Lufthansa 411, New York JFK – Munich
There were only two people in line for Business Class when I arrived at the Lufthansa counter at JFK’s Terminal 1 so my wait time was less than five minutes. I was greeted warmly by the agent and, when she found out that I was not a member of the Miles and More mileage program, she immediately enrolled me. She also issued my boarding pass and itinerary and directed me to the Senator Lounge, which, while comfortable, could use some updating as it hasn’t changed since the last time I was there two years ago. With a view of the runways, it is a pleasant place to have a beer or a light snack.
The agent in the lounge called the flight. As I was leaving, I asked if there might be a separate security line for business class passengers, to which the reply was “no.” Since the airport was shared with many carriers, Air France, Alitalia, Japan Airlines just to name a few, it hadn’t worked out I was told. Oddly enough, there was a sign for a special line for business and first class passengers but we had to wait in the general queue to get to this special queue. It turned out it didn’t matter, as the premium passenger line crept at the same slow pace as the other lines.
Once at the gate, boarding was quick and efficient and I was soon settled in seat 3D.Pre-departure beverages were offered including Sekt, water, and juice. A wide selection of newspapers was offered as well.
Unlike other flights I’ve taken from JFK at this time of day (departing around 20.00), we did not experience more than a 15-20 minute wait to get clearance for take-off. Once we were aloft the crew began to prepare and serve refreshments followed by dinner. While the initial beverage was served somewhat quickly (albeit with a rather forgettable plastic bag of nuts), I didn’t receive the first course of my meal until close to 90 minutes after take-off. The second course also took an eternity. Since this was an overnight flight during which many passengers presumably expected to sleep, the interminable wait was annoying (not just to me, by the way, based on comments from other passengers) as it cut into our planned sleep time.
Lufthansa recently introduced its Star Chef program in which renowned chefs create the menus for first and business-class travelers. On this flight it was Sean Hardy, chef de la cuisine in the Belvedere of the Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel.
We started with a tasty smoked tuna with Asian Salad and sweet chili sauce. The salad was a mesclun mix with a delicate dressing. For the main course, I had a choice of Beef Tenderloin with Charred Chayote, Sea Bass, or a Spinach and Cheese Agnolotti with Morel sauce. I chose the Sea Bass, which was served with Silken Cauliflower, Caper and Golden Raisin Marmalade. It was very good.
A selection of wines and beverages was offered throughout the flight. I tried the 2006 Sonnenwind Riesling Spätlese trocken from the Weingut Motzenbäcker (Germany) which was excellent. On the return flight, I paired a 2003 Zweigelt Barrique from the Weingut Schneeberger (Austria) with the Roast Goose entrée, served with red cabbage and melted potato dumplings and thoroughly enjoyed both.
I was too full for the cheese plate and dessert that followed and I had really wanted to be asleep an hour earlier so I asked the flight attendant to clear my table, which was done immediately.
The 2 m long, 50.8 cm wide PrivateBed, Lufthansa’s flat, semi-pod like business class seat with seat pitch of 122 cm, is quite comfortable for sitting and dining, even offering a massage option that wasn’t bad. Storage is excellent (one caveat: you have to make sure nothing is under the seat in front of you when going into “bed” mode), the tray table is large enough for both a laptop and a snack, the seat has an integrated reading light, and the power point does not require a special adaptor. The seat back in recline mode is at an angle of 135°, which is very comfortable for reading or watching a movie.
The problem began when I was ready to go to sleep. While flat, the seat when in the “bed” position is not horizontal to the floor; rather, it is at a 9° angle. This departure from the horizontal may not sound like much but I found myself sliding down in the “bed” position, making sleep difficult. To be fair, many of the passengers in the cabin were sound asleep but my experience with other airlines’ “new” business class seating has been better, primarily due to the seat having little or no tilt. On my return flight, which was on a 747-400 with similar seating, I did manage to sleep quite well so the jury is still out I suppose.
Lufthansa provides a variety of entertainment and information programs on demand although the interface could use some updating. The system includes not only 65 movies (30 are offered in eight different languages), television programs, and music but also games and language courses. The 10.4” screen is easy to view from any position and active noise cancelling headphones are conveniently stored in the armrest.
At one point in our trip, the captain announced that, with the help of the Jet stream, we were traveling at 1050 km/h and might be early. We actually arrived on time and I was surprised that we were being bused to the terminal; there was no jet bridge.
Clearing immigration was another hurdle; people were in the wrong lines and the immigration officials did little to help the situation.
Baggage started to appear ca. 30 minutes after we landed. Clearing customs was, as always, a non-issue and soon I was on my way to Munich.
The crew was exceptionally pleasant and helpful, the food was good, but the combination of the slow meal service and uncomfortable sleeping position detracted from the experience.
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.