Tag Archives: lufthansa

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

On the road again to Rio: Trip Planning
Singapore Airlines B77W Business Class SIN-FRA
Lufthansa B747-8i Premium Economy FRA-GIG
Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort
Star Alliance Lounge Rio
Lufthansa B747-8i Business Class GIG-FRA
Sheraton Frankurt Airport Hotel
Singapore Airlines A380 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.

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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)

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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 B747-8i Premium Economy Review

On the road again to Rio: Trip Planning
Singapore Airlines B77W Business Class SIN-FRA
Lufthansa B747-8i Premium Economy FRA-GIG
Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort
Star Alliance Lounge Rio
Lufthansa B747-8i Business Class GIG-FRA
Sheraton Frankurt Airport Hotel
Singapore Airlines A380 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-

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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: Trip Planning

On the road again to Rio: Trip Planning
Singapore Airlines B77W Business Class SIN-FRA
Lufthansa B747-8i Premium Economy FRA-GIG
Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort
Star Alliance Lounge Rio
Lufthansa B747-8i Business Class GIG-FRA
Sheraton Frankurt Airport Hotel
Singapore Airlines A380 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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!

The Long Way to New York: Lufthansa Senator Lounge Frankfurt

The Long Way to New York: Trip Planning
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, Singapore
Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class SIN-BKK
Thai Airways First Class Lounge & Spa, BKK
Thai Airways B747 First Class BKK-HND
Getting from HND to NRT
ANA First Class Lounge, NRT
ANA B77W First Class NRT-ORD
United Club ORD
United B767 Economy ORD-EWR
Visiting the US Open
Sheraton New York Times Square
Hilton New York Midtown
Wingtips Lounge JFK & Delta to DC
Exploring Washington DC
Element New York Times Square West
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, JFK
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites JFK-FRA
Lufthansa Senator Lounge FRA
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites FRA-SIN


There was a ground crew member waiting at the jetway to escort all the Suites class passengers to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge, about 100m away from the gate. It was a nice touch, but I didn’t really see the point given that (1) it’s impossible to get lost and (2) it’s exactly the same lounge that all *G passengers use, so it’s not like it’s exclusive or something.

Lufthansa has some confusing lounge access rules. The Senator lounge serves Star Alliance First Class and Star Gold members. The Lufthansa Business Lounge is for Star Alliance business class passengers. So you could have a strange situation where Star Gold members flying in Economy join the First Class passengers in the “better” lounge, while Business Class passengers with no status go to the “worse” lounge.

That would be a concern if one lounge were actually better than the other. It’s a moot point really, because the Senator lounge and the Business lounge are almost exactly the same in facilities (and this, in my opinion, is where First Class passengers get a bit shafted. Even the legendarily stingy SQ gives Star Alliance First Class passengers access to the proper First Class lounge in Singapore (albeit not The Private Room). You’re not losing out by going to one over the other.

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photo credit: one mile at a time

The lounge entrance is on the first floor but after your boarding pass is checked you go up an escalator to the second floor.

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Near the entrance there’s a business centre with printing and phone charging facilities.

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There’s also locker storage. It’s a useful feature that I wish they’d add in the Silver Kris lounge in Singapore.

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And before anyone says “but there are too many people transiting in Singapore”, consider Turkish Airlines and their gargantuan baggage storage area at their hub in IST. It can be done.

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The lounge has an on-premise spa, but treatments are not complimentary, nor are they cheap.

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Here’s the spa menu- a 60 minute treatment would set you back 120 euros. I don’t think I saw anyone in the lounge taking this up (for what it’s worth, if you recall my First Class Terminal report in Frankfurt this is the same company that provides spa services for all Lufthansa facilities. I didn’t see a treatment room in the FCT so I assume they cart you over here if you want a treatment)

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The first order of business was to freshen up, so I asked for a shower cubicle. I sound like a broken record here, but dammit, I’m going to make noise until this gets fixed- why can’t SQ have individual shower cubicles in its flagship lounges. Hopefully when the Singapore lounges are redone in the new “Home” theme this will be fixed, but I’m not holding my breath.

Lufthansa’s shower rooms are quite spartan but get the job done. I suppose that’s a summary for Germany as a whole.

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Amenities are on-request only, unfortunately. I much preferred the layout in the ANA lounge where everything you could possibly need (shaver, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb) was already waiting for you. Here I had to explain in broken German to the shower attendant that I needed a toothbrush. By which I mean I mimed every action.

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The shower has nifty button controls, but the toiletries are pump dispenser material. Water pressure and temperature was great.

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There is plenty of seating in the lounge and even though this was a peak period, it was still easy to find space

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I ended up locating near the bar, which was already serving drinks in full flow despite the early hour.

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I knew more great food awaited on the FRA-SIN leg so I didn’t want to fill up, but went over to take photos of the spread anyway.

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The food was definitely breakfast oriented but there were still some interesting choices. I mean, if you want passion fruit cake at 9 in the morning who am I to stop you.

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I don’t think anything particularly jumped out at me, not least the buffet. Staring at the gloopy mess in front of me, I suddenly understood why the Germans invaded France.

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Oh well.

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The drinks selection was much better, fortunately. There was a sunken chiller of still and sparkling water plus bottled beer.

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But why would you want bottled beer when you can pour yourself a draft beer?

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Fountain drinks were also served. I see more and more lounges moving towards using a fountain as opposed to individual cans to minimize wastage and discourage people from taking stuff out of the lounge.

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Several white and red wines were available, including a sparking Riesling

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The buffet may have disappointed but there were fun touches as well, like a kids corner.

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I helped myself to some commemorative gummies.

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I suppose the overall catering was disappointing because Lufthansa is capable of amazing things when it comes to Frankfurt.

A reader told me that I should check out the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge in Frankfurt because it was much superior, but I totally forgot about it in my jetlagged state. Do have a read of that trip report I linked to if you’re interested because it does look slightly better.

It was time to start the last leg of the journey back to Singapore, and see the Suites cabin in a different light. Morning light, as it were.

The First Class Premium on Other Airlines

The First Class Premium

Part 1: Tracing the evolution of First and Business Class on Singapore Airlines
Part 2: How does First and Business Class compare on Singapore Airlines?
Part 3: Number crunching First vs Business Class on Singapore Airlines
Part 4: How does First and Business Class compare on other airlines?


Now that we’ve seen how First and Business Class compare on Singapore Airlines and how you decide whether you want to shell out the premium, let’s finish off this mini-series by looking at how First and Business class compare on other airlines.

It’s relevant to consider this question even if your primary currency is Krisflyer miles, because of the several sweet spots we’ve discussed on the Star Alliance award chart.  Also, if you’re a Lifemiles buyer, you might be in a position to choose between First and Business Class on the airlines below (and at 78,000 for a one-way business class ticket from Singapore to the States versus 99,000 for first class, it’s not always a simple choice!)

Here are some airlines where I’ve flown both First and Business Class and my observations on whether First Class is worth the premium.

Thai

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Thai is a confusing one because it has 3 different types of Business Class products across its widebody fleet. If you’re on their A380s or 77Ws, you get a 1-2-1 full flat configuration. These are good enough seats in and of themselves, but because of the layout of the cabin you will have 2 couples seats every other row (see the second photo below) which can be super awkward if you don’t know your seatmate.

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If you’re on the 747, A330, A340, 772 or 773, you get the old angled flat seat. This seat is definitely not worth redeeming your hard earned miles for.  It is very open with little privacy, and you can just feel yourself sliding off it in the second photo…

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If you’re on their newest 787 Dreamliner, you get a 2-2-2 full flat configuration. These aircraft do not offer First Class.

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photo credit: 2madames

This is the same seat I reviewed previously on my IAH-GRU flight on United. I thought it was a comfortable enough seat but it scores no points for the loss of privacy from having a seatmate even at the sides. It’s definitely a step up from the angled flat product, and I would think long and hard about whether I’d spend my miles on this if it were my only option (and try to get one of the centre 2 seats so I’d have unobstructed aisle access)

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Now, Thai only offers First Class on its A380, 747 and A340 aircraft (which, as per my understanding, are not flying anymore)

If you’re on the A380, you’ll get this

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On the 747, you will either get the new First Class product (which, to add to confusion, is not the same as the First Class product on the A380) with 9 seats in the cabin. This is the product I reviewed recently on my journey to New York.

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Or you will be suay and get the old “pod” version with 10 seats in the cabin. If it’s any consolation these are mainly operated on domestic routes- I’ve flown HKT-BKK on a 747-400 before.

Photo of HS-TGX Boeing 747-4D7 by Patrick Teubner
photo credit: jetphotos.net

Therefore, if you’re on any aircraft other than the A380, it’s a straightforward decision to go for First Class over Business if you want a flat seat. If you’re on the A380 you’ll need to decide whether you value the additional privacy and service of a Suite over the 1-2-1 business flat configuration.

As for other parts of the inflight experience- I thought the F&B experience in F was very mediocre. On an overnight flight to Tokyo this was the sum total of the dining experience. It is as every bit as appetizing as it looks. At least they served Dom…

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Service wise I didn’t sense much of a difference between First and Business. It was perfectly functional, if not lacking the same warmth you find in Asian crews (it could have been the language barrier)

Of course it’s also relevant to consider the ground experience. Thai’s Royal Orchid Spa in BKK is split into 2 sections where J passengers get a choice of a 30 min back or foot massage, and F passengers get a choice of a 1 hour full body massage. Some people feel this is worth the one time splurge. I think it’s certainly novel to get a spa treatment in an airport, but if you’re in Bangkok anyway…

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I like Thai on the whole, but I think their product just doesn’t have the same aura or premium feel that other Asian Airlines (SQ, NH, BR) has. If I had to choose between First and Business on Thai, I’d still try and spring for First, but I would ideally try and see if other airines with award space plied the route as well.

Lufthansa

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Lufthansa recently finished installing full flat seating in First and Business across the entirety of their fleet.

The new business class seat is a welcome step up from the old angled flat one, which I had the misfortune of encountering on a long haul flight from MUC-GRU.

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It kind of reminds me of Thai’s old business class in a way.

The new seat, on the other hand, is a marked improvement over the old one.

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However, as much of an improvement as the new business class seat is, it’s hardly industry leading. It’s in a 2-2-2 configuration, without all-aisle access. To make matters worse, the way the seats are designed make it inevitable that at some point you’re going to be playing footsie with your neighbour. If you’re in the window seat, it’s difficult to access the loo without waking up the person in the aisle.

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photo credit: onemileatatime

Lufthansa is planning to launch a new Business Class product in 2020 which will be common across Austrian, Lufthansa and Swiss (all of which are owned by Lufthansa), and hopefully this should see them going with a 1-2-1 configuration

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Swiss Business Class on 77W

So even though Business is full flat, I still feel there’s a case to be made for splurging on First when it comes to Lufthansa.

Here’s the First Class seat for comparison

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Lufthansa’s First Class seat is amazing- it has a full range of lounging positions and deploys into one of the most comfortable beds I’ve had in the sky (second only to the SQ Suites bed in my opinion)

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F&B wise, in Business Class you’ll get hearty if unspectacular food. Here are some of the items I had from BOM-MUC and MUC-GRU.

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That said, the culinary options in First Class are, in my opinion, only a marginal step up from Business. For instance, you’ll get Taittinger vintage champagne

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And a full caviar service, with all the traditional garnishes

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But the rest of the meal was very mediocre and unappetizing. Lufthansa could learn a thing or two about plating.

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On the ground, Lufthansa First also has the most amazing First Class Terminal experience if you’re departing out of FRA. You should definitely read the full report but here are some highlights.

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So I think that I’d only spring for Lufthansa F if it were departing out of FRA, just to get the FCT experience. That’s purely a once off thing, though. Subsequently, I think I’d be ok with Business if I were able to get one of the two seats in the centre or if I were flying with a companion.

ANA

ANA is one my absolute favourite airlines for travel in any class. And presents to me a rare conundrum- both the business class and first class are such great products that I could easily justify going for either.

Here is ANA’s business class (you can read full reviews here and here) seat.

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The seat is extremely comfortable and private. It extends into a full flat bed. Every seat has aisle access. If your goal is to get there with a good rest, this product is good enough.

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The catering in ANA business class is not to be sniffed at either. On my flight from Bombay to Tokyo the menu was designed by the Taj.

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The champagne on offer is Canard-Duchene, but they also have a great selection of other drinks including premium Japanese sakes.

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Service wise ANA is excellent in all cabin classes and I’d be hard pressed to say that First is necessarily much better than Business.

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ANA First Class offers a sleeper suit, Krug champagne and caviar service at meals (albeit as condiment and not a proper course in and of itself, like on Lufthansa. Or maybe that was just the flight I was on)

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Your meals will be multi-course Japanese wonders. To be honest I didn’t care for most of the items but that’s because I’m a philistine. I’m sure a true gourmand would appreciate them. Frankly I was happy enough with the simpler meals in Business.

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Ground services wise is where there isn’t much of a difference. I don’t think ANA’s First Class lounge is a big improvement over their Business. They’re both perfectly alright but they’re not worth arriving early for. The photos below are the First Class lounge.

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And these are the business class lounge photos. It’s pretty much the same, sans champagne.

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For me, I’m happy enough with ANA’s J product to grab it immediately when I see availability on Lifemiles. I would splurge on F if it were a special occasion, but as good as that product is it’s really more like icing on the cake.

Conclusion

Let’s be honest- picking between First and Business Class is probably the biggest first world problem there is. But still, you’ve worked hard to earn those miles, so you might as well stretch them.

This is but a small sample of the products out there, but I hope it gives you a better idea on what the gap is between First and Business class on other airlines.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2016: Lufthansa A330 First Class FRA-RUH Review

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2016: Trip Planning
Introduction: Around the world in 28 days
EVA Air B77W Business Class Singapore to Taipei
EVA Air B77W Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles
Silvercar LAX
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa
Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles
United A319 First Class Los Angeles to Mexico City
Le Meridien Mexico City
United A319 First Class Mexico City to Houston
United B767 Business Class Houston to Sao Paulo
Sheraton Sao Paulo WTC
South African Airways A330  Business Class Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
Hilton Sandton
Ten Bompas Johannesburg
Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class Johannesburg to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines A319 Business Class Istanbul to Zagreb
Westin Zagreb
Croatia Airlines A319 Business Class Zagreb to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt
Lufthansa A330 First Class Frankfurt to Riyadh
Four Points Riyadh
Air India B77W Business Class Riyadh to Mumbai
St Regis Mumbai
ANA B787 Business Class Mumbai to Tokyo
Asiana A330 Business Class Tokyo to Seoul
Westin Chosun Seoul
W Walkerhill Seoul
Asiana B744 Business Class Seoul to Tokyo
ANA B787 Business Class Tokyo to Singapore


After an amazing 3 hours in the FCT, it was time to sober up and head for Riyadh. Our driver had taken us right to the A330 on the tarmac, and after taking an elevator up to the aerobridge level we boarded the plane.

I’ve only flown first class with two airlines before, SQ and ANA. But based on those experiences I can already see why people would be willing to pay a premium over business class (or at least a miles premium, if not a cash one). The seat is definitely an upgrade over business class, as is the catering and service. I think the case is even stronger when the airline has a less competitive business class, as is the case of Lufthansa and its 2-2-2 business class.

Lufthansa recently finished installing its new first class on all its aircraft, which was more than overdue given how uncompetitive its old first class seat was.

Lufthansa’s old 2-2 first class configuration on 747 upper deck (photo credit: flyroni)

Its new first class is a much more modern offering, with lovely wood finishes and a less dense seating configuration. The 747-400 version even features a separate bed in the upper deck, whereas on other aircraft the seat converts into a bed.

Lufthansa New First Class on A330, A340, A380, B747-8

I was very intrigued to see how the Lufthansa first class experience compared to SIA’s. Would they be able to display the same level of obsessive attention to detail? How would cold German efficiency meld with the need to exude warmth and not rush the passenger? And would the catering in the air match that on the ground? I was about to find out.

We were greeted by the chief stewardess Astrid at the door. “Good afternoon Mr Wong! We’ve been expecting you!” Presumably the FCT calls ahead to let the aircraft know the passengers is on the way, but it was a nice touch nonetheless.

My colleague was spirited away to the relative squalor of business class where she would be tormented by 2-2-2 seating and non-vintage champagne. I’m a bit divided about Lufthansa’s business class- it’s a (relatively) new product but 2-2-2 just doesn’t cut it in today’s environment.

Plus, the design of the product is such that some seats will have footsie opportunities.

photo credit: OMAAT

It’s a bit telling that Lufthansa has only just finished retrofitting all its aircraft with the new business class, yet they’re already thinking ahead to 2020 when they’re replacing the current generation of product. Hopefully they’ll go with a 1-2-1 configuration then.

Anyway, that wasn’t my problem today.

Astrid showed me to 1A and said “You’re the only passenger in First Class today so feel free to sit wherever you want”

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I was delighted because this meant easier photo taking. It’s always difficult to take photos in a crowded cabin, because our post 911 paranoia has made it such that anyone taking photos of the seat power sockets must surely be a security risk.

Lufthansa makes a point of labeling each of its cabins with a sign upfront, so no one can make the excuse that they didn’t know they were in the wrong cabin. Presumably.

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The configuration in First Class was two rows of 1-2-1. Lufthansa is progressively downsizing First Class capacity in its fleet- 32 of its 106 aircraft currently do not offer First Class, and the A350s replacing the A340s in its fleet will not offer First Class cabins. Such is the way of things, sadly (SQ downsized first class from 8 seats to 4 on its newest 77Ws), and I suspect this will mean it becomes progressively harder to redeem First Class awards.

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The cabin doesn’t look very private on first glance, because of the open nature of the seats (versus SQ’s first class design where it’s hard to take a cross cabin shot like this because of the high walls of each seat) However, the seats all have individual privacy dividers that can be raised which makes it much better.

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Each suite has a foot locker that provides adequate storage for shoes or a small bag (mine had a bit of an ugly discoloration as you can see in the photo)

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In one armrest was the seat controller, which has an optical trackpad but for some reason lacks fast forward buttons.

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The other armrest had the seat controls

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Each seat had 2 USB charging ports and 2 power plugs. Quite impressive considering I’ve never seen more than 1 power plug in an airline seat (or had need for more than 1)

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The amenities kit was by a German brand called Bogner. I liked the weighty, high quality feel to the bag. The contents were rather lacking though- socks, eyeshades, comb, earplugs and toothbrush kit. It’s still much better than SQ’s disappointing amenities kits though, which only have cologne, lip balm, moisturizer and a wet tissue (yes, I know you can get toothbrushes in the loo)

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Even though this was a day flight, PJs were offered. That’s a definite plus, I can’t remember if SQ offers PJs on daytime first class flights but i suspect they do not.

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Here’s what the PJs look like on a very well-toned man.

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Headphones are Bose QC-15, the gold standard for any airline. SQ has the same offering (although Finnair has QC-25s in their business class cabin)

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Pre-departure drinks were served. The champagne on offer was a vintage Tattinger, 2007. This is of course nowhere near the Krug or Dom that is standard in SQ’s first class, but I honestly think if I tasted them all blind my palate isn’t sophisticated enough to tell the difference.

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They served warm nuts while still on the ground, another nice touch.

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I believe SQ doesn’t serve anything to eat until you’re in the air (Cathay has gone with an interesting little amuse bouche that they serve on the ground- see here)

A photo posted by Brian Sumers (@bsumers) on

The inflight catalogue was brought around. I’m a big fan of German design but most of the items were way out of my price range sadly. Apparently there are some good deals to be found on Rimowa luggage if you’re into that sort of thing.

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A choice of magazines was offered too

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In Bloomberg Businessweek there was a piece on the hilarious feud between Delta and Qatar Airways. No one trolls like Akbar Al Baker.

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They would be serving a late lunch on this flight, although you have the option to dine any time you want.

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Our captain came on the PA to apologise for a delay with the pushback because of some late-loading luggage. It really didn’t bother me because Astrid was liberally refilling my champagne glass.

While we waited we chatted about going to Saudi. It was the first time I’d been there and I’d heard the usual litany of horror stories about people getting arrested for having prescription drugs or mouthwash that had alcohol in it or bibles.

She assured me it was nothing like that, though the female flight crew would pretty much just shack up in the hotel during their turnarounds and wait for it to be over. No gym for them, no swimming pool, certainly no runs to the mall. She also advised me that they might check random people’s phones for, shall we say, intimate photos, and it would be a good idea to ensure such material did not exist. I still cannot decide if she was giving that as generic advice or she saw something in me.

We eventually pushed back and taxied about a 20 minute delay. It was surprisingly light traffic for FRA and we were airborne within another 10 minutes.

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Immediately after takeoff Astrid came around and asked me when I would like to dine. I was really feeling those many glasses of champagne so decided to take a nap first.

She had the bed behind my seat set up in less than 5 minutes, complete with duvet and a big thick blanket.

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She also brought around a bottle of water as well.

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The bed was excellent. I still think the best bed I ever had on an aircraft is the SQ Suites one, but this ran a very close second. It’s always going to be hard for a seat that converts into a bed (Lufthansa) to compete against a purpose-built bed (SQ Suites), but I still had a very comfortable 2 hour nap.

After waking I went to the bathroom to freshen up. The bathroom isn’t particularly big, although this is a fault common to many airline’s first class. I get that there are space constraints, but when you see what Emirate/Etihad do for their first class bathrooms you wonder why other airlines can’t do something similar.

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There was quite the bounty of toiletries inside, which I used to supplement my already full amenities kit. Those Evian sprays are lovely.

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Astrid came around to take my meal order.  She asked me what garnishes I’d like with my caviar. I honestly didn’t know what garnishes go with caviar, but I was not about to expose my uncultured ways. “Surprise me!” I said.

A small serving of what I think was guacamole and salmon tartare was served before the caviar.

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Then the table was set up. The butter had a little first class stamp on it, which made it taste superior to butter with a business class stamp on it.

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Then came a very generous portion of caviar, together with white onion, lemon, egg yolk, egg white and creme fraiche.  So this is what people eat with caviar, I thought to myself as I used the wrong spoon to shovel it into my mouth.

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I do enjoy the flavor of caviar. I mean, I’m not going to pay silly money to eat it outside of an aircraft, but I can appreciate it for what it is- overpriced fish eggs. For those of you who do enjoy such things, it’s worth checking out this episode of The F Word with Gordon Ramsay where he sees how caviar is farmed, and they open up a fish and there’s a ton of caviar inside. Quite food pornish.

My reading of other first class trip reports has led me to believe that all caviar must be served with a mother of pearl spoon. That was lacking here, but for the life of me I can’t remember if SQ has one either. It certainly didn’t diminish the experience for me, but I might just be a philistine that way.

Sadly the meal went downhill from there. I requested for the beef, which was described as

Tenderloin of Beef with Eggplant Ragout and spiced Potato Mash

Could we get a perfect medium rare, in first class, out of Lufthansa’s homebase with DO&CO support?

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No, no we could not.

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The steak was tough and chewy. The sauce tasted like someone had dumped a whole lot of red wine into the marinade. I gave up after a few bites and asked for the fish instead.

Fried Turbot with Cherry Tomato Confit, grilled Leek, marinated Bell Pepper and Orange Rice

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The fish was similarly unappetizing. The rice was hard, the fish was way overcooked and the vegetables were limp. Something just seemed wrong about the two meals, and then it struck me- the plating was nowhere near the standards of SQ. Here are two similar-ish dishes from SQ

See how much of a difference plating and color can add? The Lufthansa meals just looked very unappetizing from the get go. And the flavor wasn’t great either. Really disappointing, considering the DO&CO connection.

Desert was

First Harvest Strawberries, Barvarian Cream and Strawberries in various Textures

This was slightly better. I get the whole “strawberries in various textures” thing (there was a fresh strawberry, strawberry sorbet, strawberry jam, strawberry whatchamacallit) but I’d have been a lot happier with just fresh strawberries. The solid barvarian cream was interesting though, it reminded me of white chocolate.

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A chocolate menu was presented to me after desert

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It was time to check out the IFE. Lufthansa has an extensive selection of entertainment but it was nowhere as large as Krisworld. However, they do have Live TV (it wasn’t working on this flight) which is an innovation I’d like to see very soon on SIA. I believe during the 2014 World Cup it was indeed possible to watch Sport 24 and various live matches on SQ, but that hasn’t become a permanent thing.

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None of the movies or TV programs really appealed to me, but I was happy to see they had the Fairly Oddparents under the kids section. I love the Fairly Oddparents, it’s probably second only to Spongebob Squarepants for subversive humour and subtle adult jokes. Unfortunately, this was entirely dubbed in German.

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I ended up seeing out the flight staring at this awesome spherical thing while I sipped champagne glass number 25 (I lost count at this point in time)

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Before long we were approaching the bright lights of that cosmopolitan metropolis called Riyadh. Ah, the wonders of oil wealth.

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We landed slightly behind schedule because of our delayed pushback. One thing to note about Riyadh, for the benefit of those of you who will have the distinct privilege of visiting, is that the immigration queues are a joke. When I arrived the queue was easily 200+ people long. The trick is that there really are two lines- one for migrant workers and one for everyone else (read: white people). Just go for the white people line, even if it’s your first time entering the country (the line is labeled: re-entry only but there is zero semblance of a system). There is no priority queue for first/business class passengers, at least officially, but showing your boarding pass to the immigration people quells any objections. I’m glad that for the first time in my Singaporean life I did not follow the signs, because that queue was just insane.

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My overall thoughts? In the air, Lufthansa First Class, as good as the hard product is, will not be challenging SQ anytime soon. SQ’s hard product is still much superior, as is its catering (both alcohol and food). I would say service was as good as SQ’s. Lufthansa has a clearly superior ground product to SQ, however. Its FCT is something that SQ can never hope to (and I believe doesn’t want to) imitate, and that really elevates the entire experience. I would strongly encourage everyone to try and experience it at least once in their lives. If you collect SQ miles, flying FRA-DXB for 35,000 miles in F can’t be beat.

While we were waiting for the aerobridge to open, the passengers from the business class cabin moved forward into first class (the nerve of some people, I say!) to deplane. A really cute girl in an abaya chatted me up.

“Wow, you were the only passenger in first class? Does everyone get a rose?” (she gestured to the roses in the vases next to each seat- see this photo taken earlier)

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The baller thing to do would have been to take out the rose and give it to her. But because no cute girl had ever spoken to me (voluntarily) before, I was convinced that this was a sting operation by the Saudi religious police, probably looking to entrap gullible hormonal men. Nice try, Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice!

So instead I stared at my shoes and mumbled something along the lines of “meet to please you”.

And on that high note, we shuffled off the plane into the 40 degree night heat of Riyadh.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2016: Lufthansa First Class Terminal FRA Review

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2016: Trip Planning
Introduction: Around the world in 28 days
EVA Air B77W Business Class Singapore to Taipei
EVA Air B77W Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles
Silvercar LAX
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa
Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles
United A319 First Class Los Angeles to Mexico City
Le Meridien Mexico City
United A319 First Class Mexico City to Houston
United B767 Business Class Houston to Sao Paulo
Sheraton Sao Paulo WTC
South African Airways A330  Business Class Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
Hilton Sandton
Ten Bompas Johannesburg
Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class Johannesburg to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines A319 Business Class Istanbul to Zagreb
Westin Zagreb
Croatia Airlines A319 Business Class Zagreb to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt
Lufthansa A330 First Class Frankfurt to Riyadh
Four Points Riyadh
Air India B77W Business Class Riyadh to Mumbai
St Regis Mumbai
ANA B787 Business Class Mumbai to Tokyo
Asiana A330 Business Class Tokyo to Seoul
Westin Chosun Seoul
W Walkerhill Seoul
Asiana B744 Business Class Seoul to Tokyo
ANA B787 Business Class Tokyo to Singapore


Visiting the Lufthansa First Class Terminal is a watershed moment for anyone who does what I do. It was my white whale, my El Dorado, my hyperbole. It would make all those hours spent planning, scheming and executing worth it. It would singlehandedly vindicate what I do. It would solve my crippling self-esteem problems and the strange recurring pain in my right arm.  And today, it would finally be mine.

My flight from Zagreb  had done its part, arriving at the gate ahead of schedule. Once the doors to the plane opened, I knew a countdown clock had started. My layover was slightly over four hours and those bubble baths weren’t going to take themselves.

Here’s a quick history lesson for the boffins among us. The Lufthansa FCT was opened to much fanfare in December 2004. It cost a surprisingly modest $39M to construct and was originally intended to handle 350 passengers a day (a figure I’m sure has since gone up many times). At the time, a BNP analyst who clearly had not discovered the miles and points game had this to say-

“It’s a service for pop stars and for the lucky few,” who can afford to pay €6,200 for a return ticket from Frankfurt to New York or €10,130 for a flight to Tokyo, said BNP Paribas analyst Nick van den Brul.

Now, it only cost me 28,000 miles to get access, but to be fair, that opportunity only existed because I was on a business class fare. Still, the FCT experience isn’t only reserved for those with deep pockets. For example, you could get access with 60,000 Lifemiles for a one-way FRA-BOM ticket. At 1.375 US cents per Lifemile, that’s about US$825. Is it the cheapest way of getting from FRA-BOM? Of course not. Is it totally unattainable? I would say no.

In typical German style, the FCT has one of the dullest websites you’ll ever see.

Seriously, whoever is doing their web design needs to get fired

The FCT was not originally designed for transit passengers, who are expected to use the First Class lounges within the transit area.

I’ve read trip reports of visits to the first class lounges in Frankfurt and they look good and everything, but it’s not what people pay to see. Besides, the only way to guarantee getting a ride on the tarmac to your plane is to go to the FCT (the lounge will provide it if you’re departing from a remote gate/ faraway gate in a different satellite). Therefore, I needed to clear immigration first.

So naturally, the line at FRA immigration was one of the longest I’ve ever seen.   Fortunately, the immigration officials were of the same opinion, because they quickly opened up a few more booths and we were through in 20 minutes. It was now 1110 and time to start jogging.

My colleague was game enough to jog with me. I had beguiled her with numerous tales of the FCT and was starting to worry that I’d oversold it. But then again, she’s based in Boston and normally flies with United, so the concept that an airline would actually do something  to increase the comfort of its passengers, let alone build an entire terminal, was entirely foreign to her.

There is a lot of construction going on outside Frankfurt Terminal 1, and if you don’t know where you’re going it can get messy. Fortunately I had watched a video beforehand with walking directions to the FCT

You exit the terminal from area A. Keep looking for signs for “A”.

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Exit is on the arrivals level. Once out the door, turn left and keep walking. You’ll be walking against the flow of traffic. At some parts you’ll need to walk on the road because the passageway is blocked.

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On your left you’ll see the taxi waiting area

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You know you’re almost there when you see the taxi driver cafe on your right.

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And lo and behold, it appears. The Lufthansa First Class terminal. 1,800 square meters of bliss.

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I wept, I cried, I sang songs of jubilation. Then I crossed the road carefully, because to get hit by a car right now would probably be the Murphiest Lawiest thing that could happen.

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Don’t expect anyone to greet you on the ground floor, because remember, this isn’t the official way to get to the FCT. Those who depart from FRA will drive up to the driveway on the second floor, where they’ll be greeted by the host.

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Instead, you get into the lift and go up one floor to the reception. This is where the magic happens.

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The receptionist was bubbly and chirpy. She saw the tissue paper boarding pass I had been given in ZGB airport and said “no, no, this will not do” before printing out a proper Lufthansa cardstock one.

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She then apologetically asked us if we would wait 2 minutes for our host to come out and fetch us. That gave me time to look at some of the memorabilia on the wall, including this

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Our host came out of the lounge to welcome us. She escorted us to the security checkpoint, which exists purely to serve the FCT.

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After security, just before you get into the lounge there’s a duty free shop and a duck display to the left of the sliding door. What I would pay for a bridal duck. Our host was very proud of the duck collection and said she’d get one for me as soon as we were seated. Unfortunately the Euro 2016 ducks would not be in for another week.

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And then, with a flourish that rivaled Richard Attenborough’s “Welcome to Jurassic Park”, she opened the sliding doors and led us in.

As I entered, a thought struck me: does this report really need to be written? I asked myself. There are so many first class terminal trip reports in existence that you could click every word in this sentence and only cover a fraction of the total reports. What value can my report possibly add?

Well, how about a map?

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click to enlarge

Because the link to the floorplan on the Lufthansa website is busted, I’ve tried to map out the FCT in as much detail as I can remember. I may have gotten some minor details like the number of shower cubicles wrong, but I think everything else is pretty much there.

My first impression was that the place is a lot smaller than I originally envisioned. I guess I wasn’t reading all the other trip reports carefully because I kept thinking of a multi-storied building with different whims and pleasures satisfied on each floor.

Instead, the entire terminal has two floors. The ground floor is where you board your car to go to the aircraft, and you don’t really go there until the very last part. The entirety of your lounge experience is on the 2nd floor, where you can walk from one end of the terminal to the other in perhaps 40 seconds. That’s by no means a criticism; the place didn’t feel crowded at all the whole time we were there. It’s just that things are so often larger in your mind (giggity).

Here’s the view from the entrance. To the left are the work cubicles, to the right is the dining and relaxation area.

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The first stop was the dining area, given that I purposely didn’t eat breakfast at the hotel or on the plane in anticipation of the FCT’s bounty.

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We were seated and the menu was brought to us, along with VOSS water, the water that costs so much because you pay for the fancy glass bottle.

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I was really surprised to find out that 90% of the items on the menu were actually on the buffet. I mean, don’t get me wrong the buffet was good quality, but I thought more items would be prepared on demand.

Here’s a runthrough of the buffet items. It was a really good spread, to be fair.

There was bread (fresh baked on site) with many different kinds of olive oils and dried fish/other traditional snacks

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Some excellent house cured smoked salmon

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And even a parma ham slicer

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The hot food section had a choice of

  • Fillet of beef tipps with pepper
  • Homemade gnocchi with oven roasted tomatoes and sage
  • Black cod with sauteed soy and tomato vegetables
  • Spicy chili chicken with basmati rice and pineapple chutney
  • Linguine con Gamberetti

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A very substantial desert section too

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I put together two plates for myself to sample all the offerings. The cod in particular was great, flaky and oily.

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Similarly, the prawn pasta, beef tips and asparagus was excellent. No one does it like DO&CO.

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The only item that was prepared to order was the soup though. It’s an asparagus cappuccino which tastes as fancy as it sounds.

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And because I am pathologically boring, I skipped all the fancy deserts and went for vanilla ice cream.

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I was very happy with the food quality, but the service in the restaurant was lackadaisical. Drinks glasses went empty for long periods, only refilled upon request. The waiter told me a particular dish on the buffet didn’t have cheese in it when it later did (I’m not allergic to it, I just don’t like it, but I could see this being a big problem for someone who was). And in general the staff there were nowhere as pleasant as the ones at the reception. I mean they weren’t rude by any means, just cold. No smiles, no personal introductions, no suggestions.

While we were eating, our host came back with a duck. Unfortunately I got a garden variety silver one. But I still decided that he was very special to me and I would give him a snooty name like Mr Duckford.

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It only seemed appropriate to offer Mr Duckford a drink. So we requested the bar menu.  It was about 30 pages long and started with a choice of 15 types of water

I’m going to post each and every one of those pages so you understand the sheer magnitude of choice available.

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I decided right then and there that it was my solemn duty to try each and every type of the 5 champagnes available.

The first was the grand daddy of them all, the only vintage champagne on offer, Ayala Blanc de Blanc 2007. It was a full-bodied and bright brut, with subtle hints of French migratory patterns and an aftertaste that evoked memories of a long history of successive defeats in global conflicts.

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Then a rose by Louis Roederer, also a brut from Reims. This one had a lush and floral bouquet, with an ethereal hint of fresh violets and a concluding note of Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

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I shifted to the bar in anticipation of the third glass.

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The third glass arrived, Ruinart “R”. At this point in time I couldn’t be bothered to make up descriptions anymore, so I declared this glass to be bubbly. But the good kind of bubbly, not the kind that fat people use to describe themselves. I’m allowed to make that joke because of my ever expanding spare tire.

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In between the third and fourth glasses,  I surveyed the bar. Here was a drinks selection to end all drinks selections. There was so much available they couldn’t even fit it all on the display shelf

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There was also a huge gummy bear selection

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While I sipped the fourth glass, Bollinger Special Cuvee, I wondered why SQ wouldn’t even consider having something like this. Yes, their hard product in the air was superior to Lufthansa’s, but their ground services were sorely lacking.

Even TPR could not compare to the FCT. They didn’t even have self-contained, private shower cubicles in their lounges (the showers are within the toilets itself). Their alcohol selection was nowhere as good as the FCT. To be fair, TPR’s catering was probably just as good  (if not slightly better than) the FCT, but SQ’s attitude towards the whole thing was more of a “oh well everyone’s doing it” rather than something truly innovative. TPR was opened long after the FCT did, and for the first few years wasn’t even available to award passengers. It is still not available to SQ’s top tier elites (versus how the FCT is available to HON members). My wishlist for SQ’s first class lounge in SG now has spa, airport transfer, dine on demand for all  (instead of just TPR) and games room on it. Yeah, I’m still tipsy from the champagne.

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I decided to take the fifth and final glass, Louis Roederer Premier, by the window to enjoy the view.

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The view was absolutely stunning. I was inspired by the Brutalist architecture, the angular boxes, the straight lines, the vivid statement the view was making on our reinforced concrete society. The artfully placed carpark reminded me of our simultaneous obsession with status and mobility, and the green chain-link fence was obvious social commentary on the divide between the haves and have nots.

I was completely high at this point in time.

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Fifth glass done and mission accomplished, I thought it was a good idea to take a bath in my current tipsy state. Alcohol always leads to good ideas, kids.

The first bathroom I was given didn’t have a tub. I was horrified. I thought all bathrooms had tubs in them but apparently not. I have marked the offending cubicle on my map. A quick word with the attendant rectified the situation and a proper spa cubicle was obtained.

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The spa cubicles are really large and spacious. They’re equipped with toilets too, and everything was done in very subtle marble finishes.

The toiletries are Etro-branded. Apparently this is a big deal because these are the same toiletries you’ll find at the Four Seasons and other upmarket properties.

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There was a new duck waiting for me, whom was dubbed Mr Duckford the Second, esq.

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I turned on the tap and started to run the bath. Protip: it takes about 15 minutes to fill up, so you’d best make it the first thing to start when you get into the room.

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The tub full,  I sank into the hot water. All was well with the world. I took a few more photos in the tub but the Federal Communications Act of 1987 and various indecency statutes forbid me from publishing them. Maybe I’ll start a paywall with a members only section.

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On the center table that separated the bar from the rest of the lounge was a selection of fruit. Cherries were in season, delightfully.

There was also a guestbook, which I signed. There’s a prize awaiting whichever Milelion reader can snap a photo of it. The prize may or may not be the bathtub pictures.

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On the left hand side of the terminal there were work cubicles. I was shocked that anyone would actually be able to do work here, but apparently there are many Lufthansa Senator members who fly out of FRA for work every day. I once read that the true mark of a baller was someone who goes up to the bar in the FCT and says “just water please”.

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There were many areas to sit and lounge. I was having trouble connecting to the WiFi network. I asked one of the staff for help but after poking around a bit he couldn’t do anything either. Which is fair enough, he’s not a tech guy by training, but the least I would have expected him to do is call someone else who is to come over and try and fix it, not just apologise and walk away. That was again another jarring experience considering that this was supposed to be the mecca of service.

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There were two day rooms in the FCT for anyone who wanted to take a nap.

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If there’s one thing missing from the FCT, it’s a spa.  I found a spa menu lying on one of the tables, but the treatments are on a paid-for basis and I assume they need to drive you to the main terminal for this. Which was a shame because I was long overdue for a waxing.

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I paid a visit to the duty free shop which has the usual assortment of clothing, luggage, fragrances and of course alcohol

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20 minutes before our flight was due to depart, our host came to find us. It was time to head down to the first floor and board our ride for the aircraft. She asked me how our experience was. I told her it was amazing, my colleague said she could never fly with United again.

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As mentioned before, you get driven to your plane on the tarmac from the FCT. There are two transportation options- a Mercedes S Class and a Porsche Panamera. Everyone tries to go with the Porsche but I didn’t really have a preference. It’s not like the driver can do donuts on the tarmac or floor it anyway.

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Our driver was really cheerful and told us it’d only take about five minutes to get to the aircraft. I told him to drive slowly. He laughed.

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Access to the tarmac is through a gate just besides the FCT. It was sort of surreal to be driving on the tarmac with A380s and 777s taxiing around us. I snapped plenty of airplane photos and the driver obligingly halted at various points on the tarmac when I wanted to snap something.

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All too soon, we arrived at our A330 that would bring us to Riyadh. I was beginning to wonder if I should have had that 5th glass of champagne.

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I managed to snap a photo with a Turkish Airlines jet in the background before we entered the jetbridge through a lift.

The Lufthansa FCT was on the whole an excellent experience. However, there were several service issues that prevented it from being flawless, especially in the dining department. And deep down I suspect that it might get a bit boring if you had to stay more than 5 hours (although there is the very excellent option to rent a Porsche 911 for 99 Euros (gas included) for 3 hours that I would definitely have taken up if on a longer layover.

I sincerely hope all of you have the opportunity to try the FCT at least once. Try and work it into one of your trips, if you’re ever in Europe. Apart from the Lifemiles method I mentioned earlier, you can also redeem one way First Class from Europe to the Middle East for only 35,000 Krisflyer miles. FRA-DXB would be a good idea, perhaps? Remember that Lufthansa First Class space is pretty reliable within 2 weeks of departure.

Now it was time to see how Lufthansa’s First Class experience stacked up to the SQ gold standard.