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Flight Report: Lufthansa A380 Business Class on the Star Mega Do 3

by on September 29, 2011 · 22 comments

in Lufthansa, Trip Reports

Looking out onto the Lufthansa A380 in Frankfurt.

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.

The Lufthansa Lounge at JFK

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.

A Business Class seat – nothing new to see here.

THE FACTS

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.

SIZE MATTERS

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.

Business Class seats convert to angled lie-flat beds.

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.

I loved watching the video channel feed from the three cameras mounted on the plane’s exterior.

FUN FEATURES

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.

Loved the lavatory windows!

CONCLUSION

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.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • http://twitter.com/brianyyz Brian B

    In the end, you fell for Airbus’ (and Lufthansa’s) marketing. It is just a bigger bus. Full stop.

  • Anonymous

    It is remarkably smooth and quiet though. But I agree- more passengers is not really a good thing from a passenger perspective.

  • http://infamousdx.com infamousdx

    So can you convey how quiet the A380 really is compared to other planes? I’m interested because everyone seems to mention that it’s a huge difference.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think its as earth shattering as some people make it out to be.. but its a very quiet cabin. Takeoff is also super smooth, which is amazing for such a beast of an aircraft.

  • Dave Op

    It will be an interesting strategy discussion between the A380 (bigger better) and the Boeing 787 (more direct flights). Hopefully, you’ll be able to try out the 787 when it starts its international flights.

  • Pianist718

    great blog ….. here are my 2 cents after flying Lufthansa a380 (coach), 747 (business) and a340-600 (First).

    First off, a380 is awesome for 3 things ….. it’s quiet, bathrooms are quite nice with the window and push button for water, etc…. and take off is amazing. You simply don’t feel it.

    Lufthansa business class is OK I guess. I did get a good night sleep in those seats. I think even better than I when I slept in full lie flat in first.

    Lufthansa food is so so. ….. unless you’re in first. While sitting in Business I actually asked to try some Economy food too. Maybe it was because I was traveling back from Italy (having great food for a week and a half).

    First class ……. you get pampered. Being picked up by a Porsche Panamara right on the tarmac, asking a driver to step on it while you’re riding along side the planes, having free, good food in the Terminal, being escorted to your plane on a car again …. all very nice.

    My biggest complaint about Lufthansa is ….. Business class lounge sucks,. No food at all. And I mean at all. You get some fruits, little cookie and drinks. Pretty sad if you paid $4,000.

    On a positive side …………. Frankfurt First class lounge/terminal ….. very, very nice. Food, couches, showers, etc. Very nice.

  • Avi

    I have been flying A380 every month in business (more than I want to) from SFO-FRA. They do have water bottles in the pocket in the side pocket behind the seat on all my flights.
    The first class bathroom has a freaking couch like seating space. To date, I have no clue why would someone need that space.

  • A. S.

    I recently had a choice between LH A380 business class (NRT/FRA) and ANA’s 77W (the “staggered” business class). ANA in a heartbeat! Here’s the thing — it’s like you said: LH, on it’s own, is “good” (just “good”). But compared to other airlines and the biz products that are out there now, LH’s biz seems pitiful. I, too, am amazed that they didn’t introduce a next-gen biz seat on the A380. They’ll be forced to do so in a few years and at great retrofit cost… Even LX’s is rolling out a new biz seat and they’re practically the same company!

    As for the A380, I recently flew it on Emirats first class — wow!! The product (hard and soft) is truly phenomenal (an experience in and of itself, as much as any destination itself). But I took a walk down to coach and it was depressing. More is certainly NOT good from a passenger point-of-view. It felt like a cattle ship. And the “quiet” cabin…I didn’t feel that big of a difference. Not really much quieter than, say, the A340, which is also a quiet beast (except at takeoff!).

  • Pianist718

    pretty soon you’ll start seeing stains on that couch. You know what I mean.

  • Carl

    All valid points. I flew first class on the A380 from FRA-SFO and while the service and comfort was phenomenal, not to mention the fantastic lavatories, the food was marginal and when I ventured back to check out business class, it did indeed seem like one big coach cabin.

  • http://frequentlyflying.com Darren

    Nice report and surprised it took 3 hours for the meal service… LH should really staff up especially on the shorter long-hauls.

  • john

    I agree LH’s bus. class seats suck. They are not very wide. Also, as you mentioned they are not lie flat. Lufthansa has its own aircraft interior customizing division. It even does this work for other airlines. So there is no excuse for this.

    I was on a LH flt from FRA to Houston, they ran out of food choices twice (lunch & dinner). Something as simple as chicken ran out, yet they had plenty of German sausage. The food that I did end up getting tasted fairly good, though.

  • immiLawyer

    Yep.

    Gaining membership on long-haul trans-ocean flights seems weak and is too easy.

    Now, gaining membership (or renewing membership) on regional domestic flights…therein lies a real challenge.

  • Avi

    Flew 240k BIS miles in continental US last year … not 1 freaking international trip …

  • Beaker

    I have to say, having flown Singapore’s A380 (in coach no less), I was very impressed. Walking in, I got to see their Business product (one of the widest seats in the industry), which is a fully flat seat/bed. I’m disappointed to hear that Lufthansa’s product sucks that much, however, there are other very awesome A380 business, first, and, dare I say, Economy products… Having flown SIN-LHR, I (and the Mrs.) Can attest to the quality of the Economy product for SIN.

    That said, I’ve yet to fly LH, and now I’m dreading a potential flight to Africa, via FRA.

  • Anonymous

    One of my complaints after my first A380 experience was that there were just so many people at the gate, and then again after deplaning. The boarding process was so crowded, even for Star Gold/Business Class. I would hate to be at the end of the economy boarding line that I saw. And with Lufthansa’s 10 Kg. limit on carry-on, everyone on the plane winds up at the luggage carrousel. It just seemed to like a huge crowd from beginning to end.

  • immiLawyer

    We are discussing membership in a certain type of club, Avi; this type of club usually requires you and one other ‘consenting’ partner, and the couch-like seating space in the first-class bathroom on that A380 will make gaining membership require a lot less flexibility by you and your ‘partner.’

  • Bluto

    For the love of God, when you mention very hot model caliber crew you need to include photos in the post. :)

  • Anonymous

    That looks like an amazing business class flight! I have to try that out, you really have me wanting to! The lavatory window is what sells it for me haha

  • Wysiwyg123

    I was completely underwhelmed by my Lufthansa A380 experience. Sitting in the very back of business class the whole plane swayed slightly the entire evening, was not really fun. They also unloaded us with buses in Frankfurt which looked like a scene out of an airport tragedy movie. The sad thing is that I’ve flown SAS a few times over the pond, and it’s basically the same business class as LH just a bit dated looking (and they have windows in the toilet too!) All for usually thousands of Euros less than LH. LH, try harder next time-please!

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