While there can be no doubt about Lufthansa’s brilliance in their handling of premium passengers at their Frankfurt hub, virtually everything else about the airport leaves much to be desired.
I got into FRA after 8pm, still a bit bruised and battered from our losing effort against the Belgians on the lacrosse field. Since my return flight to the States would be Lufthansa LH 402, a fairly early departure (1:30PM), and I did not want to get up extremely early in Paris in order to connect same day, I opted to arrive in FRA the night before, overnight at the FRA airport Sheraton and then head home in the morning.
Just a quick note…DO NOT EVER stay at the Frankfurt Airport Sheraton if you can help it. Check in went smooth enough, and it seemed they were running an efficient operation. As a Starwood Gold member I had hoped for a free upgrade to the next room class, but I understand they are not required to bump me…no big deal. Once I got into my club level room I noticed the TV did not work, the bedside phone did not work and one of the bedside lamps was more of a strobe light than an effective lamp. Thankfully I don’t have epilepsy. I called down to the desk and maintenance was able to fix the TV and the phone, however, they told me there was nothing to be done about the light and it had to be dimmed to a lower setting or it would continue to pulsate with its strobe effect. Not the best start, but nothing too grave. I sat down on the bed and decided to flip through the on-demand movies. The system would not allow me to access them as it was convinced I had not yet checked in. Another 15 minute annoyance and this problem was solved. I popped up to the dismal club and came back with an extra bottle of water I wanted to throw in my mini-fridge. Upon opening the mini-fridge I found a half consumed bottle of wine and a half eaten sandwich left in the fridge by the previous occupant. Clearly housekeeping is on their game at this dump of a hotel. It took no less than THREE calls to the desk, a chat with the manager and 45 minutes before someone came to clean this disgusting refuse out of my room. Not ONCE was I offered an upgrade, a lateral move to another room not filled with the detritus of previous guests or even so much as a free drink at the goddamn bar. In the end, I was gifted 1,000 Starwood points which I will never use…thanks for your generosity! Since I was only there overnight, I tried to just get to sleep and get this lousy hotel stay over with. Sometime in the middle of the night I awoke to find my toilet did not flush and in the morning I discovered a rash on my cheek from the coarse and likely never washed bedding. This was an absolute comedy of errors from start to finish and Starwood should be embarrassed to have such a shoddy property under their aegis. For them to treat any customer like this is unacceptable, but for them to treat a gold member in their own elite program in such a manner is unconscionable. Needless to say I won’t be rushing back. Convenience be damned, I’ll stay at the Villa Kennedy and cab it to and from FRA.
As you can imagine, I was anxious to get the hell out of the Sheraton ASAP in the morning. I figured hours upon hours in the Lufthansa First Class Terminal had to be better than spending another minute in that disgusting hotel.
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Surely you know that most airlines have lounges for their premium passengers. Some airlines even go so far as to open separate lounges exclusively for their First Class passengers. Lufthansa goes 10 steps beyond that and has opened a separate terminal solely for the use of their First Class passengers and HON members, so that these fliers don’t have to share the same building with the hoi polloi.
Upon entry to the First Class Terminal (hereafter FCT), you are greeted by your personal assistant. He or she (hereafter she, as mine was a woman), takes you to the check-in area which resembles the check-in desk at an upscale hotel. Your assistant takes your passport and provides you with a boarding pass. You then pass through the hassle free security section (within the confines of the FCT) and then you are there. The terminal itself has a sitting area with televisions and wifi, work stations, massage chairs, a cigar lounge, a bar with over 80 types of whisky on offer (everything gratis of course), a sit down dining restaurant with buffet and a la carte options, a spa and shower area and decent views over the airport. [Further FCT shots can be found at the end of this post].
Since it was around 9 or 9:30 A.M. at this point, I made for the restaurant and decided I would have bit of breakfast while killing time. There was an extensive selection, I opted for scrambled eggs, potato, bacon and a sausage. Very American of me. I also took some orange juice and a glass of water. Due to the early hour, the FCT was pretty empty, so I ate at a leisurely pace, then took a chair in the main seating area where there are floor to ceiling windows looking over the airport. I glanced down at my watch and realized I still had hours and hours to go before boarding. I had opted not to shower at my horrorshow hotel because given their list of transgressions the previous evening, I couldn’t imagine any good coming of it. Since I had such a surplus of time, I made for the shower area and requested a place. While BA has embarrassingly awful shower facilities at their Heathrow flagship, Lufthansa has immaculate bathrooms and great showers. If I recall they have etro hair and body products. You are provided with towels, bathrobe, hangers for your clothes, etc…Luckily, I had remembered to leave a change of clothes in my carry on luggage, so I showered up, dried my hair and of course managed to grab one of the famous Lufthansa Ducks (this one in Christmas livery if you will) on my way out of the spa area.
My assistant found me in the main seating area and let me know that in about 15 minutes we would be departing for the plane. When flying with Lufthansa from one of their hubs, the journey to the plane is another over the top and thoroughly amusing experience. When my assiatnt came back to gather me, we went downstairs to the transit floor of the FCT. There, the FCT’s private immigration people stamped me out of the EU and handed my passport back to me. From there, we went outside and found our vehicle for the journey to the plane. When you fly first class with Lufthansa, they don’t expect you to walk to your plane. They drive you in a chauffeured car. In this instance, it was a Porsche SUV. There was one additional passenger. Driving around on the flight line “behind the scenes” so to speak at the airport is a very cool experience. Our driver stopped pretty much at the nosewheel of our 747, then we went inside, took an elevator up to the main boarding level, were escorted to the door and handed off to on-board cabin crew who showed us to our seats. Once we were on board, I noticed the gentleman who had been in the Porsche with me did not turn left and ascend the stairs to first class (Lufthansa’s first class in on the 747’s upper deck. Most airlines put it in the nose.). As Lufthansa restricts use of the FCT to their first class passengers and HON members, this means he must have been HON. To qualify for HON, one must fly 600,000 miles over two years with Lufthansa. I tip my cap to him for being able to log that many miles year in and year out.
Lufthansa Flight LH 402
Dec. 14, 2011
Once I got to the top of the stairs, I was directed to my seat and I began to settle in. I realized quickly that the stewardess had put me in 83H, while I was ticketed in 83C. I brought this to her attention, but she told me there would only be 3 passengers in first class today so I could pretty much sit wherever I liked. Lufthansa is in the process of renovating 10 of their 747-400’s with a new first class product that features a recliner alongside a real twin bed. I had hoped I would get lucky and get one of the redone aircraft, but it was not to be. In the “old” version of Lufthansa’s first class on the 747, there are 16 of the old style blue seats on the upper deck. At one point, Lufthansa used to actually accommodate 16 passengers in a 2 by 2 configuration. Recently they slashed the number of passengers to 8, so while there are 16 chairs, each passenger has 2. 1 to sit in and 1 to sleep in. As there were so few passengers, I now had all 4 seats of row 83 to myself. Row 83 is the exit row on the upper deck and while the pitch in every Lufthansa first class seat is more than reasonable, I had a veritable football field of space in front of me. I opted to sit in 83H and sleep in 83C. We received our menus, amenity kits and Van Lack pull overs. Now that I am a convert to sleeping in airline pajamas, I asked if they had extra PJ’s on board (Lufthansa provides only a pull over, not full PJ’s on their day flights). The stewardess said as they were turning around in EWR and returning to FRA she couldn’t give me any PJ’s and risk not having enough for the return flight. No big deal.
I took a glass of champagne and some water along with the nuts offered before departure
I’m not 100% positive, but I believe the amuse bouche was some sort of trout terrine. It was fairly good.
Standard caviar. Surprisingly no extra was offered, would have expected due to the light loads they would have made a second sweep.
Choice of Hors d’oeuvres
The Escargot Soup Baden Style was a real winner. I didn’t expect to like this dish, but it was really fantastic.
Being an avid flyertalk reader, I had heard about the “Lufthansa Classics” Roast Goose with Red Cabbage and Potato Dumplings that is served around Christmas. Of course I had to try it. A very nice dish. Some of the goose was a bit fatty, but on the whole, thumbs up.
After this onslaught of food it was time for an intermission. I watched “Crazy Stupid Love,” which was better than expected. An acceptable way to kill two hours aloft for sure. Towards the end of the movie, I asked that seat 83C be made up as my bed so I could try to get a few hours of sleep before they woke me to stuff me with food once again. I would like to address some knocks on Lufthansa…yes the IFE screens are small and not up to current generation standards, but this has never particularly bothered me and although the seats are not the newest products in the air, I always find that I am able to get excellent sleep when flying with Lufthansa.
End of intermission…Round 2
The Germans are relentless, they constantly stuff you with food and drink from the time you enter the lounge until you get off the plane. I think I managed to turn down the chocolates they brought around after dessert when the first meal service concluded, but an hour from touch down in Newark, they were at it again.
A second menu was brought around showing a variety of dishes both hot and cold. I had a few questions on how exactly the ordering worked, and as much of the menu was in German…what exactly I was getting.
For my second meal, I had Veal Meatballs which came with a potato pancake and a side of potato salad. Like all the other food offered on this flight, it was outstanding. I thought we were done, but again, I had underestimated Lufthansa…there was more.
I had the “mulled wine mouse” and I believe the jam sandwich and vanilla crescent cookies. Again, excellent.
To avoid succumbing to a food coma, I ordered a double espresso in hopes of pepping myself up before arrival, and as you can see, the cabin crew couldn’t help but jam a chocolate Santa Clause on the side. After the coffee they made another pass with the box of chocolates, but I was able to restrain myself.
I can’t remember the last time I flew on the upper deck of a 747, so the approach and landing were very cool for me. The crew was excellent on this flight and the food was perhaps the best I have ever had on a plane. I managed a few hours of sleep and watched a decent movie. It was really just an excellent, excellent flight. We got to the gate, I made for immigration, I grabbed my bags, met my family and vowed not to eat again until Christmas. Thank you Lufthansa!