another, I always find it a bit iffy that a First Class passenger – once on board – should have to schlepp his luggage through the Business Class cabin and then up those stairs. So that’s certainly an improvement. As on the A 380, Lufthansa has also provided individual lockers for passengers.

On the downside, the cabin down here seems more cramped and less intimate. I am on 1K, which is in the tip of the beast’s nose, where the curvature is most pronounced. The proximity here to 1A is a bit too close for me.

Generally speaking, one thing that has always bothered me with Lufthansa, is the complete lack of privacy in First Class. There is of course a screen that can be raised. But even so, compared to the seat Malaysian has on the A 380, you’re still quite exposed as a passenger.

But all of this shall not be of any concern on tonight’s flight, as there are only two other passengers in First tonight, both of which have settled in on row two.

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SERVICE

Service in the First Class cabin is by a friendly German young woman. She’s very pleasant in her manner, she strikes a balance between making passengers feel at home, without however being intrusive.

At my request, she brings me a glass of water, together with a bowl of nuts and a plate with a warm towel. The rose petal on the plate with the towel is an elegant touch I find.

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After that, in sequence, she brings me the pjs, slippers and the vanity kit. Since my last trip with Lufthansa to San Francisco in January, they appear to have changed the vanity kit and replaced it with something by Bogner. It looks just as boring as the previous one to be honest.

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DEPARTURE

Traffic is quite busy in Hong Kong at this time of night (we’re approaching midnight). Finally, behind the British Airways and Virgin flights to London and a Hog Kong Airways A 330 it’s our turn. The departure route seems somewhat circuitous. We take off in a northerly direction and then initially turn eastwards, then southwards before eventually turning north-westwards in an elegant, wide turn. It’s stunning to watch the clouds lit up by the city below them.

THE MEAL

The flight attendant brings me an amuse bouche of crabmeat with roe in a steamed bun and the menu with that.

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As she sets the table I can’t but notice that Lufthansa has done quite a bit of revamping of it’s product. It’s small things, like the new cutlery or the napkin holder. All in all I like the changes, they make the experience more elegant. Apart from the butter dish there is now also a dish with olive oil.

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I choose a slice of garlic bread and some focaccia from the breadbasket, and then we begin.

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The first course is the signature caviar service with trimmings.

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For the second course I have a small dish of smoked salmon with blinis, a bowl of mushrooms marinated in rosemary infused olive oil with crème fraîche and a salad of mixed leaves with pine nuts and dried tomatoes. Just of word of caution here: I go for the tomato dressing, which comes in a jar and is produced by Heinz. Whatever you do, at all costs try to avoid this dressing. It’s an abomination!

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On a side note, the étagère the second course(s) used to be served on has been replaced by a rectangular platter.

For the main course I have the braised beef in a red wine juice, with grilled vegetables and potato gnocchi. The sides are okay, but the beef is just way too fatty and so I leave most of it.

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For dessert I have a plate of cheese with crackers. I opt for the Stilton, Cheddar and Brie. While the cheese is rather nice, it would have been good to have some dried fruit or, better still, a bit of chutney with the cheese.

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After the meal I go and change for bed. When I return, the flight attendant has already made up my bed. I lie down and only wake up again much later, three hours out of Frankfurt.

Two hours out of Frankfurt the flight attendant brings me a coffee with milk and sugar, followed be a hot towel to wake me up and a glass of orange juice. She then dresses the table for the breakfast service.

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I start with a plate of fresh fruit.

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This is followed by a selection of cheese with bread and toast.

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For the hot dish, I have an omelette with tomato coulis and broccoli.

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To drink I have mint infused still water, which is very refreshing.

ARRIVAL

Once the meal has been cleared away, I busy myself with collecting my stuff from the various stowage compartments and make a few notes for the last in this series of trip reports.

We arrive at gate A69, which at the far end of the newly opened A+ concourse. From here it’s quite a trek where ever you’re going. But that’s alright, it’ll do me good to stretch my legs after the flight and my onward connection to Basel is not for another four hours.

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So I make my way to the First Class lounge. First thing I do, is have a shower. Perhaps I should send these to British Airways…

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CONNECTION TO BASEL

Eventually, at 09:15 I head over to the pick up area for passengers being driven to their aircraft. Which is the case here, as a Canadair Regional Jet, using a remote parking position, will operate my flight today.

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I shan’t do a full report on this last leg, after all it’s only a hop of 35 minutes. I have here a few pictures from our departure and of the meal.

I am delighted to see that Lufthansa has finally decided to improve its catering on shorthaul regional routes: instead of those fully disposable plastic and cardboard trays, this meal here is served on real crockery, with real cutlery. And it even tastes good. So well done for that Lufthansa.

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CLOSING REMARKS

This brings to an end my excursion to Australia. For those of you have joined me along the way, thanks for your interest and also for your patience and endurance.

So how does one bring to an appropriate close such wonderful journey? Here’s my suggestion. While I was at Uluru I visited the Cultural Centre of the Anangu People. The centre is certainly worth visiting. During my visit, there was a woman sitting outside, working on a painting of the Seven Sisters, which is a story from the Dreamtime. There was something so serene about the concentration and accuracy with which she worked on her painting. I feel very fortunate in that this lady accepted my offer to buy the picture from her once she’d finished it. To me, this picture is the essence of my journey to Australia.

– William

The Seven Sisters, by Teresa Curtis

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