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

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Transfer in Frankfurt

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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The Lufthansa First Class 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

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.

The 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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The Crew

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.

Amenities

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.

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.

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The Caviar Service

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The First Course

A selection of marinated asparagus saladas, sorted hams, smoked fish mousse and cucumber salad.

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The Salad

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The Main Course

Steak with fried onions, leek and potato mash.

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The Cheese

Cabrissac, Blue Stilton, Pont l’Evêque, Chaource, Felsenkeller with orange chutney.

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Dessert

Manjari chocolate, coffee ice cream and golden nuts.

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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.

The 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

  1. fresh fruit
  2. cornflakes with milk
  3. mango and passion fruit curd with passion fruit seed yoghurt
  4. selection of cheese and cold cuts
  5. 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.
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 Thai Airways First Class 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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The Crew

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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Amenities

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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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

Amuse Bouche

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 Caviar Service

The first course is the signature caviar service with trimmings.

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The First Course

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.

The Main Course

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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The Cheese

Instead of 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.

The Second Service

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.

Transfer in Frankfurt

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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The Lufthansa First Class Lounge

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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Boarding

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.

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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Conclusion

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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Lufthansa, First Class – Boeing B 747-400: Frankfurt to San Francisco

Introduction

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:

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This review is about the first part of my journey from Basel via Frankfurt to San Francisco in Lufthansa First Class.

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Date: 24 January 2013
From: Frankfurt
To: San Francisco
Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: Boeing B 747-400
Cabin: First Class
Seat: 81H, first row, right hand side

Transfer in Frankfurt

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.

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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 Lufthansa First Class Lounge

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.

Foyer of the First Class lounge.
Foyer of the First Class lounge.
The staircase to heaven has made way for the more convenient lift.
The staircase to heaven has made way for the more convenient lift.
My chariot as seen through the tremendously spotter-unfriendly lounge window.
My chariot as seen through the tremendously spotter-unfriendly lounge window.

Boarding

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.

My chariot as seen through tremendously dirty windows on Z gates level of the A+ dock.
My chariot as seen through tremendously dirty windows on Z gates level of the A+ dock.

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.

My chariot through the airbridge. I should have taken the Economy lane instead!
My chariot through the airbridge. I should have taken the Economy lane instead!

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

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 view when I reach my seat.
The view when I reach my seat.

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.

A separate bed.
A separate bed.
And a separate seat.
And a separate seat.
IFE screen.
IFE screen.
Bulkhead.
Bulkhead.
Just to avoid any misunderstandings.
Just to avoid any misunderstandings.
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Holder for the Lufthansa rose.
Left armrest.
Left armrest.
Right armrest with the open lid for the seat controls.
Right armrest with the open lid for the IFE controls.
Holder for the bottle of water.
Holder for the bottle of water.
Small tray table mounted on the right armrest.
Small tray table mounted on the right armrest.
The drawer under the bed.
The drawer under the bed.
More stowage in the armrest.
More stowage in the armrest.
Bedside lamp.
Bedside lamp.

The Crew

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.

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.

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Amenities

She then returns with the pyjamas, earphones and slippers.

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Very comfortable slippers.
Very comfortable 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.

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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.

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Hot towel.
The menu. As I rarely ever drink alcohol on a plane, I didn't bother with the wine list.
The menu. As I rarely ever drink alcohol on a plane, I didn’t bother with the wine list.

The Meal

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.

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Toast and garlic bread.
Toast and garlic bread.
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Amuse Bouche

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.

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The Caviar Service

The first course is the caviar with traditional garnishes.

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The First Course

For the second course I have an étagère with three different dishes:

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Salmon confit and egg salad with Belgian vinaigrette. Very good, especially the vinaigrette.

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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.

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Vegetable terrine with avocado salad and cherry tomato confit.

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The Salad

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.

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The Main Course

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.

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Fishknife.
Fish knife.

Dessert

I skip the cheese and just have dessert, which today is an outstanding Tarte Tatin with Tahiti vanilla sauce and ice cream.

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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.

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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.

Lazing about in bed.
Lazing about in bed.
The view I.
The view.
The moon.
The moon.
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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.

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The Second 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.

Apfelschorle.
Apfelschorle.
Table setting.
Table setting.
Pretzel.
Pretzel.
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Crab cake with avocado and marinated watermelon.
Crab cake with avocado and marinated watermelon.
Orechiette pasta.
Orechiette pasta.
Coleslaw.
Coleslaw.

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.

Where's the fishy?
Where’s the fishy?
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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.

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After that I change back into my normal clothes and start collecting and repacking my things ahead of our arrival into San Francisco.

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A last glimpse of my chariot on my way to the United lounge for my connection to Las Vegas.
A last glimpse of my chariot on my way to the United lounge for my connection to Las Vegas.

Conclusion

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.

Epilogue

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.

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Big sky.
Big sky.
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Lufthansa, First Class – A 380: Basel via Frankfurt to Tokyo Narita

Introduction

It’s Boxing Day. Another six days left before 2012 draws to an end and I’m down to my last five flights of the year, which will bring be to 112 flights by the time I arrive back in Frankfurt on 31 December 2012.

I’m travelling from Basel via Frankfurt to Narita and then on to Sapporo with Lufthansa and ANA. From Sapporo I will return via JAL to Haneda and then from Narita to Frankfurt on ANA.

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From: Basel
To: Frankfurt
Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: Canadair CRJ-700
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 2D, window, right side

The Skyview Lounge

The beginning of this report finds yours truly sitting – yet again – in the Swissport Skyview contractor lounge at Basel airport. There aren’t many people about – the usual state of affairs here. In fact, the place is so quiet that the buffet on the lower level has been closed down over the Christmas period and only the top floor of the lounge is open for customers.

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Since the lounge was taken over, the food options have improved considerably and now also include a small selection of warm items throughout the day.

My breakfast: beans, scrambled egg and a veal sausage.
My breakfast: beans, scrambled egg and a veal sausage.

Boarding

Boarding for my flight starts on time from gate 35. I am the last passenger to board the flight. Much to my surprise the flight is showing quite a healthy load, despite the holiday. There are two and a half rows of Business Class (row 1 only has the A and C seats as the toilet is located across the aisle where 1D and F would be), with a total of five passengers in the premium cabin this morning.

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The Crew

The crew consists of two German females. One in her late twenties I would say and not overly friendly, and the other, the purserette I believe, in her forties and very amicable and attentive. As soon as I reach my seat on 2F she approaches me and offers to hang my jacket.

The Cabin

The cabin on this aircraft has been recently refurbished. Those horrible light grey seats have made way for a much darker grey and I think they must have redone the upholstering as well while they were at it. The bulkhead has that funky chrome-like appearance that – I must say – I find rather cool.

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Departure is to the south towards the city of Basel. As soon as we get airborne we bank right to execute a 270 degree turn, which brings us back over the airfield before crossing the Rhine into Germany.

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The new Jet Aviation facility at Basel airport.
The new Jet Aviation facility at Basel airport.
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Turning back towards the airport.
Turning back towards the airport.
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The Meal

The meal served on this flight is something in between breakfast and lunch. There is a bowl with some sort of yoghurt and fruit, a small dish with cheese, ham and a few slices of bell pepper and a bun. To drink I have a cup of coffee and a glass of mineral water. The meal is perfectly adequate for a 10h40 departure. My only grippe is that the presentation of the meal is somewhat unappealing, particularly the coffee served in a cardboard cup, surely a real mug or a cup won’t break the bank!

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Instead of the usual chocolate at the end of the flight, today we get a special box with season’s greetings and two pralinés in it.

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Arrival

Our flight time is only 40 minutes and before long we’re descending through the murk towards Frankfurt. As we break through the clouds it’s snowing and raining simultaneously. What horrible weather!

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The final approach for FRA.
The final approach for FRA.
Waiting to cross the parallel runway.
Waiting to cross the parallel runway.
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We pull onto our stand and I am pleasantly surprised to find a black Porsche Cayenne expecting me. Lufthansa’s First Class pick up service is somewhat unpredictable in Frankfurt and does not always work. I’m guessing they’re not so busy today due to the Christmas holiday.

Transfer in Frankfurt

Transferring in Frankfurt is never fun and today’s experience is certainly not going down in history as one of Lufthansa’s finest moments. The driver drops me off at the Terminal B arrivals. From there I follow the signs to the Z concourse, which is the non-Schengen area of the newly opened A + dock – a trek of some 15 minutes. I go through immigration and even manage to find the Business Class and Senator lounges. I inquire at the desk about the whereabouts of the First Class lounge and the friendly lady there informs me that the First Class lounge is one floor down in the Schengen area. I will have to go through immigration again. I’m not really sure what the point of all this is, after all, as far as I know, Lufthansa does not offer First Class on any of its European routes. So why put the First Class lounge in that sector?

By this time I’ve had enough and I have no desire to spend the rest of my time in Frankfurt wandering about trying to find this new lounge. So instead I head for arrivals in Terminal A, from where it is just a short walk to the First Class Terminal.

From: Frankfurt
To: Tokyo Narita
Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: A 380-800
Cabin: First Class
Seat: 2A, window, left side

The Lufthansa First Class Terminal

As soon as I arrive at the First Class Terminal I am assigned my own personal assistant and guided through security. My boots trigger the scanner’s alarm. It’s moments like this that make you understand the benefits of flying First Class: without any hassle or hurry the guy doing the screening kindly asks me to step aside and take a seat on a plump leather sofa. There I remove my boots and wait while they are rescanned.

The process is a swift and pleasant one. Even the security staff are friendly, all smiles and even wish me a happy holiday and a safe journey. My assistant takes my passport and informs me that he will come to pick me up when it’s time for boarding.

Lufthansa has obviously done its homework with the First Class terminal in that it really makes a very pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal complex, which is not very user friendly for the customer. It’s just a pity it’s so complicated to get to the First Class terminal if you’re transiting through Frankfurt – which is a bit unfortunate given that transfer passengers are likely to spend more time at the airport than those whose journey starts in Frankfurt.

The terminal is not really very busy when I arrive but it looks quite untidy – there are empty glasses and used plates standing around. But never underestimate German efficiency: shortly after I find a place to settle down, the cleaning crew launch an efficient and merciless offensive and have the place tidied up in no time.

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Boarding

At around 13h00 my assistant comes to pick me up. There are two other gentlemen in the lift with me as we head one floor down to immigration. From there we head outside where some enormous looking thing with a Mercedes star on it is waiting to take us to our aircraft.

It just a short ride before eventually we pull up at the aircraft’s stand, the driver opens the door for me and I step outside and I come face to face with the beast carrying me to Japan today. The A380 is of course always a sight to behold, but it is even more impressive when you’re actually standing in front of it at ground level.

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From the car we are ushered into a lift and taken up to the third floor, from where we have direct access to the upper level of the aircraft. Our driver leads the way to the aircraft’s door, where the crew is already expecting us. She introduces every passenger to the crew by name and we are then individually escorted to our seats. There is a fourth passenger who is already on board when we arrive. This means that the load in First Class on this flight will be 50%, with all the window seats occupied.

The Cabin

The cabin on this aircraft is really beautifully appointed and the beige and brown colours are worlds apart from older First Class cabin with all that blue and grey. The designers of the cabin have paid a lot of attention to detail. The walls of the cabin for example are covered in some material that has the look and feel of soft suede leather.

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The first thing that strikes me is how well conceived the cabin is: it is as attractive as it is functional: there are no overhead bins, which gives the cabin a very airy and light feel. Instead of the bins every passenger has his own personal full size locker. Each locker contains hangars and a suit cover. Additional storage space can be found under the ottoman.

The seat itself is comfortable and offers a lot of space and privacy: there are screens in the shell of the seat that can be raised automatically.

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This picture was taken after take-off. The screen was raised by the crew to provide more privacy. Later on, the crew turned this seat into my bed, so I could lie down after the meal and wouldn't have to wait for them to make up the bed. The shell of the seat has further privacy screens that can be raised automatically.
This picture was taken after take-off. The screen was raised by the crew to provide more privacy. Later on, the crew turned this seat into my bed, so I could lie down after the meal and wouldn’t have to wait for them to make up the bed. The shell of the seat has further privacy screens that can be raised automatically.
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Another nice touch is the red rose at every seat – even at those unoccupied during the flight – for which there is a purpose built holder. A small lamp right above the rose gives quite a dramatic effect when the cabin lights are dimmed.

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The windows have these really funky automatic blinds that you could play with for hours – I know, little things please little minds…

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And finally, the toilets: there are two up front on each side of the stairs, and here too I am quite impressed by the functionality and clean design. Rarely have I come across a First Class toilet on a plane that provides such ample space and is evidently also intended as a changing room. On most carriers you more or less have to be a contortionist to be able to change your clothes!

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The toilet is well stocked with shaving kits, combs and toothbrushes and toothpaste, all of which are neatly stowed in their respective drawers.

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The Crew

There are two young women working the First Class cabin today. They have the usual stereotypical German efficiency about them and yet they are both very charming in their manner and endearing in their handling of the passengers. As they pass through the cabin on different errands they make a point of stopping regularly to have a chat about this, that and the other, which makes for a very personalised service.

Amenities

Once I am settled in my seat I am handed the amenity kit, slippers and pyjama. The new pyjama is another vast improvement over the previous one in that it is made of thinner material and thus doesn’t make you seat so much while you sleep.

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I am also brought a glass of sparkling water and some warm nuts. Then the purser comes by to introduce himself personally and hands out the menus.

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As we depart, we get a good view of a substantial part of the Lufthansa fleet that has been parked up for the holidays, including eight MD-11s stored behind each other.

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The Meal

Immediately after take-off, one the seatbelt sign goes off I am handed a scented hot towel.

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To drink I order an ‘Apfelschorle’: apple juice with sparkilng water.

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Amuse Bouche

We begin with an Amuse Bouche of warm smoked salmon with Dijon mustard and cucumber. It takes a while for it to arrive and the purser explains that for some reason or other the food was still frozen solid when catering delivered it to the aircraft. Subsequently it had to be warmed in the oven first (…and tasted accordingly). To be honest I think I wouldn’t even have bothered.

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Next the table is set up for the meal: despite the fact that I have chosen the Japanese menu, my table is decked out with a small bowl of First Class embossed butter, a side plate and salt and pepper shakers. There are also some rather cheap looking chopsticks.

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The First Course

Contrary to what it says on the menu, the first course is not the caviar service but a selection of cold Japanese dishes.

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Soba noodles with soy sauce and Wasabi.
Soba noodles with soy sauce and Wasabi.
A salad of mussels, greens and shitake mushrooms.
A salad of mussels, greens and shitake mushrooms.
Smoked salmon with an egg vinaigrette and asparagus.
Smoked salmon with an egg vinaigrette and asparagus.
Miso soup.
Miso soup.
A selection of sushi.
A selection of sushi.
Green tea to drink.
Green tea to drink.

The Caviar Service

After that comes the caviar service. At the risk of sounding like a snob, I really do think Lufthansa would be doing itself a favour to get rid of the caviar as long as they are unwilling or unable to provide a larger portion and all trimmings. As it is, the small plate looks quite forlorn on the large table.

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The Main Course

After that all the dishes are cleared away and I am brought the main course: the beef in a Japanese sauce with steamed vegetables, which comes with miso soup, mixed pickles and Gohan – Japanese sticky rice.

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More miso.
More miso.
Japanese pickles.
Japanese pickles.
Gohan package.
Gohan package.
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The Cheese

To end the meal my intention had been to just have a bit of cheese. But when the trolley appears, the flight attendant talks me into also trying the sweet chocolate and raspberry dessert. And indeed, it really is very tasty and very rich – to the extent that I am unable to finish it.

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Dessert

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And then, finally, comes the coffee, which is served with two small pralinés and a Father Christmas.

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After the meal the crew distribute water bottles and Christmas cookies. And then the lights go out.

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My bed with the privacy screens raised.
My bed with the privacy screens raised.

The Second Service

I manage a good five hours of sleep, although I’m rather unsettled – I suspect I’m suffering with indigestion.

About 80 minutes out of Tokyo the lights go on again somewhat abruptly – there’s no mood lighting on Lufthansa – and the blinds on the left side of the aircraft are raised automatically to reveal a beautiful sunrise.

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The crew bring me another refreshing warm scented towel and a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

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For breakfast there is a warm and a cold option, although the warm option on offer is not the one that is on the menu. Apparently, as one of the flight attendants explains, Lufthansa is having problems with one of its kitchenware suppliers. But it does not matter as I opt for the cold breakfast anyway.

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Selection from the breadbasket.
Selection from the breadbasket.
Fruit salad.
Fruit salad.
Yoghurt.
Yoghurt.
Birchermüsli with toasted Pumpernickel.
Birchermüsli with toasted Pumpernickel.
Cold cuts and cheese.
Cold cuts and cheese.
My salvation.
My salvation.

During breakfast there are no refills for the orange juice and it is a bit unusual that no preserves are offered with the breadbasket. I have to ask the crew, who bring me a selection of jams and marmalade straight away.

Arrival

Once the meal is over we’re already nearing Tokyo. The mighty A380 gently dips its nose and we start our descent. The cabin crew pass through the cabin distributing landing cards for Japan and take the opportunity to say goodbye to every passenger individually.

Outside it’s one of those typical lovely winter days you get around this time of the year in the Tokyo area. It’s only minus 6 degrees Celsius and the sky is cloudless and clear.

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Always good to check you landed at the right airport.
Always good to check you landed at the right airport.
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We arrive at the terminal and squeeze into what looks like an amazingly tight stand for an aircraft the size of the A380, with an ANA B767 on one side and a Singapore Airlines B777 on the other. I bid the crew farewell and thank them for their service. And with that I disembark. It’s nice to be back!

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The only real draw back with flying the A380 to Tokyo – allow me to do some nit-picking – is that the only stands equipped with three airbridges are located at the very end of the concourse. As a result it’s quite a trek from the aircraft to immigration.

Next stop: Sapporo with ANA.

Conclusion

The Lufthansa First Class experience is a mixed bag. On the positive side, the hardware on the A380 is simply amazing. I still think the A380 is undoubtedly one of the ugliest aircraft ever built but even so I cannot help but be impressed by the level of comfort its size allows for the passenger and what Lufthansa has managed to do with the available cabin space.

On the negative side, the transfer in Frankfurt is a messy and a tedious affair. From the Porsche Cayenne pick up service, which sometimes is there to meet you and sometimes not, to the unsatisfactory lounge situation for transfer passengers.

The service on the flight was good in that it was very personable and friendly. The crew took good care of me. Even so, I also think their service lacks polish and attention to detail in many areas. It’s little things: because I ordered the Japanese meal, I was given chopsticks but no cutlery, which then also meant that I did not receive a napkin – because that is wrapped around the cutlery. Of course when I asked for a napkin the crew were apologetic and promptly brought me a nicely folded one. But should I really have to ask? The absence of preserves during the breakfast service I have already mentioned. It’s the same thing really: when asked the crew were more than willing to oblige, but when travelling in First Class I think these are basics that one should not have to ask for.

The meal was okay but certainly not outstanding. First of all, the quality of the food was rather average and tasted a bit bland. More importantly, the sequence in which the meal was served was unorganised and chaotic. It would have made more sense for example, to serve the caviar first, which, incidentally, is also how it had been intended according to the menu.