When The Frankfurt Lufthansa First Class Ground Experience Underwhelms

There’s no denying I’m a huge Lufthansa fanboy. At least when it comes to their first class product. As far as European airlines go, I do think they offer the all around best first class product, perhaps along with their “Lufthansa Group” partner, Swiss. Onboard I think they offer a far superior product to British Airways, and for the most part a superior product to Air France (Air France’s new first class product looks great, though is only available on a few planes so far).

Lufthansa-First-1

Another area where Lufthansa shines is when it comes to their ground experience for first class passengers. Most of you have probably heard of the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, which is one of the most well known ultra-luxe lounges out there.

Lufthansa-FCT

There are also a couple of Lufthansa First Class Lounges in the terminal itself (rather than the First Class Terminal, which is separate from the rest of the terminal), which are more or less the same in terms of the actual lounge design.

Lufthansa-FCT-1

The catch is that the Lufthansa first class ground experience in Frankfurt can be extremely inconsistent depending on the circumstances of your transit:

  • If your travels originate in Frankfurt, you can go straight to the First Class Terminal and be driven to your plane, which is the best case scenario
  • If you’re connecting and arrive at a remote stand, you get picked up at the plane and driven to the First Class Lounge closest to your departure gate
  • While you’re always driven from the First Class Terminal to the gate (given that the FCT is otherwise disconnected from the terminal), you only get driven from the First Class Lounge to your gate when the lounge is in a different terminal than the departure gate
  • You can always visit the First Class Terminal during a connection, though it’s a bit of a haul and requires clearing immigration, so I don’t recommend it for a short connection; visiting the FCT is one way to “force” a tarmac transfer

Every time I’ve flown Lufthansa first class out of Frankfurt I’ve had some sort of car transfer. Either because I walked myself to the First Class Terminal, or because I arrived at a remote stand, or because I was departing from a different terminal than the lounge I was in.

Well, yesterday I flew Lufthansa from Vienna to Frankfurt to Newark, and was positively underwhelmed by the ground experience. I know it’s a bit backwards, but Frankfurt is just about the only airport in the world where you don’t want a reasonably convenient connection (well, at least as convenient as connections get at one of the world’s most poorly designed airports).

We arrived at a gate in the A Concourse, and from there I followed the signage towards the Lufthansa Lounges…

Lufthansa-First-Class-1

…which was quite a haul…

Lufthansa-First-Class-2

…like, really…

Lufthansa-First-Class-3

…no guys, seriously…

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The Lufthansa First Class Lounge was great, really just about as nice as the First Class Terminal, in my opinion.

Lufthansa-First-Class-5

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But then when it came time for departure, I had to walk to gate Z54, which again, is quite a haul. That required going through passport control, where there was no premium queue (in the First Class Terminal they handle passport control for you).

Lufthansa-First-Class-7

I had to queue for a long time, and then arrived at the gate, where the premium boarding lane must have had 100 people in it, since they board first & business class all at once.

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Then there was a long queue on the jet bridge, and ironically one of the other first class passengers was pushed ahead of me on the jet bridge. That’s because he had the personal assistant service, which is a standard offering when being driven to the plane.

Lufthansa-First-Class-8

On the plus side I was flying the gorgeous 747-8, and the Siegerflieger Fanhansa one no less (which is the same plane that took the German soccer team home from Brazil last year after they won the World Cup).

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And once you’re onboard and have a glass of champagne, who can complain, really?

Lufthansa-First-Class-11

Of course this is a total #FirstWorldProblem, but any commentary on premium cabin international airline products will be. Having this experience for the first time really made me realize that Lufthansa’s first class ground services are at times sort of backwards:

  • The only time you should ever hope to arrive at a remote stand is when flying Lufthansa first class
  • You’re already penalized by not getting the car transfer to the plane when you’re connecting within a similar terminal area, though on top of that you end up boarding behind all of business class, queueing in standard lines, etc.; it’s a bit funny that I was literally cut by another passenger being escorted down the jet bridge, simply because I was coming from a closer connecting gate
  • To me it would make sense to offer the same personal assistant service they offer with the chauffeur when connecting within a terminal, whereby they walk you to the gate, escort you aboard, etc.
  • In the end I had a two hour connection, yet I spent only about 20 minutes in the lounge, as the rest was spent queuing, walking, etc.; if we had arrived at a remote stand I would have likely had much more time in the lounge

All a minor point in the grand scheme of things, though Lufthansa’s ground experience in Frankfurt is one of the things which makes their product so special, and it’s worth knowing that it won’t always be so great. This is an area where Air France really shines in Paris, as they offer full gate-to-gate escorts in Paris regardless of where you arrive or departure.

Air-France-First-Class-Lounge-Paris-5

What do you think — am I off base for being disappointed in Lufthansa offering zero ground services for passengers not connecting between far away terminals, even though the experience can be just as time consuming? I’m curious if anyone has had a similar experience!

Comments

  1. It need real “think out of the box” revolution, big LH is just like UA, it could reflect the miles loyalty program.

  2. Air France has upped the game and I flew their new Suites CDG-FRA recently. Absolutely superb end to end. You are met at the taxi in Paris and they pick you up at your seat in Singapore and walk you to the taxi. With only four seats, atmosphere and service excellent and the food was absolutely delicious (including the lounge). One of the best beds in the air with the Sofitel bedding with the memory-foam mattress.

    Downside: Prodcut is not available for mileage junkies and requires your hard earned cash. But it’s worth every penny.

  3. AF F is available on miles for AF high elites. That said, even the miles price is such that it keeps many away.

    That is the most valuable part of the F experience….not being overrun by others.

  4. Since you got the #firstworldproblems bit out of the way, yes the inconsistency can be stark, especially if it means that what would be a connection experience to be hoped for at some other airports, is the worst kind to get at FRA.

    It’s a hard knock life!

  5. I’ll cry if I don’t get a remote stand and a drive from the lounge CDG-FRA-EWR on Monday. It’s on the record now Lufty!! 😉

  6. I had a similar experience, but in some ways worse. I also love Lufthansa First Class, and have done it many times (including being on the same World Cup plane as you a couple weeks ago). Last year I was flying somewhere (can’t even remember where), and was surprised to find the plane pull up directly to the gate. In the past, it has always been remote. I got off, there was no one to greet me, and no indication where to find the First Class Lounge. I usually would have walked over to the FCT, but had a short connection. I wandered around, asked a couple Lufthansa employees where I’d find the FCL, and they both told me there is no such thing! I knew this was wrong as I’d been to it before. I wandered, wasted time in passport control and security (I think, can’t quite remember), and finally ended up in a Senator Lounge for 15 minutes. Sure, this is the first world problem, but I only get to do this a couple times per year and REALLY look forward to the whole experience. It was a bummer. It would make sense to equalize the remote and gate experiences.

  7. Our experience was nearly identical to Nathan’s above. Flew in from Chicago to Frankfurt and connected onto Brussels. Wandered around trying to find the FCL.

  8. Last time I flew LH F was FRA-SEA and I had a similar experience as you describe here Lucky.

    I arrived from OSL on a remote stand, and met a chauffeur outside the plane which drove me to the terminal. From there I had to go through passport control and everything myself, and locate the lounge. The lounge it self was very nice, but when it became time to depart I had to walk to the gate and wait. Eventually they started boarding “business class only” before they opened economy. Hearing nothing about First Class I approached one of the gate agents to ask, and I was told that “the First Class is not yet ready, please wait”. Another 5 minutes went by with business and economy boarding, before I was approached being told that I could board. Now this is a first world problem, but when I actually fly F would would prefer not having to navigate around myself standing in long queues and waiting this long to board.

    I find the ground service for LH F to be so inconsistent. I was also very dissapointed when flying LH F from DEN to FRA, I mean – I got the boarding pass and was told that “I could go to the United Club in another concourse if I wanted to” (and no form of escort through security). Ended up doing that, eating dry crackers, which was the only snack or food available.

    Overall I love LH F, but the ground product is really something they could improve on in certain cases. I am not unhappy with it most of the time, but those two times were disappointing.

  9. FRA connections are a nightmare. I did SEA-FRA-LHR. Came in on 747 remote stand. Bussed to some terminal, passport control line, long walk, train, security, long walk to lounge. Then long walk to gate on other side of terminal. Find out gate changed as I was walking. Walk back to gate (near one I left). Get to gate where they just realized they are working the flight. Bussed to aircraft. Miss departure time due to waiting for remaining pax who are late due to gate change. Miss our departure slot to Heathrow. Wait another 40 minutes. BTW our departure spot on the tarmac was nearly adjacent to our arrival spot.

  10. Next time tell them you are lucky and they should drop everything to take care of you. I wonder if your high service standards stay in place when you are the service provider and not the customer.

  11. Basically like CX which is terrible besides the lounge and hard product itself. I only saw a priority boarding for first once, all other times you have to line up with Business and Marco Polo Club members. No fast path through customs etc either.

  12. Next time, when you connect in FRA and your destination is non-schengen and has a Z Gate Number, simply walk to Terminal B – there’s a large FirstClass Lounge there, that even has a small Spa treatment area (if you have time)… From there, they will drive you from there to any of the Z gates for your long haul flight.

    Doesn’t match connecting in Munich though, where the First Class Lounge spans both the schengen and non-schengen floors and has a border police man sitting inside, doing passport control for you..

    I like having those kinds of #FirstWorldProblems 😉

  13. Unfortunately, I read this blog entry after I read the heartbreaking story of Syrian refugees walking to Vienna. While I understand that you are pointing out legitimate inconsistencies between first class service in Germany, your article helps remind me how truly and amazingly lucky we really are. I think what sealed the deal for your dissatisfaction was when someone else was escorted past you while you waited in line on the jet bridge. Contrast that with what is going on a few hundred miles away and the juxtaposition is jarring. I get your point, but I guess I’m being introspective today.

  14. @Mark F – Why are you here? You must be new. This post isn’t about Syrian refugees, it’s about air travel in first class.

    Regarding Air France, if you’re departing from a gate closest to the La Premiere lounge (eg K41, K43), you’re escorted to the gate by foot, not car.

  15. Call me a cynic but posts like these should never be written. In the scheme of what’s going in the world (e.g., what @Mark F just alluded to), how many people do you suppose this earth-shattering LH ground experience “problem” will keep up at night, worried sick that “one of the other first class passengers would be pushed ahead of them on the jet bridge”?

    Caveating it as “a total #FirstWorldProblem” does not change the fact that it is utterly childish, self-entitled stuff…

    G’day!

  16. I think it’s totally legitimate to discuss about first world problems. This is First Class we are talking about, which is usually priced at extreme high-end, and is meant to provide as fine service as possible. Without being critical about it there really is no point offering First Class service. Economy – yes, who cares about these problems. Business – may be so. First – definitely needs to be up to expectation. That’s what you are paying for. It’ll be a different story if LH didn’t introduce FCT in the first place, but if some receive “full ground service” while others not, and I happened to be on the latter, I would not be happy for receiving unfair treatment. First Class service should definitely be consistent.

  17. I am surprised you feel underwhelmed about the transfer process….

    Better to plan accordingly. Looking at your photos i saw you arrived near gates A26 upwards, it’s just a walk through the tunnel between A-B and bypassing immigration queues (using your EU-chip passport for immigration E-gates) and you are in FCL B that provides the precious car transport to Z. I can understand if you carry lots of stuff FCL A is easier but for you who maximizes the hop to B should be doable within 2hours. I did it myself last sunday from Amsterdam A24 via FCL B to Z62 Singapore –

  18. What I don’t get is why they don’t just close the first class lounges and shuttle all first class passengers to the First Class Terminal instead. For other *A first class passengers, all they have to say is that sorry, but Frankfurt doesn’t offer first class lounges…

  19. In January I’ll fly with LH via FRA to SFO on first class (using points / e-vouchers to upgrade the family). As per your comments it seems that though I arrive in Terminal A (on a Schengen flight) it makes sense to rather go to Terminal B to enjoy the FCL there for this 2 hours connection – instead of staying at Terminal A FCL and then do this walking / queuing thing that Lucky mentioned. (As my parents are not keen on doing jogging exercises at terminals any more, rushing to the FCT is not an option.)
    That seems to be a good idea – thank you guys!

    PS. I believe this site is to discuss flight experiences. No wonder if the articles are about these experiences 🙂

  20. For those posters who are lamenting current events, I’m not sure why you are reading this blog to begin with. You certainly should NOT be focusing on luxurious travel experiences. Your time and money should be spent on alleviating world suffering. By the way, the current migrant crisis is not a one-off thing. Billions of people live in dire poverty throughout the world. Yet, their plight is exacerbated because they continue to have more kids than they can support. Don’t worry, at this rate, it will impact us all soon enough.

  21. You are not off base and as much as you fly I would think any airline in the world especially those in a group would have a flag pop up when you book.As I was reading this review the first thing I thought of was Air France and how well you were treated. The Germans have dropped the ball and I think the world of Germany,lived there 10yrs, but France has exceeded their 1st class experience and in fact Ben after reading your Air France review I would fly them regardless whether !st or Coach.Good report

  22. But this post doesn’t even address the most vital, critical issue with the inconsistencies in LH first class service: do all these service differences mean not all first class passengers get rubber duckies?

    @Charlie – a good question, I suspect the answer is one of expense: more drivers, more service providers, and probably having to expand the FCT.

    @Mark F- I can understand where you’re coming from, and can sympathize, having heard that sort of thing (and even thought it myself) living in central New Jersey and working in Midtown Manhattan at the time of 9/11: how could the TV show comedies when smoke is still coming off the site? Why am I seeing newsstands at Penn Station selling trash novels and comic books when I just walked through a corridor plastered with “missing people” signs and flyers from the local PETA chapter with phone numbers to report a pet that’s “lost its person” so it can be rescued before it dies of dehydration or starvation?

    But the reality is, however cynical or seemingly uncaring it might be, that life goes on. Business goes on. Lufthansa could contribute its entire first class service budget to refugee relief and it’d be, at best, a stopgap measure for a few days. And caring, or writing, isn’t a zero-sum game – Ben writes about travel, and particularly about premium-class travel services. And he has a particular interest in Lufthansa. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about other things, or that his readers can’t want to read about both LH first class and Syrian refugees, just that that’s not what this particular blog is about. Should Boarding Area take down all the travel blogs because they don’t matter right now? Should TV viewers start criticizing BBC America for showing “Top Gear” reruns about multi-million-pound supercars instead of devoting time to the refugee crisis? Should Roku delete all the other channels from its service and only show Sky News coverage of the crisis? And for that matter, why are YOU spending time reading a blog you know perfectly bloody well is mainly about premium travel right now?

    There are plenty of outlets in all the various media covering the current refugee crisis in detail. That’s just not what this niche publication is about. And even if you limit yourself to just saying “well, the timing’s bad because LH is German, and Germany is a major player in the immediate events…”, well, this crisis is going to go on for months, probably years. Is Ben not supposed to write about LH, or Germany (or, I guess, Austria and Hungary too), until it ends?

    And regarding the whole “it got really bad when you mentioned the other first passenger getting pushed in front of you…” thing: if you ask anyone in customer service, they’ll tell you that the most important part of brand management is being consistent. One of the reasons why training departments use Southwest Airlines as an example isn’t that their product is so fantastic (personally, I’m not a fan) but in that it is extremely consistent, and that the message about what customers can expect is both consistent and clearly communicated, internally and externally. As an observer of the industry, and as a loyal LH customer, Ben’s in a particularly good position to point out that the inconsistences in the Frankfurt FC experience hurt LH’s brand.

  23. Even setting aside the caring about the plight of others, this still reads like a tempest in a teapot or making a mountain out of a molehill. If what happened here were the only ‘problems’ I encounter during my travels, I would consider myself, well, lucky! 😉

  24. Yes, but this is supposed to be FIRST class — not economy, or even business. If someone is going to pay that amount of money for a FIRST class experience, they should receive FIRST class treatment. AF, for all of its hard product deficiencies, delivers FIRST class treatment on-the-ground.

  25. There’s a place for everything online. If people don’t want to read about premium flights, then they shouldn’t force themselves to. We’re all free to go off and explore other sites that do discuss the things we like. Writing to the author/blogger, to complain about an advertised subject matter just puzzles me.

    This would be akin to me forcing myself to listening to music that I know I don’t like, then writing to the artist to tell them I hate their music.

  26. One-dimensional thinking that presumes that LH owns Fraport and can do anything they please. The fact that this ground experience is inconsistent means that the logistics of pulling it off for every flight may not be as easy as those who are out looking in may think.

  27. @Jessica — Bloggers do not write in a vacuum. They write for an audience, purportedly to inform but also do elicit opinions — otherwise it would be tough to explain the comments section. If you check every one of @Lucky’s posts, it will end with something like this:

    “What do you think — am I off base for being disappointed in Lufthansa offering zero ground services for passengers not connecting between far away terminals, even though the experience can be just as time consuming? I’m curious if anyone has had a similar experience!”

    So, just drop the constant whining when readers happen to express views that differ from bloggers’ because my sense is that they are more tolerant of opposing views than you apparently are. Moreover, I believe that @Lucky is perfectly capable of defending his views.

    G’day.

  28. Yawn, come complain when you actually travel REVENUE, and on your own money, not other people’s money. I love all the miles redeemers who complain about service. Just be happy your flying first class for essentially almost nothing.

    Yadda Yadda Yadda, but my miles are worth money. Ok multiple your miles by 2 cents for a “fair market value”. You think having a BMW car drop off should be included in a $1500 ticket?

  29. I think you can maintain a blog like this and be aware of what’s happening in the world. Its all about keeping things in perspective (is complaining about having to walk 5 to 10 minutes in an airport a bit much? Yeah, it kind of is).

    I’m surprised Lufthansa doesn’t offer someone to escort people to and from the FCL and their gates the way Thai Airways does. It would feel more personal, and would help all FC passengers cut through the lines of business class passengers.

    Or, as others have pointed out, shut down the FCLs and just shunt everyone to the FCT (though you’d probably have to expand that in size to accommodate all the extra people).

  30. My favorite LH FCT story is from a French couple who left their passports and belongings at the table to grab food from the many offerings around. When they returned, the assigned escort was taking their boarding passes out of their passports and changing them. Their across aisle seats were changed to opposite sides of the upstairs cabin. The shocked couple were told their seats were needed for an elite member. Needless to say, I wished I would have thought of capturing the reaction of the couple on a video. L’France and Deutschland at war all over again!

  31. Dear Ben,

    Do you think its possible, to upgrade/ upsell an Lifemiles award Business ticket to LH First Class, paying with M & M miles. I have Senator Status. I assume that there plenty of F seats free.
    Thank you and kind regards
    Ulli

  32. @Lucky: fully agree with Roberto, certainly for you with a EU pasport; or alternatively, if you’re coming from Vienna, it’s Schengen, walk outside, and walk up to the FCT, it’s only 100 meters. Furthermore, this is not about First World Problems. This is about snobs, not wanting to pay the price and cheat themselves into “loyalty” with CC spend and then being surprised they don’t get service which they think they deserve; what have you generated as income to LH to deserve a special service? Why are we surprised that AF offers a better service? They have a majority of paying F Flyers and perhaps now and then an elite on award, not like LH where every man and his dog with a thick US credit card books a first class flight 2 weeks upfront. LH should go the LX way and make their F really exclusive, then I’m sure they can offer what is to be expected

  33. Agree with the frustrating inconsistency of the F-class ground product at FRA when transiting. But comparisons with other F-class ground services are not exactly even-handed.

    AF offers F on a much smaller scale than LH (or at least that is my impression). One of the reasons they can offer a car transfer to every flight is because there just aren’t that many passengers to deal with. Even TG (with its buggy service) is not offering as many simultaneous F departures as LH. Look at BA, which offers a huge quantity of F seats — they too have decided the logistics of providing gate escorts or car transfers in LHR are not scaleable. F-class connections at LHR are similarly unpleasant as a result.

    Another consideration is that LH has chosen to offer F-class ground services to their HON status passengers. And there surely are a lot of those at any given time in the Frankfurt airport.

    Not trying to offer excuses for LH, but reasons why the companies approach their F product differently. Passengers have differing tolerances for the variables as well. For example, if traveling alone, I would always walk outside the airport to FCT. My wife on the other hand hates Security checks, and will do anything to avoid an unnecessary one, even if it is a highly civilized affair such as at the FCT. She will simply not be convinced that it makes more sense to walk outside (where it may be raining or 90 degrees) when we arrive at Z23, our connection is at A24, and there is a perfectly serviceable FCL as we pass by. But then we end up cooling our heels for half an hour at the gate when there’s a last minute boarding delay. And then we line up behind 50+ Business and SEN passengers for “Priority” boarding. Tradeoffs….

    What would be a nice compromise is if passengers walking to a connecting gate could identify themselves (as an F or HON passenger) to an agent on arriving at the gate and take a seat. When boarding starts (or if it is already in progress) they could be approached by an agent and escorted on board, bypassing the line. (Actually this is what happened in ORD — we were escorted from the GFL to gate but boarding wasn’t ready so we were invited to sit nearby. The agent came and got us to board before priority boarding was announced.) This would require a little passenger education — lounge agents could mention this option as passengers walk out of the FCL to their connecting gate, for example.

  34. My wife and I flew from LAX to Frankfurt March 18 in first class. We had a great vacation and I’m only now getting back to reality.

    I had what I thought was a horrible ground experience in Frankfurt. I was searching for a reality check and I found this post. I has asked a number of people about the possibility of visiting the 1st class lounge in Frankfurt as I’ve hard it is one of the best in the world. I could not extract from anyone (on phone, when we checked in or inflight) how we might be able to do that during our relatively short stopover.

    When we departed the flight I felt like we just got thrown to the curb out of first class. Very little direction or guidance and not good answers to our questions. We had a very long walk to our connecting flight to Paris. When we arrived we asked if there was time for us to visit a lounge nearby. We were told “no”. Then, we stood around for 30 minutes doing nothing. We then had to carry our bags down 2 flights of stairs and got crammed into a bus to take us to our flight. It must have been a 15-20 minute ride in very cramped quarters.

    I read with envy on another site how someone got a limo ride under similar circumstances. I guess I just need to be more persistent in the future and determining exactly what my options are on the ground. Thanks.

  35. I’m curious – I’m planning on flying out of Munich first class soon. Space hasn’t opened up yet, but I’m wondering if Frankfurt is worth connecting through. Would you fly MUC direct to the USA or is trying to get on an early morning MUC-FRA flight worth it for the ground/lounge and a380 experience out of FRA?

  36. I’m not going to lie; the FCT is marginally better than the F lounges in MUC. That said, I’m not certain it’s better “enough”. The new F lounge in MUC is really excellent and on par with most of what you will find in the FCT in FRA or any of the F lounges in FRA. You also will not receive a Porsche ride to the plane. That said, I’ve often found that the, generally later flights (allowing you to leave EU later), different Duty Free selection, and similarly excellent experience justifies using MUC, at least, sometimes. Also, bear in mind, you will ALWAYS have to walk to the FCT in FRA if not arriving via car.

  37. Good to know, thanks! I’ll shoot for SFO or LAX direct.

    Also, would I have access to the Star Alliance first class lounge at TBIT after arriving in LAX if connecting onward on AA?

  38. I’m pretty sure the only Arrivals Lounge for *A in the US is United’s at SFO. For some reason, Arrivals Lounges more of an exception and not the rule in USA versus EU.

  39. Ok, that makes sense. I was thinking they’d allow me in with a MUC-LAX boarding pass since I would have 5 hours between flights and the AA terminal is walkable without leaving security. Thanks.

  40. LH F doesn’t impress UA lounge attendants. I’ve made a few choice comments to them about their amazingly stingy policies. Most LH airports have an LH lounge, so the only UA First/Global Services lounge I’ve been to is @ SFO. It was mediocre. The one to go out of your way for is the LH lounge at JFK.

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