Background Lufthansa is the launch airline for the commercial version of the latest Boeing 747-8, which is the longest jetliner in service today. It took to the skies in May last year from Frankfurt to Washington, and has since flown to Los Angeles and Miami, and Delhi and Bangalore in India. In April, Hong Kong became the first city in East Asia to welcome the new “Queen of the Skies”.
Check-in We arrived at T1 of Frankfurt airport on flight LH123 from Munich, with about an hour to spare for our LH796 flight to Hong Kong. We had to walk over to Zone Z in Pier A+ – a dedicated facility for B747s and A380s – for immigration, and by the time we were finished the flight was ready for boarding, but we squeezed in a few minutes in the lounge.
The Lounge The Lufthansa business lounge in A+ is bright and breezy, with light-coloured furnishings that are somewhat Scandinavian. There was a good range of food and beverage items, including quintessential German favourites such as pretzels and frankfurters, complete with garnishings such as sauerkraut. A good range of beers is also stocked, including a herbal variety by Warsteiner.
Boarding By the time we made it to the gate, queues had already formed. The line for premium passengers was moving quite quickly. My seat was 84K on the upper deck, which felt roomy and intimate at the same time. I was comfortably seated in minutes.
The seat On the all-business upper deck, the seats are arranged in a 2-2 layout and each pair is in a V-shape configuration. According to the airline, the reason for choosing this arrangement is to give passengers more space at the shoulder level, but problems occur when both passengers are lying flat and turned in each other’s direction: the partition that divides the two pairs of feet extends to just below the shins, so the two pairs of knees could bump into each other.
The tray table requires quite a lot of force to unlock and lock. It also slides back and forth by itself during turbulence, of which there was quite a lot during the flight. The noise-cancelling earphones, stored in the armrest next to the tray, are quite good, although if you accidentally press your fingers against the diaphragms they make a squeaky sound. The IFE screen tilts to the side when tucked back, so to use it I had to lean over to adjust it.
There are three pre-set positions for the seat in addition to manual adjustments, but nothing was one touch – I had to keep the button pressed or keep pushing it to finally reach a fully flat position. It also took a rather long time.
Which seat to choose The upper deck does feel exclusive and although I was quite close to the galley, I couldn’t hear much noise at all as there is a foyer area in between. There is a lavatory near the staircase and two up front, so I would avoid sitting in the first row as there are always people passing by. The V shape also means flight attendants have to keep leaning over the aisle seat to serve the window seat, so sitting by the aisle can be annoying at times. On this leg I was by the window and what I particularly liked was the window storage space, allowing me to access my carry-on without having to get up.
The flight The scheduled departure time was 2205 but we didn’t taxi out until 2210, and we took off at 2235. We didn’t get our drinks until almost an hour later, and meal service started at around 2355. After the appetisers of smoked tuna, braised beef shin with five-spicy jelly and buffalo mozzarella salad, I went for the Asian main course of black-pepper prawns with rice, which had a very nice kick to it. The 2011 White Troika, Ihringer Weissburgunder (pinot blanc) from Germany, which has a rounded nose and flavour, complemented it quite well. I was really tired so I skipped dessert and went to sleep. I managed about six hours’ sleep and woke up with enough time to watch a movie. About an hour later the morning mood light came on and breakfast was served (I had the hot option of scrambled egg, sausages and roasted potato cake instead of the cheese and cold cuts), and about 30 minutes later our descent began.
Arrival Touchdown was on time at 1510, and we reached the gate 10 minutes later. We had to exit through the front door, which meant walking through the whole lower deck business cabin. I collected my luggage shortly before 1400.
Verdict The new 747 is without a doubt a great aircraft, and the upper deck makes the journey feel very exclusive. There are a number of shortcomings with the seat, but in the main I enjoyed my flight.
Flight time: 11 hours, 5 minutes
Configuration: 2-2 (upper deck)
Seat width: 19.7in/50cm
Seat length: 77.9in/198cm
Seat recline: 180 degrees