Chasing the A380: ANA First Class Lounge Tokyo Narita, Lufthansa A380 First Class Tokyo to Frankfurt

Introduction
Swiss First Class Lounge Chicago
Swiss First Class Chicago to Zurich
Swiss First Class Lounge Zurich
Lufthansa Business Class Zurich to Frankfurt
InterContinental Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt
Lufthansa A380 First Class Frankfurt to Tokyo
Park Hyatt Tokyo
ANA First Class Lounge Tokyo Narita, Lufthansa A380 First Class Tokyo to Frankfurt
Westin Grand Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt, Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Orlando


We took the 6:30AM “Friendly Airport Limousine” to Narita Airport, arriving at around 8AM. We were dropped off at terminal 1, which is the Star Alliance terminal.


Terminal 1

The terminal really is a brilliant example of how alliances can improve the customer experience. Instead of segregating check-in by airline, all airlines share ground staff. There are separate counters for coach, business class, first class, and Star Gold members.


Star Alliance terminal

We headed to the “B” counter, which is for first class, though once the agent verified that we were actually in first class, she escorted us over to the private first class check-in area. It’s a pretty sleek separate room that’s well staffed and has a shortcut to immigration and security.


First class check-in counters


First class check-in


First class check-in seating area

Check-in was friendly and efficient, and within a few minutes we were issued our boarding passes for seats 2D & 2G.

We cleared security in no-time, and headed straight for the ANA first class lounge.


Terminal

ANA’s lounges are by no means the best in the world, though the first class lounge is usually pretty quiet, and I like the way it’s decorated.


First class lounge

What I always find bizarre about the service in the lounge is that the moment you settle in one of the staff comes by to offer you a cold towel and drink, though that’s the last you’ll see of them. They don’t do refills. I don’t understand why, but as with many things in Japan, they have a procedure and follow it without exception.

The food in the lounge is somewhat lacking, though they do have a noodle bar, so I ordered something from there.


Snack selection


Snack selection


Booze


Noodles

At around 10AM we headed down to gate 45, where our flight was departing from. Boarding was well under way, though the dedicated priority boarding lane meant we didn’t have to wait.


A380 taking us to Frankfurt


Priority boarding lane

Lufthansa 711
Tokyo Narita (NRT) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Saturday, December 31
Depart: 10:25AM
Arrive: 2:15PM
Duration: 11hr50min
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 2D (First Class)

Once on board we were greeted by the same spectacular crew we had on the way out. It was pretty funny because as soon as I settled in the flight attendant said to me “it’s a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Lucky,” which got some weird looks from the guy seated across from me.

Service started with champagne and macadamia nuts.


Champagne and macadamia nuts

We were also offered pajamas and amenity kits. Interestingly, Lufthansa only offers a polo shirt on daytime flights from Germany to the US, though they offer full pajamas on flights from Japan to Germany. I’m not sure if it’s because of the length of the flight or because of competition in the market, but it’s just something interesting to note.


Pajamas and amenity kits

By the time boarding was complete, six of the eight first class seats were taken.

The captain came on the PA to announce the flight time of 11hr10min, and within a few minutes we pushed back and began a long taxi to the runway.


Taxiing to the runway


Airborne!


Shortly after takeoff

Within about ten minutes of being airborne the seatbelt sign was turned off and service commenced, starting once again with the purser passing through the cabin to welcome us aboard and distribute menus.


Menu and wine list

The service in first class today was a bit different than on the outbound. The couple seated in row one was Japanese, so as a result they had a Japanese flight attendant working first class, along with the same excellent male flight attendant that also happens to be a trainer.

While I only talked to the male flight attendant about this later in the flight, it would probably be most useful to mention it now for context. I had no clue that Lufthansa actually has flight attendants based at many of their destinations, including Delhi, Shanghai, and Tokyo. The issue, as he explained, is that they don’t speak a word of German. So if there’s one passenger in first class that prefers to communicate in Japanese, then a German-speaking passenger is often forced to communicate in English with that flight attendant.

Obviously the guy wasn’t a huge fan of the program, explaining that Lufthansa is first and foremost a German airline, and a German passenger shouldn’t be forced to communicate in a language other than German (which I agree with).

But what’s interesting is that the Japanese flight attendant working first class recently moved to Germany to work for Lufthansa, though didn’t speak German yet. She was taking German classes, but obviously it takes a while to learn a third language. It was her first time working first class, so the trainer did everything he could to teach her.

Both of these flight attendants were spectacularly amazingly phenomenal. The male flight attendant was awesome for the reasons I discussed in the review of the outbound – he was personable, professional, sincere, and had a great sense of humor.

The Japanese flight attendant, while not nearly as experienced or polished as the trainer, had one of those smiles that just can’t help but put you in a great mood. Her friendliness and sincerity had me sitting there throughout the entire meal service with a huge smile on my face. I had the chance to talk to her for a while, and it was clear that she loved what she was doing and wanted to give 110% to prove it.

I ordered a Diet Coke with lemon to start, which was served with a hot towel. That was followed by the amuse bouche, which, as usual, looked a lot better than it tasted.


Diet Coke with lemon


Amuse bouche

The lunch menu read as follows:

After that the table was setup, again with such precision and care that it couldn’t help but make me smile.


Table setup

The meal started with the appetizer cart being rolled around. Usually they’ll let you choose as many as you’d like, but the senior guy working the cabin insisted on us choosing as many as we wanted but him serving them to us one at a time so we could enjoy each one.

My first starter was caviar, followed by salmon. Both were great.


Caviar


Salmon

That was followed by a salad, which was also tasty.


Salad

Neither of the main courses interested me much, though I went with the beef option. The meat was so tough that I couldn’t even cut it with a knife, so I didn’t even touch the entree. The flight attendant felt awful about it, and my friend tried the other entree.

I was full, so just sent it back.


Braised beef


Sea bream

Instead I had both the cheese plate and cheesecake, both of which were delicious.


Cheese plate


Cheesecake

The meal service finished off with a box of pralines being passed around.


Pralines


Cabin after meal service

Our flight path took us far North (apparently more so than usual), and the views were pretty spectacular most of the way. You’ve gotta love the tail camera. As a result it was actually dark for most of the flight.


Our route


Awesome views

I spent some time talking to the rest of the crew in business class (the flight was again fairly empty, with no more than 30 of the 98 business class seats taken).

The crew was very junior, and I’d guess that not a single flight attendant in business class was over 30. Later I found out why. Apparently Lufthansa separates their crews not based on trip distance or regions, but rather based on aircraft type. You can either work their Boeing fleet (737 and 747) or their Airbus fleet (A320/330/340/380). Beyond that, flying the A380 takes a special certification.

As the senior male trainer explained to me, “the senior flight attendants didn’t want to have to get used to something new, and weren’t convinced the plane could get off the ground, while the young people jumped on it immediately.” He explained that he and the purser were the most senior on the flight by about 15 years, and that it went way down from there.

With about six hours to go to Frankfurt it was time for a nap, so I requested my bed be made. I got a solid two hours of sleep (it was a daytime flight, after all), at which point the flight attendants came around with a cart containing finger sandwiches and cakes. I always find it interesting that Lufthansa doesn’t really have a mid-flight snack menu, even in first class on longhaul flights. So while I wasn’t really hungry, I picked out a couple of things to snack on.


View from reclined seat


Mid-flight snack

I then decided to watch a movie, and went with “Horrible Bosses,” which was hilarious. After that I napped for another hour or so, at which point dinner was served.


Entertainment system

The menu read as follows:

Once again my table was set with great precision, and the flight attendant was a quick learner, as he immediately loaded my bread plate with pretzel bread.


Table setup

The roast beef starter was delicious, as was the pasta entree. If only they would have served that with the first meal.


Roast beef rolls


Linguine

The dessert wasn’t all that great, though.


Dessert

After dessert I had an espresso.


Espresso

About 30 minutes out of Frankfurt the captain came on the PA, and it slowly dawned on me that our awesome A380 experience was coming to an end. This time around the weather in Frankfurt was rather nasty, so we hit a few bumps on the way down.


Tail camera

After a five minute taxi we made it to our gate, where I had to grab one last picture of our bird.


Upon arrival in Frankfurt

Immigration queues were rather long, and I nearly got in a fight with a teenage Brit waiting in line that was trying to mock me for being an American (I shut him up pretty quickly when I pointed to my EU passport). Once through immigration we hopped in a cab to the Westin Grand Frankfurt, where we would be spending the night.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. I was also underwhelmed with the ANA Suite Lounge. I kept thinking there was another section, but no. Although, the Noodle Bar is a good offering. That Chestnut Dessert didn’t look very appetizing…

  2. Two comments :

    a) EASA regulations restrict cabin crew to being able to operate on 3 basic aircraft types. Airlines can “combine” variants within these types with national regulatory approval but for the most part segregation by aircraft type qualification is the standard for all European carriers as a result of this.

    b) I’ve known a number of the India based Lufthansa crew over the years and all of them have been able to speak German to a high standard. Granted, it may be a different story in Japan though.

  3. @Lucky – did the ANA Suites Lounge have any doughnuts this time. The past couple of times i visited, they did not. That and the noodles were always the highlight of this lounge.

    Also, did the rude Brit somehow think you were in the wrong line, or was he just being a jerk in general? I hope you responded to him in German.

  4. @ Sean — Makes sense, though I figured they’d break it down by longhaul (330/340/380/747) and shorthaul (737/320).

    @ Carl — Funny you mention that, because last time I was there I remember the donuts and how they always displayed them at once, and had one person that was almost replacing them full-time, whenever one was taken. Sadly no donuts this time!

    As far as the Brit thing goes, there was a group of maybe five teenagers and there were several immigration lines. They didn’t appear to be in any one line, so I nicely asked “excuse me, are you in this line?” They responded with (in a mocking accent) “of course we’re in the line, you stupid American.”

  5. Lucky,
    i see that for this trip, you had overnight stays in Frankfurt and used the FCT when departing FRA…I’m wondering, if i had like a six hour or longer layover at FRA, would i be able to get through immigration, and walk or make my way to the FCT for the experience?

  6. @ Zach — You absolutely can, and I highly recommend doing it. I’ll even do it with only a three or so hour layover. It takes maybe 20 minutes to get there upon arrival.

  7. Hi Lucky, sounds like another good trip! Side question: What are the chances of getting two seats on AA miles in Cathay First from Phuket to a US gateway to catch an AA flight home? Looking to travel in May. Also, can we make a stop in Hong Kong on a one-way award ticket since it’s their hub?

    Thanks,

  8. @ Robert — Fairly good with a bit of date flexibility. If anything you’ll have an issue with availability from Phuket to Hong Kong and not Hong Kong to the US. No stopover of more than 24 hours would be allowed in Hong Kong, though, without increasing the cost of the ticket.

  9. Thanks for the quick response! Really appreciate your blog. Now back to working on pts n miles for me and the wife..

  10. Again, what’s with the skimpy menu? Also Lucky, did you not eat the entree because it wasn’t good, or you were full? Or both?

    The cheesecake looked amazing. The second desert…not so much.

  11. @ Andy — They seem to have skimpier menus on flights to Japan since they have both the western and Japanese menus. I didn’t eat the entree because it was inedible, and I didn’t order a replacement because I was basically full.

  12. @ ikonos — I’ve been traveling far too much for my own good lately, unfortunately. I’m hoping to post it next, but then again I’m so far behind on the report that I’m not sure if I should just stay up to date on my other reports first or not.

  13. Great report lucky, I hope to fly LH F A380 someday soon. With regards to the imbecile teenager, feign a Brit accent and tell him, “piss off you stupid wanker!”

  14. I read with interest when you discussed the junior crew for the Lufthansa A380. It reminded me of a time many years ago when my wife flew for TWA and the 747 arrived. The aircraft started out very junior and as I recall my wife, Kay, with 6 mnths, was the senior on the flight (no pursers initially for domestic). It wasn’t that the senior gals were adverse to learning a new aircraft. It was that they were superstitious, assuming the plane would go down. After it survived “miraculously” the first 6 months, it totally flip flopped and became very senior. Jim

  15. Excellent report–many thanks! Given the extremely small number of First seats on such a large aircraft, I’m surprised (and a little disappointed) at the limited F menu and offerings. Other carriers manage to provide three Western and three “local” entrees so I don’t understand why Lufthansa doesn’t. And it sounds like quality control is lacking (e.g., your beef dish).

  16. My experience with the ANA suite lounge re: refills has been different. While they don’t come around often, I was offered refills a couple times when I was there in December, although that may have been because it was particularly empty.

  17. Lucky,

    I love you, you know that. But why show the EU passport. I am, admittly, left leaning in politics, but I am still very proud to be an American, and no teenager, Brit, American, or other can say or do anything to make me feel less proud. Sorry, just the way I feel.

  18. Lucky – focus on the India trip reports. The latest few have seemed to be just retreads in comparison. You had real adventure in India and the Maldives, not just photos of a plane and a hotel, right?

  19. @ beachfan — I’ve been traveling since I posted the outbound installment, so I haven’t had access to the menus. As soon as I get back home and do, I’ll be sure to post them.

    @ sam — Well it was to make him feel like an idiot, in this case. He chose to stereotype and think of me as an “ugly American” (his thoughts, not mine). If I would have shown him my US passport I would have played into that. I wasn’t about to get in a fight with him at immigration, so it was clear he felt like a total jackass when he saw my EU passport.

    @ Eric — Fair enough, I’ll do my best!

  20. Maybe this punk ass teenage Brit should take a history lesson and see who helped them win WWII. If it weren’t for allie shipping to Britain across the north Atlantic they would have starved!

  21. “…explaining that Lufthansa is first and foremost a German airline, and a German passenger shouldn’t be forced to communicate in a language other than German (which I agree with).”
    Really? Sounds a bit hypocritical coming from a guy who regularly complains about the lack of English in Asian-based airlines. So much for yoyr credibility…

  22. “What I always find bizarre about the service in the lounge is that the moment you settle in one of the staff comes by to offer you a cold towel and drink, though that’s the last you’ll see of them. They don’t do refills. I don’t understand why, but as with many things in Japan, they have a procedure and follow it without exception.”
    Wow. Another dumbass comment about an entire (Asian) culture by an ignorant European-American (Yes; you’re European). During my last visit (which is now), the attendants did come around to refill my drink. They also moved my cups and plates to the new seat that I had moved to. I didnt even have to ask. Again, so much for credibility. You really don’t know anything. Just do everyone a favor and stop reviewing anything that has to do with East Asia. Stick with your Europe and North America.

  23. @ Jason — Not sure what your confusion is about. I’ve visited the lounge probably a dozen times and never been offered a drink refill. It’s great you were offered a refill, but I’ve never been offered one.

  24. @lucky
    I’m confused? Lol. This is coming from a person who generalizes the entire people/culture of Japan from a few benign personal experiences at some airport lounge. Are you people born ignorant or is this something that is taught by your parents/education?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *