Friday, November 6, 2015

Flying Business Class on the Upper Deck of a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I

LH 747-8I

My ride for the next 9 hours, a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

I recently received an invitation to join some friends that were headed to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Given that I consider myself a bit of a beer drinker, I knew I had to join them. I wanted to challenge myself to make the trip as economical as possible, while still traveling in style. I had some points burning a hole in my pocket, and there are often good, premium award options available through some travel partners.

I knew I would have enough points to get me home in business class (because after an eventful Oktoberfest, who would want to fly in coach?), so I needed to find an option to get me to Europe. I ended up booking a direct flight from Seattle to Frankfurt on Condor for a very reasonable $445. The crew on this flight was very friendly and the overall experience was good; just be prepared for a small 30-inch seat pitch on a long-haul flight.

Flying upstairs on a 747 has always been a bucket list item for me – and I was finally able to accomplish it! In my search for award travel, I was able to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines MileagePlus. From there, I booked the flight I wanted: Business Class on a Lufthansa 747-8I. I knew Oktoberfest would be the trip of a lifetime, but I was honestly even more excited at flying upstairs on the ride home.

As I arrived at the Munich airport for my short hop to Frankfurt, I noticed that my flight had been canceled. When I checked with the Lufthansa staff, I found out they had re-booked me on a direct flight from Munich to Chicago.

Now this just wouldn't do, as that was on an Airbus A340. Most travelers would be happy being on the direct flight, but I asked them to re-book me on another flight so I could still fly on the 747-8I. After some confused looks, I was back in business (pun intended) and booked on the 747.

Why yes, I would love to come upstairs on a plane – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

Why yes, I would love to come upstairs on a plane – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

LUFTHANSA BOEING 747-8I FLIGHT BASICS:

Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft: Boeing 747-8I (Version 1)
Departed: Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
Arrived: Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Business class
Seat: 84C (Upstairs)
Length: Nine hours

When the boarding process started in Frankfurt, I was as excited as a kid in a candy store! I took advantage of the business class pre-boarding and quickly made my way upstairs. I generally travel pretty light – a simple rollaboard suitcase that fits in overhead storage bins on narrow-body planes like the 737 and A320. When I arrived to my seat, I discovered that my bag simply would not fit in the overhead bin. It's pretty cool to realize that is due to the curvature of the upper part of the plane, although it was surprising. Luckily, the cabin crew was very friendly and found a closet for my bag.

As I settled into my seat and was offered a glass of champagne, I began to really appreciate the small feeling of the upstairs cabin. It really felt like travelling on a much smaller plane (737-600 or the like), not like the massive 747 I was actually on. Once boarding was completed and the plane all buttoned up, we headed for the runway. It was really amazing how short the takeoff roll of this big plane was, at a shockingly quick 35 seconds – I couldn't believe it.

The cozy upstairs cabin of the Lufthansa 747-8I

The cozy upstairs cabin of the Lufthansa 747-8I

Once airborne, I decided to explore some of the personal amenities. One thing I hate about some of the newer aircraft is that airlines are opting to eliminate the personal air vent. I get that newer planes are supposed to have better circulation, but I really prefer to have an air vent.

I also noticed that the in-flight entertainment setup came with their own headphones. I was initially a bit skeptical, as I always travel with noise-canceling headphones. I'll admit though – the headphones Lufthansa provided were actually pretty great.

BONUS: Riding on the upper deck, in economy, on an EVA Air Boeing 747-400

If I have one significant complaint about the flight, it has to be the seat and how it is set up. For a business class seat, I found the seat to be a bit narrow (I am a pretty normal-sized guy). I thought this could be due to the smaller upstairs cabin, but the main deck business class seats are the same size. In addition, the seats are angled towards each other and your feet end up close to the other person's feet. So if you don't know the person next to you, it could make for an awkward setup (thankfully the lady next to me was very friendly).

One benefit of the window seat upstairs is the considerable storage space between the seat and window.

My somewhat narrow seat in the upright position – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

My somewhat narrow seat in the upright position – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

Shortly after takeoff, the attentive cabin crew came through for our drink and meal orders. I was impressed with the variety of food selections offered on the flight.

For my appetizer, I opted for the smoked marinated Black Angus beef. I can honestly say this was the highlight of the meal service for me. The beef was very tender and flavorful and the cheese and olive oil made it even better.

My delicious appetizer: Smoked Marinated Black Angus Beef – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

My delicious appetizer: smoked marinated Black Angus beef – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

For my main meal, I ordered the braised beef roulade with Brussels sprouts and sautéed spatzle. I wasn't quite sure what the sautéed spatzle was (small German style egg dumplings), but I love anything with beef and Brussels sprouts.

I was a bit underwhelmed with the beef as it was dry and overcooked. I know catering at 35,000 feet can be precarious, but I've had better beef previously on other flights.

The beef was so-so, but the Brussels sprouts were awesome – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

The beef was so-so, but the Brussels sprouts were awesome – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

For dessert, I opted for the Bavarian cream with marinated strawberries and boy, was it delicious. A very rich and decadent way to end my meal, and it really hit the spot. Once we were done with the main meal service, I reclined my seat back to relax and watch some movies. As mentioned previously, the seat leaves a bit to be desired, but once in bed-mode, it wasn't too bad.

BONUS: Lufthansa First Class on the Boeing 747-8I

Business class seats on the maindeck of the Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I

Business class seats on the main deck of the Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I

Prior to flying on the 747-8I, I had heard that the noise level was higher upstairs, due to the aerodynamics of the aircraft. I personally did not notice a huge difference between the main cabin and upstairs. If you are a light sleeper, it is something to consider, but really it provides more of a white noise than anything.

A couple hours prior to landing, the cabin crew turned the lights on and began their arrival meal service. I chose the hearty crayfish stew which was delicious. It had large pieces of crayfish and lots of flavor. It seemed funny eating dinner again, but it well-prepared me for acclimating to another time zone.

My arrival meal: the crayfish stew was fantastic – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

My arrival meal: the crayfish stew was fantastic – Photo: Colin Cook | AirlineReporter

CONCLUSION:

Prior to my trip, I was extremely excited to fly upstairs on a 747, and now I can say that I've accomplished that. In thinking about the upstairs experience, it was pretty neat, but it really wasn't all that different than the main deck. The coolest factor was the cozy cabin which really felt almost like a private plane. While it was great as an AvGeek, it really wouldn't be much different for the average traveler.

All-in-all, my business class flight on the Lufthansa 747-8I was enjoyable and I would recommend it. I wish the seats had been a bit wider and the main course beef more tender, but other than that, it was great. And really, more importantly, I can now check off two bucket list items: Oktoberfest in Germany and flying upstairs on a 747. I call that a successful trip.

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