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On the road again to Rio: Sheraton Frankfurt Airport

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


Ah, the airport hotel. The subject I could (and indeed have) spend 4,428 words waxing lyrical about.

My flight from Rio landed in Frankfurt at 2pm, which was too late to catch the 11.40am SQ25 back home. The next flight to Singapore would be the 9.55pm SQ325, but unfortunately that was booked solid. My only option was to wait until the following day to catch SQ25 back home, which gave me slightly under 24 hours to spend in Frankfurt.

I was originally intending to explore Frankfurt during this layover, before I realised it was the dead of winter and I didn’t have a stitch of warm clothing on me.

Now this normally would not bother me, because I am a very manly man, and manly men have copious amounts of body hair to keep them warm in deepest darkest winter. I mean, I often wrestle shirtless with polar bears in Arctic conditions as part of HIIT (it’s all on my dating profile, ladies). But I was also very jetlagged and needed my beauty sleep.

Fortunately there were two Starwood properties available at Frankfurt airport- the Sheraton and the Element.

The Sheraton was only about 9 Euros more expensive than the Element, and had the benefit of being physically connected to the airport (the Element requires a 5 minute taxi ride or 20-25 minute walk in the cold)  so it got the nod.

If you’re ever transiting through Frankfurt, it might interest you to know that the Sheraton also has day use rates if your transit is shorter. The silly thing is that the day use rate can often be almost as much if not more than the best available overnight rate, as you can see in this example below.

En route to the hotel, I got excited when I saw signs for the Lufthansa Welcome Lounge. But upon reaching I realised that it only opened between 0500-1300. Those crafty Germans. I suppose it’s meant more for passengers who fly over on transatlantic red-eye flights and need to freshen up before heading to meetings.

The Sheraton is connected to Frankfurt Terminal 1 through this umbilical cord of a walkway.

As you progress through the walkway the building comes into view. The Sheraton building conjures all the charm of brutalist 1960s Eastern German architecture (yes, I know Frankfurt was part of the West)

All the tips I read about the property on the Flyertalk thread told me I should avoid the queues in the lobby and head up to the executive lounge on the 9th floor to check in (as is the entitlement for Platinum members). However, the lobby was completely empty. I think it was a function of the time I arrived- it was after the rush of early/mid-morning check outs and too early for the arrival of the late afternoon flyers.

Check in was fast and before I knew it I had my two keycards, 500 welcome points, a letter about lounge access and was headed up to my room.

I was given a room on the 8th floor (there are a total of 9 floors). Airport hotels, for obvious reasons, aren’t built very tall. It seems that every room in this hotel is “special” in that there are club room floors, SPG floors (a marketing initiative started by SPG where rooms on those floors get like 2 free bottles of water or something) or a tower room (whatever that is).

How was the room? Let me put it this way. It was a Sheraton room. It looked like a Sheraton room, felt like a Sheraton room and you’d be hard pressed to pick it out from a line up of Sheraton rooms.

And that’s not a bad thing, per se. Just that if you come here looking for creative inspiration you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The annoying thing is that Germans (and Europeans in general) do not believe in the concept of air conditioning during the winter. Only the heating function in the room worked. I know what you’re wondering- why do you need air conditioning when it’s 0 degrees outside? And the answer is simple- ventilation. With the heater off there’s no air moving inside the room and it gets stuffy. In the end I resorted to turning on the heater and putting it on the coldest setting. That at least got some circulation inside the room.

The room had two bottles of free water at the minibar. The water felt infinitely classier by the fact that it came in glass bottles.

There’s a large work desk with a comfortable chair for getting work done. One glaring anti work feature was the fact that the on-property Wifi didn’t let you log into more than a single device at once. It could just be that I wasn’t doing it properly, but if that’s a feature rather than a bug it’s an appalling way to try and squeeze out more money from guests.

I’m not sure if my room just didn’t have it or whether the property didn’t have it at all, but I couldn’t find the room service menu anywhere.

Puzzlingly for an a airport hotel, the sockets were not multi-country friendly.

Bathroom wise, nothing to see here folks. It’s your usual Sheraton line up.

I’d like it if someone from Europe can explain to me the idea of the half glass partition you find in showers at European hotels. I’ve never understood this. It doesn’t particularly stop the floor from getting wet, it’s not nearly as effective as a shower curtain, the thing keeps looking like a potential safety hazard. What is the point of this?

The big draw of the hotel is the fact it has a lounge. In fact, you can purchase lounge only access at a rate of 99 euros a day without booking a hotel room. Again, that rate makes no sense, given you can get a room for 94 euros.

The lounge isn’t 24 hours, but is a good place to spend most of the day working or grabbing a snack.

This is the standard layout during non happy hours. You can see that alcohol is available by default, as opposed to many other club lounges where they only bring it out during happy hour.

The lounge views aren’t exactly inspiring…

I visited again during happy hour and they had some additional items, namely a salad bar and a single hot item (spring rolls). They also added a decent German sparkling wine to the mix.

In the morning there’s a small breakfast spread with made to order eggs and some meats.

There’s a gym on the 9th floor too which was deserted when I got there. No swimming pool, sadly. I think great joy is being able to stretch out with a swim after a long flight, and any airport hotel with a pool instantly goes up a few notches in my mind.

When checking out I took a brief tour of the lobby. There’s a mini business centre in the lobby with printing facilities.    

And a Starbucks cafe with plenty of seating.

The lobby restaurant is doing a game promotion. As in, edible game, not video.

Although the F&B choices in the hotel weren’t amazing, there’s a decent selection of restaurants in the airport and in the office complexes surrounding the airport. I went to The Squaire, where there are a few restaurants in a semi alfresco setting

I’d like to believe the yin balances out the yang.

At the end of the day the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport is meant to be a passing through kind of place. If you stayed there any longer than 24 hours I’d imagine you’d go mad with boredom, but as a place to recharge and recuperate before your next flight it gets the job done.

My job now was to get back to Singapore and do one more review on SQ’s old business class seat before it starts disappearing in 2017…

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: Star Alliance Rio Lounge

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


After two long weeks in Brazil it was time to head back to Singapore through Frankfurt. I was pleased that this time my upgrade came through so I’d have a chance to do a proper review of Lufthana’s Business Class product. Yes, it’s far from market leading, but the worst business class product will beat the best economy class product any day of the week (Air India probably being the exception)

GIG airport is nowhere near as nice as GRU, although my sense is they’re trying to do some major overhauls judging by the amount of construction boarding I saw up around the place. I’d have thought they would have finished that by the time of the Olympics, but hey, Brazil.

Check in was fast and painless. I was pleased that I had managed to get a seat on the upper deck of the 747-8, which would be my first time sitting on the upper deck of a 747 in a long time. The last occasion I did so was on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Narita, in a terrible angled flat seat, perhaps 2 years ago. The time before that? That’d have to be when I was 10 or 11, going to the US on one of SQ’s Megatops. The check in lady confirmed that the seat next to me would remain empty, so that was a plus too.

The Star Alliance lounge at GIG is the newest in the network, having opened in mid-December. It’s so new I wasn’t even able to find any trip reports on it. It’s a bit puzzling why Star Alliance would build a lounge in GIG because GIG isn’t a big alliance hub- the only Star Alliance carriers flying to Rio are Lufthansa, United, TAP and Avianca.

These carriers collectively operate 42 weekly flights out of GIG (you should ignore the 140 figure in the screenshot above as that refers to Avianca Brazil, which operates out of the domestic terminal and does not have lounge access). For comparison, in the other airports where Star Alliance lounges exist

  • Sao Paulo GRU (149 weekly *A flights)
  • Los Angeles LAX  (312 weekly *A flights, ignoring all the UA domestic ones)
  • Paris CDG (375 weekly *A flights- quite a few of these will be Schengen flights and will not have access to the *A lounge in the international area )
  • Buenos Aires EZE (78 weekly *A flights)
  • Nagoya NGO (64 weekly *A flights, ignoring all the NH domestic ones)

So maybe Star Alliance has big plans for Rio. Either way, it’s confusing to me, especially when you consider that GRU is the main international gateway to Brazil and there’s already a *A lounge there.

I digress.

The lounge is located on the third floor and is managed by the Plaza Premium Group.

There was no one manning the counter when I got there, so I proceeded to let myself in. Halfway through the lounge dragon showed up and we had to double back to counter to scan my pass. It’s more an accounting exercise than anything else- I imagine that all the Star Alliance carriers who use the lounge need to pay Star Alliance a fee depending on how many of their passengers use the lounge.

The lounge opens 24/7 and is accessible to any business or first class passenger on a Star Alliance flight, or to Star Gold members flying in Economy. Members of paid lounge programs like United Club can also access. the lounge.

As per the press release, the lounge is 600 square metres and can seat 150 guests. You can allegedly see Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer from the lounge, although it was late night by the time I got there and all I saw was darkness #gothkid

In line with the design concept of Star Alliance lounges, local touches and flavours have been combined with global branding elements. Brazilian natural woods, stone and concrete elements have been used to reflect the architectural heritage of the city while introducing greenery and moments of colour that accentuate the city’s close relationship with nature. Handmade Brazilian furniture pieces from renowned designers add a special touch to the overall design and feel, which can best be described as exclusive and at the same time welcoming. The lounge was designed by Hong Kong based architecture firm MSA, which was appointed by Plaza Premium, the company which will operate the lounge for Star Alliance.

Aesthetically, the lounge is pretty attractive.  The lounge is smaller than I thought it’d be, but they at least bought more than one type of chair…

My first stop was the shower. There are a grand total of 2 shower rooms in the lounge. It works out ok in the end given how few *A carriers fly to Rio, but again it’s a puzzlement to me. Building the lounge implies *A thinks GIG passenger numbers will take off in a real way. If that’s so, how can they only provision the lounge with two showers?

The shower cubicles have very nice marble finishings but are otherwise tiny

The bath amenities come in pump bottles mounted on the wall

And some basic amenities are provided for shaving, teeth brushing and feminine product-ing.

It needs to be said that this shower had one of the worst water pressures I’ve ever seen in a lounge shower. Even at full power, the water came out in a trickle. I’m not sure if that was a general problem with the plumbing that day, but it was certainly an annoyance. There also wasn’t anything in the way of a sitting area for you to wear your shoes, which is probably another design oversight. Even a chair would have been helpful. I mean, not everyone wants to sit on the loo to put on their socks…

After bathing I went to check out the buffet.

There is a limited hot food selection in the dining area

The catering was pretty forgettable. One BBQ drumlet dish, one potato dish

One beef dish and I forget what the item on the left was. None of the food was what you would call amazing. And I was surprised at the lack of hot food options given the lounge was supposed to be for both First and Business class passengers.

Cold food options included sandwiches, wraps, cheese and fruits

There’s also an option for hot bread

I vaguely recall the publicity materials for the GIG Star Alliance lounge talking about cooked to order meals. No evidence of that here.

Drinks wise, a few reds and whites compliment the usual soft drinks and juices.

No champagne was available, but there was sparkling wine.

There’s also a fully stocked bar where the bartender can make any manner of drinks. Right after I took this photo someone who looked like the manager (dude in the tie) barked at me that photos weren’t allowed in the lounge. I didn’t acknowledge him and walked off to take photos of other areas. Thankfully, he didn’t follow me. Seriously, what is up with no photo policies? Does he think that nefarious agents from SkyTeam and OneWorld are trying to infiltrate the lounge and steal important trade secrets like the brainwave of only putting 2 showers in the lounge? I mean I can understand if other passengers are uncomfortable with appearing in strangers’ photos, but the area was deserted at the time.

From a productivity point of view, one thing the lounge gets right is that there are plenty of outlets and USB plugs. The internet was also fast enough for me to download a few additional Netflix episodes to my device before boarding.

My overall impression of the GIG Star Alliance lounge was that it was nowhere as good as the Star Alliance lounge in Sao Paulo (which I reviewed here). That lounge simply has a lot more going for it- higher ceilings which make it seem more spacious, clearly demarcated dozing areas, a wider variety of F&B and generally friendlier staff.

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It was a long walk to the gate, so I left the lounge early and headed for the gate, eager to board the plane and head up that stairwell…