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The Definitive Guide to Lufthansa's New Business Class, Onboard the First 747-8i

June 4, 2012 at 3:36 PM | by | ()

New airplane alert! Last Friday, June 1, Lufthansa sent the very first Boeing 747-8 for passengers on its very first regularly scheduled flight. Hopping from Frankfurt, Germany to Washington DC's Dulles Airport, the jumbo-jumbo jet made history with us onboard. Stay tuned the next few days for dispatches from the tarmac!

It used to be that flying in luxury on a jumbo jet meant somewhat wider seats with better recline, friendlier flight attendants, a spiral staircase to the upper deck and lobster on the menu. This was the premium class of the 1970s, when Pan Am took off with the very first Boeing 747 passenger plane, a 747-100. Fast forward to 42 years later (!!) to the new 747-800 Intercontinental and, as much as we bemoan the loss of the "jet set" glamor, stepping into Lufthansa's new Business Class forces the realization that—holy mackerel—these last few decades have actually produced a plane that can again cause passengers to mouthe "wow" (or "toll" if you're German).

The 747 has always been an impressive work of aviation engineering, but it's this 747-8i that Boeing is calling "a flagship aircraft that airlines will want to customize" and "a cornerstone of the Lufthansa fleet for years to come." So, no surprise that Lufthansa chose this baby for the grand debut of the new lie-flat Business Class seats, right? So let's check it out...

The Hard Facts

· Routes: The new business class is currently only on this single 747-8 between FRA-IAD, and an A330 also doing the IAD route, though it's coming to other long-haul routes out of Frankfurt yet this year: Delhi, Bangalore, Chicago and Los Angeles.
· Configuration: 32 seats on the upper deck, layout of 2-2. 60 seats on the lower deck, layout of 2-2-2.
· Seat width: 26"
· Lie-flat seat length: 6' 5"
· Monitor size: 15"
· Constructed of: aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber (plus the wool and artificial leather soft parts)
· Tech goodies: one power outlet and USB plug per seat. Noise-cancelling headphone that stow away in their own cubby beneath the armrest, next to the tethered remote for the entertainment system.
· Personal storage: Underneath your seatback monitor are two storage areas: one for magazines and one that contains a water bottle and amenity kit. To the right of this is your footstool, under which is a cubby large enough to stash your shoes. Underneath one of your arms will be the flip-up armrest, which contains the traytable, remote and headphone cubby. The headphone cubby has enough room for slipping in more gadgets and is perfect for keeping an iPhone charged as the USB plus is also located in here. If you're lucky enough to have an upper deck seat, the window area has a row of very large cabinets, large enough for the pillows, blankets, briefcases, purses and even small carry-ons.
· Amenities: Hot towels before meal service, larger lavatories with mouthwash and lotions, in-flight amenity kits at each seat (socks, toothbrush & toothpaste, earplugs, eyemask, lip balm), large pillow and blanket, after-dessert pralines and, of course, priority boarding and access to the Business Class lounge(s).
· Meal service: On the FRA-IAD (and return) route, Business Class is served a three-course dinner with beverage service and a dessert cart. Before landing, a light lunch is also served.

Our Favorite Seats

We sat on the upper deck, at a window, in 87A. Nonetheless the excitement of the first flight meant we could hop around and try many locations in Business Class, settling on seats 82 A/K or 83 A/K for their optimum location at the windows on the upper deck, meaning they get the side storage cabinets which allowed us to really spread out and work on our laptop while eating dinner. We were not fans of the footrest/monitor position in the bulkhead (first row) seats, so 82 and 83 are the second and third rows, with full floor space and, of course, the full lie-flat recline with the absolute least aisle traffic.

The "Playing Footsie" Issue:

Unlike Lufthansa's old Business Class, which were your standard side-by-side, facing forward seats, the new Business Class is a V-layout. This means you'll be furthest away from your seat partner at the shoulders, and closest together at the feet. Luckily the stationery divider between footrests prevents most footsie interaction, unless your seatmate has restless leg syndrome or something (or just really wants to flirt). It's actually awkward to shift your hips enough to reach your feet into the other person's space, and it'd be an unnatural sleep position to end up that way. In other words, we wouldn't worry about ending up in an involuntary game of footsie. The V-layout actually secures more privacy and less need to share space, as you'll see in our "what we love" below.

What We Love:

Look, we're just going to come right out and say that these seats are among our favorite Business Class seats ever and it really boils down to the stellar amount of personal space and privacy. Having flown the old Lufthansa Business Class enough to know its nooks and crannies, we can say that the new seats are a million billion times more improved. Is that a gajillion? Whatever—it's such an improvement that we would actually consider flying from our homebase in New York down to Dulles just to hop a plane with the new Biz Class.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, we especially adored the USB plug, the headphone and gadget cubby that kept cords and accessories neatly tucked away, the folded traytable that swivels to allow for getting up and out without having to put a laptop or a meal away (or have your neighbor hold it), and those upper deck window-side compartments that function that extra sidetables. Looking at the seat itself, the V formation means less TV (and laptop screen) eavespeeking and no more side-by-side sleeping that always used to make us super self-conscious. And the "straddle of shame" that had you doing Olympic gymnastics vaulting over your seatmate to reach the aisle? Gone. The tapered seat bottoms now mean that there's less seat to step over, so no more spraining your crotch while looking like you're trying to dismount a horse.

What Needs Improvement:

It's the usual small things that need attention, like the fact that the power outlets were very touchy about giving our Macbook plug some electric current and the USB plugs are not labeled at all and very hidden within the headphone cubby. You wouldn't even know they existed unless you read the seatback pamphlet to all the seat features, and who does that?!

What's more is that the competition for the upper deck seats will likely be great, so you'll really have to be on top of your seat selection and online check-in game to secure one. Last but not least, we just aren't fans of Washington-Dulles Airport for its confusing logistics with having to take those mobile lounge/moonrover things. Luckily the 747-8 will come to the many other cities listed above, and soon!

Still curious? Check out our photos + video from the inaugural flight here, and from the Frankfurt hangar unveiling here.

Disclosure: We're flying as a guest of Lufthansa, but rest assured that all photos and opinions presented are completely our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

Old wine in old bottles

I agree that the new Lufthansa Business Class is leagues ahead of the old business class. This is due to the fact the Lufthansa had one of the poorer offerings on this class of service. Virgin Atlantic has had Herringbone lie flat seats which were true 180 flat and the layout offered total privacy. Likewise Jet Airways which still has one the the best business class seats in the business and impeccable service. Jet Airways also offer a pajama suit to change into. Sure I can understand the gushing sentiment if you have been subjected to Lufthansa's old business class. As an Indian I was also insulted that on the Europe-Mumbai segment, Lufthansa, Swiss and some other airlines always put in their oldest aircraft with the worst seats. Only after Jet changed the game they have upgraded the service to India.