New York (JFK) - Frankfurt
81A (upper deck, window)
- Fully-flat beds
- Choice between upper and lower deck
- Customisable dining to suit your schedule
- Not direct aisle access for all
- A one-hour flight delay means no arrivals lounge access
- It's the 'new' Boeing 747
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.