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Posts tagged Lufthansa

Over Spring Break we flew to Europe. By the time of our trip, the routing had changed to Houston-Frankfurt-Berlin in Lufthansa first class on the A380, returning Berlin-Frankfurt-Dallas, also in Lufthansa first class. The outbound was unbelievable. I have not flown a lot of international first but Lufthansa’s A380 first class is now my favorite “hard” product flying. The crew was stellar, providing prompt service and making sure that everyone on-board did not have any needs that were not met. The return longhaul flight was close to being a polar opposite.

Between Frankfurt and Dallas Lufthansa operates the Airbus A330-300. These particular planes, the ones based in Frankfurt, are just now undergoing conversion for the new first class seats. I knew this when I booked the tickets but ignored it because we needed to get home. Seats aside, the service from the crew was a 180 degree difference from what we experienced on the way to Germany. One flight attendant was attentive and helpful but the one who spent the most time in the cabin was as nonchalant and lackadaisical as they come. After lunch I had asked that the seat be made into a bed so that I could take a nap. The flight attendant put the seat into “lounge” mode rather than “flat” mode and kind of just tossed the mattress pad onto it. She didn’t take the time to make the bed or even get out the pillow and blanket. I searched through the overhead bin and found both. To top it all off, the food choices were not very good and the food itself was actually of poor quality (surprising since the flight was catered in Frankfurt).

One last thing. In Dallas, our flight was met by a Lufthansa representative holding a sign with a few passenger names. We saw our name and stopped to speak with her, thinking maybe we’d get taken to a quicker immigration line. She asked if we had checked luggage and said we would wait for a couple more passengers. After more standing around, the representative turns to me and remarks, “I can’t escort you to an expedited immigration line, you might as well go”. Well that’s a let down. What is this person’s role? To simply see if you have checked bags and put them to the side so you don’t have to wait for the carousel?

To be clear, I understand how fortunate I was to be flying in first class. I was simply a little surprised in the contrast between my outbound flight and the return. The flight crews were on opposite ends of the service spectrum. Had I known the service was going to be so poor, I probably would have saved the miles for first and just flown in business class. Will this keep me from flying Lufthansa again? No. Their A380 product out of Houston is certainly one of the best first class experiences in the sky. I file the whole experience under the crew having a bad day and the catering just being off. In the world of travel this is one of those, “sometimes you just have to realize you’re hurtling through the air in a metal tube” moments. It happens. It makes for a less than desirable experience but there is always the next flight.

Around the U.S. the “tradition” of spring break has begun. Back in September I had made reservations for my wife and I to travel to Seoul, South Korea and onward to Singapore during this timeframe. We were going to do it in style, using my United miles to fly Asiana’s new business class to Seoul and Singapore’s first class from Singapore to Moscow then home. Due to circumstances with my work, I was required to be in Maryland (where I am writing this now) over part of our vacation. I cancelled the reward tickets and had settled on not doing much over spring break. As I started thinking about it, I really wanted to take a vacation, if even a little one. I’m sure my wife would appreciate a small break from Houston as well.

As I sat in the airport on Thursday morning I did a random search for reward seats from Houston to Europe and happened upon two seats on SWISS in business class. I grabbed them, flying us from Houston to Chicago to Zurich. Now, Zurich certainly is not a cheap city and has not really been on my radar to visit so I started exploring other European destinations, as well as a way to get home.

My mind immediately went to where would be easy to reach from Zurich. I looked at Croatia, which has been at the top of my “to visit” list for a while now but all of the connections would arrive later than 5pm which essentially wastes a half day of enjoyment. The story was the same for most of eastern Europe. Where could we go in western Europe that interested us and was somewhere new? Seth’s write-up on Hamburg peaked my interest. He explored the city in just 26 hours and I figure with a little more time my wife and I could really get to know it. I found a decent connection out of Zurich and had the reservations updated. We’re halfway to a full reward!

The hardest part in all of this was finding reward seats for the flights home. There was absolutely nothing available back to Houston. I could get us to Detroit or Newark but that’s as far as the flights would take us. A random search then brought back Frankfurt to Dallas-Fort Worth in Lufthansa first class. Now that’s an option I like! Then, when I decided that that was what I would book, it disappeared. United has a problem of showing ghost availability on Lufthansa (and others); It looks like the seats are there but really do not exist. I figured the seats disappearing was a ghost availability issue but the next day, there they were again! To double check that they were really there I used the ANA tool. Sure enough, there were two first class seats available on the Frankfurt-DFW non-stop. I called United and added the return.

Great Circle Mapper View of Our Trip

I am still missing a flight from DFW to Houston but my “worst case scenario” plan is to have a one-way rental car reservation made and just use that to get to IAH. If a flight from DFW opens or a non-stop from Europe to Houston opens, I’ll grab that as soon as I can and cancel the rental reservation.

It’s a little stressful planning these last minute trips but fun at the same time. The best part is being able to salvage some of the vacation time with my wife.

On Monday I flew Lufthansa between Budapest and Munich on one of their Airbus 320 aircraft (registration D-AIPP). When I sat down I started looking through their magazine and noticed an extra insert in the seatback pocket. On the insert was a description of the new in-flight entertainment system that is being tested and how to use it on this particular flight. I read through and downloaded the required application for my iPhone, called “my mediaworld”, to test it out. I registered the application (required before using the system) and was all set.

The system works off of a wireless signal that starts transmitting as the aircraft passes through 10,000 feet. You select the network and launch the app. You are presented with a number of options including WatchEnjoy (television, movies, etc.), ListenRelax (music, spoken work), eJournals (newspapers, magazines), and FlyLufthansa (flight information).

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I played with each of the options just to see what was provided. The only one that did not really work for me was the magazines and periodicals section. I could never get it to actually load. I ended up selecting a movie to watch and it immediately started playing. The video quality was great and there was no lagging video artifacts that one usually sees with streaming video.

When I watched a few of the TV shows, they were only in German and there was no option to for subtitles. Not having subtitles was a little disappointing, but they are a German airline so having such content isn’t all that surprising.

Shorts Content Image

The video quality was just as good as what you would have if you downloaded the content yourself.

Video Quality Screenshot

There is also an inflight moving map that shows your current position and a few flight statistics. The application launches the web browser, in my case Safari, and presents the flight data and map there. Great information if you’re an aviation nerd like me.

Moving Map Launch Screenshot

Moving Map Screenshot

One of the neatest features is that when an announcement is being made over the aircraft’s intercom, the system pauses the content you are in. I was still a little sick and could not hear well enough to tell if the sound from the intercom was being piped through my headphones as well.

Public Announcement in Progress Screenshot


Overall it’s a very cool system and if this is the direction that United is headed with their inflight entertainment, passengers will be very happy. The only concern I had with the Lufthansa system was the lack of power ports in their short haul product. If you are doing some of their longer flights on a short haul aircraft, there are no power ports. Heck, even on Lufthansa’s new A380, there are no power ports in coach, meaning you’ll only be able to watch content until you run out of juice.

This really is the future of inflight entertainment and it’s good news for passengers. No more giant content boxes under the seat in front of you, no more watching movies on a tiny screen three rows in front of you, and no more watching the same content over and over on a loop.

Next time you are on a Lufthansa flight, be sure and check the inflight magazine, you may just have a wireless content delivery system installed on the aircraft (currently, this particular A320 is the only one with the system)! Also, I have included a few more screenshots of the product below. Lufthansa also has a full description of the “my mediaworld” system and available content on their website.

eJournals Screenshot

TV Series Screenshot

 

Movies Screenshot

Moving Map Screenshot

Music Screenshot

 

On Thursday evening, while randomly looking at reward availability on united.com, I happened upon two first class reward seats on Lufthansa’s A380. The flight would leave from Houston on December 29th and arrive in Frankfurt on December 30th. For 235,000 miles I knew I could have a one-way first class reward with a return in business class for two people. That coupled with how rarely Lufthansa opens first class seats on the A380 I started frantically planning a quick trip to Europe.

The first thing my wife and I did was start looking at different cities in Europe that we would want to spend New Years Eve in. We have been to Frankfurt and while it’s a pleasant city, there is not a whole lot there to do. After looking at hotel prices in Paris, London, Leipzig, Salzburg, and Vienna, we settled on Nuremberg, Germany. We have visited before and enjoyed it, so New Years Eve there would be enjoyable. I made a refundable hotel reservation and jumped into “how to make this happen” mode.

I searched for flights to get us to Houston by Tuesday evening. I have a 7:30am work flight on Wednesday and needed to give myself some time to repack and be ready to go. Jessica is joining me in New York on a later flight and would need time to do the same. Sure enough, I found two business class seats on Lufthansa’s new Boeing 748i to Washington-Dulles with a two hour connection before the final flight back to Houston.

Our dog would need to go to the kennel, we would need to make sure we had our Christmas tree taken down, and a few household chores needed to be completed before we could leave. Jessica got to work on the tree and we hauled it to the tree recycling drop-off. I called the dog kennel and made sure they had space, no issues there. We finished up some chores around the house and then started doubting ourselves.

I’ll admit, the thought of this trip revolved mostly around the idea of trying out Lufthansa’s new first class product on the A380. Neither of us was sold on the idea going back to Nuremberg. It’s a great city and I recommend it to anyone visiting Germany, but we had already been and were kind of wanting to enjoy a New Years Eve celebration. I had looked up what the festivities were in Nuremberg and while they had fireworks it just wasn’t like a New Year celebration like Paris or Amsterdam.

We decided to sleep on it and on the morning of 29th, I made the judgement call to not go. Not going would give us more time to focus on planning our activities in New York and would relieve a little bit of stress on the quick repacking front. Plus, not being sold on the final destination made it a little easier to bear.

That led to a refund.

All is not lost. I still have the miles and I am sure first class availability on the A380 will appear again. Would have it been an awesome trip? More than likely. Would it have been worth it? For such a short trip, I am not completely convinced. I certainly would have enjoyed the plane rides, but the time in Nuremberg would have been too short to really cherish. For this redemption, the lack of a desired destination coupled with the short time of the trip meant it was the right decision to refund the trip.

Wow, well it has been a while since I wrote part one of this trip report. I apologize for the long wait, my work schedule has been very hectic the last five months and the updates to this site have suffered as a result.

After a great time in Prague, a beautiful train ride, and a relaxing stay in Berlin, it was time to head back to the real world of work, bills, and a lot less Czech and German in our day to day conversations. But first, we had to get to Stuttgart.

Berlin-Tegel to Stuttgart

When I originally booked the trip, the only upgradeable space from Europe back to the U.S. was out of Stuttgart. This worked out nicely since I had never flown out of Stuttgart and had only been through the city once. Since we had taken the train from Prague to Berlin, I needed a way to get from Berlin to Stuttgart. The intercity express trains were well over EUR 200 per person but Lufthansa had a fare that actually beat their low cost competitor, Air Berlin, out of Tegel. I was hopeful that by the time of our trip, Berlin Brandenburg, the new airport in Berlin, would actually be open. Due to a number of technical problems, that opening has been delayed until next year.

Flying out of Tegel airport has its ups and downs. The major pluses are its distance from the center of Berlin and the cheap, efficient public buses that service it from many points around the city. The negatives are that it is an older airport starting to show its age. Most of the original terminal check-in counters are very crowded and this has only been compounded because of the Brandenburg Airport delay.

Nevertheless, I love flying out of Tegel because it is a step back in time. Check-in and security is done just outside of the gate area. You check-in, walk around the counter, and go through the security checkpoint. The gate area is usually shared between two or three gates and there is a small sandwich, coffee, etc. vendor inside.

Our aircraft from Berlin to Stuttgart

Our aircraft from Berlin to Stuttgart

On the morning of our flight there was some weather around Berlin and it caused a bit of a delay and confusion when checking-in. The lines for check-in were not marked and there were no Lufthansa staff directing passengers on where they should check-in. We stood around for about an hour before they finally opened the check-in desks. My original plan was to check-in, drop our bags at the Lufthansa lounge, and head upstairs to the tarmac observation deck. Due to the delays, I scratched that plan and and just focused on not missing the flight.

Eventually we boarded the Airbus 319 and were off to Stuttgart. I am not sure what it is, but I have found that on just about every flight I take in Europe, I have no problems getting an exit row seat. It seems that Europeans have a certain aversion to sitting in these rows and quite frankly, I have no problem with that. More legroom for me.

So I’ll cut to the chase, this was a rather uneventful flight that lasted just over an hour. Individually wrapped cinnamon and raisin danishes were handed out along with a drink of your choice. The flight attendants even came through offering seconds of the danishes if anyone was interested (are you listening U.S. based carriers?).

Breakfast form Berlin to Stuttgart

Lufthansa Breakfast – Berlin to Stuttgart

Stuttgart

We arrived in Stuttgart around 1pm and took the regional train into town, which takes about 45 minutes. We were staying at Le Meridien, which after figuring out how to get out of the train station, was only a ten minute walk away. It is a functional hotel, that’s all I can really say about it. The nicest thing in the room was the bathroom. One note, do not expect an upgrade at Le Meridien Stuttgart. As a Starwood Platinum I was given what had to be one the least impressive rooms on the property and there were a large number of rooms available, per the Starwood website.

Church in Stuttgart

After dropping off our bags we decided to walk around Stuttgart. The first thing you will notice is that there is not a whole lot to do in Stuttgart. There are a few churches and historical sights around the center but other than that, there is a large outdoor shopping area and not much else. We wandered around the back streets, found a nice restaurant and had dinner before calling it a night.

Stuttgart to Newark Liberty International

The day we left started way too early. The Stuttgart-Newark flight leaves at 9:30am and not knowing what security would be like, we left the hotel at 6:30am. The train pulled into Stuttgart airport at 7:15am and we searched for the United check-in counters. The signage is not clear, so if you are flying United out of Stuttgart just head to the far side of the terminal away from the train station.

Only two check-in agents were working so the process took a while, even though we were in BusinessFirst. After twenty minutes in line, we were checked-in and headed to the security checkpoint, which was much faster than check-in. Like Berlin-Tegel, Stuttgart has an observation deck, this one complete with seven or eight aircraft sitting there. Due to the crappy weather, we had to skip visiting the deck (I may make a trip back to Stuttgart airport just to check it out) but we grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the gate.

Immigration control is done just before the gate area and after you are stamped out of the country you undergo another security screening, mostly consisting of questions about whether or not you checked your own luggage.

Only a few minutes of sitting in the gate area and the United contract staff called for boarding. Onboard we were offered a beverage before our departure and I went with the sparkling wine. Not United’s best, that’s for sure. Not too long after and we were up in the air and on our way to Newark.

United Boeing 757-200 BusinessFirst

Our home for the 9 hour flight from Stuttgart to Newark

The crew was expeditious in their lunch service. The starter was a cold piece of cured meat, pickle, and mandarin orange. Definitely too much sweetness, which would be a theme of the meal. My main course choice was the steak served with potatoes and vegetables and a sweet sauce. The steak was tender and the potatoes were well flavored but it was overpowered by the sweet sauce. The cheese course was next and was a bit better than our flight from Chicago to Brussels. The flight attendants portioned our cheese selections from the large portions on their cart and gave us our choice in crackers and other sides. My understanding as to why the cheese is pre-proportioned on the United aircraft that have Global First is a function of galley size. They simply do not have the space for the cheese course. Last up was the sundae. I went with my normal toppings of chocolate and a cherry.

After lunch and dessert it was time for a five hour nap and a movie before the pre-arrival service. The crew left out baskets of snacks and gave each BusinessFirst a bottle of water. They also made occasional passes through the cabin making sure that everyone was taken care of.

Main Course from Stuttgart to Newark

Steak, potatoes, vegetables, and a sweet sauce.

The pre-arrival service was described as a chicken “bouquet”. It was essentially chicken, cheese, and dough. The best part of it was the fact that it was served with a nice selection of fruit (watermelon, strawberries, etc.) and a vegetable salad with a dressing that had great flavor.

Not long after the pre-arrival service was served we started our descent into the New York area and 45 minutes later we landed at Newark-Liberty International Airport. Service wise, this flight was great. The crew did not spend large amounts at the front of the cabin chit-chatting, instead they did their service and took short breaks but still made sure to check on passengers. The food was a bit of a disappointment. I am not sure if it is the catering service used in Stuttgart but the food was entirely too sweet. The food itself is a little of a let down. United should really look at refining the BusinessFirst food options.

Pre-Arrival Snack - Stuttgart to Newark

Pre-Arrival Snack – “Chicken Bouquet”, fruit, and vegetable salad on United BusinessFirst.

Newark to Austin

There is not a lot to say about this segment, a standard coach flight. It was clear a few days before this flight that we were not going to be upgraded but we at least had exit row seats. Customs and immigration was very fast and we made it through Newark security rather quickly. The Boeing 737-500s that United uses on this route are a disappointment; No in-flight entertainment, rather uncomfortable seats, and very small overhead bins make it an unpleasant experience. United is retiring these jets though, slowly but surely.

Conclusion

This was a much needed vacation and I enjoyed most of United’s hard product (the seat, the new amenity kits, etc.) but pieces of it could use some work. The seats on the 3-class 767-300s do not have a lot of storage space and the cubby where your feet go is too small. Specific items of the soft product need work. The food offerings across the different aircraft types needs to be more standardized and in general, the food items need to be improved. With the other legacy U.S. carriers making sweeping changes to their international and domestic products, United is quickly falling to the rear of the pack.

I appreciate the United route network, the availability of reward seats, and plenty of lie-flat seats to longhaul destinations so I will continue to fly them when I can. I do want to see them work to continue making their inflight product much more attractive to business and leisure travelers.

Fronts Harden in Lufthansa Labor Dispute (Der Spiegel) →

 

As expected, thousands of stranded passengers were none too pleased by the first strike on Friday at Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest. Lufthansa had to cancel nearly half of the 360 flights scheduled to take off on Friday morning, and the airport almost ground to a complete halt until 2 p.m. Lines of waiting passengers in Terminal 1 wound their way through several parts of the building.

There was even uproar in the luxurious and normally serene first-class terminal, as furious frequent fliers ranted at Lufthansa staff. To add to the disarray, flight crews waved placards with anti-Franz slogans directly opposite, at one of the entrances to the airport site.

Things are kind of getting back to normal but Tuesday’s A380 flight from Frankfurt to Houston was canceled due to the strike and the effects of the strike will probably roll into next week. All of this stemming from the flight attendant’s union wanting an increase in pay and the same group being disenfranchised by the prospects of cost cutting by Lufthansa.

The Gulf-state carriers (Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, etc.) are a real source of “hard to beat” competition due to their seemingly bottomless coffers and their willingness to go into a new market and take it by storm. Lufthansa is attempting to cut costs to compete on lower fares. It’s just a question of how far are they going to take that.

There are times I really doubt that businesses care about my concerns or praises. I am of the mindset that they are there to provide a service for a cost and as long as I receive that service, they have done their job. Sure, there are times that receiving a service is delayed or the result is not the one desired, but for the most part, things work out in the end. If I am not satisfied with a service provider, I will move to another one. A few recent events have me convinced that companies that focus on service quality along with final result quality deserve to be the winners and should be what all companies strive for.

One of our vehicles needed an oil change and I took it to our usual place. A few minutes after I walked in one of the attendants saw my vehicle, approached me, and very apologetically explained that the type of oil needed for the car was out of stock due to heavy demand over the weekend. He could have left it at that and I probably would have come back another day. Instead, he said, “we have another location, it’s a few miles away, but I can call them and make sure they have the oil in stock if you need it done today”. A phone call later and I was on my way to the other location. It took the attendant a total of five minutes to make my day a little easier. Some people may not want to drive further, but I needed the oil change before going out of town, so it was a welcome extra bit of service.

In an opposite example, a recent experience with Continental Airlines had to be resolved by going through outside channels, rather than having an issue resolved by the agents who created it. I had made a number of bookings for our Christmas trip and since I was not able to find availability to Miami to start it, I decided to focus my energy on refining another booking I had made From Austin to Boston to Munich. I had found better availability through Seattle and onward to Frankfurt and called in to make the change. The agent was helpful but said that there was no availability from Seattle to Frankfurt, even though I could see it. I asked to be transferred to the electronic support desk to see what the issue was.

The agent I was connected to was very helpful and quickly had a Lufthansa representative on the phone, trying to sort out the problem. Eventually, I was told that the Lufthansa representative was going to do some work on the ticket and that the Continental agent would add my new segments into my reservation to hold them while leaving my original segments intact. The helpful Continental agent also took my phone number, telling me she would give me a call on Monday and if I didn’t hear from her, to call back as my record had notations added explaining the issue.

Monday rolled around and I had not heard anything, so that afternoon I called Continental. The agent saw the notations and called Lufthansa again. This time, she assured me that they were working it out and after I convinced her that I did not want to fly business class to Berlin-Tegel and take the train to Dresden, she started to confirm my existing reservation. A few minutes later and my old flights had been removed and replaced with my desired flights, minus the segment that Lufthansa was working on. Again, she assured me that that flight would pop in whenever Lufthansa fixed it and that I was good to go.

Fast forward to Tuesday evening. Nothing had posted from Lufthansa and when I called back to Continental and asked for a supervisor, I was put on hold, then told they were contacting Lufthansa, and eventually hung up on. I called again later and received the same result. The result of all of this was me having a ticket from Austin to Seattle, then from Frankfurt to Dresden and that was it. Panicked, I contacted a corporate representative I know and while driving to meet up with Family on Wednesday I received a call from a Continental agent that my ticket had been fixed.

Why did it have to happen this way? Why was I required to go to a corporate contact, who I know has more important things going on? Why did the agents fail to shoot straight with me and end up leaving me with what amounted to a worthless ticket?

Will I stop flying Continental because of this one incident? No, but the entire incident was unnecessary and could have been avoided, saving me time and Continental resource hours. It came down to agents not wanting to put in the work required to fix the ticket and instead, passing me off to other agents, hoping someone else would figure it out.

I’ll leave you with one more positive example. While in Chicago I have been jumping around to different hotels on each stay. One week, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency. The room was nice and quiet, the only downside was that for some reason, the internet was not working. I tweeted about it and within an hour I had a reply from the Hyatt’s Twitter account. I was at work but when I returned to my room there was a phone message from a hotel manager, asking about my issue and when a good time would be for them to check it out. Needless to say, I will be staying at the Hyatt more often.

Is all of this to say that I want businesses constantly following up with each Twitter complaint? I am not even sure that’s feasible. There is only so much a person with a Twitter account can do. Writing in 140 characters is not the most fun, so getting on the phone with the customer or sending an e-mail is definitely a way of escalating an issue. No, what I want is service industries to be more service oriented. Even if delivering bad news, I want businesses to think about how they deliver such news and what they can do to turn a negative into a positive.

Some of these things are training issues, others are tied to the types of personalities your business hires. If you are just trying to put a body in a chair then you may just be doing it wrong. I do not need or require “bow to me” service, I simply desire respect, honesty with candor, and a clearly defined method of escalating issues. If your business nails those things, even without social media, it will be worlds ahead of the competition.

I have not written much in the way of trip reports from some of my business and first class experiences. There are a number of reasons but the main one has been a lack of time. After receiving a couple of e-mails from friends asking me to compare products and amenities, I figured a write-up was in order. This particular comparison is between Swiss International Airlines and Lufthansa, the national carrier of Germany. The actual flights took place in July of 2010 as part of a reward trip that I took to Germany. The cost was 135,000 Continental OnePass miles. The trip routing on the outbound was AUSIAHFRATXL and the return was MUCZRHJFK/EWRAUS.

I have split the report into two parts to make it a little easier to read.

Lufthansa

Route: IAHFRA
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 83C

My wife and I actually started the trip in Austin after dropping off our dog, but had only checked our bags to Houston as I wanted to see what Lufthansa’s ground handling was like for first class passengers. To be blunt, it is nothing to write home about. Check-in was speedy and first class boarding passes get a nice, sturdy boarding pass holder.

The Lufthansa First Class boarding pass sleeve. It's slick.

Lufthansa First Class boarding pass sleeve

There was not much of a line at security and we were through in ten minutes. Terminal D at IAH is fairly quiet due to the times of departures being spread out. Amenities in the terminal are lacking and the Lufthansa lounge option, The Executive Club, is a terrible choice. It is windowless, has no bathrooms, and is just an all around poor lounge. The Terminal C Presidents Club is a short walk away and I recommend making that walk.

Boarding for the Lufthansa flight was called around 3:55pm. Chaos ensued. Even though Lufthansa has a separate line for first and business class passengers were pushing their way to whatever line they could and slowing down the boarding process. The gate agents originally tried to board “Children younger than 16 and those traveling with them” but that equaled most of the plane, so halfway through they stopped boarding and then opened it again to business and first class passengers. Down the jetway we went and as we entered the plane we were greeted with a “Guten Tag!” and shown the stairway to the upper deck on the 747-400.

Lufthansa is an oddity of sorts. They’re first class cabin resides on the upper deck, unlike other airlines, who put first class in the nose of the aircraft. I prefer the upper deck because it is quieter and there is a sense of privacy.

As we put our baggage in the overhead compartment and took our seats we were greeted by a flight attendant who asked us if we would like anything to drink. We went with Warsteiner and the flight attendant returned shortly with two glasses of beer, warm Macadamia nuts, pajamas (for which she had sized us up silently), and an amenity kit.

Lufthansa First

Macadamia Nuts and Warsteiner

By 4:45pm our flight was pushing back from the gate and we were on our way to Frankfurt. A long take-off roll and a slow climb later, we were cruising at 35,000 feet. The cabin crew sprung into action. Out of the sixteen seats in the first class cabin only seven were filled. Of those, only five opted for dinner so service was fast and efficient.

To start, the crew presented us with a duck terrine and a salad composed of watercress, arugula and oranges. The duck terrine was tasty but the salad had little flavor.

Lufthansa Appetizer

Duck Terrine

The salad course was nothing spectacular though the balsamic vinegar dressing was quite good.

Lufthansa Salad

Salad Course

For my main course I went with the steak. My wife had the gnocchi that was served in a curry sauce. Her dish was not her favorite but my steak was cooked a perfect medium and was flavorful. (Is there way to describe a steak more?)

Lufthansa Steak

Steak

A dessert course, followed by a cheese course were next. I had the raspberry sorbet, served with a mango chutney of sorts and few different cheeses.

Lufthansa Sorbet

Raspberry Sorbet

Lufthansa First Class

Cheese Course

After dinner the flight attendants asked if we’d like our beds made and when we replied, “yes”, suggested we take that time to change into our provided pajamas. After brushing my teeth and changing I returned to my seat to find it made into a lie-flat bed with a bottle of water sitting in a cup holder right by my head. I put the earplugs provided in the amenity kit and ended up getting a good six hours of solid sleep.

As our flight approached the English Channel, the flight attendants made their rounds one last time and asked if we’d like breakfast. I ordered eggs, bacon, coffee and orange juice. A short time later, the best breakfast I have ever had on an airplane, arrived. The scrambled eggs were fluffy and flavorful and the bacon was perfect.

Lufthansa First Class Breakfast

Bacon and Eggs

We landed and taxied to a remote stand, where buses are required to get passengers to the terminal. One nice thing Lufthansa does is provide a separate bus for first class passengers. It does not get rid of the mad house known as the “dungeon” at Frankfurt but it allows you to beat a large amount of the traffic to the immigration facilities.

A short time later and we were making our way to the First Class Terminal, a private facility for Lufthansa first class passengers located just west of Terminal 1. Inside the terminal there is a private immigration queue, showers, a full service restaurant, and a bar that has a very large collection of whiskeys, scotches, cognacs, and bourbons that are all free for tasting. You can learn more about the First Class Terminal in the video below (it’s even better if you speak German).

After a shower and meal of schnitzel and potato salad (is there a better meal to start off a trip to Germany with?) we were driven to our Berlin flight with two other passengers in a Mercedes van. The flight itself was uneventful, though they did serve ice cream sandwiches. Berlin-Tegel is a neat airport, even if completely outdated. As Schönefeld Airport comes online, Tegel will be closed (just like Tempelhof before it).

Overall, I enjoyed Lufthansa’s onboard service, even if their hard product, specifically the seat, is old. The ground handling in Houston needs some serious work but the First Class Terminal is an unmatched amenity that makes Lufthansa really stand out.

My wife and I decided that a summer trip this year would be a bit of hassle with me starting a new job and her having to do a summer conference. Instead, we decided that a trip to Warsaw and eastern Germany before Christmas would be something that we’d both enjoy. After seeing pictures of German Christmas markets my wife was sold on the idea of spending more time in Germany.

So, I’ve started early on the search for reward tickets. Just before Christmas is not a heavy travel season to Europe so I figured I would find some availability but my first few searches came back with nothing. My goal was to go from Houston to either Los Angeles or San Francisco and then to Frankfurt, Munich, or Zurich from there. Why, you ask, would I want to fly from the west coast? More sleeping time, plain and simple. I was still having a hard time finding availability, with only Denver coming back with empty seats.

Then, Friday night, it happened. I went to continental.com and plugged in “MIAWAW” and got back a bunch of neat routings, including First Class on Lufthansa’s Airbus A380-800. The most interesting routing was Miami to Frankfurt to Kiev to Warsaw, but the connection time in Frankfurt had the potential for us to miss our flight to Kiev, especially in the winter. So, I ended up booking the one-way reward as Miami-Frankfurt-Bucharest-Warsaw.

People may think I’m crazy to route the trip through Bucharest but I did not want to arrive too early into Warsaw and be stuck lugging our suitcases around the city in the snow. Now we’ll get in at 3pm, perfect for checking straight into our hotel. Not to mention, I’ll get a couple of neat new lines 😉

This is merely the beginning of planning this trip, I still need to get from Houston to Miami, as well as continue to monitor flights from the west coast as I would still prefer the longer flight, and finally, figure out our routing for the way home.

The big thing to look forward to is the First Class experience on the Lufthansa A380. I was lucky to grab the seats since Lufthansa has been holding them back for their own frequent flyers. I expect the service will be just as superb as our flight to Frankfurt from Houston last summer but the new suites will add a whole new level of awesomeness.

This is a trip I am really looking forward to, a new aircraft, a new airline (LOT Polish Airlines), and a few new lines. As I make changes and find the return routing, I’ll make some new posts.