This series of flight reports chronicles my journey from tropical Indonesia to France where I would go skiing. It is part of an Aeroplan miles redemption in First Class. Like my previous reports, the journey can also be read in my blogfor the original format.
The flights consists of: SQ 957 CGK-SIN - Read it here UA896 SIN-HKG - Read it here LH797 HKG-FRA - Current report LH1034 FRA-CDG - Coming soon
Taking the Airport Express back to HKIA, I already had the boarding pass in hand but I was tipped to head to the Lufthansa check-in desks to get the ground services voucher as I had checked in earlier at the Airport Express counters in Hong Kong Station. The arrival into Hong Kong's International Airport is always a wonderful experience with its grand foyer.
Grand entrance to HKIA
Lufthansa flight information on their check-in desks
Since it was a few hours before scheduled departure, not all the counters are open and there was no queue at the 2 premium lines for Lufthansa First/Business and Star Alliance Gold passengers at counter F34. The staff attending to me was efficient and professional, which is more often the case in Asian airports. I also made a point to check if my luggage was tracked as I had such a long layover in Hong Kong and hoped the luggage would be checked through to Paris CDG instead of Frankfurt FRA which was the case when I checked in at Singapore.
Red carpet welcome
Once I obtained the so-called voucher I passed through security check to head airside. There are 2 security check area in the North and South wing of the airport though both lead to the same departure hall. Passengers flying Cathay Pacific First Class gets ushered to a separate First Class check-in area but there was no such premium line in Hong Kong when travelling in other carriers. No matter, as the moderately long line for security and passport check was cleared sufficiently fast. I never had to wait more than 15-20 minutes in both Hong Kong and Singapore, making these 2 airports my choice for transits and visiting.
Boarding pass and shuttle voucher
The thing about having the shuttle voucher is that there really isn't any fixed venue for passengers to board the buggy, but the voucher is valid for one time service from any point to point shuttle within the airport. I had some time to spare to get some duty free before flagging a buggy that passed by. I was the only passenger in the buggy and as the buggy was travelling quite fast, the stream of air-conditioned wind made it a bit chilly.
Back at the check-in counters, I was recommended by the agents to visit the Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge which would be quieter and that was where I told the buggy driver to drive me towards. Since the lounge is located on the second floor, the buggy just brought me to the base of the escalators that led to the lounge which is at the end of the concourse near gate 40 and gate 61.
Thai Airways Royal Orchid lounge reception desk
Entering the lounge was as simple as handing the lounge staff my boarding pass and I was escorted into the roped-off First Class section. There was a fairly spacious luggage storage area beside the reception counter for passengers to store their hand carried luggage.
Luggage storage area
Behind the reception desk, there was also several workstation cubicles that was empty that evening when I visited.
Welcome sign to the First Class section
The First Class section was also empty for that matter and it features a separate bar area, a lounge with comfortable armchairs set in pairs facing each other with a dining table, and a flatscreen TV on a console stacked with all kinds of lifestyle magazines.
Bar counter in the First Class section
While the First Class lounge did not really provide much in terms of privacy, it was quiet and with no one else, it was very private.
Thai Airways First Class lounge
Guests visiting the First Class section of the lounge gets to order food from the menu and even help themselves to the buffet counter located in the main Business Class lounge.
Since I had a day of exploring in Hong Kong, I wanted to get a shower first and requested for the use of their facilities. The staff mentioned that it would take about 5 minutes to get the room prepared for my use. Thus I used this time to peruse the dinner menu and made my order for the food since they need some time to be ready as well. After ordering my meal, I was handed the keys to the shower room.
For the shower room, I was a bit disappointed since it was a plain shower room inside the washroom itself. Furthermore the holder for the handheld shower head was broken and they did not fix the issue. This is something I frequently notice in offshore airport lounges (ie. lounges operated by airlines in airports that are not their home base). The water pressure was fine and there was heated water along with a decent range of facilities so it was still alright for a quick shower.
Shower room amenities
As I finished my shower, I returned the keys to the shower room and returned to my seat where I also obtained a bowl of Tom Kha Gai from the buffet counter to enjoy with my main course of chicken in red curry. While the menu listed the dish as a green curry chicken, the kitchen apparently ran out of green curry and asked me if I am alright if they substituted it with red curry. Since I actually liked red curry better, the alternative works great and altogether they made for a very tasty dinner.
Thai chicken red curry
I have to say the food selection in the lounge was fantastic and the buffet counter has food from the common sandwich and salad bar to numerous Thai dishes and Chinese snacks. It would certainly be easy to get a nice dinner even in the Business Class lounge.
Lettuce and minced pork
Assorted dim sum
Stir-fried noodles and roast chicken
Rice and vegetables
Aside from the main courses, there is a tray of Thai desserts, fruits and ice creams! Even the ice cream selection includes fruit popsicles making a nice change from the usual Haagen-Dazs found in the lounges of Asian carriers.
Ice cream in the fridge
On top of the well stocked dessert fridge, there is also a full drinks fridge beside it. Sometimes I wonder at the amount of food and beverages provided considering the Business Class lounge was also quite quiet.
There was not much people eating at the lounge but it might have something to do with being slightly past dinner time. I also figured the Thai Airways passengers would have departed for their flight by this time.
After my meal, I made a walk around the Business Class section. Immediately I noticed the major difference being in the colour of the upholstery. The seats in the Business Class section are very colourful indeed, a far cry from the elegant colour of the armchairs in the First Class section.
Business class lounge
For those not accustomed to this splash of colour, they could relax in the TV lounge which has dark wood panelling and was very quiet and more suitable for relaxing. I figured guests prefer the open air feeling of the main lounge which was brightly lit and more conducive for working or just reading magazines.
Quiet TV lounge
At the end of the lounge, there is also a set of gaming consoles with their private televisions that should entertain families with teenagers or kids. Though the gaming area was empty and the consoles and TV was switched off. I did not ask if they were operable either as I had no interest in using them.
Gaming console in the lounge
Another nice amenity in the Royal Orchid lounge was actually the massage chairs. There was 2 massage chairs, one for the Business Class section and another in the First Class section. I had the chance to get a relaxing massage at one of them when I returned back to the lounge before boarding my flight. Because I figured the need for a bit of walking, I ventured to the United Club which is about 5 minutes of walking from the Thai Airways Royal Orchid lounge.
For Star Alliance Gold members and those flying Thai Airways, the Royal Orchid lounge certainly provides very good food and a nice range of amenities that makes it a pleasure to spend time in the lounge. Though they could certainly upgrade their shower facilities and with the newly renovated United Club, I am no longer sure if I would recommend the Thai Airways Royal Orchid lounge for First Class passengers. I visited the United Club First Class lounge as well and reviewed it on my blog, but I would not post it here and the ratings would be for the Thai Airways Royal Orchid lounge.
Thai Royal Orchid lounge in HKIA
Boarding for the flight was called inside the Thai Airways Royal Orchid lounge and I made my way over to the gate. While walking to the gate, I actually passed by the final call being made for the Air France flight to Paris.
Gate 60 of Hong Kong International Airport
Upon reaching the gate, the boarding process has not yet started and there was already a long queue for both the Premium (Business and Star Alliance Gold) and Economy line. However upon presenting my First Class boarding pass, I was ushered to the front of the line. Since boarding has yet to commence, I asked about my luggage and wondered if it has been tagged all the way to Paris. I also made my way to the windows to take a few photos of the huge A380 while waiting.
Lufthansa Airbus A380 at HKG
Eventually boarding was called and I had to squeeze through the crowds to the front where there was a very efficient service provided at the gate. First class passengers get escorted down the ramp way by a staff who even assisted with my hand carried luggage. Along the ramp way, he assured me that my luggage has been tagged all the way through and included the new luggage tags for me.
LH797 Hong Kong HKG - Frankfurt FRA STD-STA: 2325-0520 Actual: 0001-0508 Airbus A380-800 D-AIMH ‘New York’ Gate 62 Seat 1A
Lufthansa First Class cabin
The service continued onboard the plane as the staff escorted me all the way to the seat, passing me on to the First Class purser who was a very pleasant middle aged lady. She welcomed me on board and mentioned that I could place the luggage in the lockers.
Seat 1A on the A380
Lockers for seat 1A and 1K was on the front end while the rest has lockers in the galley between First and Business class. This layout makes the cabin feel very airy and spacious.
Lockers by the galley on entrance
After I placed my luggage, I was asked for my choice of welcome beverage and the purser suggested champagne. Other amenities including pyjama and slippers was placed on my seat. There was also a very shiny Rimowa kit on the side.
Rimowa amenity kit and Van Laack pyjama
Macadamia nuts were then offered in a ceramic ramekin. The purser taking care of the first class cabin was very professional and tried to make every one as comfortable as they could. As I was taking the photos of the cabin, she motioned for me to be more discreet about it as the cabin filled up. Another incident was she tried to converse with me to find out my preferences as I seem to be the only Asian passenger onboard.
Welcome drink and nuts
Apparently she also studies the passenger manifest beforehand as she thought seat 1A was empty prior. I had actually been assigned an aisle seat on the second row but asked for a window seat during check-in. The way she handled the situation was very diplomatic and made passengers feel at ease. I think this is the kind of training that many First Class cabin staff fails to get and I can tell it would be a great flight from here on.
First Class cabin overview
Since this is First Class, the seat has lots of legroom, and for my average height, the ottoman is a bit far on the default setting. Fortunately it is possible to move the seat forward and back.
Lots of legroom
There are 2 rows of seats in a 1-2-1 abreast configuration and while it may not be very private, Lufthansa has one of the most beautiful First Class cabin out there. The whole design looks very elegant and ambient lighting makes the cabin stand out. The choice of materials gave a premium feel, for example, the window linings are upholstered in suede. These little details add a touch of luxury not seen on even premium Asian carriers like ANA, Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines.
Row 2 center seats
Moving onto the seats themselves, they are very comfortable in the seat mode and does not feel extra wide like the ones on Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. These 2 First Class have some of the widest seats in the First Class cabin. But Lufthansa differs by making it just right and gives a more snug fit. The premium materials continued throughout with soft-touch leather cabinets that hides the headphones compartment. Those Bose noise-cancelling headphones have the wording 'Lufthansa First Class' on them too.
Underneath both armrests which are also covered in leather, there are 2 sets of controls. The one on the right adjusts the seat position while the one on the left is for the inflight entertainment. Both remotes also feel very premium and the buttons would not be out of place in a Mercedes-Benz. Thus far, the German teutonic approach does make this cabin feel premium.
Remote underneath the armrest
To make it faster, there are some shortcut buttons by the armrest that allows passengers to adjust the seats and make channel and volume selections or call the crew for service to make the whole concept of the remote under the armrest that much more logical.
While on the ground, the purser also gave out the meal and drinks menu for tonight's flight. If there was any improvements, I would just have to say the drinks and nuts were removed far too quickly since it was a long taxi to the runway. I figures with a small cabin, the crew could make adjustments on removing the drinks slightly later.
Preparing for take-off
The cabin light was dimmed and I liked that they still have one light lit over the stalk of rose during the taxi. It makes for a perfect ambience. It's all in the details, I tell you! I took this time to peruse the Lufthansa inflight magazines which is always worth taking with you, along with the duty free shopping catalog and safety instruction manual.
The extensive beverage list onboard Lufthansa was also fitting for a First Class cabin and I loved that they serve Nespresso onboard. The convenience of preparing a good cup of coffee without being a trained barista should enhance the experience of flying with Lufthansa!
Take off was smooth as usual on the A380 and this was definitely the highlight of every flight on this jumbo jet. But we did encounter a bit of turbulence before reaching cruising altitude. As we stabilized, the purser came back onto the cabin and I managed to obtain an extra pillow as the cabin was slightly more than half full. with 3 seats empty.
Rose scented towels
During this time, the inflight service manager came by to introduce herself and I was asked to let her know if I need any assistance or meet any problems during the flight. At this point, I figured I could ask her if I could switch my Rimowa kit to a female version as I wanted to pass the contents to my mum. To my surprise, the purser actually came back with another set of the kit for me. In addition, the purser also asked if I would another set of pyjama, of which I declined since I did have a few pyjamas from airlines already.
Retractable tray table
Inflight service began earnestly afterwards with amuse bouche being presented and I had a glass of water with it. I ordered a cup of decaffeinated Nespresso for the service as well. Great coffee, cabin and crew makes for a wonderful start to this flight so far.
Wifi was available for this flight as there was the hotspot sign on the wall in front of my seat. The charges for wifi onboard the flight was quite acceptable as well and it was the first time I connected to the internet on a flight. The novelty of being connected online made it fun but do not expect to use the internet for streaming of HD videos. It was perfectly fine for surfing news websites and instant messaging though!
There was some time lag before meal service and I browsed the entertainment options. Not a bad selection with plenty of Asian and European selections while the remote was great to work with. The shortcut buttons on the armrest also makes sense to avoid clutter. If there was one thing lacking, it was the whole interface and layout that could certainly do with some improvement.
Inflight entertainment menu
With the Lunar New Year just over and the year of Monkey being ushered in, it was fitting to watch 'The Monkey King', a Chinese fantasy movie based on the 'Journey to the West' literature. There was some stuff that caught my eye from duty free shopping catalog and the purser mentions she will let the crew in charge of duty free know.
Watching the Monkey King
As we waited for the meal service, the passenger in 1D apparently lost his glasses during the flight and the purser helped to find it. She brought out a torchlight and helped him find the glasses eventually/ All the duties the crew do and the way they do it is what makes them stand out in this regard. But I sure made a note to never leave my glasses on the armrest while the plane is departing or landing! I placed my order for the duty free as well during this time with the staff that came over.
Movie and a meal
After the short incident, the purser came out to set the tray table that was retracted from the cabinet beside the TV. Very slick mechanism allowed it to be adjusted comfortably. The table was laid out perfectly with saucers for olive oil and butter, cutleries wrapped in linen napkin and very nice salt and pepper shakers. Bread was served from the basket and I had a slice of garlic bread as I was not too hungry. I figured they serve dinner to match the time in Germany, and it was a logical way to set the service pace. Next up came the caviar starter served with all the traditional garnishes
Caviar with traditional garnishes
Along with the caviar, there was a choice of entrées from the tray. The purser encouraged me to get all the entrées, though I did leave out the mixed salad as it seems a tad ordinary. Her suggestions of getting all the appetizer choice was perfect since they were amazing. I liked how I was flying a German airline and yet they have an amazing Chinese starter. That sweet and svaoury honey sesame beef was my favourite entrée but the prawn was juicy and paired well with the crunchy asparagus. I highly recommend to pick all the entrée when flying Lufthansa First Class since they are that good! In between my meals, my order for the duty free arrived but as I was still having my meals and my wallet with my credit card was in the locker, the cabin crew mentioned she will return later for the payment.
From left to right: fried honey sesame beef with wilted jade sprouts and black ear mushrooms; duo of tomato and goat cheese; and sesame marinated prawns with asparagus and green beans
For the main course, I picked the salmon. It looked a bit ordinary but the fish was cooked just right and it was not dry at all. The sour raisin jus added a nice tinge to the whole flavour though I could easily have the salmon alone as it was fresh and cooked nicely such that it retained the flavour well. Though I was a bit full at this point, I still managed to finish the salmon but left out the potatoes since I still wanted some dessert.
Pan seared salmon with roasted potato, chestnut, olives enhanced by sour raisin jus
Dessert tray came at last and again so many choices out of the tray. I figured most of the passengers were already done with dinner at this time. I had a short introduction to the cheese on offer and picked the Swiss and German cheese as I figured they would be better.
Cheese and dessert tray
For the dessert, I had the pecan tart which was a bit tough but flavour wise it was amazing. The tart with so much caramel did not feel overly sweet so it was enjoyable to the last bit. I also had the sweet dessert wine to go along with the end of the meal. It was some German wine which I didn't take a photo of sadly, and it was not listed in the menu either.
Gouda and brie cheese and caramel pecan walnut tart served with caramel sauce
At the end I have to say the purser serving the First Class cabin was amazing. She handled the meals for all 5 passengers though 2 of them are sleeping and skipped meals. I was given another towel to freshen up after the table was cleared and asked if I would like the seat to be made up for bed. While she went on to make the arrangements, I took the amenity kit and pyjama to one of the 2 spacious lavatory up front to change and brush my teeth.
Spacious lavatory on the front of the First Class cabin
Both lavatories are similar in size and features a foyer with a couch so that certainly makes it easy to change and have space to place your clothes. It was great to use the vanity counter as well which was decorated with a stalk of rose and featured touch-less faucets.
First Class lavatory onboard Lufthansa A380
La Prairie amenities were featured in the washrooms. This is one of the most premium facial care brands that I happen to know since my Mum was looking to purchase it in Switzerland as she uses them. Even the purser highly recommended its use.
La Prairie lotion in the lavatory
In the drawer, there was a lot of amenities including an Evian facial mist, shavers, combs and refreshing towels. I did note that most of these amenities were provided in the amenity kit as well.
Amenities in the drawer
An oddity in the lavatory was the separate urinal and toilet. I figured the urinal does make it more convenient for the guys but why bother since the urinal has a partition that needs to be rotated for it to be used anyway.
Urinal and toilet in the lavatory
Back into the cabin, there is a partition with the graceful crane logo of Lufthansa facing the staircase that leads to the lower deck. The flight was somewhere over southwestern China in Sichuan province by this time. Earlier on, before my meals, I had requested to purchase some duty free and then I had yet to pay for the items that was delivered to my seat as I was still in between meals. Fortunately the crew arrived back to take my payment just in time before my sleep.
The Crane logo
On my seat, the bed has been nicely made with the pillows neatly stacked. It was time to sleep as the time in Hong Kong is past 2 am. It did not take me long to fall asleep and I had one of the best sleep in an airplane. Maybe it was the time of departure but I figured the whole cabin was kept in a very comfortable temperature and the quiet cabin sure helped too!
I woke up while the flight was somewhere over western Russia. I figured I had a very nice 6+ hour of sleep and I certainly felt refreshed. The purser came by with offers of beverages upon seeing I was awake and I had a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Another cold refreshing towel service was presented.
Juice and fresh towel
The breakfast menu was listed as follow:
A continental service was presented with an array of cutleries and I had croissant and yogurt for starters. There was a choice of jam, nutella or honey for the pastry and toast. I actually asked for a serving of honey to add to my yogurt too.
For the main course, I was asked what would I like to be served with the eggs, and I just requested for everything. The dish was wonderful and the bacon was certainly cooked to perfection! I had a cup of cappuccino to go while having breakfast and of course it is another Nespresso!
Bacon and eggs
After the breakfast was cleared, I asked for another cup of cappuccino since it was just that good! As I do not usually use sugar on my coffee, there is really no harm in one more cup of coffee?
At this time there was less than an hour left remaining into the flight. I took the opportunity to go to the lavatories to change back to my clothes and freshen up before arrival.
En-route to FRA
The locker system sure works out well since nice quality wooden hangers are provided and a personal code can be set to ensure safety of any belongings. Once I changed out of the pyjama, I placed the duty free items I purchased into my hand along with all the goodies from this flight.
Hangers and pyjama
For the rest of the journey, I just relaxed on the seat to listen to some music and enjoy the relaxing ambience of this First Class cabin. A smooth and direct landing into Frankfurt was possible as we were probably one of the earliest flights of the day to land meaning no long holds in the air or any long taxi either before we docked into the gate.
Thank you for flying Lufthansa
As I tried to exit the cabin, I wanted to take a shot of the First Class sign beside the galley but the purser was very sensitive to photos taken in the plane and suggested I take a shot of the now-empty First Class cabin instead. I did inform her of the blog and how these photos try to omit other passengers wherever possible and if she is reading I hope she enjoys the photos as well! Lufthansa has such a nice cabin that it is so sad to not take photos of this beautiful cabin and share it with others.
Lufthansa First Class sign beside the galley
We landed earlier than scheduled and I made my way toward the immigration where initially there was only 2 lanes. Though the photo-taking did slow me down somewhat. Fortunately, there was a lot of passengers that stopped to see their connections. Though there seems to be another jumbo key arriving on the other side of the terminal so the queue became quite long pretty fast. Still my rapid pace of walking meant I moved past the passport control after a 10 minute wait. Then it was off to the cold morning outside to get to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal!
Star Alliance logo on the screen
Thai Royal Orchid
Hong Kong - HKG
Frankfurt - FRA
From the materials used in furnishing the cabin to the professional service by the purser to the Rimowa kit and amenities for First Class passengers, I can see why Lufthansa First Class is so special. Honestly after taking several First Class flights even with top Asian carriers like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, ANA, Asiana and Thai, I have to say Lufthansa is the amongst the top if not the best amongst these carriers. There are certainly things which Lufthansa excels in and personally for me, I just cannot wait to fly upfront with them again. Consider me convinced!
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