Tried & Tested

Lufthansa A321 economy class

23 Aug 2011 by BusinessTraveller

DESCRIPTION Lufthansa operates 11 direct flights a day on the London Heathrow to Frankfurt route, and will launch a twice-daily direct service from London Gatwick from October 30.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 1 at 1515 by tube, and took the lift up to Departures. I headed towards Zone K – the walk took just over five minutes. Check-in was extremely busy and there was long, winding queue at the desks. I checked in with one of the self-service booths, on the off-chance it would save some time, but I still had a bag to drop, so had to join the queue anyway. I queued for about 20 minutes, and staff were polite and prompt once I did reach the desk. Security was right beside the check-in desks – service was efficient and I was through in about three minutes. I was airside by 1550.

The terminal was very busy and full of families. I took a seat in Pret A Manger’s seating area, which was reasonably vacant and had a departure screen. There was a variety of shops surrounding me, including World Duty Free, WhSmith Books, Dixons Travel, and designer shops such as Ted Baker and Hugo Boss. The restaurants were sophisticated chains such as Caviar House & Prunier, Seafood Bar and Harlequin.

BOARDING We were called to board at around 1615, so I made my way to Gate five. This was a five-minute walk away and up an escalator. At the gate, the seating area was about two thirds full. There was a Costa Coffee with some seating and several vending machines. There were also two computers with internet access costing £1 for ten minutes. I bought a coffee and took a seat - people were already queuing at Gate 5A, although our seats were already assigned. Boarding began at about 1645, so I joined the queue. Business class passengers boarded first, and after a long queue, I boarded the plane, There was a choice of free newspapers including the Daily Mail, The Independent, The Financial Times and Shortlist at the jetbridge. I was greeted by smiling cabin crew and was in my seat by 1700.

THE SEAT The A321-100 was divided into two classes (business and economy), with seats configured 3-3 in each section and labelled ABC DEF) (click here to view the seatplan). I was in seat 14E, a middle seat, two rows from the front of my section, before the toilets and the kitchen. Further down the plane business class was divided from economy by a curtain, and there appeared to be about four rows of business- the seats seemed to be the same as in economy only the middle row was kept free.

My seat was upholstered with grey leather. It was comfortable with a reasonable amount of legroom, although I felt that I didn’t quite have enough room to open up my newspaper without invading my neighbours’ space. I was also seated between two people who knew each other – I asked if they wanted to swap so they could sit together but they said no. There were two retractable coat hooks on the seat in front of me and a magazine rack with Lufthansa’s in-flight magazine. The fold-down table was a decent size, although there was no plug socket.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE Being the front row before the toilets, seats in row 11 had a little more leg room, and thankfully people seemed to gather for the toilets on the other side where there was space, so there wasn’t much disturbance. Seats in row 24 also had more leg room as they were behind the fire exit, so would be good ones to go for. The back rows of economy were served food first, but the front rows were the first to disembark at the end of the flight (after business class).

THE FLIGHT We didn’t take off until 1730, 25 minutes late. Half an hour into the flight, passengers were offered a choice of soft drinks, tea or coffee or wine, and we were each given a cheese and onion sandwich, which was sealed in a packet, and was actually quite tasty. Service was friendly and quick, and it felt as if not much time had passed before it was announced that we were boarding at 1820 (GMT).

ARRIVAL We experienced minor turbulence on the descent, and landed at 1940 local time at Frankfurt’s Terminal 1. My row was one of the first to disembark once business class had left the plane. The walk to baggage reclaim was just under ten minutes - passport control was about half way, and there were no queues. I had to walk through a couple of automatic doors, which didn’t have an obvious purpose, and had barriers within them that slammed quite aggressively - it was extremely empty so I suppose they just felt a bit unnecessary. I arrived at carousel 19 to collect my suitcase. It was 20 minutes before any luggage arrived, and fortunately my case was one of the first. I was in a taxi by 2015.

VERDICT Great, efficient service despite the busy time of year- but the long wait for my luggage was disappointing.

PRICE A mid-week return economy ticket in September costs from £150.


Rose Dykins

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