Category Archives: Lufthansa

SEA 2014: Lufthansa First Class Lounge Frankfurt Airport Terminal B

Upon arrival at Frankfurt, I received an escort from Thai since I was connecting to a Thai first class flight. Normally, if you depart in Star Alliance first class out of Frankfurt, you only get Lufthansa Senator Lounge access (the same lounge that Star Alliance Gold gets), but since I was getting off a Lufthansa First Class flight, I had access to the Lufthansa First Class Lounge, so that’s where the escort took me. While the escort was nice, it really wasn’t necessary, and it was secretly slightly annoying since I wanted to hit up more lounges to get more rubber duckies–I know, first world miles/points blogger problems.

Since my Thai flight was out of Terminal B, my escort took me to the First Class Lounge in that terminal. Honestly, there’s very little difference between the First Class Lounges and the First Class Terminal. Sure, at the terminal, you get a car transfer to the plane, but otherwise, the amenities are pretty much the same.

Lounge

Lounge

Seating

I like the aesthetic

Seating

Seating with good apron views

Cigar lounge

Cigar lounge

Private work stations

Private work station

My first order of business was to take a bath. Taking a shower after a long flight is one of life’s little luxuries that I appreciate so much. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that you get a cute rubber duck as a bonus. When I visited the lounge, they had the spa duck on offer.

Lufthansa’s first class lounges are definitely very nice. There’s always plenty of seating, tons of different beverage selections (I mean, there’s even a water bar with water from all over the world), cigars, an extensive buffet, and the service is typically good. The lounges are actually run and staffed by Do & Co, which is the same company that does catering for Austrian and Turkish, and their catering is generally considered to be the best catering in the sky.

Bar area

Bar area

Menu

Buffet Menu

Menu

More menu

Food

Food

More food

More food

More food

More food

More food

More food

Desserts

Desserts

Water bar

Water bar

Now, I know I’m going to get flack for this, but I don’t actually enjoy the food on offer that much. There’s not very much food that’s particularly healthy (unlike the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge), and I feel like the food is generally oversalted. If I were a bigger meat and cheese eater, I’m sure the lounge is heaven given their extensive selection of cured meats, but it’s all a little lost on me. Same with the alcohol selection, as I don’t drink much at all. But all the white people I know love Lufthansa and their lounges, so you can go ahead and discount my opinion.

Anyway, good lounge, grab a duck (even if you don’t want to keep it, you can sell them on eBay), and don’t worry if you an only make it to a First Class Lounge instead of the First Class Terminal at Frankfurt.

SEA 2014: Lufthansa First Class Vancouver to Frankfurt (YVR to FRA) 747-400

I’ve flown Lufthansa first class a couple of times before (see A380 trip report; previous 747 trip report; and (gasp!) a coach trip report) and had good experiences. I’m not a huge Lufthansa fan boy, but the separate seat and bed combo on the upper deck of the 747 is my favorite first class hard product. You can’t beat the comfort and convenience of having an actual bed to sleep in.

Boeing 747-400 taking me to Frankfurt

Boeing 747-400 taking me to Frankfurt

Load for this flight was 5/8. There was a couple on their honeymoon, and two businessmen who appeared to fly Lufthansa a lot. Like a lot a lot. Like the guy behind me seemed to know more about the service than the flight attendants.

Seat

Seat

Bed

Bed

Seat AND bed

Seat AND bed

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

I was given an amenity kit and pajamas. Unfortunately, there were no Rimowa amenity kits in sight. Headphones were already at the seat. While the actual bed can’t be beat, the rest of the hard product is a little old. Like the IFE screen is pretty poor quality and the selection isn’t great.

Escada amenity kit and Van Laack pajamas

Escada amenity kit and Van Laack pajamas

This is a small thing, but I asked for sparkling water with lemon as a pre-departure beverage and got wellness water with lemon instead. When I brought it to the flight attendant’s attention that my water was minty instead of fizzy, she said that I was wrong and must be mistaken. I offered to let her try my water to confirm that she had served me the wrong thing, but she refused. I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being wrong in first class, and I can’t imagine that ever happening on an Asian airline.

The purser came around to greet people, which I always find a bit awkward. Like they always seem to happily chat with other passengers and then they get to me and are just like, “I hope you have a good flight. kthxbainao.” Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I feel like if I were white this wouldn’t be the case.

Anyway, here are the menus for the flight. I pre-ordered a special VGML since I haven’t been too pleased with the meat- and dairy-heavy selections on the menus in the past.

Menu

Menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

More drinks

More drinks

More drinks

More drinks

My VGML started with an amuse bouche that was pretty bad. It wasn’t cooked enough, it was cold, and it was unseasoned. The flight attendant even proactively apologized for it when she served it to me.

VGML amuse bouche

VGML amuse bouche

I did appreciate the attention to detail to serve me margarine and olive oil instead of butter. And of course, I didn’t pass up caviar service (yes, I’m a terrible vegan).

Caviar

Caviar

For appetizers, the VGML consisted of more vegetables. Yes, I get that vegetables are vegan, but there are also so many other things that are vegan. I’d hope that first class catering means more than getting some raw or lightly seared vegetables, particularly when the ingredient quality isn’t great.

VGML appetizers

VGML appetizers

The entree was fine, if a bit plain. A sort of ratatouille with rice, beans, and squash. This was probably the best part of the VGML meal service, but that’s not saying much. I could also tell that the crew was a bit embarrassed about the quality of the food for a special meal in first class, and the purser encouraged me to write into customer service after the flight.

VGML entree

VGML entree

And since I’m a fatty, I decided to get both sweet desserts off the normal menu. The bread pudding was pretty tasty; the ice cream was ice cream.

Bread pudding

Bread pudding

More dessert

More dessert

I played around with the in-flight entertainment and was mostly just annoyed with the controller. But I didn’t choose this plane for the IFE, so I got into bed and slept well for a couple of hours.

While the bathrooms on the 747 in first class aren’t anything special, I do appreciate that there’s nicer toilet paper in the bathrooms in first class than in other cabins (I’m looking at you, British Airways, for having crappy toilet paper in your first class bathrooms). I also like the La Mer creams, as my skin always feels dry after too long on planes.

I awoke to a hot towel and glass of orange juice. For breakfast, I got the muesli, a fruit plate, and scrambled eggs. I should also note that by this point, my IFE didn’t work at all for video content, so I could only listen to music or watch the air show.

Muesli and bread

Muesli and bread

Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs

Breakfast was good, and I find freshly cooked eggs to be a kind of novelty on planes.

I love the separate seat and bed combo on the 747. The bed is super comfortable, and it means you don’t have to wait for anyone to make your bed or do awkward things like eat in bed. But the IFE is pretty crappy, and I’m not a huge fan of Lufthansa’s catering (this was my first VGML first class meal in the trip of three, and this ended up being the second best/worst–Thai’s was absolutely dreadful; Singapore’s was pretty good). I’d obviously love to fly Lufthansa again, but if given the choice, I’d take most Asian carriers over Lufthansa given my personal bias.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


LH 404
Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK)
Monday, November 4th
Depart: 5:25pm
Arrive: 8:20pm
Duration: 8h 55m
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 83H
Load 4/8

After the shortest car transfer ever from the First Class Terminal, we were ready to board the 747 that would take us to New York.

Boarding from the van

Boarding from the van

One of the biggest reasons why I chose this flight was to fly the Boeing 747-400 config which has a separate seat and bed for first class seats. While I had the opportunity to have a separate seat as a bed anyway on my previous flight since I was the only passenger in the cabin, this is the only config that guarantees that luxury.

Even though there were 5 people in the van from the First Class Terminal, only two of us headed to the upper deck to the first class seating area. First class was half-full on this flight, with the other three passengers sitting in the front half of the cabin while I had the back half all to myself.

Front of the cabin

Front of the cabin

Back half of the cabin to myself

Back half of the cabin to myself

The 747-400 definitely feels older and it’s much noisier, but I think this is the most comfortable seat configuration you can fly (assuming you only get one seat, of course). The seat and bed for each passenger is excessive, but the bed itself is the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in on a plane since it’s actually a bed and not a seat masquerading as a bed. And then there’s the fact that you can easily switch between seat and bed. In other cabins, once I ask to get my bed made, I’m generally not going to ask to have it unmade until landing, so I find myself eating in bed if I want a mid-flight meal or I’ll be working in bed, which I find a little bit awkward at times. With this configuration, you can sit in a proper seat to eat your meals, or you can sit down and pull out the tray table to work if you like.

Seat and bed combo

Seat and bed combo

Entertainment screen and extra blanket if it gets cold next to the windows

Entertainment screen and extra blanket if it gets cold next to the windows

The most comfortable bed I've slept in on an airplane

The most comfortable bed I’ve slept in on an airplane

Seat controls are simple

Seat controls are simple

Ample side storage

Ample side storage

Entertainment control

Entertainment control

Underbed storage

Underbed storage

I also appreciated that the beds are located next to the windows, which makes for some awesome lying-in-bed-looking-out-the-window moments since you can just turn your head and you have a perfect view out the window, as well as the fact that it’s generally slightly cooler next to the windows and most of the time I find airplane cabins to be too hot. The underbed storage is also extremely convenient as you can reach it while strapped in to your seat, as opposed to the ottoman storage on the A380 which I can only access after unbuckling my seatbelt.

After settling in, I was given pajamas, an amenity kit, and the menu for the flight. In an attempt to adjust back to US time, I decided to sleep immediately after takeoff and hold off on eating. I asked a flight attendant to save me some caviar, the gnocchi, and the roast goose, which she happily obliged.

Van Laack pajamas and Rimowa amenity kit

Van Laack pajamas and Rimowa amenity kit

Menu for the flight

Menu for the flight

I slept soundly for a couple of hours, and it was honestly probably more comfortable than the bed that I have at home. I never felt overheated, and it was amazing to just turn my head and be looking out of an airplane window.

I think it’s worth mentioning that on this flight as well as on my previous Lufthansa flight, I felt that one of the two flight attendants was superior to the other, and in both cases, the better flight attendant was the younger one. It’s not that the older flight attendants were bad per se, but the younger ones seemed to be slightly more on top of things, more attentive to detail, more conscientious about what passengers would want before they asked for things, and friendlier. After I woke up, the older flight attendant was the one to serve me my meal, and there were a couple of miscues in the service. For example, the bread served with the caviar was really, really crusty and dry, the caviar was served with lime instead of lemon (yes, I feel like such a dick to be criticizing the caviar accompaniments), I was given two pepper grinders instead of a salt and a pepper one, and my glass wasn’t refilled regularly.

Generous portion of caviar

Generous portion of caviar

Caviar with lime?

Caviar with lime?

Walnut gnocchi

Walnut gnocchi

Roast goose

Roast goose

Who needs salt anyway?

Who needs salt anyway?

Almond panna cotta

Almond panna cotta

Fruit plate and tea

Fruit plate and tea

The meal was objectively good, but I shared my thoughts about Lufthansa’s catering in my trip report of my previous flight. The caviar was delicious as always, even if it was served with crusty bread and a lime, and I appreciated that they served me a generous portion of caviar when I had told one of the flight attendants before sleeping how much I enjoyed eating it. The gnocchi was quite heavy and chewy for gnocchi but still tasty. I ordered the roast goose on the recommendation of a flight attendant on my previous flight as he told me that it was a good representation of German holiday cuisine, and it was a little dry but hearty and flavorful.

I didn’t really use the in-flight entertainment system, but the options seemed a little limited to me (disclaimer: all I want to watch on planes is animated children’s movies or rom-coms). There was also wifi available on the plane, and the other three first class passengers seemed busy at work on the internet for most of the flight.

With about 90 minutes until landing, the younger flight attendant came around with the pre-arrival snack trolley. I selected a couple of items, and the flight attendant sold me hard on a goulash served in a bread bowl that wasn’t on the trolley. I’m glad that she did, as it was probably the best non-caviar dish that I had on either of my Lufthansa flights.

Snacks and goulash in a bread bowl

Snacks and goulash in a bread bowl

After we landed, the younger flight attendant told me that I could go visit the cockpit if I wanted, as she saw how much I loved planes and flying. So I had the brief opportunity to check out the cockpit while everyone else was disembarking, although the pilots clearly just wanted to get off the plane.

B747-400 cockpit after landing

B747-400 cockpit after landing

Overall, I think the seat and dedicated bed combination is the most comfortable first class configuration that I’ve flown. While I prefer almost everything else about the A380 (e.g. the larger bathrooms, the quieter plane), I’m not sure how you can get much better than Lufthansa’s 744 if the first class cabin is more than half-full.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


In the frequent flyer community, the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt has a hallowed status. It’s often cited as one of the best airport lounges in the world, if not the very best, so I was really excited to finally get my chance to see it.

But honestly, I think that it’s a little overblown. It’s classy and nice and sophisticated and has some great amenities, but I think the Emirates First Class Terminal in Dubai is more aspirational/ridiculous. I can see why people like this place, though.

To get to the First Class Terminal, you need go through immigration and baggage claim, and then walk a short distance to the separate building. At immigration, the officer questioned why I was entering Germany when I was already in the non-Schengen area and heading to New York, but I told him I wanted to visit the First Class Terminal and he waved me through. The First Class Terminal wasn’t a far walk from where I exited baggage claim.

Lufthansa's First Class Terminal

Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal

As you enter, you surrender your passport, which you’ll get back once it’s time to board the plane, and you go through security, which is quick and private but still more intrusive than something like TSA PreCheck.

I first took a lap around the lounge to see everything that was an offer. I was expecting a larger space, but everything that was there was well-furnished and nice, and given the entrance requirements, it’s unlikely that the lounge will ever be very busy.

Sleeping room

Sleeping room

Cigar Lounge

Cigar Lounge

Individual working rooms

Individual working rooms

Loungers

Loungers

Seating area

Seating area

I put down my stuff at a seat and decided to make my way to the dining area and check out the food and drink options. There is an extensive selection of drinks–including many, many different kinds of water–with everything from kombucha to whiskies. For food, there’s a buffet with a lot of options, but there actually aren’t that many food options made-to-order.

Food menu

Food menu

Very well-stocked bar

Very well-stocked bar

Water bar

Water bar

Massive cheese selection

Massive cheese selection

DSC03557 DSC03556 DSC03554 DSC03552

Desserts

Desserts

Candy!

Candy!

Maybe it’s because I was the only non-white, under-40 person there, but I felt like the service was a little lacking at times for such a celebrated lounge. For example, the attendant in the dining room was pretty cold and aloof and not very helpful when I asked questions. She seemed to provide more attentive service to the other lounge guests and took quite a while to even notice me.

The food selection was fine, but catered to German tastes. The made-to-order option was wiener schnitzel, which I did not try. The attempts at Asian food (e.g. the fried noodles) were not very good, but I imagine people who are bigger fans of cured meats and cheese would be ecstatic at the offerings.

After eating, I made a compulsory trip to a bath room to grab a Lufthansa First Class rubber duck, and since I was there anyway, I figured that I might as well take the first bath I’d taken in at least 10 years (I’m of course not counting my brief jacuzzi time in the Qatar First Class Premium Terminal in Doha).

Hello, Mr. Blue Ducky

Hello, Mr. Blue Ducky

Rainfall shower head

Rainfall shower head

I then spent some time catching up on the internetz before being told that I should make my way to the elevators to grab a car to my plane. There were 5 of us headed to New York from the First Class Terminal, so we were transported in a van, and the plane was located at the closest gate possible, so within a minute or so we were getting out of the car to board.

Cars to the planes

Cars to the planes

All in all, this was definitely one of the best, classiest, most well-appointed lounges that I’ve been in, but I think I prefer the Emirates First Class Terminal in Dubai.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


LH 721
Beijing (PEK) to Frankfurt (FRA)
Monday, November 4th
Depart: 11:30am
Arrive: 3:00pm
Duration: 10h 30m
Aircraft: A380
Seat: 2A
Load: 1/8

I was super, super excited for this flight. It was my first time flying Lufthansa First Class, it was on the A380, and when I was selecting my seats online after booking my flights, I noticed that all seats were marked as available for selection, which made me think that there was the possibility that I’d have the whole first class cabin to myself. This turned out to be true, so I had an entire first class cabin and two flight attendants on the A380 to myself. I’m not sure how much more aspirational you can get.

After leaving the somewhat bizarre Business Traveler’s Lounge, I headed to the gate and took some pictures of the bird that I’d be flying to Frankfurt. Lufthansa’s been flying the A380 for over 3 years now, but there were still plenty of people also taking pictures of the plane at the gate. I wonder when the novelty will wear off?

The A380 I'd be flying to Frankfurt

The A380 I’d be flying to Frankfurt

Even before boarding was supposed to commence, there were long lines for both the economy and premium cabin boarding lines. I saw a sign for first class passengers, but there was no obvious line. One of the gate agents recognized me from check-in, though, and beckoned me to cut the line and board before they announced boarding for anyone else.

Lots of gate lice even for premium cabins

Gate lice even for premium cabins

Tripe boarding action

Triple boarding action

Upon boarding, one of the flight attendants who’d be serving the first class cabin greeted me and informed me that I’d be the only passenger in first class, so I should essentially feel free to do whatever I wanted. This flight attendant turned out to be awesome and probably the best flight attendant I’ve ever had. He was detail-oriented, considerate, personable, and extremely knowledgable. He’s been flying on the A380 since Lufthansa started using the plane, and he had actually helped design aspects of the A380 and had been on some of the test flights. I had a great time throughout the flight chatting with him and picking his brain.

I soon settled in and was brought pre-departure nuts and drink and menus for the flight.

Pre-departure nuts and drink

Pre-departure nuts and drink

Food menu part 1

Food menu part 1

Food menu part 2

Food menu part 2

The seat was spacious and comfortable, and I appreciated the small touches like having extra padding on the headrest. There was plenty of storage with several small compartments next to the seat, the ottoman for slightly larger objects, and a personal locker for each seat. I found the overall design to be classic and functional while being stylish.

My seat, 2A

My seat, 2A

Side view

Side view

DSC03438

Seat controls

Seat controls

Entertainment controls

Entertainment controls

Lots of outlets

Lots of outlets

Guide to the seat

Guide to the seat

Seat storage (and Rimowa amenity kit!)

Seat storage (and Rimowa amenity kit!)

Personal storage lockers in lieu of overhead bins

Personal storage lockers in lieu of overhead bins

My other A380 experience was on Emirates, which has a completely different feel to their first class cabin. Emirates uses fully-enclosed suites, which I feel makes the cabin feel a little bit claustrophobic in exchange for lots of privacy; on the other hand, the Lufthansa first class cabin is open and airy but not as private, but I guess that doesn’t matter if you have the whole cabin to yourself.

Empty cabin all to myself

Empty cabin all to myself

I was brought Van Laack pajamas, slippers, and a Rimowa amenity kit. The pajamas were comfortable, but definitely not my style. The amenity kit was Rimowa, which is usually all that there is to say about Rimowa amenity kits.

The takeoff roll began, which I think is pretty special on the A380. For one, you can see the tail cam view on the in-flight entertainment screen, but it’s also such a large yet quiet plane that it feels like the plane is just getting started when you actually lift off the ground.

What a great view

What a great view

Soon after takeoff, I was brought a glass of champagne, 1999 Cuvée Louise, and an amuse bouche of feta and watermelon.

1999 Cuvee Louise champagne

1999 Cuvée Louise champagne

Amuse bouche of feta and watermelon

Amuse bouche of feta and watermelon

Before the meal service, I decided to check out the bathrooms. On the A380, the first class bathrooms are huge. While there’s no shower like on the Emirates A380, they do have a urinal. But it’s nice just to have a large space to change and make you feel like you’re not even on an airplane.

Spacious bathrooms

Spacious bathrooms

I think I'd take the Emirates shower over a urinal...

I think I’d take the Emirates shower over a urinal…

La mer products in the bathroom

La mer products in the bathroom

Other amenities available in the bathroom, including facial mist?

Other amenities available in the bathroom, including facial mist?

I decided to eat right after takeoff, so the flight attendants started with the appetizer and caviar cart. They told me that the flight was catered for two people (except for the cheese cart, which is always catered for 8 people for presentation purposes). I didn’t partake in any of the appetizers, but I did get a hearty portion of caviar which I quickly demolished. And so they served me another large portion of caviar, and I was a very happy camper. The caviar service is apparently the only part of the food service catered out of Frankfurt as everything else is supposed to come out of Beijing.

Table setting for the first meal service

Table setting for the first meal service

Appetizer and caviar cart

Appetizer and caviar cart

Caviar serving #1

Caviar serving #1

So delicious

So delicious

Caviar serving #2

Caviar serving #2

I decided to take an entree from the pre-arrival meal as my appetizer and then do a main course. The dumplings were okay, probably on par with the dumplings they had in the lounges at the Beijing airport. The tortellini was flavorful but very heavy.

To be honest, while I loved almost everything about this flight, the food was a little bit of a disappointment. Part of this could be the fact that it was catered out of Beijing, but in general, I feel like Lufthansa’s catering isn’t that compatible with my palate. In my everyday life, I eat vegan, so I get a little tired of eating slabs of meat, cheeses, and creamy or port sauces. Objectively, everything tasted fine/good, but it’s just not for me most of the time.

Dumplings as my appetizer

Dumplings as my appetizer

Ricotta-herb tortellini

Ricotta-herb tortellini

Fruit for dessert

Fruit for dessert

After the meal service, I decided to get some sleep. A flight attendant had already set up the adjacent seat as a bed right after takeoff, but as soon as he saw that I was ready to sleep, he sprinted around the cabin to close all of the window shades and turn off any lights, and he offered to lower the cabin temperature for me.

Separate bed

Separate bed

The bed itself was pretty comfortable, although the crease in the seat is definitely noticeable. The pillow and comforter were nice and fluffy and didn’t make me overheat. With the privacy shades up, I think there’s definitely enough privacy in the cabin for sleeping. If all the shades are up, you won’t be able to see anyone unless you’re specifically trying to, so I think Lufthansa has figured out a good compromise between privacy and the feel of the cabin. I was able to sleep soundly for about 4 hours, at which point I decided to have a mid-flight snack.

Mid-flight snacks

Mid-flight snacks

Chocolates

Chocolates

Lufthansa doesn’t offer an extensive snack menu like other carriers do in first class, and in fact, there weren’t any hot options available for snacks, although I’m sure that I could have asked for anything off the regular menu if I’d wanted. But this is another aspect of the food service that I find less than stellar on Lufthansa compared to some other carriers.

Otherwise, the rest of the flight was great. I spent a lot of the remaining time on the flight chatting with the flight attendants and reading, and I didn’t actually touch the in-flight entertainment except to look at the tail-cam view. I also had the chance to walk through the rest of the plane: business class looked fine, but slanty flat instead of full lie-flat (although they’re going to start refurbishing the A380s to have fully flat business class seats); coach was massive and cramped, taking up the entire first floor of the A380, although a flight attendant told me that people seemed to like it better even though there are so many seats because the novelty of the aircraft.

Overall, except for my small qualms with the food, this was an amazing, amazing flight. You can’t get much better than having an entire first class cabin and two flight attendants to yourself on the A380, especially when said flight attendants are wonderful as well. I am so grateful to have had this experience–this is what collecting points for aspirational travel is all about!

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


The Lufthansa lounge is the lounge for non-United Star Alliance flights, including my ANA flight, as those seem to mostly depart from the B gates, which is where this lounge is located. There’s the business class part of the lounge which is downstairs (and has a shower), while the senator lounge is located on the same floor as the entrance, which is where I was directed to as a first class passenger. There’s not a separate first class lounge, except for a roped off area in the senator lounge which is supposed to be reserved for Lufthansa first class guests and not first class passengers of other airlines.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge

Small roped off seating area for Lufthansa first class passengers

Small roped off seating area for Lufthansa first class passengers and HON circle members

My first order of business was to take a shower, having just gotten off a red-eye. The attendant at the entrance told me to go downstairs to the Business lounge and find someone dressed in all black who could help me, but when I wandered downstairs, I only saw one person who worked there, and he was focused on clearing dishes. Eventually, he came over to try to help me, but someone had been in the shower and it needed to be cleaned, so it was probably 30 minutes from the time I went downstairs to the time I was able to take my shower.

Business Lounge seating

Business Lounge seating

The shower room itself was fine (better than my most recent lounge shower in Shanghai), except the water temperature consistently oscillated between cold and scalding hot. I’ve definitely had better showers in most lounges that have showers, and it was inconvenient that they only have a single shower.

Shower room

Shower room

The food in the business class section was mostly limited to snack foods, and I found it interesting that there were signs saying that “the local liquor authority does not allow any self-service” when the United Global First Lounge was completely self-service. Can anyone shed light on this difference?

Snacks in the Business lounge

Snacks in the Business Lounge

More snacks

More Business Lounge snacks

Not self-serve alcohol

Not self-serve alcohol

After my shower, I headed up to the Senator Lounge. I was expecting more from the food offerings, but when I was there, there weren’t any hot options unless you wanted to make instant noodles or instant miso soup; in fact, the offerings seemed largely comparable to the Business Lounge downstairs. This didn’t matter a lot to me as I was holding out to eat during the flight, as I was super excited to try ANA’s Japanese kaiseki meal on board.

Senator Lounge snacks

Senator Lounge snacks

Very similar snacks to Business Lounge downstairs

Very similar snacks to Business Lounge downstairs

I think these are supposed to cater to the passengers on the ANA flight

I think these are supposed to cater to the passengers on the ANA flight

Pastries and jams

Pastries and jams

A benefit of the Senator Lounge as compared to the Business Lounge or the United Global First Lounge were the windows and tarmac views. It was definitely a much nicer space to spend time in given the light.

Senator Lounge seating

Senator Lounge seating

Overall, the Lufthansa Senator Lounge seemed like a nicer lounge than the United Global First Lounge at IAD, if only because of the windows and tarmac views, so I’d definitely head there if I had a long layover. You’re not going to find great food options in any of the lounges, and if you want to take a shower, you have to head to the Lufthansa Business Lounge.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Planning

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


So how did this all go down?

My final routing was SFO-ORD-IAD on United domestic business, IAD-NRT on ANA First Square, NRT-PEK on ANA regional business, overnight layover in Beijing, PEK-FRA on Lufthansa First on the A380, FRA-JFK on Lufthansa first on the 744, overnight layover in New York, and finally JFK-SFO on United domestic business.

Clocks in at 21,812 miles according to gcmap.com

Clocks in at 21,812 miles according to gcmap.com, which is 306 miles longer than my previous around-the-world journey

As stated in my introduction, my main goals were to 1) fly Lufthansa first class, 2) get access to the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, and 3) fly ANA First Square on their 77W. Anything else was bonus, but I also tried to minimize my out-of-pocket expenses and not miss too much time at work.

Goal #1 is a bit redundant given goal #2, as the most straightforward way to get access to the First Class Terminal is to depart on a flight from Frankfurt in Lufthansa first class. Personally, I think that goal #3 is the hardest to accomplish, just because Lufthansa flies to enough destinations that it’s almost guaranteed for there to be first class award space available on some route, but ANA is quite stingy releasing award space on their 77W (but award space in the old first class config is relatively accessible out of Chicago).

So since I thought that ANA space would be the hardest to get, I started with that search. ANA flies their new first class config to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Frankfurt, London, Chicago (one of the two flights), and Washington DC. Of these destinations, it seems like the best chance of snagging first class award space is to/from ORD or IAD.

While the most exhaustive way to do this award search would have been to use ANA’s website to search 7-day availability (searching backwards since I was looking so close-in) for each of these nonstop routes individually, since it was likely that I was going to leave later that night, I mostly just used United’s website. It wouldn’t have been fruitful to try searching for routings of SFO-NRT since the website doesn’t like it when you backtrack east before heading across the Pacific, but searches of ORD-NRT generally will also provide routings that connect in the east coast. As luck would have it, there was space on IAD-NRT the next day on the 77W, and I could find domestic availability to fly a red-eye to IAD from SFO that night to make the flight (the red eye ended up being two flights, largely because award availability kept changing so close in).

To get from Asia to Europe, there are a lot of options. But I thought that it might be more feasible to get award space on the Lufthansa A380 out of Asia than to some of their other destinations, so I started with A380 destinations first. Beijing is one of them (although it’s no longer flying to Beijing starting in December 2013; the others desinations are Shanghai, Houston, Johannesburg, Miami, and Singapore), and I found space on the A380 in first class the day after I arrived in Tokyo. Intra-asia award space in regional business was plentiful on ANA, so the connection was no problem, and I chose to overnight in Beijing rather than Tokyo mostly because it was a lot cheaper to get an airport hotel in Beijing.

Having found space on the A380 to Frankfurt from Beijing, I ideally wanted to find space on a Lufthansa 747-400 route to the US to get a different seating config (I believe this is the only aircraft config that provides all first class passengers a seat and a bed). In general, it seems like IAD and ORD again are some of the easiest routes to find first class award space from, but those cities are both served by the 747-8. Luckily, I found space to JFK, giving me a 2.5 hour connection in Frankfurt, which was plenty of time to visit the First Class Terminal and an overnight layover in New York to visit a friend, and I was able to find award space from JFK to SFO on United to round out the trip the following morning.

For planning an award trip like this, my main tips are to know your goals, know your routes, and know what’s most likely to be available. Finding first class space out of SFO or LAX is generally more challenging than finding first class space out of ORD or IAD (unless you’re talking about Cathay Pacific for SFO), so oftentimes, I start my searches pretending that I’m flying out of ORD to get a better sense of what’s possible. Similarly, it helps to do a little bit of research beforehand to know which aircraft serve which destinations if you’re looking to fly specific planes to help narrow down your search.

For what it’s worth, I ended up constructing a number of possible itineraries that I didn’t use. One was SFO to IAD on United, IAD to NRT on ANA First Square, NRT to BKK on the Thai A380, BKK to CDG on the Thai A380, CDG to FRA on the Thai A380 again, FRA to EWR on the Lufthansa 744, and EWR to SFO on United. This itinerary would have been nearly nonstop flying (no overnight layovers, with most layovers being ~2 hours) and given me access to the Thai First Class Lounge and Spa, but I opted for the itinerary through Beijing because I’m scheduled to fly Thai First class twice next year with one of those times being on the A380, so I thought it’d be better to try Lufthansa’s A380 instead.

I hope this post helps and wasn’t too much word vomit. To be fair, I don’t think I’ve slept for more than 4 hours straight since leaving for this trip on Friday, and I still have one more segment to go. If you have more specific questions or want advice, feel free to leave something in the comments or send me an email at efficientasianman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Problems Booking Lufthansa and ANA Flights Using US Airways Miles

REVISION: This post was done slightly in haste, so I’m not sure if other people will necessarily encounter the same problems as I did trying to book ANA space. I have a theory that I would like to test some more and I will follow up once I’ve gathered some more data.

As far as I can tell, it’s very, very challenging to book flights on Lufthansa or ANA if you’re using US Airways miles, which is a shame since US Airways miles are some of the easiest to accumulate via the Barclays US Airways credit card or their buy miles promos or the current share miles promo.

Matthew at Upgrd.com does a great job explaining what the problem actually is, but I figured that I’d add that it’s not just Lufthansa, as I’ve had major troubles trying to get US Airways agents to see space on ANA as well. And even though Matthew says that it’s not against policy to try to long sell flights, I spent over an hour one night calling US Airways about ten times, and I wasn’t able to find an agent who both knew how to do it and was willing to do it. Some of the agents were cognizant of the Lufthansa blocking as one of them told me that she hadn’t seen Lufthansa award space in months, and some of the agents seemed to know what a long sell was, but I was unable to get someone to long sell the ANA flight that I wanted.

So what’s the solution? If you’re ultra patient and willing to play phone agent roulette, by all means, follow Matthew’s advice and try to find an agent who both knows how to and is willing to long sell the flights to you. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Alternately, to save yourself from some head banging against a wall, you can try to avoid flights on Lufthansa and ANA. This can be extraordinarily challenging depending on where you want to go. I’m currently in the midst of planning a business class award to Tokyo around new years, and the most straightforward flights would be on ANA on their 787 to/from Seattle or San Jose. But since that’s not easily accessible and other trans-Pacific space seems dried up (e.g. EVA through Taipei, Asiana through Seoul, or even on United or Air Canada metal), I’m looking at the long way and crossing the Atlantic. This is also challenging since I need to avoid Lufthansa crossing the Atlantic, but I’ve seen some availability on Austrian through Vienna, LOT through Warsaw, SAS through Copenhagen, and even TAP Portugal through Lisbon. A future post will dive deeper into my booking process.

Thoughts on Lufthansa Coach Class

Holy shit, a travel blogger who’s writing about Lufthansa in coach?!?? Crazy, right? From reading some blogs, it seems like Lufthansa only has a first class cabin.

I flew Lufthansa from Athens to New York JFK, with a layover in Munich (no First Class Terminal either???). And yes, I flew in coach, and it was a pretty good experience, especially when compared to the less-than-stellar Air Canada ride I had on the way over.

The biggest difference between Air Canada and Lufthansa was in the service. Well, I guess there’s also the fact that the flight attendants on Lufthansa were as a whole much younger and more attractive. But really, it seemed like the flight attendants on Lufthansa liked their jobs and wanted to serve people. Fancy that?

The short hop from Athens to Munich was perfectly enjoyable, largely because I slept through most of it. The flight wasn’t that full, which helped with comfort, but I was also surprised by how much room it felt like there was between rows. This is probably because of the slimline seats, which offer more legroom as the seats take up less space. While this was very much appreciated on a short flight, by the end, the lesser amount of padding was getting more noticeable, and I can’t imagine sitting on these seats for prolonged periods of time.

Given that the flight was a little over 2 hours, we were served a hot breakfast. As opposed to the pretty tasteless and unappetizing breakfast I had on Air Canada, this was pretty tasty.

VGML hot breakfast

Hot breakfast on Lufthansa

On the flight from Munich to JFK, the service was generally superb. It’s sometimes just in the small things, like saying, “Certainly” or “It’d be my pleasure”, when responding to a drink request, but it makes the world of difference. I will have to say that it did seem like the flight attendants spent more time talking to the German-speaking passengers than to the other passengers, but I never felt that the service was deficient in any way because I didn’t speak German.

The food was also decent, although the snack they served prior to landing was downright puzzling. Of course, I inflict this upon myself by ordering vegetarian meals, but it was some sort of sandwich with dry bread and a greenish vegetarian pate. Not recommended, but the main meal was perfectly edible.

VGML main meal

VGML main meal

Dry sandwich as a pre-landing VGML snack

Dry sandwich as a pre-landing VGML snack

Overall, I’d definitely fly Lufthansa again in coach. Of course, I aspire to fly them in first class one day, but until I get there, I’ll be happy with the great service you can also get in coach.

Adventures in Booking United Awards

I’m planning on going to Vietnam next year, and I had originally booked an award routing SFO-LHR-BKK-HAN on United Global First, Thai First, and then Thai Business. I was excited to fly LHR to BKK on Thai First because I thought the route was going to be served by an A380, and I had such an awesome time on Emirates’s A380.

Literally days after booking that flight, I read that these plans were scrapped due to delays in the delivery of the A380. So that meant no A380 for me 🙁

But Thai does fly the A380 to both CDG and FRA, so I looked at possible routings through either of those. For CDG, even though United flies SFO to CDG nonstop, it’s on a 2-class 767, so that would mean no first class for the long leg, and then there aren’t any nonstop flights between LHR and CDG on Star Alliance. For FRA, there are plenty of flights between LHR to FRA, so I thought my best option would be to change from SFO-LHR-BKK-HAN to SFO-LHR-FRA-BKK-HAN.

I checked availability on ANA and United.com, and everything looked good for switching to LH 901 for LHR to FRA and then TG 921 for FRA to BKK. First time I called United, the woman answering the phone was a little surprised that I wanted to change to a more indirect routing, but said that she didn’t see space on LH 901. In fact, she said that she couldn’t even book a revenue ticket on that flight because it didn’t look like it existed. So I hung up and called again.

Agent #2 was worse than the first. When I explained what I wanted, he was instantly suspicious. He started asking me irrelevant questions like, “Is this a one-way award? How are you getting back? How are you getting around in Vietnam?”. I probably should have hung up at this point, but I wanted to know if he also couldn’t see space on the Lufthansa flight that I wanted. After putting me on hold, he eventually said something like, “well, there are a couple of things wrong with your scheme,” and also confirmed that he couldn’t see space on LH 901, saying that it didn’t matter what I saw on the website. Oofta.

At this point, I decided to put an award on hold for LH 901, the mysterious flight that the United reservations agents can’t see (for what it’s worth, the agents couldn’t see LH 925, LH 901, or LH 903 aka any of the three flights that would make my routing work), before calling back. So on attempt #3, after hearing the same problems of not seeing any of those flights, I ask the agent about the reservation that I have on hold for LH 901. She agrees that it’s odd that I can make a reservation on a flight that she can’t see, so she has their support team call Lufthansa to see if my award hold is valid.

After half an hour on hold, she comes back with good news: it’s booked! But she booked me in business on the FRA to BKK leg instead of first, which I only saw after checking the itinerary online before getting off the phone with her. So after the agent blaming me for that mistake, I eventually get the whole itinerary booked in the correct classes.

Moral of the story: United agents couldn’t see Lufthansa flights that were bookable on the United.com website and that were shown as available on ANA. In order to get my flight booked, I held an award for the flight that I wanted, which finally convinced a United agent to figure out why they couldn’t see the flight. Has anyone else noticed problems with United agents not able to see Lufthansa (or other carrier) award space that’s very clearly available?