LH Business Class
LH Business Class

Recently, we flew Business Class on Lufthansa’s nonstop service to Frankfurt from Portland, Oregon. The words ‘friendly,’ ‘helpful,’ and ‘professional’ describe every Lufthansa employee we encountered during our trip. The in-flight service was faultless, and the food surprisingly good.

The new almost-flat Lufthansa business class seat-pods are an engineering marvel. Though the controls that allow an infinite variety of seat positions require a bit experimentation and getting used to, it’s a big step forward in comfort. LH spent $351 million on the seats which extend to 79 inches and recline at a maximum 9% angle. Though they do seem a bit narrow, I was able to sleep rather soundly for several hours. I like to read in bed and, when reclined, used the handy little flexible reading light behind my left ear. The in-flight entertainment center at my seat was easy to use though the movie list was a bit skimpy and even mildly rough language had been edited out. I detest over-heated cabins and LH kept us cool, almost chilly (get another blanket), in both directions.

One of the few negatives in the entire experience came when I hauled out my laptop in the Lufthansa Business Class lounge at the Frankfurt Airport only to be asked to pay €5.95 to log-on for 30 minutes—nearly 25 cents per minute; a rather astonishing gouge. Like movies, meals, beverages, blankets and pillows, Internet access—especially for first and business class customers—should be part of the service.

With a travel agent price, my wife and I paid less than $2,000 each to fly RT business class, a great bargain. However, the night before our departure, just for fun, I logged onto the Lufthansa website to see what it would cost to purchase two business class tickets the day prior to the flight. Only a bit more than $19,000, essentially $9,500 per person.

High Price for E-Mail

So, as I sat in Frankfurt waiting for my plane, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the traveler who might have just purchased a $9,500 airline ticket, checked in at the airport, and made his way to the business class lounge to tend to some last-minute business, only to discover he has to pay an additional $7 to read his e-mail.

In the past 18 months, I've flown business class to Europe on Air France, Swiss Airlines, and Lufthansa. In-flight service on all three is very good and, though it’s a difficult call, I give a slight nod to Swiss over Lufthansa. We found LH’s seating to be the best of the three, though that’s not fair to AF, which, when we flew them, had not yet introduced new business class seats, which I’m told lie even flatter than LH’s.

TV Dinners

Food and beverage service overall is acceptable on all three. Given the constraints of space, time, and number of people to be served, top-level cuisine is just not possible at 35,000 feet in a metal tube, and in my view airlines should stop telling us it is. Yes, they can offer great wine, wonderful cheeses, and fine cold dishes, but hot meals are always going to have a TV dinner quality to them.

For airlines to hire, with great fanfare and publicity, a Michelin-starred chef as a consultant to their in-flight meal service, and then attempt to make customers believe that somehow that brilliance can be translated to a microwave-reheated chicken and rice dish delivered to your seat over the Atlantic, is smoke and mirrors of the highest order. Actually, given the constraints mentioned above, the meals served are amazingly good; just don’t tell us they are something they can never be. About the best we can hope for is a very good picnic lunch.

A Word on Airports

The most relaxed, convenient, and user-friendly airport in our three countries is Zürich. Munich is excellent but 45-minutes from the city; if I want to save money by picking up a rental car at an off-airport location, I have to go too far. Zürich’s Kloten airport is close enough to the center that we can enjoy a final night downtown and be at the airport in 10 minutes by rail or 15 minutes by taxi. Frankfurt’s Terminal One is just too crowded, confusing, and inconvenient.

Before our recent return flight, the tightly-packed LH business class lounge (Concourse B, gate 44) was about a 10-minute walk from the check-in counter, and our departing gate another 10-minute walk to Concourse C. We went through security twice and on arrival at the gate were put into a holding area with not enough seats. The bus ride to board the plane was another 8 to 10 minutes. (Throughout this Frankfurt Terminal One odyssey, I kept thinking of the couple that spent $19,000 to have the same experience we were having. However, once aboard the plane, all went well, and overall LH gets a thumbs up.)