Flight Review: Lufthansa (A350) Business Class From Munich to Boston
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After a pleasant trip from SIN to HEL on Finnair's A350, followed by a fantastic event to celebrate Emirates' 100th A380 at Airbus' delivery center in Hamburg, Germany, it was time to make my way back to the US.
At the moment, I'm focused on trying as many A350s as possible, so Lufthansa's version seemed the next logical fit. Unfortunately the only US route is between Munich (MUC) and Boston (BOS) at this point, so I was looking at a three-segment trip from Hamburg (HAM) home to New York. Given that there was business-class award availability on exactly the flight I needed, and I'd finally get to fly Lufthansa's A350, it seemed worth the extra effort.
Currently, Lufthansa's fleet includes just five Airbus A350s, and eventually that number will grow to 25. For the time being, these planes are all based in Munich, and fly to Boston, Beijing (PEK), Delhi (DEL), Hong Kong (HKG) and Mumbai (BOM). Each plane is named for a different German city — as of now, the fleet includes Nürnberg (registration D-AIXA), Stuttgart (D-AIXB), Saarbrücken (D-AIXC), Bonn (D-AIXD) and Essen (D-AIXE). I flew on Bonn, a three-month-old A350 delivered in mid-August.
We've reviewed Lufthansa's new(ish) business class before, on the Boeing 747-8, and the seats are largely the same here — they're simply not competitive from a comfort and privacy perspective, given that they're arranged in a dense 2-2-2 configuration and many competitors are shifting to 1-2-1 with direct aisle access, as I experienced on Finnair's A350. Still, I had a great flight, as you'll see below, and I certainly wouldn't mind flying this product again.
Snagging a seat on this flight was entirely straightforward. One-way fares were running over $6,000, so it was clear that an award ticket would be the way to go. I headed right over to United's site and searched for the flights I needed — there was business space both on my A350 segment across the pond, and the connecting flight from Hamburg to Munich.
Ideally, we would have booked using Aeroplan miles, since just 55,000 are required through that program. However, for one reason or another the Aeroplan agents weren't able to see this particular itinerary, so we ended up booking through United MileagePlus, for 70,000 miles plus about $100 in taxes and fees, which we paid with The Platinum Card from American Express to earn 5x points on airfare.
The other issue was that Lufthansa's Boston flight arrives in the evening — 7:30p, at the time of the flight (6:30pm now, since we've switched to Daylight Saving Time.) There weren't any flights to New York in the evening, given that it was a Saturday, so I had no choice but to overnight in Boston. I settled on the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor, which is near the airport and offers a free shuttle, then I flew home to New York the next morning on a separate United ticket, since the layover time was too long to count as a connection. It was worth the extra hassle and expense for a chance to fly the A350, though.
Airport and Lounge
Munich recently opened a new terminal section, called Terminal 2-Satellite, which comes complete with a brand-new lounge.
My Hamburg flight arrived there, so I headed directly to the new Senator Lounge, which I could access thanks to my Star Alliance Gold status via United 1K. Otherwise I would have ended up in the Business Lounge, which is fairly comparable.
The lounge was very quiet when I arrived a bit after noon, with the exception of the lady seated behind me, who decided to watch YouTube videos using her iPhone's speaker function.
There were plenty of other areas I could have moved to, though, including these odd booth-like seats near the windows.
There was a decent selection of food and beverage items, including soft drinks, beer and liquor.
Food included breads, pretzels, soup, hot items and salads.
The salads looked appealing — if you haven't tried German potato salad, I definitely recommend it.
There were a couple local specialties as well, including a Bavarian pork loaf.
I settled on a Weissbier and a cheese pretzel. Yum!
There was free Wi-Fi, too, of course, and speeds were perfectly sufficient.
After a while in the lounge, I made my way to the US departure gates, which gave me a chance to experience the new "enhanced screening" procedure for US-bound flights. As I wrote, I was just waived through once the agent saw my US passport.
We boarded and pushed back more or less on time, around 3:40pm. We were clearly one of the last US-bound flights of the day.
Cabin and Seat
Lufthansa's A350s offer a sizable business-class section, with 48 lie-flat seats spread between two cabins. As you can see from the seat map below, business class starts with Row 1 — there's no first-class section on this plane.
The main cabin has six rows of seats, in a 2-2-2 arrangement.
The forward section felt quite large, and while my cabin had several open seats, the first cabin was nearly full.
I'm glad I opted for the much smaller rear cabin, which has just two rows of seats.
As you can tell, it feels much more private, and since there are only two rows there's much less chance of encountering a particularly disruptive passenger.
There were two lavatories located between the cabins, near the mid galley. There was a third lavatory up front near the cockpit, too, but oddly it was off-limits during our flight — I was told that it's only accessible to passengers when business is entirely full, and since we had a half dozen or so empty seats, it was reserved for the crew.
Otherwise, the cabin was fairly standard for an A350, including those large overhead bins.
There were overhead lights and a fancy digital indicator panel, but unfortunately Lufthansa chose to leave out the overhead vents. Boo! The cabin temperature was perfectly comfortable, though.
I carefully selected seat 8G, which ended up being a phenomenal pick. I've found that agents typically fill the cabin from front to back, and being the last row of business class it seemed likely that foot traffic would be minimized as well.
I ended up really lucking out — 8D, the seat next to mine, was empty, as was 8H across the aisle.
I'm really glad I didn't have a stranger sitting next to me — this seating arrangement isn't particularly private, especially considering this odd footwell.
The bulkhead footwell is far better for sitting next to a stranger, since your feet won't be pointed towards each other. If you'd prefer the footwell below, select a seat in rows 1 or 7.
Storage is fairly limited as well, but I was able to tuck my backpack under the footwell, at least.
Otherwise, there's a small compartment underneath the armrest, but there isn't space for much more than a cellphone and headphones in there.
The seats lie flat, and I found the controls to be straightforward enough. I also liked that you could select the cushion firmness, and I actually noticed a significant difference — I ended up going with the medium-firm setting.
And here you can see 8D in lie-flat mode. The seats are comfortable for sleeping, but there isn't any special bedding on offer — if you're choosing between Lufthansa and its partner United for a transatlantic flight, I'd opt for United if bedding is most important, assuming you don't get stuck on the older 777 with 2-4-2 seats in biz.
On the sleep front, I've heard that Lufthansa's been trying something a bit unique on this route as well, using the A350's LED lighting to help reduce the effects of jet lag. The results have yet to be seen, but it was definitely interesting to watch — I found the deep red to be fairly relaxing, for example.
Overall, I really liked Lufthansa's hard product, despite the dense 2-2-2 arrangement — but as I've mentioned several times, having an empty seat next to me really made all the difference.
A few minutes after boarding, I discovered a small compartment to the right of my footwell — it turns out that's where Lufthansa stores a water bottle and the amenity kit.
The amenity kit is branded Samsonite — I don't know about you, but I don't exactly think of Samsonite as being a particularly high-end luggage brand. The contents were fairly basic, but it was a high quality kit overall.
There were also more amenities in the lavatories, including shaving sets, mouthwash, combs and makeup remover pads.
There's a large, on-demand in-flight entertainment system mounted at the front of each seat.
I found the picture to be sharp, and the screen was bright and vibrant, especially after I slid it out to the side, which improved the angle a bit.
There's a decent variety of content, including dozens of new releases.
You can control the entertainment system directly on the screen...
...or via the basic wired remote.
I really liked the interactive air show, too — you can choose the view you prefer, rather than waiting for it to cycle through all the options.
The "overhead view" option was my favorite, so I set that on 8D's screen and watched movies on my own.
The included noise-canceling headphones were of decent quality, though I still prefer Sony's MDR1000X and the Bose QuietComfort 35. Nobody rushed to collect mine as we began our approach for Boston, though, which I appreciated.
Wi-Fi was available for $19 for the entire flight, and the performance was actually very good. I had no problem staying on top of email and sharing photos from the flight.
Food and Beverage
Having flown Lufthansa's first class a handful of times, I was really looking forward to trying out the business-class catering. I was even more excited once I saw the menu — I came just in time to try Lufthansa's special holiday goose dish!
I was offered a beverage shortly after boarding, and opted for some water and a glass of Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne. Since I was in the very last row, I also asked the flight attendant if she could reserve a goose dish for me, and she said she'd do her best.
That was it for a while, though — the next round of drinks didn't arrive until an hour and 20 minutes after takeoff, when I also received my pick of appetizer, the venison pie, which I very much enjoyed.
Next was a lamb's lettuce salad with potato dressing, which came out 20 minutes later — simple but delicious.
And I lucked out! The flight attendant was able to hold a roast goose for me, which was served 10 minutes after the salad, alongside red cabbage and potato dumplings. It was quite the treat.
Finally, about two hours after takeoff I had my pick of cheese, fruit and ice cream for dessert. I went with the cheese and fruit.
The cheeses included a sheep's cheese with rosemary, Gouda, Montagnolo and a soft cheese with apricot ginger chutney. All were fantastic.
After the meal was complete there was a small self-service beverage station in the galley, with orange juice, apple juice and water.
Then, exactly 90 minutes before landing a flight attendant came by with a pre-arrival meal of a lamb's lettuce salad with ham, potato, tomatoes and cheese, served alongside a lemongrass soup, with a chocolate cherry cake for dessert. All were delicious. I also requested a pretzel and an Erdinger beer.
I was very pleasantly surprised by this flight. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I hadn't heard the best things about Lufthansa's new business-class seats — and rightfully so; with a 2-2-2 configuration they're hardly competitive.
The crew, catering and plane really made this flight outstanding, though, along with the fact that 8D stayed empty — if there had been a surly stranger sitting there I'm sure I would have walked away with an entirely different impression. Based on this experience, I'd happily fly Lufthansa's A350 business class again.