121pilot, a commercial airline pilot in the United States who has offered his insights and analysis on a number of topics on Live and Let’s Fly recently traveled with his brother and father on a very special trip to Scotland. He asked me if I would be interested in a trip report and I quickly said yes. Over the next week, you’ll read about his trip planning, flights, and time on the ground in Scotland. Today, he focuses on his visit to the United Polaris Lounge at LAX and his flight from Los Angeles to Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class aboard the 747-8.
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Do I need to elaborate on the thrill of walking down the First Class check in lane?
As you might expect, check in was smooth and easy. We were offered an escort to the Star Alliance Lounge, but when we told them we wanted to go to the Polaris lounge, it turned out they do not offer an escort.They also warned us about the walk time and the fact the flight would not be called in that Lounge. They did, however, escort us to the basement security lanes which at that time were completely empty. Walking with a purpose, it took us about 15-20 minutes to reach the Polaris Lounge where we were very warmly greeted. I’m sure the wonderful ladies working the check in desk could tell how excited we were to be there. They warned that our flight would not be called, and we needed to leave plenty of time to get back.
United Polaris Lounge at LAX
You’ve all likely read Matthew’s review of the LAX Polaris lounge. I will say it’s simply stunning. It’s not as big as it looks in pictures, but during our time there the lounge wasn’t even remotely full. Our first move was to the restaurant for some lunch. I was somewhat surprised at the lack of variety on the menu with only 4 entrees to choose from including the Polaris Burger. I ordered the Bibimbap and my Dad the Lamb Chops. Service was definitely on the slow side in terms of getting the food out, and the portions were not generous. It was however, delicious and we certainly could have ordered something else or added food from the buffet if we were so inclined. For dessert I had the Lemon Meringue and my Dad the bread pudding, both of which were delightful. We each had a glass of wine which was also quite good.
Finishing lunch, we moved over and found seats overlooking the Tarmac and enjoyed a glass of Ardbeg 10-year-old single malt scotch which I thought was quite nice for a business class lounge. All too soon though, it was time to leave and head over to the gate. Looking back if I were to do this again, I would want to get to the airport even earlier so I could enjoy more time in the lounge. If we’d had more time, I also would have stopped by the Star Alliance First and Business class lounges just to have a look. That being said from everything I’ve read, there is no question the finest lounge at LAX for Star Alliance customers is the United Polaris Lounge.
We left the lounge about 30 minutes before the scheduled start of boarding wanting to take no chances on missing the flight. Arriving at the gate we hung back waiting on them to call for boarding which was a bit delayed.
Boarding turned out to be a bit interesting. The gate folks apparently jumped the gun and we arrived at the business/first jetbridge to find that they weren’t quite ready for us. Initially we were directed to stand in one line but pretty quickly someone figured out that there were three first class customers in the line and they pulled us aside into a separate group. As it turned out this was quite lucky for us. Our companion was a wonderful German gentleman with whom we had a nice chat with while we waited.
At last it was time and our 747-8 was waiting. It was a special thrill to walk down that Jet Bridge and make the left turn into the nose. Again, I’m sure you’ve all read Matthew’s trip reports, so I’m not going go into great detail but rather try and talk about what it’s like to experience Lufthansa First for the first time.
A Magnificent First Impression
In a word, it’s simply magnificent. The cabin is beautiful and the seat while not a private suite is extremely comfortable in all modes and especially when you’re reclined watching a movie enjoying a nice libation. Raise the privacy screen and you (especially in row 1) have all the privacy you need.
We got lucky, too, when we boarded because it turned out the wonderful gentleman with whom we’d been chatting was sitting in 1K. When he realized that I was in 1A and my Dad 2K, he immediately insisted my Dad take his seat so we could sit across from each other.
Our two flight attendants were friendly and always attentive without being overbearing. They seemed to have the knack of knowing when service was needed without being asked. That being said, they never addressed me by name and I felt like a certain warmth was missing. They didn’t engage us on a personal level which is fine, but those personal interactions can make all the difference. They can elevate a service from merely good to truly exceptional. I also noticed little things like the salt and pepper shakers not being correctly placed (logo turned forward). These are nitpicks to be sure, and they didn’t detract from what truly was a wonderful flight. However, I think it fair to note them when you’re talking about First Class.
Service, of course, began with champagne and macadamia nuts and once airborne was followed by the usual progression of courses. Our German friend had warned us that if the caviar was from a certain region, it wouldn’t be any good. I heard him ask and confirm that this was the case on our flight. Nevertheless, having never had caviar before in my life, I wasn’t going to pass it up. I did very much enjoy it but found it wasn’t something I’d go out of my way to have. I also found, that at least for me, pairing it with Vodka wasn’t to my taste. Appetizers were rolled out on a cart. I was a little surprised when the “Choice of Appetizers” turned out to be all of them simply presented to you at once.
For my entrée I followed Matthew’s advice to skip the Beef Filet and instead had the Turkey Roulade with Pork Stuffing. This turned out to be not at all what I was expecting, but it was quite good. I tried both Chardonnays on offer and found them good but not exceptional to my taste. For dessert I enjoyed the cheese selection which I followed up with something I’d been eagerly waiting for. A glass of Johnny Walker Blue Label.
Fellow whiskey drinkers you can cross this one off your list. Considering the price point I found it extremely disappointing. It was simply a decent but wholly average and unremarkable glass of scotch. Consequently, I hereby declare it the most overpriced and overrated whiskey on the planet.
Taken as a whole it was a thoroughly wonderful meal eaten in comfort with good service. By the time I finished my movie my dad was already asleep and the moment I got up one of the flight attendants was present asking if I wanted my bed made up and if I
wanted to be awakened for breakfast.
A Great Rest
The First class Lav on the 747 is spacious and it was kept immaculately clean. So it was easy to change into the provided Van Laak PJ’s which were quite soft and comfortable. I returned to my seat to find my bed made up but was a little surprised when I was directed to my locker to hang up my clothes having thought they would do that for me. The bed was quite comfortable, and I slept very well for several hours waking it turned out just as we were approaching the Dutch Coast. I likely would have slept longer, but I had become too warm and woke up.
As soon as I sat up, a flight attendant was there asking if I wanted breakfast and if so what I wanted. By the time I returned from changing out of my PJ’s (enjoying the view of the coast out the window in the Lav as I did so) my seat was back in chair mode and ready for breakfast. I wasn’t especially hungry given the dinner I’d enjoyed but did order some eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, and orange juice all of which arrived quickly and was wonderful. I was impressed, when I got up to stretch my legs, to find that they had a skillet out in the galley and were preparing the eggs fresh.
All too soon we were in the decent to Frankfurt and the flight was over. For 110,000 United miles, it was absolutely worth it especially when you consider that the retail cost of the ticket was $14,000 each. Every aspect of the flight made it a pleasure to be on the airplane. I had a very comfortable seat in all modes that became an equally comfortable bed, plenty of privacy when I wanted it, and the ability to chat with my dad . Good food, good service, and fine drinks. Seriously folks what more could one ask? I was truly sad when it came to an end.
Next up: Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal and “business” class flight to Edinburgh.