I flew to Frankfurt, Germany, last week for a one day business trip. As my employer has a corporate contract with American Airlines, I rarely fly any other airline. However, as AA doesn’t fly from New York to Germany non-stop, I got to fly on Lufthansa.
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Newark – Frankfurt
Check-in went smooth and, as I would find out, with typical German efficiency. There were three four agents checking-in passengers for Economy Class, one for the all-Business Class flights to Munich and Düsseldorf, two for Business Class to Frankfurt and one for First Class. Check-in took no more than five minutes, I was told where the Business Class lounge is and boarding time.
As a side note, Lufthansa is strict about hand carry-on luggage. In First and Business Class, you’re allowed two carry-on items and one carry-on in Economy. This differs from most US airlines that allow one carry-on, plus one personal item (ie, a brief case). They print how many carry-on items you’re allowed right on the board pass – a great idea.
I skipped the lounge in lieu of watching some airplanes from the concourse. A British Airways 777 was parked to the left of us and a SAS A-330 to the right. The two PrivatAir aircraft were further down the concourse, as was an Air India 747-400.
For an 1810 departure, boarding didn’t begin until 30 minutes before departure. I thought there was no way this plane was leaving on time. But sure enough, the packed A-340-300 went out on-time. LH has two boarding lines – one for First/Business and one Economy.
Once settled in 14A, a window seat just forward of the wing, a flight attendant came and collected my coat, while another offered champagne, water or orange juice. A pre-departure moist towelette was offered in a wrapped package with advertising by Marriott Hotels, a smart idea and nice touch.
Departure was delayed one hour thirty minutes due to TSA security concerns over passenger names. The captain made a PA announcement and said it would be just as long to off-load the passengers’ luggage, so we were going to wait and would probably make the time up in the air, which we did.
About thirty minutes after departure, flight attendants started a beverage service. Compared to AA, this seemed like an eternity. On AA, once the airplane reaches 10,000 feet the bell goes off, the “welcome aboard” AA announcement comes on, and service begins. The thirty minutes was a nice change – I got some work done – but almost a bit too long.
Hot towels were distributed and dinner service was as follows and service was completed aft-forward:
Sautéed shrimp with honeydew and pineapple slaw; or
Pancake filled with duck
Seasonal greens with dressing
Bread, rolls and butter
I opted for the duck, an excellent choice. The appetizer and salad were served together – a smart move on overnight flights, and the small portions were perfect. There were about five different rolls – including a delicious pretzel roll.
Grilled beef tenderloin with Thyme Jus; or
Cod in Burgundy Glaze; or
Ravioli filled with roasted vegetables
When the flight attendants ask you your dinner entrée preference after departure, they put a colored sticker on your headrest. That’s a great idea and the flight attendants didn’t waste anytime in the aisles – the service was vastly efficient and welcoming.
Cheese and dessert cart followed.
Given that I had a 10am meeting (the flight was scheduled to arrive at 7:30am), I skipped the rest and tried to get a little sleep before a long day.
Flight attendants were through the aisles like clockwork every fifteen minutes with water and orange juice. A bottle of water would have been nice rather than an open glass, but just a little recommendation – no complaints!
Breakfast service began one hour prior to arrival in Frankfurt. Flight attendants promptly came through the cabin offering just-awoken passengers orange juice.
Breakfast consisted of:
Roll and Croissant;
Crepe filled with Quark and Raisins;
Coffee and juice
Coats were distributed prior to arrival and soon enough we were in Frankfurt. Customs and immigration were so smooth and efficient – quite a contrast to US arrivals.
In all, the seat comfort and pitch were ok – not great – but I understand that these were the old Business Class seats. Food and portions were great – and the chocolate bar was an excellent touch. Also, LH prints their menus in German, English and Spanish, the latter of which is a very nice appointment and courtesy. US carriers would do good to learn from LH, and the US airport authorities to learn from Fraport.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Frankfurt - Newark
LH has separate check-in and security for flights to the USA and Israel. They are clear to point out that the extra security is at the behest of the US government and not their own doing. Check-in was smooth and hassle-free. I was told I could visit the main Lufthansa Business Class lounge or a smaller one located in the concourse where LH flights to the USA and Israel depart from. I delayed going to the lounge at first to do some spotting and duty-free shopping. The value of the Euro versus the US Dollar is incredible, but especially when comparing prices on items in duty-free that would retail for at least 10-15% cheaper in the US.
Security was intrusive and strict, but friendly and, again, efficient. Compared to the TSA in the US – especially Miami, Frankfurt’s security personnel are true professionals. The TSA would do good to take some notes on how they manage their operation.
I took a quick visit to the Business Class lounge, which was small but well-appointed. Drinks and snacks were available, as were international newspapers and satellite television. I decided to head downstairs to the boarding lounge about 45 minutes before departure to see the action. The flight to left of us was going to Portland, Oregon, and appeared somewhat full – an encouraging sign for LH?
Boarding began about thirty minutes before departure. The flight was oversold and the gate agents were upgrading a lucky few from Economy to Business Class. One question for LH employees – are you allowed to fly First Class internationally on staff tickets? The reason I ask, is this: a Business Class passenger had reserved an aisle seat and was told nobody was sitting next to him. Because the flight was oversold, an upgrade took the seat next to him and he demanded to be upgraded to First Class, where nobody would be sitting next to him. The gate agent said that they (LH employees) weren’t even allowed up there, let alone a free upgrade. Just curious. The guy was pretty obnoxious and unreasonable, perhaps had he approached the situation differently he would have been up there.
Boarding was done via dual jet-bridges. I walked through LH First Class – what a nice set-up. I was in the last row on Business Class in an aisle seat. I sat next to a guy who worked for the German Central Bank and we had a good discussion on the value of the Euro versus the US Dollar, and economic implications for both.
About thirty minutes after departure, service began with hot towels, menu distribution and entrée selection. Everything was completed aft-forward.
Choices were as follows:
Shrimp Galantine with potato salad; or
Roast Beef slices with Mushrooms
Salad with Bread, Rolls and Butter
Medallions of Lamb; or
Red Mullet; or
Cheese and Dessert with Fresh Fruit Salad
Service took much longer on the return. Most of the passengers stayed awake for the entire flight, perhaps because of the time change. I did my best to do the same so that I would be recalibrated to Eastern Time upon arrival in Newark.
Flight attendants passed out chocolate bars and offered water and orange juice throughout the flight. Movies, international news and the Discovery Channel were shown on the personal televisions.
Approximately one hour and half to arrival in Newark, a light lunch was served as follows:
Salad with bread;
Herb-stuffed chicken; or
Filet of Perch
A small chocolate cake in mango sauce was served as dessert.
Arrival in Newark was smooth and a fast taxi to the gate. We beat most international arrivals; I was through Customs and Immigration within fifteen minutes.
In all, an excellent flight and welcome experience on Lufthansa. I have nothing but great memories of the flight, wonderful aircraft and crew! Thank you Lufthansa!