23 Hours in a Very Good — But Not Excellent — First Class
Way back in the day, before Lufthansa got rid of first class on the 747-400, I flew one of the best first class flights of my life from SEA to FRA. That was my second trip in first on Lufthansa, so I had high hopes for these two A380 first class flights which took me from HKG to MUC to LAX. It’s safe to say that now with four first class flights on Lufthansa under my belt, for a total of nearly 48 hours of air time, I can fairly judge the experience. As of this review I’ve also flow first class at least twice on the following carriers: Korean, Singapore, British Airways, Emirates, Cathay, United, JAL, ANA, Asiana, and Thai Airways — by no means the most extensive collection, but one might say I’ve been around the block 🙂 Here’s how Lufthansa stacks up against the competition…
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Reviewed in 30 seconds
How I Got Here
Here is where I show my true colors as a convenience-oriented points player…
Shit just had just gotten real. I was in Singapore with a rapidly advancing cold, and since there was no way that I could continue on to the diving trip I had planned, I decided to pull the trigger and head home to the states, less than 10 hours before departure in Hong Kong—and I was still in Singapore… Fortunately, I had consumed enough amazing dim sum and street food to last me a solid 2 months, so all was not lost.
United used to be one of my preferred airlines, but that all died when a) they merged with Continental, and b) I lost Global Services a year later. With swollen ranks of 1K elites and a “wait, what did Delta do? We should do that, too! Except not as well.” approach to running their airline, I decided to defect to Delta for good (and I haven’t looked back…). Back in the day, United used to be a good place to redeem miles for partner awards, but they underwent a pretty intense devaluation a few years back, so it’s rare for me to transfer Chase points over to make a booking. Feeling sick, and generous, though, I decided to just blow an extra 70k miles to fly home in Lufthansa First. Was there a better way to get to LA? Most definitely, but I didn’t feel like spending 3 hours looking around. So when I saw the A380 first class seat all the way through, with a stop in Munich for a nap and a shower in the excellent first class lounge there, I jumped on it.
The only reasonable way to get United miles, IMHO, is via Chase Ultimate Rewards. There are United-branded cards, however:
- United MileagePlus Club Card
- United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
- United MileagePlus Explorer Card
- United TravelBank Card
Now, I have none of these cards as I’m not a United person anymore, but if I were to have one, I’d rock the club card or the explorer card. But as I was saying, I’m bullish on transferable points because of the amazing flexibility they provide. For that, on Chase, I personally have and recommend the following cards:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited℠
Ultimate Rewards points transfer at 1:1 for their programs, and I have yet to see a transfer bonus for United Miles, sadly. For me the real sweet spot here is Asia-regional or transoceanic partner awards in a better business class than Crapolaris, or save 10k points and just fly Crapolaris, up to you!
My ground experience in Munich was great, primarily because of the first class lounge. I had about 5 hours there, and I enjoyed every minute. The staff in the lounge was incredible, which was in contrast to my cabin crews on both legs of this journey. More on that later…
Boarding left a bit to be desired, as it was hectic and crowded, and they didn’t really separate first class from business class. I still managed to get on early to get some photos, though, playing the pushy American traveler card with pride.
One word to describe this cabin: open. Lufthansa first class is kind of an anti-suite, if you will. You do have a raisable privacy barrier in between the middle two seats and on the aisle side of each suite, but even with those up the cabin feels very open when compared to even the open suites of Thai or JAL (or Korean’s old first class). I’m of two minds when it comes to this – I appreciate my privacy, but the open layout is nice and decidedly not claustrophobic. To that end, I wouldn’t choose another first class seat over this one for the design alone.
There are two large lavs for the first class cabin of only 8 passengers, which is nice. Both lavs are the same size and are quite spacious, as is the case on most A380s on the upper deck. Unique to Lufthansa in there is an actual urinal, which I rather like as a male passenger. One thing that was disappointing on both flights was the lack of toiletries, which went largely unstocked. My sense on the first flight from HKG to MUC was that they weren’t provisioned properly, but either way I tend to rely on a pre-arrival shave and maybe an extra toothbrush on a long flight like this.
One thing I loved about this cabin is that the walls are lined with microfiber. I doubt it cuts down on noise or anything, but it definitely gives a luxury feel reminiscent of being in a luxury car lined with alcantara – much nicer than hard plastic with some generic pattern printed on it. Hard to see in this picture, but you get the idea:
A note about the air in Lufthansa first class: supposedly it’s better than on the rest of the plane, as there are humidifiers in the first class cabin. It’s hard to say that I felt a difference, but then I feel the same way about the 787 and A350. I have been told by an engineer that you wouldn’t really notice the difference in cabin altitude (or increased humidity on this case), unless you were flying in it on a weekly basis. Still, I like the idea, and it’s a nice touch in a premium cabin.
Where to Sit
There isn’t really a bad seat in Lufthansa first class. Solo travelers will of course prefer the window seats, but I have sat in 1K, 2K, and 2G, and aside from my personal window seat preference, the experiences were all the same. You will technically get more foot traffic from the cabin crew in row 2, but in practice I didn’t find this to be an issue. Also, the curtain dividing the cabin from the galley is very thick and somewhat soundproofed, so that helps keep any noise down.
If you don’t like staring at cabin crew during takeoff or landing, then don’t sit in 1K, as it faces a jumpseat forward.
While not offering the most privacy in the sky, the Lufthansa first class seat is super comfortable. Wide, cushy yet supportive, and plenty of adjustments to be made. I love that the ottoman can slide forward and back so that you have something to rest your feet on without reclining.
What the seat lacks in privacy, it almost makes up in storage. In addition to storage in the ottoman in front of you, you have your own personal closet for you clothes and carryon, and there are multiple small compartments next to your seat (slightly moreso at the window seats).
The closets for 1A and 1K are forward of those two seats, and the remaining ones are behind seats 2A and 2K.
As far as this privacy issue, it’s actually pretty decent once you put the dividers up, as you can see below (same goes for the partition in between the two middle seats):
Sleeping in the Seat
I was jetlagged AF, so actually needed to sleep on both of these flights. I probably got a solid 6 hours on each of the 12-hour flights. I found the bed to be very comfortable, and with the privacy divider up, it actually felt a lot more private than I expected given the seat design.
Getting work done
I enjoyed working in this seat. One thing I really appreciate about the design is the ability to push the tray table all the forward, whether it’s got a computer or a meal on top. When you do that you can easily get out of your seat, hit the lav, and pick right back up where you left off. Two universal power outlets and two USB ports are located in the lower armrest, which is convenient for charging no matter what position you have the seat set to.
The WiFi is free for first class customers, and it’s some of the better WiFi I’ve experienced on a long haul flight – that goes for all of the Lufthansa flights I’ve taken. I was able to get a decent amount of work done, and make onward travel bookings almost right up until landing.
Lighting is good in this seat, with a directional LED reading light next to your headrest, overhead lighting, and ambient lighting that makes for a relaxing vibe when the cabin goes dark after meal service. You can control this mood lighting from the side of your ottoman.
This is a great seat for lounging and watching a movie. It reclines straight from seat to bed, so you have pretty much any configuration you could imagine to make yourself comfortable.
Food & Beverage
One thing I will say is that I enjoyed the wine selections and the champagne being served.
The food was decent, and aside from almost missing a meal, I don’t have any complaints here.
IFE & Video Screen
I’m very much a fan of the design aesthetic in the first class cabin, including the video screen. That said, it’s pretty small compared to most other first class products, and the screen resolution is lacking. Is it totally viable as a screen for zoning out to a movie while you fall asleep? Yes…
In terms of movie selection, I’d call it good – hard to say, though, given the amount that I fly, as I’ve pretty much seen every English language move available on any airline’s IFE.
The headphones you get are Bose noise-canceling headphones, but I opted to use my own.
Like you see on most airlines these days, there’s a removable remote plus some commonly used buttons located in your armrest opposite the aisle.
This particular flight was on Easter Sunday, and Easter is kind of a big deal in Germany. As such, we were given Easter baskets as amenity kits, which was kind of fun. The downside to this is it wasn’t reusable, and if I’m being really nitpicky, we were given business class eye shades and La Prarie lotions (which I really like). Not a big deal, though.
The slippers are nice and cushy, and better than you get on most airlines in first class, so count these in the win column for Lufthansa. Slippers are a must in first class, and a nice touch in business class when you get them (recent memories are Singapore, Delta, and EVA).
The pajamas from can Laack were also a highlight, complete with their own scarf, not that you need that on a plane… I actually saved my shirt, as it fit me pretty well, and while I’m sure it will fade and fall apart in time, it is passable as something to be worn in public.
Cabin Crew & In-Flight Service
To be fair, I’ve had excellent service in Lufthansa first class in the past, but these two flights were less than polished, and didn’t even come close to the lounge experience in Munich. In general I’d say that European carriers don’t approach what sometimes feels like telepathic service on Asian carriers, but even with that in mind, I was not impressed with the overall service level on these two flights. My big misses were:
- Spilled wine before meal service, with no turbulence. Accidents happen, so I let it go, but if spilling is a risk, don’t reach over the passenger to pour. Fortunately, no wine ended up on my pants, but it was a near disaster…
- Forgotten meal order for the pre-arrival meal – I decided not to ring my call button just to see how long it would take the FA to remember to actually serve me a meal, and by the time she remembered (and apologized for the mistake), it was too late for a hot meal.
- Bed linens remained almost to landing – This to me is a mark of excellent service: I am woken up and told that it’s time for pre-arrival meal service, so I put in my order, get my clothes out of the closet to change out of my pajamas, and come back to a seat that’s ready for meal service. On both of these flights, however, my pillow, duvet, and mattress pad were left until final cabin check, even though I was clearly done sleeping. Not a complaint, but it’s just one of those nice touches I notice on other carriers.
My last flight before these, not counting Cathay Economy, was Singapore business class, and that was hands down superior to Lufthansa First as far as in-flight service goes. [end rant]
The Bottom Line
Lufthansa first class is great, and I wouldn’t hesitate to spend miles on it in the future, but It’s not even in the top 5 of first class products I’ve flown. So, if you’re looking to have that ultra-premium first class experience, probably in suites, I would skip right over Lufthansa. But, if you’re flying to or through Europe, it sure beats business class if you’re willing to splurge with points/miles.