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Last week I flew Lufthansa business class aboard its A321 from Madrid to Munich, then its new first class aboard its A330 from Munich to New York’s JFK. I booked this itinerary two days prior to departure using 62,500 American Express Membership Rewards points transferred to Aeroplan and $363 in taxes/fees – a far cry from the $10,240 it would have cost otherwise (a ~16 cent per point redemption, though let’s be honest, I would never have shelled out $10k, so the value is less, though still excellent compared to redeeming for Amex travel at 1 cent a piece).
The other option I had to get home from Madrid was TAP from Madrid to Lisbon in business class and then United business class on a 757 from Lisbon to Newark for 45,000 Aeroplan miles and $72 (or 57,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United miles and $157.90). For an additional 17,500 and $291 I decided to splurge and try a product I haven’t flown before, and enjoy some caviar in the process!
To say the least, the experience was phenomenal, though I would have preferred connecting through Frankfurt and using their First Class Terminal.
I had flown Lufthansa first class several times before, most recently in 2012, from Frankfurt to Miami aboard the 747-400. The 747-400’s then-new first class product was unique from those on both the A380 and the 747-8, and I gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up for the exceptional comfort of the seat (which is 90 inches in pitch and 21 inches wide, with a lie-flat length of 79.1 inches), excellent service and inspired cuisine. This week’s Lufthansa adventure was much of the same – and even more.
MAD-MUC Connecting Flight
Prior to my MAD-JFK flight, my two-hour and 40-minute connecting flight from MAD to Munich (MUC) was on Lufthansa’s basic A321 intra-European business class.
Business class onboard the A321 is essentially coach class with a middle seat blocked out, a far cry from the glamorous new angle-flat seats aboard the A330 (more on these in a bit). There are 20 recliner seats in business in a 3 x 3 configuration, each with a pitch of 30 inches and a width of 17-18 inches.
Business class also comes with the added perk of a nice breakfast. Cold specialties were ricotta and manchego cheeses, Spanish ham and sliced chicken breast, fresh fruit, yogurt and muesli. Instead of the mushroom omelette with bechamel sauce and vegetable burnoise, I was happy with my choice of a homemade frittata with zucchini and cheese, ratatouille and smoked bacon.
Lufthansa First Class Lounge at MUC
Upon landing at MUC, I went straight to Lufthansa’s first class lounge, where they have their own immigration officer who briefly takes your passport and does all the paperwork for you. I was given my passport back so that I could process my tax-free shopping, and was then able to go on my merry way and relax. This whole process couldn’t have been easier.
I really enjoyed the laid-back lounge, especially the fact that they had chocolates, candies and fruit at every table. The waiters were extremely friendly, and seemed eager to make me feel at home.
It was about 11 am when I arrived, and the breakfast buffet was on full display, stocked with fresh juices, cereals, fruits, baked goods and dessert pastries. I exercised control and instead opted for an early lunch ordered from their a la carte menu.
I ordered a delicious lobster and curry risotto with papaya and plantains, paired with a glass of Pommery Cuvee Louise Champagne, a bubbly I first tasted when I visited Pommery in Reims a couple of years ago).
I was impressed by the exceedingly-clean restrooms and showers, as well as a dedicated cigar lounge for the smokers out there. It’s weird for me to see a smoking lounge in 2014, but it’s well ventilated and I couldn’t smell it at all in the main lounge.
Lufthansa shows its dedication to the World Cup with its own Fanhansa branding campaign, so I wasn’t surprised to see that a TV-viewing area had been exclusively devoted to World Cup matches.
The Fanhansa madness was so intense that the lounge was even featuring its own special drink and snack menu for the occasion.
When it was time to board, we went straight to the gate without any security or immigration screening. When I boarded the A330, its first class cabin – which is outfitted with eight of Lufthansa’s new first class seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration – was empty. (Note that you can use this tool from Lufthansa to see if your plane has the new first class.)
I shot this video of my experience boarding Lufthansa’s A330:
While the rest of the passengers boarded, I nibbled some macadamia nuts and enjoyed another glass of Champagne, Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle.
In the Air
Take-off was a drama-free affair, and after a decadent caviar service and yet another glass of Champagne, I soon drifted easily into a nap. I can’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure I dreamt about caviar and Champagne.
My friend and I were in two of the middle seats, but because only four of the eight first-class seats were taken, we each used an empty window seat for our beds. This experience was similar to that on the upper deck of the 747-400, where you get your own bed and chair – though this was even better. Sadly, of course, you can’t always expect the cabin to be half empty, and the rest of our flight looked pretty full.
Lufthansa’s roomy new first class seats aboard the A330 have a pitch of 85 inches, a width of 21 inches, and a lie-flat length of 79.1 inches. As I was hardly awake during the flight, I didn’t do any work at my laptop, but it bears mentioning that all of Lufthansa’s A330s are outfitted with WiFi – as are 91% of the airline’s long-haul planes. The cost for my flight was 15 Euros, though it didn’t work til almost an hour outside of Munich and cut off about 30 minutes prior to landing.
The seat/bed comes with a temperature-regulating duvet, dense pillow, and a thick, soft mattress. Ambient noise is kept to a minimum with under-carpet sound insulation and a soundproof curtain. Additionally, there’s a welcome privacy partition between each seat, which means that upon waking, you won’t open your eyes and find yourself staring into someone else’s.
The attention to detail was thorough, down to the seat providing more than enough length for my 6’7″ frame. Even the bathroom had a special touch: a view.
While I was up, I peeked over at the airline’s new business class seats, and I thought they looked comfortable, though already dated since they don’t all offer aisle access, as do most cutting edge business class products. Performing acrobatics to get out of your window seat while your seat mate is sleeping should not be a feature of the newest business class products! Onboard the A330 there are 48 business class seats in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration, each with a pitch of 57-60 inches, a width of 20 inches, and an angle-flat recline of 165 degrees. If I were to fly business class on the A330, I’d try to get in the two row minicabin between the 2nd boarding door and first class.
We were given soft pajamas and a really nice amenity kit that included a brush and shoehorn in a leather pouch that can also be used as an iPod-mini holder.
For my dinner, I was given a selection of appetizers – lobster, veal carpaccio, and a feta salad.
There was a soup course, but those appetizers filled me up and I chose not to partake. My main course was beef on a bed of polenta and spinach, which was good despite being a little overcooked for my taste.
Then there was cheese for dessert, which always makes me happy. (Thank you, Europe.)
After eating, I promptly fell asleep again for a couple of hours. I’d had a great time visiting with a bunch of friends in Spain, but it was also pretty exhausting!
Overall Impression – and Booking the Award
I believe Lufthansa’s new first class is nearly the best way to fly from Europe to America. I do like Singapore Airlines’ first class from FRA-JFK as well, though its 8am departure time makes it hard to pair with intra-Europe connections. Additionally, you usually have to book through Krisflyer, and you have to call if you need to add partner flights, which ends up costing more.
Lufthansa only opens up award seats about a week in advance at most, though always check Aeroplan.com to see if there’s availability. Once in a while Lufthansa will open up a lot of space, but you need to book quickly.
To be able to instantly transfer 62,500 Amex points and spend $363 to fly such a comfortable flight is more than a bargain in my opinion- especially since it can all be booked online.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
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