Frankfurt am Main
- beer on tap
- inadequate seating
- awful door staff
- boarding from lounge
There are six Lufthansa Business Lounges in Frankfurt, serving the German airline's own business class passengers.
I recently passed through the one at Gate 16, all the way at the end of the Frankfurt C terminal.
Since this is Lufthansa's main hub, and I was taking a flight on its flagship A380, I was looking forward to trying out the lounge facilities.
Location & Impressions
The A380 gates at the far end (and I mean far: it's a trek that eclipses any other terminal walk I've experienced) of Terminal C each have their own lounge, which boards straight onto the plane.
You'll need to head to the specific gate for your lounge, since there's no access to a larger, shared facility.
Make sure you don't rely on following the arrows, either: they're pretty misleading, since the arrow pointing to the right doesn't mean "turn right" and the arrow pointing up to the stairs doesn't mean "go up the stairs".
In a stunning lack of facilities in this new area of the terminal, there's neither an escalator nor any signs to a lift for business class passengers wheeling a roll-aboard bag to get to the lounge.
After heading up the two flights of stairs with my carry-on bag, I was equally amazed to be greeted by only a grunt and a dismissive wave towards the boarding pass scanner, which is on the far side of the lounge guardian's podium, so invisible to passengers climbing the stairs.
Perhaps Lufthansa's own frequent flyers know the procedure -- and are used to a lounge attendant who simply grunts and waves -- but to my mind that is unacceptable, not least at an airport where partner airline frequent flyers (who may not be familiar with the process) are also found in abundance.
Inside, the lounge itself was small, monotonously grey, and dimly lit with fluorescent lights when I arrived in the evening, with only 36 armchairs in squashed back-to-back rows of two. And this is supposed to be a premium offering for an aircraft that holds 98 business class passengers.
Only half of the armchairs (the window seats) have access to a power point.
If you're the 37th or later passenger to arrive, sorry, it's an uncomfortable plastic bench style seat, along the lines of what you'll find in the Economy waiting area downstairs.
But there are only 50 of those, including the three at the paltry "business area", which is basically three tiny cubicles facing the rest of the room. And none of them have power points.
So the other 12 passengers in the business cabin are relegated to hard plastic chairs by the food service area. None of these have power points either.
At about 90 minutes before boarding, the lounge was essentially full and people were wandering around trying to find somewhere to sit down.
A TV echoing rolling news is stuck in the middle of the lounge, meaning that you'll need to bring your headphones unless you want to know the very latest details about the Kardashians.
Of course, once the lounge fills up, you'll hardly be able to hear it over the hubbub: since the lounge is one open room, there's no soundproofing, and it gets loud.
In the one bright point, boarding gates are contained within the far end of the lounge, which means later boarding, but this isn't a lounge you'll want to maximise your time in.
But for some unknown reason you have to go down two levels on escalators before heading onto the jetway, which felt disjointed.
Anyone departing from Gate 16 in business class gets to use this Business Lounge.
Star Alliance Gold members (and, of course, the airline's own frequent flyers) have access to the Senator Lounge next door, which is a step up on the Lufthansa lounge ladder.
First class passengers -- or Lufthansa's top-tier HON Circle elite members -- head for the separate First Class Terminal and are chauffeured to their plane in a luxury limo or sports car.
There's a good range of drinks on offer, though only rolls and bar snacks if you're hungry. The rolls were fresh and tasty, but it's disappointing not to find a hot food selection in a major lounge.
A German fizz plus two whites and two reds comprised the wine selection, with two draught beers on tap. (Try the Franziskaner Weissbier from Munich -- it's great.)
A couple of bottled lagers were also available, as well as a fountain for soft drinks and juices from concentrate. Espresso-based coffee from a machine was just okay -- nothing to write home about.
All in all, disappointing for a lounge where people may be for hours in transit.
Not having enough chairs where business travellers can sit comfortably with a laptop to await their flight is inexcusable in a business class lounge for an airline's flagship flights at its flagship hub.
There are only three small desks with plugs making up the business area.
I saw numerous people trying to balance a laptop precariously on their knees while sitting on a regular airport departures lounge seat.
Wifi speed was superb when the lounge was virtually empty, at 12 Mbps down and 14Mbps up. No worries for slurping down a movie from iTunes for the flight or sending off the enormous files you've been finishing in the lounge.
But speed dropped significantly when the lounge started to fill up, ending up at around 4Mbps down and up.
This isn't a lounge for relaxing, unless your idea of relaxation happens to be sitting on a plastic seat that you could find in the rest of the terminal.
This lounge is new and specifically aimed at business class passengers on a flagship aircraft (the A380) on a flagship route (to Singapore) at Lufthansa's flagship hub (Frankfurt).
The lounge measured up very poorly indeed to Lufthansa's competitors Emirates, Etihad and Qantas on the route, and even to other Lufthansa Business Lounges -- like the excellent one at Munich, for example.
Overall, it's very disappointing: small, grim, crowded, noisy and under-equipped.