The airline with the best average rating is LAN Airlines with 7.7/10.
The average flight time is 2 hours and 31 minutes.More information
My family rarely ever celebrates Thanksgiving, so often I take the opportunity to travel abroad. This time, I managed to snag a very nice Star Alliance business-class sale to Madrid. This is the report of the return trip.
You may ask why fly a two-stop instead of one-stop to IAD? Two simple reasons: (1) I can enjoy the EWR Polaris Lounge on the way back, whereas if I ended at IAD I can't use the Polaris Lounge there as an arrival lounge and (2) I can fly in DCA which is so much more convenient for people living in DC itself.
I arrived at the airport around 4:30am–I probably would have cut it a little closer in normal times, but this was a new airport to me and I wasn't sure how long Covid document checks were going to take. At this early hour, the check-in lines for Lufthansa were already packed. Luckily not many passengers waiting in the Business Class/Star Gold line.
I was helped quickly and directed towards the Fast Track lane. Unfortunately, it doesn't open until 6:00am CET, which is not useful for a 6:10am scheduled departure. Surprisingly, the normal security line didn't take too long despite the intimidating-seeming queue. The security officer even said I could keep my shoes on after taking a look at them.
One odd thing about how my flight worked that day was that even though Lufthansa check-in was at Terminal 1, it seemed that I had to go to T2 for my gate.
Turn left right after the security lines to start your walk to the proper gate.
The VIP Lounge Puerta de Alcala was very close to gates D62 and D64. It opens at 5:00am.
There is a small set of elevators that takes you up.
Once upstairs, there was a queue to get in–just like Centurion Lounges back in the US!
Check-in was handled by two friendly agents. You can gain access to this lounge either through Priority Pass or flying business class on one of the carriers contracting with the lounge.
The lounge is one very long room.
To your immediate left upon entering is a separate seating area. Turn right to enter the main room of the lounge. After passing by the buffet to your right (currently staff-served), there is a business room (with no computers or printers that I could see) and a children's room at the very end. Restrooms can be found to the left of the buffet area.
There was a nice selection of drinks and sandwiches that are self-serve. Otherwise, you can ask the staff to bring you any number of baked goods or coffee. Wines and liquor are also available if you ask–but I wasn't quite in the mood yet.
I got myself a bottle of orange juice and a cappuccino. The line didn't move all that fast (there were only 2 staff helping everyone), so I didn't actually have much time to enjoy the coffee before it about time to leave for the gate.
Boarding was supposed to begin at 5:40am and I arrived at the gate 5:32am. The queue was already very long at this point. This is a look at the business class line (on the right): it's clear I'm not going to get an unobstructed cabin shot on this flight.
My flight to Frankfurt was on D-AIEF, a one-year old Airbus A321neo.
The gate agent announced boarding right at 5:40am, but didn't actually start boarding anyone until 12 minutes later. The gate agents did actually enforce priority boarding for once; 3 passengers were sent back after they tried to board with business class/Star Gold.
Lufthansa has the standard European J, where it is just economy seats with the middle seat blocked off. I wasn't able to get an unobstructed cabin shot given when I boarded, but luckily European J looks all the same. On this flight, Lufthansa had 11 rows of business class–making for a decently large-sized business cabin.
I was seated in 3A, the portside window seat. The only features of note are the overhead air nozzles and two cupholder indentions on the tray table. Power outlets are found below the seats in front.
We were parked next to a Lufthansa A-320-200 headed to Munich later in that morning.
Boarding ended at 6:19am and the captain announced that we were just waiting for de-icing to finish. We pushed back at 6:24am (14 minutes after the 6:10am scheduled departure time). After taxing what seemed like forever as I dozed in and out of sleep, we took off at 6:47am.
Service began quickly at 7:04am. I must note that the Lufthansa crew on this flight was especially cheery and enthusiastic. Here's a look at the onboard menu.
I asked for a cup of coffee to start.
Meal service began around 15 minutes after the start of beverage service. Breakfast was a choice of bircher muesli or an omelette. Neither options sounded particularly appetizing at the moment. I was still fairly stuffed from my meal the previous evening (that ended past midnight), so I just asked for a single croissant from the bread basket to nibble on. The flight attendant was rather concerned and asked me a few times if I was sure I didn't want breakfast.
I also asked for a glass of water and then promptly passed out (I had slept maybe 3 hours previously).
We began our descent at 8:18am and landed approximately 38 minutes later at 8:56am.
My favorite part about Frankfurt is all the Lufthansa 747s. I can never get enough of seeing these birds.
I thought all of Lufthansa's A340s were in Munich?
We arrived at Gate A1 at 9:05 and the jet bridge was connected a minute later. Overall, it turned out to be not too much of a delay.
After we deplaned, I managed to snag a clearer shot of our A321neo.
From then, it was off to the document checks, which took forever. More on that in the next installment.
Lounge: The VIP Lounge Puerta de Alcala was a passable lounge for a quick stay this early in the morning. I also believe it is the only option before 7am. The staff were friendly and the lounge provided the key aspects for an early morning departure: comfortable seats and coffee.
Cabin & Seat: There's not much to say about the standard European J class. I always find it a bit hard to rate them because this is what all the carriers do (unless you get lucky with a widebody swapped on or some sort of specialized route).
Service: The crew was particularly cheery and friendly. I wish I had them on a flight where was more awake.
Meal & Catering: Judging by the others who opted for breakfast, the muesli or omelette trays seemed fine, but nothing spectacular. The croissants were warm (as the rest of the bread basket I assume).
Bottom Line: This is the only connection that would allow me to catch my UA flight back to the US, so it's not like I had much choice. That said, Lufthansa has a decent intra-European J: nothing that stands out and nothing that is bad.