Lufthansa B747-8 First Class Review

Anybody that knows me will know it is no secret that I love Lufthansa and I especially love the Boeing 747-8i. Having not flown the ‘Queen of the Skies’ on the FRA – JFK route since 2013 (when they still had the old upper deck First Class on the 747-400 with the adjoining bed) it was time to fly the newer model on the B747-400s older sister to see if the experience would differ from the FRA-EWR route I have taken recently.

Photo: liveandletsfly blog

Booking

I love miles and points for the simple reason that it enables you to fly incredible classes for a fraction of the price. I have the JP Morgan Reserve credit card which has all of the same benefits as the Chase Reserve, plus some more. This redemption was part upgrade, part mileage award ticket.  For Star Alliance I collect on Mileage Plus – this is both a blessing and a curse as it is the best program because of the low fuel surcharges and generous upgrade voucher deals but I hate flying with United and I only fly them enough to meet the minimum segment requirements, so most of my miles from Mileage Plus were accrued from other Star Partners.  Fortunately on this trip I was able to apply a 1K upgrade voucher from Business to First from United on Lufthansa (nice perk!) and then redeem a mileage bank balance of 110k miles for the other ticket. As I’ve seen countless other times, United seems to get special award space that other partners such as Air Canada and Avianca don’t seem to have so it is definitely worth considering this option.

If you want to fly this flight then it would make complete sense to do it with miles. My advise for our UK readers would be the American Express Gold Card as it has perks such as double points when spending directly with an airline, extensive hotel benefits such as free upgrades and free lounge access at airports. The best perk of all though, it is free for the first year!

If you’re looking to book on a revenue fare, we advise looking at Momondo or SkyScanner for the best deals.

Munich – Frankfurt | Lufthansa A320 Business Class

Unfortunately since it was a Sunday, the trains were not fully running as there was some construction so I ended up having to take a taxi to Munich and after a short walk to the check-in area I arrived at the luxurious First Class check-in (also shared by Star Gold).

Checking in at MUC

One of the things that really separates Lufthansa from the other carriers is how they care for their passengers. There were weather reports of lighting that afternoon so the agent suggested he move me and my travelling companion to an earlier flight to ensure we make our connection – after few quick clicks on the computer we were confirmed on the next departing Munich – Frankfurt flight.

The GOLDEN ticket

Security at the First Class check-in took seconds and we soon flew through to the Munich First Class Lounge.

The famous ducks decorating the Munich lounge

After only a quick visit due to the earlier departing flight, a double espresso sent us on the short walk to our departing flight to Frankfurt.  Boarding was a bit chaotic as the flight had changed from an A321 to an A320 so a few passengers in economy had to be re-accommodated. Nonetheless, the boarding was very German and efficient.

Our taxi to Frankfurt

Most people talk badly about Lufthansa for their “euro-business class” but it amazing on our flight which had an advertised duration of one hour but actually takes about 25-30 minutes of flying time. We were served a full meal and drinks. Today’s meal was the delicious white asparagus.

This meal was really good – I loved the white asparagus.

After cruising at 32,000 feet and an uneventful on-time landing we arrived at “A” gates which was unfortunate as since we were not at a remote gate, there was no First Class car transfer.

The First Class Terminal

After a short walk outside, it was time to enter the amazing First Class Terminal which, in my opinion, is by far the best lounge in the world and always has the most amazing fresh food. The lounge has DO&Co catering, great selections of Champagne and a huge Gummy Bear dispenser which is always fun. Since I love it so much I had more white asparagus and steak with white wine and Apfelstrudel for dessert.

Let’s gooo!
Like a five star restaurant!

After only a short three hour layover, it was time to board. The main benefit of the First Class Terminal is that you actually skip the normal terminal experience altogether and the only way of boarding the plane is by car. The personal assistant came to collect us on time and we were on our way for the short ride to the beautiful queen of the skies in the back of an extremely comfortable Mercedes.

Arriving at our chariot

Getting dropped off directly underneath the plane and taking the elevator up is one of the coolest things about the whole first class experience and definitely gives it a VIP touch.

Boarding

Boarding and turning left on the 747-8i has to be one of the best feelings in the world as you are greeted and almost immediately poured a glass of champagne upon being seated.  This time around the champagne was a gorgeous 1995 ‘Blanc des Millenaires’ which had the perfect balance of age, taste and bubbles and paired really nicely with the food. The seating in the cabin is one of the best I have flown. It features a 1-1 configuration in rows 1-2 (seats A and K) and a 1-2-1 setup in row three. Seeing as I was travelling with someone, we went for row three and were lucky enough to have seats A and K free which made it feel exactly like the old First class on the 747-400.

Today’s cabin after turning left!

Upon being seated with champagne, the flight attendant hurried over to deliver the pyjamas, internet voucher, slippers, and amenity kit.  I also received a handwritten note from one of my friends at Lufthansa who unfortunately couldn’t be on the flight today as well as a menu with my name hand written in beautiful text.  The menu and wine list is extensive, and has something for everyone’s tastes.  As I love white asparagus so much I selected that for my main course along with a side of Schnitzel.

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Takeoff

Takeoff in the nose of the 747-8 is a bit loud and harsh as you are sitting directly above the landing gear, but once you are off the runway the cabin becomes dead silent.  This is thanks to the sound-deadening carpet and suede walls which mean you can actually hear everyone in the cabin speaking!

The Service

We took off on-time at 17:10 and we were at cruising altitude of 37,999 feet after just a few minutes. Immediately, the flight attendants sprung into action with the caviar. The presentation and taste is so wonderful and so amazing that LH serves seconds on request.

I loved this caviar

Next came the appetizers, the sorbet and then the main course. All of these courses are served with the wine of your choose with a helping hand from the crew who know exactly which wine to pair which each meal.

My appetizer
And the main course

The crew were so friendly on this flight and that really is where Lufthansa shines compared to some other airlines who have employees with bad attitudes or sometimes there are strong cultural/language differences making it hard to connect on a personal level with them. On Lufthansa’s First Class you know you will have an expertly trained flight attendant who can immediately sense which passengers want the full First Class experience and which ones want to be left alone to sleep. Service is so personal and attentive too. For example, the flight attendants would speak to me in German and then immediately repeat to my friend in English even though they could have spoken English to both of us.  It is the small things like this attention to detail that really put Lufthansa above and beyond in my mind.

After too much food, dessert and cheese it was time to settle into the bed and watch a film. The IFE and WIFI on the plane are both free of charge which is a really great perk. The IFE screen is very large and perfect for indulging in your guilty pleasures. I, for instance watched ‘I,Tonya’.

Time to eat even more!

Unfortunately, due to the bottle of wine that I drank and several glasses of champagne prior to that, I fell asleep half way through the film and was woken 30 minutes before landing with a warm and friendly brush on my arm to awake me. The crew had left me a hot towel prepared, a tooth brush and mouthwash and a double espresso, orange juice and water. This was the perfect wake up call.

My wake up call was wonderful!

Landing

The landing was unfortunately a lot longer than expected as we had to make turns around JFK due to the fact that we were slightly early and couldn’t land yet. We cruised at 20,000ft around New Jersey and Long Island for about 45 minutes before being cleared for landing.

Holding around New York

We landed 45 mins ahead of schedule and parked at JFK Terminal 1.  The escort met us, helped us through security and then had our bags waiting for collection. Another VIP moment.

The Conclusion

For me there is no better airline than Lufthansa and no better way to fly than in First Class. Put the two together and it makes for one of the most pleasant flights imaginable. Sure, I am not crazy and know that their 5 star rating in business class is questionable, but in First, the experience is incomparable to any other airline for me.

While Lufthansa isn’t the best airline flying in my opinion, I always choose Lufthansa’s First Class for those extra touches, VIP feelings, incredible food and drink and fantastic crew!

Want to see how this compares to First Class on the British Airways B747 then click here.

This review is part of our monthly guest review programme. The author of this review is Mark (@markbuttons) who flew this flight in early May 2018. If you have an upcoming flight you think we’d like to see then you can apply here.

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British Airways B747 – First vs Club

British Airways is preparing to retire its fleet of 747s. This is sad. The Jumbo Jet has been around for about as long as I have. There are better aircraft, no doubt, more fuel efficient, cheaper to run, better for the environment. But she remains the Queen of the Skies.

With the end in sight, I decided to take advantage of a business trip to Boston to sample my first and probably last flight in BA’s 747 First Class cabin. With the cost of an upgrade just £200 one way, it was a pretty easy decision.

I decided to go First on the outward leg as this would give me the chance to enjoy the Concorde Room at Terminal 5. This made double sense because I was planning to fly out in the evening, which meant I was able to get to Heathrow in good time to really enjoy the experience. My flight out of Logan was going to be an early morning rush.

The Queen of the Skies

The pre-flight experience

Arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the first thing to remember is to get dropped off at the far end of the departures hall. This is where those lucky enough to have a turn-left ticket are sheltered from the rest of humanity and enter a dedicated check in area via the doorway below.

First Class

Once in, I strolled over to the check in desk (no-one in front of me, of course) and got the first good news of my trip. Would I like to swap my assigned 3K seat for 2K? Even a first-class newbie like me knew that there was only one answer to this question. 2A and 2K are, in my opinion, the best seats in the First Class cabin, better even than the two in front of them.

The reason is that these are the only seats out of all 14 in the premium area to be completely private. I could see what the man in 1A was watching and rows 3 to 5 are, to be quite honest, a bit squished up for such a pricey ticket. Row 2, as you can see below, is definitely position A.

View from 2A to 2K

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I got to see my seat, I was whisked through the gate with a flash of my boarding pass and into the dedicated first class security. This is probably the best reason of all to go First. Security took about 90 seconds, there was no queue, and I was treated as a guest rather than a potential threat. Here’s how empty and relaxed it all is.

Through in 90 seconds!

Devices back in my bag and I was on my way, through the space-age tunnel shown below and into the Emerald Lounge. By the standards of most airport lounges this was pretty glamorous and normally I would have been more than happy to linger for an hour or so here.

Next Stop: lounge.

But in the strict hierarchy of air travel at this end of the market, the Emerald just didn’t cut it, I’m afraid. Why? Well quite simply because it was not exclusive enough. Anyone with a First or Club ticket, or even someone with a Gold membership who’s slumming it in Economy can hang around here.

The Emerald Lounge

For the real celeb experience, I had to duck out of this lounge, past the BOAC memorabilia and pictures (nice) and over to the Concorde Room. To enter this inner sanctum you need a First Class ticket, no ifs no buts.

The Concorde Room

The top of the range waiting room is not particularly big but it does feel pretty exclusive. The centrepiece is the large, brightly-lit bar, with plenty of comfortable seating around, a restaurant-style eating area with private waitress-served booths and, perhaps the nicest part, the Concorde Terrace, an area overlooking the main concourse below.

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The room is pretty classy, if a little tired in places. If I were being hyper-critical I would also say the service didn’t make me feel massively special. The eating area could have been cleared away more quickly to avoid guests sitting down next to someone else’s empties. But, hey, the champagne was flowing and I had a pretty nice club sandwich, just to try the food out without ruining my appetite for the flight.

Soon enough my flight was called and I wished my new friends bon voyage to Chile. Her grandfather had been the finance director at the John Player factory in Ipswich where I had my first holiday job as a lift boy. Small world!

Quibble number two

Now you can get used to travelling First Class pretty quickly so the next bit of my journey was a bit of a shock. To get from Concorde to gate B46 you need to re-acquaint yourself with the real world for a short while. Specifically, you need to go down the escalator into that concourse you’ve been looking down on for the past hour or so, then you head down further to the train that links Terminal 5’s A, B and C gates. And then it’s more mingling with the hoi polloi at the gate.

Transit to B gates

My experience here was a bit prolonged by a half hour delay to the flight, which it would have been nice to hear about in the lounge (or maybe I just didn’t look closely enough after a couple of glasses of champagne, I can’t quite remember). Anyway, queuing up with my fellow ‘premium’ customers didn’t feel particularly premium at the time.

Queuing…

The good news was that First was called before everyone else, so I did have the enjoyment of knowing that everyone else knew that I was about to turn left. Small things…

On board

So, into the nose of the plane and the first thing you notice is quite how small the cabin is. Nicely lit, comfortable, but pretty cosy.

First things first, I hung my coat up in the big cupboard right at the front and managed, just, to get my very small hand baggage into the overhead locker. If you had a decent sized wheelie, you would struggle to get it in.

I liked the ambience of the seat. A proper reading light, blue-lit blinds on my two windows, a nice hanging area for a jacket had I been wearing one.

Nice Ambience

Rachel, who was serving one side of the cabin introduced herself, brought me some bubbly, my First Class pyjamas and a pretty fancy wash-kit from Liberty. Then I experienced the main difference between First and Club – choice. When would I like to eat? There are no set times in First – you’re in control and the cabin crew really are super attentive.

I pressed the button to call Rachel over at one point and I swear my finger was still hovering when she arrived at my shoulder.

Rachel!

Anyway, push back finally came (40 minutes late – the delay had been caused by the tractor pulling the plane to the gate breaking down!) and we were off, heading north west through a battle scene of Bonfire Night firework parties all the way up to the Irish Sea.

The Food

While we flew above the pyrotechnics, dinner arrived and here too the difference between First and Club was apparent. No trays, no cutlery pre-wrapped in a napkin. No, it was real restaurant service. My table was made up for me on an elegant white cloth, nice salt and pepper shakers, all very sophisticated.

A great setup

First an amuse bouche of charcuterie, washed down with a nice Pouilly Fume, then smoked salmon (excellent) and finally a main of beef, a bit overcooked but tasty, accompanied by a really fantastic South African red from Stellenbosch. All in all, the food was good when you consider the conditions in which it was produced and served.

The salmon starter

The Lazy Bit in the Middle

On a seven-hour flight, there’s plenty of time to settle down and enjoy the in-flight entertainment in comfort and so that’s what I did next.

I’d say the film selection was pretty average but I did find a couple of movies I wanted to watch. It was a toss-up between Hampstead and Churchill. I went for Hampstead (sentimental, don’t bother if you haven’t already seen it).

The best thing about the lie-flat experience in First as opposed to Business is that it really does feel like going to bed. I could have had a proper mattress laid out but didn’t bother as I only intended to be horizontal for a short while. But the duvet and full-size pillow was a lot nicer than the Club blanket I would not bother with five days later. After the film, I was therefore able to get a decent hour or so of zzzzz.

zzzzzzzz

Now for Some More Food

I have to say at 3 in the morning UK time, after a decent feed the evening before, the last thing on my mind was classic English afternoon tea but, as you can see, that’s what came.

It was delicious, the tea tasted fantastic after a few glasses of wine and was poured out of a nice china teapot with milk in a jug.

Afternoon Tea

Hello Boston

And that was pretty much it. We arrived in Boston at midnight (the clocks were still two hours away from going back, a week after they did in the UK, so the time difference was only four hours). That’s actually a very good time to get to the US. We were the only flight so customs, even in these hyper vigilant times, was a doddle and the taxi into downtown took about 15 minutes and was less than $30.

Summing up

So what do I think of BA’s 747 first class? The pre-flight experience is excellent. It takes all the stress out of flying even if it a shame that you have to duck back into the real world for a bit on your way to the gate. On board the service is very attentive (thank you Rachel Ward), the food is very good, the wine selection excellent.

I do think the cabin is a bit pokier than I would have expected and as part two of this report will show not as comfortable in some ways as the upstairs Club experience on the same plane.

Would I pay for First again over Club. Probably not. But I’m glad I did it once before this wonderful plane heads off to the desert for a well-earned retirement.

Back Home in Business

So five days later, it was goodbye Boston and back home again. This time, I was flying in the upstairs cabin which holds 20 Business Class seats in 10 opposite-facing pairs.

The Club Cabin upstairs

I’ve only experienced this layout on BA flights and I have to say it is pretty rubbish if you don’t know the person you end up facing during the parts of the flight (safety instructions, getting your food served) when the divider between the two seats has to be down.

For a £3,000 seat, you really do expect a bit more privacy and it is not a patch on the seat layout I’ve experienced on Emirates, for example.

That said, compared with the pretty cramped quarters in First Class, the upstairs cabin does feel very spacious and I would always head up behind the flight deck given the chance.

My seat on this return flight was right behind the pilot, which was probably the most private place to be because the only reason to go past my seat was to the bathroom. It was the quietest corner of the cabin and I had access to four windows which gave me plenty of different views onto the Maine coast and up over Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

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Food Service – Back to Reality

So, the accommodation in Business is definitely not a massive step down from First. When it comes to the food, however, it really is back to earth with a bump.

I have to say the food on the return leg was pretty disappointing. For one thing it comes on a plastic tray which feels cheap. My choice for brunch – smoked salmon and mixed grill – was also pretty uninspiring.

Mixed Grill

After that I settled down to a film (Churchill – worth catching if you haven’t, the great war-time leader as a kind of raging King Lear figure) with a glass or two of pretty decent Aussie Shiraz. No complaints on that score.

Coming home from the States is quick – five and a half hours – so after the film and writing this review, we were already coming into land, dark already thanks to the time difference. A very easy and comfortable flight.

First vs Business

I would say that once you are on the plane, upstairs Business is more than adequate and the extra for First is probably not worth it.

On the ground, the Concorde Room experience is nice but not materially better than the Business lounge. Other than that, what you really get for your upgrade is the millionaire’s security search and a pair of free cotton pyjamas.

Nice Pyjamas

Oh and in the Queen of the Skies being able to say you’re flying in front of the pilot!

Article by Tom Stevenson.