Jul 07, 2023

Reviewing Lufthansa’s newest and best

Lufthansa hasn't always been known for offering a top-notch business-class product.

For years, the German flag carrier flew an outdated business cabin across nearly its entire long-haul fleet, with seats arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration.

In the ultra-competitive transatlantic market, direct aisle access is a must in business class, yet Lufthansa's seat missed the mark from the moment you stepped on board.

Fortunately, those days are coming to an end.

After multiple delays, Lufthansa's long-awaited new business-class product is expected to debut in the coming weeks. Based on the renderings, these new seats are a night-and-day improvement compared to the legacy configuration, and I can't wait to give them a try.

But, as we wait for the unveiling of the Allegris cabin, Lufthansa has added a new aircraft type to its fleet: the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. While the airline has a total of 32 Dreamliners on order, the first five 787s that it's receiving aren't factory fresh.

Instead, these five 787s are "white tails" that were originally built for Hainan Airlines and for Vistara, before eventually being picked up by Lufthansa. That meant earlier delivery slots (and possibly a price cut) for these modern, fuel-efficient jets, a hot commodity given all the delays we’ve seen recently in aircraft orders.

It also meant that Lufthansa didn't really have a choice in how to configure them. The jets were built with cabins that were designed by Hainan. Removing those seats and replacing them with another product would’ve cost millions and taken weeks, if not months.

I try avoiding Lufthansa business class when flying on transatlantic routes. I usually book a different Star Alliance partner or splurge for a first-class seat with Lufthansa, if one is available on miles.

But ever since Lufthansa added its first Dreamliner to the fleet late last year, I’ve been eager to catch a ride on it, especially now that it's flying daily between Frankfurt and Newark.

Could this new seat change my perception of the airline's business-class offering? Read on to find out.

Lufthansa is one of the largest members of the Star Alliance, so there are plenty of ways to snag an award redemption.

In fact, all of the major transferable points currencies from our top recommended credit cards have partners that can book Lufthansa business-class flights.

We’ve outlined several of your options in handy step-by-step guides, so be sure to check those out.

Lufthansa used to be much better about releasing saver award availability far in advance. Nowadays, however, I’m having the best luck when redeeming for flights that depart within 72 hours.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily help if you have firm plans, but you can always lock in refundable tickets with another airline in the hopes of something opening with Lufthansa.

I booked an 80,500-mile United MileagePlus award when I noticed that the Lufthansa flight first become available. I could’ve redeemed fewer miles with some of the other Star Alliance partners, but my plans weren't definitive, and I valued that United doesn't charge any change or redeposit fees for awards.

Had I instead booked the ticket with Air Canada Aeroplan, I would’ve needed to redeem just 60,000 points, but each flight change would set me back roughly $75.

And I’m glad I stuck with United. I made multiple changes to this itinerary that would’ve cost me hundreds of dollars (and perhaps hours on the phone) if I had booked with other airline partners. Plus, with a round-trip fare going for over $5,000, I still got a great deal on this redemption: roughly 3.1 cents per point (and way higher than TPG's valuation for United miles).

Lufthansa is currently flying three new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, with plans to add two more shortly. The jet is currently flying from Frankfurt to both Detroit and Newark.

On March 26, Lufthansa will begin flying the aircraft to Dallas-Fort Worth six times a week and to Montreal four times a week, ramping up to daily operations on May 1. Starting in early May, the airline will also deploy the Boeing 787 daily to Denver and three times per week to Austin.

It's also worth noting that Lufthansa inaugurated some "white tail" Airbus A350s last year that were originally intended to go to Philippine Airlines. These jets also feature a new forward-facing business-class product, but it's not as good as the one found on the Dreamliner.

My time with Lufthansa began on a quiet Wednesday morning in Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

I had spent the night at the Marriott directly connected to Terminal 1, so I moseyed on over to the terminal about 2 1/2 hours before my flight.

I quickly found Lufthansa's well-marked business-class check-in area, and my boarding pass was issued in minutes.

From there, I took the escalator up to the Z concourse departure area, which is reserved for non-Schengen Area flights.

After a speedy passport control and priority security check, I found myself navigating through the duty-free shop on my way to the lounge.

Lufthansa operates two lounges in the Z pier near Gate Z50 — a business-class lounge and a Senator lounge. The former is open to all long-haul business-class passengers, while the latter is designed for those with mid-tier Lufthansa Miles & More elite status and Star Alliance Gold members.

My United Premier 1K membership includes Star Alliance Gold, so I was invited to use the Senator lounge.

Both lounges are designed quite similarly, but the Senator lounge offers a more robust food and beverage selection.

Personally, I tend to stick to soft pretzels when I visit lounges in Frankfurt, so I wasn't exactly concerned with the liquors that each lounge offers.

That said, the food and beverage offerings in the Senator lounge looked like a big step up from what you’d typically find at a U.S. airline membership lounge.

There are a variety of seating areas, ranging from dining tables to couches to barstools to co-working tables. You shouldn't have an issue finding a place to relax here before your flight.

The pretzels hit the spot. However, my biggest gripe with the lounge is that the windows are lined with some type of patterned film that makes it impossible to grab pictures of the planes in the airside area.

Otherwise, I'd say the lounge is about average for a long-haul business-class ground experience.

Before long, it was time to head to the gate for the posted 12:45 p.m. boarding time. That required a 10-minute brisk walk down a long hallway at the end of the Z pier.

I stopped for a brief passport check required for all U.S.-bound passengers and then arrived at Gate Z69 to a bittersweet sight — a Boeing 747-8 was parked at the gate.

With just minutes left until boarding, I wondered whether there’d be a last-minute equipment swap or whether Lufthansa was planning to bus us to a remote stand. "I love flying on the Queen of the Skies, but definitely not in business class," was the thought that first crossed my mind.

Fortunately, the 747 was soon towed away from the gate and a 3-year-old Dreamliner, registered D-ABPD, was tugged over a few minutes later.

The late aircraft arrival translated into a 45-minute delay for boarding, but I made sure to remain at the front of the priority boarding line — I wanted to maximize the number of clean cabin shots I could snap of Lufthansa's new business-class cabin.

Good thing I stayed at the front because I ended up with five minutes of uninterrupted time in the pointy end of the Dreamliner.

From the moment you step on board and pass the large Lufthansa crane logo on the galley wall, it's easy to tell that the business-class experience is in for a major upgrade.

The Dreamliner features a single, 26-seat business-class cabin located between the first and second exit doors.

Though you wouldn't necessarily know it, Lufthansa's first batch of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners features cabins that were originally destined for Hainan.

That said, the German carrier did a great job rebranding the cabin as if it were always supposed to be flying for Lufthansa. You’ll find blue, brown and white tones throughout the cabin, which together give off an elegant vibe and contrast nicely with orange-colored side lamps.

The "bones" of the seat are the same across the cabin.

Couples will likely want to sit in the center seats, but note that there's a sliding privacy divider that can be extended between these seats if you end up with a stranger sitting next to you.

If there's a choice, solo travelers will likely prefer the pods on the sides of the plane, though you may want to avoid Row 5 due to the missing windows.

The bulkhead features an oversized footwell area, but the proximity to the galley may be bothersome.

All pods are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration with direct aisle access for each passenger. Had Lufthansa just stopped there, this would represent enough of an improvement for many business travelers to seriously reconsider flying with the airline.

But the seats themselves are also much better than the old ones.

These reverse herringbone pods all face away from the aisle, giving you plenty of privacy. Lufthansa stuck with the off-the-shelf configuration of the Collins Super Diamond product and didn't add a sliding door like British Airways and Etihad did.

Either way, I find these pods to be quite private, and I was fortunate that a light load meant that most of the seats around me were empty anyway.

One of my favorite parts of this seat is the copious amount of storage. There are two containers along the side of the seat that are big enough for most loose items, like wallets, AirPods and glasses.

The armrest, which can be raised or lowered at the push of a button, also doubles as a storage area. (This is where Lufthansa sticks a bottle of water and an amenity kit during boarding.)

Finally, you can place papers, tablets and perhaps even a small laptop in the exposed literature pocket on the side of the seat.

All of the seat controls are on a small 3 1/2-inch touchscreen located on the side of each seat. There are three preset positions, but you can make adjustments with a tap of your finger.

The bi-fold faux-wood tray table slides down from underneath the entertainment screen. It measures 17 inches wide and 19 inches long — perfect for even the largest laptops.

I selected Seat 7A for my flight, the window seat in the last row. I liked being toward the back of the cabin and had no trouble getting comfortable in the 20-inch-wide seat. Just note that you’ll need to wear a (pretty tight) shoulder strap during taxi, takeoff and landing.

I don't usually sleep much on daytime transatlantic flights, but I had no trouble catching some shut-eye at the end of the flight.

All pods convert into 79-inch-long lie-flat beds at the push of a (virtual) button. I found the seat padding to be very supportive and comfortable, and the footwell was large enough for my size-11 feet.

There's even a small storage cubby near the footwell, which could be a great place to store your shoes while you’re sleeping.

The Dreamliner has a few other nose-to-tail improvements, including relaxing mood lighting, more comfortable cabin pressurization and large, dimmable windows.

I just wish the flight attendants experimented more with the mood lighting throughout the flight. At least the crew didn't lock the windows to a certain brightness level — a move that I’ve experienced in the past with other airlines.

It's worth noting that these Dreamliners don't feature personal air nozzles, so the cabin temperature will be at the discretion of the flight attendants. I always wonder why airlines choose not to install personal air nozzles. How much cost savings could there really be from not installing them?

There are three lavatories for the 26 business-class passengers: one smaller one at the front of the cabin behind the flight deck and two behind the cabin.

I’d recommend doing your business in the rear lavatories — they’re significantly oversized and even feature dimmable windows.

The Lufthansa Dreamliner doesn't just offer a better seat. The amenities and entertainment systems have been upgraded, too.

For one, the large 18-inch touchscreen TVs are bigger and even better quality than the ones you’d find in the much more exclusive first-class cabin on the airline's Boeing 747.

There's also a large touchscreen remote that pops out of the storage unit if you’d prefer not to stretch your arm to control the TV.

The entertainment system is loaded with plenty of movies and TV shows, including new releases such as "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" and "Where the Crawdads Sing."

I kept the TV tuned to the highly customizable flight map, powered by FlightPath3D.

While the TVs feature the latest hardware, Lufthansa's antiquated entertainment software doesn't support every new feature. For instance, the remote can't be used as a second screen, like you’d find on other airlines. Instead, the screen displays the flight map at all times.

Though Lufthansa was likely limited in how many modifications it could make to these already-built Dreamliners, it's worth noting that there is no tailcam on these planes. Hopefully, the airline's next batch of 787s will feature this fan-favorite channel.

Unless your headphones support a two-pronged audio jack, you’ll need to use the built-in AKG N60 noise-canceling headphones. With a sticker price of nearly $150 a pop, it's likely no surprise that Lufthansa bolted these headphones into the jack. (There are earbud covers in the amenity kit to keep your ears clean.)

That said, I didn't find the headphones to be all that great, so I listened to my own content using my AirPods Pro.

Lufthansa offers Wi-Fi on its long-haul fleet, including the new Dreamliners. It took just seconds after passing through 10,000 feet to connect to the FlyNet service.

A full-flight pass costs 29 euros, or roughly $31, and download and upload speeds measured 4 Mbps and 1 Mbps, respectively. This was fast enough to catch up with Twitter and collaborate using Google Docs, but it didn't support streaming.

You’ll find a universal power outlet and a USB-A charging port located in the storage cubby on the side of each seat. Fortunately, the lid of the cubby is high enough to allow wires to dangle from it without risking any damage.

In terms of amenities, you’ll find a comfortable plush pillow and blanket waiting at each seat during boarding.

While the hard product (i.e., the seat itself) is a drastic improvement, this is the one area where Lufthansa could really invest a little bit more. Perhaps the airline could add slippers and/or a mattress pad to further elevate the sleeping experience in business class.

Also, there was a small amenity kit at each seat. Lufthansa is generally pretty good about regularly refreshing its amenity kits, and the latest one comes in an eyeglasses case from Porsche Design.

Inside you’ll find some of the basics, including a dental kit, socks, hand cream and lip balm, as well as a Lufthansa-branded glass-cleaning cloth.

I didn't really care for the contents, but I liked the case's hardshell design — so much so that I’m now keeping my glasses in it.

You’ll find other amenities, such as mouthwash, eye masks, earplugs and refreshing towels, available in each lavatory.

After a few back-to-back United Polaris flights, I was especially excited to try Lufthansa's business-class catering.

Menus were distributed while we were on the ground, and they were printed in German and English. (Notably, United doesn't currently offer menus in languages other than English.)

The menu wasn't a surprise to me, since I had looked it up before the flight on Lufthansa's dedicated website.

The friendly flight attendant serving my aisle asked for my order before takeoff, but unfortunately, she was already out of the fish entree by the time she got to the last row. So, I settled on the spinach and ricotta ravioli.

Hot towels were distributed once we passed through 10,000 feet, followed by the drink cart, which came rolling down the aisle just a few minutes later.

Water is my go-to on long-haul flights, and it was served alongside a small ramekin of warm cashews.

My cold appetizer was served just about 10 minutes later, and it was delicious. I loved the texture and consistency of the beetroot mousse, which paired perfectly with the pieces of hibiscus biscuit that it sat on top of.

The appetizer was served alongside a side salad and a pick (or three) from the bread basket, which had a whopping five choices: seeded bread, rye bread, whole-grain rolls, chia-seed bread and soft pretzels.

These dishes weren't just delicious — I also really appreciated that a full course was set aside for the appetizer. As a point of comparison, my United flight earlier in the week had a combined appetizer (i.e., a side salad) and entree course.

While I didn't get my first entree choice, the spinach and ricotta ravioli was actually quite tasty. The portion was generous, and the tomato sauce had just the right amount of kick.

Dessert was served just under two hours after takeoff. I’ve never been impressed with Lufthansa's desserts, and this flight was no exception.

I asked for both the cheese plate and the chocolate tart, but neither was all that good. Even though it might be "basic," the create-your-own ice cream sundae that you’ll find in many other business-class cabins is undoubtedly my favorite inflight dessert.

It's worth noting that there was no snack basket available after the meal, though I didn't really need one on this eight-hour flight. (All the U.S. airlines and most international ones offer a snack basket on similarly timed flights.)

When we were about 90 minutes from Newark, the flight attendants brought around the pre-arrival meal.

There was a choice between a hot option and a cold option, and I went with the latter. The duo of cauliflower was tasty and reminded me of a dish I'd be served at my neighborhood Israeli restaurant.

Though the pre-arrival meal didn't include an appetizer, it did come with a dessert: a vegan chocolate mousse. I like chocolate, but back-to-back chocolate-based desserts seemed like a little much to me.

All in all, I found Lufthansa's catering to be above average. It's definitely not the world's best, but it's certainly respectable as far as business-class meals go.

I’ve flown with Lufthansa over a dozen times and have found that the crews range from average to rock star, and this one was definitely in the latter category.

I was addressed by name throughout the flight, and the flight attendants passed through the aisle every 20 minutes, asking if anyone needed anything.

When the flight attendant didn't have my requested entree, she profusely apologized and asked if she could bring some food from the premium economy cabin.

Contrast that with my United flight earlier in the week, when the flight attendant came down the aisle asking for everyone's first and second entree choices — and then never returned to confirm what everyone would be served until the meal finally showed up.

This Lufthansa crew was also visibly excited about working on the Dreamliner, making remarks over the PA such as, "We’re pleased to invite you to our new 787 aircraft," and saying things to each other like, "This plane feels more comfortable."

Unfortunately, after we pushed back, we experienced a mechanical issue with the spoilers that required the maintenance team to take a look. The captain brought the jet to a remote stand, and a group of Lufthansa techniks boarded the jet to fix the issue.

That process took about two hours, and throughout the delay, the crew made two passes through the cabin with snacks and drinks.

I’ve had similar delay experiences with other airlines. Many times, the crew members use the downtime to perform non-passenger-facing tasks or just catch up on their phones.

Lufthansa has a new jet in its fleet that features perhaps the carrier's best-ever business-class product.

With reverse herringbone pods arranged in a 1-2-1 layout, each of the 26 passengers can now enjoy four of the most important things you’ll find in a business-class seat: direct aisle access, comfortable lie-flat beds, plenty of privacy and copious amounts of storage. This is a massive improvement compared to Lufthansa's existing offering.

But, this isn't just a night-and-day difference relative to the airline's legacy product. The new business class on the 787 Dreamliner is actually a well-above-average offering that finally puts Lufthansa in the big leagues.

This product is limited to just a handful of planes. However, the airline is bringing it to many more U.S. routes in the coming months.

Later this year, the airline is slated to make the big debut of its all-new Allegris product. How it’ll stack up to the business-class cabins on the existing Dreamliners is anyone's guess, but stay tuned because we’ll be among the first to review it!

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