Due to a number of factors, including where I live and where I usually travel to, I tend to fly certain airlines more than others and perhaps none more than Lufthansa. I’ve had a strange relationship with the airline over the years, from benign indifference to admiration and back to benign indifference. Not unlike United here in the US, I think that it’s easy for people to criticize Lufthansa and, many times, they’re deserving of that criticism. But over the last year or so I’ve had the opportunity to fly in their Business Class cabin a few times, and gradually the quality has been improving. I first flew in their Business Class section more than 6 years ago and the experience, to be honest, wasn’t great. It’s time though to once again take a critical look at their service, how they compare and, ultimately, whether or not Lufthansa is worth the investment for premium air travelers.
Lufthansa Business Class
Flying on the 747-8 from the US to Frankfurt, I opted to fly in the all-Business Class upper deck of the plane. It’s not often one gets to enjoy the top deck and I liked the idea of a separated cabin. One of my issues with Lufthansa’s Premium Economy on the same plane is that it’s too integrated with the plane’s standard Economy section, which on my flights has led to confusion and even anger amongst passengers. I wanted none of that; instead I wanted a relaxing and pleasant overnight flight to Europe. Over the years, Lufthansa has been slowly updating its fleet and the Business Class seat I enjoyed was far different from what I first experienced six years ago.
The 747-800 has three business class sections and, as I said, I selected the one in the upper deck thanks to its relative privacy and better service. The arrangement though is 2-2, which means that those passengers seated next to a window have to climb over passengers seated next to them. Since I prefer an aisle seat, this meant the person next to me repeatedly had to interrupt my flight if he wanted to get up. That’s hardly a premium experience and leads to embarrassing moments throughout the flight. There are also no separators between the seats as on most other airlines, so there is little privacy if you’re traveling solo. If you’re traveling with someone else I think it’d be fine, but I would have preferred more privacy during the flight.
The seat itself was certainly comfortable with most of the standard amenities I expect from any great business class product. The window seat has a storage locker that sadly the aisle seat lacks, but other than that they’re identical with reading lamps, outlets and a seat that reclines into a fully lay-flat 76-inch bed. The amenity kits were fine but nothing special, which many times is what defines Lufthansa’s premium experience. Everything is fine but nothing is extraordinary. There are no moments of surprise or little touches that make other journeys extraordinary. Maybe it’s cultural, but the experience can be rather formulaic. The food and drink offerings were better than I remembered though, even offering a Christmas goose on the return flight. A culinary negative point is the lack of snacks or anything to eat for the Business Class cabin outside of the meal services. Every other Business Class I’ve experienced always has something for its premium customers, whether it’s a separate light bite menu like on Cathay Pacific or just a galley stocked with goodies. When I asked a flight attendant she offered me some cookies she had brought onboard, which was nice but it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the flight attendants to bring snacks onboard for passengers. That’s getting picky though because from start to finish I enjoyed the journey a great deal.
How it Compares to Premium Economy
Maybe it’s different on other aircraft, but on the 747-800 the Premium Economy experience is not handled well. The PE section is awkwardly sandwiched between two standard economy sections with no dividers in place. That meant economy class customers during the flight sought refuge in the premium economy section since the spaces were larger. Flight attendants shouldn’t have to serve as guards of the section and they didn’t, which made those of us who paid for the upgrade wonder why we had even bothered. But, the premium economy experience is overall a nice one. There is noticeably more space, the experience comes with some small perks and one is made to feel special. Overall, it’s a good experience that comes across as a premium economy experience should, that it is economy, but with some upgrades along the way.
Is it Worth It?
Overall, I enjoyed the Lufthansa Business Class experience but with some caveats. Where your seat is located is incredibly important whether that means the specific section of the aircraft or aisle versus window seat. I get up a lot to stretch my legs when I fly, and had I been in a window seat I would have been miserable, feeling guilty about stepping over the passenger next to me all the time. For a long haul flight though, the perks and advantages of flying in the business cabin are worth it I think, but it really comes down to priorities. For me, when I fly overnight Business Class is more important since I want to sleep. On a day flight space is important to me, but I won’t sleep and therefore don’t need a bed. While ideally I’d fly Business (or First) on all legs, splitting between Business Class on the way over to Europe and Premium Economy on the way home would work very well for me. Add in lounge access and being able to shower and refresh in Frankfurt though, and I think that the scales are tipped towards the Business Class cabin.
Where we live dictates which airlines make the most sense for us to fly. Living in the Washington, DC metro region, United and Lufthansa usually provide the best options when I travel to Europe. But the experience with both airlines differs greatly based not only on where you choose to sit, but on the type of aircraft being used. I’ve flown Lufthansa many times over the years though and while they don’t usually surprise me, there is a certain level of satisfaction in knowing there is a consistency in their products and that, more than anything else, I know exactly what to expect when I fly with them.