It is hard to believe that the 747-8i has been in service more more than a year. I have wanted to try Lufthansa’s new First or Business Class on this aircraft since last June when it was introduced. I finally had the opportunity on a recent trip to Poland. I thought I needed to fly thru Chicago, but was able to secure a seat from Los Angeles to Frankfurt. The only down side to that was I had to make the drive from San Diego to LAX which is something I dread. However, my wife had a doctors appt. in Orange County that morning so it made it a little more convenient. That along with no traffic and a late afternoon flight time got me to the airport in plenty of time. I parked my car at Park Air Express (http://patstravelreviews.com/park-air-express-lax-review/) and was at the Tom Bradley International Terminal almost three hours before our departure. I gave myself a little extra time on the drive not only for a cushion in case of traffic, but also to see the new Bradley Int’l Terminal and the new Star Alliance Lounge.
Check-in was very quick. There were sections for First Class and Business Class. There was no one in either line. Even with checking-in online, I still needed to get my boarding passes printed and I asked about seat availability. The gentleman was pleasant enough and I was on my way to security after a few minutes. This part of the terminal looks the same, other than the restaurants before security are all closed. I assume they are being renovated as I know a lot of people eat here before saying goodbye to those visiting them. There was a priority line for Elite, First, and Business Class passengers at security, however, you were then just funneled into the same line as everyone else. So the time savings was minimal. It was a quiet time in the terminal but with only two x-ray machines operating and being put into the general line it took 10 minutes to clear security. Not long, but being the only person in the priority line it took longer than it should have.
After clearing security you are still in the old part of the terminal. As one of the larger airports in the world and an important international hub, LAX’s old Bradley Terminal was honestly, an embarrassment. Compared with other International Airports around the world this was an eyesore. But no longer!! After following the signs and up an escalator you enter the new portion of the the terminal. WOW!! What an improvement. After a quick look around I went to the Star Alliance lounge (review to follow) to have something to eat, shower, and relax. The lounge is equally as impressive and an agent walked throughout the lounge notifying passengers that LH #457 was boarding. I finished a few e-mails and headed to the gate. By the time I got there most of the passengers had already boarded. There was a separate line for First, Business, and Star Alliance Gold members for boarding. That line was empty and after taking my ticket, the agent escorted me around the general boarding line to the first boarding door, where there was no line. As I walked down the jet-way there was a cart with newspapers (both German and English) to select from. I grabbed the USA Today and boarded the plane.
Upon boarding I was greeted by a smiling flight attendant who asked if I knew where I was seated. I knew I was seated upstairs because one of the nice features on Lufthansa’s web site is that you can select your seat after you make your reservation (unlike some other European Airlines). I had to pass through the First Class cabin to get to the stairs and the upper deck. The last time I flew Internationally on Lufthansa I was in First Class (http://patstravelreviews.com/lufthansa-first-class-review-ord-fra/) and I could immediately see the improvement in the seats and how spacious the cabin was (only 8 seats). I could also smell that new plane smell and everything looked and felt new. I also immediately saw the improvement in the Business Class seats and lay-out downstairs. There was no middle seat like the 747-400 and the seats and color scheme looked much more contemporary than their old product. The reason I wanted to sit upstairs is the layout is only 2×2 as opposed to the 2x2x2 downstairs. Giving the cabin a slightly more private feel. The one downside to sitting upstairs is the overheads are much smaller than the rest of the plane. While the 747-800 bins upstairs are much bigger than the 747-400 overhead’s they still are not big enough to fit a large carry-on (looks like a bin on a 737 but not as deep). I never got the chance to try to fit my 20″ bag as the flight attendant offered to store it in the closet as I reached the top of the stairs. Besides the overhead bins there is also more storage in bins along side the window seats.
I was seated in 82H which is an aisle seat in the second row. There are eight rows upstairs (rows 81 – 88) and 10 rows downstairs (rows 4 -14) for a total of 92 seats. There is another version of the 747-8i that has two less rows downstairs totaling 80 seats in Business Class. The flight attendant that took my bag and the one who offered a pre-departure drink of champagne (Jacquart Brut Mosaique), water, or orange juice were both very friendly and set the tone for the flight. On the seat was a pillow and blanket and in a small storage compartment below the seat-back pocket was an amenity kit and bottle of water. The amenity kit was a little cheap looking (plastic case) and a little sparse. Containing only ear covers for the head-sets, socks, eye-shades, ear-plugs, toothpaste & toothbrush, and small tin of Nivea cream. The cabin upstairs was almost full. Despite my late boarding I had plenty of time to get settled in and have a glass of orange juice and make some last minute phone calls before our 9 hr & 30 min flight to Frankfurt. We pushed on time and after a 15 minute taxi to runway 24L we were airborne. The 747-8 is certainly quieter than it’s predecessor.
The upstairs cabin is a little longer on the 747-8, but still has a more cozy feel than sitting downstairs. The color scheme of Lufthansa’s Business Class seats and cabin is gray and brown. A big improvement, in my opinion. Despite being only a year and a half old the 747-8 does not have Boeing’s Sky Interior nor the larger windows like the 787 Dreamliner. The seat pitch is a very generous 78″ and width around 21″ (couldn’t find an exact figure. Seatguru says between 19.7-26.4 inches). The one thing I did not like was there is no air vent that you can control. I was a little warm during the first part of the flight. There are two lights. One overhead that is controlled by the hand-set and another next to the headrest. I found there to be more storage in these seats than other “new” Business Class seats. Besides the small compartment under the seat-back pocket. there is also space for your shoes under the ottoman and some space in center armrest that houses the head-set. To my initial excitement, there is also space at your seat (below center armrest) where the life vest is stored. However, I had two items fall down an opening in the seat as I reclined and was lucky to find them. Again, the window seats have plenty of storage space as there are bins under the windows. To add to the mood of the season there was a Christmas wreath on the wall in the front of the cabin.
Lufthansa has also upgraded their In-flight Entertainment System (IFE). The screen is much bigger at 15″ and the hand-set is very responsive. In fact, the easiest hand-set I have ever used. At first I thought the screen was off-set a little with the seat. Making it difficult to watch. But after a while I realized the screen could be pulled out a little and is adjustable to perfectly align with the angle of the seat. You could access the IFE before take-off on the ground. All programs are on-demand (AVOD). There are plenty of movies and TV shows to choose from. Not as many recent Hollywood movies as I would have liked, but more than enough to keep you entertained. Besides recent movies there are also classic movies, foreign films (many German movies), documentaries, TV drama’s and sit-coms, as well as musical and sports programs. In addition to all the video options, there are also over a 100 CD’s (nice selection too) to listen too, plus 30 programmed channels from all different genre’s. There are also games, surveys, a moving map, and best of all two camera feeds from the plane. One looking down and one forward. Unfortunately I did not discover this until after take-off, but it was nice watching us land. A head-set is provided that is stored and plugged-in in a compartment in the center armrest. It worked fine and had decent sound, but I used my own noise canceling headset. I did find it difficult to plug my headset into the socket. Not much room that far down in the compartment. In this same compartment is a USB port. I could not find another power port, but read there is supposed to be a 110V plug. Lufthansa does have Wifi on several of the long-haul planes, but Wifi was not available on this flight.
About 30 minutes after take-off the lead flight attendant came around and introduced herself to each passenger and ask if you had any special requests. I thought this was a nice touch. Around the same time, menu’s were distributed as well as a hot refreshing towel (not the best quality), followed by the drink cart. A package of cashews was offered as a pre-meal snack. Two white wines (a 2012 German Riesling and a 2012 Italian Cortinie Bianco) and two red’s (2008 Chateau Mazails from France and an Austrian 2011 Blaufrankisch Hochacker) were available and a selection of four different German Beer’s as well as the usual soft drinks and spirits. There were three to four flight attendants working the upstairs cabin.
After the initial beverage service the flight attendants returned with the drink cart as well as a cart for the salad and appetizer. The salad was in a small bowl with seasonal greens and yellow tomatoes. There were three choices for the appetizer. Either a Tuna Carpaccio, Caprese Salad, or a Seared Beef Tataki with peanut sauce. I chose the seared beef and it was good. I am not a fan of eating cold beef, but I did enjoy this dish. The meat was very flavorful. A bread basket accompanied the salad and appetizer, and as usual with Lufthansa there were plenty of different breads to choose from. I took the pretzel roll and a multi grain roll. Both nice and fresh.
The main course was served after an appropriate amount of time and again accompanied with the beverage cart and bread basket. I really liked that the beverage cart was with each offering as often times (especially with non US carriers) the glass is small and I am looking for a refill on my beverage. I never went thirsty on this flight 🙂 I also enjoyed another roll (white this time). The main course was also served from a cart and the flight attendant took your order as they came by with the cart. I selected the Tenderloin of Beef with Plum Chutney, Yukon Potato’s and Leek. The beef was excellent!! It was a good sized piece of meat and very flavorful. Was much better than any main course I have ever had on Lufthansa (First or Business). The potato’s were ok and honestly I did not try the chutney. The other entree’s were either Water Prawns with Fennel or Baked Eggplant Cannelloni.
Dessert also consisted of three choices. A selection of Cheese’s, Apple Spice Cake, and a Fruit Salad. This is where I find most International Airlines are lacking. I had the fruit salad which was very good and the cake which was better than I thought it would be. But being a fan of ice cream, I like a sundae after dinner or a nice piece of chocolate cake. Something decadent. However, along with the dessert each passenger was presented with a small box with two very good chocolates which satisfied my craving. So in the end I was happy with my desserts and was ready to sleep after I finished watching the movie.
The seats are at a slight angle looking like a V, giving optimal space between passengers (your feet are close together, though). I like this layout very much, as someone who enjoys their personal space. The seats are cloth and not leather, but do have adjustable headrests. They can be adjusted to several settings, but there are three pre-set settings. One for landing, one a slight recline sitting position, and the last, 180 degrees sleeping position (completely flat, not angled flat like the older LH Business Class seats). I prefer sleeping an a cradle position as opposed to the lie flat and I was able to find a comfortable setting for me. Another nice feature with the new Lufthansa Business Class seats is the outside arm rest completely collapses giving you more room for your arms when sleeping. After I finished watching the movie I took my blanket out of it’s wrapping and got ready to hopefully sleep for four or five hours.The blanket and pillow are nice, but the pillow feels more like a decorative pillow than the soft pillow on your bed. No matter, I was asleep in no time! Unfortunately, I made the mistake of leaving my TV screen on with the moving map. The map is great, but when it changes graphics the screen illuminates and this woke me up after only sleeping an hour and a half. I tried doing a puzzle to fall back asleep, but was unable to do so. The one impressive thing I discovered doing my puzzle is the over the shoulder light is actually bright enough that I was able to do the crossword without the overhead light and not disturbing my seat mate. After an hour of doing a puzzle and trying to sleep I gave up and started watching another movie. Before watching the movie I walked to the toilet to see if there was any mid-flight snack (not so much because I was hungry, but more for this review). There was not. The flight attendants pretty much left the passengers alone as most were lucky enough to be sleeping.
There were three lavatories in the upper deck. Two in the front and one in the back. This is a great ratio for 32 seats. There was a flower and additional toiletries(mouthwash, shave cream, and razors) in each lavatory (may explain why the amenity kit is so sparse). The toilets had the same flushing system as the 787 Dreamliner. You just wave your hand in front of the button. Best of all, because this aircraft is new, the lavatories are nice and clean.
About an hour and a half before landing another hot towel was distributed and breakfast was served. It was also served via a cart. There was no choice for breakfast (other than if you wanted eggs or not). Breakfast consisted of a small bowl of fruit, deli meat and cheese plate, bread basket, and a hot breakfast of an omelette with bacon and fried hash potatoes. They came by twice with the bread basket. The bread was fresh and the muffin was tasty. The orange juice served with breakfast was great, fresh squeezed and much better than the orange juice I was served prior to departure. The eggs were edible.
I watched the landing on the TV monitor. You could watch both from the nose of the plane or looking down from the belly. We touched down 45 minutes early (smooth landing) on runway 26L and were at the gate a few minutes later. Frankfurt is not the simplest of airports to navigate, but after a 20 minute walk and a frustrating 20 minutes at passport control (they have a fast lane, and line was short, however they allowed others to cut into line) I still had plenty of time for my connecting flight to Warsaw.
Outside of not being able to sleep this was a very enjoyable flight. There was plenty of audio and video options to keep me entertained, the service was warm and efficient, and the food was very good. The new seats are very comfortable. The announcements were kept to a minimum (which I like) and in both German and English.
The 747-8i is certainly an improvement on the 747-400 and in my opinion a better aircraft to fly on than the A380. I am surprised more airlines have not placed orders for the 747-8. But where the biggest improvement occurs with Lufthansa is the cabin layout and the seats (Business Class for sure and I would imagine Economy and First as well). I flew back on a A340-600 (review to follow) and the 747-8 is a big improvement.
To see a full demonstration of Lufthansa’s new Business Class seats you can visit an older post on the 747-800. http://patstravelreviews.com/747-800/