Ladies and gentlemen, a very warm welcome to part 2 of this series, covering my first return home to the United States since January 2020! As you may recall from the previous installment, I was supposed to cross the pond aboard a Turkish Airlines 787-9 from Istanbul to San Francisco. Unfortunately, after the A321 that was meant to fly me from Sofia to Istanbul suffered a flat tire, those plans had to be scrapped, and I was rebooked to Seattle via Frankfurt on Lufthansa. While disappointed to miss out on Turkish Airlines, I was still excited, as I would be able to experience Lufthansa's (admittedly subpar) "updated" Business Class on the A350.
I'm also kind of happy that I ended up being routed through Frankfurt on Lufthansa, because I could finally publish a report on LH's FRA-SEA route in Business Class. Those of you who have read my previous reports may remember that I flew FRA-SEA in August 2018 in J onboard Lufthansa's 747-400, but I lost the photos from that flight because my hard drive broke, and therefore couldn't write a report. Almost 3 years later, I was given a second chance 😆
This trip consisted of 6 flights on 3 different airlines. All flights were flown on different aircraft types. Additionally, I'd be passing through 7 airports on that trip, all of which I had previously been to.
As with my last trip to the US, I'll reveal the routing as the trip progresses, to keep you all in suspense. Here's where we are at part 2:
I booked my TK itinerary for 77k United Miles, and naturally there was no fare difference to change to the LH routing.
After arriving at a remote stand, passengers on my flight from Sofia were driven to the terminal in a bus without much social distancing.
As Bulgaria is not a Schengen state, I didn't have to clear security or passport control prior to my connecting flight to the United States. After following signs to the Z Gates, I found myself just past the main security checkpoint, and just in front of the main duty-free area.
The duty-free area wasn't massive, and soon enough my dad and I found ourselves in the Z Gates…
…and right in front of the Lufthansa Lounge. There was quite a line to get in, as their computers were down. Also, a proof of vaccination or a Covid test (at most 48 hours old) were required to enter the lounge.
The sole lounge dragon was very apologetic about the line (which actually moved pretty quickly) and informed us that only the Senator Lounge was in use. I would have thought that the Business Lounge was larger and would therefore be the only one in use, but I was off. The lounge was not as crowded as I expected to be, though.
We found a table right by the window.
Unfortunately, while Frankfurt Airport is generally a fantastic airport for planespotting, the Lufthansa Senator Lounge is not, thanks to the dumb lines along the window. Seriously, whose brilliant idea was that?!
I didn't eat anything at the lounge, not because I didn't want to, but because the choices were awful. If I recall correctly, all that was on offer were some pre-packaged sandwiches and pretzels. I didn't mind, though, as I was sure I'd have a nice hearty meal on board.
Instead of eating, I decided to refresh myself by taking a shower. The shower area was empty, and I was offered one right away.
The shower was wonderful - especially thanks to the rain shower head mounted to the ceiling (I foolishly forgot to point my camera upwards, but the shower head was truly spectacular).
The shower room also included a large sink and a hairdryer.
Thanks to the shower, I felt rejuvenated and ready for my 10-hour flight across the pond! Before it was time to head to the gate, I did a lap around the lounge to survey the premises. It was nice to be back in the Lufthansa Lounge again after such a long hiatus.
Of course, my favorite part of the lounge is the large 747-8i model. I wonder how much it costs?
20 minutes prior to boarding we headed to the gate. Our gate, Z15, is one of the closest to the lounge, but the dreaded SSSS was printed on my boarding pass, so I decided to play it safe and get to the gate early.
My special security check took all of 3 minutes, so I wandered around the pier for a bit before it was time to board.
Unfortunately, Z15 didn't offer any good views of the sexy A350 that would fly me to Seattle. My ride was D-AIXM, named 'Schwerin'. She was delivered new to Lufthansa in March 2019, making her 2.4-years-old at the time of my flight. Sporting the stylish new livery, X-Ray-Mike is also equipped with the new, larger A350 sharklets. Awesome!!
As soon as boarding was called, I forced myself really hard not to sprint down the jetbridge. I was beaming from ear-to-ear under my mask: after 570 days, it was finally time to fly longhaul again! 😁
A look at the forward section of the fuselage.
There was one junior flight attendant at door 1L greeting passengers, and he pointed me toward my seat, 4K.
While the cabin has nice finishes, it's hard to believe that this is the business class of a 5-star airline on their newest aircraft type in 2021. Luckily for me, the aisle seat remained empty. My dad, seated in row 1, also scored an empty seat next to him.
While the A350 seat is slightly updated from Lufthansa's other aircraft, the only noticeable change is the enlargement of the PTV.
Underneath the monitor is the literature pocket, which only consisted of the safety instructions card…
…and below that is a little compartment which housed the amenity kit (which I'll take a closer look at later on) and a bottle of water.
The headrest moves up and down and features a small reading light.
To the right of the seat is the headphone compartment (which was pretty gross - it and the headphones were in the same state that Josh Cahill found them to be in). I expected better from Lufthansa.
On the side of the seat is the life vest.
Seat controls. They were quite sensitive, and due to their location I did inadvertently move my seat a couple of times.
Under the arm rest are the tray table…
…and the remote control for the entertainment system.
As stated above, the monitor is quite big and adjustable, which I liked.
The entertainment selection was very expansive, too. You can see the entire list of programs here.
Lufthansa's A350 offer my favorite type of airshow.
But of course, I settled on watching the cameras while on the ground.
Unfortunately, the tailcam was fogged up.
Modern A350 PSU.
The load in the forward Business Class cabin was fairly light, and once most passengers were settled in the crew passed out menus and sanitizing wipes, while sincerely welcoming us aboard. The two flight attendants working my aisle - the male purser, and a woman, both in their late 50ies - were top-notch. Professional, kind, and not overly attentive. It's interesting to note that the entire crew was Munich-based. Lufthansa only based A350s in Frankfurt due to the pandemic, and no FRA-based crews are rated on the A350.
The menu consisted of 1 page of food options…
…and 6 pages of drinks.
Right around our scheduled time of departure, the doors were closed, and Captain Dagmar made her welcome announcement, indicating a flight time of 9h40m.
With the jetbridges disconnected, the safety video started to play, and we pushed back.
Taxiing to the runway past a Lufthansa A320neo…
…and a United 787 and Lufthansa A350. See you on the other side of the pond, United!
Nearing our takeoff position.
Hearing the spool-up of an A350 in front of the wing for the first time was such a treat!!
Rotate. So long, Europe!
Gotta love the size of Frankfurt Airport… still visible after 1.5 minutes in the air.
Cabin during the climbout.
Takeoff video. Enjoy the sound of those RR Trents!
Passing the Lucius D. Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden.
In the clouds.
As we were climbing out through the clouds, I took the time to inspect the contents of the amenity kit.
It included socks and a sleep mask; a mint; a toothbrush with toothpaste; earplugs; and some L'Occitane products. Pretty much all you need for a longhaul flight.
At that point I pulled out the headsets to start entertaining myself. As I mentioned above, they were a bit dirty, and I even found some hairs on it, which was kind of disgusting. The headsets themselves were of very good quality and noise-cancelling. Since the last time I flew LH J, they have switched from Bose to AKG.
As the service was about to begin, we got hit with some moderate turbulence, causing the captain to turn on the seatbelt sign again for a few minutes.
At that point, we were already at our cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, passing the West Frisian Islands.
The turbulence lasted for around 10 minutes, and soon enough the service began, first with mixed nuts and beverages. As it was my first time heading home since the pandemic, champagne was an obvious choice.
The service commenced as we were east of northern Scotland.
It didn't take long for my tray to show up. I was a bit disappointed that the appetizer and main were served on one tray, but of course in these times I was still happy to have a full meal on board.
The meal was served with bread, including a warm roll and a slice of whole grain bread.
The appetizer was a wonderfully tasty burrata with tomatoes, salad, and pesto. It was excellent and definitely the highlight of all the (non-sweet) food served on board.
After the success of the appetizer, I was a bit underwhelmed when I open the main course. The ravioli was a bit overcooked and the presentation left a bit to be desired. But it was edible, and I managed to finish it.
Next up came the dessert course. I wasn't sure what to order, so the purser brought me both. I appreciated that, and also the fact that they were brought out by hand and laid directly on to the tablecloth. A touch of the good old times 😉
The cheese was good, but the ice cream was outstanding - layered with chocolate chips, chocolate ice cream, and cherry cream. Enough to make a certain Flight-Reporter with a sweet tooth very happy.
The service was very well paced, and concluded as we northeast of Iceland.
A look at the cabin as the purser was finishing up the service. While mostly working my aisle, he was also actively interacting with passengers on the other side, too.
After I finished watching The Monuments Men, I paid a visit to the bathroom, which was spotlessly clean.
When I returned to my seat, I found a pack of 2 cookies waiting for me.
Still tired from my early morning wake up in Sofia, I made my bed and decided to get some shut eye.
I was happy to discover the glasses' holder above the ottoman.
Now that's what I call a bed with a view! 🤩
I managed to sleep remarkably well and woke up around 3 hours later, as we were over Nunavut.
The views outside were stunning.
After I emerged from bed, I walked back to the galley to grab some more sweets.
For my second movie, I decided on the always-entertaining Ocean's Eleven.
Cabin during the cruise.
Making our way south over Canada.
As we neared the US border and Ocean's Eleven ended, I watched an interesting show about modern apartments near Munich.
Once we were over British Columbia, the crew served the pre-arrival meal.
The tray was very bland, the fruit was stale, and the pretzel was hard as a rock.
The main course was fine, but I wasn't a fan of the vegetables under the ravioli. My dad, on the other hand, had the cold main course, which he said was phenomenal.
Once I finished eating, I started to gather my things from my seat and pack them into my bag…
…who had a great flight, having had an entire overhead bin all to himself 🙈
As we neared American airspace, Senior First Officer Timo gave us an update on our progress, stating that we'd be on the ground 10 minutes early and that lovely weather would be awaiting us in Seattle. At the same time, I was sad to see so many forest fires out the window.
Entering American airspace over Ross Lake.
A look at the tailcam over the North Cascades.
Puget Sound in the distance, with Whidbey and Camano Islands in the center of the photo, while the San Juan Islands are visible towards the right of the photo.
Slowing down, with Mt. Baker under our mighty sharklet.
A picture that I'd been waiting for a loooong time to take: King County, WA, with Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula in the background. While New York may be my home state, I lived in Western Washington state for 7 years until I moved to Europe, so it certainly feels like home to me! 🥰
Downtown Seattle in the center-left of the photo, and Downtown Bellevue in the bottom right.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where in a few minutes our lovely flight would come to an end.
A stunning view of Mt. Rainier from the tailcam.
Overflying Lake Tapps, an artificial lake/reservoir in Pierce County.
On final, with Rainier peer out from behind the haze.
Over the airport.
Firm touchdown on Runway 34L at 12:20 PM, 10 minutes early, after a flight time of 9 hours and 32 minutes. Runway 34L/16R, SEA's shortest runway, is usually only used by narrowbodies, but as Runway 34C/16C was closed, we landed on Runway 34L.
Hello again SeaTac, it's been a minute 🥺😁
Pulling into gate S15, Lufthansa's usual gate in Seattle, next to a Korean Air A330-300.
Parting shots with the cabin while waiting to deboard. I'm glad that the seat next to me remained empty, or else it probably would have been a much less enjoyable flight.
We departed Frankfurt via the BIBTI 3F departure and left Europe by passed the Ruhr Region and the north shore of the Netherlands, then flew a pretty direct routing towards Seattle. Our initial cruising altitude was 38,000 feet, and we cruised at all altitudes until and including 41,000 feet.
Immigration in the old arrivals facility was pretty quick, and I did get a bit emotional when the CBP agent said "welcome home". What an amazing feeling it was to finally be back in my homeland after 18 months. Thanks so much for reading this report, I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope to see you again in a few days for the next installment! ✈️
While the soft product was fine, Lufthansa's biggest weakness is undoubtedly their subpar Business Class seat.
+ Superb crew
+ Great entertainment options
± Well suited menu, tasty appetizer and dessert, but otherwise average food
- Dirty, outdated seat
Naturally, my experience wasn't anything close to what I would have experienced on Turkish Airlines, but I did still enjoy my flight. In the future, though, I would try to avoid redeeming miles for Lufthansa Business Class, as considering what other airlines offer for the same amount of miles, it's not worth it. I can't wait to try out their new Business Class when it rolls out, as I'm sure that the overall experience would then be much, much better.