Frankfurt am Main
- draught beer
- outsourced door staff
- paltry catering
- miserable ambience
- private work cubicles
Lufthansa's Frankfurt hub is a mammoth operation, with seven business class lounges (and more for first class and higher tier frequent flyers) spread across the seemingly endless piers of Germany's largest airport.
Last year, I was stunned by the poor offering at Lufthansa's flagship A380 gate C16 Business Lounge, which is specifically for boarding Lufthansa's big international jets, so I was keen to see whether a more central lounge was any better in terms of seating, facilities and catering.
So, on a flight from Frankfurt to London departing from gate B22, I headed along to the gate B24 lounge to report back on what's available.
Location & Impressions
You arrive at the lounge next to gate B24 after wending your way through the airport. I left the airport Hilton hotel at midday and it took 45 minutes to get through the airport into the lounge -- and I'm a fast walker. Frankfurt, remember, is an airport where you need to wear sensible shoes.
(You'll also have to pass through the very smoky part of the pier outside the smoking booths in Frankfurt. Since the smoking booths don't have adequate ventilation, the entire thoroughfare reeks of smoke.)
The lounge is up a spiral staircase (only Lufthansa's first class lounges are graced with the opportunity of an escalator), but before you're allowed to ascend you have to pass by the bouncer.
Yes, the bouncer -- instead of a Lufthansa staffer at the desk, you get a goon from security company Securicor, best known for their Australian prisons and European pub-and-club "you're not coming in with those shoes" door staff. You probably won't be surprised to learn that their English and customer services skills aren't up to snuff, and I had to resort to speaking to the bouncer in German.
(These Securicor bouncers also perform perfunctory passport checks at the boarding gates. As a result, I actually interacted with more of these outsourced Securicor staff than Lufthansa people at the airport, which seems bizarre.)
The lounge is essentially in a donut shape, with the centre of the donut being a mix of light buffet offerings and private booths for using your mobile phone.
Around the outside of the donut is the main seating space, which varies from laptop perches and a few desk chairs on the far right, through an armchair area, to a dining space with small round tables and plastic chairs.
I'd call the decor "depressingly corporate": would you like it in light grey, dark grey or medium grey? It's in fairly poor nick too, with the door to the loos half-chipped, fittings unloved and spills left uncleaned.
There's no real view out either, despite floor to ceiling windows, which let in some light but are immediately faced by an external corridor. You can peer through the double-smoked glass at the runway, but you might not see all that much.
This is the lounge you get when flying business class on Lufthansa or other Star Alliance airlines. You can also be a Lufthansa Miles&More member with Frequent Traveller-level status.
Star Alliance first class passengers, Lufthansa Miles&More Senator-level members, and Star Alliance Gold cardholders get the slightly better Senator Lounge.
Lufthansa or Swiss First Class passengers and Miles&More top-tier HON Circle members get into the First Class Lounge.
Food options are paltry -- pick up something from a kiosk or restaurant in the terminal, since there's no hot food (well, there's clear beef soup...) and only a couple of salad options.
I passed through the lounge at lunchtime, and the most substantial offering was an open-faced mystery meat sandwich, with other options being grated carrots, two types of spreadable herb cheese, two kinds of pickles and a sugary cabbage salad.
There's also a range of pastries and fruit, plus promotional offers of strawberries and little sealed cups of chilled coffee.
Wine, too, is firmly second-rate. Instead of champagne or a decent sparkling wine they serve a German Sekt fizz. (Compare this with the decent Taittinger offered by British Airways, or even the very drinkable Italian Prosecco in Cathay's Heathrow lounge.)
I tried a sip of both whites and one of the reds, and was disappointed. I quite liked the Blauer Portugieser (despite the name, a German varietal), though, which was characteristically light and drinkable.
There are a few decent spaces to get some work done. The first is to the right as you enter, with desks and laptop perches for a quick stop-in.
Another good option: the comfortable armchairs are the right height for using laptops, and some even have thicker arms that are helpful to rest a smaller portable on when reading.
My favourite, though, are the small rooms set up for private phone conversations, but which work equally well for a bit of head-down, undisturbed typing if that's what you need. There's a large L-shaped desk, two power points and a door that closes: transfer passenger bliss.
The lounge's wifi network is "tmobile" -- no "Lufthansa" to let you know this is the one to use. The signup page is in German, so you want to tick the box that you akzeptiere the Nutzungsbedingungen to get online.
The speed was reasonable: I hit 6Mbps down and 1Mbps up.
However, there's a slight lack of power points near the more comfortable armchairs, so pick your spot wisely.
If you need to freshen up in transit, showers are available (they're a bit dim and dingy, though, like the rest of the bathroom area).
But there's no real place to put your feet up if you have a long layover or your plane is delayed.
The Business Lounge is a no-announcements zone, so the staff tell you to watch the display monitors for boarding information. That would be fine if there were more monitors and if they didn't show your flight "boarding" before it actually was.
This is one of Lufthansa's prime offerings for the business traveller at its main hub, where the airline hopes you'll transit after forking out for a long business class flight to or from Australia via Asia.
The sole redeeming feature is the handful of individual work rooms, which are great for the transiting passenger.
But in every other respect, Lufthansa's Business Lounge is firmly sub-par compared with just about any competitor's business class lounge -- or, indeed, at just about any other European hub airport, including Lufthansa's other main base at Munich.
The reporter was a guest of Lufthansa.