It's a nice summer morning and I'm in the back seat of a Mercedes with a German business guy next to me, looking out the window as we pass an endless stream of planes crossing the tarmac. The car comes to a halt right next to »München«, the Lufthansa A380 we are about to board. The business guy turns out to be a cheerful one and asks the driver to take a few pics of him in front of the plane, even offering to take a photo of me in the same way. I decline politely (but end up regretting it) and walk around for half a minute or so while they do their photo shoot. And man, that aircraft. It's big. Insanely big. You never really get a sense of the size of these things when boarding straight into the plane through a jet bridge. From up close it's all a bit overwhelming, the scale, the wings, everything. I totally screw up my chance of getting a few great pictures, but I do get two of the engines…
We jump into the elevator, push the »A380 level 2« button, exit right into the upper deck bridge and make our way past the poor business class people lining up to have their credentials checked at the door. A few moments later my bag goes into the locker and I'm settled and good to go in 2K. A flight attendant comes by asking if she may offer me some champagne and ah, yes of course, and boom, I find myself sipping away on a glass of Tattinger, watching the world outside. Lufhansa's first class setup gets you three unobstructed windows and a pretty decent view of what's happening.
After a while we line up for take off, engines kicks in, the journey along the runway is smooth and quiet, our A380 rotates and we're off, passing through a layer of scattered clouds and quite a bit of turbulence. The aircraft levels off and the purser comes by, greeting everyone by name and handing out menus. He says »welcome back« and manages to produce a flawless pronunciation of my last name, something that pretty much never happens. And I'm a bit surprised that they keep track of my previous first class adventures with Lufthansa and adjust their greeting accordingly. Nice work.
I ask to have the meal service right away and go with the lamb as my choice of main course. Now, things are a bit different these days as Lufthansa recently changed the first class dining concept and it seems there are a few glitches yet to be fixed. The flight attendant asks if I would prefer the soup or the sorbet as part of the multi-course set menu, I opt for the soup, but she returns a few minutes later apologizing and letting me know no soup has been loaded. I ask for the sorbet instead, but it turns out they have run out of that option too, only having loaded four units. No big deal though.
Everything kicks off with the usual caviar service followed by a selection of starters. The vertical étagère setup of the old days has gone horizontal and each starter plate is placed on a larger, rectangular plate. But you're still free to choose any combination of what's available and I end up choosing the crab, the veal and a salad. Everything is fairly tasty but not too spectacular. And, surprisingly, they mange to get me a sorbet after all, though it suffers from the exact same ice crystallization issue as the ANA chocolate sorbet a few months ago. Despite the icy texture it turns out to be quite tasty.
The lamb is decent but again, not spectacular. Next up is the dreaded dessert tray, capable of eroding a ton of hours at the gym in a few short minutes. I try to stay semi-healthy and ask only to have the white chocolate dessert with curry crumbles and pickled pineapple, along with cup of green tea. They wrap everything up with chocolate pralines and the flight attendant insists I try at least three, resistance is futile, and I end up munching my way through a bunch.
Time to get a bit of sleep. No need to become all acrobatic with the two giant lavatories providing ample space to change into the Lufthansa PJ pants with ease. My seat has magically been transformed while I was away, and it may sound a bit weird but I love being in horizontal mode 30,000 feet up in the air in a fully made bed, with decent Korean pop music pumping through my headphones. Gets my brain into some sort of hyper creative slash relaxing zone. Good stuff, really.
After a while I do manage to get what seems to be a few hours worth of sleep. I wake up and a flight attendant comes by offering a decent range of midnight snacks and I go with a few small sandwiches, some grilled vegetables and a macaron cookie. Ahh, those macarons. They'll kill me eventually, I'm sure. Just too good to resist.
The first class seat on the Lufthansa A380 is really quite good. Easy to relax in, pretty great in bed mode and there's a couple of decently sized storage spaces. It does lack a bit of privacy compared to the first class suites offered on other airlines but with the privacy screen raised (pic below) it's not too bad. And I do like the rose with its tiny, dedicated mini spotlight.
A bit more sleep, I wake up in a haze, jump into the lav to change back out of the PJ pants just before the second serving kicks in two hours before touchdown. They run a Mexican themed lunch this time around with a couple of different options served from the trolley, again it's all fairly decent but nothing too amazing. Touch down, taxi and we're just about to get off when the jet bridge breaks down and all upper deck passengers have to go down the cabin stairs and exit from the lower deck. They do hold the remaining economy passengers until everyone in first class is off, but the race to immigration is lost. Still, it's not too bad and within an hour or so I'm re-checking my luggage and head over to my connecting flight.
Lufthansa really knows how to run proper ground service and the First Class Terminal setup works exceptionally well in Frankfurt. The A380 first class cabin is nice and airy but comes at the slight cost of privacy, though the seat is really good, especially in bed mode. As usual the in-flight service with Lufthansa is friendly, efficient and slightly informal. The only slightly disappointing thing this time around was the food – perfectly decent but nothing special, and quite far from what I've had on previous Lufthansa flights in first. If you're looking for a trip report with tons of pics of the cabin, head over to One mile at a time.
I had another unplanned segment with Lufthansa in first class a week later, going from Chicago to Munich on an A340 with the refitted cabin, and the food they served was excellent. It seems the less-than-stellar catering of my flight to Houston was more of a temporary dip in quality. The pic below is from the Munich flight, showing the new horizontal starter plate setup (apologies for the random focus, I'm apparently still not able to handle my new camera in a proper way).
So, I have a plan. My bag is checked in and tagged all the way to San Francisco, I'm repositioning myself using an evening flight from London and look forward to a night at the Hilton Squaire and a nice, subsequent breakfast at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. All in Frankfurt. Should be great. And the walk from arrivals to the hotel will be an absolute breeze with my mental map of FRA good to go, refined over the course of a bazillion transfers.
It's thirty minutes after touchdown and I'm lost in an underground maze of walkways and stairs and a car park so big the moon would easily fit inside and I have no clue where I am or where the hotel is. I try random doors, elevators, up, down, floors and bump into equally random Germans. And a giant bus station. Google gives me nothing. I'm about to give up. Then, finally, in the distance, a sign that says »Hotels«. Another ten minutes of walking and I finally find myself at the Hilton.
Not a bad one at all, I might add.
I wake up the next morning, make my way down to the front desk and ask for directions to the First Class Terminal, not quite trusting that flawed mental map of mine. A young staff member is summoned, explaining that I can't walk to the FCT and I tell him that I'm pretty sure you can because I've done it before, we agree to disagree and I set off on my own, deciding to trust my mental map anyway. I venture back down into the underground walkways, try to navigate my way to where I think the FCT would be and eventually find myself at the end of an insanely long tunnel, there's a door leading to an underground garage, but hey, there's light, I walk out into the open and boom – the FCT is right there. Win!
Next up – a flight in first class on Lufthansa's A380.
Frankfurt Airport, not too long ago. I'm walking down the good old maze of stairs leading down to the underground walkway connecting the A gates with the B ones. Relaxed. Walking, not running. Can't remember last time that happened, I usually bet on someone inventing the art of teleportation just prior to my flight leaving a B gate, realize it probably won't happen after all and end up running like crazy to make it before they close up the gate, and I always get there just in time, being halfway dead when they blip my boarding pass and wave me through.
But not this time. A nice stroll along the walkway, up the stairs, through passport control, and I'm at the gate. No rush. A few minutes later I make a left when the jet bridge splits in two, three flight attendants thank me for flying Asiana today and one of them escorts me to 3A. The first class cabin on Asiana's 747 fleet has been around for some time and it shows – plastics are in various shades of beige and and the hardware is certainly not on par with more recent first class cabins, but it's not bad by any means. And being in the nose of a jumbo jet is a pretty good thing, regardless. Views are great, the cabin is spacious and there is no through traffic. A perfect place to be when cruising along at 30.000 feet.
We get going, take off, nose wheel comes up with a thud and we're flying through a never ending layer of dense, milk white clouds, it takes forever and I'm gazing into a thick soup of nothingness and boom, in a split second we break through into clear skies, still climbing. Soft, fluffy clouds spread out underneath us, into infinity, draped in pink by a sun just about to dip beneath the horizon. It's the most stunning sky I have ever seen and before I know it my brain jolts into sensory beauty overload mode and my jaw drops, unconsciously, literally. Never had that happen before, ever. My camera is stuck in the overhead bin but then again, no pic would come anywhere close to representing the real-life experience, so let's leave it at that.
After a while the 747 levels off and the brilliant in-flight service kicks in. Anything to drink? Certainly. I opt for a glass of the »1999 Pol Roger, Cuvée Winston Churchill«. Seems like a decent choice. Deep, yellow, tasty. I look through the menu and having tried a range of bibimbaps at 30.000+ feet over the last few years I'm eager to see what this one may be like. Thus, when prompted, I ask to have the western starters and Korean main course, not realizing i'll be pushing the volumetric limits of my stomach right into a nearby galaxy. They proceed to set my table and add a rose to the setup, yellow rather than Lufthansa's red.
The caviar setup kicks off the meal service. Tasty, as always. I ask for way too much bread but manage to shove it all down and start to get rather full with most of the starters yet to come. Clearly I should not have grabbed those German wursts in the lounge before the flight. Bad, bad planning. The rest of the starters are served at a steady pace and they are all pretty decent and not too big, but I'm still going from full to mega full. And then comes the bibimbap.
About two full main courses spread across a metric ton of china. Not bad. And it's tasty. But by now there is no room left for more food. That won't stop me, of course, and I somehow manage to consume pretty much everything save for the big fish thingy. I decline dessert but opt for green tea, the cheese platter and some fruit. A bit insane at this point, sure, but it works out fine, save for the fact that I'm pretty much unable to move. Not much of a problem though since I'm spending the next hour watching what remains of »Zero Dark Thirty« on my laptop.
Once the movie wraps it's sleep time and I head off to the lavatory to change into the PJ pants. A flight attendant intercepts, asking me to hold for a few seconds while she makes sure everything is top notch inside. And while I'm doing some acrobatics getting out of my skinny black jeans and into the Asiana branded pants in a lavatory the size of a tin can, they perform the in-flight equivalent of turndown service – when I'm back my seat has been magically turned into a bed, duvet and all. Again, the age of the hardware is rather apparent and the bed mode is not on par with more modern offerings. I keep hitting my legs on what seems to be a wooden bar folded into the leg rest part of the bed but still, it's fine and I won't blame my chronic inability to get in-flight sleep on the seat.
In the end I do manage to get 30 minutes or so of sleep before they wake me up. I really don't need breakfast given the insane amounts of food I had earlier but hey, breakfast sounds good and I go with the western option, running through granola, yoghurt, fruits and tea and we break through the clouds, Korean islands in sight, touching down at Incheon a few moments later. As per usual they hold up the business passengers until every one of us in first has deplaned, bye bye, and I'm in the jet bridge. Hello Korea.
All in all, a lovely trip in the sky. And even though they managed to miss a few drink orders – not something you'd expect with Asiana – the service was still amazing. Trip reports with tons of pics are available over at Frequently Flying, One Mile at a Time and Flyertalk.
(Oh, and apologies for the crappy focus in some of the photos. Just got myself a new camera and it seems I shouldn't be entrusted with it just yet…)