4. Eiffel Tower
This is a bit of a long post, due mostly to a bunch of pictures. I thought about splitting out the lounge information into a separate post but there’s not a whole lot of information from our brief visits, mostly just pictures. While 2 days is a short time in Paris (for that matter, most destinations) we left with one more mini-adventure for our return flight. Catherine didn’t know it yet, but she was going to get to cross something else off of her travel bucket list, and at a very early age. She had told me she wanted to fly upstairs on an airplane. Well, I can remember when that was on my list, too. It took me 35 years or so to hit my goal. Catherine got there in less than 8. We had a short flight from Paris back to Frankfurt on Lufthansa and then would be boarding the new Boeing 747-8i, for which Lufthansa was heavily involved in design as well as serving as the launch customer. We were supposed to fly the 747-8i in both directions on this trip but ended up with an equipment swap on our departure flight, so I was looking forward to no surprises! We got thrown for a minor curve ball when I tried to check-in the night before to find they moved my daughter to a seat downstairs while keeping my wife and I upstairs. They showed her original seat as blocked now (crew rest?). It took about 10 minutes on the phone with Lufthansa to resolve this without further issue. This was my first time departing Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. I had heard from fellow travelers that it’s a run-down airport not all that fun to depart from. We didn’t spend much time there, and I didn’t find it too bad, but it certainly feels older. We couldn’t check-in automatically at a self-service kiosk but an agent helped us quickly enough. The gates in terminal 1 are divided into their own little pods. You follow the signs to your pod and then take a curvy escalator to your pod. There’s a separate security screening area at each pod and we were quickly through for our early flight. That left us just about 45 minutes before boarding. We headed right after clearing security and around the corner at the far end was an elevator downstairs to the Lufthansa lounges. We were in the business class lounge with about half a dozen other folks. There was plenty of comfortable seating as well, though this side of the lounge was a bit small. There was enough food to make a light breakfast but I wouldn’t call the selection incredible. Michelle made sure the espresso machine was working properly!
I did pop over to the Senator lounge side. It was empty save one person and probably twice as big as the business class lounge, though with less soft seating. Oddly, there was a bit more food on this side, though most of the same items were out.
When we got to Frankfurt, we had enough time to shop for some Kinder surprise eggs and make a quick stop in the new lounge near the Z gates. This lounge is upstairs and sizable. The seats are much more spread out and the food offerings are a bit more varied. There were bowls of fruit positioned throughout the club and multiple beverage stations. The buffet had multiple hot items as well as soup, but I still would call the selection of food somewhat limited. It was a great place to crash for 30 minutes but there are better food options in the airport. They also had a couple of lounging areas for relaxing and even sleeping.
Next up was a quick walk to the plane and boarding. We arrived right at the start of boarding just in case there was another seating issue. We boarded quickly without incident and that was when Catherine figured out we were headed upstairs. Boy, was she excited!
Michelle was nice enough to model the seat in upright mode while Catherine was happy to provide perspective on the bed version. Upright, the seat is very similar to other business class seats I’ve flown in. It’s probably closer in comfort to the new American Airlines 777-300ER seat as opposed to an improvement on the previous generation Lufthansa business class seat. The color scheme that folded in a softer shade of orange was more appealing to me and the quality of the pillow and blanket was on par with what I expected.
Laid out as a bad it was comfortable, though probably not quite as much as the new American 777-300 seat. The headrest was more pronounced on the Lufthansa version. When combined with the pillow it was a bit more upright than I’d prefer to be sleeping. Catherine is a shade over 4 feet tall and obviously had plenty of space in the seat, but it’s not going to fit a 7-footer very well.
Where this seat really comes up short is the footrest portion. The way Lufthansa has the 747-8i configured, it’s a 2-2 configuration upstairs and a 2-2-2- configuration downstairs. While I didn’t look closely downstairs I’m going to assume all the seats are the same in that they share a footrest with a small partition. Maybe it’s unfair to keep comparing the 777-300ER American has rolled out, but there it’s a 1-2-1 configuration, with a fairly complete partition in between the entire middle seats. I can fall asleep on pretty much any airplane in the free world, but I’m a light sleeper. Even though my daughter’s seat wasn’t all the way stretched out and her feet weren’t even on the footrest, I could still feel her moving around because her seat was touching the footrest. I really have to think there was a better way to lay this out, but I’m definitely not a huge fan of this seat for sleeping.
Perspective is always in order when comparing lie-flat beds for business class flying since the vast majority of folks will never get to fly like this. But, it just seemed odd to me since I think they could have created some more separation without sacrificing seat spacing or quality.
The TV monitor configuration is significantly improved over the previous Lufthansa versions, exactly the same as the AA 777-300ER. There’s easy access to power near the seat as well, including a USB outlet. A small downside is that Lufthansa continued the practice of essentially hardwiring in a pair of mediocre noise-canceling headphones for each passenger. In the older version of these seats you could wedge your hand in the narrow slot for the tray and switch to your own noise-canceling headphones. That doesn’t seem to be a possibility any longer.
Through a technical glitch or my own ineptitude (take your pick) I lost some pictures of our meal service. I started with a glass of champagne and sampled the Veal Involtini and the filet. I think Lufthansa does a good job of catering traditional German food, it’s just generally not my favorite cuisine. I though the veal appetizer and filet were okay but I’ve definitely had better meals on planes.
The one sitting in the catbird seat was Catherine. Unlike our departing flight, we had confirmed via phone with Lufthansa that Catherine was listed as a child on the manifest for meal purposes as suggested by the purser on our IAD-FRA flight. Because of this, she was treated like royalty from beginning to end. First, very shortly after we got on board the purser came to see her. She had a mini version of the pilot’s black flight bag for Catherine and it was packed with goodies. We ran out of room on the armrest laying out all the items in the kit. This was a really awesome surprise!
If you look behind Catherine in the above picture, you’ll also see two sizable bins up against the windows. They have fold-up lids and can fit narrower carry-on bags like purses and backpacks just fine. They also serve as a second table or storage area in-flight.
We had also requested a kid’s meal since the food on our first flight wasn’t all that appealing to Catherine. While she did snack on my meals she was much happier with the kid’s meal option. Again, Lufthansa did a great job catering to kids. Airplane-shapped gummies in the yogurt!
The feel of the upstairs cabin was very spacious with the new Boeing overhead bins and interior. The lavatory was plenty big as well. The cabin was very quiet. I would say that it was on par with the sound level upstairs on the A380, which makes it only louder than the 787. It was very easy to carry on conversations across the aisle with Michelle.
I think Catherine was the only one that didn’t nap. Both Michelle and I caught a snooze on the way home. As I mentioned above, I was a little disappointed in the seat because of the footrest, but the rest of it was very comfortable. The movie selection was better than the older system I had encountered on the 747 and A380 on previous Lufthansa flights but still didn’t have a ton of new selections. Not a huge deal, since I usually bring my own shows to watch on my iPad. And, these are all pretty good problems to have. And, Catherine did find her own special relaxation.
Overall, we had an enjoyable experience. It was great to try out the new Boeing 747-8i and arrive well rested. We had redeemed 90,000 United MileagePlus miles for our round-trip tickets which I found to be a very good value. Unfortunately, due to United’s recent devaluation, partner awards such as this to Europe are now an eye-popping 140,000 miles.
There’s no question I would have redeemed again for 100,000. United now charges 115,000 for their own flights to Europe from the US, so I might consider paying 25,000 miles more to fly Lufthansa versus United. But, it’s a steep premium.
We landed mid-afternoon at Dulles and sped through customs because of Global Entry. A short car ride later we were back at home. The 747-8i is a pretty bird and a smooth ride. I hope to be back on it soon.