Category Archives: Lufthansa

Comparing Lufthansa and United Airlines Business Class – Transatlantic Business to Business

In advance of last year’s major devaluation of United’s MileagePlus program, My Partner F and I raided our Household Points Kitty for a New Year trip to Amsterdam and Paris. In addition to ringing in the New Year in view of the Eiffel Tower

Celebrating Ringing in the New Year's Eve Bar La Vue Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile

… we scored a couple of Business Class seats to Europe before the cost to redeem our miles shot up. You see, when you play the Miles and Points “Game” (what I like to call Pointing), you need to constantly be mindful of the principle of Earn and Burn.

United is my longtime “home airline. However, after a taste of luxury in Lufthansa’s Frankfurt First Class Terminal and stretching out in a private bed on upper deck of one of one its 747s …

Lufthansa 747-400 First Class Seat

… I’ve developed a bit of a crush on the German carrier. Fortunately, my Pointing hobby enabled me to compare the two airlines on the same trip. So how did Lufthansa and United compare?

Comparing Lufthansa and United Airlines Pre-Departure Service

The boarding of our overnight United flight from Chicago to Amsterdam was a bit rushed. We received a quick yet professional “welcome aboard” as we cleared the jetway and entered the BusinessFirst (what United calls International Business Class) cabin.

United Business Class Seat

It took awhile before someone offered to hang up our coats. However, once we were settled we were served a pre-departure beverage and I opted for some sparkling wine. Having something to wet my whistle was a nice touch. However, serving my drink in a plastic cup knocked some of the “ambience” out of sitting in a premium cabin.

United Airlines 767 Business Class Seat Chicago to Amsterdam

On the way back, we flew home from Paris via Munich. I’ve written previously about Lufthansa’s Intra-Europe Business Class Service so I’ll skip the details for now about our pleasant but uneventful Paris to Munich segment. For the purposes of this blog post I’ll focus on our experience on our Munich to Chicago flight.

Lufthansa A340-300 Munich AIrport bound for Chicago

Our flight out of Munich was delayed about an hour. However, once boarding commenced we found that the Lufthansa crew greeted us with friendly smiles and immediately took our coats once we reached our seats.

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Cabin Munich to Chicago

Although champagne wasn’t offered, the crisp white wine I chose as a pre-departure was served out of true glassware …

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Pre-Departure Beverage Munich to Chicago

… and set more of an upscale tone for the rest of our flight.

Comparing the Lufthansa and United Airlines Business Class Seat

Awaiting us in our United Airlines BusinessFirst seat was a pillow, blanket, headphones and amenity kit.

United Airlines Business Class 767-200 BusinessFirst Seat Chicago to Amsterdam

The seat was comfortable and reclined into a fully flat 180-degree position. Although the compartment felt a bit narrow and “coffin-like” at times, I have to admit the privacy afforded by this seating configuration was appreciated and allowed me to get a solid block of sleep on our transatlantic flight. However, one minor gripe is that there really isn’t a lot of storage space available at you feet so you’ll have to stow your gear for takeoff and landing.

United Airlines Business Class 767-200 BusinessFirst IFE Inf-Flight Entertainment System Chicago to Amsterdam

United’s In-Flight Entertainment options were plentiful and the video screen was large and easy to navigate / operate.

I found the Lufthansa seat to be fresh and modern looking. That said, this is their “old” business class seat and a new version is currently being rolled out across the fleet.

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Seat Munich to Chicago

Once again, we found the standard pillow, blanket, headphone, and amenity kit combination waiting for us on the seat. A bottle of water was also ready-to-go in a small nook to the rear of the armrest. Lufthansa’s seat is more open and lacks the privacy you may want if seated next to a stranger for a long flight. In addition, although the seat reclines flat, it does so at an angle. As a result, you may find yourself sliding down the seat when trying to get some shuteye.

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class IFE In-Flight Entertainment System Munich to Chicago

I did appreciate that the seat featured more ample storage in front of you. However, the In-Flight Entertainment screen seemed smaller and less sharp than its counterpart on United. In addition, the system’s offerings were more limited and its navigational controls were a bit clunky.

Comparing Lufthansa and United Airlines In-Flight Meals and Service

Once we were settled in our seats, the United Purser swung by to take my dinner order. She was gracious, polite and referred to me as “Mr. A.” Subsequent interactions with the Flight Attendant crew were more informal though I was addressed as “Sir” throughout the flight. In general, the crew was cheery, friendly and in good sprits.

United Airlines Business Class 767-200 BusinessFirst Cocktail Service and Warm Nuts Chicago to Amsterdam

The evening’s meal started with pre-dinner cocktails and warm nuts. A variety of spirits were available and I opted for a glass of red wine and a Diet Coke.

United Airlines 767-200 Business Class Appetizer and Salad Course BusinessFirst Chicago to Amsterdam

The chilled appetizer consisted of smoked salmon and shrimp. It was served along with a fresh seasonal greens salad with roasted tomatoes, Kalamata olives, baby mozzarella and a choice of blue cheese or balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Bread was served on a separate plate. The presentation of both the appetizer and salad was simple. Although the starters weren’t all that creative, I still found them satisfying and executed well.

United Airlines 767-200 Business Class Main Course Beef Entree BusinessFirst Chicago to Amsterdam

For my main course, I selected the short rib of beef which was served with a red wine sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots. As is typical of “airline steak,” the meat was dry and a bit stringy. My Partner F selected the fillet of salmon with lump crabmeat and unfortunately that entrée suffered the same overly dry fate. That said, the accompanying vegetables were nicely cooked, flavorful and not soggy.

United Airlines 767-200 Business Class Cheese Course BusinessFirst Chicago to Amsterdam

I wrapped up my meal with a fairly standard selection of cheeses …

United Airlines 767-200 Business Class Dessert Sundae BusinessFirst Chicago to Amsterdam

… along with a customized ice cream sundae (I went the strawberries and chocolate route). I have to admit, there’s always something fun about having ice cream while flying at 40,000 feet.

United Airlines 767-200 Business Class Pre-Arrival Meal BusinessFirst Chicago to Amsterdam

Prior to landing in Amsterdam, a light breakfast was served. The chilled deli selection consisted of Swiss cheese, Black Forest ham, Genoa salami and turkey. Fresh fruit, a croissant and yogurt rounded out the meal.

United BusinessFirst also offers an Executive Dining option that allows you to be served your main meal followed by dessert based on your own schedule.

Turning to Lufthansa, I’ve heard others comment that Business Class service on the German carrier, while efficient, can sometimes be less personable and even “robotic” in nature. On our flight from Munich to Chicago, I noticed that several members of the crew, although professional, seemed to lack a “warm and fuzzy” quality. Fortunately, the Flight Attendant serving our seats provided us with a great deal of personal attention and was quite engaging and attentive.

Our experience on this flight may have actually been an early “trial run” of Lufthansa’s Business Class Signature Service. This concept has each flight attendant focusing on only a limited number of passengers in an effort to personalize the in-flight experience. Blogger Lufthansa Flyer wrote a more detailed post on the Lufthansa Business Class Signature Service, which is continuing to roll out in additional markets.

I kicked off dinner with cocktails and found that Lufthansa’s spirits menu was more extensive than United’s.

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Cocktail Munich to Chicago

Drinks were served off of a cart and I opted for a Campari and Soda. However, I was surprised that packaged nuts, in contrast to the warmed option served by United, accompanied the cocktails.

Appetizers consisted of Aniseed marinated Salmon with Potato Salad, Basil Vinaigrette and Cream Cheese Mousse with Chives.

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Salad and Appetizer Munich to Chicago

The small Seasonal Leaf Salad was less “hearty” than United’s option. However, it’s simple presentation was actually a nice compliment to the more creative appetizer. The quality of Lufthansa’s bread selection was better than that of United’s. I chose the Pretzel Roll which was served on a separate plate.

Since I was having trouble selecting a wine to go with dinner, the Flight Attendant cheerfully suggested that I have a “wine flight” and served me all the options that were being offered that evening.

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Main Course Beef Entree Munich to and Wine Flight Chicago

Just as on my inbound United flight, I went for the beef option and chose the Fried Tenderloin with Chocolate Red Wine Sauce, Potatoes us Gratin and Green Beans. Although the beans were a bit soggy, I found the meat sauce and the potatoes to be rich and highly satisfying. In contrast to United’s beef option, Lufthansa’s tenderloin was juicy and flavorful. However, it was served a bit more on the rare side than some diners might enjoy. That said, I prefer my meat “Joan Crawford bloody” (just watch Mommie Dearest and you’ll know what I mean) so I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.

A cheese plate, that was a bit more refined than United’s course, was served to wrap up dinner.

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Cheese Course

The selection for the evening consisted of Ashed Goat Cheese, Morbier and natural Yogurt Cheese with dried Apricots.

Dessert was a Mascarpone Pear Cake with Passion Fruit Sauce.

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Chocolate Snowman Dessert Munich to Chicago


Unfortunately, the pastry was so delicious that I had scarfed it down before remembering to take a picture. Therefore, you’ll all just have to settle for this photo of my Lufthansa Chocolate Snowman which was all that remained of the dessert course.

Since our flight was landing in the late afternoon in Chicago, Lufthansa served a pre-landing meal that was much heartier than the breakfast option provided on United.

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Pre-Arrival Meal Munich to Chicago

A hearty Belgian Goulash Soup with Apple Wedges accompanied a Mixed Leaf Salad with Quinoa, boiled Egg, Zucchini, Cherry Tomato and Red Radish served with Yogurt Lime Dressing. A savory Bread Twist and Chocolate Raspberry Cake rounded out the meal.

Just like on United, Lufthansa offers an “Express Service” meal option for those passengers who prefer more time for working or sleeping. The multi-course meal consists of a cold entrée, appetizer, salad, cheese and dessert upon request.

Conclusion – Comparing Lufthansa and United Airlines Business Class

Service on both airlines was generally friendly. However, I have to give the edge to Lufthansa which seemed to offer a more personalized and warmer experience. That said, since the United leg of my journey was an overnight flight, some allowance needs to be made for the fact that the Flight Attendant team was likely moving expeditiously through the service in order to maximize their passengers’ sleeping time.

When it comes to food and drink, Lufthansa also takes the lead. The quality, variety and creativity of the meal selections were definitely a notch above that of United. Although I would place my hometown carrier’s meal service in the “not bad” category, it was hard getting past the more “institutional kitchen” flavor of the food options.

Comparing Lufthansa and United Airlines Business Class

Where the Friendly Skies comes out ahead is in its “hard product.” I much preferred United’s true 180 degree lie-flat seat to the “angled” lie-flat seat on Lufthansa. United’s BusinessFirst seat offers you the best shot at getting an uninterrupted block of sleep on an overnight flight. That said, Lufthansa’s new business class might soon level the playing field.

How about you? What’s your favorite Business Class product?

Earning Lufthansa Miles & More – Chasing the First Class Duck

Over the last twelve months I’ve had the experience of flying with Lufthansa in Economy, Business and First Class. Although last year was the first time I had ever flown with the airline, my experience has turned me into quite the Lufthansa Fanboy. Check out a few of my previous blog posts for my various “Love Letters to Lufthansa:”

All of my travel on Lufthansa so far has been on award tickets I claimed through United Airlines’ MileagePlus program. One of the great advantages of MileagePlus is that miles earned in the program can be redeemed for travel on any of the carrier’s Star Alliance partners, including Lufthansa. In addition, points earned using my Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa can also be transferred on a 1:1 basis into MileagePlus thereby increasing my Points Kitty. However, my Pointing world came crashing down around me on February 1 when United implemented a massive devaluation of its award chart.

Not only did United increase the number of miles required to fly on it’s own flights, but it also created a new redemption tier specifically for it’s Star Alliance partners. Under the new United Award Chart, my past Lufthansa award flights would be priced as follows:

1 Lufthansa First Class ticket from London to Chicago; connecting in Frankfurt

Lufthansa 747-400 First Class Seat

Old Award Price: 67,500 MileagePlus miles
New Award Price: 110,000 MileagePlus miles
63% increase!

1 Lufthansa Business Class ticket from Paris to Chicago; Connecting in Munich

Lufthansa A340-300 Business Class Seat Munich to Chicago

Old Award Price: 50,000 MileagePlus miles
New Award Price: 70,000 MileagePlus miles
40% increase!

As disappointing as major points devaluations can be, I have taken steps to hedge against such inevitable occurrences. In fact, I have several “Plan B’s” that should keep me flying in Lufthansa’s premium cabins.

The most direct route to the front (or upper deck) of the Lufthansa cabin is through Lufthansa’s Miles and More frequent flyer program. Although the airline does hit you with fuel surcharges that might total several hundred dollars when redeeming an award, the advantage of the Miles and More Award Chart is better advance availability for First Class award seats and seasonal 50% off Business Class award sales.

As with other programs, one of the best ways to get a “quick hit” of a large number of points is to sign up for that airline’s affiliated credit card. Currently, Barclaycard is offering a 50,000 mile bonus for signing up for its Lufthansa Premier Miles & More MasterCard. Normally the bonus offer hovers between 20,000 and 30,000 miles.

Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard from BarclayCard

The basics of this offer are as follows:

  • Earn 20,000 miles after your first purchase
  • Earn an additional 30,000 miles after spending $5,000 or more on purchases made within the first 90 days of card approval
  • $79 Annual Fee
  • Offer valid until June 30, 2014 (this offer has returned and is now available again until November 30, 2014)

Although it’s hard to predict when this offer will be made available again, the increased sign up bonus seems to appear at least once a year. For example, I was approved for my card late last year.

You can also accumulate Lufthansa Miles by transferring Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest Program.

Starwood Preferred Guest

Plus, for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer you receive a Bonus of an additional 5,000 points. For more information on the benefits of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, check out my earlier post Starwood Starpoints Starstruck.

Finally, another “work around” is to use the American Express Membership Rewards Points program to transfer points into the frequent flyer programs of one of Lufthansa’s other Star Alliance Partners such as Air Canada, ANA or Singapore Airlines.

American Express Membership Rewards

However, you should bear in mind that each of these programs, just like Lufthansa, charges fuel surcharges that can range from several hundred to a thousand dollars or more for each ticket. In addition, the award charts of these airlines are also distance or zone-based so it’s important to compare and contrast the mileage award and surcharge levels of each option prior to transferring your Membership Rewards points. Of these airlines, Air Canada’s Aeroplan program seems to be the “least bad” of the options from a points requirement / surcharge / ease-of-booking perspective.

So is it worth all this effort to fly Lufthansa? Well, after years of flying with various American carriers I’ve come to manage my expectations downward when it comes to efficiency and service. Although Lufthansa isn’t perfect, what the airline does well is to make the travel experience at least civilized. In addition, First Class and the Frankfurt First Class Terminal is truly one of the great aspirational airline experiences. Plus, I’ve developed a bit of an unhealthy obsession with building a collection of First Class Ducks just like fellow blogger Lufthansa Flyer.


How about you? Have you ever flown with Lufthansa and what was your experience with the airline?


Lufthansa 747-8i Chicago Bound? Spotted on the “L”

This past weekend I was riding Chicago’s elevated train … the “L” … and was in full “urban mode” conscientiously avoiding direct eye contact with my fellow passengers.  My gaze wandered up toward the ceiling of the subway car and instead of seeing the usual ads for laser wart removal I spotted this …

Lufthansa Ad1

As I looked around I suddenly realized I was surrounded by a sea of Lufthansa blue and yellow and the following ad campaign …

Lufthansa Ad2

Lufthansa Ad3Lufthansa Ad4

It looks like Lufthansa is gearing up for the launch of 747-8 Intercontinental service to Chicago.  The 747-8i is the latest generation of Boeing’s venerable “Queen of the Skies” and the German carrier is the only airline flying the passenger version of the aircraft.

Chicago has long been designated as one of the cities to which Lufthansa will be flying the 747-8i.  However, it seems to be taking awhile for the service to get started in the Windy City.  An encouraging sign occurred this past summer when on July 13 Lufthansa conducted a “proving flight” of the aircraft to O’Hare as outlined in this company press release.  The expert in all things Lufthansa, blogger LufthansaFlyer, provides a great account of the July 13 flight in this post.

So what’s so special about the 747-8i?  Well, it’s a REALLY cool plane.  So cool in fact that Lufthansa has created this special microsite dedicated to the aircraft.  In addition, the 747-8i series of planes were among the first in Lufthansa’s fleet to feature the airline’s New Business Class seat that transforms into a fully flat bed …

Lufthansa Business Class Seat

Source: Lufthansa

Lufthansa Business Class Flat Bed Seat

Source: Lufthansa

Could this subway ad campaign mean that Lufthansa is close to launching 747-8i service to Chicago?  If so, when?  C’mon guys hurry up … I’m perched on the edge of my “angled lie flat seat” waiting for news …

Lufthansa First Class – When Will the Honeymoon End?

Our private Mercedes dropped us off at the 747-400 that would be taking My Partner F and I home on the last leg of our European Summer Vacation.  Our itinerary was Frankfurt to Chicago to Reality. Since this was our first experience with Lufthansa First Class, my mind was still reeling from the great experience that we had in the First Class Terminal (see my last post for details).

After the driver escorted us to the doorway of the aircraft, we realized that boarding of the flight was well underway.  We made our way through the Business Class cabin to the stairway that led us to First Class.  I’ve flown on the upper deck of a 747 before (years ago in United Business Class on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney).  There’s always something special about being up there.  The cabin isn’t that large so you immediately get a sense of privacy and exclusivity as soon as you enter.

Lufthansa First Class Upper Deck 747-400On the 747-400, the upper deck of the Lufthansa First Class Cabin consists of only 8 seats.  A German couple and their two teenage kids occupied the four seats in front of us.  In back of us was a woman who had just been upgraded from Business Class (lucky her!).

When we entered the cabin, the Flight Attendant hung up our jackets and offered to stow our carry on baggage for us.  She took our cases to a small storage area just off to the side of galley. Although there was a nice storage compartment near the base of my seat, space for our carry-ons was limited.

Lufthansa First Class Storage Compartment

Now about that seat … here’s where things start to get pleasantly surreal.  This particular flight featured Lufthansa’s New First Class design.  Note: You can check to see whether or not your individual flight will be sporting the New First Class cabin by checking out this link on Lufthansa’s website. On the 747-400, each First Class passenger receives both a comfortable and spacious recliner AND their own full-sized bed!

Lufthansa First Class Seat

The In-Flight Entertainment screen was large.  However, I found the offerings to be a bit limited.  That said, I really didn’t spend much time on this flight watching videos since I wanted to focus as much of my attention as I could on the service experience.

Lufthansa First Class In-Flight Entertainment IFE

As we settled into our seats, the Flight Attendant offered me a glass of 2005 “Comptes de Champagne Rosé Brut, Champagne Taittinger and a dish of macadamia nuts as my pre-departure snack.

Lufthansa First Class Pre Departure Drink

Soon after that, the Purser (who sounded remarkably like a German version of Julie Hagerty from Airplane!) stopped by each individual seat to personally welcome us aboard and handed me menus (separate ones for wine and the food) on which had been written my name.  What impressed me was the tone and body language she used in addressing each of us.  She kneeled slightly so she could speak to each passenger at eye level and communicated a genuine sense of warmth and graciousness.

After we were airborne, the in-flight meal service began. There were two Flight Attendants working our cabin.  We really only saw one since there seemed to be a division of responsibilities with one FA working the “front of the house” while the other worked “behind the scenes.”

First, we were offered a rose scented warm towel (one of the nicest I’ve ever had) to freshen up.

Lufthansa First Class Warm Towel

Next came the drinks … Coke Zero and a 2010 Pouilly-Fuissé, Cristophe Cordier Chardonnay to start.

Lufthansa First Class Drinks

Next up, was an amuse-bouche consisting of a ground oxtail purée served with a savory mousse foam covered in a mystery orange sauce (sorry folks, my description not Lufthansa’s … I didn’t quite catch the official description).

Lufthansa First Class Amuse Bouche

While certainly creative, the amuse-bouche didn’t set off any fireworks in my opinion. It did look pretty though!

The Flight Attendant then prepared my setting for the meal.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a high end dining experience if there weren’t freshly cut flowers on the table.

Lufthansa First Class Table Setting

Other nice touches included a separate dipping bowl for olive oil and the individual salt and pepper shakers.  No, I didn’t pocket them. I already had my Lufthansa Rubber Ducky as a souvenir!  Plus, the garlic bread wasn’t too shabby either!

Lufthansa First Class Garlic Bread

I also figured I’d go all out and have my first taste of Caviar with the Traditional Garnishes.

Lufthansa First Class Caviar

I ended up liking the caviar more than I thought I would.  This is surprising since I’m the guy who gets a bit grossed out when a dusting of tobiko ends up on my California Roll.

If that weren’t enough, a Choice of Appetizers from the Service Cart was on the way.

Lufthansa First Class Appetizers

I went with the Marinated Norwegian Salmon with Lime Cream and Keta Caviar, Herb Crusted Tenderloin of Beef with Caesar Salad and Green Pea Mousse on Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese in Tomato Basil Vinaigrette.

At this point I was started to get both full AND tipsy.  Remember, we just had a meal of Wiener schnitzel with a bottle of prosecco in the First Class Terminal.  Of course, I decided to “take one for the team” and forged ahead with the Main Course.

Lufthansa First Class MealSince I wanted a “lighter” meal I opted for the fish course which consisted of Sole in Lemon Sauce filled with Lobster accompanied by Green Asparagus and Couscous.  The fish was tender and not dried out and the veggie was surprisingly fresh tasting.  However, the lobster seemed a bit chewy.  Overall, the meal had more of “neutral” flavor and consistency.  Not that I’m complaining … hey, it’s still lobster at 30,000 feet!

Of course, there’s always room for dessert …

Lufthansa First Class Dessert

Feeling dark and luscious I went for the Black Forest Cake “Joachim Wissler” with Chocolate and Licorice Sauce and paired it (very nicely!) with some Niepoort Portwein LBV Port. I was in a full-on feeding frenzy at this point so I’m glad I was able to take a photo prior to inhaling this course.

I decided to wind things down with some Baileys and a few chocolates I chose from a selection offered by the Flight Attendant.

Lufthansa First Class Dessert Chocolates

Of course, I restrained myself and maintained an appropriate sense of decorum by NOT going through the box and squeezing each piece to figure out which ones had nougat in them.

At this point, I fully intended on taking some time to write in my travel journey.  However, with my eyes getting heavy I decided it was time for a nap.  Earlier in the flight, we were offered a set of van Laack cotton pajamas consisting of a pair of beige bottoms and a button up charcoal grey top.

Lufthansa First Class Pajamas

The PJs are pretty comfy and I’ve already spent a couple of lazy Sunday afternoons lounging around the condo in them.  Yes, you do get to keep them!

I’ve flown long haul flights in flat bed seats (both in First and Business) in the past.  However, sleeping in a true “bed in the sky” was a really new experience for me.  The mattress was firm yet comfortable.  Despite the fact that my mind was swimming with the thought that “I’m in a freaking bed at 30,000 feet” I did manage to drop off and get about 3 hours of sleep.


When I woke up it was, of course, time to eat again!  The Flight Attendant rolled out the Service Cart and hand assembled my customized salad selection that consisted of …

Lufthansa First Class Pre Arrival Meal

Lettuce and Wild Herb Salad, Grilled Red and Green Bell Pepper, Olives with marinated Feta Cheese, Roasted Pine Nuts, Brown Mushrooms, Yogurt and Mango Dressing, Escalope of Veal Vienna Style and Pretzel bread.  Finished off with at Pistachio Tart with Nuts for dessert.

Lufthansa First Class Dessert Tarte

Of course, all good things must come to an end.  As our flight made its descent towards Chicago, the Purser once again came through the cabin and thanked us individually for flying with Lufthansa.  She was, yet again, waiting for us at the foot of the stairs where she held back the Business Class passengers so that we could exit the plane first.

I have to admit that I nearly froze as I approached the cabin door.  I wasn’t quite ready for all of this to end. Could I really face the Real World again?  After my Lufthansa First Class experience it has been hard adjusting to normal life. I was almost late for work one day as I sat in our condo waiting for our Doorman to come collect me, escort me to a sedan and drive me to the corner.  Of course, once there I would expect to see my personal Chicago City Bus patiently awaiting my arrival … and of course breakfast would be served onboard.

Sigh, that’s just not going to happen is it? Well, I guess I better start collecting some more miles and points! The love affair with Lufthansa continues. Can’t wait for our Second Honeymoon.


Through Baggage Claim and Around the Taxi Ranks to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal We Go

Let the gushing over Lufthansa continue. My last two posts covered our recent experiences with Lufthansa’s short haul Intra-European service and a couple of the airline’s lounges in Frankfurt.  However, at the end of our recent European vacation, we upped the ante and had the opportunity to try out Lufthansa’s First Class Services.

We had originally been booked to fly home on Air Canada from London in Economy.  Since I was hoping to switch into a premium cabin for our journey home I regularly checked for award availability on United’s reservation site in the hope that something would turn up.  Most airlines start to release more award space as a flight’s departure date approaches. At some point, the airlines’ computer programs make the determination that it is unlikely that they will be able sell the seat to a “paying” customer and release space into the award inventory.

As I was doing my research, I spotted that one possible routing home would be to fly Lufthansa from London to Chicago via Frankfurt.  Although this option involved some minor backtracking, I realized that this itinerary opened up the possibility of not only flying home via Lufthansa First Class but also the opportunity to experience the Lufthansa First Class Terminal.

It’s actually quite easy to get a seat in Lufthansa First Class.  All you need is about $9000 per person for a one way ticket. Of course, the OTHER option is to do what we did and cash in some frequent flyer points.  Lufthansa is a member of the Star Alliance so we were able to use United’s MileagePlus program to secure two First Class award seats home to Chicago for a total of 135,000 miles.  One thing to keep in mind about Lufthansa is that the airline only releases First Class award space to its Star Alliance partners at the most 15 days in advance of departure.  In my case, I was able to book our tickets 9 days before we left.

Lufthansa’s First Class Service and Lounges were awarded the independent Skytrax airline rating institute’s top Five Star ranking in 2013. Our First Class tickets provided access to Lufthansa’s First Class Lounge in the airport. However, I had my sights set on a much loftier goal. Specifically, I wanted to experience the Lufthansa First Class Terminal (FCT).  As you can see from the map below, the FCT is a standalone BUILDING dedicated solely to Lufthansa’s First Class and Top Tier HON Circle Frequent Flyer passengers.

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 1.26.36 AM

In order to access the FCT you need to actually leave the main airport terminal.  After our connecting flight from London landed in Frankfurt, we followed the signs to Baggage Claim.  Since we had arrived from another EU country, there was not a need to clear customs.  However, we did still have to get our passports stamped by German Border control.

Our bags were checked all the way through to our final destination of Chicago.  Therefore, we didn’t have to stop by Baggage Claim. We proceeded to the Exit and turned LEFT after exiting the building.  My Partner F started to get a little nervous since it wasn’t exactly clear just where the FCT was located.  However, in advance of our journey I had done EXTENSIVE research on how to get to the FCT.  Specifically, the travel blogger universe was a great resource in obtaining step-by-step directions for getting to the FCT. I knew the drill:

After Baggage Claim EXIT the terminal and TURN LEFT. Walk past the taxi ranks. Walk past the place the break area where the taxi drivers are smoking. After about maybe a 5 minute walk you will see this …


There’s a Main Entrance on the upper level where people arriving at the FCT by car, taxi or limo are greeted.  However, once you cross the street ( … and shimmy around that traffic gate) ….


…. You will see a small (usually unmanned) reception area.  Turn to your left and you will see an elevator that will take you up to the FCT.


Now here’s where it gets good.  Do you remember that scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original one with Gene Wilder and not the kinda scary version with Johnny Depp) where you get that first glimpse of the magic that lies within (here’s a link to that scene to get a sense of what I’m talking about)?

However, instead of some Ooompa Loompas, we were greeted by at pair of tall, blonde and angular Personal Assistants… lets just call them Hans and Franz ….who warmly greeted us to the FCT.  We were first guided to a private security screening area (no lines … just us!) and then our passports were collected.  We were told that one of our Assistants would come find us once our flight was ready to board. Not needing to avail ourselves of the private Duty Free shop, our Assistants gave us a tour of the FCT and let us loose to enjoy the facility.

There are a number of comfortable lounge areas spread throughout the FCT …


… with a lot of great snacks within easy reach …


Of course, I thought it was a bit ironic that I was drinking champagne as I thumbed through the Water Bar menu.


There was a full bar which featured just about ANYTHING you could possibly want to drink  ….

IMG_1397… along with a pretty outrageous candy selection if you have a Sweet Tooth (umm, just where are those Oompa Loompas?) …


F booked a Quiet Room with a daybed to take a disco nap (after I was done with my photo op) …

IMG_1398 Meanwhile, I took off to book a Shower Room to freshen up …


Unfortunately, the hot water heaters were out of order in the FCT that day.  However, that development didn’t dampen my spirits since after a “brisk and refreshing” cold shower I was able to get one of these …


The Lufthansa First Class Rubber Ducky is a “must have” tchotchke in the world of the miles and points fanatic. I made F get one as well since I didn’t want mine to get lonely.  Note: On this particular day the Duckies were under lock and key so we did have to ask the Shower Room Attendant for one (hey, persistence pays off!).


Rubber Duckies procured, F and I went for a bite to eat in the FCT’s restaurant. A nice buffet was available …

IMG_0630However, F and I decided to order from the menu.  The waiter asked us what type of champagne we’d like with our meal and I think he was a little disappointed that we ordered the prosecco since he very politely inquired … “Aren’t you sure you wouldn’t like to take a look at our champagne menu? We have some very fine ones available.”  At this point, F and I were feeling a little overwhelmed and since we were still in an Italy state of mind and didn’t want a fancier bottle to go to waste … we went for the “cheap stuff”! Oh yes, you get a full bottle along with your meal …


F ordered a very nicely prepared chicken curry …


And since we were in a German-speaking country, I went for the Wienerschnitzel

IMG_1411 And finished off our meal with some strudel for dessert …


All the food was fresh and excellently prepared.  As we were wrapping up our meal, we were approached by Hans (or was it Franz?) who indicated that they were having a shift change (blush, I built a 5-hour layover into our itinerary so we could maximum our time in the FCT).  He introduced us to … let’s call her Helga … who would be taking over as our Personal Assistant.

It was Helga, who then came to collect us in the Lounge when it was time to board our flight.  She accompanied us downstairs to another private area that had a dedicated Passport Control station where our documents were stamped and we were escorted to a waiting Mercedes Benz.


We were then driven out to the tarmac where we parked alongside the 747 that would take us home to Chicago.  The driver escorted us to a private elevator that exited onto the jet bridge.  General boarding was wrapping up at this point so he brought us directly to the aircraft door and we were on the plane in no time.

Of course, the fun was only beginning.


Keep any eye out for my next post in which I describe our first experience with Lufthansa First Class.


Lufthansa Lounge Lizard: A Reason to Stay Grounded – Lufthansa Lounges Frankfurt Airport

Diet Coke. A comfy chair. Wi-Fi.  Preferably in that order. My needs are simple.  And those are the needs I sought to fulfill after my Partner F and I landed in Frankfurt on the first leg our recent European adventure.  As soon as we exited the plane we were off in search of the airport lounges.

We arrived at the new A-Plus Pier in Terminal 1.  This concourse went into operation on October 10, 2012 and is home to some of Lufthansa’s newest and largest airport lounges. Since we had arrived in United First Class and were continuing on Lufthansa in Business Class we were entitled to use the airline’s Business Class Lounge near Gate A13 and the Duty Free Shop. Here’s a map of Lufthansa’s lounge locations in Frankfurt:

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 1.26.36 AM

Source: Lufthansa Lounges in Frankfurt

The lounge is just under a year old and features the “new” design that was developed through extensive focus groups and customer feedback. Although it’s now missing that “new lounge smell,” I found the space light, airy and efficient.  The use of materials such as leather and oak serve to soften the design’s modern edges.




Of course, all that thoughtful design went unnoticed as my caffeine levels started to drop and simultaneously my “snippy-ness” quotient began to rise.  Thankfully, the lounge’s extensive self-service food and beverage options came to the rescue.


I skipped the wine and champagne … too early in the morning … even for me!


… and parked myself under the Diet Coke dispenser.  I was starting to feel human again ….

IMG_0869Of course, during this whole time my Partner F respectfully kept his distance.  F has learned (through trial and error) that in my jet lagged state it was probably best to NOT ask the question “Do you REALLY need another hard boiled egg?!?!”


The lounge was VERY busy when we entered.  However, with so many people coming and going, we didn’t have too much trouble finding a pair of comfortable leather chairs where we could “nest” during our four hour layover.  With my first two basic needs met, I was then able to enjoy the lounge’s speedy (and free) Wi-Fi to incessantly Facebook.

In addition, to food, drink, comfy chairs and Wi-Fi, this Lufthansa lounge also provides the weary traveler with shower facilities and even a “quiet space” with chaise lounges were you can take a “disco nap” as you await your next flight.


About a week later, on our flight from Florence to London, we again transited through Frankfurt and were able to sample another Lufthansa lounge.  This time, we were leaving out of the B Concourse so we popped into the lounge near Gates B24-B28.  On this leg of the journey we were traveling in Economy and wouldn’t have ordinarily had access to the lounge.  However, since we are both card-carrying members of the United Club Visa, we were granted access to the Lufthansa Business Class lounge (note: Only primary card members are allowed entry using this method – no guests).

The look and feel of this lounge was slightly different from our first experience.  This area of the airport wasn’t as busy which probably explained why the lounge was so empty while we were there.  Although this particular lounge was a bit darker than the first, it seemed to project a “warmer” atmosphere through its more earthy color palette.




The self-service food and beverage offerings were nicely presented …

IMG_1298 And I was pleasantly surprised that hot dogs were being served!


However, I unfortunately realized only after the fact that I was eating a TURKEY wiener (insert HORRIFIED look here) ….


You just don’t do that to a Chicago guy!

In my last post I wrote about the great experience I had on a couple of Lufthansa’s Intra-European flights.  That experience continued on the ground, as the Business Class lounges are very much an extension of the airline’s brand, aesthetics and service culture.  Of course, the Business Class lounges are just the tip of the iceberg for Lufthansa’s Premium Services.  In my next post I’ll talk about my experience with Lufthansa’s First Class services … starting with the famed First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.


Stay tuned …


Flying Lufthansa Intra-Europe – Taking Service (and the SPORK) to a New Level

As I indicated in an earlier post, a few weeks ago, my Partner F and I cashed in 270,000 United MileagePlus miles for two First Class Tickets to Europe. Our itinerary gave us the chance to not only fly Lufthansa for the first time but also sample THREE of the airline’s service classes.


We fly United Airlines pretty much exclusively. Although my service experience with UAL has had its ups and downs in the past, I’ve generally been satisfied with the airline’s performance over the last year or so.  That said, when it comes to most U.S. carriers I’ve learned to “manage my expectations” in an effort to avoid disappointment and reduce the possibility of having one of those “air rage” moments that might result in a full ground stop of traffic at O’Hare.

Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by how civilized our experience was on our three intra-European hops on Lufthansa.  For this trip we flew Frankfurt to Naples and London to Frankfurt in Business Class and Florence to London (via Frankfurt) in Economy.


I guess I was expecting service on Lufthansa to be stiff, formal and well …. maybe just wee bit authoritative.  Predictably, I didn’t experience any informal folksy Southwest Airlines-style “friendliness” on any of my Lufthansa flights (e.g., there was no hint of a German version of “y’all” or “honey” during my interactions with the flight attendants).  However, on all three of my Lufthansa flights I found the entire crew to be highly professional, genuine and earnest in their desire to provide great customer service.  For example, in the Business Class cabin the flight attendant serving the bread basket implored “Don’t be shy, feel free to take another roll if you’d like” (“… why I don’t mind if I do, you can never have too many pretzel rolls in one sitting”). This same sense of graciousness was also present when we flew Economy. When F asked if there was any chamomile tea available, the Flight Attendant answered, “Are you not feeling well?  We don’t have any in Economy but I will get you some.  I shall have it made for you.”  Which brings me to another point … we were actually FED on all of our flights.


Although, each of our flights was under two hours, Lufthansa managed to get us fed before landing.  In Business Class, we had a nice selection of cold cuts and cheese:


Business Class Meal – Frankfurt to Naples


Business Class Meal – London to Frankfurt

While in Economy we got a nice egg and cheese sandwich:

IMG_1294Economy Class Meal – Florence to Frankfurt 

Even on our short Economy flight to London we received this little snack:


Economy Class Meal – Frankfurt to London

As you can see, my trust in Lufthansa was so high that I was confident enough of the quality of the food to wolf down a Coach Class, mayonnaise laden, egg salad concoction with a side of smoked salmon in the middle of July without batting an eye.


What’s interesting about Lufthansa’s seating on its short and medium haul flights is that the seat is exactly the same.  The only difference is that in Business Class the airline blocks the middle seat so that you have more elbow room:

Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 12.35.35 AM

Source: Lufthansa Business Class

The seats themselves sport a “slimline” design that is designed to provide you with more legroom.  For example, the magazine rack on the seat is shifted up and away from your legs creating more space.  There are also nice little touches such as a little hook on the seat in front of you where you can hang your jacket.


As “slim” as these seats are (e.g., minimal cushions), they are still surprisingly comfortable. However, I could see how for a flight longer than two hours you may be wishing for padding in (ahem) a few more places.  That’s getting to the bottom of it, isn’t it?

Spork 2.0

Finally, in a testimony to the longstanding tradition of high quality German engineering, I’d like to make note of this little baby that accompanied my egg salad and salmon snack:


Is that cool or what?



Of course, there’s much more to my first experience with Lufthansa than plastic serving utensils.  Keep an eye out for this upcoming post:

My Experience as a Lufthansa Lounge Lizard – A Reason to Stay Grounded

In that post I’ll be talking about Lufthansa’s Ground Services, which include not only their Business Class Lounges but also the world-renowned Lufthansa First Class Terminal.


You’ll need to jump through a few hoops (actually, it’s more like skirting around a few fences) to gain access.  However, I’d be happy to show you the way. And of course, there’s Lufthansa First Class and that famed “Bed in the Sky”


Stay tuned folks …