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However, my expectation levels were tempered a little. It’s a great problem to have, but one of the issues with the Middle Eastern 3 of Etihad, Emirates and Qatar ramping up service levels while slashing prices is that flying in premium cabins with anyone else can just seem a little underwhelming.
I am sorry to say that British Airways all-too-often falls into that category. As this review will attest, it seems that while it continues to provide a perfectly adequate product, German flag carrier Lufthansa is also beginning to fall behind the market leaders when it comes to the quality of its Business Class product.
How did I secure this Business Class flight?
First up, it’s worth me flagging that I flew Business Class return from Malta (via Munich going out, Frankfurt on the return) to Chicago for just 55,000 Miles&More miles plus around €400, by virtue of Lufthansa’s excellent monthly Mileage Bargains. I absolutely love Mileage Bargains – it’s a great way to get excellent value Business Class travel, a great use of your Lufthansa miles, and InsideeFlyer even went so far as to include it in its “Top 10 Insider Travel Tips”.
So how was it?
First up, despite the slightly negative tone of my introduction, the flight was perfectly adequate. I am going to focus principally on the return long-haul flight (Chicago to Frankfurt) for this review, which was on a Boeing 747-8, the latest incarnation of the classic jumbo. The way out was from Munich, on the Airbus A330 300.
As you will see from this review, a combination of a comfortable hard product, good food (and service) and adequate in-flight entertainment made for a perfectly pleasant Business Class experience. So definitely no complaints, but perhaps the best way to quantify my opening thoughts is to simply link to my review of Etihad Business Class.
The lounge at Chicago was the United lounge in Terminal 1, Concourse B (near Gate B6). I can honestly say I have felt more privileged in the Burger King at Stansted airport. The lounge was packed, you didn’t have a prayer of getting a drink at the bar without a good 10 minutes waiting time and the food was a comically token assortment of cheese, dips and flatbread. I left after about 10 minutes, gently sobbing to myself.
This lounge might just about be acceptable if it’s quiet, but in my case there was little chance of getting a seat, a scrum for drinks (which I assume were free, although my experience at the Hilton executive lounge in Chicago means I could well be wrong) and the end result was it felt little better than just braving the ordinary terminal concourse.
The Lufthansa lounge at Frankfurt was considerably better. It was still busy, but offered enough seating options and food and drink selection to be able to cope with it. The beer “on tap” was a nice touch, too.
The Lufthansa hard product is pretty good, as you would expect from a newly-designed and installed Business Class cabin. That said, my one gripe is the lack of segregation with your neighbouring passenger. This is less marked than the almost complete lack of segregation on Lufthansa’s new A330-300s, but this is a substantially less personal seat than, for example, the heavily segregated seat now often offered by BA, and of course (at the risk of repeating myself) the Middle Eastern giants.
Lufthansa often gets criticised for its in-flight entertainment content, but I had no issues. A decent range of the latest films, music and TV shows. Perhaps the biggest issue for me is the proximity of your TV to your neighbour’s, as you can see from the following picture:
Regardless of what you are watching, if your neighbour is watching something even remotely captivating, you get distracted by it.
It’s a minor point, but one thing I love about flying upstairs on the 747-8 is the side storage space. Great for throwing things into during the flight while keeping them accessible, and a useful storage ledge too. Perhaps I need to get out more, but the upstairs ledge is very dear to me.
The food and drink
The food and drink was generally excellent.
On the 747-8 (Chicago to Frankfurt) I began with a herb shrimp with fennel salad and tomato oregano dressing:
Main was then herb crusted salmon, followed by a slightly underwhelming cheesecake.
On the A330-300 I began with prawns with sea beans, potato salad and tomato jelly:
Main was then herb and curry crusted grouper, snow peas, tomato fennel salsa and long grain rice:
And dessert a cinnamon mousse with plum compote and whipped cream:
On both flights the choice of wine was as follows:
- 2014 Johannisberger Erntebringer Riesling trocken, Germany (white)
- 2014 Boquel Torrontes, Argentina (white)
- 2011 Clarendelle, Bordeaux AC, France (red)
- 2011 Monterey Mountain Treo Winemaker’s Blend, USA (red)
I opted for the German white, and – entirely as I expected (play to the home strengths I always say) – it was excellent.
Lufthansa provide a perfectly adequate Business Class offering. With lie-flat seats, good food and a reasonable range of entertainment, there’s really nothing you can complain about. I would happily fly with them again, not least via the Mileage Bargain route.
However, is this a market leading product? No. Unfairly State-funded or not, the bar for long-haul Business Class has been raised. With that in mind, if I were offered any of Emirates, Etihad or Qatar at the same price as Lufthansa, I’d jump at the Middle Eastern option. Of course the reality is that these flights are also likely to be substantially cheaper, and many travellers will follow their wallets.
The upshot is that this flight, while comfortable, was a clear indicator of why market share is increasingly moving towards the Middle Eastern 3, and the traditional flag carriers are feeling increasingly threatened as a result.