My recent flight from Houston to Frankfurt was one of the worst Lufthansa First Class flights of my life. It truly was. But I also must add it was not just fine, but a good flight overall. Read on to understand this apparent paradox.
Let’s just get down to it. What I love most about Lufthansa First Class in the air is the service. It’s not the hard product, because other carriers have superior hard products that offer more privacy and comfort. It’s also not the food, though I usually enjoy the dining experience onboard.
What sets Lufthansa apart is the service. The highly-polished, over-the-top excellent attentiveness. That’s a huge reason…the main reason…I love Lufthansa First Class. It is why I will staunchly defend Lufthansa and even defended Lufthansa’s Skytrax five-star honor (though I now rescind that endorsement after a recent subpar experience in business class).
Now you might call what I’m about to write as nitpicky. My response: guilty as charged. I’m absolutely being nitpicky here. But isn’t that what I am supposed to do if I am truly providing fair reviews?
Five Service Lapses
The problem on this flight was the service, which I’ll demonstrate in five examples. Just after takeoff, a delicious amuse bouche was offered.
I promptly enjoyed it. But the empty plate sat there throughout the meal service. How do you miss that? Of course I could have handed it to the FA, but I wanted to see if she would notice it. She never did.
Second, while bringing over the table settings (salt and pepper shakers, butter dish, cutlery, etc), the FA dropped them. She yelled out, “Hoppla!” which means oops in German. I know it happens, but you just don’t except FAs to drop table settings in first class.
Third, when my table was set for dinner, the FA did not arrange the salt and pepper shaker with the Lufthansa logos facing toward me. Feel free to pummel me for even writing this…but I make no apologies: this is something that FAs are 1.) trained to do and 2.) have always done on my previous Lufthansa First Class flights.
Fourth, when preparing my caviar course, the FA broke the toast with her tongs, which crumbled on my tablecloth. When this has happened in the past, FAs use a crumber (also called a crumb sweeper) to quickly sweep away the crumbs. That did not happen here. She stared at the crumbs for a good few seconds, then decided to ignore them.
Fifth, the meal service took nearly three hours. Three darn hours. That’s far too long on relatively short overnight journey. By the time meal service was over, there were only five hours of flight time left.
Small issues, but…
These issues are all so minor, but Lufthansa’s attention to detail is what sets it apart. It’s not like these service lapses ruined the flight or even made it unpleasant. But it did mark a failure of precision. I trust this was a one-off and suspect it was as well.
The FAs were so nice. So nice. I feel bad writing anything negative, but I feel compelled to.
One other thing. FAs cut off hot breakfast at 90-minutes prior to landing. And while that may be what protocol calls for (not sure), on my past few eastbound flights, FAs have always offered eggs even as late as 45 minutes prior to landing.
Okay, let’s move onto the flight.
The boarding gate was a mess in Houston…a lot of people in a small area. We had only a 50-minute connection in Houston so did not have time to check out the lounge. A new United Polaris Lounge is now open and available to Lufthansa Business Class and First Class passengers.
An obnoxious lady had staked out her place in the front of the first class boarding lane, waiving around her boarding pass and letting those around her know that her employer had paid for a first class ticket for her.
But she had a seat assignment in row 23…I didn’t break the news to her that she was flying in business class.
Houston (IAH) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Saturday, June 16
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 1K (First Class)
Lufthansa First Class Seating
We boarded late, just about 20 minutes before scheduled departure. Afternoon sun streamed into the beautiful first class cabin on the upper deck of the A380.
Lufthansa has no overhead bins in the A380 first class cabin. Instead, each passenger is assigned a locker. Seats 1A and 1K have lockers directly in front of them. Inside there is plenty of room to store a large rollerboard bag, personal items, and articles of clothing. There’s even a three-digit combination you can set if you’re worried about theft.
Shortly after boarding, a FA presented an amenity kit, pajamas, and a food and drink menu. A glass of champagne with mixed nuts was also offered. Lately, Lufthansa has offered mixed nuts rather than macadamia nuts on flights out of the USA.
No Rimowa amenity kits. Instead, leather kits from Windsor were offered. The contents included socks, a shoe horn, La Prairie skincare products, a dental kit, comb, an eyeshade, and earplugs.
I changed into my pajamas prior to takeoff. Additional amenities like a toothbrush and shaving kit were available in the lavatory. Usually there are larger La Prairie creams in the lavatory, but they were not present on this trip.
Before we pushed back the captain paid the first class cabin a visit, thanking everyone for their business. We took off about 30 minutes late, but the captain promised an on-time arrival.
Lufthansa First Class Meal Service
Meal service began about 25-mintues after takeoff. Here’s the flight menu:
After the amuse bouche I mentioned above, I enjoyed a caviar course…always appreciated on Lufthansa.
After that, I had a trio of appetizers including crab, BBQ pork tenderloin, and green asparagus. All were excellent, though the hot bread was perhaps best of all.
I was not proactively offered a salad, but requested one and it was promptly delivered.
Rather than risk an overdone beef (I knew I’d enjoy a nice filet mignon in the first class lounge after arriving in Frankfurt), I ordered pasta. It contained zucchini, cherry tomatoes, red Swiss chard, beans and pesto and turned out to be a great choice. It was a delicious balance of ingredients and rich in flavor.
With dinner I enjoyed a glass of Bordeaux wine.
Next, I picked at a cheese course which contained wonderful aged cheddar.
To conclude the meal, I enjoyed apple pie a la mode with a cappuccino and truffles. Overall, I was very satisfied by the meal.
IFE + Wi-Fi
During dinner, I watched Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence. It’s the story of a Russian spy and an excellent movie.
IFE was well-provisions with live TV, movies, TV shows, games, music, and a moving flight map:
I tried to connect to the internet, but the Lufthansa FlyNet service was down. No big deal this time, as it was a Saturday evening and I enjoyed being disconnected. First class passengers receive a complimentary wi-fi voucher.
I asked a FA to prepare my bed and within moments, my seat was transformed into a plush bed. While the cabin temperature was not as cool as I would have liked, I slept well for the next four hours.
One hour before landing, a FA woke me up for breakfast. There was “no time” for eggs, but I enjoyed a bowl of muesli, some yogurt, fruit, orange juice (it was terrible, not fresh squeezed), a cappuccino, and smoothie.
I missed my usual bacon and eggs, but as you can see there was more than enough food.
Despite the late departure from Houston, we did indeed arrive on schedule in Frankfurt.
It seems I am in the complaining mode lately, though that is certainly not my aim. I hope you understand that this was still a comfortable flight overall with friendly service and good food. But I have to be fair and even my favorite airline has off days. This flight was one of those times. As minor as the service issues were, they represented a failure of what separates Lufthansa from its competitors.
I cannot wait for my next Lufthansa flight.