Reviews

Review: Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 business class (New York JFK-Frankfurt)

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, September 17 2018
Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 business class (New York JFK-Frankfurt)
Route

New York (JFK) - Frankfurt

Aircraft Type

Boeing 747-8

Airline

Lufthansa

Flight

LH405

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

81A (upper deck, window)

Notes
The Good
  • Fully-flat beds
  • Choice between upper and lower deck
  • Customisable dining to suit your schedule
The Bad
  • Not direct aisle access for all
  • A one-hour flight delay means no arrivals lounge access
X-Factor
  • It's the 'new' Boeing 747
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Perhaps best-described as a cross between a traditional Boeing 747 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Boeing 747-8 is a jumbo jet for the 21st century, combining modern features such as a higher cabin pressure with a lower 'cabin altitude' to help tackle jet lag, while retaining the jumbo's iconic upper deck.

Lufthansa is one of only three airlines in the world to fly the passenger version of the Boeing 747-8 – also with the distinction of being the longest passenger aircraft in the world, and serving as the base for the next Air Force One aircraft – so Australian Business Traveller took the plane for a spin on a recent Lufthansa business class flight from New York to Frankfurt to bring you this review.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: Miles & More. However, through Lufthansa's Star Alliance membership, miles can also be earned in programs better-known among Australian travellers, including the likes of Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, United MileagePlus and others.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x8kg bags up to 118cm each (126cm for foldable garment bags).
  • Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg.
  • Priority airport services: Business class check-in counters provide dedicated queues, but being a premium-heavy airport like New York, lines were long: ditto at security, even with a dedicated business/first class screening lane. Priority boarding and baggage delivery worked better, however.

Lounge

A business class ticket gets you into Lufthansa's business class lounge at JFK, found immediately to your left after clearing security at Terminal 1.

AusBT review: Lufthansa business class lounge, New York JFK

Lufthansa's lounge complex also houses a separate Senator Lounge for Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers and a Wining and Dining room for first class passengers and HON Circle cardholders.

Business and first class passengers arriving into Frankfurt on this Lufthansa flight (and on other long-range routes) can also visit the Lufthansa Welcome Lounge after touching down at Frankfurt Airport...

... but the last admission here is at 12:30pm, and LH405 has a scheduled arrival time of 11:35am, so you'd need to rush through passport control and baggage claim to be in with a chance. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed by over an hour, so the opportunity was missed.

Flight

Lufthansa offers three daily flights between New York and Frankfurt: two from JFK (including an Airbus A380 service), the other from Newark. Lufthansa also flies non-stop to Munich from both airports and runs non-stop Dusseldorf flights from Newark as well.

Flight time between the US east coast and Germany is approximately 7hrs 45mins, although Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8 also appears on flights from Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo to Germany, amid other routes across the US including Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Boston.

Seat

Aboard its Boeing 747-8s, Lufthansa splits business class across both the main and upper decks, with a 2-2-2 layout downstairs as rows 4 to 11/14, and a 2-2 configuration above, oddly numbered as rows 81-88 – so don't be alarmed if your boarding pass sports a high row number: you haven't been downgraded to economy!

While I'd normally gravitate towards one of the centre seats downstairs in a layout like this – because you're guaranteed direct aisle access without anybody stepping over you – I never get tired of being directed "upstairs" at the boarding door, so opted for a window seat on the upper deck.

That choice was also aided by the presence of seat-side storage bins below the windows, as commonly found on Boeing 747-400 flights from Australia by the likes of Qantas and Thai Airways, which double as an extra space to keep drinks, laptops and the like to your side when the lid is closed:

With the seat cushion measuring at 20 inches wide, each business class seat transforms into a fully-flat bed just shy of two metres in length...

... although when you're in a window seat, stepping over your seatmate's bed to access the aisle can be a little difficult:

A fixed foot rest also forms the tail end of each bed, separated from your neighbour only by a small divider, with both passengers' feet angling towards the same place. Some travellers refer to these as "footsie" seats, although I didn't encounter any problems.

The control panel next to you provides quick shortcut keys for the most common seating positions and various controls for further customisation...

... and tucked away inside your headrest, there's an adjustable (and dimmable) reading light, too:

At my bulkhead seat, a literature pocket kept essential papers handy...

... while a fold-up panel within the centre armrest houses another storage area (top right), large enough for items like headphones. This is also where you'll find a USB charging port...

... and if you raise the panel around the front of the same console, you'll uncover your AC power port, too:

Although there's no supplied mattress and pyjamas are a BYO affair, I comfortably slept as much as I was able, being from the end of the supper service until breakfast in the morning, ready for meetings in Frankfurt the same day.

Meal

As you'd expect when flying transatlantic, welcome drinks are served before departure – I opted for the Jacquart Champagne (although would have preferred a flute to drink it from)...

... with snacks and another round of drinks served after take-off – this time, a glass of German 2016 Rheingau Riesling:

With a scheduled departure time of 9:55pm from JFK, supper provides a Mediterranean grilled vegetable salad as an appetiser, and the following choice of mains:

  • Braised beef cheek and grilled lamb chop with gnocchi and broccolini, with Café de Paris sauce
  • Pineapple prawns with yoghurt rice and five spice beetroot
  • Rigatoni with slow-roasted tomato sauce, zucchini and eggplant

Given the time and the delay, I opted for the pasta as the lightest-sounding option, which went well as a mix-and-match with the side salad, even though the presentation was pretty standard:

Dessert follows with a choice between fresh fruit, a homemade chocolate bar and a cheese plate with crackers – I chose the latter...

... with chocolates making an appearance before heading to sleep:

It's unlikely in this case, but if you do decide to stay awake working and would prefer to eat your dinner later in the flight, there's also the option of an 'express service', combining the starter, cheese plate and your choice of dessert at a time that suits you (just without a hot main).

So that you don't miss the next meal, the inflight entertainment system has a handy "please wake me up for meal service" option, which can be enabled before heading to sleep...

... but when breakfast does come, passengers are individually-served when they wake, rather than the 'production line' feel of trolleys going down the aisle and everybody getting food at the same time.

When I woke, my seatmate was almost finished with their meal, although the crew were happy to bring me a just a coffee while I acclimatised to the daylight, and returned later with the full breakfast when I was ready:

This included a selection of fruit, a buckwheat muesli with goji berries and dried apricot, and a chilled plate with smoked turkey breast, beef salami, cottage cheese and cheddar cheese, with a side of juice, tea or coffee, and selections from the bread basket.

To maximise your sleep, there's also the option of a 'last-minute breakfast', pairing a coffee or tea with a sweet pastry, and you'd also normally be able to visit Lufthansa's Welcome Lounge in Frankfurt for a proper breakfast too – when the flight departs on time, of course.

Entertainment & Service

A fixed entertainment screen sits in front of you, and can either be tilted outward at the bulkhead seats...

... or which slides to the side at the other rows, such as for when you're kicking back, to save you viewing at an angle:

There's a range of entertainment content including many titles in English, along with access to live satellite TV with CNNi, Euronews and Sport 24 at your fingertips:

Bose noise-cancelling headsets are supplied for use with the system...

... and given that cabin announcements are made in both German and English, there's one feature of the software I particularly appreciated: being able to 'opt-out' of hearing announcements in that 'other' language, so that there's less disruption to your viewing.

For example, if you're navigating the system in German and an English-language announcement comes over the PA, you can 'exit' that announcement and the system won't disturb you when another English announcement is made – ditto if you're browsing in English and a PA address comes in German:

Service from the crew is friendly and prompt, although our entire row was forgotten when amenity kits were distributed. I just assumed that Lufthansa doesn't offer them on these flights, until I spotted others left throughout the cabin when it was time to disembark, but by that point, didn't want one anyway.

Overall, there's still something special about flying upstairs on a Boeing 747, especially if you're sitting in the very front row which offers more of a 'private jet' feel than your typical business class cabin – rivalled only by British Airways' all-business-class flights from New York to London, which cater for just 32 passengers on the entire flight.

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Frankfurt as a guest of Star Alliance and Lufthansa.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 May 2018

Total posts 5

Chris, any plans to review Korean Air 747-8 Business Class? Flying the -8 is on my bucket list and am undecided between Korean Air and Lufthansa.
Hi Becky, as Korean Air flies to Australia, we'd be much more likely to review its Airbus A380 and Airbus A330 business class before the Boeing 747-8, because Korean's A380s and A330s regularly appear in Australian skies, yet the 747-8 only makes an occasional appearance. The visa requirements for journalists visiting South Korea also make this more difficult than for other countries, but not impossible.

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 151

Lufthansa are pretty good as far as european carriers go but it is absolutely beyond me how they are rated a 'five star' rating by Skytrax. They still fly around most aircraft with Business Class seats with no direct aisle access, their intra-europe short haul Business Class is appalling (it's economy with an upgraded meal and a blocked middle seat) and the Business lounges are nothing to write home about.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2016

Total posts 59

Well they did recently engage Skytrax consulting services which cost a bomb so id imagine theres a pretty strong correlation. Honestly, Skytrax is not trustworthy or accurate at all
THR
THR

20 Sep 2012

Total posts 60

Their Europe business class meets the standard. All airlines do the same.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 76

Big fan of 747-8... special for the LH version... I think the business seat is pretty good and comfortable with very good space to "jump" over your neighbor without compromising his safety... I used to be a big fan of LH service but I have seen a decline in their standards for the past year...

 

Very good review and very accurate...I wish QF have chosen this airplane

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 582

The very fact that you even need to "jump" over anyone makes this a terrible seat in this day and age

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 76

Very good review and very accurate...I wish QF have chosen this airplane

qantas

10 Oct 2013

Total posts 113

OMG emirates needs to adopt the opt out option - would make life so much more pleasant on board

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 76

I'm not sure that is "Big minus" for being 2-2-2 configuration... I prefer this type because is not "claustrophobic" as the BA, NH, JL or narrow as the NZ... I said "jump" but is not really jump when the person next to you is sleeping...you just pass over... but there is room... not like the UA (not the new B-773) or CA that the design is horrible that you barely can pass in front of the person when is in the upright position... is just horrible. Yes.. I like not disturbing anyone but at the end is not that bad...and flying in 747-8 make the life so nice...and smooth flying

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2012

Total posts 126

Don't like at all how the seats angle into each other. Almost non-existent privacy for business class (only rivaled by British Airways). Almost every other decent airline these days has adequate business class privacy with direct aisle access available.
AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 264

Being based in Oz and only flying to Asia and US, European airlines are never a choice I need to make, and im thinking that’s a good thing. Next to the likes of SQ, EK, CX, QF the European airlines remind me of the US ones, average.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Nov 2016

Total posts 89

Absolutely agree. We are spoilt for choice in this part of the world and are very lucky. Flew a lot of Lufthansa, SAS and United many years ago when living in the US and the UK. Service was very average and poor in many instances.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Nov 2016

Total posts 89

Chris love the photo of the plane at the gate. Great picture.

15 Sep 2012

Total posts 86

Can someone please explain to me why airlines want to install seats that are angled towards each other? I can see no benefit to anyone, passenger or staff. How many people have injured themselves because of the seats angle? Surely having seats face forward would allow for more storage areas and be easier to design around.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 109

Because the overall pitch is reduced by about 30cm of overlap. Which means an extra row. Straight forward you get the Thompson seats, but not the XL like Qantas, but the Swiss style staggerd 5 across (1/2/2 then 2/2/1) BUT they still use more footprint per person. Straight ahead 6 across means angle flat

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 46

The best thing about the Upper Deck window seats are the side storage lockers.

Yes, agree about the non-direct aisle access and the annoying leap of faith over your seat mate. Qantas at least has always had a "handle" of sorts where you can hang on for stability. I don't see such a thing in these photos. Is there one hidden in there?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 122

Why on earth would you want to fly on something that has 2x2 seating with no direct aisle access when there are far better direct aisle option Airlines around? I would guess the most likely reason to fly LH is if you are a National resident and support the National Airline.

25 Feb 2017

Total posts 26

Sorry, but with a Daily Singapore Airlines A380 with Great Business Class Solo Seating and Virtually Guaranteed Superior Service FA's . I wont be looking at flying in Last Century Business Class seating.

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