My recent flight from Houston to Frankfurt was one of the worst Lufthansa First Class flights of my life. It truly was. But I also must add it was not just fine, but a good flight overall. Read on to understand this apparent paradox.
Let’s just get down to it. What I love most about Lufthansa First Class in the air is the service. It’s not the hard product, because other carriers have superior hard products that offer more privacy and comfort. It’s also not the food, though I usually enjoy the dining experience onboard.
What sets Lufthansa apart is the service. The highly-polished, over-the-top excellent attentiveness. That’s a huge reason…the main reason…I love Lufthansa First Class. It is why I will staunchly defend Lufthansa and even defended Lufthansa’s Skytrax five-star honor (though I now rescind that endorsement after a recent subpar experience in business class).
Now you might call what I’m about to write as nitpicky. My response: guilty as charged. I’m absolutely being nitpicky here. But isn’t that what I am supposed to do if I am truly providing fair reviews?
Five Service Lapses
The problem on this flight was the service, which I’ll demonstrate in five examples. Just after takeoff, a delicious amuse bouche was offered.
I promptly enjoyed it. But the empty plate sat there throughout the meal service. How do you miss that? Of course I could have handed it to the FA, but I wanted to see if she would notice it. She never did.
Second, while bringing over the table settings (salt and pepper shakers, butter dish, cutlery, etc), the FA dropped them. She yelled out, “Hoppla!” which means oops in German. I know it happens, but you just don’t except FAs to drop table settings in first class.
Third, when my table was set for dinner, the FA did not arrange the salt and pepper shaker with the Lufthansa logos facing toward me. Feel free to pummel me for even writing this…but I make no apologies: this is something that FAs are 1.) trained to do and 2.) have always done on my previous Lufthansa First Class flights.
Fourth, when preparing my caviar course, the FA broke the toast with her tongs, which crumbled on my tablecloth. When this has happened in the past, FAs use a crumber (also called a crumb sweeper) to quickly sweep away the crumbs. That did not happen here. She stared at the crumbs for a good few seconds, then decided to ignore them.
Fifth, the meal service took nearly three hours. Three darn hours. That’s far too long on relatively short overnight journey. By the time meal service was over, there were only five hours of flight time left.
Small issues, but…
These issues are all so minor, but Lufthansa’s attention to detail is what sets it apart. It’s not like these service lapses ruined the flight or even made it unpleasant. But it did mark a failure of precision. I trust this was a one-off and suspect it was as well.
The FAs were so nice. So nice. I feel bad writing anything negative, but I feel compelled to.
One other thing. FAs cut off hot breakfast at 90-minutes prior to landing. And while that may be what protocol calls for (not sure), on my past few eastbound flights, FAs have always offered eggs even as late as 45 minutes prior to landing.
Okay, let’s move onto the flight.
The boarding gate was a mess in Houston…a lot of people in a small area. We had only a 50-minute connection in Houston so did not have time to check out the lounge. A new United Polaris Lounge is now open and available to Lufthansa Business Class and First Class passengers.
An obnoxious lady had staked out her place in the front of the first class boarding lane, waiving around her boarding pass and letting those around her know that her employer had paid for a first class ticket for her.
But she had a seat assignment in row 23…I didn’t break the news to her that she was flying in business class.
Houston (IAH) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Saturday, June 16
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 1K (First Class)
Lufthansa First Class Seating
We boarded late, just about 20 minutes before scheduled departure. Afternoon sun streamed into the beautiful first class cabin on the upper deck of the A380.
Lufthansa has no overhead bins in the A380 first class cabin. Instead, each passenger is assigned a locker. Seats 1A and 1K have lockers directly in front of them. Inside there is plenty of room to store a large rollerboard bag, personal items, and articles of clothing. There’s even a three-digit combination you can set if you’re worried about theft.
Shortly after boarding, a FA presented an amenity kit, pajamas, and a food and drink menu. A glass of champagne with mixed nuts was also offered. Lately, Lufthansa has offered mixed nuts rather than macadamia nuts on flights out of the USA.
No Rimowa amenity kits. Instead, leather kits from Windsor were offered. The contents included socks, a shoe horn, La Prairie skincare products, a dental kit, comb, an eyeshade, and earplugs.
I changed into my pajamas prior to takeoff. Additional amenities like a toothbrush and shaving kit were available in the lavatory. Usually there are larger La Prairie creams in the lavatory, but they were not present on this trip.
Before we pushed back the captain paid the first class cabin a visit, thanking everyone for their business. We took off about 30 minutes late, but the captain promised an on-time arrival.
Lufthansa First Class Meal Service
Meal service began about 25-mintues after takeoff. Here’s the flight menu:
After the amuse bouche I mentioned above, I enjoyed a caviar course…always appreciated on Lufthansa.
After that, I had a trio of appetizers including crab, BBQ pork tenderloin, and green asparagus. All were excellent, though the hot bread was perhaps best of all.
I was not proactively offered a salad, but requested one and it was promptly delivered.
Rather than risk an overdone beef (I knew I’d enjoy a nice filet mignon in the first class lounge after arriving in Frankfurt), I ordered pasta. It contained zucchini, cherry tomatoes, red Swiss chard, beans and pesto and turned out to be a great choice. It was a delicious balance of ingredients and rich in flavor.
With dinner I enjoyed a glass of Bordeaux wine.
Next, I picked at a cheese course which contained wonderful aged cheddar.
To conclude the meal, I enjoyed apple pie a la mode with a cappuccino and truffles. Overall, I was very satisfied by the meal.
IFE + Wi-Fi
During dinner, I watched Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence. It’s the story of a Russian spy and an excellent movie.
IFE was well-provisions with live TV, movies, TV shows, games, music, and a moving flight map:
I tried to connect to the internet, but the Lufthansa FlyNet service was down. No big deal this time, as it was a Saturday evening and I enjoyed being disconnected. First class passengers receive a complimentary wi-fi voucher.
I asked a FA to prepare my bed and within moments, my seat was transformed into a plush bed. While the cabin temperature was not as cool as I would have liked, I slept well for the next four hours.
One hour before landing, a FA woke me up for breakfast. There was “no time” for eggs, but I enjoyed a bowl of muesli, some yogurt, fruit, orange juice (it was terrible, not fresh squeezed), a cappuccino, and smoothie.
I missed my usual bacon and eggs, but as you can see there was more than enough food.
Despite the late departure from Houston, we did indeed arrive on schedule in Frankfurt.
It seems I am in the complaining mode lately, though that is certainly not my aim. I hope you understand that this was still a comfortable flight overall with friendly service and good food. But I have to be fair and even my favorite airline has off days. This flight was one of those times. As minor as the service issues were, they represented a failure of what separates Lufthansa from its competitors.
I cannot wait for my next Lufthansa flight.
I appreciate your honesty here in describing the balance between what was a good flight with enjoyable food and the unusual lapses in the service you’ve come to expect from Lufthansa.
A 50-minute domestic to international connection at IAH on a summer afternoon? You sure do like playing with fire. One badly timed (but very common) pop-up t-storm over the airport, and you’re screwed.
If this is a subpar experience in LH F, I look forward to seeing them at the top of their game next March!
Funny you mention that, we dodged a huge storm by literally 30 minutes!
Honestly, I figured if we did not make the connection they’d put us on Air France First Class to Milan via Paris! 😉
But the real reason I booked it is because there was absolutely no other options using miles.
I want to know more about what happened to the lady with in row 23. How did she react when she couldn’t board with F? or did you casually stroll past her?
I think it was an innocent mistake. She probably didn’t know there was a difference between business and first class and perhaps had a domestic US mindset.
Great review, as always!
Red Sparrow stars Jennifer Lawrence, not Jennifer Garner.
Oops! Yes indeed. I fixed it.
I think you may have discussed this before, but why do you change into pajamas before takeoff? If I had to evacuate an aircraft, I wouldn’t want to be doing it in pajamas and slippers, especially without socks. Without shoes, it’s actually dangerous.
Since takeoff and landing are the highest risk points in a flight, I always wait to change into PJ’s until cruise.
Agreed! IIRC, Lucky/Ben @ OMAAT does the same thing, and it always baffles me. Take off and landing are when most accidents happen, so it doesn’t seem like a terribly smart decision to be wearing pajamas/slippers during those phases of the flight.
@Matthew, while your comments on the service lapses are mostly valid, I think you’re really reaching when you called out the dropping of the utensils. It happens to everyone, regardless of training or service mindset.
Your point is well-taken on dropping the cutlery. Still, it wasn’t like she had very much in her hand.
…And I inadvertently repeated some of what you said. >_< I guess I skimmed over some (most?) of your post… :-p
Fair question, but I guess it’s just a risk I am willing to take. I love to get comfortable immediately upon boarding.
But according to your comments re. dropping the cutlery, you do not really deserve to be comfortable. Disrespectful at least, regardless of how much you spent on the ticket. Worse words pop up in my mind.
Anyway, I wish you ending up in some seedy airport after one of your 120.000-milish legs and be gently serviced by a hord of westafrican sodo*****. You can then post your review and entertain us all.
Only then you will truly embrace buying a life on ground.
So unstylish. Not over the top
I would love your job. Let me get this right. You fly around to critique flying around? I’ve never had the pleasure to sit in the blood clot free section of the plane! Going to Seattle soon. Current physical mobility issues require some disability transportation arrangements at the airport. This could be interesting. Might you have any advice? Safe travels. Maybe I will get get upgraded!!!
Wow, what a terrible flight and service…no doubt, the worst First Class in the planet…never fly them again… talking about non-sense…
You need a life. Sheesh
Amusing that you call it “Fist Class” at the beginning of your article. Wonder exactly what the service was like …
I dont know. Reading this makes me think it must have been you who had a bad day and not the cabin crew. The stuff you´re going on about leaves me speechless. Not sure that adds to the credibility of your blog.
We’re talking about Lufthansa First Class and I made very clear it was still an excellent flight. Should these issues just be overlooked when every other Lufthansa First Class flight I’ve taken over the last few years has managed to provide a higher level of service?
Great review Matthew.. I think the service expectation is directly proportional to the class of travel, and you have some very valid complaints.
Thanks for your comment Jeremy!
My first comment to any of your critiques and this one was on point.
I stopped my regular LH/First travels in the early 200o’s because of poor service and the “Eva Braun” attitudes from many FAs.
But after years of increasingly poor service from BA/First, I will try LH/First again in a few days from IAD to DUB via FRA.
747-8i with First in the nose.
Hopefully it will far exceed my expectations as it’s a paid ticket with no points.
Hi Gary! Thanks for writing. I sure hope you have a wonderful flight on Lufthansa. Overall and over the years, I could not be more happier with the product.
Sorry. But the bit about the cutlery being dropped is very stupid. Mistakes happen. As long as it was replaced I don’t see why anyone should be upset.
I don’t think I expressed anger about anything about this flight.
First World problems.
And this was in First Class, so your point being…?
Lufthansa Business Class is not part of the 5* rating. They got it just for First and Economy (which they do not say loudly, of course)
Perhaps the crew partied a bit too hard on their IAH layover…!
I find your review to be quite fair. It’s fine to nitpick when it’s kept in context and you’ve done that here. You’ve noted service lapses that are uncharacteristic and yet been clear that it was on the whole a wonderful flight.
I know someone else mentioned it but I really would strongly encourage you to keep your street clothes and shoes on until after takeoff. Yes the risk of a catastrophic failure is quite low but as BA in LAS and AA in ORD have shown it can happen. It’s only a short time after all.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks for your comment. I may hold off on changing until after takeoff next time.
Matthew if you feel that the Lufthansa First service was subpar, I would suggest you try premium economy or regular economy class. I hear the service is to die for!
Those who complain about first world problems forget that they are living in the first world, what other kind of problems would there be then?
I find it appalling that young people today don’t have a clue about proper grammar. He said “there WAS only five hours…….etc”. NO!! There WERE only five hours……etc. Was is singular, were is plural. It’s just that simple!
When I see this kind of thing, its like chalk screeching across a blackboard.
its –> it’s
Sorry, this really reads like a spoiled brat report despite your trying to “come across balanced”. What is even more appalling is how many readers seem to agree with you. Sad! Time to cross this blog off my reading list.
These suites look a little open. I see that in bed-mode privacy walls can be raised but even with these up it still looks like it would feel a little “on display”. Any truth to that assertion?
You sound like an entitled prick. I feel sorry for your family and friends (if you have any).
Will still read the blog though – lol.
I’ve never understood Lufthansa’s First Class service. Ridden maybe 5 times in it, mostly LAX, JFK or South Africa to FRA or MUC. They exceed many expectations, such as the FRA First Class Lounge and the nice touch of plush sedans to drive you straight to the gate, but onboard in First Class, on ALL types… The A-380, 744, 748 and even the A-340-600, It is always marginal to me. The seat is just not that great to me. The absolute lack of privacy is astounding and the food quality is “meh”. I fly many airlines and always choose one for some reason or another but always gravitate back to the sandbox carriers who just get over the top (which I dig) like Emirates , Etihad and even Qatar First. Such a better experience for me. I like privacy, being served over the top and ultra-lux amenities (shower and boatloads of Lavatory amenities to use) and for when I want to escape and close the suite door and zone out for a few hours, they are perfect.
Lufthansa is probably my 6th or 7th go to airline…. even behind Cathay First and they don’t have suite doors either. I just don’t like the Lufthansa (and also Swiss First) interiors of how there’s light wood everywhere…. I feel like I’m in an IKEA or something. I prefer dark varnished burl wood environments seeming to be more luxurious and dark and refined similar to Singapore Suites or their 777 First Class.
I guess it just a personal thing. Anyway, good review and I’m just as picky as you!
At the fares they charge us, my salt and pepper shaker should be aligned as well! Damn right!
I get a little wound up if they serve Caviar with no Blinis but toast (as does Lufthansa) I have never eaten Caviar with toast….. maybe its a European thing or something. Anyway, sunny skies and chilled Champagne wishes!
High maintenance a bit lol must be a yank