I had the great opportunity to fly Lufthansa First Class on my return from my short trip to explore Baku, Azerbaijan over labor day.
Note: feel free to skim or skip the text all together and just browse pictures. Again, all menu pictures will be at the end.
100% would recommend Lufthansa First Class, an overall great experience. I am not sure I’d go out of my way to experience the Lufthansa First Class Terminal if you are a connecting passenger though. It is a classy, elegant, refined experience without the gimmicky features and glitz.
Overall fantastic experience. The onboard experience for me is what made the entire experience exceptional as I had one of the most amazing crew and the seat was comfortable, amenities great, food and beverage nothing mind blowing but all tasty. Honestly, of the sample of 6 first class experiences I have had to date, this now is around #3 and slightly beats out Emirates. The famous Lufthansa ground experience was still great and unique but for me fell short of expectations and hype. The First Class Terminal is a very cool concept and the Lufthansa employed staff are great but the contracted Do&Co staff manning the bar and restaurant and showers were not great. Further, the lounge itself is small. Boarding felt a tad rushed and I was unfortunately driven to the gate in a van with a couple other F passengers. And perhaps for me the main disappointment was that after a 5.5 hour layover with a delay I still didnt get a chance to experience the famous bubble bath (I got my rubber duck), but apparently the two folks in front of me like to take 2 hour baths.
The day before I left for Baku I saw that Lufthansa had award availability through Air Canada Aeroplan mileage program. It was 80,000 miles from Baku through Frankfurt to Washington, D.C in Business and First. For me the ideal booking for Lufthansa first was to 1) ensure enough time was to be had at the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt 2) experience first class on the 747-8 and in the nose (I had never flown the newest and last version of the queen of the skies). This itinerary would allow me to do that, albeit a 5 hour sector on the horrible Euro-Business class, but at least the food was good and with a 4:30AM departure, it didnt matter as I fell right asleep. Upon seeing this availability, I transferred my American Express reward points to my Aeroplan account (I had consistently been monitoring Lufthansa first award space) and booked it, I paid a USD$250 fuel and tax fee. It was instant and boom I was booked. Aeroplan has a nice 24 hour cancel window even for award bookings, and $150 change/ cancel fee after that for award bookings. When I booked, 4 out of 8 seats had been taken, I was still able to get 1K, there is always a extra special feeling to sit in row 1 in the nose of the mighty 747, ahead of the cockpit!
Flights on Monday 9/2/2019
Flight: Lufthansa LH 613 GYD-FRA
Aircraft: A321 D-AISI
Flight time: 4 Hours 45 Minutes Dep 5:15AM Arr: 8:00AM
Seat: Business Class: originally 3F, switched to 2F bulkhead
Distane: 2095 miles
Flight: Lufthansa LH 418 FRA-IAD
Aircraft: 747-8I D-ABYQ
Flight Time: 8 Hours 55 Minutes Dep 14:00PM Arr: 16:55PM
Seat: First Class seat 1K
Distance: 4075 Miles
Baku to Frankfurt
This part of the journey was nothing exceptional or subpar it was just ok. Check-in at Baku was easy, there is no priority lanes for premium pax but security and immigration are super fast. LH apparently no longer contracts to use lounges here as it is “not to Lufthansa standards” according to the app despite the airport and lounges being quite new and perfectly adequate in my opinion. Fear not, there are like 3 priority pass lounges.
We boarded on time. I boarded a rather messy airplane as it had just come in from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan with a few J pax continuing and some cockpit crew who had swapped duties. The flight then was delayed a half hour due to a small mechanical issue that was resolved, we finally departed at around 5:15AM. While Euro-business class is over all a joke, it is still nice to have the middle economy seat blocked off for this 5 hour flight, and nice to have the pillows, blankets and amenity kit.
Amenity kits, to my surprise, were passed out and so were menus and hot towels before departure. I was knocked out for the first few minutes of the flight but the smell of food and noise of silverware woke me up. I think I was the only J pax who went with the sweet breakfast of Chocolate bread pudding v. the savory omelette, it was tasty! Breakfast was during sunrise so it was nice to look out the window as the LH narrow-bodies have no entertainment system. I proceeded to pass out the rest of the flight.
Soon we were on final approach to Frankfurt. We parked at a bridge gate but since we were non-schengen they pulled the stairs. I thought we would be deplaning through door 1 but they pulled the stairs at door 2. Here is where I feel LH could make an improvement. the cabin crew knew I was transferring to first class to DC, as I heard them mentioning something about a first pax going to DC, I feel knowing this they could have offered to get my overhead bin baggage and escort me to first deplane, I think this should be done for every first pax who would be transferring especially if one is deplaning from door 2 behind the J cabin. Turns out I was the only pax transferring to first as when I exited the plan I saw a beautiful black Porsche at the bottom with the chauffeur holding a sign with “Mr. Huang” on it. I was a tad tired and in awe and also felt weird as everyone else deplaning watched me get in the Porsche so I forgot to take a picture with the sign and car! But I did get a picture of the car. This is a very cool and nice touch that Lufthansa does for those deplaning by stairs with a First connection.
At first I was to be driven to concourse D as an international transit passenger and use the First Class Lounge in the terminal, but I asked if I could go to the First Class Terminal and said I understood I’d have to clear customs and immigration and go outside. The chauffeur without hesitation pulled over, radioed the office and checked if he could turn me around to the A Wing where its less crowded to clear immigration but also exits closest to the First Terminal. Soon he turned around and I was dropped off at A and cleared customs and immigration within 10 minutes. I was out the door within 15.
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
The famous Lufthansa First Class Terminal is located in its own stand alone building outside the main terminal. It is designed mainly for local passengers originating in Frankfurt. Nonetheless a short 5-10 minute walk after taking a left turn from the exit out of A in the main terminal, past the taxi stands, and you will arrive at the lower level of the terminal. Enter, take the elevators up and you’ll arrive at the main lobby.
Upon exiting the elevator one of the many Lufthansa staff manning the lobby check-in desks came to greet me, take my boarding pass and bags. They were all a tad camera shy when I took pictures of the lobby. After checking documents, they also take your passport and send it to the immigration office downstairs, they escort your through the terminal’s own security check which leads to the terminal’s duty free shop and rubber duck display. Before you enter the actual lounge through automated doors.
The lounge itself isnt huge and at peak times can get busy but not overcrowded, remember its not all First class passengers as Hon Circle members get access too. There are two main seatings area, one with massage loungers. There are private office spaces you can reserve. A bring your own cigar cigar lounge or you can buy one at the lounge with its own self-service bar. A full service bar with a excellent selection of rums, gins and water and an extensively decent but not out of this world selection of whisky. There is a dining area for buffet and a-la-carte dining. There are two nap room to reserve and finally there are the shower suites, one which includes the bubble bath that unless you arrive first thing in the morning, you’re unlikely to get or if you fly when no one else is flying.
The lounge attendant walked me through the lounge and said they are there for my every need both the LH staff and the contracted lounge staff. I put my name down for the bubble bath, and was informed that one person was using it and that two more were waiting before me, this was at 8:30AM. I thought surely with a 1:15PM departure I could get to experience the bath, how wrong I was. I then proceeded to dine. Though it was the breakfast menu, you can request lunch/dinner items as I did with the famous LH First Terminal Schnitzel, it was quite tasty though far from the best schnitzel in Germany. I paired it with some champagne, and helped myself to some iberico ham and chocolate croissant from the buffet. What became confusing to me was what was to be served v. what was self-service. I drink a lot of water when I travel to stay hydrated, they never once offered me an entire bottle and it was only when I saw other pax order an entire bottle that I did, as I just was unsure of the entire process and flow of things. I proceeded to walk around and then find a nice lounger and ottoman by the windows, remember the lounge has no view of the tarmac. I spent my next hours tasting various rums and whisky, they one bar staff seemed annoyed that I kept wanting to try different liquors and kept asking for water, just offer me an entire bottle then or dont make it obvious you find me annoying for wanting to try everything and experiencing all that LH has to offer, I deduced this given her evident sighs and borderline reluctance. She was very annoyed when I asked for a new glass of whisky after a fly flew into mine, I get this top shelf stuff cant just go away like water, but it is complimentary and normally I’d pluck the fly out and not care, but this was a first class lounge. I get it, some of the liquors were high up and required a step ladder to retrieve, but still. I found the contracted staff to not be that attentive either, there was a lack of anticipating needs and pro-activeness here. The LH attendants were great but they only really showed up every so often I kept checking here and there for the bath. The attendant even said something along the lines “one of the two in front of you just went in, they are a couple, when couples go in with Champagne, you just never know.” Details I probably wish I didnt know. But even with a 45 minute flight delay, I spent nearly 5.5 hours in the lounge and by the time I left, the 2nd person in front of me had just gone in to the bath. I personally think much like Qatar Al Safwa’s jaccuzi, there needs to be a time limit give the novelty and fame surrounding the bath, and please do not tell other pax what folks do in there!!!
But I thoroughly enjoyed tasting a variety of excellent rums and whiskies through my stay at the lounge (1 rum and 2 whisky). In the mornings the sweet-spot is around 10:30AM till Noon, as this is the time between the two main departure banks for North America, as such the lounge emptied out during these hours and it was peaceful.
In my exhaustion and daze, I chose to hold out and see my luck with the bath instead of requesting to board early and have a drive through the tarmac with the planes, something I now regret. This is not something they offer or ask, which I think they should like Etihad does, would you like to board first or last? Various people have their various preferences.
At 12:45PM my attendant came by, it is rather impressive they remember you by name and face and can locate you in the lounge anytime anywhere, to inform me that due to a minor mechanical issue the flight had been delayed and new boarding time would be TBD. She was shocked and equally disappointed that I did not yet get the bubble bath. I informed her of what the bath attendant said and she just grinned and laughed. This is where I shouldve given up and asked to board early, but I didnt. I checked the app in a few minutes and saw new departure time of 2PM. At 1:45PM the attendant came to get me, and to my disappointment two other pax who had just minuted before either booked or changed to this fight in First. We boarded the elevator to the first floor where our passports were stamped in the small immigration booth and boarding passed scanned. Through the revolving doors with our shared van chauffeur to the Volkswagen van next to some Porsches.
But nonetheless, the drive from the terminal through the tarmac gates and around the tarmac to the mighty 747 parked at our gate was incredible. After getting off the car they open a secure door to the elevator that takes you to the gate, by this time it was so close to departure they were pulling away the jetbridge at door 2 already. We boarded and quickly settled in. It honestly felt very rushed. It was efficient and everyone was courteous and professional but nonetheless I felt rushed. I didnt even ask the chauffeur to get a picture of me and the plane, just took a quick selfie as he was busy with the other two’s suitcases and I felt like I didnt want to hold back an already delayed flight.
The First Class Flight
My annoyances, grievances and disappointment with some aspects of the, in my opinion, over hyped Lufthansa ground experience were quickly shattered once I boarded and settled in my seat. Ms. Sowitzki sort of guided me to my seat but as I was filming she didnt say anything until I got to my seat and confirmed, “Mr. Huang?”. She and her male colleague, who I never got the name of, were both exceptional. The service they provided was welcoming, genuine, friendly, professional and personal. It isnt exactly the bend over backwards service you might get on Singapore or Etihad, but it was just simply very good genuine, they enjoy their job, service as it should be in First Class. She welcomed me aboard and asked if it was my first time with LH First, I said most definitely as well as first time on the 747-8i, she caught on that I was here to experience, enjoy and that I was a plane nerd. They were proactive as well. In ordering my meal, and handing me the menu, they offered wine tasting should I desire. When I said it was a tough choice for mains, Mr. Sowitzki offered to take two main orders and if I was truly hungry or if the first one was not up to expectations and they still had the stock she’d bring out the second order. She also checked if I should be woken up for second service, they recommend 1.5 hours before arrival, I asked to be woken at 2 hours to maximize my experience. She also kept offering to take photos of me. She also offered me another helping of caviar after I had been served the first one, I didnt even ask or think about asking for a second round and of course I said yes.
I was asked what pajamas size I would need, i went for bigger thinking it would be small, but they said id be good with a large, and they were correct. LH First pajamas are one of the best Ive had, simple polo shirt, and even came with a scarf, the amenity kits was average but solid, and the slippers was so plush and comfortable. The bedding later on was also one of the best I’ve slept in in the skies. Upon clearing up my meal and seeing that I was already in my PJs and was reclining my seat to bed mode, they came over and asked if I wanted to have my bed made, they read my mind and set up my bed while I went to use the restroom. The purser came through the cabin at various points to welcome pax and give them free wifi code, she came to me too late as I had purchased wifi without realizing it was complimentary for First Class passengers.
I did order the wine tasting, it didnt go as I had imagined in my head, it actually went better. They basically came through and poured me a half pour of each wine, fairly quickly actually, and then asked which of them I enjoyed most before taking away the others and topping off the ones I enjoyed. I did this for both whites and reds. When I couldnt decide on a dessert wine, they came through with a recommendation of the Cypress one that was super delicious. I told them I was impressed with the wine and they said Lufthansa First has very good wine, in a very prideful way, as they should be.
I basically ate and drank my way through the entire first service, slept, then ate through the second service an then we were landing in D.C.
Before arrival I had asked if I could tour the aircraft once the rest of the pax had deplaned. They knew immediately that I’d be interested in checking out the cockpit as well so they talked to the purser and cockpit. It was a permission granted. Upon arrival in D.C., First Class pax get driven in their private van to the customs and immigration hall but I forwent that to tour the cockpit. The male FA in First jokingly said what I would be paying to tour the cockpit, “Perhaps more food?” he said. I chuckled.
Him: “We were saying to each other, we were shocked, he just kept eating and eating!”
Me: awkwardly chuckles…”I mean, I just had to do the full LH First experience all there and try it all!”
Him: “No, but truly, if you are happy, we are happy that is what we are here for and it makes our jobs fun.”
This about sums it up. In true German hospitality. Genuine, friendly mild judgment but so hospitable and helpful.
I proceeded to tour the upper deck and enter the cockpit where I had a nice conversation with the cockpit crew about the aircraft and industry.
I then parted ways with the aircraft and the last of the passengers before proceeding to connection security.
Dont get me wrong, the First Class Terminal is a great idea and over all an excellent place to spend time before or between flights, especially the driving to and from the planes. But given the hype, my expectations were a tad high. I am glad I chose to experience it, but if I am connecting through Frankfurt on LH First I am not sure Id enter Germany just to go to the terminal again, ok perhaps for another attempt at the bath. But I think what stood out for me on this trip, contrary to most people’s opinions about LH F, was the flight itself and my fantastic crew. I found them to be better than my Emirates Crew and on-par with my SQ crew in first class. Lufthansa I think nails down the first class product and experience over all. They keep is classy, down to earth, professional, refined and elegant. They achieve this without the glitz and glam and gimmicky features. A first class experience of a bygone jetset age honestly.
If another opportunity comes up, would not hesitate to book Lufthansa First again for sure.
Baku – Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Terminal
Frankfurt to D.C.