Over the years I have flown quite a lot with Lufthansa in economy class – they have provided great offers to many parts of the world and their onboard service has been quite good (apart from their really bad in flight entertainment system). So when I was going to fly Lufthansa business class long haul from Seoul (ICN) to Frankfurt (FRA) it was something that I looked forward to! In July 2012 my wife and I checked in at Incheon airport in Seoul to fly LH713 to Europe. Check in was fast even if though the ground staff looked and behaved as if she had gotten out on the wrong side of the bed that day. Our request to sit together was met with a frown and statement that business class was full and this was not possible. There was no priority security check and no priority immigration and that was a bit disappointing for an airport that is labeled as the best in the world. I guess this is Asiana’s home base so I was also looking forward to checking out their lounge – but let me assure you, there is not much to look forward to. It is a rather dark airport lounge with no view of the runway. Maybe they have tried to make it look like home with all the books in the book shelves.
Our flight was scheduled for 14:05 and we boarded at about 13:30. Contrary to grumpy check in lady’s statement, our seats were changed so that we could sit together – in seats 10 G and K. These seats are located in the smallest business class cabin at above the wings of the plane (you can see the setup of the plane on the Lufthansa site ). The Airbus A340-600 has been the longest plane in the world until recently when the new Boeing 747-8 took that title. Anyway, the Lufthansa flight LH713 had a three class configuration with 8 first class, 48 business class in a 2-2-2 configuration and the rest being economy class.
When we sat down we noticed that a bottle of water had already been handed out together with a blanket, headset were already attached and we had also gotten a small toiletry bag with a toothbrush, socks, eye shades, ear plugs and some lip balm – the toiletry bag and water was “hidden” in a small compartment on the side and behind the seat so I wonder if everyone actually noticed it. After a looong while we were offered a glass of champagne (they had different bottles during the service so I’m not sure it was champagne) but the plane was still parked at the gate. After a while the captain announced that they had to take out some luggage, that there were flight restrictions over China etc. (it was not easy to understand as we could hardly hear what he was saying) and it would cause a delay. I pushed down the call button immediately to get some more champagne but I would have died of thirst if I had to wait for that response. I think I had the call button on for 30-40 minutes and no one came to check on me once – at all. You might say that they were busy with flight preparations but as I said we were supposed to take off at 14:05 and we finally left the ground at 17:40! So in the end I had to just grab a flight attendant that was just walking past or actually go to the galley to ask for service. I walked in once and two flight attendants were casually chatting away. When I asked for some champagne and maybe some peanuts they all of a sudden seemed to think that it was a good idea so they started offering peanuts to all the business class passengers. After a while they did walk around to serve us a small snack while we were waiting but the standard response when asking for a drink was “Just wait a second and my colleague will come past to serve it”.
After takeoff they could finally start with the regular service and a menu was handed out. It was rather grand but my wife was like “I’m not sure I understand the menu” and I had to agree. It was not very clear what we would get, what decisions we had to make etc. But when they started serving the food we got some explanation. There were three starters to choose from and I went for the fresh garden greens with Gruyere cheese. The salad was quite good but there was actually not that much salad but more cheese – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But this was served on a tray with salt/pepper, tooth picks etc and before the main course they actually removed this tray and hence they removed the stuff that you might want to use for dinner (or after) e.g. the salt/pepper and toothpicks.
The dinner option was braised chicken, sea bass on asparagus risotto or bibimpap (a traditional Korean rice dish). I went for the chicken and my wife went for the sea bass but when it was served it was easy to see that my lactose intolerant wife could not eat the sea bass dish. I like the Italian cuisine and I love my risotto and to call this dish sea bass on asparagus risotto is an insult to Italian cuisine…no, actually an insult to Italy and everyone that loves Italian food! The sea bass itself was OK but what was supposed to be risotto were just a few rice grains swimming around in a creamy soup.
My wife was not that that impressed by the chicken on linguine either. It was presented as “Tomato basil olive sauce” but she said the chicken was dry and the sauce was merely a few splatters of tomato puree. So could the dessert make up for this rather bad start? On the menu we had the option of chocolate terrine or cheese or fruit salad – when the FA came to me I asked for the chocolate and she was like “Oh, you got the last one” like I had won a prize. But I can assure you…I did not feel like I had hit the jackpot. I don’t know who came up with the idea of combining chocolate cake with terrine as this was not very good – a chocolate “cake” that seemed to have been overdosed on gelatin and with not a lot of taste.
Let us talk about the configuration and seat for a bit. Lufthansa is a big company and they have lots of different planes and they also have different options for seats. I think there is at least three different first class seats at the moment and they have finally came to realize that they have to introduce a proper lie flat business class seat to be able to compete with other major airlines. This plane had a pretty standard Lufthansa business class seat for long-haul flights if I’m not mistaken which means that you have a more or less flat seat but in a 160-170 degrees configuration. For me this means that you can get a better sleep than in an economy seat but I keep on sliding down so in my case it is better to turn the seat into a deep reclining seat but this depends on your preference of course. I think what bothers me the most about the seat is that there is nowhere to put “stuff”. There was a narrow compartment behind the seat where the water bottle and toiletry bag was placed but apart from that there is nowhere to place stuff like camera, the holder for my glasses, iPad etc. At least there was a small place for a glass of champagne There is also a power outlet if you need to top up your iPad or laptop! In addition to this there was a 15”(?) screen that popped up from the seat (we were on the first row before the next section) and the in flight entertainment is not bad but a problem with the StarAlliance deal is that it seems like all the airlines show more or less the same movies.
We were seated in the business class section in the back and there are only 12 seats there and the next section is economy. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work but it seemed like most of the economy passengers were using the toilets in the business class sections – and as the flight attendants didn’t seem to give instructions, the economy passengers were walking around in the business class section. In fact, I had to go back to the economy section to go to the toilet as this was available while people from economy were lining up for the business class toilet! This is not a very impressive setup! Maybe Lufthansa should consider informing people where toilets are located. The toilets in economy on the A340-600 are kinda cool as they are located on the lower floor of the plane. It is not like I mind sharing my toilet with economy passengers but the whole idea of flying business is to get better service, have a better seat, get a quieter environment etc. Having people from economy led to a lot of traffic through our business class section. Even SAS (Scandinavian) are able to handle this issue!
Before landing it was time for a new meal and as the previous serving had not been a great success, we were looking forward to tasting the Cajun chicken breast with some caprese salad. But when the flight attendant came she asked me if I would care for some Korean braised sea bream with rice. I asked what the alternatives were and then she said that they didn’t have more of the Cajun chicken. Wouldn’t it be better to just say this to start with? Well, she served the fish with a smile and assured me that it was delicious. The fish was not bad but it was not the meal that I wanted!
As we took off several hours after planned schedule, we arrived late in Frankfurt. We were lucky to get out of the plane early and got to a Lufthansa service center to get information about what would happen next as we just missed our connecting flight. For some reason we had been rebooked to go to Copenhagen the next morning – which is great if you live in Copenhagen but our final destination was Stavanger in Norway. But they fixed this by booking us into a hotel (where we got up at 4 am due to a fire alarm) and sending us to Norway via Aberdeen the next day.
I know I sound like a spoiled brat when I describe the service on board. I mean…I should be thankful for flying business instead of economy right? But I have had the privilege and pleasure of flying first class on a number of airlines and business class on e.g. Scandinavian (SAS), Turkish, AirCanada, Emirates, Thai Airways so I feel like have something to compare it to. When flying for work I have looked into flying with Lufthansa several times but the prices has normally be substantially higher compared to e.g. Scandinavian (and sometimes more or less on par with Singapore Airlines). If I can save 30% by flying Scandinavian compared to Lufthansa I would do so as the seat on Lufthansa is not any better, the service is certainly not any better, the facilities is not any better etc. And if I had the option of flying Singapore Airlines with their new business class or flying this Lufthansa business class…let there be no doubt about it: I would pick Singapore Airlines any day! While Singapore can offer an amazing seat, perfect service, option of selection food before you flight etc. Lufthansa could only provide a tired business class seat with a crew that didn’t seem too interested in it’s passengers. Maybe the business class is too big for the crew to handle as service was slow, they ran out of food, when I tried to call for service no one checked on me etc. I know that this seems like a harsh conclusion – but I have to admit that I am disappointed by the Lufthansa business class.
If you are flying long haul on business class you are far better off by choosing Singapore airlines, Scandinavian, AirCanada etc. I do look forward to testing out the new Lufthansa business class (currently being installed on the new Boeing 747-8) – so Lufthansa: feel free to invite me back for a test of the new business class and I will make new flight review and hopefully it will be substantially better.
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