On the road again to Rio: Introduction
Singapore Airlines Business Class SIN-FRA
Lufthansa Premium Economy FRA-GIG
Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort
Star Alliance Lounge Rio
Lufthansa Business Class GIG-FRA
Sheraton Frankurt Airport Hotel
Singapore Airlines Business Class FRA-SIN
GIG airport isn’t exactly laid out in the most centralized of fashions- from leaving the Star Alliance lounge it was a further 10-15 minute walk to the gate. I reached gate C55 just in time for the commencement of boarding.
The flight that Saturday evening would be just over half full, I presume the bulk of the business travelers had flown out on Friday’s flight. I was surprised that premium loads to Brazil were still fairly decent given the country’s overall economic recession.
This evening we’d be on Lufthansa’s 747-8, the spiritual successor to the 747-400. This was Boeing’s stop gap answer to the A380, and although it’s sold fairly poorly (there are only 33 passenger versions in operation by Lufthansa, Air China, Korean Air. Oh, and this guy). On the plus side for Boeing, because the 747-8 was a derivative of the 747-400, it didn’t require quite the same amount of extensive R&D costs that Airbus ploughed into the A380. It looks increasingly likely that the best that Airbus can ever hope for on the A380 program is to break even. Twin engine, fuel efficient A350s and 787s are the future, it seems, and it’s sad that our generation could be the last to see any double decker planes in operation.
All LH aircraft have been upgraded to Lufthansa’s latest business class seat, a project that finished sometime in late 2015. The new business class class seat is certainly an upgrade of the previous iteration, but is already hopelessly obsolete.
Direct aisle access is the gold standard for business class, and given that Lufthansa does not intend to introduce a new business class seat until 2020, it looks like they’ll be playing catchup for a while.
There is a certain visceral thrill to being on the top deck of a 747, because of the privacy it affords. I believe there aren’t any bassinet seats on the upper deck, so you’re guaranteed not to have any baby noise. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a private jet experience (on account of the fact you’ve got 31 other people up there with you), but it’s way better than being on the main deck.
Lufthansa uses a 2-2 configuration on the upper deck (I often wonder how an airline would implement all aisle access on the upper deck of a 747- it’s way too narrow for a 1-2-1 configuration, and a bit too spacious for a 1-1 configuration. Maybe a 1-1-1 with somewhat squeezy aisles?)
As mentioned earlier, I had confirmed with the check in staff that the seat next to me would remain empty. This is critical to your enjoyment of a product like Lufthansa’s, because the design of the seat means that if you’ve got a seat mate, you better hope it’s someone you know.
The seat has absolutely no privacy from your seatmate. There’s not even a token privacy divider, the likes of which you’d find on many angled flat configurations (eg SQ’s A330s). You can turn to your right and see everything your seatmate is doing.
It gets better.
Yup, that’s where your feet go. Now imagine the awkwardness of playing footsie with a stranger, because that’s what you’re going to be facing the entire time you’re in this seat. When you go to bed, it’s more likely than not that your knees will bump your neighbour at least a few times.
I suppose the counterargument to that is this seat is great for couples. I know a few people (weirdos) who say that business class has become too solitary and insular. Those are probably the same people who like this cringeworthy ad by ANA about networking in the air. Or this absolutely horrible Tube Chat campaign (you have to love the riposte though). Why can’t the world understand that some of us prefer to be left alone and not have to make eye contact with other people. Go away, you.
The seat, in and of itself, isn’t terrible. It goes full flat and although it isn’t very wide, that wasn’t a problem for me (yet). The seat material may feel scratchy to those who don’t like sweaters though.
Seat controls are on the center panel with 3 preset configurations.
Each seat also had an amenities kit and bottle of water awaiting in the stowage area under the seat infront of it.
Inside the amenities kit you’ll find earplugs, a toothbrush set, some socks and creams.
LH’s amenities kit has improved from the last time I flew them (they previously gave this flimsy plastic piece of plastic. I wondered how the Germans, who are capable of great industrial design, could conspire to deliver something so shoddy)
Lufthansa offers Bose headphones in business class. They’re not the fancy QC-15/25 version that airlines have in first, but they’re definitely excellent quality still. It’s certainly a step up from the horrible ones they have in premium economy.
Lufthansa hasn’t upgraded its IFE systems to the newfangled Panasonic touch screen controllers, which is just fine with me given how often those things hang. However, their existing controllers also seemed to have issues with sticky buttons- my controller wasn’t able to register inputs pretty frequently, and in the end I just gave up and watched my own Netflix.
If you’re on the upper deck of the aircraft and in a window seat, you get the added benefit of additional storage space below the window.
The crew came around with pre-departure drinks. Champagne was served too. There’s an increasing trend of airlines not serving alcohol on the ground to avoid duties. While I understand that rationale, and haven’t hit the stage of alcoholism where I need a drink RIGHT THIS MINUTE, it still takes something away from the boarding process.
The champagne Lufthansa serves in business class is a Dual Leroy. I’ve been progressively learning more and more about champagne since I started drinking it a year or so ago, and one thing I know is that Dual Leroy is probably towards the cheaper end of the spectrum. I know because it always seems to be on sale when I go to the wine stores (I’ve seen it retail for as low as $50 a bottle in some places)
The crew lead came around to introduce herself. As a general note, Lufthansa’s cabin crew try hard, but they’re definitely nowhere near as polished as SQ’s. No passenger was addressed by name (I think LH’s service standards only require that in First Class), and it’s hard to think of any instance where they did something above and beyond what would be expected. Service was functional at best, and although the crew certainly wasn’t unpleasant, it does make you think if we complain too much when we say SQ’s service standards are slipping.
Nuts were served and meal orders taken after takeoff.
Here’s the menu
And the drinks list
Let’s get one thing straight- Lufthansa’s catering is horrible. No two ways about it. You might argue that it’s a function of the station we were flying out of, but I’ve now tried Lufthansa catering ex-FRA, ex-MUC and ex-GIG and I can say that I have never had anything resembling an edible meal. Heck, even my First Class meal with Lufthansa was rather icky.
So it was no surprise that this meal followed suit.
The starter of octopus cubes was a chewy mess that somehow managed to be slightly mushy within.
The salmon main was similarly unimpressive- mushy rice, vegetables that were so soft they turned into glop the minute you put any sort of pressure on them. The salmon was cooked so much that any semblance of flavor had vanished.
I gave up on the salmon and asked for the pasta instead. That was..somewhat unwise.
The pasta was nuked, totally soft and lacking any sort of flavor. It dissolved as you put your fork into it. And as a side note, if any Italian saw you cook pasta, then put sauce on the pasta afterwards as a dressing, you’d be sleeping with the fishes. Pasta is meant to be cooked in the sauce. It is, as my amorous Italian colleague has once told me with great conviction from the heart, the marriage of the sauce and the pasta that makes it true pasta. On another side note- what the heck is that white stuff on the pasta?
For desert I elected for the safest option- fruits.
I paid a visit to the washroom after the meal to get ready for bed. Lufthansa hasn’t done anything fancy with their loos, they’re pretty much as stock as they get. The tapes and flushes are no-touch sensors, which always appeals to the germophobe in me.
There’s a well stocked tray of non-alcoholic mouthwash, combs and wet wipes in the loo too.
Returning to my seat, I put the bed into full flat position and tried to get some rest.
And here’s the thing- I slept great. I’m sure this is all to do with having no seatmate, because if I did I’d have to deal with things like him/her having to step over me to get to the aisle, or light pollution from when he/she decides to turn on his/her reading light, or noise pollution if he or she snores etc. You’d be surprised how wound up people can get in a confined environment- I once had a seatmate glare at me and ask me to stop “making those noises” (I was sniffling, as I often do on planes).
I woke up with about 90 minutes to go to landing.
What Lufthansa does so much better than SQ is the timing of the breakfast service. You can get breakfast any time you want before you land. I opted for 90 minutes, but people who asked for it at the 60 minute mark were still accommodated. Contrast this to SQ, which insists on turning on the cabin lights full blast at the 2.5 hour mark prior to arrival.
To be fair, Lufthansa’s breakfast service is single tray, versus SQ’s where they’ll serve you fruit, then cornflakes, then the main course. But I’m pretty sure a lot of passengers would be more than happy with a one tray service if it meant maximizing sleep.
Not that it made the food quality any better though. The scrambled eggs were overcooked beyond recognition. I know people will tell me that I have too high standards for airplane eggs. But I’ve had poached eggs that were perfectly runny, in ANA economy class no less. So it can be done.
We were all set to land on time in Frankfurt, where it was currently 6 degrees. In my infinite wisdom, I had not brought a scrap of warm clothing with me and would have to hide in the airport hotel throughout my 24 hour layover.
Although LH has pretty snazzy ground services for first class passengers, and its first class hard product is as good as they come, Lufthansa’s business class product is clearly nowhere in the same league as SQ, ANA or Eva. It’s at best a middling hard product, and the service isn’t world class enough to make up for it. Catering continues to be a weak point for Lufthansa, and its business cabin refresh can’t come soon enough.
I now had a 24 hour layover in freezing Frankfurt as I sought out the safety of the airport Sheraton…