Tag Archives: lufthansa

On the road again to Rio: Lufthansa 747-8i Business Class Review

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.

Image result for lufthansa old business class
LH’s old business class seat. Can you feel yourself sliding off it?

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)

Image result for lufthansa amenities kit plastic old
photo credit: onemileatatime

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…

On the road again to Rio: Lufthansa Premium Economy Review

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

We had a 2 hour layover in Frankfurt before boarding LH500 to GIG. Ever since SQ terminated its GRU route it’s been very difficult to get to South America without doing a massive layover in Europe. Lufthansa is one of the few airlines that offers a reasonable connection (Turkish has reasonable options to GRU but not GIG).

Flights to South America seem to depart from the furthest satellite terminal there is- all in from disembarking SQ326 to reaching the lounge my colleague and I walked 20 minutes and went through 2 (!) security checkpoints. Who said Germans were the masters of efficiency?

Fortunately, there is a satellite Lufthansa lounge at the C gates, where we were departing from. The lounge was packed with passengers heading for Sao Paulo, Rio and Buenos Aires

The lounge had a great selection of things to drink

The mandatory beer taps made an appearance

There was a good selection of German wines and bubbly.

As good as the drinks were, the food options were pretty basic

Hot food options were limited to three dishes, one of which was rice.

I figured it’d probably be a good idea to freshen up before another long flight so I went to find the showers. The lounge only had two shower cubicles but both were empty at the time.

There were basic amenities provided like a toothbrush and shaver. I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again- SQ really needs to introduce private shower cabanas in their new lounge.

One cool feature is the ability to board from the lounge. It’s not quite an aerobridge that leads from the lounge to the plane (as I hear EK has in Dubai), but it’s pretty close. When the time comes to board a flight, the lounge attendants unlock the double doors at the rear of the lounge and you exit to the area just infront of the aerobridge.

This would be my first time on a 747-8 and I was really excited. It’s a shame that the age of the super jumbo appears to be over, what with the poor sales of the 747-8 and the A380.

Lufthansa launched its premium economy product in 2014, 1 year before SQ entered the fray. The product was first available on the 747-8s, before being retrofitted onto the A340-600s and the A380s. Lufthansa PY seats have 38 inches of seat pitch and are 18-19 inches wide. The hard specs are pretty similar to SQ’s PY seats, which have 38 inches of seat pitch and are 18.5-19.5 inches wide, depending on aircraft.

Lufthansa’s made quite a few bold claims about their PY product I thought I’d go over. From Lufthansa’s PY press release-

Image result for dwight schrute false

I mean, this is what separates the premium economy cabin from economy. Not a separate cabin, but a half height divider across the back row of PY seats.

Image result for lufthansa premium economy seat

Lufthansa premium economy back row B747-8

I’ve heard suggestions that this is deliberate, because Lufthansa aggressively sells upgrades to PY onboard. The idea is to get passengers in Y to see the posh life in PY and shell out the buy on board price to upgrade. Whatever the reason, it certainly isn’t a private cabin like what SQ has. I found SQ’s PY cabin private and quiet. By comparison, LH’s PY cabin is really only distinct from regular Y by the seat. This screen at the rear of the last PY seat hardly counts as “a clearly identifiable separate compartment”

By the time I boarded, the cabin was absolutely packed. It was near impossible to get a good shot of the seat. So please settle for this YouTube screengrab.

Image result for lufthansa premium economy seat

On the plus side I have this great front and back shot of the seat.

The seat material is definitely not as luxurious as SQ’s PY seat. SQ uses a leather finish, whereas Lufthansa has a cloth like covering. This means the LH seat is not as assuringly firm as SQ seat too, and if you’re the type who prefers a firm backing with more support you’d definitely prefer the SQ one.

The headphones in LH’s PY are just plain awful. I believe they’re the same as those in Y. SQ on the other hand offers the same headphones they use in business class in premium economy- noise cancelling


Each seat also had a scratchy and thin blanket. The pillow is the same as economy (PY on SQ has a larger pillow than Y), and they ran out of additional ones.

At least welcome drinks were served. There was no choice of beverage however, everyone got the same mango tasting cordial. And to my horror, there is no champagne in LH PY. SQ serves a very acceptable Ernst Rapeneau.

Every seat had a full bottle of water waiting. I’m quite amused by how many airlines (SQ included) love to include that in the marketing materials- as if a full bottle of water has become some sort of amazing perk.

One area where LH’s PY was better than SQ was the provision of an amenities kit, which you’ll find in the side pocket.

Image result for lufthansa premium economy seat

Even business class passengers on SQ don’t get any amenities kit. Sidenote: I’ve never really understood why SQ doesn’t provide one for passengers. I imagine a lot of cosmetics firms would love the chance to advertise to SQ clientele and provide sample sized toiletries that would defray the overall cost of offering it. And the bag itself is a nice keepsake and constant brand reminder. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me about my Rimowa Eva Air amenities kit, and come away saying “hey Eva Air is really nicer than I thought”

The amenities kit had eyeshades, earplugs, a refreshing towel, socks and a toothbrush kit.

There unfortunately is a lack of storage areas in the seat- apart from a small notch infront of you for storing your phone and maybe some wires, and the seatpocket for storing a laptop, there wasn’t much in the way of side storage. 

The flight was completely full without a single empty seat in The full load was no barrier for the 4 mighty engines on the 747-8, of course, and before long we had started our 12 hour voyage to Brazil.

The crew started meal service shortly after take off. Unlike SQ, No menus were issued for LH PY passengers, which I thought was a poor touch. Even a one page menu card would have been better than the attendant having to repeat the options at every row.

There were two options- chicken with spaghetti, or some sort of cheese pasta. Let’s get a few things clear. Germans should have nothing to do with pasta. This cheese laden disaster with a smattering of tomato paste on top would make la nonna turn over in her grave.

There was some cold bread, a salad and a brownie to go with the meal. I’d also like to point out that LH serves meals in premium economy in the foil tray, instead of on proper cutlery like SQ does. Meals were served from a cart as well, versus the arrangement in SQ where the crew take meal orders individually and bring them to your seat.

One major saving grace was Lufthansa’s Wifi service. Lufthansa’s wifi packages start at 9 Euros for 1 hour and max out at 17 Euros for the whole flight. The charges are obviously structured in a way to encourage you to buy the whole flight. However, they’re still way cheaper than SQ’s OnAir options because they’re not volume capped.

There’s also the option to pay 5,500 miles instead of 17 Euros (really poor value)

A quick glance at the screen reminded me we still had a long way to go…

After finishing up some work, I managed to catch a fitful 2-3 hours of sleep in the maximum recline position. I think I dreamed of a wonderful world where premium economy finally had lie flat seats. I mean, 30 years ago you’d never have thought business class could go lie flat right? But who knows what the future holds?

The crew turned on the lights and started breakfast service about 90 minutes before landing. For some reason SQ has this obsession in starting meal services as early as possible, which really eats into sleeping time. I might understand this in a high volume cabin like economy, but there’s absolutely no reason why meal service in business class needs to start 2-2.5 hours before landing.

Breakfast was an omelette with spinach and cheese. Ze Germans must really love their cheese, I thought, as I took one bite and passed on the rest. There seems to be some inconsistency in the service standards as this meal was served in a proper plate (recall that dinner was served in tin foil).

After breakfast I briefly toured the IFE system. Lufthansa has quite a substantial collection of TV shows and movies, although ever since Netflix allowed the option of downloading content to watch offline I’ve never really bothered with airplane IFE.

There was live TV available. I wish SQ had this feature, because it’d be awesome not to have to miss things like sports and such just because you’re in the air. I still remember watching part of the French Open from the cabin of an Eithad 787 and it was such a surreal experience.

Service wise I didn’t think the crew were anything fantastic. I saw call lights frequently go unanswered, and although the crew made occasional passes through the cabin with drinks while people were resting, you definitely shouldn’t expect anything near the polish of an SQ flight. SQ has clearly tried to make premium economy a more personalised experience, with individual meal orders and being served one at a time. LH’s service routine in PY is more akin to that in economy, the main difference being a better seat and perhaps an “upgraded” meal choice.

My overall thoughts are that LH Premium Economy cannot hold a candle to SQ’s product.  Hard product wise there’s not too much wrong (apart from a lack of storage space) but it’s really everywhere else where it falls down. The lack of a separate cabin is probably the most glaring difference, although it’s also small touches like the lack of menus, poor quality headphones, serving meals en masse instead of individually and the lack of champagne.

I think the main thing that LH has going for it is price. To fly from SIN-FRA in PY with LH would cost you S$2,600 versus S$3,200 with SQ. SQ’s PY is really overpriced in that respect, which may account for the poor loads and the need to launch a bid to upgrade program, something that would have been unthinkable for “we must protect the exclusivity of our cabins” SQ.

That said, I take the point of view that economy class, premium or otherwise, is still economy class. It might offer some additional creature comforts and if the price difference were really small I’d certainly take it, but I wouldn’t be willing to pay a premium out of my own pocket for the product. My miles are reserved for business/first class award redemptions, and where those are not possible I’d rather hump it in economy than pay for something slightly better.

On the road again to Rio: Introduction

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

I’ve often told friends that I probably have the best job in the world and the worst job in the world. On the one hand, it gives me the opportunity to do crazy RTW J trips. On the other, it finds me at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on the second day of CNY, about to embark on more than 25 hours of flying to Rio.


I couldn’t tell you the reasons work requires me to be in Rio without divulging confidential information. I can, however, assure you that it has nothing to do with Carnival and/or the Copacabana.

Image result for rio carnival

Rio could not possibly be any further away from Singapore. People talk about the Kangaroo route from London to Sydney as one of the longest in the world- but you could easily do that in 21 hours 40 mins, with one connection in Singapore. The shortest possible flight from Singapore to Rio would take you 27 hours. Let that sink in for a while (of course you should factor in connecting time, but even if you talk pure time in the air, SIN-GIG clocks in at around 25 hours)

Now, company policy allows for premium economy travel on flights 6 hours or more. The logical solution would be to fly with Lufthansa from SIN-FRA-GIG (with SIN-FRA a codeshare with SQ) and try to upgrade the tickets with miles.


I mean, SQ has a great premium economy product, but even the best premium economy can’t beat the worst business class (well…maybe I’d pass on Air India…). Fortunately, I managed to get my upgrade to clear, and for 38,000 miles, swapped that for this.

Image result for singapore airlines business class

Although I’ve flown it many times, I realise I’ve not actually reviewed SQ’s 2013 Business Class seat. I’m sure you can find plenty of reports out there on the product (Mark over at The Shutterwhale has a great piece on the product, plus much better photos than I could ever hope to take), but nonetheless for completeness sake I will pen one of my own.

Unfortunately, the powers that be have not opened up award space on LH500, FRA-GIG, so it looks like I will have the distinct honor of writing a PY trip report for LH (from a middle seat, no less!)

Image result for lufthansa premium economy

Image result for lufthansa premium economy

Once in Rio, I’ll be kickstarting my 2016 Starwood Platinum requalification (and the final leg of my shot at SPG Lifetime Gold!) with 3 weeks at the Sheraton Rio. I’ll be mindful to take advantage of SPG’s Q1 2017 promo which will give me double the points.

Image result for sheraton grand rio

Image result for sheraton grand rio

I realise the resort looks like some sort of holiday chalet, but believe me when I say it is highly unlikely that any member of my team is going to see natural light for the duration of the 3 weeks. That said, it’s located right on the Copacabana beach, and I have half a mind to bring my laptop there to work, get mugged and thereby be tragically unable to do work while I’m there. I can only hope my bosses do not read The Milelion.

Other highlights will be doing a review of the spanking new Star Alliance lounge in Rio. As of right now, there are a grand total of 6 Star Alliance lounges currently open worldwide, and Rio is the latest addition.

photo credit: Ausbt

So here I am, finishing this article up in the car on the way to the airport. I should be very interested to see if the Silver Kris lounge has any special CNY items, and which poor stewardesses have been arrowed to work CNY. I shall share my commiserations with them in a socially appropriate manner.

Oh, I’m also missing the Australian Open Final. Let’s see if SQ’s onboard Wifi can support streaming.

Stay tuned and Happy New Year!