I’ll admit it here – ever since United announced its huge devaluation in partner awards, I’ve been thinking about creating a reason to fly to Europe so I could sample Lufthansa’s First Class services one more time. My experience last year was great, but I missed sampling their new First product after changing flight plans to fly home via Frankfurt instead of Munich. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about when we would return to Europe so I could ensure I tried the new product.

And then the big news came out. What I paid 135K per person for last year would soon set me back 220K per person, an amount I could put together if I tried, but a depressing thought nonetheless. I started thinking about long weekends in Europe, and finding the most likely F award availability on the return so I could try the famous Lufthansa ground services once again. Lucky’s revelation on amazing award availability on two new North American routes wetted my appetite even further. And then, reality set in.

Fact – my time off is limited and our annual big vacations (big = 2 weeks) are booked for not only this year, but 2014 as well. Not only that, devalued or not, I have never failed at using my miles the way I wanted to use them to suit my needs. I am comfortable with the likelihood that sometime in the next year or so, an opportunity will present itself to use the miles I would have frivolously spent just for the sake of writing one or two blog posts that will not only save me an respectable amount of money, but probably generate a couple of blog posts too.

To all those who benefited from the amazing award availability discovered yesterday, or who have been successful in booking some other partner award with your United miles before the big devaluation, I’m happy for you, really. And who knows….maybe MrsMJ and I will find a reason to fly to Europe for a long weekend sooner than I think. :)

-MJ, November 8, 2013

I just completed a roundtrip aboard Lufthansa in their International First Class cabin, and I thought I would share the details of the trip with you. The flights I took were as follows: Atlanta-Frankfurt-Rome then returning from Barcelona via Frankfurt to Atlanta. The international equipment was an A330 on both trans-Atlantic crossings, equipped with the old style Lufthansa First seats. I was really hoping to try the new product, and was actually booked to return via Munich which would’ve given me a good shot at doing so. In the end, convenience won…as I did not want to make 2 connections on my return and end such a great trip in an RJ from Dulles.

Lufthansa First Class has been reviewed extensively on Boardingarea, so I won’t get into every nitty-gritty detail of my trip. I will give you an overview of my experience and comment on some of the specific service experiences which were just about flawless in every respect. I already touched on the departure and a portion of the inflight service experience when departing Atlanta here (including the Senator Lounge at Atlanta) and here. First, a little on the hard product.

I found the super-sized recliners in the “old” cabin to be quite comfortable, although it took judicious use of the fluffy pillow for the upper back to make the seat really comfortable to me. The arm rest contains a fairly large storage area, just right for placing your amenity kit, pajamas, etc. in. Both of the A330s I flew on were equipped with in seat power and wireless internet. On the way to Frankfurt, neither worked, at least not for me. On the return, both worked, and I gave trans-oceanic internet access a try, and found it it work quite well for basic surfing and emails. On the return, I used my international charger which worked fine. Not sure if that was the issue on the outbound or not. Should not have been as the seats are equipped with plugs that should work for European and American power supplies.

The big seats were great. I probably would have liked the newer ones even more, especially the bigger video monitors that don’t have to be folded away, but life goes on. :) And the champagne was nice too. Meal service was excellent on both flights. I love the big menus, separate wine lists, and all the little things that went into the service to make it special.

I went light on dessert. ;) I mostly skipped the pre-arrival meals in both directions. A double espresso on landing in Frankfurt and a little fruit on the way back to Atlanta, so I did not bother with photos. Service in both directions was great, especially on our return to Atlanta. MrsMJ and I were the only 2 passengers in First Class on the way home, and the crew went out of their way to please. In both directions, the purser took the time to drop by and introduce themselves, and say goodbye to us and thanks prior to landing. I really liked our crew on the Frankfurt – Atlanta flight. With an otherwise empty cabin, there was more time for interacting with them, and I’m sure that’s part of it. And the rest….I really think had to do with the ground experience in Frankfurt prior to our flight.

We arrived Frankfurt from Barcelona onboard a relatively full A319. Arriving at the remote parking stand, MrsMJ remarked “great, we have to ride the bus.” I pointed to a silver Mercedes van and said, perhaps not. Sometimes it’s good to park remotely, especially when you are connecting to or from a Lufthansa international first class flight! Here’s a shot I snapped of ramp operations as we were being whisked to Passport control and the First Class lounge via private car.

We visited the smaller lounge in B, mainly because that’s where we were driven to. We had a 2 hour 50 minute layover, and I’m not very familiar with Frankfurt airport. That just didn’t feel like enough time to wander outside security and try to get to the First Class terminal, or to what I hear is the better lounge in Terminal A. Not to worry, as I found the lounge accommodations more than satisfactory.

The B lounge is just beyond gate B22. At check in, the agent crossed out our 10:35 boarding time on our boarding passes and told us to be back at the front desk no later than 10:40 for transportation to our airplane. With that, we went to find ourselves a spot to camp out for a couple hours. The lounge was very quiet, and within seconds of sitting down, we were offered the drink of our choice. I went with a double espresso given our 3:30am wakeup call! After my coffee, it was time for a shower.

After a refreshing shower, MrsMJ and I enjoyed a little breakfast in the restaurant. Lufthansa offers a plentiful menu of items to choose from, but we went with the basics, eggs and bacon. :) Oh..and champagne.

One of the lounge attendants came by with a chocolate covered strawberry and truffle to top things off because…well…you know….after a 14 night cruise I need to eat more. :) All of this was nice, but these 2 pictures summarize the highlight of our visit (to me).

Enough said. :) Soon, we were being driven to our flight home. I have to say that being driven directly to our gate, escorted up the elevator and down the jetbridge onto our aircraft was pretty darn cool.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Bobby Burns at awardbookingservice.com. I already posted about some of this previously, but I wanted to add that our return flight was a change in our original plan. We were booked in Business to return a day later than we did with a double connection. Being on a cruise with less than optimal internet and expensive cell service, I was not in a position to effectively deal with any changes to my itinerary myself. I emailed Bobby in the middle of the night on a whim and just asked him to check availability one day early with only one connection via Frankfurt as opposed to the double connect I was on. He emailed back within minutes that he would check and get back to me. The next morning, I woke up to find we were booked in Lufthansa First Class on the flights we wanted.

I can’t think of a better way to travel to and from our wonderful Mediterranean cruise than aboard Lufthansa. Looking forward to the next opportunity! If you have any questions about the service experience that I didn’t cover in this post, feel free to comment, and I will reply with an answer if I can.

We arrived at the airport very early. Just before 3PM. Our flight is at 6:45PM. First note….it really doesn’t take very long to travel from our home to the Atlanta Airport (ATL) during non-rush hour. We were the third group of 2 checked in for LH 445. Waiting in the F queue, the agent working that was getting set up. No issue. Within about a second, we were called down to the coach queue for check in before any other passengers were processed in the coach line. For what it’s worth, in Atlanta, the First Class check in queue is the Star Gold line, and the Business queue is the Star Silver line. From presenting our passports at check in, to clearing TSA, I can’t imagine that more than 10 minutes passed.

We walked over to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge, which happens to be in the E concourse, while our flight will depart from the new international terminal, or F concourse. The lounge is adjacent to the well-regarded One Flew South restaurant (which is probably where we are about to go spend the remainder of our time).  Nothing wrong with the lounge at all. One attendant at the door, a little self serve bar, and a little food spread. No complaints, but knowing what’s waiting for us in Frankfurt…. well, you know what I mean. Here are a few pictures.

As you know, Mrs MJonTravel and I are embarking on a 3 week European adventure late this month. The highlight of the trip will be a 14-night Mediterranean cruise aboard the beautiful new Celebrity Reflection. But another big feature of the trip is returning to the USA from Barcelona aboard Lufthansa in Business Class. I originally booked our return from Barcelona via Frankfurt into Washington. Of course, we now live in Atlanta, so I just added a tag end on UA to our award trip from Dulles. Since the time I booked the flight, there has been a schedule change, and we will now be flying Lufthansa via Munich, not Frankfurt. Returning on the Frankfurt – Atlanta nonstop is not an option on our day of travel either….or I would go for that.

Now… I know Lufthansa doesn’t release F cabin inventory outside of 2 weeks prior to departure. When we were returning via Frankfurt, I was absolutely committed to stalking Lufthansa’s inventory and trying to get us booked into First for our return. Now that we are returning via Munich….with no Frankfurt First Class terminal to ogle at…. I am less committed to the idea of trying to get us into First class. We were on a 747 for the T/A portion of the original flights…now we are on an A330. That said, I’m still tempted to try for First Class. I’ve never flown Lufthansa in First. I want to. But I also want to see the Frankfurt First Class terminal. Any other trip, I would just reschedule by a day and we could return via Frankfurt. This trip, I’m not able to do that. So… I debate.

I’d love to hear from readers who have experienced Lufthansa First Class. Should I spend the miles and try to get us in the First Class cabin even though I can’t connect in Frankfurt this visit…. or just not bother? What do you think?

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