I recently flew Emirates and Lufthansa back-to-back in first class. Which carrier offers a better product?
If you’re interested in reading complete flight reviews, I’ve carefully reviewed both products below:
- Emirates 777-300ER NEW First Class Dubai To Brussels
- Lufthansa 747-8 First Class Frankfurt To Los Angeles
While it might be a better comparison to look at the Lufthansa A380 versus the Emirates A380, I thought these flights–less than one day apart–provided a nice context for comparing and contrasting.
I’ll compare the first class products on the following metrics:
- Amenity Kits
- IFE + Wi-Fi
- Onboard Service
- Post-Flight Ground Service
Emirates offers a dedicated terminal for first and business class check-in. When we arrived, it was totally deserted…it felt eerily empty, sterile, and surreal. After check-in, we were merely pointed in the direction of the lounge; there was no escort nor even special security screening lane (for first class passengers versus business class). That wasn’t an issue at 5:00 AM, but I can imagine it might be an issue later on in the day.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa First Class check-in in Frankfurt, its main hub, is completed through the First Class Terminal, a dedicated terminal exclusively for first class passengers and HON Circle members of Lufthansa’s Miles & More program. An agent will meet you in the lobby, check you in through a mobile device, then escort you through security. There’s never a line and the security personnel are specially-trained to be courteous.
While Emirates, with a much larger premium capacity, likely cannot offer the same service as Lufthansa, Lufthansa wins this category.
The Emirates First Class Lounge is sprawling…simply sprawling. When you can get lost in a lounge, you can begin to understand how large it is. In addition to plenty of seating, Emirates offers complimentary spa treatments for first class passengers and complimentary shoe shine. Showers are available too. Lastly, a large dining room offers both buffet and a la carte service, including simple favorites like filet mignon. Note the A lounge is better than the B lounge.
Like the check-in experience, the Lufthansa first class lounge is much more intimate than Emirates. A dedicated agent watches over you, ensuring that you do not miss your flight. Service is outstanding and a wonderful menu of specialities awaits…and of course filet mignon (even for breakfast). There are showers and sleeping rooms too.
Lufthansa edges out Emirates in this category because the lounge experience is more personal and less crowded. Both offer excellent lounges and I do appreciate the free 15-minute massages and shoe shine with Emirates.
Here’s where Emirates really fails. I call the boarding process nothing short of a train wreck. When boarding was called, we had to walk from the lounge to the gate…a good 10-minute walk. At the gate, we had to sit down and wait about 20 more minutes until a special first class bus arrived to take us to our aircraft. In fairness, many Emirates flights offer boarding directly from the lounge, including my previous A380 flight to Frankfurt. The bus itself is quite comfortable. But who wants to sit in a gate area for 20 minutes while all the other passengers board?
When it is time to board your Lufthansa flight, your agent will approach you and escort you downstairs. There, a car will take you across the tarmac and directly to your aircraft. You may wind up with a van if there are a few people on your flight in the lounge.
I loved Emirates’ new first class seat on the 777-300. It is so nicely-padded and comfortable in every position. While some complain that it resembles a dentist chair, I really don’t care…I slept extremely well it and also found it visually appealing. And there’s more than the seat: the suite itself is a work of art, with mood lighting, tasteful accents (unlike the arguably gawdy A380), and plenty of personal storage. I cannot think of any improvement I would make for these fully-enclosed suites.
The Lufthansa seats are very comfortable as well, though not nearly as private as Emirates. As I defended Emirates, I will defend Lufthansa here: I don’t think the seats looked tired or worn out, as some say. Instead, I think the seat is quite comfortable in all positions and perfectly satisfactory for a first class seat.
Lufthansa has a nice seat, but Emirates has a far better one. Even on the A380 I would give the edge to Emirates.
Both Emirates and Lufthansa offer a plush mattress pad, lightweight duvet, and excellent pillows. Since I don’t have a thread-count comparison and likely cannot tell the difference anyway, I’m just going to say that both excel in the bedding department.
Not only did I fly these two flights a day apart, but I ordered the same main course on both…white asparagus. Prepare for a culinary feast on either airline. Come hungry and leave satisfied…generally. Service is a la carte on both Emirates and Lufthansa: you can dine when you wish.
On Emirates, every meal is accompanied by hot bread from the oven and my favorite Isigny Sainte-Mère butter from France.
Emirates serves caviar and even warms the blinis.
Next, I enjoyed creamy tomato soup.
Followed by a green salad with French dressing.
For my main course, I ordered a beef filet with asparagus and boiled potatoes. The dish was beautifully presented and the asparagus with truffle hollandaise sauce was spectacular.
But the beef filet? Not so much…it was served beyond well-done and I ended up only nibbling at it. Such a shame that it was served overcooked.
Although I could have easily stopped, I made room for a cheese course.
Finally, I completed my meal with warm chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and cappuccino.
My meal on Lufthansa began with cavair and the garnishes.
Next, I enjoyed asparagus soup, delightfully creamy with a dollop of pesto. I also enjoyed a small side salad with oil and vinegar.
Whenever I can on a flight, I’ll opt for a pasta course prior to the main meal. Here, the fettuccini with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese included a light olive oil and butter sauce.
I ordered white asparagus for the main course, exactly what I ordered on Emirates the previous day. While the white asparagus and boiled potatoes were tasty, the hollandaise sauce was not nearly as tasty as the hollandaise sauce on Emirates. I skipped the ham.
For dessert, I had a chocolate tart with ice cream and cappuccino…I had no room for cheese, although Lufthansa offers a nice cheese course.
Finally, I completed the meal with a bowl of fresh raspberries.
White asparagus is such a German dish, yet Emirates did a better job than Lufthansa in preparing it. Overall, Emirates offered a better meal service, even considering they botched the beef tenderloin.
Alcohol is not a big part of my life so I am not the best judge of what champagne or wine is best…I can recognize good quality, but I find it difficult to discern the difference between good quality and exceptional quality.
Thus, be sure to examine the menus below so you can make your own judgment about the wine lists.
I stuck to champagne on both flights and both flights happened to have both regular and rosé champagne. Emirates offered and Dom Pérignon Rose 2006 and Dom Pérignon 2008. It was served at the perfect temperature and was a spectacular accompaniment to the meal.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa served very tasty champagne as well, both a 2004 Curvee Lousise, Champagne Pommery and a 2004 Grande Curvee Rose Alexdra from Laurent-Perrier…I found thee Laurent-Perrier just as refreshing as the Dom Pérignon.
That said, based upon reader comments from my flight reviews it seems that Emirates offered a higher-quality caliber of wines than did Lufthansa, at least judging by price. Emirates also offered a cocktail and coffee menu. Lufthansa had a special whiskey menu and made even better coffee than did Emirates. Both offered freshly-squeezed orange juice.
Winner: Emirates (due to the alcohol selection), but my personal selection would be Lufthansa because of the superior coffee.
Emirates offers one of the most practical amenity kits in the skies. I greatly appreciated items like a high-quality razor, shaving cream, deodorant, and a reusable toothbrush in a handy carrying case. That said, an amenity kit was not offered on my daytime flight from Dubai to Brussels, even by request. Here’s what a business class kit looks like, which is better than Lufthansa’s first class kit:
It has been quite some time since we have seen a Rimowa amenity kit on Lufthansa. The current kits are practical (they double as a watch case), but hardly special, nor are the contents (socks, shoe horn, ear plugs, eye shade). Other amenities are available in the lavatory (on Emirates too). I do appreciate the La Prairie skin creams from Lufthansa, which I use on my face each night…not that it has stopped me much from aging. You never know, though, what amenity kit on Lufthansa you will receive. I often get the Windsor one (third picture below). The contents inside are always the same.
Winner: Emirates…if I had received one.
I love Emirates pajamas. Emirates advertises its PJs as being “hydrating”…that seems like a stretch. But the comfortable top and bottoms make for a great combo and are the pajamas I wear more than any others at home. I also enjoyed the “furry” slippers.
Lufthansa has pajamas from Van Laack, which have nice collared tops…but trousers that feel more like hospital scrubs. In fact, I have started bringing alternate pajamas when flying Lufthansa First Class because I don’t like the bottoms.
Emirates offers better pajamas. Remember to ask for them for on daytime flights, because they will not be proactively offered.
Both Emirates and Lufthansa have oversized lavatories on their A380s. Emirates even offers showers. But on the Emirates 777 and Lufthansa 747-8, the bathrooms were fairly “standard” in sizing. Both contained extra amenities, including Bulgari frangrances on Emirates. Emirates also offered real towels, toothbrushes, and shaving kits.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa only has “real” towels aboard the A380…the 747-8 had paper towels. Lufthansa offered La Prairie skin creme (communal container), razors, skin wipes, dental kits, and Evian spritzes.
Flight attendants kept the lavatories clean at all times on both flights. Emirates wins because of the real towels…that makes a difference.
IFE + Wi-Fi
Emirates’s ICE entertainment system offers hundreds of movies and TV shows in a very-easy-to-use remote-controlled system. I love the wide screen and the wireless remote. I particularly appreciated how quick the system was to respond…there was no lag.
Great noise-cancelling headphones from Bowers & Wilkins:
But most of all, I was impressed by the lightning-fast wi-fi speeds available onboard, free to Emirates Skywards members. Although I used most of the flight to relax, it was so appreciated to have wi-fi speeds that actually enabled quick email downloads and webpage loading. I could not believe this was OnAir, which traditionally has been the worst of the onboard wi-fi systems.
Lufthansa offers wi-fi on a complimentary basis to first class passengers. However, on this flight and over the years I have found that the T-Mobile system rarely is able to load webpages or email from Outlook. The best you can hope for is iMessages and WhatsApp. Furthermore, Lufthansa’s IFE screens are small and the mostly-textual display is cumbersome and often lags. Lufthansa needs to refresh its IFE and install faster wi-fi. The Bose noise-cancelling headphones do work well.
Here’s the most subjective section. Right off the bat, I’m going to say that I appreciate the service on Lufthansa more than Emirates. Rather than a knock against Emirates, view this as my personal opinion, especially considering that I can speak German and thus communicate with the Lufthansa first class flight attendants in their mother tongue.
Emirates service is superb–I appreciated the proactive approach purser Ashwin took on my flight. Tetiana and Maria were also wonderful. On both Emirates and Lufthansa, every item on the table was carefully arranged. I always note that a good flight attendant will pay attention to even the smallest of details, like the way in which the logo on the glass points (it should point towards you). But there was something about the Lufthansa service that was just a bit better. I cannot even pinpoint precisely what it was…perhaps the small talk or the hearty laughs (and I’m not even talking about my flight with Marcel). I appreciate a delicate balance between stand-offish professionalism and warmth.
Post-Flight Ground Service
No escorts were waiting in Brussels to help us through security and to our connecting flight…we were on our own. On Lufthansa, the ground service you receive depends upon where you fly into. My flight to Los Angeles did not have an escort, but first class luggage is pulled off first and always waiting by the time you exit immigration and passport control, even if you have Global Entry. A Lufthansa rep will also help you take your baggage to your transport.
Drum roll please…
Overall, I think the Emirates experience is better. That said, this was a close call because Lufthansa does a far better job on the ground. But the new Emirates suite is simply superb and the food turned out better on Emirates than on Lufthansa. Add functioning wi-fi and a modern IFE system to the equation and Emirates does edge out Lufthansa overall. But there’s nothing like the bright smile of a Lufthansa flight attendant.
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