You'll Pray for a Delay: Lufthansa's First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport
For many passengers, getting to the airport hours early just to hang out is a concept as foreign as some of their destinations. They're eager to arrive at the terminal with just enough time to check in, pass through security and make their way to the gate — and with mediocre, overpriced food, crowded gate areas and a frequent shortage of power outlets, who could blame them? But some demand more, and are happy to pay for the privilege.
With its First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, which opened in 2004, Lufthansa set out to create an entirely different departure experience for first-class passengers, where the airline could wine and dine top flyers in a tranquil, entirely stress-free environment. Travelers eat, drink, bathe, smoke a cigar — do whatever they wish — and then a designated "personal assistant" fetches them when it's time for a Mercedes van or Porsche sedan to drive them directly to the plane.
Passengers in the First Class Terminal never see the hustle and bustle of the main terminal at FRA. They do not even have to realize it actually exists.
Location and Access
Though Lufthansa operates hubs at both Frankfurt and at Munich Airport (MUC), it offers a dedicated First Class Terminal only at FRA. It's most easily accessible by car — follow signs to Terminal 1 then the First Class Terminal, and you're there.
If you're arriving at Terminal 1 from another flight, pass through immigration (unless you're already in the Schengen Area), head to the arrivals level and make a left at the pick-up area. Walk a few minutes up the road, past the taxi staging area, then enter the FCT and take the elevator up to the lobby.
I walked off that very elevator at 9:50am for my 1:25pm flight to Newark (EWR), giving me roughly three hours to enjoy the lounge. The check-in desks weren't staffed when I arrived, but an agent appeared just a few seconds later and checked my passport against a list that appeared on her tablet. In other words, don't walk up to the FCT and expect to talk your way in — access is highly restricted.
In order to be eligible for access, you need to be flying in first class on Lufthansa or Swiss, including connecting flights. For example, passengers flying from Frankfurt to Zurich (ZRH) in another class of service can access the FCT as long as their connecting flight from Zurich is in first class on Swiss, and departing on the same day.
The FCT is also accessible to members of Miles & More's highest tier, HON Circle, traveling in any cabin on Austrian, Lufthansa or Swiss. Travelers with FCT access may also bring one companion, as long as they're traveling on the same flight.
Seating Areas and Amenities
After passing through an entirely pleasant (and empty) security screening checkpoint, I walked past a glass display filled with a selection of limited-edition First Class Terminal ducks (more on that in a bit), then into the main lounge.
At 19,400 square feet, the FCT was pretty large for a first-class lounge — though a far cry from the biggest of them all, in Dubai (DXB).
There were plenty of seating options, ranging from tables in the dining room to barstools to semiprivate sofa areas.
Entertainment was limited to one TV, which was displaying a German news channel.
There were also five private workstations, each with a telephone and sliding door.
And there was decently fast Wi-Fi, available throughout the lounge.
One of my favorite areas was the cigar lounge, and I don't even smoke. There was an array of liquor, including several bottles of high-end scotch. I didn't see any cigars, though, which had been prominently displayed in the past.
There weren't any boarding announcements. Instead, there was a monitor that displayed only the flights that passengers currently in the lounge were scheduled to take. When it was time to board, travelers were fetched individually then brought downstairs to a dedicated immigration checkpoint, where I've never had to wait.
I did have to wait for access to the one and only bathtub, though. I could have taken a shower right away (there were three other bathrooms with just showers), but there was an hourlong wait for the one and only bath.
It was worth it, though. I mean, how cool is this?
It was also the only place you'd see Lufthansa's signature First Class Terminal rubber ducks. There was one waiting for me at the bath (along with bath salts), but you could ask for more at reception, if you wished.
Lufthansa changes up the ducks from time to time, so they've become a bit of a collector's item. This one happened to have five stars just below its neck.
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a quick dip in the lounge.
The large private bathroom also had a toilet and a separate stall shower, complete with its own set of amenities.
There was shampoo, conditioner, body gel and lotion, but you could request a shaving set, dental kit and deodorant as well.
Food and Beverage
As fun as it was to take a bath in an airport, my favorite FCT perk was the dining room. I visited twice during my late-morning stay.
Breakfast was served until 10:30am or so, at which point the staff began setting up for lunch.
Some of the items were available during both meals, such as the Parma ham slicer.
At breakfast, there was a mix of sweet and savory foods, including honey fresh from a honeycomb, cakes, yogurt, jams and breads.
There were hot buffet items as well, including eggs, meats and beans.
I decided to mix things up a bit, grabbing some cold items from the buffet and ordering a hot meal from the server. I also requested a cup of coffee and helped myself to a carrot juice.
My eggs Benedict arrived about five minutes after placing the order. The eggs were cooked perfectly, and the hollandaise was rich and delicious.
After my bath, I decided to come back and check out the lunch scene.
The lunch menu was expansive. There was a list of hot a la carte items on the left, ranging from a Thai coconut soup to an Indian curry to Bavarian sausage, and then the cold buffet items were outlined on the right.
The cold buffet offered a mix of Italian and Spanish meats, plus a selection of breads and desserts.
Other cold dishes included a Mediterranean prawn salad, an artichoke salad with tomatoes and olives, a Thai quinoa salad and smoked fish.
A variety of hot items was also available on the buffet, including Atlantic salmon, spaetzle and a stew.
There was also a delicious-looking cheese plate, but I was still full from breakfast when I arrived for lunch. Cheese was out of the question.
First, I grabbed a mix of items from the buffet. The shrimp and spaetzle were outstanding, but I found the beef to be a bit too tough and the salmon a little dry, though flavorful.
I also ordered the Wiener schnitzel, which was outstanding! I especially loved all of the little side dishes.
Lunch was also a (slightly) more acceptable time to dig into the FCT's diverse wine selection.
I, however, had something else in mind — after that glass of red with my schnitzel, of course.
As I've done on each of my FCT visits over the years, I decided to head to the bar for a whisky tasting. I asked to try some of the more exotic options, and was presented with a Bowmore Darkest 15, Lagavulin Distillers Edition and Laphroaig Quarter Cask. The Bowmore was by far the smokiest, and while I enjoyed the Lagavulin, I preferred the regular Lagavulin 16. The Laphroaig was lighter but still a bit smoky and a little sweeter than the other two. All were great picks, though.
I then asked to try Kavalan, a Taiwanese whisky I had enjoyed during a previous visit to Taipei, and the Glenfarclas 25, which appeared to be the oldest of the 130 or so whiskies on display. It seemed that Kavalan wasn't tremendously popular at the FCT — the bottle itself was from 2012, and there were bits of cork floating in it. Overall, it was a fantastic tasting, though.
If I'd found something I liked, I could have headed over to the duty-free store and see if there were a bottle available to take home.
Though small, the duty-free store was very well-stocked — products were packed in, making it possible to offer quite a variety in a pretty tight space.
The cosmetics selection was impressive as well, I felt like there was a good chance you'd be able to find what you were after.
My personal assistant brought me down to the departures area around 1:10pm, some three hours and 20 minutes after I had arrived. It certainly didn't feel like that much time had passed — I really had a blast!
From there, a driver escorted me and the three other First Class Terminal guests joining the flight to Newark to a waiting Mercedes van — and since our plane was parked just around the corner, we were on our way up the elevator to the jet bridge just a couple of minutes after that.
More than 14 years after it first began welcoming guests, Lufthansa's First Class Terminal remains a very special place. The amenities and dining room are quite a treat, and having a car drive you directly to the plane is hard to beat. I just wish my flight had been delayed a bit — I would have loved to dig a bit deeper into that incredible collection of scotch.