It’s been quite a busy September, so I haven’t had time to do a full recap of my experience on the Star Mega Do 3, but I at least wanted to fill you in on my experience flying Business Class on Lufthansa’s A380 roundtrip from New York JFK to Frankfurt. I’m going to preface my review, and perhaps remove some of the suspense, by saying I was disappointed by the experience overall, and am not sure I would recommend it, but read on to find out why, and what the airline can do to fix it, in my opinion.
RED CARPET WELCOME
To welcome all us frequent fliers (read: miles enthusiasts … also read: points obsessives), the airline rolled out the red carpet. Very gracious. Once on the plane, my fellow Business Class passengers and I were shown upstairs, which is where all the Business and First Class seats are. First Class is up in the front at the bulkhead, and Business Class is the rest of the upper deck.
The Business Class cabin has a total of a whopping 98 seats laid out in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration, all decorated in the airline’s signature cerulean blue and goldenrod colors. The seats have a sort of cradle-like hard shell, so when passengers recline, they remain in their own space rather than leaning back into their neighbor’s. Seats measure 26 inches (67 cm) wide and about 150 cm (60 inches) long. When reclined to an angled lie-flat (the biggest drawback, to my thinking), they hit a mere 168 degrees. Now, many of you know that I don’t fit in small, cramped spaces, so this was a bit of an issue for me.
Each seat has a 10.6-inch (kind of small since it’s embedded in the seatback of the row in front) LCD screen for entertainment, operated with a handset rather than via touchscreen. The entertainment included about 30 films and over 60 TV series choices, as well as 30 radio stations, 200 on-demand audio CDs and a selection of multi-player games. Personally, my favorite thing to do was to switch it to the channel of the video cameras on the plane’s nose, tail and undercarriage so I could watch take-off in real-time, which was pretty awesome. The seats also had USB ports and international adapter outlets for powering up devices.
Overall, the product seemed old and outdated, though for some reason, the seats did feel better than Air France and KLM’s angled lie-flats. The good news is a new Lufthansa business class product is currently in the works, though I don’t have details on that just yet. I think, however, that the airline will introduce it on its new 747-8’s first before refurbishing the A380’s.
The real problem as far as I could tell though, stems from the fact that the plane is so darn huge. The Business Class cabin almost felt like a huge coach cabin. There’s just no way around the fact that service is going to be slow – even with a large number of flight attendants operating. I was in row 10 right at the front of the cabin, so I thought I’d get served pretty quickly … until I realized that they did the food service from back-to-front for some reason, so it was literally hours before the food cart got to me.
And the food was … less than remarkable. Not only that, but on both ways it turns out they served almost the same exact menu. I guess that means I got to try (almost) everything, but I’d have preferred more choices. Especially a beef choice, which was missing from both menus. The other think missing on the way back? Bottled water! That’s right, there were no water bottles for us on the return flight, which is one of my pet peeves. The purser simply stated that they never cater water bottles on the day flights.
One more quick thing to note was that, by the time dessert got to me, they were out of the ice cream option, and all that was left was a pitiful little fruit cup. Now, before you accuse me of being a spoiled little boy crying over ice cream, let’s just remember that I paid for a Business Class ticket, and I expect to have choices. It’s just another aspect of the flight that was unimpressive. All in all, the meal service put a real damper on the flight since it took over 3 hours to complete, and by that time, almost half the flight was gone – not nearly enough for a good rest.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
As I was saying, the meal service took up a good portion of the flight, which exacerbated another odd thing about Lufthansa’s JFK-FRA flights: the scheduling. The flight to Europe is a 7-hour red-eye that leaves at 3:40pm and gets in around 4:30am, (10:30pm) meaning not even the airline lounges were open when we arrived, and we sort of just had to hang around the terminal for a few hours before they did. No sleep for me that night.
Let’s not dwell on the negative for too long, though. There were quite a few things I did like about the experience. First, the crew were all very gracious, very courteous …. and very hot. I mean, they all looked like they could have been models, and their uniforms were stylish and fashionable without being too flashy. The other thing I really liked was quite the novelty: a window in the bathroom! I know it seems like a small thing, but it’s really cool to have the bathroom to yourself and look out the window, and it really helped make the bathroom feel less cramped than your average airplane lavatory.
I’ll shoulder some of the blame and say that perhaps my expectations were too high. I was excited for my first experience on an A380, and I like Lufthansa and had flown their Business Class before and had a good experience. Perhaps I was expecting something above and beyond, but what I got was decent. Solid service, but nothing to wow me. My main question is this: why go to the trouble and extreme expense of ordering a mini-fleet of all-new, gorgeous A380’s just to put in your same old business class product? Sure, there are those beautiful First Class seats (not quite suites), but there are only 8 per A380, and that’s not enough to keep me interested.
I’ll be checking out other airline’s A380s (and hopefully 787s) soon so stay tuned to see how other airlines stack up. Overall though, as an airplane geek, I was excited to try out the new A380 aircraft and I was impressed by her smooth, quiet ride.