I finally found the time to translate this report. It covers a flight from Frankfurt to Buenos Aires in the very special First that Lufthansa equipped its B747-400 with. We were lucky enough to get two award seats on that plane during the holiday season.
On the ground
I loved this flight. It may not be the best one I experienced, but this cabin has really something special to it, and time flew by so quickly even for a 14 hours flight. And yet, things didn't start right, with an average flight (European Business Class) from Paris to Frankfurt, where nobody could arrange a transfer to the First Class Terminal. We so had to walk outside by the taxis parking lot to reach it.
The dragon was far from being welcoming, seeing us emerging from the parking lot (but there's actually no better way if you don't come by taxi). But after checking that we were indeed F pax, she changed to a better face and took us through a dedicated screening area and in were in the lounge in no time.
She quickly introduced the space and invited us to place our luggage and coat in a wardrobe located in the middle of the lounge. Not only I was surprised that there were nobody to take care of it, but I found it unaesthetic to have it there by everybody's view.
Then, the hostess took us to a table and introduced us to a waitress in Do&Co livery. She then left with our passports and boarding-passes, promising to return them promptly when all the administrative routines are done.
The waitress then inquires for our orders but she hardly speaks English. My German is quite rusty but still better, and gets us two glasses of Pommery Apanage rosé.
Not only the waitress doesn't speak English, but she's also not attentive to details (is it details here ?) as she will be coming three times (order, water service, Champagne service) to our table without seeing that it's in need of being swept and cleaned. Same attention should have brought the hostess to offer us another table.
We had booked 83 H & C (the configuration of this plane is 1-1, so it takes a row to have two neighboring seats) but the hostess comes back with new boarding passes : seat 81C. She explains how sorry she is, but seat 83C has been marked as broken and blocked, and 81C is the only one remaining. She apologized a lot for that, but I think she should have taken action instead of just apologizing : 81C being free, it's right to think that 81H is traveling by itself. So instead of splitting a couple and annoying a lone traveler, it would have been better to change this passenger to 83H (providing him privacy next to the blocked seat) and changing us to 81 C & H together.
But of course that would have been extra work, and you must start sensing that the staff of the FCT is surprisingly very lenient to help.
While the staff is not up to the standard, the bar offering definitely is with a huge selection of whiskies and cognacs that can be sipped in a glass-enclosed cigar lounge for the amateurs.
I walk through the different spaces (the whole lounge is quite small but there is nevertheless enough space as there are very few passengers at that time) and keep noting disappointing details, like this blanket that has been lying around (while one was missing next chair) all the time we were there. Also the chairs are facing a view with no interest (shuttle buses for employees).
All this is not very important but doesn't seem right in the flagship lounge of a company.
Same for the magazines which have been placed backwards, making it awkward to browse the selection. It seems that the staff has been again put very little effort into that and that management hasn't bothered. But I do, especially in a First class lounge.
I also checked the bathrooms which are nice and clean, but I noticed the caps removed from the creams, preventing their removal from the bathroom. That's pretty cheap.
Other zones are working and sleeping ones. They look nice but both are dark, masking that they are in dire needs of dusting…
So all in all, all the spaces looked nice but with a terribly poor attention to details. Beside the bar selection, the spaces are just the ones of an average business class lounge.
On the other hand, I was pretty impressed by the selection, not only at the bar as I previously mentioned, but also on the tables. There is a choice between table service or buffet style, but selection will be the same. There is nothing too impressive on the card but every single ingredient I tasted proved to be excellent ; the sourcing seems very selective.
What is baffling is the mix of savors. Cakes and desserts are presented amid mains or chocolate sauce is offered with appetizers. It's just like you could reinvent yourself the esoteric mix of sweet and sour that makes LH signature in the air ;)
The only criticism I would make on the buffets is the hot dishes presentation that really reminds my of BA Galleries (so J) lounges.
I only fell for a quick bite as I wanted to enjoy the full menu on-board. But everything I tasted was great quality.
But our gustation is short-lived when our hostess comes back to us. We were expecting her as she informed us that she would come to pick us up, and boarding is about to begin.
But what is not our surprise when she arrives at our table, seizes our boarding passes and passports (left on the table) without our authorization and confiscates my friend's boarding pass (the one now on 81C). She then explains that the First class cabin is finally full, and they have to seat someone on the blocked seat. As we pre-booked this seat, it makes sense (to her) that we should have it.
She again pretends to be sorry but does nothing. She promises a compensation but can't name it : we have to go and see the flight manager, at the boarding gate. We start protesting but she abruptly interrupts us : We have no time, we are boarding the plane. Either you take this seat, or you are downgraded to Business Class.
I am in shock. Her lack of politeness, in both the choice of words and the manners, is just unbelievable.
We have no choice ; we take our bags, our jackets and follow her downstairs where a last passport check is done by an official policeman and we are then escorted to a chauffeur driven limo, waiting outside at the gate.
We soon arrive at the gate after a pleasant drive. But the chauffeur has no umbrella with him and it's raining : we are wet in no time. But wet for wet, I take the time to make a few shots of our plane :)
As instructed, we are not heading to the plane but to the gate, to meet the flight manager. It's the first time I actually see a gate from this side, while boarding is on.
The flight manager will let us wait for very long, making his phone calls and pretending not to see us. Finally, when boarding is about to be completed and seeing that we are still standing, he will pretend to notice us. - May I help ? - Yes, we have been re-sitted on a broken seat, and the lounge manager has instructed us to meet you for the details of compensation. - Oh that's you ? Well ok. In the name of Lufthansa, I am very sorry for this. Please board now. - Humm…Well. And what about the compensation ? - Oh I can do nothing for you, just write to customer relations.
I tried to be as quiet as possible, but I just can't believe his arrogance and start raising my voice.
But the boarding is now complete and the main cabin purser comes to inquire why we are missing. She exchanges some quick words in German with the flight manager and she promises to find a compensation on-board (just as the lounge promises us that the flight manger would do…)
The First and Business class jetbridge has already been removed, so we are embarking with the very last Economy passengers.
In the air
At this moment, Lufthansa is for me the worst company ever : a bunch of incompetents (they have totally failed the management of this broken seat), thieves in the proper sense (they have taken our passports and original boarding passes without our consent) and arrogant liars (everyone promising the other one will do something, to get rid of the problem).
Just imagine how you would feel. You foresee a luxury moment in First Class and all you got are deceptions. You know you will be flying 14 hours on a broken seat, and nobody cares. The stress of the airport has tensed you, and what you expected to be a great flight seems to be a nightmare.
So imagine how I felt at this moment. Carrying my suitcase in the stairs leading to the upper cabin, sweating from this final rush, and boiling inside.
I find a place for my suitcase in a closet at the top of the stairs, promising myself it's the last time ever I put a foot in a Lufthansa plane, I turn to the cabin and then……..WOW !
As soon as I step into the cabin, I am overwhelmed by a sense of peace and tranquil luxury. The adrenaline goes down and I instantly feel how good this flight will be.
I arrive at my seat and anxiously try to find what is broken, but everything seems right. And everything seems comfortable, with a real bed, beside the chair. This is a real suite…it's not just a name : it's a suite with separate bedroom.
The crew (two ladies for 8 seats) quickly come offering Champagne (Pommery Cuvée Louise 1999) as welcome drink. They are smiling and welcoming and make an immediate difference with all the arrogant, nasty people I encountered on the ground.
The welcome drink comes with nuts, which are delicious, but on a paper towel. It's no big deal, but again every aspect counts in a First class cabin.
Following the drinks, a FA offers an amenity kit (in a small Rimowa suitcase, available for men or women) and pajamas (available in three different sizes).
The mini-suitcase is cute, but its content is minimal and very cheap. There is no body lotion but it's available in the lavatories.
For the entertainment, a Bose Quietcomfort headset is available. Mine has a slightly damaged cord but still is perfectly working. I have checked everything on the seat : I don't find what's wrong and why it could have been blocked ? Talking about entertainment, Internet is available on this flight (and complimentary in First).
We start moving and a safety video is played on the screen.
I sink into the chair to watch it, and then discovers what was wrong : the arm of the seat is broken inside (below the leather). It is a bit uncomfortable when resting my left elbow, but it's really nothing compared to all the (now useless) fuss they made about it…
Engines are roaring…let's go for 14 hours of air bliss :)
The two flight attendants will split work during the service : one will stay in the galley to set up everything, and one will be in charge of the service for the whole cabin (easily manageable with only 8 passengers and just one aisle).
Menu is handed right after the FA are unbuckled, although it's a dine-on-demand service (but everybody will have dinner at the beginning of the flight).
I find a comfortable position for dinner. The seat comfort is excellent ; of course it's not reclining to a full-bed position as…there is an actual bed beside it ^^
Champagne on this flight is Louise (I would have preferred the Krug but LH loads either one or the other, not both on flights).
Easy going wine card : nothing spectacular but it should accommodate most palates.
Lots of spiel for nothing, like the off the beaten track paragraph which introduces a Chilean wine as a German rarity…
The food doesn't sound as esoteric as usual, but I would still be cautious with veal cheek and pears or scallops and yogurt…
Our FA will hands out hot towels while taking the orders for the first and main courses.
Then, she sets up a small bar (but for service use) in the middle of the cabin. At that time, the cabin crew purser appears in First class and have a few words with each customer.
She will spend extra time with us and show genuine care. Actually, she openly criticized her colleagues from the ground who, from her own words, too often get rid of the problems, leaving the cabin crew deal with the angry passengers inside the plane, where there is no escape possible..
More Champagne and amuse-bouche (crayfish, good but not tremendous).
Tables are then set up from a cart (it will be used again to display selections of appetizers, cheese or desserts).
All glassware, china and cutlery bear the company logo. Even the butter has been marked :)
For the first course, I tried both the scallops (which were actually excellent) and the caviar (served with elegance, but the box is unnamed and the menu doesn't provide the information either. So I can't tell you what's its origin).
I start eating while we fly over Spain. The internet connection is actually very good.
Turbot with artichokes and brown butter
I didn't expect this dish to be the esoteric one from the description, but I was trapped. It's inedible. Plus the plate is dirty (and it's dry, it's not a spot from the galley).
And when they say and brown butter, they mean butter !
My friend took the goose, following the advice of the cabin purser. It's just as bad, and served with a weird cabbage confit.
To finish, both cheeses and desserts are offered at the same time. I understand that some people may now want to go to sleep and it speeds up a bit the service. Space is not lacking in this configuration anyway.
I often skip dessert, so I just requested cheese (with a very good Spanish brandy) when my friend tried the panacotta, which was excellent.
So the dinner was contrasted : excellent service and average wines and tasty appetizers but bad mains ! Anyway, it's time for a good sleep and we walk away from the dining room toward the bedroom ;)
Mattress, pillows and comforter are equally great. I fall asleep in minutes…
…to wake up 9 hours later after just a perfect night !
And it's just magical to wake up at 40.000 feet with a fresh orange juice by your bed :)
I stay in bed a few more minutes but the lights are switched on and the breakfast service starts being served. So I move back to the seat.
It's great to have both a seat and a bed : not only for your comfort, but you can also leave all the stuff on the bed and have a clear seat.
I can't believe there's not even 2 hours left. It seems we have just departed from FRA !
An espresso to refuel, and then some croissants and a quick email check.
The cold breakfast offering (shrimps, salmon, cold-cuts, cheese, muesli, fruits…) is displayed on the cart and will be offered twice before the warm choice arrives.
In my case, scrambled eggs (excellent !) and bacon. It's delicious, but how could it be bad with such a view :) ?
I finish with the fruits, and the purser seemed to have been waiting for the end of the service to come back to us for the promised compensation.
She can only offer 8000 miles per person (these miles come in vouchers of 2000 and she has only 8 of them on-board) but she will add two bottles of Champagne as a gesture, which is greatly appreciated as we will be celebrating New Year's eve in Buenos Aires.
Only 45 minutes left : it's time to pack everything up and prepare for landing. Custom forms are handed out and Internet has been switched off for arrival.
Two last shots of the cabin before landing.
In terms of schedule, the flight is great (leaving Germany in the evening and arriving in Argentina in the morning after a long night : perfect against jetlag).
And we land on-time, next to a local A340.
We have to leave the aircraft by the stairs but the flow of business passengers downstairs makes it uneasy. It would have been complicated to hold them until the First class is out, as there are only 8 seats on the upper level.
Welcome to Buenos Aires !
Lufthansa - First Class
Frankfurt - FRA
Buenos Aires - EZE
This first class cabin is exceptional thanks to its seat and bed configuration, that truly makes it a suite configuration. It's also complimented by an excellent crew.
But as I said in introduction, I cannot rank this flight among my best ones for two reasons : - The catering lacks of prestige (for a First class) and is simply not tasty. - Everything on the ground was a disaster.
Without a broken seat, I would not have gone through all the troubles on the ground. But still, the First Class Terminal as it is, was a big disappointment : dirty, incompetent staff (manners and language) and inaccessible. It seems to have been built only for locals coming by taxi and speaking German. It's a pity for a flagship lounge.
Nevertheless, I would be happy to fly their B744 again if an opportunity arises :)
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