Today, I invite you for a ride onboard the Lufthansa 747-8 in first class from Los Angeles to Frankfurt. While we live in an unprecedented era of uncertainty, I am heartened that there is remarkable consistency in the Lufthansa first class product. While so many airlines have sacrificed their premium product under the guise of health precautions, Lufthansa has retained its remarkably superlative first class product even during the pandemic. Welcome aboard.
Lufthansa First Class Review – Pandemic Edition
For the winter 2020-21 season, Lufthansa is suspending all first class service from the United States. With the pandemic decimating demand, one can hardly blame Lufthansa for this unprecedented move. Although billed as temporary, alarming rises in reported cases on both sides of the Atlantic place the future of first class in jeopardy.
Even though I except first class to eventually return, I wanted to fly Lufthansa First Class at least one more time…just in case. As I found with the Air France A380, sometimes airplanes are retired without notice and years ahead of schedule. I did not want to wake up one morning and realize that I would never fly Lufthansa First Class again.
So after receiving my wife’s blessing to take this trip, I booked it…and just hours later was in the car heading down to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). My business partner accompanied me on the trip.
It is so sad to see how deserted the Tom Bradley International Terminal is at LAX. With flight cancellations and far fewer passengers on the flights that are operating, there is an eerie silence in the usually bustling terminal. Concessionaires are closed while terminal construction casts dark shadows over former sources of natural light.
We arrived at the airport about 20 minutes before the flight started boarding. The Lufthansa check-in desk was empty and the first class check in area had already been disassembled.
We had already checked in online and had our boarding passes, but wanted to see if escorts were still available to help us through security and to the gate. An agent quickly informed us that escorts were a casualty of COVID-19. With not a single person in line at the security checkpoint, this wasn’t a huge loss.
We noticed personal protective equipment vending machines during the walk to security.
The once-bustling terminal was almost empty, with most shops closed.
Both the Star Alliance Business and First Class lounges have been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic. We could have walked over to the United Club in Terminal 7 if our wait was longer, but we proceeded directly to the gate.
Lufthansa and other Star Alliance carriers should consider operating from Terminal 7 or 8 during the pandemic: it would make United domestic connections easier and allow premium cabin passengers easier lounge access.
As we approached the gate, we stopped to admire the beautiful Queen that would soon transport us to Frankfurt. What a stunning aircraft!
While general boarding was from back to front, first class and Lufthansa Miles & More Senator and HON members were invited to board first. The other first class passengers were already lined up to board, so we were the fifth and sixth passengers onboard.
As this was October 31st, many of the ground staff were dressed up in colorful garb ahead of Día de los Muertos.
Los Angeles (LAX) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Saturday, October 31
Duration: 10hr, 55min
Aircraft: Boeing 747-8
Seat: 2K (First Class)
Onboard I was delighted to run into a very familiar face. Marcel, who I have flown with before in first class, greeted me in the first class cabin. He introduced me to his colleague Juli, who would also take care of the cabin during the flight.
I’ll start with service because while there were many great things about this flight, nothing beat the service onboard. Marcel and Juli were simply flawless. From calling passengers by their surnames to carefully setting down each glass with the Lufthansa logo facing forward, to seamlessly anticipating needs, I was pampered like I haven’t been since the last time I flew with Marcel.
But it was not robotic precision. Instead, it was the sort of genuine care that cannot be feigned. Only someone who loves their job and takes pride in it can offer such a high level of service. Beneath their masks, I could see that Marcel and Juli had beautiful smiles…it was quite obvious, actually. A smile always goes a long way.
Prior to takeoff the purser stopped by to welcome first class passengers onboard and then wished us goodbye prior to landing. A great crew overall.
While other carriers have scaled back the first class soft product to the point in which it now resembles economy class, Lufthansa has largely avoided such draconian cuts.
In fact, I could count on one hand the number of differences between first class today and what “normal” first class looks like. There were no “real” hot towels onboard (disposable wipes were offered instead). Roses were missing. Carts (usually used for caviar, appetizer, and cheese service) are not currently in use. Masks are required while not eating or drinking. That’s it. Everything else is the same.
In that sense, a lovely thing about this flight is that it gave me a break from the coronavirus.
The Lufthansa 747-8, which I have reviewed multiple times prior to the pandemic, offers eight seats in first class, located in the nose of the aircraft. To account for the curvature of the nose, Lufthansa offers a 1-1 configuration for the first two rows and then a more traditional 1-2-1 configuration in the third row.
The seat is a bit dated by now in terms of privacy, but I love it and find it comfortable in every position. Lufthansa has hinted at a new first class suite which may appear on later deliveries of the 777-9, but I am perfectly happy with the current generation of seat.
The seat can be adjusted using a hand-held remote and includes plenty of personal storage, including a foot locker. Unlike on the Lufthansa A380 in first class, there are overhead bins in the 747 cabin.
I was originally assigned seat 2A, but an Australian couple traveling together who were seated in 2K and 3K moved over to the “honeymoon” seats in 3D and 3G, leaving my favorite widow seat open.
The cabin ended up going out booked 6/8, with 2A and 1K open. A wannabe celebrity type was seated in 3A and let me know how much she enjoyed doing Molly (ecstasy) in Mexico. There was a German guy in 1A who kept to himself the entire flight.
Marcel appeared at my seat to welcome me onboard. After presenting a welcome drink of Champagne and a bowl of macadamia nuts, he requested my preferred pajama size and promptly delivered pajamas, slippers, and a Rimowa-branded amenity kit. I took the red lady’s kit because I already have a green male kit.
Food + Drink
Get ready for a feast. I had skipped lunch and was looking forward to a leisure, multi-course dinner. Drinks were refilled immediately after takeoff and dinner service began once we had leveled off.
Examining the menu, I was pleased to see no cutbacks to what has characterized Lufthana’s first first class meal service for decades.
Marcel presented and amuse-bouche with pureed avocado, shrimp, and dill and asked me if I wanted something else to drink. Last time, he managed to whip up a wonderful Aeperol spritz. This time, he recommended the London blue gin onboard and I asked him to surprise me with a cocktail with gin in it. He graciously obliged.
When he returned, he presented a simple yet delicious cocktail of espresso, gin, tonic water, and mint. It was really delightful.
While I don’t generally drink alcohol on the ground, I can appreciate good gin and this gin is highly recommended. The blue color is apparently achieved through gardena extract.
The table was set for dinner and balsamic vinegar and olive oil were offered ahead of the bread basket.
Notice how the salt and pepper shakers as well as the glasses are perfectly aligned? That’s the sort of attention to detail I appreciate in Lufthansa First Class.
It was so nice to see the bread basket again and the garlic bread was delicious.
Caviar? Yes, please. Not to be a pretentious snob, mind you, but because caviar is just part of the Lufthansa First Class experience and something I now look forward to since I would never splurge for caviar on the ground. By this time, the sun was setting.
Next came a trio of appetizers. I tried all three, including:
- pan seared scallops, grilled shrimp, papaya and cucumber salad
- black pepper crusted duck breast, boiled quail eggs, potato salad with white truffle oil
- red and golden beet puree with chèvre, pearl barley salad
I love scallops, but I must admit I enjoyed the strong but refreshing taste of the beets most of all. Over the years, I’ve gone from hating beets to appreciating them.
As a palate cleanser, I enjoyed a green salad with a light Italian dressing.
For my main course, I chose the filet mignon. That’s always a risky choice, but I was glad I made it. I’ve had much better beef and it came out medium well, but it was a good cut of meat and the veal jus, pearl onions, asparagus, and mashed potatoes created a delicious dinner dish. What made it even better was the sensational 2010 Château Larmadne Boreaux (and more garlic bread…)
My business partner also ordered filet with sauce on the side and I think his turned out better than mine (and also had no fake grill marks):
Marcel also whipped up other custom cocktails like this one with strawberries and orange juice that looked delicious:
Some people like dessert before cheese, but I am firmly in the cheese before dessert camp. Today’s selection included:
- Dubliner white cheddar
- Amablu blue cheese
- Cacio de Roma
- Cambert le Conquérant
- Rougette cheese
Finally a desert of warmed cherry crumble with vanilla ice cream paired with a sweet dessert wine of Carmes de Rieussec with strong hints of apricot.
I concluded the meal with a decaf cappuccino and pralines.
By the conclusion of the meal, I could not help but to smile. What a treat. No folks, COVID-19 does not mean the end of luxury air travel.
And the feast wasn’t over. A full breakfast was served before arrival, including freshly prepared eggs and bacon.
Breakfast began about 90 minutes before arrival though only because I was already awake…I could have slept longer and enjoyed a full breakfast as late as an hour before arrival.
The Greek yogurt, citrus fruit, and berries were nice, but the warm, flaky croissant was so appreciated considering I generally avoid carbs on the ground. The orange juice was good, but more like a Tropicana pasteurized “fresh squeezed” than truly fresh OJ. I also enjoyed the fresh smoothie, a mix of banana and blueberries.
The milk frother broke, so no cappuccinos were available. That did not stop me from enjoying two cups of coffee with breakfast. I’m an espresso guy, but actually found Lufthansa’s coffee better than espressos.
Kudos to Lufthansa for managing delicious scrambled eggs with chives and bacon, something I always look forward to on overnight flights.
There’s nothing like breakfast in bed at 40,000 feet!
IFE + Wi-Fi
The one area Lufthansa has room improvement is in its in-flight entertainment and wireless internet.
On the plus side, every first class passenger receives a card good for 24-hours of free internet (this transfers to your connecting flight as well). The bad news is that onboard internet speeds remain poor. Even with so few passengers onboard this flight (72 in total) the internet was still fairly slow.
Concerning IFE, the screen is quite small. I know I am getting older, but I really had trouble reading movie descriptions on the screen and the sharpness and resolution is simply lacking. Since the 747-8 is now the flagship of the Lufthansa fleet, I think an IFE upgrade is in order, preferably with bigger screens. I realize we are in the midst of a pandemic and installing larger screens in first class is probably pretty low on the priority list…
Lufthansa uses Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones in first class, but as these break (Bose stopped producing them in 2014), Lufthansa is replacing them with Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones.
The screen is controlled by remote control, located in an armchair compartment.
Oversized lavatories with windows offer a nice bench to change clothes and extra amenities like La Prairie hand cream, Evian facial spray, shaving kits, and mouthwash.
Coronavirus Testing Forms
Lufthansa offers free coronavirus testing for its passengers. Forms for this test were handed out prior to arrival. The passenger locator cards are not collected onboard, but collected by immigration officials upon entering Germany. I’ll offer a separate post on what COVID-19 screening was like.
Arrival in Frankfurt
The sun now risen, Marcel and Juli prepared the cabin for landing. It had been a remarkable flight and it was a nippy but beautiful day outside.
Flight Deck Visit
After we landed in Frankfurt, we had the chance to go upstairs and visit the flight deck. The captain was gracious in showing us around. Visiting the cockpit is something I’ve done since I was a kid and it is a tradition I look forward to introducing my own son and daughter to.
As I hope you experienced with me, this was a flight for the ages…a memory that will live with me for the rest of my life. Thanks to Marcel and Juli for making the onboard experience so special and thank you Lufthansa for not sacrificing your superior first class product as your competitors have done.
Thanks for reading my Lufthansa First Class pandemic review!